Darina’s Saturday Letter

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Recently I was invited back to my home county, Laois to an event to raise awareness of the burgeoning food scene. The day-long conference was entitled Connect 2 Laois Food Futures. The idea – to nurture start-ups and further support established food businesses in the county. For the past year local food and drink producers have been   availing of specialist training, mentoring and encouragement. A variety of speakers including James Bourke, Domini Kemp, Colin Jepson, and Paddy O’Connell shared their expertise brilliantly but what really blew me away was the variety and quality of producers and artisan foods now produced within the county, much of it organic or chemical free. Kevin Scully of The Merry Mill told me that he is Ireland’s first producer of organic gluten free oats, all grown, harvested and milled on his farm in Vicarstown.

I found absolutely, beautiful salad greens on Rachel Hardiman’s Seven Acres stall, all grown on from organic seed without any harmful chemicals and in ways that actively promotes soil fertility and respect the environment. This entrepreneurial family also do vegetables boxes, sauces and condiments and sell seedlings ready to transplant.

Hazel Refal and Heather Vaughan have spent months developing numerous vegetarian products for their company Run On Pulses. They make a Lentil pie, a Chickpea spinach stew and three type of burgers all made from a variety of pulses. I’m very wary of this type of product having tasted some less then appetising examples but each of these were deliciously spiced and really good.


Jimmy Mulhall of Coolanaule farm, well known and hugely respected on the organic food scene tells me that he is the only certified organic producer selling organic meat in the Dublin Farmers Markets. His ever growing numbers of customers are so grateful to be able to get organic beef, lamb and pork and poultry.


Michael Onalimi inspired sauces from The Jungle Food Co also impressed me greatly as did the Invis – a Veg, who have created a mixture of grated  vegetables to entice children to try and enjoy a greater variety of vegetables.


Castlewood Organic Farm and Shop was another pioneer on the Laois food scene as was Helen Gee who established Gee’s jams in 1998 in Abbeyleix and is now supported by her son Clive. Several chocolatiers tempted me with their handmade chocolates, Apoena, Coco Couture…

Home bakers, Agaboe Farm Foods and Kelly Loves Cakes had many temptations.


There was Rossmore ice-cream made from milk from their own herd of  Friesian cows.

Pigs On The Green had free-range pork from outdoor pigs reared on their own farm. They too do a range of sausages and dry cure rashers, so no excuse not to have a brilliant real Irish breakfast in any hotel café or B&B in County Laois.

Free range eggs from Grantstown Family Farm in Ballacolla. Irish Pietmontese beef also has quite a following for their Bord Bia approved beef.


Paddy O’Connell’s range of Paddy O’s granolas and breakfast cereals made with Irish grown oats are now sold country wide as is their flax seed, the only certified organic flax seed company in Ireland.

Lots of drinks too, a variety of milks from The Village Dairy. Artisan beers from 12 Acres Brewing Company, in Ballykilcavan and Cream liqueur  and gin from Sean Teach Ltd.


I loved the Elderflower Cordials and Elderberry from Richmont Cordial Company


The Skinny Chef from Portlaoise was justifiably proud of his range of pesto sauces and chutney. Can you imagine all of that and more products in development all proudly displayed in the ballroom at the Heritage Killenard Hotel near  Portarlington, Co Laois.

Now a few recipes inspired by the gastronomic revolution in County Laois, Cork watch out…..


Spring Green Salad with Ballymaloe French Dressing

A salad of Organic Leaves from Seven Acres Farm

For this salad, use a selection of lettuces and salad leaves, e.g. Butterhead, Iceberg, Raddichio, Endive, Chicory, Watercress, Buckler leaf, Sorrel, Rocket leaves and Purslane.  Tips of purple sprouting broccoli are also delicious and if you feel like something more robust, use some finely-shredded Savoy cabbage and maybe a few shreds of red cabbage also.

French Dressing

2fl ozs (50ml) red wine vinegar

6fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils. eg. sunflower and arachide

1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)

1 large clove of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons honey

1 scallion or small spring onion

sprig of parsley

sprig of watercress

1 level teaspoon salt

few grinds of pepper


First, make the dressing.


Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approximately or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic and honey. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving.


Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully in a large sink of cold water.  If large tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl.  Cover with cling film and refrigerate if not to be served immediately.  Just before serving toss with a little dressing – just enough to make the leaves glisten.  Serve immediately.


Note:  Green Salad must not be dressed until just before serving, otherwise it will be tired and unappetising.

Spatchcock Chicken


A brilliant way to serve chicken – faster to cook and basis for a myriad of different flavours – fresh spices, chilies ….


Serves 6-8


1 free-range organic chicken

salt and freshly ground pepper

chopped rosemary or thyme leaves

extra virgin olive oil or butter

a few cloves of garlic


Insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using poultry shears cut along the entire length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible.


Open the bird out as much as possible.  Slash each chicken leg two or three times with a sharp knife. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle with chopped rosemary or thyme and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Transfer to a roasting tin. Turn skin side upwards and tuck the whole garlic cloves underneath. Roast on the barbeque or in a preheated oven 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes approximately.


Note: Cook the chicken on a wire rack over a roasting tin of roast potatoes or vegetables.


Carve and serve hot with a good salad of organic leaves and a herb mayonnaise.


Good things to serve with spatchcock chicken:

Vedura mista and homemade mayonnaise and basil pesto

Roasted Fennell, Potatoes, Pickled Lemon, Saffron and Yoghurt

Rosemary Oil



Garbanzada (Chickpea Stew)

A fantastic one-pot chickpea dish for a party …..


Serves 10-12 as a tapa


1lb (450g) dried chickpeas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice

1 green pepper, diced into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice

6 cloves of garlic, cut in half

8 whole black peppercorns

225ml (8fl ozs) medium dry sherry

175g (6ozs) streaky pork in the piece, rind on

175g (6ozs) streaky bacon in the piece, rind on

175g (6ozs) cooking chorizo

175g (6ozs) morcilla or black pudding

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon homemade tomato purée

1 large sprig of thyme

2 bay leaves

1.5-1.8 litres (2 1/2 – 3 pints) homemade chicken stock


Soak the chickpeas in plenty of cold water overnight. Next day, heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion, peppers, garlic and whole peppercorns.  Cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the sherry and allow to boil.  Put in the pork, bacon, chorizo and morcilla.  Add the smoked paprika, tomato purée, thyme and bay leaves.  Stir to mix.  Strain the chickpeas and add to the pot.  Next add the 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) chicken stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and cook for 1 hour.  Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the chickpeas are cooked.  When the chickpeas are tender, remove the meats.  Take the rind off the bacon and pork, discard and cut the meat into chunks.  Peel the chorizo and morcilla and cut into slices.  Mix everything together and serve in little dishes with crusty bread.



Jersey Milk Ice-Cream with Rose Cottage berries

There is the world of difference when one uses fresh vanilla bean pods to flavour the whole milk. Scrape out the seeds so the ice-cream is flecked with vanilla. Most processed foods use fake vanilla or vanilla essence – not at all the same thing.

Makes 1 pint


This is wonderfully rich ice-cream


1/2 vanilla bean (pod)

6fl oz (175ml) whole milk

4 organic egg yolks

2 1/2oz (62g) sugar

6fl oz (175ml) rich cream, cold

Fresh berries in season from Rose Cottage


Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a heavy saucepan.  Add the bean pod and the milk.   Heat to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat.   Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Remove the bean pod and scrape again to release every bit of flavour.  Add the scrapings to the milk and discard the pod.


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.  Add warm milk gradually, stirring constantly until all the milk is added.  Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (170º-175º).


Pour the cream into a large bowl.  Strain the custard into the cream.

Mix well, then chill thoroughly and freeze.


Freeze according to the directions of your ice-cream machine.


Serve with Rose Cottage Summer berries in season or poached quamqkuats  at the moment.

Ballymaloe Chocolates

110g (4oz) chocolate

24-30 sweet paper cases


Chocolate Ganache

110g (4oz) best quality dark chocolate

150ml (5fl oz) cream

1/4 – 1/2 tablespoon rum or orange liqueur



Crushed praline or crystallized violets or unsweetened cocoa powder.


First make the chocolate cases. Melt the chocolate until smooth in a very low oven or in a bowl over simmering water. Put 2 paper cases together and spread melted chocolate evenly over the inside of the paper case with the back of a teaspoon. Check that there are no ‘see through’ patches when you hold  them up to the light, if there are, spread a little more chocolate in that area, stand the paper cases in deep bun tins to keep the sides upright. Chill until they set hard, carefully peel the paper off the cases (it is a good idea to do a few extra cases to allow for accidents!).


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. Transfer the chocolate cream to the bowl of a food mixer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add the liqueur and whisk until it is just stiff enough to pipe.


To Assemble: Using a piping bag and a 3/8 inch star nozzle pipe a rosette of the mixture into peeled chocolate cases. Decorate each one with a little crushed praline or a crystallized violet leaf or a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder.


Ballymaloe Chocolates with Raspberries

Put a little blob of whipped cream and some raspberry coulis into each chocolate case.  Top with a fresh raspberry and maybe a little leaf of fresh mint.

Sue’s Hazelnut Whirls

Place one toasted hazelnut in each of the chocolate cases.  Pipe a rosette of ganache on top.  Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder.





Hopefully all those chocolate Easter eggs have been nibbled away by now, if not chop up the remainder and add it to a batch of chocolate chip cookies or scones with some hazelnuts. You could even melt it down to make some chocolate sauces to drizzle over crêpes or ice cream. But in this column I am going to concentrate on eggs from happy lazy hens of the feathered kind.

Eggs are truly a super food, every cooks best friend. Unsurprisingly they are having their moment again particularly in the US. This was very evident on both the West and East coast of America. In virtually every restaurant and café, eggs were starring on the menu in some shape or form, not just for breakfast and brunch. Even food carts and food trucks were serving eggs in many guises.

In Portland, I loved the food cart in Pioneer Courthouse Square called “Fried Egg I’m in Love”, manned by a cheery chap selling a range of fried egg sandwiches, all with ‘punny’ names like Yolko Ono, Egg Zeplin and Sriracha mix-a-lot. Each sandwich has a fried egg, sometimes two…The eggs are sourced from local farms and all sandwiches are served on toasted sourdough, cooked “easy-over medium” and sprinkled with a special spice blend called Magic egg dust.
Another cart in downtown Portland invited customers to Build Your Own Omelette with delicious veggie or protein options on a croissant or bagel incorporating local seasonal ingredients and fresh herbs.


Other trucks did a range of poached or scrambled egg dishes and I loved the sound of  Eggs Travaganza, at the corner of 52nd Street and Park in Midtown, New York,  long queues for Mexican egg wraps, burritos, egg tacos….

I also heard good things about the Egg Tosti (version of egg and cheese toast) from Steel Cart. Last week I mentioned Daily Provisions on East 19th Street, Lower Manhattan my favourite new breakfast spot. There’s a constant queue for their breakfast gougères and breakfast egg sandwiches served on a brioche bun. Egg toasts were served on sourdough with a variety of toppings, sprezzatura and jam, English muffin with ricotta and smoked salmon, bacon, egg, spinach and hot sauce…..lots of hot sauce everywhere….


Avocado Toast with Labneh, Chorizo Crumbs and a Poached Egg on the side


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread

extra virgin olive oil

rocket leaves

½ ripe avocado



Chorizo Crumbs:

4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

125g chorizo, peeled and cut into 5mm dice

100g coarse breadcrumbs


1 tablespoon labneh

3 cucumber strips or diagonal chunks, seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar (makes more than needed but keep in a box)

a few drops of best quality white wine vinegar

1 fresh free range organic egg


Segment of lemon or lime


First make the chorizo crumbs: Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.


Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.


Chorizo crumbs are a brilliant resource, keep them in a covered box in the fridge. Great sprinkled over cauliflower or mac and cheese, soup…


Season the cucumber strips or diagonal chunks of cucumber with a few drops of vinegar, salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar.


Pan grill or toast the sourdough, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Lay a few rocket leaves on a plate and pop the slice of sourdough on top.


Scoop out the avocado from the skin and lay on top of the sourdough cut side upwards. Add a dollop of labneh to the plate and fill the cavity with a little labneh and sprinkle lots of warm chorizo crumbs over the avocado  and add a poached egg and some cucumber to the plate. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and add a segment of lime or lemon


Serve ASAP



Crispy Potatoes, Fried Eggs and Spring Onions



An irresistible but comforting brunch. The crispy capers add a delicious zing but are optional.


Serves 1

2-3 cooked potatoes, depending on size

extra virgin olive oil

2 organic free range eggs

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 spring onions

5-7 capers, fried until crisp


Peel the cooked potatoes and cut into ¾ inch slices. Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil or bacon fat in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the potatoes, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until crisp and golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper and transfer onto a hot serving plate. Keep hot.


Heat some more olive oil in a clean pan. Add the capers and cook until crisp, 1-2 minutes. Drain on kitchen paper. Fry the eggs, sunny side up (or easy over, as you please).


Lay on top of the fried potatoes, side by side.


Sprinkle with lots of green spring onion tops, sliced at an angle.


Top with a few crispy capers; add a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper.


Serve ASAP

Egg and  Sausage, Melted Gouda and Hot Sauce in a Brioche Bun

A perfect breakfast or brunch inspired by Daily Provisions on East 19th Street in New York



Serves 8


8 brioche buns with poppy seeds sprinkled on top

8 sausage patties, see below,

8 organic eggs, (1 egg omelette per bun)


flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


100g to 175g (4oz-6 oz) Gouda, grated


Hot tomato and chili sauce, see below or use your favourite brand…



Homemade Sausage Patties:


(Makes 8 large patties)


225g (1/2 lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram and a little rosemary)

30g (1 1/4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 small garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small  organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying



First make the sausage patties:

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Divide in 8 and flatten into patties. Keep covered and chilled.


To serve, split the brioche bun in half but keep attached at one side.


Fry the pork patty in a hot pan in a little extra olive oil while you quickly make a 1 egg omelette.


Heat a small frying pan over a high heat. Whisk the egg, add a little dash of milk,  flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a little clarified butter to the pan, when sizzling add the egg, tilt the pan and quickly make an omelette and fold.

Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese onto the base of the bun and pop under a grill. When the cheese has melted top with the pork patty and the omelette. Drizzle generously with the hot sauce, fold over the brioche and serve ASAP on a square of parchment.



Tomato and Chilli Sauce


30g (1oz) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 3 inch (2cm) dice.

2 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic , crushed

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 dessertspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablepsoons water


First make the sauce.  Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water.  Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.







Omelette Arnold Bennett

Serves 1-2 as a main course


Omelette Arnold Bennett was created in the 1920s by the chefs at the Savoy Hotel to commemorate author and playwright Bennett writing his novel, Imperial Palace, whilst staying at the Savoy this dish should be a true British classic.

This delicious omelette would also be very good made with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel.


50-75g (2-3oz) smoked haddock

a little milk

25g (1oz) butter

150ml (5fl oz) cream

3 eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated



parsley, freshly chopped


25.5cm (10 inch) omelette pan, preferably non-stick


Put the smoked haddock into a small saucepan.  Cover with milk and simmer gently until it is cooked enough to separate into flakes (about 10 minutes).  Drain.  Toss the haddock over a moderate heat with half the butter and 2 tablespoons of the cream and keep aside.  Separate the eggs, beat the yolks with a tablespoon of the cream and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Whip the egg whites stiffly.  Fold into the yolks with the haddock and add half the grated Parmesan cheese.

Melt the remaining butter in the omelette pan.  Pour the mixture in gently and cook over a medium heat until the base of the omelette is golden.  Spoon the remaining cream over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the finely grated Parmesan. Pop under a hot grill for a minute or so until golden and bubbly on top.  Serve in the pan or slide on to a hot dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately accompanied by a good green salad.






New York

Rory O’Connell and I were over in the US for St Patricks Day doing our bit to spread the word about the exciting renaissance on the Irish food scene and the many good things that are happening over here. I was also promoting my latest book,  Grow, Cook, Nourish and Rory was in big demand because his TV programme Eat Well, Cook Well is about to be shown on PBS sponsored by Kerrygold. I was delighted to see Irish butter selling not just in every good supermarket and grocery but actually named on many menus, being served alongside the best sourdough breads from the She Wolf Bakery in Brooklyn.

The New York food scene continues to get more and more exciting. My favourite new breakfast spot is Daily Provisions on East 19th Street between Park Avenue and Irving. It is owned by Danny Meyer of Shake Shack and Union Square Café fame and is next door to the latter. Loved the crisp gougère filled with flavoured scrambled eggs. The Green Egg version with spinach, Pepperjack cheese and fresh herbs was super delicious as was the cremini mushroom and Gruyère one. I ate there three mornings in a row to taste as many of their dishes as possible and bought two of their flaky, buttery Kouign-Amann for a picnic on the plane.

Ignacio Mattos’s, Estela has been a favourite of mine for several years but this time I tried one of his new places, Café Altro Paradiso on Spring Street between 6th Avenue and Varick Street close to Houston Hall where FarePlate NY was showcasing many Irish food and drink products. Flahavans Oatmeal were there as were Mash Direct and Irish Peat Wine, the latter was a new find for me.

I loved the small plates in Café Altro Paradiso, a modern take on Italian food. We were blown away by the shaved fennel salad with Castelvetrano green olives and Provolone, the very best and freshest fennel salad any of us had ever tasted. I was longing for the exact recipes.

Guess what, I found it on the Bon Appetit website on the internet so there you are.

We also shared a Gloucester Old Spot pork chop with lots of sweet and juicy fat, caramelised fennel and butterbeans. The free range pork came from The Flying Pigs Farm on the shores of the Battenkill River in Washington County.

They also have a stall in the Union Square Farmers Market, another ‘can’t miss’ on Saturdays in New York but there is a smaller version on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The market has fantastic produce from dedicated organic farmers and artisan producers from Upstate New York and the Hudson Valley. Cervos on Canal Street on the Lower East Side takes its inspiration from coastal Spain and Portugal serving seafood centric small plates and pasture raised meats. I don’t think they take bookings but pop in and sit at the bar and have the extra bonus of watching the bartenders mixing cocktails and the young chefs doing their magic with beautiful produce and spanking fresh fish and shellfish. Stand out dishes for me were the fried green beans with anchovy dressing, the watercress salad with fresh horseradish and yet another gorgeous fennel salad with mussels, beans and pistachios.  The vanilla pudding with oranges and slivered almonds is now an iconic dessert.

Via Carota is another name for your list but most exciting of all was King on the corner of King Street owned by the Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt whose delicious dishes are wooing New York diners. We ate there with David Tanis and Madhur Jaffrey and several other well known foodies and had one memorable dish after another. A castle of feather light carta musica drizzled with rosemary olive oil, panisse with crispy sage leaves and a huge roast halibut with rosemary and lemon, enough to feed the entire table served with white beans drizzled with the finest extra virgin olive oil from Cappezana.

Next day, the word came through that Claire de Boer had been selected as a finalist in the 2018 James Beard awards as Rising Star Chef of the Year, Rory and I couldn’t have been prouder of our student and Ignacio Mattos was also shortlisted for Best New York Chef, as was Jody Williams of I Sodi and Via Carota, two more of my favourite haunts. Alta, an all day Mexican, owned by Enrique Olvera is also making waves but even though it is being lauded to the rooftops it didn’t push my buttons as much as the others did, nonetheless I loved the simple quesadillas with tomatillo salsa. There is so much choice in New York, and so much on my list that I couldn’t make it to, so if you are over there do check out:

  • Flora Bar in King County
  • Imperial for Chinese soup with dumplings.
  • St Anselm for steak
  • Otis – new American food
  • Eataly – several restaurants and superb produce, still excellent.

That list, ought to keep even the most ardent foodie blissed out and then there are all the new butcher shops, groceries and artisan bakers. I will have to save Brooklyn for another day…..

 Breakfast Gougère with mushrooms and Pepper Jack Cheese

Pepper Jack is a derivative of Monterey Jack the original “American” cheese invented by Mexican Franciscan friars of Monterey, California. As the name suggests, the cheese is flavoured with sweet peppers, rosemary, habanero chillies and garlic and spicy jalapenos for an extra kick.

Daily Provisions also did a brilliant green Gougère with spinach and Pepperjack cheese scrambled egg.

serves 6


Choux pastry:

150g (5oz) strong flour (Baker’s flour)

225ml (8fl oz) water

pinch of salt

100g (3 1/2 oz) butter, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

3-5 eggs depending on their size (free range if possible)


50g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated and some extra for sprinkling.


For the scrambled eggs:

4 organic eggs

2 tablespoons cream or full-cream milk

a knob of butter

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper


50g (2oz) Pepperjack cheese, grated (or grated cheddar with a pinch of chilli flakes and ½ a teaspoon of fresh rosemary or thyme.

225g (8 oz) mushrooms, diced.



First make the choux pastry.


Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7.


Next make the choux pastry. Sieve the flour with the salt on to a piece of greaseproof paper.  Heat the water and butter in a saucepan until the butter is melted, then bring to a rolling boil and take from the heat. Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough. As soon as the pan is taken from the heat add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Put the saucepan back on to a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to fur the bottom of the saucepan. Cool for a few seconds.


Set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl.  Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little, using just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and drops rather reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet. Stir in the grated cheese. You may not need all of the reserved egg – if too much is added the dough cannot be shaped. (Choux pastry dough should just hold its shape when it’s piped).


Put the dough into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch (2 cm) plain nozzle. Pipe 2 1/2 inch (6.5cm) rounds well apart on to a wet baking sheet. Brush each one carefully with egg wash and sprinkle with grated cheese.


Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/regulo 6. After 25 minutes pierce the side of each with a skewer to let out the steam and continue to cook until crisp, brown and irresistible.


Gougéres are best eaten warm, but they can be baked ahead and popped into the oven to warm through before serving. Gougére or choux pastry puffs up better if used immediately but it can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours before baking. Rub the surface with butter while the dough is still warm so it doesn’t form a skin. We also get very good results by freezing the uncooked choux puffs and baking from frozen next day.



To serve:

Heat some extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook on a low heat.


Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream or milk and season with salt and ground black pepper. Whisk well until the whites and yolks are mixed well. Over a low heat, put a blob of butter into a cold saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Add the mushrooms and grated pepperjack cheese. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Split the gougére and fill with scramble egg mixture, alternatively fill the soft warm scrambled egg into a piping bag with a large plain nozzle and pipe into the side of each gougére.

Serve ASAP on a square of greaseproof paper on a warm plate.



Shaved Fennel Salad with Green Olives and Provolone

from Café Altro Paradiso

The freshest and most delicious fennel salad.

Serves 6


2 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves discarded, bulbs, stems and fronds separated

200g (7oz) Castelvetrano green olives


50g (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or best white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest from an organic orange

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 organic lemon

75g (3 oz) thinly shaved aged Provolone cheese

flaky sea salt



Trim the fennel bulbs, save the fronds.


