May 22nd, 2015

Foraging beware you can get hooked, it is so fun that it quickly becomes addictive. Where others merely see a clump of weeds we visualise a yummy dinner.

We’ve had several exciting foraging courses recently including one Slow Food foraging session.  All were packed with people eager to learn what for many is an almost forgotten skill. It’s free and available in both urban and rural areas, in the woods, by the sea shore, in the fields, on stone walls, all year round.

Unbelievable but true, just walk outside your door, open your eyes in a new way, what do you see? Any daisies, primroses, dandelions. They are all edible, pluck the little petals from the daisy and scatter them over a salad, that’s called ‘daisy confetti’, how cute is that.

Dandelion leaves and flowers are both edible. The leaves are quite bitter but fantastically good for you. For many of us ‘Bitter’ is an acquired taste, we’ve become used to the easy sweetness of tame vegetables. I love it but if you’d rather a more delicate flavour, cover the dandelion plant with a bucket or lid to blanch the leaves to pale yellow just like the ones you’ll find in French bistro salads. The familiar yellow flowers make delicious dandelion fritters as do the leaves of comfrey. We crystallize many of the wild flowers including primroses and violets.

The stone walls around our boundary are encrusted with little fleshy discs of pennyworth – soo good in salads. The wild garlic season is in full swing. The woods and shady places are full of the broad leaf ramps (allium ursinum).  Many country roads are edged with allium triquetrum, the pretty three corned leek which has narrow leaves and resembles a white bluebell. Both types are edible but the wide leaves of the ransomes are perhaps more versatile for the cook. We love them in soups, salads, champ, pesto. The pretty white flowers garnish starter plates and are sprinkled into the green salad every day while the season lasts. The  alexanders are flowering now so stalks are tough but the seeds can be dried and used in salads and pickles.  Bitter Cress or Winter Cress with its slightly peppery flavour is another favourite, reminiscent of radish. It grows in little clumps like a weed, both in gravel paths and in soil. It has shallow roots and like all cresses the top leaf is the biggest, another tasty addition to the salad bowl. Some may be flowering now, tiny white flowers…

Scurvy grass is available all year, so called because its high vitamin c content protected sailors from scurvy (cochlearia officinalois) You’ll find lots of uses for the fleshy leaves and slightly peppery taste. The pretty flowers can be also be scattered over salads. It grows along the seashore and in saline conditions.

Wild Sorrel is also abundant at present, its tiny spear shaped leaves grow out of the grass in fields, ditches and along the cliffs. The leaves of  Bucler leaf sorrel are also small and are shaped like an old  bucler shield. Its tart zingy lemony flavour adds a clean fresh note to salads, sauces and soups. At the launch of the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine Katie Sanderson and Jasper O Connor at the Fumbally Câfé in Dublin paired sorrel with honey carrageen moss pudding, a totally delicious and inspired combination. These two young chefs are worth watching, if you haven’t already been to the Fumbally put in on your Dublin list.


Hot Tips

The Midleton Farmers Market will celebrate its 15th anniversary on Saturday May 30th. There are lots of exciting activities planned for the morning – local music, spot prizes, tastings, painting competition and lots more….9.30am-1pm.

A copy of Best Salads Ever has just landed on my desk in time for summer. This paper back of sensational salads by Sonja Bock and Tina Scheftelowitz  has just been translated from Danish – a bestselling title in Denmark where it sold 83,000 copies and growing….published by Grub Street.

I’m a big fan of Fiann Ó Nualláin of ‘Dermot’s Secret Garden’ fame. He’s a lifelong gardener with a background in health, wellness and ethnobotany. I loved his first book, ‘First Aid from the Garden’ and now the sequel ‘The Holistic Gardener’ – beauty treatments from the garden is also a cracker. Fancy a snail facial anyone? Published by Mercier

Sheridans Irish Food Festival is now in its 6th year and this Sunday 24th May is jam packed with local food stalls, workshops, tastings and demos. As well as the famous National Irish Brown Bread competition in the The Brown Bread Tent hosted by RTE’s Ella McSweeney. Check out the website for the details.



Honey Carrigeen Moss Pudding with Sorrell and Chocolate Soil


A delicious way to serve Carrigeen moss pudding, the brain child of Jasper O’ Connor and Katie Sanderson of the Fumbally Café in Dublin.


Serves 6


7g (1⁄4oz) cleaned, well-dried carrageen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)

900ml (1 1⁄2 pints/3 3/4 pints) whole milk

1 vanilla pod or 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 organic egg

1-2 tablespoons honey


Chocolate Soil

100 g (3½ ozs) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

75 g (3 ozs) dark chocolate chopped or grated into small chunks

225 g (8 ozs) sorrel, desalked

Freshly squeezed apple juice made from Granny Smith apples


To Serve

Softly whipped cream


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

swollen and exuding jelly. You need as much of this as possible through the strainer and whisk it into the egg and milk mixture. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine.

Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top.  Chill and allow to set for 3-4 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile make the chocolate soil. In a saucepan on a medium to high heat place the sugar and water, give it a stir but try not get any water crystals on the side. The sugar will melt and start to boil and bubble. You want the mixture to reach to 135C. If you don’t have a thermometer the mixture will start to turn a golden brown.

At this stage you want to work fast and pour the chocolate mix into the pot while whisking. It will dry out and turn to soil almost immediately. Magic. Cool on a nonstick baking tray. It keeps for ages.

Next mix 3 parts sorrel juice with 1 part freshly squeezed Granny Smith apple juice or to taste.

To serve pour a little sorrel and apple juice into a glass. Top with carrageen.  Pop a little blob of softly whipped cream on top and sprinkle with chocolate soil.  Serve.

14/5/2015 (CS) (18309) Jasper O Connor from the Fumbally Café



Foragers Soup



Throughout the seasons one can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside – foraging soon becomes addictive.  Many greens are edible and some are immensely nutritious.  Arm yourself with a good well-illustrated guide and be sure to identify carefully and if in doubt – don’t risk it until you are quite confident.  Don’t overdo the very bitter herbs like dandelion.


Serves 6


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

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

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

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) creamy milk

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

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available


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

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

16/05/2013 (SH/DA) (12100)



Elderflower Champagne


This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.


2 heads of elderflowers

560g (11/4lb) sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4.5L (8pints) water

1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler.  Pick the elderflowers in full bloom.  Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water.  Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles.  Lay them on their sides in a cool place.  After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink.  Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.


Top Tip:

The bottles need to be strong and well sealed, otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.


30/06/05 AF  (7854)



Lydia’s Lemon Cake with Crystallised Primroses and Angelica


110g (4oz) ground almonds

110g (4oz) icing sugar

zest of 1 organic (unwaxed) lemon and juice of  ½ lemon

75g (3oz) plain flour

3 organic egg yolks

125g (41⁄2 oz) butter, melted and       cooled


For the Icing

175g (6oz) icing sugar

zest and 11⁄2 tablespoons freshly squeezed juice from 1 organic lemon


For the Decoration

Crystallised Primroses

Candied Angelica

18cm (7in) shallow-sided round tin


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas mark 4. Grease the tin well with melted butter and dust with a little flour.

Put the ground almonds, icing sugar, lemon zest and flour into a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks, the cooled melted butter and the lemon juice. Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Spread the cake mixture evenly in the prepared tin, make a little hollow in the centre and tap on the worktop to release any large air bubbles.

Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. The cake should still be moist but cooked through. Allow to rest in the tin for 5–6 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, and mix to a thickish smooth icing with the lemon juice and zest. Spread it gently over the top and sides of the cake using a palette knife dipped in boiling water and dried. Decorate with the crystallised primroses and little diamonds of angelica.


01/09/2010 (CS) Forgotten Skills Book (14201)

Crystallized Flowers



1.Use fairly strong textured leaves, the smaller the flowers the more attractive they are when crystallized eg. primroses, violets.

2.The castor sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 2 hour approx.

3.Break up the egg white slightly with a fork. Using a child’s paint brush it very carefully over each petal and into every cervice. Pour the castor sugar over the flower with a teaspoon, arrange the flower carefully on bakewell paper so that it has a good shape. Allow to dry overnight in a warm dry place, e.g. close to an Aga or over a radiator. If properly crystallized these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

4.When you are crystallizing flowers remember to do lots of leaves also so one can  make attractive arrangements – e.g. mint,lemon balm, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves etc.


Wild Garlic Champ



Serves 4-6


A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with wild garlic and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.


1.5kg (3lb) 6-8 unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

50-75g (2-3 oz)  wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped

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

Wild garlic flowers


Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Put the roughly chopped wild garlic leaves into a saucepan. 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 wild garlic, 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.  Wild garlic mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin. Just before serving put a blob of butter into the centre and sprinkle with wild garlic flowers if available.


14/1/2015 (SH) (6002)


Bitter Endive, Escarole, Dandelion or Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy Dressing and Pangrattato


Serves 8


8 handfuls of salad leaves, cut or torn into generous bite sized bits.

Caesar dressing (see recipe)

1 -2 fistfuls of freshly grated Parmesan

Pangrattato (see below) OR

40 croutons, approximately 2cm (3/4 inch) square, cooked in extra virgin olive oil

16 anchovies (Ortiz)


Choose a bowl, large enough to hold the salad comfortably, sprinkle with enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Add a fistful of finely grated Parmesan. Toss gently and add the warm croutons (if using.) Toss again. Divide between eight cold plates. Top each salad with a couple of anchovies and serve.

If using pangrattato instead of croutons, scatter over each of the salads and serve immediately.



