Posts tagged ‘organic’

July 29, 2011


by Ciaran Burke


I have been in Finland for the last couple of weeks with my wife Hanna, a native of this beautiful tree filled land. Finland is the most forested country in the EU. Approximately 74% of the country is covered in forest. One gets the impression that even the biggest towns and cities are living areas carved from the forests, trees are never far away. The green gold of Finland provides an important source of income, but the forests are more than resources to be harvested and sold.

Driving through the country, large pines and birches tower either side of the road. The roads are like veins and arteries carrying civilization, through a forested body; it is in this arboreal body in which the Finnish soul resides.

In European folklores, the woods are scary places; big bad wolves attack innocent girls on their way to visit their grand mothers. In Finland however the forests are considered a place of beauty, where most people spend their summer holidays, surrounded by the beauty. In summer as you drive along one of the arterial routes of civilization, you are sure to see people walking to the forests with empty buckets in search for berries or coming from the woods with baskets of mushrooms. Gathering food from the forest floor is a national pass time, or in some cases an obsession.

The two most numerous berry types are lingon berry and wild blueberry, bilberry, or froachan as we call it in Ireland. Both are species of Vaccinium, the former, V. vitis-idea and the latter V. myrtillus. Finns may love their forests, but they are intensely proud of their berries too. Ask them and most will tell you that the Finnish blueberries are the best. Families often have their own preferred places for picking; this information is not shared with others.

Last week we were in Hanko, the southern most tip of Finland. Here the forest is chiefly composed of tall pines. We got a report that the blue berries were plentiful, we went for a walk to see. As often happens in this wooded land, a short stroll became a berry picking expedition. The hot and high afternoon sun filtered through the open pines to dapple light patterns on the sandy forest floor. Mosses and lichens made a soft bed for heathers and blueberries to grow in the shade. We picked a litre of berries and returned home.


Early the next morning we visited the market in Hanko. Here in a car park in the town, adjacent to a filling station, wild blue berries were piled high on a table. The berry sellers were Asian women, Burmese refugees. They pick them in the woods and sell the in the market, their produce marked clearly that they are Suomi, Finnish. Farmers sold vegetables, there were stalls for locally caught fish too. The vegetables stalls sold potatoes measured in kappa’s. A kappa is a wooden box, a 5 litre box is a full kappa, a 2 litre is half. These are traditional measurements used for selling potatoes, converted to metric measurements, the boxes complete with official stamps. Most fruits and vegetables are sold by volume and not by weight at the Finnish markets. French beans, green and yellow are measured in litre and half litre measuring cups.



We purchased an additional litre of blue berries and potatoes and vegetables for dinner; then we cycled home to make some jam.


In a saucepan I cooked the berries with a small amount of water until the fruit had become soft, a wonderful fruity fragrance filled the kitchen. After about ten minutes of slowly cooking the fruit I gradually added 500g of sugar, made from Finnish grown sugar beet, unlike Ireland they saved their sugar beet industry from EU eradication. When all the sugar was added and dissolved, I turned up the heat and the jam boiled hard. I continued cooking the jam, stirring occasionally until the jam was not running off the wooden spoon.


The messiest part of jam making is always when I fill the jars. The jars were heated in the oven so as to sterilize them; they were first washed, then dried and placed in a cold oven. I heat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and the jars remain in the oven until I am ready to fill them.


Later when the filled jars had cooled and the jam was set, we ate Finnish oven pancake over which we spooned this delicious wild blue berry jam. We ate it with home made buns, on bread, and spooned straight from the jar. There is nothing quite like home made jam, wild blue berry jam made with berries from the woodland, delicious!

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May 1, 2011

Leg of Lamb With Coffee Sauce

by Ciaran Burke


For Easter Sunday last weekend, we bought a half leg of lamb from the Irish Organic Meats stall at Boyle market in Co. Roscommon. I wanted to do something a little different. Hanna suggested cooking it with coffee. This is a traditional Easter lamb dish in Hanna’ family which here grandmother always cooked back in Helsinki, Finland. Hanna phoned her Mum to get the recipe, which she had close to hand, as she was preparing the same dish.


