Eat only Irish for a week
May 10, 2011
There’s a lot going on foodwise in Ireland this week. First up was documentary “What’s Ireland eating” on RTE 1 by journalists Philip Boucher Hayes and Suzanne Campbell on Sunday night which made for predictably sober viewing. Irish people spend more money on treats than they do on fruit and veg, processed meats have up to 20% water, obesity rates are shooting up.Urghh.. ..
If you eat organic, chances are you already knew some of this and you’re not one of the people who needs to radically change their lifestyle. Sure, we can all do better but a mainly vegetarian, home cooked, organic (if possible) diet is where it’s at healthwise. All the experts say so and it feels better too.
The other big story is the Eat only Irish for a week campaign started by lamb producer Brendan of Castlemine farm http://www.eatonlyirish.com/. You may have heard him on Pat Kenny last Friday and if you’re on Twitter you’ll know all about it. It’s a great idea and has really focused everyone’s attention on what can be sourced here in Ireland. Lots of the stuff we assume to be Irish isn’t always. As the documentary on Sunday showed, when you eat chicken in a restaurant or cafe it is very rarely homegrown and often comes from as far away as Brazil or Thailand. Yikes!!!!
Again, if you eat locally and organic a big part of your diet is already Irish. Brilliant. No big change required. So, for me this week is really about looking at other items in my shopping basket and making some switches. Some things are easier than others. With 2 very hungry boys in the house I’ve been buying imported honey recently because we go through so much of the stuff . Buying a jar of the local stuff is an easy change, feels much better and I’ve resolved to make savings elsewhere so we can continue the habit. Substitutes for things like sugar, salt, tea and coffee are impossible to get locally so finding alternatives have been a big challenge. Now, I’m not promising I won’t have a cup of tea all week but trying to eat only local means I’ve been using mint and thyme from the garden. Denis Healy picked lemon verbena for us, admittedly not enough to see us through the week (more like one cup!) but it’s great to get something that’s a bit different as well.
As usual, our suppliers played a blinder this week – Denis and Duncan Healy particularly, they came up with the Jerusalem artichokes, , rhubarb, apples, pak choy, fresh garlic, sage and the aforementioned lemon verbena. Marc Michel’s amazing salad leaves are just starting so the timing on those was brilliant while Philip Dreaper provided the spuds. Now I had hoped to do an all Irish bag but they don’t call this time of year “the hungry gap” for nothing (no, those oranges are not from Wicklow). In a month it’ll be no problem, but right now it’s not quite possible although I think we did pretty well.
My recipes this week are going to be all Irish – no salt or sugar!!!! and there’ll be at least 2 installments mainly because we got so many new orders in over the weekend that we were completely cleaned out yesterday and there were no Jerusalem artichokes left for me to cook with! We’ll be getting some more in on Thursday morning so I’ll be posting about them then.
My starting point yesterday was the fresh garlic and the baby leaves but feeding a family out of those two just wasn’t going to happen (I like my food but with boys it’s the sheer volume that I can’t get over). I bought a chicken and decided to stuff it with most of the garlic (I kept a bulb back for another day). When it came to seasoning I had a revelation – what about some seaweed? Gotta work right? It did. While Paul added a sneaky sprinkle of salt onto his plate I managed to hold back and it was quite delicious without. I roasted some spuds alongside the bird and made a salad using our own rapeseed oil (we had this in stock until quite recently but I’m afraid it’s gone until August) and some of that amazing Llewellyn’s Irish Balsamic Cider Vinegar. Lovely.Everyone licked their plate (some literally!)
Dessert was a rhubarb fool which I felt completely relaxed about until I remembered the no sugar rule. There was panic but then I saw people tweeting about that gorgeous apple syrup from Highbank which we actually sell (doh!!)- perfect, an all Irish sweetener. I also slow roasted some apple slices with a little butter at the bottom of the oven (no fancy fan ovens for me something I usually curse but it came in handy yesterday) which I chopped up and threw in aswell for a bit of texture as the usual ginger biscuits I serve with fools were off the menu. I roasted the rhubarb as well so the oven was nicely full something I always aim for (I only made this cake to save the environment officer I swear!!)
Roast Chicken stuffed with dillisk and fresh garlic with Wicklow leaves
1 organic chicken
1 small handful dillisk – this you’ll get in your healthfood shop and apart from the saltiness it has lots of healthy properties
5 or 6 large potatoes
A few sage leaves if you have them
70gr baby salad leaves or whatever salad leaves you have
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 scant teaspoon honey
First off roughly chop the garlic including the green steams. Tear a small handful of dillisk then mix the two together in a bowl with a glug of rapeseed oil. Use this mix to stuff the cavity then rub some more oil into the bird’s skin. Cover and pop it into the oven at Gas mark 6. Peel, chop and parboil the spuds then add them to the tray along with a few sage leaves. After an hour uncover the chicken. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes then carefully take the garlic and dillisk out of the bird and spread it on the tray. This is to fully cook the garlic but, to stop it burning turn down the heat slightly. Continue roasting until the bird is fully cooked(this will vary with the size of your chicken). When your chicken is cooked, take it out of the oven and let it sit in a warm place for at least 20 minutes. Try and get the garlic and dillisk off the tray too at this stage but the spuds can stay put and go back in the oven. While the chicken is resting, wash and dry the salad. When you’re ready to eat make a dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar and honey together. Serve and devour!!
PS. Be sure and save the bones for stock. Simply cover them in water in a pot along with a bay leaf (nothing else as it’s all Irish this week), bring to the boil then simmer for about an hour. Drain and keep in your fridge or freeze.
The rhubarb fool
1 bunch of rhubarb
3 apples – peeled and sliced
250 ml Cream
Get the apples in the oven first as they take the longest. A low heat of say, Gas mark 4 is best but I wouldn’t put the oven on just for them so if you’ve got something in on a higher heat throw them in too on a lower shelf if you’ve got a rubbish oven like me or just keep a good eye on them. Spread on a dish or baking tray before they do in add a good chunk of butter, a drizzle of apple syrup (sugar will do if you don’t have this), cover and away they go. They’ll take about 2 hours.
Prepare the rhubarb by washing and chopping it into 1 inch chunks.It can go in at a higher temperature (Gas 5) but will do fine at a lower one – just takes longer. Cover and roast for about 20 minutes then check. It should be nearly done at this stage and you can put it back uncovered for the last few minutes. You want it nice and tender but not mush. Let it cool down completely then blitz with your blender adding more apple syrup to taste. Stick in the freezer to firm up slightly for about 30 minutes. Finely chop the apples and set aside. To finish the fool off whip your cream then fold in the rhubarb and apple. Ideally you don’t want everything mixed together so you end up with creamy rhubarb. The aim cream with rhubarb through it. Do your best it’ll taste great either way. Decant your fools into the prettiest glasses you have and stick in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving.Yummmmmmy!!
A few other things……
As I said, the Healy’s harvested lemon verbena for us which you can boil up for tea. We also got a limited amount of sage which I tried to distribute across all the bags but there just wasn’t enough so a few of you are without. The sage was for having with the chicken and spuds but also I thought that the Jerusalem artichokes would be lovely fried up with it (along with some bacon!). Up to you…