Tag: Ireland

THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Dingle | Out of the Blue (fish restaurant)

Out of the Blue seafood restaurant in Dingle, Ireland

Tim Mason called his restaurant Out of the Blue for the obvious reason. While blue skies are not a regular feature of Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, every now and then a fish restaurant appears that is radically ‘out of the blue’ and is a surprising success. The fish is fresh, perfectly cooked and served imaginatively, as you would expect of chefs who know their fish. Then the chefs move on and take their reputation and skill with them.

Tim Mason and
Jean-Marie Vaireaux

Jean-Marie Vaireaux is one such chef. Born in Lyon, trained in Thonon-les-Bains and educated in the Beaujolais, he found himself in the west coast of Ireland at the end of the century, content to go fishing with a French friend. Fish as fresh as it comes has always been the mantra of clever fish chefs. 

The arrival of the Dublin-born stockbroker gave the Lyon-born chef the opportunity he craved, the chance to stay in Dingle and cook fresh fish. That he would do this in a cramped kitchen with two other chefs did not faze him. 

In the summer of 2001 the fish restaurant that would become known as OOTB opened. It was a revelation from the start. 

We are sitting on the wooden benches at the tables on the veranda adjacent the tiny restaurant on Dingle’s waterfront. OOTB’s French chefs explain why they are masters of fish cuisine. There are no secrets, they say, it is all about experience and knowledge. And, Eric Maillard from Brittany is quick to affirm, the tricks of the trade. 

Inevitably the conversation drifted to the secret of the perfectly cooked pan-fried fish. The backbone should come away from the flesh clear and clean. Like the cartoon cat with the cartoon fish bone? Exactly. Later, when we sample the secrets of their success, we get that affirmation. At a nearby table a diner lifts the backbone clear of the fish. All we can do is giggle.

Tim Mason did not know what he wanted to do when he arrived in Dingle at the turn of the century. He drove around the seaside town, found himself – like Jean-Marie before him – on the waterfront, and there it was, the stuff of dreams. A ramshackle house that over-looked the bay.

He found a local fisherman and persuaded him not to retire his licence, instead to catch fish for him. He found Eric Maillard, and he found a supporting cast. He found his mission, to see whether a fish cafe with five tables and a fresh fish shop could succeed. ‘We used to sort the fish outside – we had no room inside – everyone could see how fresh the fish was.’

This was the true secret of their success. As the years rolled by and the small cafe morphed into a small restaurant, the word crept out. OOTB was something unusual, it was a fish-only restaurant that served seafood caught the same day.

Atlantic Mackerel

OOTB is the epitome of ‘catch of the day’. The chefs see what they have, come to conclusions and chalk their ideas on the blackboard that is the menu, as original as the fish. They have their favourites, dishes that are typical of the fish cuisine of their homeland, where the accompaniments including sauces are designed to compliment the fish, another secret to their success.

Their smoked fish chowder is as good as anything served anywhere but it is their smoked mackerel pâté that is arguably the best in the country. 


Smoked Mackerel Pate

The Chowder Story


And this brings us to the heart of the matter. 

How does OOTB compare with other restaurants that specialise in fresh fish? Aherne’s in Youghal should always maintain its reputation, the Fish Kitchen and O’Connors in Bantry should always serve a good plate, the Anchor Bar in Liscannor should be hard to beat, the Lobster Pot in Burtonport will always be a personal favourite of the Fricot Project and we will always have a soft spot for O’Dowd’s Seafood Bar in Roundstone. There are surprises around the country, not least among the myriad ‘fish and chip’ shops. Of these McClements in Millisle serve the best scampi. Fusciardi’s in Dublin used to serve a delicious smoked cod. We hope they continue with that treat.

If OOTB can maintain its standards and its modus operandi it will remain the best fish restaurant not only in Ireland but among the best across the European continent.


Fricot Feature | Who is Killing the Cheese Makers? Part Two


Formaggio-di-Malga-Stravecchio-36-mesi2-lowres
36-month old Malga Stravecchio

Producing cheese from raw milk and natural rennet, heat and fermentation is older than history. Archaeologists and historians have an idea when it started. That idea, or story if you prefer, is based on a presumption.

The story involved a merchant in an ancient caravanserai – a camel train – on a journey under the hot sun across ancient lands. When the merchant arrived at the destination, milk carried in a bag made from a sheep’s stomach was discovered to be lumpy, churned into curds by the constant jogging of the camel on uneven ground under the heat of that sun.

The same argument has been made for the discovery of yoghurt. Same principle.

