A visit to Montreal

Its about ten years since I’d last visited Montreal, my experience was clouded by my memories of a segregated city where two communities were divided by culture and the language they spoke. The French-Canadians resolutely refused to speak English and seemed not even to suffer inarticulate visitors gladly. The Anglophones seemed equally entrenched – it is unlikely to have been so polarized but that was certainly my impression on a brief visit.
Last January I received an invitation from Dr. Michael Kenneally of Concordia University in Montreal, to give the second annual St Patrick Society Lecture in Canadian Irish Studies this fall. This lecture was inaugurated in September 2006 by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald and aims to bring speakers to talk on topics of interest to both the university and wider communities. The Centre for Canadian Irish Studies offers study programmes that focus on the history and culture of Ireland and the experiences of the Irish in Canada. My topic was the History of Irish Food and I also covered the current food scene in Ireland, the emergence of Farmers Markets and the artisan food sector. Michael Kenneally himself originally hails from Youghal where his brother Tom is a vet. I was delighted to accept the invitation and was promised a tour of some of the culinary delights of Montreal including the markets, at their best at this time of year.
On my return visit I was thrilled to discover that the city had completely transformed itself. Montreal is possibly the most bilingual city in the world. The majority of citizens seem equally at home in French or English so many of the barriers seem to have melted away, allowing the inhabitants to come together and embrace each other’s culture – the result is an absolutely extraordinary city which is ‘food mad’. It seems that all the best aspects of the French, English, Italian, West Indian , Greek and Jewish traditions have contributed to make an intriguing melting pot – no wonder the markets are so rich and multi-cultural and the restaurants and cafes so deliciously varied. 
There are two fantastic markets in Montreal, Marché Jean Talon and Marché Atwater.
On my first morning I woke early and took a cab to Marché Atwater the smaller of the two main markets. By 7.30am row upon row of vegetable and fruit stalls were already piled high. Locals were filling their bags and I spotted a couple of local chefs doing their rounds, I was particularly intrigued by the delicious homemade pickles, ketchups and chutneys made by Serge Bourcier. Quebec with its long cold winters has a strong living tradition of preserving summer bounty and the season was in full swing. Everywhere people were carrying huge crates of red peppers and tomatoes to make purees and pickles for their Winter store-cupboard. I also wandered into several of the shops around the periphery of the market. William J Walters freshly made sausages and bacon are legendary among locals and visitors alike, La Fromagerie du Deuxième with its impressive cheese selection is definitely worth a visit also.
Having done my rounds I popped into a Première Moisson for a double expresso and an almond croissant. This small chain of câfe bakeries, the brainchild of the Colpron-Fiset family, is well above average chain quality and having found them I breakfasted in one every morning. Every city should have a Premier-Moisson.
Later I went to the St Denis area to the chic Arthur Quentin (No 3960) kitchen shop – another magnet for the cook is Quincaillerie Dante a hardware shop that sells kitchen gadgets at one side and guns at the other, if you are lucky you may catch one of the owners Elena Faita-Venditelli’s Italian cooking classes. The charming shop and tea room called Au Festin de Babette and offbeat La Witcha which sells fairy dust and herbal tea potions are also worth popping into. I then headed off to Laurier Ave E. to check out an artisan bakery, La Fromentier. They make the best bread in Montreal in a large open bakery with wood burning oven, which shares a space with a charcuterie and cheese shop. (Cheese buffs will also want to visit Yannick Fromagerie d’Exception, 1218 Bernard Street W. to taste cow and goat milk cheeses.)
I also loved two cafes nearby, Byblos and Café des Entretiens, but there’s lots more for foodies on this cool street.
Visitors to Montreal shouldn’t miss Schwartz, a humble café opened as a steakhouse by Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz in 1928. You can either eat at one of the communal tables or at the counter. You may have to queue a long time for a famous smoked beef brisket sandwich with mustard on old style rye bread, but both the flavour and atmosphere will be worth it. Don’t ask for lean, it will be too dry, medium is okay, but a toppling sandwich of fat brisket is deliciously, insanely juicy and succulent. Another ‘must not miss’ experience is a Montreal bagel, quite a different animal from the standard bagel. Opinions vary as to which are best but the Fairmont and St Viateur 24 hour neighbouring bakeries are both institutions. The hoops of dough are first boiled, then baked in a wood-fired oven which adds a smoky note to the flavour of the dough – don’t miss the Fairmont onion bagel.
As ever I ran out of mealtimes but greatly enjoyed Alexandre Loiseau’s food at Cocagne on St-Denis Street. He served one of Montreal’s landmark puddings Pouding Chomeur (unemployed man’s pudding) with spice ice-cream and was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Toque! on the edge of Vieux Montreal is a tonier spot where charming Normand Laprise and his team weave their magic with local ingredients in season. I also enjoyed the marginally chaotic Au Pied de Cochon, which was packed and bustling by 6pm. Plum tomatoes were piled high along the counter.
No toques here, the team of young chefs cooked in jeans and baseball hats. Owner Martin Picard is by all accounts a charismatic passionate foodie who has built up an enviable network of local Quebec artisan producers who supply the restaurant with superb meat, vegetables and fruit. The food is robust and gutsy with strong flavours and huge portions. Picard does all his own preserving and pickling and customers can take home either the preserves or the equipment to do it themselves. 
Last but not least you mustn’t leave Montreal without ordering Poutine, a mound of greasy chips sprinkled with cheddar curds doused in thick gravy – doesn’t sound very appetizing but you can’t imagine how good it can taste. It is served in cafes all over town but we were recommended to go to a hip little spot called La Banquise in the Plateau Montreal neighbourhood. I sat at the formica topped tables surrounded by groovy students with dreadlocks, tattoos and many piercings tucking in to the classic poutine. I couldn’t believe I was eating this bizarre concotion, forkful after forkful – I couldn’t resist, it was sooooo good and so cheap, and though its still on my hips three weeks later I don’t regret a single bite!

Tomato Tart

- from “Au Pied du Cochon – The Album”
Serves 6

Pie Dough
225g (8oz) cold butter
275g (10oz/1â…” cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
70ml (â…“ cup) cold water
1 pinch fine salt

6 fresh ripe tomatoes
300ml (1¼ cups) béchamel sauce
300g (11oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped)
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

First make the pastry. Cut the butter into 2cm (1 inch) cubes. Mix the flour, salt and butter together by hand or with a food processor.
Some small pieces of butter, about 3mm (â…›in), should remain in the flour mixture. They will help the pastry cook to perfection.
Add water and form a dough roll without working the pastry too much. Leave to rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx. 3mm (â…› in), Cut out 6 rounds of 15cm (6in) in diameter.
Spread 50ml (¼ cup) of cold béchamel sauce onto each pastry round, along with a few dashes of Dijon mustard. Then add 50g (approx. 2oz) of Gruyere cheese.
Cover the tarts with 6 or 7 thin slices of tomato about 3mm (â…› in) thick. Top with some fresh thyme. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook the tarts in the oven at 200C (400F) for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce

1L (1¾ pint/4 cups) cold milk
70g (2¾ oz) butter
70g (2¾ oz) flour
1 pinch nutmeg (grated)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden.
Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the nutmeg and season to taste. Slowly bring to a boil and cook over low heat for approximately 1 minute. 


from Alexandre Loiseau of Cocagne Restaurant
This recipe was written in American measurements which we have converted
1 egg
2¼ tablesp.(3 American tablesp) maple syrup 
10g/½ oz (1 American tablesp) butter, melted
4oz (110g/1 cup) plain flour
Pinch salt
1 heaped dessertspoon (1 American tablesp.) baking powder
1 pinch nutmeg
4fl.oz (125ml/½ cup) milk
7oz (200g/1 cup) maple sugar (you could also use brown sugar here)
12fl.oz (350ml/1½ cups) heavy or whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375ËšF. 

Lightly grease a porcelain baking dish (a lasagne type dish would be fine) 30x10x7cm or a square 24x24cm dish., approximately 

Beat together the egg and maple syrup, then blend in the butter. 
In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg, then mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternatively with the milk until you have a smooth batter. Spread evenly into the prepared the baking dish. Whisk together the maple sugar (or brown sugar) and cream, then pour over the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden, and the syrup is thick and bubbly.

Off-to-Bed Butter Cookies

(from Gourmet Magazine)
Crumbly, delicate and glistening with golden sugar, these easy slice-and-bake cookies will quickly become one of your favourite standbys.

Makes about 4 dozen

6oz (175g/1½ cups) plain flour
¼ teasp. salt 
150g (5oz/¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3½oz) granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour and sugar in a bowl. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing, and continue to mix until batter just comes together in clumps. Gather clumps to form a dough, then press dough with lightly floured hands into a smooth 1¼ in (3cm) thick log on a very lightly floured work surface. 
Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 5.
Cut chilled log crosswise into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices and arrange slices about ½ inch (1cm) apart on baking sheets. Brush tops of cookies lightly with cream, then sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 12-15 minutes in total.
Cool on sheets on racks.

Note: Dough log can be chilled, wrapped well in plastic wrap, up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
Cookies will keep for 4days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Hot Tips 

BIM Seafood Circle – from Tide to Table 
This initiative recognizes and rewards the many shops, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants that push the limits to deliver excellent seafood and service to their customers. When buying fish or eating out look for the Seafood Circle symbol – 

Q82 Restaurant, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Celebrate their local producers with a Slow Food Dinner Menu designed around their spectacular produce on Wednesday October 17th at 6.30pm for 7pm
Enjoy the feast and meet the producers themselves. 
Booking essential – places limited – Tel Q82 on 058-244555 (quote Slow Food when booking) €55 for 6 courses (excluding wine) €48 for Slow Food members and students.

Cork City becomes a GM-free zone
Minister for Food and Horticulture backs move
Top chefs and restaurants welcome recipe to protect food quality and traditions
The City of Cork is now a GMO-free zone, following a recent motion by Cork City Council which declares the area off-limits to the release of genetically modified seeds and crops. The decision follows similar motions adopted by Bantry and Clonakilty last year.
The Minister of State for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent, said the move will help to protect the economic interest of Ireland’s food and farming future as a clean green GM-free food island.

A Weekend in London

I spent a few days in London recently, ostensibly the purpose of the trip was to work with my editor to finalise the revised edition of the Ballymaloe Cookery Course which hopefully should be in the shops by Christmas.

I so love London, its easy to get to, bouncing with energy, great exhibitions, shows and theatres. I love the parks, the secret town gardens, (I went to see the hidden town gardens behind Spenser House this time) and of course the food.
I always want to try the new ‘best thing’, but also want to pack in old favourites.
The deal this time was that we had to break for lunch and I even managed to nip out for breakfast on a couple of occasions and I tagged a weekend on as well for good measure.
Baker and Spice is one of my favourite breakfast spots, delicious crunchy granola, thick unctuous yoghurt, real handmade breads, brioche, croissants and Danish pastries, good butter in a slab, gorgeous jams and marmalades.
The same can be said for La Fromagerie, Patricia Michelson’s iconic cheese shop and grocery. You sit at a communal table and feast on whatever the kitchen has been moved to cook that day, depending on the season and availability.
Breakfast too is a feast. The damson jam and marmalade were sublime as was my neighbour’s freshly boiled egg and soldiers. The walk-in cheese room, cooled and humidified, has arguably the best selection of cheese in best condition in London.
Next door is the Ginger Pig where those who seek out superb quality meat reared responsibly do their shopping. The meat is dry aged, dark and properly hung, lots of rare breeds. It gives me great joy to see prime roasts of beef sitting on the counter at room temperature with a tag to tell you how long it has hung for, 2,3,4,5 weeks and you pay accordingly. There’s no point in whingeing that we can’t get well hung meat. It costs the butcher more to hang the meat for longer. We need to be prepared to pay more for better quality and traditional butchering and local meat reared and nurtured by local farmers. Those who rear animals for real flavour need to be appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. There must be a difference in return, otherwise why bother.
Londoners queue up at the Ginger Pig in Moxon Street and at Borough Market and pay up to three times our normal prices for prime meat, not just beef and lamb but prime pork from traditional breeds and proper dry cured bacon like it used to be, not luminous pink from nitrates but dark, firm and dry.
The quest for real food in London is gathering momentum. There are now at least fifteen Farmers Markets in the London area. By 10 o’clock on Saturday morning the afore-mentioned Borough Market is like Patrick Street on Christmas Eve. The choice is unbearable and one needs to plan one’s campaign with military precision to make the best use of time. Pop into Brindisa first to order a ration of pata negra, the exquisite cured ham made from the acorn fed Iberico pigs from the oak forests of Andalucia. It will knock you back £16.50 for 100grams, its all hand cut so you’ll need to come back in 20 or 30 minutes to collect your precious packet. Meanwhile pick up some pimentons de Padron, some smoked paprika, a piece of fig and almond wheel and some fine sherry vinegar. If you want to enjoy a famous Brindisa Chorizo and Rocket sandwich you ‘ll need to be fast, there’s normally a queue by 9am which will last virtually all day.
Brindisa Tapa Bar on Southwark St. serves both breakfast and lunch on Friday and Saturday from 8am. 
Just across the road is Neal’s Yard Dairy, Randolf Hodgson’s Emporium of British and Irish cheese and several delicious homemade butters, good milk and thick unctuous yoghurt. 
For those who fancy a little sweet nothing, Konditor & Cook do a range of yummy cookies, bikkies and tiny cakes decorated with rude or romantic messages. Shoppers are prepared to queue for half an hour for the Monmouth Coffee Shop which sources its beans directly from farmers where quality is a priority and workers are paid a living wage also. There are several other terrific little cafes on the periphery of the market and don’t miss Roast-to-go, where they sell ‘pigs in blankets’ and other yummy snacks.
Jane Scotter has the best biodynamic veg in the market, you can pick up some elephant garlic from the Isle of Wight garlic stall, another stall simply sells a variety of sea salt and peppercorns from, yet another specializes in teas. Flour Power City has its bread from around the world and famous chocolate brownies piled high. There’s fish, shellfish, cured meats, pates and terrines and rare breed meats, including Andrew Sharpe’s Herdwick and Swaledale lamb and mutton from the Cumbrian hills in the Lake District, another has goose, duck and traditional breed eggs- it’s a foodlovers delight. If you can’t make Borough on Saturday, Marleybone High Street market on Sunday morning is smaller but the quality is superb.
I also had a delicious lunch in Olivo in Elizabeth Street, freshly made pasta with grated bottago (dried mullet roe), and pizza with Mozzarella, bresaola and rocket. Otto Lenghi on Upper St in Islington was another find, a deliciously stylish food shop with a café behind, unbearingly tempting salads, gorgeous sweeties, huge fluffy meringues, coffee hazelnut, raspberry and rose petal and chocolate. Cup Cakes with a fresh cherry on top, fig and blackberry galette…
In a weekend of many highlights the experience that topped them all was lunch at Petersham Nurseries Café. The salad of green and white asparagus with sarais, ricotta, anchovy and mint dressing was delicious, but most memorable was the Guinea Fowl with
Farro and Rosemary Aoili and the slow cooked Milk fed Lamb with borlotti beans and lovage salsa verde. I’ve managed to persuade Skye Gyngell to come to teach a one-day Guest chef course at the school on Saturday 8th September 2007, her food is truly sublime and truly, truly delicious. I can’t wait! – here are a few more of Skye’s recipes from her book ‘A Year in my kitchen’ published by Quadrille.

