Posts tagged ‘food’

September 27, 2012

Rustic Italian Grape Cake -Recipe

by Ciaran Burke


24 pots of jam have been made from our haul of grapes, also nearly four liters of grape cordial Hanna made a delicious cake from an Italian recipe replacing sweet wine with white port. YUM!



  • 225ml dessert white port wine
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 100g softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • zest 1 orange
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 175ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 225g plain flour , plus 1 tbsp for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g grapes , halved and seeded
  • 4-5 tbsp demerara sugar

  1. Pour the wine into a pan. Bring to the boil and keep simmering until reduced down to 85ml – will take some 5-10 mins. Leave to cool.
  2. Heat oven to 180C.
  3. Beat together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs, one at a time. Then stir in the zests.
  4. Mix baking powder and flours.
  5. Mix together the cooled wine and olive oil and pour some into the cake mix. Stir well, then fold in about third of the flour mixture. Keep alternating between adding the liquid and flour until everything has been mixed in.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the oiled and floured baking tin, smooth the surface with a spoon.
  7. Scatter the halved grapes over the top. Sprinkle with demerera sugar.
  8. Bake for about 50 mins or untilwell baked.
Enjoy! I certainly did…
September 27, 2012

Fruit of the vine- a gift of grapes means lots of grape jam

by Ciaran Burke

I got the call on Sunday morning,” I have friend of a friend who has a grape vine…”. The vine grower now lives in France, but the vine in question grows in Sligo. Nobody wanted the grapes, the caller thought of me, “would I like the grapes?”  Yes, definitely. We arranged to meet on Tuesday morning, we were told there were lots to pick, but were not sure how much that was. So we packed a couple of buckets and off we went to Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, a short drove from our home.

We arrived at the vacant house, a west wind blew damp and fresh, the garden overgrown, the grass long and weeds invading the driveway. We followed our friend Mary to the tunnel, a stunning sight greeted us. The vine had started to wander, side shoots stretched out like tentacles, reaching into the air, looking for something to grab. The main body of the vine was supported on a homemade support sytem of wood and steel, winding stems looked ancient, older than their years. They twisted along the suports from the far end of the tunnel. Almost the entire length of the structure was filled by its fruitful presence. The large leaves tried to hide its bounty from our view. We gently eased back foliage to see the large clusters of grapes revealed. We got busy with out scissors, our buckets soon overflowed, luckily I had a crate in the car, the harvesting could continue.

Grape vines are easy to grow, the west of Ireland climate does not provide good ripening conditions, a protected structure such as a greenhouse or plastic tunnel over comes the disadvantage of our location. Each end of the tunnel had plastic netteing for doors allowing good ventilation, essential for vines so as to reduce the incidence of powdery mildew, which can be menace for Vitis vinifera.

So what to do with all these grapes? First of all jam. We have also made cordial and my wife Hanna baked a delicious rustic Italian grape cake. All the recipes are on their way, but first the jam!

Grape Jam Recipe

Grape jam takes a little work to prepare. The work involves removing the pulp from the grape and separating the skins. Then the pulp is cooked and sieved to remove the stones. While the pulp is cooking you blend the skins with a food processor or hand blender. The skins are then added to the sieved pulp, then cooked slowly for about 30 minutes. Then add sugar and boil like mad for about another 30 minutes until the jam is setting. A good set can be achieved without the addition of pectin. I try to limit the sugar quantities to a minimum, partly for healthiness but I also prefer the jam to taste of grapes and not be too sweet.


  • 4kg of grapes
  • 500ml of water
  • tbsp of lemon juice
  • 1.5kg of sugar


  1. Remove the skins. This is easy, just squeeze the fruit so that the inner pulp and seed ejects from the opening where the fruit was attached to the bunch. Put the skins in a separate bowl. Two people doing a 2 kilos took about 30 minutes
  2. Put the pulp containing seeds to cook, when they start to boil reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes
  3. Meanwhile chop up the skins using hand blender or food processor
  4. Sieve the grape flesh to remove the seeds, a coarse sieve will do, I used a colander with small holes
  5. Retutn the grapes to the saucepan and add the puled skins. Add the lemon juice and water and bring to boil
  6. Reduce the heat to simmer the fruit for 30 minutes, cooking slowly releases the pectin
  7. Slowly add the sugar and then turn up the heat
  8. The jam will boil heavily and keep the temp up high. It took about 30 minutes for the jam to start thickening.
  9. When it is starting to set, fill the jam into sterilized jars.

This amount made 13 8oz jars. When making jam stir the fruit occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the sauce pan, never leave it alone as it is sure to boil over and burn as soon as you turn your back.

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June 20, 2012

Rose Petal Cordial – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Roses, there is no other plant with so much symbolism attached to it, war of the roses, symbol of love and Shakespeare quotes… Roses in the garden can be a pain, not just the literal ache when a prickle, not a thorn,gets stuck in your flesh. Roses have prickles not thorns, thorns are modified shoots while roses have prickles that arise as modifications from the skin of the stem, the song by Poison “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” is just botanically inaccurate! Roses are a pain because many of them get diseases such as rust, black spot and powdery mildew and can be really troubled by aphids (green fly).

‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

There are roses that have resistance to diseases and one group called Rugosa hybrids provides us with many cultivars that are robust and disease free, wind resistant and vigorous. Their flowers are often strongly fragrant and  produced in succession throughout the summer. Even when they get aphids they seem to be quite untroubled. Cultivars such as ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’  and  ‘Schneekoppe’ and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ are hybrids crossed with wild Rosa rugosa, they combine the ruggedness of the wild species but inherit refinement and beauty expected of a good garden rose. Although less of a pain in terms of care, they can cause literal pain, as there are few other roses have so many prickles along their stems. Ah well every rose has its… prickles.

Their fragrance can drift on the warm summer air, often when I smell roses I think of Turkish Delight. The sweet, a red coloured jelly flavoured with rose petals, that got me thinking…

Rose petals in water

So here we have Rose Petal Cordial, the rich and seductive fragrance of rugosa roses captured in a flavoursome cordial to enjoy at anytime.

Rose Petal Cordial Recipe


  • 12 flowers of a double rugosa rose eg. ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’
  • 2 Litre of water
  • 3 slices of lemon
  • 250g of Fruisana fruit sugar

Pulling away the petals, discard dis-coloured petals


  1. Remove the Rose petals from the flower stalks and put in a glass jar
  2. add the lemon slices and water
  3. Leave to stand for 48 hours in a cool dark place.
  4. Remove the lemons and cook petals and water in a saucepan.
  5. Add sugar as the water heats and continue cooking until boiling
  6. Sieve the liquid into sterilized glass bottles
  7. Allow to cool
  8. Dilute 1:10 cordial to water or according to taste.

We used some cordial to make rose jelly using carageenan seaweed. More on that later…

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June 18, 2012

Pickled Elder Flower Buds – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Pickled Elder Flower Buds

Elder flowers open in succession, so even now while there are flowers in full bloom there are further flowers still to open. The flower heads when harvested at the green bud stage are delicious pickled, a bit like a substitute for capers.

Collecting the flower heads

Snap off unopened flower heads. Collect about 30 heads for a 1 litre jar. You can leave the stalks, they can be eaten too.

Boil up a litre of cider vinegar, or you can use a malt vinegar instead.

Elder flower buds in colander after washing

Wash the harvested flower heads and place them in a clip top storage jar.

Elder flower buds in clip lid jar

When the vinegar has boiled, pour it over the flower heads.

Pour the boiled vinegar into the jar containing the elder flower buds

Seal the jar and the allow the vinegar to cool.

The flower heads can be eaten as soon as the vinegar has cooled.

Pickled Elder Flower Buds

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May 28, 2012

Stuffed Red Mustard Leaves – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke
Stuffed Red Mustard leaves with pinhead oats

Stuffed Red Mustard leaves with pinhead oats

Last year we sowed red mustard leaves, Brassica juncea ‘Osaka Purple’, in neat rows in our salad bed in the vegetable garden. This year it is coming up all over the vegetable gardens and beyond. The large floppy red leaves are mottled green and the flowers are yellow and typical of the cabbage family.

It grows easily and rapidly, their hot flavour is delicious when mixed with salad greens, but there is always too many of them. The majority of the plants end up going to seed and hence, their random and rapacious appearances grabbing land and spreading faster than Genghis Khan. So what to do with all these lovely leaves? The answer, perhaps it is stuffed leaves with pin head oats…

– 12 large red mustard leaves
– 1 Onion, chopped finely
-1/2 Chilli chopped
– 1/2 cup of pinhead oats
– Dessert spoon of honey
– Handful of raisins
– 1/2 cup of water
– Oil for frying

1. Remove the base of the leaf stalk, and put the leaves in a steamer to wilt the leaves. This makes them easier to roll. Place them face down on a flat surface.

2. Fry the onions until they are soft. Add the chopped chilli and the oats. Fry to toast the oats, stir continuously, about ten minutes.

3. Add the water, raisins and honey, and cook until the oats are softened slightly, about 15 mins.

4. Remove from heat and put a heaped dessert spoonful of the oat mixture on each leaf.

5. Roll the leaves around the mixture and fold in the ends.

6. Place the rolls into a Pyrex dish, you can stack them if you need to, cover them with water and place on the lid.

7. Put in a heated oven 190 Celcius and cook for an hour. Check occasionally to make sure the water does not boil away completely. Add a little if needed.

8. When done, remove from oven dish and transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle over some rapeseed oil.

Serve hot or cold.


Red Mustard- Brassica juncea "Osaka Purple'

Red Mustard- Brassica juncea “Osaka Purple’

Red Mustard Leves (centre) in rows in salad bed

Red Mustard Leves (centre) in rows in salad bed

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