Simply superb. Superbly simple.
Renowned chef Rory O’Connell drew an overflow attendance to CIT last evening as he demonstrated in a two hour plus session just what can be done with the top class produce available in the English Market.
The event, entitled A Taste of The English Market at CIT, was a stunning success. It was in aid of Cork Penny Dinners, a well established charity, and there was a raffle also on the night with food prizes supplied by the college and the market.
The Market had put a strong team together for this venture, their first joint one with the Culinary Department at the well equipped college, and they came to see what Rory would teach the students. As it turned out, we were all students last night, in the presence of a master.
But a modest master. “I could talk for hours about cabbage. It is a really wonderful vegetable, any time of year.” And he had this tip on the cabbage: “I find it easier to chop before washing.”
The programme contained six feature dishes and about nine “really quick dishes”. For example, the big featured dishes included Salt Hake Puree with roast peppers, basil, rocket leaves and Grilled Bread and also Spiced Beef with Avocado, Roast Peppers and Horseradish Cream.
That Hake purée was brilliant – we all got mini tasters at the end of the evening – and the salting part is quite simple and takes about four hours. Another tip here was on olive oil. Get a good one. “The difference between a good and a bad olive oil is phenomenal.”
Spiced Beef is synonymous with the English Market but don’t discard the cooking juices as Rory said they can be the basis of a soup the next day. On horseradish he urged us to buy it whole and fresh.
He also showed an offal dish: Sauté of Spring Lamb’s Liver and Kidney with Crisped Bacon and Onion Comfiture. “Offal is fabulous; such good value and get your liver fresh, the fresher the better.”
The Ricotta Cake with Caramel Sauce was another feature (recipe below), this a cross between “a sponge and a cheese cake”. Gorgeous when served with his Poached Rhubarb and Smashed Strawberries. “Buy Irish rhubarb. There is no earthly reason to get it from anywhere else.” The buy Irish buy local theme was a strong one throughout the demonstration.
And we had the series of “Really Quick Dishes”, eye catching and delicious. They all looked spectacular and all caught the eye. Hard to pick a favourite but the Ruby Beetroot, Smoked Mackerel, Pickled Cucumbers and Crème Fraiche was a gem. The presentation was superb with the cucumber sliced in long thin slices from end to end and draped over the other ingredients.
And, of course, the big point here was that the beetroot is not cooked but eaten raw, having been peeled and grated, What a dish. Another winner, they all were really, was the Mozzarella, Basil and Tomato mix, best made in summer. Simple but oh so well presented and so tasty, especially now that the cheese is made in Macroom and available in the market.
And Rory also likes his spuds, especially if they come from Ballycotton and even more so if they are grown in the area there known as Churchtown South. Apparently that has the best terroir for the Irish Potato “one of the world’s best ingredients”. One of Rory’s dishes was appropriately enough Rustic Oven Roast Potato Chips.
Must say that Rory had a terrific facility to work with at CIT, with his spotless “kitchen” facing a small amphitheatre that meant everyone had a terrific view and, if you wanted to see something in the pan in close-up, there were two HD screens high on the wall.
So well done to everyone involved, to the CIT Department of Tourism and Hospitality Studies and the students (who must have the best cafe) and of course to the English Market traders** who supplied the raw materials and the prizes for the raffle. A very enjoyable evening indeed.
** ABC Breads, Bresnan Butchers, The Chocolate Shop, Farmgate Cafe, Iago, Murphy Butchers, O’Connell’s Fish, On the Pig’s Back, The Olive Stall and O’Mahony Butchers.