Darina Allen: Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad

There was great excitement in Midleton on the Bank Holiday weekend. The Midleton Farmers Market was joyfully celebrating its 15-year anniversary.

Darina Allen: Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad

Nationwide broadcast directly from the Park Hotel where they linked directly on the SDN line to Bloom least anyone should imagine it was ‘all’ happening in Dublin.

Brenda Donohue interviewed Sandra and Joe Burns about the vegetable crisp business they have started on their farm in Killeagh to add value to their produce.

Jo is son of the legendary Mrs Burns who was a well-known trader long before the Farmers Market started.

Local celebrities Crystal Swing drove all the way from Letterkenny through the night to meet Brenda who had heard news of Dervla marrying a local farmer in August.

Brenda was hugely impressed by the vibrant Midleton Farmers Market in full celebratory mood with bunting, balloons, face painting and lively music provided by Trí na Ceile from Killeagh.

Several of the original 12 stallholders that started the market on the June Bank Holiday weekend in 2000 are still trading. Ted Murphy, a stalwart of the market from the very first day, was there as was Frank Hederman, artisan fish smoker from Belvelly near Cobh.

Willie Scannell whose flowery Ballycotton potatoes are much loved by his ever-growing band of loyal customers; Fiona Burke’s stall with a beautiful selection of Irish farmhouse cheese and Jane Murphy’s Ardsallagh goat’s cheese are still part of the market.

So too are David and Siobhan Barry’s seasonal vegetables with a much larger selection than on the first day. Toby Simmonds of The Olive Stall was also there at the outset and his stall also trades beside the market.

The market soon became the yardstick by which other markets were measured. Stall numbers grew and it quickly became oversubscribed with many farmers and food producers clamouring to be part of a business model that was clearly an excellent prototype.

Other farmers markets were established around the county and country (160 at last count) enabling local people to buy fresh local food in season from those who produce it, going some way towards realising my dream of a farmers market in every town in Ireland.

It is now well proven that a successful farmers market in a town not only brings extra business overall but also food tourists (of which there are an ever growing number) but also positive publicity which benefits everyone in the community.

John Potter Cogan who initially approached me after the vegetable processing plant Frigoscandia had closed was a vitally important part of the initial impetus.

He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce who with the Midleton Town Council had the vision to see that a farmers market would be a positive initiative for the town.

There are now 27 stalls, soon to be 33, and the variety of produce is absolutely tantalizing from artisan bread, vegetables, herbs and fruit in season, organic produce, local honey and oysters, fresh fish, wild mushrooms, home baking, and long queues for freshly made coffee.

The market provides a livelihood for many, an opportunity to buy local food from small production systems and an alternative shopping experience for families who wish to engage directly with those who produce the food they buy to nourish their family at a time when a growing number of people realise that our food should and can be our medicine.

Congratulations to everyone at Midleton Farmers Market. The heading of an article by Joe Duggan in the Irish Examiner on Tuesday June 6, 2000, was ‘Market heralds a new era in direct selling of natural produce’. I’m proud to have been a little part of that initiative.

Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad

1 cucumber

2 bunches radishes

salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice

lots of flat parsley sprigs and mint leaves

Serves 6-8

I love this simple little salad with the first of the new season’s cucumber, radish and mint.

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and then in half again. Cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) slice at an angle. Trim the radishes and cut into similar size pieces, mix with the cucumber. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Toss gently, add lots of flat parsley and fresh mint leaves. Taste and correct seasoning, add a little honey if necessary.

Ballymaloe Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Tart with Elderflower Cream

450g (I lb) sweet shortcrust or flaky pastry for the base

700g (11/2lb) green gooseberries

150g (6oz) white or golden caster sugar (or more, depending on the tartness of the gooseberries)

2 elderflower heads

1 organic egg for egg wash

Serves 6–8

I’ve chosen to use green gooseberries and elderflower in this recipe, but the filling changes with the season. We always have a fruit tart of some kind on the sweet trolley at Ballymaloe, and it reflects what is in season at that time. Sometimes we add some spices, fresh herbs or wild flavours like the elderflowers in this recipe — whatever complements the fruit.

