Cork-based chef and cookery teacher offers inspiration for Veganuary

KATE RYAN tells us about a new cookbook of recipes written by Clonakilty-based Karen Austin that are good for the planet and pallet
Cork-based chef and cookery teacher offers inspiration for Veganuary

Cookbook author Karen Austin. Picture: Rob Murphy

ORGANIC grower, chef, cookery teacher, delicatessen owner, cookbook author – these are just some of the ways Karen Austin connects her multiple passions food and travel.

She is co-owner of Clonakilty-based Lettercollum Kitchen Project with her husband Con McLoughlin, the much-loved neighbourhood deli they established together in 2004.

A keen gardener, the food she cooks – at home and at the deli – has always been influenced by what is grown seasonally, and her creativeness in recipe writing often borne out of what to do with the crop gluts that emerge from their one-acre organic walled garden.

Though Karen and her family are not strict vegetarians, what they eat is influenced by what is available. What is available are lots of vegetables, legumes, herbs and fruits, and so naturally their diet has been based around plants, long before it became trendy to do so.

In 2014, Karen published The Lettercollum Cookbook featuring many of the tried and tested – and favourite – dishes that appeared on the menu in the shop.

This month, she self-published her second book, Food for Today.

Food for Today is a collection of recipes inspired by our garden and our travels for everyday eating and baking,” explains Karen.

“The recipes are both vegetarian and vegan, mostly with alternatives each way, and, I hope, reflect modern living.”

By that, Karen means making plants the foundation of our daily diet, and she speaks to the way forward for sustainable eating.

“It has to be food that people want to cook; recipes that aren’t complicated and don’t have 101 ingredients in them. And the recipes have to result in very tasty food that people want to eat.”

Food for Today by Karen Austin. Picture: Kate Ryan
Food for Today by Karen Austin. Picture: Kate Ryan

Food for Today started as a lockdown project.

“I was looking through my recent recipe collection and eventually it grew into a book. It was a great creative distraction from everything that was going on. I began writing it in February, 2021, and had the guts of it written by April. Then we reopened the deli so things slowed down a bit from there.

“I worked with a West Cork based food photographer, Rob Murphy, and a wonderful illustrator in Berlin, Charlotte Kachelmann, and this time I decided to self-publish.”

Going down the self-publishing route, Karen got friends and family involved to help with editing and recipe testing.

“I learned so much from Roz Crowley, who published my first book, that I felt confident that I could bring this book to the point of publishing myself.

“I’m an industrial cook, so it is quite hard for me to scale things back to dishes that are just for two people, so Food for Today is full of recipes for dishes that are ideal for sharing with four or six.”

Food for Today has 60 recipes in a soft-cover book with categories such as Salads, Burgers and Wraps, Soups and Stews, Vegetables, Big Plates, and Sweet Things. Each recipe is beautifully photographed and illustrated, and written with Karen’s flair for simple and clear instruction. Each recipe utilises only a small number of ingredients, with a focus on getting maximum flavour out of them.

“These recipes reflect the food that I eat and how I cook, and that is mainly vegetarian and gluten free. My daughter cannot eat wheat, and many of our customers in the deli are also looking for gluten free food. It just becomes easier to always cook in this way, and half the time you wouldn’t realise the recipes are gluten free anyway!

“It’s not a book about seasonal eating – in a lot of ways I don’t think that reflects the reality of how people cook. But it does showcase produce that grows here in Ireland – rooty veg and summer veg.

“By doing what I do, spending time in the walled garden and developing recipes for the deli, I’m inspired all the time by what is growing around me.

“Eating locally produced food is better anyway; it’ll taste better than all that jet-lagged veg from overseas which isn’t any good for our planet or our pallet!”

Food for Today costs €20 or €25 P& P online from www.lettercollum.ie, and is also available from independent book stores across the city and county.

Or try before you buy, with these two recipes from Food for Today…

Roasted Carrots, Chickpeas, Dukkah. Picture: Rob Murphy
Roasted Carrots, Chickpeas, Dukkah. Picture: Rob Murphy

Roasted Carrots, Chickpeas and Dukkah

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 - 5 carrots

2 cloves garlic

2 sticks celery

5 cm ginger

1 can of chickpeas - drained and rinsed

1 small red onion small bunch mint - chopped

1 tbs dukkah Dressing

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbs red or white wine vinegar

100ml olive oil

Salt

Method:

Pea fritters - Tortitas de Guisantes

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 12 fritters)

200g peas – fresh or defrosted

1 small onion

90g gram flour

40g white flour or cornflour

¼ tsp turmeric zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp salt 1 handful parsley approx.

150mls chilled sparkling water oil to fry

Method:

  • Pod or defrost the peas. If you’re using frozen peas drain them and dry on kitchen roll or a clean towel.
  • Sift the gram flour and regular flour or cornflour into a bowl. Add the salt and turmeric. Stir to mix.
  • Peel and finely chop the onion. Finely chop the parsley. Wash and zest a lemon for the mix.
  • Put everything except for the water into the bowl and mix well then start stirring in the chilled water until the batter has a medium pouring consistency, like a crepe pancake mix or pouring cream.
  • Heat 4 cms oil in a deep frying pan or wide based saucepan and when it is hot, add a tablespoon of the fritter mix, spread it a little with the back of the spoon under surface of the oil after it’s dropped into the pan, it should be bubbling just below the surface.
  • You need to do this quickly. Repeat but don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook each side for 2 - 3 minutes, until golden.
  • Lift onto kitchen paper then cook the next batch, removing any debris with a dry slotted spoon. It’s a good idea to stack the fritters on their sides like dishes so the oil drains off both sides.
  • Serve with lemon wedges.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more