In Spain, seawater is being marketed as la sal perfecta – the perfect salt. But does it really improve the flavour of food? And is it any healthier than regular sodium chloride?
At the Baeza-Rufete restaurant, 30 miles south of Benidorm on the east coast of Spain, the rice is served smokingly hot, lightly caramelised on the bottom and with a white, fleshy prawn displayed in the centre. Unlike many of the tourist-orientated paellas along the coast this is a proper rice dish, rather than just the base for a pile of seafood. It’s also well-seasoned, without actually tasting salty.
The secret, says, Joaquín Baeza, who won Spain’s “Chef of the Year” contest in 2014, is that there’s no table salt added at all. Instead, he cooked the rice in a diluted seawater solution. It’s a tradition that has been practised in coastal villages for centuries, and espoused, particularly for seafood, by big-name Spanish chefs such as Ferran Adrià and Quique Dacosta.Continue reading...
A robotics company and a chef have joined forces to create a cyborg cook. Would it have a place in your kitchen?
You would think that cooking a good meal would involve having a sense of taste, wouldn’t you? Apparently not, according to the Short Circuit-esque scenes at a technology trade fair in Hannover, Germany, last week, where the curious pairing of London robotics company Moley Robotics and 2011 MasterChef winner Tim Anderson announced the existence of the world’s first robo-chef.
Or, more accurately, the world’s first robo-arms. The digi-gourmand is no more than a pair of gleaming, LED-pocked appendages dangling over a cooker, designed for use in the home kitchen. A mechanical home help? It’s like The Jetsons come to life. Finally, our most hyper-advanced futuro-science has mastered the technology of a five-decades-old cartoon.Continue reading...
I’ve got a whole stack of cookbooks on my desk to review, some since before Christmas when almost every post brought another title – so many it wasn’t possible to reach them all.
There were several that I was particularly taken with, one was the Lettercollum Cookbook. Author Karen Austin’s story is a particularly intriguing one; she was on her way to Australia, one Christmas when she met Con McLoughlin who brought her to West Cork. She’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last to be totally seduced by the landscape and the people – and the sun shone for the entire week. She and Con got together with a few friends to buy a dilapidated Victorian house with 12 acres of land in 1983. They planned to lead the ‘good life’, get away from pollution and traffic jams and try their hand at sustainable living – on her own admission, they had lots of grand plans and no experience, quite a combo.
Years of hard work and lots of fun ensued but it didn’t pay the bills so they decided to open a hostel at Lettercollum House, word quickly spread of the delicious organic food made from fresh vegetables and fruit from their garden. After a couple of years they upgraded to a guesthouse but big houses are like sponges they soak up money – there’s almost always something that requires urgent attention and then one has to start all over again. What to do?
In July 2004 they launched the Lettercollum Kitchen Project in the town of Clonakilty, which has become an institution – they cook their beautiful produce in the kitchen behind the shop. They satisfy their yearning to travel by taking groups to France and Spain to cook. The Lettercollum Cookbook is a collection of the beautifully simple recipes that Karen has developed over the years.
Karen has travelled from Bali to Cadaqués, Tripoli to Timoleague and brought inspiration for new flavours and ingredients back to West Cork. Her recipes are a blend of Irish cooking with a sprinkling of the exotic.
Fodors have named her “master of the vegetarian and ethnic repertory”. There’s a little fish in there too and a hint of chorizo. The book was published by Onstream and many of the beautiful photographs are by Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir.
Fish in Pakora Batter with Spicy Wedges
4 x 150g fresh white fish
4 heaped tbsp gram flour
(or plain white flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 red chillies, finely chopped
1 dssp crushed coriander seeds
or 1 tsp garam masala
Small bottle or can chilled beer
Vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil for frying
Spicy Potato Wedges
16-20 baby potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp chilli flakes
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4.
First, make the spicy potato wedges. Wash the potatoes and cut into quarters – no need to peel. Put into a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the paprika and chilli flakes and toss again. Season with a little salt.
Tip onto an oven tray, keeping in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then give the tray a shake and bake for a further 15 minutes or until lightly crisp.
Cut the fish into 2cm pieces.
Sieve the gram flour into a bowl together with the salt and baking powder, chilli and spice. Regular flour may be used, but gram gives and interesting batter and means the recipe can be gluten-free.
Slowly whisk in some beer until you get a thick pouring batter. The batter should fall off the spoon in a thick stream. If it falls off in lumps, thin it with a little more beer. If it’s too runny, just sieve in a little more flour.
Carefully heat the oil in a wok, deep-fat fryer or saucepan. Test it’s hot enough by dropping a cube of bread, piece of onion or other vegetable into the oil. When it comes back quickly to the surface it’s ready.
