Darina’s Saturday Letter

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Celebrate Our Producer’s Day at Ballymaloe Cookery School

As cooks and chefs, we are totally dependent on the quality of the raw materials we can source to make beautiful fresh tasting food.

We are super fortunate in Ireland to have many fantastic artisan and specialist producers – since Covid even more seem to be popping up every week.

There’s a growing entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude around the country and the brilliant thing is that many of these start-ups are situated in rural areas, creating extra employment in the countryside.

Recently we had a Celebrate our Producers Day here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School to introduce our students to some of the food heroes behind the ingredients they cook with.

Rod and Julie Calder Potts came from Kilkenny and Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford.  There was also quite a representation from West Cork where many of the pioneers got started.

Sally Barnes from Woodcock Smokery overlooking Castletownsend harbour has been smoking fish for over 40 years.

She learned her trade by trial and error…her initial fish smoking efforts were a desperate attempt to preserve four beautiful brown trout that had been caught in Ballyalla Lough, now devoid of trout.

She shared her passion for wild caught fish, fire and smoke and her deep knowledge of the state of the seas, lakes and rivers and the tragic demise of fish stocks around our coasts.

Sally, one of Ireland’s most iconic and feisty artisan producers is now teaching master classes in an attempt to pass on the skills she painstakingly acquired smoking award-winning wild salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and other white fish over the years. The herrings and sprats have now all but disappeared, much of the catch transformed into pellets for farmed fish.


Anthony Creswell’s Ummera Smokehouse is also in West Cork. A second generation multi award-winner who also smokes duck and chicken breast and traditional cured rashers as well as organic salmon. Ummera Smokehouse ships smoked salmon all over the world and they too are happy to have visitors to the smokehouse close to Timoleague in West Cork.


Toby Simmons, known to many from his stall in the English Market in Cork city but also based in West Cork where he and his lovely wife, Jenny Rose have transformed the Toonsbridge Dairy close to Macroom into a destination café with a woodfired oven, shop and dairy that produces five or six types of Italian filata style cheeses to supply his many Olive stalls around the country.

Toby’s story which started with olives is also intriguing. He set up the Real Olive Company in 1993. Toby imported a herd of buffalo into Ireland to make mozzarella, burrata, stracciatella, caciocavallo, halloumi, smoked scamorza, ricotta and Cheddar – also worth a detour…


Rupert Hugh Jones produces both native and gigas oysters in Cork Harbour close to Carrigtwohill in East Cork where his father David established oyster beds in the 1960’s. Rupert shared the intriguing story of the life cycle of the oysters, and the challenges and rewards of producing one of Ireland’s most prestigious products.

Rupert is also founder of the award-winning Mahon Point and Douglas Farmers Markets. Students were intrigued to hear about the many opportunities the farmers markets present to do market research and sell their artisan and specialist products.

Rupert does many exciting corporate events and bespoke tours of Rossmore Oysters.


Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford is another totally inspiring and seemingly unstoppable entrepreneur with a ‘can do’ attitude in spades. She enthusiastically regaled the 12 Week Certificate Course students with tales of her life in food…restaurants and gourmet catering, everything from weddings to huge rock concerts in the O2 Arena and delectable picnics for the Lismore Opera Festival. Always highlighting local ingredients, local fish and shellfish and meat from her treasured local butcher Michael McGrath from Lismore.

Her fish and chip restaurant in Dungarvan named ‘And Chips’ established in 2019 draws devotees from far and wide. This is no ordinary chipper……


And last, but certainly not least, lovely Rod and Julie Calder-Potts, from Highbank Nurseries in Co Kilkenny, an extraordinary couple of passionate entrepreneurs who farm with nature to produce a variety of beautiful apples, from which they make 15 plus organic products… apple juice, apple cider vinegar, several ciders, apple syrup, apple treacle, Calvados (apple brandy) and more recently a sensational rum (and I don’t use the word sensational lightly) Dark Doyle Apple Rum, created to celebrate their daughters marriage to Jamie Doyle last year.

Seek out their products in various locations all over the country (listed on their website) and online and watch out for events at the Highbank Farm.


A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland. Artisan smokers like sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork, Anthony Cresswell of Ummera and Frank Hederman of Belvelly near Cobh who have developed a cult following for their smoked Irish salmon and other fish.

Serves 4

A section of smoked fish – smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.

Sweet Dill Mayonnaise (see recipe)

Cucumber and Dill Pickle (see recipe)

Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)


segments of lemon

sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves

First make the horseradish sauce and sweet dill mayonnaise. 

Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person.  Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes.  Skin and slice the eel.  Thinly slice the tuna and hake. 

To Serve

Choose four large white plates, drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates.  Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate.  Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.

Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tbsp French mustard

1 tbsp white sugar

150ml groundnut or sunflower

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp dill, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Cucumber and Dill Pickle

Cucumber pickle keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Serves 10-12

1kg thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber

3 small onions thinly sliced

225g granulated sugar

1 tbsp salt

225ml cider vinegar

2 tbsp dill, chopped

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together, stir in the chopped dill and pour over cucumbers.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1-2 hours or overnight before using. 

Horseradish Sauce

This is a fairly mild sauce.  If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish!  Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.

Serves 8-10

3-6 tbsp freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 tsp sugar

225ml 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. 

Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram

Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.*  Look out for Toby Simmond’s stracciatella.

Serves 6

110g toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped (pistachio nuts can also be used)

75g plump raisins

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

35-50g preserved lemon, coarsely diced 

Espelette or Aleppo pepper

350g stracciatella – 3 mozzarella

flaky sea salt

fresh annual marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.

Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10-15 minutes.

Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.

To Serve

Put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top. Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.

*Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of rich cream. Marinade for an hour or so.

Highbank Orchards Mussels in Cider

Ruth Calder-Potts kindly shared this recipe with us.

Serves 4

4 rashers, dry-cured bacon

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2kg Irish mussels

1 bay leaf

50ml Highbank Proper Cider

150ml cream

freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh parsley

crusty bread (for soaking up all the sauce)

Fry or grill the bacon until crispy then set aside.  When they have cooled, cut them into strips.

Wash the mussels in cold water.  Discard any open mussels.

Fry the shallots, until translucent along with the garlic.

Place the mussels, bay leaf and cider into a large pot.  Add the onion and garlic and cover with the lid. 

Place on the hot for about 5 minutes, shaking the pot a couple of times during cooking.  The mussels should all have opened, remove the closed ones.

Add the cream, pepper and chopped parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the bacon.

Serve with the crusty bread to mop up all the yummy sauce. 

Eunice Power’s Raspberry Coconut Cake

Every now and then you want to make a cake for someone special and push the boat out! This is one of those cakes. The addition of coconut makes for a deliciously damp cake, the raw coconut on the exterior introduces an element of fun. It’s worth putting a little planning into the cake. Firstly, organise your ingredients, never underestimate the importance of a shopping list!  I suggest making the coconut filling the day before so that the cake can be assembled when it’s fresh.

275g self-raising flour

70g desiccated coconut

1 tbsp rosewater

375g caster sugar

175g butter, melted

3 eggs

375ml milk

Coconut Cream Filling

300g white granulated sugar

6 egg whites

350g salted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

160g coconut milk

2 tbsp of raspberry jam

100g raspberries

100g raw coconut (available in health food shops, I buy mine in Blasta Health Food Store, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford – 058 23901)

a tiny drop of red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Lightly grease a 20.5cm tin with high sides and line with parchment paper.

Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir until mixed, then add in all of the wet ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 1 hour. This cake is moist and dense.

Coconut Cream Filling

Place egg whites and sugar in a saucepan and whisk until almost simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the egg white and sugar mix into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the sides of the bowl are cool, and the mixture has about doubled in volume.  Add the butter chunks, a few at a time, and beat until incorporated.  It may look curdled but keep beating until the butter is well incorporated and the frosting is glossy.  

Add the vanilla, salt, and coconut milk.  Whip for another couple of minutes until smooth.  

If you make this ahead of time, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Before using, bring it back to room temperature and whip it for a few minutes until smooth.  

To assemble the cake.

Slice the cake into three equal size layers, the cake may be quite dense in the middle, don’t be alarmed – this is fine. Spread a tablespoon of raspberry jam over the first layer, then pipe lightly with a quarter of the coconut cream filling and sprinkle with half of the raspberries.  Place the next layer on top and repeat with the jam, coconut cream and raspberries. Put the third layer on top.

Using a spatula, spread the remainder of the coconut cream evenly over the cake and decorate with raw coconut.


To make the coconut pink in colour, add a tiny drop of red food colouring to a bowl of water, then stir in the coconut. Leave for about 10 minutes until the coconut turns pink and strain the water off using a sieve. Pat the strained coconut with a tea towel before spreading on a sheet of baking parchment and allowing it to dry overnight.


Food is my subject so everywhere I go, I’m on the lookout for new ideas, new trends, delicious flavours, both new and traditional.…

Recently I popped over to Amsterdam, ostensibly to see the once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibition, but also to get a flavour of the food scene.

I have an enviable hot list of restaurants, cafés, bakeries, markets, wine bars passed on to me by Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni from the Netherlands.

Amsterdam feels like it would be a wonderful city to live in, meandering canals, houseboats, beautiful, elegant houses with Dutch gables reflected in the water, cycle lanes…

My head was virtually on a swivel from looking to left and right but

I managed to survive a few days without ending up on the handlebars of a super fit ‘Dutchie’s’ bike…It’s notable how few people are overweight or obese.…

More and more of the cobbled streets are like gardens with cars hidden in underground car parks.

We were super lucky to get a last-minute cancellation for a table for lunch at De Kas, a plant to plate restaurant in a series of greenhouses dating back to the 1920’s, the dynamic kitchen crew create a menu of delicious, small plates every day from their homegrown fresh herbs, vegetables and local seasonal produce. Everyone was all agog because Obama had eaten there on the previous day. He too loves beautiful, fresh, seasonal food – put De Kass on your Amsterdam list.

Just round the corner from where we were staying in the Museum Quarter, we found a super chic café and shop called Edible Treasures where we met a lovely red-haired girl from Tipperary. The Saturday Zuider Farmers Market close by was really worth checking out for the quality of its produce, I stocked up on some aged Gouda and in the midst of it all on the fish stall was Harty’s oysters from Dungarvan! Cheese lovers shouldn’t miss Betsy Kosters shop, La Amusé and a visit to Duikelman is like a wander round Aladdin’s cave for cooks and chefs…

There’s so much to discover… Ballymaloe alumni, Florence Gramende’s bakery levain et le vin on Jan Pieter Heijestraat 168 bakes some of the very best bread and pastries in Amsterdam and there’s superb coffee and a fine selection of really interesting natural wines, this is just one of many really interesting bakeries in Amsterdam. Also loved LOOF where I happily joined a queue of 20 plus people to order a couple of their superb focaccia sandwiches. There was also a long queue at Brod, another notable artisan bakery. Don’t miss the original Holtkamp in a beautiful art deco shop for a dazzling selection of pastries and apparently the best meatballs in Amsterdam.

Zacht Staal, a properly authentic farm to table restaurant is a 30 minute drive out through the beautiful flat Dutch countryside. There we found yet another restaurant in a greenhouse in the midst of a 40-hectare organic farm with lots of cool cabins and pods constructed from mainly recycled materials to snuggle up in the midst of the long grass. The chef, Kees Elferink spent a number of years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley with Alice Waters before returning to the Netherlands to open several restaurants including Marius in Amsterdam. This is his newest venture and the food was super delicious, I particularly enjoyed it.

We took a 45 minute boat ride to the Lighthouse Island, Vuurtoreneiland … to have dinner at Zomerrestaurant, a repurposed army camp, an interesting experience. Another of my favourite meals was at Restaurant VRR in a converted shipyard workers canteen, the owner Sandar Overeinder also spent time with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in California which was evident in the many plates of delicious, fresh tasting food and really impressive list of natural wines.

We also loved having lunch overlooking the canal at Buffet van Odette and at Bambino, a natural wine bar and bistro with a mainly vegetable based menu. We didn’t manage to get to their sweet little sister restaurant BAK in the former timber port of Amsterdam Houthaven but it’s definitely on the list for next time – more simple seasonal dishes.

One doesn’t necessarily associate Amsterdam with delicious food, but I have to say that my perception has completely changed. We didn’t have enough meal slots to enjoy all the recommendations we got this time. Virtually everywhere we ate and drank, the food, coffee, wine and focaccia sandwiches were super delicious and really, really good…

Here are some of the delicious dishes we enjoyed and don’t forget frites and mussels…

Roast Peppers with Anchovies, Walnuts and Chervil

A delicious little starter, inspired by Café Bambino in Amsterdam. Use the best anchovies you can find.

