March 21st, 2015

It’s difficult to keep up with all the hot new openings in London – Over in “W1” everyone is loving Primeur, which I only just managed to book partly because they only accept “face to face” or Twitter bookings, consequently I was the only white haired woman in a room full of hipsters. The menu, on a blackboard, changes every day  with lots of  tempting seasonal choices, as does the wine list, carefully selected natural wines and a couple of excellent orange wines, including Sofia. It’s also jolly difficult to find, it’s out in Highbury, in the old Barnes Motors Building but it’s definitely worth the schlep.

Rawduck in Hackney is also back on form and our lunch there was some of the best food we ate in London on this research trip. They have also revived an old tradition and are making a range of shrubs – drinking vinegars and an intriguing range of pickles and fermented foods. There are lots of recipes for “shrubs” on the internet, we’re experimenting at the moment and I’ll keep you posted.

We loved their home made burger with sauerkraut slaw and hand-cut chips. The lamb on grilled bread with labneh, pomegranate and mint was also terrifically good as was the milk pudding with blood orange and pistachio nuts.

Rawduck is a sister restaurant of Ducksoup in Dean Street, Soho, definitely another contender for your London List. Delicious small plates – no desserts but you can nip across the road to Quo Vadis where the irrepressible Jeremy Lee makes some of the very best puds in London. I know you’re over sticky toffee pudding but you mustn’t miss Jeremy’s sublime version made with muscovado sugar and oh! the bread and butter pudding and home-made coffee ice-cream….

Honey & Co has been around for a couple of years now, another one of those tiny London restaurants run by passionate young people. This time it’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich who cook beautiful Middle Eastern inspired food. Don’t miss their cookery demonstration during the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine see:

This time we stayed in the Marylebone Hotel in Welbeck Street just off Marylebone High Street, brilliantly central. The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful and there is a nice Irish connection, it’s owned by the Doyle family and is run by Roddy McGrath.

If you happen to be in London over the weekend and markets are your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Borough Market over the Thames is still humming but I prefer to head for Maltby Street and The Spa Terminus (where a lot of the best stall holders have decamped)

I also love the Broadway market in Hackney, particularly the newly established Netil market. Go hungry and order slow braised pork in a fluffy steamed boa bun or crispy wings with hot sauce from BAO in the corner to the left of the entrance. Several stalls sell excellent handmade work by local designers.

While you are waiting and you will have to queue if you don’t go early – treat yourself to an aperol spritz from Lucky Chip, the best I’ve ever tasted even though it comes in a plastic glass. Great coffee too at Terrone & Co.

On Sunday, morning check out the Farmer’s Market behind Waitrose on Marylebone High Street – lots of really good produce, organic vegetables, pork pies, farmhouse cheese and raw milk. The Fromagerie is just beside you there on Moxon Street with great produce, phenomenal cheese and other special foodie treats.  Ginger Pig butcher shop which specialises in well hung traditional breeds is just next door, the big fat chunky sausage rolls are the best you’ll ever taste and I also love the beef cheek terrine.

For a great brunch, The Providores is just around the corner on Marylebone High Street, you might want to try their Turkish poached eggs.



Brick Lane (in Bethnal Green)  also comes alive on Saturday when most London markets pack up their stalls. It’s part flea market, part food market, antique and vintage shops and unique kitchen and house wares.


The Sunday Colombia Road Flower Market is just a short walk away, one of the best places to go on a sunny Sunday morning and close to Spitalfields and trendy Shoreditch.

Rice pudding is definitely having its moment. In three of the hottest restaurants in London, rice pudding featured on the dessert menu.

We had a cracking good meal in the newly opened Portland Restaurant in Great Portland St. There too, Will Lander and Dan Morgenthau’s team served  warm rice pudding with a little honey ice-cream and some Jersey cream melting into the centre – divine.

Primeur served a similar combination. Also comforting and delicious was the Rawduck version – this time it was served with new season’s rhubarb which still had a slight crunch, this is just one of my favourite restaurants in the Hackney Shoreditch area. I’m also mad about Lyles and the cute little Violet Cake Cafe on Wilton Way.

The craze for offal continues unabated, duck hearts seem to be everywhere, the brilliant cafe and wine bar, Toast out in East Dulwich served them on grilled bread with a herb salsa while John Doe, another hot new restaurant, in Notting Hill where it is all about fire, poached the duck hearts first and then chargrilled them before putting them onto chargrilled sourdough.

Looks like the American hot chefs’ obsession of cooking over fire has hit London though not in the pure form of Etxebarri near Bilbao or Camino in Oakland where all the cooking is done on a bank of open fires at the end of the dining room. Finally, before I run out of space there are two other new hot spots that deserve a place on your London List, everyone I know is raving about Kitty Fishers in 10 Shepherds Market and The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street near Charing Cross serves a short Thai influenced menu, every morsel was delicious …enough for this week.




Chargrilled lamb with labneh, pomegranate and fresh mint leaves.


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread

labneh seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and freshly roasted cumin.

a 110g (4oz) slice of leg of lamb or a lamb chop

1 generous tablespoon of pomegranate seeds

fresh mint leaves, shredded

extra virgin olive oil

a few flakes of sea salt


Slice the lamb, Heat a frying pan or grill pan. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cook until well seared on both sides.


Chargrill the bread, spread a generous layer of well seasoned labneh on top. Cover with slices of the warm lamb and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

A little shredded mint, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt complete the feast.


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Roast Cauliflower Florets, Freekeh, Pistachio and Pomegranate


Serves 6-8


450g (16oz) cooked freekeh,


1 small cauliflower divided into small florets

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons honey

110g (4ozs) pistachio, coarsely chopped

seeds from one small pomegranate

nigella seeds, optional

6-8 tablespoons labneh

1-2 tablespoon sumac

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of dill sprigs


Put the freekeh into a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes – 1 hour, depending on your freekeh (some are broken grains, others whole). It should be soft but still slightly chewy. Drain, season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the cauliflower into florets. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes or until slightly caramelised at the edges.

Meanwhile, whisk 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 teaspoons of honey in a bowl. Sprinkle over the warm freekeh and toss gently, mix with the cauliflower florets, and some of the pomegranate seeds, (save some for sprinkling). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a few nigella seeds.  To serve put a couple of tablespoons of the freekah and cauliflower salad on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Put a dollop of labneh or greek yogurt on top. Scatter a few more pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts, a pinch of sumac and a few sprigs of dill over the labneh and serve ASAP.


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Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom, Blood Oranges and Pistachio.


Serves 6-8


½ pint (300ml) cream

½ pint whole milk

2oz (50g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

3 tablespoons water

5-6 blood oranges

110g (4ozs) chopped pistachio nuts


6-8 moulds (3-4fl ozs/90-120ml) lightly brushed with non-scented oil – sunflower or arachide.

Put the cream and milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage.  Meanwhile, sponge the gelatine in the water.


Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Add the orange blossom water to taste then pour into the moulds.  When cold, refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.


To serve, unmould the panna cotta onto a cold plate.

Remove the orange peel with a sharp knife, cut into ¼ inch thick slices and arrange three overlapping alongside the panna cotta. Drizzle with a little blood orange juice (you may need to add a little honey if the blood orange juice is too tart.)

Sprinkle a line of chopped pistachios along the top between the orange and the panna cotta, serve.




Butterscotch pudding with pear, wet walnuts and apple oil.


Serves 8-10


225g (8oz) chopped dates (use block dates or Delget Noor)

300ml (10fl oz) tea

75g (3oz) muscovado sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda or baking soda)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder

4-5 ripe pears, peeled cored and dices in ¼ pieces

100g-125g (4oz-5 oz) wet walnuts, roughly chopped

125ml (4fl oz) apple juice and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin oil whisked together.




Butterscotch sauce


110g (4oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark soft brown sugar muscovado sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 rectangular roasting tin, 35cm x 24cm x 6cm


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of the cake tin with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the dates and tea, and then stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1 to 1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.


To make the sauce:

Put the butter and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


To serve:

Arrange a square of pudding in a deep plate, spoon a little butterscotch sauce on top. Mix the pear and walnuts in a bowl, spoon a couple of tablespoons over top of the pudding. Whisk the apple juice with the oil and spoon around the edge. Serve ASAP!




Pub Food for a New Era: We’ve visited some of the most successful gastro pubs in the UK, Ireland and beyond, and have so many delicious recipes and ideas to tempt your customers, and help you to turn a profit. On this intensive 2.5 day course we will show you a selection of traditional and modern pub food that can be produced in a small kitchen and ready at all times of day for when customers are looking for food. One of the highlights of the course is a presentation from respected restaurant adviser, Blathnaid Bergin, examining the all-important finances of beginning to serve food in your pub, so that you can avoid the common pit-falls of starting out in the food business. Wednesday April 8th 2015 see

I just found two great new books on potatoes, The Irish Potato Recipe Book, written by Eleveen Coyle and published by Gill & Macmillan. This pocket guide has something for everyone with easy to follow recipes. Rich in vitamins, potassium and fibre, gluten-free and low in cholesterol, potatoes really are the perfect package. Eveleen includes tips on buying, storing and cooking perfect potatoes every time as well as a brief history of how Ireland’s synonymous relationship with the potato came about.

The Potato Year by Lucy Madden, published by Mercier Press. Having moved from London in the 1970’s Lucy Madden began growing vegetables in the large Victorian walled garden of her home, Hilton Park Estate. She fell in love with potato growing and has developed a huge repertoire of culinary options with home-grown spuds. The Potato Year contains over 300 recipes for any occasion from traditional potato dishes to wild potato desserts, the perfect companion for anyone interested in knowing more about the most versatile and nourishing vegetable in Ireland.

Get gardening, if you have not already done so it’s time to chit your potatoes (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting). Start about six weeks before you plan to plant out the potatoes.


St. Patrick’s Day

March 14th, 2015

St Patrick’s Day celebrations continue to gather momentum around the world. This year the Colosseum in Rome and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville as well as Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi will be illuminated in green for the first time as part of the sixth annual Tourism Ireland Global Greening Initiative.

It is such a brilliant idea. They’ll join a long list of iconic sites from the Sydney Opera House to the Niagara Falls and are a source of tremendous pride to the millions of Irish diaspora scattered around the globe.

St. Patrick’s Day provides us with a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our heritage and focus the attention of people around the world on Ireland

Good Food Ireland also have an imaginative campaign going for St Patrick’s Day.  This year they have joined with Tourism Ireland to generate extra excitement for  #goinggreen4stpatricksday. What a fun concept.

So, let’s all ramp it up for St Patrick’s Day. The ‘greening’ can take many forms; decorate the house, the local school, your workspace, yourself. Pull out all our green bling and go for it, no need to be subtle and the more outrageous the better.

How about some fun competitions, prizes for scariest, chicest, most alarming and think of the fun we can have in the kitchen, both in our cafes and restaurants as well as at home. Lots of cooks and chefs have been going crazy with green food colouring with some alarming results. Tom O’Connell of O’Connell’s in Dublin is getting a brilliant reaction to his Grandma’s sweet white scones decorated with green cherries from Urru in Bandon. Country Choice in Nenagh also has a terrific choice of dried fruit and Peter and Mary Ward are always up for a fun challenge.

Good Food Ireland too is having a “Greening Photo Competition” for its members. Go to  to check out the entries and get some great ideas.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School students have been having a hilarious time experimenting and “green storming.” Don’t just think sweet dishes, wood sorrel with its clean fresh lemony flavour looks just like shamrock and tastes great. The flavour pairs brilliantly with fish, pork, scattered over salads or paired with labneh and a kumquat compote as in this recipe – which just happens to be green, white and gold – I know, I know, it sounds naff but it’s a delicious combination and a perfect starter for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Those who are a bit sniffy about fake food colouring should look out for the natural version or use spinach juice, it won’t be “Kelly green” but will be delicious. The Irish diaspora are celebrating all over the world so why don’t we join them, gather the pals around,  go green and celebrate the good times that are just around the corner.

