Maggie Beer’s Salmon with Sorrel Butter

THE excitement is really mounting, it’s just a week to this year’s Lit Fest at Ballymaloe, May 16-18.

Maggie Beer’s Salmon with Sorrel Butter

We’re particularly delighted that Kerrygold has come on board as our festival sponsors so the event has been renamed Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine. The line up of speakers and events is, if anything, even more thrilling than last year’s inaugural event. There are many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to see culinary icons like Diana Kennedy coming all the way from Michoacan in Mexico and Maggie Beer from Australia whose beautiful food and writing have thrilled countless people over the years.

Rene Redzepi of Noma, Copenhagen will be here. Fermentation expert Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation, is back with the Ottolenghi boys, and Simon Hopkinson will be here all weekend.

Iranian cook and food writer Ariana Bundy, author of Pomegranates and Roses, will pair up with Rory O’Connell to give us a taste of her Persian family food. In response to Ariana’s lovely food Rory will cook some of his own recipes inspired by flavours of the region — a fusion of some Middle Eastern taste and aromas.

Panel discussions this year include:

Questions & Answers Food & Wine Politics On The Page: John Bowman, Sandor Katz, Tomas Clancy, Joanna Blythman.

Forgotten Skills: Making A Comeback — Ben Reade, Sandor Katz, Diana Kennedy and Joanna Blythman.

Good Fats/Bad Fats – The Big Debate: Joanna Blythman, Ella Mc Sweeney, John McKenna.

Last year’s wine events, curated by Colm Mc Can, consultant sommelier, to Ballymaloe House were so thrilling with icons like Jancis Robinson that there’s a Drinks Theatre beside the Big Shed this year with speakers such as Alberto Zenato, Lilian Barton-Sartorius, Telmo Rodriguez, Nick Strangeways, Chris Forbes, Taylors Port and Ger Buckley.

If you’re not sure who some of these people are go to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine website and learn more — www.litfest.ie

The Drinks theatre is not just for serious wine, spirit and cocktail buffs, it’s for all of us who enjoy a tasty sip and would love to learn more and meet some of the most revered wine writers, wine makers, distillers and brewers.

The events over the weekend will be held in three venues — The Grain Store at Ballymaloe House, the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry and the Big Shed. The LitFest Fringe is once again the throbbing heart beat of the festive, the space may be big and (it really is enormous) but the atmosphere is cosy.

Gardeners will again interact with cooks, foragers with food historians, critics with musicians, artisan food producers with bloggers, writers with readers and so on. There will be brewers, bakers, and candlestick makers. Under this great roof will be a bubbling stew of ideas, thoughts and conversations. There will be delicious things to eat and drink, great books to read, songs to be sung, toes to be tapped and tunes to be hummed. There will be fun to be had by young and old with the family area a buzzing hive of activity. Artists and craft makers will join the fray with their foodie-related wares. This is the red hot chill out spot, the place to expect the unexpected, the chance to sit beside your neighbour or you hero — or both. You can do lots here or nothing — you can just be.

Camilla Houston who organised the Family Area in the Bed Shed last year has put an even more fantastic programme together this year and of course we have budding new food writers, the Ballymaloe International Poetry prize winners in conjunction with the Moth magazine and there’s tons and tons more. Sixty speakers, countless events and even though it would be an extra bonus to have super weather like last year, it’s an all weather event so come rain or shine and join us for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary of Food and Wine on 16th – 18th May.

But meanwhile go the Lit Fest website and book the events you don’t want to miss. See you there.

Here are a few tasters of the food of some of the participants.

Maggie Beer’s Salmon with Sorrel Butter

Serves 6

A filleted side of salmon or cutlets prepared by your fishmonger are the closest thing I know to convenience food that doesn’t compromise quality or flavour. If the sorrel butter is waiting in the freezer, you can have a really smart dinner on the table in 5 minutes and that includes making the green salad.

1 side of salmon (skin on)

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Sorrel butter

8 generous handfuls sorrel

225g softened unsalted butter

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Remove the feather bones from the salmon with fish tweezers. Cut the salmon into approximately 6 x 200g portions, but do not use the tail ends (use these in another dish). Remove the skin from the thinner, tail-end portions and reserve.

