Jeremy Lee visits Ballymaloe Cookery School

JEREMY LEE of Quo Vadis in London rolled into town last week and gave a hilarious one-day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Jeremy is tall, 6 ft-something with large horn rimmed glasses, a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous sense of humour. His class was interspersed with scholarly quips and the food was completely delicious.

Jeremy has an impressive pedigree, he cooked with Alastair Little, launched Euphorium in Islington and more recently spent 18 years as head chef at the much loved Blueprint Café overlooking Tower Bridge. He loved every second before he was head hunted by the Hart Brothers to head up their revamped Quo Vadis restaurant and club in Dean Street, Soho.

Jeremy is a master of his craft. He doesn’t fiddle around with concepts or gimmicks. Not for him unnecessary ‘gewgaws’ on the plate, — there’s never a foam, gel or streak of reduced balsamic vinegar in sight. Rather his food has the comforting timeless quality of classic Anglo French cooking with shades of Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David.

He sources primary materials with care and discrimination and treats them with a rare respect. His smoked eel and horseradish sandwich on grilled sourdough bread is now legendary.

Slow cooked Belly of Middlewhite pork served in various guises is another favourite. People also rave about his puddings — his divine Chocolate St Emilion tart, dark chocolate mousse with crushed macaroons was inspired by an Elizabeth David classic of the ’60s French Provincial cooking.

No sooner had he arrived at the Ballymaloe Cookery School than he was bouncing around the vegetable and herb garden with glee, chuckling with delight at the end of summer produce in the greenhouses. He doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’. We wished he could have stayed for a week but his restaurant in London Theatreland beckoned.

Jeremy’s menu changes every day and some dishes twice a day which generates excitement for both the chefs in the kitchen and the restaurant clientele. Here are just a few of the dishes we enjoyed from his course

Salt Cod, Artichoke, Potato, Mint & Caper Salad

To feed six trenchermen.

800 g (1 lb 12 oz) soft white salt cod, very well soaked, removed of much salt (I confess to only buying from Brindisa)
A small onion
A sprig of thyme
2 sticks of celery
6 small artichokes, cooked in white wine,
olive oil & herbs
6 potatoes, cooked in their skins then peeled
A soupspoon of salted capers, very well washed and drained
A small handful of mint leaves
A small bunch of sturdy salad leaves
8 tbsp of good olive oil
A lemon, juiced

Peel and chop the onion into large pieces along with the celery. Put these into a large pot along with the pieces of washed cod and the thyme. Pour in enough cold water until just covering the fish and vegetables. Place a disc of greaseproof paper over the surface. Bring this to a gentle simmer and let cook for 10 or so minutes until cooked, having a care not to over cook. Put the whole pan to one side and let cool.

Take a handsome great plate and on this lay the salad leaves. Take a wide bowl and sit alongside a chopping board. Slice the peeled potatoes and tip into the bowl. Likewise the artichokes and then the capers.

Lift the cooled cod from the pot and carefully remove all skin and bone from the flesh, keeping the flakes as large as possible. Place these in the bowl. Add in the mint leaves, spoon over the olive oil and lemon juice. Grind some pepper on top. Mix very gently, then heap upon the salad leaves.

A Warm Salad of Clams, Mussels and Squid

So simple and lovely a dish, clams appear in our fish merchants with heartening regularity and require little more than washing well to rid them of grit, their cooking being little, not unlike mussels.

To serve 4

6 razor clams
6 handfuls of surf clams and/or palourdes
6 handfuls of mussels
400g (14 oz) squid, cleaned by an obliging fishmonger
50cl of white wine
2 small onions
50g (2 oz) unsalted butter
A clove of garlic, peeled and chopped very fine
A handful of flat leaf parsley
A lemon

In a pot, melt the butter gently. Peel and finely chop the onions and add to the pot and let cook gently until softened without colour, say 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, beard the mussels, pulling away the little black tuft to be found where the shells are clamped tightly shut. The shells that remain open should be discarded. Set the mussels in a vessel under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Place the clams in a bowl and do likewise.