Happy St Patrick’s Day.


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Pamela Black’s St Patrick’s Day Cake

Serves 6-8


6 ozs (170g) butter

6 ozs (170g) castor sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 eggs, preferably free range

6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour

¼ tsp green food gel colouring

Two 7 inch (18 cm) cake tins

½ pint cream, stiffly whipped

3 tablespoons kumquat compote

icing sugar

fresh marigolds to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Grease the tins with a little melted butter and put a round of greaseproof paper on the bottom of the tins.

Cream the butter, add sugar, green colouring and vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs one at a time, each time with a tablespoon of flour. Beat very well, and then fold in the remaining flour gently. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes are well risen, golden and feel spongy to the finger tips.

Allow the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the tins and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.


Kumquat Compôte


235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.


Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.


To Assemble

Spread the compôte a over the bottom of each sponge. Fill a piping bag, fitted with a plain éclair nozzle, with the whipped cream. Pipe the cream evenly over one base, starting at the outside edge of the sponge, working inwards. Place the remaining sponge on top and dust with icing sugar. Garnish with Marigold Flowers.



Tom O’Connell’s St. Patrick’s Day Scones


Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter


900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

110g (4 oz) green cherries, chopped coarsely



Egg wash (see below)

green granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones


First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.


Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter and add the chopped cherries. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2½ cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones.* Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack, and serve fresh with good Irish butter.


Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.


* Top Tip – Stamp them out with as little waste as possible, the first scones will be lighter than the second rolling.


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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe – they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion!


Makes 9-12 cupcakes or 16-18 buns (queen cakes)


150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



225g (8oz) icing sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon water


green cherries or wood sorrel and dried apricot


2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.


Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.


Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.


Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.


Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar into a bowl.  Add enough lemon juice and water to mix to a spreadable consistency.


Pop green cherries on top of each one and add some dried apricot if you want to have an even more patriotic cupcake


Labne with kumquat compote and wood sorrel


Serves 4-6

Wood sorrel is shamrock shaped with tiny yellow flowers which look pretty but also has a delicious sharp lemony flavour.


225g (8oz) labneh (drip natural yoghurt overnight)

kumquat compote (see recipe)

wood sorrel or fresh mint leaves


Drip the natural yoghurt in muslin overnight (500g (18oz) will yield between 225g or 250g (8oz or 9 oz) of labneh)

Make the kumquat compote and allow to get cold, (it will keep in the fridge for weeks).

To serve:

Put a good dollop of labneh on a cold plate. Drizzle some kumquat compote over the top and sides. Sprinkle a few wood sorrel leaves over the top for a St. Patrick’s day dessert with a fun twist.


Hot Tips


  • Slow Food Pop-up St Patrick’s Day Dinner. Get your green glad-rags on and let’s celebrate with a pop-up dinner at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Tuesday 17th March at 7pm. Aperitif, delicious nibbles and three course dinner with St. Patrick’s Day desserts. Price €40 for Slow Food Members, €45 for non-members. Places are limited so booking is essential phone 021 4646785 or email
  • Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 was launched in New York last week to great excitement. How about a gift voucher as a Mother’s Day present. Mum can chose from a whole range of events, but how about “Late Afternoon Sparkle”, a talk and tasting with Mary Dowey, or  a magical theatrical evening in the Drinks Theatre with Susan Boyle and her “Wine Goose Chase”, or a cookery demonstration with  Allegra McEvedy. See
  • The Business of Food with Blathnaid Bergin at Ballymaloe Cookery School. For the vital information needed to set up a viable, enjoyable Food Service Business this ten day course is run by The Restaurant Advisor, Blathnaid Bergin and is full of workshops, discussions, case studies, practical sessions and presentations. For more information see


  • Want to buy yourself or someone else a little treat, trot along to Mahon Point Farmers Market to the Treat Petite stall and snap up a few of John and Sylvia McCormick’s new chocolate batons with pistachio nuts, sea salted caramel, or tahini and sesame – seriously good, in fact one of my best new finds. Yes, they are the “retired” couple who make the irresistible cake pops and macaroons, how fortunate are we that they got bored of being retired!

There’s a multitude of temptations at the market, but look out for the girls from “My Goodness” who are doing a new range of kefirs and kombucha.


  • Achill Island Sea Salt. How lovely is it to have several Irish sea salts to choose from, I’ve just discovered Achill Island Sea Salt although they have been in business since July 2013. I love the texture, easy to crumble in your fingers and the delicious clean fresh minerally flavour. It is hand harvested around Achill Island and has no additives or preservatives. See www. or email


Baklava: An Adventure in Turkey

March 11th, 2015


It was still snowing hard in Turkey – Istanbul on the Bosphorus was trying to come to terms with the unexpectedly heavy snowfall. Everyone seemed to be having fun except the traffic police, quirky snowmen were popping up all over the place, each reflecting the creativity of its high-spirited sculptor. Snowball fights round every corner and traffic at a crawl. We abandoned the car and eventually got to Karaköy Güllüoğlu, home to the Mecca of baklava and related confections, to try to learn the secrets of this most Turkish of sweetmeats.

We are warmly welcomed into a plush office lined with awards; glasses of Turkish tea and several types of baklava appear as if by magic. In the background a video on a loop plays segments from the many TV channels who have come from all over the world throughout the years to document the process. I’ve also come to watch how this flakiest of baklava has been perfected by six generations of the Güllü family and their loyal team of masters and apprentices.

This extraordinary operation starts at 4am. It’s fascinating to get a glimpse of an operation where every single element has been studied to the enth degree, even the method of dishwashing, which is where everyone including family members starts their apprenticeship.

The feather like phyllo pastry is made from a very specific variety of hard wheat flour, seasoned with salt, and then bound with egg, water and extra virgin olive oil. The texture of the dough varies according to the weather and humidity.  The dough master has been honing his skill over several decades. Each ball of dough is hand rolled on unpolished marble tables with 1.6 metre long pear wood rolling pins, into 10 paper thin silky sheets. Even perfecting the skill of dusting the dough with a puff of corn starch takes an average 18 months to achieve. It takes about fifteen minutes to roll and is quite mesmerising to watch. Suddenly everyone stops rolling, bows deeply and utters a loud greeting, the baklava master, Nadir Güllü has arrived, he’s been held up by the snow.

The baklava is baked in heavy rectangular trays that are first brushed with melted butter, then 10 layers of phyllo are spread evenly one by one over the base. A little sprinkle of melted butter on each from a special brush made from the male kamis bush. Then a generous layer of coarsely ground pistachio or walnuts followed by ten more feather-light layers. The walnuts, all best quality and pistachios come from Gaziantep, the home town of baklava in South East Turkey where according to Nadir, 90% of all baklava makers come from and 10% of the entire crop is used to make baklava.

The edges are tucked in and then the baklava is cut into strips with a special knife. Melted butter is poured from top to bottom, then it is cut again into the familiar sized rectangles. The special sheep’s butter comes from Urfa near the Syrian border. The baklava rests for a few minutes before being baked at 165 centigrade for 15 minutes.

Next the all-important syrup, for 35 years one of the syrup master has been in charge of making the syrup, it’s made from a particular type of cane sugar to a very specific density and is ladled evenly over the hot baklava. The exact amount will be soaked up by the 20 separate layers of phyllo.

Karaköy Güllüoğlu bakery has also been making a gluten free baklava with stevia syrup for over 10 years. Turkish people have an intensely sweet tooth, of the 70 million population a reported 10 million suffer from diabetes.

Around the bustling workshop, several other types of baklava were being made, a pistachio log rolled on a metal rod and then crinkled also looked irresistible, as did Nadirs burmas, little triangles filled with pistachio and semolina cream, there are also walnut versions which apparently are even more popular.

Nadir, the sixth generation master is an affable, hugely entertaining guide, totally passionate about his craft and the power of eating together to promote peace. We went back to his office so he could show me the correct way to enjoy baklava.

More glasses of fine Turkish tea arrived, freshly baked baklava on a plate.  First a sip of water, a deep breath then spike one end of a baklava with a fork, hear the crunch. Spread a layer of Kaymak (clotted buffalo cream) on the base, dip in chopped pistachio, then inhale the irresistible aroma. Bite off half, eat slowly noting the buttery flakiness, the delicious pistachio and Kaymak – now so that’s what baklava is meant to taste like……

Upstairs there were queues of people waiting patiently to buy the confections. Many shops are supplied from this busy bakery where each and everyone is so proud to have brought baklava to an art form.



Spinach and Cheese Pie

Serves 6-8


450g (1 lb) fresh spinach, stalks removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

110 g (4 oz) onion, finely chopped

2 scallions with greenery, finely sliced

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2 tablespoons flat parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons dill, chopped

110 g (4 oz) Feta cheese, crumbled


75g (3 oz) feta and 30g (1 oz) Parmesan


50g (2 oz) Feta and 50g (2 oz) Gruyére

1-2 eggs, preferably free range


6-8 sheets of filo pastry


110g (4 oz) butter, melted


150ml (¼ pint) olive oil


Wash and chop the spinach.  Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the finely chopped onion and scallions.  Cover and sweat on a low heat until soft but not coloured.  Increase the heat, add spinach, toss, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg.  Add the chopped parsley and dill and continue to cook for 4 or 5 minutes or until spinach is fully cooked.


Turn into a colander and drain and cool.  Mix the crumbled Feta and grated cheese with the beaten egg.  Add the well-drained spinach, taste and correct seasoning.  Purée in a food processor for a smooth texture, otherwise use immediately as a more robust filling.


To assemble lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Lay a strip of filling about 2.5 cm thick along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) in from the edge.  Roll up and bend into an accordion shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put the ‘snail’ on the buttered baking sheet, continue to make more ‘snails’ with the rest of the filo and filling.  Brush each one with egg wash and then with melted butter.  Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden.  Serve immediately.



Spinach and Feta Pie

This filling may also be used to fill a pie, double the quantity.  Use a 9 x 28 x 8 cm (15 x 11 x 3 inch) tin.  Use 6-7 layers of buttered filo to line the tin and another 6 or 7 sheets on top.  Egg wash, brush with melted butter and score the top of the pie into diamond or square pattern.

Cook in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes approx.

Serve warm, cut into diamonds or squares.



Mary Jo’s Baklava

This is our friend Mary Jo McMillin’s version of baklava made with filo pastry, not quite as light as Nadir’s version but nonetheless delicious.

(Makes 48 pieces)


450g  (1lb) filo pastry

350g  (12oz) unsalted butter, clarified and melted

225g  (8oz) whole almonds, finely chopped

225g  (8oz) walnuts or pistachio, finely chopped

50g (2oz) castor sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of ground cloves

48 whole cloves (optional)


400g (14oz) granulated sugar

350ml (12fl oz) water

long strips orange or lemon peel or both

5cm (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick

2-4 tablespoons honey

juice ½  lemon


To Prepare Syrup

Mix sugar and water over medium heat until dissolved.  Add orange peel, cinnamon stick and boil gently for 20 mins or until syrup coats the spoon.  Remove from heat, add honey and lemon juice. Set aside to cool.


Mix nuts with 2oz of castor sugar, ground cinnamon and cloves.


In a swiss roll tin, first brush the bottom with clarified butter.  Layer in filo sheets brushing each with butter and folding in the over hang.  Lay next sheet at the edge of the folded over hang and continue layering – brushing with the butter until you have built a base using 3 sheets. Sprinkle a generous handful of the nut mixture over the buttered filo.  Top with 2 sheets of filo buttering each layer.  Sprinkle over more of the nuts and continue in the same way using the nut mixture.


