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Simplicity can be best

Wednesday, 17th April, 2019 4:15pm

Sometimes, less is more. That’s what my mum used to say (she was just referring to the amount of make-up I used when I was 15 – I’m still shuddering at the thought of it).

This can also be applied to cooking. I am watching the new series of ‘The Great British Menu’ and as much as I admire the very talented chefs, it also shows that good quality ingredients don’t need much messing with.

The other day I cooked spaghetti with olive oil, chili, garlic, pinenuts and garlic – the simplest of ingredients - yet it was a very tasty dish indeed.

Most of my friends think I eat daily in Michelin starred restaurants (being a food writer and all), but the truth is that I love simple food (don’t get me wrong, I love going to places like L’Ecrivan in Dublin as a treat) when it is well prepared and handled with care and love.

A chef who cares can make a dish with spaghetti taste like a summer evening in Tuscany while a cook who doesn’t will make you think you went to food hell with no return.

The trend of humble ingredients prepared with skill is also making its way into the culinary arts colleges, evident at the recent Dairy Chef Contest in Paris.

Cooking competitions are great ways of discovering new talent and at the start of the month, the National Dairy Council together with the Embassy of France in Dublin, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), the National Dairy Council (NDC) and the French Dairy Council (Cniel) organized the 2019 Dairy Chef Contest in Paris.

Five culinary art students from France were paired with five students from Ireland to create menus that had to involve Irish and French dairy products as the main ingredient. The winning pair was Cork’s Danay Berhane (CIT) and Vincent Bigioni (Institute Paul Bocuse) who dazzled the judges with a menu of pan-fried asparagus with cauliflower de Barry, asparagus shaving, cauliflower disc, slow cooked and smoked egg yolk with burnt hollandaise as starter; ravioli stuffed with blue cheese, sautéed potatoes, cream cheese, veal dashi cream and milk and cream foam for mains and a panna cotta with strawberry gel, crumb and coriander oil to finish the meal. Having a Cork chef win the competition made my heart sing – it shows that CIT is producing a great range of talented young chefs who hopefully will continue bringing Cork food to the forefront.

Congratulations to Danay who will now will take on a weeklong stage at Chapter One with Michelin star chef Ross Lewis and Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only two-starred restaurant. After their stage, both winners are going on gastronomic weekend trips in Ireland and France to ‘experience their unique food cultures’.

The Manor Farm Cookery Competition was held in DIT last week with the focus of using all parts of the chicken. Joint winners were Shorena Khutsianidze and Emily Jane Cunningham, winning €1,000 each.

In case you like your child to have an interest in cooking, I will be giving a savoury Easter Camp class together with Siobhan O’Leary of Wooden Spoons Cookery School on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 April. Check out Wooden Spoons Cookery School on Facebook or call Siobhan on 086-6003033.

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