Mackerel Fillets with roasted tomatoes and horseradish cream

– Skye Gyngell
Horseradish works well alongside oily fish. You really need to grate it freshly, though this may bring tears to your eyes! Mackerel needs to be exceptionally fresh to be delicious. Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you – if the fillets are quite large, allow two per person, if small then you will need to allow three. Mackerel also tastes best when it is very hot, so don’t let it sit around before serving.
Serves 4

4-5 mackerel, filleted
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
12 slow-roasted tomato halves

Horseradish cream:
200ml crème fraiche
1 tbsp. freshly grated horseradish
1½ tsp Dijon mustard

To serve
1 tbsp very finely chopped curly parsley
Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

Start by making the horseradish cream. Put the crème fraiche in a bowl and stir in the freshly grated horseradish and mustard. Season with a pinch of salt and a tiny amount of freshly ground pepper. (If making ahead, cover and refrigerate, but bring back to room temperature before serving.)
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Season the mackerel on both sides, but a little more generously on the skin side. Heat one large (or 2 smaller) non-stick ovenproof frying pans over a medium heat, then add the olive oil. When the pan is hot and lightly smoking, add the mackerel fillets, skin side down, and cook without turning or moving until the skin is golden and crunchy. Put the pan into the hot oven and cook for just under a minute, then remove.
To serve, layer the roasted tomato halves and mackerel fillets on warm serving plates, placing a dollop of horseradish cream on the bottom and top fillets. Sprinkle over the chopped parsley, drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the plate and serve immediately.

Slow-roasted Tomatoes
6 plum tomatoes
10g caster sugar
10g sea salt
10g freshly ground black pepper
Turn your oven on to its lowest possible setting – probably 100C/gas ¼. Halve the tomatoes lengthways and lay them, cut side up, in a single layer on a large baking tray. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, salt and pepper, then sprinkle all over the cut surface of the tomatoes. Roast, undisturbed, in the oven for 3-4 hours until they shrivel up – their pointy ends turning up like Turkish slippers. Remove and set aside until ready to use. Slow-roasting itensifies the flavour, giving the tomatoes a deliciously sweet, earthy taste.

Pan-roasted guinea fowl with parsley sauce – Skye Gyngell
Serves 6

6 guinea fowl supremes 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little light olive oil, for cooking

Parsley sauce
150g curly parsley, stems removed, plus extra to serve
500ml double cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1½ tsp finely grated lemon zest, or to taste

First make the parsley sauce. Put a pan of well salted water on to boil (it should be as salty as the sea). Plunge the parsley leaves into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and refresh in iced water (to keep your parsley a beautiful, bright colour). Drain and set aside.
Pour the cream into a heavy-based pan and bring almost to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow to bubble to reduce by about a third, until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the blanched parsley leaves and boil for a moment longer. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender until you have a beautiful fine texture.
Add a generous grating of nutmeg and the lemon zest, then season well with salt and a good grinding of pepper. Your sauce is now ready; keep it warm.

Preheat the oven to 220/Gas 7. Season the guinea fowl generously with salt and pepper all over. Place a heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat and heat until smoking. Pour in about 1 tbsp olive oil, then brown the guinea fowl in batches. Lay two supremes in the pan, skin side down, and leave to colour for 3 minutes – resist the temptation to play with them. Transfer to a baking tray (without turning) and brown the rest of the supremes in the same way.
Finish cooking the guinea fowl in the oven for 8 minutes or until the skin is crisp and crunchy and the breast meat is succulent, moist and cooked through. Leave to rest in a warm place for 5 minutes.
Arrange the guinea fowl supremes on warm plates, on a bed of swede puree if you like, and ladle the warm parsley sauce generously over the top. Scatter over chopped parsley and serve.

Strawberry Granita

- Skye Gyngell
Serves 6

125g caster sugar
250ml water 
375g Irish strawberries
Juice of ½ lemon
Pouring cream, to serve (optional)

To make the sugar syrup, put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until the sugar syrup has cooled.
Hull the strawberries and puree in a blender or food processor with the lemon juice. Pass through a sieve into a bowl. When the sugar syrup is completely cool, combine with the strawberry puree.
Pour the mixture into a shallow freezerproof container and place in the freezer for about 2 hours until partially frozen.
Remove from the freezer and stir up the mixture with a fork, dragging in the frozen granita from the sides. Don’t beat it as you would a sorbet – the texture of the granita is not the same, it is meant to be icy and crunchy. Return to the freezer until set.
To serve, scoop the granita into glasses. If you are feeling really decadent, you could add a drizzle of cream.

Pizza with Mozzarella, Bresaola and Rocket

Brush the pizza base with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Sprinkle with mozzarella, season with cracked pepper and salt.
Slide into the oven. Cook for 1½ - 8 minutes, depending on oven. Lay 5 pieces of Bresaola on top.
Put a medium bunch of fresh rocket in the middle and drizzle with olive oil.

Foolproof Food

Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

A brilliant recipe for using up left over bits of cheese, add a little blue cheese if available.
Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.
Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.
Grate the cheese - rinds and all. Dice the butter. Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese and a little salt, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 1½ inches thick. Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid. 
Remove, unwrap, brush with egg wash and roll in sesame seeds, or a mixture of sesame and nigella seeds. Cover and chill again for another hour.
Slice into rounds - about one-third inch thick. Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown. 
Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack. Best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.
Serve them just as they are, or use them as a base for a variety of toppings – perhaps a sliver of cheddar and a dollop of Ballymaloe Country Relish or Ballymaloe Jalapeno Relish. Goats cheese and sundried tomatoes are also delicious, or simply top the goats cheese with a dab of pesto and a slice of cherry tomato. They are also yummy sandwiched together with cream cheese, chives and cucumber pickle.

Hot Tips

When in London don’t miss -

La Fromagerie – 2-4 Moxon St. London WIU 4EW Tel 020 7935 0341
Ginger Pig, 8-10 Moxon St. London W1U 4EW, Tel 020 7935 7788
Baker and Spice – 54-56 Elizabeth St. SW1W 9PB, Tel 020 7730 3033
Tapas Brindisa, 18-20 Southwark St. SE1 1DJ, Tel 0871 4263056
Ottolenghi – 1 Holland St. Kensington, W8 4NA Tel 020 7937 0003(also in Notting Hill and Islington)
Olivo – 21 Eccleston St. SW1W 9LX Tel 0871 0753940
Petersham Nurseries Café – Richmond, Surrey. Tel 020 8605 3627

Covent Garden – there are lots of wonderful tempting little shops tucked away in the streets around Covent Garden – at 28-32 Shelton Street, WC2H 9JE – Cath Kidston’s beautiful vintage inspired floral tableware and home accessories – oil cloth, fabric by the metre for curtains and tablecloths, clothing, aprons, picnic sets…..  Tel 020 7836 4803 
Next door at 32 Shelton Street is the Pout Shop with their delicious award-winning cosmetics – much loved by celebrities - great gifts beautifully packaged.  Tel 020 7379 0379
Neals Yard Remedies is also nearby at 15 Neal’s Yard with their range of organic skin care and natural remedies  Tel 020 73797222

Delicious Gourmet Food Store now open on Well Road, Douglas, Cork – . Free parking to rear of store. 
Prepared meals, starters and desserts, breads, cakes, jams, cheeses……specializing in gluten Free and wheat free products – Tel 021-4936846

Growing Awareness Events
The aim of Growing Awareness is to ensure that everyone has access to food grown and produced in a way that restores respect for the earth, respect for food and respect for farmers and growers – check out their forthcoming events on

The Real Magic of India

For me, the real magic of India, comes not just from the stunning temples, palaces and vibrant colour but from the myriad of street foods, cooked on the little stalls and portable kitchens in every city, town and village all over the country. 
India is the world’s largest democracy and the economy is growing at a rate of 9% a year. 

In the 12 months since my last visit, the change is palpable. The number of new cars on the roads is increasing at a rate of 20,000 a day. In large cities like Mumbai and Delhi flyovers are being built at a frantic rate, but the traffic is fast becoming unbearable. Everywhere the roads are being dug up to make way for high tensile cables and there are acres of glitzy malls under construction. 

Tuc tuc’s and rickshaws are being eased out of city centres, they don’t fit in with the new cosmopolitan image that these cities are so anxious to portray. Needless to say, I don’t go to India to visit the latest Mac Donalds or KFC. They are all there and many more besides, desperate to get a piece of the action in this fast-growing economy. I’m looking for the quintessential Indian experience.

Tourist numbers are also at an all time high but sadly many travelers never get a real taste of India, scared by the prospect of a bout of ‘Delhi Belly’ they steer well away from street food and rarely venture into the roadside dhabas where I’ve had some of my most delicious and inexpensive bites. This is simple food by Indian standards and challenging by Western hygiene standards but most is freshly prepared from food brought in the morning market. It is cooked as you wait, some like naan breads and dosa are cooked in a Tandoor oven or in a iron tava others like samosas, bajiis, pakoras catchoris and pooris are deep fried in huge iron woks called Kad. Idli of south India are steamed and served with little bowls of sambar. The Indians love to snack, some poorer families don’t have any kitchens, few rural families have ovens. So all cooking is done over wood fires or with dried cow pats. In villages, towns and cities breakfast, lunch and evening meals come from street stalls, that specialize in just one or two items . 

Hard core foodies who want to enhance their Indian gastronomic experience need to develop a sixth sense survival strategy. First observe the stall quietly, not quite so easy when you are conspicuously white and foreign. As ever, its best to gravitate towards the busier stalls. If locals are already queueing up its likely to be the best choice in the area. Ask for the food to be cooked in front of you, rather than accepting an item that was cooked earlier. Much of Indian food is vegetarian. If it contains meat it will be referred to as non veg, Chicken or mutton (meaning goat) are the most usual meats. In some areas close to the sea, local fish can be very good. 

As far as street foods are concerned. Calcutta or Kalcota as it is now known, was by far the most vibrant and varied. We headed for the office area near Dalhousie Square just before noon when all the government clerks spill out of their offices and take a break from filling in dusty ledgers.

Just behind the office area and all around the corner there are food stalls on both sides of the pavement. The variety is staggering and affordable. As we wander down the street the vendors are gearing up for the imminent onslaught. One is chanting a puja around his stall. Several have little auspicious garlands of limes and chilli hanging from their umbrellas to ward off evil spirits. One romali roti maker feeds his first stuffed ‘handkerchief bread’ to the brazier as he murmurs a prayer, presumably to ask for a busy lunchtime trade. Indians of all ages and creeds are exceedingly devout.

All the ‘mise-en-place’ is done, bread dough made, vegetables chopped, pickles and chutneys at the ready. Big pots of mutton and chicken biryani are steaming hot ready to serve.

Other stalls are piled high with the ingredients for an ‘egg toast’ with chopped onion, green chilli, fresh coriander added to the beaten egg. It is fried on a hot tava in a little sizzling oil on a hot tava, then cut into quarters, sprinkled with pepper and coarse salt. Can you imagine how delicious that is. The skill and speed at which they work is astounding. Several are doing vegetable and non vegetable versions of the famous Kolcata Kati roll. 

Other stalls are piled high with flaky triangular Shingaras (Bengali savoury samosas) and moghlai parathas, stuffed with mince.

Another vendor is selling roast hard boiled eggs with pickles and chatt masala, yet another roti and gravy. Cauliflower is in season so yet another has crispy little cauliflower fritters which have been dipped in a gram (chickpea flour) batter laced with chilli powder and turmeric, so moreish. Many of the foods are served in little leaf baskets on banana leaves or in recycled newspaper bags.

Juice Wallahs have their stalls piled high with watermelons, pineapples, pomegranates and mangos. Tea shops making sweet chai and spicy marsala chai are also doing a roaring trade. 

There was much, much more, chickpea stews, dahls , fresh and cooked, vegetable salads, always spiced up with a hot sauce and served with a segment of lime.

Indians have an incredibly sweet tooth, several other stalls are providing a variety of sweet meats. One chap is piping thin spirals of a batter into hot oil to make Jalebas. When they are crisp they will be dropped into a heavy syrup to provide a tooth-wrenching sweet, but other favourites are the famous Rosagulla made from casein.

