Tag Archives: salad

ON TEST – Derrycamma Farm Rapeseed Oil

Rapeseed oil comes from oilseed rape, a root vegetable and cousin of mustard cabbage. The name is derived from the Old English term for turnip –‘rapum’. It comes, as you’d imagine, from those bilious yellow fields that, to my mind at least, disfigure so much of the countryside in Britain and Ireland.

However, aesthetics aren’t everything. Rapeseed oil is a product we can make here that will compete on culinary terms with the likes of sunflower, corn and even olive oil. Or so ‘tis claimed. The protagonists for rapeseed oil claim a health benefit too. Compared to olive oil it has half of the saturated fat and a much higher (up to 10x) natural Omega 3 content, the one item in the Irish diet so often lacking.

To extract the natural oil from the seed, it is squeezed in a mechanical press without the addition of any chemicals or heat. Cold pressed means that the composition of the oil isn’t altered by heating. It’s essentially the same process they use to make extra virgin olive oil.

There’s a further ecological bonus in that the  seed husk that is left over (called ‘cake’ can be mixed with other cereals into a safe and nutritious animal feed. Alternatively it can be used as a low carbon, renewable fuel in solid fuel burners.

Okay, that’s the economic and ecological pitch, what does rapeseed oil taste like. The makers of this particular one – Derrycamma Farm near Castlebellingham in Co. Louth claim a “delicious earthy, nutty taste”, and say it’s suitable for dressings, stir frying, roasting and dunking. Indeed Derrycamma Fram Rapeseed Oil took a Gold at the 2010 Great Taste Awards.

Having lived with the product for a couple of weeks I have to say that, as far as a salad dressing goes, rapeseed oil, tastewise is not at the races. Far from being “nutty” I found it mucky, cloying and the earthiness the makers claim as a plus point was offensive in the extreme. What’s more, one of the things I most love about olive oil is, you can ring the changes. Switching from a light French one to, say, a Portuguese with its weighty mouthfeel, or a Greek oil exuding fruit and spice allows you to vary your dressing to choice. I haven’t tasted too many rapeseed oils for this purpose, maybe only 3 or 4 but the similarities seem more marked than the differences. Taste, though, is a subjective thing. You might actually  like the flavour of rapeseed oil or, at least, be able to put up with it in return for the claimed health benefits, plus the feelgood factor that comes from using an Irish product.

Where this oil really comes into its own is for frying. I’m not sure what the smoke point is, but it’s decently high, so nice for stir fries. Used for frying, the oil comes over as pretty neutral. Corn oil is excellent for frying but some of the brands impart offensive flavours, infusing the ingredients with same. It makes excellent sauté potatoes too and crisp roasties – with the caveat that for both these purposes when it comes to flavour there’s really nothing so good as goose or duck fat and yes, I’m sure there’s an army of dieticians out there prepared to have me burned as a heretic.

So, a qualified ‘thumbs up’ for Derrycamma Farm rapeseed oil. But it will never replace olive oil in my salads.


Co Cork: Drinagh Superstore, Skibereen; Lynch’s Centra, Crosshaven; Scally’s Supervalu, Clonakilty; Stuffed Olive, Bantry; Centra, Kanturk; Urru Culinary Store, Bandon.

Co. Donegal: Simple Simons Natural Food, Donegal.

Co Down: John Magee Butchers, Warrenpoint; Quails Fine Foods, Banbridge

Co Dublin: SuperValu, The Rise; JC Savage Supermarket, Swords; Select Stores, Dalkey; Treat, Imaal Rd, Cabra; Honest2Goodness, Glasnevin; Sheridans Cheesemongers, Dublin 2; Food Game, South Lotts Road, Dublin 4; Michael’s Food and Wine, Mount Merrion; Mortons at Park Place, Dublin 2; Mortons, Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh; Listons Food Store, Camden St; O’Tooles Master Butchers, Sandycove; Fleming Fine Foods, Dundrum Village; Centre; Woodstock Café, Dublin 7.

