Salmon Mousse- for ladies and gentlemen who lunch

It shouldn’t take three prompts for a good idea to sink in, but it did.  At first, Himself mentioned that he’d had salmon mousse for lunch and that he’d enjoyed it.  ‘You used to make salmon mousse all the time and you haven’t made it in ages….’

Within a week, Mrs. Padmore was mentoring Ethel on Downton Abbey, suggesting that she make salmon mousse  for a ladies’ luncheon.

-’But I’ve never made salmon mousse before’  said the hapless Ethel.

-’Anyone with two arms on them could make salmon mousse’ said Mrs. Padmore, refusing to take no for an answer.

My third reminder was in the Marks & Spencer’s catalogue of food to order for Christmas and the New Year. Winking at me from page 8, and wearing a badge called ‘NEW’, was a beautifully garnished and  photographed salmon mousse which serves eight at a price of €29.50 for 770g.

OK, I thought, just do it.  I dug out my old recipe and here it is.

Salmon Mousse with Cucumber Pickle

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A Blackberry and Apple Tart with Hazelnut Crust for the last day of Autumn

Blackberries were poor this year. smaller, harder, less succulent, less sweet, less black. Just like every other crop in Ireland this disappointing year.  Two weeks ago, we took to the hedgerows on a bright, sunny day and picked our fill.  There were rose hips too, sloes and elderberries. Little red ‘blackberries’ which had failed to mature and ripen for want of warmth and sunshine were stunted on the brambles. No doubt the birds will eat them when they’re hungry enough.  Our reward was a blackberry and apple crumble that evening, and I froze the rest in 1 lb bags.

Hedgerow in Autumn , 2012

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Macabre Chocolate Biscuit Cake for Hallowe’en

 Part of the celebration of Hallowe’en is taking to the kitchen and baking. A black and orange chocolate biscuit cake is a suitably macabre offering.

Hallowe’en.  The eve of all hallows – hallows meaning holy.  Holy because on that night, after darkness falls, the dead return to visit the living.   Oíche Shamhna, as it’s known in Ireland; the night when, in Irish mythology, a portal opens to allow the dead and the living to communicate.  Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in the Hispanic tradition too.

Those who say Hallowe’en has become too americanized  are mistaken- we Irish invented it.  It may have become too commercialized but you know what to do about that….just reclaim it! Continue reading

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Red Tomato Chutney- preserving Autumn’s bounty

Chutney.  Anglo Irish history in a glass jar.  A real ‘come-all-ye’ of a food, made from any and all of the fruits of autumn’s bounty.  Apple chutney uses up windfalls. Plum chutney traps the goodness of Victoria plums when there’s a glut. Tomato chutney, green or red or both uses up the last fruits of the season.  Several chutneys have a bit of everything in them.  Waste not, Want not.

Red Tomato Chutney

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Hearty Lentil Soup

Yesterday I made large pot of Hearty Lentil soup.  A Soup for our Times.   Low cost, nourishing, filling, tasty, low glycaemic index.  Perfect for a cold, rainy day. Ideal to take to school or to work in a Thermos.

I got this recipe from my neighbour, Ann Quinn who runs cookery classes from her home in Dublin 9 and has allowed me to share it. Her company is called The Boston Dinner Party. Over the past two decades she has taught men, women and children in our neighbourhood (and beyond) how to cook  for any occasion, and we’ve all reaped the benefit!

Ann recommends this soup for all occasions. Ready in under an hour, it requires no skill beyond chopping an onion.  It’s great for lunch or dinner, and keeps hunger at bay for weight watchers.  When any of our neighbours experience an upset or a loss, Ann’s been known to turn up quietly  bearing a large pot of Hearty Lentil Soup.  People who get so distracted that they think they’ve no appetite, will still reach for a comforting mug of soup to keep body and soul together.

Hearty Lentil Soup with creme fraiche, and Sourdough Bread

Hearty Lentil and Tomato soup

(serves a multitude)

Ingredients

  • 500g/1 lb/21/4 cups red lentils
  • 3 tins ( 400g each) chopped tomatoes
  • approx. 1650 ml ( 3 pints) water
  • 50-100g/2-4 ozs butter
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2-3 tablespoons dried dill weed ( or a bunch of fresh dill, finely-chopped)
  • 2 bay leaves
  •  salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground cumin, ( or better still, cumin seed dry roasted on a pan and ground)

Ingredients for Hearty Lentil soup

Method

  • Mix together all the ingredients in a very large saucepan,  Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.  Add more water if it becomes too thick.
  • When it’s cooked, you can either have it as it is, nice and chunky, or liquidize it. The easiest way to to do this is with a hand held electric blender (it also leaves the least mess)
  • This is particularly tasty served with a dollop of creme fraiche and some chopped dill.

Cook’s Note:  the flavour of cumin is enhanced by roasting it.  Keep a jar on hand to add to some soups and casseroles.  Simply pour some cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes.  You’ll know when it’s roasted by the aroma that fills the room.  Allow the seeds to cool, then grind them to a powder with a pestle and mortar. 

Shopper’s Note: red lentils cost about €2.50/Kg. Canned tomatoes cost 40-99c/can. Onions cost about € 1.30-1.50/Kg and garlic 28-50c/bulb.  Spices cost less in the Asia Market- about €1 per pack.  This pot of Hearty Lentil Soup should cost no more than €4 for 10-12 generous portions

Notes on Nourishment:

Lentils; contain carbohydrate with a low glycaemic index. This means that they are a slow-burning fuel and less likely to cause weight gain. They contain a substantial amount of protein which makes you feel fuller for longer. They contribute small amounts of Vitamin B, especially B1, and of essential minerals. Some people find that eating pulses causes flatulence. Soaking them before use, and changing the water, can help. In general, if you get into the habit of eating pulses regularly, your digestive system (the friendly bacteria in the gut) will adapt within a short time. Eating slowly is also a help to digestion.