Sadly while we were there the Times of India carried a lead story that the Indian government planned to ban street food in Delhi. 

This may well be the beginning of the end for this kind of food which provides a livelihood and inexpensive nutritious food for literally millions of Indians of every class and creed every day.

Here are a few examples of some of the street foods I enjoyed.

Indian Spiced Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Relish

Serves 4-6
1 thin aubergine cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices
1 teasp. salt
2 medium courgettes, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) slices, if they are very large cut into quarters
12 cauliflower florets
6 large mushrooms, cut in half

6 ozs (170g) cups Chick pea or all-purpose flour
1 tablesp. chopped fresh coriander
1 scant teasp. salt
2 teasp. curry powder
1 tablesp. olive oil
1 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 fl ozs (175-250ml) iced water

Vegetable oil for deep frying
Garnish: Lemon wedges and coriander or parsley 

Put the aubergine slices into a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let drain while preparing the other vegetables.

Blanch the courgettes and cauliflower florets separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry well. Rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry. 

Put the flour, coriander, salt and curry powder into a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, lemon juice and water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream. 

Heat good quality oil to 180C in a deep fry. Lightly whisk the batter and dip the vegetables in batches of 5 or 6, slip them carefully into the hot oil. Fry the pakoras for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a moderate oven (uncovered) while you cook the remainder. Allow the oil to come back to 180C between batches. When all the vegetable fritters are ready, garnish with lemon wedges and fresh or deep fried coriander or parsley. Serve at once with Mango relish.

Mango Relish

2 fl ozs (50ml) medium sherry
2 fl ozs (50ml) water
2 fl ozs (50ml) white wine vinegar
2 tablesp. sugar
2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 teasp. salt
Pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablesp. lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.


250ml (9fl oz) full fat milk
2-3 cardamom pods
2.5cm (1inch) piece of cinnamon
3 peppercorns
3 teaspoons loose tea leaves
500ml (18fl oz) boiling water

Put all the ingredients except the tea leaves and the sugar into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Bring back to the boil, add the tea leaves, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 mins. Turn off the heat and allow the leaves to settle. Serve in tea cups.

Cauliflower Fritters – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj – published by Kyle Cathie

Phoolkopir bhaja

Serves 4
For the batter:
150g flour
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ajowan seeds

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

300g cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florettes

Make a thick batter of all the batter ingredients and batter as needed to achieve the consistency of thick custard.

Heat the oil in a deep kadhai or frying pan until it is nearly smoking.
Dip each cauliflower florette in the batter and gently add to the hot oil. Reduce the heat to allow the cauliflower to cook through. Do this in batches, a few at a time, frying until golden, then drain on absorbent paper.
Serve hot with Pineapple Chutney or tomato ketchup.

Potatoes and Green Pea Samosas – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj

Mutter ke Samose

Serves 4 (makes 12 samosas)
Samosas are very popular all over the world and can be served as a snack, a main meal or a picnic treat. In India they are served with tomato ketchup, sweet and sour tamarind chutney or a spicy mint relish. The potatoes in this recipe need to be cut up finely, almost the size of a fingernail. They should retain their shape but melt in the mouth. Although they are traditionally deep-fried, Monisha bakes hers.

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
300g potatoes, peeled, cut into small cubes, boiled and drained
150g frozen green peas, cooked and drained
500g frozen ready-to-use filo pastry

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the cumin seeds until they turn dark, for a few seconds. Reduce the heat.

Add the spice powders and stir in the potatoes at once as the spice powders will scorch easily. Add the peas and salt and cook until well blended, for a couple of minutes.

Line a baking tray with tinfoil and preheat the oven to 220C/gas 6.

Lay a sheet of pastry on a flat surface. Fill with a bit of the potato and pea mixture. Fold the pastry to make a triangle and continue similarly for the rest of the filling. (Folding technique: lift the top centre corner and fold over the filling to be in line with the bottom edge, making a triangle shape. Now lift the right bottom corner over to the top and then the top left down again. Carry on until you have a triangular parcel).

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning over once to cook both sides.
Serve hot.

Foolproof Food

Indian ‘French toast’

Serves 4
4 thickish slices of good white bread
3 - 4 free range eggs
1 green chilli chopped 
4 tablespoons of freshly chopped coriander 
1 small onion chopped 
rock or sea salt 
freshly ground pepper

First lightly toast the bread (in Calcutta it was chargrilled over charcoal). Whisk the eggs in a flattish dish; add salt, finely chopped onion, green chilli and coriander. 

Dip one slice of bread into the egg, turn over to make sure it is saturated on both sides. Slap it onto a hot pan with a little sizzling oil. Cook until crispy on both sides. Cut in quarters, sprinkle with rock salt and serve. 

Hot Tips

Launch of Diversity Awards 2007
The launch of the Diversity Awards 2007 will take place on Monday 22nd March at the Stephen's Green Hibernian Club. 
Funded by the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, under the 'National Action Plan Against Racism' (NPAR), the mission of the Diversity Awards is to recognise and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices taken by both companies and individuals who embrace diversity within the Irish Hospitality and Tourism Industry. 
The Diversity Awards were first launched in 2006, and were met with great success. Now in their second year the Diversity Awards will be open to applications within a range of categories. 
For more information email Helen at 

Burrenbeo Information Centre and Café Beo reopen after winter break

The Burrenbeo Resource Centre and Cafe Beo - located in Kinvara - is now open, Wed - Sat, 10am to 6pm daily. Featuring: Images of the Burren - a stunning collection of photographic images of the Burrens rich heritage, Multilingual factsheets and other free Burren information, free broadband internet access, as well as an extensive range of Burren reference books to browse through while you relax with a cup of the best (fair trade) coffee in the Burren!

Diploma in Speciality Food Production – at University College Cork
2 April – 16 May 2007. This course is for individuals who are starting a speciality food business and also for those involved in this sector including producers, retailers, culinary specialists, buyers, food designers and journalists. For details contact Mary McCarthy Buckley, Food Industry Training Unit, University College Cork. Tel 021-4903363

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander

In Australia, many of the top culinary icons I met were women, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and the incorrigible, and irrepressible Cherry Ripe.
Stephanie Alexander opened Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne in 1976, a landmark establishment later credited with having revolutionized fine dining in Australia.

From 1997, along with several pals, she set up and ran Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood café renowned particularly for its superb cheese.

Stephanie is one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors. She’s written innumerable cookbooks and her signature publication – The Cook’s Companion has established itself in almost 400,000 homes world wide, including pride of place in the library in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

I am full of admiration for Stephanie in so many ways, not least for her work in spearheading the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in 2001. 

The programme’s aim was to introduce inner-city kids to the joys of healthy, homemade food. Since then, she and her team have worked with hundreds of primary school children, teaching them to grow edible organic produce in the school grounds, and to turn their harvest into wonderful dishes such as muffins, homemade pastas, vegetable-rich winter soups and decorated tea eggs.

Unlike other cookbooks for kids, Stephanie’s recipes do not assume that a child’s palate is unsophisticated or unable to appreciate complex tastes. Although the recipes are simple, Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids incorporates a wide range of interesting ingredients, with a particular emphasis on those that are healthy and inexpensive. Stephanie also arranges her menus seasonally to encourage an appreciation for fresh (even home-grown!) produce, rather than packaged and pre-prepared convenience foods.

Stephanie’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, then everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. In Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids, Stephanie gathers together 120 recipes, all specially written for children, with simple instructions, a list of equipment needed for each recipe, a colourful layout and lots of fast, fun facts for curious minds. But while all of these recipes can be negotiated by a couple of eight year olds in aprons with a bit of adult supervision – the dishes are anything but standard kids’ fare: alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, Indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable-rich winter soups.

The book also tells the story behind the recipes – the inspiring tale of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College. In 2001, Stephanie initiated a garden and cooking programme in a large inner-city Melbourne school. Since then the programme has given hundreds of primary school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

Stephanie’s book will appeal not only to mums and kids but also to the growing number of teachers who are developing kitchen gardens and school food initiatives.

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander
Published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books

Buy this Book from

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

This delicious salad can be made up to an hour before your wish to eat it and kept refrigerated, but if made too far in advance the cabbage and daikon will lose their crunchy texture. On another day you could use prawns or poached fish instead of chicken.
Serves 6 or tasting for 12

Poached chicken fillets
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 x 2cm piece fresh ginger
2 skinless chicken breast fillets

3 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli (use disposable gloves if you can)
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
â…“ cup fish sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Cabbage Salad

1 carrot
1 daikon (Chinese radish)
½ cabbage
1 small red onion
20 mint leaves
12 stems coriander 

Trim the outside layer from the spring onions and cut off the tops and ends, then cut the rest into 4 pieces. Peel and slice the ginger. Fill the saucepan with water, add the spring onions and ginger, then bring to a simmering point over a high heat. Carefully slip the chicken breasts into the saucepan and allow the water to return to a simmering point, then use the ladle to skim off and discard any froth that rises to the top. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time. Use the tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to the plate. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until needed.

Now make the dressing. Peel the garlic. Place the cloves on the chopping board and flatten with the side of a large knife. Finely chop the garlic and place in a large bowl.

Slip on the disposable gloves and slit the chilli in half lengthways. Scrape the seeds into the rubbish bin. Slice the chilli as finely as you can and place in the garlic bowl. Discard the gloves. Wash and dry the chopping board and knife. Juice the lime. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, oil and sugar to the garlic bowl and stir.

Make the cabbage salad. Soak the coriander in a small bowl of water. Peel the carrot and daikon. Using the food processor or a vegetable slicing gadget, shred the carrot and daikon and add to the dressing bowl. Cut away the thick stalk from the cabbage, then cut the cabbage into 2 or 3 pieces. Using the large knife, shred the cabbage and add to the dressing bowl. Peel the red onion and cut it in half lengthways, then place the flat sides on the chopping board and slice each half into fine rings. Add to the dressing bowl. Place all vegetable scraps in the compost bucket.

Using your fingers, shred the cooked chicken breasts.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the dressing and vegetables.

Lift the coriander from its soaking water. Rinse the mint. Dry the herbs by rolling in the tea towel. Set aside 6-12 leaves to use as a garnish, then roughly chop the rest and add to the bowl.

Use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together, then spoon into serving bowls and top with the reserved coriander or mint.

Chargrilled Middle Eastern Lamb Burgers with Pita Breads

Makes 10 small burgers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ onion
1 lemon
15 stalks parsley
10 sprigs thyme
500g minced lamb
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 small pita pocket breads
½ cup yoghurt

You will need 2 baking trays and a frying pan. Chopping board and knives. Mortar and pestle.
Preheat the oven to 150C and put one of the baking trays in the oven to keep warm.
Heat the frying pan over a medium heat. Tip in the coriander seeds and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to smell fragrant. Tip the seeds into the mortar. Toast the cumin seeds in the same pan until they, too, smell fragrant. Add these seeds to the mortar and wipe out the frying pan with a piece of kitchen paper.

Using the pestle, grind the toasted seeds to a coarse powder. Tip the powder into a large bowl. Set out the chopping board and knives. Peel and chop the onion finely (or grate it) and tip into the bowl. Juice the lemon and grate the zest, adding both to the bowl.

Rinse the parsley and thyme, dry by rolling in the tea towel, then chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Now add the lamb and salt, along with a good grind of black pepper. Make sure your hands are very clean, then use your hands to mix everything together very well.

Heat the frying pan over a medium heat and add a tiny dash of the oil. Take a walnut-sized piece of the mixture and fry it in the frying pan for a couple of minutes. Using a tongs, lift this sample out of the frying pan. Allow to cool a little, then taste it to decide if the mixture needs more salt or pepper.

Form the mixture into 10 equal balls. Flatten each ball a bit with the back of a fork and place on the cold baking tray. Using the pastry brush, brush the lamb burgers with the oil. Heat the chargrill pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place the burgers carefully on the hot grill – do not try to move them once they have been placed. Turn after 8-10 minutes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

As the burgers are cooked, transfer them to the baking tray that has been in the oven.

While the burgers are grilling, brush the pita pocket breads with oil, then place on the oven rack to warm through. This should take 5-8 minutes. Serve the burgers and warm breads at the table, where your guests should open their pita breads, spoon in some tabbouleh and then top with the lamb burger and a dollop of yoghurt.


Serves 6
½ cup cracked wheat
3 tomatoes
1 long cucumber
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 clove garlic
10 stalks parsley
15 mint leaves
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the cracked wheat in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes, then tip into the strainer. Press out as much liquid as possible with the back of the tablespoon.

Tip the cracked wheat into a thick tea towel and roll it like a sausage. Two people are now needed to each hold one end of the tea-towel sausage, and to twist in opposite directions to squeeze even more liquid from the grains.

Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the cracked wheat, then unwrap the ‘sausage’ and carefully shake the cracked wheat into the bowl.

Set out the chopping board and knives. As you chop the following ingredients, place them in the bowl with the cracked wheat. Cut the tomatoes into small dice using the serrated knife. Peel and dice the cucumber. Trim the outside layer from the spring onions, cut off their tops and ends, then finely slice the rest. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Rinse the parsley and mint and dry by rolling in the second tea towel. Chop the herbs and add to the other ingredients. Juice the lemon. In the small bowl, mix the oil and lemon juice to make a dressing, then add to the medium bowl. Mix everything together and taste for salt and pepper. Spread the parsley evenly throughout. Transfer the tabbouleh to the serving bowl and serve.

Orange and Cardamom Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 10
125g butter
¾ cup castor sugar (170g)
2 large oranges 
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Cream Cheese Icing
60g pure icing sugar
60g cream cheese
30g butter

You will need a 12 hold muffin tray and 10 cupcake cases (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. If using cupcake cases , drop one into each of the holes in the muffin tin. Otherwise, weigh the butter, then melt 1 tablespoon into the small saucepan and use the pastry brush to grease the holes of the muffin tin.

