Soil Association Organic Food Awards

I’ve just returned from Bristol where I spent two days judging the Soil Association Organic Food Awards with a plethora of food writers and celebrity chefs including Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Giorgio Locatelli, Matthew Fort and Fiona Beckett.

This year there were over 1000 entries, 1 chomped my way through 20 chickens, 4 ducks, 12 pieces of roast loin of pork with crackling. Many were rare breeds with lip- smacking flavour. Others tasted sausages, cured meat, fruit and vegetables, cheese and yogurt and other dairy products, jams, preserves, wines and non-alcoholic drinks, baby foods, teas, coffee, chocolate, prepared foods….. Top chefs love to be involved with judging these awards. Top chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall said, ‘I’ve been a judge for five years now and its helped me discover some of the most delicious food. Even when I missed a year, I was sent some beef by the category winners to try for my book – it was absolutely stunning.’

This year’s awards also included Best School Dinners reflecting the campaigning work done by the Soil Association to improve the quality of school meals, 

The Organic Food Awards are all about rewarding and highlighting the best in organic food and drink. Special awards include the Organic Restaurant Award, Box Scheme of the Year, Best Local Food Initiative, and Producer of the Year.

Judging in all categories is by blind tasting. The judging panel for each category is informed of variety and constituent ingredients but is not made aware of brand or manufacturer details until the judging is complete. The judging coincides with the Bristol Soil Association Organic Food Festival on Bristol’s vibrant harbourside. The event is gathering momentum at an amazing pace – the first year there were 7,000 visitors, last year over 20,000 and this year numbers topped that.

Many people dismiss organic food as being too expensive so the theme of this year’s festival was “Eating fresh organic food on a budget”.

The festival was centred around indoor and outdoor organic markets with over 150 stalls offering a huge range of organic food and drink. This year there were two new additions to the festival – an Organic Health, Beauty and Textiles market offering everything from shampoo to shirts; and the Wild Harvest Pavilion which featured an array of foods gathered beyond the farm, such as line-caught fish, wild mushrooms and game. There was also an organic bar.

For my demonstration I chose a large organic free-range chicken which cost £13 ( €18 approx). My challenge was to produce four meals out of one chicken. I showed the audience how to joint and use every scrap, I used the carcass and giblets for stock, the chicken liver for pate to serve with a tomato salad on bruschetta, the chicken breast was butterflied, pan grilled and served with rustic roast potatoes and a bunch of vine-ripened cherry tomatoes.

The inner fillet was used for Thai Chicken and Galangal Soup. The legs were poached gently in Chicken Stock flavoured with vegetables and then sliced and made into a gratin of chicken with mushrooms and broccoli. The succulent thigh meat was used for a Thai Red Curry to serve with a big bowl of fluffy rice

I cut the tasty chicken skin into squares, spread out on a wire rack and cooked gently in a very low oven until the rendered out. It was irresistibly crisp and crunchy, great served with sweet chilli or plum sauce to dip or crumbled over a green salad.

The chicken wings were marinated in sweet chilli and soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. 

I could have made a risotto from the chicken stock and served with with a Tuscan chicken liver sauce – gutsy and delicious laced with fresh sage., altogether 7 dishes from 1 chicken. 

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall did a demonstration on using the cheaper and under-rated cuts of meat.

Fans of Hugh’s might like to know that he will be teaching a class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on 22nd October 2005.

We have just compiled our new season’s schedule which has been posted on the website 

Crispy Chicken Skin with Plum or Sweet Chilli Sauce

This recipe is only worth doing with a superb chicken. We use Dan Aherne’s free-range organic chickens from Castledermond that are sold at the Middleton Farmers’ Market
Skin from a free-range, organic chicken
Sea salt
Plum or Sweet Chilli Sauce

Cut the skin into pieces about 2 by 11/2 inch. The size is not crucial but if the pieces are reasonably even they will be more manageable to cook later. Preheat the oven to 50Oc. Spread the pieces of chicken skin upwards on a wire cooling rack. Put the rack on a baking tray. Cook long and slowly or until the skin is crisp and the fat has rendered out. Sprinkle with sea salt. Serve on individual plates with a little bowl of plum or sweet chilli sauce to dip

