Cheat’s Tarts with Various Fillings

I'M just back from the 2012 edition of the international Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, Slow Food’s biannual event which brings together small-scale farmers, artisan producers, fishermen, experts, academics, chefs and young people from over 160 countries.

It’s a mind blowing event and an increasingly important forum of exchange between producers, consumers and experts on a variety of food issues including biodiversity, food waste, animal welfare, seed saving and patenting of seed, edible education, school gardens and land grabbing.

The opening speech was given by the Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva. He emphasised the close links between Slow Food and the FAO, with a focus on the problem of hunger in the world. He identified food waste as a crucial problem. “If we managed to cut total food loss and waste by half we would have enough food to feed one billion more people,” he said. Da Silva’s message was clear: “With hunger, the only number acceptable is zero.” A series of speakers then took their turn on stage, bringing stories from every corner of the globe and inspiring both outrage and hope with their experiences. Their stories were recounted through the “words of Terra Madre”, key themes that define the Slow Food movement’s primary concerns.

Carlos Vanegas Valdebenito from Chiloé Island, Chile, spoke poetically of Earth. Indian activist and Slow Food vice-president Vandana Shiva talked about the “genocide” of farmer suicides in her country and the scandal of biopiracy.

Carmen Martinez, from the Slow Food Tehuacán Amaranth Presidium in Mexico, talked about water, and Dario Fo, Nobel Laureate in Literature, about hunger, with a bravura performance in the Commedia dell’Arte tradition telling the story of a starving peasant.

After a musical interlude from Roy Paci and a multi-ethnic group of musicians, Nikki Henderson from the People’s Grocery in Oakland, California and Alice Waters, Slow Food vice-president and chef, talked about education. Sergej Ivanov from Serbia spoke about biodiversity, Yoko Sudo from Fukushima, Japan about energy and Edward Mukiibi, coordinator of the Thousand Gardens in Africa project Uganda, about network.

Salone del Gusto is the biggest food fair in the world, except it’s made up of artisan food producers, olive oil and wine makers. Over 200,000 people pour into it over a weekend and leave with bags bulging with foods not just from Europe but from all over the world.

This is the fifth year of Terra Madre. Delegates from 93 countries spoke succinctly for five minutes at the two-day Slow Food International Congress which ran concurrently with Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre this year. Slow Food is now emerging as a very strong political voice on a global scale and Terra Madre is showing the way towards a new sustainable form of agriculture which many governments are reluctantly been forced to consider.

The Slow Food Youth Movement has really gathered momentum since the last Terra Madre event in 2010. It’s particularly strong in the Netherlands, Germany, UK and US.

The fight against food waste has become a major focus for Slow Food.

Mulled Wine Spices

Serves 8 approx

Just before the festive season we make up lots of little packages with the sugar, spices and thinly pared lemon rind so when the pals arrive it’s just a question of opening a bottle of wine and warming it in a stainless steel saucepan with the spices.

Leftover mulled wine keeps for a few days and reheats perfectly.

1 bottle of good red wine

100g (3½oz) sugar, depending on the wine

Thinly pared rind of 1 lemon

1 small piece of cinnamon bark

1 blade of mace

1 clove

1 square of muslin

Put the sugar, lemon rind, cinnamon bark, mace and the clove into a little square of muslin, tie with cotton string.

Just add to a bottle of good red wine — warm slowly. Serve hot, but not scalding otherwise your guests will have difficulty holding their glasses.

Cheat’s Tarts with Various Fillings

Usually I’m frightfully snooty about sliced bread but this is a brilliant trick shown to us by one of my favourite cookery writers Eric Treuille when he came to teach at the school a few years ago.

It makes crisp little tartlets, perfect as a base for canapés.

Here are a number of fillings one could use. Look in your fridge, experiment and use fresh herbs and herb flowers. Unfilled Cheat’s Tarts will keep in an airtight tin for several days.

* Wild Salmon Pâté with cucumber pickle and dill, Chicken Liver Pâté with sun blush tomatoes, goat cheese and kumquat compote, goat cheese with pesto and cherry tomato

* Prawns or shrimp with guacamole and coriander. Crab Mayonnaise with grape tomatoes

* Smoked mussels with mayo, goat cheese, pequillo pepper and basil leaves

Sliced white or brown bread (sliced pan)

Rolling pin

Tray of mini muffins buns

Cutter 4.5cm (1¾ inches)

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

Cut the crusts off the bread.

Roll the bread very thinly with a rolling pin, it should be completely flat.

Stamp out rounds with a 4.5cm (1¾ inches) cutter. Fit into the mini muffin tins. Bake for 5 — 7 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack and fill as desired.