4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

150g (5oz) white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon


Heat the extra virgin olive in a frying pan; add the garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Remove the garlic cloves and keep aside. Add half the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until they turn golden. Spread out on a baking sheet, repeat with the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Grate the garlic cloves over the bread crumbs. Finely grate the lemon zest over the crumbs also. Toss, season with salt and taste.


Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 2 ozs (50g) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon (1/2 – 1 American tablespoon + 1/2-1 teaspoon) Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon (1/2 – 1 American tablespoon + 1/2 -1 teaspoon) Tabasco sauce

6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup) sunflower oil

2 fl ozs (50ml/1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

2 fl ozs (50ml/1/4 cup) cold water


I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.


19/02/2013 (SH/DA) (14635)














Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine 2015

May 9th, 2015

Just a week to go to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 15th-17th May, there’s a mouthful! Could just be the longest title of a food festival anywhere in Ireland. Things are really hotting up here at Litfest HQ.

The action takes place at Ballymaloe House, the Grain Store, The Big Shed and at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry. Again this year, we’ve got an amazing line up of speakers, workshops and events. The Food and Drinks Theatre has expanded and the Fringe Festival in the Big Shed at Ballymaloe is exploding!  I can scarcely keep up with all the exciting developments. Just keep checking out So here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Alice Waters is coming at last.  She had planned to be with us for the inaugural Litfest in 2013 but had to cancel just days before because of a fire at Chez Panisse, her legendery restaurant in Berkeley in California. She’s really excited to be coming to Ballymaloe once again and texted the other day to say she’s counting the days – how sweet is that.

We’ve also managed to entice Christian Puglisi from Relae and Manfreds og Vin in Copenhagen. He’ll share his intriguing story and talk about his new award winning book Relae.

April Bloomfield described as the ‘best woman chef in America’, burst onto the New York food scene with her cooking at The Spotted Pig gastro pub plus John Dory, the Breslin…she’ll be doing a cookery demonstration on Saturday May 16th at 9.30am.

Sarit Packer and Itmar Srulovich of Honey & Co in London are sweethearts, they too are coming over. Their dinner is sold out but they’ll be with us all weekend so you can get your Honey & Co book signed.

Sam and Samantha Clark of Moro and Morita’s dem is also sold out but they are in conversation with Rory O’ Connell in The Grain Store on Sunday May 17th at 2.30pm.

Don’t miss my friend, David Tanis, New York Times food correspondent and chef at Chez Panisse for 25 years. He will read from his book award winning, One Good Dish.

Multi award winning Parisian, author and blogger David Lebovitz  who also came to the New York launch is participating in several sessions.

Lovers of Chinese food won’t want to miss Fushia Dunlop,  described as the best writer in the West on Chinese food, she’ll do a cookery demonstration at the Cookery School on Sunday.

And there’s Allegra McEvedy, Rachel Allen will host her cookery dem at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday May 16th at 10am.

Jack Monroe is a fresh new voice in food you can also bring your child,  FREE to Jack Monroe’s Parents and Children’s interactive cookery dem at 2pm on Saturday.

We’ve also got an amazing line up of Irish chefs. Kevin Thornton, from Thornton’s restaurant in Dublin, JP McMahon from Cava and Anair in Galway and Leylie Hayes and Hugo Arnold….

Several past Ballymaloe Cookery School students as well as Leylie Hayes will strut their stuff, food historian Dorothy Cashman, Green Saffron, Spice King Arun Kapil and Charlotte Pike who will do a Fermentation workshop to coincide with publication of her new book Fermented Food and Drink. Check out cookbook chronicles with Caroline Hennessy. For budding food writers Regina Sexton will host a UCC Food Writing workshop.

………This year for the first time, Cully and Sully have teamed up with  Michael Kelly to create Veg About beside the Big Shed. It’s all about sowing, growing, eating and composting – a celebration of the great food cycle from plot to plate. There will be a Garden Tent where there is Rants, Raves and Ruaille Buaille, Banter with Jim Carroll. Don’t’ miss foraging with legendary Roger Phillips,  Alys Fowler…..

The Litfest fringe in the Big Shed continues to gather momentum. Can you imagine it could be even more happening than last year?

A wide range of local and national artisan food producers, art installations, upcycled furniture by Elemental Design and wonderful artists like Aoife Banville, Yvonne Woods and Sharon Greene.

Camilla Houston will be in the Family Corner, she has organised fantastic interactive, educational and fun activities for children to get involved in.

Sommelier, Colm McCan is the Wine and Drinks Events Manager of the Food and Drink Theatre. Wait, till you see what he has in store natural wines, artisan beer and ciders, spirits and cocktails, you’ll get to see cocktail guru Dave Broom and Nick Strangways, master gin distiller Desmond Payne. One of the top brewmasters Garrett Oliver from America will be here and coffee guru Tim Wendelboe comes all the way from Norway.  He’ll tell you the story of Bean to Cup.

Jancis Robinson MW is back again this year, don’t miss Wines New Wave Lighter and Fresher on Saturday at 2.45 in the Drinks Theatre


Aah, I’m running out of space and there’s SO much more check out the website for events though most events are indoors storm the heavens for good weather.


Hot Tips

Kirsti O’ Kelly of Silver Darlings, based in Co. Limerick. Kirsti pickles herrings using traditional recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother in her native Finland. Kirsti has won several awards for her beetroot and horseradish and Star of the Sea herring. Catch her every Saturday at the Limerick Milk Market. or 086 066 1132


Get Blogging with Lucy Pearce on Saturday May 30th . Join Lucy on a whistle-stop tour of the food blogging world and see what’s hot and what’s not. You will learn the basics of blog design, the secrets behind writing popular posts, how to find and keep readers, where to find technical support and much more. For more info phone the Ballymaloe Cookery School on 021 4646785 or book through the website



Don’t miss Jack Monroe’s Parent and Children Interactive Cookery Demonstration at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday May 17th. Parents are invited to bring along one of the younger members of the household (8-12 years) to attend the demonstration for free and Jack will call on some of the juniors to join her at the demonstration counter for practical cooking fun. See the litfest website ( for the details.


Moro Lebanese Spring Vegetable Soup


Serves 4



25 g (1 oz) butter

2 pitta breads


1 litre (13/4 pints) chicken stock

150 g (5 oz) podded young broad beans

150 g (5 oz) shelled peas, fresh or frozen

5 green asparagus spears, woody stems snapped off at the base, cut into 2 cm pieces (keep tips intact)

2 raw globe artichokes, trimmed, cut into quarters and very thinly sliced

1 large bunch of fresh mint, flat leaf parsley, coriander, roughly chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

Sea salt and black pepper


First make the crisp bread. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°C/gas 4. Melt the butter, and as it is melting, carefully split the pitta in half lengthways and brush the bread on both sides. Place the pitta halves on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool.


Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan and check for seasoning. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the broad beans, peas, asparagus and artichokes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and add the herbs, spring onion, lemon juice and crisp bread broken into small pieces. Season again and serve hot.


22/4/2015 (18287) Taken from Moro The Cookbook



Honey & Co Prawns in Orange, Tomato and Cardamom


Serves 2


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 orange, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

½ small red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced

3 cardamom pods, crushed to reveal the black seeds

12-14 large prawns (about 200 g once peeled)

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

3-5 tablespoons water


Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat until it just starts to smoke. Carefully place the orange slices in the oil and cook for 30 seconds, then turn them over with a fork. Add the tomato, garlic, thyme, chilli and cardamom and cook on a high heat until the tomato slices start to break down a little (about 2 minutes). Add the prawns to the pan and season with sea salt and pepper. Cook them for a minute on each side. Add 3 tablespoons of water and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink. If the pan is looking dry, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water, so that you have enough liquid to form a sauce.


Serve immediately with bread to mop up the juices.


22/4/2015 (18288)


Honey & Co Food from the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich



Moro Chicken, Tahini Yoghurt and Red Chilli


Serves 4


Chicken Marinade

½ small onion, finely grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

400 g (14 oz) organic chicken fillets (whole) or breasts sliced into 2 cm thick strips


Tahini Yoghurt

3 tablespoons tahini

200 ml (7 fl oz) strained Greek yoghurt

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


To Serve

1 tablespoon black onion seeds

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

Handful of coriander leaves

1 lemon, cut into quarters


Mix the onion, garlic, spices, lemon juice and oil in a bowl, add the chicken, coat well and refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight.

The chicken is best charcoal-grilled on a hot barbecue or seared on a griddle pan over a high heat, or under a grill, turning once until just cooked.

To make the tahini yoghurt: put the tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well. If the mixture seems too thick, loosen with a splash of water.

Place the chicken on a plate and spoon the tahini yoghurt over the top. Sprinkle with the black onion seeds, chilli and fresh coriander. Serve with the lemon on the side.


22/4/2015 (18289) Taken from Morito by Sam and Sam Clark



Peach Leaf Crème Brûlée


Serves 4 approx.


Crème brûlée the original ultimate custard. Here we flavour it with peach leaves, the latter almond flavour is strangely addictive.

Many leaves impart delicious flavours to syrup, sorbets, ice creams and custard. We use the young leaves from the white peach tree on the front wall of the school dining room for this.


10g (½ oz) peach leaves

2 large egg yolks, free-range and organic

½ tablespoon sugar

300ml (½ pint) double cream

½ vanilla pod (optional)


Caramel Topping:

110g (4ozs) sugar

75ml (3fl ozs) water

125ml (4fl ozs) whipped cream, optional


Make at least 12 hours in advance.

Heat the cream to shivery stage, turn off the heat and add the peach leaves and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.  Mix egg yolks with ½ tablespoon of sugar. Pour it slowly onto the yolks, whisking all the time. Return to the saucepan and cook on a medium heat, stirring until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It must not boil. Remove the vanilla pod, pour into a serving dish and chill overnight. Be careful not to break the skin or the caramel may sink later.