Slit the squids lengthwise and rinse under the tap to wash away any grit therein. Use a sharp little knife to score the squid all over and then cut into little strips about 3 cms long.

Drain all the shellfish from their waterfall. Tip the mussels into the pot along with the white wine, up the heat to a boil and cover with a lid.

When the mussels have steamed open after about 4-5 minutes, remove from the pan and tip in the clams. They will cook in 3-4 minutes then need removing also, to be replaced by the razor clams, these requiring but 3-4 minutes also to steam open.

Remove the razor clams to a chopping aboard. Pull the clams from the shells and cut away the dark grey that is the stomach roughly in the middle of the length of the clam. Lightly wash the clams free of any grit. Chop the razor clams into quite thin slices. Cut the lemon in two then squeeze into the pot with the remaining cooking liquor. Chop the parsley fine and likewise add to the pot. Add several grinds of the pepper mill and stir well.

Heat a frying pan. Dress the squid in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a small handful of squid to the hot pan and fry for a minute or two only. Tip into the pot. Wipe the pan then repeat the process until all the squid is cooked. Lay all the clams and mussels on a handsome dish, strew the razor clams over shellfish then spoon over the squid and the dressing from the pan. A few spoonfuls of good olive oil spooned over is a lovely addition at this point.

Walnut Pie

250g (9oz) plain flour
150g (5oz) unsalted butter
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 large egg
1 dstsp cold water
250g (9oz) dark muscavado sugar
250g (9oz) unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs
Juice & rind of 2 lemons
100g (3½oz) golden syrup
80g (3½oz) maple syrup
500g (18oz) best walnuts, coarsely chopped
Tart Tin 30 cm (12 inch)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Make the pastry in the time honoured tradition and let rest at least two hours or overnight which is always best. Line a 30cm deep tart case, with a removable bottom, with the pastry. Rest in the fridge for half an hour then blind bake for 20 minutes or so until set and quite dried but not well coloured.

Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat well. Pour the eggs slowly into the eggs and sugar, very slowly. Warm the syrup slightly and then pour gently onto the eggs, butter and sugar. Fold in the walnuts with the lemon zest and juice. Tip the batter into the tart case and bake for 45 minutes until bronzed and lightly cracked at the edges.

Darina’s Book of the Week

Buyology by Martin Lindstrom; published by Random House Books

Why do so many people who took the ‘Pepsi Challenge’ say they preferred Pepsi only to carry on buying Coca-Cola? Why do the majority of anti-smoking campaigns inadvertently en-courage people to smoke? If you are baffled by these questions then this book I have just come across will make everything clear. Written by Martin Lin-strom, one of the world’s top branding gurus and drawing on state-of-the-art research, it shows why we don’t always buy things for the reasons we think we do. Thought provoking and scary.

Hot tips

John Desmond from Heir Island is teaching a one-day course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday, Nov 17. We will learn how to prepare a duck and use every single scrap. He’ll show us two of his favourite duck breast — Magret de Canard — recipes plus complimentary sauces. There are two delicious duck leg dishes, including how to make confit. The liver will be made into pate de canard. We’ll also learn the secret of John’s soufflés, a classic Grand Marnier soufflé, a flourless lemon soufflé, a fresh fruit soufflé and the piece de resistance from the Island Cottage restaurant, crepe soufflés. Light lunch included.

Create a Fruit Orchard and Winter Pruning: During this intensive session at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Susan Turner will teach how to choose fruit varieties for successional cropping, good storage ability and reliable resistance against pests and diseases. Light lunch included. Monday, Nov 26, 9am-2pm

Date for your Diary: Louise Bannon and Yannick Van-Aekan from Noma, Copenhagen will do a Pop Up dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday, Nov 17. Booking Essential 021-4646785

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