Halve fennel bulbs lengthwise. Using a mandoline, shave fennel crosswise (you can use a knife, but the slices ought to be no thicker than ⅛”).


Transfer fennel to a large bowl.


Coarsely chop fennel fronds (you want about ⅓ cup) and add to bowl.


Crush olives with a flat-bottomed cup or side of a chef’s knife and remove the stones.

Coarsely chop olives (you want big, chunky pieces). Add olives, oil, vinegar, orange zest, and red pepper to bowl; season with kosher salt and black pepper, then toss to coat.



Zest one-quarter of lemon over. Halve lemon and squeeze in juice from both halves; season with flaky salt and toss to coat. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice, if needed.


Divide olive mixture among plates. Top with cheese to just cover olives. Arrange shaved fennel over so olive mixture is covered, then season with flaky sea salt and serve immediately.


Watercress Salad with Fresh Horseradish


I love the pepperiness of wild watercress but fresh farm  watercress would also be delicious here


Serves 4


4 handfuls of watercress


3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon  Chardonnay white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper



Wash and dry the watercress sprigs, keep cool.

Meanwhile whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Season and dip a sprig of watercress to check the balance.


To serve: sprinkle a little dressing over the watercress and toss, you’ll need just enough to make the leaves glisten.

Pop a serving into four deep bowls. Grate some fresh horseradish over the top. Serve


Swiss Chard Horta with Mani Olive Oil Lemon and Sea Salt

 Serves 4-6


1 lb Swiss chard

4 tablespoons Greek extra olive oil

2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice

flaky sea salt and grated black pepper


Prepare and slice the chard in thin pieces and cook until just tender, drain well. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice


Season with salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and serve.


Citrus Salad with Pistachio, Dates, Pecorino di Fossa

A gorgeous fresh tasting salad.

Serves 4


1 pink or ruby grapefruit

1 blood orange

1 small red onion

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 Medjool dates, stoned

1 teaspoon raw honey

50 g (2 oz) pistachio nuts

4 to 8 leaves of radicchio


50g (2 oz) Pecorino di Fossa (optional)

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper


Slice the red onion very thinly on a mandolin, rinse under cold water and drain well.


Remove all the skin and pith from the grapefruit and the blood oranges. Cut the blood oranges into thin rounds, you’ll need 12slices. Segment the grapefruit and put into a bowl.

Add the thinly sliced red onion, toss gently and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and honey.  Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste….

Put three rounds of blood orange on each plate, plus three segments or half segments or grapefruit depending on size, scatter with a few pieces of red onion. Stone the dates and cut into three or four crosswise pieces. Add a couple of pieces to each plate and a few radicchio leaves.

Scatter some coarsely chopped pistachio nuts over the top, add a few shavings of pecorino if using and serve ASAP



Vanilla Cream with Blood Orange and Toasted Almonds


Serves 8-10


425ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups) natural yoghurt

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) milk

200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) cream

125g (4 1/2oz/generous 1/2 cup) castor sugar

2 vanilla pods,

2 teaspoons powdered gelatine


4-5 blood oranges or mandarins

110g (4oz) whole unskinned almonds



fresh mint leaves


Put the milk, cream and vanilla pods into a stainless steel saucepan, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.  Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.

Remove the vanilla pods, split and add the seeds to the liquid.


Put 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear.  Add a little of the infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest.  Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the remainder of the mixture.


Pour into a cold bowl and allow to set softly for several hours, preferably overnight.  Cover and refrigerate.


Toast the almonds in a moderate oven (160°C/315°F/Gas Mark 3) for 15-20 minutes stirring regularly.  Cook and slice coarsely.


Remove the peel and the pith from all of the blood oranges or mandarins.  Slice 2 or 3 into thin slices.  Segment the remainder and mix in a bowl, cover and keep refrigerated until needed.


To serve

Spoon a couple of large tablespoons of the wobbly cream into a wide shallow bowl.  Add a few segments and some slices of orange.  Scatter with toasted nuts and fresh mint leaves.


There’s lots of wild garlic in the woods right now, so bring a bag or basket on your next walk and gather enough to make wild garlic soup, wild garlic pesto, wild garlic frittata……


 Just back from a flying visit to California, a mini book tour with a few days in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Ojai (pronounced O hi)– a beautiful valley, north of Los Angeles, carpeted with orange and avocado groves and surrounded by the Topatopa Mountains,. Guess what I bought as a  present  oranges and avocados  from LA Central Market to my friends in Ojai. Talk about bringing “coals to Newcastle”.

This is spectacular, dramatic countryside, where last December, forests fires burnt for almost a month. Many were evacuated from their homes and later in January, a deluge caused mud slides to take everything in its path, including several peoples’ houses – lives were lost.

In Los Angeles, I was invited to appear on the Home and Family Channel to talk about my latest book, Grow, Cook, Nourish. I cooked one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, Tortillitas with Aioli, the crew absolutely loved them. I took the opportunity to spend a few days in LA, not nearly long enough.  One could easily spend two weeks and eat beautiful creative seasonal food for breakfast lunch and dinner. I had difficult choices to make with just four meal slots, I came straight from the airport at 9pm to meet some Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni at a restaurant called The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, a hip and happening area in LA. We shared 10 or 12 little plates of delicious, very Californian food; we loved the small little pillows of deep fried bread dough called gnocco fritto served with the San Daniele ham. Chef-owner Casey Lane is a name to watch.

I stayed in a hip boutique hotel called Mama’s Shelter, close to the Universal Studios, but you might want to try Chateau Marsan or ??

For breakfast I just wanted a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, “not possible”, they only had the scary orange “Freshly squeezed” juice that gets delivered every day. On the counter there were several bowls of oranges piled high so I asked if they could halve a few so I could squeeze them myself. “Afraid not, they’re plastic” – only in California which grows thousands of acres of beautiful citrus….

No Farmers Markets on while I was in town but I greatly enjoyed nosing around Grand Central Market which has a new lease of life in the last few years since 1917.

Eggslut, great name serves breakfast all day on the Broadway side of the Market to hundreds of people daily. Eggs in many ? their signature dish, The Slut, a coddled egg on top of smooth potato purée, cooked in a glass jar topped with gray salt and chives, served with slices of baguette is comfort food at its best.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich, made with hardwood smoked bacon, an over-medium egg, cheddar cheese and chipotle ketchup, served in a warm brioche bun is another  winner. And there’s much more. Check out Clark Street Bakery, Belcampo Builder, Sari Sari rice bowls, G & B Coffee, Tewasart Tacos – it’s a brilliant spot for the adventurous food lovers.

But what’s most interesting to me when I visit the US is the craving there is to find real food and the length people have to go to source it.

There’s a huge nutritional confusion and desperation among many, but of course not all, to find healthy wholesome food they can trust. Tons of money is invested in promoting super foods, free-from foods and supplements. The vegan – vegetarian and plant food movement is huge and growing and there are now some fabulously good restaurants and cafés serving exclusively vegan food, check out  ?? in LA.

Some of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten have been in the US, particularly California and this time was no exception.

At Chez Panisse in Berkley outside San Francisco Alice Waters made me a nettle pizza form the fresh new season’s growth.

At Boulette’s Larder beside the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco another memorable Turkish inspired pizza with minced lamb topping drizzled with yoghurt and tahini and scattered with feta, lots of flat parsley sprigs and a sprinkling of sumac.


Down in Los Angeles I made a pilgrimage to Nancy Silverston’s new Pizzeria Mozza and enjoyed a bubbly Pizza Bianco with Fontina mozzarella, sottocenere and sage  leaves from a long list of temptations  with  and so wished I had space for the tomato and zucchini blossom pizza.

Dessert was Mayer lemon gelato pit with champagne vinegar sauce This recipe for  ? was inspired but little pillows of deep fried dough served with  paper thin slivers of San Danielle ham at the Tasting Room in Venice LA.

This little combination of modern industrial coddled egg and potato puree was inspired by a visit to Egg Slut, the egg-centric food stand in Grand Central Market in LA. This irresistible nursery food  reminds me of my childhood and certainly seems to hit the spot for a whole new generation also to judge by the length of the queues

Egg Slut

This little combination of modern industrial coddled egg and potato puree was inspired by a visit to Egg Slut, the egg-centric food stand in Grand Central Market in LA. This irresistible nursery food  reminds me of my childhood and certainly seems to hit the spot for a whole new generation also to judge by the length of the queues

Serves 4

fluffy potato puree
4 beautiful organic  free range eggs (large)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

finely chopped chives

4-8 slices of toasted focaccia or sourdough bread

4 glass jars (size ?)

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil; put 2 heaped tablespoons of well-seasoned buttery potato puree in the base of each jar. Crack an egg into each jar.

Cover with the screw top lid. Bring back to the boil for 10-15 minutes

Remove the lids. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a few finely chopped chives. Serve with a teaspoon and some toasted focaccia, sourdough or baguette to scoop up the little feast.

Mix the egg and potato together and slather on toast.


Tortillitas à la Patata

The crew of the Home and Family programme loved these little potato fritters which Sam and Jeannie Chesterton of Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, introduced me to. I keep wondering why it never occurred to me before, they are so easy to make and completely addictive – kids also love them and they make perfect little bites to nibble with a drink, preferably a glass of fino or manzanilla.


Makes 26


4 eggs, free range and organic

225g cooked potatoes in 5mm dice

3 tablespoons finely chopped mixed fresh parsley and chives

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)


2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml arachide oil and 50ml olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)


Extra virgin olive oil for frying, you will need about 5mm in the frying pan.


Maldon Sea salt for sprinkling.



Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the potato dice, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the freshly chopped herbs.


Heat about 5mm extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.

Correct if necessary.

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture. Allow to cook on one side for about seconds, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of Aioli.


To make the Aioli

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.


If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Nettle and Ricotta Pizza


At Chez Panisse in Berkley in California, Alice Waters incorporates local wild foods into her menu – I enjoyed this delicious pizza straight from the wood-burning oven on a recent trip.


Makes 1


75g (3ozs) pizza dough

fresh young nettles about 200g (7ozs)

1 clove garlic slivered or finely chopped

35g (1½ oz) fresh Mozzarella

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

25g (1oz) Ricotta or Ardsallagh goat cheese


Preheat the oven to 475F/250C/gas 9.


Preheat a heavy baking sheet in the oven.


Stretch or roll the dough into a thin round.   Sprinkle a little cornmeal onto a paddle.   Lay the pizza on top.  Brush with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with chopped garlic and roughly grated mozzarella.   Top with a mound of young nettles.  Mist generously with water, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and top with a few blobs of ricotta or Ardsallagh goat cheese.


Cook for 7-8 minutes depending on the intensity of the heat.


Remove from the oven, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately with a few flakes of Maldon sea salt sprinkled over the top.



Nancy Silverston’s Mozza Lemon Gelato with crystallised lemon and champagne vinegar sauce

Serves 8


75g (3 oz) digestive biscuits, crushed

45g (1½ oz) butter



Lemon Gelato

1 free range egg

250ml (9fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) castor sugar

zest and juice of 1 good lemon


crystallised lemon strips


Tin – loose bottomed tin 8 x 3 inch (20.5 x 7.5cm)


Melt the butter and stir in the crushed biscuits, press into the mould in an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the filling.


To make the ice cream, separate the egg, whisk the yolk with the milk and keep the white aside. Gradually mix in the sugar. Carefully grate the zest from the lemon on the finest part of a stainless steel grater. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add with the zest to the liquid. Whisk the egg white until quite stiff and fold into the other ingredients. Freeze in a sorbetiere according to the manufacturer’s instructions or put in a freezer in a covered plastic container.


