Darina’s Saturday Letter

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New Orleans

New Orleans – The Crescent City, nestled into a bend in the Mississippi river is truly wonderful – you might want to add it to your US bucket list. I was enchanted by the architecture, the live oak lined streets, the buildings and the Creole cottages each with porches, verandas and its own unique features. I particularly loved the old French Quarter, Marigny, Burgundy and the Garden District, the vibrant art and culture scene.  The street cars date back to 1893 and of course the food.

It was a quick trip, barely two days but I packed a tremendous experience into that short time – enough to make me long to return. I didn’t get to do a proper cemetery tour, one of the star attractions of New Orleans, with their Greek and Roman Sepulchres and palatial mauseoleums. My visit didn’t actually coincide with any of the festivals that New Orleans is famed for, yet the city abounded with Jazz and Blues and the swish new airport has been called after Louis Armstrong – There were even vases of fresh flowers in the loos – there’s style for ya…!

I stayed at Hotel Peter and Paul, owned by a former Ballymaloe Cookery School student Natalie Jordi and her husband New York Times Journalist, Brett Anderson. A four year restoration of a historic New Orleans church, school house, rectory and convent, now with 71 bedrooms. I was tickled to find myself in the Mother Superior’s bedroom, complete with a king canopy bed, adorned with tassles and holy fillials. But this is a food column, so I‘ll concentrate on the many new Orleans specialities I managed to taste on my far too brief visit.

My first taste of New Orleans was at a super cool café, Molly’s Rise + Shine in the Irish Channel for a brunchy lunch before a tour of New Orleans. Loved every bite, a huge glass of fresh orange juice squeezed just moments earlier, roasted carrot yoghurt with granola and other good things, a southern biscuit (moist, tender scones to you and I) with sausage scrambled egg and pickles and Texas toast – one inch thick triangles of toasted brioche like bread with a little bowl of superb butter and jam on a speckled blue enamelled plate. Don’t miss their sister restaurant Turkey and the Wolf if you make it to New Orleans – superb sandwiches with a permanent queue.

My sojourn didn’t coincide with the famous cray fish season so I missed those but went along to an iconic Irish pub Erin Rose – with a Lill Killer Po Boy joint at the back. The name is short for Poor Boys a term apparently coined by the Martin brothers during the 1929 Street Car strike when the brothers served this kind of robust sandwich to the hungry strikers.

To make a New Orleans Po Boy, split a French bread roll, crackly crust and soft fluffy interior, slather with a spicy mayo, add pickles and shredded salad, maybe some freshly chopped herbs or tomatoes and a topping of roast beef or fried sea food. Ours was packed with shrimps and was almost a cross between a Po Boy and a Banh mi – a meal in itself and quite the challenge at 10am in the morning but I take my research very seriously so I tucked in with gusto. Next stop Congregation Coffee and cool café, superb pastries and a tempting potato and turnip soup with horseradish dill and mushroom and a braised rabbit sandwich with blue cheese and watercress.

Christina Balzebre’s, Levee artisan bakery just off Magazine Street was also exceptional, superb naturally leavened bread, and handmade pastries. I bought a crusty baguette and some other tempting confections for my picnic on the plane and then headed over to St James’s Cheese Company for cured meats, Vermont cultured butter and some farmstead cheese.
Lunch was at Peche, a James Beard award winning restaurant where I tasted Hush Puppies with honey butter.

After an intriguing tour through New Orleans, dinner that night was at Apolline where chef, Michael Shelton, cooks contemporary American food. I got to taste okra in New Orleans, one of the many good things I ate there. My final meal was at the iconic Upperline Restaurant on Upperline Street, classic New Orleans dishes, contemporary Creole cooking and a warm welcome from the utterly charming, feisty 80 year old hostess JoAnne Clevenger – definitely the ‘hostess with the mostest’ in the whole of New Orleans – Described variously as ‘a girl scout with gumption’ and ‘the one dress hostess’.

I tasted so many classic New Orleans dishes, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, turtle soup, gumbo, and Upperline’s famous pecan bread pudding with toffee sauce – all so delicious….

I really long to go back to New Orleans and next visit maybe I’ll have time to taste the famous Beignets from Café du Monde….

Southern Hush Puppies

Inspired by a recipe in Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

Serves 6

280g cornmeal

1 tablespoon white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped

270ml buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil or pure olive oil for frying

Sieve flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl, add the cornmeal.  Add the onions, buttermilk and egg, stir until thoroughly mixed. Heat the oil to 375°F and drop the batter by spoonful (about 2 teaspoons each) in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 3-5 mins.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

At Peche Restaurant they served the hush puppies with honey butter.

Honey Butter

110g (4oz) butter

2 good heaped tablespoons fresh honey

Cream the butter in a bowl.  Add the honey and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute the honey through the butter.

New Orleans Beignets

12 Servings

170mls  lukewarm water

1 7g sachet of dried fast acting yeast

115ml  evaporated milk

70g sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

400g – 450g plain flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

Corn oil or any flavourless oil for frying

Icing sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine lukewarm water and yeast, let it sit until it dissolves for about 5 minutes. Lightly whisk evaporated  milk, sugar, salt, egg and vanilla extract. Add it to the yeast mixture.

Mix in about half of flour and continue mixing with hand or dough mixer. If using a stand mixer, mix for about a minute or 2.

Finally add the melted butter, mix until dough is sticky but smooth. Add in additional flour (if needed) to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 – 2 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once risen, punch the dough down and remove from the bowl. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a long piece until approx.. ¼ – 1/3 thickness. Cut the dough into 1 ½ or 2 inch squares, you can use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before frying.

Working in batches so as not to crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels briefly and immediately dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

Brioche Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee sauce

Serves 6-8

8 brioche buns or very good bread sliced

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

3oz plump sultanas

4 oz pecans, very coarsely chopped

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp grated ginger

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

110g (4oz) sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

pinch of salt

Toffee Sauce – see recipe

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) square pottery or ovenproof  china dish.

Slice the brioche into 1/3 inch thick slices. Butter and arrange buttered side down, in a single layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle with half the pecans and half the sultanas and then arrange another layer of brioche, buttered side down, over the nuts and fruit, sprinkle the remaining nuts and fruit on top. Cover with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down. (Make sure the fruit is fully covered or it will shrivel up).

In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Stir in the grated ginger and pour evenly over the pudding. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

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

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Meanwhile make the toffee sauce.

Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream and toffee sauce

Note: This bread and butter pudding reheats perfectly.

 Toffee Sauce

110g (4oz) butter

150g (5oz) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

300g (10oz) golden syrup

225ml (8fl oz) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir as it melts gently on a low heat. Simmer for 4 or 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

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

Serves 8

8 brioche buns with poppy seeds sprinkled on top

8 sausage patties

8 organic eggs, (1 egg omelette per bun)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Hot chili sauce

Homemade Sausage Patties:

(Makes 8 large patties)

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

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

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

1 small garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

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

dash of oil for frying

First make the sausage patties:

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

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

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

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

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

 Tomato and Chilli Sauce

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

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

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

1 clove of garlic , crushed

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 dessertspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablepsoons water

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

Weston A Price

Recently, I attended a Weston A Price conference in Dallas, Texas. Many inspirational speakers spoke on a variety of topics linked to optimum health, almost 1,000 people attended from countries around the world, many clinging desperately to the Weston A Price guidelines for optimum nutrition in an effort to recover their health after being on a variety of ‘diets’.

Have you heard of the Weston A Price Foundation? – I hadn’t either until I was asked to speak at a regional WAPF conference here in Ireland in Co Limerick in 2015. At the time I was spearheading a campaign with several others to protect people’s right to sell and buy raw milk should they so choose to do so for any number of health and culinary reasons.

I was invited to speak and so met Sally Fallon Morell MA who is Director of the WAPF and heard about Dr Weston A Price, a Cleveland dentist who died in the late 1940’s.
America was the first to introduce processed food into the market, so the impact of the change in diet on people’s health became evident sooner over there. Dr. Weston A Price observed the dramatic decay in his patients teeth. He suspected it was connected to the increased sugar and ultra-processed foods in their diets and began his lifelong research and documentation of his observations.

For over 10 years he travelled widely to study the diets of isolated, primitive and indigenous people. Comparing the food and culture of aborigines, the New Zealand Maori, Inuits, several African tribes, Polynesians, Pygmies, Lotschueld in Switzerland and the Native American Indians. He had planned to help with their teeth problems but found little decay…. Even though each group were eating very diverse foods he observed definite similarities between each one. All were eating an ancestral diet, none included ultra- processed, refined and denatured foods.

The 11 principals for the Weston A Price optimum nutrition were based on these observations.

I was intrigued to find an organisation that espouses similar values around nutrition to my own particularly their advice around fat consumption at a time when the received wisdom was that low fat was detrimental to our health 

Despite the fact that it now appears that there was not a jot of scientific evidence to link butter or any good natural fat to cardiovascular disease, rather the opposite.

There were similarities common to each culture. Each ate natural fats, offal, from healthy pasture fed animals and poultry and prized them above other meat, drank gelatine rich bone broths, raw milk, and ate fermented foods…

Here are the Weston A Price 11 Principals of optimum nutrition:

  1. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colourings.
  2. All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed—muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
  3. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet.
  4. All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
  5. Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lactofermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
  6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
  7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
  8. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  9. All traditional diets contain some salt.
  10. All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
  11. Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.

Source as much chemical free food as you can find and afford. You’ll easily save the extra cost on supplements and added vitamins and minerals.

Finally, the big new thing in the US is – Real Food – everyone I spoke to was desperately trying to source real unadulterated food. We still have wonderful produce but even here in Ireland it takes more and more of a concerted effort to find unadulterated, nourishing, wholesome food but it’s certainly worth it. Recipes are based on the Weston A Price Foundation principals….

Roast Fish with Winter Herb Butter


A delicious ‘master recipe’ for all very fresh flat fish e.g. brill, turbot, plaice, sole, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it can be a starter or a main course.


1 large, fresh, flat fish or a couple of smaller ones


Winter Herb Butter

110g (4ozs) butter

4 teaspoons mixed finely chopped fresh parsley, chervil and thyme leaves

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/regulo 5.

I like to leave the head on, but if you’d rather not, turn the fish on its side and remove the head.  Wash the fish and clean the slit by the throat very thoroughly.  With a sharp knife, cut through the dark skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh.  Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin.   Roast in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish.  The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked.  Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs.  Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut).  Lift the fish fillets onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them.  Serve immediately.

Devilled Lambs Kidneys on Toast

Serves 2

4 lamb’s kidneys, cut each into quarters

A little extra virgin olive oil

A good shake of Worcestershire sauce

A pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon English mustard

2 tablespoons cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wild watercress sprigs

Coarsely chopped parsley to garnish

4 slices of lathered toast or chargrilled sourdough

Cut the kidneys in half, remove the “plumbing” and cut each one into four pieces.

Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and cook for a minute or two, tossing them occasionally. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and a generous pinch of pepper, and some English mustard. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add the cream and bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and add more black pepper if you like.

