Tara Bench

Forgotten Cooking Skills (And How To Get Them Back!)

April 6, 2010 at 9:14 am , by

darinaDarina Allen has been called the Julia Child of Ireland. That’s just one of countless compliments and attributions this award-winning author, teacher, chef, gardener, forager and food-ambassador has been given. She’s also a darling to talk to—funny and sincere, I could listen to her Irish accent for hours.

Her new book (she’s written 16) Forgotten Skills of Cooking, gives us a modern guide to traditional cooking skills—education and inspiration to teach a new generation where food comes from and how to use it. It’s inspired by courses at Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Ireland. She founded the 100-acre organic farm and school to teach the crafts of cheese making and bee keeping, home butchery and seasonal baking.

forgottenskillsDon’t be intimidated (like I was!). I thought Forgotten Skills would be for the over-achieving farmer, telling me to live off the land and raise my own chickens. It is…but it’s also a beautiful cookbook with useful everyday recipes I’ll actually cook. Pleasantly scattered throughout are gems like butter-making, preserving and smoking your own bacon. Allen explains that you don’t have to have a farm, you could simply start with salad greens in your apartment window box. (I would love to! I didn’t tell her I have a very brown thumb).

What I truly love about this book—and about Allen, her friends Alice Waters and Jaime Oliver and all those who champion the Slow Food movement—is that she really just wants to make sure people know where their food comes from. With our processed foods and giant grocery stores, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to use the land to nourish our bodies and enjoy each season.

As Allen says, “If we realized how much depends on the food we eat, we would re-prioritize.” Here’s to you Allen, the skills you teach that give us independence and to all the  knowledge you won’t let be forgotten! Now take me to Ireland.

In Knead Of Daily Bread

March 3, 2010 at 12:30 pm , by

170755_jacket.inddStraight from the workbenches and ovens of Amy’s Bread bakery in New York, authors Amy Sherber and Toy Kim Dupree give us recipes and simple instructions in their book Amy’s Bread Updated and Revised (Wiley, February 2010). You can make your own artisan-style bread, in your home ovens, with the highly informative tips and techniques and beautiful pictures (a must for cookbooks in my opinion).

toy and amy1No doubt you’ve heard of, and probably tried the recipe for no-knead bread, a viral phenomenon. It’s quite tasty, but the no-knead bread lacks the true texture and taste of artesian, kneaded bread—the kind of bread you find in Europe or the great bakeries of New York and San Francisco.

I had the opportunity to attend a demonstration with the lovely ladies at the Chelsea Market bakery location. I learned to make their Rustic Italian Bread tara and amy1using their Wet Dough technique—which allows the dough to develop much of its strength and elasticity while proofing in a bowl after it is mixed.

Yes, it does require kneading (check out the video to see the dough in action!), but the trick is to not continue adding flour—the dough will be sticky and wet throughout the process—but oh, the results! Delicious!!