Recently, I spent an amazing two days at Food On The Edge, meeting and listening to an inspirational group of chefs, food activists, artisan bakers, millers, heirloom seed producers, food archaeologists, and leading thinkers chosen for their passion and drive and their ability to inspire chefs around the world. The theme this year was Social Gastronomy.
Speakers Bill Schindler, Arlene Stein from Canada, Gísli Matt from Iceland, Petra and Paul Moinea from Romania and Anissa Helou were present in person. Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat flew in from Septime in Paris to deliver their presentations while others such as Alice Waters from Chez Panisse delivered their 15-minute talk virtually from San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mexico, Ghana, India, Peru and London. The Happy Pear twins, Stephen and David Flynn were there, energetic as ever, living examples of the benefits of eating real food and living the good life, while spreading the message of a plant-based diet.
The seventh edition of FOTE, the brainchild of Michelin chef, JP McMahon was appropriately held at Airfield Estate, a working urban farm of 38 acres in Dundrum. A superb educational facility with a mission ‘to inspire and enable people to make food choices that benefit people, planet and pockets’. Much of the delicious food for the event came directly from the farm and gardens and was curated by Luke Matthews in conjunction with Gather & Gather.
Virtually all the speakers referred to the lessons learnt during the Pandemic by a sector that hitherto considered itself to be ‘unshakeable’. There was a realisation that much of the current staff shortage crisis has been brought on by the industry itself over many years of unacceptable kitchen culture and poor conditions. A chastened industry is now determined to create optimum working conditions for our ‘second family’, so they feel valued and fulfilled! ‘The job must be rebooted — it’s all about the team’. Other speakers shone a light on the challenges for women chefs, the ‘Me Too’ movement, and LGBT issues.
There was an emphasis on exchanging knowledge. Chefs are also focusing on reducing food waste in restaurant kitchens. Joshua Evans of the Novel Fermentations Research Group and senior researcher at the Danish Technical University’s Center for Biosustainability in Copenhagen urged chefs to be leaders and rethink waste — ‘No such thing as waste, just another product’.
Incorporating wild foraged and fermented foods into menus is an exciting ‘new’ area for a growing number of cool chefs.
Ellie Kisyombe and Michelle Darmody who created the ‘My Table’ project where refugees and asylum seekers can cook and share their food, focused on the importance of creating cooking facilities in direct provision centres so residents can cook their indigenous food for their children and themselves. Dee Laffan, Mei Chin and Blanca Valencia of ‘Spice Bags’ also highlighted the not-to-be-missed opportunity for the sharing of food cultures with the ‘new Irish’ and the conditions needed for that to become a reality.
And there was so much more — 40 speakers in total — all the presentations will be online shortly on foodontheedge.ie
Heavenly coconut bars
These are really easy to make, and as they are dairy and gluten-free, they’re perfect for everyone. This recipe makes about 18 small bars, which might seem like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear!
Preparation Time 60 mins
Total Time 60 mins
3 tbsp coconut oil
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g (7oz) desiccated coconut
75g (3oz) ground almonds
a small pinch of sea salt
250g – 300g (9-10oz) dark chocolate
Put a medium-size saucepan on a medium heat and add the coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Heat until the coconut oil has melted, ensuring the liquid does not boil.
Put the desiccated coconut, ground almonds and salt into a mixing bowl and mix well. Once the coconut oil has melted, add the heated liquid to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
Place some baking parchment on a baking tray and spread the coconut mixture over it. Shape the mixture into a square shape roughly 20cm x 20cm x 2 1/2cm thick (8 inch x 8 inch x 1 inch thick).
Place the baking tray in the freezer for 20 minutes, for the mixture to harden. After 20 minutes, the coconut bars should be firm enough to cut into sold bar shapes. You should get about 18 small bars.
Next place the dark chocolate in a glass bowl and melt it over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally until it fully melts. Remove from the heat.
We have found the best way to cover the coconut bars with chocolate is to place a bar on a palette knife or large knife and pour the chocolate over the bar with a spoon or ladle until fully coated. Try to avoid dropping the coconut bars into the chocolate, as they will melt and make your chocolate lumpy with coconut. Put a little chocolate on the bottom, repeat and leave to harden. If you want ridged lines on the top of the bars, use a fork when the chocolate is still soft. It will most likely take a few goes to get this right, but it is fun to practice!