Serve on toast or char-grilled sourdough bread with some sprigs of watercress. For a more substantial supper dish, serve with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Penny’s (Sauerkraut) Kraut-Chi

At its most basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice.  It has existed in one form or another as ancestral food for thousands of years and sailors have carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content.  The basic recipe for sauerkraut is 2 tsp of pure flaky sea salt to 450g (1lb) of cabbage.  Any other vegetables in season can be added once they are finely sliced or chopped.  Avoid potatoes as they can become toxic when fermented.  Weigh the vegetables after slicing and calculate the amount of salt needed.  Below is a recipe we enjoy.

Makes 1 litre/900g (2lbs) approximately

500g (18oz) organic cabbage – red, green or a mixture, finely sliced

150g (5oz) onion, finely sliced

2 green peppers, finely sliced

150g (5oz) carrots, grated on a coarse grater

1 chilli, finely chopped

4 teaspoons pure flaky (or similar) seasalt

1 x 1.5 litre (2 1/2 pints) Kilner jar or crock

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pack into a large jar or crock.  Pack a little at a time and press down hard using your fists, this packs the kraut tight and helps force water out of the vegetables. 

Cover the kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the jar or crock.  Place a clean weight on top (a jug or container filled with water works well).  This weight is to force water out of the vegetables and keep them submerged under the brine.  Cover the top with muslin or a light cloth to keep out flies and dust.  Press down on the weight ever few hours to help extract more liquid from the vegetables.  The liquid should rise above the vegetables.  If the liquid doesn’t rise above the plate level by next day, add some salt water (a basic brine is 2 teaspoons of salt mixed in 600ml/1 pint/2 1/2 cups of water) to bring the level above the plate. 

Place in a cool area and allow to ferment for 4-5 days.  At this stage the kraut is ready to eat.  As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well.  It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time.

April Bloomfield’s Chopped Chicken Liver on Toast

“A staple at the Spotted Pig, this creamy, still slightly chunky mash of lovely, iron-y livers on toast makes a fine snack, but it’s substantial enough to hold you over while you wait for a friend or a table.  Just the thing, too, with a glass of wine. The liver mixture is a touch sweet from the port and the browned garlic and shallots, with a whisper of acidity from the Madeira. Best of all, it takes just a moment to make. Be sure you get a nice colour on the livers when you cook them. (I like them slightly pink on the inside for this dish; anyone who doesn’t can cook them a bit longer.) Be sure to take in the aroma as they cook – toasty browning liver is one of my favourite smells.”

Makes 4 toasts

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

40g (1 1/2oz) finely chopped shallots

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons dry Madeira

1 1/2 tablespoons ruby port

225g (8oz) chicken livers, trimmed and separated into lobes

Maldon or another flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

a small handful of small, delicate flat-leaf parsley sprigs

4 thick slices crusty bread, or 2 large slices, cut in half

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and set it over high heat.

When it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until they’re golden brown, about a minute. Add the Madeira and port to the pan and give it a good shake, then scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the pan and wipe it out well with kitchen paper, then set it over high heat and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, pat the livers dry and add them to the pan. Cook until the undersides are golden brown, 1 1/2 minutes or so. Carefully turn them over and sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon salt, then give the pan a little shake. Cook the livers just until they feel bouncy, like little balloons, about 30 seconds more. You want them slightly pink inside, not rare. Turn off the heat and add the shallot mixture, liquid and all, to the pan.

Winter Warmers

Love these crisp frosty mornings, fortunately my commute is just two or three minutes across the courtyard to the converted apple barn that has housed the Ballymaloe Cookery School for over 20 years now so I don’t have to worry about icy roads. Instead I day dream about the unctuous stew or casserole I’ll make for supper so this week I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Can you imagine anything better to look forward to than a bubbling pot of deliciousness, if you have a magic slow cooker or crock pot the aroma will greet you when you arrive home, battle weary after a day’s work – what could be more comforting?

There are a couple of golden rules to making a really good stew, choose the less expensive, cuts of meat more muscular such as shoulder or breast of lamb that benefit from slow cooking, flank or shin or beef, chicken thighs rather than breast which dries out easily. Some cubes of fat streaky bacon, or pickled pork add richness and a base of aromatic vegetables add sweetness. Onions, carrots, celery, perhaps a few cloves of garlic or a sprig or two of woody herbs.

Keep both the vegetables and the meat nice and chunky so they don’t disintegrate during the long slow cooking.

Sear the cubes of meat in a little goose fat of olive oil on a hot pan to start with. This simple step caramelizes the meat juices and add extra flavour, then toss the vegetables in the pan before adding to the stew pot or casserole, stock will add so much more flavour than water but a dash of wine, cider or beer, though not essential, add complexity. The seasoning is all important; a generous sprinkling of good salt and freshly ground black pepper early on will be absorbed in to the dish. You can taste and correct the seasoning at the end but it’s difficult to get it right if you’ve forgotten to season earlier.

For stewing and braising the cooking temperature is crucial, it must be slow cooking, reduce the heat the moment the liquid comes to the boil, cover the pot and keep it at a mere simmer until the meat is meltingly tender, 80°C is perfect – What food writer, Jane Grigson called “a mummer” with the liquid swirling gently but only bubbling now and then. Boiling ruins a stew!

Remember traditionally only the meat from older more mature animals was used for stewing. The flavour was richer and during long slow cooking the connective tissue dissolves into gelatine which adds a silky texture to the finished dish.

I also like to include some bone in the stew, it adds an extra depth of flavour – ask your butcher for a couple of slices of marrow bone to add to a beef stew it adds really magic. Now at last we can get more mature animals, chat to your family craft butcher they’ll know the provenance of the meat.

Here are a few of my favourite winter warmers ideal for batch cooking, for you, your family and friends to enjoy. Happy New Year!

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

You’ll love this curry, even ardent curry haters can’t get enough of this deliciously spiced dish.  It’s also an excellent base for other additions such as chunks of cooked potato.

Serves 4 -6

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 – 2 chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

zest of 1 organic lemon or 2 limes

110g (4oz) coriander leaves and stalks (coarsely chopped) plus extra to serve

60g (2 1/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 x 400ml (14fl oz) tin of coconut milk

400ml (14fl oz) homemade vegetable stock

500g (18oz) pumpkin or sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

1 small cauliflower, weighing approx. 350g (12oz), broken into small florets

225g (8oz) firm tofu, cut into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

225g (8oz) French beans, green or a mixture of green and yellow

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

organic lemon or lime wedges, to serve

Combine the garlic, chilli, citrus zest, roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks, cashew nuts, ginger, turmeric, cumin and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor and whizz to a chunky or smooth purée, depending on your preference.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, stir in the garlic and ginger purée and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring. Whisk in the coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 8–10 minutes.

Add the chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin and return to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and tofu chunks and bring back to the boil, then cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the French beans and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes, uncovered, until all of the vegetables are cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over a little lemon or lime juice, to taste. Sprinkle with lots of coriander and serve with lemon or lime wedges.

Venison and Parsnip Stew

If time allows, get this started the day before, the flavour will be even better, but ‘needs must’ if you are racing against the clock just mix all the ingredients in the casserole, bring to the boil and cook gently until the venison is tender and unctuous.

Baked potatoes work brilliantly with venison stew but a layer of potatoes on top provide a wonderfully comforting meal in one pot.   Scatter lots of fresh parsley over the top.

Serves 10

1.3kg shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced – 4cm

Marinade

300-350ml gutsy red wine

1 medium onion, sliced

3 tablespoons brandy

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, lightly crushed black pepper

Bouquet garni

Seasoned flour

225g fat salt pork or green streaky bacon, diced -4cm

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

225g small mushrooms, preferably wild ones, but flats have lots of flavour

2 large onions, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

1 large clove garlic, crushed

450ml beef or venison stock

Bouquet garni

Extra butter

Lemon juice

Salt, pepper sugar

8-12 potatoes

Garnish

Lots of freshly chopped parsley

To serve

Green vegetable – eg Brussels sprouts, calabrese, cabbage

Horseradish sauce – optional

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade ingredients for at least an hour or better still overnight. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and turn in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the pork or bacon in olive oil in a heavy casserole, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat. Transfer to a large bowl.  Next sauté the mushrooms in batches on a high heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and transfer to a plate, keep aside to be added later.

Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, brown the venison in batches and add to the  bacon.  Add the onion, carrot, parsnip and garlic to the casserole, with a little more olive oil if necessary, toss and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add to the bacon and venison in the bowl. Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the casserole with the strained marinade, bring to the boil. Add back in the venison, bacon, vegetables and garlic and enough stock to cover the items in the casserole. Put in the bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer on top of the stove.  Cover tightly with the lid of the casserole.   Transfer to the oven and cook until the venison is tender.

Test after 1½ hours, cover the entire stew with the peeled potatoes.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the casserole and continue to cook for another hour approx. until both the venison and potatoes are cooked. Add back in the cooked mushrooms, return to the boil for 2-3 minutes.

Finally taste the sauce, it will need seasoning and perhaps a little acidity, use lemon juice or a couple of spoons full of crab apple jelly.

Serve with a nice big dish of brussels sprouts, calabrese or cabbage and some horseradish sauce.

Scatter with lots of freshly chopped parsley.

Good to know –  For the best results, cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat the next, this improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is really tender.

Venison Pie

Recipe as above.

 

Pastry

340g Puff or Flaky pastry

egg wash

Follow and cook the recipe as above.  Fill the stew into a large pie dish and cover with puff pastry.  Flute the edges, egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves.

Bake in a hot oven 250C/Gas mark 9 for 10 minutes and then reduce heat for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is crisp and golden and pie is bubbling.

Lamb and Pearl Barley Stew and Fresh Herb Gremolata 

A substantial pot of stew fortified with pearl barley, this is really good with lots of gremolata sprinkled over the top. It is a variation of Irish stew, which is the quintessential one-pot dish – the recipe for the original Ballymaloe version can be found in my Forgotten Skills of Cooking book.

Serves 8-10

350g (12oz) piece of green streaky bacon (blanched if salty)

1.8kg (4lb) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb, not less than 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

well-seasoned plain flour, for dusting

a little extra virgin olive oil, for frying

350g (12oz) mushrooms, thinly sliced

700g (1 1/2lbs) whole, small onions – baby ones are nicest

350g (12oz) carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

150g (5oz) parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced

400g (14oz) pearl barley

approx. 2.8 litres (4 3/4 pints) homemade lamb or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Gremolata

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil and mint

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped organic lemon zest

flaky sea salt, to taste

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

First make the stew. Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in the well-seasoned flour.

Heat a little oil in a 25cm (10 inch)/3.2-litre casserole over a medium heat and sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove to a plate. Sauté the mushrooms, season well and set aside. Add the lamb to the casserole in batches, with a little more olive oil if necessary, and sauté until golden. Heat control is crucial here: the pan mustn’t burn, yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If the pan is too cool, the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Remove the lamb to a plate. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions, carrots and parsnips until golden. Return the bacon and lamb to the casserole, together with the pearl barley. Season well, pour in the stock, add the thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1–1 1/4 hours until meltingly tender; the cooking time will depend on the age of the lamb and how long it was sautéed for. Add the mushrooms about 30 minutes before the end.

Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Mix together the chopped herbs and garlic in a small bowl, add the lemon zest and season to taste with a little flaky salt.

Once the casserole is cooked, remove the thyme and season to taste. Leave the casserole to sit for 15–30 minutes to allow the pearl barley to swell. (If necessary, the casserole can be reheated later in the day, or the next day.) Serve bubbling hot, sprinkled with the gremolata.