Season the fish with a little salt and drop into the batter, mixing around to cover the fish completely. Carefully lower each piece into the hot oil, cooking no more than 5 or 6 pieces at a time, otherwise the oil temperature will fluctuate too much and the batter will cook unevenly. Turn the pieces after a minute or two, and when nicely browned remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Eat immediately with a serving of spicy wedges.
Suquet de Peix (Catalan Fish Stew)
2 red peppers
4 cloves garlic
6 waxy potatoes
4 large tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
1/3 glass brandy or 1 glass white wine
750ml fish stock
500g mussels or clams
600g monkfish or 800g hake on the bone
salt and pepper
1 slice white bread
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small bunch parsley
For the picada, remove the crusts from the bread and cut into 1cm cubes. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the bread until golden. Put the almonds into a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes, then refresh with cold water. The skins of the almonds should now slip off. Put the fried bread, almonds and garlic into a food processor and buzz to a fine crumb (or mash together with a mortar and pestle). Slowly pour in enough olive oil to make a loose paste. Season with a little salt. Chop the parsley and stir in.
Peel and chop the onions. De-seed and chop the peppers into about 2cm dice. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and cut the potatoes into 3cm chunks.
In a large pot cook the onions and peppers in a little olive oil until soft. Add the chopped garlic and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Chop or grate the tomatoes on the coarse side of a grater, and add to the pot. Cook gently until the tomatoes break down.
Add the brandy or wine, followed by the fish stock. Continue cooking until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to one side.
Clean the mussels and remove the beards. Discard any that are damaged or open. Skin the monkfish and cut into medallions about 1cm thick or cut the hake into four steaks – ideally your fishmonger will do this for you.
Put the stew back on the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the picada. Add the monkfish and then scatter over the mussels. (If you are using hake, cook for a couple of minutes before adding the mussels.) When the stew returns to the boil, turn it down. As soon as the mussels open, remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the remaining picada in a bowl on the side.
Falafel Burgers with Tahini and Lemon Sauce
200g dried chickpeas
1 x 400g can chickpeas,
1 large onion
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cumin
large handful coriander, chopped
large handful parsley, chopped
2-3 tbsp gram or plain flour
Tahini and Lemon Sauce
3 tbsp light tahini
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
juice 1 lemon
For the tahini sauce, put the tahini, garlic and lemon juice into a small bowl and mix together. It will become very thick. Thin with enough water to make a thick pouring sauce. Season to taste with a little salt.
Soak the dried chickpeas in cold water overnight. The next day, drain them and put them, uncooked, into a food processor and blitz until finely ground.
Drain the can of chickpeas and rinse them under the tap.
Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic.
Heat a small frying pan, add a little olive oil and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes then stir in the chopped garlic and fry for 1 minute longer.
Tip the onions and garlic into the ground chickpeas in the food processor together with the canned chickpeas, salt, ground cumin and chopped herbs.
Blitz everything until fairly smooth. Tip into a bowl and sieve in 2 tbsp of the gram flour and mix well. We use gram flour as it is gluten-free, but any flour will work.
Heat a large frying pan and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom. Wet your hands and form the mix into small burgers – not too thick – and slip them into the pan. If the mix is too wet to stay together, add a little more gram flour and try again. Flip them over and fry on the other side.
We serve these at home in toasted pitta bread with shredded lettuce and tomato at the bottom, a burger or two on top, drizzled with the tahini sauce.
Kale, Gorgonzola and Pumpkin Tart
500g pumpkin or butternut squash
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
150g Gorgonzola, Crozier or Cashel Blue cheese
4 large eggs
salt and black pepper
1 pre-baked 26-28cm tart shell
Pre-heat the oven to180c (350F), Gas Mark 4.
Peel the pumpkin or squash and chop into 3cm pieces. Toss in a little olive oil with some salt and black pepper. Tip into a roasting tray and bake for 30 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender but not charred.
Wash the kale and strip out the tough stems by pulling the leaf up from the stem – it will come away easily. Chop the leaf into ribbons.
Heat a frying pan, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom and add the chilli flakes, garlic and fennel seeds.
Cook gently for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, then add the chopped kale. Stir everything together and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until the kale has wilted and softened.
Put the cooled, roasted pumpkin pieces into the tart shell and tuck in the kale around it. Crumble the cheese on top.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, then whisk in the cream and milk. Season with 1 level tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Pour the mix over the vegetables in the tart shell. Fill as much as you can without it coming over the edge.
It’s important that the mix doesn’t spill because it will make the pastry soggy.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is golden and set.
