Weekend food with Darina Allen: Student pop-up dinners sorted

A student pop-up dinner has become an established tradition on the three-month course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, says Darina Allen. Here’s how to put your own together.

A student pop-up dinner has become an established tradition on the three-month course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The students who come from all over the world get together with two of our senior tutors Pam Black and Tracie Daly to plan every single detail of the meal from the theme to designing the menus, décor, table laying. They do all the graphics, cooking, and collect the produce.

The theme this autumn was ‘Wild and Slow — Forgotten Flavours and Foraged Food’. The chosen menu had a starter of roast and parmesan-crusted Jerusalem artichokes on Ballymaloe pumpkin purée, with pan-seared breast of pheasant and confit of leg.

The students chose Kuri pumpkins from the selection of 8 or 10 that we grow and magicked these ingredients into a cheffy starter. While the chefs were prepping in the kitchen others were baking a variety of gluten-free sourdough and yeast breads.

Others opted to collect barrel-loads of autumn leaves to make into garlands and scatter on the conservatory floor and over the table tops. The menu design was done by Hermione Hill and Keiko Ebisu from Japan did artwork on the night.

It’s the game season so lots of pheasant for main course were included. The birds were jointed, the breasts were marinated and the legs made into a light confit with flaky sea salt and fresh herbs. This was served on a bed of chestnut and caramelised onion stuffing with scallion champ and organic Brussels sprouts.

Something was needed to compliment the plate so several others went foraging in the orchard and made a Bramley apple, medlar and quince jelly from the autumn bounty. Next a salad of organic leaves and foraged greens to aid digestion and make room for dessert.

For dessert, Ballyandreen meets Italy... a carrageen panna cotta light and super delicious served in little glasses with a wild blackberry and lemon verbena compote.

Alongside was coconut macaroon with lime zest and a chunk of almond brittle.

The proceeds of the pop-up dinner were donated to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches children in eight primary schools how to cook and grow some of their own food.

Recipes

Roasted and Parmesan Crusted Jerusalem Artichokes with Pumpkin Puree

Lucas Ruault came up with this delicious combination to use the Jerusalem artichokes in season at the moment.

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 16 Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed
  • 150 g parmesan, finely grated
  • 75 g plain flour, well seasoned
  • 2-3 free range eggs
  • lightly whisked olive oil
  • 500g pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
  • 175 onions, sliced
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced or roughly crushed
  • 125g salted butter
  • 1 scant tablespoon thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Splash of cognac and or chardonnay, optional
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • Watercress

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7. First melt 25g of butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, when it begins to foam, add the sliced onions and garlic. Cook stirring often until the onions are deeply caramelised. This will take some time.

Meanwhile, roast the pumpkin; toss the pumpkin in a little olive oil with a small amount of salt and pepper, arrange on a baking tray and put into the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until tender and soft. When the onions are caramelised and the pumpkin is tender, transfer to a food processor.

Deglaze the saucepan with a little cognac or chardonnay if available. Add to the pumpkin, caramelised onions, with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated nutmeg and puree.

Allow the mixture to rest until it’s just pleasantly warm and then add the remaining 100g of butter and puree until smooth and glossy. Taste and season.

The puree can be made one or two days before using, allowing the flavours to meld and mature overnight in the fridge. However it can be used immediately. Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes under cold water with a brush, dry and cut half of them into 1-2 bite sized wedges. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper (and a little chopped rosemary or sage if available).

Arrange on a baking tray and roast in a 220°C oven until tender and golden brown. Peel the rest of the artichokes and cut them into wedges slightly larger than the roasted ones. Blanch them in heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes or so, or until just cooked through.

Once the boiled artichokes are cooked, plunge them immediately into iced water. Dry them and prepare the oil for frying. Set your deep fryer to 190°C.

Put the seasoned flour, eggs and grated parmesan into 3 separate bowls. Dredge the dried artichokes in flour, dip into the eggs until coated and roll them in the parmesan. Fry them until golden brown, cut in half and sprinkle with sea salt.

Reheat the pumpkin puree in a saucepan, spread onto a plate and arrange an assortment of artichokes on top. Place watercress around, top with left over parmesan and olive oil. Add a squeeze of lemon.