Beef and Agen Prune Stew

Serves 6 – 8

This is a rich and delicious stew that just gets better and better. The flavour deepens when made the day before. Serve with polenta, tagliatelle or some fluffy mashed potato and a tasty green salad, as you wish.

18 Agen mi-cuit or semi-soft prunes, stoned

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

400g (14oz) carrots cut into 1cm slices

285g (9 1/2oz) onions, sliced

1.35kg (3lb) well-hung stewing beef or lean flank, trimmed of fat and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock (see recipe)

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

8 medium potatoes, washed and peeled at the last minute

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a good green salad and some polenta, tagliatelle or mashed potatoes, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325ºF/Gas Mark 3.

Place the prunes in a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside to soak.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 25cm (10 inch)/3.2 litre (5 1/2 pint) casserole over
a gentle heat and cook the sliced carrots and onions for 10 minutes, covered, until soft. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the casserole over a medium heat until almost smoking. Add the pieces of beef and sear on all sides in the hot fat. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, stock and chopped tomatoes and bring slowly to the boil, stirring. Add the onions and carrots back to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours.

Arrange the whole peeled potatoes on top of the meat and vegetables and replace the lid. Return the casserole to the oven and continue to cook for a further 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Add the whole drained prunes and chopped parsley about 15 minutes before the end.

Serve with a green salad and some tagliatelle, polenta or mashed potatoes, if you like.

Sausage and Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper.

Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages.

Serves 4-6

450g homemade or very best quality fennel and chilli pork sausages

550g dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans

Bean cooking water or chicken stock (if necessary)

3 tablespoons olive oil

175g chopped onion

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 400g tin tomatoes

1 large sprig rosemary chopped, approx 1 tablespoon

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Garnish

flat parsley

Drain the beans and save the cooking water if you have cooked them yourself.

Meanwhile, sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary. Simmer for 5-6 minutes add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Meanwhile fry the sausages in a few drops of olive oil, on a medium heat, when coloured on all sides, add to the bean stew.  Continue to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the sausage is hot through. (Chorizo does not need to be cooked ahead).  Scatter with lots of flat parsley and chervil and serve with a salad of organic leaves.

Note: The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid.

Christmas Leftovers

Just four days to go until the big Christmas Dinner. Stop – allow yourself to slow down for a few minutes….Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 – 10 how vital is it to dash to the shops once again to buy those last few things?

I am challenging myself to ‘do’ presents rather than buy presents. It can be so fun, economically and frankly much more meaningful. Think of ‘a gift of a time’ – a pressie of a couple of babysitting sessions, an afternoon sowing seeds and gardening after Christmas, a-mid January pressie of a lamb or chicken casserole, a couple of litres of chunky winter warming soups.

Well, despite all my good advice to you on how to achieve as hassle free Christmas, I’ve still got several items on my own ‘to do’ lists that I haven’t had the satisfaction of crossing out as yet. Wrapping last minute presents often catches me out but this year many of the family and our lovely team here at Ballymaloe Cookery School are going to get a copy of my latest book One Pot Feeds All, which I hope will make their busy lives a little easier. I’ve already signed and wrapped them in brightly coloured tissue but still lots more to be done but I’m getting lots of help from my older grandchildren.

Then only five sleeps away from St Stephen’s or Boxing Day, when we can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief till next year but for me there’s still much fun to be had dreaming up delicious away to use some odds and ends and bits and bobs lurking in my fridge and pantry.

Even when you are super organised, Christmas dinner is still quite a mission, but whipping up some recycled leftovers is a more chilled affair entirely. I love the improvisation and creative challenge of incorporating dollops of this and that into something entirely different. Think Asian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mexican as well as traditional favourites.

So let’s think what you might have left over apart from the usual morsels of turkey, ham or goose, maybe plum pudding, stale bread, cranberries, sprouts….

Cranberries, you don’t have to fuss about, pop them into the freezer, they’ll keep for months but better still, remember them and throw a fistful into scones, a muffin  mix or soda bread. Cranberry sauce keeps for weeks, maybe longer and will add oomph to a roast chicken or an apple tart.

Brussel sprout soup is absolutely delicious, quite the revelation actually.

Strip away every last morsel of turkey off the carcas, including the skin, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy any of those precious bits left over after the family have descended on the remains to make turkey and stuffing sandwiches. Make sure to make a batch or two of mayo for over Christmas, I love to add some chopped watercress to slather over those turkey sandwiches.

I’ve included two recipes, Mexican Chilaquiles and Laksa.

There’s also a million ways to use up the remains of the ham, chop up little morsels and add to mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese  – one of the most comforting of all dishes to tuck into in early January. Smoked fish also adds oomph to these two favourites.

I also love to have some plum pudding left over to slice and cook gently in a little butter on a pan. If you have Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce, well, have that with it otherwise slake some sweetened whipped cream with Irish whiskey and put a generous dollop on top.

By the way there’s no rush to use up the plum pudding it will keep perfectly well wrapped for several weeks at least.

How about all those miscellaneous root vegetables, I’ve got the perfect solution, why not make one of my favourite things in the whole world  – Picallilli. This recipe was given to me by Gary Masterson one of the senior lecturers at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – it’ll keep for months and will enhance so many meals and serve as a coveted present for your friends.

Perhaps you have some croissants left over, why not try this Ham and Cheese Croissant Pudding – Serve it with a salad of green leaves and the last of the soft herbs lurking in the corner for your fridge.

Little ends of cheese can be grated, rind and all, and added to sauces, into gratins, biscuits and scones…..scraps of blue are best added to soft butter to melt over steaks or burgers.

So enjoy the satisfaction of emptying your fridge and pantry in a delicious way so there’s zero waste – one of our big new year resolutions!  

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Chilaquiles Verdes o Rojos

A delicious way to use up stale tortillas.

Serves 4

6 –8 corn tortillas (stale is fine)

12fl oz (350ml) Tomato and Chilli Sauce (see recipe)

8fl oz (225ml) chicken broth approx.

1 large chicken breast, freshly cooked and shredded with fingers

salt and freshly ground pepper

Accompaniment

4 tablespoons sour cream

8 tablespoons crumbled Queso fresco or grated Mozzarella and Cheddar mixed

1 onion, thinly sliced (optional), rinsed under cold water and drained

fresh coriander leaves

Ovenproof dish 8 x 5 inches (20 x 10 cm)

Cut the tortillas into eights.  Dry them out in a moderate oven if they are moist, they are best stale and leathery for this dish.

Heat oil in a deep fry and cook the tortilla chips in batches until crisp and light golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Just before serving, spread half the tortillas over the base of a deep sided serving dish.  Cover with finely shredded chicken, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Thin out the sauce with a little chicken broth if it is too thick.  Put another layer of tortillas on top. Cover with the hot sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Heat through in a preheated oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 5-10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve immediately with sour cream, more grated cheese for sprinkling and fresh coriander leaves.

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

1 1/2lbs (700g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled OR

2 x 14oz (400g) can good quality tomatoes, drained

hot green chillies to taste (2 – 4 Serrano chillies or 2 – 3 Jalapeño chillies)

2oz (50g) onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil

salt and sugar to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes and whizz in a blender or food processor.

Seed the chillies if you wish. Chop and add to the blender or processor along with the onion and garlic.  Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan.  When hot, add all the pureé at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  The pureé will cook into a thick, more orange-coloured sauce.  Season with salt and if necessary add a little sugar.  Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Turkey and Coconut Laksa

Serves 6-8 as a starter

2 red chillies, chopped with seeds

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2,5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

150g (5oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks coarsely chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

50ml (2fl ozs) toasted sesame oil

250g (8oz) leftover turkey (cut into thin shreds)

2 x 400ml (2 x 14ozs) tins coconut milk

generous 700ml homemade chicken stock

1 tablespoon Nam Pla, fish sauce

150g (5oz) fine rice noodles

8 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over the bowl of rice noodles and allow to soak until soft – 10 minutes approximately. Drain and cut into 5cm (2 inch) lengths. Put the chilli, garlic, ginger, coriander and juice of one lime into a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.

Thinly slice the cooked turkey meat at an angle (1/8 inch wide) and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and fry the chilli paste for 3 minutes. Add the whisked coconut milk and turkey or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the thinly shredded turkey, bring back to the boil and barely simmer for a further 3-4 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through. Add the fish sauce and taste and add more lime juice, salt and pepper if necessary.

Divide the noodles into serving bowls, ladle in the hot soup and garnish with spring onion and coriander leaves.

Note

Do not allow the soup to boil once the chicken is added, otherwise the meat will be tough. 

Gary’s Piccalilli


Good with Cheddar cheese, ham, oily fish, terrines, Paté, pork pies, cold meats etc.

Works well with different vegetables and vinegars, find your best combination


1 cauliflower (700g/1 1/2lbs)
3 large onions (600g/1 1/4lbs)
8 shallots (300g/10oz)
25g (1oz) salt
1 cucumber
300ml (10fl oz) malt vinegar
600ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
350g (12oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) English mustard powder
25g (1oz) turmeric
3-4 tablespoons corn flour (70g)

Break or dice the cauliflower into small florets about 1 cm, chop the onions and shallots into small 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Place all in colander over bowl and sprinkle with salt and leave 24 hours or minimum overnight. Rinse in cold water and dry.


Peel (optional) and deseed the cucumber and sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand in sieve for 10-15 minutes, rinse, dry and add the cauliflower onion mix.
Put the 2 vinegars and chili flakes and bring to a boil to infuse and leave to cool. Strain if required to remove chili flakes.


Combine the sugar, mustard powder, turmeric and cornflour in a bowl and make a paste with 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of cooled vinegar mix, bring the remaining vinegar back to the boil and pour in the mustard paste and whisk till blended, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes then pour over the vegetables and mix well and pour into hots jars. Best left to mature for a few days but is good eaten straight away.


Will keep for at least a month refrigerated.

Turkey, Watercress, Pomegranate and Pecan Nut Salad

Use up leftover morsels or turkey in a delicious way, it’s your call but I prefer not to refrigerate leftover turkey. Just wrap in a tea towel and keep in a cool place to use as required.

Serves 8

1 1/2-2 lbs(700-900g) unrefrigerated leftover turkey

Watercress or a selection of salad leave, frisée and rocket leaves

Dressing

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil

2 tablespoons best quality wine vinegar

1-2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 pomegranates depending on size

3-4oz (75/110g) fresh pecans or walnuts

If the turkey has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature.  Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl – careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely.  Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad leaves in a deep bowl.  Toss gently.  There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.  Taste.  Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  Slice the turkey into chunky pieces.  Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently.  Combine the three ingredients.  Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates.  Sprinkle with roughly chopped pecans or walnuts and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Cheese and Ham Croissant Pudding

Serves 6 People

6 croissants

125g cooked ham or bacon

250g  gruyère and cheddar mixed, thinly sliced or grated

2 -3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard

Topping:

5 eggs

100ml whole milk

50g grated parmesan

30g gruyere

Freshly chopped parsley

Cut the croissants crossways. Fill each one with a slice of ham, a slick of mustard and a generous layer of grated cheese, reserving half the cheese for adding to the ‘custard’ mix.

