CLAUDIA RODEN, one of the world’s best known and best loved cookery writers has just celebrated her 80th birthday.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a wonderful party in Claudia’s honour during the Oxford Literary Festival at Oxford Brooks University recently.
It was hosted by Donald Sloan, chair of Oxford Gastronomica and head of the specialist centre for the study of food, drink and culture at the university.
It was a splendid evening with so many food writers and cook book authors gathered together to pay homage to lovely Claudia who has contributed so much to our knowledge of so many diverse cuisines.
She was born and brought up in Cairo before moving to the UK to study art.
She longed for the food of her homeland and collected recipes from the many who had to flee their war- torn country.
Her bestseller, A Book of Middle Eastern Food was published in 1968 and revolutionised our attitude and knowledge of food of the Middle East.
Claudia went on to write many other award-winning cookbooks on the food of Italy, Spain, the Mediterranean, a book on coffee, another on picnics and a hugely acclaimed book on Jewish food.
Her writing is distinguished by her interest in the social and historical background of the food she writes about and has deservedly received tremendous critical acclaim worldwide.
Claudia was one of the first guest chefs to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and has returned to inspire us on several occasions including at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest in 2014.
The meal was cooked by another of my favourite chefs, awardwinning José Pizarro who came to London from Madrid to open José Tapas Bar in 2011 followed by Pizarro Restaurant and most recently a third restaurant in Broadgate Circle in the City.
His food is simple, honest and utterly delicious and he and his team of seven chefs certainly didn’t disappoint: several little pica pica to nibble with drinks; skewers of pata negra and croquettes.
Claudia’s grandson Caesar made the most delicious rum and raisin ice cream pops — a truly delicious finale to a memorable meal.
José’s new book Basque celebrates the food of his native region on the Spanish/French border and he has written in the past about food with a Spanish flavour.
You’ll love his simple recipes.
Here’s a taste.
José Pizarro’s Griddled Scallops with Cauliflower Purée and Chorizo Oil
The north-western region of Galicia is bordered on two sides by the Atlantic ocean and so it is not surprising that the cuisine of the area is greatly influenced by the sea.
The Rias Bajas provide the perfect conditions for farming scallops and produce some of the highest quality scallops in the world.
The scallop shell is also the symbol of the town of Santiago de Compostela, the destination of pilgrims from around the world.
Every year I promise myself I will make the effort to do the walk, but, as with the London marathon, I never quite get around to doing it!
This dish is not traditional in the area, and some people might think it more French than Spanish, but I love this combination of flavours.
The cauliflower and the spicy chorizo go so well with the sweetness of the caramelised scallops.
600ml whole milk
300g cauliflower florets (about ½ a medium cauliflower)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
50g cooking chorizo, skinned and finely chopped
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
12 large prepared scallops
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Bring the milk to the boil in a large pan.
Add the cauliflower florets and 1 teaspoon of salt, return to the boil and cook for 7 minutes until tender. Drain well, reserving the milk.
Put the cauliflower into a food processor with 3 tablespoons of the milk and 2 teaspoons of the oil and blend to a smooth purée.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a small pan and set aside over a low heat to warm through.
Heat 4 teaspoons of olive oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the chopped chorizo and fry it gently for 1 minute until just golden brown.
Stir in the vinegar, parsley and a pinch of sea salt. Keep warm.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat.
Rub the scallops with the remaining oil, add them to the pan and sear for 2 minutes on each side, seasoning them as they cook.
To serve, spoon some of the cauliflower purée onto 4 warmed plates and arrange the scallops alongside.
Spoon over some of the chorizo oil and serve.
Via José Pizarro Spanish Flavours
‘Poor man’s potatoes’ with Onions, Peppers, Garlic and Thyme
This is traditionally fried in a large pan, but I find it easier to make in a large roasting tin.
It is a great side dish with any roasted or barbecued meat.
And for a quick supper this is wonderful topped with a couple of fried eggs.
1kg waxy potatoes, such as Desirée, peeled
2 large red peppers
2 large green peppers
3 large red onions, cut into thin wedges
6 fat garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 fresh bay leaves
leaves from 4 large thyme sprigs
6 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8 and bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil.
Cut the potatoes across into 7–8mm thick slices, drop them into the water for a few minutes. Drain well.
Halve the red and green peppers and remove and discard the stalks and seeds.
Cut them into 1cm wide strips.
Put them into a large roasting tin (measuring about 30cm x 40cm) with the potatoes, onions, garlic, bay leaves and thyme leaves.
Season with 2 teaspoons of sea salt and plenty of black pepper, pour over 4 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil and toss well together.
