The Avoca Café, a legend in its short life time

The Avoca Café in Kilmacanogue has already become a legend in its short life time. It has evolved in just a few years from a mere 4 tables serving home-made soup and biscuits into one of Ireland’s best loved restaurants, serving over 1,000 people a day.
The Café was originally started to facilitate people who came to browse and shop at Avoca Handweavers. Now many of the afficionados who flock to the Café come first and foremost for the delicious food, fresh-tasting salads, seasonal soup, interesting main courses and yummy puds and cakes.
Everyone has their favourite Avoca recipe, some dishes simply can’t be taken off the menu, yet there’s lots of variety for the many who drop in on a regular basis. Executive Chef Leylie Hayes graduated from a 12 week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1987. She and her team manage to keep brilliantly consistent food which is so difficult to achieve.
The many Avoca fans, of which I am certainly one, are overjoyed to hear that Leylie and Hugo Arnold have collaborated to write the Avoca Café Cookbook – its stylish and terrific. Rush out and buy it – its full to the brim with recipes you’ll want to dash into the kitchen to try.
‘Avoca Café Cookbook’ published by Avoca Handweavers Ltd, Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, £17.99.
Here are some delicious recipes from the book.

Piperade Tartlets

Shortcrust pastry, made with 225g (8oz) plain flour, 150g (5oz) butter, ½ teasp. salt and 1-2 egg yolks.
4 tablesp. olive oil
1 onion, peeled, cut in half, then sliced into semi-circles
3 red and 3 yellow peppers, cut into strips
225g (8oz) goat’s cheese log, such as Saint Loup
4 beef or plum tomatoes, sliced
a large bunch of basil
Roll the pastry out and use to line four 10cm/4 inch loose-bottomed tartlet tins, then bake blind. To make the piperade, heat half the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and peppers and cook over a high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring. Turn the heat down and cook for about an hour, until the mixture resembles marmalade.
Slice the goat’s cheese and crumble it over the pastry bases. Spread the piperade over it, then arrange the tomatoes on top. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for about 20 minutes. Tear up the basil and mix with the remaining olive oil. Spread over the top of the tartlets and serve warm.

Lakeshore Pork

1.3kg (3lb) diced leg of pork, well trimmed (fillet is even better)
Seasoned flour: flour, salt, pepper, mustard powder and brown sugar
Olive oil
600ml (1 pint) apple juice
300ml (½ pint) chicken stock
300g Lakeshore mustard, or other wholegrain mustard
300ml (½ pint) cream
Toss the pork in the seasoned flour and then brown it in some olive oil in small batches. Place in a flameproof casserole dish and cover with the apple juice and stock. Add the mustard and bring it to the boil, then transfer to an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir in the cream and return to the oven for 10 minutes.
If the sauce is a little thin, remove the meat and keep warm. Put the casserole over a moderate heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Return the meat to the pan.

Banana Bread

225g (8oz) plain flour
1 teasp. salt
1 heaped teasp. baking powder
1 teasp. ground cinnamon
110g (4oz) caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
75g (3oz) butter, melted
a few drops of vanilla essence
65g (2½ oz) pecan nuts, chopped
4 medium-sized ripe bananas, mashed
Makes 1 loaf
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Mix in the egg, butter and vanilla essence, but do not beat. Fold in the pecans and mashed bananas, using a fork. Again do not beat. Spoon into a lined 9x20cm (3½ inch x 8 inch) loaf tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 50-60 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and springs back when prodded gently with your finger. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Apple Streusel Biscuits

Makes 16-20
150g (5oz) plain flour
90g (3½ oz) icing sugar
150g (5oz) ground almonds
225g (8oz) unsalted butter, diced
6 tablesp. home-made lemon curd
a little caster sugar for dusting
For the streusel topping:
1 large red eating apple
90g (3½oz) unsalted butter, diced
190g (6½oz) plain flour, sifted
1 teasp. mixed spice
Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and stir in the ground almonds. Rub in the butter until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, then work gently together to form a soft dough. Roll out to fit a 32 x 23cm/13 x 9 inch Swiss roll tin. Scoop the dough into the tin and press out to fit. Prick all over with a fork. Spoon the lemon curd on top and refrigerate while making the streusel topping.
Coarsely grate the apple and squeeze dry on kitchen paper. Put into a bowl with a little of the demerara sugar and mix to separate the strands. In a separate bowl, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the spice, apple and the remaining sugar. Sprinkle evenly over the lemon curd, pressing down gently. Bake in an over preheated to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 45-50 minutes, until lightly browned. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into bars. Dust with caster sugar.

Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food

Sophie Grigson, bubbly cook of the many earrings has a passion for the Mediterranean and not just the food, warmth and colour but also the home made drinks like Limoncello and Mint tea. In her newest book sunshine Food she captures the essence of holidays in the sun. Understandably Sophie’s ideal holiday spot is not the Cost de Sol. Asked to describe her perfect place, she searches out the ever diminishing number of small towns or villages off the beaten track, with perhaps a sandy beach, a small bar and an unpretentious restaurant frequented by the locals. “ Then absolutely critical, there must be ruins and local markets and narrow old streets to wander through”. The hotel or holiday house doesn’t have to be grand but certainly won’t be one of those concrete edifices that have mushroomed like some fungal disease all along the shores of the Mediterranean. Finally the food must be good honest gutsy food, not grand, but made with fresh local ingredients, cooked in the time honoured way without frills and fuss. It’s worth remembering that the Mediterranean is of course not just the south of France, Spain and Italy. There’s also Greece, Turkey, the Lebanon, Israel and North Africa , Egypt, Tunisia and on finally to Morocco. The sunny food of these countries is immensely seductive to us northerners and Sophie seems particularly fond of the robust flavours of Morocco, Sicily and Greece. Sophie Grigson’s Sunshine Food Published by BBC Cooks £20.00 Sterling

Joshua Goes Foraging

Our adorable little grandson Joshua is now eight months. He gurgles and chuckles all day long and has just started to crawl. We are all completely besotted and much time is spent baby worshipping.

Yesterday I took him out into the fruit garden to taste some ripe berries, he didn’t much like blackcurrants or redcurrants but he loved raspberries and fraises du bois – little wild strawberries. We had the best fun, we played a game – he held out his little dimpled hand while I put a raspberry on the top of each finger which he promptly polished off.
We only have a couple of rows of raspberries but across the road local farmer Patrick Walsh and his family grow a gorgeous selection of berries and some vegetables, much to the delight and gratitude of everyone around. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if every village and town had at least one farm shop where local people could buy local food directly from source. There’s lots of room for big and small production, but this is yet another way that some farmers could perhaps increase their income and generate tremendous goodwill in their locality.
Then we as consumers need to show an appreciation by paying a fair price so they can produce the quality we demand. Sadly our assumption that ‘cheap food’ is our right, coupled with over-production, has been the cause of much of the problems of farming in recent times. We are quite simply forcing farmers to produce food, in many cases below its economic level. Consequently many farmers are either going out of business in despair or choosing the only other course open to them – to intensify production to reduce costs, often with a resulting loss of quality and flavour.
This very serious issue needs to be debated and tackled urgently before the exodus from the land goes any further.
Here are some of the delicious recipes we have been enjoying made from local raspberries.

