A FEW days break at last and I’m not even tempted to head for the airport. A few days relaxing in West Cork, I am totally chilled and ready for a skite or two, a visit to a farmhouse cheese-maker, fish smoker, basket weaver, chocolatier — I’m fascinated by handmade and artisan skills. In West Cork one is spoiled for choice — there is always something new. It’s where it all began, but the innovation continues.
Recently at the Liss Ard Food Festival I came across Ross McDowell doing biltong — strips of dried Irish beef cured with herbs, spices, brown vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and sugar. Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday morning is a particularly vibrant mix of local food, craft, bric a brac and fancy fowl. Look out for Hayley Milthorpe and Janine Murphy who are doing a number of fermented products, tomato sauce, tomato and green pepper relish, sauerkraut and mustard. They have a little stall.
Teenager Ian Lynch from Ballymacrown was selling free range eggs from his nine brown hens and young Mary MacSeoin, who won the Slow Food Grandmothers recipe competition a few years back, was selling flap jacks, homemade blackberry jam and marmalade from her pretty little stall — a joy to see more young food entrepreneurs emerging and Farmers Markets encouraging them.
New food businesses are bubbling up all over the place and not just on the main land: one of the most exciting new ventures is on Heir Island just off Baltimore, I recently took the five minute ferry trip across from Connamore to visit the Fire House Bakery and Cookery School.
We ambled up the windy boreen from the pier, past Island Cottage Restaurant (one of my very favourite places to eat anywhere in the world). The hedges were bursting with montbretia, meadow sweet, honeysuckle and heather.
Patrick Ryan and his partner Laura Moore have settled into Heir Island. There behind wicker fencing is an outdoor wood burning oven and demonstration area. As we arrived Patrick was just about to put his rye sour dough loaves in the handmade brick oven.
They have been rising for over six hours; he turns them gently onto the bread peel, slashes the top with a razor sharp blade and slides them onto the floor of the beehive-shaped oven. He puffs in some steam from a green plastic rose mister to create a crisp and chewy crust.
This is just one of a whole range of sour dough, yeast and soda breads that Patrick makes and teaches here in his brand new Bakery School.
Patrick, originally from Co Laois, has worked in Michelin starred restaurants, including Kevin Thornton’s Dublin restaurant. He and Laura run a series of one and two day bread courses, coupled with a convivial B&B and bakery. www.firehouse.ie, 085 1561984, firstname.lastname@example.org
150g (5 oz) potato
500g (1 lb 2 oz)
Strong white bread flour
15g (3 tsp) fine sea salt
10g (2 tsp) fresh yeast or 7 g (1 tsp)
Dried or fast-action yeast
225 ml (7 fl oz) water
4 tsp rapeseed or olive oil
There is just something irresistible about a baguette, especially when it’s fresh out of the oven. There’s always the urge to tear straight into it. No bread book would be complete without the mighty baguette, so here’s our version.
Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash — or if you have mash from last night’s dinner, even better. (If the mash is creamy, hold back a little water when you mix it into the flour.)
Combine the flour, salt and mashed potato in a bowl and form a well in the centre. Crumble the yeast into the water and stir to dissolve, then add the yeasted water and oil to the well. Bring together into a dough with a wooden spoon or with a spatula. Turn the dough out on to a clean kitchen surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until you achieve the windowpane effect. The dough should be soft and supple. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove for 60–80 minutes or until doubled in size. Turn the dough out and knock it back, then divide in half.
To form a baguette, flatten the dough evenly into a rectangle, then roll it up into a cylindrical shape. It should resemble a sausage about 30 cm (12 in) long. Using the palms of your hands and starting in the middle, roll the dough to lengthen the baguette, moving from the middle to the outer edges, until it is about 50 cm (20 in) long — but check that it will fit in your oven! Place each baguette on a lightly oiled baking tray and cover with a damp cloth. Prove for 50–60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230C (450F/Gas 8) and place a roasting tray in the bottom. Before baking lightly dust each baguette with flour and use a baker’s blade (lame) or a sharp serrated knife to score the top with a series of cuts at a slight angle. Place the loaves in the oven and steam by adding ice cubes or cold water to the tray. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating halfway through to ensure even cooking. The baguettes should be crisp and golden.