Serves 2

2 plump organic red peppers

6 beautiful anchovies

4 or 5 whole walnuts

sprigs of fresh chervil 

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Chargrill the red peppers on a gas jet, turning frequently until blackened all over, they should be soft and tender and completely charred. Put into a bowl, cover tightly and allow to soften in the steam for about 10 minutes. Rub off all the skin, then remove the stalk and discard all the seeds.

Open out each pepper and arrange in a square on the base of two white plates. If necessary, trim the edges to neaten.

Lay three beautiful anchovies diagonally on top of each pepper.  Crack the walnuts and divide each half into two pieces. Arrange 6 or 7 quarter walnuts and 5 little sprigs of chervil on each one.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve with crusty sourdough bread or focaccia and good butter.

A Little Spring Salad

We’ve just picked the first of our new season, broad beans… bliss!

Once again inspired by a little starter at Café Bambino in Amsterdam.  The original was made with green peppers but we used red because we had no green in the pantry. 

Serves 6

110g (4oz) of feta crumbled 

150g (5oz) cream

a tiny bit of flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

and maybe a tiny drizzle of runny honey if needed

125g red onion, diced 7mm

125g (4 1/2oz) white radish or mooli, diced 7mm (1/3 inch)

125g (4 1/2oz) organic green pepper, diced 7mm (1/3 inch)

125g (4 1/2oz) blanched and peeled broad beans (1/3 inch)

a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

a good squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

fresh dill and flowers when available.

Place the finely crumbled feta and cream into a food processor and blitz lightly until really smooth. Taste and season with a very little flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of runny honey if necessary. Mix, taste and tweak.

Dice the red onion, put into a sieve and rinse well in cold water, allow to drain.

Wash, peel and dice the white radish or mooli and green pepper, put into a bowl. 

Add the drained red onion and broad beans, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sprinkle with coarsely chopped dill. Toss, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

To Serve

Spread a generous tablespoon of feta cream on the base of each plate, sprinkle a pile of the chopped salad on top, add a few more sprigs of dill and a few fresh dill flowers if available.

Enjoy with good crusty bread. 

Dutch Cheese Croquettes

The Dutch love croquettes of all kinds – meatballs and fish fritters…

Makes about 20 croquettes

450ml (16fl oz) whole milk

225g (8oz) roux (equal quantities of butter and flour – melt the butter and cook the flour for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally)

2 egg yolks

225g (8oz) Gouda or mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1 heaped tbsp snipped fresh chives (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dijon mustard

For the coating

100g (3 1/2oz) plain flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg

dried breadcrumbs, toasted

To Serve

Ballymaloe Country Relish or a chutney of your choice

Pour the milk into a medium-size pan, bring it to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Whisk in enough roux while the milk is simmering to make a thick white sauce.  Then stir in the egg yolks, cheese and chives if using.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and add a little Dijon mustard if necessary.  Leave to cool off the heat. Shape the mixture into about 20 sausage-shaped croquettes or round balls.

To prepare the coating, place the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk the egg well.  Spread the breadcrumbs out onto another plate. Dip each croquette in the seasoned flour, then the beaten egg and roll in the toasted breadcrumbs.

These can be fried in a shallow pan but are best deep-fried at 160°C. If the oil is any hotter, the filling tends to leak out into the fryer.  To check if the oil is hot enough, drop in a breadcrumb. If it comes back up to the top relatively quickly, the oil is the perfect temperature for frying. If it immediately burns, the oil is too hot.

When the oil is at the right temperature, add the croquettes and cook for about 8 minutes turning over a few times.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with some Ballymaloe Country Relish or your favourite chutney.

Dutch Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

This will become a family favourite.

Serves 6

2 large eggs preferably free range and organic

175g (6oz) caster sugar

110g butter

150ml (5oz) creamy milk

185g (scant 6 1/2oz) plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3-4 Bramley Seedling cooking apples

25g (1oz) granulated sugar

Cinnamon Sugar

Mix 25g (1oz) caster sugar with 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon or alternatively use caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Grease and flour a 20 x 30cm roasting tin.

Whisk the eggs and the caster sugar in a bowl until the mixture is really thick and fluffy. Bring the butter and milk to the boil in a saucepan, and stir, still boiling, into the eggs and sugar. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin. Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices, arrange them overlapping on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining 25g (1oz) caster sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C/gas mark 4, for a further 15-20 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream.


Watch out when you buy your next pot of honey…

Nearly half, (46%) of the honey sold in the EU market is fake, according to a recent investigation by the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud office.

It is adulterated with cheap sugar syrup made from rice, wheat or sugar beet. Honey fraud is lucrative and apparently difficult and expensive to detect but EU countries led by Slovenia are pushing back and demanding action against the unfair competition of faux honey which as one EU official put it is basically ‘sugar water’ and is damaging the livelihoods of small beekeepers, misleading customers and discouraging would be apiarists.

The perpetrators are sophisticated fraudsters, and it seems continually ahead of the investigators in many countries.

According to Safe Food, there is no evidence to indicate that adulterated honey causes any significant health risk but this is scarcely the main issue.

The consumer has clearly been duped, paying dearly for faux honey that has been adulterated not just with sugar syrup, but also artificial colourings and additives to falsify the true botanical and geographic origin of the natural product. Much of this fake honey is imported from China, Turkey and Ukraine.

At present, honey is one of the most adulterated foods on the planet, but mostly goes undetected.

Be particularly wary of cheap honey labelled a blend of honey from EU and non-EU countries. 

Slovenia wants an end to ‘trafficked honey’ and ‘honey laundering’.

Really pure natural honey is laboursome to produce and needs to cost €7.50 or more for a jar depending on size.

Pure honey is a wonderful food with many health benefits. Its flavour and components vary significantly depending on what the bees are feeding on. You’ve all heard of the much sought after Manuka honey from New Zealand, famed for its health benefits but wait for it… research on Irish heather honey found it contained similar powerful antioxidants called phenolic compounds at a fraction of the price.

These help to prevent cell damage in the body and are important to overall health and well-being.

Honey is known to have antibacterial properties and a unique pH balance and has been used for thousands of years for healing wounds and burns.

Despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory, there is a widely held belief that local honey helps to alleviate hay fever but even if it doesn’t help it certainly won’t harm provided it is pure honey.

From earliest times, Ireland has been known for the quality of its honey hence the name, ‘the land of milk and honey’. The name Ballymaloe means the townland of sweet honey, meal means honey in Gaelic and luath is soft or sweet. These place names entered into the language over 2,000 years ago and usually reflected a particular attribute of the area.

Beekeeping was first recorded in Ireland in the 17th century, there’s been a surge in popularity in recent times and the number of beekeepers with many young people becoming involved. 

The island of Ireland produces a wide variety of honey. Early in the season, the bees collect pollen from a variety of trees, flowers, furse bushes, whitethorn, dandelion, rapeseed, wildflower, heather, apple blossom, ivy. Each has its own unique flavour and can be used accordingly.

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association and The Native Irish Honeybee Society are rich sources of information and support for beekeepers and the public. There are local beekeepers in virtually every parish in Ireland – www.irishbeekeeping.ie

So where to find real honey…go along to your local Farmers’ Markets or a shop in your local village where everyone knows everyone!

Here are a few delicious ways to enjoy honey apart from my favourite way to slather it on hot buttery toast.

Apricot, Chamomile and Honey Scones 

Taken from ‘Love Is A Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon and Night’ Claire Ptak’s new book published by Square Peg 

I’ve never been a huge fan of chamomile tea, but it’s one of my favourite baking flavours, particularly as vanilla is so ubiquitous.  I especially love it paired with apricots – they harmonise to be greater than the sum of their parts.  Add clotted cream and a perfectly buttery scone and it’s difficult to do better.

Makes 6 large scones 

For the compote:

1kg firm, ripe apricots, halved and stones removed 

½ vanilla pod 

1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers (or 2-3 teabags, opened, depending on size)

150g caster sugar 

For the scones:

280g plain flour 

1 tbsp baking powder 

2 tbsp caster sugar 

½ tsp fine sea salt 

115g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes 

100g double cream

100g whole milk 

For the egg wash:

1 egg white, beaten 

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp caster sugar 

clotted cream to serve (or use whipped cream or mascarpone)

Honey for drizzling 

First make the compote – put all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss together well.  Macerate for 1 hour to dissolve the sugar and draw the juices out of the fruit.  

Tip into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apricots have broken down a bit.  Allow to cool and then transfer to a container to chill in the fridge.  This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 (170°C fan) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. 

In a food processor; combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, then add the cold butter, blitzing until it resembles a coarse meal texture.  (You can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter).

Drizzle in the cream and milk, mixing until the dough just comes together (be careful not to overmix).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a cube shape and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  

Once rested, roll to a thickness of 2cm, then cut into 6cm rounds and place on a tray.  Chill for 20 minutes in the freezer, then remove and transfer to your lined baking tray.  Whisk together the egg wash ingredients and brush this over the chilled scones.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until springy and golden at the edges. 

Allow the scones to cool slightly before filling with compete and a dollop of the cream.  Add a drizzle of honey and serve immediately. 

Turkish Cereal

A delicious gluten-free breakfast cereal and an addictive nibble.  This recipe was given to us by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey & Co Restaurant in London.

95ml (scant 3 1/2oz) vegetable oil – coconut oil
110g (4oz) honey
110g (4oz) dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mahleb seeds or replace with freshly ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom pods
1 x packet puffed rice (160g/scant 5 1/2oz)
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) pecans, roughly chopped
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) sunflower seeds
50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds
30g (1 1/4oz) sesame seeds
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) almonds, very roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to fan 170°C/gas mark 4.

Line a couple of large flat baking trays with baking parchment.

Combine the oil, honey and sugar in a medium saucepan and set on a high heat. Mix well and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to avoid it burning on the base.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Once the honey syrup is bubbling, carefully pour it over the dry ingredients in the bowl.  Use a large spoon to stir, turning the contents of the bowl over a few times until everything is well coated with the syrup.  Transfer the mixture to the baking trays and flatten it out a little so that there is an extra there is an even layer of cereal.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove one tray at a time and mix the cereal around to make sure everything is getting roasted and crispy.  Return the trays to the oven for an additional 5-6 minutes, then remove and leave the cereal to cool entirely on the trays before breaking into large clusters.

Once the cereal is cold, transfer it to an airtight container.  This keeps for well over 2 weeks, if you don’t get addicted and eat it all before then!

Sausages with Honey and Grainy Mustard and variations

Super easy and delicious.  Everyone including children love these honey and mustard sausages, even if there are lots of other fancy bites.  They are brilliant to nibble with drinks.

Makes about 30

450g (1lb) good-quality cocktail sausages

2 tbsp Irish honey

2 tbsp Irish grainy mustard (such as Lakeshore wholegrain mustard with honey)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Prick the sausages and cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally until cooked and golden.  Baste several times during cooking.

Mix the honey with the mustard. Toss the sausages in the honey and mustard mixture and serve hot or warm. 

Sesame and Honey Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of sesame seeds to the above recipe and omit the mustard.

Honey and Rosemary Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of freshly chopped rosemary to 4 tbsp of honey.

Sweet Chilli and Lime

Use 4 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce and the juice of ½ – 1 lime, depending on size.

Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs with Honey and Mustard and Aioli

These can be cooked on the BBQ, grill or in the oven.

Serves 8 or 4 hungry people

8 organic chicken drumsticks or thighs


5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Maldon sea salt

Aioli – optional but a delicious accompaniment. 

Just add crushed garlic and chopped flat parsley to mayonnaise

Slash the drumsticks in 2 places on each side.  If using thighs, just cut through the skin side.  Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and toss the chicken in it so that all sides are evenly coated.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more.  Drain.

Sprinkle the drumsticks with sea salt and grill over medium coals, turning regularly until no trace of pink remains – about 15 minutes.  Alternatively, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, roast in a preheated oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked.

Serve with Aioli. 

Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

One of our best loved recipes and a favourite for dinner parties.

Serves 6

8 large organic or free-range chicken thighs or 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

a generous pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g (3 1/2oz) unskinned hazelnuts

70g (scant 3oz) honey

1-2 tbsp rosewater depending on strength of rosewater

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

sprigs of coriander

Mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice and water in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. 

Spread the hazelnuts out on an oven tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Chop roughly and set aside.

Reduce the temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a roasting tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably.  Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and put the tray in the oven for about 35 minutes or until nearly cooked.

While the chicken is roasting, mix the honey, rosewater and nuts together to make a rough paste.  Remove the chicken from the oven, spoon a generous amount of nut paste on to each piece and spread it to cover.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and the nuts are golden brown.