Set out the chopping board and knife. Cut the remainder of the butter into small cubes and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add the sugar and run the motor for 1 minute.

Juice the oranges and place the juice in a medium bowl. Grate the zest from the oranges and add the zest to the bowl. Crack the eggs into the same bowl, then lightly whisk to combine. Sift the flour and ground cardamom into a second medium bowl.

With the food processor running, and working quickly, add about one-third of the egg and juice mixture, then add about one-third of the sifted flour. Immediately add another one-third of the egg mixture and another one-third of the flour, then the remaining egg mixture and flour and process until smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter evenly into 10 holes of the greased muffin tin, filling each hole about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. To test the cakes, remove from the oven and insert a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cakes are done.

While the cakes are cooking, make the icing. Wash and dry the bowl of the food processor and place the sieve over the top. Tip the icing sugar into the sieve and use a spoon to push the icing sugar through. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes, then tip into the food processor, along with the butter, and process until smooth and creamy.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Allow them to cool for 1 minute in the tin, then turn the tin upside-down and bang the bottom of the tray to release the cakes. Place right side up on the wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, use the spatula to spread a little icing on top of each cake and serve.

Hot Tips

Cooking for Kids with Rachel Allen – 
Half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School - 2pm on Friday 13th April – Tel 021-4646785 to book.

Chinese New Year 2007 is The Year of the Pig – 
To expand your repertoire of Chinese cooking have a look at some Chinese cookbooks recently on the shelves –
Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Shows how Chinese cooking has never been easier . Using the freshest produce, simplest cooking techniques and step-by-step photographs, the 14 chapters containing over 100 recipes are each devoted to one main ingredient – be it chicken, rice, stocks or seafood.
The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-ta-Hsiung – Originally published in 1999 this classic has recently been reissued by Kyle Cathie – a wonderful overview of Chinese ingredients and useful sources.
China Modern by Ching-He Huang – also by Kyle Cathie
100 cutting-edge, fusion-style recipes for the 21st century. In China Modern, Ching-He Huang explores new influences from the rest of the Far East as well as the West, looking first at familiar recipes and giving them a makeover as well as traditional home cooking from the less well known provinces such as Hunan and Sichuan.

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority
Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058  Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766 

Foolproof Food

Stir-fried Pork Fillets with Honey and Ginger

From Simple Chinese Food by Kylie Kwong
Serve as a meal for 4 with steamed rice or as part of a banquet for 4-6
If possible, marinate the pork overnight for better flavour!

600g (1lb 4oz) pork fillets, cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10cm (4in) lengths
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 limes, halved

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil 

Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the marinated pork and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the wok, add remaining pork and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Return reserved pork to the wok with spring onions, vinegar, soy sauce and water. Stir-fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.

Arrange pork on a platter and serve with lime halves.

Spains Gastronomic Summit

The Gastronomic Summit in Spain, called Madrid Fusion has now become an annual affair. This year was the fifth and arguably the most spectacular so far. Spain’s avant-garde chefs are now generally considered to be leading the way in what has become known as molecular gastronomy!  

The ‘high priest’ of this movement is Ferran Adria, the brilliant young chef whose restaurant El Bulli has become a place of pilgrimage for chefs, food lovers and ‘restaurant collectors’ all over the world. To secure a booking in the restaurant is the equivalent of a win in the lotto. Rumour has it that El Bulli is booked solid for four or five years.

My first encounter with Adria was at Tasting Australia in 2004. He dazzled the crowd with his alchemy, when he made jellies, foams, mousses, soufflés and I can’t remember what else with water alone. He told us about his laboratory and his new toys. To produce this sort of alchemy there are a number of ‘must have toys’ – Pacojet, Thermomix, Dehydrator, and a variety of solutions including liquid nitrogen,

Ferran has inspired and thrilled a whole generation of chefs. To me he was like an over-excited little boy with a new chemistry set – no mention of flavour, it was all about tricky new textures and garnishes – smacked of the emperor’s new clothes.

But that was before I tasted his food, I still haven’t been to El Bulli but I’ve tasted some of his signature dishes at the drinks party he hosted at the Casino de Madrid.

The first realization is that nothing is ever as it seems. A green olive on a tiny plate is in fact a little bubble of olive juice that bursts in your mouth with a delicious essence of olive.

A meltingly tender mussel is suspended in another bubble with a whiff of fresh lime juice. What looks like fish roe turns out to be little beads of lychee juice which have been made by injecting little droplets of a lychee solution into liquid nitrogen through a syringe. A gin and tonic sorbet is made in seconds with dry ice, an oyster on the half shell has a tiny pearl of liquid smoky bacon flavour….. these are just a few of the temptations!

This is not the kind of food that you or I will be doing anytime soon, but as with nouvelle cuisine I’m sure that many of the techniques will be absorbed into the mainstream chef’s repertoire, some will filter down into the keen cook’s kitchen. This year the theme of the conference was Produce. Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, UK ‘s most famous proponent of molecular gastronomy ignored the brief and went on a flight of fancy about recreating the childhood memories of a ‘kid in a candy shop’.

The movers and shakers from all over the world were there. Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney, less of a revolutionary but a true genius in the kitchen.

Seiji Yamamoto, a brilliant young chef from Japan has been applying avant garde techniques to create exciting textures and sensational flavours in his kitchen for several years. For the finale of his demonstration he created a link between creative gastronomy and the latest communication technology – an edible menu on a plate which reads over the latest generation of mobile phone, this was definitely a glimpse of the future.

For those of you who might be going to Tokyo sometime soon book well ahead at Nihonryori/ryugin.

Also thinking well outside the box are Spanish chefs Dani Garcia and Angel Leon. Dani has become famous for his ‘nitrogen cuisine’ and his 21st Century interpretation of Andalusian dishes. Dani has many Irish fans of his restaurant Caluma in Marbella. 

Chef Angel Leon, the Prince of Tides, spends almost as much time in the sea as in kitchen and laboratory. Angel has invented a process for using fish scales and fish eyes to enhance the flavour of his food. His latest work in association with the University of Cadiz is on a micro filter algae for broths. These chefs and the growing number of acolytes all have laboratories beside their kitchens and many are linking up with food scientists and technology whizz kids, to go places where chefs have never travelled before.

Charlie Trotter, US super chef from Chicago presented his creations amidst many references to his new book on spa cuisine.

Trotter who has virtually every gastronomic accolade in the US is an outspoken advocate of the use of the freshest sustainable organic ingredients. He uses only naturally raised free range meat and game and line-caught seafood and has banned the use of foie gras in his menus.

Fellow chef Dan Barber has a similar social and moral philosophy at his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills just north of New York City. The restaurant is in the centre of an organic farm which grows much of the produce for the restaurant. I haven’t eaten at Blue Hill yet but it is high on my wish list – just 45 minutes on the Hudson River Line train from Grand Central Station in New York.  

None of these chef’s recipe are easily reproduced at home so here are some other delicious and more familiar dishes from Spain.

Jago’s Tortilla de Patatas

This recipe was given to us by Jago Chesterton from Huelva in the South of Spain when he was a student at the school.
In Spain you must understand, Tortilla is not just a dish it’s a way of life. Tortillas or flat omelettes not to be confused with the Mexican tortilla which is a flat bread, are loved by Spaniards and tourists alike. You'll be offered them in every home, in the most elegant restaurants and the most run down establishments - no picnic would be complete without a tortilla and every tapas bar will have appetising wedges of tortilla on display. People even eat it at the cinema. 
Tortilla de Patatas sounds deceptively simple but its not as easy to make to perfection as you might think.
Serves 6-8

8-9 eggs, free range and organic
14ozs (400g) diced potato (1.5cm)
6ozs (175g) diced onion
3fl oz (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

The secret of success is to use enough oil. Put a generous (2.5cm) 1 inch of olive oil into a frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook until the potatoes are golden on the outside and soft in the middle. Drain off the excess oil from the potatoes. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the potato and onion mixture. Put 2 tablespoons of oil back into the pan, when it begins to sizzle pour in the egg mixture then lower the heat, when the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge continue to cook shaking the pan occasionally. When the tortilla is well set and golden underneath, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn it out, be careful not to burn your hand. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary. Slide the tortilla back in cooked side uppermost. Cook until firm but still slightly moist in the centre. Serve hot or at room temperature cut into wedges.

Spanish Almond Cake

From Rachel’s Favourite Food by Rachel Allen
This is great warm or cold and keeps for ages, probably more than a week if you didn't keep having a slice! It's so good with a cup of coffee or tea. It's also delicious with a ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon put in at the start or the grated rind of 1 lemon or 1 small orange. Also fabulous with ice cream, poached fruit, etc.
Serves 6-8

3 eggs, separated
5½oz (150g) ground almonds
5½oz (150g) caster sugar
1 dessertspoon icing sugar, for dusting at the end

You will also need a 7 inch (18cm) springform cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. 

Butter the sides of the springform cake tin and cut a round of greaseproof paper to line the base. Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a medium bowl. Add 4½oz (130g) of the sugar and beat until slightly pale in colour. Add the ground almonds and mix to combine. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the remaining ¾oz (20g) of sugar and continue whisking the mixture until it forms stiff peaks and is nice and glossy. Stir one-third of the whisked egg whites into the almond mixture, then carefully fold in the rest in two batches, not knocking out any air. Pour the cake batter into the tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre (too high up in the oven and the top gets too brown). When cooked, let it sit for a few minutes in the tin, then remove and cool slightly on a wire rack. Sieve some icing sugar over the top.


Paella is a fantastic dish to make for large numbers of people. In Spain you can buy a gas ring specially for cooking paella on a picnic.
Serves 10-12

6 tablespoons approximately of extra virgin olive oil 
2 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
1 large red pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 free-range organic chicken, jointed and cut into smallish pieces
225g (8oz) organic streaky pork, cut into cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
1kg (2 1/4lb) paella rice approximately (generous ½ cup per person) 
1.8 – 2.4l (3-4 pints) homemade chicken stock (use more if needed)
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
450g (1lb) frozen peas
450g (1lb) mussels in shells
12 prawns in shells

4 very ripe tomatoes
Flat parsley sprigs and coarsely chopped chives

Paella pan, 46cm (18 inch) approximately

Put lots of olive oil in the paella pan. Add the pork and cook for a few minutes until the fat begins to run. Add the garlic, onions and peppers. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then add the sliced chorizo.

Sauté for 15 minutes, soak a teaspoon of saffron in a cup of warm chicken stock and stir around. Add to the pan. Add the rice, (about ½ cup per person). Add stock to almost cover, stir to blend and then don’t stir again unless absolutely necessary. Add the peas. 
Bring to the boil and simmer really gently for about 20 minutes until the meat is cooked. About 5 minutes from the end of cooking, add the mussels and the prawns in their shells. Continue to cook until the mussels open and the prawns are cooked. Stand over it and move the ingredients around a little. Bring the paella pan to the table. Scatter with lots of flat parsley sprigs and some freshly chopped tomato and chives. Serve immediately directly from the pan. 

Foolproof Food

Adorable Baby Banoffies

Have a few tins of toffee ready in your larder – then this yummy pud is made in minutes.
Makes 8-12

1 x 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
8-12 Gold grain biscuits
3 bananas
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream
Chocolate curls made from about 175g (6oz) chocolate
Toased flaked almonds

8-12 individual glasses or bowls

To make the toffee, put the can of condensed milk into a saucepan and cover with hot water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for three hours. By which time the condensed milk will have turned into a thick unctuous toffee.

Break a biscuit into each glass or bowl. Peel and slice the bananas and toss in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Top with a little toffee. Put a blob of softly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and decorate with a few chocolate curls.

Cook’s Book

Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros published by Murdoch Books

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father. The family moved to South Africa when she was four and at the age of eighteen, Tessa set off to travel and learn all she could about the world’s cultures and traditions. She has cooked at London’s The Groucho Club and in Sydney, Athens and Mexico. She lives in Tuscany with her Italian husband Giovanni and their two daughters. “I have collected these recipes over the years. This food is for families, for young people, for old people, for children, for the child in all….. for life. Some are recipes I remember from my own childhood, others are the food I want to cook now for my family.”
Buy this Book from
Sausage and Potato Goulash
This is a great, quick, tasty, meal-in-one that will serve quite a few people or leave you with enough leftovers for the next day. Adults can serve theirs with a twist of pepper. This can be completely prepared in advance and just warmed up to serve. It is important to use good-quality sausages – Italian sausages are also good.
Serves 8

750g (1lb 10oz) good quality sausages
2 tablespoons olive oil
30g (1oz) butter
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1kg (2lb 4oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
250g (9oz) tinned diced tomatoes
A piece of cassia bark or ½ cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Slice the sausages into rounds about 1cm (½ inch) thick. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan (cast iron is good) and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Stir in the paprika, cook for 30 seconds or so and then add the sausages. Continue cooking, stirring fairly often, until the sausages turn golden in places. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, cassia and bay leaf and 500ml (17fl.oz/2 cups) of hot water. Season with salt and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are softened and the soup is thick and stewy. Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time and shuffle the bits at the bottom to make sure they don’t stick. If the potatoes are not quite done after that time, take the pan off the heat and leave it with the lid on for the potatoes to continue steaming. Mix the parsley through and serve hot, or even at room temperature.

Hot Tips

Urru now open in Mallow –
Ruth and Willie Healy have just opened a sister shop of Urru, their very successful Bandon culinary store.
Stocking olive oils and cheeses, Arbutus breads, Bubble Brother Wines, handmade chocolates, Farmhouse cheeses, Glenilen Dairy and Ummera Smokehouse products to mention a few. Urru, Bank Place, Mallow Tel 022 53192 and McSwiney Quay, Bandon Tel 023-54731.