The Food Festival Season has started in earnest, The Taste the Wild Atlantic Way Street Food Festival and All Ireland Chowder Cook Off takes place in Kinsale today. The Dublin Bay Prawn Festival on 24-26 April is not to be missed ether. Don’t forget to check out www.litfest.ie for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine on May 15th to 18th. We just got word that Joanna Blythman, author of “Swallow This” is coming and will speak on her new book with John McKenna and she will also join the panel discussion “How We Feed The Most Vulnerable” with Patrick Holden, Christian Puglisi, Rebecca Sullivan and Michael Kelly on Sunday 17 May at 11.30am
The Happy Pear Café in Greystones is owned by a happy pair of twins called David and Stephen Flynn. After ten years their fans range from young parents to pensioners, ladies-who-lunch to teens-on-the-run, Electric Picnickers to Hollywood stars.
They’ve always wowed their clientele on great vegetarian food and now they’ve shared their secrets in “The Happy Pear” Cookbook published by Penguin. Fresh and gorgeous tasting food, bursting with goodness.
At Ballymaloe Cookery School our short course season is in full swing. Coming up, Everyday Day Kitchens with Rachel Allen 27-29 April and Small Plate Ideas 24 April. Yummy comforting food to enjoy with your family every day or a selection of small plates to nibble and relish with a glass of wine. See www.cookingisfun.ie
From Greek tapas to an Athenian grill house and souvlaki street food, the UK has come a long way from rubbery halloumi and sad-looking salad
For decades, Greek food in the UK was rubbish. As a Greek Cypriot and long-time reviewer of Hellenic restaurants, I got used to stodgy flagstones of oily moussaka, curiously eggy hummus and halloumi you could cut into circles and top pencils with. At their best, the restaurants offering this stolid, carb-heavy tedium were so chintzy they could have doubled as doily museums. At their worst, their idea of “cooked to order” was “scooping it from under the battered saveloys in the halogen heater”.
But that’s all changing. In Lancashire’s family-run Olive Tree Brasserie (“Greek cuisine … with modern twists”), local kale is served with pan-fried cod, and salads combine kefalotiri cheese with hot-smoked Goosnargh duck breast and caramelised apples. In London’s Greek tapas joint Opso, there are souvlaki sliders, cheeses served with homemade rhubarb jam and slow-cooked lamb shank pepped up with lemongrass. Start smashing the plates here and you’re committing a culinary atrocity.Continue reading...
The sticky bun is back. Is bread flour best, do you need lard and what kind of dried fruit should you use? Or are they just too Bunterish for modern Britons?
Elizabeth David describes the “small, soft, plump, sweet” Chelsea bun as an “English institution”, but it is one that, like pints of mild or test cricket, seemed to be on the way out. How could a simple currant roll compete with the glamorous cupcake or the exotically unpronounceable kouign a mann? But, perhaps thanks to the Great British Bake Off (which also brought us the latter Breton speciality), the bun is back. And the chelsea version, apparently named after the famous 18th-century Bun House near Sloane Square in London, which counted the royal family among its patrons, is in the vanguard.
A Fitzrovia version is making waves at Honey & Co, central London; you can get gluten-free ones from GOD Bakery at farmers markets in north London; and M&S has just introduced some magnificent specimens nationwide. “Sugary, spicy, sticky, square and coiled like a Swiss roll”, it is the chelsea that Jane Grigson described as “the best of all buns, on account of their buttery melting sweetness, and the fun of uncoiling them as you eat them”. Best eaten warm from the oven, they are a prime candidate for home baking.Continue reading...
Hillary Clinton’s visit to Chipotle was a masterly move. She was captured on security cameras this week queueing incognito for a perfectly sensible and easy-to-eat combination of chicken, rice and guacamole. Ed ‘bacon sandwich of doom’ Miliband could learn a lot
It was a lesson in how to do food if you’re a politician: queue for it yourself, order something delicious but not deep-fried and avoid unflattering or ridiculous photographs as you devour it. British politicians have a lot to learn from Hillary Clinton’s flawless trip to Chipotle for a chicken burrito bowl.
For a start, Clinton reportedly went incognito. This was seemingly not a trip for the cameras, but the thing those photo opportunities never sensibly recreate: an ordinary woman having an ordinary bite to eat.Continue reading...
It may be loathed by the older generation, but tapioca is a staple in many cuisines. Now a growing number of celebrated chefs are elevating it beyond bowls of milky gloop
Fish eyes, frogspawn or eyeball pudding – synonyms for Britain’s most hated school pudding, tapioca. Loathed by the older generation, and largely unknown by the younger, milky tapioca pudding’s bad rep, and the dish itself, has all but faded into obscurity. “Lots of people associate tapioca with boarding school or school dinners,” says Brett Graham, head chef at The Ledbury, “but that tends to be the older generation, so things are changing”.