Co Galway: Sheridans Cheesemongers, Galway; Connemara Fine Foods, Oughterard.

Co Kildare: Nick’s Fish, Newbridge; The Good Food Gallery, Kilcullen.

Co Kilkenny: Knockdrinna Farm House Cheese, Stoneyford.

Co Louth: Hickey’s Farm Shop, Bohermomor, Ardee; Country Fresh, Dundalk; McAteer’s Food House, Dundalk; Stockwell Artisan Food, Drogheda; The Country Store, Richardstown, Dunleer; Food For Thought, Carlingford; Forge Valley Farm Shop, Termonfeckin.

Co Meath: Sheridan Cheesemongers, Carnaross; Hugh Maguire Family Butcher, Ashbourne; SuperValu, Navan; Callaghan Butchers, Bettystown; Nick’s Fish, Ashbourne; An Troman, Trim.

Co. Monaghan: Kirks Seafood, Castleblaney.

Co Waterford: Ardkeen Food Store, Waterford.

Co. Westmeath: CR Tormeys, Athlone.

Co. Wexford: Fresh Fields, Gorey.

Caramelised pear, feta, rocket and scallion salad

This recipe is in response to a barbecue topic on the forkncork.com forum http://forkncork.com/content/showthread.php?t=1878

1 medium to large pear

salad bowl’s worth of rocket

3 oz good feta cheese

4 chopped scallions.

1 knob butter

1 dtsp maple syrup

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the dressing: Extra Virgin olive oil and wine vinegar 4:1

Peel the pear and slice thinly. Cut the larger slices in halves or quarters. In a saucepan, heat a knob of butter and , when it’s melted, add the pear slices. Drizzle the maple syrup over the pear. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat until caramelized, turning the slices carefully from time to time with a wooden spoon. Remove and allow cool to lukewarm.

Chop the feta into small cubes. Combine the ingredients. Season with the salt and pepper but go easy on the sea salt as some feta – usually the cheaper kind – is very salty to start with. Dress with the oil and vinegar.

Fennel & apple salad with juniper

Finnochio or ‘Florence fennel’ – the bulbed variety, not the feathery herb is easy to grow and I love it. This is a very pleasing autumnal salad.

1 fennel bulb
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-15 juniper berries

Trim the fennel, but keep some of the feathery fronds for garnish. Slice the fennel thinly, against the grain. Cut the apple into very thin slices. Toss them both together with the lemon juice, oil, pepper and salt. Crush the juniper berries with a hammer, the butt of a large knife or in a coffee grinder. Stir into the salad just before serving and garnish with fennel fronds.

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Oriental Seared Tuna Salad

A great dish, easy and so tasty, originally cooked as one element of a 10-course dinner party at my house, devised and cooked by our good friend Chung Yin. The full menu detailed at Chinese Dinner Party
This recipe, together with those for the duck and the melon salad, is reproduced with Chung Yin’s permission.

2 thick tuna steaks
4 tbsp Sharwood’s Wok Soy
Oil for deep-frying
10g Sharwood’s Rice Noodles
Salt and white pepper for seasoning
4 tbsp oil
6 thin slices fresh ginger, approx 1x 2cm
for the dressing
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1 x 150g pack salad leaves
Serves 6 as a starter or 2 for a light meal

Delicious as a starter to a banquet or as a special lunch for two.
Marinate the tuna in 4 tablespoons Sharwood’s Wok Soy for half an hour. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or deep fat fryer to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Drop half of the rice noodles into the hot oil; the noodles should cook and fully expand simultaneously. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with second batch of noodles. Heat the oil in a large frying pan add the ginger and fry for 3 minutes. Remove the ginger and three quarters of the oil and leave to one side for the dressing. Heat the frying pan till very hot, fry the tuna for 1 minute each side or until is seared but not cooked all the way through.
Set aside for 5 minutes then slice. To make the dressing mix together the ginger oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice and fresh coriander.
Place the leaves in a bowl and lightly toss in the dressing, reserving a teaspoon for serving. Arrange the salad leaves on an individual serving dish, layer with noodles and top with the sliced tuna. Serve immediately.