Grow Your Own Veg 
Bored by bags of limp salad? Put off by overpriced tasteless produce? Want to reduce your food miles and pesticide input? The RHS will show you how with Grown Your Own VEG online - this coincides with a new BBC2 and RHS TV series Grow Your Own Veg and a book of the same name.  

La Brea Bakery Café 
Ireland’s first La Brea Bakery Café is now open in Arnotts Department Store, Henry St. Dublin.

Breakfast in Paradise

We’re sitting on the bank of the River Colotepec, where it meets the sea, south East of Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

We drove down a dirt track for over 35 minutes before we came upon a simple palapa thatched with leaves of the royal palm.

A Mexican family restaurant with all four generations helping, Granda seems to be in charge of the grounds, he’s raking leaves off the grass and the sandy floor of the outdoor restaurant. The grandchildren help in the kitchen. The boy and his mother are knee deep in water wandering along by the edge of the river bank scooping up tiny shrimps from underneath the rushes in a large tin sieve. The vertebrae and jaw bone of a whale have been carefully reassembled from the remains of a pilot whale which was beached by the waves.

There are four or five white plastic tables and chairs provided by Coronas the Mexican beer company. The tables are covered with bright plastic oil cloth. Many Mexican cafes and restaurants seem to have their furniture provided by drinks companies.

Apart from one group of locals, we are the only customers on this beautiful morning. Everyone stares at the gringos, all except one little boy sitting under a coconut tree, who is intently reading aloud from the new book he got for Christmas, oblivious of the curious arrivals. The sky is blue, the white sand glistening in the early noon sun. The river is teeming with birds, pelicans, jacanas, vultures and cormorants.

It’s a blissfully peaceful spot. Local fishermen are returning from their dawn fishing expedition, nets slung over one shoulder and fresh catch of blanquitos, frey and cocineros hanging from a stick or string. We watch as they hide their simple fishing tackle in the reeds on the opposite bank. This type of fishing is completely sustainable in this environment.

Further along the beach there are turtle tracks where sea turtles laid their eggs before dawn and covered them with sand before they shuffled back into the sea to begin their journey back to the Galapagos Islands.

An eager youth arrives with pencil and paper to take our order. We order from the orange cardboard menu, sopes with refried beans, queso fresco and avocado. Quesadillas with Oaxacan string cheese and epazote, two red snapper, one cooked ‘naturel’ and one ‘al ajio’ (with garlic). Some of those tiny shrimps and of course, huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate.

Breakfast is cooked on a comal ( a big flat earthware plate) in a simple open air kitchen, over a wood fire on a handmade adobe stove.

I watched the women cook in the open air kitchen, passing their skills from one generation to the next, kneading the masa (corn meal) to make tortillas and then slapping them on the hot comal to cook. Some formed the basis of quesadillas or others called sopes were pinched to give slightly raised edges, which enclose the refried beans and crumbled cheese. These are served with a slice or two of avocado on top. The tiny shrimp like camaroncitos were added to a huevos Mexicana mixture to make special little scrambled egg patties. They fry them in oil on a pan until crisp on the outside and soft and tender in the centre. They were totally delicious and must be an incredibly important source of calcium for the indigenous people who live beside the river. Simple fare, but truly delicious.

A gastronomic experience that memories are made of, to soothe the soul on a miserable February morning in Ireland.

Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole

Quesadillas are one of the favourite snacks in Mexico. On Sundays in Oaxaca there are little stalls on the streets and squares with women making and selling these delicious stuffed tortillas, they flavoured them with an aromatic leaf called Hoja Santa or Epazote, and shredded chicken and fiery tomato sauce.
Serves 4

8 corn tortillas or 4 wheat flour tortillas
4-8 ozs (110g) Mozzarella cheese, grated or a mixture of Cheddar and Mozzarella
2 green chillies, cut in strips (optional)
Tomato and Coriander Salsa (foolproof food)

Heat an iron pan or griddle.
There are two ways of making quesadillas, one resembles a sandwich, the other a turnover.

To make the former, lay a tortilla on the hot pan. Put about 1 oz (30 g) of cheese on one half, keeping it a little from the edge, lay a leaf or two of epazote on top, sprinkle on a few strips or dice of chilli. Fold over the other side, seal. Cook for a minute or two, then carefully turn over.

Serve just as it is or cut into quarters with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole and perhaps Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans).

Quesadillas with Cheese and Zucchini Blossoms
A favourite filling for quesadillas in Oaxaca is simply grated Oaxacan string cheese (mozzarella is our nearest equivalent) and fresh zucchini blossoms. Thinly sliced green chilli is sometimes added for extra excitement!

Fundido con chistora

Artisan meat curing wizard Fingal Ferguson, makes a delicious chistora, a thin chorizo sausage, which I use for this recipe.
Serves 4

4 earthenware dishes (terracetta) 4½in (11.5cm) wide x 2in (5cm) deep
8oz (225g) cheese - Quesa fresca or Mozzarella
5oz (150g) chistora

Preheat the oven to 275C/500F, gas 9

Slice the chistora into 1inch (2.5cm) lengths.
Divide the grated cheese and chistora between the dishes
Place in the preheated oven for 6 minutes.
As soon as the cheese is melted, serve immediately with lots of hot crusty bread.

Duck Tacos

Serves 6 approx
2 roast duck legs or confit
12 small tortillas
Finely chopped fresh coriander

Remove the meat and crispy skin from the bone, chop in small pieces, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Warm the tortillas, wrap in a cotton napkin and keep warm.

Put a little mound of seasoned duck on each plate or do a communal bowl.
Serve guacamole, finely chopped onion and freshly chopped coriander as an accompaniment, so each diner makes up their own tacos.

Mexican Scrambled Eggs – Huevos a la Mexicana

Chiolita showed me how to make this favourite Mexican breakfast dish. One mouthful transports me back to Oaxaco - one of the most magical places in the world.
Serves 4

1½ ozs (45g) butter (in Oaxaca they would use lard)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-3 chillies - depending on how much excitement you would like in your life!
1 very ripe tomato, chopped
8 free-range eggs
2 teasp. salt

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, cook the onion and chilli until the onion is soft but not coloured, add the tomato and cook gently for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the salt until well mixed, add them to the saucepan and scramble, stirring all the time until cooked to your taste, serve immediately.

Huevos Camaroncitos

Ingredients as above plus 4oz (110g) tiny cooked camaroncitos or tiny peeled cook shrimps.
Makes 12

6 soft rolls
Refried beans
Oaxacan string cheese or Mozzarella
Tomato salsa – pico de Gallo

Split the fresh rolls.
Spread each one with warm refried beans. Top with cheese and pop under the grill or into a hot oven until the cheese melts.
Serve with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole.

Foolproof Food

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

This sauce is ever present on Mexican tables to serve with all manner of dishes. Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pangrilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish. Best in Summer and early Autumn when tomatoes are ripe and juicy.
Serves 4-6

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Cooks Book

Food Adventures - introducing your child to flavours from around the world
By Elizabeth Luard & Frances Boswell, published by Kyle Cathie

Elizabeth Luard is a multi-award-winning cookery writer whose previous books include Flavours of Andalucia, Sacred Food, The Latin American Kitchen and the Food of Spain & Portugal. Frances Boswell made her name as food stylist and food editor for Martha Stewart’s Living, she is also Elizabeth Luard’s daughter in law.

In most societies around the world, even quite young babies join the grown-ups at table, perched on a parent’s or grandparent’s knee, eating what the grown-ups eat – fresh, nutritious food in a child-friendly form. No need for smiley faces on the pizza; babies and small children are naturally adventurous. 

In 100 recipes from all over the globe, this book takes us from first spoonfuls to first schooldays, exploring and adapting the dishes that children are encouraged to try as soon as they’re old enough to sit up and take notice of what’s on the plate. 

It provides recipes which can be prepared by busy parents everywhere, using readily available ingredients and no great culinary skills. Dishes – mostly simple, some a little more sophisticated – are chosen not only because they look and taste good, but because they are the food children actually like to eat.

Food adventures are, after all, not just for babies – they are the starter for a whole new lifetime of enjoyable food.

Avocado with Tortilla Crisps and Black Beans –

Guacamole con nachos y frijoles
From Food Adventures by Elizabeth Luard and Frances Boswell

Mexico is where avocados come from and guacamole is the Aztec word for something mashed up. Avocados are a miracle foodstuff: they contain just about everything a person needs to keep body and soul together – particularly when eaten with maize-flour tortillas, the bread of the Aztecs. They’re high in protein, rich and fibre and carbohydrates, well endowed with all essential vitamins and minerals, and better still for babies, they’re easily digested. High levels of copper and iron in easily assimilable form make them good for anaemia. What more can anyone ask?

Combined with other things that taste good – shredded chicken, beans, fresh white cheese, a few slivers of fiery green chilli – this dish is an adventure in flavours as well as a complete meal in itself.

If your avocados are hard, wrap them in newspaper and store in a warm place for 3-4 days to ripen. Store ripe avocados wrapped in paper in the salad compartment of the fridge: if you keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag, they spoil as soon as they meet the air.
Serves 2 children and 2 adults

For the guacamole
2 large, perfectly ripe avocados
Juice of 2-3 limes or 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped

For the nachos
8 small maize-flour tortillas (or 4 large wheat-flour tortillas)
Oil for shallow frying

For the accompaniments
About 200g shredded cooked chicken
About 175g fresh, crumbly white cheese (Mexican queso fresca or Greek feta)
500g ready-cooked black beans

Halve the avocados, remove the stones, scoop out the flesh and mash roughly with a fork – don’t puree. Fork in the lime or lemon juice, chopped coriander and salt. You can add the chilli to the mash, or provide it on the side for people to stir in their own to taste.

Cut the tortillas into triangles – known in Mexico as nachos, these are the most convenient for scooping. For a tostada, leave the tortilla whole (makes a great edible plate); for chilaquiles, cut into strips (good for adding to soups); for totopos, cut into squares (good for salting and nibbling). Heat a depth of about 2cm oil and drop in the nachos, a few at a time, wait till they crisp and take a little colour (maize-flour tortillas take longer than wheat-flour), then turn to gild the other side.

Serve the crisp nachos with the guacamole. On the side for people to choose what they want, offer crumbled white cheese, shredded chicken and black beans – nicer heated and mashed in a little oil, a preparation know as frijoles refritos, re-fried beans.

Hot Tips

East Cork Slow Food Events
‘Overview of Edible Irish Seaweeds’ with Dr Prannie Rhatigan GP, Member of Board of Directors of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Letrim – at Ballymaloe Cookery School at 7.00pm on Wednesday 24th January. €10 members, €15 non-members, including refreshments.

‘A Celebration Dinner of Local Food’ with Chef Gary Masterson, at Fire & Ice Café, 8 The Courtyard, Main St. Midleton, Co Cork, Monday 29th January, 7.30pm
€45 members, €50 non-members.
Booking essential – for both events call Miriam on 021-4646785,

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group –Meeting on 25th January at 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café –- Passing on the Skills for Growing Your Own Food - Hear about Community Food Initiatives in Sligo/Leitrim from Dr. Prannie Rhatigan. Admission €6 including tea or coffee

Irish Seedsavers, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare, Tel 061-921866 to book a place

New series of courses starting this weekend –
20 & 21 January and repeated on 3 & 4 February – Woodland Footpath Construction
27 & 28 January – Introduction to Coppersmithing
7 February – Creating an Orchard, 10 February – Hedgerow Maintenance & Management
24 &25 February – Coppice Management & Rural Crafts
All courses 10-4 €60 for 1 day course and €120 for 2 days -10% discount for Seedsaver members. Bring packed lunch and wet gear.

Irish Hospitality Institute Hospitality Management Skillnet - Health and Safety Two-Day Training Module
Clarion Hotel, Cork - Wednesday 24th January & Thursday 8th February – 9.30am-5.30pm
Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath – Thursday 8th March & Thursday 22nd March – 9.30am – 5.30pm
For HR Managers, Training Managers, Head Chefs and Operations Managers
Contact Sarah Collins, Tel 01-6624790 - email:marketing@ihi .

Skye Gyngell and Petersham Nurseries

2006 produced a raft of terrific cookbooks, some truly inspirational, but for me the most exciting ‘new’ talent to burst onto the culinary scene in the past few years is a wild young thing called Skye Gyngell.

When I say ‘young’, Skye is not exactly a teenager but she’s still got that wonderfully endearing hippy-like quality, the infectious enthusiasm of youth. She is completely passionate about food, real food, slow food, food fresh from the garden. Skye is totally seasonal in her approach and adores her vegetable and herb patch and draws much of her inspiration from it.

Not long before Christmas I went to her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries near Richmond, I can’t remember when I was last so enchanted by a restaurant experience. It’s a 45 minute taxi ride from central London, you can’t get a tube to Richmond but you may find it difficult to get a taxi to take you along the long winding lane beside Richmond Park in South West London . When you arrive, you emerge into what is truly a magical enclave of good taste.

Alongside fabulous plants, trees and shrubs there is antique garden furniture to break your heart and destroy your bank balance, old tools, beautiful containers and a fascinating mix of other enchanting artefacts and accessories sourced by the owners, Gael and Francesco Boglione.

The restaurant is in one of the greenhouses in the nursery, in fact it now spills into several. The eclectic mix of tables and chairs sit on the good earth in the midst of the tumbling plants and beautiful antique objects all for sale. It is the perfect setting for the café.

Skye is Australian by birth, she worked in a number of Sydney’s culinary hot spots, also in Paris and London and is Vogue’s acclaimed food writer. She also writes regularly for The Independent on Sunday. The café at Petersham Nurseries is rapidly acquiring a reputation for superb food in an outstanding setting. In 2005 she gained the restaurant its first award: Time Out’s Best Al Fresco Restaurant Award and early last year it received Tatler’s Most Original Restaurant Award.