Spread everything out in a single even layer and drizzle over the rest of the olive oil.
Roast on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the tin and turn the vegetables over.
Return to the oven and roast for a further 20 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and the other vegetables are tender and nicely caramelised here and there.
Serve straight away.
Beef Chuleton with Fried Green Peppers
4 tbsp olive oil
3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 long Turkish green peppers, deseeded, cut into 1cm-wide strips
Leaves from a 6cm rosemary sprig, finely chopped
large fore-rib of beef on the bone
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat your barbecue to high or place a ridged, cast-iron griddle over a high heat. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
Add the green peppers and fry for 12–15 minutes, turning regularly, until they are soft and nicely coloured.
Add the garlic and rosemary and fry for a further 1–2 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to keep warm.
Meanwhile, rub the forerib of beef with some oil and season well all over with salt and pepper.
Barbecue or griddle the beef for about 6–7 minutes on each side for medium rare, or until the centre of the meat registers 65C on a meat thermometer.
Transfer it to a board, cover with foil and leave it to rest for 5 minutes, during which time the internal temperature will rise to 70C.
To serve, cut the meat away from the bone and then diagonally, like a steak, into slices.
Serve with the fried green peppers and some chips.
Via José Pizarro Spanish Flavours
José Pizarro’s Walnut and Orange Blossom Honey Tart
This is a perfect tart to make in advance as it lasts for 2 or 3 days easily.
I always make it with orange blossom honey to give a fruity, floral flavour to the tart.
You could serve it with ice cream as dessert or on its own for tea.
For the pastry:
175g plain flour
pinch of salt
50g icing sugar
90g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1 medium egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water
75g unsalted butter
90g light muscovado sugar
125g orange blossom honey
150ml double cream
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 large egg, beaten
200g walnut halves
For the pastry, sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a food processor.
Add the butter and lemon zest and process briefly until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Beat the egg yolk briefly with the water.
Tip the crumbed mixture into a bowl, stir in the egg yolk mixture and bring the dough together into a ball.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth.
Chill for 15 minutes, then remove from the fridge and thinly roll out into a disc and use to line 23cm, loose-based tart tin with sides 2.5cm deep.
Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Put a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven and heat it to 200C/gas mark 6.
Line the pastry case with foil and a thin layer of baking beans and bake for 15–20 minutes until the edges are biscuit-coloured.
Remove the foil and beans and bake for another 5–7 minutes or until the base of the case is crisp and golden brown.
Remove and set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 180C/gas mark 4.
For the filling, melt the butter in a medium pan over a low heat.
Add the sugar and honey and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Then raise the heat and simmer vigorously for 4 minutes.
Add the cream (be careful as it will splutter a little) and boil for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.
Remove from the heat and leave the mixture to cool until just warm, then stir in the beaten egg.
Arrange the walnut halves over the base of the pastry case in an even layer and pour over the honey and cream mixture.
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the filling is set and golden brown.
Serve warm, cut into wedges.
Via José Pizarro Spanish Flavours
GIY Cottage Market is now being rolled out as a GIY initiative with three markets up and running in Ladysbridge, Co Cork, Drogheda, Co Louth and Headford in Co Galway.
The ethos is homemade, homegrown and handcrafted www.thecottagemarket.ie
Mary Kay has an enticing selection of gluten free produce at her Ladsybridge Cottage Market stall.
The gluten free brownies and biscuits are her best sellers.
Tel: Mary Kay on 086-8277117.
The Willow Food Company focuses on fermented and cultured produce such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, grain and dairy free fruit breads.
Lisa can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Ladysbridge Cottage Market is on every Sunday from 11am-1.30pm at The Old Cottage on the Ballymacoda Road or in the Community Hall on the Garryvoe Road, depending on the weather.
Join Slow Food Mayo tomorrow, Sunday, April 24, at 10am for a day of foraging. The group will meet at Murrisk Abbey carpark, near Westport. Families are welcome.
The event is followed by a foraged picnic. Phone Suzanne for details 087 917 0422 or see www.slowfoodireland.com
The excitement is building here at Ballymaloe for this year’s Litfest, it’s difficult to imagine that the line-up for 2016 could top last year’s stellar cast but go online and check it out.
Yotam Ottolenghi is coming back.
Francis Mallmann, who is featured on The Chefs Table, is coming all the way from Argentina.
The theme this year is ‘Our Food — What’s the Story?’
There are also events over at Ballymaloe House, the Cookery School, Grain Store and the Big Shed.
Book ahead to avoid disappointment, some are already booked out but there’s still lots and lots to choose from.
The Condé Nast Traveller List included the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food in ‘Best Festivals around the World’.
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