 

A Jelly of Fresh Raspberries with Fresh Mint Cream

 


Makes 9-10 ramekins
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
Syrup
8 ozs (225g/generous1 cup) sugar
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) water
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) Framboise
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
3 rounded teasp. gelatine, 3 tablesp. water
Mint Cream
15 mint leaves approx.
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
6 fl ozs (170ml/ ¾ cup) cream
Make a syrup by bringing sugar, water and mint leaves slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add Framboise and lemon juice,
Meanwhile line the moulds with cling film.
Sponge the gelatine in two tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl or pint measure, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water until gelatine completely dissolves. Remove the mint leaves from the syrup, then pour the syrup onto the gelatine and then add the raspberries. Fill into the lined moulds. Put into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.
Meanwhile make the mint cream. Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, (the lemon juice will thicken the cream, if the cream becomes too thick add a little water.)
To assemble
Spread a little mint cream on a white plate, turn out a raspberry jelly and place in the centre. Place five mint leaves on the mint cream around the jelly. Decorate with a few perfect raspberries. Serve chilled.

 

Liz Grieve’s Raspberry & Almond Torte with Raspberry Compote

 


Liz, a past student of ours shared this delicious recipe with us.
Serves 8
5oz (135g/1¼ stick) softened butter
5oz (135g) castor sugar
5oz (135g) ground almonds
5oz (135g) self raising flour
1 egg, free range
8-12 ozs (225-350g) fresh raspberries (if using frozen drain well!)
Use 8-9 inch baking tin with detachable base, greased.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Cream the butter, beat in the castor sugar, stir in the ground almonds and flour. The mixture will be quite soft. Spread half of this mixture onto the base of the greased tin. Put a layer of raspberries on top and cover with the remaining mix. Bake for approximately 1 hour until firm and golden.
It is best served warm with softly whipped cream and Raspberry Compote. (see below).

 

Raspberry Compote

 


1 lb (450g) raspberries
6-8 ozs (175-225g) sugar
Cook raspberries gently for about 2-3 minutes and add sugar to taste.
Raspberry Ice cream
Serves 6
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 fl ozs (150ml) water
1 teasp. gelatine
1 pint (600ml) whipped cream
Puree and sieve the raspberries. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for 2 minutes, sponge the gelatine in 1 tablespoon water and dissolve in a saucepan of simmering water. Blend raspberries, puree with the syrup add a little to the gelatine and then mix the two together. Fold in whipped cream and freeze.

 

Raspberry Buns

 


Raspberry Buns have a very special place in my heart because as far as I can remember they were the very first thing I learned how to make under the watchful eye of my Aunt Florence.
Makes 10
6 ozs (170g/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 ozs (55g/½ stick) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 egg
a little milk
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) home-made raspberry jam
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and baking powder. Whisk the egg and add a little milk. Mix with the dry ingredients to form a stiffish dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and roll into balls using a little flour. Lay them on a greased tray and make a hole in the top of each with a floured thumb. Fill with a small quantity of raspberry jam and pinch the dough together again. flatten the buns slightly. Brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the good preheated oven for about 15 minutes. When the buns are ready they will crack on top and the jam will peep out, irresistible straight from the oven.

 

Raspberry & Loganberry Jam

 


Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots
This recipe may also be used for loganberries or raspberries on their own. Reduce the sugar to 1¾ lb (785g/4 cups) for raspberry jam.
1 lb (450g/4 cups) raspberries
1 lb (450g/4 cups) loganberries
2 lbs (900g/4½ cups) white sugar
Wash, dry and sterilize the jars in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.
Put the fruit into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved.
Increase the heat and boil steadily for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Test for a set by putting about one teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leave it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilized jam jars. Cover immediately.

Joshua Goes Foraging

Our adorable little grandson Joshua is now eight months. He gurgles and chuckles all day long and has just started to crawl. We are all completely besotted and much time is spent baby worshipping.
Yesterday I took him out into the fruit garden to taste some ripe berries, he didn’t much like blackcurrants or redcurrants but he loved raspberries and fraises du bois – little wild strawberries. We had the best fun, we played a game – he held out his little dimpled hand while I put a raspberry on the top of each finger which he promptly polished off.
We only have a couple of rows of raspberries but across the road local farmer Patrick Walsh and his family grow a gorgeous selection of berries and some vegetables, much to the delight and gratitude of everyone around. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if every village and town had at least one farm shop where local people could buy local food directly from source. There’s lots of room for big and small production, but this is yet another way that some farmers could perhaps increase their income and generate tremendous goodwill in their locality.
Then we as consumers need to show an appreciation by paying a fair price so they can produce the quality we demand. Sadly our assumption that ‘cheap food’ is our right, coupled with over-production, has been the cause of much of the problems of farming in recent times. We are quite simply forcing farmers to produce food, in many cases below its economic level. Consequently many farmers are either going out of business in despair or choosing the only other course open to them – to intensify production to reduce costs, often with a resulting loss of quality and flavour.
This very serious issue needs to be debated and tackled urgently before the exodus from the land goes any further.
Here are some of the delicious recipes we have been enjoying made from local raspberries.

A Jelly of Fresh Raspberries with Fresh Mint Cream

Makes 9-10 ramekins
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
Syrup
8 ozs (225g/generous1 cup) sugar
8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) water
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) Framboise
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
3 rounded teasp. gelatine, 3 tablesp. water
Mint Cream
15 mint leaves approx.
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) lemon juice
6 fl ozs (170ml/ ¾ cup) cream
Make a syrup by bringing sugar, water and mint leaves slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add Framboise and lemon juice,
Meanwhile line the moulds with cling film.
Sponge the gelatine in two tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl or pint measure, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water until gelatine completely dissolves. Remove the mint leaves from the syrup, then pour the syrup onto the gelatine and then add the raspberries. Fill into the lined moulds. Put into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.
Meanwhile make the mint cream. Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, (the lemon juice will thicken the cream, if the cream becomes too thick add a little water.)
To assemble
Spread a little mint cream on a white plate, turn out a raspberry jelly and place in the centre. Place five mint leaves on the mint cream around the jelly. Decorate with a few perfect raspberries. Serve chilled.

Liz Grieve’s Raspberry & Almond Torte with Raspberry Compote

Liz, a past student of ours shared this delicious recipe with us.
Serves 8
5oz (135g/1¼ stick) softened butter
5oz (135g) castor sugar
5oz (135g) ground almonds
5oz (135g) self raising flour
1 egg, free range
8-12 ozs (225-350g) fresh raspberries (if using frozen drain well!)
Use 8-9 inch baking tin with detachable base, greased.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4
Cream the butter, beat in the castor sugar, stir in the ground almonds and flour. The mixture will be quite soft. Spread half of this mixture onto the base of the greased tin. Put a layer of raspberries on top and cover with the remaining mix. Bake for approximately 1 hour until firm and golden.
It is best served warm with softly whipped cream and Raspberry Compote. (see below).
Raspberry Compote
1 lb (450g) raspberries
6-8 ozs (175-225g) sugar
Cook raspberries gently for about 2-3 minutes and add sugar to taste.