We started with a glass of fresh raspberry Prosecco and then a variety of delicious dishes with fresh vibrant flavours. A plate of Mezze included a roasted tomato and red pepper puree, a tangy beetroot puree and a gorgeous unctuous chick pea puree with a salad of fresh and wild leaves, a few slow roasted tomatoes and a fresh lemony goat cheese – delicious original flavours.

Skye Gyngell Teaches at the Ballymaloe cookery school Tel 004420 8940 5230 café Tel 0044 20 8605 3627

‘A Year in my Kitchen’ by Skye Gyngell, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and star anise.

This is a deliciously rich and unctuous winter dish. Skye likes to serve it with braised lentils, but it is also very good with lightly cooked Asian greens, such as pak choi.
Serves 6

2kg piece belly of pork (organic, free-range)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 tsp cloves
1 red chilli
3cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp chopped coriander, roots and stems
100ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml maple syrup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

To serve:
Braised lentils

Put the pork belly into a large cooking pot (or pan) in which it fits quite snugly and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat and remove the pork from the pan. Drain off the water and rinse out the pan.

One-third fill the pan with cold water and place over a medium heat. Add the pork, this time along with the spices, chilli, ginger, garlic and chopped coriander roots and stems. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add some more water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 1½ hours until the meat is cooked and very tender. If you have the rib end, the meat will have shrunk back to expose the tips of the bones. With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up under the pan to high and add the tamari and maple syrup. (If you don’t want the sauce to taste ‘hot’, remove the ginger and chilli at this point.) Let the liquid bubble until reduced by half, this will take about 20 minutes. As the sauce reduces, the flavours will become very intense, forming, a rich, dark sauce.

In the meantime, slice the pork belly into individual servings – one rib should be enough per person. Season the ribs with a little salt and pepper. Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Heat until the pan is starting to smoke, then add the pork ribs and brown well on both sides until crunchy and golden brown on the surface. Strain the reduced liquour.

To serve, lay a rib on each warm plate (or soup plate) and spoon over the reduced sauce and warm braised lentils. Serve at once.

Braised Oxtail with ginger, five spice and garlic

‘I love slow-cooking cheaper cuts of meat and oxtail has a fantastic ability to absorb the wonderful aromatic flavours in this recipe. The result is a sticky, fragrant and beautifully rich meat dish that literally melts in your mouth. A sweet potato puree works really well with this dish or, if you want something a little gentler, steamed rice would be perfect.’
Serves 3-4

1kg oxtail, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Bunch of coriander, washed
1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder (preferably freshly prepared)
2 x 400g cans good quality chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
50ml fish sauce
50ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml palm sugar or 5 tbsp maple syrup

Put the oxtail into a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then pour off the water. Rinse the oxtail thoroughly under cold running water and set aside to drain.

Place a large cooking pot or flameproof casserole over a medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the onions, ginger, chillies and garlic. Turn the heat to low and sweat gently for 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent.

Meanwhile, separate the coriander leaves from the stems and set aside for garnishing if you like. Finely chop the root and stems and add these to the pan with the five spice powder. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to release the beautiful aromatic flavours.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer, then return the oxtail to the pan, ensuring that the pieces are fully submerged. Braise very gently for 1½ hours or until the oxtail is really soft and sticky.

Add the fish sauce, tamari and sugar or maple syrup. Turn up the heat just slightly and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavours a little if you need to. Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander leaves if you so wish.

Sautéed Savoy Cabbage with Chilli and Garlic Oils

Savoy cabbage is a lovely, vibrant winter vegetable that works really well with slow-cooked dishes and vegetable purées, as well as simple grilled white fish
Serves 4

1 medium Savoy cabbage
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Chilli Oil – see below
1 tbsp Garlic Oil – see below
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tbsp very finely chopped curly parsley

To finish
1 medium red chilli, finely shredded
Or a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, plus 1 tablesp very finely chopped curly parsley

Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage, retaining those that you can as the dark outer leaves are really beautiful when cooked. With a sharp knife, remove the fibrous central core of the outer leaves and then slice the leaves crossways into fine ribbons. Slice the rest of the cabbage in half lengthways and similarly cut into ribbons (there is no need to remove the core as it is quite tender).

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a very generous pinch of salt. Plunge the cabbage into the boiling water and allow to return to the boil. Immediately tip the cabbage into a colander, drain well, then place in a warm bowl.

Drizzle the chilli and garlic oils over the cabbage and add the lemon zest and chopped parsley. Toss to mix, then taste and add a little seasoning if needed. For an extra kick, scatter over some shredded red chilli. Alternatively, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped parsley and a good grinding of pepper. Serve straight away while piping hot!

Chilli Oil

Skye says ‘I use this oil to give a dish a gentle kick, not an intense overwhelming heat. I therefore use the large red chillies, which are fairly mild in flavour, and always remove their seeds.

To prepare, halve 4 large chillies lengthways and remove the seeds. Slice lengthways into very fine strips, then cut across into tiny squares (almost mincing the chillies). Place in a bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and then pour over 200ml olive oil. Use within 1 or 2 days.

Garlic Oil

I am drawn to strong, clean flavours in food and love the gutsy punch of chopped raw garlic. I’m not afraid to throw raw garlic on to many dishes, especially if its rawness is slightly tempered by a really good quality olive oil. I often fold a spoonful or two of garlic oil into lemon mayonnaise or flavoured yoghurt to give it a kick. And a bowl of borlotti or white beans really comes alive if you stir in a spoonful or two just before eating.

To prepare, peel 10 garlic cloves, chop them very finely and place in a bowl with a good pinch of sea salt. Pour over 200ml extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine. Use the oil immediately, or within a day or two.

Blood Orange and Rosemary Jelly

A lovely, light, palate-cleansing dessert, this is jelly as it should be …wobbly, cool and not too sweet. Blood oranges are one of my favourite things. These beautiful, blackberry-scented jewels are usually around from December to March, but they are at their best during January and February – just when winter seems almost too barren to bear. You will need about 10 oranges to obtain the amount of juice you need, depending on their size. As the flesh of blood oranges varies in colour and pattern, so will the depth of colour of this jelly.
Serves 4

600ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
100g caster sugar
3 rosemary sprigs
3½ sachets of leaf gelatine (or 11g sachet powdered gelatine)
Sunflower (or other neutral flavoured) oil, to oil

To serve
Blood orange slices and a little freshly squeezed juice

Put the orange juice and sugar into a saucepan. Lay the rosemary sprigs on a board and bruise to release their flavour by pressing them firmly with the handle of your knife, then add to the saucepan. Immerse the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water and leave to soften for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, place the saucepan over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar. As the juice begins to warm through, it will take on the flavour of the rosemary. When the sugar has completely dissolved and the juice comes just to the boil, take off the heat. Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze to remove excess liquid, then add to the hot orange juice and stir to dissolve. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, to remove any pithy bits and the rosemary.

Lightly oil 4 individual pudding bowls and pour in the jelly. Allow to cool completely, then place in the fridge to set – this will only take 1 or 2 hours. I like to serve these jellies on the day they are made, as they continue to set if you leave them in the fridge for longer and can become too firm.

To serve, place slice of blood orange on each serving plate and squeeze over a little more juice. To unmould each jelly, briefly dip the base of the mould into warm water, then run a little knife around the rim and invert on to the plate. Serve straight away.

Foolproof Food

Parsnip Purée with thyme, mustard and crème fraîche

 Sweet and nutty in flavour, this is a lovely winter purée. It works well with simple grilled meats and with slow-cooked rabbit and chicken dishes.
Serves 4

1kg parsnips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp. crème fraîche
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and roughly chop the parsnips. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt and the thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the parsnips are really tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Tip the hot parsnips into a blender and add the mustard, butter, crème fraîche and nutmeg. Whiz to a smooth purée. Check for seasoning – you’ll probably need to add a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper. If the purée needs to be warmed through, return to the pan and stir over a low heat to reheat before serving.

Cooks Book

Larousse Gastronomique – in 4 paperback volumes

Since is original publication in 1938, “Larousse Gastronomique” has withstood the test of time and trend, to remain the world’s most authoritative culinary reference book.
Recently published in four paperback volumes by Hamlyn – Fish & Shellfish - Vegetables and Salads - Desserts, Cakes & Pastries - Meat, Poultry & Game – indispensable for the cook’s library.

Watch out for some nice fresh herrings and cook them simply as follows – from Larousse Fish and Shellfish.

Fried Herring
Choose small herrings weighing about 125g (4½oz). Clean, trim, score and soak them in milk for about 30 minutes. Drain. Coat with flour and deep-fry in oil at 175c (347F) for 3-4 minutes. Drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve them with lemon quarters.

Grilled Herring
Clean and trim medium-sized herrings. Brush them with oil or melted butter, season with pepper and cook under a moderate grill. Sprinkle with salt and serve with maître d’hôtel butter or a mustard sauce.

Hot Tips

Green Box scoops tourism award
The Green Box is Ireland’s first integrated sustainable and ecotourism visitor destination. It recently achieved a ‘highly commended’ award for ‘Best New Destination’ at the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards, which were part of the World Travel Market 2006, held in London in November.  

M E G A B Y T E S by John & Sally McKenna

An up-to-the-minute selection of news and reviews which will tell you everything you need to know about who and what is happening in contemporary Irish food.

1_The Megabytes Awards for 2006 

2_The Megabytes Talents for 2007 

3_Ten New Things to Taste in 2007 

4_The 2007 Bridgestone 100 Best Guides and Website

Terra Madre means Mother Earth

Fashionistas have Fashion Week, artists have Burning Man, racing car enthusiasts have Silverstone…. farmers, fishermen, cooks and chefs interested in sustainable food and local food economies have Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto.
As Slow Food Councillor for Ireland, I was privileged to attend the first Terra Madre two years ago in Turin, Terra Madre means Mother Earth. It is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food International, who in the early eighties became haunted by the spectre of fast food companies eroding Italy’s ancient food culture. He realized the only way to counter the threat was to tackle the problem internationally, by promoting a gastronomic culture, safeguarding bio-diversity, developing taste education, creating presidia to protect traditional foods in danger of extinction and so Slow Food was born. The association is also dedicated to supporting local food economies and promoting sustainable methods of food production. There are now 80,000 members in 180 countries including Ireland, who are actively involved in fulfilling the aims of Slow Food.
The first Terra Madre in October 2004 provided a meeting place and a forum for people from around the world - farmers, fishermen, seed-savers, shepherds, nomads, cooks, cheese-makers, fish smokers, cured meat producers, foragers … came together to exchange ideas, share their diverse experiences and try to find solutions to similar problems.
This year over 6,000 people participated in Terra Madre, including 400 professors and researchers representing 250 universities and academic institutions in 50 countries around the world. Petrini’s vision was to create a virtuous triangle that would connect farmers and food producers with chefs, professors and food scientists, so they could share their knowledge and experience and co-operate to support sustainable food production.
This year’s event was held in the Oval Lingotto in Turin, where the skating competitions were held at the Winter Olympics. It had the full support of the Italian government and was opened by the President of Italy Giorgio Napolitano amidst much pomp and ceremony and a parade of flags from 150 countries, including the Irish tri-colour.
At the opening session on Thursday, Iraq and Iran, two countries President Bush defined as part of the ‘axis of evil’, received some of the warmest applause, as did the delegation from Lebanon. Later in the ceremony, Kamal Mouzawak, founder of the farmers’ market in Beirut – billed as Lebanon’s first - provided one of the most poignant moments. Beirut has lost almost all of its public gathering places, which makes the farmers’ market so vital. “Without a place to sell local products, farmers lose hope. And without local food traditions, people lose hope”, he said.
“If you don’t dream, you don’t exist,” he told the crowd. “So lets dream together”.
Carlo Petrini set out his agenda to protect the rights of the small farmer and promote sustainable agriculture.
It was also a call to unite against the growing domination of the multinationals and large corporations, ‘alone and divided communities can not react against violence’, Petrini told the enthusiastic if jet-lagged assembly, who had converged on Turin from all corners of the earth. Some had never before strayed from their villages, not to mention travelled on trains or planes. They came, each food heroes in their own way, each with an amazing story to tell, some clutching precious seeds, others with grains, all with a deep knowledge of their own food culture. Many were dressed in their colourful traditional clothes, distinctive headdress – from Indian feathers to cowboy hats, sombreros, head scarves…
From the several keynote addresses translated into eight official languages, it was clear that politics not just pleasure would dominate the three days of workshops. Carlo Petrini called for food production to be good, clean and fair. “Clean, because one cannot produce nourishment by straining ecosystems, ruining the air, and destroying biodiversity. Fair, because the citizen must be paid; if we want the young people to stay and return to the land here in our countries they must have dignity and fulfillment, and they must be valued. It is inconceivable that a civilized nation could enslave the workers of other nations to produce tomatoes. It is inconceivable that a civilized country can encourage organic economies like that of green California at the same time that it reduces many Mexican farmers to slavery. So good, clean and fair are three adjectives that farmers must offer to the consumers, whom I would like to call co-producers, in an effort to change this system that is turning into a big mistake.”
Both Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Indian activist Vandana Shiva accused decision makers of being out of touch with farmers, ‘the earth’s caretakers’, and stressed
the need for bio-diversity. Speaker after speaker lashed out against transgenic crops, illustrated how globalization is causing the erosion of rural communities, how the indiscriminate use of pesticides and antibiotics is destroying the land and how the WTO organization accords affect farmers and food producers.
Where else would Masai peasants meet Afghan raisin farmers, American maple syrup producers meet Tibetan yak herders, Irish raw milk cheesemakers meet their counterparts from Kyrayzstan, Tolosa Black Bean producers of Spain meet the Irish Seed Savers from Co Clare……
If you would like to know more about Slow Food check  or

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Soft Polenta 

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Hazelnut Semi fredo Con Nocciole
Serves 10-12

10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 ozs (150g) unpeeled hazelnuts, lightly toasted and peeled
vegetable oil
4 free range eggs, separated
2 tablesp. white rum
12 fl ozs (400ml) cream

1 large loaf tin

Lightly oil a marble surface or a large platter. Put the hazelnuts and 3½ ozs (100g) of sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, do not stir. When this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel. When the nuts go 'pop' pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.
Reserve ¼ of the praline for garnish.
Mix the egg yolks, with 3½ ozs (100g) sugar until thick and fluffy. Add the rum. In a separate bowl whisk the cream until stiff. Whisk the egg whites stiffly adding the remaining sugar a little at the time. Gently fold the cream into the yolks followed by the egg whites. Spoon a little of the mixture into the prepared mould and sprinkle some crunchy praline on top. Repeat twice more always spooning the mixture into the mould rather of pouring. Cover the mould tightly and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, turn the semifreddo out onto a chilled platter and leave for a few minutes. Remove the silicone paper. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnut praline. Serve with hot chocolate sauce if desired.