Of course it is possible it might have been a deliberate experiment. Meat was tenderised under the saddles of the horsemen who travelled long distances, a tradition that continued until horses became sports stars and lost their natural status in society. Our ancestors never ceased to discover methods to preserve their food, using microbial fermentations and elaborate techniques that are still in use today and cannot be replicated fully by modern methods.

It is the old cliche, if it isn’t broken …

Reportáž z byndziarne vo Zvolenskej Slatine.© Dušan Kittler
The Making of Bryndza, the soft sheep’s cheese of Poland and Slovakia

Whether it was accidental or deliberate is no longer relevant. Somewhere, somehow, someone realised that the character of milk could be altered to produce a food with a longish life – cheese!

Whether this happened 5000 years ago or 3500 years ago is relevant for one reason. The pasteurisation of milk is modern – very modern, a speck in time.

This leaves us with a dilemma. In the countries where cheese has become an integral aspect of the character of farming – ancient and modern – there is a strong raw milk tradition in its preparation.

This includes many European countries, in fact mostly European. That should not be a shock to anyone who knows the history of food. It is also not a surprise that cheese making is a mountain and valley occupation, that goat’s milk rather than sheep’s milk and certainly not cow’s milk has been the driver through time.

The environment is the medium.

Goat’s milk makes fresh cheese, sheep’s milk makes cheese that is adaptable, and cow’s milk makes cheese that has a relatively long life, certainly in the maturation period. Each has a tradition that is unique in the countries where these animals graze the fields and meadows and upland slopes.

It is not a surprise that some of the best cheese in the world comes from countries with high country snow, where the flora is rich in the organoleptic qualities that are transferred to the cheese via the milk.

Adding-the-Rennet.lowres
Pouring the Rennet

America does not appear to have a milk or a cheese tradition, yet it is the Americans who are driving the campaign, if it can be called that, to eradicate cheese made from raw milk. They would prefer to ban all products made with raw milk.

Deaths from food poisoning have generally come from mass-produced industrial food or from food that has been contaminated by industrial processes or food tainted by toxic waste. Deaths from eating cheese made with raw milk do not compare.

Is there an agenda? People who know cheese believe there is.

It starts with the microbes that inhabit the world, the single cell organisms called bacteria. They are present in the milk and are present in the rennet, the enzymatic preparation that clots milk, changing it into curds. These microbes digest the lactose in milk and, in the process, produce lactic acid, which acts as a preservative.

The enzyme is called chymosin. It is found in the stomachs of ruminants – which is why the milk curdled on that famous journey.

When chymosin is introduced to the milk as rennet it converts the proteins from liquid into solid. This coagulation process is the result of a catalytic action. Casein makes up the majority of milk proteins. There are four casein molecules in milk – alpha-s1, alpha-s2, beta and kappa.

Without kappa casein, milk would spontaneously coagulate. Milk proteins are soluble because of kappa casein. When chymosin interacts with kappa casein it converts it into a protein called macropeptide. The milk can no longer hold its liquid state. It clots and changes into curds.

Bacteria are maligned, yet not all bacteria are malignant, many are beneficial and without them our food web would disintegrate. We would have no fermented food, including the aromatic cheeses that allow you ‘to taste the animal’.

The secret of cheese making is the skilful management of microbes, and the management of moisture before and after the process. Therefore cheese should be made with milk that is as fresh as it comes, before any kind of harmful microbial activity can take place. It should be stored in conditions that are not receptive to microbial activity. And, ideally, cheese consumers should be knowledgable when they buy and store cheese.

The pasteurisation of milk will destroy harmful bacteria but it will also produce a different kind of cheese. In their book, Reinventing the Wheel – Milk, Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese, Bronwen and Francis Percival are typically patronising in their approach to this issue. If the book was less about them and more about cheese, it would be educational. It is not the first book on cheese to patronise its potential readers and it won’t be the last. There is knowledge and wisdom in the Percival book, unfortunately it is hidden among the paragraphs that state ‘look at us, aren’t we clever when we write about cheese?’

Campaigners for real cheese, they are not!

This is the problem and sadly it is not confined to the likes of the Percivals. Ignorance of ‘real’ cheese among the general population has allowed supermarket chains to sell ‘cheap’ cheese, especially in the English speaking world. In their profit before people behaviour, supermarkets dictate what the people purchase. Cheese connoisseurs naturally go elsewhere and are not typically concerned about those who have no understanding of ‘slow food’ and no informed knowledge about artisanal products. That said, not everyone can afford to shop at Neal’s Yard Dairy, where Bronwen Percival is the cheese buyer.