Next day make the caramel.

Dissolve the remaining sugar in 75ml (3fl oz) water. Bring to the boil and cook until it caramelises to a chestnut brown colour. Remove from the heat and immediately spoon a thin layer of caramel over the top of the custard. Alternatively sprinkle the top with a layer of white castor sugar or pale demerara sugar, spray with a film of cold water, then caramelise with a blow torch.

Allow to get cold and pipe a line of whipped cream around the edge to seal the joint where the caramel meets the side of the dish. Serve within 12 hours, or the caramel will melt.

To Serve

Crack the top by knocking sharply with the back of the serving spoon. Alternatively sprinkle the top with a thin layer of castor sugar and caramelise with a blow torch.


2 yolks only just set the cream. Be sure to use big eggs and measure your cream slightly short of the 300ml (½ pint). The cream takes some time to thicken and usually does so just under boiling point. It the custard is not properly set, or if the skin which forms on top while cooking is broken, the caramel will sink to the bottom of the dish. If this problem arises, freeze the pudding for 1-2 hours before spooning on the hot caramel.


The Violet Bakery

May 5th, 2015


Violet D5_03A3122


The most anticipated baking book of 2015 has just been published, it’s called The Violet Bakery Cookbook by Claire Ptak, whom Jamie Oliver described as “my favourite cake maker in the world”. This book is really significant for a variety of reasons, it’s written by someone who never set out to be a baker, Claire who is Californian went to university to study film making but she was forever darting in and out of the kitchen between classes and films to bake cakes. She even borrowed an oven on an island in Lake Atitlán in Guatemala to make a pie. A year working as an assistant to a Hollywood director still didn’t satisfy nor did a stint in a fancy San Francisco fashion boutique. Eventually in 2001 she landed a one day internship at Chez Panisse in California which led to her dream job. Under the direction of pastry chef Alan Tangren, Claire learned how to taste and tweak.

Once again life intervened, Claire’s English boyfriend, (now husband) Damien, moved back to London – after three years they could no longer bear to be apart – Alice Waters who once told me that Claire was one of the most talented pastry chefs she ever had, tried hard to dissuade Claire from leaving but then wished her well on her new adventure and reminded her – “you can always come back to Chez Panisse” – they have remained firm friends and Alice wrote the forward to The Violet Bakery Cookbook.


In London, Claire “did stages” in many of my favourite restaurants, St John, Moro, River Café, Anchor and Hope…..

Jamie Oliver, whom she’d met through friends in California was also supportive and she did food styling for him and many others including Yotam Ottolenghi for his weekly column in the Guardian.


By now Claire was longing to open a bakery. Her first foray into business was selling her favourite cakes and cupcakes at the newly resurrected Broadway Market in Hackney – she used beautiful ingredients. The word spread like wildfire and she couldn’t keep up with the demand, so she and Damien found tiny premises in an unassuming residential street on Wilton Way near London Fields Park in Hackney in East London, they gave it a lick of paint and just planned to use the place as a commercial kitchen but locals kept knocking on the door and asking whether they were planning to open a Violet Bakery, now 5 years later the tiny space is a bustling bakery and super chic café with a cult following. Damien makes the playlists which the customers love almost as much as the cakes.


The other reason why this book is interesting is that Claire’s baking does not necessarily look picture perfect but always tastes sublime. Interestingly this coincides with a general loss of faith among the general public in confectionary that looks super-professional but inadvertently ranges from disappointing to dire.

Something that has a homemade quality tends to inspire more confidence, funny how things come full circle in the end.

Claire has also become increasingly interested in alternatives to processed wheat and sugar and dairy free. She’s experimented a lot with wholegrains, unrefined sugar and fruit based  alternatives. The results are wholesome and indulgent. Eating cake involves a certain degree of guilt so it’s really important to Claire that a cake “be worth it” so taste is paramount.

The Violet Bakery Cookbook was published by Square Peg – here’s a taste to whet your appetite.


Violet Bakery Cavalo Nero, Leek and Ricotta Bread Pudding

This savoury bread pudding was inspired by one of my favourite pasta sauces.


900g (about 1 loaf) stale white sourdough bread, crusts removed and thinly sliced

butter for greasing the tin

For the Braise

2 large leeks

2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Summer savory or rosemary

400g Cavalo Nero or other kale

1 tablespoon good-quality olive oil

½ teaspoon chilli flakes (I use the Turkish ones)

150g Gruyère, grated

100g ricotta cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

For the custard

8 eggs

5 tablespoons double cream

500g double cream

360g whole milk

salt and pepper, to taste

a grate of nutmeg

Butter a 20cm x 30cm baking tin.

First, prepare the leeks. Trim the roots and the tough green stalks and outer layer from the leeks and discard. Cut the leeks in half lengthways and run under cool water to rinse, peeling back the layers to get inside where the grit is lodged. Slice the leeks crossways into 4mm slices and drop into a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. All the dirt will fall to the bottom. Scoop the leeks out (rather than pouring them out with the water) and place in a colander to drain. Pat dry.

In a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the leeks, savory or rosemary and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté for about 10-15 minutes until soft but without colour.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add enough salt to make it taste of the sea. Usually I add about 2-3 teaspoonful’s to a large pan of water. Strip the leaves of the kale away from the tough inner core and discard the core. Roughly chop the leaves into 2cm strips and drop into the boiling water for about 3-5 minutes, or until tender. Do this in batches if your pan is not large enough, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss with the tablespoon of olive oil, the chilli flakes and sautéed leeks. Set aside.

Grate the Gruyere and weigh out the ricotta, then set these aside as well.

In a bowl, whisk together the custard ingredients and then strain through a fine sieve into a jug.

In your prepared baking tin, layer the bread, kale mixture and half the Gruyère, then dot with the ricotta. Pout two-thirds of the custard over the cheese, then sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Let the pudding rest for at least 30 minutes to absorb the custard.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C (fan)/ gas 4. Cover the pudding with the remaining Gruyère and pour the remaining custard over the top.

Bake for 1 hour until golden. Cut into portions and serve warm or at room temperature.


Violet Bakery Hazelnut Toffee Cake


Hazelnuts and toffee are good companions and the dates bring the whole thing together. The golden hue of this fruit cake reminds me of the falling leaves of Autumn and it’s ideal for serving at Christmas. I’ve made the recipe for two small cakes partly because it is rich and also the second makes a lovely gift, wrapped in baking paper sealed with a snazzy sticker or patterned tape. It’s fun to make personalised potato prints to decorate the paper before wrapping it.

Makes two 18cm cakes, serving 12-16

For the Sponge

350g dates, pitted and chopped

150g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped medium fine (like polenta with a few bigger pieces)

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g caster sugar

50g brown sugar

200g oil

140g plain flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

100g plain yoghurt

butter for greasing the tin

For the Toffee Topping

50g toasted hazelnuts, skins sloughed off

50g water

200g caster sugar

For the Icing

4 tablespoons water

300g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C(fan)/gas3. Butter two 18cm cake tins and line with parchment paper.


First, prepare the sponge. Combine the dates and the toasted nuts in a bowl and set aside.

Using an electric mixture, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and sugars until light and fluffy. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the oil.


In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the egg mixture and whisk for a few seconds to combine. Add the yoghurt and whisk to combine then fold in the dates and hazelnuts.


Divide the mixture between your prepared tins and bake for about 35-45 minutes, until the cakes are baked through and set, but not dry. The tops of the cakes will not spring back as much as other cakes do because the dates make the mixture moist and dense in the best possible way. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the topping.


Line a baking try with parchment paper and spread your toasted hazelnuts on the tray. Place the tray on your worktop, near the hob. Have your icing ingredients nearby, as they will be needed as soon as the caramel is ready.


Put the 50g water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan and sprinkle in the caster sugar. Bring to the boil and just as the sugar starts to caramelise watch it very closely, then as soon as it starts to burn, pour half of the hot caramel over the hazelnuts. Leave to cool and harden and then break into shards.

To make the icing, add the 4 tablespoons of water to the remaining caramel in the pan. Pour the runny caramel from the pan into the icing sugar and whisk to a smooth paste. Add more water or icing sugar until it has the consistency of soft buttercream.


TASTE. Does the icing taste too sweet? It might need a splash of brandy or cognac to mellow it out. The cake itself is not too sweet so it can handle a fairly sweet icing, but cutting it with a little booze can work well here.


To finish, spread the icing on the cooled cakes and top with the shards of praline.


Violet Bakery Rhubarb and Angelica Jam


Angelica is a great pairing with tart rhubarb. It can downplay the tartness of the rhubarb without you having to add too much sugar.

Makes 2 large jars


500g rhubarb

375g granulated sugar

2 small angelica stalks

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon Chartreuse (optional)


Slice the rhubarb into small pieces. Put them in a heavy bottomed saucepan with half the sugar and leave to macerate for 1 hour.


Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan except the Chartreuse (don’t forget the remaining sugar). Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Once it has dissolved, stop stirring and boil rapidly for 15 minutes. Add the Chartreuse and boil for a further 5 minutes.


The jam is ready when most of the rhubarb is nearly translucent and the consistency has thickened.


At this point you spoon the jam, including the angelica stalks, into warm sterilised jars and seal, or simply put the jam into a suitable container (with a tight-fitting lid) and keep in the fridge for daily use for up to a month.