Transfer the chicken, the juices and toasted nuts to a serving dish and garnish with the sliced spring onions and coriander leaves.


Replace the hazelnuts with 100g (3 1/2oz) pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a delicious alternative.

Chilli Honey

This delicious, sweet, perky chilli honey is a delicious condiment to drizzle over pizza, bread, toast….

Makes 1 x 360g (scant 12 1/2oz) jar


1 jar (360g/scant 12 1/2oz) runny honey

2-3 tbsp chilli flakes, depending how hot you like it

pinch of salt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Pour the honey into a small saucepan, add the chilli flakes and a generous pinch of salt.  Warm gently on a medium heat, just as soon as it begins to simmer, turn off the heat and stir in the cider vinegar.  Pour into 1 or more sterilized jars.

Store in a cool dark place, no need to refrigerate.

Labneh with Medjool Dates, Pistachio and Honey

Serves 4-6

Labneh (see recipe)


6-8 Medjool dates

50g (2oz) Iranian pistachios


rose petals or wood sorrel leaves (optional)

To Serve

Put a generous 2 tbsp of labneh on each plate or in shallow bowls.

Stone the Medjool dates and slice into rounds or lengthwise. Scatter with some slivered pistachios and drizzle each with honey.  Sprinkle with rose petals or wood sorrel if available.  Serve.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labneh

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

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens.


The labneh should be like softly whipped cream.  If thicker, simply stir back in some whey. 

Bernie’s Lithuanian Honey Liquor

Bernie Ter Braak who attended our summer 12-Week Course in 2013 kindly shared this recipe with us.

Makes 2.2 – 3.4 litres (scant 4 – 6 pints) 

2 tbsp orange peel

1 tbsp lemon peel

3 sticks cinnamon (break lightly)

4-5 pods of cardamom, lightly crushed

1 nutmeg, lightly crushed

3-5 cloves (leave whole)

1 tsp fennel seed, crushed

3-4 allspice, lightly crushed

1 tsp black pepper, lightly crushed

1 tsp white pepper, lightly crushed

3-4 thin slices white ginger

3-4 thin slices red ginger (if available)

1 tbsp or 3 sticks of vanilla

a pinch of saffron (for colour)

1.3kg (3lb) honey

1.1 litres (generous 1 3/4 pints) of water

750ml (1 pint 5fl oz) vodka

Put the water into a large pot.  Simmer the dry spices until fragrant.  Add the moist spices.  When blended, add the honey, simmer but do not boil.  When the honey is dissolved, remove the spices (strainer).  Remove from any flame source and add the alcohol.  Allow to cool and bottle in sterilized containers. 

Some people drink this right away, but it is highly recommended that you allow it to mature in the bottle in a dark, cool place, for at least 6 months.  The longer it ages, the better it gets.

Portugal (Algarve)

Such a lovely surprise to get a spontaneous invitation to join my two super fit sisters for a relaxing week on the Algarve, A quick flight from drizzly, frizzly Cork to Faro and seemingly eternal sunshine. What’s not to like about blue skies, 28°C to 30°C and not a chance of rain…In this idyllic scenario, no one was mentioning last summer’s fires, but the charred remains of umbrella pines were a stark reminder of global warming, and that life is a trade off…already the temperature is several degrees higher than this month last year.

A week ago, the summer crowds had not yet descended so the restaurants and cafés were still eager and enthusiastic to welcome customers for the new season. We ate in several lovely cafés overlooking the white sandy beaches watching spectacular sunsets. As the light faded, little local fishing boats appeared along the horizon, close to the shore ‘lamping’ for squid and cuttlefish. Every menu features the beautiful fresh fish of the Algarve.

Giggi’s, close to the beach in Quinta de Lago served memorable spider crabs in the shell and delicious canilhas…the little sea snails that I love, I saved the beautiful curvaceous shells to add to the walls of the Shell House in the Ballymaloe Cookery School gardens. And then there was wild sea bass, simply grilled on the bone with a butter sauce and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, exquisitely simple. This is the signature dish on so many restaurant menus… Antonio’s, Izzy’s, Edwardo’s on the beach at Almancil….

Lots of highlights on this trip, Irish chef Johnny Pratt at Trimoulet introduced me to a board of delectable local cheeses and tempted me with wafer thin slices of cured tuna called Muxama, a new discovery for me…

I also linked up with several BCS alumni. Zé Canine and his mum, legendary restaurateur Jackie Price showed us around their farm, which supplies the Casa do Campo restaurant with fresh organic vegetables, fruit, herbs and chillies. Later we enjoyed the fruits of their gardener Fatima’s labours under the ancient fig tree in the outdoor dining room. Maria Flaminga’s organic farm and farm shop in Tavira was another exciting discovery. 

Lots of farmers’ markets and local craft in the area too, love the Saturday Market along the water’s edge in Olhão and the Loulé Market which meanders into numerous cobbled side streets. Check out the scene at O Postigo, a local taberna traditional Portuguesa or 8100 in the market, for an espresso and a pastel de nata or some of the much talked about artisan homemade ice cream. Look out for the huge squishy, juicy, red Portuguese tomatoes, local Tavira fleur de sel and a tantalising selection of salami made from the pork and blood of the long-legged black Iberian pig, studded with juicy chunks of tender fat. I also found little sachets of Aleppo pepper and many variations on the little fig and almond sweetmeats.

At the neighbourhood restaurant overlooking the sea at Vila Nova de Cacela, I particularly loved the riso con lingueirão, razor clam rice, a local Portuguese dish I love to seek out. Carob was everywhere, but somehow, I don’t love the flavour… 

For Sunday lunch, we travelled up into the hills to a busy traditional local village restaurant called A Tia Bia, where three generational families had come to tuck into fine helpings of hearty, home-cooked food. Meltingly tender, slow roast goat or pork cheeks with cabbage, wild boar stew, migos with deer, pheasant, partridge, and wild boar served in a scooped-out bread loaf.

For those of you who love fish, the market at Quarteira where the local fishermen land their catch is not to be missed. Spanking, fresh fish with many rare species not found around our coast.  Wild sea bass, (endangered in our waters), bream, Portuguese sole, corvina, eel, gurnard, gorgeous silver scabbard fish, octopus, clams, tiny conquilhas.  Beautiful little anchovies, whole or gutted, ready to be pickled or fried. Sadly, the sardine season doesn’t start until the end of May but there were pilchards and lots of superb, tinned sardines, mackerel and tuna. Sardine pâté is another Portuguese favourite often served with bread at the beginning of a meal, and then there’s Piri Piri chicken, delicious, spicy chicken that you can’t leave Portugal without tasting. There are several favourite haunts with their own interpretation, but we enjoyed SR Frango in Almancil. Their version is made with poussin, tender, delicious, spicy, but not too searingly hot. The perfect supper after a walk or cycle along the boardwalk or bird watching on the Rio Formosa lagoon and nature reserve, flamingos, bitters, storks, herons, egrets, spoonbills, hoopoes, blue magpies…

Here are some of the dishes that I’ve enjoyed recreating since my return from the beautiful Algarve.

Spider Crab with Olive Oil and Lemon

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) spider crab meat

extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade mayonnaise

1 lemon cut into eight wedges

To serve, drizzle the crab meat with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, divide between the shells.

Put a generous tablespoon of homemade mayonnaise into a little shallow bowl and pop onto the plate, add a segment of lemon and serve.

How to cook spider crabs

All types of crab are best cooked in seawater.  Alternatively, cook in well-salted freshwater.  Put the crab into a deep saucepan, cover with cold or barely lukewarm water, using 175g (6oz) of salt to every 2.3 litres (4 pints) of water.  This may sound like an incredible amount of salt but try it: the crab will taste deliciously sweet.

Cover the saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes. 

We usually pour off two-thirds of the water halfway through cooking, and then cover and steam the crab for the remainder of the time.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes, then remove the crabs, cool and pick the meat from the legs and clean and wash out the carapace. 

Piri Piri Chicken 

Careful not to make it too hot…serve with chips and lemon wedges as the Portuguese do.

Serves 4

4 chicken legs – separate the thigh and drumstick but leave the skin on and bone in

For the marinade
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoons fleur de sel or flaky salt

For the piri piri sauce
1-4 red African or Thai bird’s eye chillies, to taste
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel or flaky salt
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
1 tablespoon port or 1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

Whisk together the lemon juice and garlic for the marinade. Slash the chicken skin and put into a small roasting tin just big enough to hold it, pour the marinade over it, turn to ensure it’s well coated. Season generously with the salt, cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, roughly chop two chillies and the garlic together. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt, whizz to a purée (or use a pestle and mortar). Whisk in the paprika and oil. Taste, add more chilli if you think it needs it.

Light or heat the barbecue, if using. When it’s up to temperature, grill the chicken for 20 – 30 minutes preferably on a BBQ with a lid on.  Check when it’s almost done, brush with piri piri and cook, lid off, for about another 10 minutes, until cooked through – cooking times will depend on the size of the chicken.

Alternatively, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, roast the chicken for about 35 minutes, until cooked through, basting occasionally with its juices. Heat a grill pan to medium hot, brush the chicken with spicy piri piri, and grill for a few minutes on each side, until just starting to char.

Serve hot with some extra sauce on the side and lots of crispy chips.

Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Pasteis de Nata, the famous Portuguese custard tarts

Makes 24

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

115g (scant 4oz) golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

400ml (14fl oz) whole milk

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

a sprinkling of ground cinnamon (optional)

900g (2lb) puff pastry

Lightly grease 2 x 12 muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Put the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth.

Cook on a medium heat and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon if using.

Transfer to a Pyrex bowl, allow to cool.  Cover with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming – prick here and there to allow steam to escape.

Roll the chilled puff pastry into a 3mm (1/8 inch) thick sheet, stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) discs.  Press into the muffin tins.

Spoon a generous dessertspoon of the cool custard into each pastry case. Bake in the preheated oven for 16 – 20 minutes or golden on top and slightly charred.  Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

Portuguese Coconut Roll

The Portuguese make several riffs on this egg roll, orange, praline, caramel…I really enjoyed a coconut version at A Tia Bia restaurant on my recent trip who have taken ‘poetic licence’ by adding a layer of lemon curd but it’s also pretty delicious without it.  Careful not to overcook or it will be dry. Traditionally egg rolls were made in convents to use up a surplus of egg yolks when the white were needed for fining wine.

Serves 12

4 eggs, separated

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) softened butter

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk

50g (2oz) grated coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon baking powder

75g (3oz) plain white flour, sieved

caster sugar for dusting

2-3 tablespoons coconut

Lemon Curd (optional) (see recipe)

softly whipped cream to serve

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

1 baking tray – 32.5 x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) lined with parchment paper and brushed with melted butter

Separate the egg yolks from the whites – save the whites until later. Whisk the egg yolks and 100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar in a food mixer at medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy. 

Add the soft butter, milk, grated coconut, vanilla extract and honey.  Mix for 2-3 or until evenly incorporated (it may curdle a little but don’t worry). Mix the baking powder with the sieved flour, stir into the wet ingredients and beat on a low speed until creamy. Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy, fold gently into the mixture. Spread the dough evenly into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes approximately or until slightly golden.

Meanwhile, lay a tea towel on the worktop, cover with a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle with a mixture of caster sugar and coconut.  When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and flip the tin onto the parchment paper.  Remove the tin and carefully peel the parchment paper off the sides and base of the roll. Slather with lemon curd (optional).  Then using the towel and parchment, start to roll gently from either the long or short end depending on how chunky you would like the roll.  Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with a little more grated coconut and serve with softly whipped cream.

Lemon Curd

Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, smear it over a sponge or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues – store in a covered jar in the fridge.  It is best eaten within a fortnight.

Flavedo is the outer coloured skin of citrus fruits.

Makes 2 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

50g (2oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back of it.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)

Filhós (Portuguese Donuts)

A filhó is a traditional dessert in Portugal. Filhós are usually made by shaping balls from a mixture of flour and eggs but can be cooked in sheets. When the dough has risen, the balls or squares are deep fried and sprinkled with sugar or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

Serves 12

2 x 7g (1/4oz) active dry yeast sachets

110ml (4fl oz) warm water 

350ml (12fl oz) warm milk 

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

60g (scant 2 1/2oz) butter, softened

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

625 – 685g (1lb 5oz – 1lb 7 1/2oz) plain white flour

oil, for deep-fat frying

225 – 350g (8oz) granulated sugar

2-4 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.

Add the milk, eggs, sugar, butter and salt; beat until smooth. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough (do not knead). Start with 625g (1lb 5oz) flour, although you may need to use 685g (1lb 7 1/2oz) – the dough should not be sticky.