Continue to use all remaining filo, brushing each one with butter. Make sure top layer has no seam. Chill for 20 minutes.


Using a very sharp blade, cut the pastry all the way to the bottom into 24 squares and then into 48 triangles, if desired. Spear each piece with a whole clove, if using. Spray mist with water before baking, to prevent top layer from curling.


Bake Baklava in a pre-heated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4-190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 for 20 mins. Reduce heat to 150°C/300°/Gas Mark 2 and bake for 45-60 mins longer or until golden.


Immediately upon removing from the oven, pour over the prepared syrup cooled to room temperature.



Ottolenghi’s M’tabbaq


Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi demonstrated this delicious confection at last year’s Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine


Serves 6


14 sheets of filo pastry, 31cm x 39cm (12½  x 15½  inch)

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, melted

500g (18oz) ricotta

250g (9oz) soft goat’s cheese, such as Rosary

crushed pistachios for garnish (optional)



120g (4 ½ oz) water

360g (12 ¼ oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice


Heat the oven to 210°C/410°F/Gas Mark 6 1/2.

Brush a low edged baking tray, roughly 28cm x 37cm (11 x 15 inch), with some of the melted butter. Spread a filo sheet on top tucking it into the corners and allowing the edges to hang over. Brush all over with butter, top with another sheet and brush with butter again. Repeat the process until you have seven sheets evenly stacked, each brushed with butter.

Place the ricotta and goat’s cheese in a bowl and mash them using a fork mixing them up well. Spread over the top filo sheet, clearing 2cm (3/4 inch) border around the edge. Brush the surface of the cheese with butter and top with the remaining seven sheets, brushing each in turn with butter.

Use a scissors to trim about 2cm (3/4 inch) off the edge but without reaching the cheese so it stays well sealed within the pastry. Use your fingers to gently tuck the filo edges underneath the kellaj so you get a clear and neat edge. Brush with more butter all over. Use a sharp knife to cut the surface into squares, about 7x7cm (3 x 3 inch), allowing the knife to almost reach the bottom but not quite. Place in the oven and bake for 25-27 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

Prepare the syrup while the kellaj is in the oven. Put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and mix it well with a wooden spoon. Heat up and once it boils, add the lemon juice and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Slowly pour the syrup all over the Kellaj the minute you take it out of the oven, making sure is soaks in evenly. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the crushed pistachios on, if using, and cut into portions. Serve warm.



Scrunchy Apple Tart

Serves 6-8


1 packet of filo pastry (you may not need it all)

50g (2 oz) butter, melted

4-6 dessert apples, e.g. Cox’s Pippins

110g (4 oz) castor sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice (optional)


icing sugar


23-25.5cm (1 x 9-10 inch) round tart tin, preferably with pop-up base.


Brush the tin with melted butter, cut 3 sheets of filo in half widthways, brush with melted butter, fold in half and arrange overlapping in the tin.   Peel and cut the apples into chunks, sprinkle with plenty of sugar and cinnamon or mixed spice if using, the tin should be generously filled with fruit.  Fold the edges of the filo back into the tart.

Divide another 3 sheets of filo into 4 pieces each.  Brush with melted butter.  Scrunch up each piece and arrange on top.  Bake in a pre-heated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour approx. or until the apple is cooked and the pastry crisp and golden.

Dredge with icing sugar, serve warm with softly whipped cream.


Hot Tips:

Get Buzzing! Beekeeping for Beginners on Saturday 21st  March 10am to 4.30pm, price €70 – the Irish Seed Savers Association in Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, will hold a one day workshop. Topics include: Introduction to Honey Bees and their behaviour, how to get started, equipment needed and where source it. Local Bees and the importance of our Native Irish Black bees, what to expect during the beekeeping year (which will include managing some diseases.) To book and more information on year round workshops or phone 061 921866.

2015 is the International Year of Soils.  Klaus Laitenberg will talk about Caring for Our Soil, at the GIY monthly meeting in Skibbereen on Monday 9th March at 8pm in the West Cork Hotel. All are welcome and donations are appreciated. For more information phone Marian 087 9972899 or see

TRADEIT, who support small to medium sized traditional food producers, working within the dairy, meat or bakery sectors are running a face to face networking event, in collaboration with Enterprise Europe Network, alongside the ANUGA FoodTec trade fair in Cologne 26th to 27th March 2015. This event is for small food producers and the companies, get the latest information about keeping food businesses sustainable, for more details see

Dorothy Cashman

February 28th, 2015

On a chilly winters night a few weeks ago we had our first East Cork Slow Food event of the year. The title didn’t sound particularly appealing “How a Love Of Food And Literature Can Bring Your Life In A Different Direction” but eminent food historian Dorothy Cashman kept us riveted for several hours and whetted many peoples appetite for food history, old cookbooks and lore that they hadn’t a jot of interest in before.


Dorothy, herself had almost stumbled into what has now becoming an all absorbing hobby. Good wholesome food and convivial family meals were an important part of her childhood and stirred up as they do for many of us, nostalgic and happy memories.


In 1991 Dorothy decided to take a career break from her air hostess job in Aer Lingus to learn how to cook. After three months here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, her interest in all things gastronomic grew and eventually 2009 she retired from Aer Lingus and in 2007 enrolled on the New Product Development and Culinary Innovation MSc in DIT in Dublin. She found herself intrigued by food history and old cookbooks and became particularly fascinated by the manuscript cookbooks of the great Irish houses. Interestingly, relatively little work had been done on this area, it was almost as through it was ‘air brushed’ out of our history. Most cookbooks including my own Traditional Irish Cooking had concentrated on the food of the poor and middle classes, simple, nourishing and often delicious but hardly sophisticated food.


However, Dorothy quickly discovered that the clichéd image of traditional Irish food was only part of the story. As in every country, the food depended on the social status and economic situation of the family. The food eaten in many of the great houses was fascinating and reflected the fresh produce of the estate. Fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit from the walled garden, orchards and greenhouses. Game during the season and fish from the local rivers and lakes or a fish pond on the estate. Several houses had a ready supply of squabs from their columbarium and there were many ice houses, some of which are still in existence. The cook, with a few notable exceptions ,was local but often incorporated recipes into their repertoire that the lady of the house had got from friends or had collected on the Grand Tour of Europe.


Fortunately, the lady of the house sometimes recorded the receipts as they were then known into a beautiful bound book in exquisite copper plate handwriting. These manuscript cookbooks are an important social record as well as a deeply personal account of what the family was eating at that point in time. They were never meant to be published or read outside of the family circle so they are invariably written in a casual unguarded style, with the occasional aside or alteration .In some instances they were written by just one person but in other cases the manuscripts were added to by several generations as in the Parsons family of Birr Castle and the Pope family from Waterford have three books in the Library (MS 34,923/1-3) and were added to by the members of the family from 1823 to c1890, book by book…


From some of the entries one might deduce that the lady of the house, not herself a cook was transcribing the cooks receipt as it was relayed to her. The cook particularly in earlier years may well have been illiterate and her mistress often had little understanding of quantities or cooking techniques so not all recipes are accurate or can be relied on to work. There’s also the possibility that some cooks didn’t necessarily want to share their secrets!


Dorothy discovered an extensive archive of manuscript cookbooks dating from 1700 to mid/late 1800 in the National Library and has since embarked on a fascinating research project, a journey of discovery where each little clue opens new doors and gives new insights into our traditions and food culture. And the fascinating families who lived in these houses, brought recipes with them from their childhood homes and collected and shared with their friends and neighbouring estates.


The mistress of the house was also expected to have remedies for all ailments from cuts and burns to cholera or whooping cough so the manuscript cookbooks also invariably included recipes for all kinds of healing potions as well as drinks and furniture or even grate polish.


It was intriguing to see recipes for preserved lemons ‘Lady Tyrone’s receipt for pickling lemons got from my grandmother’ in Mrs Baker’s manuscript.  And extensive use of spices, rose water, orange blossom water and of course barm, an ingredient which now intrigues bakers and chefs.


Dorothy, stressed that there are still handwritten recipe collections often written in simple copy books in the back of drawers or in a box in the attic in many homes, these are really worth rescuing. They may not be of sufficient interest to be part of the national collection but each is worth saving as a family heirloom.


If you think you have a manuscript cookbook that may be of interest, contact Dorothy Cashman


Spellings are original.

Lady Tyrone’s receipt for pickling lemons, G.M (MS 34,952 National Library of Ireland) 

This is from the manuscript of Mrs Baker of Ballaghtobin, who was related to the Earl of Tyrone.

Take the largest lemons, pare them as thin as possible, score them across at each end and rub them mighty well with salt for 10 days every day, then dry them at the fire or in the sun for an hour every day then put them into a close stone jar, 12 cloves of garlic, red Indian pepper and flour of mustard and sliced ginger, cover them with raw vinegar. They are apt to grow soft if not properly done therefore to keep them hard when you are doing them they must be kept in a room with a fire and the salt must cover them all over and the salt rubbed very well into them, three times a day not too hard to bruise the lemon and they must also be turned every time you rub them that they may not lie too long on one side. You must tie a little turmrick up in a bag and put in the jar where the lemons are to give them a proper colour.

A Sponge Cake Miss Herbert (MS 34, 952 National Library of Ireland)

I like to think this is the diarist Dorothea Herbert’s recipe; it is certainly either hers or her siblings as they were first cousins of Mrs Baker. I have made this in half the recipe and used large organic eggs. One large cake tin and split it to fill with cream and fresh raspberries. It was wonderful. 

Beat the whites of 10 eggs to a froth for an hour with three spoons fill of cinimon or orange flower water, one pound of lump sugar powdered and sifted, the rhind of a lemon grated. When these are well mixed add the juice of a lemon and the yolks of 10 eggs beat smooth for an hour, just before you put it in the oven, stir in three quarters of a pound of well dried fine flour, bake it in a moderate oven for an hour.

Catsup that will last twenty years (MS 34, 952 National Library of Ireland)

Terrifying! But probably works. (To rozen something is to seal it with a pine resin)

Take two quarts of strong stale beer and half a pound of anchovies wash them clean, cloves and mace of each a quarter of an ounce, of pepper half an ounce, a race or two of ginger, half a pound of shallots, a pint of flat mushrooms well boiled and salted, boil all them over a slow fire till one half is consumed then run it thro a flannel bag, let it stand till it is quite cold, bottle it and cork it close and rozen it.

A Rich Sillibub from the Cow (MS 42,134 National Library of Ireland)

O.K… First catch your cow! I doubt it would pass hygiene standards but the motion of milking from the udder would have had the desired effect.

Take what wine you like best, if it be sack the curd will be the tenderer, mingle it with ale and sweeten it with sugar very well, ye juice and peel of a lemon. Put yr pot or glass on the ground and milk in to it as fast as you can and make a little curd, then have a porringer of cream by you and put some upon the curd, then milk again, then cream again till your pot be full. Strew sugar on ye top.


Piegon Pie Piegon Pie Piegon Pie Style: "Irish trad" Style: "Irish trad"


Ballymaloe Pigeon Pie


Wood pigeons have always been very prolific in Ireland. In the country young boys were taught how to shoot by their fathers. Before a big dance or party in Ballymaloe House in the 1950s, the boys would ‘bag’ enough to make large quantities of pigeon pie – a relatively inexpensive and absolutely delicious way to feed a large number of people for a winter house party.


