Weekend food with Darina Allen

WE HAD a terrific day last Saturday as the winners of the Slow Food Grandmothers Day Irish Examiner Competition — six grandchildren, four grannies and a couple of mums — arrived to enjoy their prize, a day at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens.

They had sent in their favourite recipes that Gran or Nana cooked.

We had a lovely response and the usual challenge to choose the winners. We did well.

First we had a cookery demonstration where we shared a few simple recipes and examples of deep pan soda bread pizza with tomato, chorizo and bubbly cheese. Then everyone donned their aprons and went into the kitchen where grannies taught their precious little grandchildren how to cook their favourite recipe — passing on the skills from one generation to the other in the time-honoured way and nurturing the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Maeve Falvey had chosen her Nana’s beef and carrot pie. Maeve’s beloved Nana has passed away so she came with her mum who explained which cut of beef to buy and how to cut and prepare the vegetables. Her mum reminded her, “don’t forget to season and do it with your fingers and not a spoon”.

Then we all gathered around to watch how Maeve and her mum made them, folded and rolled the rough puff pastry to achieve a flaky texture. Maeve covered the pie with pastry, tucked in the edges, brushed it with egg wash and popped it into the oven.

Gillian McCarthy, from Dungarvan, was making a porter cake, a traditional favourite. Her Nan, Peg McCarthy, showed her first how to line the cake tin, then they creamed the butter and sugar and folded in the fruit and flour carefully before baking in a round tin.

Close by, Siofra and Sadhbh McElhinney were plumping up the fruit to make their Nan’s favourite Cider Cake. This versatile cake is used for birthdays, christenings, weddings, Easter and Christmas in the McElhinney household. It makes a moist and delicious cake which keeps brilliantly for several weeks in a tin if you can manage to hide it.

Clodagh Tanner’s Granny Noni has a terrific recipe for Biscuit cakes. This little gem makes about 48 discs which she sandwiches together with homemade raspberry jam. Then they made a white glace icing for the top. We rooted out some hundreds and thousands to sprinkle over the icing for the finishing touch.

Megan Lawton came with her mother and made some delicious raspberry jam and mummy’s sweet white scones. Megan won first prize in the local school’s Slow Food Grandmother’s Poetry Competition, below. While the cakes and pies were in the oven, the cooks of all ages made scones and pizza, homemade lemonade and raspberry jam.

Eventually we sat down to enjoy lunch together and what a feast it was. Afterwards we had a walk through the garden, farm and greenhouse and saw the pigs, chickens and the Jersey cows.

We tasted tomatoes and cucumbers straight from the vine and marvelled at the flavour.

It was a wonderful day and I greatly enjoyed chatting to the spirited grannies and their much-loved grandchildren.

Look out for Slow Food International Grandmothers Day in April 2012 — www.slowfoodireland.com.

Nan Peg’s Meat Pie

Serves 6 — 8

This is so delicious and really easy and filling — a perfect family dish.

10ozs (275g) plain flour

6ozs (175g) butter

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 pint (500ml) beef stock

2 lbs (900g) round steak

Salt and pepper

Oven proof dish 12 x 9 inches (30.5cm x 23 cm)

Preheat the oven 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt and pepper.

Cut the butter into cubes and mix into the flour.

Don’t over mix — just enough so that you can still see the butter cubes.

Add 1 mug of water to the flour and butter mix and knead lightly.

Wrap pastry in cling film and put into fridge for 15 minutes.

Cut steak into cubes and roll in seasoned flour, then put them into the oven proof dish.

Put the chopped onions and carrots over the meat.

Pour the beef stock over the meat and vegetables, not above the level of the meat.

Take out the pastry and then roll it out to fit the dish, then lay it over the meat and have some pastry left over so that you can roll it and put around the side.

Put into the preheated oven and after 10 minutes take it out and cover with tin foil, reduce the temperature to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and cook for approximately 1 hour.

Take the meat pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil, put back into the oven for approximately 10 minutes to brown.

Nana Peg McCarthy’s Porter Cake

1 lb 8ozs (675g) flour

1 tsp bread soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cake spice

8ozs (225g) butter

8ozs (225g) brown sugar

1 lb (450g) fruit — raisins, sultanas, mixed peel and cherries

3 eggs, preferably free range

1 small bottle stout

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

9in x 3in round tin

Sieve the flour, bread soda and spices together.

Rub in the butter and add the brown sugar and fruit, some cherries and mixed peel as desired.

Mix the eggs together with the stout; you may not need all the stout so keep some back.

Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, mix together well and put into the tin.

Bake for about 1 ½ hours or 2 hours in the oven or until a skewer comes out clean, cool in the tin.

Nanny’s porter cake is always served with plenty of butter.

Granny McElhinney’s Cider Cake

1½ lbs (900g) mixed dried fruit

1 heaped tsp mixed spice

500 ml(18 fl ozs) cider

Finely grated rind of 1 orange

1 rounded tsp baking powder

8ozs (225g) soft brown sugar

4ozs (100g) cherries, halved

4ozs (100g) mixed peel

4 eggs, preferably free range

8ozs (225g) butter

1lb (450g) plain flour

Pinch salt

9in x 2.5in pop-up tin

Put the dried fruit in a saucepan and cover with the cider.

Over a gentle heat, bring slowly to just below boiling point and leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (to allow the fruit to absorb the cider).

Remove from the heat, then leave to cool or leave overnight.

Preheat the oven 160C/325F/gas mark 3.

Grease and line a 9 inch (23 cm) round or 8 inch (20.5 cm) square deep tin.

Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice into a bowl.

Rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, mixed peel, cherries and orange rind.

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and set aside.

When the fruit is cold, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the beaten eggs and fruit.

Stir well.

Place mixture in the prepared tin and level the top with the back of a wet spoon.

Sprinkle with a little sugar.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 150C/300F/gas mark 2 and cook for a further 90 minutes approximately.

Leave the cake in the tin to cool.

Note: This cake will improve in flavour if left for a few days before cutting.

It also freezes well.

Nana Noni’s Biscuit Cake

14½ozs (410g) plain flour

1½oz (35g) corn flour

8ozs (225g) butter

1 egg, preferably free range

3ozs (75g) caster sugar

3 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Put the caster sugar, butter, flour and cornflour into a bowl and crumb them together.

Add the egg and milk. Roll out and cut into shapes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

When cool sandwich together with raspberry jam, ice the top and cover with sprinkles.

Hot Tips

Budding chefs will want to know that Chef Factor is back with the most sought after cookery prize in Ireland, a place on the 12-week certificate course at Ballymaloe Cookery School including accommodation. C

ully and Sully say ‘you don’t have to be a whizz in the kitchen, this is about the opportunity to become one!’

Enter online www.cheffactor.ie

Autumn gardening seminar Dermot’s Secret Garden will be presented by RTÉ broadcaster Dermot O’Neill and Brian Cross at Fota House on September 24, from 9am to 4pm. Tickets are €60 including lunch — www.fota.ie

Ella McSweeney (Ear to the Ground RTÉ) has been working on a brilliant online project to link people to farmers who sell direct.

It’s a not-for-profit website called Your Field My Fork — it’s free for farmers to use — all they need to do is list the food they rear or grow themselves — www.yourfieldmyfork.com

Karen Austin from Lettercollum has some exciting autumn cookery courses lined up, visit www.lettercollum.ie to see her schedule or call into the shop, Lettercollum Kitchen Project 22, Connolly Street, Clonakilty, Co Cork or email karen@lettercollum.ie

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