Archive for July, 2009

Loughnasa

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Thursday 30/07  is the Kilrush Farmers Market celebration of Loughnasa.
Traditionally, it is the celebration of the first harvest of grains, fruits, and vegetables.

The name Lughnasa iscousins-031 derived from Lugh, a Tuatha De Dannan king who is often referred to as an ancient god of light and also known as the “bright and shining one”.
In ancient tradition, Lughnasa celebration was a time of baking and blessing the first bread from the first harvest. More common was the blessing and cooking of the first potatoes.

The market is brimming over with potatoes, beetroot, carrots, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, beans, onions, garlic and all varieties of  greens and herbs sold by local farmers direct from their gardens.  I will be doing a vegetarian cookery demo at noon using lots of these veg. and recipes from             Coming Home To Cook. Colette and Eva will be answering all your questions about Hen and Pig rearing. Biddy, Chris and Michael will be available to talk about organic gardening. Rainbow Farms is launching this years crop of blackcurrant jam and the markets fabulous bakers will be offering lots of tastings. Music, face painting, local ice cream and much more will round out the day. Stop by the Kilrush market square between 9 -2!

Cracker Cups

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

doolin-047Adva, the pastry chef at the Doolin Market, made beautiful little cracker cups for me to fill with my vegetarian salads.  She made them with semolina flour, ground almonds and poppy, flax and sesame seeds. Not only are they delicious but they are perfect starter for a dinner party, filled with anything you like. I filled the sample with spelt berry salad, garnished with a slice of cucumber, cherry tomato and a sprig of mint. They created a lot of enthusiasm and I sold out! Spelt is a versatile grain that has gluten but that some of you with wheat sensitivities can tolerate. Here’s  a variation on the recipe for the Rainbow spelt salad from Coming Home To Cook.

Soak 1 cup of spelt berries (grain) in enough water to cover it, for 1 hour. Add more water and sea salt and cook until tender but still chewy, about 45 minutes. Drain and cool. Add 1/2 cup chopped apricots, 1 diced, peeled apple, 1/2 cup raisins, 1 diced raw carrot, 1 diced celery stalk, 1 Tbl. chopped parsley, 1 Tbl. chopped mint, 1 Tbl. chopped scallions and salt and pepper to taste.  Blend 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 Tbl. red wine vinegar and 1 Tbl. honey. Mix all together and enjoy!  But, you’ll have to come to the Doolin Market for the cracker cups!

Ethical Paddy and Loughnasa!

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I’ve been asked to blog for www.greenme.ie and to do a cookery demo on 22 July as part of their Ethical Paddy Campaign at Elm Motors on Ennis Rd. in Limerick. In fact, I’ll be offering lunch and doing 3 demos, 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30.  The campaign is being broadcast for the next two weeks on 2FM.

Kilrush Farmers Market goes Loughnasa on 30th July from 9-2 in the market square.  We’re celebrating the harvest with a fun day of wine, cheese and food tastings, Linnalla’s ice cream, Irish strawberries and cream, consultations on organic gardening and raising free range pigs and hens, buskers, face painting and lots more. I will be doing a vegetarian cookery demo using recipes from Coming Home To Cook. julykilrush-017 Mark your calendars!

Beautiful Beets

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

burren-sunday-001In Coming Home To Cook I have a recipe and a picture for Burren Roasted Beet Platter. I call it that because it’s one of the many salads that is truly locally sourced.  Small rounds of soft goat cheese, sliced fennel bulb, toasted hazelnuts and red and or yellow beets over a bed of fresh greens, lovely!  There is also a recipe for pickled beets. But, after buying these organic beets at the Kilrush Farmers Market  I think, why did I add all those ingredients to that recipe?  These beets were so sweet and tender they can be eaten raw or cooked just as is.  So, buy some organic beets, juice them, grate them into salads, cook and pickle or eat hot as your veg. Save the stems and stocks for a delicious and highly nutritious soup base. Make borscht and eat hot or cold.  Ah, memories of the 2nd Ave. Deli!   I wanted to serve these as part of  a gluten free garden fresh salad plate at the Doolin Farmers Market so here’s what I did:

Wash and trim beetroot. Save leaves and stems! Put beetroot in a pot, cover with water and cook until tender.  Cool and peel. Slice into rounds. In a flat container layer beets and drizzle each layer with a little cider vinegar and honey. This will keep the beets fresher, longer.  I served this as a Vegetarian Plate, on a bed of greens with other salads, quinoa and red potato salad, both in Coming Home To Cook.  I’ve been experimenting with new honey mustard vinaigrette recipes and finally came up with what I think is the perfect one. Add any of your favorite herbs, I used tarragon which made it particularly nice. Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette –  gluten and dairy free

In a blender mix 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 5 Tbl. white balsamic vinegar, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 Tbl. dijon mustard, 1 tsp. honey, sea salt, black pepper and 1 Tbl. of fresh herbs of your choice.

Is the Burren disappearing?