Rene Ryser manages a cheese grotto and a cheese shop in the Swiss Alps

Real Cheese from Bern country in south-west Switzerland, where farmers are strongly supported by the Swiss government and local cantons

Sadly we now live in a world where ‘real’ cheese is for those with purchasing power and ‘plastic’ cheese is for everyone else. If there is concern about the demise of ‘real’ cheese makers in the English language-speaking countries, it is not manifest among those who are used to hopping over to France, Italy or Switzerland to buy the cheeses that do not travel, like the best Abondance or Appenzeller or Fontina or Malga or Tomme or Sbrinz – all cheeses with strong local traditions, that become expensive when they are purchased at specialist outlets in Dublin or London or New York.

Cheese, as Bronwen Percival is not slow to demonstrate, is a continental European sensibility, where cheese can be bought from a dedicated artisanal shop – a fromagerie – or from a market stall, sometimes from the cheese maker themselves, or from a supermarket chain that is sensitive to the desires of its customers.

In Britain and Ireland it is difficult to find a supermarket that has on its shelves ‘real’ cheese. Abondance, the wonderful cheese of the Savoyard region of the French Alps, found its way into the Tesco chain in Ireland, interestingly at a price lower than at Auchan and Carrefour in France and Italy. Miracles do happen!

But we digress.

Reinventing-the-Wheel
Published by Bloomsbury

The most interesting chapter in Reinventing the Wheel is chapter seven. For those not as knowledgable about the cheese world as Bronwen Percival, this chapter is worth the price of the book.

When the Percivals state that the regulation of cheese – ‘deciding what is and what isn’t safe to eat’ – is ‘caught up in the fraught discussion of milk hygiene and safety,’ they make a very important point, which they are not slow to elucidate: ‘cheese is not liquid milk’.

As someone who is lactose intolerant and was forced to drink warm milk in school as a child, I find it difficult, 50 years later, to trust those who are entrusted to look after public health. Anyone with a brain, who was forced to drink raw milk as a child during the middle decades of the 1900s in certain countries, worked that out and were told to keep quiet. The pasteurisation of milk solved one problem, authority and morality remain.

Food safety has been an issue since the first nomads settled down in central Anatolia over 11 000 years ago, it came with civilisation and remained all the way into the modern era. Those with knowledge might argue that the French and the Swiss have better standards of food safety than the Americans, yet there is an argument that American-led laboratory science has been let loose on a world that is now scared of its own shadow – rightly so in many instances, but not with cheese made with raw milk and prepared in traditional ways. The Reblochon story in the Percival book is an example of the kind of ‘rational pragmatism’ that should be adopted toward raw milk cheese making.

ReblochonCheese-Ice-T.lowres
This is the Swiss reblochon

If the Americans want to impose a zero risk regulation to ensure food safety, that is their prerogative. For those of us who love raw milk cheeses, from the Camembert of Normandie to the Reblochon de Savoie – two cheeses singled out by the Percivals, we will continue to take our chances. Thankfully not everyone lives in the USA.

Unfortunately the future of raw milk cheeses in Britain and Ireland is bleak, because of the American influence. A tradition that is young and weak cannot compete with a tradition that is old and strong. Elizabeth Bradley makes a cheese just as good as any of the similar cheeses made in France and Italy. Her years do not compare with their years. America’s baleful influence on other countries is a worry to those who care about ‘real’ food, never mind ‘real’ cheese.

Of course we here in Fricot are biased. We have absolute faith in traditional methods. All the preserved foods come from an ancient lineage of expertise that resulted in techniques that have been passed down the generations and work as well today as they did thousands of years and countless generations ago.

Mechanisation does not produce good food, that is obvious to anyone who understands the lack of an organoleptic characteristic in anything that is mass produced. It certainly does not produce food as good as cheese made from raw milk.

So what is the real issue?

It might be obvious to say it is about food corporations and their desire to make profits from the mass production of cheese made with ‘safe’ milk. Certainly making money is a strong criteria for those who need to make money.

That would be the easy explanation, the truth this time is hard and complicated.

For now we should celebrate those who want to make cheese because they have a strong desire to produce a product that has organoleptic qualities, that has a unique taste and a depth of flavour, that is the consequence of its environment and their skill.

Tète de Moine (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti)

Legendary Dishes | Irish Stew (lamb, onions, potatoes)

IRELAND

Another dish of the poor, traditionally made with cheaper cuts, usually the neck (scrag-end) of mutton or kid.