Place in a greased bowl, flip over to oil the top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 190°C/375°F.

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Fry for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Immediately roll warm doughnuts in the granulated sugar or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.


Sustainable continues to be quite the buzzword with many awards being meted out to establishments and companies who are making strides in this area. Yet Ireland with its clean, green image still ranks very poorly on the (SDG’s) Sustainable Development Goal’s. Having said that, we have apparently moved from 11th out of 15 comparable countries in the EU in 2022 to 10th out of 14 this year on the Sustainable Progress Index. Confusing or what…
Overall though, it seems the general public are anxious to make a difference and long for bold, courageous leaders to show us the way with legislation and incentives.
We fear that time is running out for our planet and desperately want to play our part in making a difference in the many little ways we can in our own environment.
Well, by coincidence, a brilliant new book I’d ordered recently arrived on my desk last week, It’s entitled ‘The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z’ by Tamar Adler, author of yet another gem, ‘Something Old, Something New’.
Regular readers of this column, and those of you who have been to the Cookery School will be aware that I have always loved to use up leftovers. It’s not a recent conversion on the road to Damascus…for me it’s almost like a game…I get terrific satisfaction out of using up leftovers deliciously. Plus, those of us who were brought up by parents who lived through the war and rationing will feel a kind of culinary caution until our final days. Butter, meat and eggs, no matter how plentiful are not to be lightly wasted. In the words of M.F.K Fisher, ‘there can be no more shameful carelessness than with the food we eat for itself’.
I suppose that dates back to my childhood, when wasting anything even a piece of spare string wasn’t an option, we actually washed and hung out plastic bags to dry on the clothesline in the early days…
I reckon to be able to do a ton of riffs on leftover bits of this and that but Tamar Adler has 1,500 recipes ‘for cooking with economy and grace’.
Here at the Cookery School, we have a ‘Leftover of the Day’ suggestion, so the students learn the art and skill of using up leftovers, creatively – an essential part of their culinary training.
After all, costs are so high and margins so small nowadays that the chef’s attitude to waste can quite easily be the difference between profit and loss in the hospitality business.
There is waste at every level in many different areas of production. There can be phenomenal waste in the vegetable and food sector on the farm, partly to do with the tight specifications on size and shape for the retail trade, but also for traditional reasons. Forever, we’ve chopped off and discarded the green tops of leeks and cauliflowers…dumped the turnip greens so sought-after in many countries.
Young beetroot, stalks and greens are delicious in salads or wilted with a lump of good butter or doused in a good extra-virgin olive oil.
The tender sprouting shoots at the end of the kale or broccoli crop are a true delicacy, meltingly tender. They ought to be sold at twice the price, that’s if you could even get them. Bravo to the Organic Stall at the Skibbereen Farmers’ Market for introducing them to their customers. Many will already know how good those thick broccoli stems are peeled and grated into coleslaw – free, delicious and nutritious food.
Use the tough ends of the asparagus that’s in season at present to make a simple asparagus stock… Remember you have paid a premium price for it, so use the stock to make an asparagus risotto.
Throw garlic and ginger peelings into a ‘stock box’ in the freezer with other vegetable peelings and fresh herb stalks to make a celebration pot of stock every now and then when you have the time.
The new season’s vegetables are jumping out of the ground right now. Don’t waste a scrap – we’re using broad bean shoots in soups, add to stews, gratins, risotto, frittatas, melted greens or use fresh in salads…
And on and on, once you begin to think zero waste, it becomes like an exciting challenge.
Enjoy the fun and feel-good factor of working towards being sustainable.

Soda Bread and Butter Pudding with Cheese and Herbs 

A delicious way to use up a few little slices of stale soda bread, vary the fresh herbs as you please.

Serves 4-6

12 slices of wheaten bread (brown soda bread) – 330g (generous 11oz) approx.

50g (2oz) butter 

2 teaspoons each of chopped thyme, rosemary and chives

100g (3 1/2oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

8 organic eggs 

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk  

1 x 1.2 litre dish, generously buttered

Butter the slices of soda bread.

Arrange half the bread side by side in the dish butter side up, allowing a little space between each slice. Sprinkle with half the chopped herbs and half the grated cheese. 

Whisk the eggs with the milk.  Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Carefully pour half the egg mixture into the dish, making sure that the slices are evenly covered. Arrange the remainder of the soda bread on top.Pour the rest of the custard over the surface. Scatter with the remaining herbs and cheese.  Leave to soak for 30 minutes or more if time allows. 

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

When ready, pop the dish into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the custard has puffed and the bread is golden brown at the edges.  Cover loosely with parchment paper if it’s getting too dark on top. Check that the custard is set in the middle – a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the centre, but careful not to overcook.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves in season. 

Ballymaloe Risotto with Asparagus

Everyone needs to be able to whip up a risotto, comfort food at its best and a base for so many good things, from crispy pork lardons or kale to foraged nettles…

Serves 6

225g (8oz) precious Irish asparagus, in season now

1 – 1.3 litres (1 3/4 – 2 1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock made from the asparagus ends

50g (2oz) butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

400g (14oz) risotto rice, such as arborio, carnaroli, or Vialone Nano

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino

sea salt

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices at an angle.

Bring the stock to the boil, reduce the heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.  Melt half the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes until soft but not coloured.  Add the rice and stir until well coated.  Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (5fl oz) of the simmering stock, stir continuously, and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (5fl oz) of stock.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly.  The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside.  If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey.  It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously.

The risotto should take 25-30 minutes to cook.

After about 20 minutes, add the stock about 4 tablespoons at a time.  I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on.  The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly al dente.  It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick.  The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the asparagus plus the remaining butter and Parmesan, taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve immediately on hot plates.

Alternatively, you can pre-cook the rice for finishing later.  After about 10 minutes of cooking, taste a grain or two between your teeth.  It should be firm, slightly gritty, definitely undercooked but not completely raw.  Remove the risotto from the saucepan and spread it out on a flat dish to cool as quickly as possible.  The rice can be reheated later with some of the remaining stock and the cooking and finishing of the risotto can be completed.  Risotto does not benefit from hanging around – the texture should be really soft and flowing.

Pasta Frittata

Taken from The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z by Tamar Adler published by Scribner

3 eggs (whisked with a little salt)

400 – 600g (14oz – 1 1/4lb) cooked pasta

olive oil

30g (1 1/4oz) chopped parsley (optional)

freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Heat the oven to 190°C/375F°/Gas Mark 5.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and salt, stir in the other ingredients.

Heat a 20.5 – 23cm (8 – 9 inch) ovenproof saucepan over a medium heat.  Coat well with olive oil.  Add the egg mixture and move the set part toward the middle a few times.  As soon as the sides have started to cook, transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Cool briefly in the pan, then turn out onto a serving plate.  Frittatas are better served at room temperature than hot.

Egg Salad Fried Rice

Taken from The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z by Tamar Adler published by Scribner

2-3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil

3 tablespoons sliced or chopped onion or scallion

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

250g (9oz) leftover cold cooked rice


anything else you want in your fried rice

1-3 tablespoons egg salad (see recipe)

Hea a wide pan or wok.  Add the oil, onion or scallion and garlic, fry for 5 seconds then add the rice.  Spread the rice over the surface of the pan and add salt to taste.  When it seems like every grain has had a moment to fry, scoop the rice all together, add anything you want and the egg salad and stir it through. 

Egg Salad

boiled eggs




grated lemon zest

minced chives

Smash the eggs with a fork and mix in mayonnaise sparingly.  You can always add more.  Pound the garlic to a paste with a little salt.  Add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon garlic paste for every 2 eggs, then sprinkle with lemon zest and minced chives.  Mix, taste and adjust seasoning. 

Brown Bread Ice Cream

This is also known as ‘poor man’s praline ice cream’ because it gives a similar texture but uses cheaper ingredients. This is a great way to use up brown soda or wholemeal yeast breadcrumbs that would otherwise be wasted.

Serves 12–16

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream (see recipe)

350g (12oz) brown soda or wholemeal yeast breadcrumbs

150g (5oz) vanilla sugar

150g (5oz) soft dark-brown sugar

Make the Ballymaloe vanilla ice cream and freeze.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Spread the chunky breadcrumbs on a baking tray. Sprinkle with sugar and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Stir every 4 or 5 minutes until the sugar caramelises and coats the breadcrumbs. Turn out onto a Silpat mat and leave to cool. Pulse the caramelised breadcrumbs into small, chunky bits in a food-processor. When the ice cream is semi-frozen, fold in the mixture and freeze until fully frozen.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks

100g (3 1/2oz) sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise, it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.


I’m not the only one who gets excited about rhubarb. A recent post on our Instagram page of one of our students uncovering a forcing pot in the garden got over 3 1/2 million hits and 394 comments….
As a little girl, stewed rhubarb and custard was a favourite pudding. When I came to Ballymaloe in the late 1960’s, I discovered super delicious, rhubarb fool, which is simply softly whipped cream folded into stewed rhubarb. We love to serve it with shortbread biscuits. Try this version of the biscuit, made with half wholemeal flour and half white, it was an inspired find from a student’s experiment on the last 12-week course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Don’t waste a drop of the leftover juice, it makes a delicious lemonade or a rhubarb fizz…
Rhubarb is a kind of enigma… a vegetable masquerading as a fruit, pink and tart, plentiful, versatile and perennial. So, once you plant a few stools in your garden or flowerbed, (why not) it will re-emerge in Spring every year to delight you after the long Winter.
Older people used to speak of how it would clear the blood… We have just moved from the pale pink rhubarb forced under terracotta cloches or in dark sheds to the outdoor garden crop. The latter is tarter and a little less tender, but I love both and use it in a myriad of delicious ways, mostly cooked, but my Danish friend Camilla Plum introduced me to this raw rhubarb, cucumber and mint salad. The thinly sliced rhubarb is raw and tart, a delicious combination.
Have you tried serving stewed rhubarb with a pork chop yet? A delicious combination and rhubarb sauce is particularly tasty with a few freshly cooked pan grilled mackerel. It also cuts the sweetness of a meringue roulade. And how about rhubarb, ginger and sweet geranium jam…I’ve just filled a sponge cake with this jam and some softly whipped cream… it was a big hit to say the least…
Here are several of our new favourites to try and don’t forget to freeze a few bags of chopped rhubarb. It freezes brilliantly and it’s particularly good for jams. Combine with strawberries when they come into season for a really memorable flavour combination
If you don’t have your own homegrown rhubarb yet, seek it out in a local shop or Farmers Market but best of all swing by a Garden Centre and buy a few plants for your garden.

Raw Rhubarb, Cucumber and Mint Salad

Do try this fresh-tasting combination from Camilla Plum, you’ll be surprised how delicious it is.

Serves 4

2-3 stalks of young red rhubarb

1/2 crisp cucumber

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 handfuls of rocket leaves

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

local wildflower honey or sugar to taste

fistful of shredded mint leaves

Using a vegetable slicer such as a mandolin or a thin-bladed knife, cut the rhubarb slightly on the diagonal into very thin slices.  Repeat with the peeled cucumber.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber in a bowl with the sea salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes; rinse and drain.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber with the rocket leaves in a salad bowl.  Drizzle with lemon juice and a little honey or sugar to taste. 

Scatter the mint leaves over the top and toss gently.  It should be fresh tasting.

Serve with pan-grilled salmon, grey sea mullet or sea bass.

Rhubarb Sauce

Delicious served as an accompaniment with roast pork, duck or grilled mackerel.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

110g (4oz) sugar

Put the rhubarb into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the sugar and toss around, leave for 5 or 10 minutes until the juice from the rhubarb starts to melt the sugar.   Then, cover the saucepan and put on a gentle heat, cook until soft.  Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.  It should not be too sweet but should not cut your throat either.   If you have a spoonful of really good redcurrant jelly, stir it in at the end, otherwise leave it out.   Serve warm.

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Pistachios

We love to arrange the rhubarb in a chevron pattern but of course one can just scatter it on the base, not so pretty but equally delicious. 

Serves 10-12 

Rich Shortcrust Pastry 

225g (8oz) plain white flour 

175g (6oz) cold butter

pinch of salt 

1 dessertspoon icing sugar 

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind (save a little egg wash for the pastry shell)


600g (1 1/4lb) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces 

2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is


2 large or 3 small eggs 

3 tablespoons caster sugar  

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

300ml (10fl oz) cream 


40g (1 1/2oz) coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin or 2 x 18cm (7 inch) tart tins 

Make the shortcrust pastry.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your 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.   Add the icing sugar.

Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Using a fork to stir, 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.

Wrap in parchment paper and leave to relax in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.  It will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and also freezes well.

Line the tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes.  

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans.

Bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. 

Remove the paper and beans (save for another use). Paint the tart base with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.   

Arrange the cut rhubarb close together in a pattern on the base of the tart shell (could be in lines, chevron or in circles). Sprinkle with 2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is.  Forced rhubarb is sweeter than garden rhubarb.  

Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons caster sugar, vanilla extract and add the cream. Strain this mixture through a sieve, pour carefully into the tart shell around and over the rhubarb.  Cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Sprinkle a 2.5cm (1 inch) rim of coarsely chopped pistachios around the edge of the tart.   Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream. 

Good to know…

A little reduced rhubarb syrup or redcurrant jelly painted over the top enhances both flavour and appearance

Meringue Roulade with Roast Rhubarb, Rosewater Cream and Crystallised Rose Petals

A gorgeous combination of flavour and textures – always a wow for a dinner party.  Rosewater varies in intensity, add 1 teaspoon first, taste and add more if necessary.

Serves 6 – 8

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) castor sugar


300ml (10fl oz) softly whipped cream flavoured with 1-2 teaspoons rose water

Roast Rhubarb (see recipe)


sprigs of mint, lemon balm or sweet cicely


Crystallised Rose Petals *see note at end of recipe

Swiss roll tin 30.5 x 20.5cm (12 x 8 inch) or 33 x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) for a thinner roulade

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

First make the Roast Rhubarb (see recipe).

Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer.  Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together.  Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak, 10 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (e.g., sunflower oil).

Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. 

Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work top and turn the roulade onto it.  Remove the base paper and allow to cool in the tin.

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and drained roast rhubarb over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6-8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate as you wish with crystallised rose petals and mint leaves.  Serve, cut into slices about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.

Note:  This roulade is also very good filled with fresh raspberries, loganberries, sliced ripe peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Roast Rhubarb

A dish of roasted fruit couldn’t be simpler – rhubarb, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches, apples, pears.  Once again, I love to add some freshly chopped herbs, e.g., rose geranium or verbena to the sugar or the accompanying cream.  

I’ve become a huge fan of the sweet and intense flavour of roast rhubarb

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb

200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6.

Stainless steel or non-reactive ovenproof dish, 45cm x 30cm (18 inch x 12 inch) (size depends slightly on the thickness of the rhubarb)

Trim the rhubarb stalks if necessary.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in an oven proof dish.  Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for an hour or more, until the juice starts to run. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks – until the rhubarb is just tender. 

Serve alone or with ice-cream, panna cotta, labneh or thick Jersey cream…

Good to know – uncover the rhubarb after 10 minutes for more caramelisation

Rhubarb Fizz

Purée the roast rhubarb, put 1-2 tablespoons in a glass, top up with Prosecco or Cava or sparkling water or soda water for a non-alcoholic fizz.

*Crystallised Rose Petals

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box with an airtight lid.

Rhubarb Fool

This simple combo is amazingly delicious for little effort.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g (6oz) sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml (8-10fl oz) softly whipped cream

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Ruth’s Wholemeal Shortbread Biscuits

Thank you to Ruth O’Connell who recently attended our 12-Week Course for sharing this recipe – simply divine!

Makes approx. 20 biscuits

100g (3 1/2oz) wholemeal plain flour

75g (3oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

vanilla sugar

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter until a pastry-like dough is formed. Knead lightly. Flour the work surface. Roll out to approx. 7mm (1/3 inch) thick. Cut into rounds. Place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 9-11 minutes, turning the tray in the oven halfway through baking. You want the biscuits to be golden and slightly crispy. Remove to a cooling rack and sprinkle with sieved vanilla sugar, while still warm.


The scraps of dough can be re-rolled easily, and any extra dough can be stored in the fridge until ready to use.


California here I come…

Ever since I started the cooking school with my brother Rory O’Connell in September 1983, I’ve tried to go to California at least every second year to check out what’s happening on the food scene and to get an idea of the trends that are coming our way.

Originally it would take 4 to 5 years before things became mainstream over here. Needless to say, nowadays with social media, ideas travel much, much faster. Nonetheless, a visit to the West Coast can keep one ahead of the curve for at least a year or two.

The main raison d’etre for the trip was to attend several events to celebrate the launch of The Ballymaloe Desserts book, written by JR Ryall, Head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, who worked alongside Myrtle Allen for many years, and carefully carries on the tradition of a sweet trolly piled high with the irresistible sweet treats that the guests have looked forward to at the end of their Ballymaloe meal for almost 60 years. JR has also added many of his own specialties to the repertoire, gradually over the years always respecting Myrtle’s philosophy and flavours…

The first event was in Los Angeles at Lulu in the Hammer Museum. JR, collaborated with former Chez Panisse chef, David Tanis and his wonderful team to recreate a selection of Ballymaloe deserts. The second event was at Caldo Verde in the Proper Hotel downtown. Both events were sold out and oversubscribed, and the fun thing for us was that so many people who had come to Ballymaloe over the years turned up to dinner as well as lots of Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni. It was like a wonderful party every night, The flavours brought back memories for so many, and sent them all on a trip down memory lane…

The food at Lulu was absolutely delicious, totally seasonal, small plates of good things made from ingredients carefully chosen at the crack of dawn from the Farmers Market by in-house, forager, Dorothy Pirtle…

I visited four different Farmers’ Market in LA, Santa Monica and South Pasadena with Dorothy and was fascinated to discover that she was not the only Forager, dashing from stall to stall just as soon as the markets opened to find the choicest things. All the top restaurants in LA were sourcing from the farmers market with the passionate young foragers from each establishment vying with each other to pick up the freshest items to put on their menu. That’s what I mean by walking the walk not just talking the talk…an all-too-common practice over this side of the world.

Apart from Lulu, I visited several other restaurants including Great White on Melrose owned by past student, Juan Ferriero and his wife Liza, who met and became engaged at the Cookery School in 2019.

There I enjoyed, possibly the best burger of my entire trip, which Juan was happy to tell me included 20% juicy beef fat, the reason for its succulence and delicious flavour. I was so proud of him…

So, what trends did I notice…Well, there was Crudo, (raw fish) in some shape or form on virtually every menu. Oysters were everywhere with the tasting plates from different bays around the coast, Tinned fish is a huge trend and virtually every café has a canned fish offering, not just sardines, tuna and salmon, but octopus, cockles and clams, mussels, mackerel…There was even a café in Grand Central Market in LA called Kippered…

It was right in the middle of the date and citrus fruit season, delicious, juicy fruit, but my best find was several varieties of kumquats that one can eat, skin and all, bittersweet and gorgeous, unlike the variety we get over here, which is altogether more bitter and really needs to be cooked.

Lots of Korean, Japanese food and Japanese ingredients even at the farmers markets. Greatly enjoyed our meal at The Ramen Shop in Oakland, put it on your list if you’re heading for the West Coast. Mother Wolf Restaurant on Wilcox Ave also richly deserves a mention. LA really is throbbing.

Sadly, San Francisco feels like a busted flush, very much a victim of its own success. Real estate has become so crazily expensive that restaurant staff simply cannot afford to live in the city, or even in Oakland or Berkeley. In the midst of it all, there is a beyond appalling homeless problem. I spoke to a dog walker who told me he was earning $150,000 a year but still could not afford to live in San Francisco…such a beautiful city if you have money but it’s in crisis at present. I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle on my way home and there in the property section were houses advertised for $20 and $24 million despite the techie crisis…

Feels like San Francisco is no longer leading the way, although I did have several delicious meals there too including one at Zuni, where there was yet another launch for the Ballymaloe Deserts Book, might be the most launched book that ever was…

Everything I ate at Rintaro, the Japanese restaurant on 14th Street was memorable, I also loved several café bakeries and salon du thé… Don’t miss the flaky buttery Kouign-Amann at b patisserie on California St and superb baking in the The French Spot on Larkin St., a rundown part of town where you get a full-on glimpse of the other side of San Francisco but well worth a visit for the superb viennoiserie and coffee and The Mill on Divisadero where they do the most expensive but utterly delicious toast in town…Anyone for almond butter, sea salt and honey on whole-grain sourdough toast $7 or egg, garlic sage butter, flaky, sea salt and pepper on country bread for $9. Despite the prices, there’s a line out the door from morning till night, because all the toasts are super delicious.

I’ve run out of space, but I want to share a few recipes for some of the delicious things I enjoyed on my recent visit to California.

Crudo with Salmon Eggs and Fennel Flowers

One of the many crudo recipes we love.

Serves 8-10

450g (1lb) very fresh mackerel, bream or sea bass

freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon

salmon eggs

24-50 fennel sprigs (or flowers in season) depending on size

flaky sea salt

Chill the starter plates.

Fillet the fish, if necessary and spoon some of the freshly squeezed juice over the fish. Cover and chill for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness. Slice into paper thin slices. Arrange in a line of overlapping slices in the centre of the plate, spoon little blobs of salmon eggs along the middle and decorate with fennel sprigs and flowers in season. Serve immediately.

Egg in a Hole

Inspired by Mill Bakery in San Francisco. 

A feast for one.

1 thick slice of country bread, 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

Garlic and Sage Butter

25g (1oz) butter

1-2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped

a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1-2 cloves garlic, well crushed

1 fresh organic egg

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

First, make the garlic and sage butter.

Cream the butter in a bowl, stir in the sage and a few drops of lemon juice at a time.  Add the crushed garlic.  Use immediately or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.  Refrigerate.

Heat a non-stick pan on a low to medium heat.

Remove a circle of bread from the centre of the slice of bread, slather one side with garlic and sage butter. Pop onto the pan, butter side down, cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and buttery on the base. Flip over, then butter the top side. Crack an egg into a cup and slide into the cavity. Cover the pan with a Pyrex lid or a plate and continue to cook until the egg is just set in the centre. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and a little freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy immediately.

David Tanis’s Chickpea Salad with Green Chutney

This salad is also delicious topped with roasted small potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, cauliflower or any other seasonal vegetable.  

Serves 4-6

375g (13oz) dry chickpeas, soak overnight. 

Next day, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until cooked. 

Alternatively use 850g (1lb 14oz) cooked chickpeas

Green Chutney

50g (2oz) coriander leaves and tender stems

10g (scant 1/2oz) mint leaves

50g (2oz) baby spinach leaves

1 Serrano or jalapeño chilli (add more chilli if you like it hotter)

good pinch of salt

2 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons water to bind


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice


4-6 radishes, thinly sliced

2-3 ‘jammy’ soft-boiled eggs, halved

fresh coriander, roughly chopped

To make the green chutney.

Purée all the ingredients in a blender – add the water if necessary.  This makes a bright green medium spicy green chutney.  Best used on the day it is made.

Drain the chickpeas and place in a deep wide bowl. Season generously with salt and a drizzle with the olive oil. Add the toasted ground cumin, garam masala and a pinch of cayenne. Add a good squeeze of lime. Toss well, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, add 2-3 tablespoons green chutney and toss again. Serve the remaining green chutney in a separate bowl.

To Serve

Garnish each serving with the soft egg half, some thinly sliced radishes and coriander.

Zuni Café Roast Chicken with Warm Bread Salad

‘You don’t need a brick oven for this perfect roast chicken from the legendary chef Judy Rodgers — but you do need a hot one, and a day or so to dry-brine the bird before using it. If you don’t have the time to dry-brine, don’t. You’ll still end up with one of the best roast chickens you’ve ever had. Just dry the bird really well with paper towels before seasoning and dab it again before putting it into the sizzling pan. Rodgers’s technique, which involves drying and seasoning the chicken, then flipping it while cooking, results in a wonderfully browned bird, with crackling skin and moist meat. Serve it over a bread salad, as she did, or with well-dressed greens and a baguette. You win either way.’

Serves 2-4

1 small chicken, 1.2-1.6kg (2 3/4 – 3 1/2lbs)

4 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage

sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt 1-2 days before serving. Remove the lump of fat inside the chicken (render for roast potatoes). Pat the chicken very dry (a wet chicken won’t brown).

Slide a finger under the skin of each of the chicken breasts, making 2 little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Push an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Using about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt per 450g (1lb) of chicken and pepper to taste, season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity and on the backbone. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10 or as low as 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 during roasting to brown the chicken properly.

Choose a shallow roasting tin or dish barely larger than the chicken or use a 25cm (10 inch) saucepan with a metal handle. Preheat the tin over a medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the tin – it should sizzle.