Anna Tingey’s Ballymaloe Sweet Geranium Pastilles

These sweet geranium flavoured ‘jellies’ were served as a petit four. Anna called them Ballymaloe Delight. They’re all set to become a perennial favourite.

Makes: 96 squares

Ingredients:

  • 500g granulated sugar
  • 8 gelatine leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 300ml water
  • Sweet Geranium Syrup – 7 tablespoons sweet
  • Geranium Syrup makes 825ml (28fl oz/3 1/2 cups)
  • 350g (12oz/1 1.5 cups) sugar
  • 600ml (1 pint/2.5 cups) water

Method

Dissolve the sugar in the cold water and bring to the boil. Add 150g sweet geranium leaves to the sugar syrup and leave to infuse for 20 minutes on a low simmer. Store in the fridge until needed. Strain through a fine sieve.

Next make the Ballymaloe delight. Put the gelatine into a heavy based saucepan and add 300ml water, leave to ‘sponge’. The gelatine will soak up all the water and become spongy in texture. Add the granulated sugar and dissolve on a medium heat.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Pour into a lined swiss roll tin (12in x 8in), lined with parchment paper and put in a fridge to set, 3 or 4 hours minimum. Once set, cut into 96 even squares and roll each square in cornflour.

Rachel Allen’s Carrageen Panna Cotta

Use a little of the seaweed that grows all around our coast, we harvest and dry it on local strands including Ballyandreen.

Serves: 4–6

Ingredients:

  • 8g (1/3oz) carrageen (this fills my semi-closed fist)
  • 400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cups) double or regular cream
  • 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) milk
  • 50g (2oz) caster or granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, slightly split

Put a small plate in your freezer. Put the dry carrageen into a bowl, cover with tepid water and soak for 10 minutes.

Drain, then put the reconstituted carrageen in a saucepan with the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla pod (if using). Don’t add the extract yet. Stir on a medium heat and bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat.

Take the plate out of the freezer and place a small spoonful of the carrageen mixture on it, then pop it back in the freezer for 1 minute. Take out and run your finger through it – it should be set. If it is still runny, place the mixture back on the heat and cook for a further minute before testing again.

Pour the mixture through a sieve (you can wash the vanilla pod and use it again another time) but don’t push the seaweed through the sieve, just the liquid that is clinging to it. Scrape the mixture from under the sieve and, using a whisk, mix it with the drained cream mixture and the vanilla extract (if using). Pour into four or six small bowls or glasses and place in the fridge to set.

Serve with Wild Blackberry Compote.

Debbie and Sheila’s Gluten-Free Focaccia with Roast Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic Slivers

Ingredients:

  • 20g (3/4oz) fresh yeast (or 10g fast-acting yeast, I use McDougall’s)
  • 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of warm water
  • 550g (20oz) of “Bob’s Red Mill” All Purpose gluten-free flour (this is the best brand for this recipe, however you can also use Dove’s Farm plain flour or bread flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
  • 2 beaten free range, organic eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of natural, probiotic yoghurt (natural soya yoghurt for dairy-free option)
  • 300mls (10fl oz) of lukewarm cow’s/goat’s milk (rice milk or soya milk for dairy-free option)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, roasted
  • Maldon sea salt for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic slivers

Method

First, roast the cherry tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 250°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Lay the cherry tomatoes on the vine on a baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and roast for 8 – 10 minutes until the tomatoes just burst.

Squash the tomatoes to get rid of excess juice. Put the yeast, honey and warm water in a small bowl in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

Sift the flour and xanthan gum into a large bowl and add the salt, vinegar, beaten eggs, yoghurt, milk and yeast mixture, and mix well. Place the dough in a 33 x 23cm (13x 19 inch) brownie tin oiled well with olive oil.

Wet your fingers with cold water and make dimples in the dough. Place the roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic slivers in some of the dimples, drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil.

Place a clean, damp cloth over the tin and put the tin in a warm place to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours until double in size.

The rising depends on how hot the day is and how strong the fresh yeast is, as every batch is different. Sprinkle the top of dough with a little Maldon sea salt and place in the oven gently, not to let the air out. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C/375 °F/Gas Mark 5 for 35 minutes, until it sounds hollow and light.


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