Butter an ovenproof gratin dish, arrange the croissant sandwiches in the base in a single layer. Whisk the eggs well with the milk. Fold in half the grated cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour evenly over the croissants. Allow to sit for 30 mins or longer if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 25 – 30 mins or until the ‘custard’ is set and the cheese is melted and golden on top. Flash under the grill if necessary.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves with lots of sprigs of flat leave parsley.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4 litres) water

2 teaspoons salt

2ozs (50g) butter

2ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 1/2 pints (850ml) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.  Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.  Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Christmas Ham Leftovers

Add 8oz (225g) diced ham and lots of chopped parsley to the macaroni cheese as you put it into the dish.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel

Add 8ozs (225 g) of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel dice to the macaroni cheese.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Ruggelach

Makes 16

Pastry

110g (4oz) cream cheese

110g (4oz) softened butter

150g (5oz) flour

Filling

1/4 – 1/2 lbs Ballymaloe Mincemeat

Glaze

1 egg, beaten

castor sugar

Beat the cream cheese vigorously with the butter until well mixed and softened.  Stir in the flour gradually.  Gather into a ball and wrap in cling film or parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry out into a 33cm (12 inch) circle.  Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the pastry.  Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and run the rolling pin over it a couple of times to fix the filling firmly into the pastry.  Lift off the paper.

Divide the circle up like a cake into 16 triangles.  Roll up each one, starting with the wider end, as if you were making a croissant.   Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Turkey and all the trimmings…

Once again the Christmas lights are twinkling in the high streets. Somehow it feels as though the festive season comes round earlier and earlier each year. Santa and his elves have elbowed the harvest pumpkins and Halloween ghouls well out of the way until next Autumn.  

Children of all ages are being whipped into a frenzy of excitement by ads for this year’s new big thing and parents are feeling emotionally blackmailed into fulfilling their little dotes unrealistic expectations. Is it any wonder that we are seeing more and more column inches about the growing number of people who ‘hate Christmas’ and just want to bury their heads and groan every time they hear Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé crooning over the airwaves.

It’s not just the unwanted presents and added expense coupled with the extra work and sheer exhaustion. The mere thought makes some people long to go to curl up and snooze until early January. Spending Christmas with their nearest but ‘not so dearest’ can cause acute anxiety in itself. Let’s spare a thought though for the many who have actually lost dearly loved ones. Christmas, when everyone around seems impossibly cheery, seems to accentuate the heartbreak and loneliness and bring memories of happier times flooding back.

Time to remind ourselves of the spirit of Christmas and to remember that it should be a time of caring and sharing, comfort and joy and dare I say ‘simplicity’. So after all that, let’s ‘Have ourselves a Merry, little Christmas’.

As ever, a bit of advance planning will mean that everyone’s more relaxed and able to enjoy the fun….so let’s make a plan. Regular readers will know I’m a great list maker, for me, lists and lots of them are the answer. I think we all now realise, that Christmas is not just a one-day event but closer to two weeks. If you’ve got a big family, don’t feel you have to do everything yourselves – it’s good to begin by allocating some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into taking on some tasks.

Decide on the menu for the big day, whether it’s turkey and ham or maybe a goose, order the very best you can afford. Beautifully reared organic birds tend to get snapped up early…. Hurry, hurry. . . .

We tend to be total traditionalists – The Christmas dinner menu is sacred, no one seems to want to change a single iota, we must have a gorgeous plump really well hung turkey. I order it ‘New York dressed’ and hang it for 4 or 5 weeks for maximum succulence.

Start with a two week planner, fill in the basics and create a shopping list. It’s easy to overestimate the amount of food we need but a well-stocked larder means one can whip up simple meals in minutes. I know turkey sandwiches are delicious but if there are just 2 or 4 in your family, ask yourself do you really need a turkey or goose, how about a plump pheasant, a crispy duck or a really beautiful organic chicken?

This year I’ve included our new favourite Scrunchy Spiced Winter Vegetable Pie for those who enjoy a lighter meat free meal.

It’s time to get cracking, so let’s plan a couple of batch cooking sessions. We love to make lots and lots of soup, such a brilliant standby to have in the freezer in small containers, perfect to quickly defrost when you need to produce a comforting meal in a hurry.

I also love to have some bags of pre-weighed soda bread mix ready to pop into a bowl. Just turn on the oven then add  a level teaspoon of baking soda and some buttermilk, cut the dough into scones and hey presto, you’ll have a bowl of chunky soup and freshly baked scones in less than 15 minutes. Some cured meats, farmhouse cheese, membrillo, a few tangerines and you have a perfect little feast.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped

Garnish

fried diced bacon

tiny croutons

flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. 

To Serve.

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Scrunchy Spiced Vegetable Filo Pie

This root vegetable pie can also be made in individual ‘snails’, but this delicious flaky version comes in a sauté pan. This version is good for a feast as it serves 12–15 people. You can halve the recipe if you’re serving smaller numbers.

Serves 12-15

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) chopped onions

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

500g (18oz) chopped carrots

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped celeriac

220g (8oz) peeled and chopped parsnip

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

2 teaspoon turmeric

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

220g (8oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms

4 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz) vegetable stock

9 – 10 sheets of filo pastry, 30 x 43cm (12 x 17 inch) (about one packet)

45g (2oz) melted butter, for brushing

egg wash, made by beating 1 organic, free-range egg with 1 tablespoon whole milk

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

Cut the vegetables into uniform sized cubes about ¾ inch.  Heat the olive oil in a 26cm (10 inch) ovenproof sauté pan, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, celeriac and parsnips.

Season with salt generously and freshly ground pepper, stir, cover the pot and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes.  Meanwhile heat the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds on a pan until they smell aromatic – just a few seconds.  Crush lightly, add to the vegetables stir in the sautéed mushrooms.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.  Take off the heat – sprinkle over the flour, turmeric and a pinch of sugar. Stir well.

Return to the pan to heat and add the vegetable stock gradually, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender but not mushy. Remove from the pan, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool

Brush the sauté pan with melted butter. Brush each sheet of filo with melted butter, fold over width wise, layer up the pastry in the base of the sauté pan or roasting dish so that it comes up the sides, allow enough pastry to hang over the sides to fold over and encase the filling.

Brush another sheet of filo with melted butter, divide into quarters, scrunch each piece lightly and arrange on top.

Spread the filling evenly over the pastry and bring up the sides of the filo to enclose the filling. Scrunch 3 sheets of filo and place on top of the pie.

Chill in the fridge. Just before baking, brush all over with the egg wash.  Put the sauté pan onto a gas jet at medium, cook for 3-4 minutes or until the pan heats and the base begins to brown.  Transfer to the oven and bake for about ½ an hour until puffed up and golden.

Serve, cut into wedges, while still warm and flaky.

Roast Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay Leaves

Do you know about Jerusalem artichokes, they are in season from November to March and look like knobbly potatoes.  Avery important source of inulin which enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in our systems, particularly important after a course of antibiotics.

Jerusalem Artichokes are called sunchokes in the US, they are a member of the sunflower family

Serves 8

450g (1lb) potatoes

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes                                 

12 unpeeled whole garlic cloves

flaky sea salt and cracked pepper

50g (2oz) duck fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig of bay leaves – about 20 leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

Peel the potatoes, I like smaller potatoes best for this, but the large ones can be cut in to two, four or even 6 wedges depending on size. Scrub and cut the unpeeled Jerusalem artichokes in to similar size pieces.

Heat the duck fat or the extra virgin olive oil in a roasting tin.  Dry the potatoes and artichokes  well, toss in the fat or oil, add several sprigs  of bay, about 20 leaves. Season well with flaky sea salt and lots of pepper, and toss again.

Cook for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, increase the heat to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, add the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.  Turn into a hot dish and serve.

I like the edges of the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes to be a little caramelised.

Christmas Salad Wreath

We serve this salad family style in the middle of the table.

A delicious festive starter, light, refreshing and fun to serve.

Serves 6 – 8 or more depending on size

24 fresh walnut halves

175 – 200gr (6-7oz) of mixed small salad leaves

2 – 3 ripe juicy pears

300 – 350g (10-12oz) ripe Crozier blue, crumbled (Use your favourite blue cheese)

Pomegranate seeds from 1/2 -1 fruit

Fresh sprigs of chervil and mint if available

Dressing

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4.

Taste the walnuts and make sure they are not rancid.

Spread them out on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven until nice and toasty (8-10 minutes), allow to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing, season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Just before serving

Arrange the salad leaves in a wreath shape on a large round plate.

Peel and core the pears and cut into wedges.

Arrange around the top of the salad wreath, sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.

Drizzle with a little dressing of put a little bowl of whisked dressing into the centre and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Two-Bite Parmesan Scones

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon  teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14fl oz/1) approx.

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan or 110g (4oz) finely grated cheddar cheese

Cutter 4cm (1 1/2 inch) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Brush the top with a little buttermilk or egg wash, dip each scone into grated Parmesan.  Allow 2.5cm (1 inch) or so between each one on a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom, when cooked they will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g. rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

A Tear and Share Christmas Tree

Have fun building the teeny weeny scones into a Christmas tree shape.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

It’s also fun to cook three in a line and serve pierced with a rosemary or thyme sprig.

Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese Gratin

Serves 6-8

1 medium sized cauliflower with green leaves

1 head of broccoli

salt

Mornay Sauce

600ml (1 pint) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion

3-4 slices of carrot

6 peppercorns

sprig of thyme or parsley

roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated cheese, e.g. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyére, Parmesan and Cheddar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Garnish

Chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Prepare and cook the cauliflower and broccoli.

Remove the outer leaves and wash both the cauliflower and the leaves well.  Put not more than 2.5cm (1in) water in a saucepan just large enough to take the cauliflower; add a little salt.  Chop the leaves into small pieces and cut the cauliflower in quarters or eighths; place the cauliflower on top of the green leaves in the saucepan, cover and simmer until cooked, 10-15 minutes approx. Test by piercing the stalk with a knife, there should be just a little resistance.  Similarly cut the broccoli into small pieces place the broccoli in simmering, salted water for 8 – 10 mins approx. or until tender when pierced with a knife.

The secret of maximum flavour is minimum water.

Meanwhile make the Mornay Sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the onion, carrot, peppercorns and herb.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in enough roux to thicken to a light coating consistency. Add most of the grated cheese (reserving enough to sprinkle over the dish) and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning, it should good and perky. Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower in an ovenproof gratin dish, and sprinkle with the remainder of the grated cheese. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point.

Put into the preheated oven or under the grill to brown. If the cauliflower cheese is allowed to get completely cold, it will take 20-25 minutes to reheat in a moderate oven. 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing

Serves 10-12

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

Brining the turkey makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour, either dry or wet brine. (See below on Wet and Dry Brining).

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey

225g (8oz) butter

large square of muslin (optional)

Garnish

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2 ¾ – 3 ¼ hours depending on the weight.  A brined turkey takes a shorter time to cook. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey will brown beautifully. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with dampened parchment paper.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

To Test:  The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De-glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest and grandest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

A Simple Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse or as a filling for a meringue roulade. I like it pure and simple but of course you can add some grated orange rind or a splash of brandy if you wish!

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a small heavy-based stainless steel saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

Note:  It should be soft and juicy, add a little warm water if it has accidently over cooked.

Bread and Parsley Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl. I’m loving the addition of some freshly chopped parsley at the end.

Serves

600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75ml (3oz) thick cream

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice mix made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Brine a Turkey

Wet Brine

Brining hugely enhances the flavour of poultry and pork. Both add flavour. For wet brine, you’ll need a large enough container to fully submerge the turkey in the brine for 24 hours. Some people brine the bird in their stainless steel sink.