Raspberry Ice cream

Serves 6
1 lb (450g) fresh raspberries
10 ozs (285g) sugar
5 fl ozs (150ml) water
1 teasp. gelatine
1 pint (600ml) whipped cream
Puree and sieve the raspberries. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for 2 minutes, sponge the gelatine in 1 tablespoon water and dissolve in a saucepan of simmering water. Blend raspberries, puree with the syrup add a little to the gelatine and then mix the two together. Fold in whipped cream and freeze.
Raspberry Buns
Raspberry Buns have a very special place in my heart because as far as I can remember they were the very first thing I learned how to make under the watchful eye of my Aunt Florence.
Makes 10
6 ozs (170g/generous 1 cup) plain white flour
pinch of salt
2 ozs (55g/½ stick) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 egg
a little milk
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) home-made raspberry jam
1 teaspoon baking powder
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and baking powder. Whisk the egg and add a little milk. Mix with the dry ingredients to form a stiffish dough. Divide the dough into 10 equal portions and roll into balls using a little flour. Lay them on a greased tray and make a hole in the top of each with a floured thumb. Fill with a small quantity of raspberry jam and pinch the dough together again. flatten the buns slightly. Brush with a little egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in the good preheated oven for about 15 minutes. When the buns are ready they will crack on top and the jam will peep out, irresistible straight from the oven.

Raspberry & Loganberry Jam

Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots
This recipe may also be used for loganberries or raspberries on their own. Reduce the sugar to 1¾ lb (785g/4 cups) for raspberry jam.
1 lb (450g/4 cups) raspberries
1 lb (450g/4 cups) loganberries
2 lbs (900g/4½ cups) white sugar
Wash, dry and sterilize the jars in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.
Put the fruit into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved.
Increase the heat and boil steadily for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Test for a set by putting about one teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leave it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilized jam jars. Cover immediately.

Cool Kids go Cooking!

School holidays at last – all over the country kids are rejoicing in their new found freedom, on the other hand many parents, particularly those in households where both parents are working, are wondering how on earth they will manage to cope and keep the children amused for the entire summer.
Well how about taking a brave step – let them into the kitchen, better still welcome them in.
Kids love to cook. Do you remember when you made your first fairy cakes or perhaps you’ve never baked a cake in your life but wish you could. Cooking is a life skill and children love it, you’ll be absolutely amazed at how fast they learn and how skilled and dextrous they become when they are given the opportunity to cook and handle kitchen equipment.
This week I’ve got an Introductory Course running here at the school, eight different nationalities ranging in age from 17-75 are learning basic cooking techniques and having so much fun. We can bring total beginners from ‘this is a wooden spoon’ to being able to give a dinner party in one week. It is one of our most popular courses and books up months in advance each year. Students range from barristers to bankers, farmers to foreign correspondents with an occasional actor and accountant thrown in.
Many of the older students particularly, regret that they never took time out to learn to cook and all wish they had the opportunity to soak up the basics when they were little.
Next week it’s a 2½ day course for Dads and Daughters, Mums and Sons, so if you feel like spending some quality time with your offspring and bonding over a Banoffi Pie well this could be your big chance. Earlier in the week Rick Bayless from Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago comes to Shanagarry to teach a Mexican food course. He’s a super star in the US, having been chosen as Chef of the Year in 1995. That will bring us to the end of our short course series until September.
But back to the kids in the kitchen. The following recipes come from Mary Contini’s new book entitled ‘Easy Peasy, Sweetie Pie’. I’m a big fan of this talented Scottish writer who has a passion for improving the diet of children in particular and making them realise that its fun to cook and ‘easy peasy’ to make simply delicious food.
‘Easy Peasy Sweetie Pie’ by Mary Contini is published by Ebury Press, London.

Grumpy Angel’s Breakfast

May says that a really yummy energy-packed breakfast will take away all the grumpies and make you into an angel!
You will need, any mixed fruits such as:

Strawberries, raspberries or blackberries or a slice of ripe melon
A kiwi fruit
An apple
Some grapes
A peach
6 tablespoons of Gree-style yoghurt
1 tablespoon of Crunchy Munchies (see next recipe)
Rinse any soft fruits or berries and throw away the stalks and any mouldy fruit. Put the fruit into the mixing bowl and squash it down with a fork.
If you want to, peel the skin off the fruit you are using. If not, just wash the skin well. Chop all the fruit into bite-sized pieces, cutting away any pips or seeds. Put it into the mixing bowl as you go. Prepare as much fruit as you like.
Add the yoghurt.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of Crunchy Munchies on top.

Crunchy Munchies

You will need 8 ingredients
100g of rolled oats
2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon of chopped hazelnuts
1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of runny honey
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
2 tablespoons of sultanas

Grease a baking tray (at least 1cm deep) and have a mug of hot water standing by.
Turn on the oven to 200C/400F.gas mark 6.
Mix together the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, sunflower and sesame seeds in a large mixing bowl.
Dip the tablespoon into the mug of hot water and use this to measure out a tablespoon of runny honey. Pour it over the dressing.
Add the tablespoon of sunflower oil, mix everything together.
Spread the mixture roughly onto the greased baking tray and, using oven gloves, put the tray on the middle shelf of the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
When the time is up, use your oven gloves to take the tray out of the oven. The mixture will be nicely toasted and chunky.
Tip it back into the mixing bowl and add the sultanas. Mix everything together. Leave to cool. Store the Crunchy Munchies in an airtight container. They are really good sprinkled over breakfast cereal, baked fruit or used in Grumpy Angel’s Breakfast.
You can make up Crunchy Munchies with any combination of nuts and dried fruits that you like. You will need to use the oats, honey and oil as a base. Try adding chopped dates, chopped dried apricots, or walnuts and pecans.

Chilly Banana

2 bananas
300g of frozen raspberries (not defrosted)
some cream, whipped if you like
2 small glasses.
Pop the raspberries into a liquidiser. Peel and chop the bananas. Add them too. Put the lid on and whisk for a few minutes. Using a spatula, scrape the mixture out of the liquidiser and divide it between the glasses, add a blob of cream before sharing.
You can make this with any frozen soft berries; maybe strawberries or blackberries or mixed soft fruits.

Flora’s Flop Flops
225g of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of castor sugar
1 large egg
275ml of semi-skimmed milk

some butter for frying
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the bicarbonate of soda, a pinch of slalt and the sugar and mix everything together.
Break the egg into a small bowl and beat it with a fork. Add it to the mixing bowl. Add the milk.
Use a balloon whisk to mix everything together to make a thick batter. Don’t worry about any lumps – keep mixing and they will disappear.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it for an hour or so.
Melt a small blob of butter in the frying pan over a medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, put 3 or 4 tablespoons of the thick batter into the frying pan, spaced well apart.
Turn down the heat and cook the Flop Flops for 3-4 minutes until lots of little bubbles appear on the surface and they start to brown underneath.
Slide a fish slice underneath and use a fork to help you carefully flip each one over. Cook them for another 2-3 minutes on the other side until they are golden brown.
Put the cooked Flip Flops on the warmed plate and cover them with a clean tea towel. Keep them in a warm place and cook the rest of the batter in the same way. There are very nice eaten still warm with butter and a big blob of jam.
You could also add 2 tablespoons of raisins or blueberries to the batter.

Connected to the Good Earth

Suddenly my potager vegetable garden is bursting with produce. The compost, well-rotted farmyard manure and seaweed have paid dividends, globe artichokes, beetroot, broad beans, sugar peas, spinach, radishes, lettuces, mustard greens, spring onions….

