Food to eat on the hoof
The food at sporting events is notoriously unhealthy, so why not make your own snacks to bring to the Dublin Horse Show next week, or to nibble on while watching the action on telly, asks DOMINI KEMP
AS SOMEONE WHO spent most of her youth schlepping around horse shows, I found the notion of coming up with some recipes that one might nibble on during Dublin Horse Show week all rather hilarious. If I am honest about my usual fodder back in those days, the recipes would be for sambos, crisps, bacon butties, chips and fizzy drinks. Food was always eaten on the run, was typically fast and therefore extremely convenient and inevitably cheap.
It is a far cry from what you see when you walk past the tables in the reserved areas on Aga Khan day, where they are sipping bubbles and picking at smoked salmon plates. Horse shows – with the obvious exception of the few held in cities – can often be in the middle of nowhere, so the possibility of eating well is severely limited by what is on the grounds. Chip vans have always been the norm. Some locations would make more of an effort and have a little canteen that was better serviced.
Once or twice, I was industrious enough to get up and make a packed lunch, but this soon fizzled out when an extra 20 minutes sleep at 5am seemed preferable to a homemade lunch.
Sometimes, you’d find the owners of the horses that were competing on the day sensibly packing a picnic to be shared around the boot of a fancy car, parked beside one of the competition arenas. Even better if they packed some foldaway chairs and a little table.
These smartly social folk were always honey to the hungry bees, also known as the riders. Picnic baskets were opened. Carefully wrapped treats were unfolded. Occasionally a bottle of wine was consumed. The offer of good food, couched in tartan blankets and wicker baskets was always too good to pass up.
There was one exception, however, and it’s still a food van I dream about – Polly’s. She used to go to Hickstead Horse Show in the UK and was parked close enough to where the horses were stabled and competitors were sleeping in lorries or tents to ensure she was first port of call for breakfast. Every morning, a queue of sleepy grooms and riders would line up for her fresh, floury baps, filled with soft fried eggs and the crispiest and most delicious bacon you can imagine. It was all suitably greasy but wonderfully fresh and delicious. One was always enough, although greed would urge you to have a second, at which point willpower had to intervene. It’s a far cry from the scotch eggs and ricotta tart on these pages, but at the same time, good food is all about excellent flavour and pleasing textures, whether it’s a bacon butty or piece of seared foie gras on pain d’épices.
The courgette and ricotta tart was great even after a day or two in the fridge. It didn’t go horribly soggy, but obviously isn’t quite as crisp and delicious as if consumed on the day it is made. The scotch eggs are delicious, but heavy going if you were to consume an entire one. I would recommend cutting them in half before serving, although if you find yourself talking to a real bore, an entire one will keep them occupied for quite some time.
Courgette, pine nut and ricotta tart
Makes 12 generous slices
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 courgettes (approx 1kg in total)
Salt and pepper
2 x 250g tubs ricotta
4 eggs, beaten
Basil, a large handful
Nutmeg, a grating
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
500g puff pastry
Flour for dusting
Pine nuts, a large handful
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas 6. Heat up the olive oil in a decent-sized frying pan. Slice the courgettes thinly. Sweat them in the oil and season well. When they are soft, set them aside to cool. Mix the ricotta, eggs, basil, nutmeg and 50g of the Parmesan, along with the garlic. You can do this with a whisk or spoon or electric beater. Season this mixture too.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to fit a standard baking tray (mine is 36cm x 28cm). Roll it out slightly larger than the tray, and then fold over the edges to form a little rim and slightly crimp the pastry. Slide the pastry onto the baking tray and put it back in the fridge.
Wait until the courgettes have cooled down, then spread the ricotta mixture on top of the pastry and smooth with a spatula. Add the courgettes in a layer and then sprinkle the pine nuts and remaining 100g of grated Parmesan on top. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until slightly puffed up and a lovely golden brown. Allow it to cool down and then slice and serve or else cool down fully, refrigerate and serve cold the next day. It’s also fine to reheat this, at about 180 degrees/gas 4, for 15 minutes or so.
Smoked salmon scotch eggs
400g smoked or hot smoked salmon
250g cream cheese
Small bunch dill
1 tbsp horseradish sauce
Approx 100g breadcrumbs
1-2 eggs, beaten
Soft boil the eggs. Start them in cold water, in a reasonably small saucepan, generously covered with the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for three minutes. Plunge the eggs into cold water and, when they are really cold, peel them (this is sometimes easier to do under running water) and refrigerate.
In a food processor, mix – on pulse mode – the salmon, cream cheese, dill and horseradish sauce. Season with lots of black pepper.
Lay out a piece of cling film, big enough to go on plate. Spread out a quarter of the salmon mix and press down into a small patty. Place an egg on top and using the cling film, wrap the salmon around the egg to create an even blanket around the egg. This is actually easier to do than it sounds. At this stage, you can leave them wrapped up and chill them or else press on and finish them off.
Dip the eggs in individual bowls of flour, then beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. This is a bit messy and awkward. Just handle them as gently as possible and when you get to the breadcrumb stage, it will feel a bit less hazardous. A bit like a drowning egg reaching dry, breadcrumbed land. You have to roll them around in the breadcrumbs, possibly even sprinkling the crumbs on top.
Chill them while you heat up the sunflower oil. I don’t have a deep fat fryer at home, but if you do, then feel free to crank it up. Otherwise heat up a relatively small saucepan – preferably one with high sides and a lid, which you can use to calm flames, should all hell break loose.
When a crumb sizzles nicely, fry them by lowering them in gently with a slotted or metal spoon, one at a time. You may have to do this individually. When they become a lovely golden brown all over, after a few minutes, remove them and drain on kitchen paper. Finish the others off. Allow them to cool, sprinkle with some sea salt and cut in half and serve. You can also cool them down and serve cold. The crumb will end up a little soggy, but they taste great and are very filling.
Food cooked and styled by Domini and Peaches Kemp
Domini recommends: Butlers Pantry has brought out a ‘smokin’ beetroot ketchup which is fantastic. A delicious condiment and a bit of a change from the old Heinz