Monday, July 13th, 2009

burren-sunday-077It has been a few years since I drove many of the back roads of the Burren, one of the most  fragile landscapes in Europe.  It is an area in North Clare that is critically important due to the wealth and diversity of it’s natural and cultural heritage.  Rare wildflowers peeking up from the grikes, elusive butterflies, turloughs and the blueish hue of the limestone pavement, the pink and purple sky at dusk are just a few things that make the Burren the natural phenomenon that it is.  But, it is rich in cultural heritage, as well.  There are portal tombs that are older than the pyramids and the hills are dotted with bronze and iron age cairns and ceremonial sites. There are penitential stations from the early times of Christianity, monastaries from the 11th century and if you wonder into the Burren far enough you will find the old ruins of  pre famine  farming communities.  Recently, the Burren Life Project was granted money from the government to extend it’s program, facilitating Burren farmers to implement new grazing regimens, particularly returning cattle to the higher grounds for winter grazing.  But, as I looked out onto these unique limestone hills and plateaus so rich in fauna, floral and history, I saw the hazel bush encroaching and what are still the ever beautiful shimmering blue rocks that hold our history are fast becoming  meadows of green.

Squash Blossoms

Friday, July 10th, 2009

ennis-boys-002Last month I posted a recipe on the versatile courgette.  But, what I neglected to mention is it’s delectable flower!  We had a busy Kilrush Farmers Market yesterday and we planned a “Kilrush Farmers Market Celebration  for July 30.  More on that later.  So, I was tired when I returned home and wanted a simple way to cook these blossoms as they wilt very fast.  They are an edible flower that can be consumed raw or cooked, delicious in their simplicity added to a salad, stuffed, steamed or in a stir fry.  I decided to batter them tempura style.  So, here’s how:

Squash Blossoms – gluten and dairy free Detach flower from courgette. You can eat the whole thing, no need to remove pistil or stamen.  Gently wash and pat dry.  Beat 1 egg and 1/4 cup plain white flour or, if you’re gluten free, use a gf flour mix, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice but nothing that will overpower the subtle taste.  I used basil, chop fine and add to batter. Heat a good vegetable oil ( I used sunflower), dredge flowers in batter and drop into oil. Cook until brown on both sides.  These are wonderful just as is but I had a very light basil pesto from my recipe in Coming Home To Cook and ate with some fresh Irish raspberries and blueberries. A satisfying squash-blossoms-003 light snack, crunchy yet airy,  full of beta carotene and Vitamin C.

Eat fresh & be healthy

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

tofu-veg-0011I recently felt a summer cold coming on.   Stuffed sinuses, sore throat, oh, oh, it’s going into my chest! Time to get out the herbs, vitamin C, and most importantly, for me, taking a look at what I’ve been eating. As a vegetarian who’s sensitive, but not allergic to, wheat and dairy I try to stay clear of them. But, I’ve been making a fabulous sesame sauce to go on the falafels for the Kilrush Market and green goddess dressing for those gorgeous summer salads,  both which are yoghurt based.  I found really good tortillas for the cheese quesidillas I’m making at the Doolin Market and I made apple rhubarb crisp from Coming Home To Cook for the 4th of July ( with butter & flour)  Too much good stuff in a short period of time and now I can feel it. So,  I made elderflower cordial which I’ve been diluting in hot water with lemon, it’s full of Vitamin C.  My friend Annaliese makes  a powerful organic herbal tea that I sell at the markets. It’s a combination of nettles, horsetail, yarrow, marigold, blackcurrant leaves, rosehips plus about 10 more herbs! Good stuff for whatever ails ya!  I was finally getting my appetite back and felt like eating something substantial and satisfying but still want to keep it light.  One of the perks of selling at the Farmers Markets is that I buy or barter all the fresh veg. which I use in making my veggie food that I sell, and I always have a lot extra for home.      I pulled out of the fridge a block of fresh tofu, beautiful organic lettuce that was wilting fast and had to be used and carrots, baby courgettes, new potatoes, garlic and shallots from Michael’s garden. I clipped some fresh fennel leaves from a pot and got out the wok.  I’ll call this Tofu stir fry, with fresh Clare Farmers Market veg.  gluten and dairy free.

Drain and pat dry tofu. Cut into small cubes. Set aside.  Drizzle a little olive oil in the wok (about 2 Tbl.)  Add 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 large chopped shallot, 1 Tbl. grated fresh gingerroot. Cook til they begin to brown.  Add 2 chopped carrots and  3 sliced courgettes.  While this is cooking steam 4 new potatoes until slightly tender, then add to wok. Cook for about  5 minutes, add 1 Tbl. of wheat free tamari, keep tossing and cooking. Add tofu and mix all together.   Add 1 cup chopped lettuce.  If it looks dry and is sticking to the wok, add a little organic vegetable stock.  Add 2 Tbl. chopped fennel leaves, sea salt to taste and cracked black pepper. Cook a few more minutes.  I feel better already!

Up the Banner!