It’s a glorious time of the year, within a couple of weeks one goes from the ‘hungry gap’ between the end of the winter vegetables to an abundance of summer vegetables and salad leaves.
Evening after evening we go out into the vegetable garden and pick beautiful produce and feel blessed. I sit at the end of the kitchen table podding broad beans, stringing sugar peas, de-stalking spinach, trimming globe artichokes…. far from feeling rushed, I find that picking and preparing vegetables and fruit makes me relaxed and connected to the good earth and the reality of nature and the seasons.
One enjoys every mouthful even more if one plants the seed and watches it slowly grow into something delicious to eat. This gives you a quite different appreciation of food and a tremendous respect and admiration for gardeners and farmers who carefully grow lovely food for us all to enjoy.
Look out for fresh local produce in your shops and supermarkets, ask them to highlight localso you identify what comes from your own locality. It will be fresher and all the better for not having travelled hundreds of miles to and from a central distribution station.
For me it’s a joy to see huge bunches of local carrots and Ballycotton potatoes piled up outside Sean Walsh’s excellent village greengrocery in Castlemartyr. Another good spot to source local food are the Farmers’ Markets which are beginning to mushroom around the country at last. The Farmers Market in Midleton runs on Saturdays from 10am to 2pm. The Coal Quay Market in Cork City is from 9am to 1.30pm on Saturday, around County Cork there is Macroom on Tuesday from 10am to 3pm, Mitchelstown on Thursday from 8am to 3pm, Castletownbere on the first Thursday of the month from 9am to 1pm, Bantry on Friday from 9am to 3pm. In Kerry the market is in Kenmare on Wednesday mornings and Sneem on Tuesday.
Ennis is on Saturday morning and in Limerick they start early in the Milk Market at about 7.30am. Galway runs all day on Saturday as does the Temple Bar Market in Dublin – worth a detour!

 

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter


Whole Globe artichokes are quite fiddly to eat. First you pull off each leaf separately and dip in the sauce. Eventually you are rewarded for your patience when you come to the heart! Don’t forget to scrape off the tickly ‘choke’; then cut the heart into manageable pieces, sprinkle with a little sea salt before you dip it into the remainder of your sauce. Simply Delicious!

Serves 6
6 globe artichokes
2 pints (1.1L/5 cups) water
2 teasp. salt
2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar

Melted Butter
6 ozs (170g/12 sticks) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of 3 lemon approx.

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring.
Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done. I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate.
While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.

To Serve
Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it. Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.
Globe artichokes are also delicious served with Hollandaise Sauce

 

Glazed Carrots

 


For many people digging carrots straight from the garden won’t be an option, so at least buy fresh unwashed carrots and cook them by this method for maximum flavour.
Serves 4-6

1 lb (450g) unwashed carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour
: oz (20g/scant 3 stick) butter
4 fl ozs (100ml/2 cup) cold water
pinch of salt
a good pinch of sugar

Garnish
freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint
Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices a inch (7mm) thick, either straight across or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze. Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.

 

Broad Beans with Summer Savoury

 

Serves 8
Summer Savoury is a herb which has an extraordinary affinity with beans, it seems to make them taste more ‘beany’. If you don’t have it simply leave it out!

1 lb (450g) shelled Broad beans
3 pint (150ml/generous 2 cup) water
1 teasp. salt
sprig of summer savoury
1 oz (30g/3 stick) approx. butter
1-2 teasp. summer savory, freshly chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the sea salt, broad beans and a sprig of savoury. Continue to boil very fast for 3 to 4 minutes or until just cooked. Drain immediately. Melt a little butter in the saucepan, toss in the broad beans and season with freshly ground pepper. Taste, add some more savory and a little sea salt if necessary.The first tender new season broad beans may be podded at the table and eaten raw dipped first into best quality extra virgin olive oil and then sea salt, delicious with a tangy Irish farmhouse sheep’s cheese and warm crusty bread or ciabatta.

 

Buttered Spinach

 


Serves 4-6
Here are three different basic methods of cooking spinach – all of them a huge improvement on the watery mush that frozen spinach often unfortunately ends up as!
2 lbs (900g) fresh Spinach, with stalks removed
Salt, freshly ground pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg
2-4 ozs (55-110g/2-1 stick) butter
Preparation

Method 1
Melt a scrap of butter in a wide frying pan, toss in as much spinach as will fit easily, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. As soon as the spinach wilts and becomes tender, strain off excess liquid, increase the heat and add some butter and freshly grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.
Method 2
Wash the spinach and drain. Put into a heavy saucepan on a very low heat, season and cover tightly. After a few minutes, stir and replace the lid. As soon as the spinach is cooked, about 5-8 minutes approx., strain off the copious amount of liquid that spinach releases and press until almost dry. Chop or puree in a food processor if you like a smooth texture. Increase the heat, add butter, correct the seasoning and add a little freshly grated nutmeg to taste.
Method 3
Cook the spinach uncovered in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until soft, 4-5 minutes approx. Drain and press out all the water. Continue as in method 2. Method 3 produces a brighter coloured spinach.
Creamed Spinach
Cook spinach either way and drain very well. Add 8-12 ozs (250-350ml/1-12 cups) 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. Creamed Spinach may be cooked ahead of time and reheated.
Oeufs Florentine
A classic and one of the most delicious combinations.
Serve freshly poached free range eggs on top of Creamed Spinach – one of our favourite lunch or supper dishes.

River Café Cook Book Green

Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers founded the phenomenally successful River Café Restaurant in London in 1987. Word spread quickly. People started arriving at their door. A woman from a local allotment began to bring her surplus sorrel in the early Spring. In April, a friend would pick stinging nettles by the bag-full from his farm in Hampshire. Other enthusiasts appeared with sea kale from the south coast beaches. Later in the year their builder exchanged the huge puffball mushrooms that grew near his house for bottles of Chianti Classico. When people realised that they were interested in fresh, unusual, wild produce, they wanted to participate.

In the introduction to their new book ‘River Café Cook Book Green’, Rose and Ruth explain how their passion for vegetables and fruit in season has been at the heart of the River Café since they first opened in 1987. Every day, outside the kitchen, they pick from their organic garden many varieties of basil, marjoram and mint, and interesting leaves such as purslane, cicoria, and treviso to use in their recipes. And the simple pleasure of all this, of fresh seasonal eating, is behind the River Café Cook Book Green, their third cookbook.
Like the others, it is heavily influenced by their love of Italy, their many visits over the years, and their growing appreciation of the glorious variety of Italian food. All the cooking starts in the market, the market reflects where you are, and the season around you. There is the joy in April when the first delicate broad beans arrive; that rich day in October when every stall is loaded with wild mushrooms gathered only that morning; the gentle sadness of biting into that last fresh cherry knowing that soon the brief season is over.
Over the years they have worked with their suppliers from the New Covent Garden, encouraging them to bring Italian market produce to London. Now lorries arrive laden with trevise from Verona, artichokes from Rome, borlotti beans from Puglia. These wonderful vegetables are slowly spreading throughout Britain and more and more greengrocers and supermarkets are selling them. Rose & Ruth suggest that if you have a garden you should experiment with growing your own. If not, try farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms and organic box schemes. But above all develop a relationship with your greengrocer, urging him to supply interesting varieties.
They thought that the moment was ripe for a book of this kind, in which they have divided the year not simply into seasons but into months. They wanted to show how specific vegetables are used in specific months for specific recipes – romanesco artichokes for deep-frying whole, the violettas for slicing finely to be eaten raw in salads; how to choose different varieties of tomatoes – cherry vines for fresh pasta sauces, plums for slow-cooked ones and the huge yellow tomatoes for rubbing on to bruschetta. There are recipes using wild ingredients, stinging nettles, sorrel and thistles – for flavouring pastas or simply combining to make a delicious insalata di campo.
Their cooking has become increasingly focused on the garden and its produce. In the summer they make fresh pasta with olives and tomatoes and a risotto of summer squash; in October when the chestnuts appear they put them in soup with celeriac; in the winter they eat salads of puntarelle with anchovies and vin santo and for Christmas they make a cake with crystallised clementines; in Spring they make a raw artichoke pesto go with homemade tagliarini.
These are not complicated recipes, and their message is simple too; good cooking is about fresh seasonal ingredients, organic whenever possible, used thoughtfully. It is something the Italians have always known and they hope that with this book you will share their pleasure in rediscovering this simple truth.
Here are some recipes from River Café Cook Book Green by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, published by Ebury Press.

