Food Blogs

Cooking with seawater – is it the best way to season food?

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 04/21/2015 - 11:56

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.

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Robo-chef: you have 20 seconds to pan-fry

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 04/20/2015 - 07:30

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.

Related: The robot cookbook: can a supercomputer write recipes?

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The Lettercollum Cookbook

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 04/18/2015 - 14:00

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

Serves 4

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

1tsp paprika

½ tsp chilli flakes

Salt

 

Serves 4

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)

Serves 4

 

2 onions

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

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Picada

1 slice white bread

30 almonds

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

olive oil

salt

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

Serves 4-6

 

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

olive oil

 

Tahini and Lemon Sauce

3 tbsp light tahini

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

juice 1 lemon

water

salt

 

Serves 4-6

 

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

500g kale

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

150g Gorgonzola, Crozier or Cashel Blue cheese

4 large eggs

200ml cream

200ml milk

Olive oil

salt and black pepper

1 pre-baked 26-28cm tart shell

 

Serves 4-6

 

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.

 

 

HOT TIPS

 

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

 

Categories: Darinas Blog

It's all Greek: the modern restaurants serving more than moussaka

Guardian Food Blog - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 16:56

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.

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Culinary Superstars at LitFest 2015

Darina's Blog - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 09:27
Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School LitFest HQ is hopping. There's just one month until the third Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine kicks off. Becks, Rory and Evelyn are working away behind the scenes like whirling dervishes. We've had lots of great publicity - including a five page spread in the Wall Street Journal magazine which has had a terrific reaction.

I just want to take a moment to flag up the culinary superstars giving cookery demonstrations during the LitFest this year. How about this for a line-up? April Bloomfield, Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, Allegra McEvedy, Fuchsia Dunlop, A Girl Called Jack, Hugo Arnold & Leylie Hayes of Avoca Cafe and Christian Puglisi. A once in a life-time opportunity perhaps to learn from some more of my favourite chefs and cooks... and taste their food.
What to do? I've just had someone on the phone who wanted to book onto all seven, but could only choose two. An unbearable choice! So here's a little background on each one - and there's lots more information on the LitFest.ie website. Tickets are selling out fast, with a bare handful of places left on some... so don't say I didn't warn you!

April Bloomfield is considered by many to be the best woman chef in America and this is a rare opportunity to see her cook.
April burst on to the New York culinary scene with her cooking at The Spotted Pig gastro-pub in the West Village. Her food is a fusion of the comforting food she remembers from her childhood in Birmingham in England and the Italian influences she picked up cooking at the River Café in London and further influences gleaned at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California.
You can expect fabulous, seasonal, stylish, cool and above all, delicious food from the “queen” of New York cooking.

Sam & Sam Clark of 'Moro' Moro and Morito have a cult following: cool, convivial, trendy surroundings with an atmosphere “that hits you like a wall of joy”. Then of course there is the food with a deliciousness that can only have been created by cooks who love the straight between the two eyes approach to flavour. Lucky for us that the two Sams took off in a camper van before opening Moro, to explore and learn the secrets to the true flavour of the great foods of Spain, Morocco and the Sahara. 





Allegra McEvedy, described by The Independent as "a caterer with conscience" is a chef and author of six books and number of television programs. Allegra has won a whole host of loyal fans for her fresh, quirky dishes made with the freshest, ethically sourced produce - all with a twist. The co-founder of the Leon restaurant group, she has worked in many of London’s best restaurants: Green’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, The Belvedere in Holland Park, The Groucho Club and The River Café. She got her first Head Chef position at Tom Conran’s The Cow in Notting Hill, at the age of 24. 
Expect a hugely entertaining as well as informative class, with delicious tastings at the end.



Fuchsia Dunlop has been described by the Sunday Telegraph as “the best writer in the west on Chinese food” and by Observer Food Monthly as “a world authority on Chinese cooking”.
The London Independent ranked her alongside the great literary food writers Elizabeth David and Claudia Roden and Heston Blumenthal.
This is a unique opportunity to watch, listen, learn and taste some of the foods of China from one of the world’s greatest experts on the subject.


Leylie Hayes & Hugo Arnold Devotees of the Avoca Cafés will know that apart from the wonderful interiors that await, the next and immediate visual experience is the generous array of colourful food – bejewelled salads of all descriptions, savoury tarts, luscious soups packed with exotic ingredients, relishes, great baskets overflowing with breads, cakes, buns, bracks, ices, sweet tarts, meringues and so much more.
Leylie and Hugo will recreate some of that magic during this demonstration. Expect the sort of generous, modern, stylish, health giving food that has kept the Avoca Cafés rocking with very happy and well fed customers for the last three decades.

Jack Monroe Jack is “a breath of fresh air in the cooking world” – so said Nigel Slater and I quite agree.
Jack started writing her blog, A Girl Called Jack, in February 2012, in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ What started as a local politics blog developed into budget food and recipes, which were picked up with interest by the national press as she detailed living with her son on a food budget of just £10 a week.