Place in the centre of the oven and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce the temperature slightly. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the tin should keep the skin from sticking). Roast for another 10-20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5-10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45-60 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the roasting tin and put on a plate. Pour the clear fat from the tin, leaving the drippings. Add about 1 tablespoon of water to the hot tin and swirl. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting tin to drain the juice into the drippings. As the chicken rests, tilt the roasting tin and skim the last of the fat. Place over a medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and pour the tin drippings over the chicken.

Warm Bread Salad

This is, quite possibly, the bread salad to end all bread salads. Judy Rodgers, the legendary chef and bread lover, developed it to serve alongside roast chicken, but it’s perfect paired with any roast meat. Bread chunks are mixed with a sharp vinaigrette, softened currants, toasted pine nuts and lightly cooked scallions and garlic. Everything is piled into a roasting pan then slid into the oven just before the chicken comes out and stays in while the chicken rests (if you’re not making it with chicken, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, turn it off and pop the salad in for 15 minutes). At the last minute, toss the bread mixture with arugula and vinaigrette. Top with the jointed Zuni Café roast chicken.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon dried currants

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon warm water

2 tablespoons pine nuts or cashew nuts

225-300g (8 -10oz) slightly stale ciabatta or other open-textured white bread

8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar, approximately

salt and coarsely ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, slivered

25g (1oz) thinly sliced scallions

4 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock

110g (4oz) rocket leaves or mustard greens, rinsed and dried

Place the currants in a small dish, add the red wine vinegar and warm water, and set aside.

Heat the grill. Place the pine nuts or cashew nuts in a small baking dish, and toast under the grill until very lightly coloured. Set aside.

Cut the bread into three or four large chunks. Closely trim off most of the crust and reserve, if desired, to toast and use for breadcrumbs or croutons. Brush the bread all over with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Briefly grill the bread chunks, turning until crisp and golden on the surface. Remove from the oven, trim off any charred tips, and tear the chunks into the irregular pieces, from 5cm (2 inch) wads to large crumbs. Place in a wide metal, glass or ceramic salad bowl.

Whisk 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil with 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons of this dressing over the bread and toss.

Place one tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and scallions, and cook, stirring constantly over a low heat until softened but not coloured. Add to bread and fold in with the drained currants and pine nuts. Drizzle the salad with stock and toss. Taste a couple pieces of bread. Add a little more vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary. Toss well, and transfer to a baking dish. Cover loosely.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

About 30 minutes before serving.

Put the bread salad in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Return the salad to a bowl. Add the greens, remaining vinaigrette, and enough of the remaining olive oil so the bread is not dry. Toss again. Serve with Zuni Café roast chicken.

Lulu in LA Bay Leaf Ice Cream

Special thanks to David Tanis for sharing this exquisite ice cream recipe.

Makes 10-12

900ml (1 1/2 pints) of milk

450ml (16fl oz) cream

15 fresh bay leaves

1 pinch of salt

1 cinnamon stick, break in half

260g (scant 9 1/2oz) caster sugar

peel of 1 organic lemon

12 egg yolks

Put all the ingredients except the egg yolks in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring slowly to the shivery stage, turn off the heat and allow the flavours to macerate for at least an hour.

Whisk 12 egg yolks until light and fluffy gradually pour on the flavoured liquid whisking all the time.

Return to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly backwards and forwards with a straight end wooden spoon until the light crème anglaise coats the back of the spoon. Pour into a stainless-steel bowl and chill over ice, stirring regularly.

Churn in an ice cream machine.

Serve a ball of ice cream in chilled bowls on top of a blob of softly whipped cream (yes, that’s not a misprint)

Sprinkle with bay leaf dust and serve as soon as possible.

Bay leaf dust.

Dry the fresh bay leaves in a dehydrator until crisp, about 24 hours at 46°C/115°F (alternatively, hang up somewhere to dry at room temperature for a couple of days).  Whizz in a clean spice grinder, sieve, and store in a dark sealed glass jar.


Have you been fantasizing about a little break? how about a staycation of a few days break in Ireland…

I’ve just had an action-packed weekend in Belfast and I can tell you the city is rocking. The food scene is exploding, and I certainly couldn’t manage to fit all my ‘must do’s into my available meal slots, I’ll have to go back for more…
If you feel like driving, it’s an easy road trip from Cork but I hopped on the train to Dublin, took the Luas to Connolly Station and onto the super comfortable Enterprise to Belfast.
I had a long list of places to visit, delis, cafés, cool shops and of course restaurants.  St. George’s Street market on Friday or Saturday is a must. Pick up some soda farls and potato bread…Sunday is mostly for bric-a-brac hunters…
I also loved Mike Thompson‘s cheese shop on Little Donegal Street, a fantastic selection of cheese as well as his own raw milk blue veined, Young Buck, the first artisan cheese to be made in Northern Ireland after the troubles… Mike is a great fan of Hegarty‘s cheese and I also bought a Cavanbert made by another pioneer farmhouse cheesemaker Silke Cropp from Co Cavan…. I also added a little roll of Abernethy’s handmade butter and some charcuterie from the Cole family in Broughgammon.
Then onto a new Nordic influenced bakery round the corner on Donegal Street called Bakari owned by Jack Mowbray.  A really interesting range of breads and viennoiserie, many made from heirloom wheat.
Bread and Banjo on the Ormeau Road is another place to swing by for properly good artisan breads.
Foodies who don’t have time to do research, but want to pack as much as possible into a delicious weekend could sign up for one of several food tours. Caroline Wilson of Belfast Food Tours comes highly recommended.
We had a delicious dinner of small plates at Niall McKenna‘s Waterman House restaurant and the most delicious smoked ham with really good house-made sourdough bread and brown butter. Chef Cathal Duncan told me that they smoke the streaky bacon in their Little Green Egg barbecue and smoker. It was so good that I begged for some for my picnic on the train and I have to tell you that I was the envy of all my fellow travellers….
I also loved their arancini with celeriac and Young Buck purée and the pressed potato slices and the scallops with Jerusalem artichokes and…Top Tip – check out the schedule at the Waterman Cookery School www.waterman.house
Of course I wanted to get back to Michelin starred OX but didn’t make it this time…. Everyone says lunch is brilliant value for money at £40-45.
I did however get out to FRAE in Holywood (10 minutes by train or a bit longer by car). Loved Shaun Tinman’s eclectic little bites and little plates. The jambons made with ham hock and Coolea cheese were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Even the bread from the Bara Bakehouse in Comber and the homemade butter were exceptional. The last of the squashed roasties with caramelised garlic could be the subject of a serious row…see frae_range on Instagram If you can’t bag a table there, (only 20+ seats), I believe Noble on Church Street in Holywood is also worth a detour.
Used to be that shops, restaurants and cafés were not allowed to open before noon on Sundays, to facilitate those who wished to go to church, but that’s all changed now that tourists are pouring back into Belfast from all over the world, all desperate for a Sunday brunch.
There is so much happening around the Cathedral Quarter. For those who want super lux accommodation, the Merchant Hotel is right there, in the midst of all the pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés.
I return to Established Coffee on Hill St every time we visit Belfast and it’s still as good as ever, superb coffee, pastries and brunch dishes. Everyone raves about Neighbourhood Café too.  The Dirty Onion pub and Yardbird are close by too. It’s just around the corner on Donegall St and is owned by Ryan Crown and Oisin McEvoy.  I didn’t make it this time cause the queue was so long, I would’ve missed my train, but friends raved about the Turkish eggs with garlic yoghurt, chilli butter, dill and sourdough…
I also missed lunch at Yügo which does the most delectable Asian fusion tapas on Wellington St by just a few minutes. As I left, I was deeply envious of the diners, tucking into exciting looking multi-ethnic plates.  It too gets many plaudits from choosy critics.
Lots of cool shops of course but this is a food column.
I hasten to add that I have no affiliation to any of these places, those I recommend are just personal picks.
Thank you to the chefs who shared recipes for some of the dishes that I enjoyed so much on my brief interlude in Belfast city.

Waterman House Arancini with Young Buck Custard

Makes 50 approx./Serves 12

500g (18oz) arborio risotto rice

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) vegetable stock

1 shallot, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

150ml (5fl oz) white wine

1 celeriac, peeled and chopped (750g – 800g/1lb 10oz – 1 3/4lbs approx.)

100g (3 1/2oz) Parmesan, finely grated

200g (7oz) butter

200ml (7fl oz) whipping cream

250g (9oz) Young Buck blue cheese, rind removed and crumbled

4 eggs, beaten with a fork

250ml (9fl oz) double cream

150ml (5fl oz) milk

flour, egg and breadcrumbs to bread arancini

oil for deep frying

To make Young Buck custard, heat the milk and cream to a simmer, pour mixture over the beaten eggs, whisk well and return to the saucepan.  Continue to cook over a gentle heat until the mixture has thickened slightly, if you have a temperature probe 82°C is the perfect temperature. Once the custard has thickened, pour over crumbled blue cheese, mix well and transfer to a blender. Blitz until smooth and chill until needed.

To make celeriac purée, sweat the chopped celeriac in half the butter until well softened, add the cream and bring to a simmer. Once the cream has reduced by half, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, reserve.

To make the risotto base.

Sweat the shallots, garlic, and thyme in a little olive oil until soft, add in rice, stir well ensuring each grain of rice is coated in the olive oil.  Allow the rice to toast for a couple of minutes until it takes on a translucent appearance. Add the wine and reduce completely over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Gradually add the vegetable stock to the rice one ladleful at a time, it will take around 12 minutes to thoroughly cook the rice, you may not need all the stock. The rice should be well cooked but still holding its shape, when you have reached this stage, add the remaining butter and Parmesan along with 500g (18oz) of the celeriac purée, season well with salt and pepper. Spread the risotto mixture out on a baking sheet and chill.

Once the risotto is completely cold, roll into 20-25g (3/4 – 1oz) balls and chill for 30 minutes. Then coat the balls seasoned in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs.  Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 170°C and fry arancini for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Gently warm the blue cheese custard without boiling.  Serve the arancini on top of the custard and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

Waterman House Seared Scallops with Jerusalem Artichoke & Truffle Jus

Serves 4

12 medium scallops, cleaned and roes removed

10 large Jerusalem artichokes, washed

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) cream

500g (18oz) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

50g (2oz) preserved truffles, finely chopped

50ml (2fl oz) truffle oil

10ml (scant 1/2fl oz) chardonnay/white wine vinegar

1 small shallot, finely diced


2 litres (3 1/2 pints) beef stock

freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the artichoke purée.

Roughly chop 4 of the artichokes and sweat gently in 100g (3 1/2oz) of the butter until soft, add the milk and cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook out until the liquid has reduced by half, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, season with salt and reserve.

To make truffle butter, combine 250g (9oz) of butter with the truffles, oil, vinegar and shallot and season with salt. Roll the butter mixture in parchment paper and reserve in the fridge.

To make the artichoke crisps.

Slice 2 of the artichokes very thinly on a mandolin and put into a pan of cold water.  Bring to the boil and drain immediately, spread the artichokes out on a tray and allow to cool.  Pat dry with kitchen paper and deep fry at 160°C until crisp, season with salt and reserve in an airtight container.

Put the remaining artichokes in a pan of cold water and simmer until tender, remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, slice the artichokes in half and heat the remaining butter until it is foaming. Place the artichoke in the pan cut side down; cook gently on the stove until the artichokes start to take on some colour. Place the pan into the oven at 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 for 25-30 minutes or until the artichokes are well coloured. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

For the truffle sauce, reduce the beef stock by two-thirds or until it starts to thicken, gradually whisk in the cold, diced truffle butter until you reach a nice saucy consistency.

To cook the scallops, heat a frying pan until very hot and sear the scallops on one side until golden brown, turn the scallops over and reduce the heat.  Cook for a further minute, then add a knob of butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Baste the scallops for 30 seconds then remove to a warmed plate.

To serve, place some of the heated purée onto the plate, place the scallops on top, drizzle over some of the truffle jus. Sprinkle over some of the crispy artichokes and serve.

Chicken Marbella from Shaun Tinman at Frae

So, unlike the original recipe from the Silver Palette cookbook, we’ve prepared ours as chicken cooked over the charcoal BBQ and served with the accompaniments suspended in the sauce.

Serves 6

12 chicken thighs, skin on
olive brine reserved from gordal green olives

2 tablespoons aged malt vinegar

small bunch thyme

1 head crushed garlic

3 shallots, diced
4 bay leaves
250ml (9fl oz) white wine
splash of Madeira
1 1/2 litres (2 1/2 pints) good quality chicken stock

1 can gordal green olives, torn in half
25g (1oz) capers

50g (2oz) pitted prunes, roughly chopped
knob of butter

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

freshly ground black pepper

Ideally, marinate the chicken thighs in the gordal olive brine, aged vinegar, thyme and garlic overnight, but a few hours will suffice.