Use 100g salt to every 1 litre of water, stir to fully dissolve. Drain and dry well before stuffing and covering with butter soaked muslin.

Dry Brine

Rub pure salt all over the surface of the turkey. Leave overnight, next day pat the bird dry and proceed as above.

Gutsy herbs like thyme and rosemary can be chopped and added to the salt. Not sure why but brining decreases the cooking time so check for doneness at least 30 minutes earlier and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.

Batch Cooking

The new buzz word in the kitchen is ‘Batch Cooking’. Quite simply, it means cooking double or triple the recipe each time so meals can be planned ahead, mixed and matched and frozen in handy, easy to defrost size portions. Typically, the big batch cooking session is done at the weekend, often on a Sunday.

It not only saves time during the week but also helps your budget

and reduces food waste. Here’s where the freezer, the magical kitchen appliance that almost everyone owns, can really transform busy people’s lives and you’ll also have more special time to enjoy and spend with your family. But you’ll need to use it ‘smartly’ so here are a few tips.

Most foods freeze brilliantly, including sausage rolls, meat balls, breads, soups, stocks, beans, stews, casseroles, tagines, muffins, fishcakes, burgers, cooked rice, cookie dough, cakes …..food will freeze for ever but as a general rule it’s best to use up within a few weeks rather than months. Of course it will keep frozen but both flavour and texture gradually deteriorate as does the nutrient value. Some foods like lettuce and mayo don’t freeze well – they will wilt and split.

For maximum convenience, freeze food in smaller rather than larger portions unless you plan to serve a whole dish for 4 – 6 people. If not, freeze individual or a two portion serving instead – they defrost so much faster and cut down on waste. Recycled yoghurt pots or muffin tins are perfect for freezing individual portions. Tray freeze whenever possible, meat balls, sausage rolls, homemade fish fingers and chicken nuggets…  Then pop them into a reusable plastic box, interleaved with parchment paper or bag them in reusable bags, defrosting what you want when you fancy it.

Save tetra packs and litre milk cartons for soups. Allow some space for expansion during freezing. Cook the favourite dishes that your family love but more of them.  Here are a few favourite standbys…

Tomato fondue, we are never without this ‘great convertible’ serve as a vegetable, a sauce for pasta, topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, base for a bean stew, sauce for grilled fish or a chicken breast…Peperonata and mushroom a la crème are two other indispensable standbys.

All soup…. I’d never be without a stock of soup both thin and chunky. Cook up a couple of batches of bean stew also and of course some veg and meat stews, gratins and lasagnes.

When you manage to source some really fresh fish, an increasing challenge, tray freeze a few portions and also cook up a batch of fish cakes and a few fish pies with some creamy mash on top. Mash potato or champ and potato cakes are also brilliant to batch cook, freeze both in dishes and individual portions. So here are a few dishes to get started on….

Tomato Fondue x 3

This is triple the recipe that serves 6 so enough to serve 18 portions.

You’ll never be short of a quick meal if you have some tomato fondue in the freezer, Use it as an accompanying vegetable, a base for a bean or fish stew, sauce for pasta, topping for pizza or frittata, filling for an omelette . . . .

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

350g (12oz) onions, sliced

3 garlic clove, crushed

2.7kgs (6lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled or 6 x 14oz tins chopped tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

6 tablespoons of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften.

A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhance the flavour.

Homemade Fish Cakes x 3

Fish cakes are absolutely scrummy when they are carefully made and freeze perfectly.

Makes 24

3-3.5 lbs (1.3kg -1.5kg) cold leftover fish, e.g. salmon, cod, haddock, hake (a proportion of smoked fish such as haddock or mackerel is good)

3oz (75g) butter

12oz (350g) onion, finely chopped

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potato

3 egg yolks

3 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

2 beaten eggs

fresh white breadcrumbs

clarified butter or a mixture of butter and oil for frying

To make the fish cakes, melt the butter in a saucepan, toss in the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl, add the mashed potato and the flaked cooked fish, egg yolk and chopped parsley or a mixture of fresh herbs. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste. Form the mixture into fish cakes about 2oz (50g) each. Coat them first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally in crumbs. Refrigerate until needed, then cook on a medium heat in clarified butter until golden on both sides. Serve piping hot with pats or slices of garlic butter, tomato fondue and a good green salad.

 Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6 but will easily double up for batch cooking.

Freeze in portion sizes that suit your situation.

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz/1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups) milk

50-110g (2-4oz/1/2 – 1 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Potato Cakes

A great use for any leftover mash and easily frozen prior to cooking and defrosted as needed. Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Basic Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula. 1.1.3.5. When following this formula you can easily double or triple your recipe and freeze in batches.

1 part diced onion

1 part diced potato

3 parts any diced vegetable of your choice, or a mixture

5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed

seasoning

One can use water, chicken or vegetable stock and season simply with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added.

So one can make a myriad of different soups depending on what’s fresh, in season and available.

If potatoes and onions are the only option, one can still make two delicious soups by increasing one or the other and then adding one or several herbs.  We have even used broad bean tops, radish leaves and nettles in season but kale, cabbage or leek tops would work excellently now.

Example:

50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice

340g (12oz) chopped vegetables of your choice, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (5fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stock. Boil until soft, liquidise, sieve or put through a mouli. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Adjust seasoning.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

Another great recipe to double up and freeze for a busy day when you want something nourishing and comforting to eat.

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound ‘old hat’ always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.

Serves 4-6

1 x 3 1/2 lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

12oz (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

1lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)

12oz (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole, if large cut in chunks)

homemade chicken stock – 1 1/4 pints (750ml) approx.

sprig of thyme

Roux – optional

Garnish

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

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

Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1 inch (2 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sautéed for.

When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning.  The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la creme is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.

Winter Veg

Autumn is fast sliding into Winter, the gardens and greenhouses look quite different to when the 12 Week students arrived in September. On the first day, when I was showing them around, I urged them to take photos to remember the changing landscape. We picked the last tomatoes off the vines a couple of weeks ago and made green tomato jam and chutney with the last of the fruit.

Basil hates the cold, those few nights of hard frost that gave us the spectacular Autumn colour killed the Genovese basil but surprisingly the Thai purple stemmed basil survived rather better.  Cucumbers too, have finished for another year but we’ve still got a few tiny aubergines to pop into a Thai green curry during the next few days.

The last of the borlotti beans are drying in the pods on the plants, they will be wonderful for hearty bean stews and winter soups.

So now we’re well and truly into the root vegetable season… Parsnips are unexpectedly sweet once again due to the nights of hard frost, which concentrated the sugar. We’ve also started to use the knobbly new season Jerusalem Artichokes – what a brilliant winter vegetable, super versatile, they roast deliciously, are great in gratins, soups and stews, and make the most irresistible crisps to nibble or scatter over a salad.

The Winter greens are flourishing too, there’s a forest of curly kale, cavolo Nero, red Russian, curly kale and lots of chard, so when I’m asked how do you manage for veg in the winter, people are astonished at the variety and I haven’t even mentioned leeks, celeriac, Romanesco or swede turnips.

Here are some of the new ways we’ve been enjoying natures Winter bounty in recipes and ferments…

Roast Fennell, Squash, Chorizo and basil frittata

Serves 6 – 8

400g Butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm thick wedges

300g fennel, outer leaves removed, cut into 2cm thick wedges

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon and extra to drizzle

1 red onion thinly sliced

150g chorizo, skinned and sliced

250g spinach, washed

10- 12 free range organic eggs – depending on the size of your pan

Small bunch of basil

1 garlic clove

4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Mixed leaf salad (optional), to serve

Sea salt and black pepper

You will need a 24 – 26 cm ovenproof pan or quiche dish.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas Mark 6.

Toss the squash and fennel with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and season well. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and just tender.

10 minutes before the squash and fennel are cooked through, toss the red onion and chorizo in 1 teaspoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and add to the tray. Roast for another 10 minutes, then remove and leave to one side.

Meanwhile, put the spinach in a large dry pan over a high heat. Turn the spinach as it wilts, then remove and drain in a sieve, pressing out any excess water. Season the spinach with a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, whisk and season well. Put most of the squash, fennel, spinach, onion and chorizo into the ovenproof pan or quiche dish. Pour over the beaten egg and finish with the remaining fillings so that they stick out over the top of the egg.

Cook in the oven for about 35 – 45 minutes, until the frittata has souffléd up and the top is just firm to the touch. If it is still uncooked in the centre, cover with foil to prevent burning and cook until just firm.

While the frittata is cooking, chop the basil finely and combine with the garlic and the extra virgin olive oil, to create a loose basil oil.

Let the frittata cool a little, drizzle over the basil oil and serve immediately with a light mixed-leaf salad.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Thyme and Rosemary Salmoriglio

Salmoriglio is a pungent Italian herb oil, traditionally made with oregano or marjoram, but really good with thyme and rosemary too. It transforms dishes from perfectly good to ‘what on earth is that, I MUST have the recipe?’!

Serve with pan grilled lamb chops, chicken, pork or roast vegetables…

Makes about 180ml

10g rosemary leaves

10g thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 garlic clove

Squeeze lemon juice

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Put the herbs in a mortar with the sea salt and the garlic. Pound relentlessly with a pestle until you have a smooth paste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and slowly pour in the olive oil, stirring as you go with the pestle until everything is combined. It should be stored in the fridge, covered, and keeps for about 3 days.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Cabbage and Kale Kimchi

Makes 1 x 1 litre jar

1 large Napa/Chinese cabbage (roughly 1.2kg)

150g kale, stalks removed (I find cavolo nero works best)

1.2litres of water

40g fine table salt

60g sea salt

Paste

7 garlic cloves

5g fresh root ginger, peeled

100g onion, peeled

50g goghugaru (Korean chilli powder)

80ml fish sauce

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar or maple syrup

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Vegetables

200g carrots, peeled and cut into fine julienne strips

30g chives, cut into 4cm lengths

4 spring onions, halved lengthways and cut into 4cm lengths

You will need 1 x 1 litre jar with a lid, sterilised.

Cut about 10cm deep across the base of the cabbage, then gently split the entire cabbage in half lengthways. Rinse the cabbage and kale under running water, getting in between the leaves. In a large flat bowl or container, combine the 1.2 litres of water with the 40g table salt. Sprinkle the 60g of sea salt over each leaf of the halved cabbage, focusing your attention on the thicker root end and working up to the thinner leaf. Put any remaining salt into the salt-water mixture.

Place the cabbage cut side down in the bowl of salted water and mix the kale in around it. Press firmly down on the cabbage and kale to help the leaves soak up the salt water. It will not be submerged, though. Leave to soak for 2 hours, then turn over and soak for a further 2 hours, until the cabbage leaves are limp and bend easily without breaking. Make sure to time this process so you don’t over-salt the cabbage.

Drain the cabbage and kale and rinse thoroughly under running water at least twice. Taste the leaves: they should be highly salted; however, if it is too strong, keep rinsing until the salt levels are reduced, the drain completely.

In the meantime, mix the glutinous rice flour with 2 tablesps of the water, using a fork or whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Once you have a smooth paste, gradually pour the remaining water into the flour mixture. Put the mixture into a saucepan, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, until thick and gelatinous. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.