Summer Herb Salad – Insalata estiva di erbe

Serves 6

100g (3½ ozs) fresh herbs (to include basil, purple basil, mint, fennel herb and wild rocket)
200g (7ozs) fresh vegetable leaves (to include small spinach leaves, red and/or green purslane, orache, rocket, landcress and small leaves from the centre of young beetroot, chard and chicory plants)
juice of 2 lemons
extra virgin olive oil
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash and spin dry the herb and vegetable leaves.
Mix the lemon juice with four parts its volume of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the salad just seconds before serving.

 

Peach ice-cream Gelato alla pesca

Serves 10
2kg (scant 4½ lbs) ripe white peaches
1.75litres (generous 3 pints) double cream
450ml (16fl.ozs) milk
4 fresh vanilla pods, split lengthways
15 large, organic free-range egg yolks
caster sugar
juice of 1 lemon

In a large thick-bottomed saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Scrape the vanilla seeds out of the pods into the mixture, then add the pods. Heat until just below boiling point.
Beat the egg yolks and 350g sugar together slowly for 10 minutes until pale and thick. Pour a little of the warm cream into the egg yolks and stir, then add the yolks slowly to the bulk of the cream mixture. Cook gently over a low heat, stirring constantly. It is important to concentrate, as the mixture will curdle if it gets to boiling point. Remove just before it reaches this stage. Allow to cool completely.
Skin the peaches, then cut in half and remove the stones. Smash the peaches with a fork into a thick puree and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar and the lemon juice. Add the peaches to the cream, stir and pour into an ice-cream machine to churn, or freeze in a suitable container.

 

Pea and Mint torte – sformato di piselli e menta

Serves 6
3 kg peas, (scant 7 lbs) podded
100g (3½ ozs) unsalted butter
200g (7ozs) Parmesan, freshly grated
250g (9 ozs) spring onions, finely chopped
2 tablesp fresh mint leaves
4 tablesp. fresh basil leaves
Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper
300g (scant 11 ozs ) ricotta cheese
4 tablesp. double cream
4 large, organic free-range eggs
extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F/gas 5). Butter a 25cm spring-release tin generously, then dust equally generously with grated Parmesan.
Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan, add the onion, and fry gently until soft. Add the peas, stir to combine, then add half the mint and basil and 150ml hot water. Season with salt, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put half the pea mixture into a food processor with half the ricotta and half the cream. Blend to mix, quite briefly. Add the rest of the ricotta and cream and while blending, add the eggs, one at a time.
Remove the mixture from the food processor, and put into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and fold in the remaining peas, about 100g of the grated Parmesan and the rest of the herbs. Pour into the prepared tin, drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes. The sformato will rise and become crisp and brown on top. When it is firm in the centre and pulling away from the sides, it is cooked. Remove from the oven, rest for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin on to a large serving plate. Cut into wedges to serve, warm or at room temperature.

Thousands of years of herbs

Fresh herbs have delighted cooks for not just hundreds, but thousands of years, the Roman cookery book written by Apicius around the late fourth and early fifth centuries contains numerous recipes for dishes flavoured with herbs, but even so I would hazard a guess that never at any period during history has there been such a universal interest in herbs as there is in recent times, both for healing and culinary purposes.

Fresh herbs are just a ‘cinch’ to grow, even if you are convinced that you haven’t green fingers don’t worry, they will actually grow despite you! You could say that I am a teeny bit biased but I reckon that everyone should have a little herb garden, well if not an actual garden, at least a few pots or tubs or even a window box brimming with Parsley, Thyme and Chives. I’ll tell you why, its not just the fact that a little sprinkling of fresh herbs can add magic to your cooking, there’s also the buzz you get when you make a little foray into the garden to pick a few sprigs – Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Sweet Cicely or whatever, you just feel great and somehow sort of virtuous!
A great bonus is that most of the culinary herbs are perennial so once you plant them they will re-emerge every year in early Spring in nice fat clumps ready for picking.
Each of the herbs has several uses, the leaves can of course be chopped and used to flavour a huge variety of dishes in various combinations, but the flowers are also edible, some are inconspicuous and not worth bothering with, but others make glorious garnishes and are quite delicious, particularly if eaten raw in salads, for example Sage and Chives. One can also collect and dry the seeds to use as a spice, Coriander, Fennel and Dill seeds are particularly worthwhile.
The thing that seems to baffle most people when they are starting is how many of each plant will be needed to produce a basic herb garden for an average family whatever that might be! Some herbs for example Fennel grow into a glorious feathery clump about 5 feet high while others like Parsley and Thyme are scarcely 6 inches high. Well, first and foremost I suggest that you buy herb plants rather than seeds, that will give you a head start and will also mean that you don’t have 30 or more of each variety. Most garden centres have a wide variety at present and this is the perfect time of the year to plant herbs. Choose a nice sunny spot so they are ‘kidded’ into imagining that they are in the Mediterranean where many originated.
To start off, one might buy 3 or 4 Parsley plants – 2 curly and 2 flat leaved, 2 Chives would be adequate for most people because they are ‘cut and come again’. You will also need 3 or 4 Thyme plants – say 3 common thyme and 1 lemon thyme, 2 Mint should be enough (there are about a dozen varieties) – Spearmint or Bowles mint are best for general use. Buy 2 French Tarragon also but be careful that you are not fobbed off with Russian Tarragon, this sounds rather racist but the French have, here, as in most things gastronomic the edge as far as flavour is concerned. One Sage – the common green variety, will add a bit of gizz to your stuffings and is divine with pasta. One plant of green Fennel will be plenty and though its not essential I would also have one or two Lemon Balm plants.
These are all perennial but there are a few annuals that are absolutely essential in my kitchen, so add a few of these if space and pocket permit. Don’t be without my absolute favourite which is Marjoram or Oregano, there are several varieties here, but the annual variety is by far the most fragrant. Have about 4 of these if possible and buy 1 Golden Marjoram to include in your green salad. A few Dill and Chervil plants are also a must. Dill is essential for Gravlax and Chervil just goes with everything. 2 or 3 Basil plants will need to be parked on your sunniest south-facing window ledge or better still keep them in the greenhouse if you have one or a sunny porch. Finally we are all hooked on Coriander here, this is very much an acquired taste but quickly becomes quite addictive – plant a few and start to acquire the taste.
There are two other wonderfully robust and gutsy herbs which are hardier than any of those I have mentioned so far, they are Rosemary and Bay, both need space but are tremendously useful herbs. Plant Rosemary for Remembrance and remember that it only flourishes in the house where the woman wears the pants! Bay grows easily but for a real treasure try to persuade or bribe someone to buy you a standard Bay to plant outside your back door in a pot or as the axis of your new herb garden. It will cost more than all the other plants combined but will give you an ‘oops’ in your tummy every time you look at it!
Fresh herb plants are available from most good garden centres, also Eden Plants, Rossinver, Co. Leitrim, 072-54122 have a large selection.