Homemade Bread Crumbs

We all need as many thrifty tips for Christmas as possible in this economic climate.

I’ve just been to the shops and seen breadcrumbs for sale for more than the price of a loaf of bread for a 250g (9oz) bag, so let me share the secret of how to make your own — it’s so easy and they freeze perfectly for stuffings, gratins, croquettes or buttered crumbs. Here are some thrifty recipes for the festive season.

How to make your own: First save all left over white bread, for white bread crumbs, cut off the crusts (save for dried crumbs) (see below).

Tear each slice into 3 or 4 pieces, drop into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz for 30 seconds to a minute, hey presto — bread crumbs.

Use immediately or freeze in convenient size bags for use another time. If you use crumbs include the crusts. The breadcrumbs will be flecked with lots of crust but these are fine for stuffings and any other dish where the crumbs do not need to be white.

Before the days of liquidisers and food processors, we made bread crumbs by grating squares of stale bread or the coarsest part of a box grater.

The breadcrumbs were not as uniform as those made in a whizzer but will be absolutely fine. Dried Bread Crumbs.

Put the crusts off the bread slices, spread out on a baking tray. Bake in a low oven (100C/220F/Gas Mark ¼) for two to three hours.

Cool, liquidise the dry crusts a few at a time into fine bread crumbs. Sieve and store in a screw-top jar or a plastic box as until needed.

There’s no need to freeze, they keep for months.

Use for coating cheese or fish croquettes

Make Your Own Suet

Of course one can buy suet ready-prepared in packets but it’s very easy to do it yourself at home. Your butcher will probably give you the suet for free because there is so little demand.

Coeliacs need to be aware that ready-prepared suet usually contains white flour.

Suet comes from the fat that protects the beef kidney.

Suet and dripping (the rendered suet) seem to have fallen out of favour, but chips fried in beef fat and potatoes roasted in it are lovely.

The flavour is much better and, incidentally, beef dripping has more vitamin B and despite its reputation is considerably better for you than cheap, trans-fat ridden cooking oils.

People now make plum puddings with butter because they’re so paranoid of eating the wrong kinds of fat, but I’m still a great fan of the traditional plum puddings made in the classic way with suet, as they have a better flavour and texture. Serve these on hot plates, though, because if suet congeals it’s distinctly unappetising. Use for plum pudding or many other comforting suet puddings.

Strictly speaking, beef dripping is the fat and the meat juices that render out of a joint of roast beef while it’s cooking, whereas suet or tallow is fat just rendered from fat surrounding the beef kidney. However, nowadays the term ‘dripping’ is colloquially used to refer to all of these.

How to prepare your own suet and save money:

Start by asking your butcher for the fat that surrounds beef kidneys.

Remove and discard the papery membrane and any red veins or fragments of meat. If you’re not meticulous about this, these bits will deteriorate and the suet won’t keep properly.

The fat will separate into natural divisions. Chop it coarsely and either mince or whizz it in a food-processor for a minute or two until it’s evenly grainy (years ago, people used to grate suet on a simple box grater).

Refrigerate and use within a couple of days, but if it has been properly trimmed it will keep for weeks in a fridge.

Hot tips

Shanagarry OOOOBY (Out of Our Own Back Yard) Group along with other local producers will hold their Christmas Market on Sunday, Dec 16, from 12pm to 4pm at the 18th Century Kilmahon House Courtyard, beside Stephen Pearce Pottery in Shanagarry, East Cork.

Make lighter work of Christmas with homemade stuffing, pates, puddings, chutneys and ‘just out of the ground’ fresh produce from OOOBY.

Mahon Point Special Christmas Market — Saturday, Dec 22, 10am – 2pm www.mahonpointfarmersmarket.com

Waterford Winterval Festival runs until Sunday, Dec 23 www.winterval.ie.

Traditional Farm Poultry — Robbie Fitzsimmon from East Ferry Free Range is still taking orders for his plump free-range turkeys, geese and chicken for Christmas feasting. Tel: 086-8548574; email: info@eastferryfreerange.com

Festive Afternoon Tea: Get together with new friends, old friends or best friends for a special and indulgent Christmas treat for festive afternoon tea in front of a roaring fire in the drawing room at Knockeven House in Cobh, Co Cork. Tel: 021-4811778 or email: info@knockevenhouse.com

‘Pop-Up Christmas Wine Shop’ in The Grain Store, Ballymaloe House every weekend until Christmas — Saturdays 11am—4pm Sundays 12.30pm — 4pm.

Wondering where to find something quirky but delicious to serve for the festive season?

Ballymaloe House sommelier Colm McCan who will offer some brilliant advice and tempting tastings. Tel: 021-4652531, www.ballymaloe.ie


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