  • Half leg of lamb, we used shank end weighing 1.5 Kg
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • 200ml cream
  • 0.5 Litre of strong coffee – by no means use instant!
  • 2 tablespoons of Muscavado sugar
  • Cream – Hanna’s mum says enough that if looks like what granny used to drink!
Preparing and cooking the lamb


  1. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper
  2. Cut slits into the lamb fat and push slices of garlic under the fat
  3. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper
  4. Place into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees Celcius for 15 minutes
  5. Then lower the temperature to 180 and start to baste the meat with coffee
  6. Spoon coffee over the lamb every fifteen minutes
Lining the tray with baking paper prevents the juices released from the meat from burning. Roast for one hour for the first Kilo and half an hour for every additional kilo.
When the lamb is cooked, pour the juices into a measuring jug, allow to cool a little and then remove fat from top. Keep lamb warm.


Pour into a saucepan and heat. Stir in an equal amount of coffee. If you want a thicker sauce you can thicken with cornflower.
Carve meat and serve with rosemary roast potatoes. Delicious at any time of year, not just Easter!

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April 7, 2011

Facebook friend offers free weedkiller for my talk

by Ciaran Burke

Tonight I am doing a talk for the Oranmore GIY (Grow Your Own) Group. The title of the talk is “Top Fruit, Soft Fruit and Strange Fruit”. I announced the talk on my Facebook page and then I got an email from a Facebook friend who I have never met, Oisin from Irish Organic Weedkiller. He kindly made the offer of some free samples of his new innovative product made from acetic acid that kills weeds quickly and is 100% biodegradable.

I have never used the product but I will give it a try. I have two boxes of the ready to use bottles to give away at the talk that takes place in Oranmore Public Library this evening at 6.30pm.

Thanks Oisin for the gesture.


March 30, 2011

Beef Stock and Oven Chips in Beef Dripping

by Ciaran Burke
Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011
Roasted beef bones in roasting tin

Last Saturday we made our weekly visit to the Farmers Market in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. My partner Hanna and I love to  do as much as possible of our week’s grocery shopping at the market. Dealing with stall holders in the grounds of the historic King House is such an uplifting and enjoyable experience, it certainly beats dealing with self service tills at a supermarket, or being ignored by bored uninterested, sometime rude, shop employees discussing their previous night’s social life adventures while mindlessly scanning our purchases. Yes, a friendly hello, a smile, costs nothing but is worth so much. The relaxed atmosphere of the market allows time for a chat, a bit of banter and always a smile and a few laughs. The produce is organic and top quality, and cost wise it is good value as we are dealing direct with the grower, the farmer, the baker the supplier. The packaging is a lot less too, much better for the environment.

There are other perks of having a regular supplier for your meat too. I texted Deirdre from Irish Organic Meats earlier in the week to ask if she could supply us with beef bones for making stock, “no problem ” was the reply. When we arrived at her stall there was the usual cheerful greeting and she had brought two bags of bones. Having your own supply of organic beef stock is a great thing when you want to make sauces, gravy and soups. We store the stock in plasctic boxes in the freezer, so handy to have, as so simple to make.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef bones ready for roasting

On Saturday afternoon we placed the bones in a baking tray and drizzled over a little rapeseed oil. We placed the tray in the oven set at 180 degrees Celcius and let the bones roast for about two hours. The smell was torturously delicious as it wafted from the open kitchen door while we toiled in the garden. We worked until dark which was well after seven. We were starving, a treat was ahead of us though. A great bonus of roasting the bones is that plenty of clear beef fat is released from the roasting bones. When this cools it becomes a cream toffee tinted colour and has the consistency of full fat butter, this is beef dripping.  The treat in store was oven chips roasted in deef dripping.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef fat from roasting the bones

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

One spoonful of beef dripping is enough to give a roasting tin full of chips a full flavour










Thick chunky chips, from potatoes that were dug from the garden only two weeks before. These were the last of the previous season’s crop. The varietry was ‘Tibet’, a late maturing variety, the tubers are ready only in October. It makes a tall growing plant with quite attractive dark purple blooms.

Potato 'Tibet' washed and ready to be peeled

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Thick cut potato chips ready for the oven










The tubers were washed of their soil revealing their red skins. After peeling and cutting the potatoes into large chips, a roasting tin with a good dollop of dripping was put in the oven until it was liquified and sizzling. The chips were then tossed in the hot fat and rolled around before being put in the oven. I set the timer for 8 minutes. When the beeps of the timer rang out I took the tin from the oven and moved the chips about making sure none were sticking and that all were coated in fat. Then into the oven they returned. This I repeated another time, the chips were ready in 24 minutes.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Oven chips cooked in beef dripping, sinfully delicious!

