This time it wasn’t the appearance of the of the golden arches in Piazza del Spagna in Rome that sparked the outrage , it was a bulb of garlic ‘all the way from China’ that set Michael Kelly thinking, “what the hell’s going on”?
So he started a quiet revolution which continues to gather momentum — GIY, an achronym for Grow it Yourself, has fed into a deep hunger in a growing number of people (pardon the pun) who want to wrest back some control over the food they eat from the small numbers of multinationals who control all food choices.
Like the financial world, the food chain is virtually out of control, a convoluted global web, almost impossible to unravel or keep track of.
At the same time, we are grappling with a worldwide obesity epidemic. Last year for the first time more people died of obesity-related diseases than hunger.
The environmental food system is failing us and creating food desserts in the midst of plenty. Back in the ’90s, Cherry Ripe, an Australian cookery writer, wrote a piece entitled “Starving to death in the supermarket”, which enraged the industry, but she reasoned that if one was seeking out fresh, naturally produced, local food in season, you were unlikely to find it in the conventional retail system.
Almost 15 years later, despite a lot of ‘green washing’ and overuse of the words local, artisan and homemade, many would agree.
The GIY movement simply urges people to grow even a little of their own food. It could be just a few radishes, salad leaves or beets. What started with a handful of people desperately seeking knowledge and support has turned into a 50,000-plus army of zealots who are growing at home, at work, at school and in the community.
The website (www.giy.ie) is seriously good. The GIY conferences at the Waterford Harvest Festival, described by Mark Diacano as the ‘Glastonbury for growers’, is a vibrant get together which reflects the enthusiasm at grassroots level with the inspirational speakers like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Alys Fowler from The Guardian newspaper. Michael Kelly continues to work tirelessly for the cause, and has been awarded the Inspiration of the Year award by the Bridgestone Guide and the Guinness
Work has begun on GIY HQ in Carriganore in Waterford which will be a home grown food education centre. Meanwhile, in the midst of it all, Michael has written Grow, Cook, Eat, a GIY guide to growing and cooking your own food, crammed with detailed advice and tips on growing of your own vegetables with seasonal recipes from some of GIY’s favourite chefs, cooks and growers.
Here’s a taste. You might want to snap up a few copies for Christmas presents.
The massaging action of the lemon juice and salt into the kale softens it, almost “cooking” the leaves, making them much more palatable while retaining the nutrients. Adding the pine nuts and cranberries provides colour and texture, but you could add any extra ingredients you like. This salad keeps for up to three days in the fridge.
Remove the stalks from the kale and roll each leaf before chopping into fine strips. Place into a large bowl, add the lemon juice and 2-3 pinches of sea salt. Massage the juice and salt into the kale using your fingers until it starts to soften slightly, making sure that all the leaves are coated and the oil and salt are well worked in. Sprinkle with olive oil and leave to sit for 10 minutes to soften further. Before serving, add the cranberries, pine nuts, celery and spring onions and stir well. Sprinkle more olive oil if needed.
From Dorcas Barry www.dorcasbarry.com
This one is for those ‘gifted’ marrows offered up as a bag of courgettes. It is particularly good slathered over turkey o nSt Stephen’s Day or with strong English Cheddar.
Sterilised jars with lids — how many depends on the size of your jars
Peel and dice the marrow, courgette or pumpkin, discarding the woody part and any large seeds. Place in a bowl and scatter over a couple of handfuls of salt, just enough so that all surfaces are lightly dusted.
Set aside for at least four hours (preferably overnight) to draw out all the moisture. Rinse and pat dry.
This dry-salting process keeps the marrow in good shape and stops it collapsing, otherwise it just turns to mush.
Make up your spice bag by putting the spices in a piece of muslin and tying them tightly with string. Place all the remaining chutney ingredients in a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick but not stiff, roughly 40 minutes or so. By the end you should be able to draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan so that it clears, but rapidly refills with syrupy juices.
