MEMBERS of Euro-Toques, The European Association of Chefs, which include some of Ireland’s greatest chefs, came recently to Ballymaloe House to honour founder member, Myrtle Allen on the 30th anniversary of the organisation.
Mrs Allen also instituted the Euro-Toques EirGrid Food Awards over 12 years ago to recognise and promote Ireland’s unique food producers.
The winners of these prestigious awards are nominated by the members of Euro-Toques and are completely independent.
The ceremony was held in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe and several award winning Eurotoque chefs cooked one delicious course to create a celebration dinner at Ballymaloe House.
Canapes were prepared by Irish Michelin-starred chef and Euro-Toques member Enda McEvoy of Loam in Galway.
Other delicious courses were cooked by Graham Neville, Residence and Restaurant Forty One in Dublin; Feargal O’Donnell, The Fatted Calf; local chef Kevin Aherne, Sage in Midleton; Rory O’Connell, Ballymaloe House; and Bryan McCarthy, Greene’s in Cork
This year’s the Eurotoque Eirgrid Food Award awards focused on the important yet challenged categories of raw milk cheese and free range pork, both of which have been shrinking in the face of regulatory and economic barriers.
Fergus & Sandra Dunne, Pigs on the Green, Offaly, and Daveand Diana Milestone, Andarl Farm, Co Mayo, both of whom work tirelessly for the welfare of their 100 heritage outdoor pigs to ensure the best quality and flavour for their outstanding range of products including handmade sausages, dry cured rashers, pork loins, chops and slippers of ham.
Aisling and Michael Flanagan, Velvet Cloud Irish Sheep’s Milk Cheese, Co Mayo, one of the most talked about new producers of the year and the only sheep’s milk yogurt produced in Ireland on the land that the family have farmed for generations.
James Gannon, Cloonconra Cheese, Co Roscommon, who faces increasing challenges in today’s heavily regulated sector.
James’s beautiful cheese uses raw milk from their pedigree herd of endangered native Irish Moiled cows.
This breed has been a feature of Irish agriculture for thousands of years and was traditionally famous for the quality of its milk.
They are the only farmers milking the Moiled Cow for cheese in Ireland today, which is an accolade in itself.
Hugh O’Malley, Achill Oysters, Co Mayo. Hugh is the fifth generation of his family to harvest oysters from the sea around Achill. The delicious briny oysters are the product of progressive sustainable aquaculture, making the most of the natural marine environment.
The Founders of Real Bread Ireland, a very important initiative started in January 2015 by a handful of bakers who believe in the importance of real bread.
They support and learn from each other and generously share their skills.
Many of them actively teach consumers to bake, believing that it is a core skill and essential to healthy eating with which I fully concur.
Real Bread Ireland is now a network of over 60 bakers.
The founders of this inspirational organization were bakers Patrick Ryan of Firehouse Bakery, Declan Ryan of Arbutus, Thibault Peigne of Tartine, Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye and Kemal Scarpello of Scarpello & Co, spearheaded by Keith Bohanna – a man known to many in the food industry for his talent and generosity.
Euro-Toques presented a Special Commendation to Colin and Kevin Jephson of Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford, inspirational independent food retailers who have been tremendous supporters of Irish artisans and Irish specialty food producers, since it was founded as a small grocery store in 1967.
In the early 2000s, finding themselves literally surrounded by international retail giants like Tesco and Lidl, they took the decision to become more specialised and concentrate on supporting local Irish producers with a total commitment to quality, an appreciation of provenance and good relationships with their suppliers.
In 2015 they launched www.ardkeen.com, bringing artisan foods to a much broader audience.
The website boasts the world’s best selection of Irish artisan food with a product listing of over 1100 items, and growing.
There are currently over 3,500 small to medium sized food businesses operating in Ireland.
Euro-Toques chefs work directly with the small producers and give credit this produce that comes through their kitchen doors every day with the success of their award-winning restaurants.
50g (2ozs) picked crab meat
10g (½oz) mayonnaise
5g (¼oz) finely chopped pickled ginger
5g (¼oz) pickled ginger juice
A squeeze of lemon
1 large slice of smoked salmon (about 40g/2¾oz)
1 granny smith apple – cut into thick strips & dressed with a squeeze of lemon & a spoon of olive oil
1 egg, hard boiled – 8 min., cool, peel & sieve yolk & white separately
Finely diced onion – 1 spoon
1 tsp salmon eggs
Large caper berries
Assembly: Lay the hardboiled egg (white and yellow), salmon eggs, diced onion, and caper berry in sequence around the perimeter of the plate.
