Darina Allen: Super innovative food to show off superb local ingredients

Darina Allen: Super innovative food to show off superb local ingredients

The Irish Food Writers Guild which I’m proud to be a member of, meet occasionally to do reconnaissance trips around the country. We visit artisan producers to see their process and hear their stories. Our most recent summer outing was to the Boyne Valley. What an action packed day we had.

First stop, Drummond House, where Marita and Peter Collier welcomed us warmly onto their farm outside Drogheda, they grow five varieties of garlic and several acres of green asparagus on their rich sandy soil. This enterprise like Ballymakenny Farm in Baltray was born out of desperation to find a different way to earn a living on the land and the family farms they all love.

They now have a thriving business and have introduced the Irish market to a wide variety of garlic types and garlic scapes (tender shoots) which I’ve hitherto only seen in my own garden or in the Union Square Market in Manhattan.

Marita and Peter, like Maria and David Flynn of Ballymakenny Farm had high praise for the chefs who encouraged and supported them.

Ballymakenny Farm also needed to add value to their produce, so Maria who has a business background decided to trial some unusual potato varieties. They grow six heirloom varieties: Violetta, Red Emmalie, Mayan Rose, Mayan Twilight, Mayan Gold and waxy Pink Fir Apple plus beautiful crops of long stem broccoli. The chefs go crazy for the deep purple Violetta, the mottled pink varieties and the fingerling potatoes, Ballymakenny can scarcely keep up with the demand.

Our next stop was Listoke Gin Distillery and School. Bronagh Conlan gave us a spirited talk on gin production and the wide range of botanicals that can be added to the raw spirit to give it a unique flavour. Visitors can make and take home their own unique blend at the gin school.

I loved the psychedelic owl street art which has become the Listoke Distillery logo created by Dean Kane of visual waste.

Just a few miles to Tankardstown House where the young Romanian head chef Janos Sarkosi cooked us a seven course feast to showcase his considerable skills.

Next stop, The Cider Mill at Stackallan, near Slane in Co Meath — www.cockagee.ie

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Mark Jenkinson for grows a variety of cider apples in his own orchards, gently presses them in small batches in the time honoured, traditional way between timber slabs. He makes five styles of cider including his famous Cockagee name after an ancient cider apple variety that was thought to be extinct for over 125 years... Mark managed to trace it to an old orchard in Gloucestershire and has now recovered and saved it for posterity.

Mark is the only Irish producer to make keeved cider, a slow natural, painstaking process. His tasting room, which also houses his eclectic collection of vernacular chairs, hardening stands and artefacts is worth the trip alone.

Carina Mount Charles brought along her organic eggs and salad leaves and nearby farmhouse cheese maker Michael Finnegan from Mullagh Farm delivered over his Boyne Valley Bán and blue goat cheeses for us to taste.

Henry Mount Charles and his son Alex have converted the stable yard at Slane Castle into a highly impressive distillery in partnerships with Brown Forman (makers of Jack Daniels).

At Boann Distillery Peter Cooney brews beer, non-alcoholic drinks, whiskey and cider from apples grown in their own orchards in Tara.

Finally we had supper at the Eastern Seaboard Bar and Grill Jeni and Reuvans Diaz’s award winning restaurant in Bryanstown. Seek out this place in the suburbs of Drogheda, super innovative food made with many of the superb local ingredients.

Medjool Dates with Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese

Makes 20

This cheese was presented to us by Michael Finnegan of Mullagh Farm and I loved it so much that I bought a wheel to bring home for the Ballymaloe House cheese trolley.

Ingredients:

Medjool dates

Boyne Valley Bán and Blue Goats Cheese (or similar blue cheese)

Method:

Split the dates lengthways and remove the stone.

Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of cheese. Serve as a canapé or amuse guile.

This cheese was presented to us by Michael Finnegan of Mullagh Farm and I loved it so much that I bought a wheel to bring home for the Ballymaloe House cheese trolley.

Violetta Potato and Scallion Salad

Serves 4-6

The delicious dark purple colour of violetta potatoes makes this an impressive salad to serve at any table.

Ingredients:

900g freshly-cooked violetta potatoes, diced, allow about 1.1k raw potatoes

1 tbsp chopped parsley

1 tbsp chopped chives or scallions or 2 tsp chopped onion

110ml French dressing

110ml homemade mayonnaise

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot.

Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.

Scatter the remaining nasturtium flowers on top of the salad.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads such as cubes of chorizo, cookedmussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.The delicious dark purple colour of violetta potatoes makes this an impressive salad to serve at any table

Ana & Laura’s Kitchen Family Borscht

Borscht
Borscht

Serves 4

Very special thanks to Jeni Glasgow of Eastern Seaboard Restaurant for sharing this delicious recipe.

Ingredients:

150g (5oz) beef striploin cut into small cubes

70g (3oz) diced onion

100g (3½ oz) grated organic carrots

70g (30z) celery diced

150g (5oz) potatoes peeled and cubed small

300g (110z) grated organic long beets (NOTE: We use long beets for a milder flavour)

1 litre (1¾ pints) good quality homemade chicken stock

500ml (18fl oz) water

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to season Oil for frying

Method:

First sauté sliced beef in a large pot, add the diced onion, grated carrot, diced celery and potato cubes and sauté until just tender. Add the chicken stock, water and bay leaves. Simmer on a low heat for 40 minutes. Taste and check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as required.