When the recipe made its way into the big house and as a consequence into cook books in the 19th century it was transformed into a generic stock pot with other root vegetables, herb and spice flavourings (especially pepper), and meat from the better cuts of the animal.

In her book A Taste of Ireland Theodora Fitzgibbon had this to say. ‘It was originally made with mutton or kid (no farmer would be so foolhardy as to use his lambs for it), potatoes and onions. The pure flavour is spoilt if carrots, turnips or pearl barley are added, or if it is too liquid. A good Irish stew should be thick and creamy, not swimming in juice like soup.’

Irish stew changed dramatically during the 1800s when the blackface breed were brought from Scotland to graze hill habitats. A smaller animal than its lowland cousin, the blackface produced a sweeter tasting meat, prominent in the neck bones and meat.

Connemara hill lambs, which are slaughtered between 10 and 14 weeks, now give Irish stew a distinctive taste, especially if the better cuts of meat are combined with the neck bones.

This is the original traditional recipe tweaked to include more meat than bone, with herbs and pepper.

  • 3 kg waxy potatoes, peeled, quartered
  • 2 kg onions, chopped
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 kg hill lamb neck chops
  • 1 kg hill lamb shoulder meat
  • 30 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 25 g salt
  • 1 tbsp parsley and thyme, chopped (optional)

Arrange neck bones in a large pot, turn heat to medium and allow fat to run out of the bones. Stack potatoes on top of the bones, then the onions and seasoning, more pepper than salt. Fill the pot with water three-quarters up to the level of the onions, bring to the boil. Cover, turn heat to lowest setting and cook for three hours. The result should be a thick potato stew containing pieces of meat and bones, with the onions completely melted.

LEGENDARY DISHES


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Indigenous Ingredients | Spelt

AndrewWorkman&SpeltField
Andrew Workman surveys one of his spelt fields in Dunany, county Louth, Ireland

Lucius Annaeus Seneca was the most distinguished of the Spanish writers of the Roman imperial age.

Born in Corduba in Andalucia to a Roman equestrian family, Seneca was brought to Rome as a child and seemed destined for a political career. Instead, he became a stoic philosopher, producing wise words that carry moral echoes down the ages to us.

Seneca grew up in a Rome that distributed welfare in the form of free grain, spelt among barley and emmer, an expedient consequence of the food riots, 60 years before he was born, in 59 BC.

An ancient hardy grass thought to be native to both Persia 8,000 years ago and south-eastern Europe 4,000 years ago, spelt was cultivated throughout the continent from the Caucasus to Scandinavia.

Three thousand years ago, river valley communities in the south of Ireland were cooking with spelt berries.

The ancient Greeks and Romans expanded its use. Roman armies lived on spelt (along with barley), making an early version of polenta.

Nearly one thousand years ago, Abbess Hildegard von Bingen of Rupertsberg wrote enthusiastically about spelt. ‘It makes people cheerful with a friendly disposition,’ she said. ‘Those who eat it have healthy flesh and good blood.’

Spelt has been making a comeback in recent decades, largely in southern Germany and in nothern Switzerland, where older varieties have been cultivated.

Known as urdinkel (old spelt), the range of flours milled from spelt are going into every type of bread and pastry, replacing wheat in many recipes.

It is also becoming increasingly popular in Ireland, where Andrew and Leonie Workman grow, mill and package spelt berries and flour from their farm in Dunany, on the coast below the ancient land of Oriel above the Boyne Valley.

Spelt, with barley, einkorn and emmer wheat, remained a staple in Europe until the 20th century, when it fell out of favour for numerous reasons, not least the problems associated with harvesting, separating and milling it into flour.

The Workmans have got round these problems with modern machinery. Now spelt is one of their biggest sellers and they have high hopes for the berries, which can be used in salads and stews, to make risotto and soaked whole to be baked in bread.

SpeltBerries
Spelt Berries

Dominick Gryson, a Louth man who has experimented with ancient grains to find strong shafts for thatching, believes the Workmans have found a great artisan product.

‘Spelt does not give the same yield as modern wheats, which do not grow well here in our climate,’ he says. ‘Spelt, on the other hand, is suited to the soil and the climate and can be sold as a high-value organic product.’

Dermot Seberry, who champions the Workmans’ produce in his book, A Culinary Journey in the North-East (of Ireland), agrees. ‘They fit in with the super food group and are a substitute for risotto rice and barley in the likes of stews and black pudding,’ he says.