Lay the salmon flat in the centre of the plate, positioning the crab on top of the salmon.
Lay thick strips of apple neatly on top of the crab.
Can be accompanied with brown bread or brioche
We love Padron peppers, but we’ve had to bring them in from Brindisa in London for our Tapas courses for many years.
The good news is Padron peppers are now available in several of our top supermarkets and here in response to several requests is a recipe for the way the Spanish love to eat them.
Pimentos de Padron are small green peppers named after a town in Galicia where they have been grown for over 400 years.
They are usually fried in olive oil, sprinkled with coarse sea salt and served as a tapa.
They are so delicious and addictive.
Eating them is like playing Russian roulette – once in a while you get a fiery one that tastes volcanic!
Serve as a tapa or as a starter.
250g (1/2lb) fresh pimentos de Padron
2 tbsp Spanish extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.
Add the pimentos.
Toss continually with a wooden spoon until they puff up or until lightly browned in spots.
Remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and transfer to a hot plate.
Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and eat immediately.
Head pastry chef JR Ryall of Ballymaloe House made a large version of this cake for the Eurotoque chefs to present to Myrtle Allen in recognition of her legacy to the Irish food scene at the awards.
225g (8oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) butter, room temperature
4 large eggs
225g (8oz) plain white flour
1 level tsp baking powder
zest 1 lemon
110g (4oz) butter (room temperature)
225g (8oz) icing sugar
zest 1 lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp lemon curd, see recipe
2 x 7 inch round cake tins x 3 inch deep
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Line the base of the cake tin with non-stick baking parchment or a spare butter wrapper and brush the sides of the tin with melted butter and dust with flour.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until pale and light in texture.
Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar, bit by bit, mixing well between each addition.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder. Gradually and gently fold the flour into the cake mixture until the mixture is an even consistency.
Transfer the mixture into the cake tin and smooth over the surface with a palate knife.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to rest in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and when cool carefully cut the cake in half.
To make the butter icing, cream the butter, sieved icing sugar, lemon zest and juice together until pale and light in texture. Spread on third of the icing onto the bottom half of the cake.
Neatly spread the lemon curd on top of the butter icing before sandwiching with the top half of the cake.
Using a palate knife spread the remaining icing over the top and down the sides of the cake and decorate with crystallised lemon verbena leaves and rose petals.
It’s win, win all the way if you have a few hens. They can even be in a mobile chicken coop on your lawn.
They will gobble up all your household waste, and provide you with eggs and chicken manure in return.
The latter will activate your compost and when well rotted can be returned to your vegetable patch to make the soil more fertile to grow beautiful healthy vegetables.
Plus you don’t have to worry about bin charges.
Contact Johnstons of Mountnorris Hatchery in Armagh ( www.johnstonspoultry.com ) to order day old chicks or keep an eye out at a local farmers market like Skibbereen.
Check out the Slow Food Ireland website for local suppliers ( www.slowfoodireland.com ).
I get lots of queries from fans of rapeseed oil who are anxious to find an organic source.
My favourite comes from Drumeen Farm, in Co Kilkenny, one of the oldest existing certified organic farms in Ireland where they grow, cold press and bottle a multi-award winning 100% Irish extra virgin rapeseed oil and incidentally they have recently introduced a fresh cold pressed and unrefined freshly cold pressed organic flaxseed oil; www.secondnature.com
At last vegetables are moving to the centre of the plate.
There’s a growing realisation worldwide that we would be altogether healthier eating lots more fresh vegetables and less but better quality meat.
The gardens and greenhouses here at the school are bursting with beautiful produce at the moment so this one-and-a-half day course will reignite your enthusiasm for vegetables, herbs and pulses.
We long to share some of our favourites with you — small plates, starters and substantial main courses. We’ll also talk about juicing and have fun making some colourful salads with the spiralizer.
This course includes a special guided walk through the vegetable and herb gardens and the greenhouses at Ballymaloe Cookery School and an opportunity to accompany the gardeners as they harvest the produce for the morning’s cooking.
It takes place Thursday, July 21, and Friday, July 22.
See www.cookingisfun.ie for details.