After all the months of plotting and planning and the frenzy of excitement – today’s the day.
Hope you are all heading to Shanagarry in east Cork for the fourth Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine — a two-day celebration of food and drinks and food writing.
Check out www.litfest.ie
If you’re not already on your way you’ll have missed Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis in London and Eric Werner, Mya Henry from Hartwood in Mexico and Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully but there’s still time to catch the riveting Food Symposium in the Grainstore.
This year this venue will be transformed into an auditorium staging short talks and presentations, giving us news of what’s happening in the world of food and drinks.
It’s still not too late to try for tickets for some of tomorrow’s events.
Check out Elisabeth Luard, an iconic food writer from London.
How about Ari Weinzweig all the way from Zingermans in Michigan, a totally inspirational speaker – his topic ‘A lapsed anarchist’s approach to building a great business and a happy workforce’.
If you miss Natalie Wheen explaining “What makes a virgin an extra virgin” at 12pm today in the Grainstore, you have a second chance to attend the tutored olive oil tasting and discussion on Sunday at 2pm in the Carrigaun Room at the Grainstore.
Natalie was an arts commentator on BBC Radio 4 but now focuses on her organic olive farm in Greece – AVLAKI.
On Sunday morning Katie Sanderson of the Dillisk Project in Galway will give her eagerly anticipated demo at the BCS and Louise Bannon will join a panel discussion ‘Irish Women in Food’ this evening at 5pm in The Carrigaun Room at the Grainstore.
Catch Kamal Mouzawak from the Lebanon talking about his Favourite Middle Eastern Ingredients and Food from a War Zone on Sunday at 3.30pm in the Cookery School.
The Big Shed will be buzzing again this year with delicious food and drinks from some of our favourite Irish artisan producers.
The free Fringe programme is overflowing with activities and events for #Litfest16 and promises to be a fun filled weekend for all ages.
The Family Corner in The Big Shed will be run and creatively curated by our crafty fun friend, Camilla Houston, swing by the Kerrygold Corner where there will be baking, face painting and of course butter making.
Pregnant mums shouldn’t miss Kathy Whyte ‘Change for Health’ on Saturday at 11.30am.
Professor Ted Dinan from UCC will discuss the relationship between our gut and our psychological wellbeing.
Dr Alessandro Demaio is another huge highlight, ‘The Crossroads, Where Next?’ together with Danielle Nierenberg, Founder of Food Tank and Dr William Burke, Agricultural Economist at Stanford University.
If you didn’t bag a ticket for Frances Mallmann there’s another opportunity to hear him discuss The Joy of Fire at 3pm in the Grain Store on Sunday.
There are over 100 events in the jam packed programme.
It kicked off last night in the Grain Store with a welcome party.
Don’t miss what Condé Naste Traveller has described as one of the top 10 ‘Best Festivals in the World’.
300g pearl barley
2.4 litres vegetable stock
100g baby spinach
90ml olive oil
120g unsalted butter (80g cut into 1 cm dice, 40g left whole)
1 medium shallot, finely diced (70g)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 thyme sprigs
4 portobello mushrooms, stalk and cap thinly sliced (250g)
1 medium leek, green and white parts thinly sliced (180g)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
Asparagus and Pecorino Salad
250g asparagus, woody stems trimmed
½ tsp olive oil
1½ tsp lemon juice
Place the barley in a medium-size saucepan and pour over 1.8 litres of stock.
Bring to the boil on a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30-35 minutes, uncovered, until cooked but still retaining a bite.
Strain and set aside.
Wash out the saucepan and refill it with water. Bring to the boil, add the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the leaves to a colander.
Rinse well under cold water — this will prevent colour discolouration — then squeeze out the excess moisture and set aside.
Keeping the pan of water on the boil, add the watercress and blanch for 30 seconds.
Transfer to a colander, rinse under cold water and squeeze out the moisture. Add to the spinach leaves, roughly chop and set aside.
Wipe out the saucepan and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the 40g of undiced butter.
Place on a medium heat, add the shallots and garlic and cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring often, until soft but taking on no colour.
Add the thyme and bay leaf, pour over the 400ml of stock and bring to the boil on a high heat.
Cook for 10 minutes, for the stock to reduce down to a quarter, so that you have about 100ml left in the pan.
Add the spinach and watercress leaves and cook for a final 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat, lift out and discard the bay leaf and thyme, then, while still hot, carefully transfer to a blender with ½ teaspoon of salt and a few cracks of black pepper.
Turn on the blender to blitz adding the diced butter a few cubes at a time, waiting until one batch has been incorporated before adding the next. Set aside.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, until softened but not coloured.