They were delicious sprinkled with salt, perfect food for after a hard day’s work in the garden.

The next day, Sunday, we placed the roasted bones in two large saucepans and covered them well with water, about four litres in each pot. We brought the water to the boil and allowed them to simmer for about six hours while we worked all day in the garden. The water reduced down to below the height  of the bones. After it cooled for a few hours we packed into plastic containers, labelled them with dates and stored them in the freezer. Some we put aside and refrigerated to use the following day to make tomato soup for lunch.

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef stock after water has reduced

Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011
Home made beef stock, rich and full of flavour, free from additives.



Beef dripping gives such a rich flavour to the chips and home made beef stock beats anything you can buy in the shops, made from organic produce, free from additives and full of taste. Chicken stock is also easy to make. We always boil the carcass of a chicken and get a couple of litres of rich stock, and the cats get a treat of the left over meat on the bones.



Copyright Ciaran Burke 2011

Beef Dripping will store for many weeks in the refrigerator

Boyle origin farmers market

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February 25, 2011


by Ciaran Burke

Lovely Bergamots and limesBergamot and lime fruits

“Can I photograph your bergamots?” I innocently enquired. “I have never been asked that before” the lady replied. Her husband enquired if I wanted to photograph his, I declined. It was all quite innocent, I was asking the friendly couple who run Kinnedan Organic Farm stall if I could photograph their strange and bitter sweet fruit.

Kinnedan Organic Farm stall at Boyle Farmers' market

It looks a bit like a lemon, but its not. It has segments like a grapefruit, but its small and yellow. It is a citrus fruit, Citrus bergamia, and its best known use is for flavouring Earl Grey tea.It is often confused with the herb bergamont which is Monarda didyma, an unrelated herbaceous perennial plant. My first taste of bergamot was in Italy, where it is known as chinoto. A soft drink is sold using the name Chinoto, it looks like cola but has a totally different taste, not as sweet, more aromatic. That was many years ago.

bergamot fruit

Bergamot Fruit cut in half with grated rind

My more recent encounter with bergamot fruit was at Kinnedan Organic farm stall at the Origin farmers market in Bolye, Co. Roscommon. In a basket the plump yellow fruits shared the space with ripe green limes. I mistook them for lemons but once you smell them you are left in in no doubt that this is something different. Citrus-ey and aromatic, the oily tanginess fills your nostrils, you know this is going to be something special.

Most of the world’s bergamot production seems to take place in Reggio-Calabria in the south of Italy, although they are also grown in Ivory Coast. The trees can grow up to 3 metres and have a bossom typical of citrus, white and fragrant. Bergamot fruits are mostly available in winter.

When I got home my mind was racing, my tummy was rumbling and mouth was watering. The possibilities were endless. First thing I tried was chicken marinated in bergamot juice, grated rind with chili and salt. Thinly sliced chicken breast left to marinade for about twenty minutes then fried and served with stir fried vegetables and brown basmati rice (all organic). It was simply delicious.

After having a savory dish I wanted to have something sweet, so I made both lime curd and bergamot curd. Both are equally delicious, super spread on fresh brown spelt bread or try adding some to natural yogurt, delish!


(substitute limes for bergamots for lime curd)


320g Organic Raw Cane Sugar

Juice of 2 Bergamot (or lime) fruit

2 table Spoons of Bergamot (or lime) grated rind

4 eggs

230gm unsalted butter


  1. Wash jam jars, dry well and place in cold oven. Heat to 100 degrees Celcius.
  2. Whisk eggs and sugar together for a few minutes until mixture smooth
  3. Add the bergamot rind and juice.
  4. Transfer to sauce pan and heat the mixture on medium setting, stirring constantly until mixture is thick, about 7 – 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in butter, a small amount at a time.
  6. Transfer to sterilized jars and cover with lids straight away.

Store the curd in a cool place or refrigerate, use within 3 weeks.

Make sure to clean outside of jars with a clean damp cloth and apply labels with date.

Ingredients for making curd

Adding the butter, a little at a time, stirring constantly

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