‘For me, it is personal. They are low-gluten and have high nutritional content, particularly for the over-thirties, who have become hyper aware of inner health. Not a trending product but very much the next big little food!’

Spelt contains beneficial minerals, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins (B and E), and has six of the eight essential amino acids that stimulate the production of happiness hormones, just as the abbess said.

But it is the low GI (glycaemic index of carbohydrates) that makes spelt a primary health product. With 35 compared to 40 for wheat and 70 for rice, spelt releases glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, balancing out blood sugar levels.

Spelt saved the early Roman Empire but it also sustained the tribes of barbarians who brought about the fall of Rome and allowed their descendants to supplant Roman power throughout Europe.

Something that powerful is worth promoting, especially now that modern wheat has lost its allure and the wisdom of the ancients, Seneca and von Bingen among them, is finally being listened to.


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Legendary Dishes | Soda Farl Breakfast

IRELAND

In rural Ireland during the construction boom of the 1990s food counters in convenience stores (many in fuel stations) started to offer baguettes, buns, flatbreads and rolls filled with a combination of bacon, black and white puddings, fried egg, mushrooms, sausages and sliced tomatoes.

It caught on and is now seen as a traditional habit. There was an earlier tradition.

The traditional Ulster fry is still a favourite with tourists and travellers but in the early and mid mornings the worker’s breakfast is a filled farl.

Generally made with commercial white soda farls, this is fried bacon, fried egg and fried beef sausage (also known as the steak sausage because of the lower fat content) in an easy-to-eat package, in or out of the café.

It tastes better with freshly made soda bread, grilled bacon and sausage and poached egg.

Traditionally soda bread was made on a griddle over a smouldering turf fire or on the far side of the fire box on a wood fire slow burner or range.

This allowed the dough to heat gently, rising and forming a crust. Some homes continued this tradition by baking the bread in a cast-iron frying pan over the lowest possible heat on an electric or gas cooker. These days
it is just as easy baking the bread in an oven with medium heat.

Dough

  • 750 g white wheat flour, t550
  • 475 ml buttermilk
  • 5 g bicarbonate of soda
  • 5 g salt

Sieve flour into a large bowl with the salt and soda, add buttermilk, stir with a wooden spoon to form a slack semi-sticky dough.

Fold onto a floured surface, knead dough into a large round. Place on a greased baking tray, cut a deep cross in the dough.

Bake at 160°C for 50 minutes.

Alternatively place the dough on a floured cast-iron frying pan, bake over a very low flame or lowest setting on an electric hob for two and a half hours.

Filling

  • 8 beef (steak) sausages, grilled, each sliced along length
  • 8 back bacon (rasher) slices, grilled
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • Butter (optional)
  • Black pepper, pinch
  • Salt, pinch

Slice farls along their length, butter (or not) both halves, place two slices of bacon on one half, arrange four pieces of sausage followed by the poached egg, season, top with remaining half.

Repeat with remaining items.

LEGENDARY DISHES

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Culinary Connections | Hot Sandwiches

ENGLAND FRANCE IRELAND ITALY SWITZERLAND

Croque-Monsieur

This Parisien snack has travelled to the four corners of Europe since it appeared in 1910.

The buffet car on the TGVs between Paris and Geneva once served grilled croque-monsieur as good as any Parisien café, proving the maxim that quality ingredients make the dish!

These being artisan bread, gruyère cheese and cured ham.

The deluxe version contains a gruyère béchamel topping.

A baked or poached egg on top turns monsieur into madame!

  • 16 slices (8 cm x 8 cm)
  • Gruyère 8 slices (10 cm x 10 cm)
  • 8 slices white bread, crusts removed (8 cm x 8 cm)
  • 8 slices ham
  • Butter, for spreading
  • 4 baked / poached eggs (optional)
  • 60 g béchamel (optional)

Place a slice of ham between two slices of gruyère, then between slices of buttered bread, grill for five minutes each side until the bread takes on a light toast.

For a rich croque-monsieur, spread béchamel made with gruyère on top after grilling one side, grill until a brown skin forms.

A baked or poached egg turns monsieur into madame!


Bookies Sandwich

The bookies sandwich got its name a long time after it was established as a packed lunch eaten by workers in various labouring jobs and people involved with hunt and race meetings.

In England it was a thick seasoned sirloin steak grilled, sometimes fried, and placed between thick loaf crusts spread with horseradish and mustard condiments.

In Ireland it was a thick seasoned rump steak grilled and placed between white soda farls spread with carmelised onions.