Remove the mushrooms, along with any liquid in the pan and set aside.
Return the large sauté pan to a medium-high heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.
Add the leek and cook for 3 minutes, until softened but having taken on no colour.
Leave in the pan and set aside.
To make the salad, run a vegetable peeler from the base to the tip of each asparagus stem to make long thin ribbons.
Place them in a mixing bowl, and then do the same with the cheese, running the vegetable peeler along it to create thin ribbons.
Add these to the asparagus, along with the olive oil, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper.
Use your hands to gently mix and set aside. Don’t make this salad too far in advance before serving; it won’t improve for sitting around.
When ready to serve, add the barley and mushrooms to the pan of leeks and pour over the remaining 200 ml of stock.
Mix well, then place on a medium high heat and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Add the watercress and spinach purée and stir through for a final minute or two, to warm through.
Add the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and a grind of black pepper.
Mix through and serve at once, with the asparagus and pecorino salad on top.
500 ml sunflower oil
30 (200g) Thai shallots, thinly sliced
24 (80g) garlic cloves, thinly sliced
20g galangal, peeled and thinly sliced
10g long red dried chillies, de-seeded
50g dried shrimp, rinsed and patted dry
100g palm sugar, coarsely grated if starting with a block
1½ tbsp fish sauce
80ml tamarind pulp water
Put the sunflower oil into a large saucepan and place on a medium high heat.
Add the shallots and fry gently for 6-7 minutes, until golden brown.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the shallots and transfer them to a kitchen paper-lined plate while you continue frying.
Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, until golden brown.
Transfer to a paper lined plate and add the galangal and chillies to the pan.
Fry for one minute, then remove.
Finish with the shrimps: these will need just 30 seconds in the oil before being removed.
Set everything aside to cool, then transfer to a food processor.
Add 90ml of the frying oil and blitz well until a smooth paste is formed.
Return the paste to a medium saucepan along with the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind water.
Place on a low heat and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until a jam-like consistency is formed.
Cool before storing in a jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to 3 months.
3 medium courgettes, trimmed and coarsely grated (580g)
2 small shallots, finely chopped (50g)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
finely grated zest of 2 limes
60g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2½ tsp ground coriander
1½ tsp ground cardamom
150g manouri (or halloumi or feta), roughly broken into 1–2cm chunks
about 150ml sunflower oil, for frying
coarse sea salt and black pepper
Lime and cardamom soured cream
200ml soured cream
5g coriander, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
Mix together all the ingredients for the soured cream sauce in a small bowl, along with a quarter teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper.
Set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.
Place the grated courgettes in a colander and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of salt.
Set aside for 10 minutes, then squeeze them to remove most of the liquid: you want the courgettes to keep a little bit of moisture, so don’t squeeze them completely dry.
Transfer to a large bowl and add the shallots, garlic, lime zest, flour, eggs, ground coriander, cardamom and a grind of black pepper.
Mix well to form a uniform batter, then fold in the manouri cheese gently so it doesn’t break up much.
Pour enough oil into a large frying pan so it rises 2mm to 3mm up the sides and place on a medium heat.
Once hot, add 4 separate heaped dessertspoons of mixture to the pan, spacing them well apart and flattening each fritter slightly with the flat side of a slotted spoon as they cook.
Cook for 6 minutes turning once halfway through, until golden and crisp on both sides.
Transfer to a kitchen paper-lined plate and keep somewhere warm while you continue with the remaining two batches.
Place 3 fritters on each plate and serve at once, with the sauce alongside or in a bowl on the side.
Irish Food Festival in Kells: Don’t miss Sheridan’s Cheesemongers Irish Food Festival.
It is unquestionably one of the very best showcases for Irish food and great craic.
Children’s workshops, foraging, walks and talks, Boyne Valley Food Marquee, lots of music, traditional games and lots more.
May 29 from 10am-6pm, Kells, Co Meath. www.sheridans.ie
Sugar Campaign: Sweets Out for School campaign is attracting lots of attention at present. Parents from a Kerry school are calling on the Minister for Education to remove vending sweet machines from secondary schools and call on teachers not to give sweets as rewards to primary school pupils.
I am 100% behind them, others please follow check out the Facebook campaign www.facebook.com/Sweets-Out-For-School-173793252996456/
Nicolaus Balla and Cortney Burns from Bar Tartine in San Francisco are the reigning king and queen of funky fermentation.
Don’t miss the one and only opportunity in Ireland to see them in action.
Just a few places still available for their cookery demo tomorrow at 2pm. www.litfest.ie for more info.