Serves 10–12


breasts from 4–6 pigeons


half their weight in streaky bacon


their weight in lean beef


bacon fat or olive oil, for frying


8 baby carrots or sticks of carrot


10–12 button onions


1 garlic clove, crushed


1–2 teaspoons plain flour


240ml (8fl oz) red wine


240ml (8fl oz) homemade beef stock


150ml (¼ pint) homemade tomato purée or a smaller quantity of tinned purée or tomato paste: use according to concentration and make up with extra stock


roux (optional;)


salt and freshly ground pepper


2 teaspoons chopped thyme and parsley


1 quantity Mushrooms in Cream (see below)


225g (8oz) puff pastry (made with butter)




Remove the rind from the bacon and cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes. Cut the beef and pigeon into similar-sized pieces.


Heat some bacon fat or olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp and golden.


Remove to a 2.3 litre (4 pint) casserole. Add the beef and pigeon pieces, a few at a time, to the frying pan and toss until they change colour.


Add them to the casserole. Add the carrots, onions and crushed garlic to the pan and turn in the fat before adding them to the meat in the casserole.


Stir the flour into the fat in the pan, cook for a minute or so and then stir or whisk in the wine, stock and tomato purée. Bring to the boil and thicken with roux if necessary.


Pour over the meat and vegetables in the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the thyme and parsley and bring to the boil.


Cover and cook for 1–2 hours or until tender (this will depend on the age of the pigeons) in a low oven, 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2–3.


When cooked, add the Mushrooms in Cream and set aside to cool.


When the pigeon stew is cold, pour it into a deep pie dish. Roll out the puff pastry to cover the dish and bake for 10 minutes at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8, then reduce the heat to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5 and cook for a further 20 minutes.




Mushrooms in Cream


Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5–10 minutes, or until quite soft but not coloured. Remove the onion to a bowl. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the onions, parsley and chives to the mushrooms in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then set aside to cool.


10–25g (½–1oz) butter


75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped


225g (8oz) sliced field mushrooms or flat cultivated mushrooms


salt and freshly ground pepper


squeeze of lemon juice


½ tablespoon parsley


½ tablespoon chopped chives


125ml (4fl oz) cream






Jam Pudding 


This was one of our favourites, we raced home from school for lunch even faster when we knew Mummy was cooking a steamed jam pudding.



Serves 4


110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature


110g (4oz) caster sugar


2 eggs, free-range if possible


few drops of pure vanilla extract


170g (6oz) plain white flour


½ teaspoon baking powder


about 1 tablespoon milk or water


3 or 4 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam




Raspberry Jam Sauce


4–6 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam


rind and juice of ½ lemon


150ml (¼ pint) water


sugar, to taste


12.5cm (5in) pudding bowl



Cream the butter, add the caster sugar and beat until white and creamy. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and beat, a little at a time, into the creamed mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder and add a little milk or water if necessary to make a dropping consistency.

Grease your pudding bowl. Spread raspberry jam over the bottom and sides. Carefully spoon the cake mixture into the bowl. Cover with pleated greaseproof paper, tied on firmly, and steam the pudding for about 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the raspberry jam sauce. Heat the jam with the water, add the lemon rind and juice and sweeten with a little extra sugar if necessary.

Turn the pudding on to a hot dish and serve with the sauce and lots of softly whipped cream.


Hot tips


‘From Beckett to Banville’ with Dorothy Cashman, who would have thought Samuel Beckett would give us a detailed description of how to achieve perfect toast, or that Thomas Flanagan would throw a punch at Jammet’s Restaurant with Janice Nugent’s remark ‘you don’t really improve the tin soup and the tick soup by calling them potages’. Join Dorothy at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, on Saturday 16th May at 11.30am, price €11, for more details see


Spring into action: why not create a soft fruit garden this year; Susan Turner will give Creating a Soft Fruit Garden Workshop on Monday 2nd March at Ballymaloe Cookery School. This half day intensive course will cover choosing fruit varieties, designing your garden, pruning, creating fans and cordons, propagation of soft fruit. Price €95 including a light lunch. Or why not try Vegetable Garden Preparation course on Monday 9th March, a day long course, where Susan will provide you with the necessary skills to develop, assess and utilise sustainable organic growing techniques. Price €150 and also includes lunch. For further information on our horticulture courses see


Natural Resistance, an Irish film premiere as part of the Cork French Film Festival, on Friday 6th March at 7pm, The Grainstore at Ballymaloe.  With an Italian inspired rustic supper paired with natural wines from the growers featured in the film. A film by ‘Mondavino’s  Jonathan Nossiter, and set in Tuscany featuring Italian winemakers dedicated to resisting the prevalent use of chemicals, “It’s about respect for everything” — not only nature, but also workers and customers”  Price  €45 or €10 for screening only. For further information, please contact the Festival Office on 021 431 0677

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2015

Don’t we all need and love a little romance in our lives, so Valentine’s Day creates a welcome little flutter of excitement for everyone from 9 to 90. Teenagers are in a state of wild anticipation and intrigue. Nowadays there are all sorts of techie ways to get your message across whereas a Valentines Card, usually anonymous,  was the best we could do and oh, the nail biting! So let’s mark the occasion with whatever gesture works for you – a romantic table for two in your favourite restaurant, a bunch or even a single red rose, may sound a bit ‘cheesy’, but still gives the recipient an ‘oops’ in their tummy and a warm rosy glow.


IMG_0801 (1)


How about a bag of heart shaped cookies or a gorgeous chocolate cake! Pam’s Valentine Chocolate Cake is guaranteed to produce a gasp of appreciation and you will have the best fun making and assembling this luscious confection. If you haven’t managed to secure a restaurant booking to wine and dine your sweetheart it’s probably too late by now but fear not, there are lots of other ways to make a big impression. Why not invite your beloved around for supper and rustle up something delicious and comforting- a risotto is easy and great for sharing. Follow it with a green salad and maybe preceede it with a couple of dozen native Irish oysters, could be au naturel, with just a segment of lemon and a glass of bubbles.

In case that sounds like too much of a challenge – the curvy Gigas oysters are less expensive and even better for cooking than the deliciously briny natives that are best enjoyed unadorned. Oysters have quite a reputation….

Oysters with Namjim and Crispy Onions

An addictive combination, we use the Gigas oysters for this dish. 

Serves 6-8


24 Gigas oysters


4 shallots or small onions, sliced

Extra virgin olive oil

Seaweed if available

Fresh coriander


Peel and slice the shallots or onions thinly.   Spread out on kitchen paper to dry.

Meanwhile make the najmim, and keep in a glass jam-jar.

Heat about 2.5cm (1inch) of oil in a frying pan, fry the onions until crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.


To serve|:

Lay a few sprigs of seaweed on each plate, if available.  Open the oysters and nestle 3 or 4 on top of the seaweed.  Spoon a generous half teaspoon of namjim on top of each oyster and top with some crispy onions and a sprig of fresh coriander.


Pacific Oysters with Asian Vinaigrette


Even though Pacific oysters are available the year round, they are best in winter.


Serves 8 as a starter


24 Pacific oysters

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon freshly ginger, grated

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 spring onions, cut at an angle

1 red chilli, finely chopped

3 tablespoons sesame oil

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives


To Serves

fresh seaweed (if available)

segments of lime


To make the Asian vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients in a glass jar, seal and shake well. If you can get some, place a little fresh seaweed on each plate.  Arrange 4-5 oysters per person on top and spoon a little vinaigrette over each one.  Serve with segments of lime.


Top Tip

If you can find some fresh seaweed e.g. bladder wrack, dip the fonds into boiling water for a second or two, they will turn bright green. Drop it straight into a bowl of iced water to prevent it cooking and to set the colour.  It will make an attractive garnish, which you could eat it if you were very hungry but it doesn’t taste delicious!  Use it soon otherwise it will go slimy.



Fennel and Parsnip Soup

Serves 8 approximately

This unexpectantly delicious combination of winter flavours is guaranteed to convert even the most ardent parsnip haters and can of course be made ahead.


50g (2ozs/1/4 stick) butter

175g (6oz) onion, diced

450g (1lb) parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

450g (1lb) fennel bulb, cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.4Litre (2 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

125ml (4 1/2fl oz/1/2 cup) milk

125ml (4 1/2fl oz/1/2 cup) cream



Finely chopped herb fennel or bulb fennel tops


Melt the butter and toss the diced onion, parsnips, fennel in it. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan.  Cook on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes or until soft but not coloured.  Add the hot stock and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft and tender. Add the milk and cream. Liquidise or puree in a blender. Taste for seasoning.  Serve in bowls or a soup tureen sprinkled with finely chopped herb fennel or the tops of the fennel bulb.


Useful Tip

Pull or peel strings off the outer leaves of the fennel bulb if necessary. Trimmings can go into a stock pot.


Risotto with shrimps

Serves 6

1 3/4 – 2 1/4 pints (1 – 1.3L/4 1/3 – 5 1/2 cups) broth or homemade chicken stock

1 oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) extra virgin olive oil

14 ozs (400g) Carnaroli or Arboria rice

1 oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

2 ozs (50g/) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

110 – 175g (4 – 6oz) cooked and peeled shrimps

Sea salt


First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering.  Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured.  Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused).  Cook for a minute or so and then add 1/4 pint (150 ml/generous 1/2 cup) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 1/4 pint (150 ml/generous 1/2 cup) of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside.  If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook.


When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve immediately.


Risotto does not benefit from hanging around so enjoy it immediately.


Add 110 – 175g (4 – 6oz) cooked and peeled shrimps to the risotto just before the end of cooking.  1 – 2 tablespoons (1-2 American tablespoons) of freshly chopped dill are also a delicious addition.  If possible use shrimp or fish stock but light chicken stock will also be delicious.


Risotto with Kale

Destalk and cook curly kale, red Russian or cavalo nero kale in boiling salted water until almost cooked (see recipe).  Drain well, stir in the risotto about 5 minutes before the end of cooking.  Taste and correct the seasonings and serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Choccie Shortbread Sweethearts


1oz (25g/1/4 cup) icing sugar

9oz (250g) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2oz (60g) cornflour

1 1/2oz (45g/1/3 cup) plain white flour

pinch salt



2oz (50g) chocolate

2fl oz (50ml/1/4 cup) cream

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped

icing sugar, to dust

2 inch (5cm) heart shaped cutter


Cream the butter, add the icing sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla essence then stir in the cornflour, flour and a pinch of salt. Mix to a dough.


Flatten into a round, cover and allow to relax in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºf/Gas Mark 4.


Roll the dough to a thickness of 3/8 inch (7mm). Stamp into heart shapes with the cutter.


Transfer to baking sheets lined with silicone paper (non stick). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pale golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack with a fish slice and allow to cool.


Meanwhile chop the chocolate. Warm the cream in a small saucepan, add the chocolate, turn off the heat and stir until melted.


Transfer to a bowl and allow get cool. Whisk to thicken to a spreadable mousse like texture. Fold in finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.


Sandwich the biscuits together with the chocolate spread. Sprinkle with icing sugar.



Raspberry Sweethearts

Substitute raspberry jam for the chocolate filling in the above recipe.


Pam’s Valentine Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

Pam Black is one of our senior teachers here at The Ballymaloe Cookery School, once seen never forgotten. She has bright red hair, swept up into a brilliant distinctive ‘Jedward’ style. You may have seen her on the ‘Afternoon Show’, so you’ll know how she loves to bake and how gorgeous her confections are.

