This is the soup that I cooked at the Glenroe Ladies’ Club demonstration – it is something that I make regularly as it has a great flavour, doesn’t take long and is really good for freezing. The smoked paprika is fabulous with it, giving a real depth to the soup. Perfect for warming your hands while you sip it out of a large mug.
A quick trip to the first Killavullen Farmers’ Market of the year last weekend produced an unexpected treasure. I pounced on a pile of just-scrubbed nobbly tubers on the Nano Nagle stand – Jerusalem artichokes. Also known as fartichokes (in my house anyway) they’re not vegetables that you come across too often. We tried to grow them last year but, as with so many of the things that we planted, the rabbits thought otherwise. Having read a lot about how they are a virtual weed in many gardens, I have high hopes of them turning up again but, until now, it has been an artichoke-free winter.
A short trip to Kenmare earlier this week unearthed plenty of good food. Dinner at the Lime Tree was worth waiting for, as we arrived late, stepping into the lively, convivial atmosphere of the restaurant from a cold, damp night. There was plenty to choose from on the menu but my eye didn’t go too far and I gladly devoured a dish of the sweetest Kilmacalogue mussels, steamed open in a in a lemon, garlic, ginger and corriander broth. Tempted though I was by the Kerry lamb on offer, I stuck with the seafood and enjoyed the monkfish instead. A portion of well-flavoured pea and chorizo risotto surrounded medallions of the fish, in a rosemary butter sauce, topped with long, curly parsnip crisps. There wasn’t a lot left on the plate by the time the friendly waiting staff came to clear and I didn’t even get to touch the, for me, superfluous side dishes of vegetables and potatoes. After all that, desert didn’t even get a look in and I finished with a pot of peppermint tea.
Life is busy – but, despite a routine that involves week-long neglect and frenzied activity at the weekend, the cottage garden is thriving! The Boyfriend is a member of the Irish Seed Savers Association so we got a few different types of potatoes from them, planting Cara, Ratte and Arran Banner varieties, along with some Roosters that sprouted in the bottom of the cupboard in March. They were all – apart from the Roosters, which is a more floury variety and an accidental planting – chosen deliberately for their blight resistant and waxy properties. So far the blight resistance, together with the blight-spray ministrations of a very helpful neighbour, seems to be working so hopefully there won’t be a reprise of the Great Irish Famine in Ballyvoddy (still, there’s always rabbit for the eating…)
This is the most useful recipe to have in your repertoire. I use it – sometimes with the addition of broccoli, chorizo, bacon or chilli – with gnocchi, pasta, cannelloni and polenta, as a topping for pizza and even when baking pancakes. If you can track down some decent Italian plum tomatoes, it’s all the better for that; if you can’t, just keep tasting and adjusting the flavour with sugar if it’s too bitter, red wine or balsamic vinegar if it’s too sweet, tomato purée if it needs more body, water if it’s too thick. If you have fresh basil, add it at the end to lift the flavour of sauce. I often use thyme – fresh if I have it but sometimes dried – if I want the sauce to have a herby tinge.
When the weather is good no one wants to spend time in the kitchen and, when the Boyfriend arrived home from the supermarket the other day with a large box of button mushrooms, I didn’t much feel like frying them or using them in an omelette strognoff or making a mushroom stroganoff or risotto or any one of the thousand and one things I use mushrooms for. I normally prefer the meatier, large flat Portobello mushrooms but, after spending the weeks in Morocco poring over Claudia Roden’s salad recipes in A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, I had an idea for these styrofoam buttons.
Honey – Moroccan honey is the most un-honey-tasting honey that I’ve ever eaten. We often had it for breakfast, the rich caramel sweetness drizzled across English muffin-styled Moroccan pancakes called beghrir or the flaky, multi-layered m’semen. Accompanied with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a café crème, it made the perfect start to the day.Spices – although I’ve been really happy with my old blend of ras el hanout from Greg Malouf‘s Moorish, I couldn’t resist the chance of picking up some more to compare and contrast it with what I use. I also got turmeric, ground ginger and two types of chilli powder(at least I think that’s what piment fort/piment doux means!).Olives – a kilo of green olives in what the shopkeeper described as “piquante” flavouring and another half kilo of wrinkled sweet black olives. I loved how each meal in Morocco started with a small bowl of these olives and a basket of flatbread as we perused the menu. They never lasted long.Dates – considering the variety and quality on offer, I was restrained and came home with only a half kilo of the sweet, plump fruit. One dish that kept turning up in the books that I read while travelling there was of a roasted fish, stuffed with almond-filled dates. Must try and keep a few true Moroccan dates to try out that recipe.Preserved lemons – while picking up the olives and dates in a small shop near the Casablanca train station, minutes before we had to get the train to the airport, I couldn’t resist getting a few of these glorious-looking lemons. This, despite the fact that I’d made a jarful from some organic lemons before I left Ireland! Another thing for the compare and contrast experiments, methinks.Garlic – the small bulbs of garlic available in Morocco are much sweeter than the stuff that you can find on sale in Ireland. I love to use raw garlic but it can be very off-putting if, instead of gently cosying up to the other ingredients, it decides to loudly broadcast its presence. I brought some good quality garlic home from Paris and it lasted me ages so I couldn’t resist grabbing a couple of bulbs in Casablanca when I got the chance.