The English version was wrapped in paper and cold pressed for 30 minutes.

By the middle of the 20th century the ‘bookmakers sandwich’ was a pub food in Britain and Ireland, and in Irish pubs across Europe and America.

The Vienna loaf replaced the batch loaf crusts and soda bread, then the ciabatta replaced the Vienna.

In Ireland the Waterford blaa is used to hold the steak, because it is seen as the ideal bread bun for soaking up the juices from the meat and the flavourings from the condiments and seasonings

Elsewhere the condiments betray its origins, and the meat will be beef or veal tenderloins, the latter in continental Europe.

Batch Loaf Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef sirloin steaks, thick)
  • 8 (4 cm) thick bread crusts
  • 100 g creamed horseradish 
  • 100 g English smooth mustard
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt

Spread four crusts with horseradish and four with mustard, according to taste.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices between each set of crusts, wrap in greaseproof paper, leave each sandwich under a heavy weight for an hour.

Eat cold.


Vienna / Ciabatta Bread Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef / veal tenderloin steaks, thick)
  • 2 breads, side cut along length, halved
  • 100 g Dijon coarse mustard
  • 25 g soft butter
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt

Spread four pieces of bread with mustard, and four with butter, according to taste.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices on buttered breads, top with mustard breads, wrap in greaseproof paper, leave each sandwich under a heavy weight for an hour.

Eat cold.


Soda Farl Version

  • 700 g (4 x 175 g beef rump steaks, thick)
  • 4 farls, side cut along length
  • 500 g onions, halved, sliced
  • 25 g soft butter
  • 15 g black pepper, freshly ground
  • 10 g salt
  • Oil, for frying

Sauté onions in oil over a low heat for an hour, until they are brown and almost crispy.

Spread four farl halves with butter, four with onions.

Season steaks, heavy with pepper for a spicy flavouring, grill or fry according to preference.

Place a steak and juices on onion farls, top with buttered farls, press down with hands, leave to cool.

Eat cold.


Focaccia Panino / Focaccia Farcite

Cafes in Italy have offered focaccia filled with cheese, meat, vegetables and sauces for so long now it seemed inevitable that someone would think of baking the filling inside the flat bread – a tradition that is not new, especially in Asian Europe.

Stuffed focaccia is unlikely to rival the Napolese pizza anymore than the Genoese pizza did when their fates were shared. Technically focaccia farcite is not a sandwich but its popularity is increasing, especially among the young, so you never know.

Focaccia fillings include brie, emmental, fontina, gorgonzola, grana padano, gruyère, mortadella, mozzarella, pancetta, pecorino, porcini, prosiutto, ricotta, salami, spinach and whatever vegetable is available.

Therefore stuffed foccacia – made with potato dough, sweetened egg dough and plain dough, and hardly ever with olive oil drenched dough or traditional sweet dough – is a meal in itself.

Perfect for lunch!


Focaccia Farcite – 1

  • 400 g 00 flour 
  • 300 g potatoes, cubed, cooked, cooled
  • 125 ml water, tepid
  • 30 g olive oil
  • 30 g olive oil, for greasing
  • 25 g yeast
  • Sugar, large pinch
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Milk, for brushing

This potato dough focaccia will take any filling you care to put in it, suggestions below.

Dissolve yeast in sugar in water, leave for 15 minutes.

Sieve flour into a large bowl, add salt and potatoes, and gradually work them into the flour with a tablespoon of oil.

Pour in the yeast liquid, mix and knead, add another tablespoon of oil.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for ten minutes until the dough is smooth, add more water if necessary.

Cover and leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Roll into a large rectangular to cover the base of baking tray, greased, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Place fillings on one half, fold the other half on top, seal with milk, leave to rise for 15 minutes.

Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes, turning the tray once.

Suggested fillings and quantities:

125 g mozzarella / ricotta

90 g emmental / gruyère

90 g prosiutto / mortadella

75 g spinach / tomatoes


Focaccia Farcite – 2

This version produces a lighter bread, suitable for a thick cheese and ham filling.

  • 230 ml water, tepid
  • 200 g strong white flour
  • 200 g white wheat flour 
  • 180 g prosciutto
  • 45 g brie
  • 45 g fontina
  • 45 g gorgonzola
  • 45 g grana padano / pecorino, grated
  • 30 g olive oil, for greasing
  • 25 g yeast
  • 15 g sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Dissolve yeast in sugar in water, leave for 15 minutes.

Sieve flours into a large bowl, add salt and work in the yeast mixture.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth.