Serves 8

225g (8oz/1 1/2sticks) butter (soft)

225g (8oz/3/4cup) castor sugar

4 free range eggs

225g (8oz/1 1/2cups) flour

1½ teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) cocoa powder

25g (1oz) drinking chocolate

110g (4oz/scant 1/2 cup) natural yoghurt


Chocolate Buttercream Filling

110g (4oz/3/4 stick) butter

225g (8oz/1 1/3 cups) icing sugar, sieved

3 teaspoons cocoa powder

3 teaspoons hot water


Chocolate Glace Icing

110g (6oz/scant 1 cup) icing sugar

50g (3oz) cocoa powder

15g (1oz) butter

½  teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons water


275g (10oz) fresh raspberries to decorate

2 x 8 inch (20.5 cm) heart shaped tins, greased and floured

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.


Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa and drinking chocolate together in a bowl.  Gradually fold into the egg mixture.  Finally fold in the yoghurt.  Divide between the two tins.  Cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.


To make the chocolate buttercream filling.

Cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the sieved icing sugar and cocoa, beat well then add the hot water.


To make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl.  Heat the butter, water and vanilla extract in a saucepan until just at boiling point.  Pour into the icing sugar and cocoa, beat well with a wooden spoon.

Note: If the icing is too thick, add a little more warm water.


To assemble the cake.

Fill the cakes with most of the chocolate butter cream and sandwich together.  Place on an upturned plate or icing turntable and carefully spread with chocolate glace icing.  Arrange the raspberries snugly over the top of the cake.


Hot Tips

The English Market in Cork will as ever be choc a bloc with delicious temptations for St. Valentine’s Day. If you go along to On The Pigs Back you’ll find the little Coeur de Neufchâtel, a heart shaped  raw cow’s milk cheese – how cute would that be with a few Sheridan’s cheese biscuits. 


Fresh from West Cork resumes with a lovely new stall at the wonderful Bradley’s Artisan Food Shop & Specialist Off Licence, North Main Street, Cork, selling over 80 delicious food products from more than 40 West Cork food producers. Bradleys, established in 1850 as a dairy, is now run by Michael Creedon the 5th generation of his family and open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 9.30pm telephone 021 4270845.


Cros Naomh Bhríde We have had lots of queries since the article on St Brigid’s day about where to buy a cross. How delighted I was to find some for sale in the Ballymaloe Shop, made by Naomh Padraig Handcrafts, Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Tel 071 9637077 for a list of other stockists. ? Has carried on the tradition for years and tells the story of Bridget of the Gaels.


Toby Simmons of Toonsbridge Dairy, near Macroom continues to add to the impressive list of buffalo’s milk cheeses he and his Italian cheesemaker, Franco Picciuolo make. So great to have an Irish buffalo milk mozzarella  but look out for  Toonsbridge Caciocavallo, Toonsbridge Greek style brined cheese and halloumi and occasionally you may be fortunate enough to find a burrata, a tender mozzarella type cheese oozing with rich cream, divine. Check for details.

Chef Jp Mahon

February 7th, 2015

Chef Owner, of Michelin starred Aniar restaurant in Galway, JP McMahon keeps a lot of balls in the air. He is culinary director of the EatGalway Restaurant Group, made up of Aniar, Cava Boedga, and Eat Gastropub, plus he runs the Aniar Boutique Cookery School. He is totally committed to local producers and engages directly with small farmers. That’s not all, he is the founding chair and director of the Galway Food Festival and is an ambassador for Irish food.

In his spare time JP also lectures in Art History in UCC and is currently finishing his PhD and can you imagine on top of all that JP is organising an international chef symposium entitled ‘Food on the Edge’ which will take place in Galway in October 2015.

WOW, I’m exhausted from even reading this and there’s more, when does this boy sleep! Most recently, he has self-published a book ‘Tapas, A Taste of Spain in Ireland’. The recipes are from Cava Bodega, the much loved tapa restaurant he and his wife Drigín opened in Dominick Street in Galway in 2008.

JP and Drigín love Spain. There’s always been a strong link between Ireland and Spain, and Galway in particular, dating back to 500 B.C. The trading ships would come into Galway Bay and sail right up to what is now called the Spanish Arch, home of another of my favourite Galway eatery Ard Bia.

JP has a deep a love for Spanish food and culture. The recipes for the para picar (nibbles) tapas (small bites) and pinchos (a larger version) in the book reflect his interpretation of the Hiberno–Spanish version of many classic and contemporary dishes.

JP is also an ambassador for the “Cook It Raw” movement started by Alessandro Porcelli in 2009. It’s not just raw food but going back to basics, re-learning the skills of producing some of our own food, fishing, shooting and foraging.

Here are a small selection of recipes to whet your appetite. Meanwhile if you would like to see JP in action, he will be at The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine from May 15th-17th 2015, you can book on-line


Goats cheese mousse (3) (1)

Goats’ Cheese Mousse with piquillo peppers and walnut powder
(serves 4)

8 piquillo peppers
green leaves, to garnish

For the goats’ cheese mousse:
150g (5oz) St Tola goats’ cheese
50ml (2fl oz) cream
50g (2oz) crème fraîche
sea salt

For the walnut powder:
45g (2oz) walnuts
5g sugar (¼oz)
1g sea salt (Darina – not sure about translation into OZ)

For the walnut powder: Dry roast the walnuts in a 180°C oven until hard and crunchy. Allow to cool. Blend in a food processor with the sugar and the salt. Spread the powder onto a baking tray and place in the oven until a crumb texture is achieved. This will only take a few minutes so keep an eye on the powder!

For the goats’ cheese mousse: Whip the goats’ cheese, cream, and crème fraîche together until a smooth consistency is achieved. Season to taste. Place in a piping bag with a medium sized nozzle.

To plate: Pipe the goats’ cheese on to the plate and lay the piquillo peppers around and on top of the cheese. Garnish with some green leaves (I find mustard cress works well) and finish by sprinkling the walnut powder over the cheese and peppers. Serve with some fresh sourdough or some crackers.

For this recipe, we use, St. Tola, a soft Irish goats’ cheese from Co. Clare. It is made by Siobhán, a good friend of mine. Piquillo peppers are small Spanish roasted red peppers from Navarra. You can find them in Sheridan’s Cheesemongers in both Dublin and Galway and many other delis and supermarkets.

Clams with Chorizo

Clams with Chorizo

(serves 4)
Irish clams are an extremely versatile shellfish that work wonderfully with the succulent oiliness of Spanish chorizo. From the moment of its appearance on the menu in Cava, this dish always caught people’s attention. Not only is it a fantastic tapa for sharing, it’s also a great introduction for people who are new to shellfish.

250ml Oloroso sherry
200g cooking chorizo, diced
500g fresh clams, cleaned
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
50g butter, cubed

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the chorizo and fry lightly until the oil begins
to seep from the sausage.

Add the onion and the bay leaf and fry until the onions have softened and have
turned red.

Add the sherry and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes.
Finally, add the clams and butter. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until the clams have opened. Discard any that don’t open.

Fold the parsley into the clams and chorizo. Serve into four warm bowls, ideally
with some crusty bread to mop up the lovely juices.


Free Range Duck plums

Free Range Duck with plums and Pedro Ximenez sherry

(serves 4)

2 free range duck breasts
2 plums, stoned & cut in eight slices each
400ml (14 fl oz) PX sherry
4 tbsp of honey
a few sprigs of chervil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 200˚C.
Score the fat side of each duck breast and cut in half. Season with salt.
Warm a frying pan and place the breast into it skin side down.
Cook until the fat is rendered and the skin is a crisp brown colour.
Turn the duck over and fry on the other side for 2 minutes.
Place duck in the oven on an oven tray for 5 minutes.
In another pan, caramelise the plums in the honey on a medium heat.
After a few minutes, add the sherry and reduce by half on a medium heat.
Remove the duck from the oven (it will be medium rare: if you want to cook it more leave it in for longer) and allow it to rest for a few minutes.
Carve the duck into thin slices and season with some salt.
To serve: Divide the plum sauce onto four plates and place the sliced duck on top. Garnish with some sprigs of chervil.


Basque style monkfish, with parsley and mayonnaise

(serves 4)

For the Monkfish:
400g (14oz) monkfish, cut into strips
2 egg whites
100g (3½ oz) flour
sea salt
1 lemon, cut into four wedges
small handful of fresh dill tops

For the parsley mayonnaise
handful of flat leaf parsley, stalks removed
150ml (5fl oz or ¼ pint) oil
450g (1lb) mayonnaise

For the parsley mayonnaise: Blend the parsley and the oil in a food processor until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and continue to blend until you achieve a smooth green paste.

For the monkfish: Heat a deep fat fryer to 175°C. Season the monkfish and coat in the flour. With the aid of a tongs, dip each piece of monkfish into the egg white and then into the fryer. You will need to do this quickly as you don’t want the cooking time on the fish to be too different between the first and the last piece. Fry the monkfish until golden brown. Remove from the oil and strain on to some kitchen paper.

To serve: Place a dollop of the parsley mayonnaise on the plate and rest the monkfish beside it. Garnish with the lemon and the dill tops. Season again with a little rock salt if desired.

Creme Catalan

Crèma Catalana

(serves 6)

1 litre cream (1¾ pints)
2 cinnamon sticks
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
6 egg yolks
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
50g (2 oz) brown sugar

Bring the cream to the boil with cinnamon sticks and zest.
Upon reaching boiling point remove cream from the stove. Set aside and allow flavours to infuse for 5 minutes.
In a separate bowl, add sugar to eggs and whisk until creamed.
Pour the warm cream slowly over the eggs. Do not over whisk as you don’t want too much air in the mixture.
Set the mixture over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie) and gently warm the mixture until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. This will take about 30 to 40 minutes. Be sure the water does not come into contact with the bowl, or the mixture will curdle.
Strain mixture though a fine sieve and pour into 6 suitable round dishes.
Allow to chill for 3 hours in the fridge.
To serve: Sprinkle the surface of the Crèma Catalana with brown sugar and caramelise with a flamethrower. If you don’t have a flamethrower, you can put the Catalana under the grill, but be careful not to cook the mixture.
In Cava, we serve the Catalana with some caramel ice-cream, fresh fruits, and almond biscuits.


Hot Tips

Good Things Café in Durrus is closed for the winter season but the new Cookery School schedule has just been published. Lots of tempting courses to choose from – how about 2 Day Kitchen Miracle, Cooking for One, or A Dozen Quickies In A Day? If you hurry you may still be able to book a place on the Seaweed Day with Carmel Somers, Sally McKenna and April Dannan on 21st March., phone 027 61426.

Raglan, in Dublin’s hip Drury Street, is the place to pop into for a beautiful glass of fresh orange juice, they will squeeze the oranges while you wait – only takes a couple of seconds- the best €3’s worth I’ve had for quite a while. (In case you are confused Raglan is a clothes store as well as a coffee bar, 56-58 Drury Street, While you are in the area don’t miss Industry (41 A/B Drury Street, – just down the street packed with irresistible chic up-cycled stuff for your home and kitchen. Kaph (31 Drury Street, is just across the road, pop your head in there too, people rave about the coffee. Considered by Helen James Café with an eclectic range is next door (35-36 Drury Street, Super Miss Sue (2-3 Drury Street, www. is on the corner of Drury Street and Stephen’s Street Upper and there’s much more to tempt in George’s Street market.

January 26th, 2015



Not sure if St Brigid’s day is celebrated in every school in Ireland but many of our local national schools teach the children how to make the Crois Bríde or St. Brigids’s cross.

Like many of our saints including St Patrick, there seems to be considerable confusion about the background facts, nonetheless I’ve always loved St. Brigid whom I understood was the patron saint of dairy.

Every year, children’s nimble fingers weave green rushes into the little cross while listening to the colourful story of Ireland’s female patron saint, Bridget, who was born in 451 in Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth. The story goes that she converted a pagan chief in his last hours by explaining the story of Christianity as she wove a little cross from the reeds that were strewn on the bedroom floor (as was the custom then, circa 500A.D.).