To serve ladle into preheated bowls and add a dollop of sour cream, a handful of elderberry capers and a drizzle of salsa verde.

  • Clare McQuillan’s Elderberry Capers:Pick and wash green elderberries and pat dry. Cover with sea salt and store in a jar for three weeks. After three weeks rinse the elderberries, pat dry and place in sterilised kilner jars and top up with good quality apple cider vinegar. These can be stored in the fridge for months and enjoy as you would capers.
  • Clare McQuillan’s Salsa Verde:Pick a handful of nettles (lightly blanched) sorrel, clover, broadleaf plantain & rosebay willow herb leaves - all foraged edible finds from the garden.- 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard - 1 small handful of wild capers (elderberry or wild garlic is also great) - 2 tablespoons of Cider vinegar - Whizz with 3 – 4 tablespoons of rapeseed oil for a tangy, fresh & wild salsa verde.

Magic Wands withSmoked Oyster Mayo

This recipe was inspired by a menu item at Eastern Seaboard Restaurant in Drogheda, Co Louth. Eastern Seaboard sources its smoked oysters from Marine Foods in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. If smoked oysters are difficult to source, make an alternative dip, tuna mayo, tapenade mayo, harissa mayo or just a perky garlic mayo would be delicious.

Save a little dough when you are making bread to make magic wands.

White Yeast Bread Dough We use Doves Farm organic white bread flour, the water quantity may vary for other brands. This bread can be baked in loaf tins or made into plaits or rolls.

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

20g yeast

20g organic sugar

390g warm water

700g strong organic white flour

25g butter

16g pure dairy salt

Equipment

2 x loaf tins 12.5cm (5 inch) x 20cm (8 inch)

Smoked Oyster Mayo

Flaky sea salt

5fl oz homemade mayonnaise

4 – 6 smoked oysters

Flaky sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Freshly-squeezed lemon juice if necessary

Method:

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and 390g of warm water(anything above 45C will kill yeast).

Mix and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, put the flour into a wide mixing bowl, add the salt, mix then rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add all the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix to a dough withyour hand.

Turn out onto a clean work surface (no flour). Cover with theupturned bowl and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Uncover, if it feels a little dry and tough, wet your hand, rub over the dough and knead by hand until silky and smooth — 10 minutes about.

Return to the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rise until double in size.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8 Turn out onto the work surface, knead for a minute or two and shape as desired.

For loaves, divide the dough in half, fold over and knead with the heel of your hand into a roll, tuck in the ends and pop into an oiled tin. Cover and allow to rise to the top of the tin.

The bread is ready for baking when a small dent remains if the dough is pressed lightly with you finger. Spray with a water mister and dust with flour for a rustic looking loaf and slash with a blade.

The bread will rise a little further when it goes into the oven. This is called ‘oven-spring’. Bake for 25–35 minutes, depending on size. When baked, the bread should sound hollow if tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Magic Wands

First make the dough, allow to rise to double its size at least and then knock back. Pull off 45g of dough and roll in 12–14in bread sticks.

Lay each on a baking tray. Cover and allow to rise for 5–10 minutes at an ambient temperature. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7 and bake for 5–7 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Smoked Oyster Mayo

Whizz the smoked oysters in a food processor with 5fl oz mayonnaise, taste and correct the seasoning and add a little lemon juice if necessary.

Serve a magic wand with a dipping bowl of smoked oyster mayonnaise.

This recipe was inspired by a menu item at Eastern Seaboard Restaurant in Drogheda, Co Louth. Eastern Seaboard sources its smoked oysters from Marine Foods in Aughrim, Co Wicklow. If smoked oysters are difficult to source, make an alternative dip, tuna mayo, tapenade mayo, harissa mayo or just a perky garlic mayo would be delicious.

Hot Tips

Blackberry season

Hope you have been picking some of the juicy fat blackberries that are all over the countryside at present. They are notoriously low in pectin, the setting substance that helps to set jams. Cooking apples are high in pectin so blackberry and apple jam or jelly works brilliantly. There’s also an incredible crop of crab apples this year, so how about blackberry and crab apple jam. Scatter a few over your muesli or salads too – bursting with vitamin C and K, high in fibre, magnesium, packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants plus they are free and fun to forage.

Darina Allen: Super innovative food to show off superb local ingredients

Perilla or Shiso

Have you come across Perilla or Shiso yet, the Japanese name for a herbaceous annual herb from the mint family. We grow both the green and purple variety in large pots. The green variety looks a bit like a nettle but doesn’t sting. The flavour is a cross between mint and basil. It’s delicious in a tomato salad, with smoked fish, sashimi sushi, in a rice salad or with pasta. Or try it shredded into a chiffonade to sprinkle over salads, soups, noodles, meat, fish or veggie dishes. Add to pickled cucumber. www.Neighbourfood.ie and Midleton Farmers Market.

Upcoming courses

We’ve had a brilliant response to our Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Sausage Making course with master butcher Philip Dennhardt. The next course is running on Friday, October 4, from 2pm – 6pm. Bookings can be made on 021-4646785 or on www.cookingisfun.ie

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