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To cook whole:  wash but don’t peel the beetroot, then cut the stalks to 2.5cm and leave the root at the bottom (to prevent the beetroot’s colour from bleeding). To bake, either wrap in foil or cook with a little water in a lidded casserole dish. Place in a low oven and it should be ready in 2-3 hours. To boil,  prepare the raw beetroot in the same way then simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on size. To check if it’s done simply pierce with a knife as you would potatoes. Once cooked the skin will slip off easily. Peel, dress and serve hot or cold.

Alternatively, wash and peel the raw beetroot and cut into chunks. Toss in olive oil, a splash of  vinegar (balsamic or red wine vinegar are good), sprinkle with salt and pepper or some chopped herbs and roast in a medium oven until tender. Delicious with goats cheese and a mixed salad, or a roast and other roasted veg (just don’t cook with the other veg as the colour will leach).

Be warned—beetroot and its cooking juices will stain everything they comes into contact with. Aprons are advisable and  If you want to save your hands from being dyed pink latex gloves are a must.

Don’t forget that beetroot leaves are edible and can be used in a salad or boiled like spinach.

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Spinach Risotto

50ml/3.5tbsp melted butter & oil

1 small onion, chopped

150g/⅔cup risotto rice

600ml/2.5cups water

1 vegetable stock cube

175g/6oz fresh spinach, stalks removed & shredded

6 tarragon leaves

Salt & pepper

50ml/3.5tbsp single cream

50g/half cup Pecorino Cheese

Heat the butter & oil in a pan and stir-fry onion until soft but not brown. Add the rice & stir for 1minute, then add the water and stock cube. Boil for 15-20 minutes, and then add the shredded spinach, tarragon and seasoning. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Finally, blend in the cream, cheese and season to taste. The rice should be soft and creamy.

Notes: I used crème fraiche, dried herbs and parmesan as substitutes.

Extract from article submitted to Organic Matters (IOFGA’s quarterly magazine), by Rosaleen McMenamin

The Skerries Community Harvest Group got off to a flying start on Saturday morning, at 11am at the Farmers Market by Skerries Mills. The vegetables boxes were all beautifully presented, thanks to our organic farmer, local man Paddy Byrne – all his hard work had paid off! There was a great buzz in the air, members sharing a tea or coffee and eating some of Ger & Debbie’s fabulous homemade scones – a real sense of community being formed.

In advance of the launch, a group of volunteers from the CHG arriving at Paddy’s farm on Friday evening to get instructions about where to pick and what to pack. Paddy patiently guided us in our endeavours! Our job was to fill the blue vegetable boxes donated very kindly by IOFGA (Irish Organic Farmers & Growers Association )and have them ready for members the following morning. [A special mention to Grace Maher from IOFGA who personally collected our donated boxes and delivered them safely to the farm, thank you Grace for that and all your support to the Skerries Community Harvest Group! ]. We picked beautiful fresh organic spinach, parsley, white and golden turnips, three varieties of lettuce and rhubarb. These were all allocated according to Paddy’s instructions and of course Paddy’s wonderful organic eggs completed the boxes.

At the launch of the Skerries Community Harvest Group there was a huge sense of trust: for the members trust in knowing where our food was grown, how and by whom; for Sustainble Skerries a trust in the resilience being built up in local food growers; and for Paddy Byrne, our local organic farmer that he can grow food organically, the way it was meant to be grown and that there is a community of people committed to him, every step of the way.

Just a reminder that we’ll be launching Skerries CHG on Saturday at 11am at Skerries Mills. It’ll be a chance to meet as a group and most importantly to collect your first veg box. Small boxes are likely to have eggs, spinach, lettuce, parsley, scallions, turnip and rhubarb. Big boxes will probably have 2 boxes of eggs, larger quantities of the veg in the smaller box plus chard, radish and whatever else is ripe and ready to go. Of course boxes may vary according to what’s good to pick on Friday. In the next few weeks we can look forward to beetroot, carrots and potatoes too.

1 tablespoon rapeseed/olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped

400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1lb French beans, topped and tailed and cut into 1 inch lengths, or Runner beans, strings removed and sliced diagonally

 1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan. Add the onion and sweat for at least 10 minutes, until soft but not coloured.

2. Add the garlic and cook gently for another minute or two, then add the tomatoes and stir well.

3. Stir in the beans, bring to a gentle simmer and season well.

4. Turn down the heat, partly cover the pan and cook very gently, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes until the beans are fully tender. Add a drop of water if it starts to stick. Serve hot or cold.

Spuds and eggs – yum yum! Delicious with a green salad, Chorizo and crusty bread. Great for lunch boxes or picnics too.

 Olive oil

8oz potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

5oz onions, thinly sliced

8 eggs

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

 1. Put a good inch of olive oil in to a frying pan (non-stick is best) and cook the onions and potatoes over a medium heat until crisp and golden (15-20 mins). Drain and reserve the oil.

2. Whisk the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add in the potato and onion mixture.

3. Put 2 tablespoons oil back in the pan and when it begins to sizzle, pour in the egg mixture and lower the heat (keep heat low or it will be tough). When the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge and continue to cook, shaking the pan occasionally.

4. When the tortilla is well set, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn the tortilla out onto it. Slide it back onto the pan and cook until the lower side is golden too. The tortilla is done when it is firm but the centre is slightly moist.

Vegetable Soup

According to the oracles at Ballymaloe, the correct ratio to prepare soup is 1:1:3:4 (volume rather than weight).

 1 part onion

1 part potato

3 parts any vegetable or mix of vegetables – whatever is fresh, in season and available

4 parts chicken or veg stock/mixture of stock and milk/water

Seasoning (salt and pepper or add complementary fresh herbs or spices)

 1. Melt 2oz of butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions turning them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes.

2. Add the vegetables and stock. Simmer until soft then liquidise. Don’t overcook or the veg will lose their flavour. Correct seasoning.