Potato and Wild Garlic Soup

SAFEFOOD Ireland, recently commissioned a report on The Cost of Overweight and Obesity on the Island of Ireland.

Potato and Wild Garlic Soup

Compiled with the help of the HSE (Health Service Executive) and NUI (National University of Ireland) Galway, DCU (Dublin City University), IPH (Institute of Public Health Ireland), National Cancer Registry Ireland, Queens University Belfast and Safe Food, it highlighted the lack of information to-date.

This comprehensive assessment of the cost of overweight and obesity in Ireland began in 2012. The findings are quite simply shocking, 60% of Irish people are now overweight or obese and the cost to the exchequer is between 1%–9% of total healthcare. That’s bad enough but indirect costs maybe as much again or even more. Direct costs include in-patient, out-patient, GP — drugs and prescription costs.

Indirect costs include lost productivity in the work place due to overweight and obesity related illness and premature mortality. The list of chronic conditions associated with overweight and obesity is long and scary.

The chance of getting Type 2 diabetes increased by 140% in overweight men and 574% in men who are obese.

In women, it’s significantly higher, 292% when overweight but a shocking increase of 1,141% when obese. To see the whole report go to http://www.safefood.eu/Publications/Research-reports/The-cost-of-overweight-and-obesity-on-the-Island.

So what to do? I don’t have a magic wand but this much I do know — we’ll all feel much better if we eliminate all processed foods from our diets.

* Buy only or mostly fresh food, in season with the exception of bananas and citrus.

* Find a butcher you can trust, learn about inexpensive cuts of meat and offal and find out how to cook them.

* Eliminate all fizzy drinks and all breakfast cereals, with the exception of porridge, muesli and granola.

* Eat lots of peas, beans, pulses and good grains – they are an easy inexpensive form of protein and are endlessly versatile.

* Don’t eat between meals, standing up or on the run. Sit down around a table, eat slowly.

* Grow some of your own food, something, anything, anywhere, in any container you can find.

* Get a few hens, you don’t need much space, if you put them in a roomy chicken coop and move them around your lawn. They must have fresh grass to be healthy, otherwise forget about it and source the best you can from a local farmer country market or local shop.

* Mothers and fathers of Ireland rise up and insist supermarkets remove all sweets and bars away from the tills. Don’t underestimate the effect of pester power. .

* Avoid all light, low fat and diet foods and lets cut our sugar intake by half immediately.

* Buy Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules it only costs about €6.!

Gratin of Cod with Leeks and Crunchy Buttered Crumbs

Fresh fish with a crunchy topping in a creamy sauce is always tempting.

There is an added bonus with this recipe because one can do many variations, all of which are delicious. Even without the leeks this is delicious.

Serves 6-8

2¼ lbs (1.1kg) hake, cod, ling, haddock, grey sea mullet or pollock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1lb (450g) leeks

1oz (25g) butter

Mornay Sauce

1 pint (600ml) milk

A few slices of carrot and onion

3 or 4 peppercorns

A sprig of thyme and parsley

2 ozs (55g) approx. roux (1oz (25g) butter and 1oz (25g) flour)

5-6 ozs (140-170g) grated Cheddar or 3 ozs (75g) grated Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp mustard preferably Dijon

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (optional)

½ oz (15g) butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Buttered Crumbs

1 ozs (25g) butter

2 ozs (50g) soft, white breadcrumbs

1¾ lbs (790g) Duchesse Potato

First make the Mornay sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme and parsley.

Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, and remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes if you have enough time.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a coating consistency. Take off the heat, allow to cool for 1 minute then add the mustard and two thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley if using.

Next make the buttered crumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.

Sweat 1lb (450g) finely sliced leeks in 1oz (25g) butter in a covered casserole over a gently heat – 5 – 6 minutes should be enough, they don’t need to be fully cooked.

Skin the fish and cut into portions: 6 ozs (175g) is good for a main course, 3 ozs (75g) for a starter.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lightly butter the ovenproof dish, sprinkle the cooked leeks on the bottom, lay the fish on top and coat with the Mornay sauce.

Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy Duchesse Potato around the edge if you want to have a whole meal in one dish.

Cook in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 25-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the top is golden brown and crispy.

If necessary flash under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edges of the potato.

Potato and Wild Garlic Soup

There are two types, wild garlic (Allium ursinum), which grows in shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland, and snowbells (Allium triquetrum), these resemble white bluebells and usually grow along the sides of country lanes. It’s delicious in salads, pasta, sauces, soups and stews.

Serves 6

45g (1½oz) butter

150g (5oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

110g (4oz) peeled and chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1½ pint) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock

300ml (½ pint) creamy milk

150g (5oz) chopped wild garlic leaves (Allium Ursinum)

Garnish

Wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated.

Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the wild garlic leaves.

When the vegetables are almost soft, but not coloured, add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes with the lid off approximately until the wild garlic is cooked.

Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor.

Taste and correct seasoning. Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.

Almond and Orange Florentines

Makes about 20

Vegetable oil for brushing

2 organic egg whites

100g (3½oz) icing sugar

260g (9½oz) flaked almonds

Grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Line a heavy baking tray with greaseproof paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil.

Next to you have a small bowl with some cold water.

In a mixing bowl place together the whites, sugar, almonds and zest.

Mix them gently until blended. Dip your hand in the bowl of water and pick up portions of the mix to make little mounds on the lined tray, well-spaced apart.

Dip a fork in the water and flatten each biscuit very thinly.

You want to make the biscuits as thin as possible without creating many gaps between the almond flakes.

Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for approximately 12 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown.

Check underneath one biscuit to make sure they are cooked through.

Allow to cool down well.

Gently, using a palette knife, remove the biscuits from the baking sheet and into a sealed jar.

Hot tips

We picked the first of the wild garlic (Allium ursinum) leaves or ransoms this week and added them to salads, soups, sauces.

Wild garlic butter is delicious with a piece of pan-grilled fish. The first wild garlic grows in slightly shaded places, in woods and on the edges of fields. Allium Triquetrum looks more like a white blue bell and is more likely to be found on roadsides.

Make the most of wild garlic while it’s in season for the next month or so.

Alicia Joy O’Sullivan had her first outing of the Skibbereen Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago. She was inspired to bake a beautiful little array of buns, cake and tarts by Rachel’s TV programme Bake!

Let’s support and encourage our young food entrepreneurs.

The Dublin food scene is really hopping, it seems a new restaurant or café is opening every couple of weeks; I still haven’t got to Dylan McGrath’s Fade St Social in Dublin 2, which I hear is an exciting edition to the dining scene.

I did however get to Hatch and Son beside the Little Museum of Dublin on St Stephen’s Green. By 7pm on Thursday evening they’d had such a busy day that they’d almost run out of food.

Hugo Arnold and Domini and Peaches Kemp are behind this enterprise, cool space and a real emphasis on Irish artisan ingredients.

The demand for places on the Transition Year Work Experience Programme at Ballymaloe Cookery School in recent years has been phenomenal.

In response, three new one week courses, before Easter 2013, have been added. TY students will learn a variety of skills and cover a range of topics both in demonstration and hands-on sessions.

In one busy week students will learn how to make homemade bread, jam, soups, yummy starters, main courses, desserts, biscuits and even a cake or two, plus how to make butter and yoghurt from our own Jersey cow’s milk and cream.

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