In a food processor, combine all the paste ingredients and the cooled flour mixture, until you have a smooth paste. Add this to a bowl, together with the carrots, chives and spring onions, and mix well until thoroughly combined. Carefully apply this mixture to the drained cabbage, layering the leaves of kale into the cabbage as you go, ensuring every leaf is covered with the mixture. Use the outer leaf of each to wrap around the cabbage, helping to keep the mixture secure inside.

Put the cabbage into a sterilised jar or other airtight container, press down firmly to remove any air pockets and seal tightly. Keep the jar at room temperature (out of direct sunlight) for 2 days, by which stage it should be beginning to ferment and smell a little sour. The rate of fermentation will depend on the temperature and climate of the location where you are making it, so a good way to gauge its progress is to taste it at this point – if it has developed those characteristically sour notes, then you are on the right track. Now use a spoon to press the kimchi down very firmly, submerging it in its own juices and making sure there are no air pockets at all. If you need to, place a smaller jar filled with water, or a small stone wrapped in greaseproof paper, on top of the cabbage to make sure it remains fully submerged. Seal the container again and refrigerate. Most people find they like the kimchi best after a few weeks in the fridge; others like it after a month or 2, when it has a bit more of a sour kick to it. Try it out at intervals and see when you like it best. If kept in a very cold fridge, it will keep for about a year.

Recipe extracted from Healthy Baking by Jordan Bourke, published by Orion Publishing Group Ltd.

Winter Vegetable and Borlotti Bean Soup with Spicy Sausage

We make huge pots of this chunky soup during the colder months of the year.  It freezes brilliantly.  The sausage can be chorizo, merguez or the Polish kabanossi, these give a gutsy slightly smoky flavour to the soup which although satisfying is by no means essential.   The beans too can be varied, borlotti are wonderful but haricot, black-eyed beans, or chickpeas or a mixture, are also deeply satisfying.

Serves 8-9

225g rindless streaky bacon, cut into 5mm lardons

2 tablespoons olive oil

225g onions, chopped

300g carrot, cut into 5mm dice

215g celery, chopped into 5mm dice

125g parsnips, chopped into 5mm dice

200g white part of 1 leek, 5mm slices thick approx.

1 spicy sausage,(110g approx.) cut into 3mm thin slices or 5mm cubes

1x 400g tin of tomatoes

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

1.7L homemade chicken stock

225g borlotti beans, cooked  * (see recipe)

Garnish

2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Blanch, the chunky bacon lardons, refresh and dry well. Prepare the vegetables. Put the olive oil in a saucepan, add bacon and sauté over a medium heat until it becomes crisp and golden, add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cover and sweat for five minutes, next add the parsnip and finely sliced leeks. Cover and sweat for a further 5 minutes. Slice the sausage thinly, and add. Chop the tomatoes and add to the rest of the vegetables and the cooked beans. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, add the chicken stock. Allow to cook until all the vegetables are tender, 20 minutes approx. Taste and correct the seasoning. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with lots of crusty brown bread.

*  Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.  Next day, drain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy – anything from 30-60 minutes.  Just before the end of cooking, add salt.  Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.

Parsnip or Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps

We serve these delicious crisps on warm salads, as a garnish for Roast pheasant or Guinea fowl and as a topping for Parsnip or root vegetable soup.  *  Delicious crisps may be made from other vegetables apart from the much-loved potato.  Celeriac, beetroot, leek and even carrots are also good.  Careful not to have the oil too hot or the crisps will quickly turn and be bitter.

Serves 6 – 8

1 large parsnip or 3-4 Jerusalem artichokes

sunflower or arachide oil

salt

Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150C.  Scrub and peel the parsnips.  Either slice into wafer thin rounds or peel off long slivers lengthways with a swivel top peeler.   Allow to dry out on kitchen paper.

Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Jerusalem Artichoke Crisps

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes well, slice in wafer thin rounds and cook as above.

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

V

Serves 8

175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing

110g (4oz/1/2 cup) Demerara sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) maple syrup

3 large organic eggs

250g (9oz/2 1/4 cups) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons mixed spice

175g (6oz) parsnips, peeled and grated

1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated

50g (2oz) pecans or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

zest of 1 small orange

1 tablespoon (1 tablespoon/1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) orange juice

icing sugar, to serve

Filling

300g (10oz) cream cheese

2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) maple syrup

2 x 20cm (8 inches) deep sandwich tins buttered and lined with parchment paper

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

Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over a gentle heat, then cool slightly.  Whisk the eggs into the mixture, then stir into the flour, baking powder and mixed spice.   Next add the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and freshly squeezed juice.  Divide between the two tins or pour into the loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just starting to shrink from the sides of the tin.

Cool on a wire rack. 

Just before serving, mix the cream cheese and maple syrup together.  Spread over the base of one cake and top with the other.  Alternatively, if making in a loaf tin, spread icing sugar over the top of the cake to decorate.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Cakes, cakes and more cakes….

This week I am going to devote my entire column to cakes and baking, this was prompted by a recent delicious encounter at Philip’s bookshop in Mallow, Co Cork. Philip, Catherine and June O’Flynn invited me back to celebrate 30 years of business. They reminded me that I had first come to their shop in 1990 when I had brown hair and huge red glasses, to sign copies of my Simply Delicious cookbook.

The photos of that event are still up on the wall behind the tills. There I was in my flowery apron making Ballymaloe cheese fondue in their original book shop, the new premises on the Main Street is much larger. It was such a fun trip down memory lane, to flick through their photo albums….

This entrepreneurial trio had planned lot of excitement for the 30th anniversary celebration, including a baking competition. Contestants could choose a cake, biscuit or bun recipe from any of my 18 now 19 cookbooks.

Three whole tables of cakes awaited when I arrived, Peter O’Meara, of Savill’s Auctioneers fame and, I had the unenviable task of judging the best entries. As well as many luscious cakes there were brownies, cupcakes, buns and a gorgeous swiss roll oozing with raspberries and cream. The standard was fantastic, every item was absolutely delicious, I was blown away by how each contestant had reproduced my recipe to perfection. Some of the baking had been done by children and teenagers, which always gives me a special ‘whoops in my tummy’. Wonderful to get the kids into the kitchen, they often start with baking and then gradually move onto salads and savoury dishes. It is super important to pass on cooking skills to the next generation, so they are equipped with the basic techniques to feed themselves. It’s also high time we changed our attitude to cooking and hospitality as a career of lesser value – how ridiculous is that!

All I could do initially was scramble eggs and with that one skill, considered by many as of lesser importance than any of the STEM subjects, I have had a hugely enjoyable career and have had the opportunity to bring joy and share my knowledge with thousands of others.

A few little words about baking. As ever, buy the finest ingredients, always use butter, not margarine and organic or at least free range eggs. Check that nuts are not rancid and use fat juicy dried fruit and real candied citrus peel if a recipe calls for it.

There are many, many baking recipes scattered throughout my books but here are some of the recipes chosen by the customers of Philip’s bookshop who were awarded a rosette and copy of my new One Pot Feeds All Cookbook, which I am excited to tell you has just won Book of the Year at the Listowel Food Fair, what an honour.

Pearl McGillycuddy’s All in One Buns

Makes 24

I’ve never bothered to make buns by hand since Pearl gave me this recipe over 25 years ago. It’s most depressing, because even though they only take seconds to make they are actually better than the ones I used to make laboriously by hand. These buns are made by the All in One method in a food processor.

8ozs (225g) soft butter, chopped

8ozs (225g) castor sugar

10ozs (285g) white flour

4 eggs, preferably free range

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

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

Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 30 seconds approx. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise.  Bake for 20 minutes approx. in total. Cool on a wire rack and decorate as desired.

The young girl who made them decorated them with a white icing and a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands.

Butterfly Buns

Cut the top off the buns, cut this piece in half and keep aside. Meanwhile put a little homemade raspberry jam and a blob or cream on to the bottom part of the bun. Replace the two little pieces, arranging them like wings. Dredge with icing sugar and serve immediately.

These buns may be iced with dark chocolate icing or coffee icing. They are also delicious, painted with raspberry jam or redcurrant jelly and dipped in coconut.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 12

275g (10zs) chocolate

275g (10ozs) butter

5 eggs

350g (12ozs) sugar

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

110g (4ozs) chopped walnuts or hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 180º/350ºF/Gas mark 4

Line a deep Swiss Roll Tin 12”x 8”x 4” (30cm x 20cm x10cm) with parchment paper

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a gentle heat.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until it’s a light mousse.  Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mousse.  Fold in the flour to this mixture.  Finally add the chopped nuts.  Cook in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the centre is slightly wobbly. Leave to sit in the tin to cool and set.

When set, turn out by flipping the tin carefully onto a board. Peel off the parchment paper. Place another board on top of the brownies and turn carefully back again to show the “top side”. Cut into squares.

Aunt Florence’s Orange Cake

When my Aunt Florence brings a present of this delicious cake, people suddenly emerge out of the woodwork pleading for a slice. It was chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the European parliament.

Serves about 8–10

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablesp freshly squeezed orange juice

1 or 2 pieces Candied orange Peel optional

Orange Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter, soft

225g (8oz) icing sugar

finely grated zest of 1 organic orange

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice

Orange Glacé Icing

juice of 1 orange & some zest

300g (10oz) icing sugar

2 x 20cm (8 inch) round cake tins or 1 x 28cm (11 inch) in diameter and 5cm (2 inch) deep

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

Grease and flour the cake tin or tins. Line the base of each with silicone paper.

Cream the butter and gradually add the caster sugar. Whisk until soft and light and quite pale. Add the orange zest. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together and stir in gradually. Mix lightly, then stir in the orange juice.

Divide the mixture evenly if using two tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake for 35 minutes or until it is cooked. Turn out on to a wire tray and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the orange cream. Cream the butter; add the sieved icing sugar and orange zest. Whisk in the orange juice bit by bit.

To make the icing, simply add enough orange juice and a little zest to the icing sugar to make a spreadable icing.

When the cakes are cold, split each one in two halves and spread with a little filling, then sandwich the two bases together. Spread the icing over the top and sides and decorate the top, if you like, with little strips or diamonds of candied peel.

Classic Coffee Cake

This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made – and we still make it regularly. Everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee.

Serves 10–12

225g (8oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon baking powder

scant 2 tablespoons Camp coffee essence

Coffee Butter Cream

150g (6oz) butter

330g (12oz) icing sugar, sieved

5-6 teaspoons Camp coffee essence

Coffee Glace Icing

450g (1lb) icing sugar

scant 2 tablespoons  Irel or Camp coffee essence

about 4 tablespoons boiling water

To Decorate

Caramelised Walnuts

20cm (8in) square cake tin

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

Line the base and sides of the tin with greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.

Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon, add the caster sugar and beat until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, whisking well between each addition.

Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture. Finally, add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.

Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. When the cake is cooked, the centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tins. Leave to rest in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cake doesn’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cake to cool on the wire rack.

To make the coffee butter cream, whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

When cold, cut the cake in half lengthwise, then cut each half horizontally creating rectangular layers, 4 in total. Sandwich each sponge layer together with ½ of the coffee butter cream, forming a loaf shaped cake. Place half of the remaining  buttercream into a piping bag, fitted with a medium star shaped nozzle. Spread the sides and top of the cake thinly with the last of the butter cream and place into the fridge for 10-15 minutes to chill. This technique is called crumb coating.