For the sauce, add a splash of oil to your saucepan and gently cook the shallots until translucent, no colour. Add bay leaves, then deglaze with the wine and Madeira. Add chicken stock and gently reduce to a consistency where the sauce just coats the back of a spoon then set aside.

The chicken is best cooked slowly over charcoal allowing the skin to render and become crisp without burning, intermittently brushing the flesh side with the reserved marinade. If the BBQ isn’t an option, good results can be achieved cooking the chicken on a wire rack under a medium grill.

As the chicken is resting, return the sauce to a low heat and add the olives, capers and prunes, allow to soften in the sauce for a few minutes then add the butter and parsley and stir until evenly incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt pepper and a little aged vinegar as necessary.

Season and divide the chicken evenly between warmed serving plates, and spoon the sauce over the top.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake, Armagnac Syrup from Shaun Tinman at Frae

You’ll need to be fast, blood oranges are just coming to the end of the season.

Serves 6

6 blood oranges

225g (8oz) of caster sugar
15g (generous 1/2oz) of butter
150ml (5fl oz) of whipping cream
150ml (5fl oz) blood orange juice
80ml (scant 3 1/4fl oz) of Armagnac

150g (5oz) butter
150g (5oz) demerara sugar
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
2 eggs

vanilla ice-cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts to serve

Peel and segment the blood oranges, juicing the excess.

For the caramel sauce, gently cook the sugar in a saucepan until it has fully dissolved and turned a medium caramel colour. Add the butter, followed by the cream and juice. Keep over a medium heat and stir gently until it comes together. Reduce until the consistency of the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and add the Armagnac.

For the cake mixture, cream the butter and sugar together, beat the eggs in one by one and fold in the flour. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.

Lightly butter dariole moulds, then add 1cm (1/2 inch) depth caramel to each, followed by a heaped tablespoon of the blood orange segment. Carefully pipe a 3cm (1 1/4 inch) layer of cake mixture into each dariole, covering the fruit below.

Bake at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes before carefully turning out. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a drizzle of the remaining syrup and some chopped hazelnuts.

Fadge or Potato Bread

Go along to St. George’s Market on Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a Belfast Bap on potato bread – OMG…Lots of stalls sell fadge or potato bread.  It can be cooked on a griddle, in a frying pan or in the oven.

Serves 8

900g (2lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg, preferably free range

25 – 50g (1 – 2oz) butter

seasoned flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

creamy milk

bacon fat, butter or olive oil for frying

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the skin and mash right away.   Add the beaten egg, butter and flour.  Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into a 2.5cm (1 inch) thick round and then cut into eighths.  Dip in seasoned flour.  Bake in a moderate oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 – 20 minutes or alternatively cook on a griddle over an open fire or fry in bacon fat or melted butter on a gentle heat.  When the fadge is crusty and golden on one side, flip over and cook on the other side (4 – 5 minutes approx. each side).  Serve with an Ulster fry or just on its own on hot plates with a blob of butter melting on top.


Once again, one can do lots of riffs on potato bread.  Add chopped chives, wild garlic, thyme leaves, seaweed…

Easter Eggs

What can be more adorable on Easter Sunday morning, than the joy and excitement on the children’s faces when they see the new-born chicks in the Palais des Poulets here on the farm… If our hens don’t get broody, Eileen and John take matters into their own hands.  A dozen or so eggs go into the incubator in the potting shed…twenty one days later, the chicks start to hatch out, pecking through the shells with their little beaks… yet another miracle of nature. Within a few hours, they are all fluffed up and cheeping, ready to tuck into a little fine oatmeal or chick mash.
Within 18-22 weeks the females are crowing with pride having laid their first egg. These smaller, initial attempts are referred to as pullets eggs… the term given to a chicken before it officially becomes a hen.
As I cook, I can scarcely imagine life without eggs or hens for that matter. Ever since I was a child, we’ve always had hens, they gratefully gobble up the food scraps and reward us with beautiful fresh eggs a few days later.
The hen manure goes onto the compost and eventually back into the garden to enrich the soil making it more fertile to grow even more nutritious vegetables. What’s not to love about that virtuous cycle…
Recently, the price of eggs has gone up for several reasons, not least because the price of organic and non-organic grain has increased since the Ukraine war.
Because of bird flu, we have been instructed to keep our flock indoors since mid-September (2022) and it looks like they won’t be released until maybe the end of April.
Just like all of us during lockdown, our hens hate being cooped up indoors and long to be able to roam freely through the grass and scratch for grubs and insects. They are altogether happier and healthier when they can wander around naturally outdoors not to speak of laying more delicious nutrient dense eggs.
Boiled eggs and soldiers are one of my favourite kitchen suppers. Friends love to join me, for many, it’s a trip down memory lane from when we were children, dipping little fingers of toast into the runny yolk.

For a posher version for Easter, look out for a few spears of new season asparagus. West Cork has some of the first asparagus of the season so if you’re in that area, get to the Skibbereen Farmers Market early on Saturday morning…tends to sell out…
For perfectly poached eggs, no need for any fancy gadgets…just pop a freshly laid egg, into barely salted simmering water…it will plump up deliciously unlike a stale egg that will splinter and spread all over the saucepan.
Really good eggs, add magic to cakes, the yolks add richness and the whipped egg whites, contribute lightness and a tenderness to the texture but surprise, surprise the quality really matters…
We’re loving our new Easter egg cake to add to the traditional Pasque afternoon tea. A lighter cake than the traditional simnel cake – see Examiner article 18th March 2023.  The kids would love to help and they really enjoy making the Easter egg nests and arranging the fluffy chicks on top.
Have you come across Aussie folded eggs yet, a new one to me until recently…I came across them on an Aussie inspired all day brunch menu on a recent trip to California
They’re a kind of elegant hybrid version of a ruffled omelette/scramble that resembles a rose on the plate…. Tender and delicious, often accompanied by avocado or on top of avo toast… it’s become one of my new favourites…

Freshly Boiled Eggs with Asparagus and Soldiers

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’. A trip down memory lane…

2 fresh organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the dippies and asparagus on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

To prepare and cook the asparagus.

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus, but we rarely do.

To boil.

Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia.  Choose a tall saucepan.

Cook in about 2.5cm (1 inch) of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml/1 pint) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily.  Drain and serve immediately.  If serving cold, refresh in cold water and drain again.

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result – simply use a really fresh egg laid by a happy, lazy duck or hen. The tips you hear about putting the vinegar in the water are really only valid for eggs that aren’t so fresh – if you have a fresh, organic egg, the albumen is strong enough to hold together. And in my book, what could possibly be the point of poaching an egg that wasn’t any good to start with?

Serves 1

2 organic eggs

toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl or a cup, and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set, and the yolk is still soft and runny.

Meanwhile, make a slice of toast. Cut off the crusts, butter the toast and pop it onto a hot plate. Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain and place on top of the toast. Serve immediately.

Or you can poach the eggs ahead of time and then reheat them briefly in boiling water. Just cook them for a minute less than usual, and then slip them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further.

To reheat the poached eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, draw off the heat and slip the egg back into the water for a minute or two until hot through.

Folded Eggs and Chives and Aleppo Pepper

You can also imagine how good it is with paper thin slices of chorizo or asparagus. We used wild garlic flowers to garnish while they are in season. 

2 organic eggs

1 tablespoon cream

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10g butter

25cm (10 inch) non-stick pan

freshly chopped chives and Aleppo pepper

Whisk the eggs with the cream.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Melt a blob of butter in the non-stick pan over a medium heat.  When it sizzles, pour on the egg and swirl to cover the base of the pan.  Allow the egg to set undisturbed for 10 seconds then gradually bring the edges of the egg to the centre with a spatula from all sides so it begins to look like a flower.  Just as soon as the liquid egg stops running, remove the pan from the heat, grind some coarse black pepper and sprinkle with finely chopped chives and Aleppo pepper.  Slide the egg onto a warm plate.  Serve as it is with toast or add bacon, avocado, tomato, smoked fish…Enjoy soon.

David Tanis’s Swiss Rösti with Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg

In Switzerland, rösti (pronounced roosh-ti) is considered a national dish, though it is most popular in the German-speaking regions of the country. Made from grated potatoes, it resembles American hash browns, fried in a skillet like a thick potato pancake and cut into wedges. Rösti is often enhanced with ham, bacon or cheese or served with sausages. This posh version is garnished with smoked salmon, sour cream and a poached egg, perfect for a weekend breakfast. For best results, boil the potatoes one day (or at least several hours) in advance and chill. Cook them until just done and still firm — check with a skewer or paring knife — or they will be impossible to grate.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) yellow-fleshed potatoes, parboiled, peeled and chilled

salt and pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter, duck fat or vegetable oil, plus more as needed

4-6 organic eggs, at room temperature

6 slices smoked salmon (about 225g/8oz)

225g (8oz) crème fraîche or sour cream

snipped chives, for garnish

watercress, for garnish

Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the parboiled potatoes onto a baking sheet. (Try not to mash them). Season with salt and pepper.

Place a 23cm (9 inch) cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is hot, use a spatula to transfer all the grated potatoes to the skillet. Let the potatoes begin to brown, then turn heat to medium. Press down lightly with spatula to form a thick cake. Let the cake fry gently until the bottom is golden brown and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Shake the pan to be sure the cake isn’t sticking; loosen with a spatula if necessary.

Lay a plate over the uncooked side of the cake and carefully invert the cake onto the plate, crisp side up. Return the skillet to the stove, add a little more butter to the pan as necessary and slip the cake back in, uncooked side down.

Fry gently for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp on the second side. Remove from heat and slide the cake (or invert) onto a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Poach the eggs.

Fill a wide skillet halfway with water. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Break each egg into a teacup, then carefully slip it beneath the water’s surface. Cook for 2 minutes, until eggs are barely set, then turn off heat. (Leave eggs in hot water to finish cooking as you prepare the plates).

Cut the rösti into wedges and divide among plates. Drape a slice of smoked salmon next to each wedge. Remove eggs one by one with a slotted spoon (holding a towel beneath spoon to catch excess water), and place on the other side of each wedge.

Top each wedge with a dollop of crème fraîche. Garnish with a sprinkle of chives and a sprig of watercress.

Asparagus, Rocket and Wild Garlic Frittata

This is an example of how we incorporate seasonal ingredients into a frittata.  Asparagus is an extra treat here; you can use any asparagus, but I tend to use the thin, weedy, but still delicious spears in frittata and to add to scrambled eggs.

Serves 6

225g (8oz) thin asparagus

8 organic eggs

50g (2oz) Parmesan or Pecorino or Coolea or a mixture, freshly grated

2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped wild garlic and rocket leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

wild garlic flowers, to garnish (optional)

salad leaves, wild garlic and rocket, to serve

non-stick frying pan – 19cm (7 1/2 inch) bottom, 23cm (9 inch) top rim

Bring about 2.5cm (1 inch) of water to the boil in an oval casserole.  Trim the tough ends of the asparagus, add 1 teaspoon of salt and blanch for 2-4 minutes until.  Drain. Slice the spears at an angle, keeping 4cm at the top intact. Save for later.

Whisk the eggs together into a bowl.  Add the blanched asparagus, except the tops, most of the Parmesan and the wild garlic and rocket leaves.  Season well. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the egg mixture and reduce the heat to the bare minimum – use a heat diffuser mat if necessary.  Arrange the asparagus tops over the frittata and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.  Continue to cook over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until just set.  Alternatively, after an initial 4 or 5 minutes on the hob you can transfer the pan to an oven (this is my preferred option), preheated to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 10-15 minutes until just set.

Pop under a grill for a few minutes, but make sure it is at least 12.5cm (5 inches) from the element.  It should be set and slightly golden. Turn out onto a warm plate, cut into wedges and serve immediately with a salad of organic leaves, including wild garlic and rocket.  Garnish with wild garlic flowers, if available.

Easter Egg Cake

A gorgeous, luscious Easter cake, fun for all the family. 

Makes 1 cake

400g (14oz) self-raising flour

300g (10oz) caster sugar

zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)

4 organic eggs, beaten

300ml (10fl oz) whole milk

300ml (10fl oz) light olive oil

Easter Egg nests (see recipe)

3 x 20.5cm (8 inch) round tins

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

Line the cake tins with parchment paper.

Sieve the flour, sugar and lemon freshly grated lemon zest into a bowl.  Whisk the egg, milk and oil together in a separate bowl.

Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Divide evenly between the three tins, bake in the preheated oven until well risen and golden on top for 30-45 minutes approx.