Baked Plaice or Sole with Herb Butter


This is a master recipe which can be used not only for plaice and sole but for all very fresh flat fish, e.g. brill, turbot, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it may be served as a starter or a main course. It may be served not only with Herb Butter but with any other complementary sauce, e.g. Hollandaise, Mousseline, Beurre Blanc, Lobster or Champagne.
Serves 4

4 very fresh plaice or sole on the bone
55-110g (2-4 ozs/4-8 tablesp.) butter
4 teasp. mixed finely-chopped fresh parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/regulo 5
Turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.
Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 7mm/3 inch of water in a shallow baking tin. Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs. Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut). Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them. Serve immediately.

Antony Worrall Thompson And The Scarecrow Competition

Last week Antony Worrall Thompson was guest chef at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for the fourth time. Antony came with his lovely wife Jay who was one of my students just a few years ago.

The incorrigible star of BBC Food and Drink Programme and irrepressible sparring partner of Brian Turner on Ready Steady Cook charmed the students who had come from both Ireland and the UK to see him cook.
Half way through one day’s cooking he took time off to judge the Darina Allen Scarecrow Competition. Local National Schools in East Cork had submitted incredibly creative entries. The choice of prizewinner was almost unbearable. So Antony, being totally detached and impartial, eventually settled for Millennium Millie made by the 5th & 6th classes from Castlemartyr National School. The traditional Shell and Rag Lady Scarecrow from St. John the Baptist School in Midleton tied for second place, while the beautifully woven willow scarecrow from Cloyne National School came a close third. Ziggy from Lower Aghada was runner up.
The children were all delighted when they came out to collect their prizes, they fed the pigs and chickens and gobbled up Lydia’s pizzas and enjoyed Nessa’s homemade lemonade, Charlotte’s chocolate chip cookies and Marina’s smiles.
Antony Worrall Thompson went back to the kitchen and cooked many delicious dishes, including this gorgeous Ricotta Cake, Reblochon in Puff Pastry and Potato Pakora Salad.

 

 

RICOTTA FRUIT CAKE

 


(Serves 8 -12)
250g (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
250g (8oz) castor sugar
8 eggs, separated
zest of 2 oranges and 3 lemons, finely grated
200g(7 oz) mixed dried fruits (Antony used whole cranberries, whole cherries, whole blueberries and chopped apricots)
125g (4 oz) roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
275g (9 oz) ricotta
75g (3 oz) plain flour

 

1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one by one, beating well between each addition.
2. In a separate bowl fold the fruit zests, fruit and nuts into the ricotta. Fold the butter and egg mix into the ricotta and fruit. Sift the flour into this mix and combine.
3. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold in one large spoon of the egg whites into the ricotta mix, once this is amalgamated fold in the remainder carefully, ensuring that you do not lose too much of the air.
4. Grease a 9″ x 2″ spring form cake tin sparingly with vegetable oil, pour in the mixture and bake in a 180°C oven for about 45 -60 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.
4. When the cake is cool, spike it all over with a fork and dribble with the rosemary syrup.

 

ROSEMARY SYRUP

125g (4oz) sugar
125g (4oz) water
2 Rosemary sprigs
Add sugar and water to a pan over medium heat and reduce. Add rosemary and infuse.

 

 

 

BAKED REBLOCHON EN CROUTE


Serves 4
1 whole Reblochon cheese, ripe and ready to eat
1 packet shop-bought puff pastry
1 egg yolk, mixed with a little water
8 slices garlic
8 mini branches of thyme
ground black pepper
Kirsch (optional)

 

Remove any plastic outer coating from the cheese. Make small slashes and push into the cheese a slice of garlic and a sprig of thyme into each cut. Sprinkle the cheese with black pepper.
Roll out the puff pastry to be slightly larger than the cheese. Completely wrap the cheese in the pastry, neatly tucking in the sides. Lightly brush with the egg yolk and water mix. Place on a non-stick baking tray and cook in a preheated 190ºC/380ºF/Gas mark 5 oven for 25-35 minutes, (you want the pastry to be golden and crisp).

 

To serve, cut into 4 wedges and serve immediately with warm crusty bread for an instant cheese fondue.

 

 

POTATO PAKORA SALAD

 

 

Serves 4
450g (1lb) potatoes, freshly cooked
85g (3 oz) besan (gram or chickpea flour)
40g (1½ oz) cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2-4 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
115g (4 oz) green cabbage, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves and stalks
200-240ml (7-8 fl oz) water
sunflower oil for deep-frying
1 avocado, peeled, de-stoned and cut into ½ inch slices
Tamarind relish:
1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate or 2 tablespoons tamarind juice
½-1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin
1½-2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Yogurt relish:
175g (6 oz) Greek-style yogurt
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
1 tablespoons finely shopped fresh coriander leaves
6-8 finely chopped fresh mint leaves

 

Crush the potatoes lightly with a fork. Some of the potatoes should be mashed, but more should be left in small pieces.
Mix the besan, cornmeal, salt and fennel in a large bowl. Add chillies, cabbage, onion and chopped coriander. Stir in the potatoes and gradually add the water, adding enough to bind the mixture into a thick batter.
Heat the oil for deep-frying to 190°C/375°F/ or until a cube of day old bread browns in 45 seconds. Add dessertspoonfuls of the pakora batter to the hot oil, adding enough to cook a batch of pakoras in a single layer. Fry for about 5 minutes, until well browned. Drain on kitchen paper and continue cooking the remaining mixture in batches.
For the tamarind relish, dissolve the tamarind concentrate in 2 tablespoons hot water. If using tamarind juice, mix with 2 tablespoons cold water. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
For the yogurt relish, beat the yogurt with a fork and thoroughly mix in all the remaining ingredients.
To serve, arrange a portion of pakoras on a plate and top with avocado slices, then dribble over the relishes. Serve.

 

Antony Worrall Thompson’s latest book The ABC of AWT is published by Headline Book Publishing, 338 Euston Road, London NW1 3BH, ISBN No 0 7472 2116 2


Letters from May 2000

A Cool start to a summer dinner

Sorbets and granitas are gorgeously refreshing and so easy to make.  One does need to think ahead a little but then the possibilities are endless – sorbets can literally be made from January to December and can of course be sweet or savoury.
A stroll through the fruit garden at the Cookery School this morning to check out the progress of the green gooseberries and elderflower was inspirational.    A little early for both of these,  but I suddenly spied the blackcurrant bushes now laden with clusters of tiny under-ripe fruit.  It’ll be at least 6 weeks before they are ready to pick but meanwhile the leaves can be used to make a delicious palate cleansing sorbet.
Peach leaves may also be used infuse custards and ice-creams with a haunting flavour and fragrance.
Sorbets can be made from all manner of flavours from tomato or carrot juice to Champagne, citrus fruit juice or even coffee.   One of my favourite after dinner teasers is an expresso granita which you can make without a sorbet machine, but of course one does need a freezer.  Serve it layered with whipped cream in little tiny glasses.
Sorbets can be served at several stages of the meal, depending on the flavour.  Fresh tastes like pink grapefruit and pomegranate, melon and lemon balm, or tomato and mint, make a light and lovely starter that simply flits across the tongue.  Champagne sorbet, or lemon verbena, or apple and Calvados, may be used as a palate cleaner after the main course in a multi-course meal, while strawberry, raspberry, loganberry, blackcurrant, or any of the summer fruits are gorgeous after dinner.
Blackcurrant leaf sorbet may be served at any stage of a meal, but hurry – blackcurrant leaves are best when they are young.

