COOKING ‘from scratch’ is the hottest food term in the restaurant world at present, Add seasonal, local, and artisan, and you are right on the button.
Talk about things coming full circle. Chefs are boasting about cooking everything from scratch for their menus, doing in-house butchery, making house-cured bacon and charcuterie, homemade tomato ketchup, pickles, relishes etc.My son-in-law just back from Portland, Oregon, tells me there are over 400 food trucks and 40 artisan breweries in a city with a population of less than 600,000. The micro-distillery movement has also taken off. Chefs are infusing alcohol with wild foraged herbs, berries, and fruit and using them in cool house cocktails. A whole counter-culture to fast food is gaining momentum — a virtual revolution at grassroots level, and not just among young chefs and cooks.
Serves 4Jerusalem artichokes have a slightly sweet flavour and a nutty aroma. For this recipe, smash them, rather than mash them, keeping them pretty chunky and adding just a bit of cream, so you don’t mask their flavour. Consider Jerusalem artichokes any time you’re thinking of serving mashed potatoes.
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp Maldon or another flaky sea salt
2 tbsp double cream
Freshly ground black pepper
A five-fingered pinch of parsley leavesFill a big bowl with cold water. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes as best you can. They’re a bit knobby, so it’ll take some time, but it’s worth it. It’s okay if you can’t get every last bit of skin.
4 medium red onions (about 225g each) peeled, stem ends trimmed but left intact
About 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
1 head garlic
Small handful thyme sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon of leaves
125g homemade sausage (see recipe)
Or shop bought, removed from casing if necessary
225ml double creamPreheat the oven to 200C/400º/gas 6. Put the onions in a medium casserole or other ovenproof pot with a lid. Drizzle some olive oil into your hand and rub it on the onions. You’ll probably end up using about 2 tablespoons. Grab some salt and crush it between your fingers as you sprinkle it all over each onion, turning the onions to make sure the salt adheres to all sides. Put them in the pot.
Tear off the outermost layers of peel from the garlic head so the cloves are exposed.Put it in the middle of the onions and drizzle on a little olive oil. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the onions, and pour 75ml water around the onions and garlic. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook just until the onions are lightly browned and soft enough that you can insert a knife into the centre with barely any resistance, 50 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your onions. Let them sit, covered, on the top of the stove until they’re cool enough to handle, so they get even softer (leave the oven on). Carefully transfer the onions to a plate or cutting board, leaving the liquid behind in the pot. Use a small spoon to scoop out a few layers of the insides of each onion and stuff each one with about 2 tablespoons of the sausage. Add the scooped-out onion bits to a 30cm ovenproof pan or small baking dish. (When you add the cream and water, the liquid should come a little less than half way up the sides of the onions). Squeeze the soft flesh of the garlic cloves into the pan and add the thyme leaves, cream, and 225ml water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a full boil, add the stuffed onions, sausage side up, and baste them with the liquid for a minute or so. Pop the pan into the oven, uncovered, and cook, basting the onions every ten minutes or so, until the sauce is thick but not gloopy, about 40 minutes. Taste the sauce and add a little more salt, if you’d like. Bring the pan to the table, spoon a little of the sauce over the top of each onion and dig
April Bloomfield’s Rhubarb Fool with Cardamom Cream and Pistachios
Serves 4The rhubarb’s earthy flavour and sharp tartness balance the floral cardamom whipped cream. Layer the fool in small clear jars, so you can see the pink and white, pink and white. Well chilled, it’s wonderfully refreshing. And not too sweet. For the cardamom cream
6 green cardamom pods
3 tbsp caster sugar
225ml crème frâiche
225ml double creamFor the rhubarb 550g rhubarb (about 3 fat stalks), topped and tailed, then sliced crosswise into 4cm pieces
50g caster sugar
100ml dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2½ teaspoons rose water
To serve the fool
75g shelled salted roasted pistachios
Pistachio Brandy Snaps for scoopingMake the cardamom cream: Use the flat of your knife to smash the cardamom pods one by one. Discard the greenish husks. Pound the cardamom seeds to a powder in a mortar, then add the sugar and pound briefly. Put the crème frâiche and double cream in a large mixing bowl and stir in the sugar mixture. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate it while you cook the rhubarb. Make the rhubarb: Toss together the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl. Put the mixture in a medium pot and add the white wine. Use a knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot; discard the pod. Set the pot over medium-low heat, bring to a very gentle simmer, and cook, tenderly stirring occasionally, until the liquid is a little creamy and the rhubarb is very tender but the pieces are still more or less intact, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. (To cool it quickly, scrape the mixture into another bowl, set it over a larger bowl filled with ice, and stir gently.) Once the rhubarb is completely cool, stir in the rose water. Make the fool: Use a whisk or handheld electric mixer to whip the cream mixture until it’s fluffy and full, with semi-stiff peaks. Take four approximately 225g serving containers or one large bowl for a family-style presentation. It’s nice if they’re clear, so you can see the layers. Spoon some of the rhubarb mixture into the bottom of each glass (or into the large bowl), top with a layer of cream, and sprinkle on some pistachios. Keep layering this way until you’ve used everything up, making sure you finish with a layer of rhubarb. Cover and pop into the fridge until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
Calling all food writers: At last, an invaluable insight into a food editor’s mind.‘How to Write About Food — the Top 50 Writing Bloopers to Cross an Editor’s Desk’ comes straight from the horse’s mouth, from one of Ireland’s longest-standing restaurant critics and editors, Ross Golden-Bannon. Ross has written a handy short ebook that covers the top 50 issues, mistakes and problems which have crossed his desk over the previous 12 years. You’ll also find top tips on style, logic, legal issues and syntax as well as some examples of the profoundly stupid. Available on Kindle, Amazon and www.howtowriteaboutfood.com. If you do not own a palm book or Kindle you can download eBook reader apps and software onto your desktop and read it there. * If you have dreams of opening your own tea shop or café you might consider attending the week-long Start Your Own Café or Tea Shop practical cookery and business course at Ballymaloe Cookery School.
The course starts on Monday, Apr 8, until Friday, Apr 12, and costs €895. See www.cookingisfun.ie or phone 021-4646785 for more details.
* Date for the diary: Galway Food Festival runs from Mar 28 to Apr 1 — www.galwayfoodfestival.com.
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