Cover and leave to rise for an hour, degas, rise for a second hour, degas again.

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Roll into a large rectangular to cover the base of baking tray, greased, leave to rise for 30 minutes.

Place fillings on one half, fold the other half on top, seal with milk, leave to rise for 15 minutes.

Bake at 200°C for 30 minutes, turning the tray once.


Focaccia Farcite – 3

For sweet tooths.

  • 500 g 00 flour
  • 5 eggs (250 g), 1 separated
  • 250 g sugar
  • 150 g apricots, dried, chopped small 
  • 90 ml date syrup
  • 50 g vanilla sugar
  • 25 ml grappa
  • 15 g baking powder
  • 2 lemons, zest, grated
  • 2 oranges, zest, grated

Sieve flour and baking powder into a large bowl, stir in the plain sugar, vanilla sugar, lemon and orange zest, add the grappa and eggs (leaving the white of one egg aside), mix and leave to rest for an hour.

Preheat to 180°C.

Fold out onto a clean surface, knead for five minutes into a smooth dough.

Divide into two equal pieces, shape each into a rectangular shape, place on baking trays lined with greaseproof paper, brush surface with egg white.

Bake for 35 minutes.

Spread date syrup across the surface of each focaccia, stopping short at the edges, sprinkle apricot pieces on top, cut into squares, sandwich!


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Indigenous Ingredients | Kale

It’s green it’s mean and it packs a punch

A coarse large-leaf cabbage with a curly crinkled appearance, kale is the cultivated variety of the wild cabbage native to the Mediterranean, and rich in minerals and vitamins.

The ancient Romans introduced it to northern Europe and today it is still popular in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, where recipes gradually found their way to the Atlantic fringe – Ireland, Portugal and Scandinavia in particular.

Curly kale is the most cultivated variety along with local varieties adapted to their environment, such as Portuguese kale (couve) used to make caldo verde.

Being the good collectors that they are, the Flemish took kale to their culinary hearts.

Kale is an essential ingredient in stoemp, a mash made with potatoes, leaf and root vegetables.

Cooked with butter and cream it forms part of the Danish grønlangkål med skinke – kale with ham and caramelised potatoes.

The combination of kale, butter, buttermilk or cream, potatoes and spring onions / scallions or leeks is believed to be one of the oldest dishes in northern Europe.

Kale has made a comeback in recent years, because the colder climates improves its flavour.


Colcannon
IRELAND
mashed kale and potatoes

  • 500 g kale
  • 500 g potatoes, whole
  • 10 leeks / spring onions / scallions, chopped
  • 150 ml cream / milk
  • 100 g butter / buttermilk
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Soak the kale in cold then warm water to remove dirt amd chase away the small spiders that love to weave their webs among its leaves.

Leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Remove stems, cut into leaves into strips then small pieces.

Bring to the boil in a little water, reduce heat and cook until al dente. Drain surplus water.

Boil the potatoes in their skins.

Cook the spring onions in the milk/cream over a low heat.

In a heavy based saucepan mash potatoes with the milk/cream and spring onions over a low heat.

Combine kale, seasoning and the butter, blend with a wooden spoon until the mash assumes the colour of the greens. Buttermilk can replace the butter to give a tangy taste.


Grønlangkål med Skinke
DENMARK
kale with ham and caramelised potatoes

Kale cooked with butter and cream is well known in northern countries. In Denmark it forms one of the country‘s traditional dishes when it is combined with pork in some form or other and served with caramelised potatoes.

  • 1 kg kale
  • 75 g butter
  • 30 ml cream
  • 30 g white wheat flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 5 g black pepper
  • 5 g salt

Potatoes

  • 1 kg Lammefjord potatoes
  • 50 g butter
  • 40 g sugar

Boil the potatoes in their skins, peel and leave to cool.

Heat sugar in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the butter. When it foams add the potatoes and coat in the sugar-butter mixture. Keep the heat controlled until the potatoes are browned and heated through. Make sure they do not burn.

Prepare kale.

Make a roux in a heavy based saucepan, add kale and two tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium heat, adding a little more butter, finishing with sugar, salt and pepper.

Serve with cooked smoked ham, pork sausages or pork on the bone.


Boerenkoolstamppot met Rookworst
NETHERLANDS
mashed kale and potatoes with smoked sausages

Another traditional kale dish, this mashed kale and potato stew is a Dutch classic with numerous subtle variations – kale, potatoes, milk and butter the only constants.

Smoked sausages (generally Gelderse) complete the dish but it is also garnished with bacon.