Monday, July 6th, 2009

julykilrush-006As a city dweller I loved stopping at the corner grocer and buying a bouquet of flowers to brighten up my home.  A little color in the concrete jungle.  That little treat would cost at least $10.00 (we’re going back a number of years!) and were imported from thousands of miles away and would be wilting within a few days.  So, imagine my delight at having Chris Marsh of Rainbow Farm in Kilmihil, my neighboring stall holder at the Kilrush Market, selling his homegrown, full of color and variety, spectacular bouquets.  And, for E2.50! That has to be the best bargain in Ireland. I always buy a few bunches, one for me and one for a friend, and they last at least a week. Chris and Hillary also sell organic vegetable and herbs  plants, fruit bushes and homemade chutneys, jams and their own free range eggs. Another great reason to be in the diverse county of Clare.  Up the yellow and blue!

Spuds & Politics & win a cookbook!

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

julykilrush-001I bought these  Land Leaguer potatoes at the Kilrush Farmers Market from Michael, one of our local farmers who reminded me about the Land League movement of the 1800’s.  But, why are these gorgeous potatoes with a purple skin and yellow flesh named after a post faminine political movement in Ireland? Here’s a brief history of the origins of the movement:

Making matters worse, the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849 allowed estates in severe debt to be auctioned off upon petition of creditors or even at the request of bankrupt landlords. Land values tumbled as hundreds of estates with huge debts were auctioned off at bargain prices to British speculators interested solely in making a future profit. These new owners took a harsh view toward the penniless Irish tenant farmers still living on the land. They immediately raised rents and also conducted mass evictions to clear out the estates in order to create large cattle-grazing farms. Between 1849 and 1854 nearly 50,000 families were evicted.

In 1879, the blight returned in force bringing the possibility of renewed starvation and further evictions in the west of Ireland. But by this time, farmers and laborers throughout Ireland had become politically organized. They were now represented by a national alliance known as the Land League, led by Charles Stewart Parnell. The League, funded by donations from America, organized boycotts against notorious landlords, encouraged the defiant burning of leases, and had its members physically block evictions.

Parnell’s “Land War” agitations brought the beginning of British political reforms helping Ireland’s small farmers and tenants. The Land Act of 1881 granted official rent reductions and recognized the “interest” of tenants in their leased farms. The following year, Parnell agreed to end the Land War in return for the government’s elimination of old unpaid rents.

Parnell came to Ennis, Co. Clare in 1850 and in the wee hours of the morning, gave an inspiational speech to the thousands who came out to meet his train. Michael said that this potato is associated with the west of Ireland, so, was it originally developed in Co. Clare around this time, maybe by a farmer directly involved in the organizing? hmmm…….

History books credit another county with the 1st resistance by the League against a Landowner. In 1880, this landowner refused to reduce the rent and, in response, the Land League organized all the tenants, workers and tradesmen in the area to stop their dealings with him. The household servants, gardeners, shop keepers in the village and even the Post Office ignored him.

So, here’s my 2 challenges: Why and how did  this potato get it’s name?  That’s a hard one!! This is much easier: What new word in the English language came out of the action against the landowner and why?                                            A copy of Coming Home To Cook will be sent out to the person or persons who answers either or both!  Good Luck. And, I steamed these lovely spuds and they are indeed winners!  Thanks Michael.

land-spuds

Elderflower Cordial

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

elderflower-008I’ve been wanting to make this delicious, natural drink since I tasted it a few years ago. It was light and sweet with a subtle aroma unlike anything I had ever had. You can buy the commercial, bottled concoction in most health shops or farm shops here. I find them excessively syrupy and sweet, even though you dilute them with spirits or sparkling water.  So, after exploring recipes and walking the hedgerows around Clare I decided to pick my own and make it from “scratch”.  So, Adva and I set out on a gloriously hot day, clippers and bags in hand to find the Elderflower trees. They are in full bloom, and the best for picking from mid June through the 1st week in July. Since it has been so sunny and hot here we found that they were already dropping their flowers in preparation for the berries soon to follow. But, we managed to find some around the back roads of Doolin and after getting stung by nettles, thorny rose bushes, bothered by midges, stretching over slippery rocks and streams, avoiding the protective sheep dogs and identifying and tasting many other edible plants along the way (more on them this summer, for sure!) we had a big bag of at least 60 heads.

I combined a few recipes, from friends and cookery book and came up with Elderflower Lemonade. Here’s the recipe which is gluten and dairy free.

Pick 60 heads of elderflowers, Do not wash – it will release the aroma – just put in a heavy pot and cover with water. Put on a low simmer for 1 hour.  Add 3 cups of granulated sugar, 2 lemons (I squeezed juice into the pot and then put the whole fruit in to steep), 100 grams of citrc acid (purchase in a chemists) Simmer for another 30 minutes, then take off heat and let steep for another hour. Sieve through a coffee filter (thanks, Karin!)  muslin or  fine mesh strainer.  This made 15 cups of cordial.  I call this lemonade because the lemons I added really make it a lip smacker! But, it’s not too sweet which is what I was going for.  I poured about a Tbl. in a 2 cup glass and added sparkling water. Refreshing and light and more freeemma-027 food!