Hot tips

Discover Irish Farmhouse Cheese

Farmhouse Cheeses are some of the most bespoke, hand-made foods in the entire world! Buy a farmhouse cheese and you get the rarest of things – each cheese has a narrative, each one is telling the story of the cheese maker and of the farm where it was made. The cheeses speak quietly about the good things, about pure food, about fine milk, and content animals, about sharing and hospitality, and the creativity of a determined individual on a small farm, stamping every cheese with the signature of their personality. If you like to meet the cheesemakers and see the process check out There are open days coming up at

7th May 2015 : Bellingham Blue in Castlebellingham Co. Louth.

16th May 2015: Killeen Cheese near Portumna in Co. Louth.

26th May 2015, 29th June: St. Tola Organic Goat Cheese, near Ennistymon, Co. Clare.

13th May 2015: Cooleeney Farmhouse Cheese, near Moyne, Co. Tipperary.

15th May 2015: Cashel Blue near Fethard, Co. Tipperary.

15th May 2015: Coolea Cheese, Coolea Co. Cork.

Bring your kids along too, to reconnect them with how beautiful food is produced.


Smoked Butter: have you discovered Mr Hederman’s smoked butter yet? It’s not widely available but you’ll find it at his stall at the Midleton Farmer’s Market alongside his warm and cold smoked fish, fishcakes and addictive smoked mussels.

Midleton Farmer’s Market will soon be celebrating 15 years, watch this space for events,


The Happy Pear Café in Greystones is owned by a happy pair of twins called David and Stephen Flynn. After ten years their fans range from young parents to pensioners, ladies-who-lunch to teens-on-the-run, Electric Picnickers to Hollywood stars.

They’ve always wowed their clientele on great vegetarian food and now they’ve shared their secrets in “The Happy Pear” Cookbook published by Penguin. Fresh and gorgeous tasting food, bursting with goodness,




April 25th, 2015

Have you heard about the latest ‘U turn’ in nutritional science? America, the land of the ‘egg white omelette’, is in quite the tizzy about it all. Just a few weeks ago the US Government’s Dietary Advisory Committee changed the long standing official dietary advice to limit the number of eggs per person to a couple a week. Instead they are recommending people to drastically restrict their sugar intake from an average of between 22-30 teaspoons a day in the US. How shocking is that?  Here in Ireland we are not quite as bad at a “mere” 15-16 teaspoons per day but we are getting there fast with many children starting their day with a bowl of sugary cereal and a ‘fruit’ yoghurt or smoothie,  which can contain up to 7 teaspoons of sugar.

Back to eggs, time for us egg lovers to celebrate eggs.

Mankind has been eating eggs, the original fast food since time began. When you think of it they are a wonder food, a neat package of nutrients and goodness. Recent research has found that they contain even more vitamins and minerals and less calories than originally thought.

Around 1,000 years ago the Indians and Chinese started to domesticate chickens and then the Egyptians worked out how to incubate the eggs so the hens could get on with the business of laying.

If eggs were so bad for us, it’s just possible it would have been  evident before the 1960s when some scientists began to connect eggs to heart disease – I thought of my Granpoppy who ate a couple of eggs every day of his life and lived to a ripe old age. But those were beautiful fresh eggs from the flock of hens pecking around the haggard and farmyard and an altogether different thing from the mass produced eggs layed by hens confined in “enriched” cages.

For decades many people went to ‘work on an egg’. Then in the 1980’s there was the panic about salmonella in eggs – a natural consequence of overcrowding and intensive production.

So how do you feel about eggs? Are you also concerned that they will increase your HDL cholesterol, well fear not the thinking has changed. But remember, an egg laid by a happy lazy hen is an altogether different thing to a mass produced egg to which an increasing number of people are allergic.

Why not join the new generation of hen keepers so you can enjoy the pleasure of having a regular supply of proper free range organic eggs. A chicken coop on your lawn with four hens will recycle food scraps, provide enough eggs for a regular household and provide chicken manure for your compost heap.

For us cooks, it’s difficult to imagine life without eggs … they are one of the few foods considered to be a complete protein because they contain all the essential amino acids, the perfect package of nutrients and goodness and are super versatile in the kitchen.

Like cattle, hens need access to grass to produce real nourishment and flavour.

Organic hens must be allowed to range freely but free range does not mean organic and can be a very “elastic” term.

Eggs are incredibly good value, two or three for supper makes an inexpensive and nourishing meal.



Boiled Eggs with Soldiers and Asparagus

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have some space to keep a few free range hens are blessed indeed. The eggs laid by my happy, lazy hens are completely perfect – white curdy albumen and rich yellow yolks. When you have access to eggs of this quality, treat yourself to a boiled egg – absolute perfection but sadly a forgotten flavour for so many people. Little fingers of toast called dippies or soldiers are the usual accessory but during the asparagus season in May a few spears of fresh green asparagus make a deliciously decadent dip.

Serves 2

6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus

2 fresh free range eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh white pan loaf

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

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut into fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups on large side plates. Put the cooked asparagus (see below) and soldiers on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

Bend the stalks of asparagus, over your index finger. It will snap where it begins to get tough (keep the ends for soup). Cook in boiling salted water for 5-8 minutes (depending on size) or until a knife will pierce the root end easily. Drain and keep hot.





Turkish Scrambled Eggs

A favourite breakfast dish, there are lots of versions, some just crack the eggs onto the top, cover and allow to set but I love this version.


Serves 4

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4 oz) onion, peeled and chopped

175g (6oz) long red or green peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

4-5 ripe tomatoes, (or 20 cherry tomatoes), roughly chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper, maybe a pinch of sugar.


6 free range eggs

75g (3oz) Feta (we use Toonsbridge Dairy Buffalo Greek Style cheese)

2 tablespoons fresh coriander or flat parsley

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

We used a deepish pan with a 7 inch base and a 9 inch top.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the onion, peppers and chilli if using. Cover with a paper lid and sweat until soft but not coloured, about 5-6 minutes.


Add the tomatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a little sugar. Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes.

Lightly whisk the eggs, gently season and stir into the base, continue to cook until softly set.

Stir gently once or twice then crumble the feta on top. Cover with a lid and continue to cook on the lowest heat for 15-20 minutes until just set.

Scatter with roughly chopped flat parsley, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few chilli flakes if you wish.

Serve immediately with lots of crusty bread.



Seakale on Toast with Prawns and Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4-6


600ml (1 pint) water

½ teaspoon salt

450g (1lb) seakale

30g (1oz) butter

18 prawns, cooked and peeled

6 slices of toast, buttered

Hollandaise Sauce (see recipe)



a small bunch of chervil


Wash the seakale gently and trim into manageable lengths – about 10cm (4inches).  Bring the water to a fast boil and add the salt.  Add the seakale, cover and boil until tender – about 15 minutes.  Just as soon as a knife will pierce the seakale easily, drain it.


Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan on a gentle heat and toss in the prawns to warm through.


Serve the seakale with the prawns on hot buttered toast, and drizzle generously with Hollandaise Sauce.  Pop a little bunch of chervil on top of each toast and serve immediately.


Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces.  The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish.  Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast.  Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80°C/180°F or the sauce will curdle.  A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water.  Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need.  If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.


2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

125g (5ozs) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.


Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water.  Add water and whisk thoroughly.  Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time.  As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece.  The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary.  Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made.  Finally add the lemon juice to taste.  If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low.  Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.


It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage.  If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.


Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.


Keep the sauce warm until service either in a pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water (do not have gas jet on).  A thermos flask is also a good option.


Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding


A great way to use up left over Hot Cross as of course this recipe can be adapted for barmbrack.


Serves 6-8


6 Hot-Cross buns

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice

110g (4oz) plump raisins or sultanas

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

110g (4oz) suga

pinch of salt


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


Split the hot cross buns, butter each side and cut into slices. Arrange the slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the buns with half the spice and half the raisins, then arrange another layer over the raisins. Sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining hot cross buns.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. 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 the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve warm with some softly whipped cream.

Note: This pudding reheats perfectly.


Fresh Lemon Ice Cream with Crystallized Lemon Peel


This is a fresh tangy light ice cream, is made from milk rather than cream. Easy peasy to make and a delight to eat at the end of any meal winter or summer.

Serves 4


1 free range egg

250ml (9fl oz) milk

130g (5oz) castor sugar

zest and juice of 1 good lemon



Crystallized lemon peel (see recipe)

Fresh Mint leaves and Borage flowers


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


When the mixture starts to freeze, remove from the freezer and whisk again, or break up in a food processor. Then put it back in the freezer until it is frozen completely. Meanwhile, chill the serving plates.


To Serve

Scoop the ice cream into the curls, arrange on chilled plates or in pretty frosted glass dishes. Decorate with crystallized lemon peel, borage flowers and fresh mint leaves if you have them.



Instead of the lemon juice and zest, use 3 tablespoons of elderflower syrup and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.


Proportions will depend on how sweet the flower syrup is.

Just follow recipe as for lemon ice cream (milk, egg and sugar)


For decoration

Deep fry “bunch” of elder flower very quickly.

Crystallized Lemon Peel

We always have lots of crystallized lemon, orange and lime peel in a jar to decorate tarts, scatter on mousses or just to nibble.


2 lemons

16fl oz/450 ml/generous 2 cups cold water


Sugar syrup (see recipe)


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


Put the julienne into a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque.  Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on bakewell paper or a cake rack.  When cold toss in castor sugar and allow to dry in a cool airy place.


Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.