To make the sorrel butter, remove the stems from the sorrel and shred the leaves (you need 4 cups tightly packed sorrel). Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan, then sauté the sorrel until wilted. Put the sorrel into a sieve and press out as much liquid as possible. Leave to cool to room temperature. Blend the remaining butter, wilted sorrel and pepper in a food processor until the sorrel has been worked in completely and the butter is a deep olive-green

Put a little olive oil into a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan and heat until almost smoking. Cook the salmon, skin-side down first, until almost cooked through. Turn and cook for another minute. Keep the fish warm while crisping the reversed fish skin in the pan. Serve the fish topped with a dollop of sorrel butter and a piece of crispy fish skin.

Maggie Beer – from Maggie’s Table published by Viking

Diana Kennedy’s Pollo En Ajo-Comino: Chicken Seasoned with Garlic and Cumin Senora Maria Sanchez

Serves 6

This is one of those very simple stews served in the market places of little towns in the eastern part of the state of San Luis Potosi, which forms part of the Huastec country. Within the state, there are three distinct geographic areas — the hot coastal lowlands, the more lush mountainous areas, and the bare, semi-arid lands, and each has its own distinctive cuisine.

4 Ancho chiles, veins and seeds removed

1 tsp cumin seeds, crushed

12 peppercorns, crushed

1 tbsp salt, or to taste

1 whole clove, crushed

4 garlic cloves

3½ cups (875ml) water, approximately

3 tbsp vegetable oil

4½ pounds (2kg) large chicken pieces

Cover the chiles with water and simmer for about 5 minutes, then leave to soak for 5 minutes, drain.

In a molcajete or mortar, grind the cumin, peppercorns, salt and clove, then mash in the garlic gradually, adding ¼ cup (65ml) of the water to dilute the mixture. Set aside.

Transfer the drained ancho chiles to a blender jar with ¾ cup (185ml) of the water. Blend until smooth and set aside.

Heat the oil and fry the chicken pieces (a few at a time so as not to touch in the pan) to a pale gold. Add the spice mixture and fry over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the blended chiles and fry for another 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan constantly. Add the remaining water, then adjust the seasoning and cook slowly, uncovered, until the chicken is tender — about 40 minutes, turning the pieces over from time to time. (The sauce should not be thick; add more water if necessary.) Serve hot, with freshly made tortillas.

Note: This dish can be prepared several hours ahead and cooked for about 20 minutes. It should be cooled and cooked in its final stage just before serving, it does not freeze successfully.

From The Essential Cuisines of Mexico – Diana Kennedy

Ariana Bundy’s Omelette Khorma: Buttery Sweet Date Omelette

This omelette calls for sweet dates. The best dates are Sahani from Jahrom and Mozafati from the historic city of Bam. In fact, Jahrom means a warm place. Sahani are the most popular dates in Iran. Mozafati are the most expensive and rarely exported; they are best eaten when just ripened and juicy and so go rotten quickly. Since they are very had to come by, you can use regular dates soaked for a few hours or steamed for 3-5 minutes. This recipe is fast and simple serve it for breakfast or brunch.

5 medium eggs

Salt and pepper

Pinch of turmeric

50ml (2 fl oz) ¼ cup cream or milk (optional)

1 tbsp butter

8-10 dates, soaked or steamed, pitted and roughly chopped or halved

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk just until mixed well. Add the salt, pepper and turmeric and cream or milk if using, and mix again. Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat until it foams but does not colour. Pour in the eggs and immediately lower the heat. Place the dates on top, cover and let it cook gently for about 5-7 minutes depending on how you like your eggs done.

Adjust the seasoning and serve with some Persian bread such as lavash, or plain Indian naan.

From: Ariana Bundy – Pomegranates and Roses – published by Simon & Schuster illustrated.

Hot tips

West Cork is a-go with excitement at the news that Ian Parr and Susan Holland, late of Custom House, have returned to the mews in Baltimore for the summer season — to book phone: 028-20390.

Hope you have already tasted Shana Wilkie’s chocolate bar. Based in Midleton, she’s the only bean to bar chocolate maker in the country and the quality is superb. She’s now being snapped up by Selfridges in London.

Now there’s yet another chocolatier in East Cork. Seek out Peter Clifton from Rostellan Chocolate – I tasted some delicious Easter treats. Phone: 087-2908774, facebook: rostellanchocolate

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