When the mixture starts to freeze, remove from the freezer and whisk again, or break up in a food processor. Then put it back in the freezer until it is frozen but still slushy. Pour into the crust, cover and freeze.

To serve remove form the freezer. Cut into pie shaped pieces. Serve on a chilled plate. Put a dollop of softly whipped cream on top. Add some crystallised lemon and drizzle with some champagne vinegar syrup. Enjoy.


Crystallized Lemon Peel

2 lemons

450ml (16fl oz) cold water

sugar syrup

champagne vinegar


Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith.  Put into a saucepan with the cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, cover with fresh water and repeat the process


Put the strips into a saucepan with the syrup made with 350g (12oz) sugar and 600ml (1 pint) water. Cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque.  Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on parchment paper or a cake rack. Allow to dry in a cool airy place.

Add two tablespoons of vinegar to the hot syrup, bring to the boil for two minutes. Taste, it should be bitter/sweet.




A Food lover’s weekend in London


London is right up there with New York and San Francisco, vying for the title of top food capital in the entire world. Over a weekend in London you can eat your way through tasty bites from anywhere, from Ethiopia to Georgia, from inexpensive but super cool street food to pop-up  dinners, super chic cafés to three star Michelin restaurants and everything in between.

Dedicated foodies might want to fit in a couple of Farmers’ Markets to watch what the millennials are putting in their baskets and reusable shopping bags.

On a recent research trip, I visited Borough Market with its 100 plus stalls, superb cheeses, spices and heritage meats. Don’t miss the Ginger Pig, 100 day old chickens and ducks, bursting with flavour, Cannon and Cannon dry cured meat, fat rashers with rind still on, well-aged beef. Brindisa Shop has the best Spanish products and hand sliced Serrano, pata negra, jamon…. Round the corner there is Brindisa Café, a superb place for breakfast. Don’t miss the melting Monte Enebro goat milk cheese with chestnut honey and crispy fried eggs with olive oil fried chips and chorizo.

Round the corner one of our past students Ray O’Connor is the head chef at Padella, there’s always a queue. At lunch time, it moves quite fast – a matter of ten to fifteen minutes but if you want to get a table in the evening, call early to put your name on the list otherwise you could be looking at a two and a half hour wait. However the handmade pasta, gnocchi and carpaccio of Dexter beef with Fiorano olive oil is totally worth the wait.

Black Axe Mangal is also worth the long schlep out to Canonbury Road, great playlist, small plates on bright oil cloth covered tables.

Don’t miss their flat breads topped with lamb offal or squid ink and smoked cod roe.  I had the charred Hispi cabbage with Katsuobushi butter, possibly the best dish I have eaten this year. Leave space for the Jameson and honey ice cream….

I love these small restaurants run by feisty passionate young people on a mission to serve super delicious food at reasonable prices, not a starched chef’s toque in sight. No 40 Maltby Street is another mecca of real food and natural wines, small super tasty plates together superbly with gorgeously fresh ingredients, a devilled egg with tiny pink shrimps, a slice of warm juicy glazed ham with a dollop of good mustard, a thick slice of natural sourdough with homemade butter. There were other good things to pair with a glass of Jacot from Slovenian Klinkez but the treacle tart was a triumph. Try to choosing between that and the rhubarb jelly with rosewater cream was agony. Andrew generously sweetly shared the recipe for the Treacle Tart which contains treacle as well as the usual golden syrup.


Duck Soup in Soho and Raw Duck in Hackney both of which have pride of place on my London list, have a new sister restaurant  called Little Duck-The Picklery  in Hackney, a super chic space with a huge terrazzo table in the centre. Chefs and cooks lovingly prepping food at one side, more small plates and as the name suggests, lots of good pickles and an unbearable choice of little dishes. I particularly enjoyed a radicchio, puntarelle, and walnut salad fresh tasting bitter leaves with chopped walnuts added to the dressing. The smoked mackerel with pickled rhubarb and lovage looked so beautiful and tasted just as good but the buckwheat custard with poached quince and pear scattered with crumble really blew me away. Here again a Ballymaloe Cookery School student, Hannah Lederer was part of the creative team. Definitely one for your London list.


People look forward all week to their coffee but at the Monmouth coffee shop, there will be a long but convivial queue from early morning. You can bond with other single estate coffee aficionados while you wait. If  someone can keep your place, you can nip in to Neal’s Yard Dairy next door for some superb Irish  and British cheeses or pick up a sweet treat at Baker and Spice on the other side. The Broadway Market in Hackney and the Netil market round the corner may just be the best Farmers Markets in London. This is where the Bao and Violet Cake  stalls started. Both are now in “bricks and mortar” but with a prestigious and well deserved following –and there’s so much more….. You are close to the Hackney City Farm and James Ramsden’s Pidgin and Oklava all worth noting.

For a very sophisticated treat in a truly beautiful room, Spring in Somerset House – is hard to beat, Skye Gyngell’s food exudes freshness, looks irresistible on the plate and tastes delicious. www.springrestaurant.co.uk.  Finally if you have even one more meal slot check out Westerns Laundry in Highbury East. Trot along to 26 Grains in Seven Dials to taste Alex Hely-Hutchinson savour and sweet porridge bowls. She’s another one of our graduates that make me so proud www.26grains.com



Monte Enebro cheese with walnuts from Brindisa

A simple but irresistible starter that I order every time I go to Brindisa Covent Garden


Serves 2 as a starter


2 slices of Monte Enebro goats cheese, about 70g and 1.5cm thick

2 sliced of grilled bread

small handful raisins

small handful walnuts

olive oil


Muscatel vinegar

2 sliced of grilled bread


Pre heat the grill to medium

Mix a small handful of raisins with walnuts, olive oil,  honey and vinegar.


Place a slice of cheese on each of the two slices of grilled bread and put under the grill for about 3 minutes, until the cheese begins to bubble and colour. Remove and top with the walnuts and raisins in their dressing. Serve ASAP



Duck Soup Soho’s Mackerel under oil, pickled rhubarb & lovage

serves 4


For the mackerel

2 400g  mackerel, filleted

120g coarse sea salt

50g soft brown sugar

1 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

200ml olive oil


Mix together the salt and sugar and rub into the mackerel in a gastro. Press cling film over the fish and allow to cure for 1.5 hours in the fridge.

Rinse well and pat dry. If time, allow to air dry uncovered in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Drizzle the fillets with a little olive oil and pan fry on both sides until coloured and cooked through.

In a tray just large enough for the mackerel fillets add the sliced garlic and olive oil and then add the mackerel fillets while still warm

Allow to marinade for a few hours if possible


For the rhubarb

this will make more than you need but will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and you can serve with cheese or goes very well with ice cream

500g Yorkshire forced rhubarb

250g caster sugar

250ml cider vinegar

100ml water

4 green cardamom lightly crushed

1 star anise

Pinch of red chilli flakes


Put the sugar, vinegar, water and spices in a pan together and bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for about 5 minutes.


Meanwhile cut the rhubarb into 1inch pieces. When the pickling liquor has cooked for 5 minutes, in batches drop the rhubarb in the pan and cook for 30-45 seconds until you see the rhubarb change to a much paler colour, remove straight away with a slotted spoon and allow to cool flat on a baking tray. Repeat this process till all the rhubarb is cooked.


When it all cooked allow the liquor to cool and then poor over the rhubarb, if you pour it over while it is still hot you will over cook the rhubarb and it will go mushy.


To plate the dish gently break up the mackerel fillets with the skin on into large chunk into a large mixing bowl and add some of the oil and a pinch of sea salt

Spoon in the rhubarb allow 2tbl per person and add some of the pickling liquir

Tear in a good handful of lovage and add a squeeze of lemon juice

Gently mix everything together and the dived between 4 plates

Finish with a little pinch of red pepper flakes



Devilled Eggs with Little Shrimps


Serves 8



4 free-range eggs

3-4 tablespoons homemade Mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


24-40 cooked shrimp



Watercress or chervil


For the devilled eggs. Hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks, mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon or pipe some filling into each half

Serve two per person with 3 to 5 shrimps, depending on size. Garnish with sprigs of watercress or chervil.


Skye Gyngell’s Guinea Fowl with Farro and Parsley Cream

I cooked this dish for a dinner at the Ballymaloe Literary Festival a couple of years ago, on Darina Allen’s request, and it was well received. Full of friends from all over the world, it was a lovely evening and holds a special place in my memory, so I have a soft spot for this dish.


Serves 4

4 guinea fowl supremes

3 carrots, peeled

2 inner celery stalks (the paler stalks around the heart)

2 tablespoons olive oil

140g farro (or spelt), well rinsed

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

30g unsalted butter

2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the parsley cream

A large bunch of flat-leaf parsley

200ml double cream

A few gratings of fresh nutmeg



Have the guinea fowl supremes ready to cook. Cut the carrots and celery into chunky slices on the diagonal. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan, add the carrots and celery and cook gently, without browning, for 5 minutes. Now add the farro and pour in enough water to just cover. Cook for 20 minutes or until the farro and vegetables are just tender to the bite.

Meanwhile, for the parsley cream, strip the leaves from the parsley. Rinse the stalks and place in a small pan. Pour over the cream and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Turn off the heat, leave to infuse for 15 minutes, then strain.

Plunge the parsley leaves into a small pan of boiling water, drain immediately and refresh under cold water. Chop the blanched parsley very finely and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas 7. Season the guinea fowl well with salt and pepper. Place a non-stick ovenproof pan over a high heat and add the remaining olive oil. When very hot, add the supremes, skin side down, and cook, without moving, for 5 minutes until the skin is golden brown and quite crisp. Transfer to the middle of the oven and cook for 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the wine vinegar, butter and chopped parsley to the farro and vegetables, season well and warm through. Warm the parsley cream over a low heat and add the nutmeg, blanched parsley and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, divide the vegetables and farro between warm plates. Arrange the guinea fowl alongside the vegetables and spoon the parsley cream over the top. Serve at once.

 ‘Spring: The Cookbook’ by Skye Gyngell published by Quadrille (Images by Andy Sewell).


40 Maltby Street Treacle Tart

Quite simply the best treacle tart I ever tasted. Steve Williams generously shared the recipe with us.

Serves 16 to 20


For the pastry

200g (7oz) white flour

100g (3½ oz) butter

pinch of salt

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons cold water approx.


For the Filling

400g (14oz) treacle

450g (1lb) golden syrup

4 lemons, zest and juice

175g (6oz) cream

100g (3½ oz) pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped

360g (12oz) white bread crumbs

400g (14 oz)cooking apples, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

OR 200g (7oz) eating apple & 200g (7oz) cooking apple peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

softly whipped cream or Jersey pouring cream

11 inch (28cm) low sided tin with a pop up base




First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour with the salt, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.


Whisk the egg and add the water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more

accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.


Cover with cling film and chill for half an hour if possible, this will make it less elastic and easier to roll out. Line the flan ring and chill again for 15-20 minutes, line with paper and fill with dried beans. Bake blind for 25 minutes, 180°C\350°F\Gas Mark 4. The pastry case must be almost fully cooked.  Remove paper and beans, paint with a little lightly beaten egg white and put back into the oven for 5 minutes approx.


Put diced apple into a small saucepan with 100mls cold water, cover and cook for 4 to 5 minutes on a medium heat until just soft. Drain.


Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F


Weigh the treacle and golden syrup into a large bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, cream, ginger, bread crumbs and cooled cooked apples.