400g (14 oz) rye flour
5g (1 tsp) fine sea salt
10g (2 tsp) fresh yeast or 7g (1 tsp)
Dried or fast-action yeast
10g (1 tsp) honey
350ml (12 fl oz) water
For something a little different to share around, try these wheat-free crackers made from rye. Naturally lower in gluten, this flour can sometimes be difficult to turn into a loaf, but really lends itself well to making these crackers. With their unmistakable flavour, they crisp up to make the perfect party food.
Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Crumble the yeast in the water, stir to dissolve and pour the yeasted water and honey into the well. Bring the mix together using a spatula — it should form a stiff, wet dough.
Instead of kneading, simply cover the dough with clingfilm or a damp cloth and leave to prove for 60 minutes. The dough should appear slightly puffed up, but not doubled in size as you would expect from wheat bread dough.
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F/Gas 6) and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll out each portion into the shape you would like — rectangle, circle or oval. Try to roll the dough as thinly as possible, to 2 mm (½ in) if you can. You may have to work the dough in several batches. Bake the crackers for 18—20 minutes, until crisp. Once cool they should keep crisp for a few days in an airtight container.
3 ham hocks
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
1 white onion, roughly chopped
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp capers, finely chopped
4 baby gherkins (pickles), finely chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground
The idea of making a terrine might seem daunting but we are here to show that it’s a lot easier than you think. This terrine is basically a mosaic of layered ham and can be dressed up or down for any occasion — it’ll put a smile on the face of even the most critical foodie. Hocks are packed with flavour and cheap as chips, so speak to your butcher.
Place the ham hocks in a large saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes — you will find that all the impurities come to the surface. Remove the ham hocks and rinse in cold water, return to a clean saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil again. Reduce to a gentle simmer and add the vegetables, peppercorns, coriander seeds and bay leaf. Cover with a lid and simmer on a gentle heat for 2½–3 hours, until the meat is tender and easily pulls away from the bone.
Remove the ham hocks and set aside to cool. Strain the cooking liquor through a fine sieve and return it to a clean saucepan. Place on a medium heat and boil until reduced by half. Peel the fat from the ham hocks and discard. Flake the meat off the bone with your fingers and put in a bowl.
Add the parsley, capers and gherkins and check the seasoning, although you may not need anything further. Add 4 tbsp (60 ml/2 fl oz) of the cooking liquor and stir in to bind everything together.
Line a terrine mould — or a 400 g or 1 lb loaf tin — with two layers of clingfilm, allowing for about a 5 cm (2 in) overhang all round. Fill the terrine mould with the meat. Press the mixture down and pour in the remaining cooking liquor until it just covers the top.
Fold over the clingfilm and put the terrine in the fridge overnight to set, placing a heavy weight on top.
To serve remove the terrine from the mould, unwrap the clingfilm and cut into slices with a sharp knife. Delicious with a tangy chutney or piccalilli and a freshly made crusty baguette.
Midleton Food & Drink Festival 2012 is on today.
Fancy building your own wood burning oven? Contact West Cork Oven building guru Hendrik Lepel who crafted the Fire House oven. Hendrik does courses but also accepts commissions. www.bakehus.com, 086 8838400, email@example.com
Bread Revolution written by Patrick Ryan and Duncan Glendinning published by Murdoch Books will take the mystery out of bread making and also has some of the boys’ other well tried favourite recipes.
The Irish Biltong is brilliant to take in your rucksack on a hike, perfect for picnics or just to nibble with a beer. Contact Ross McDowell, 087-2425173, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Hayley Milthorpe and Janine Murphy’s fermented products contact 028-23648.