Next make the Coffee Glace Icing. Sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a thick cream.

To Decorate:

Remove the cake from the fridge. Pour the glace icing evenly over the top of the cake, gently spreading it down the sides with a palette knife. Allow to set, 30 minutes (approx.). Decorate with piped rosettes of buttercream and garnish with the caramelized walnuts.

Swiss Roll

Swiss Roll may be rolled lengthwise or width wise depending on the thickness required.

Serves 8

4 ozs (110g) plain flour

4 eggs, organic and free-range

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons warmed homemade raspberry jam

1 x 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm) Swiss Roll tin

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Line a large Swiss Roll tin with greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom of the tin exactly.  Brush the paper and sides of the tin with melted butter, dust with flour and castor sugar. 

Whisk the eggs and castor sugar together in an electric mixer until light, fluffy and voluminous .

Add the water and vanilla extract.  Sieve about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mousse using a long handled large metal spoon.

Pour the mixture gently into the tin. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.  It is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre.  The edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin.  Lay a damp tea towel on the work top, put a sheet of greaseproof paper on top and sprinkle it evenly with castor sugar.  Turn the swiss roll on top of the sugared greaseproof paper.  Remove the tin and greaseproof paper from the bottom of the cake.  While the cake is still warm, spread it sparingly with homemade raspberry jam.  Mark the swiss roll with a knife.  Catch the edge of the paper closest to you about 3/4 inch (2cm) from the edge and roll up the swiss roll away from you. 

Suggestions for other fillings

There are many other fillings you might like to try, but roll the greaseproof paper into the Swiss Roll while warm and unroll it later when cold to fill if you are using whipped cream.

  1. Fresh raspberry or sliced strawberries and cream
  2. Mashed banana with lemon juice and whipped cream
  3. Melted chocolate and whipped cream
  4. Fresh strawberries or raspberries mashed with a little sugar and whipped cream
  5. Kumquat compote and whipped cream.

Lemon drizzle cake

Serves 8 – 10

6oz (175g) soft butter

5oz (170g) unrefined castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

60z (175g) self-raising flour

Zest of 1 organic lemon

Lemon Drizzle

Freshly grate rind of 1 organic lemon

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 organic lemon

3oz (75g) castor sugar

8” round cake tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper.

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

Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour in to a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly into the greased tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the drizzle. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cook and transfer to a wire rack.

Note:

In winter when the butter is harder to cream, we add 2-3 tablespoons of milk to lighten the mixture and texture.

Celebrating Homemade Bread

I wish everyone could discover the magic of making a loaf of bread – it’s so easy, soda breads particularly are made in minutes and there are endless variations on the theme. Mix nutty, wholemeal, brown flour with white to make a crunchy brown loaf, scatter the top with whatever seeds you fancy. Fresh herbs, nuts, oatflakes, wholegrains, spices, seaweed, dried fruit all add extra excitement to the white soda.

The dough can be baked in a tin or in a traditional free form anointed with a cross on a baking tray. Very important to prick the dough to let the fairies out of the bread!

 For scones, flatten the dough a little more and cut into round, square or rectangular scones, bake as they are or for extra excitement brush the tops with a little buttermilk or egg wash, then dip in grated cheese or kibbled wheat for a melty or crunchy top. I sprinkled a batch recently with dukkah and Aleppo pepper – and delicious they were too!

Scones will be out of the oven in 10 – 12 minutes while a loaf will take 30 – 35 minutes but either way you wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is out of the oven. There’s nothing to beat the smell of crusty bread wafting out of the oven and even though I’ve been baking all of my adult life and lot of my childhood I still get a buzz out of it.

The Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread is another delicious staple, even though it’s made with yeast, there’s no kneading involved and only one rising. This bread is known and loved by all the guests at Ballymaloe House since the restaurant opened in 1964 and by the family for decades before that. I particularly love the crusts, the best bit of every loaf. Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread takes longer than Soda Bread to make – allow 1 ½ hours from start to finish. It takes time but not your time, it’s mixed in a matter of minutes and the rest is rising and baking time.

Soda bread is best eaten on the day it’s made but brown yeast bread is delicious for days and makes heavenly toast for up to a week later.

If neither of these breads appeal, well how about some of the flat breads? The variety is endless – all were developed in countries where many homes didn’t have ovens. The breads were cooked on griddles or as is the case in Mexico, on a comal, or sometimes it was a combination of griddle and open fire as in chappatis.

These breads too are superfast to make and children love making them but I’ve become even more interested in experimenting with fermented batter made with teff for Ethiopian Injera or Indian dosa or String hoppers from Sri Lanka.

They are also nutrient dense, and really flavourful and fun.

But for an easy everyday loaf it’s difficult to beat, brown or white soda and who can forget the wake-up call we had in February 2018, there was mass panic when the country was snowed in. In supermarkets customers were pulling loaves of bread from each other, having totally forgotten how easy it is to make a loaf of soda bread.

 Go on, have a go and post your very first loaf of bread on Instagram using the hashtags #realbread #hugthecook

Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread 

Even though this is a modern rather than traditional version of soda bread, I’ve decided to put it first because it couldn’t be simpler. Just mix all the ingredients together and pour into a well-greased tin. It’s important to put all the milk in – the dough may seem too wet but it’s meant to be that way for this particular bread. It will keep well for several days and is also great when toasted. Most modern Irish soda bread recipes include far too much bicarbonate of soda, which makes the bread very dark and taste strongly of soda. Makes 1 large or 3 small loaves

400g (14oz) stone-ground wholemeal flour

75g (3oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon dairy salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda/baking soda), sieved

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 teaspoon honey, treacle or soft brown sugar

425ml (3⁄4 pint) buttermilk or sour milk  

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional) 

one loaf tin 23 x 12.5 x 5cm (9 x 5 x 2in) OR three loaf tins 14.5 x 7.5 x 5cm (51⁄2 x 3 x 2in)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Brush the inside of the loaf tin or tins with vegetable oil.  

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, adding to it the oil, honey and the buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid. Mix well, adding more buttermilk if necessary (the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy). Pour into the oiled tin or tins. If desired, sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on top.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

White Soda Bread

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses.  It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

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

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

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.

  Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread

When making Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, remember that yeast is a living organism. In order to grow, it requires warmth, moisture and nourishment. The yeast feeds on the sugar and produces bubbles of carbon dioxide which causes the bread to rise. Heat of over 50˚C will kill yeast. Have the ingredients and equipment at blood heat. White or brown sugar, honey golden syrup, treacle or molasses may be used. Each will give a slightly different flavour to the bread. At Ballymaloe we use treacle. The dough rises more rapidly with 30g (1oz) yeast than with 25g (3/4oz) yeast.

We use a stone ground wholemeal. Different flours produce breads of different textures and flavour. The amount of natural moisture in the flour varies according to atmospheric conditions. The quantity of water should be altered accordingly. The dough should be just too wet to knead – in fact it does not require kneading. The main ingredients – wholemeal flour, treacle and yeast are highly nutritious.

Note: Dried yeast may be used instead of baker’s yeast. Follow the same method but use only half the weight given for fresh yeast. Allow longer to rise. Fast acting yeast may also be used, follow the instructions on the packet.

Makes 1 loaf

400g (14oz) strong (stone-ground) wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) strong white flour

OR

You may also use 400g (14oz) strong stone-ground wholemeal flour plus 50g (2oz) rye flour

425ml (15floz) water at blood heat

1 teaspoon black treacle or molasses

1 teaspoon salt

20g – 30g (3/4oz – 1oz) fresh non-GM yeast

sesame seeds – optional

1 loaf tin 13x20cm approx.

sunflower oil

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

Mix the flour with the salt. The ingredients should all be at room temperature. In a small bowl or Pyrex jug, mix the treacle with some of the water, 150ml (5floz) and crumble in the yeast – do not stir once the yeast has gone in.

Sit the bowl for a few minutes in a warm place to allow the yeast to start to work. Check to see if the yeast is rising. After about 4 or 5 minutes it will have a creamy and slightly frothy appearance on top.

When ready, stir and pour it, with all the remaining water (9fl oz/275ml), into the flour to make a loose-wet dough. The mixture should be too wet to knead.   Allow to sit in the bowl for 7-10 minutes (time varies depending on room temperature).   Meanwhile, brush the base and sides of the bread tin with a good sunflower oil.  Scoop the mixture into the greased tin. Sprinkle the top of the loaves with sesame seeds if you like. Put the tin in a warm place somewhere close to the cooker or near a radiator perhaps. Cover the tin with a tea towel to prevent a skin from forming. After about 10-15 minutes just as the bread comes to the top of the tin, remove the tea towel and pop into the oven 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for another 40-50 minutes or until it looks nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. The bread will rise a little further in the oven. This is called “oven spring”. If however the bread rises over the top of the tin before it goes into the oven it will continue to rise and flow over the edges.

We usually remove the loaf from the tin about 10 minutes before the end of cooking and put it back into the oven to crisp all round, but if you like a softer crust there’s no need to do this.

Chapatis

An Indian flat bread, delicious with curry or sambals and such fun to make. The dough should be quite moist so the Chapatis puff up as the steam evaporates.

9 ozs (250g) sieved wholewheat flour plus a little extra for dusting

6 fl ozs (175ml) water

Makes about 15

Put the sieved flour into a bowl.  Add the water, and mix to form a soft dough.  Knead for 5-6 minutes or until it is smooth and springy.  Put the dough onto a plate, cover and allow to rest for 20 – 30 minutes.

Heat an Indian tava or a cast iron frying pan over a medium-low flame for 5-6 minutes.  When it is very hot, turn the heat to low.

Knead the dough again for a few seconds, form into a roll, divide into 16 parts.  It will be slightly sticky, so sprinkle your hands with a little flour when handling. Cover with a cloth.

Form each piece of dough into a ball.  Flour the work surface generously (or dip in a bowl of sieved wholemeal flour). Roll the ball in it.  Press down to make a round roll, dusting frequently with flour, until it is about 5½ inches (14 cm) in diameter.  Pick up the chapati and pat it between your hands to shake off the excess flour, then slap it onto the hot tava or frying pan.  Allow it to cook on low heat for about a minute.  The underside will develop white spots.  Turn over (with your hands to do this or use a pair of tongs). Cook for about half to one minute on the other side.  Remove the pan from the stove, put the chapati directly on top of the low flame.  It should puff up in seconds.

Flip the chapati over and let the second side sit on the flame for a few seconds.  Put the chapati in a deep plate or basket lined with a cloth napkin, fold over the chapati.  Make all chapatis this way and eat immediately.

Chapatis are best eaten as soon as they are made but they can be reheated later. Wrap a  stack in foil, keep in the fridge for a day or freeze.  Reheat the wrapped chapatis at 220°C/425°F oven for 10 – 15 minutes.

Yufka – Turkish Flatbread

Bread is a staple in Turkey as in so many cultures.  According to the Koran, bread was sent to earth by God’s command, hence it is revered and not a crumb should be wasted.  There are many delicious ways to use up stale bread but I rarely have any over to experiment with.

Makes 8

110g (4oz) strong white flour

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8 fl oz) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.

Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.  Eat with cheese or butter and honey or fill with a chosen filling of roasted vegetables, cured meat, and salads.  They are then called dűrűm meaning ‘roll’.