Ladle the hot chutney into warm sterilised jars, cover with wax discs and put on the lids. Store somewhere cool and dark for at least two weeks before using. This chutney will keep well for up to six months.
From Abundance by Alys Fowler; published by Kyle Books, 2013.
There ought to be a custodial sentence for messing with the traditional crème brûlée, but mess with it I have. Celeriac and lemon thyme sounds an unlikely combination for a brûlée, but it is, I promise, really very fine. If you haven’t any lemon thyme, lemon Verbena works perfectly well, or you can substitute a couple of sprigs of regular thyme with some finely grated lemon zest. When I made the brûlée, I had an accident that turned into a happy one: the blowtorch used to finish the brûlées ran out of gas on the last one and turned out partly topped in hot sugar, with islands of solid caramel. It suited the celeriac perfectly.
Peel and chop the celeriac into pieces about the size of a euro coin. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the celeriac. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the celeriac begins to soften. Add the milk and simmer until the celeriac is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the mixture in a blender until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas 2.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Pour the cream into a pan. Split the vanilla pods lengthways, tease out the seeds and add them and the pods to the cream, along with the lemon thyme. Bring just to the boil, then strain the hot cream through a sieve onto the egg and sugar mix, discarding the vanilla pods and thyme. Whisk briefly, then add the celeriac purée and whisk to combine.
Stand six ramekins in a roasting tin and fill them with the custard. Pour enough boiling water into the tin to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the ramekins. Cover the tin loosely with foil. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is just set — it should have a little wobble to it.
Lift the ramekins out of the water and leave the custards to cool, then refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.
Sprinkle each brûlée with four tsp sugar and caramelise with a kitchen blowtorch. If you don’t have a blowtorch, use a very hot grill.
From A Year at Otter Farm by Mark Diacono, Bloomsbury 2014.
Chutney combines well with rich dishes such as braised meat, grilled fatty fish and, of course, cheese
Put the pumpkin, apple, vinegar and the chilli into a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and after 45 minutes add the spices and the sugar. Let the chutney simmer until the pumpkin starts to shine and fall apart. Add the ginger, lemon juice and zest. Simmer for a further 25 minutes, adding water if it becomes too dry.
Season to taste. Spoon into clean preserve jars and seal. Turn the jars upside down in order to create a vacuum. Turn right side up after 10 minutes and store in a dark and cool place.
The chutney needs to mature for about two weeks before it is good to eat, but it can hold for up to a year. After opening, keep it in the fridge.
From Cliffhouse Hotel – The Cookbook, by Martijn Kajuiter. Published by Houghton - Mifflin Harcourt Trade 2010.
One-day Christmas Cooking with Rachel Allen on Friday, December 12, at Ballymaloe Cookery School. This course may only last a single day but it is life changing: turning a potentially fraught and tedious annual task into a stress-free and pleasurable experience. Rachel and Pam will amaze you with the things that can be done in one day. You’ll learn lots of seasonal recipes, and even more importantly how to plan ahead so that you can eat, drink and be merry for the whole holiday without worrying about how you are also going to feed everyone. For this reason many of the dishes are designed so that they can be prepared ahead of time. The course covers both traditional and more innovative recipes. Details at www.cookingisfun.ie
Something in the Tin is another cute little cook book to add to your list, chock-full of tempting cakes, bikkies and squares, well tested favourites like cashew caramel squares, ginger jumblies, Spanish almond cake, cinnamon swirls, Love Kate Raggett’s illustrations– published by www.lavistownhouse.ie
Don’t miss the Wild & Slow Festival at Brooklodge in Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow. This two-day event is designed to showcase and celebrate the very best wild and foraged foods that Ireland has to offer. There’s also a winter fest-style farmers market selling lots of pickles, chutneys, relishes, wild mushroom, game and foraged foods. Check out the website www.wildandslow.com visit for details on workshops, events and other excitement. All proceeds go to Slow Ireland Ireland.