Pour into the cooked pastry case and cook for 40 to 45 minutes until just set. Allow to cool in the tin. Serve with softly whipped cream or Jersey pouring cream.

Chinese New Year



Are you ready for another celebration? Chinese New Year is coming up. According to the Chinese 12 year annual zodiac cycle, February 16th,  marks the beginning of the Year of the Dog and the start of the Spring Festival  and the holiday season when the hardworking Chinese can take seven days off work to celebrate and feast with their families.

Chinatowns all over the world burst into a riot of colour, spectacular festivities, dragon parades, street parties, lion dances…. There will be bell ringing and fire crackers and red envelopes stuffed with lucky money to give to the children.

Last year, I visited China for the first time so I’m more excited than ever about Chinese New Year and am planning a little Chinese feast to celebrate. My first visit was not as you might expect to Shanghai or Beijing but to Chengdu in the Sichuan province to attend the International Slow Food Conference in the UNESCO capital of gastronomy

There were many fascinating elements to the trip, the city of Chengdu welcomed the Slow Food delegates from all over the world wholeheartedly with wonderful entertainment, opera, theatre, music and superb Chinese food for which the Sichuan province is justly famous

So let’s gather some friends to celebrate the end of the Year of The Rooster and the beginning of the Year of The Dog.

Spring rolls are the obvious choice, universally loved, and easy to make. They are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival hence the name. Spring rolls are considered to be lucky because when fried they resemble gold bars.

Each food is symbolic in some way, long noodles served in various ways symbolise longevity. Citrus fruit are traditionally eaten for Chinese New Year because they too are considered to be lucky.



Chinese food is influenced by two major philosophies. Confucianism and Taoism. Devotees of Confucius cut food into small bite sized pieces. Followers of Taoism focus more on foods that promote health, longevity and healing. There are eight culinary traditions. Cooking styles, ingredients and flavours differ from region to region. The most prominent are Szechuan, Cantonese, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhuang.

A typical Chinese meal will have a carbohydrate or starch – rice, noodles or steamed buns and accompanying stir fries or dishes of vegetables, fish, meat or tofu and lots of fresh vegetables.

Each dish focuses on creating a balance between appearance, aroma and flavour. Sauces, seasonings and fermented products are an important part of the whole and of course beautiful teas to sip.

Here are a few of my favourite Chinese recipes to make at home. On my last trip I discovered green as well as red Sichuan peppercorns. I was familiar with the latter before but oh my goodness what a difference freshness makes. Sichuan peppers are fascinating to cook with, bite into one and it will temporarily numb your mouth in an intriguing way. It is one of the five spices in five spices powder along with cinnamon, cloves, fennel and star anise.




Chicken and Mushroom Noodle Soup

So comforting and delicious. Who doesn’t love slurping noodles


Serves 6


6-8 tablespoons  Iceberg lettuce, shredded

1.2 litres (2 pints)  homemade chicken broth

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, sliced

1 organic chicken breast

2 tablespoons chopped scallions, green and white parts

110g/4 ozs  mushrooms, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

110g 4 ozs egg noodles

1.1 litres/ 2 pints water


2-4 tablespoons soy sauce, I use Kikkoman


1 green chilli, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons coriander


Bring the stock slowly to the boil with the sliced ginger. Dry fry the sliced mushrooms on a very hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep aside. Bring the water to the boil, add salt and cook the noodles for 5-6 minutes, they should be al dente. Slice the chicken breast into very thin shreds at an angle, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Strain the chicken broth. When ready to serve add the chicken, bring the broth to the boil, add mushrooms, scallions and noodles and allow to heat through. Add soy sauce and seasoning to taste. Divide into 6 bowls and serve garnished with flat parsley.




Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal
600 g aubergines

cooking oil
 for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean paste, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon  cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.

In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).

Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.


Fuchsia Dunlop’s beef with cumin

The powerful aroma of cumin is always associated with Xinjiang, the great northwestern Muslim region where it is grown. On city streets all over China, you will find it drifting up from portable grills where Xinjiang Uyghur street vendors cook their trademark lamb kebabs, scattering the sizzling meat with chilli and cumin. In Hunan, the spice finds its way into “strange-flavour” combinations, Uyghur-influenced barbecues and a limited number of restaurant dishes. This one is irresistible. Tender slices of beef luxuriate in a densely spiced sauce, speckled with the gold and ivory of ginger and garlic, scarlet chilli and green spring onion, and suffused with the scent of cumin. You may use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with braising steak: the method of cutting it across the grain makes it seem almost as tender.

This particular recipe is one from the Guchengge restaurant in Changsha, and it’s one I fell in love with immediately. I’m sure you will too.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

340g (11½  oz) beef steak, trimmed (see introduction above)
400ml (14fl oz) groundnut oil, for frying
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, seeds and stalks discarded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
spring onions 2, green parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the marinade
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 4 x 3 cm. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Heat the groundnut oil to about 140C/275°F. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.

When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop


Fuchsia Dunlop’s Gong Bao chicken with peanuts
gong bao ji ding

This dish, also known as Kung Pao chicken, has the curious distinction of having been labelled as politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution. It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late nineteenth-century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it – gong bao was his official title. This association with an Imperial bureaucrat was enough to provoke the wrath of the Cultural Revolution radicals, and it was renamed ‘fast-fried chicken cubes’ (hong bao ji ding) or ‘chicken cubes with seared chillies’ (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.


Serves 2 as a main dish with rice and one stir-fried vegetable dish, 4 with three other dishes


2 boneless chicken breasts (about 300g or ¾lb in total)
3 cloves of garlic and an equivalent amount of ginger
5 spring onions, white parts only
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
a handful of dried red chillies (at least 10)
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper
75g (3oz) roasted peanuts
For the marinade:
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons  light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1½ teaspoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water
For the sauce:
3 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
3 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chicken stock or water

Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1cm strips and then into small cubes. Mix with the marinade ingredients.


Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the spring onions into 1cm (1/2 inch) chunks. Snip the chillies into 1.5cm (3/4 inch) sections, discarding seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.


Pour a little groundnut oil into the wok and heat until it smokes, swirling the oil around to cover the entire base of the wok. Pour off into a heatproof container. Add 3 tablespoons fresh oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant (take care not to burn them).


Add the chicken and continue to stir-fry. When the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat is just cooked.

Give the sauce a stir and add to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and lustrous, add the peanuts, mix them in, and serve immediately.

From Sichuan Cookery (Land of Plenty) by Fuchsia Dunlop


Pork Wontons with Soy Dipping Sauce


Makes 30-35


1 stick lemon grass, chopped

2 inch (5cm) piece ginger, peeled and grated

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped finely

1 kaffir lime leaf, shredded finely

sunflower oil

11ozs (300g) pork freshly minced

2 tbsp grated palm sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce, Nam Pla

½ cup fresh coriander leaves


Soy Dipping Sauce


4fl ozs (125ml/¼ cup) light soy sauce

1 medium red chilli, sliced thinly

a generous pinch of sugar

squeeze of lime juice


To Serve


30-35 square wonton wrappers


Pound the tender lemon grass, part of the ginger, garlic, chilli and kaffir lime to a rough paste in a mortar and pestle.  Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry the pork, stirring, until cooked through.  Remove from the pan.  Add a little more oil to the pan, increase the heat to high, add the paste mixture and fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and stir until the mixture bubbles.  Return the pork to the pan and mix well to combine.  Transfer to a bowl, add the coriander and set aside to cool.


To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together to combine well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.


Lay a wrapper on a work bench and place a teaspoon of the pork filling in the centre.  Gather the wrapper around the filling and pinch together with a dab of cold water to seal and form a pouch.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.  Heat enough oil to deep fry in a large saucepan over a high heat until hot.  Test the oil with a cube of bread – if it sizzles and rises to the surface immediately it is ready.  Deep-fry the wontons in small batches until golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel before serving warm with the dipping sauce.


Deh-ta Hsiung’s Cantonese Sweet and Sour Prawns


This dish is best eaten with chopsticks or fingers, though it should be served hot rather than cold.


Preparation time 10-15 minutes


225 g (8 oz) king prawns

1 egg white

1 tablespoon corn flour

Oil for deep frying

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 slices ginger root, peeled and finely chopped



2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons stock or water


Trim the heads, whiskers and legs off the prawns but leave on the shells. Cut each prawn into 2 or 3 pieces. Mix the egg white with the corn flour and coat the prawns with this mixture.


Heat the oil in a work or deep saucepan but before it gets too hot, add the prawns, piece by piece and fry until golden, then remove with a perforated spoon and drain.


Pour off most of the oil, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the wok or pan and stir fry the spring onion and ginger root, then add the sugar, wine or sherry, soy sauce and vinegar, stirring constantly. When the sugar has dissolved, add the prawns and blend well, then add the corn flour mixed with the stock or water. Stir constantly and serve as soon as the sauce thickens



Ken Hom’s Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
Spring Rolls are one of the best-known Chinese snacks.  They are not difficult to make and are a perfect starter for any meal.  They should be crisp, light and delicate.  Spring roll skins can be obtained fresh or frozen from Chinese grocers.

Makes 15-18

1 packet of spring roll skins, thawed if necessary
1 egg, beaten
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) groundnut oil for deep-frying

100g (3 1/2oz) raw prawns shelled, de-veined and minced or finely chopped
100g (3 1/2oz) minced fatty pork
1 1/2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh root ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
225g (8oz) Chinese leaves (Peking cabbage), finely shredded
25g (1oz) dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems removed and finely shredded

1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sweet and Sour Sauce
150ml (5fl oz) water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Chinese white rice vinegar or cider vinegar
3 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cornflour, blended with 2 teaspoons water

To Serve
1 quantity of sweet and sour dipping sauce (see recipe)

First make the dipping sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce except the cornflour mixture.  Bring to the boil, stir in the cornflour mixture and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
For the filling, combine the prawns and pork with all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat a wok over a high heat.  Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 20 seconds.

Add all the rest of the filling ingredients, including the prawn and meat mixture and stir-fry for 5 minutes.  Place the mixture in a colander to drain and allow it to cool thoroughly.

Place 3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) of the filling near the end of each spring roll skin, then fold in the sides and roll up tightly.

Seal the open end by brushing a small amount of beaten egg along the edge, then pressing together gently.  You should have a roll about 10cm (4 inch) long, a little like an oversized cigar.

Rinse out the wok and reheat it over a high heat, then add the oil for deep-frying.  When the oil is hot and slightly smoking, gently drop in as many spring Rolls as will fit easily in one layer.

Fry the spring Rolls until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Adjust the heat as necessary.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a wire rack then on kitchen paper.  Cook the remaining spring rolls in the same way.

Serve at once, hot and crispy with the sweet and sour sauce for dipping.


Buttered Cabbage with Sichuan Peppercorns

The flavour of this quickly cooked cabbage has been a revelation for many and has converted numerous determined cabbage haters back to Ireland’s national vegetable.


Serves 4-6


450g (1lb) fresh Savoy cabbage

25g (1oz) butter or more if you like

1 teaspoon of highly crushed Sichuan peppercorns to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper

a knob of butter


Remove the tough outer leaves and divide the cabbage into four. Cut out. the stalks and then cut each section into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons (2-3 American tablespoons + 2-3 teaspoons) of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and the knob of butter. Serve immediately.