Place the now coated bars on fresh parchment paper on a baking tray and pop them into the fridge for 10-15 minutes, to allow the chocolate to cool and harden.
From The Happy Pear, Recipes for Happiness by David & Stephen Flynn published by Penguin Ireland
Vietnamese coconut and tempeh curry
This is a deliciously simple curry! Tempeh is a fermented soy bean block, originally from Indonesia. We know it’s not a very appealing description, but when prepared right, this dish is packed with flavour and really filling.
Preparation Time 10 mins
Cooking Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
300g (10oz) sweet potatoes
400g (14oz) potatoes
1 tsp salt
a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger
220ml (scant 8fl oz) full-fat coconut milk
400ml (14fl oz) water
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp of maple syrup
2 tbsp curry powder
4 tbsp tamari/soy sauce (make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce if you need to avoid gluten)
1 x 300g (10oz) pack of tempeh (if not available, substitute firm tofu/oyster mushrooms)
½ a head of pak choi
ground black pepper
a small bunch of spring onions/scallions (green part only)
a bunch of fresh coriander
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 (180˚C fan)
Chop the sweet potatoes and regular potatoes into bite-size pieces (leaving the skin on). Put on a baking tray with a generous pinch of salt, mix well and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Peel and finely dice the ginger.
To make the dressing, put the coconut milk, water, ginger, lime juice, maple syrup, curry powder and tamari/soy sauce into a blender and whizz until smooth.
Cut the tempeh/tofu into small cubes (around 1 ½ cm) – the smaller they are, the more flavour each piece will have. Put on a baking tray and dress with about half the dressing. It’s important to mix the tempeh and the sauce well, to make sure each piece is full of flavour, and also to make sure that the tempeh is well spread out on the baking tray. Put into the oven alongside the potatoes and bake for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir the tempeh to ensure that the dressing is well distributed.
Meanwhile, pour the other half of the dressing into a large pan – this will become the sauce for the dish, along with any remaining sauce from the baked tempeh. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and reduce to a simmer.
Once the tempeh and potatoes are done, transfer them into the pan of simmering sauce and mix well. Finely chop the pak choi, removing the rub at the end, and add to the pan.
Remove from the heat, taste and season. Finely slice the spring onions/scallions (make sure you just use the green tops) and fresh coriander and sprinkle them over the dish when serving.
From The Happy Health Plan by David & Stephen Flynn published by Penguin Life
Squash and oyster mushrooms
The best side dish for autumn and winter, serve this with roast meats
Preparation Time 5 mins
Cooking Time 25 mins
Total Time 30 mins
2 small pumpkins or butternut squash
a few sprigs of thyme
150g (5oz) oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced and scored
25g (1oz) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
edible flowers and fresh herbs such as parsley, fennel, sage or thyme, to serve (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.
Halve the squash horizontally and scoop out the seeds. In a roasting pan, coat the squash with oil, season with salt and add the thyme. Put into the preheated oven and roast for about 25 minutes or until soft.
Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and fry the mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Add the butter towards the end of the cooking time and finish with parsley. Place the mushrooms in the centre of each piece of squash. Garnish with some fresh herbs and serve.
From The Irish Cook Book By JP McMahon published by Phaidon
Cork caterer and Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Aisling Murphy aka The Tiny Turnip has just launched a Curated Christmas Grazing Gift Box showcasing the best of Munster’s artisan produce for nationwide delivery. The box includes homemade cranberry and pear chutney, cucumber and dill pickle, and feta and basil dip to pair with the various artisan foods from some of Munster’s and Ireland’s top producers.
ee @thetinyturnip on Instagram
This half day course gives you a tantalising taste of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and provides inspiration for anyone eager to cook a variety of festive dishes with greater confidence.
Limited numbers, complying with all government and NEPHET regulations. €115 per person. Recipes and tasting of all dishes included.
cookingisfun.ie or telephone 021 4646 785
A weekend-long celebration of ‘5,000 Years of Irish Food & Culture’, Samhain. The in-person festival is a joint merger between Hinterland Festival of Literature and Arts and Boyne Valley Flavours.