Penny’s Ethiopian Injera

1 cup Teff Flour (available from health food shops)

1 cup water (use an 8floz / 225ml measuring cup)

¼ to ½ teasp salt

Put the teff into a bowl. Gradually whisk in the water, cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours or until it starts to ferment. It will be covered with bubbles and have a thin watery layer on top, whisk in salt to taste.

 Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan on a medium heat. Oil very lightly with ghee or clarified butter. The batter should be the texture of crépe batter. Pour a small ladel full onto the pan or griddle, to cover the base to a thickness of a scant 1/8 inch.

 Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes or until the edges start to come away from the pan.

The surface will be covered with bubbles, you’ll find the injera will be cooked when the bubbles burst.

Eat with sambals vegetable curry or relishes or for breakfast with with bacon and maple syrup.

The batter will keep covered for several days but it gradually gets sourer, you could put it in the fridge if you wish to keep it for longer than a day or two.

Cook Book Reviews….

It’s that time of the year again, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks, pre-Christmas publications, all shiny and glossy and very tempting.

First out of the traps in early September was Jamie Oliver’s Veg. I’m a big fan of Jamie’s and felt a deep sympathy as he faced a whole slew of challenges earlier in the year. He has bounced back in a variety of ways – look out for his YouTube cooking slots and this new book is another must have.

Another of my food heroes, is the indomitable Fergus Henderson. The Book of St John written with his long time business partner Trevor Gulliver celebrates 25 years of the iconic ‘meaty‘ restaurant that pioneered ‘nose to tail’ eating and happily coincides with the Year of the Pig. Pitty, witty, and structured to mirror the practises and rythyms of St John Kitchen, from butchery to stocks, braise and brine, but St John’s on St John’s Street in London is not just about meat, there’s also an extensive repertoire of fruit and vegetable recipes, all new and a whole chapter on puddings. Lick your lips – steamed syrup pudding, sherry trifle and lots of treats for the eleven o clock biscuit tin, as well as a seed cake and a glass of madeira (Fergus’s favourite tipple), and finally a whole chapter dedicated to feasting….An irresistible publication with gold edged pages – a very special present.

In the midst of the pile, are two shiny hardbacks written by two Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni. James Ramsden, food writer, podcaster, chef, owner of three restaurants including Michelin starred Pidgin in Hackney. James’ 4th book, Lets Do Dinner is jam packed with tasty tried and tested recipes. Nothing chefy here, just lots of yummy dishes to enjoy that can  be prepared ahead for family and friends, so you don’t find yourself racing against the clock at the last moment – lots of really tempting super cool recipes to enjoy with pals around the kitchen table.  

The second book, a first for Rachel Goenka from India who did the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2011 before returning to her native Mumbai where she opened her restaurant The Sassy Spoon. This debut book, Adventures with Mithai is already a best seller in India and reflects her love of baking. Here again, there are many stunning photos of creations you’ll really want to bake.

Finally for this column, the Cordon Bleu Chocolate Bible – a culinary guide to all things chocolate. With 180 recipes, so difficult to pick a favourite recipe….This may we’ll become the quintessential chocolate book…

A Cookbook makes a brilliant present that keeps on giving – so lots to choose from.

Braised Lamb, Peas, Crème Fraîche and Mint

To serve 6 happily

Sea salt and black pepper

1 lamb shoulder on the bone

A few glugs of extra virgin olive oil

20 shallots, peeled and left whole

20 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole

A bouquet garni (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay etc)

½ bottle of white wine

A ready supply of chicken stock

2 healthy tablespoons of Dijon mustard

4 healthy tablespoons of crème fraîche

A few handfuls of fresh or frozen peas

2 bundles of mint, leaves picked and

stalks retained for the bundle of joy

It is important to stress the wonder of slippery pea: olive oil, crème fraîche and chicken stock, the three lubrications combine to create that glorious slipperiness.

Don’t be afraid of a frozen pea. A chef who shall remain unnamed

once told Fergus, ‘Wait until peas are in season, then use frozen.’ A

comfort for the home cook.

Season the shoulder well, then heat a large frying pan over a

medium heat with a splash of olive oil and brown the lamb all over.

Place it in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray large and deep

enough to accommodate the joint with a little space. Gently sweat

the shallots and garlic in the lamby frying pan for 3 or 4 minutes,

without colouring them, and nestle these around the shoulder with

the bundle of joy.

Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and pour in the white

wine. Reduce by half, then add the chicken stock and an extra glug

of olive oil administered like squirts of factor 50 at the beach: a

generous coating. While the liquid returns to a simmer, take a

small bowl and whisk together the mustard and crème fraîche,

loosening the mixture with a couple of spoonsful of the simmering

stock. Pour the resulting sauce into the tray. The liquid does not

have to cover everything – remember that you are looking for the

alligators-in-the-swamp effect.

Place in a barely medium oven for at least 3 hours, the crème

fraîche and meat juices unify while it blips away. Check the shoulder

with a skewer and, when the meat is tender and yielding, add

the peas and return to simmer in the oven for a few minutes longer.

Reinforce the seasoning if needed, discipline your mint leaves and

fold through to finish.

The leftover braising juices and slippery peas make an excellent

sauce for farfalle – a favourite for staff dinners.

Extracted from The Book of St John by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver (Ebury Press.  Photography by Jason Lowe

WARM BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD WITH LABNEH AND CHILLI

Labneh is yogurt that has been strained of all its whey, leaving the thick, almost cheesy, curd behind. It needs a day or two to reach its peak, so if you’re making this at more of a run, just use a really thick, Greek-style yogurt.

SERVES 4–6

500g/1lb 2oz/2 cups natural yogurt

salt and pepper

1 small butternut squash or pumpkin

olive oil

a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

For the dressing

a big bunch of parsley, leaves only

½ tsp ground coriander

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed to a paste

juice of ½ lemon

100ml/3½ fl oz/7 tbsp olive oil

1–2 DAYS AHEAD:

Line a bowl with a clean tea towel. Tip the yogurt in, add a pinch of salt, then tie the towel up with string and hang from a cupboard handle over the bowl.

UP TO A DAY AHEAD:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Wash the squash but don’t peel it (the skin is delicious) and cut it into rounds, discarding the seeds. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, and roast for 45 minutes. Leave to cool; chill overnight if necessary.

UP TO AN HOUR AHEAD:

Make the dressing: finely chop the parsley and mix with the ground coriander, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, or whiz in a blender.

30 MINUTES AHEAD:

If necessary, warm the squash in a medium oven (180°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4). If the oven’s already on for something else, do it at that temperature, keeping an eye on it if it’s particularly hot.

DINNERTIME:

Place the chunks of squash on a plate and top with a dollop of labneh. Scatter with chopped chilli and a generous dressing of parsley oil, then serve.

TWEAK: Use goat’s milk yogurt instead, to produce lovely goat’s curd. Also delicious just spread on toast.

Extracted from Let’s Do Dinner by James Ramsden, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Yuki Sugiura.

Wonderful Veg Tagine

Serves 6

1 pinch of saffron

4 cloves of garlic

4cm piece of ginger

Olive oil

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ras el hanout

1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste

2.5Kg mixed veg, such as aubergines, courgettes, carrots, cherry tomatoes, red onion, butternut squash, mixed-coloured peppers.

1 x 400g tin of chickpeas

100g dried apricots

1 preserved lemon

300g couscous

½ bunch of mixed fresh herbs such as dill, mint, flat leaf parsley (15g)

20g flaked almonds

Put the saffron into a jug, cover with 500ml of boiling water and leave to infuse. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic and ginger, then place in a large casserole pan over a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, the cumin, cinnamon and ras el hanout. Add the tomato paste, fry for a few minutes, stirring regularly, then pour over the saffron water. Trim and prep the veg, as necessary, then chop into large chunks, adding them to the pan as you go. Top in the chickpeas (juices and all), roughly chop and add the apricots and preserved lemon, discarding any pips, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce the heat to love, and simmer for 45 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

When the veg are almost tender, just cover the couscous with boiling water, season with salt and pepper and pop a plate on top. Leave for 10 minutes, then fluff and fork up. Pick the herb leaves and toast the almonds. Serve the tagine and couscous sprinkled with almonds and herbs.

Delicious served with harissa rippled yoghurt.

Extracted from Veg by Jamie Oliver is published by Penguin Random House © Jamie Oliver Enterprises Ltd (2019 Veg) Food photography: David Loftus

Brown Butter, Rose and Chai Cake

Serves 10

228g flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

160g yoghurt

200g caster sugar

130mls oil

1 teaspoon rose water

2 ½ tablespoons black tea leaves

165mls milk

For the Glaze

60g unsalted butter

180g icing sugar

½ teaspoon cardamom powder

2ml rose essence

2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease a 8.5×4.5 loaf tin.

Brew the tea with 165mls of milk first. Bring it to a boil, remove from the heat and keep it covered for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the tea to steep. Strain with a fine mesh sieve and bring the milk tea to room temperature before using. You need around 2/3 cup of tea.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cardamom powder together and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yoghurt and sugar for a few minutes. Add the oil and rose water and whisk for another few minutes until the mixture is creamy.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk tea to the batter. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula. Pour into the greased loaf tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Shift the icing sugar and cardamom powder together and set aside.

Cook the butter in a saucepan over a low flame for 5 to 8 minutes till the butter browns. Be careful not to burn the butter. Strain the browned butter to remove any impurities.

Add the icing sugar, a little at a time, and whisk to combine. Add a few teaspoons of milk and rose essence to thin the glaze, so it’s a pourable consistency.

Remove the tea cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen before unmoulding.

Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the glaze on top.

Extracted from Adventures with Mithai by Rachel Goenka, published by Harper Collins.

Florentines

Makes 40

50g mixed glacé fruit

50g candied orange peel

35g glacé cherries

100g flaked almonds

25g flour sifted

100ml whipped cream

85g caster sugar

30g mild honey

300g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 170°C (335°F). Butter a baking tray.

Finely chop the mixed glacé fruit, orange peel and cherries and place in a bowl; add the almonds. Tip the flour into the bowl and stir carefully by hand to separate the pieces of fruit.

Heat the cream, sugar and honey until simmering; stir over low heat for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Using a wooden spoon, carefully blend the hot cream mixture into the glacé fruit and flour. (If desired, the Florentine mixture could be kept refrigerated for 2 days).

Using a spoon, put small mounds of the mixture on the baking tray placing them well apart. Flatten with the back of the spoon into 3cm discs. Transfer to the oven and when the discs start to bubble, remove and cool for about 30 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C (325°F) and bake the discs for another 10 minutes. Cool and transfer to a wire rack.

Temper the chocolate: Coarsely chop the chocolate. Place 2/3 (200g) of the chopped chocolate in a bowl; melt over a bain-maire until the chocolate reaches 45°C on a digital thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and add the remaining chocolate, stirring until the temperature drops to 27°C. Return the bowl to the bain-maire, stir gently and reheat the chocolate to 32°C.

Using a pastry brush, apply a layer of tempered chocolate to the flat side of each Florentine; tap each on the work surface to release any air bubbles in the chocolate. Spread with a second layer, using a spatula to remove any excess chocolate. Harden the Florentines at room temperature.

Chef’s Tip: Make sure that you spread the dough out thinly on the baking tray otherwise the Florentines will not be easy to eat when cooked.

Extracted from Le Cordon Blue Chocolate Bible, from the famous French culinary school. Published by Grub Street.

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