Hot Tips:

The Burren Slow Food Festival is coming up and will be launched at the Ballyvaughan Farmer’s Market on 16th May. This year’s theme is Land & Sea. The festival will be extend to a full week of stand-alone events organised by the Burren Food Trail, food producers, chefs and restaurants. Michelin-starred chef Derry Clarke from L’Ecrivain will be making a much anticipated appearance at the festival, sharing his expertise in demos and talks. See

Asparagus: the first new season’s Irish asparagus has just started to appear in the Farmer’s Markets. I bought my first precious bunch of the season from West Cork asparagus grower Tim York, 086 8593996, at the Schull Farmer’s Market on Easter weekend in the midst of the 15 year celebrations. Congratulations to all involved in this colourful vibrant market, every Sunday from 9.30am to 1pm



The Lettercollum Cookbook

April 18th, 2015

I’ve got a whole stack of cookbooks on my desk to review, some since before Christmas when almost every post brought another title – so many it wasn’t possible to reach them all.

There were several that I was particularly taken with, one was the Lettercollum Cookbook. Author Karen Austin’s story is a particularly intriguing one; she was on her way to Australia, one Christmas when she met Con McLoughlin who brought her to West Cork. She’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last to be totally seduced by the landscape and the people – and the sun shone for the entire week. She and Con got together with a few friends to buy a dilapidated Victorian house with 12 acres of land in 1983. They planned to lead the ‘good life’, get away from pollution and traffic jams and try their hand at sustainable living – on her own admission, they had lots of grand plans and no experience, quite a combo.

Years of hard work and lots of fun ensued but it didn’t pay the bills so they decided to open a hostel at Lettercollum House, word quickly spread of the delicious organic food made from fresh vegetables and fruit from their garden. After a couple of years they upgraded to a guesthouse but big houses are like sponges they soak up money – there’s almost always something that requires urgent attention and then one has to start all over again. What to do?

In July 2004 they launched the Lettercollum Kitchen Project in the town of Clonakilty, which has become an institution – they cook their beautiful produce in the kitchen behind the shop. They satisfy their yearning to travel by taking groups to France and Spain to cook. The Lettercollum Cookbook is a collection of the beautifully simple recipes that Karen has developed over the years.

Karen has travelled from Bali to Cadaqués, Tripoli to Timoleague and brought inspiration for new flavours and ingredients back to West Cork. Her recipes are a blend of Irish cooking with a sprinkling of the exotic.

Fodors have named her “master of the vegetarian and ethnic repertory”. There’s a little fish in there too and a hint of chorizo. The book was published by Onstream and many of the beautiful photographs are by Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir.


Fish in Pakora Batter with Spicy Wedges

Serves 4

4 x 150g fresh white fish

4 heaped tbsp gram flour

(or plain white flour)

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1-2 red chillies,  finely chopped

1 dssp crushed coriander seeds

or 1 tsp garam masala

Small bottle or can chilled beer

Vegetable/sunflower/rapeseed oil for frying


Spicy Potato Wedges

16-20 baby potatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

1tsp paprika

½ tsp chilli flakes



Serves 4

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

First, make the spicy potato wedges. Wash the potatoes and cut into quarters – no need to peel. Put into a bowl and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the paprika and chilli flakes and toss again. Season with a little salt.

Tip onto an oven tray, keeping in a single layer. Bake for 15 minutes, then give the tray a shake and bake for a further 15 minutes or until lightly crisp.


Cut the fish into 2cm pieces.

Sieve the gram flour into a bowl together with the salt and baking powder, chilli and spice. Regular flour may be used, but gram gives and interesting batter and means the recipe can be gluten-free.

Slowly whisk in some beer until you get a thick pouring batter. The batter should fall off the spoon in a thick stream. If it falls off in lumps, thin it with a little more beer. If it’s too runny, just sieve in a little more flour.

Carefully heat the oil in a wok, deep-fat fryer or saucepan. Test it’s hot enough by dropping a cube of bread, piece of onion or other vegetable into the oil. When it comes back quickly to the surface it’s ready.

Season the fish with a little salt and drop into the batter, mixing around to cover the fish completely. Carefully lower each piece into the hot oil, cooking no more than 5 or 6 pieces at a time, otherwise the oil temperature will fluctuate too much and the batter will cook unevenly. Turn the pieces after a minute or two, and when nicely browned remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Eat immediately with a serving of spicy wedges.


Suquet de Peix (Catalan Fish Stew)

Serves 4


2 onions

2 red peppers

4 cloves garlic

6 waxy potatoes

4 large tomatoes or 1 x 400g tin tomatoes

1/3 glass brandy or 1 glass white wine

750ml fish stock

500g mussels or clams

600g monkfish or 800g hake on the bone

olive oil

salt and pepper



1 slice white bread

30 almonds

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

olive oil


small bunch parsley


For the picada, remove the crusts from the bread and cut into 1cm cubes. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the bread until golden. Put the almonds into a bowl and cover with boiling water for a few minutes, then refresh with cold water. The skins of the almonds should now slip off. Put the fried bread, almonds and garlic into a food processor and buzz to a fine crumb (or mash together with a mortar and pestle). Slowly pour in enough olive oil to make a loose paste. Season with a little salt. Chop the parsley and stir in.

Peel and chop the onions. De-seed and chop the peppers into about 2cm dice. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and cut the potatoes into 3cm chunks.

In a large pot cook the onions and peppers in a little olive oil until soft. Add the chopped garlic and cook on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Chop or grate the tomatoes on the coarse side of a grater, and add to the pot. Cook gently until the tomatoes break down.

Add the brandy or wine, followed by the fish stock. Continue cooking until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Leave to one side.

Clean the mussels and remove the beards. Discard any that are damaged or open. Skin the monkfish and cut into medallions about 1cm thick or cut the hake into four steaks – ideally your fishmonger will do this for you.

Put the stew back on the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the picada. Add the monkfish and then scatter over the mussels. (If you are using hake, cook for a couple of minutes before adding the mussels.) When the stew returns to the boil, turn it down. As soon as the mussels open, remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the remaining picada in a bowl on the side.



Falafel Burgers with Tahini and Lemon Sauce

Serves 4-6


200g dried chickpeas

1 x 400g can chickpeas,

1 large onion

3-4 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground cumin

large handful coriander, chopped

large handful parsley, chopped

2-3 tbsp gram or plain flour

olive oil


Tahini and Lemon Sauce

3 tbsp light tahini

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

juice 1 lemon




Serves 4-6


For the tahini sauce, put the tahini, garlic and lemon juice into a small bowl and mix together. It will become very thick. Thin with enough water to make a thick pouring sauce. Season to taste with a little salt.

Soak the dried chickpeas in cold water overnight. The next day, drain them and put them, uncooked, into a food processor and blitz until finely ground.

Drain the can of chickpeas and rinse them under the tap.

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic.

Heat a small frying pan, add a little olive oil and fry the onions for 2-3 minutes then stir in the chopped garlic and fry for 1 minute longer.

Tip the onions and garlic into the ground chickpeas in the food processor together with the canned chickpeas, salt, ground cumin and chopped herbs.

Blitz everything until fairly smooth. Tip into a bowl and sieve in 2 tbsp of the gram flour and mix well. We use gram flour as it is gluten-free, but any flour will work.

Heat a large frying pan and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom. Wet your hands and form the mix into small burgers – not too thick – and slip them into the pan. If the mix is too wet to stay together, add a little more gram flour and try again. Flip them over and fry on the other side.

We serve these at home in toasted pitta bread with shredded lettuce and tomato at the bottom, a burger or two on top, drizzled with the tahini sauce.



Kale, Gorgonzola and Pumpkin Tart

500g pumpkin or butternut squash

500g kale

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

150g Gorgonzola, Crozier or Cashel Blue cheese

4 large eggs

200ml cream

200ml milk

Olive oil

salt and black pepper

1 pre-baked 26-28cm tart shell


Serves 4-6


Pre-heat the oven to180c (350F), Gas Mark 4.

Peel the pumpkin or squash and chop into 3cm pieces. Toss in a little olive oil with some salt and black pepper. Tip into a roasting tray and bake for 30 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender but not charred.

Wash the kale and strip out the tough stems by pulling the leaf up from the stem – it will come away easily. Chop the leaf into ribbons.

Heat a frying pan, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom and add the chilli flakes, garlic and fennel seeds.

Cook gently for a couple of minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic, then add the chopped kale. Stir everything together and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until the kale has wilted and softened.

Put the cooled, roasted pumpkin pieces into the tart shell and tuck in the kale around it. Crumble the cheese on top.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, then whisk in the cream and milk. Season with 1 level tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Pour the mix over the vegetables in the tart shell. Fill as much as you can without it coming over the edge.

It’s important that the mix doesn’t spill because it will make the pastry soggy.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is golden and set.





The Food Festival Season has started in earnest, The Taste the Wild Atlantic Way Street Food Festival and All Ireland Chowder Cook Off takes place in Kinsale today. The Dublin Bay Prawn Festival on 24-26 April is not to be missed ether. Don’t forget to check out for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of  Food and Wine on May 15th to 18th. We just got word that Joanna Blythman, author of “Swallow This” is coming and will speak on her new book with John McKenna and she will also join the panel discussion  “How We Feed The Most Vulnerable” with Patrick Holden, Christian Puglisi, Rebecca Sullivan and Michael Kelly on Sunday 17 May at 11.30am


The Happy Pear Café in Greystones is owned by a happy pair of twins called David and Stephen Flynn. After ten years their fans range from young parents to pensioners, ladies-who-lunch to teens-on-the-run, Electric Picnickers to Hollywood stars.

They’ve always wowed their clientele on great vegetarian food and now they’ve shared their secrets in “The Happy Pear” Cookbook published by Penguin. Fresh and gorgeous tasting food, bursting with goodness.