The children’s St. Brigid’s crosses are stuffed into school bags and proudly presented to Mum and Dad to bless the house and/or cow byre because this gentle saint was said to have loved cows who gave a prodigious amount of milk which she distributed to the poor.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we still continue the tradition every year and our neighbour Mrs Cowhig comes to the cookery school to teach the students how to make Crois Bríde, (this term there are twelve nationalities,  Irish and UK of course, US, Canadian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Australian…..).

Milk is a magical ingredient with infinite possibilities – the ultimate ‘fridge staple’. It can be transformed into numerous milk products. Every country has its own traditions and Ireland was for ever famous for the quality and variety of its bán bia (or white meats, as dairy products are known in Gaelic) not surprising because we can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world except perhaps New Zealand.

From 1759 to 1870, the biggest butter market in the world was in Cork and butter from the small farms of Cork County was exported as far away as India and the Caribbean. Can you imagine, and that was long before the days of refrigeration – it’s all about the quality. The whole fascinating story has been told in a recently published book  “Butter in Ireland, From Earliest Times to the 21st Century”, editors Peter Foynes, Colin Rynne and Chris Synnott,  cost €15, available from

If you would like to learn how to make butter, yoghurt, labne, paneer and lots of simple cheeses, check out the Ballymaloe Cookery School website for the next dates . Meanwhile have fun with these recipes using milk and milk products. Learn and pass on the skill of making a Cros Bríde and continue our Irish traditions.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labne


This thick, creamy, soft cheese from the Middle East is an easy way to dabble in cheesemaking and is wonderfully versatile. It can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use a top quality commercial yogurt like Glenilen or Killowen.


Makes 500g (18oz) labne

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) natural yoghurt


Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labne in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. It will keep for four of five days in the fridge. The liquid whey that has drained off can be used for fermented dishes or to feed to hens or pigs if you have them.

Delicious served with dates, toasted hazelnuts, rose petals and pomegranate seeds see photograph.

It can also be eaten with berries or a kumquat compote and grated chocolate or simply add freshly chopped herbs and a little crushed garlic and serve with homemade cheese biscuits.


Figs with Labne, Sumac, Pistachio and Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Serves 4 as a starter


8 fresh figs in season


8 tablespoons labne

2 teaspoons fresh sumac

3 – 4 teaspoons pistachios, halved

extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

a few flakes of sea salt


Spoon two – three tablespoons of labne onto each plate. Cut the figs into quarters, push gently down into the yoghurt. Sprinkle with sumac and pistachios, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey, serve.


Pork Cooked In Milk


Cooking pork in milk produces the most delicious curdy liquid.  There is honestly no point in attempting this recipe if you cannot find really good free-range pork.  The lactic acid in milk has a tenderising and moistening effect on meat.  This recipe is of Italian origin where they also cook veal and chicken in milk on occasions. By the way this is also great with a whole chicken.


Serves 10-12


1.8kg (4lb) loin of pork (free-range and organic if possible)

a dash of extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz/1 pint) milk approximately

thinly sliced peel from 1 lemon, unwaxed

1 teaspoon of slightly crushed coriander seeds or a small handful of fresh sage leaves

4 cloves garlic, cut in half

sprig of marjoram


Remove the rind and almost every scrap of fat.  Season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole, large enough to fit the pork.  Brown the pork well on all sides, remove to a plate and pour off all the oil and fat. Add the lemon peel, coriander seeds and garlic.  Return the pork to the saucepan, add the milk, it should come about half way up the meat.  Add a sprig of marjoram or sage and bring to the boil and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours with the pan partially covered – after about an hour the milk will have formed a golden skin.  Scrape all this and what has stuck to the sides back into the milk, continue to cook uncovered.


The liquid should simmer very gently all the time.  The whole object of this exercise is to allow the milk to reduce and form delicious, pale coffee-coloured “curds” and a golden crust while the meat cooks.  When the pork is cooked slice the meat and carefully spoon the precious curds over the top.


Earl Grey Milk Jam

I found this recipe from Angel Kim in the Cook supplement of the Guardian.

“This is one of the most delicious things I have made. The jam is full of milky, caramel goodness with a faint hint of Earl Grey tea. Spoon it directly out of the jar or drizzle it over pancakes, waffles or ice-cream.”


Makes 200ml

2 Earl Grey tea-bags

250ml (9floz) whole milk

3tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar

1 tablespoons honey

a pinch of salt

250ml (9floz) single cream

40g (1½ oz) butter, cubed


Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, steep for about 10 minutes, then remove.

In a large frying pan or non-stick saucepan with high sides, bring the infused milk, sugar, honey and salt to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cream to the pan in three stages, stirring constantly until it has been incorporated.

Add the butter, stirring until melted. Simmer the sauce over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Once the jam has thickened and turned slightly darker in colour, simmer for 10-15 minutes longer. It will thicken further once cooled.

Pour into a hot sterilised jar or airtight container then seal with the lid to prevent a skin from forming. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.


French Toast


French toast is so good that you forget how economical it is.  The French don’t call this French toast.  They call it pain perdu or “lost bread”, because it is a way to use up leftover bread you would otherwise lose – the only bread you’ve got on the baker’s day off.  French toast is actually better if the bread is a little old or sliced and dried out overnight.


Serves 4


3 free range eggs

175ml (6 flozs/3/4 cup) whole milk- not low fat

tiny pinch of salt

6 slices white or light wholemeal bread

4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) clarified butter (see below)


Whisk the eggs, milk and salt together until well blended.  Strain the mixture into a shallow bowl in which you can easily soak the bread.  Dip both sides of each slice of bread in the batter. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan.  Fry the bread over a medium heat until very lightly browned, turning once.  Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar.


To Serve

1) Serve with crispy streaky rashers and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.


2) Also delicious with sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or grated apple.


3) Serve with a blob of sweet apple sauce.



Spiced French Toast: Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg to the batter.


Lemon or Orange French Toast: Add 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest to the batter



Kheer with Saffron and Pistachio nuts

Kheer is a traditional Indian dessert made from rice, milk and sugar and flavoured with spices. You could garnish it with sultanas, raisins, hazelnuts, pistachios or any nuts of your choice.


Serves 6-8

100g (3½ oz) long-grain rice, such as Basmati

1 litre (1¾ pints) whole milk

a pinch of saffron strands

1 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom

40g (1½ oz) flaked, toasted almonds

55g  (2½ oz)  sugar or a little more to taste


Coarsely chopped pistachios or your choice of toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and then set aside.

Pour the milk into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat.

Add the rice, stir to combine, then add the saffron, ground cardamom and the flaked almonds. Simmer until the rice has cooked and the milk has reduced by half – around 25-30 minutes.

Stir regularly to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

Add the sugar to taste and stir to dissolve. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dishes. Top with your choice of chopped nuts and dried fruit.


Hot Tips:

Slow Food Galway is celebrating St. Brigit’s Day with a Gourmet Banquet on Sunday February 1st at 5pm, in LOAM Restaurant, Fairgreen, Galway with Michelin Star Chef, Enda McEvoy.

Reception with canapés and wine, five course banquet with Slow Wines and musical entertainment. All proceeds to: Clowns without Borders Ireland; Cope Community Catering, Galway and Slow Food 10,000 Gardens in Africa. Tickets are €75 Euro Contact Eileen: 086-8533395, Kate: 087-9312333 or Cait: 087-2311580.


Give your loved one the gift of a lifetime. Why not impress your Valentine with a Ballymaloe Cookery School voucher which can be tailored in a number of ways to create the perfect gift for the food lover or gardening enthusiast in your life! For more information and to purchase a vouchers see or phone 021 4646785


Deasy’s Harbour Bar & Seafood Restaurant in Ring. How lovely is it to have a little black book full of addresses of good places to eat around the country. If Deasy’s in Ring, just a mile from Clonakilty is not already on your radar add it to your list right away. Caitlin Ruth is a beautiful cook. We had a really good dinner there recently with particularly memorable Korean fish cakes, Radicchio with whipped Toonsbridge ricotta and pickled green beans, monkfish with braised fennel, black rice and smoked chilli oil, and hazelnut cake, but there were appreciative sounds coming from all around the table to a variety of other dishes. Phone 023 883 5741

January 19th, 2015

SPRING_S08_0056 (3)



Spring, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in London for several years. Skye, whose super fresh food at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond thrilled and excited real food lovers from all over the world, had not been actively involved in the restaurant scene for over two years. In that time she and her team were actively seeking out exciting premises in central London. After much toing and froing they eventually chose part of the New Wing at Somerset House, where the Inland Revenue had its office for 158 years. The new space could not be much further in style from the original charming greenhouse at Petersham Nurseries where mismatched tables, crockery and cutlery on the clay floor created a sophisticated up-cycled bo-ho chic look. Here in Spring, Skye shows her elegant ultra-chic side by transforming what by all accounts was a dull and dreary room into a haven of sophistication with a Zen like feel. The walls are pastel with tiny handmade porcelain flowers by Valeria Nascimento fluttering across the walls. There’s a marble counter at one end from which drinks and house cordials are dispensed. The cutlery is by English cutler David Mellor and the leather chairs are by Mario Bellini

The chandeliers which resemble bunches of frosted balloons cast a soft flattering glow. Not everyone loves the atmosphere or the eccentric staff uniform designed by Trager Delaney of Egg. I personally found them playful and quirky and why not.

The food was totally delicious, quintessentially Skye even though she wasn’t in the kitchen herself that night. Beautifully fresh ingredients shine through with the minimum of interference.

The delicious desserts at are the creations of Sarah Johnson and her team. Sarah interned here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for a while and honed her considerable skills at Chez Panisse in Berkeley  as well as Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

The wine list would also blow you out of the water impressing even the most seasoned wine buffs. Deeply knowledgeable sommelier Frank Embleton has been given both the brief and budget to create one of the most fascinating and well-chosen lists in London to compliment Skye’s food.

Put on your London list. Open seven days for lunch and dinner.

Here are some of the dishes that are creating the WOW factor at Spring.


Scallops, Agretti and Chilli Oil from Spring

Serves 4

20 scallops, shucked and cleaned

1 large red chilli

5tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch of Agretti

The juice of half a lemon

Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the chilli in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, slice into long fine strips. Bunch the strips together and chop finely across them so you end up with neat little squares. Place in a bowl, pour over all but 1tbsp of the olive oil, stir to combine, and set aside.

Clean, cook and drain the Agretti as described above. While still warm, dress with a tablespoon of the chilli oil and a squeeze or two of lemon juice.

Place two non-stick (if you have them) frying pans on top of a high heat. Divide the final tablespoon of olive oil (without chilli), between them. Season the scallops quite generously with salt and pepper. Then when the pans are very hot, add the scallops, diving them equally (don’t over crowd them or they will stew instead of cook)

Cook for a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. Remove from the heat and squeeze over what is left of the lemon juice. Divide the Agretti among 4 plates, place 5 scallops on top of each and spoon over the chilli oil. Serve straight away while the scallops are still piping hot.


Pumpkin and white bean curry from Spring

Serves 4

1 fresh coconut (or 1 tin coconut milk)

1tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1tsp black mustard seeds

1 onion squash (if you can’t get hold of this, Crown Prince or butternut squash will be fine)

1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated

1 dried chilli

10 fresh curry leaves

150 g/5 oz dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked according to packet instructions

A little sea-salt

1 inch thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4-5 sweet little tomatoes


I prefer to use fresh coconut it’s a little extra work but its flavour is far more delicate. If you do it this way, look for small, sweet, young coconuts, not the more typical older harder ones. Remove the outside husk by holding in your hand, rotating it slowly and tapping it gently on the top with a rolling pin until the outer flesh splits and you can gently remove the flesh with your hands. Cut in half down the middle with a sharp knife, catching the water in a bowl as it escapes. Roughly chop the flesh into chunks and place in a blender with cup or two of warm water. Blend until smooth and strain it into the bowl in which you have poured the coconut milk.