Graham, who grew up in Australia, is just one of a growing cohort of celebrated chefs elevating tapioca beyond bowls of milky gloop. It turns up in sweet and savoury forms at his two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Notting Hill. He’s far from alone - chefs around the world love it. At The French Laundry in California, Thomas Keller serves it with oysters, the small pearls suspended in an oyster-infused sabayon; Michel Roux Jr cooks tapioca in squid ink and teams it with calamari and garlic butter at Le Gavroche. In his São Paulo restaurant, DOM, Brazilian chef Alex Atala serves tapioca pearls in a sharp manioc-root extract tucupi with giant river fish pirarucu. Heston Blumenthal used tapioca flour, masquerading as sand, in his seafood ensemble Sound of the Sea.Continue reading...
Late last year, after 18 years of litigation, a senior government official in Kerala, south-west India was given a prison sentence after being convidted of theft. The object he stole was government property, and it was so large he had to have it cut up to get it home. A piece of art, perhaps? A precious metal? Actually, it was a 40-year-old jackfruit tree, and, once you’ve tasted its fruit, you begin to understand why he did it.
To say the jackfruit is big is an understatement. It is the largest tree-borne fruit on the planet – it isn’t unusual to come across beasts weighing up to 35kg in South America and South-east Asia. And it has been hailed as a “miracle crop” because of its size, and resistance to pests and drought. And its nutritional credentials are also impressive: researchers have suggested it could replace wheat, corn and other staple crops that may come under threat because of climate change.Continue reading...
It’s always fun to see what’s happening on the food scene in New York. This time, I had a cool breakfast in a hip ice-cream parlour called Morgenstern’s down in the East Village. They make a range of pretty delicious ice-creams, but just for a couple of weeks they teamed up with Brutal magazine to do a Brutal breakfast, (proceeds go to funding the next edition of the magazine) – great name but misleading ‘cos the breakfast was totally delicious. Mine was Avocado Toast but of course with a twist, a thick slice of Japanese bread, toasted and spread with avocado ice-cream, a drizzle of condensed milk, olive oil sea salt and freshly ground pepper. How weird does that sound but it was really tasty and morish. My friend had the egg sandwich, we were sitting up at the counter so we could watch as the sweet little cook meticulously put the sandwich together with as much care as if she herself was about to eat it. The combination of semi-soft egg with Aioli, pickled vegetables, sesame oil and fresh coriander on a crusty roll was perky and delicious. Another version had a dribble of Sri Racha, (Thai hot sauce) added.
Wished we could have tasted the Salt and Pepper Bread and Butter Pudding with beets, asters and homemade cultured yoghurt but we couldn’t manage it after a matcha, pistachio and marmalade toast! You can eat aster and iris flowers, yes, that was a new one on me too, see ww.morgensternsnyc.com for the ‘blow you out of the water’ ice-cream menu, including raw milk ice-cream – how interesting is that in a New York eatery?
Just a couple of blocks away in the same area, there’s another gem, El Rey Luncheonette, great name, owned by Geraldo Gongales the partner of Nicholas Morgenstern who owns Morgenstern’s . I loved the Housemade Za’atar Bread, Egg Frittata with shaved fennel salad and crushed avocado, Green Mole Burrata with burnt onions and Za’atar bread.
On Orchard St, you’ll find the Fat Radish, open since 2010 and still great, I loved this concept too, the high ceilinged room with exposed brick walls was packed with a ‘cool kid’ clientele, relishing Saturday morning brunch. The menu is very ‘veggie centric’ as are many of the best and most innovative ‘farm to table’ places in New York at present. It such a joy for a farmer and gardener like me to see the long overdue move of vegetable and grains to the centre of the plate. They’re open for lunch and dinner too, don’t miss the Fat Radish Plate of seasonal market vegetables or the smoked salmon crostini, capers, red onion, upland cress, crème fraîche. One can imagine the truffled duck fat chips are also a “must have”.
Green juices were everywhere – made with kale, spinach, celery, apples, ginger…
It’s not surprising that they are so popular, perhaps it is psychological but I just feel a boost of energy every time I have one. Razor clams and sea urchins were featured on many menus including at Eataly (www.eataly.com/nyc) where they were also piled high for sale in the seafood section. We had delicious deep fried chickpeas with smoked paprika at Tía Pol – an enduringly popular tapa place, another to add to your New York List www.tiapol.com.