Tomatoes: canned tomatoes are harvested in the southern Mediterranean region at the peak of their freshness. They have a little less Vitamins A, C and E than fresh tomatoes, but have more lycopene, a naturally occurring antioxidant known to protect against several cancers.

Onions and Garlic: renowned for their health-giving properties, these are rich in Vitamins B,C and essential minerals. They contain several phytochemicals (naturally-occuring plant compounds) known to offer protection against infections and to help in tissue repair. Onions are a good source of low glycaemic index  carbohydrate.

Butter: rich in vitamins A,D,E,K, and the trace element Selenium,  butter offers omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids along with Conjugated Linoleic Acid all of which have strong anti-cancer properties.

Cumin: when roasted and ground, cumin seeds release an aromatic oil which makes digestive juices flow, and help ease digestion.

Ann Quinn is holding cookery classes at her home in Drumcondra/Glasnevin for children and teenagers during the Hallowe’en break next week. You can reach Ann by e-mail at bostondinnerparty@gmail.com to make enquiries about these, and a range of adult classes.  We live in a time when everyone needs to know how to cook substantial, nourishing food at home and to make sensible home economies. Learning how to cook is not only a basic skill for survival, it’s an absolute joy- especially in Ann’s kitchen.

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Good Health begins with Breastfeeding

Good health begins with breastfeeding.  As it’s National Breastfeeding week, I thought I’d share a picture of my favourite breastfed baby with you.

Breastfeeding in Ireland

My little grandson wasn’t too concerned with the idea of posing for a photo as he had much more important things to do. Nor did he bother supporting the Irish Soccer team at the UEFA championships in June.  No, at six weeks of age, he had become a proficient feeder and knew how to go about it.  I had repeatedly told his Mum (my eldest daughter) that once the six week watershed is reached, a magical gear-shift happens and everything becomes a lot easier. And so it did. Continue reading

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Fish Pie for Children- it’s a No-Brainer

What do we all want for our children?  Good health, strong bodies, intelligent minds, loving disposition. Fish for dinner two days a week will take care of the first three.  The fourth……? Still trying to work that one out!   There are dishes I come back to again and again because they work. They feed and nourish my family, who relish the first portion, and, having relaxed and chatted at the table, will then enquire… “Mum, is there any more of that left?”

I had almost forgotten that this fish pie from Darina Allen was a family staple when my children were growing up until it was requested recently. Like most households, our kids ate fish without comment until they went to school and began succumbing to the peer pressure of friends who wouldn’t touch it. We began hearing about fishbones and fear and “I don’t like it”. Some strategic thinking was required. I decided to make a fish dish for dinner on the day they had swimming class, and that it would be ready before we came home, starving.  It worked! As we walked through the door, the smell from the pre-set oven would greet us and by the time the togs and towels were hung up and the table set, dinner was ready. Once the precedent was established, we moved from the various fish pies onto other fish dishes, but this one was the pioneer, the fish pie that broke the mould.

Darina Allen’s Gratin of Hake with Bacon, Tomatoes and Dill

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Prepare your Defence against the Common Cold- Simmered Chicken and its Stock

Summer holidays are over; children and teachers have returned to school. My stockpot is ready.  Many of us will have begun a head cold by the Equinox on September 21st.  While we might like to blame the disappointing Irish summer, the truth is that whether the summer is good, bad or indifferent, viruses that cause the common cold outsmart us all every September.

So now’s the time to reach for your stockpot, a good free-range, preferably organic chicken and lay in your supplies for when the sniffles arrive in your house, as they inevitably will.  You’ll end up with  a lot of chicken meat which you can freeze in 100g/200g parcels for school lunches, and with chicken stock which may be frozen in small, medium or large quantities.  This takes a few hours to do so prepare it ahead, for when you’ve a miserable child draped over your shoulder.

Chicken and Veggies ready for the stockpot

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Gazpacho Andaluz

Irish Tomatoes are in season at last. The shops are full of them and those who grow their own are reaping the harvest.  Gazpacho Andaluz is one of the best and tastiest ways of using them.  A salad in a soup bowl, it transport you to the Mediterranean and bursts with nutrition.

Irish Tomatoes for Gazpacho Andaluz

Last week when summer weather paid us a rather late visit, I made a gazpacho using Marguerite Costa’s  recipe in my 1970 copy of her ‘Four Seasons Cookery Book‘.  It was SO tasty.  Eating it al fresco with bare arms was a delight.  We enjoyed the occasion so much that I forgot to take photos of the terracotta-red soup in its large tureen accompanied by pretty bowls of garnish in red, yellow, green, black, gold.  Well, if Mrs. Costa could present her wonderful recipe in a book without pictures and make it in a time when she had no electric blender, only a Mouli, you and I can use our imaginations and blitz it in a jiffy.

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Gaillimh Abú

Today’s the day for the All-Ireland Hurling Final in Croke Park.  All week long, sunshine has beamed down on us. Social media were a-buzz with photographs of the harvest being brought in.  Machines worked late into the night.  During the glory days of Wexford hurling in the 1970′s, my classmates in boarding school in Bunclody used to tell how in hurling families,  the men were excused for training and the women brought in the harvest with the help of neighbours.  ‘Meitheal‘ at its very best.  The job of the babies was to pose for photos in the Liam McCarthy Cup, once it was won. Continue reading

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