Weekend Food: Farm of Ideas Project

FIFTY-THREE years ago, in 1964, Myrtle Allen opened a restaurant in her own house in the wilds of East Cork to celebrate the connection between agriculture and gastronomy, uniting a whole food movement of farm to fork eating which has inspired chefs and cooks, not only in Ireland, but all over the world.

Most recently we went to Denmark for the launch of Christian Puglisi Farm of Ideas and Seed Exchange Festival in Lejre — north of Copenhagen.

Christian is one of the Nordic region’s most inspirational chefs – his restaurant Relae is in the World’s Top 50 restaurants and he also owns Manfred and Baest. The latter is a pizzeria with a difference, where the mozzarella is made from the raw milk of the Jersey cows and the cured meats and salami are all handmade and cured in the kitchen.

He has a total commitment to sourcing the very best raw materials which becomes more and more challenging for restaurants. Consequently a growing number of young chefs are buying farms or entering into contract with farmers so they can grow their own produce, rear animals and poultry and produce milk to make homemade butter, cheese and yoghurts.

Equally important from Christian’s viewpoint is to connect his chefs with how flavourful and nourishing food is produced.

Christian’s chefs drive up from Copenhagen to the 27 acre farm on a rota basis each day to harvest and prepare freshly harvested produce for that days menu.

This opens their eyes to the challenges of food production, how crops and yields are affected by the weather, pests and disease.

The chefs and cooks become much less arrogant and appreciative as they begin to absorb the reality of nature.

Christian freely acknowledged how influenced he was by Myrtle’s philosophy and the organic gardens, micro dairy and farm animals reared on the organic farm surrounding the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Christian’s stated aim is to connect gastronomy with agriculture, an admirable and obviously badly needed initiative at a time in history where we are becoming more and more disconnected from the source of our food.

Recently, a chef in an Irish restaurant was astonished to learn that if he picked all the runner bean flowers there would be no runner beans – it was news to him that the flowers turn into the beans.

Christian hopes that chefs from all over the world will gather at the Farm of Ideas to share knowledge and learn from each other. There were inspirational talks on the importance of seed saving and delegates had brought seeds from all over the world to swap with others or to contribute to the Danish Seed Bank.

Carlo Petrini of Slow Food International came from Turin to give the keynote address and Sean Brock from Husk Restaurant, Charleston, USA was one of the inspirational speakers who spoke passionately on the need for biodiversity, education and local seed banks at a time when the climate is obviously challenging and some crops are already failing as the temperatures change. If this is a subject that interests you look up and support the work of the Seed Savers, even if it’s only in a tiny way.

Christian Puglisi’s Potato, Seaweed and Pecorino

Serves 6

Potato Noodles

  • 1kg large Marabel potatoes, peeled
  • 1kg 3% Salt Brine, see recipe
  • Clarified butter, see recipe, melted
  • 40g Gracilaria seaweed, washed and julienned
  • Sea salt

Pecorino Sauce

  • 125g Pecorino Romano cheese, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 250g water
  • Fine grain salt

Pickled Green Sea Lettuce

  • 500g water
  • 250g red wine vinegar
  • 30g fresh green sea lettuce, washed

Clarified seaweed butter

  • 100g clarified butter
  • 5g green sea lettuce powder

Slice the potatoes on a Japanese turning vegetable slicer with the noodle attachment, making the longest noodle possible. As you cut the noodles, put them straight in a large bowl with the salt brine. Transfer the potatoes and the salt brine to a vacuum bag and vacuum seal it. Keep in the fridge overnight.

The following day, drain the potatoes in a colander, discarding the brine. Pull out 8-10 long potato noodle strands, bunch them together into one long line and cut them into 50cm lengths. Place the long bunch on a work surface and fold it in half crosswise. Brush the potatoes with clarified butter and place 4 small bundles of the julienned seaweed on top in different places.

Using long tweezers, pinch the folded end of the line of potato noodles and tightly roll the noodles into a small bundle, then coil the bundle into a tight oval shape. Place the potatoes on parchment paper in a bamboo steaming basket. Repeat this process until you have 18 potato bundles.

Place the steaming basket over a saucepan of boiling water over high heat and steam until the potatoes are just cooked, but not soft, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt.

Next make the pecorino sauce

Combine the cheese and the water in a Thermomix, set it to 60C (140°F) and puree for 5 minutes until smooth and well combined. Season with salt.

Note: that this makes more pecorino sauce than you will need for this recipe.