Sweet Sour Pork with Prunes, Raisins and Pinenuts
Jo Bettoja whose food I adore served us this rich sweet sour stew in her home in Rome. It’s an old family recipe for wild boar that has been passed down through the generations. Tim and I loved the rich gutsy flavour so she kindly shared her recipe.

1.7kg (4lb) boneless shoulder or leg of pork

6 juniper berries
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon thyme leaves.
1 carrot chopped
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery chopped
725ml (24 fl oz) or more dry red wine
50ml (2 fl oz) red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
180ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
36 prunes soaked in water
½ cup raisins, plumped in hot water
50 g (1¾oz) pine nuts toasted
2 tablespoons sugar
40g (1½ oz) dark chocolate

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a bowl. Add the cubes of pork, stir well. Cover and marinade for 48 hours in the fridge. Stir every now and then during this period.
Drain the meat, reserve both the marinade and vegetables. Dry the meat on kitchen paper.
Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat. Brown the meat on all sides and then transfer to a casserole, season with salt. Add a little more oil to the pan, cook the marinated vegetables for 5-8 minutes or until the onion is soft, add a few tablespoons of the marinade to prevent the vegetables from burning. Add to the meat in the casserole. Deglaze the pan with the rest of the marinade plus 2 fl oz of red wine vinegar, bring to the boil and scrape into the casserole.
Add ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, bring back to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated oven 160ºC - 325ºF regulo 3 until the meat is tender, 1½ hours approximately.
Remove the meat to a bowl and strain the sauce into a saucepan, press the vegetables through the sieve to get the last of the juices. Add the prunes, raisins and pinenuts to the sauce.
In another small saucepan simmer 4 fl oz of red wine vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar for 4 minutes then add to the sauce with the grated chocolate and the meat. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve with soft Polenta and follow with a good green salad.

Foolproof Food

Marrons Glacé with Sweet Cream

The cafes and food shops of Turin were all selling little trays of beautiful new season’s marrons glacé in October. They were sold on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination sweet cream and marrons glace is divine.
Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas.

Hot Tips

FAUCHON est arrive!
Lovers of luxurious chocolates, rare Champagnes and a range of speciality foods such as Truffles and Foie Gras, will welcome the recent arrival of FAUCHON which is now available in Ireland. The famous Parisian food house based in the heart of Paris is one of France’s oldest and most renowned fine food stores. Gift selection available to order on line at  or by phone on 01-2805795/2957522

New Ross Christmas Market – December 8th-10th – on the Quayside in New Ross as part of a Christmas Festival in the town.
Dublin Docklands Christmas Market – 12-23 December 12 noon to 8pm daily
‘12 days of Christmas’ with a Bavarian theme – German Mulled Wine stall, Erdinger Beer Bar and a programme of entertainment throughout the event.

North Cork Coop will sponsor a Cookery Demonstration by Darina Allen on
Thursday 14th December in Kanturk Hall at 7.30pm on the theme of ‘A Stress-free Christmas’
Check out  courses on Game Cooking (13th December) and Christmas Flower Arranging (14th December) Tel 021-4646785

Book of the Week

The Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino published by Kyle Cathie
Festival of Wild Mushrooms and Truffles –
During the mushroom season from the end of September to November, Italians all over the country begin the serious ritual of mushroom hunting. Rising early in the morning, not only at weekends but sometimes before going to work, they venture into the woods kitted with woven baskets (any other kind of carrier could damage the spoils of the search), walking sticks, short knives and Wellington boots, and the hope of a good catch. Everyone has a favourite place to go and this closely guarded secret is not shared with just anyone but passed from generation to generation.

Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Serves 4

1½ litres milk
300g maize flour
115g butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mushroom Ragout
70ml olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
550g mixed wild mushrooms, cleaned and roughly cut
3 tablespoons dry white wine
115g butter
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the polenta, heat the milk and season well. When it starts to simmer gradually whisk in the maize flour. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add the butter and mix.
To make the ragout, heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic, and leave to colour. Add the mushrooms and fry for a few minutes, then add the white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove the lid and allow most of the juices to evaporate, then incorporate the butter and lemon juice. Stir in the parsley, check the seasoning and serve immediately with the polenta.
From the Festive Food of Italy by Madalena Bonino.

The Chinese Kitchen

I love Deh-ta Hsiung to bits – when I first started the cookery school in 1983 I longed to learn a little more about Chinese cooking – a friend told me about a Chinese chef who taught at Ken Hom’s cooking school in London. In fear and trepidation I wrote and invited him to teach a course at my then unknown Cookery School. To my delight he answered yes. 

He and his lovely wife Thelma came over to Ireland and it was love at first sight. His first taste of grey sea mullet from Ballycotton almost persuaded him to move to Ireland. He was enchanted by the quality of our ingredients.

Deh-ta was born in Beijing and has travelled widely in China. As a teenager coming from a family of gourmets and scholars, his interest in food and wine was encouraged as part of his traditional Chinese upbringing. He came to England in 1950 to complete his education at Oxford, and in London where he now lives he is an acknowledged expert on Chinese food and cookery. Besides being author of several best selling cooking books he is also a tutor of international renown. Before he arrived I went over to London to meet him. He brought me to Chinatown and we went through the supermarkets and Chinese shops selling all sorts of weird and pungent ingredients – I was intrigued and curious. Deh-ta was obviously held in huge respect everywhere we went. We bought woks, steamers, clay pots, spiders, cladets, bamboo spoons, chopsticks, porcelain bowls and spoons and lots of unfamiliar ingredients. After our shopping spree, I couldn’t wait to learn how to use them.

Deh-ta is tiny, we could scarcely see him above the work counter but he worked magic with his ingredients and painstakingly explained the basic techniques of Chinese food. Just today his new book “The Chinese Kitchen” arrived on my desk – this is no ordinary cook book, it is an encyclopaedic survey of Chinese ingredients, all readily available in the West, that are essential for authentic Chinese recipes. A thorough knowledge of what ingredients are available, where to buy them and how to prepare them is the secret of truly delicious and authentic Chinese food – it doesn’t need to be complicated. Over 120 items are listed ranging from basics like rice, chillies and soy sauce to cassia, lotus root, gingko nut and mango. Each ingredient entry includes historical background, medical properties, cultivation and manufacturing details, information on buying and storing and of course culinary uses.

This is essential information for anyone interested in cooking authentic Chinese food – armed with this knowledge one can embark on the 200 easy to follow recipes and there are lots of stunning photos of China and the recipes to guide and whet your appetite. For those of you with a yen for Chinese food this book is a real gem and one I personally highly recommend. “The Chinese Kitchen” is published by Kyle Cathie Limited at a price of £14.99 sterling. Here are some of Deh-ta’s recipes.

Buy this book from Amazon

Drunken Eggs

Here is a method of preserving eggs that you can try at home. They can be stored in the preserving jar for several months.
12 ducks or hens eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon Sichuan Peppercorns
About 685ml (24fl.oz) distilled or boiled water 
150ml (5fl.oz) Chinese spirit, such as Mou-tai, or brandy, whisky, rum or vodka

Soft boil the eggs (3-4 minutes for hens, 4-5 minutes for ducks). Take care with the timing as the yolks must be neither too soft nor too hard.
Dissolve the salt in the distilled or boiled water. (It is very important that the water be bacteria free, because egg shells are porous.) Add the Sichuan peppercorns, then allow the water to cool down before adding the spirit. (Please note that Chinese spirit is 30 percent stronger than Western liquor so adjust the measurements of Western liquor accordingly.)

Gently tap the shells of the eggs to crack them, but do not peel. Submerge the eggs in the spirit in a jar or bottle, making sure that every egg is covered by the liquid. Add more spirit if necessary. Seal the jar or bottle well – it must be absolutely air-tight – then leave to stand in a cool, dark place for 7-8 days.

To serve, remove the eggs from the liquid, peel off the shell and cut each egg in half or quarters. They are an ideal snack.
Note: The liquid can be re-used.

Kung-Po Chicken

This is one of the most popular Sichuan dishes in Chinese restaurants. Gongbao was a court official from Guizhou, who happened to be stationed in Sichuan, and it was his cook who created this world-famous dish.
Serves 4

275g-350g (10-12oz) chicken meat, boned and skinned
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon light soy 
1 teaspoon cornflour
3 tablespoons oil
4-5 dried red chillies, soaked and chopped
A few small bits of fresh ginger
2 spring onions, cut into short sections
1 small green pepper (capsicum), cut into cubes
2 tablespoons yellow bean sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine
85g (3oz) roasted peanuts
A few drops sesame oil

Cut the chicken into small cubes about the size of sugar lumps. Mix with the salt, soy and cornflour.
Heat about half the oil in a preheated wok and stir-fry the chicken cubes for about 1 minute; or until they change from pink to white. Remove.
Heat the remaining oil and add the red chillies, ginger, spring onions and green pepper (capsicum). Stir-fry for about 1 minute; add the yellow bean sauce and chicken. Blend well, add the rice wine, and continue stirring for another minute.

Add the peanuts with the sesame oil and toss a few times. Serve hot.

Ginger-flavoured Lychee Sorbet

This is the most refreshing sorbet imaginable. Ginger can also be added to other types of sorbet, such as lemon, coconut, kiwi fruit, or mango
Serves 4-6

60g (2oz) rock sugar and 100ml water (if using fresh lychees instead of canned ones)
450g (1lb) fresh lychees in their shells or a 450g can of lychees in syrup or natural juice
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

Make a syrup, if using fresh lychees, by dissolving the rock sugar in boiling water, then leaving to cool.
Peel the fresh lychees and remove the stones. Place the lychees and ginger in a food processor or blender with the syrup, or juice from the can, and process to a smooth puree.
Pour the puree into a freezer-proof container, and place in the freezer for about 2 hours or until almost set.
Break up the iced mixture and beat until smooth. Return the mixture to the freezer for 30-45 minutes to set solid before serving.

Crispy Roasted Belly Pork

Serves 10-12 as a starter or 6-8 as a main course
1kg (2lb 4oz) belly of pork, with rind on
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
Lettuce leaves

For the dip:
3-4 tablespoons light soy 
1 tablespoon chilli sauce (optional)

Ideally, the pork should be in one piece, like the pork you see hanging in the windows of some Cantonese restaurants. But if you prefer, the meat can be cut into large pieces for cooking. Pat dry the skin with the kitchen paper and make sure that it is free from hairs. Rub the meat and skin all over with the salt and five-spice powder, then leave to stand for at least 1 hour – the longer, the better.
Heat the oven to 240C/475F/gas mark 9. Place the pork, skin side up, on a rack in a baking tin and roast for 20-25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 45-50 minutes or until all the skin has turned to crackling.
To serve: chop the meat into small bite-size pieces, place them on a bed of lettuce leaves and serve hot or cold with the dip.
Note: any leftovers can be used in other dishes.

Shredded Duck with Mango

Fresh fruit is seldom used in savoury dishes in Chinese cooking, so the following recipe must have originated somewhere else in Southeast Asia, where fruit plays a bigger part in the diet.
Serves 4

225g (8oz) cooked duck meat, boned but not skinned
1 fresh mango or 175g (6oz) canned mango slices, drained
3 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper (capsicum) thinly shredded
½ teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons Hoi Sin sauce
1-2 spring onions, cut into short sections

Cut the duck meat into thin shreds. Peel the fresh mango and cut it into thin slices.
Heat the oil in a preheated wok or pan. Stir-fry the onion slices until opaque. Add the red pepper (capsicum) and duck meat with the salt and stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
Add the mango slices with Hoi Sin sauce and spring onions, blend well. Cook for another minute. Serve hot.

Spring Onion Pancakes

Popular in northern China, these savoury pancakes can be served on their own as a snack or as the fan part of a meal with other cai dishes.
Makes 10-12

450g (1lb) plain flour
300ml (½ pint) boiling water
50ml (2fl oz) cold water
dry flour for dusting
4-5 spring onions, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp sea salt
100g (3½oz) lard
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and gently pour in the boiling water. Stir for 5-6 minutes, then add the cold water and knead to a firm dough. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to stand for 25-30 minutes. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a sausage and divide it into 10-12 pieces. Roll each piece into a flat pancake about 20cm (8 inch) in diameter. Sprinkle each pancake evenly with the chopped spring onions, salt and lard. Fold up the pancake from the sides, then roll again to make a 5mm (¼ inch) thick pancake.
Heat the oil in a preheated frying-pan and fry the pancakes, one at a time, over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, turning over once. They should be golden brown and crispy on both sides. Shake and jiggle the pan while cooking so you have a flaky pastry finish.

Serve hot. Cut each pancake into small pieces and eat with your fingers. The pancakes should have a strong spring onion flavour with the occasional sharpness of the salt crystals – absolutely delicious.