St Valentines

  1. Panna cotta 600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream 50g (2oz) castor sugar 1-2 vanilla pods, split lengthways 2 teaspoons gelatine 3 tablespoons water   Rose Water Cream chilled whipped cream rose blossom water (careful some brands a very intense) organic rose petals pistachio nuts       8 heart shaped (75-110ml (3-4fl oz), Coeur a la crème moulds, lined with cling film and brushed with non-scented sunflower oil lightly   Panna cotta Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pods and 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.  Remove the vanilla pods, then pour into the moulds.  When cold cover and refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.   To Serve Add the rose blossom water to taste to the cream. Sprinkle generously chopped pistachio nuts.  Decorate with rose petals.     Chocolate Carrageen Moss Pudding     Serves 4-6   ½ oz cleaned, well-dried carrageen moss (2 semi-closed fistfuls) 900ml (1 1⁄2 pints) whole milk 1 vanilla pod or 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 organic egg 2 tablespoons caster sugar   To Serve soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream or a compote of fruit in season   Soak the carrageen in a little bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will swell and increase in size. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with the milk and the vanilla pod, if using. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, covered, for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. By now the carrageen remaining in the strainer will be swollen and exuding jelly. You need as much of this as possible through the strainer and whisk it into the egg and milk mixture. Blend cocoa with a little of the milk and add to the hot strained carrageen. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with caster sugar and cream.  
  2. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake
  3. Gluten-Free Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake


V-Day is just around the corner once again. Shops are stocking up with cheesy cards, heart shaped everything and anything – from brooches and cushions to balloons and saucy underwear. Chocolatier’s  are working flat out to stock pile sweet treats for the Valentine’s day stampede and horticulturalists are coaxing their blooms to a state of perfection so there will be zillions of red roses to satisfy the love-lorn Valentines.

Everyone is in on the excitement, several bakers I know are making heart shaped loaves, “Tear and Share” ones are particular easy and fun to make at home.  Pizzaiolo’s like Philip at Saturday Pizza’s at Ballymaloe Cookery School are having fun with heart shaped pizzas …Where will it all end,  yet another commercial opportunity to capitalise on.

But instead of whinging, let’s all enter into the Valentine’s Day spirit. In my case I’ll give my patient hubby of 45 years an extra big hug and perhaps surprise him with a bowl of chocolate carrageen which he loves and I don’t necessarily share his enthusiasm for – true love comes in many guises…

Valentine’s Day was super charged when I was a teenager in an all-girl boarding school. This was a unique opportunity to impress your friends, so much depended on getting at least one Valentine card in the post. Several cards meant your status and popularity sky rocketed with your fellow classmates, wonder if it still the same…

If you haven’t booked a table for two at your favourite restaurant or one that you have been lusting after for ages it’s probably too late by now.

Nonetheless there couldn’t be a better time than St Valentine’s day to remind oneself, that a sure fire way to everyone’s heart is the same way as it always was and always will be,  through our tummies. Could be a few luscious cup-cakes, a heart shaped pavlova, a Valentine’s day chocolate cake or a romantic dinner for two in your place, a sure fire way to bring on a proposal, but consider the menu carefully, nothing too terribly extravagant or it may appear that you’ll be too expensive to keep.


Here are a few suggestions…

A comforting soup and a crusty loaf of freshly baked bread could do the trick, but oysters have always been considered to be an aphrodisiac, all that zinc does the trick… I love them au nature but if you’d prefer them warm try this version with a little horseradish cream, inspired by a dish I enjoyed at a restaurant called Fleet in Brunswick Heads near Byron Bay, Australia.

The choice of main  will depend on whether your intended loves a hunk of meat or is a veggie or vegan. Choose carefully…

Perhaps a little heart shaped goats cheese, with a green salad, Coeur De Neufchâtel, from The Pigs Back in the English Market would be delicious.
We’ve got lots of cute little heart shaped desserts, we made these delectable little panna cottas in coeur a la crème moulds. Decorated with rose water cream, rose petals and pistachio nuts – they are both adorable and delicious.

A homemade soda or cordial is also stylish, a few home-made crackers to accompany the cheese, easy to make and are mightily impressive; just serve them nonchalantly with the cheese.


Warm Oysters with Horseradish Cream and Chervil


Serves 6-8


24 Gigas oysters


Horseradish Cream (see recipe)



sprigs of chervil


First make the horseradish cream (see recipe), cover and chill.


To Serve

Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas Mark 10.


Put the oysters into a baking tray on a bed of coarse salt.  Pop into the oven and cook until the shells just pop open.  Lift off the top shell.  Spoon about a dessertspoon of horseradish cream over the oyster.  Top with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.  The oyster should be hot and the horseradish cream cold.  Serve on a bed of seaweed or coarse salt.


Horseradish Cream


Serves 8 – 10


3 – 6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream


Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle.  The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.


“Tear and Share” Heart Bread

We use Dove’s organic white bread flour, the water quantity may vary for other brands.  This bread can be baked in loaf tins or made into plaits or rolls.


Makes 1”Tear and Share” heart

20g yeast

20g organic sugar

390g warm water

700g strong organic flour

25g butter

16g pure dairy salt


2 x loaf tins 12.5cm (5 inch) x 20cm (8 inch)

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and 390g of warm water (anything above 45C will kill yeast).  Mix and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile, put the flour into a wide mixing bowl, add the salt, mix then rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add all the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix to a dough with your hand.  Turn out onto a clean work surface (no flour). Cover with the upturned bowl and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Uncover, if it feels a little dry and tough, wet your hand, rub over the dough and knead by hand until silky and smooth – 10 minutes approximately.  Return to the bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel.  Allow to rise until double in size.


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

Turn out onto the work surface, knead for a minute or two and shape as desired.


Divide the dough into 4, shape 6 rolls from each piece. Shape into 32 small rolls less than 15g (1/2oz) each in weight and build into a heart shape on a baking tray.

Leave a little space between each one to allow room for rising.  Cover and allow to double in size.  Egg wash and bake in the preheated oven 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes then reduce to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further 20-25 minutes.


Cool on a wire rack.




Puy Lentils, Spring Onion, Avocado, Chicory, Walnut and Pomegranate Salad


Serves 6-8


350g (12oz) puy lentils

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 chilli, finely chopped

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head of chicory, thinly sliced

1 pomegranate

4 spring onions or scallions, sliced on the diagonal

2 ripe Hass avocados

12 walnuts, shelled

lots of flat parsley or wild Rocket leaves


Cook the lentils in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until just tender, drain, toss in extra virgin olive oil, chopped chilli and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Leave to cool.


Slice the chicory thinly across the grain.  Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds.  Chop the spring onions on the diagonal.  Peel, stone and dice the avocado.  Add all four to the cold lentils, toss, taste and correct the seasoning.  Scatter with the shelled walnuts and lots of parsley or wild Rocket leaves.

Panna Cotta with Rose Water Cream, Rose Petals and Pistachio Nuts


Serves 8

Panna cotta

600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream

50g (2oz) castor sugar

1-2 vanilla pods, split lengthways

2 teaspoons gelatine

3 tablespoons water


Rose Water Cream

chilled whipped cream

rose blossom water (careful some brands a very intense)

organic rose petals

pistachio nuts




8 heart shaped (75-110ml (3-4fl oz), Coeur a la crème moulds, lined with cling film and brushed with non-scented sunflower oil lightly


Panna cotta

Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pods and 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.  Remove the vanilla pods, then pour into the moulds.  When cold cover and refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.


To Serve

Add the rose blossom water to taste to the cream. Sprinkle generously chopped pistachio nuts.  Decorate with rose petals.



Chocolate Carrageen Moss Pudding



Serves 4-6


½ oz cleaned, well-dried carrageen moss (2 semi-closed fistfuls)

900ml (1 1⁄2 pints) whole milk

1 vanilla pod or 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 organic egg

2 tablespoons caster sugar


To Serve

soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream or a compote of fruit in season


Soak the carrageen in a little bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will swell and increase in size. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with the milk and the vanilla pod, if using. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, covered, for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. By now the carrageen remaining in the strainer will be

swollen and exuding jelly. You need as much of this as possible through the strainer and whisk it into the egg and milk mixture. Blend cocoa with a little of the milk and add to the hot strained carrageen. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine.

Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with caster sugar and cream.


Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake


Bake in a heart-shaped tin for extra romance


4oz (110g) best quality dark chocolate (We use Lesmé or Val Rhona chocolate)

2 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum

4oz (110g) butter, preferably unsalted

3 1/2oz (100g) castor sugar

3 free-range eggs

1 tablespoon castor sugar

2oz (50g) plain white flour

2oz (50g) whole almonds


Rich Chocolate Icing

6oz (175g) best quality dark chocolate

3 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum

6oz (175g) unsalted butter


Rose petals


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


Grease two x 7 inch (18 cm) heart shaped or sandwich tins and line the base of each with greaseproof paper.  Melt the chocolate with the rum on a very gentle heat, peel the almonds and grind in a liquidizer or food processor they should still be slightly gritty. Cream the butter, and then add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.   Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of castor sugar and continue to whisk until they reach the stiff peak stage.   Add the melted chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture and then add the almonds.   Stir in 1/4 of the egg white mixture followed by 1/4 of the sieved flour.   Fold in the remaining eggs and flour alternatively until they have all been added.


Divide between the two prepared heart shaped tins and make a hollow in the centre of each cake.


IMPORTANT: Cake should be slightly underdone in the centre.  Sides should be cooked but the centre a little unset.  Depending on oven it can take between 19 and 25 minutes.


Chocolate Icing

Melt best quality chocolate with rum.  Whisk in unsalted butter by the tablespoon.   Beat occasionally until cool.  When the cake is completely cold, fill and ice with the mixture.   Pipe the remaining icing around the top and decorate with rose petals.



Gluten-Free Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake

Omit the flour and increase the whole almonds from 50g (2oz) to 110g (4oz) – proceed as in master recipe.

St Brigid


Time for St Brigid to be as big as St Patrick, after all neither of their lineages stands up to real scrutiny so no grounds for nit picking there but if what we can gleam from folklore and much repeated hearsay is to be believed Brigid was a feisty spirited entrepreneur and quite the role model for modern women. She is purported to be the patron saint of the dairy.

St Brigid’s day is still celebrated in virtually every school in Ireland; many of our local national schools also teach the children how to make the Crois Bríde or St. Brigid’s cross.

So on February the 1st, the beginning of Spring,  children’s nimble fingers wove green rushes into the little Brigid’s cross while they listen to the colourful story of Ireland’s female patron saint, Brigid, we are told, was born in 451 in Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. It was thought that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. 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 circa 500A.D.).


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

So this week, we will choose recipes made from milk, a magical ingredient with infinite possibilities found in everyone’s fridge. Milk be transformed into numerous 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 in our climate we can grow rich nourishing grass pastures like virtually nowhere else in the world.


Chargrilled Lamb with Labneh, Pomegranate and Fresh Mint Leaves


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread


50g (2oz) Labneh (110g, (4oz) natural yoghurt dripped overnight), seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and freshly roasted cumin 1/4 teaspoon approximately.


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


1 generous tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) 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.

Chicken Poached in Milk


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


Serves 10-12


1.8kg (4lb) chicken (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


Season the chicken generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole, large enough to fit the bird.  Brown 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 chicken 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 chicken is cooked slice the meat and carefully spoon the precious curds over the top.


Old-Fashioned Milk Rice Pudding

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on a cold winter’s day. You need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. This is definitely a forgotten pudding and it’s unbelievable the reaction we get to it every time we make it at the Cookery School. It’s always the absolute favourite pudding at my evening courses.


Serves 6–8


100g (31⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

40g (1 1/2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

850ml (1 1/2 pints) milk


1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish


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


Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1 1/4–1 1/2 hours approximately (usually the latter but keep checking). The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have absorbed up the milk, but the rice pudding should still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time it so that it’s ready for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.