When the cake is fully cooked, it will have shrunk in a little from the sides of the tin.  A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.

Meringue Buttercream

Makes enough to ice one cake generously but you may want to use a little less.  Keep the remainder in an airtight box in the fridge to decorate cupcakes, cookies…use within 5 days.

150g (5oz) egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)

450g (1lb) butter, softened and cut into cubes.

Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a food mixer, rest over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the egg whites reach 80°C. Whisk on maximum speed in the food mixer until stiffly whipped and cool. With the machine running, add the freshly grated lemon zest and butter, one piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to whisk until it re-emulsifies.

To Finish

Spread a layer of buttercream on 2 cakes, sandwich the three layers together.  Ice both the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired. 

For this Easter Egg Cake, we make Easter Egg Nests to embellish the top but have fun, use your creative streak and get the kids to participate.  Enjoy and Happy Easter to one and all.

Easter Egg Nests

Super easy and fun to make – decorate with fluffy Easter chicks.

Makes 24

110g (4oz) Rice Krispies or Cornflakes

175g (6oz) chocolate

72 mini speckled eggs

cupcake papers or ring moulds

Put the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat immediately and allow to melt in the bowl.  Stir in the Rice Krispies or Cornflakes.

Spoon into cupcake cases.  Flatten a little and make a well in the centre.  Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs.  Allow to set. 

Irish Food Writers Guild Awards 2023

There was a super buzz at the 30th Irish Food Writers Guild Awards at Suesey Street restaurant in Dublin‘s city centre recently. This was the first in-person award ceremony since 2020 and we were all thrilled to see each other once again.

The great and the good of the Irish food media were gathered together to celebrate the award winners…. Artisan producers – farmhouse cheesemakers, brewers, charcutiers, fish smokers…… plus two remarkable organisations.

The inspirational and much loved, Field of Dreams in Cork won the Community Food Award. This organic vegetable garden project used as a catalyst for learning and personal development has enriched the lives of the Cork Downs Syndrome community for many, many years.

Hero brothers, Kevin and Sheamus Sheridan, who have done so much for decades to encourage, support and promote Irish farmhouse cheesemakers won the Lifetime Achievement Award. From one small stall in the farmers market in Galway to 21 establishments in less than 30 years is quite the achievement. 

In the early 1980’s, we were a nation of Calvita eaters…. Kevin and Sheamus have not only provided a shop window for Irish Farmhouse cheeses but helped in no small way to change the image of Irish food both at home and abroad and opened up a brave new world for the distinctive cheeses of Ireland. 

The food writers who hadn’t met each other for over three years were delighted to catch up again and to meet the overjoyed award winners whom they had independently and anonymously proposed.

Nowadays, there are so many awards it’s difficult to keep track but crucial to the integrity of the IFWG Awards is the nomination and judging process. No company or individual can enter themselves but rather are nominated in a confidential process by the IFWG members. Products are bought and paid for, and a formal tasting meeting takes place where members vote, using proportional representation. 

Consequently, the IFWG awards are arguably the most coveted and prestigious of all the food awards. 

Apart from the last two winners, there were six others whom you really need to know about.

Two from Northern Ireland, both personal favourites of mine.

Ballylisk Triple Rose is a white mould ripened cheese, made by Mark Rice from a single herd on the family farm in Ballylisk in County Armagh, a gorgeous gooey feisty cheese… Watch this space, there’s already a range of accompaniments and several other cheeses with several more in development.

Lough Neagh smoked Eel is one of my all-time favourite traditional Irish foods with a wonderful backstory. Fishermen have been catching eels on Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in these islands since the Bronze Age. The young elvers are born in the Sargosso sea and gradually make the long and perilous journey across the wild Atlantic Ocean to mature in the unique habitat of Lough Neagh. In 1965, the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative was set up with the express intention of safeguarding the traditional methods of catching eels and it has steadfastly maintained its focus on building a sustainable and viable future for succeeding generations of fishers.

It was a world that fascinated Sheamus Heaney, who wrote A Lough Neagh Sequence for the fishermen. 

In 2011, Lough Neagh eel was awarded a coveted PGI (protected geographical indication) by the EU. I love to enjoy it simply and savour it slowly with a little brown bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, perhaps a little horseradish.  The chef at Suesey Street made a beautiful starter plate of Smoked Lough Neagh Eel with Sheep’s Yoghurt Mousse and Dill.  I also love therecipe for Jeremy Lee‘s iconic smoked eel sandwich at Quo Vadis in Dean St in London’s Soho (see Examiner column 5th March 2022). This recipe with many of Jeremy’s other classic recipes come from his new book ‘Cooking Simply and Well for One or Many’ published by 4th Estate.   

The Environmental Award went to The Wooded Pig.

Coppa from a range of artisan charcuterie made by Eoin Bird from ethically raised, rare breed pigs reared on his family farm near Tara in County Meath. The pigs roam freely in the woodlands in the time-honoured way though the ash, oak and beech trees snuffling up oak mast and acorns, which add immeasurably to the flavour of the charcuterie.

Eoin and his family fundamentally believe that as custodians of the lush verdant landscape, they must champion a biodiverse way of farming that is sustainable, places the animals welfare at the heart of what they do and is good for nature and wildlife also. www.thewoodedpig.ie

The Notable Contribution to Irish Food Award was won by Gabriel Flaherty of Aran Island Goats Cheese in County Galway. Gabriel became intrigued by cheesemaking after his wife gave him a birthday present of a course. He bought a herd of frisky Nubian, and Saanen goats who love the beautiful herby pastures on the island, he started to experiment and the rest is history. Gabriel combines his love of cheese with bespoke tours on the history, culture, and food of his beloved Inis Mór …www.arangoatcheese.com

And last, but certainly not least, the Irish Drink Award went to Béal Bán from Beoir Chorcha Dhuibhne also known as West Kerry Brewery. The Brewery is based in the garden of Adrienne Heslins pub, Tig Bric in Ballyferriter on the lovely Dingle peninsula. It was the first brewery in Kerry and the first in Ireland to be founded and managed by a woman. Still proudly independent, Adrienne brews what she calls ‘progressive, traditional’ beers…  Besides Béal Bán, they now have 17 beers in their portfolio so be sure to call in to the pub on your next visit to the Dingle peninsula.


Continue to seek out beautiful Irish artisan products to support those food heroes who enrich our lives so much….

Aran Island Goat’s Cheese and Thyme Leaf Soufflé

We bake this soufflé until golden and puffy in a shallow oval dish instead of the traditional soufflé bowl; it makes a perfect lunch or supper dish.

Serves 6

75g (3oz) butter

40g (1 1/2 oz) flour

300ml (10fl oz) cream

300ml (10fl oz) milk

a few slices of carrot

sprig of thyme, a few parsley stalks and a little scrap of bay leaf

1 small onion, quartered

5 eggs free range organic, separated

110g (4oz) crumbled Aran Island goat’s cheese

75g (3oz) Gruyère cheese

50g (2oz) mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, grated (Parmesan – Parmigiano Reggiano or Regato may also be used)

a good pinch of salt, cayenne, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves


thyme flowers if available

30cm (12 inch) shallow oval dish (not a soufflé dish) or 6 individual wide soup bowls with a rim

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Brush the bottom and sides of the dish with melted butter.

Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, add a few slices of carrot, a quartered onion, 4 or 5 peppercorns and the fresh herbs.  Bring slowly to the boil and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.   Strain and discard the flavourings, (we rinse them off and throw them into the stockpot if there is one on the go.)

Melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a minute or two.  Whisk in the strained cream and milk, bring to the boil and whisk until it thickens.   Cool slightly.   Add the egg yolks, goat’s cheese, grated Gruyère and most of the grated Coolea (or Parmesan if using.)  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.   Taste and correct seasoning. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold them gently into the mixture to make a loose consistency.   Put the mixture into the prepared dish, scatter the thyme leaves on top and sprinkle with the remaining Coolea or Parmesan cheese. 

Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the sides and top are nicely puffed up and golden, the centre should still be creamy. Garnish with thyme flowers.

Serve immediately on warm plates with a good green salad.

The Wooded Pig Coppa-Wrapped Monkfish

Head Chef Deniss Laskeno of Suesey Street, kindly shared this recipe with me.

Serves 4

800g (1 3/4lb) monkfish

100g – 120g (3 1/2 – scant 4 1/2oz) The Wooded Pig Coppa

For the brine:

60g (scant 2 1/2oz) granulated sugar

30g (1 1/4oz) salt

15g (generous 1/2oz) light brown sugar

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) water 

2g ground black pepper

1g garlic powder 

10g (scant 1/2oz) Worcestershire sauce

1 fresh bay leaf 

For the morel sauce:

100g (3 1/2oz) fresh morels

10g (scant 1/2oz) butter

10g (scant 1/2oz) garlic, finely diced

10g (scant 1/2oz) shallots

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) Madeira

10g (scant 1/2oz) salt

2g black pepper

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) double cream

For the vegetables:

150g (5oz) peas, blanched and refreshed

150g (5oz) broad beans, blanched and refreshed

12 baby leeks, trimmed, blanched and refreshed

a little white wine

1/2 lemon


olive oil

To prepare the monkfish:

To get your monkfish ready for brining, trim the tail, hold the skin with a towel in your hand, and pull it from the flesh like you would remove your socks.

Place all ingredients for brine in a large pot and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Submerge monkfish in brine and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

After removing monkfish from the brine, wash in ice cold water for a few minutes. Pat dry and place in the fridge to air dry for 2-5 hours.

Wipe down the workstation with a damp cloth to keep the surface slightly wet. This will help the cling film to stick to the table, preventing it from sliding around as you work.

Place a layer of cling film onto the working surface, ensuring that it covers the surface completely. Lay an even layer of coppa on top of the cling film, making sure that it is at least twice as wide as the thickness of your fillet. This will ensure that the coppa evenly covers the entire fillet.

Using the cling film, carefully roll the coppa and fillet into a tight roulade, being sure to squeeze out any excess air as you go. Once you have rolled it to your liking, tie off both ends tightly.

Steam at 63°C for 7 minutes. Once it has been cooked, place it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. When it has cooled, cut into four portions.

To make the morel sauce:

Start by cleaning the morels with a soft brush to remove any dirt or debris. Cut off the bottom part of the stems if they are tough and discard.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the diced garlic and shallots and sauté until softened and fragrant.

Deglaze the pan with Madeira and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the cleaned morels to the pan and stir to coat them in the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.

Pour in the double cream and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the sauce for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and reduced by half. Once the sauce has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

Transfer the morel sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little water or more cream to thin to your desired consistency.

To prepare the vegetables:

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

Pan fry the monkfish portions to a golden colour on a hot pan, ensuring a delightful sear on all sides.

Carefully transfer monkfish to an oven tray and add a drizzle of lemon, a splash of white wine, and a dollop of butter on top of each piece. Place the monkfish in the oven and cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. We aim to reach a temperature of 73°C, probing the fish close to the bone to ensure the entire piece is cooked to perfection.

Reheat the broad beans and peas in a sizzling sauté pan over medium high heat with a touch of butter or olive oil and season them with salt.

We prefer to char our baby leeks over an open flame, but feel free to use your preferred method of cooking.

To assemble:

Place the morel sauce on the plate and lay the vegetables on top. Add with the coppa-wrapped monkfish and delicate, fresh microgreen leaves.

Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream

If you can’t source Velvet Cloud, use the very best natural yoghurt that you can find.

Serves 8-10

225ml (8fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) caster sugar

200ml (7fl oz) cream

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size

3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

425ml (15fl oz) Velvet Cloud natural yoghurt

Garnish: fresh mint leaves

8 moulds or serving dishes

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless-steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to sit to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine. Sponge the gelatine in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of cold water. 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 and stir well and then mix this into the rest. Beat the yoghurt lightly with a whisk until smooth and creamy, add into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into individual moulds. Allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Just before serving.

Unmould a cardamom cream onto a cold plate and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.  Alternatively, serve the cardamom cream in individual bowls and garnish with mint leaves.

Ballylisk Triple Rose with Homemade Crackers

We love these homemade crackers with Ballylisk Tripe Rose cheese.

Makes 20-25 biscuits

Ballylisk Triple Rose cheese

Homemade Crackers

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

25g (1oz) butter

1 tablespoons cream

water as needed, 5 tablespoons approx.

Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.   Rub in the butter and moisten with the cream and enough water to make a firm dough.

Roll out very thinly to one sixteenth of an inch approx.  Prick with a fork.  Cut into 9cm (3 1/2 inch) squares with a pastry wheel.  Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 30 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.

Note: For Wheaten Crackers – use 110g (4oz) wholemeal flour and 110g (4oz) plain white flour.


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