FORGOTTEN SKILLS OF COOKING by Darina Allen [Book Review & CO Radio/TV]

Posted on 19 August 2010 by Cork Graham

In 1972, I arrived in Singapore to attend the Singapore American School and soon after was introduced to a documentary film, called Future Shock, based on a book by Alvin Toffler and narrated by Orson Welles which was taking the US by storm. As a child, it totally freaked me out….perhaps one of the reasons I avoided computers until I could avoid them no longer. At that time there was also a large movement to get back to basics.

It revealed itself in the very large “Ecology” movement of the 1970s (remember the riff on the American flag, in green with the Greek letter ‘Theta’ where the stars and blue background would have been?), and publications like The Foxfire Books, a collection of stories detailing life in Southern Appalachia. I still have my father’s copies that he picked up on visits back to the States. It’s full of information on woodcraft and pre-supermarket self-reliance. They even showed how to properly scald a pig, which I used in this episode of Cork’s Outdoor TV on roasting a pig.

I’m reminded greatly of the back-to-basics movement of the 1970s, by these latest “slow food” and “green food” movements recorded by Michael Pollan and Paul Bertolli. What could be better than eating food that led to a slower and more relaxed society? But, so much information has been lost due to the increasing lack of family histories and traditions being handed down through live practice, i.e. on a farm or ranch. So many generations have moved off the land and into cities. Nowadays, most slow food information is that carried into the US by new immigrants from Asia and Latin America.

This is a pity as there was a lot of slow food information held in the family lines that came here from Northern Europe. In March of this year, I had the opportunity to complete a phone interview for Cork’s Outdoors Radio with one such food authority on her latest book on getting back to the basics (be sure to listen to the audio and watch the show below).

Darina Allen is noted as the “Julia Child of Ireland” and has been entertaining and educating on the subject of cooking in Ireland and the United Kingdom through her TV show and a collection of books. Her latest book, Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time Honored Ways are The Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why, is that treasure trove of not only Irish, British, and foods from other parts of the world, like Italian slow food recipes, but also articles and remedies for raising your own chickens for meat and eggs, how to properly butcher large farm animals like pigs, cattle and lambs.

It’s a gorgeous book, with photos that took all the seasons to create, evidenced by plants in bloom, and the foods in season. It’s all about being seasonal, Allen says, something clear in how she describes not only those foods that are collected on the farm, but also on a day’s walk in the woods gathering such morsels for the kitchen as nettles, mushrooms and a number of herbs, leafy greens, and berries.

Both land and water are covered, with foraging rewards, like limpets that are easily found in the Americas, and are cooked in a number of dishes that incorporate the bounty of the farm and field.

Though spending a lot of time reading through the scrumptious recipes that anyone would easily take a few years preparing all the scrumptious family meals using organic ingredients (either purchased or foraged): pies, breads, puddings, roasts and grilled fishes, I was keen on the game and fish sections.

Hare, venison, duck and goose are covered well, both as farm offerings and from the marsh, and of course the obligatory pheasant, but I’d done enough pheasant recipes lately, so I quickly focused on the basil cream rabbit recipe. It was the very cottontail taken with a .22 pellet rifle from Crosman. Who would have thought the hardest part for this recipe was to get the caul fat: Thank God for Dittmer’s in Mountain View, CA!

Watch the preparation and presentation on Cork’s Outdoors TV and return for the recipe below:

SADDLE OF RABBIT WITH CREAM, BASIL, AND CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS

reprinted with permission from the publisher, KYLE BOOKS

SERVES 6

6 saddle of rabbit (use the legs for confit)

4oz pork caul fat

salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

23 cup dry white wine

23 cup Chicken Stock

23 cup cream

2oz basil leaves

Caramelized Shallots (see below)

 Steps:

  1. Trim the flap of each saddle, if necessary (use in stock or pâté).
  2. Remove the membrane and sinews from the back of the saddles
  3. with a small knife.
  4. Wrap each saddle loosely in pork caul fat.
  5. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the rabbit pieces in a stainless steel or heavy roasting pan and roast for 8–12 minutes, depending on size.
  7. Remove from the oven, cover, and allow to rest.
  8. Degrease the pan if necessary, and put the wine to reduce in the roasting pan.
  9. Reduce by half over medium heat, add the chicken stock, and continue to reduce.
  10. Add the cream.
  11. Bring to a boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and add lots of snipped basil.
  12. Serve the rabbit with the basil sauce, caramelized shallots, boiled new potatoes, and a good green salad.

 

CARAMELIZED SHALLOTS

1lb shallots, peeled

4 tablespoons butter

12 cup water

1–2 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

 Steps:

  1. Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and add the peeled shallots.
  2. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for about 10–15 minutes or until the shallots are soft and juicy.
  3. Remove the lid, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Allow the juices to evaporate and caramelize. Be careful not to let them burn.

For more information on Darina Allen’s cooking school in Ireland, check out her school’s website: Ballymaloe Cookery School

 

For your daily commute on your MP3 player – Download and Enjoy Darina Allen’s interview on Cork’s Outdoors Radio:

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