She will demonstrate recipes that were recorded on her blog and subsequently in her book also called A Girl Called Jack.
This will be an interactive event, so parents are invited to bring along one of the younger members of the household (8-12 years of age) to attend the demonstration for free and Jack will call on some of the enthusiastic juniors to join her at the demonstration counter for practical cooking fun (if they would like!)



Christian Puglisi 
Copenhagen has been the "go to" city in the world for the last few years for those in search of the most interesting, cutting edge and forward thinking food. The Nordic Food Revolution is now well documented and Christian Puglisi has been part of that movement of chefs who have made the whole world sit up and listen and look on in awe as they created a new style of cooking that can leave the diner breathless by the sheer wizardry of their creations.
From this cookery demonstration you can expect sensational dishes created by one of the new masters of world cuisine – dishes that will make you look again at food in a way that you may not have done for a long time. Don't miss this!

Categories: Darinas Blog

Decoding Labels: So Delicious Coconut Milk

Food Renegade - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 18:10
Coconut milk is my all-time favorite dairy alternative. But are the ingredients in the So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage good for you? Is this a coconut milk worth buying?

How to make the perfect chelsea buns

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 08:00

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.

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Urgent Action Required By All Food Lovers

Darina's Blog - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 18:53
Have you heard of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)? I know I hadn't until a couple of days ago, when I found out about it via the Slow Food Movement. It's MAJOR, and it matters to you and me right now. 

It is a proposal which seeks to standardise systems and standards of food production between the EU and US. 

On the surface it sounds a little dull. But look a little closer, and you'll see why it matters to us all. I am deeply uneasy about the proposals and their implications.

The TTIP has massive, potentially cataclysmic repercussions for food producers and consumers not only in Ireland but throughout Europe. 

Here are some of the impacts it will have:
  • Currently chemicals and pesticides in the EU must be proven safe for animals and humans prior to use. In the USA the opposite is the case, and many cancer-causing and hormone- disrupting chemicals are used there, which are banned in Europe. We would no longer be able to ban these chemicals.
  • Higher European safety measures throughout the chain of food production, including meat production, would be down-graded to US levels which are less stringent.
  • The US factory food system produces food at a lower cost, with more chemical inputs and higher capital costs of production than in Europe. 
  • In the US, growth-hormone-injected beef is cheaper to produce - but is lower quality with associated human and animal health implications. Current restrictions on the sale of unlabelled hormone-injected beef and GMO products would be lifted. Consumers will no longer know exactly what they are buying... or eating.
  • And perhaps most worrying is a new legal system will be established for foreign investors, so that they can bypass the Irish, European and American judicial systems if they feel their current - or future - profits are threatened by "unnecessarily restrictive barriers to trade". This would include everything from what constitutes organic food standards, to correct food allergy labelling.
All these changes put profit before food quality. And the interests of mass-production and corporations above those of the people eating it. It will see food information for consumers weakened, and smaller, local producers further marginalised. According to Slow Food: "the controversial trade deal could give unprecedented power to international corporations and thus threatens to overrule democracy and the rule of law, as well as environmental and consumer protection."

Did you know that this was proposed? I certainly didn't. If this worries you too, do take time to raise your voice against it. Take a moment to sign the online petitions to stop TTIP. This one has already cleared the necessary million signatures to enable it to be formally presented for consideration by the EU but a million or two more signatures couldn’t hurt, so that our legislators know just how important an issue this is!

There is a global day of action this Saturday, 18th April, with workshops, protests and networking events.

GLOBAL DETAILS: https://www.globaltradeday.org/   
IRELAND DETAILS:http://ttip.ie/act-now/

On Twitter: @TTIPInfoNetwork     


Want to know more? https://stop-ttip.org/









Categories: Darinas Blog

Hillary's flawless Chipotle choice: how campaign meals can make or break a politician's image

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 17:36

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.

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Tapioca: the hated school pudding makes a culinary comeback

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 04/13/2015 - 15:08

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.

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Green jackfruit: is ‘pulled pork for vegetarians’ the next big food craze?

Guardian Food Blog - Sun, 04/12/2015 - 16:00
It’s enormous, green and knobbly, and has foodies across the world drooling with delight. So what is it – and where can you get it?

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.

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New York

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 04/11/2015 - 14:00

 

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

Serves  1

 

1 ¾ inch thick slice of Japanese bread (use a thick slice of square pan loaf if unavailable!)

avocado ice-cream – see recipe

condensed milk

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.

 

Avocado Ice-cream

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

Serves  1

1 fresh “crusty roll”

Aioli

1 ½ semi hard boiled eggs

pickled thinly sliced radish and carrot slices

fresh coriander sprigs

sesame oil

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.

 

Aioli

1 garlic clove

salt

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.

 

Hot Tips:

 

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.

 

 

 

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