At Ballymaloe Cookery School our short course season is in full swing. Coming up, Everyday Day Kitchens with Rachel Allen 27-29 April and Small Plate Ideas 24 April. Yummy comforting food to enjoy with your family every day or a selection of small plates to nibble and relish with a glass of wine. See


New York

April 11th, 2015

Morganstern's Pistachio and Marmalade on Toast


It’s always fun to see what’s happening on the food scene in New York. This time, I had a cool breakfast in a hip ice-cream parlour called Morgenstern’s down in the East Village. They make a range of pretty delicious ice-creams, but just for a couple of weeks they teamed up with Brutal magazine to do a Brutal breakfast, (proceeds go to funding the next edition of the magazine) – great name but misleading ‘cos the breakfast was totally delicious. Mine was Avocado Toast but of course with a twist, a thick slice of Japanese bread, toasted and spread with avocado ice-cream, a drizzle of condensed milk, olive oil sea salt and freshly ground pepper. How weird does that sound but it was really tasty and morish. My friend had the egg sandwich, we were sitting up at the counter so we could watch as the sweet little cook meticulously put the sandwich together with as much care as if she herself was about to eat it. The combination of semi-soft egg with Aioli, pickled vegetables, sesame oil and fresh coriander on a crusty roll was perky and delicious. Another version had a dribble of Sri Racha, (Thai hot sauce) added.

Wished we could have tasted the Salt and Pepper Bread and Butter Pudding with beets, asters and homemade cultured yoghurt but we couldn’t manage it after a matcha, pistachio and marmalade toast! You can eat aster and iris flowers, yes, that was a new one on me too, see for the ‘blow you out of the water’ ice-cream menu, including raw milk ice-cream – how interesting is that in a New York eatery?

Just a couple of blocks away in the same area, there’s another gem, El Rey Luncheonette, great name, owned by Geraldo Gongales the partner of Nicholas Morgenstern who owns Morgenstern’s . I loved the Housemade Za’atar Bread, Egg Frittata with shaved fennel salad and crushed avocado, Green Mole Burrata with burnt onions and Za’atar bread.

On Orchard St, you’ll find the Fat Radish, open since 2010 and still great, I loved this concept too, the high ceilinged room with exposed brick walls was packed with a ‘cool kid’ clientele, relishing Saturday morning brunch. The menu is very ‘veggie centric’ as are many of the best and most innovative ‘farm to table’ places in New York at present. It such a joy for a farmer and gardener like me to see the long overdue move of vegetable and grains to the centre of the plate. They’re open for lunch and dinner too, don’t miss the Fat Radish Plate of seasonal market vegetables or the smoked salmon crostini, capers, red onion, upland cress, crème fraîche. One can imagine the truffled duck fat chips are also a “must have”.

Green juices were everywhere – made with kale, spinach, celery, apples, ginger…

It’s not surprising that they are so popular, perhaps it is psychological  but I just feel a boost of energy every time I have one. Razor clams and sea urchins were featured on many menus including at Eataly ( where they were also piled high for sale in the seafood section. We had delicious deep fried chickpeas with smoked paprika at Tía Pol – an enduringly popular tapa place, another to add to your New York List


Brutal Avocado on Toast


My observation of how this delicious breakfast sandwich was made at Morgenstern’s

Serves  1


1 ¾ inch thick slice of Japanese bread (use a thick slice of square pan loaf if unavailable!)

avocado ice-cream – see recipe

condensed milk

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt flakes

freshly ground pepper


Toast the slice of bread, immediately spread with a layer of avocado ice-cream.

Drizzle with condensed milk, then extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and add a generous grind of freshly ground black pepper.

Cut into two triangles.

Serve right away, a delicious contrast of hot and cold and surprisingly moreish.


Avocado Ice-cream

Serves 6-8 depending on accompaniment, makes 1 litre (1 ¾ pints)


What a surprise – this delicious ice-cream can be served in a sweet or savoury combination.


350g (12 oz) ripe avocado flesh (3-4 avocados depending on size)
3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (from a lemon not a squeezy bottle)
350ml (12fl oz) whole milk
110g  (4oz) caster sugar
225ml (8fl oz) cream

Scoop the flesh from the ripe avocado into a blender; add the lemon juice, milk and sugar, whiz until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cream – mix well to combine. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if needed.

Freeze in a sorbetiere or ice-cream maker, it won’t take as long as other ice-creams – maybe 15 minutes.

Serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer.


Brutal Egg Sandwich

Serves  1

1 fresh “crusty roll”


1 ½ semi hard boiled eggs

pickled thinly sliced radish and carrot slices

fresh coriander sprigs

sesame oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Split the fresh crusty roll horizontally.

Spread both sides with the aioli. Slice the semi-hard boiled eggs lengthwise and arrange three side by side on the base of the roll. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Top with pickled carrots and radish slices and a little pickle juice, a layer of coriander leaves on top, then a few drops of sesame oil. Season once again with a few flakes of sea salt and pepper.

Cover with the roll. Press gently and cut into two pieces and serve immediately. Each sandwich was made to order.



1 garlic clove


2 organic egg yolks

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1⁄2 teaspoon French mustard

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – we use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons flat parsley leaves, chopped

freshly ground pepper


First make the aioli. Mash the garlic with a little salt. Put the egg yolks into a Pyrex bowl with the crushed garlic, white wine vinegar and mustard. Whisk in the oil, drop by drop. Once the sauce has started to thicken, you can add the oil more quickly. Stir in the chopped parsley. Taste the aioli and add a few drops of lemon juice, pepper and more salt if necessary


Wichcraft Peanut Butter Cream’wich Cookies


Makes 12 cookies


165g (6oz) butter

100g (3½ oz) oats

70g (2¾ oz) sugar

100g (3½ oz) brown sugar

200g (7oz) peanut butter

150g  (5oz) white flour

a little white flour for dusting

1½ tablespoons baking soda


For the filling:

3 tablespoons butter, softened

30g (1¼ oz) icing sugar

300g (11oz) peanut butter, creamy


Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).

Melt the butter over a medium heat, add the oats and cook 5-7 minutes, stirring until slightly toasted. Pour onto a baking tray and allow to cool.

Cream the remaining butter and sugars in a bowl or food mixer.

Add the peanut butter and mix until combined, add the oats, then flour and bread soda, mix until smooth. Chill the dough in a freezer for 5 minutes.

Put a sheet of parchment paper onto the work surface. Put the dough on top, add a light dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Top with another large sheet of parchment and roll the dough until 5mm (¼ inch) thick.

Cut the dough into 6cm (2½ inch) cookies and space 1cm (½ inch) apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through baking, then transfer to a cooling rack.


For the filling:

Mix the butter, sugar and peanut butter in the bowl of a food mixer until smooth.

Sandwich two cookies together with the filling. Enjoy.


Hot Tips:


Theodora Fitzgibbon was a legend in the Irish food scene for many years, an urbane sophisticated woman who led a thrilling life, in Europe, the Middle East and India. I’m greatly enjoying  and in fact enthralled by her beautifully written autobiography “A Taste of Love” published by Gill and Macmillan.


Zamora Restaurant & Wine Shop presents the first of its Food & Wine Tasting Events on Monday 20th of April 2015 at 7pm, tickets €49.   Enjoy the delights of Burgundy presented by Edouard Leach of Maison Francoise Chauvenet showcasing the best Chardonnay & Pinot Noir from this magnificent region. These wines will be paired with tasters and teasers from the Zamora kitchen team under the direction of Pat Browne also of Ballymaloe Cookery School.There is limited availability for this event so book early on 021 239 0540.


Another great new find: Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial. The Jeffares family has been growing blackcurrants in Wexford for three generations, today Des Jeffares continues this tradition, cold pressing and bottling blackcurrants at their peak so you can enjoy Mr Jeffares Irish Blackcurrant Cordial. 100% natural pure juice, sweetened with Stevia, a natural sugar alternative, no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. See





April 4th, 2015

2015-03-21 15.29.56 (1)



Easter is early this year so the milk fed Spring lamb will be even more juicy and succulent. It needs nothing more than a few flakes of sea salt before being popped into a moderate oven to roast to melting tenderness. Search for the first little sprigs of fresh mint to make a sauce to accompany it for Easter Sunday lunch.


For pudding, I can’t think of anything more delicious than a simple rhubarb tart made with the fresh pink stalks of new season’s rhubarb. Use the “break-all-the-rules pastry” and make by the creaming method, 225g(8oz) butter,  55g (2oz) castor sugar, 2 eggs, 340g (12 oz) white flour  – this makes 750g (1¾ lb) pastry


Lamb sweetbreads are also in season. If you haven’t cooked or tasted them before, pick up courage, order some from your local butcher, they are a rare treat that you will find on the menu of top restaurants nonetheless they are amazingly inexpensive to buy partly because so few people know what to do with them. Take advantage now, like lamb shanks and ham hocks, the price will go up before too long.  Wild garlic is also in season now so try the combination of sweetbreads with wild garlic.


This is also the very best time of the year to enjoy lamb’s liver and kidneys –tender and mild, cooked in minutes, packed with vitamins, minerals and of course iron. When did we stop loving liver? Could it be partly because it is cheap and so is undervalued? Remember kids learn many of their food preferences from their parents who influence them inadvertently. Having said that, at least one of my daughters can’t be persuaded that it is super delicious.


If you’ve been off sugar for Lent  – bet you feel very virtuous and possible a heck of a lot more energetic so I shouldn’t be trying to tempt you but who could resist Pamela Black’s Easter Chocolate cake full of speckled eggs – a spectacular centre piece for the Easter Table.


Salad of Warm Sweetbreads with Potato Crisps, Anchovies and Wild Garlic

Sweetbreads are definitely a forgotten treat. The salty tang of the anchovies in this recipe gives another dimension and adds lots of complementary flavour without compromising the sweetness of the sweetbreads.