Blackcurrant leaf sorbet

We also use this recipe to make an elderflower sorbet – substitute 4 or 5  elderflower heads  in full bloom.
2 large handfuls of young blackcurrant leaves
8 ozs (225g /1 cup) sugar
1 pint (600ml /2½ cups) cold water
Juice of 3 lemons
1 egg white (optional)

Crush the blackcurrant leaves tightly in your hand, put into a stainless steel saucepan with the cold water and sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely.  Add the juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons.  Strain. 

Make the sorbet in one of the following ways.
1.         Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetiere and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed.
2.         Pour the juice into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the sorbet is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth, then return to the freezer. Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.
3.         If you have a food processor simply freeze the sorbet completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whizz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly beaten egg white, whizz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.Serve in chilled glasses or chilled white china bowls or on pretty plates lined with fresh blackcurrant leaves.

Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

Sorbets are usually at the end of a meal, but a grapefruit sorbet can be served at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end, so it is particularly versatile.
You may use ordinary yellow grapefruit, but this recipe is especially delicious if you can find pink grapefruit which are sweeter and have a pale pink juice.  Pink grapefruit look very like ordinary ones although they sometimes have a pink blush and are usually a bit more expensive.  They are at their best between November and February when the flesh is very pink inside.  If you are using ordinary grapefruit you will need to  increase the sugar to about 10 oz/300 g/1½ cups.
One and three- quarter pints/1 litre  pink grapefruit juice (10 grapefruit approx.)
8 ozs (225 g/generous 1 cup) castor sugar approx.
1 egg white (optional)

Garnish
4 grapefruit cut into segments
8 chilled white side plates
Fresh mint leaves

Squeeze the juice from the grapefruit into a bowl and dissolve the sugar by stirring it into the juice.  Taste.
The juice should taste rather too sweet to drink, because it will lose some of its sweetness in the freezing.
Make the sorbet in one of the ways outlined in the previous recipe for Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet
To Serve:  Chill the plates in a refrigerator or freezer.  Carefully segment the grapefruit by first cutting off all the peel and pith.  Then with a stainless steel knife remove each segment from the membrane.  Put 1 or 2 scoops of sorbet on each chilled plate, garnish with a few segments of pink grapefruit, put a little grapefruit juice over the segments and decorate with fresh mint leaves.

 

Pink Grapefruit and Pomegranate Sorbet

Fold 1-2 cups of Pomegranate seeds into the semi- frozen sorbet and continue to freeze.

Strawberry Sorbet with Fresh Strawberry Sauce
Italian ice creams and sorbets are legendary if I had to choose just one it would have to be strawberry.

Serves 6-8
2 lbs (900g/6 cups) very ripe strawberries
Juice of 2 lemon
Juice of 2 orange
2 lb (225g/1 generous cup) castor sugar
3 pint (150ml/generous 2 cup) water
Garnish
Fresh mint leaves
A few sugared strawberries

Fresh Strawberry Sauce
14 ozs (400g/2 ¾ cups) strawberries
2 ozs (55g/2 cup) icing sugar
Lemon juice

Dissolve the sugar in the water, bring to the boil simmer for 5-6 minutes, leave to cool.  Purée the strawberries in a food  processor or blender, sieve. Add the orange and lemon juice to the cold syrup. Stir into the puree.  Freeze in a sorbetiere or a covered bowl in a freezer, (stir once or twice during the freezing to break up the crystals).
Meanwhile make the coulis, clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend.  Strain, taste and add lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.

To Serve
Scoop out the sorbet into a pretty glass bowl and serve with a few sugared strawberries and fresh strawberry sauce. Decorate with fresh mint leaves.

The not so lonely lonely Planet 

Lonely Planet have done it again!  The people responsible for bringing us the brilliantly researched guides for the curious traveller have now won an extra special place in my heart.   Recently they have launched  a new series of World Food Guides for “people who live to eat, drink and travel”.  These plump little pocket size guides in full colour contain a map of the country which highlights the culinary hot spots.  There’s also a well-researched introduction to the country’s cuisine which always reflects a country’s history, character and identity.
There are chapters on staples and specialities, regional variations, home cooking and traditions and celebrating with food, which highlights the diversity which still thankfully exists.
So far they have published guides to Morocco, Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Spain, with others following.  The World Food Guide to Ireland will be published on 20th June, 2000.
Each book also has a guide to markets and shopping and a very strong section called ‘where to eat and drink’ which not only gives options in all the price ranges but also suggestions for Vegetarians and Vegans, Children, Street Food, picnics, banquets….
If you are clever you can plan your trip around local festivals by checking out the ‘Celebrating with Food’ section and then recreate some of the exotic recipes at home from the many scattered through the guides.
“Food is an integral part of the travel experience”, says Tony Wheeler, found of Lonely Planet.  “   “What you eat and drink, who you share it with and where, is the essence of discovering a new country”.
Written in Lonely Planet’s trademark entertaining and opinionated style, each World Food author is an authority on their country’s cuisine and culture.  Joe Cummings (World Food Thailand) is the author of Lonely Planet’s Thailand guides.  World Food Mexico includes an exclusive interview with Laura Esquivel, author of the best-selling Like Water for Chocolate.  Richard Sterling (World Food Vietnam and World Food Spain) has been recognised by the James Beard Foundation for his food writing and the Lowell Thomas Award for his travel literature.  Matthew Evans (WF Italy) is a qualified chef and was chosen as Australia’s best new food writer in 1999.
–         A perfect present for your hedonist friends.

Insalata Caprese from World Food Italy
This dish uses simple produce that you can buy at most alimentari.  You’ll need a sharp knife and plates.  If you don’t have plates, just put all the ingredients on really good white bread rolls. 

Serves 2 

Ingredients
2 large, fully ripe, vermillion-coloured tomatoes
100g (3½ ozs) mozzarella di bufala
5-6 leaves fresh basil
fine sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

Core the tomatoes and cut into thin wedges.  Slice the mozzarella as thinly as you can.
Arrange tomato and cheese slices, alternating between each, and slightly overlap them on the plate.  Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the top.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle generously with the olive oil.  Serve with crusty white bread, then eat with the gusto of the Neapolitans. 

 

Djej Msharmal (Chicken Tagine with Lemon and Olives) 

Serves 4
Ingredients
1½ kg (3 lb 5 ozs) chicken, cut into pieces (some may prefer to leave it whole)
2 chicken livers
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cloves garlic
1 small bunch coriander
1 large onion, peeled and grated
2 preserved lemons, peel only, rinsed and cut into strips  (see below)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon powdered saffron threads
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter.

The day before cooking, pound the sea salt and garlic together to make a paste.  Rub the paste over the chicken and then rinse.
Combine the ginger, pulp of lemon and oil. Rub it over the chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge, covered, overnight.  (If you don’t have a fridge, just rub the salt and garlic paste into the chicken, rinse it, and place it in a pot with all the spices, herbs and onion.)
Place the chicken and livers in a pot with the onions, saffron and coriander and cover with water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour.  Remove and mash the livers, then return them to the sauce.
Add the preserved lemon peel and olives (which you may pit if you want) and let the chicken cook for a further 15 minutes or so.
Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.  Reduce the sauce by boiling until it is a thick gravy.  Remove the coriander sprigs and pour the sauce over the chicken. Decorate with lemon peel and olives.