Melon and Kiwi Fruit Salad

This recipe, like the duck and the tuna came from our good friend Chung Yin, product developer for Sharwoods and is reprodued with his permission.

100g caster sugar
200ml water
50g fresh ginger – thinly sliced
1 medium melon in balls or bite-sized pieces
4 kiwi fruit – peeled and cut into wedges
Serves 6

Delicious served with a lemon sorbet.
This recipe can be prepared in advance and chilled overnight.
Place the caster sugar in a heavy based saucepan and put on a low heat until the sugar has melted and changed to a light golden colour, resembling runny honey.
Remove the pan from the heat, add the water, taking great care as the mixture will spit and splutter. Add the ginger and return the syrup to the heat. Bring to the boil and simmer until all the caramel has melted.
Pour the syrup over the fruit, chill before serving.

Note: We experimented here, cheating a bit by adding a dash of alcohol (Cognac in this case) to the syrup while it was cooking. It made the dessert (which is now in our regular repertoire) even more delicious – Ed

Warm Salad Of Smoked Gubbeen Bacon, Boilie Goats’ Cheese, Baby Spinach and Watercress

This delightful salad showcases a wonderful product from Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen smokehouse and a fine goats’ cheese from Cavan. Use a really good olive oil and keep the dressing light and fresh.

1 pack Gubbeen smoked bacon
1 jar Boilie goats’ cheese
1 packet baby spinach
1 packet watercress (or rocket if unavailable)
zest of a lemon
sea salt and black pepper
for the dressing
4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp wine vinegar
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
serves 4

Preheat oven to 180°F/360°F/gas 4. Cut the bacon crosswise into thin strips (approx. 30mm x 10) place on an ovenproof dish and bake just until crisp. Keep warm. Wash and dry the spinach and watercress. Make the dressing and combine all ingredients (don’t use the oil from the jar of goats’ cheese) immediately before serving.

Spinach with Pine Nuts, Sultanas and Orange Zest

Spinach used to be an utterly maligned vegetable that no one would eat except Popeye. Now it’s trendy, which is almost as bad! In any event, it’s good for you. I love spinach done this way, particularly with grilles fish.

1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsbp yellow sultanas
750g spinach
knob of butter
zest of 1 orange
grating of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6 and toast the pine nuts for 6-7 minutes. Remove.
Soak the sultanas in water for 15 minutes.
Wash the spinach. Shake dry. Cook approx. 5 minutes in a covered saucepan with no water added. Drain, then chop spinach, return to the pan and add a small knob of butter, the zest of one orange, the pine nuts and the sultanas.
Heat through, then serve.

Salad Dressings

It seems to be de rigueur to serve a salad with pasta dishes these days.
If you do, keep it simple, don’t let strong, sweet or otherwise exotic flavours detract from the pasta and sauce.

People have asked about how I dress salads. Here’s how.

Good extra vergine olive oil

Six parts good extra vergine olive oil to one part aged balsamic vinegar.

Six parts good extra vergine olive oil to one part lemon juice. Add chopped fresh herbs, to taste.

Four parts good extra vergine olive oil to one part white wine or cider vinegar.

4 parts Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 part wholegrain mustard
1 part honey
1 part wine vinegar
You can make this in quantity. It will keep, in a jar in the fridge, for up to two weeks.

If you like garlic in salad dressings (I can take it or leave it, although I use it copiously in cooked food) cut a clove in two and rub it round the inside of the salad bowl, you get a much fresher, more fragrant aroma than if you bung garlic in the jar of dressing.
No salad or cooked dish is improved by carpet bombing it with the most pungent of herbs except the legendary Norman forty-clove chicken where to use thirty-nine would be cheating!
Chuck out your garlic press, if you have one. It’s easy to pick garlic out of the pan or dish if you think enough is enough. Use a garlic press and you lose one of the most important elements in cooking – control.