All you need is love
Food and wine
Food, like love, is one of the essential building blocks of life. Like love, you can get the best in the world but you can also come across bad, misleading or deceptive versions!
Sometimes a food can wow you initially, and you think it’s the best in the world, only to later realise it is a flashy, fancy, mirage that has fooled you into short-term satisfaction and it’s doing you no good in the longer term… Processed foods and meals fit into this category. Processed meals and foods often contain high levels of salt, sugar and preservatives. The good raw ingredients used to make these convenience foods are often denuded of their nutrients during the manufacturing process.
Like love, the best foods are those that are true and honest; they don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are. Fine, Smash is fun to eat once in a while (and I will admit to enjoying it), but let’s face it, it in no way resembles the real version of mashed potatoes.
Where’s the love?
There is big love going on right now with the regulars of Irish winter crops. Think spuds (all ways), roast parsnips with honey, mashed turnip with sweet carrots.
Vegetable skins contain important nutrients and minerals, so please don’t just waste them by peeling away chunks of peel. Try a brief wash under water or a scrub with a green Brillo pad to clean vegetables harvested this year. A simple pot-roasted Irish organic chicken with winter veggies will taste delicious if you can get good local veggies.
Beetroot is sweet and sexy when roasted – and FULL of goodness.
You could go fancy and try baked salmon with layers of beetroot in pastry. Other fancy winter dishes could be lentil and local-sausage winter stew with broccoli, or pan-fried calf’s liver with bacon, lemon and winter kale, or Chestnut and kale soup.
Here are two seasonal recipes with the best of local foods, cooked with love… It’s all about the love!
Auntie Marie’s baked love pears with Amaretti
Auntie Marie can be maddening in the kitchen, as she doesn’t let you put a cup out of place, but she was spot on when she cooked up this amazing yet simple dessert. It’s guaranteed to please, whether you’re a student in your bed-sit or the president in Áras an Uachtaráin.
> 3 Irish pears
> 60g crushed Amaretti biscuits
> 120g soft butter
> whipped cream
> Cut pears in half, removing inner pip area and place flat side up
> Crush the Amaretti biscuits under tea towel and mix into butter with wooden spoon.
> Divide evenly over peach halves.
> Bake in oven for 20 minutes
> Drizzle Amaretto (or Baileys or Kahlua) over after cooking, and serve with splodge of whipped cream on the side.
Italian Hearty Winter Love Stew
Like Auntie Marie, Italians can also be maddening! But their complete love of life and food always shines through strong and proud. This dish was taught to me with love by Angelo and Anneli, and then I frustrate them by changing it, like I am doing here, with Irish veggies! This is a hearty, warming, winter stew full of wetness, goodness, fish and a refreshing chilli kick. Serves 4. Time: 25 mins
> 32 local mussels, 12 small pieces of white Irish fish, 20 squid rings (pre-fried in oil with a bay leaf in a covered pan for seven mins), 20 frozen tiger prawns (non-local, shshsh!),
> 1 tin Italian plum tomatoes,
> Irish parsnips and jacket potatoes with their skins on,
> two fresh red chillies,
> five cloves garlic.
> Pull off the mussels’ hairy beards and clean in water.
> Heat some oil in a solid-based pan, add the mussels, cover with a lid.
> After three minutes, add thickly chopped garlic and chillies (careful not to brown or burn!), a dash of white wine and the plum tomatoes and stir. Cook for five minutes on a high heat to allow the tomatoes to sweeten.
> Chop pre-boiled parsnips and spuds (al dente) into big chunks and add.
> Cook for ten minutes on a medium heat. Add white fish in big chunks – just lay on top of the bubbling stew for five minutes, then stir lightly in. Cook another five mins.
> Add a big dash of black pepper and salt, and serve in a bowl with a lemon wedge.
If you have never been to Christy’s Harvest on Shop Street, Westport, be sure to pay it a visit next time in town. Supporting local produce. Pick up a bottle of non-local Italian Salice Salentino, ‘Maiama’. Pack full of ripe berry fruits and a superb friend to all winter meals. €15.50.
Telephone 098 50546