Preserving Lemons

Lemons are preserved in the Moroccan Spring when they are at their ripest and sweetest, and providing that the process is followed meticulously, they are quite easy to prepare.
The lemons should be washed thoroughly, and if the skins are thick, left to soak in water for up to three days.  Each lemon should be cut into quarters but not all the way through, so that the quarters remain joined at the base of the fruit.  Stuff salt into the interior and squeeze together.  Put them in a sterilised glass or terracotta jar and push down to release some of the juice.  Fill the jar with water so that all the lemons are covered and seal the jar.  They can be used after one month.
Don’t worry if the lemons develop a stringy white substance, its harmless.  Remove the lemons from the jar with a wooden spoon and rinse before cooking.  Usually only the rind is used, but some cooks like to use the pulp – removing the pips first – for extra flavour.
Some cooks – especially from the region around Safi – add cinnamon sticks, cloves and coriander seeds for a slightly different taste.

Lonely Planet World Food Guides published by Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. A.C.N.  005 607 983,  192 Burwood Rd. Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia.

www.lonelyplanet.com

The Fast Food Movement To Slow Food

The more frenzied all our lives become the more we fantasise about another age, an era before we became enslaved
by technology,  and martyrs to the mobile phone and instant gratification.  As everything,  from cars to computers to food,  becomes faster and faster, the sale of self-help manuals, videos, books and magazines on how to reduce stress and put some balance into our lives skyrockets.
The Slow Food Movement was started in Italy 15 years ago by a group of leftist intellectuals, as an antidote to the growing fast food trend.  The movement started as a result of Carlo Petrini’s outrage when he encountered the smell of mass produced French fries wafting from the first McDonalds in Piazza di Spagna in Rome.
What started as a single group of disenchanted Italians who were passionate about saving endangered foods, farmhouse cheeses, salamis, old seed varieties, has developed into a vibrant international movement with more than 100,000 members in 40 countries.
In Ireland there are three Convivia so far, one in Cork and two in Dublin.   On Palm Sunday 16th April, the West Cork Convivium held its second Slow Food Celebration of Taste at the West Cork Natural Cheese Farm.  The weather forecast was appalling, yet about 100 like-minded people made their way up the winding lane to Bill Hogan’s farm where the legendary Gabriel and Desmond Farmhouse Cheeses are made.
The sun shone all afternoon on the merry band of food producers and bon viveurs.  The gathering was like a Who’s Who of the artisanal food scene.  Many of the farmhouse cheesemakers were there with their cheeses, Durrus, Gubbeen, Coolea, Carrigaline.  JJ Walsh brought Dubliner cheese from Carbery and Breda Maher journeyed down from Tipperary with her Cooleeney Camembert.   Barra McFeely who used to make the Dunbarra cheese has now joined Superquinn to train their sales team and create an awareness of how to care for farmhouse cheeses, so their customers can taste them in optimum condition, (other shops and supermarkets please follow).
Jean Perry brought a salad of her organic leaves and fresh herbs from her garden at Glebe House in Baltimore, she also provided gorgeous crusty flower pot breads to eat with the cheese.  Adele’s and the Courtyard in Schull also supplied some delicious breads and Kalbos in Skibbereen brought some of their terrific Italian Breads.
William and Aisling O’Callaghan from Longueville House in Mallow brought along their homemade prosciutto for us all to taste.  Ingrid and Aloys Basler came all the way from Sligo with some of their organic pasta.
Fish smokers extraordinaire Frank Hederman, Anthony Cresswell from Ummera, and Sally Barnes from the Woodcock Smokery in Castletownshend were there. Sally brought along the first of her marinated tuna to gauge the consumer reaction.
Rosarie Byrne of West Cork Herb Farm brought some of the newest additions to her range of marinades, preserves, and sauces, including a delicious Mint and Apple jelly, she’s also very excited about a new experiment with Cranberry and Sweet Cicely.
Fran Frazer from Doneraile brought an amazing selection of their organically grown mushrooms – skiitake, oysters .
Rosemary and Declan Martin displayed a selection of their vegetables from Waterfall Farm.   Bob Allen, a local organic farmer was also there.
Even John and Elmary Desmond,  whose tiny restaurant Island Cottage on Heir Island is one of my favourite dining experiences were enticed away from their paradise for the afternoon.
Michael and Hazel Knox-Johnson from Inchadoney Lodge and Spa came and we chatted about their terrific facility with health orientated kitchen.   Also there were Marie and Billy O’Shea of Grove House in Schull, their family run guesthouse.
Tony and Alicia Chettle of Bunalun Organic Farms brought along their brand new baby girl Fern, to introduce her to the throng of hedonists.
Edward Twomey from Clonakilty who was single-handedly responsible for the revival of one of our most traditional foods, black pudding, was his usual mischievous, irrepressible self, always a delight to encounter.
The party took place indoors, outdoors, upstairs and downstairs,  Bill just threw his gates and doors open and delightedly welcomed the eager foodies.  Out in the yard, Fingal Ferguson, son of cheesemakers Tom and Giana, who make the much loved Gubbeen Cheese had set up a beautiful stall and was busy cooking slices of his delicious home cured smoked bacon.  If you long for a rasher like it used to be,  pick up the phone right now and contact Fingal at the Gubbeen Smokehouse, 028-28231, unquestionably one of the most exciting new developments on the Irish food scene.
Mary and Ivan Pawle brought along some terrific organic wines from the Mary Pawle wine list, and Bill’s friend Gabriel from Luxembourg gave us a taste of Luxembourg bubbly and Riesling,  and there was more.   Frank Krawczyk who lives just down the road from Bill Hogan brought a selection of his home cured salami and Westphalian ham.
The flavours of these artisanal foods were simply a joy, and as John McKenna said in his talk on the ‘Philosophy of Taste’  – each food in its own way reflected the personality and passion of its producer.
We had a wonderful convivial afternoon, the sun shone, the birds sang,  Liam and Geraldine Kenneally from Ballydehob played traditional music with Vinnie on the mandolin, while we ate, drank and were very merry.
If you would like to know more about the Slow Food Movement contact the Cork Convivium at gubbeen@eircom.net or send  a sae to Giana Ferguson, Gubbeen, Schull, Co Cork.
The website address of the International Slow Movement is www.slowfood.com or e-mail international@slowfood.com.

 

Coolea Cheese and Leek Fritters

 

Helene Willems cooked these little fritters over a camp stove in the open air at the Slow Food Convivium.  They smelled tantalising and tasted delicious.
 

Makes 25 approx. depending on size.
400g (14oz) leek, very thinly sliced
25g (1oz) butter
200g (7oz) flour
2 free-range eggs
250ml (scant 8 fl ozs) milk
200g (7oz) mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
chilli pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
Melt the butter, add the thinly sliced leeks, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, 5 minutes approx. Cool.
Put the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, add in the eggs, break up with a whisk.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  Add the cooled leeks and the grated cheese.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, chilli pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Heat a frying pan, preferably non-stick, on a medium heat.  Drop a small spoonful of the batter onto the pan, allow to cook until golden on one side, flip over onto the other and cook for a minute or two more.  Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.
Cook the remainder in the same way.  Serve hot on their own or with a little Tomato and Chilli Sauce or Tomato Fondue.

 

 

Ballymaloe Cookery School