Minced Meat or Seafood Wrapped in Lettuce

The original version of this Shanghai dish calls for quail or pigeon. Chinese restaurants generally use chicken or pork, while seafood (a mixture of prawns, squid and scallops) seems to be quite popular too.
Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) chicken or pork or seafood
Salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon light soy
1 teaspoon rice wine
2 teaspoons cornflour paste
3-4 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked
100g (4oz) preserved vegetables
50g (2oz) water chestnuts, drained
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onions
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
12 crisp lettuce leaves (Webb or Iceberg) to serve

Coarsely chop the meat or seafood and marinate with the salt, pepper, sugar, soy, wine and cornflour for 10-15 minutes.
Squeeze dry the mushrooms and discard any hard stalks. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, preserved vegetables and water chestnuts.
Heat the oil in a preheated wok and stir-fry the ginger and spring onions until fragrant. Add the meat or seafood and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Tip in the mushrooms, preserved vegetables and water chestnuts, and continue stirring for 2 more minutes. Pour in the oyster sauce and blend well. Serve on a warm dish.

To eat: place 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture onto a lettuce leaf and roll up tightly into a parcel. Eat with your fingers and provide finger bowls and paper napkins for your guests.

Foolproof Food

Bang Bang Chicken
This popular Sichuan dish is known as Bon-Bon Chicken because the meat is tenderized by being banged with a stick (bon).

Serves 4-6 as a starter.

225g (8oz) chicken meat (boned and skinned)
A few lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons sesame paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons light soy
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chilli sauce
½ teaspoon sugar

Place the chicken meat in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving a little liquid. Beat with a rolling pin until soft, then pull into shreds.

Shred the lettuce leaves and place them on a serving dish. Place the chicken meat on top of the lettuce leaves.
Mix a little of the liquid in which the chicken has been cooked with the sesame paste. Blend in the soy, vinegar, sesame oil, chilli sauce and sugar. Stir until you have a smooth, creamy paste, pour all over the chicken and serve.

Hot Tips

A Taste of West Cork Food Festival 2006, Skibbereen – 14-17th September 2006
Includes ‘A West Cork Feast’ at the West Cork Hotel, story telling at local primary schools, final of schools cookery competition, photo exhibition by John Minihan, West Cork Food Festival Pub Trail, demonstrations and tastings in supermarkets, Farmers Market, Art Workshops, field visits, open air Food and Craft Market and much, much more. Visit  for more information. Food producers contact Kevin Santry at 023-34035 & 086-2672288, Craft makers contact Ivan McCutcheon on 023-34035 or email  

Diploma in Speciality Food Production at University College Cork
This course is intended for those who are interested in developing speciality foods as a commercial venture or as a way or adding value to agricultural food commodities. Suitable for those currently in the speciality food sector as well as suppliers, buyers and retailers. For details contact Food Training Unit, Faculty of Food Science and Technology, UCC. Tel 021-4903178. 

One such is Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons’

I dread ‘hotel breakfast’, as a general rule they are all froth with no flavour! - elaborate buffets of poor quality ingredients, not a single item of real honest food. Of course there are exceptions, where everything is fresh, home made, and as far as possible local.
One such is Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons in Great Milton outside Oxford. I woke up on a glorious Autumn morning full of the energy one feels on a bright sunny day, I am not a jogger but I so wanted to walk through the gardens before breakfast. The gardens were so beautiful in the dusky haze of the early morning, I particularly wanted to see Raymond Blanc’s kitchen garden. It was a splendid sight, rows and rows of organic vegetables and herbs and a new Asian vegetable garden. 
Raymond in pristine whites was already out there, gesticulating excitedly as he explained some new ideas to a high-powered looking chap in a suit – I later discovered he was Tom Lewis, the general manager of Le Manoir – a country house hotel with nineteen luxurious rooms and renowned for its food.
Raymond is passionate about the quality of the ingredients he uses. Several gardeners were already snipping and harvesting vegetables, herbs and micro greens for the day’s cooking – Raymond practises what he preaches – he is single-minded in his search for the best varieties, not the highest yielding but the most intensively flavoured, we exchanged ideas. I got so carried away I almost missed breakfast – what mistake that would have been.
The breakfast buffet had all the usual breakfast foods, except the quality of each item was superb – crusty sourdough and pain de campagne, flaky croissants, pain au chocolat, and sticky Danish pastries all made in the bakery. Thick sheep milk yoghurt and a diced fruit salad made with ripe seasonal fruit. Half ruby grapefruit, ready to eat with an Autumn raspberry perched on top, Bircher apple and oatmeal muesli with plump yellow sultanas.
The choice was unbearable, would I have the poached plums or the quince, or perhaps some blueberries. Would I scrape the seeds out of those perfumed passion fruit onto the thick sheep milk yoghurt or would I drizzle it with one of several honeys, or three or four types of Fair Trade sugar. Around the other side of this lavish buffet there was a basket of ripe fruit and some plump dried fruit arranged in symmetrical rows, Turkish figs, Moroccan apricots and my favourite Medjool dates – what a feast – so glad I did a few ‘rounds of the garden’ before I came to dine. Would I have coffee and hot milk without the froth, hot chocolate, tea or maybe a lemon verbena tisane and some orange juice. It was of course freshly squeezed in the true sense of the word - a rare thing nowadays when freshly squeezed usually comes out of a litre plastic container or a tetra pack! 
I rarely eat a cooked breakfast on a ‘working day’ but couldn’t resist trying the ‘Le petit déjeuner Anglais traditionnel’, all in the way of research. Again it was real, great dry cured Oxfordshire bacon, fresh free range eggs, a huge Oxfordshire sausage and a sweet juicy Sicilian tomato. Also on the menu were Scrambled free range eggs with tomato and smoked salmon from the Isle of Orkney, also Oeufs Florentine – poached with sautéed spinach and Mornay sauce and Oeufs Bénédicte – poached with some of the delicious Oxfordshire bacon served on an English muffin with Hollandaise Sauce and garden herbs. Grilled Scottish Loch Fyne kippers and Smoked Scottish haddock also featured and traditional French black pudding with apple puree and a selection of French and English farmhouse cheeses…..
This quality doesn’t come cheap but its so refreshing to be able to find a place where they actually deliver what they promise.

Here are some of Le Manoir breakfast recipes

Banana & Honey Smoothie

Serves 2
1 ripe banana, peeled and roughly chopped
200ml Soya milk
2 tbsp honey

In a blender, puree the banana, Soya milk and honey for 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve.

Mango, Pineapple & Orange Smoothie

Serves 2
120g 1 ripe mango, peeled, stone removed, roughly chopped
120g pineapple, skin & core removed, roughly chopped
100 ml orange juice
150 ml water
10g fructose

In a blender, puree the mango, pineapple, orange juice, water and fructose for 30 seconds. 
Pour into glasses and serve.

Smoked Salmon Omelette

Serves 1
1 dash of olive oil
10g butter
3 medium organic/free range, fresh eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g smoked salmon, roughly chopped

In a mixing bowl gently beat the eggs together with a pinch of salt and pepper. In an omelette pan heat olive oil and butter till it begins to foam. Pour in the mixture and cook for a few seconds, with a fork stir the omelette repeat the process until the eggs are cooked to your liking (rare, medium rare and well done) Add the pieces of salmon in the middle of the omelette. Roll the omelette and turn on to a plate. With kitchen paper give form to the omelette. Brush the omelette with olive oil and serve. 

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8
This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Egremont Russet in the Autumn. 
At Le Manoir they add pistachio and brazil nuts and a variety of seeds like linseed, amaranth, alfalfa, and raisins and dried blueberries and some natural yogurt – all organic.

6 heaped tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
8 tablespoons water
110g (8ozs) fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.
Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Winter Breakfast Fruit Salad

Serves 8
Breakfast cereals that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge are a terrific standby, 
we love this one and often eat it as a Winter dessert with a few pistachio nuts or toasted almonds added.

185g (6 1/2 oz) prunes
170g (6oz) dried apricots
1 handful of raisins
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons pure Irish honey
225ml (8 fl oz) freshly squeezed orange juice
3-4 bananas

Soak the prunes and apricots in lots of cold water overnight. Next day, put the prunes, apricots, raisins and freshly grated lemon rind into a casserole. Mix the honey with 110ml (4fl oz) warm water and enough of the fruit soaking water to cover the prunes and apricots. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes approximately. Allow to cool and keep in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add a little freshly squeezed orange juice and some sliced bananas to each bowl. Serve with pouring cream or natural yoghurt.
Keeps for 1-2 weeks in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Top Tip: Wash the lemon well before grating unless they are unwaxed lemons.

Proper Breakfast Kippers

Raymond Blanc serves Scottish Loch Fyne kippers, but at Ballymaloe House we serve kippers from Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery and Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse near Cobh who smoke the best kippers I have ever tasted. I like them best cooked for breakfast by what I call the jug method.
Serves 2

2 undyed Kippers
Maitre d'hotel butter (see below)

2 segments of lemon
2 sprigs of parsley

Put the kippers head downwards into a deep jug. Cover them with boiling water right up to their tails as though you were making tea. Leave for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Lift them out carefully by the tail and serve immediately on hot plates with a pat of Maitre d'hotel butter melting on top. Garnish each with a segment of lemon and a sprig of parsley.
Maitre d'hotel Butter
4 ozs (110g) butter
4 teasp. parsley, finely chopped
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Seves 4-6 depending on the size or helping
Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

We love to cook American pancakes on the Aga for Sunday brunch – it’s so difficult to know when to stop!

250ml (8 flozs) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (½ oz) butter, melted
85g (3ozs) plain white flour
Good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda
Crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey

Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps. Do not over mix or the pancakes will be heavy.

Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake. Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.

Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.

Glebe House Eggs Benedict on a bed of Creamed Spinach on toast

Serves 4
8 freshly laid free-range organic eggs
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Creamed Spinach – see recipe below
4 thickish slices of homemade white yeast loaf

Creamed Spinach
900g (2lb) fresh spinach
salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

Put the leaves in a heavy saucepan on a very low heat and cover tightly. After a few minutes, stir and replace the lid. When the spinach is cooked after 5-8 minutes strain off the copious amount of liquid that has been released and press between two plates until almost dry. Chop roughly and return to the pan.
Add 225-350ml (8-12fl oz) cream to the spinach and bring to the boil, stir well and thicken with a little roux if desired, otherwise stir over the heat until the spinach has absorbed most of the cream. Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. 

Poach the eggs. 
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add a little salt, reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg and slip gently into the whirlpool in the centre. For perfection the water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the white is set and the yolk still soft and runny. Lift out gently on a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly. 

Meanwhile toast the bread.
Heat 4 plates.
Butter the hot toast.
Spread 2 large spoonfuls of Creamed Spinach over each slice of the toast. Top with two plump poached eggs.
Serve with freshly ground pepper and Maldon sea salt – divine.

Hot Potato Cakes with Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon

Serves 8
900g (2 lb) unpeeled 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
30g – 55g (1-2 oz) butter
55g (2 oz) flour 
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, chives and lemon thyme, mixed, (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
creamy milk
seasoned flour
bacon fat, clarified butter or olive oil for frying
crème fraiche
8 generous slices of smoked salmon or smoked trout
chopped chives

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the peel and mash right away, add the flour and herbs. Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into potato cakes 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and then cut into rounds. Dip in seasoned flour.
Fry the potato cakes in clarified butter until golden on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side, 4-5 minutes approx. they should be crusty and golden. Serve on very hot plates.
Put a blob of creme fraiche or Jockey on top of each potato cake. Top with slivers of smoked salmon and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

Alternative serving suggestions
1. Smoked mackerel or trout instead of smoked salmon.
2. Serve hot crispy bacon instead of smoked salmon.
3. Serve chorizo sausage instead of smoked salmon.

Tobys Hot Chocolate

This is the recipe for Hot Chocolate that my son Toby makes. It’s wickedly rich and absolutely scrumptious: the flavour of ‘proper’ hot chocolate is a revelation if you’ve never tried it before.
Serves 4

3½-4 ozs (100-110 g) best quality dark chocolate
2½ fl ozs (62 ml) water
1 pint (568 ml) milk
1-2 teasp. Sugar
4 large teasp. whipped cream
grated chocolate

Put the chocolate and water into a heavy saucepan and melt on a very low heat. Meanwhile, bring the milk almost to the boil (what we call the 'shivery' stage) in a separate saucepan. When the chocolate has melted, pour on the milk, whisking all the time; it should be smooth and frothy. Taste and add some sugar. Pour it into warmed cups, spoon a blob of whipped cream on top and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate. 

Foolproof Food

Orange, Mint and Grapefruit Cocktail

Serves 4
2 grapefruit
2 oranges
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
1 tablespoon sugar approx.

4 sprigs of fresh mint

Peel and carefully segment the oranges and grapefruit into a bowl. Add the sugar and chopped mint; taste and add more sugar if necessary. Chill. Serve in pretty bowls or, alternatively, arrange the segments of orange and grapefruit alternatively on the plate in a circle: pour a little juice over the fruit. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Hot Tips

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD, UK
Tel 0044 1844 278881 email and website:  

Blackwater Valley Farmers Market which is the umbrella group for Kilavullen, Fermoy and Lismore Farmers Markets will launch their market in Fermoy on Saturday 29th October at 11.00am on the Quay in Fermoy, and on Sunday 6th November in Lismore from 11.-3.30 in the GAA and Community Centre – enquiries about these markets to Michael Walsh at 086-8377590

Serving a City – The Story of Cork’s English Market by Diarmuid and Donal O’Drisceoil – published by Collins Press – a wonderful read – put on the Christmas list – essential reading for any Cork person.

Winter Food on RTE 1 on Saturdays at 7.30-pm starting today 29th October. 
This is a new food series which focuses on the foods which are available to us seasonally. The programme will be presented by food writer and presenter Clodagh McKenna and produced by Aoife Nic Cormaic.


Past Letters