Next, peel and chop the pumpkin into 2cm (1in) wedges. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a medium-sized pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let them pop for a bit. Turn the heat down slightly and add the ginger, turmeric, tomatoes and dried chilli. Add the pumpkin and stir a couple of times to coat. Next, sprinkle over the curry leaves and pour in the coconut milk. Keeping the heat at medium to low, place a lid on the saucepan and cook gently until the pumpkin is tender. Season with salt. Add the cooked white beans and cook gently fir a further 5-10 min.

It’s delicious eaten alone, but it also lovely served with some simple steamed white fish.


Braised Oxtail with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar from Spring

Serves 4-6

3kg/6lb Oxtail

1tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

5 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 dried chilli

5 fresh bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

100ml/31/2 fl oz. Sherry vinegar

3 Jars of good quality tomatoes

500ml/ 17fl oz. of water

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 whole cloves

Using a sharp knife, trim the oxtail of most of its fat. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When warm, add the carrots, onion, chilli, bay leaves and garlic. Immediately turn the heat to very low and sweat for 20 mins, stirring every now and then.

In a separate pan, brown the oxtail well on both sides; this should take about four minutes per side. Remove the oxtail from the pan and deglaze with the vinegar, removing the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oxtail to the veg along with the sherry vinegar.

Add the tomatoes and water, a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper, stir well and place lid on the pan. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring every now and then. Add the cloves 20 minutes from the end. The meat is ready when it falls of the bones. Turn off the heat and allow the dish to cool to room temperature. It will test better for this, twenty minutes before eating, reheat the dish over a low heat and serve piping hot.


Pear and Hazelnut Tart with Crème Fraîche and Espresso from Spring


For Pastry


500 g plain flour

40 g sugar

2 whole organic free range eggs

2 whole organic free range egg yolks

250 g unsalted butter (Chilled)


For Hazelnut Filling


250 g whole hazelnuts, skins removed

250 g unsalted butter

250 g caster sugar

2 whole eggs

Zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract


5 pears, room temperature and ripe to the touch.


For Pastry:

Place the flour in a food processor along with the sugar and diced butter. Blitz quickly until the butter starts to break up.  Add the eggs and yolks.  Once the pastry comes together pour out onto a work surface and gently knead together.  Wrap in cling-film and chill for two hours, or preferably overnight.


Unwrap the pastry, place on a floured surface and begin to roll with a rolling pin, turning the pastry to ensure an even thickness.  Roll until the dough is 5mm thick.  Lay the rolling pin on the edge of the pastry and roll the dough around it.  Gently lift over the tart case and unroll the pastry over the tin.  Using the tips of your fingers lightly press the dough into the sides of the tin, trimming away the extra pastry.  Rest the dough in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.  Remove pastry from the refrigerator and line with parchment.  Place baking beans in the pastry and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is set.  Remove the baking beans and continue to cook until golden.  Remove and cool before filling.


For Frangipane:

Roast Hazelnuts until lightly golden to help bring out flavour. Allow to cool, then pulse in robot coup until quite coarse.

Cream the butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, or by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Then add eggs one by one, taking the time to make sure they are properly incorporated. Take off the mixer (if using) and gently fold in the nuts by hand.


To assemble tart:

Spread frangipane onto the bottom of the cooled tart shell.  Slice the pears in half, then into thirds, so each pear gives you six slices.  Using a sharp knife, remove the stem and seeds taking care to remove as little as the flesh as possible.  Leave the skins intact. Gently press the pears into the frangipane, placing the skin side up and into a pinwheel pattern.


Bake at 180 for 40-50 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and firm to the touch.  The pears should be soft and the centre set, but still quite moist.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.


At Spring we serve this tart with a dollop of crème fraîche and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground espresso.


Spring Ice Cream Recipes:


Basic Anglaise:


450 ml Double Cream

350 ml whole milk

120 g caster sugar

6 organic free range egg yolks


Place the cream, milk and sugar into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a gentle heat until warm to the touch. Remove from the heat In the meantime, place the yolks into a bowl and using a whisk, gently beat to break them up.  Pour the warm milk over the yolks, whisking as you go.  Return the custard to the saucepan and place back onto a gentle heat.  Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the custard continuously, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pot and ensure even cooking.  Cook until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon.  This may take some time, so be patient.


Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl over an ice bath and stir until cool.  Continue to chill and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  See below for modifications.


Honey Walnut Ice cream


2 cups fresh walnuts

1 recipe for Basic Anglaise except replace 80g of sugar with honey


Replace 80g of the sugar with your favourite honey.

Preheat oven to 160C

Toast walnuts until crisp, and lightly collared. Between 15 and 20 minutes.  Cool, then roughly chop. Put aside.

Freeze honey Anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once churned, fold in the toasted nuts.


Hot Tips

LitFest 15-17 May 2015:
It has been a whirlwind week at LifFest HQ with ticket sales kicking off last Wednesday 7th, the Ox Pop-up dinner was the first to book out but there are still many unmissable events to sign up for. So if you haven’t already done so – get booking. The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 weekend promises to be another ‘knock out!

Gluten Free Cooking:
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who is coeliac, will testify it is challenging producing really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand in the form of this intensive half-day course on Saturday 24th January. Packed with advice on alternative suitable ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking.

As part of the Slow Food, Meet the Makers series, Slow Food Four Rivers in the South East are hosting a Meet the Bakers, this is a follow up event with  Josephine Plettenburg (Speltbakers), Joe Fitzmaurice (RiotRye) and Declan Ryan (Arbutus Bakery) who are returning to Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny to continue the night of discussion and munching of real bread. During the evening Real Bread Ireland will be launched by Patrick Ryan from Firehouse (Dublin) and Kemal Scarpello SlowFoodCo (Donegal) to support the baking of real bread. Saturday 24th January 2015 at 6pm, tickets .




January 10th, 2015

cauliflower soup


What’s not to love about Cape Town – it’s just one long sleep away, a mere two hours time change so virtually no jet lag and a guaranteed instant hit of Winter sunshine.

Yet again, The New York Times voted Cape Town as its top holiday destination in 2014.

Much has changed since my last trip a decade ago. Cape Town exudes confidence, it’s a brilliant cultural stew-pot, businesses seem to just spring up all over the place, hip urban coffee shops, farmers markets, roadside shacks, super cool cafés, restaurants,  pop-up concerts where the music can be anything from bongo drumming, French folk singing, classical to hip-hop.

On my earlier trips to South Africa, imported products and ingredients were greatly sought after but now virtually every shop and restaurant proudly touts the fact that the produce or products are produced in South Africa. The sea and farms around Cape Town produce some fine quality fruit, vegetables, meat, and beautiful fresh fish which is often cooked within hours of coming off the boats.

Many Cape Town eateries are casual affairs but it also has its share of stellar chefs and two of its top restaurants The Test Kitchen in Cape Town and The Tasting Room in Franschhoek  are on the world’s Top 100 Restaurant List. Over the festive season it was really tough to get a table in many of the most talked about places, but I had a particularly memorable lunch at The Pot Luck Club, the more casual and edgier roof-top sister restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen. Chef Wesley Randles and his gang of passionate young chefs turn out an irresistible range of pan African and Asian sharing plates.

Out in Franschhoek where I spent a few days to attend a family wedding. I greatly enjoyed staying at Le Quartier Français on the main street. Breakfast was one of the best I have eaten anywhere. Freshly squeezed, and I mean freshly squeezed, juices – orange, beetroot, grapefruit…  Beautiful fresh ripe fruit, crunchy granolas classic and gluten free, thick unctuous buffalo milk and Greek yoghurts, home-made jams and croissants and house cured bacon. Here the less formal, Living Room serves delicious tapas all day long. I particularly loved the prawn popcorn in a crisp tempura batter with Aioli and the duck and lentil crumble.

The Old Biscuit Mill in the Woodstock is not to be missed. What used to be a rundown area home to fishermen and factory workers is now a collection of little shops run by creative young artisans, furniture makers, artists and craftspeople. The Neighbourhood’s Saturday  Market is an insight into the vibrant artisan food scene with local farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, charcutiers with over one hundred traders selling their handmade and home grown produce.

Out in Kalk Bay we had brunch at the Olympia  Café for old times sake. There was a queue as ever for the plates of simple food, chippos (chippolates), scrambled egg, frittata, omelettes, bacon… served on chipped formica tables. I ordered coconut hotcakes with passion fruit and strawberries and soaked up the hippie vibe.

This year Silwood Kitchen, South Africa’s first cookery school established by the feisty Lesley Faull, originally from (from where) celebrates their 50th year with the publication of ‘A Year at Silwood’ published by Quivertree Publications.

Melissa’s The Food Shop in Cape Town is an interesting deli and café with an intriguing system. You can choose a selection of lunch dishes from her table and then have the plate weighed to arrive at the price,  it seemed to work brilliantly. This chunky pear, walnut, blue cheese and watercress salad was one of the options as well as Melanzane Parmigiana, lasagne and several other tempting salads.


Pear, Walnut, Blue cheese and Watercress salad.


Serves 6


6 pears

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) water

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) red or white wine

450g (1lb) sugar

50-75g (2-3oz) ripe blue cheese, Crozier Blue or Gorgonzola

salt and freshly ground pepper,

18 whole walnut halves

Watercress sprigs


Peel, quarter and core the pears. Put water, red wine and sugar into a deep stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears, bring back to the boil, cover with a cartouche and the lid of the saucepan and simmer gently until the pears are tender when pierced with a skewer or tip of a knife. Cool in the liquid and chill.


To serve, remove the pears from the poaching liquid, scatter the base of the serving bowl with watercress sprigs, lay the drained pear quarters on top, (half the pieces if the pears are too large). Scatter the walnut halves, large crumbles of blue cheese and some more watercress sprigs on top.


Season with a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and serve.


Cauliflower Soup with a Hint of Truffle from ‘A Year at Silwood’

Serves 6 to 8


180g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

75g (3 oz) potato, peeled and finely chopped

60g (2 ½ oz) butter

500ml (18fl oz) light chicken stock

250ml (9fl oz) milk

250ml (9fl oz) cream

750g (1½ lb) cauliflower, chopped

Sea salt

White pepper


Truffle oil

Micro herbs


Sweat the onion and potato in butter, until the potato is completely soft. Add the stock, milk and cream, and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower and simmer until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Place in a blender and blend until completely smooth, then season with salt and white pepper.


To serve, reheat and serve in warm bowls with a swirl of truffle oil and a sprinkling of micro herbs.


Prawn ‘Popcorn’ with Aoili

Serves 4


20 fresh Dublin Bay Prawns

Tempura batter see below


Aoili/garlic mayonnaise


Peel the raw prawns and cut into ½ inch pieces. Keep chilled

Make a tempura batter.

Just before serving, heat oil in a deep fry. Dip the prawn pieces one at a time into the batter and drop into the hot oil. Cook for a couple of minutes until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve on a bed of watercress or organic leaves with a bowl of Aioli/garlic mayonnaise for dipping.


Tempura Batter


200g (7ozs/scant 2 cups) rice flour

20g (3/4oz/scant 1/4 cup) corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

cold sparkling water


Sieve the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Whisk in the water with a balloon whisk, until the batter is the thickness of double cream but not too smooth.

Cool and chill in the fridge until needed.