Vinegar is a tangy ingredient in some of the classic preparations, a role also played by mustard while the modern versions call for dried vegetables, herbs and spices.

Leeks have also been known to find their way into the ingredients list because they add a gentle flavour to the kale.

The Dutch ‘Food Web‘ list 162 recipes.

The Gelderland smoked sausage story is told by traditional food specialists Vers-inspiratie (Fresh Inspiration).

  • 1.5 kg floury potatoes, peeled, cubed
  • 1 kg kale leaves
  • 550 g smoked sausages
  • 300 g onions
  • 100 ml milk, hot
  • 30 g butter
  • 5 g black pepper
  • Salt, pinch
  • Mustard, for dressing

Boil onions and potatoes with a pinch of salt in sufficient water to cover in a large pot, strain, retaining the cooking liquid.

Put the kale in a large bowl with the liquid, cover and leave until leaves wilt.

Transfer kale and sufficient liquid to cover it to a saucepan, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes, drain, squeeze out liquid and chop small.

Put the sausages in the remaining liquid, cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.

Mash onions and potatoes with butter and milk, fold in the kale, season. Serve with pieces of sliced sausage dressed with mustard.


Other Traditional Kale Recipes

Caldo Verde PORTUGAL kale soup
Böreği / Börek TURKEY pies (kale is a filling)
Ekşili Pilav TURKEY bulgur with greens and yoghurt
Graupensuppe mit Kasseler GERMANY pearl barley soup with smoked pork neck
Hamsi Diblesi TURKEY Black Sea anchovies with kale and rice
Kiełbasa z Jarmuż POLAND smoked sausage with kale
Ostfriesische Grünkohl GERMANY kale with bacon, onions and sausages
Pierogi / Pīrāgi / Pirogi Пироги POLAND RUSSIA UKRAINE pies (minced beef, apple, kale and onion filling)
Solyanka Солянка RUSSIA winter soup pot
Sukuma Wiki EAST AFRICA braised greens
Vrzotovka SLOVENIA kale soup
Yaini CAUCASUS meat and vegetable soup

Book Review | A Culinary Journey in the North-East of Ireland

BOOK REVIEW

Not since Theodora Fitzgibbon compiled A Taste of Ireland in the 1960s has a food writer produced a book that can be described as a cultural event even before the first page is turned.

Chef, food photographer and writer Dermot Seberry doesn’t suffer fools in the food industry. After several years working as a chef (in Ballinahinch Castle in Galway, Mount Juliet Hotel in Kilkenny, Cascades in Sun City, the Savoy and Smollenskys in London), he found himself training the chefs of the future.

As a head chef he had been unhappy with the standard of trainee chefs from the London colleges and when he approached them to ask what they were teaching he was asked to take some classes.

After a spell as a manager in Westminster- Kingsway College of Catering in London, he was invited to lecture in the advanced culinary arts course at DIT, Cathal Brugha Street in Dublin, where he helped set up the artisan entrepreneurship course.

CulinaryJourneyPromoCover

Meanwhile, back in his home county of Louth, the landscape  had changed. Seberry was philosophical. ‘The M1 motorway     put many pubs and restaurants out of business for sure but       also put an end to rubbish family run food.’

Restaurants were now using fresh, local produce cooked              by knowledgeable and imaginative chefs who understood seasonality and knew that was the key to taste.

This quiet revolution had started in the Scandinavian     countries, where the artisans and chefs set the agenda and        the menu, which always stated where ingredients were from.

Imaginative cooks, visionary chefs and innovative bakers gave preference to indigenous produce and products with their own distinctive flavours. Ultimately this approach began to influence those who ran the catering colleges.

‘Peer pressure has forced some colleges to rethink their approach to training chefs,’ he says. ‘It is not good enough to accept that old classical French methods are standard teaching practice.

‘It’s simply nowhere near the norm today.’

According to Seberry, many chefs are restricted to the methods and recipes of old and lack creativity of the mind. ‘They don’t love food; they just do the job of cooking.

‘They know what local produce is but don’t know how to use it.’

In the north-east, the culinary mood has been set by the artisans and chefs, and the locals and tourists have not been slow sensing the wind of change.

When Seberry was approached by the county tourism board to represent food, the idea of a colour book featuring maps and photos, local producers and restaurants using indigenous produce to make traditional recipes grabbed the imagination.

This book proves that artisan food from the north-east of Ireland is now established.

It is available online.


FRESH FRICOT | THE FRONT PAGE


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