Good food gets better

I’M CONTINUALLY surprised by how thrown waiting staff in many restaurants seem to be if one asks about the provenance of the food. They immediately seem to go on the defensive and it can take three or four attempts to find out the source of a piece of meat, fish or cheese.

A recent attempt to identify a cheese on a salad in a Cork restaurant came back first as Irish, secondly as west Cork and eventually, after I’d decided not to venture any further, I was presented with the name of a co-op in Co Tipperary. I’m still none the wiser about the name of the cheese or the cheese maker. Sadly, nowadays – despite the fact that local is the hottest word in the gastro vocabulary – the source of supply is more likely to be a multinational catering company than a local supplier, not to speak of a farmer or fisherman.

Why aren’t more restaurants serving local food proudly? Those of us in the hospitality business depend on local people to support our restaurants and hotels, yet few enough consider it a priority or obligation to put some money back into the local community by supporting local butchers, bakers, farmers, cheese makers or vegetable and fruit growers. Those who do, generate tremendous good will for their business and hugely enhance the experience for their guests by incorporating local food in season and identifying the producer on their menu. This is a win-win situation for both the customer and the producer. The latter gets the credit for the product and extra sales when satisfied customers go in search of the original next time they go shopping. Cork has a history of being proud of its own so Good Food Ireland Cork Week – from Monday, February 8, to Friday, February 12 – gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase the bounty of Cork city and county.

To mark the first Good Food Ireland Cork Week, restaurants and hotels, pubs and cafés all over Cork will serve a Good Food Ireland plate incorporating the food of the local Good Food Ireland members for €15 per plate including a glass of wine.

Good Food Ireland was founded by Margaret Jeffares in November 2006. It operates as a not-for-profit industry driven Irish food tourism organisation. It is the only industry group with an all island food tourism strategy.

The Good Food Ireland food map pulls all the strands of the food jigsaw together. The website has tons of info on little gems around the country. Kay Harte of the Farm Gate Restaurant in the English Market will offer her guests Millstreet Venison Casserole from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk. Millstreet Country Park farmed venison is not as strong or gamey as the wild meat and is available fresh all year round.

Claire Nash of Nash 19 on Princes Street in Cork has had a Good Food Ireland plate on the menu since March 2009 which offers the produce of eight to 10 artisan producers to a tremendous response from her customers.

The plates change daily and include Belly of Pork and Free Range Bacon from Crowes in Co Tipperary, Sliabh Luachra and Smoked Beef from Jack McCarthy Meats in Kanturk, a selection of smoked fish from the Burren Smoke House, charcuterie and cheese from Gubbeen in west Cork, Cooleeney Brie from Thurles, Co Tipperary; Inch Pudding from Thurles in Tipperary, Ardsallagh Goats Cheese from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork; Organic Millhouse Smoked Salmon from Geraldine Bass in Buttevant, Co Cork and Nash 19 chicken liver pate and Nash 19 organic brown bread made from Sowans Organic Flour.

Ballymaloe House will feature the produce of many local producers including Tom Clancy’s Ballycotton Free-range Chicken, Noreen and Martin Conroy’s Woodside Farm Bacon and Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon. So let’s get out there and celebrate Good Food Ireland.

Tom Clancy’s Roast Ballycotton Free-range Chicken with Herb and Woodside Bacon Stuffing

Tom’s chickens take 12 weeks to reach maturity. They are fed on special feed and range freely on his farm in Ballycotton. The flavour and texture is mouth watering. Woodside Farm traditional pork and bacon products have developed a loyal following in a short time. A little crispy bacon added to the stuffing makes it extra delicious.

Serves 6

4½ – 5 lbs (1.5 – 2.3kg) free range chicken, preferably organic

Giblet Stock: Giblets (keep the liver for a chicken liver pate)

1 thickly sliced carrot

1 thickly sliced onion

1 stick celery, sliced

A few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme

Stuffing: 4oz (110g) Woodside Farm Streaky Bacon cut into small cubes

1½ ozs (45g) butter

3 ozs (75g) chopped onion

3-3½ ozs (75-95g) soft white breadcrumbs

2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs eg parsley, thyme, chives and annual marjoram

Salt and freshly ground pepper

A little soft butter

Gravy: 1 –1½ pints (600-900mls) of stock from giblets or chicken stock

Garnish: Sprigs of flat parsley

First remove the wishbone from the neck end of the chicken. This is easily done by lifting back the loose neck and skin and cutting around the wishbone with a small knife – tug to remove, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape.

Put the wish bone, giblets, carrot, onions, celery and herbs into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting. This is the basis of the gravy.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or sunflower oil in a frying pan, add the lardons of bacon, and cook until crisp and golden.

Next make the stuffing. Sweat the onions gently in the butter in a covered saucepan until soft, 10 minutes approx. Then stir in the white bread crumbs, the freshly chopped herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold unless you are going to cook the chicken immediately. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Season the breast and legs and smear with a little soft butter.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo4. Weigh the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the pound and 20 minutes over – put on middle shelf in oven. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear.

To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh, hold a spoon underneath to collect the liquid, examine the juices – they should be clear.

Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, tilt the roasting tin to one corner and spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove. De-glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 1½ pints depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like (the gravy should not be thick). Taste and correct seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley. Then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table.