A twist on Millionaires Shortbread 

Serves 6 as a dessert


6-9 shortbread biscuits

Toffee sauce or dulce de leche

Hot dark chocolate sauce

18 toasted hazelnuts, halved

Maldon sea salt


To serve, have all the components ready.

Choose six small but deepish bowls or glasses. Break 1 or 1½   biscuits into roughly ¾  inch pieces into each bowl. Spoon two tablespoons of toffee sauce or dulce de leche on top. Sprinkle on some toasted hazelnuts and then some hot chocolate sauce. Finish with just 3 or 4 flakes of Maldon sea salt on each


Serve with Jersey cream or Vanilla bean ice cream.



Dark Chocolate Sauce


Makes 16fl ozs (450mls/2 cups)


8ozs (225g) best quality dark chocolate (semi sweet or bittersweet)

8fl oz (225ml/1 cup) cream

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) dark rum or orange liqueur or strong coffee or vanilla extract (optional)


Put the cream in a heavy bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted.  It will seem curdled at first but don’t worry, keep on stirring and it will become smooth and glossy.  Add the chosen flavouring if using.   Serve warm or at room temperature.


Hot Tips

Farmers Markets: After a busy Christmas and a little break our local Farmers Markets are back! Mahon Point on Thursday 8th  January from 10am to 3pm, Douglas Farmers Market on Saturday 10th January 10am to 2pm, Midleton Farmers Market Saturday 10th January 9.30am to 2pm, Wilton Farmers Market Tuesday 13th January from 10am to 2pm.

Slow Food East Cork Event with renowned food historian. Dorothy Cashman will speak about how a love of food and literature can take your life in a different direction, Thursday 22nd January 2015 at 7pm Ballymaloe Cookery School. Enquiries 021 4646785 or email Proceeds to East Cork Slow Food Educational Project

Guest Chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Mary Jo McMillan’s name may not be familiar to many of you but we’ve known and admired her for many years. She in turn loves Ireland and has been visiting for over 30 years. Mary Jo’s restaurant and catering business in Oxford, OH, USA had a cult following and she is particularly famous for her braises, slow cooked dishes and of course her baking. In this one day course on Saturday 31st January you’ll also learn two fool-proof menus and the secrets of several of Mary Jo’s sought after cakes, pastries and French bread. For more details see

Saturday Pizzas are back again – join the devotees. Wood fired pizzas with exciting seasonal toppings, great Margherita, Marinara and Pepperoni also. From 12 to 4pm every Saturday at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. See Facebook Saturdaypizzas for today’s specials.

Seville Marmalade Oranges are back in the grocers again. There’s something deeply satisfying about making a few batches of the real thing. Only the bitter oranges from the South of Spain produce the traditional flavour so beloved of marmalade lovers. Seek out a charming little book ‘Marmalade:  A Bittersweet Cookbook’ by Sarah Randall for classic recipes and new twists on how to use your neatly labelled jars of glistening preserves in a myriad of creative ways.

New Year’s Resolutions

January 3rd, 2015

Once again, it’s that time of the year when I make a ton of New Year resolutions that despite all the evidence to the contrary I’m totally sure I will keep. I’m totally obsessed by my new ‘best present’, a pedometer – it tells me how many steps I’ve walked each day. Apparently, to keep fit, it ought to be 10,000 at least. That’s pretty easy in my average day but I keep wanting to break my record. I reckon everyone should have one of these new ‘toys’ or alternatively, install the app on your phone. That will also tell you how many stairs you have climbed and how many miles you have covered – it becomes addictive but then again there’s far worse things to be addicted to!


Back to New Year resolutions, as the obesity crisis becomes ever more urgent, we’ve already started to reduce sugar drastically in our recipes – 20% across the board to get them back to the original degree of sweetness before we changed from sugar beet to cane sugar. Try it, you’ll be amazed how you scarcely notice the difference and 20% adds up to a lot of sugar…..


My next challenge is to reduce my meat consumption by 50% and increase our plant/herb and grain consumption by 50% instead.  Plants are by far the most important food group, you can live totally healthily on a plant based diet, but the same cannot be said for meat despite the popularity of the Atkins diet. The cost of unrealistically cheap meat particularly chicken and pork can no longer be ignored in health and socio-economic terms. There are also serious animal welfare issues to be addressed not to speak of questions on real traceability and sustainability. Interesting a growing number of people worldwide are becoming exercised about this subject and initiatives like ‘Meat Free Monday’ are growing in acceptance. Chefs too are embracing the concept and restaurants like The Grain Store in King’s Cross in London have already highlighted meat as a flavouring or garnish rather than the main ingredient on their menus.


There are many other examples – René Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen whose restaurant has helped to change the gastronomic image of the entire Nordic region, features fish and meat just once during his unforgettable 20 course meal.  It’s a total celebration of the fresh vegetables and wild foods.  The reality is that evidence is mounting that both we ourselves and the planet would be immeasurably better off if we ate less but much better quality meat.  My guess is that this is more than a trend ….


We are fortunate in Ireland to have access to some excellent meat.  Make some enquiries in your area to find a producer of properly free-range, organic poultry, you’ll need to pay €18-20 for a fine plump bird with giblets’.  That is closer to the real price of rearing a tasty, wholesome bird for the table.  It’s time we got real about the true costs involved. Paying what to many will seem like an astronomical price is enough to galvanise the mind so you use every single scrap and enjoy it as an occasional treat as used to be the case when I was a child.


The carcass and giblets will make a fine pot of stock.  The chicken liver can be whipped up into a pate or smooth parfait to enjoy with slices of crisp toast or crusty bread.  The drumsticks, thighs, breasts, tenders and wings can all be used in a variety of ways and bulked up with lots of vegetables and pulses or grains.  The skin on a good chicken cooked crisp and served with a lime and chilli dipping sauce will become a family favourite.  Offal lovers like me will also enjoy a confit of the hearts and gizzards served on a bed of winter greens just as guests do in 3 star Michelin restaurants or in Parisian brasseries.


Here are some delicious recipes to get the maximum from a beautiful free range organic bird should you be able to find such a treasure……


Thai Chicken, Galangal and Coriander Soup

A particularly delicious example of how fast and easy a Thai soup can be and how a little organic chicken can go a long way. Serve in Chinese porcelain bowls if available. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal are served but not eaten. The chilli may of course be nibbled. Prawns and shrimps can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results.


900ml (32fl oz) homemade chicken stock

4 kaffir lime leaves (use 3 dry if fresh are unavailable)

5cm (2 inch) piece of galangal, peeled and sliced or less of fresh ginger

4 tablespoons Fish sauce (Nam pla)

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

225g (8oz) chicken breast, very finely sliced

225ml (8fl oz) coconut milk

1-3 Thai red chillies

fresh coriander leaves – about 5 tablespoons


Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal or ginger, fish sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice into a saucepan.  Bring to the boil stirring all the time, add the finely shredded chicken and coconut milk.  Continue to simmer until the chicken is just cooked 1-2 minutes approx.  Crush the chillies with a knife or Chinese chopper add to the soup for just a few seconds with some coriander leaves.  Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately.


Note:  We usually use one red Thai chilli – number depends on your taste and how hot the chillies are.


Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also great added to this soup.  Fresh lime leaves are not available in every shop, but you may be able to pick up a plant at your local garden centre. (I found several at Deelish Garden Centre near Skibbereen) Alternatively, buy the leaves any time you spot them, pop them into a bag and freeze them, though not quite the same as fresh they are surprisingly good.






Spicy Chicken Livers on Toast


Serves 6 as a starter


A tasty little starter but also great to serve with drinks.


1lb( 450g) organic chicken livers


1 teasp. cumin seeds


1 teasp. coriander seeds


a good pinch of cayenne pepper


1 teasp.sea salt


1 teasp. black peppercorns


1 tablespoon white flour


2 tablespoons freshly snipped flat parsley or coriander


6 slices of sourdough bread

Butter or extra virgin olive oil


Warm the cumin and coriander in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes by which time they should be smelling fragrant and spicy.


Put into a pestle and mortar with the sea salt and peppercorns. Grind with the pestle, add the cayenne pepper and flour and mix well.


Meanwhile clean the chicken livers, divide in two pieces if still intact. Remove any veins or traces of green. Wash and dry.


Just before cooking toss each chicken liver in the spicy coating.


Heat a little butter in a frying pan ,add a dash of olive oil, when it foams add the livers (you may need to cook in two batches depending on the size of the pan.  Cook on all sides until slightly crisp on the outside but still a little pink and juicy .Add the roughly chopped parsley or coriander.


Meanwhile, pan grill or toast the bread and butter or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Put a slice on to a hot plate.Spoon some spicy livers and juices over the top.  Serve immediately.



Confit of Gizzards


4 organic chicken or duck gizzards

200g (7oz) duck fat


Clean the gizzards and trim off all the fat. Tuck them into a small saucepan and cover with the duck fat. Put on a very low heat (or transfer to allow oven, 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2) and cook until tender, this could take three hours. Allow to cool,  transfer into a sterilized crock or Kilner jar, cover with strained duck fat and store in the fridge until they are to be used. They will keep for months and are delicious heated up on a pan and served on a little salad of seasonal leaves or in a risotto.




Spiced Chicken Legs with Banana and Cardamon raita


Serves 6


3 1/2 lbs (1.5kg) chicken drumsticks or a mixture of drumsticks and thighs (boned or unboned)

1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon  ground turmeric

1 teaspoon castor sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

5 tablespoons  freshly squeezed

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil



Ballymaloe Tomato Relish

Banana and Yoghurt Raita (see recipe)



Mix the cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, sugar, black pepper, salt, garlic and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl.  Slash the chicken legs with a sharp knife in a couple of places.  Rub the mixture all over the chicken pieces, put in a bowl and cover. Keep in a cool place for at least 3 hours.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.


Put the chicken pieces onto a roasting tin with all the paste, Brush or drizzle with a little oil and bake for about 20 minutes then turn over and bake for a further 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Baste 2 or 3 times during cooking. Transfer to a serving dish spoon the degreased juices over the chicken and serve hot or at room temperature with Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, Banana and Yoghurt Raita and poppadums.



Crispy Chicken Skin with Plum or Lime and Sweet Chilli Sauce


This recipe is only worth doing with an organic chicken. The idea of eating chicken skin may frighten some, but it’s soooo yummy. You’ll soon become addicted – just don’t live on it!


skin from organic chicken breasts

sea salt

Plum Sauce

or Lime and Sweet Chilli Sauce (mix Sweet Chilli Sauce with freshly squeezed lime juice to taste)


Peel the skin off the chicken breasts. Cut the skin into pieces about the size of a business card (if the pieces are reasonably even they will be more manageable to eat later).


Preheat the oven to 180Cº/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.


Spread the chicken skin upwards on a wire cooling rack on a baking tray. Cook for 25–30 minutes, until the skin is irresistibly crisp and the fat has rendered out. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with a little bowl of plum or lime and sweet chilli sauce for dipping.



Hot Tips:


Homemade butter, yoghurt, and some cheeses: Why not start the New Year  learning how to make butter, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products at home.   You’ll also discover how added flavour can be achieved with fresh herbs and fruit. Butter and cheese making is definitely one of those simple but deeply satisfying kitchen crafts not only that deserves to be resurrected but can also provide additional income or a vibrant business.  Course on Wed 14th Jan 2015 from  9:30 am to 1:45 pm, light lunch included. For more details see or phone 021 4646785


Midleton GIY Practical Skills of Horticulture: Learn about tree planting and pruning of apple trees at the Midleton Community Garden on January 10th, from 2pm to 4pm.  Classes are free of charge, children are welcome. Practical skills will be demonstrated with participants encouraged to practice, tools will be provided.   Bookings phone 085-8123617 or  See for the 2015 schedule of events countrywide.