Serves 4

4 lamb or 2 veal sweetbreads

1 small carrot

1 onion

2 celery stalks

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

bouquet garni

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) homemade chicken stock)

a selection of salad leaves (little gem, oakleaf, sorrel, watercress and wild garlic leaves and flowers)

plain flour, well-seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

beaten organic egg

butter and oil for sautéing


For the Dressing

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper


To Serve

homemade potato crisps (see recipe)

4 anchovies

wild garlic flowers (or chive flowers depending on the season)


To prepare sweetbreads.

Put the sweetbreads into a bowl, cover with cold water and let them soak for 3 hours. Discard the water and cut away any discoloured parts from the sweetbreads.


Dice the carrot, onion and celery and sweat them in butter; add the bouquet garni. Then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.


Poach the sweetbreads gently in the simmering stock for 3–5 minutes or until they feel firm to the touch. Cool, then remove the gelatinous membranes and any fatty bits carefully.  Press between 2 plates and top with a weight not more than 1kg (2lb) or they will be squashed.


Prepare the salad.

Wash and dry the lettuces and salad leaves and whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.


Slice the sweetbreads into escalopes, dip in well-seasoned flour and then in beaten egg. Sauté in a little foaming butter and oil in a heavy pan until golden on both sides.

Toss the salad leaves in the dressing, divide between 4 plates and lay the hot sweetbreads and then potato crisps on top of the salad. Sprinkle with chopped anchovy and wild garlic flowers or chive flowers and serve immediately.



Homemade Potato Crisps or “Game Chips”


Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers! When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying



Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.


In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.


If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.


Devilled Kidneys

Serves 4

4 lamb’s kidneys, cut each into quarters

a little  extra virgin oil

1 small glass of sherry

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 teaspoon  redcurrant jelly

a teaspoon or two of Worcestershire sauce

a good pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika

1 tablespoon English mustard

2 tablespoons cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper

coarsely chopped parsley

watercress sprigs


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



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 the sherry, allow to bubble for a moment and follow up with a splash of wine or cider vinegar. Stir in the redcurrant jelly, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and 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 cayenne and black pepper and lots of parsley if you like.


Serve on char-grilled sour dough 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.



Warm Salad of Lamb Kidneys, Straw Potatoes and Caramelized Shallots

This is a bit more fiddly to make but the end result with contrasting flavours and textures makes a seriously impressive starter.


Serves 4


4 lambs kidneys trimmed of all fat and gristle and cut into 1½ cm dice

20 caramelized shallots (see recipe)

straw potatoes


1 large potato (115-175g/4-6ozs)



6 tablespoons (8 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar


A selection of lettuces (ie. Butterhead, Lollo Rosso, Curly Endive, Cos, Watercress, rocket etc.) – about 4 generous handfuls

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


Prepare and cook the shallots as described in the recipe.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and leave aside.  Wash and dry the lettuces, tear into bite sized pieces and keep in a salad bowl.


Peel the potato and cut into fine julienne strips on a mandolin, in a food processor or by hand. Wash off the excess starch with cold water drain and pat dry. Preheat oil in a deep fry to 200ºC/400ºF.  Cook the dry potatoes until golden brown and crispy. Keep them warm to serve with the salad.


Just before serving: Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, allow to get very hot. Season the kidneys with salt and pepper add to the pan and cook according to your preference. Sprinkle with chopped marjoram – don’t overcook them or they will become tough and rubbery.


While the kidneys are cooking – quickly toss the lettuces with the dressing and place on 4 plates.  Put the warn shallots around each pile of salad, arrange the fried potato carefully on top of each shallot in a little pile. Finally sprinkle the cooked kidneys straight from the pan onto the salads.  Serve immediately.


Caramelized Shallots


450g (1lb) peeled shallots

50g (2ozs) butter

125ml (4fl ozs) water

1-2 tablespoons sugar

salt and pepper

sprig of thyme or rosemary


Put the shallots, butter, water, sugar, salt, pepper and herb into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer covered until the shallots are almost tender. Remove the lid, allow the juices to evaporate.  Watch and turn carefully as the shallots begin to caramelize.


Lamb’s Liver Kebabs with Crispy Bacon


Serves 6 as a starter


450g (1lb) lambs liver, cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes

flour, well-seasoned


freshly cracked pepper

8-12 slices of streaky bacon


fresh watercress sprigs
cocktail sticks


Cut the lambs liver into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes. Dip the cubes of liver in well-seasoned flour and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Shake off the excess.


Cut the bacon /rashers in half crossways , stretch with a knife, wrap around each piece of liver and secure with a cocktail stick.


Cook in a preheated oven at 250°C (500°F) for 5-6 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the liver still a little pink in the centre.


Serve on a bed of watercress sprigs.


Pamela Black’s Easter Speckled Egg Cake

Serves 12-16
Classic Vanilla Victoria Sponge 

225g (8oz/2 sticks) butter
225g (8oz/1 cup) caster/organic caster sugar
4 eggs
225g (8oz/2 cup) plain flour (sieved)
1 teaspoon baking powder (sieved)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) milk (optional)
Butterscotch Buttercream
225g (8oz) butter
450g (1lb) icing sugar (sieved)

50g (2oz) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons hot water

3 tablespoons of Butterscotch Sauce (see below)
150g (5oz) dark chocolate Vermicelli sprinkles
200g (7oz) speckled chocolate candy eggs

Chocolate Caraque (see recipe)
fluffy yellow chicks


2 x 20cm (8 inch) round sandwich tins


First make the sponges.

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

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder carefully and add a little milk if required to give a dropping consistency.

Spoon into prepared tins and spread evenly.
Cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
Next make the buttercream.

Beat the butter until soft.  Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder slowly.  Finally add the vanilla extract and hot water – mixing all thoroughly. Once cooled, add 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of butterscotch sauce to the buttercream and mix thoroughly.

Taking a 10cm (4 inch) round cutter, cut a disc from the centre of one of the two sponges (keep aside and use for a mini cake).


To assemble the cake.

Spread 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of the buttercream over the base of the remaining sponge.  Place the cut sponge on top and cover all the surface completely with remaining icing.  Allow to chill for 1 hour.

Place the cake on a parchment lined baking sheet and quickly press the chocolate sprinkles and chocolate caraque into the sides, over the top and into the hollow of the cake – it should now resemble a birds nest.

Fill the centre with speckled eggs and decorate with fluffy chicks.
Butterscotch Sauce Recipe

Keeps for months and is delicious drizzled over ice-cream, crêpes, yoghurt…..


110g (4oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark soft brown, Muscovado sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


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


Chocolate Caraque

Melt 150g (5oz) of chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over simmering water (not boiling) and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread.  Allow to cool. Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating “curls” as you go.




Seakale is rarely found in shops, it’s a sublime vegetable, every bit as precious and rare as new season’s asparagus but available during the “hungry gap” in April when the winter vegetables are almost over but the summer vegetables are still barely seedlings. We’ll have a limited amount for sale at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Garden stall at Midleton’s farmers market from next week. Order ahead 021 4646785 to be sure to get some.


The Galway Food Festival, is in full swing over the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, 2-6 April.  Building on last year’s huge success there’s a jam packed programme of  open-air markets, foraging trip, food trails, talks, tours, tastings, demonstrations, workshops, lots of fun for all the family…See .


At Ballymaloe Cookery School we have a series  availability on our upcoming Special Interest courses in April… for those of you who might want to go into the food tourism business Start Your Own Guest House, Monday April 20th to Friday April 24th, or how about an afternoon class- Café Sandwiches and Salads (April 13th), or Teashop Cakes and Biscuits (April 14th), or 10 Great Brunch Recipes (April 17th) see



Café Sandwiches and Salads, Teashop Cakes and Biscuits, 10 Great Brunch Recipes… We have a series of half-day special interest courses coming up in April at The Ballymaloe Cookery School. For those who are considering going into the food tourism business, there is an intensive one week Start Your Own Guesthouse course from Monday April 20th to Friday April 24th. See

Marzipan Edirne

March 29th, 2015

Still in Istanbul,  Burcu of Unison Turkey told me about a particularly delicious marzipan made in Edirne close to the Bulgarian and Greek border by a family who’d been in business since 1952. So despite the heavy snowfall and lots of advice to the contrary, I decided to seek them out. It developed into an endurance test….. a five hour journey along the snow clogged highway past abandoned cars, jack-knifed trucks and freezing hungry drivers many of whom had been stranded since the night before. When we eventually arrived at Keçecizade almost three hours late, we were warmly welcomed with hot black Turkish tea, cay and a plate of the famous marzipan and cookies. The founder Metin Bey’s office was crammed with awards and trophies garnered throughout the years for his delicious confections

Here again we encounter an example of the Turkish apprentice system and a passionate commitment to quality. Metin worked with both a candy master and halva master in Safranbolu, an area traditionally famous for candy and Turkish delight, Eventually he started to make marzipan and Keçecizade was established in 1961. Metin and his son source their almonds from Thrace where the climate and soil produce the finest nuts with the best aroma and oil content. The sugar too is carefully sourced.

Apparently, it takes 4 years to become a master marzipan maker as opposed to just three years for a master tailor or shoemaker.

To make the marzipan, the finest almonds money can buy are first ground with a special blade, then sieved. Meanwhile they are cooking the syrup from beet sugar at 120° Centigrade This is poured into a huge stainless steel mixing bowl, specially designed by Metin. The ground almonds are added and the marzipan is mixed slowly with some corn starch for an hour. It’s then poured out onto heavy unpolished marble tables to cool, formed into mounds, then rolled into 10″ batons, with a special corn starch and cut into individual pieces of silky marzipan.