Three good things to serve with rice pudding:

  • Softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar
  • Compote of Apricots and Cardamom (see recipe)
  • Compote of Sweet Apples and Rose Geranium (see recipe)
  • Spiced Fruit (see recipe)



Melktert (Milk Tart)

Alicia Wilkinson from the famous Silwood Cooking School in Capetown generously shared this recipe with us.

 Serves 12

 For the crust:

125g (4 1/2oz) butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

185g (6 1/2oz) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence


For the filling:

35g (1 1/2oz) flour

3 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons custard powder

1.2 litres (2 pints) milk

150g (5oz) white granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 vanilla bean, split in half

2 teaspoons butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


28cm (11 inch) fluted tart tin

baking beans


To make the crust, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Add the egg, flour, baking powder and vanilla and mix until combined.

Press the pastry into the tart tin and chill for 45 minutes.


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


Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper inside the pastry case so that the edges come over the rim and fill with the baking beans.

Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes or until the sides begin to colour.

Remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and continue cooking the pastry case for 5 minutes to dry out the base.


To make the filling, mix together the flour, cornflour and custard powder, adding a little of the milk to form a smooth paste.

Place the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean and the cornflour paste.  Bring to a boil, stirring continuously, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and baking powder and set aside.  Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Fold the whites into the custard mixture, then spoon into the pastry case, discarding the vanilla bean.

In a small bowl, stir together the caster sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle the mixture over the custard filling.


Place the tart in the refrigerator to set.




St Brigid’s Day Cake

We love this super delicious cake which we created especially for St Brigid’s day, green white and gold – how naff.

Serves 8


175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour


To decorate:

lemon glace icing

candied kumquat

wood sorrel leaves


1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) sandwich tin, buttered and floured.  Line the base of the tin with parchment paper.


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


First make the kumquat compote, see below.


Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate and turn into the prepared tin – make a dip in the centre so it rises evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, remove and cool on a wire rack.


Meanwhile make the icing, once the cake is cool, pour the icing over the cake and spread gently over the sides with a palette knife.

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Serves 8 to 10

Candied Kumquats


440g (15 3/4oz) caster sugar

500ml (18fl oz) orange juice or water

1kg (2 1/4lb) kumquats


We are big fans of kumquats, and when Maggie Beer was with us for the Ballymaloe Literary Festival in 2014 she demonstrated this delicious recipe.


To prepare the kumquats, bring the caster sugar and orange juice to the boil in a stainless steel saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the kumquats and bring back to the boil.  Simmer until the syrup is thick and the kumquats have collapsed and appear slightly translucent.  Store in glass jars in the fridge they should keep for a month or so and you’ll find lots of delicious ways to use them.


Lemon Glacé Icing


160g (6oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

2-3tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.   Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.


Buttermilk Pots with Primroses

from Darina’s new book Grow Cook Nourish


These buttermilk creams are also delicious with roast peaches, apricots, nectarines, or rhubarb in season.


Serves 6


2 sheets of gelatine (use 3 sheets of gelatine if you plan to unmould each one)

350ml organic buttermilk

60g caster sugar

1/2 vanilla pod

250ml cream



Fresh mint leaves


6 x 110ml glasses or white china pots


Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water.


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring 100ml of the buttermilk to the boil with the sugar and a vanilla pod.


Drain the softened gelatine sheets and discard the water.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the gelatine to the buttermilk and stir until dissolved. Leave to cool and whisk in the remaining buttermilk and cream.


Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the cream. Mix well. Pour into 6 small pots or moulds.  Cover and refrigerate until set.


To serve:

Sprinkle each little pot with primroses and a few fresh mint leaves.   Alternatively, unmould into a deep soup plate and garnish as above.








Jerusalem Artichokes



This is becoming a habit – a few weeks ago I wrote an entire column on the swede turnip, a humble inexpensive and ridiculously versatile Winter root. It got a tremendous response so this week I’m going to continue in the same vein and showcase Jerusalem artichokes. I know this is a vegetable that some may not have heard of but it’s really worth seeking out, better still plant some in your own garden. It’s a kind of a miracle veg; you plant one this year there will be at least ten or twelve next year. They look like knobbly  potatoes; they remain in the ground all winter and vary in colour from white to golden to purple.

Jerusalem artichokes are members of the sunflower family, Helianthus Tuberosus. Their US name is “sunchoke”. The foliage grows to a 2 metre and is often used as a hedge, windbreak or even a maze. It has a pretty yellow flowers in August brilliant for flower arrangements or scattered in a salad bowl.

But in this column we are concentrating on their culinary uses. Look out for them in greengrocers. We can’t seem to find the name of the heirloom variety we have grown at Ballymaloe for over half a century, it has an excellent flavour, children love their uneven shapes they look like strange creatures so cause lots of amusement and curiosity. They love them roasted, crisp and golden at the edges or in their skins. Like the humble swedes I wrote about a few weeks ago they are super versatile. They make a silky puree alone or mixed with mashed potato or a sweet apple puree that pairs deliciously with all sorts of things, particularly pheasant or venison or use as a base of a vegetarian dish and top with rainbow chard stalks and leaves, and some chunks of sautéed mushrooms, crisp slivered garlic, a sprinkling of nutty Coolea farmhouse cheese.  Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all,  neither do they come from Jerusalem, their curious nutty flavour is reminiscent of an artichoke heart which has a wonderful affinity with fish particularly mussels and scallops.

They also mix deliciously with other winter roots either in a medley of roast vegetables. Peeled and cut into chunks, mix them with carrots, parsnip, celeriac, turnips… Toss in extra virgin olive oil  or even more delicious some duck or goose fat left over from Christmas. They also absorb the gutsy flavour of herbs like   rosemary and thyme, bay, sage and spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala. I’ve also included a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke soup – easy peasy to make and everyone will love it, if you have pernickty eaters in your family who are put off by the sound of something  odd or unfamiliar – just call it Winter vegetable soup and maybe up the quantity of the potato.

For a dinner party you can embellish it with chorizo crumbs (see my column of Saturday January 13th)  or a few slices of scallop or a few fat mussels as a garnish.

I’m crazy about Hugh Maguire’s smoked black pudding and found it pairs deliciously with slices of roast artichoke and some buttered leeks and a dice of sweet apple.


Just in case it comes as a surprise I should mention that they are hugely flatulent so very good for your gut biome. Peeling the older varieties can try your patience but the newer varieties are much smoother, I don’t bother to peel them at all when freshly dug or when  I decide to roast them, just cut lengthways or into thick rounds.

One other thing to know,  like artichokes  and celeriac they oxidise quickly when peeled so pop them into a bowl of acidulated water (add a squeeze of lemon juice) until ready to cook.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa


Serves 8-10


Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years.  We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!


50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.



Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa


1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1 cm dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Flaky  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with avocado and roast hazelnut salsa.


To make the Salsa

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.


Other good things to serve with Jerusalem Artichoke Soup


Chorizo Crumbs see my column on Saturday 13th January for the recipe

Artichoke Crisps

A few mussels or slices of scallop and a sprig of chervil, dice of smoked salmon and sprigs or flat parsley or chervil


Roast Jerusalem Artichokes

The winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant. Here we half the tubers but they also work brilliantly cut into thick slices – more delicious caramelized surface to enjoy


Serves 4 to 6


450g (1 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional


Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Cut the well-scrubbed artichokes in half lengthways. Toss them with the extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt. Transfer to a roasting tin and cook cut side down for 20–30 minutes, when golden, flip over and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be mostly tender but offer some resistance. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary sprigs, season with pepper and serve.


Jerusalem Artichoke Purée with Chard, Garlic and Coolea Farmhouse Cheese


This smooth and creamy purée is excellent with pan-fried or grilled scallops.  It can also be used with game such as venison, pheasants and wild duck.  The trick to get a light and refined purée is to blend the vegetables while still hot.  Keep some of the strained cooking water which may be added to the vegetables when blending.

Serves 6 to 8

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes (weighed after peeling)

450g (1lb) potatoes, scrubbed clean

25g (1oz) butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

12-24 rainbow chard stalks, depending on size

8 garlic cloves or better still smoked garlic

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

3 to 4 dessert apples, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Egremont, Russet or Romano

50 to 75gr (2-3ozs) Coolea or Pecorino cheese

flat parsley sprigs or fresh watercress


First make the purée.

Cook the artichokes and potatoes separately in boiling salted water until tender and completely cooked through.  Peel the potatoes immediately and place them with the hot artichokes in a food processer.  Add the cream and butter and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Blend until a silky consistency is achieved.  Taste and correct seasoning.


Peel and slice the garlic into thin slivers, cook until crisp and golden  in hot oil in a frying pan, drain on kitchen paper.

Prepare the chard, rinse under cold water and chop into stalks of 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inch) lengths.  Cook in well salted boiling water for just a few minutes until tender when the stalk is pierced with a knife. Drain, toss in extra virgin olive oil and keep hot.


Peel core and dice the apples into 1cm (1/3 inch) pieces, cook in a little melted butter over a medium heat, tossing until golden and tender.


To serve

Choose  deep bowls, put 3 to 4 tablespoons of hot velvety artichoke purée on the base.

Top with a few pieces of chard plus leaves (3/4).

Sprinkle with apple dice, crisp garlic slivers and some coarsely grated Coolea.

Scatter a few flat parsley leaves or watercress sprigs over each dish and serve ASAP


Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Smoked Almonds and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Once can also use roast slices here instead of a raw artichoke.

Serves 4



4 good handfuls of perky bitter lettuce leaves

2 small Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean

a little freshly squeezed lemon juice

110g (4oz) of smoked almonds, rough chopped *(see note at end of recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup

a good pinch of sea salt

1/2 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped


Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, add the preserved lemon.


Wash and dry the salad leaves.


Next, use a mandolin to slice the artichokes paper thin – otherwise slice with a very sharp knife.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over the artichokes to prevent them from discolouring whilst also adding some flavour.


Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add the artichoke slices and roughly chopped almonds.  Pour over enough of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves.  Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve immediately.


To Smoke Almonds

We hot smoke a lot of different ingredients in a biscuit tin over a gas jet.  Just scatter 2 heaped tablespoons of apple wood chips on the bottom of the tin.  Put a rack on top.  Place the almond on top of the wire rack.  Pop on top of the gas on a high heat until the wood chips start to smoke and cover the box.  Lower the heat and smoke for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke for a further 1 minute.


Braised Jerusalem Artichokes

The most basic and delicious way to cook artichokes. Serve with pheasant, chicken, pork, lamb…

Serves 4

675g (1½ lbs) Jerusalem artichokes

25g (1 oz) butter

1 dessertspoon water

salt and freshly-ground pepper

chopped parsley


Peel the artichokes thinly and slice 1/4 inch (5mm) thick.  Melt the butter in a cast-iron casserole, toss the artichokes and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.  Add water and cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid.  Cook on a low heat or put in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, until the artichokes are soft but still keep their shape, 15-20 minutes approx.  (Toss every now and then during cooking.)

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.


* If cooking on the stove top rather than the oven turn off the heat after 10 minutes approx. – the artichokes will continue to cook in the heat & will hold their shape.






What’s Hot And What’s Not


So what’s hot and what’s not on the 2018 food scene. Much energy and investment goes into predicting up-coming trends in the many areas of food production. From multinational companies to artisan producers and supermarket chains, all have a vested in having their finger on the pulse. Chefs too are keen to keep on top of emerging trends.  So let’s have a look at what’s coming down the line.