Brutal Avocado on Toast
My observation of how this delicious breakfast sandwich was made at Morgenstern’s
1 ¾ inch thick slice of Japanese bread (use a thick slice of square pan loaf if unavailable!)
avocado ice-cream – see recipe
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt flakes
freshly ground pepper
Toast the slice of bread, immediately spread with a layer of avocado ice-cream.
Drizzle with condensed milk, then extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and add a generous grind of freshly ground black pepper.
Cut into two triangles.
Serve right away, a delicious contrast of hot and cold and surprisingly moreish.
Serves 6-8 depending on accompaniment, makes 1 litre (1 ¾ pints)
What a surprise – this delicious ice-cream can be served in a sweet or savoury combination.
350g (12 oz) ripe avocado flesh (3-4 avocados depending on size)
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a lemon not a squeezy bottle)
350ml (12fl oz) whole milk
110g (4oz) caster sugar
225ml (8fl oz) cream
Scoop the flesh from the ripe avocado into a blender; add the lemon juice, milk and sugar, whiz until smooth.
Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cream – mix well to combine. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if needed.
Freeze in a sorbetiere or ice-cream maker, it won’t take as long as other ice-creams – maybe 15 minutes.
Serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer.
Brutal Egg Sandwich
1 fresh “crusty roll”
1 ½ semi hard boiled eggs
pickled thinly sliced radish and carrot slices
fresh coriander sprigs
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Split the fresh crusty roll horizontally.
Spread both sides with the aioli. Slice the semi-hard boiled eggs lengthwise and arrange three side by side on the base of the roll. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Top with pickled carrots and radish slices and a little pickle juice, a layer of coriander leaves on top, then a few drops of sesame oil. Season once again with a few flakes of sea salt and pepper.
Cover with the roll. Press gently and cut into two pieces and serve immediately. Each sandwich was made to order.
1 garlic clove
2 organic egg yolks
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1⁄2 teaspoon French mustard
225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – we use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat parsley leaves, chopped
freshly ground pepper
First make the aioli. Mash the garlic with a little salt. Put the egg yolks into a Pyrex bowl with the crushed garlic, white wine vinegar and mustard. Whisk in the oil, drop by drop. Once the sauce has started to thicken, you can add the oil more quickly. Stir in the chopped parsley. Taste the aioli and add a few drops of lemon juice, pepper and more salt if necessary
Wichcraft Peanut Butter Cream’wich Cookies
Makes 12 cookies
165g (6oz) butter
100g (3½ oz) oats
70g (2¾ oz) sugar
100g (3½ oz) brown sugar
200g (7oz) peanut butter
150g (5oz) white flour
a little white flour for dusting
1½ tablespoons baking soda
For the filling:
3 tablespoons butter, softened
30g (1¼ oz) icing sugar
300g (11oz) peanut butter, creamy
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
Melt the butter over a medium heat, add the oats and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring until slightly toasted. Pour onto a baking tray and allow to cool.
Cream the remaining butter and sugars in a bowl or food mixer.
Add the peanut butter and mix until combined, add the oats, then flour and bread soda, mix until smooth. Chill the dough in a freezer for 5 minutes.
Put a sheet of parchment paper onto the work surface. Put the dough on top, add a light dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Top with another large sheet of parchment and roll the dough until 5mm (¼ inch) thick.
Cut the dough into 6cm (2½ inch) cookies and space 1cm (½ inch) apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through baking, then transfer to a cooling rack.
For the filling:
Mix the butter, sugar and peanut butter in the bowl of a food mixer until smooth.
Sandwich two cookies together with the filling. Enjoy.
Theodora Fitzgibbon was a legend in the Irish food scene for many years, an urbane sophisticated woman who led a thrilling life, in Europe, the Middle East and India. I’m greatly enjoying and in fact enthralled by her beautifully written autobiography “A Taste of Love” published by Gill and Macmillan.
Zamora Restaurant & Wine Shop presents the first of its Food & Wine Tasting Events on Monday 20th of April 2015 at 7pm, tickets €49. Enjoy the delights of Burgundy presented by Edouard Leach of Maison Francoise Chauvenet showcasing the best Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from this magnificent region. These wines will be paired with tasters and teasers from the Zamora kitchen team under the direction of Pat Browne also of Ballymaloe Cookery School.There is limited availability for this event so book early on 021 239 0540.
Another great new find: Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial. The Jeffares family has been growing blackcurrants in Wexford for three generations, today Des Jeffares continues this tradition, cold pressing and bottling blackcurrants at their peak so you can enjoy Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial. 100% natural pure juice, sweetened with Stevia, a natural sugar alternative, no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. See www.mrjeffaresblackcurrants.ie.