Metin stressed the importance of consistent vigilance not only of each step of the process but also the quality of each element: the starch, the almonds, the sugar….. Apparently, many confectioners now use glucose syrup, which changes the taste and texture.  Food is being adulterated in ways we can’t even imagine according to Metin.

Keçacizade also make a delicious Turkish delight, not in the least like the sickly sweet, tooth wrenching jelly that is usually sold under that name.

There was a wonderful rose flavoured version, also one with mastic, and double pistachio to die for. There were rolls of walnut Turkish delight and a hazelnut version rolled in desiccated coconut. The hazelnuts come from the Black Sea area of Giresun, they cost 80 Turkish lira a kilo, Turkey, I discovered is the biggest producer of hazelnuts in the world.

Sultans Turkish Delight has chocolate sandwiched in the centre and another pistachio version is totally encrusted in chocolate. The marzipan too, came in many incarnations. In Ceviz Sarma, little cushions of marzipan were sandwiched between two beautiful fresh walnut halves. Kakaolu Bademezmesi, is for me the un-prouncable name for little rectangles of marzipan coated in dark coca and that’s not all- there was also a superb halva which came in many flavours.

Keçecizade has five shops in Edirne but despite that, marzipan is definitely not the only reason to make a pilgrimage to this remarkable city, which was the Ottoman capital of Turkey in the 14th century. Edirne is justifiably proud to have one of Turkey’s finest mosques – Selimiye Camii, designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. We visited the Eski Camii “Old Mosque” which is famous for its particularly striking calligraphy, and is the oldest mosque in the city. Selimiye is the one towering on the highest hill of the city with four minarets famous for its stunning architecture and included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The city’s food speciality is Tava Ciğeri (translation Fried Liver), thinly sliced deep fried calves liver served with crispy fried chillies and yogurt. We had a feast of ciğer in a superb little place called Çiçek Ciğer.  Formica tables and lots of locals popping in and out. The return journey to Istanbul in the evening took just a little over two hours, the highway had, by then been miraculously cleared of the huge build-up of cars, vans and lorries that had travelled with supplies for Istanbul from as far away as Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Iran and Romania…..

I hadn’t expected to encounter heavy snowfalls in Turkey but it made the countryside even more beautiful and was welcomed by the farmers in a country where the spectre of drought is becoming even more of reality in recent years.

Turkish wines were another big surprise, I also visited a very interesting winery called Arda near Edirne where the wines were elegant and full of promise and produced without a ton of chemicals so were hoping to be able to source them over here before too long.  See  and  for more details.



Edirne Fried Liver with Cacik and Crispy Chillis


Serves 4


350g (12oz) very fresh calves or lambs liver, cut into very thin slices, about an inch (2.5cm) square


Well-seasoned flour


beef fat or oil for deep frying


Cacik (see recipe).


crisp sun dried, deep fried chilli peppers.


ripe tomato wedges,


raw onion slices,



Wash the liver in cold water several times until the water runs clear, drain, cover and keep chilled.


Make the Cacik, and keep cool.


Just before serving, take a fist full of liver per person, dry and toss in well-seasoned flour. Drop gently into the hot beef fat or oil, stir with a metal spoon to separate the pieces, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the liver is crispy on the outside but still tender in the centre.


Drain on kitchen paper and serve on a hot plate with a bowl of thick yoghurt or Cacik and the other accompaniments. The chilli heats, the yoghurt cools and the vegetables provide a delicious freshness. Add some flat parsley too.





Cacik – Cucumber yoghurt dip.


This delicious version of Cacik comes from “Eat Istanbul – A journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine” by Andy Harris and David Loftus and published by Quadrille.


Serves 6

1 cucumber

3 garlic cloves, peeled

500g thick yoghurt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried mint plus extra to serve

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


To serve:

chopped cucumber


Grate, dice or shave the cucumber into ribbons and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and weigh down with a plate. Leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes. After that, put the cucumber in some muslin or a clean tea towel and squeeze out any excess juice.

Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic cloves and a little sea salt to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl with the cucumber, yoghurt, olive oil, dries and fresh mint and combine well. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use, then transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with a little more dried mint and garnish with some chopped cucumber and fresh mint.





175g (6oz) ground almonds

200g (7oz) sugar

110ml (4fl oz) water

1 egg white

natural almond extract to taste (beware, 1 drop only)


Put the sugar and water into a deep saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar in the water.  Bring to the boil.  Cover the pan for 2 minutes to steam any sugar from saucepan sides.   Remove cover and boil rapidly just to thread stage -106-113°C (236°F).

Remove from the heat.  Stir the syrup for a second or two until cloudy.  Stir in almonds.  Set aside to cool briefly.

Lightly whisk egg white, add the almond extract and stir into the almond mixture.  Transfer the paste from the saucepan to Pyrex plate.  Cool.  The cool marzipan should feel like moulding clay

(Marzipan will keep for 2-3 months in a fridge).



Marzipan Dates


Makes 28


Use up scraps of marzipan to make these Marzipan Dates.


28 fresh dates depends on source

4ozs (110g) almond paste or marzipan (see recipe)

castor sugar


Split one side of the date and remove the stone.  Roll a little piece of marzipan into an oblong shape so that it will fit neatly into the opening.  Smooth the top and roll the stuffed date in castor sugar.  Repeat the procedure until all the dates and marzipan are used up.  Serve as a petit four or as part of a selection of homemade sweets.



Medjool Dates with Pistachio and Marzipan


Dip the top of the stuffed date in finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts.


Serve as above



Medjool Dates with Walnuts


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a walnut into each and press closed.



Medjool Dates with Candied Orange Peel


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a sliver of candied orange peel into each and press closed.




Medjool Dates with Candied Pecan Nut


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a candied pecan nut into each and press closed.





Turkish Snail.


Serves 10-15 people


1 packet best quality filo pastry





450g (1lb) ground almonds


325g (11oz) castor sugar


1 tablespoon cinnamon

75-110ml (3-4 floz) orange flower water

75-110g (3-4oz) melted butter


Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.


To Assemble

Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.


Hot Tips:

Seed Savers Easter Camps, 31st March to 3rd April at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co. Clare. A fun filled camp aimed at six to ten year olds with a combination of nature activities and arts and crafts. Activities include: Easter egg hunt, pizza making in a cob oven, camp fire building and cooking, drumming and singing, biscuit baking, nature walk and foraging, bug hunt, pond dipping, woodland activities, Spring activities, seed sowing, felt art, Easter egg painting and so much more. Price: €65 per child. Time: 10am-2pm each day. For more information & registration phone 061 921866/061921.


West Waterford Festival of Food,  9th to 12th April Celebrating Generations of Irish Food Stories, bringing together amazing food, drink and people in a wonderful weekend of demos, discussions and dining of all kinds. There’s something for everyone in the seaside town of Dungarvan. For more details of the jam-packed programme see


Start your own Cafe or Teashop: Many of us dream of having a little café or tea shop, but it’s so easy to get carried away not realising the hard work and expertise required to run a successful business. This intensive one week at the Ballymaloe Cookery School runs from Monday 13th April to Friday 17th April and covers everything from setting up and running the business to practical advice and “hands-on” demonstrations with the school’s top chefs. For detailed description see


March 21st, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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




Chargrilled lamb with labneh, pomegranate and fresh mint leaves.


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread

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

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

1 generous tablespoon of pomegranate seeds

fresh mint leaves, shredded

extra virgin olive oil

a few flakes of sea salt


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


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

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


photo 5 (1)


Roast Cauliflower Florets, Freekeh, Pistachio and Pomegranate


Serves 6-8


450g (16oz) cooked freekeh,


1 small cauliflower divided into small florets

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons honey

110g (4ozs) pistachio, coarsely chopped

seeds from one small pomegranate

nigella seeds, optional

6-8 tablespoons labneh

1-2 tablespoon sumac

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of dill sprigs


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

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

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


photo 1 (6)


Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom, Blood Oranges and Pistachio.


Serves 6-8


½ pint (300ml) cream

½ pint whole milk

2oz (50g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

3 tablespoons water

5-6 blood oranges

110g (4ozs) chopped pistachio nuts


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

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


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


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

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

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




Butterscotch pudding with pear, wet walnuts and apple oil.


Serves 8-10


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

300ml (10fl oz) tea

75g (3oz) muscovado sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

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

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder

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

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

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




Butterscotch sauce


110g (4oz) butter

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

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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


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

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

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


To make the sauce:

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


To serve:

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




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

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

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

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


St. Patrick’s Day

March 14th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy St Patrick’s Day.


4Z0A2400a (1)

Pamela Black’s St Patrick’s Day Cake

Serves 6-8


6 ozs (170g) butter

6 ozs (170g) castor sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 eggs, preferably free range

6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour

¼ tsp green food gel colouring

Two 7 inch (18 cm) cake tins

½ pint cream, stiffly whipped

3 tablespoons kumquat compote

icing sugar

fresh marigolds to decorate


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

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

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


Kumquat Compôte


235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


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


Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.


To Assemble

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



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


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


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

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix

110g (4 oz) green cherries, chopped coarsely



Egg wash (see below)

green granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones


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


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


Egg Wash

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


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


4Z0A2347 a

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

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


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


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

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract



225g (8oz) icing sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon water


green cherries or wood sorrel and dried apricot


2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.


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


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


Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.


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


Meanwhile make the icing.

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


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


Labne with kumquat compote and wood sorrel


Serves 4-6

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


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

kumquat compote (see recipe)

wood sorrel or fresh mint leaves


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

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

To serve:

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


Hot Tips


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


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

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


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