There appear to be several strong general trends. Even though there’s a definite backlash against clean eating, veganism is still on the rise.

Uber Eats reported a 400% rise in vegan searches in 2017and sales of vegan cheese increased by 300% in Sainsbury’s in the same period. Requests for meat free veggie burgers (that bleed from beetroot juice!) continue to rise. The flavour is apparently great and it ticks all the boxes for the growing demand for “cruelty free protein”. Vegetables are set to be the “new meat”.

The concept of Meat Free Monday is gradually becoming more mainstream, though I have to say I can’t see the Irish chaps abandoning their beef habit in favour of a char-grilled cauliflower steak anytime soon.


The supercool brunch boom continues to build and the avocado toast craze is undimmed even as the avocado farmers struggle to supply the phenomenal demand.


The health and fitness trend continues to drive market share and foods that promise better or brain function and enhanced performance are still vaporising off shelves.


The growing body of research linking our gut health with our mental and physical wellbeing has piqued peoples interest, consequently foods that promise to improve gut and digestive health are a huge trend. Pickled, preserved and fermented foods are filling up fridges and making your own sauerkraut and kimchi is becoming mainstream among the young health conscious. Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we now have a “Bubble Shed” where all the fermented foods are made and on-going experiments and classes are conducted see www.cookingisfun.ie for details of our next Fermentation course.

Foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome, natural, organic and biodynamic foods, farmhouse cheeses and organic raw  B2 milk from a small herd of heritage breeds. Seek out Dan and Anne Aherne’s beautiful creamy milk at Mahon Point Farmer’s Market (Thursdays) and Midleton Farmers Markets (Saturdays), or visit the Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm Shop for raw milk from our small herd of Jersey cows.


There’s  a growing awareness and reaction to “food waste” issues. Chefs are now proudly boasting about serving the underused cuts of meat, so expect to see more oxtail, tongue, pigs ears, crubeens (pigs feet) and a  further interest in “nose to tail eating” and “root to shoot”,  where every scrap of vegetable is used rather than just the familiar section offered on the supermarket shelf.


Watch the “grow some of your own super-food movement” gather momentum in both urban and rural areas, not just for economic, social and lifestyle reasons but for mind-blowing fabulous nutrition. Check out GIY www.giy.ie, Good Food Ireland www.goodfoodireland.ie  or treat yourself to a copy of Grow Cook Nourish, my latest tome, which was originally called  “For God’s Sake Grow Some of Your Own Food”.

It may surprise you to learn that more health conscious millennials are limiting their alcohol consumption. The rise in booze free, homemade  mocktails, fruity cordials and fizzy sodas reflects this definite super cool trend.

Chefs are buying land, growing fresh produce on their roofs or in their backyards and buying directly from local farmers and artisan food producers, will use local coast, grocers within walking distance….


Amazon has taken over Wholefoods, watch this space….


Foods to watch out for in 2018

  1. Street food inspired dishes, dosa, tacos, toastadas, falafel, shawarma, bánh mì, gyros, arepas, satay, empanadas, ramen, pupusas, noodle dishes…
  2. Veggie carb substitutes, zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower rice is still up there.
  3. Homemade or housemade condiments, artisan pickles, mustard, ketchup…
  4. Buddha bowls – a bowl of greens, beans, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds with a dressing or favourite sauce – eat mindfully…
  5. Chinese dumplings, wontons, steamed buns….
  6. Poke, bowls of sushi rice, essentially sushi without the fuss, a raw fish salad with lots of yummy toppings on top (everyday food in Hawaii).
  7. Ancient grains, farro, spelt, and quinoa of course, but also kamut, emmer, teff, sorghum, freekeh in salads, breads, biscuits….
  8. Jackfruit- a hot new vegan ingredient, the largest tree fruit on the planet, nutritious, delicious with a texture and flavour of pulled pork when cooked.
  9. Smoked absolutely everything, black pudding, tomato, tofu…
  10. Goat meat, wild boar, more wild game in season.
  11. Seaweed – all type of algae, sprinkled on, and added to, almost everything from salad and bread to ice-cream.
  12. Wild and foraged foods. Look out for Winter cress, pennywort, watercress, all in season now.
  13. Ethnic dips and spreads and condiments beyond sriracha, zhug, harissa, peri peri, sambal, shichimi togarashi, pixian chilli bean paste, jocguang…
  14. Savoury jams and jellies not just bacon jam, try tomato jam, carrot jam, apple and seaweed jelly.
  15. Heirloom fruit and vegetables, not just tomatoes and potatoes….
  16. Imperfect, ugly produce, organically produced, “root to shoot eating”.
  17. Bone broths still huge
  18. Mushrooms are morphing into a superfood, even being added to coffee
  19. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes, another brilliant super delicious and a versatile winter root, highest in inulin of all vegetables and certainly on trend.
  20. We’ll hear more of lesser known herbs, borage, sweet cicely, chervil, hyssop, lemon balm, lemon verbena, papalo and also here to fore unknown edible flowers: forget-me-not, dahlias, crysthanamums, cornflowers, daylilies…..
  21. Activated charcoal and green dusts – think matcha, ras el hanout,
  22. Ethnic kids dishes, sushi, teriyaki, tacos, tostadas.
  23. Mac and cheese, porridge, scrambled eggs and French fries are all getting a makeover, perfect bases for all manner of toppings and additions.
  24. Turmeric – the super charged anti-inflammatory, both fresh and in dried form in everything and anything.
  25. Homemade charcuterie, sausages, guanciale, blood puddings.
  26. Mill you own flour and heritage grains.
  27. Eggs from rare breed chickens and non-traditional breeds of poultry. Blue/green shelled eggs from Aracuna hens, Marrans, Leghorns, Light Sussex’s, Speckledeys, Hebden black hens

Here are a few recipes using some of these on-trend ingredients…



Rory O’Connell’s Homemade Tomato Ketchup


It’s easy to make homemade tomato ketchup, everyone will love it.  We used Cox’s orange pippin apples and had exactly the same maddening consistency as the real thing. The result is irresistibly delicious.


Makes 5 – 6 bottles (8fl ozs per bottle)


1.6kg (3½ lb) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped (weigh after peeling and coring)

450g (1lb) peeled onions, chopped

450g (1lb)  sugar

450ml(16fl oz) cider vinegar

1 level tablespoon Maldon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

6 black peppercorns

6 allspice/pimento berries

6 cloves


Place all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for approx. 1 hour or until it has the consistency of a regular ketchup.  Stir regularly as it cooks to avoid sticking.  Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes.  Liquidise to a smooth puree.    If the consistency is a bit thin, return to the saucepan and cook to reduce a bit further.  Remember it will thicken as it cools.


Pour into sterilised glass bottles and store chilled.


Foragers Soup


Throughout the seasons you can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside. Arm yourself with a good well illustrated

guide and be sure to identify carefully, and if in doubt, don’t risk it until you are quite confident.


Serves 6


50g (2ozs) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk


75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.


Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

Recipe taken from Grow, Cook, Nourish by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Clare Winfield and Tim Allen.


Pan Fried Haddock with Slivered Garlic, Fresh Turmeric, Chilli and Spring Onions

Serves 4


4 x 110g (4oz) portions of fresh haddock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly slivered

1 thumb sized piece of turmeric, peeled and julienned

4 spring onions – 4 heaped teaspoons approx., separate the white and the green.

Worcestershire sauce

1 green chilli, seeded and thinly sliced


To serve

4 segments of lime

1- 2 tablespoons coriander, shredded



Season the fish with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Heat a little oil in a wide frying pan, over a medium heat. Cook the fish on the flesh side until golden. Flip over and cook until crisp and golden on the skin side.


Meanwhile heat a little oil in a second pan. Add the slivered garlic, turmeric, sliced chilli and white part of the spring onion. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, until tender and golden at the edges. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Add the green parts of the spring onions. Toss for a couple of seconds.


To serve

Transfer the fish on to four hot plates. Divide the mixture between the plates. Sprinkle with the shredded coriander and add a segment of lime. Enjoy immediately.


Dilisk Bread

One can make a loaf or divide the dough into scones, one can also use a mixture of dried seaweeds.



450g (1lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda

15-25g (1/2-1oz) dilisk

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14 fl ozs) approx.


First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.



Sieve the dry ingredients into a wide bowl. Chop the dilisk and add to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface.


Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


Masala French Fries

The Perfect Chip


  1. Good quality ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
  2. Best quality oil, lard or beef fat for frying. We frequently use pure olive oil because its flavour is so good and because when properly looked after it can be used over and over again. Avoid poor quality oils which have an unpleasant taste and a pervasive smell.
  3. Scrub the potatoes well and peel or leave unpeeled according to taste. Cut into similar size chips so they will cook evenly.
  4. Rinse quickly in cold water but do not soak. Dry meticulously with a damp tea towel or kitchen towel before cooking otherwise the water will boil on contact with the oil in the deep fry and may cause it to overflow.


Do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking.



To cook the first two types: Fry quickly in oil at 195ºC/385ºC until completely crisp.


Masala Fries

This simple but totally irresistible recipe comes from the chefs in Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar in India.


Serves 2-3


500g  (18 oz) potatoes, peeled. We use Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pink

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

flaky sea salt


Heat the oil in deep fry to 120 C

Peel the potatoes, cut into medium size chips.

Blanch in the hot oil for 7 minutes approx.

Remove the basket. Increase the temperature of the oil to 160C . Continue to cook the fries until golden, 4-5 minutes.

Drain briefly on kitchen paper, transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of garam masala and some salt. Toss well to coat. Taste, correct the seasoning and serve immediately.



Penny Allen’s Kombucha


Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweet tea.  It is said to have many health benefits when consumed regularly.


750ml (1 pint 15fl oz/scant 4 1/2 cups) boiling water

2 teaspoons loose leaf tea or 2 teabags (green, white or black -organic is best)

150g (5oz) organic caster sugar

1.25 litres (2 pints) filtered water

250ml (9fl oz) Kombucha

1 Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)


Equipment – 3 litres (5 1/4 pints/generous 13 cups) Kilner jar or large Pyrex bowl or similar. Measuring jug

(Don’t use a metal container when brewing kombucha)



Make the tea with 750ml of boiling water in teapot or bowl. Let this sit for a few minutes to infuse.  Strain the tea into your brewing vessel.


Add the caster sugar and stir to dissolve.


Add the filtered water and stir again. The temperature of the sweetened tea should now be tepid and you should have just over 2 litres of liquid.


Add 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of kombucha and the Scoby.


Cover jar or bowl with a clean cloth tied around with string or an elastic band. Don’t be tempted to put a lid on it because the kombucha scoby needs air to thrive.


Put in a warmish place for a week to ten days. It should be out of direct sunlight and somewhere it won’t have to be moved. Use a plastic spoon to take a taste each day and after about day 7 it should be almost ready. The taste you are looking for is a pleasing balance between sweet and sour.



Lift off the Scoby and put it in a bowl with 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of your just brewed Kombucha and cover this with a plate or bowl while you bottle the rest.


Pour the brewed Kombucha into bottles through a funnel (makes 2 1/2 x 750ml bottles), or into another large Kilner jar. You can then store this in the fridge and enjoy as it is, or you can do a second ferment to add flavour and extra nutritional benefits!


Second Fermentation


To each bottle you can add a handful of any of the following:

  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) raspberries.
  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) strawberries and 1 teaspoon raw cacao
  • 1/2 apple and a small beetroot chopped
  • 1 ripe peach sliced


Let this sit for 24 hours at room temperature with a lid on and then strain out the fruit (or vegetables) and bottle. Store in the fridge and enjoy Delicious!


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