Carve as best you can and try to organise it so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and bread sauce.

Use the cooked carcass for stock.

Chicken Liver Pâté

Nash 19 will serve their own chicken liver pâté with their organic brown bread on their Good Food Ireland Plate.

For richly flavoured chicken liver pâté, seek out organic livers.

Serves 4-6

75g (3oz) butter

100g (3½oz) finely chopped shallot

1 clove garlic, crushed

225g (8oz) organic chicken livers

2 tbsp brandy

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Pinch of mixed spice

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, add the finely chopped shallot and crushed garlic. Cook on a low heat until soft but not coloured, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the chicken livers, cook for 4-5 minutes turning once or twice. Add the brandy and allow to flame.

When the flames die down, add the mustard, a pinch of mixed spice, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the whole lot into a food processor.

Allow to cool. Add 50g (2oz) butter and whizz until smooth.

Fill into ramekins, cover with a layer of clarified butter and then refrigerate until needed. Serve with hot thin toast.

East Ferry Free Range Duck with Orange

Robbie and his wife Yvonne are the third generation of the family to run traditional poultry at Easy Ferry, Midleton, Co Cork.

Serves 4

1 free range duck – 4 lb (1.8kg) in weight

3 brightly coloured oranges

3 tbsp granulated sugar

2½ fl ozs (63ml) red wine vinegar

2½ fl ozs (63ml) red wine

½ pint (300ml) duck or chicken stock

4 fl ozs (110ml) Port

½-1 tbsp Grand Marnier

Salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice

Garnish: sprigs of parsley or watercress

Scrub the oranges. Peel the zest from two with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh. Season the duck cavity and the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the remaining one third of the orange peel into the cavity and transfer the duck to a hot oven, preheated to 220C/425F/regulo 7. Reduce the temperature to 180C/350F/regulo 4, after 30 minutes. Continue to roast for a further 30-45 minutes.

While the duck is roasting make a sweet and sour caramel.

Boil the sugar and vinegar over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned a chestnut brown coloured syrup. Remove from the heat immediately and pour in ¼ pint (150ml) of the stock. Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel.

Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened. Add the orange liqueur little by little and the remainder of the orange julienne.

Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside. The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance.

Cut the remaining two oranges into neat skinless segments and reserve for garnishing the duck.

When the duck is cooked, allow to rest in a warm oven for at least 10 minutes before carving. Carve neatly and arrange on a serving dish or individual plates. Garnish with the orange segments. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck and serve the rest separately in a sauce boat.

Garnish with sprigs of parsley or watercress.

Shrove Tuesday Pancakes with Orange Butter

Every Shrove Tuesday we make pancakes at the school. The students queue up to eat them hot from the pan, with much swapping of stories about how mothers made them – this year one was heard to remark ruefully ‘my mother’s pancakes never tasted like these – these are delicious!’ In fact these are very nearly as good as Crepes Suzette but half the bother.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.

Pancake Batter: 175g (6oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

A good pinch of salt

1 dstsp castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

425ml (scant ¾ pint) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

2 tbsp melted butter

Orange Butter:

175g (6oz) butter

3 tsp finely grated orange rind

200g (7oz) icing sugar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)

Freshly squeezed juice of 5 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crepe pan

First make the batter. Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour from the sides. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in two tablespoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Next make the Orange butter.

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy, add the orange liqueur if using.

Make the pancakes in the usual way.

Heat a non stick pan until very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base when you tilt and swirl the pan. Put the pan back on the heat; loosen the pancake around the edge with a non metal slice. Flip over, cook for a few seconds on the reverse side. Slide over onto a plate. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.

Pancakes and orange butter can be make ahead and finished later.

The pancakes will keep overnight covered in a fridge. They will peel apart easily – no need to interleaf them with greaseproof paper.

To Serve: Melt a large blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter. Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve two per person on warm plates. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.


Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoked Salmon Pâté

This is a delicious way to use up smoked salmon if you have any trimmings left over.

Smoked salmon trimmings

Softened butter, unsalted

Remove any skin or bones from the fish. Weigh the flesh. Add three quarters the weight in butter. Blend to a smooth puree. Fill into pots and run clarified butter over the top. Alternatively, mould in a loaf tin. Turn out and cut in slices when set.


- DURING the Good Food Ireland Cork week (Monday, February 8, to Friday, February 12) Good Food Ireland Hotel and B&B members will offer three nights accommodation for the price of two.

- Fergus Henderson, the owner of St John’s Restaurant in London, will give a cookery demonstration on ‘Nose to Tail’ eating at the Cookery School at Donnybrook Fair on Saturday, March 13, from 10.30am to 1.30pm. The €100 fee includes tea/coffee on arrival, recipes, tastings and a glass of wine. Phone 01 6689674 or email to book.

- Good Food Ireland Cork week participants:

Farm Gate Restaurant – English Market – 021 4278134

Nash 19 Restaurant – 021 427 0880

McCarthys of Kanturk – 029 50178

Crowe Farm Meats – 062 71137

Cooleeney Cheese – 0504 45112

East Ferry Free Range Poultry – 021 4651916

Bill Casey Smoked Salmon 021 4646955

Tom Clancy Free Range Chickens – 086 3089431

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