Ballycotton New Potatoes Cooked in Seawater

5 2lbs (900g) new potatoes e.g., Home Guard, British Queens (the variety we grow is Colleen)

2 pints (1.2 litres/5 cups) seawater or 2 pints (1.2 litres/5 cups) tap water plus 1 teaspoon salt

a sprig of seaweed if available

Serves 4

We’ve just had the first of the new potatoes – try cooking them in seawater, amazing.

Bring the seawater to the boil. Scrub the potatoes. Add salt if using tap water and a sprig of seaweed to the water, and then add the potatoes.

Cover the saucepan, bring back to the boil and cook for 15-25 minutes or until fully cooked depending on size.

Drain and serve immediately in a hot serving dish with good Irish butter.

Note: It’s vitally important for flavour to add salt to the water when cooking potatoes.

Naranjan Kaur McCormack’s Barbecue Spare Ribs

2 racks of Woodside Farm pork spare-ribs

2-3 heaped tablespoons ‘hoi-sin’ sauce

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon finely shredded ginger

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + teaspoon)

chinese rice wine / sherry

¼ level teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg

A pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) honey

Serves 8-10 people

There are dozens of variations to this recipe, every Chinese chef would have his very own favourite recipe for barbecue ribs.

Some of the recipes call for the ribs to be par-boiled prior to being cooked.

Some recipes call for the ribs to be roasted in an open roasting tin and some recipes call for the ribs to be roasted in a tinfoil parcel.

This recipe is one that I have found to be very successful and simply delicious.

This is of course a very popular starter in many restaurants in the West.

When serving barbecue ribs as a starter, always provide a “finger bowl” to wash fingers as the only way to enjoy these ribs is to eat with your fingers.

Garnish with lettuce, peppers and slices of lemon using a very sharp knife, slice the rack of ribs into individual pieces, if the ribs are rather small then you would be advised to slice the ribs in two’s, otherwise the meat on the ribs tend to dry out a little on roasting.

Shred the ginger very finely, and crush the garlic. Place all the pork ribs, ginger and garlic together into a very large bowl and add the sherry , nutmeg and the 5 spice powder and mix together. Then add the’ hoi -sin’ sauce and mix thoroughly.

Line a large roasting tin with tin foil, leaving the tin foil to extend generously out over both ends. Layer the spare-ribs into the tin foiled roasting tin. Fold over the tinfoil, making a loose parcel and roast the pork spare-ribs in a preheated oven 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approximately one hour.

Then open out the tin foil parcel and baste the ribs. Leave the foil open and return the ribs to the oven for about 10 minutes. Then glaze the ribs with the honey and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot garnished with lettuce, peppers and lemon slices or wedges.

Find of the Week

Rosscarbery has a new restaurant in a familiar venue. The Pilgrim’s Rest has simply become Pilgrims serving a “seasonally crafted ever-changing daily menu”.

I got a tipoff only a few days after Sarah Jane Pearce and Mark Jennings (from Café Paradiso and The Ethicurean in Bristol) had taken over. It was well worth a detour.

Five of us went for lunch and virtually ate our way through the menu, particularly delicious was tatsuta age (sweet chicken) with chilli mayo, spiced carrot dip, hazelnut dukkah, flax crackers, pickled mackerel, creamed beetroot, parsley, radish.

An exciting young team. Watch that space. 023 883 1796, www.pilgrims.ie

Do not miss dinner at Good Things Café in Durrus on June 19 — a feast of seasonal produce cooked beautifully by Carmel Somers. 027 61426, www.thegoodthingscafe.com

Another exciting date for your diary: Listowel Food Festival from June 18-21 2015. A diverse programme again this year with foraging, markets, cookery demos, dinners. www.listowelfoodfair.ie  is chocabloc with info.

Midleton Farmers’ Market Art Competition. Congratulations to Aoife Rice from Cloyne National School, the overall winner of the 15-Year Midleton Farmers Market Anniversary Art Competition to paint a picture of your local farmers’ market or market stall. Castlemartyr National School also got honourable mention for their beautiful collage of paintings.

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