We're back in full swing at the Ballymaloe Cookery School after our break. Students from 12 different countries are settling into life in the midst of a working organic farm close to the sea in East Cork. They’ll be with us for three months. They’ve just discovered the long sandy strand at Ballynamona, a few brave ones are joining Rachel Allen for early morning swims.
Others get up early to be in the ‘Bread Shed’ by six o clock to discover the magic of making totally natural sourdough bread, a few others link up with the gardeners at 7.30am to harvest the fresh herbs, veg and salad leaves for the morning’s cooking.
Already we have a few keen foragers — just met a couple of those making their way to the stone boundary wall to pick the fleshy leaves of pennywort to use as a garnish for their starter. They’ve already picked some winter cress, a few dandelion leaves and some chickweed to add to the big wooden bowl of green salad.
Another couple of eager students have met up with David Cullinane to bring the small herd of Jersey cows in to be milked. Afterwards, they’ll separate the thick rich cream from the milk. Some will be served with the lunchtime pudding. It’s chocolate and hazelnut tart today and they’ll learn how to churn the remainder into homemade butter before coming into the kitchens at 9 o’clock.
Just a couple of weeks ago, several of these students had never been ‘up close and personal’ with a cow in their entire lives. They might have had a vague idea that butter came from cream but no idea how the transformation occurred. They are all super excited to learn these almost ‘forgotten skills’.
Several others have gone to Penny in the Bubble Shed to learn the secret of the water kefir, that wine correspondent John Wilson told his Irish Times readers was “the best I’ve tasted” which is available on a daily basis from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, just outside the village of Shanagarry.
You can learn how to make your own water kefir and Kombucha on February 25 at Penny’s Fermentation workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Even though the weather is still wintery we’ve got lots of seasonal vegetable and fresh herbs.
Already, the fresh green spears of chives are peeping above ground and of course there’s lots of rosemary, sage, thyme and bay, the gutsy perennials that keep on going year-round and are particularly good with comforting winter stews and gratins. We’ve got an abundance of winter vegetables, still some Brussels sprouts, leeks and of course all the root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, gorgeous white turnips, swedes and of Jerusalem artichokes.
I’ve been enjoying lots of comforting stews and chunky soups for the past few weeks and delicious rice pudding with a golden skin on top
Now I’m about to enjoy my other almost forgotten winter pleasure — steamed puddings. For me they evoke memories of sitting around the kitchen table in Cullohill, Co Laois, when I was a child, tucking into one of Mummy’s delicious steamed puddings with custard or jam sauce. For those of you who have never tasted a steamed pudding — now’s the time.
First a suet pudding.
Thank you Delia for this delicious recipe ... warming winter comfort food .... like a culinary hug....
1 tbsp of black treacle
3 tbsp of golden syrup
6oz (175g) self raising flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
6oz (175g) butter softened
3 large eggs
6oz(175g) soft light brown sugar
First of all butter the inside of a 1 pint pudding bowl.
Pour 3 tablespoons of golden syrup into it.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, add the softened butter, eggs, sugar and black treacle. Using an electric whisk, beat the mixture for about two minutes until it is thoroughly blended. Now spoon the mixture into the pudding bowl and level the top with the back of the spoon. Cover with lid.
Steam the pudding for two hours on a gentle heat, checking the water level halfway through. To serve, loosen the pudding all round using a palette knife, turn onto a warmed plate.
Serve warm with freshly whipped cream.
Oh my goodness, does this bring back memories or what?! Serve a steamed pud for a Winter dinner party and everyone of ‘our’ age will dissolve into a sepia tinted haze of nostalgia!
75g (3oz) fat yellow sultanas or 75g (3oz) stoned Valencia, lexia or Muscatel raisins or fat yellow sultanas
110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature
110g (4oz) castor sugar
Grated rind of ½ unwaxed and organic lemon
2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic
175g (6oz) plain white flour
½ tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp milk
15g (½ oz) butter for greasing the pudding bowl
½ vanilla pod or a few drops pure vanilla extract
300ml (½ pint) rich milk
2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic
1 tbsp castor sugar
12.5cm (5 inch) pudding bowl
Brush the pudding bowl with melted butter. Press some of the sultanas or seeded and split raisins around the sides.
Cream the butter, add the sugar and lemon rind and beat until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition.
Stir in the flour and baking powder and enough milk to make the mixture just loose enough to drop from a spoon, add the remainder of the fruit.
Spoon into the pudding bowl.
Cover with a pleated piece of double greaseproof paper or foil and tie down. (The paper is pleated to allow for expansion.)
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, put in the pudding bowl, the water should come half way up the sides.
Cover and steam for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the homemade custard.
Put the vanilla pod (if available) into the cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the milk onto the yolks, whisking all the time, (add the pure vanilla extract if using), return to the saucepan.
Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon, careful it must not boil.
Pour into a cold bowl and stir occasionally as it cools.
Raspberry Jam Pudding
This is also called Canary... don’t ask me why...
Another children’s favourite — substitute 4-6 tablespoons of handmade raspberry jam for the raisins.
Spread the raspberry jam over the sides and base of the pudding bowl, serve with a warm raspberry jam sauce (thin the jam with a little water) and lots of softly whipped cream.
Marmalade Steamed Pudding with Marmalade sauce
Recipe as above but substitute the jam with 4 to 6 tablespoons of marmalade.
For almost a week during the cold January days, the whole house smells of marmalade. We always looked forward to the final day when the last of the oranges had been turned into marmalade, because by tradition on that day there would be marmalade pudding for lunch.
Make and steam the pudding as above substituting marmalade for raspberry jam.
Meanwhile, make the marmalade sauce.
4 tablespoons water
450g (1lb) marmalade
juice of 1 lemon
sugar, to taste
Put the water and marmalade into a saucepan.
Stir and then bring slowly to the boil for 4/5 mins. Continue to boil for 5 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and if necessary sweeten with a little sugar to taste.
When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on to a warm serving dish and pour the sauce around it.