Pickled Green Sea Lettuce

Preheat the oven to 180C (355F). Combine the water and red wine vinegar in a bowl. Dip the sea lettuce into the mixture for no more than 30 seconds, then place in a single layer on parchment paper. Place a baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes, and then transfer the parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet to warm but not cook the sea lettuce, approximately 1 minute.

Clarified Seaweed Butter

In a small saucepan, warm the clarified butter, then stir in the green sea lettuce powder.

Note: this will make more butter than you need for this recipe.

Finishing

For each serving, place 3 bundles of potato noodles on a plate and top with 3 spoonfuls of the warmed pecorino sauce. Place 3 or 4 pieces of the warmed pickled green sea lettuce around the bundles and on the sauce. Drizzle with warmed clarified seaweed butter.

Clarified Butter

500g unsalted butter

Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Do not stir the butter or move the saucepan. After 10-12 minutes, the melted butter will separate into three layers: foam, fat and milk solids. Skim the foam from the surface of the melted butter and discard. Gently pour the fat into a heat resistant container, leaving the milk solids behind. Discard the milk solids. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Green Sea Lettuce Powder

  • 250g fresh green sea lettuce, washed

Place the sea lettuce in a single layer and dry overnight at 65C (150F) in the dehydrator. The following day, transfer to a Thermomix and process until it has become a fine powder. Sift the powder through a fine sieve set over a bowl.

Note: this yields more Green Sea Lettuce Powder than you need for this recipe.

3% Salt Brine

  • 1kg water
  • 30g coarse grain salt

Combine the water and salt in a Thermomix and process until well combined. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

  • Taken from Christian Puglisi’s A Book of Ideas, published by Ten Speed Press, USA

Darina’s school lunch box suggestion

Anzac Biscuits

Makes 30

  • 4 ozs (110g) rolled oats
  • 4 ozs (110g) sugar
  • 4 ozs (110g) desiccated coconut
  • 4 ozs (110g) plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 ozs (55g) ground almonds
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 4 ozs (110g butter)
  • 2 level teaspoons bread soda

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/regulo 3.

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put the water, golden syrup and butter into small saucepan, bring to the boil and take off the heat, add the breadsoda and stir. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Roll the mixture into balls and place onto a greased baking tray (leaving room to spread out), flatten with a fork.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Christian Puglisi’s Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt, Radishes and Nasturtium

Serves 6

  • Sheep’s Milk Yoghurt Mousse
  • 125 g heavy cream
  • 200 g sheep’s milk yoghurt

Cooked Radishes

  • 250 g different coloured small radishes, halved lengthwise
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Fine grain salt

Finishing

  • 2 bunches of nasturtium, separated into leaves with 3 cm of stem attached
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

In a bowl, whisk together the cream and the sheep’s milk yoghurt. Pour into a siphon bottle and charge with one C02 cartridge. Shake the siphon bottle until the mousse is smooth and can hold stiff peaks.

Blanch the radishes in boiling salted water until just cooked, but still slightly crunchy, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on size. Transfer to ice water to cool. Drain in a colander. Season with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.

For each serving, place the cooked radishes in a pile in the centre of the plate. Siphon enough sheep’s milk yoghurt moussed on top of the radishes to cover them. Place the nasturtium leaves, with stems facing out, on top of the mousse, covering it completely. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

Taken from Christian Puglisi’s A Book of Ideas, published by Ten Speed Press, USA

Hot Tips

Mizen Seed Project needs your support. In an effort to create wildlife friendly areas around the Mizen area, JP McCarthy is asking people to save seeds from their own gardens. He will provide paper envelopes for the seeds and ask you to return them to the Mizen Seed Project, c/o Nellie Cotter, Little Way Charity Shop, Main Street, Schull, where they will stored safely over the winter and resown and planted on within the Mizen community. Tel: JP McCarthy 086-1991334. For those of you, who are interested in knowing more about ancient grains, check out Amazing Grains published by Kyle Books. Lots of interesting information and some very tasty recipes.

Just Cook It: Join us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday, October 6, for an afternoon of hands on cooking. There will be delicious recipes using fresh produce from the farm and gardens. The afternoon starts with a short demonstration, then pop on your apron and into the kitchens to cook – one tutor with every six students. Then sit down together to enjoy a relaxed and delicious informal dinner. You will leave confident, inspired and with a selection of recipes that you can cook again and again at home for family and friends. www.cookingisfun.ie

Going Gluten Free: As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has a gluten intolerance, will testify, it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is at hand — on Saturday, October 7, this half-day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School is ideal for those on a gluten free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy to prepare dishes including gluten free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the stress away. www.cookingisfun.ie

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