Red Thai Chicken Curry

6 boneless breasts cut into bite size pieces.
1 tablespoon Red Thai curry paste either from a jar or home made
1 can coconut milk or made up from powder, separated into thick and thin
6 kafir lime leaves, roughly torn
20 Basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon Nam pla
Red chilli pepper, deseeded and finely sliced

Put the thick milk and curry paste into a heavy pan and fry until oil runs and the mixture smells cooked. Add the chicken pieces and fry for a few minutes. Add the rest of the milk, kafir leaves, torn basil leaves and Nam pla. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Add chilli and serve with extra chopped basil on top. 

Note: Stir fry shredded cabbage in oil and garlic for a few minutes. Pour over 1 tablespoon Nam pla and serve with Thai chicken curry.

Risotto with chicken Liver Sauce

The rice dishes of the Veneto region are famous. Rice was introduced there by the Arabs and many varieties of short-grain rice still grow in the marsh lands around the river Po.
In Venice, risotto is made almost liquid, its great quality is its immense versatility. The Veneto is richer in vegetables than any other area in Italy so all sorts of vegetables and combinations of vegetables are included in the dish as well as herbs, poultry, game, chicken livers or shellfish. There is even a risotto made with squid ink and another with pine kernels and raisins which is actually a legacy of the Arabs.
Serves 6

2-3 pints (1 - 1.3L) broth
or chicken stock
1 oz (30g) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablesp. olive oil
14 ozs (400g) Carnaroli or arboria rice
1 oz (30g) butter
2 ozs (55g) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)
Sea salt

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 3 pint (150 ml/) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 3 pint (150 ml) of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if its too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If its too slow, the rice will be gluey. Its difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook. 

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly 'al dente'. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste and add more salt if necessary. Pour into a hot serving dish and fill the centre with Chicken Liver Sauce.

Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Marcella Hazan’s Chicken Liver Sauce

Serves 4
225g fresh chicken livers
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
30g (1oz) butter
55g (12oz) diced pancetta, or prosciutto ( I use unsmoked streaky bacon)
2 tablespoons chopped shallot or onion
quarter clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
one and a half teaspoons of sage
110g (3lb) minced lean beef
6-8 twists freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon concentrated tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons dry white vermouth

To serve
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

Wash the chicken livers, trim off any fat or traces of green and cut them into 3 or 4 pieces. Dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the diced streaky bacon and fry gently until it begins to crisp, then remove to a plate. Add the butter and saute the onions over a medium heat until transluscent, add the garlic, stir 2 or 3 times, add back in the bacon and the sage leaves, then add the minced meat, crumbling it with a fork, and cook until it has lost its red raw colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken livers. Stir and cook until they have lost their raw colour, add the tomato puree and vermouth and cook for 8-10 minutes. Taste.
Delicious served with risotto, noodles or pasta eg pappardelle

Yoghurt with Apple Blossom, Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts 
We have just two beehives down at the end of the orchard. Some years if the weather is inclement we get very few sections but this year ‘my bees’ produced twice the ‘national average’, I was proud as punch. Although the orchard is five acres of mixed Worcester Permain, Bramley Seedling and Grenadier. I don’t suppose the honey is totally Apple Blossom but it must be predominantly so - in any case it tastes wonderful. In Autumn we’re fortunate to be able to gather our own Hazelnuts from the nut walk planted by Lydia Strangman at the beginning of the century.
Serves 1

About a tablespoon or toasted sweet tasting hazelnuts 
Best quality natural yoghurt 
Apple blossom honey or strongly flavoured local Irish honey - 2 tablespoons approx.

To toast hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6. Put the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and pop into the oven for 8-10 minutes until the skins loosen. Remove from the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, rub off the thin papery skins (I usually put them into a tea towel, gather up the edges like a pouch, rub the towel against the nuts for a minute or so and ‘hey presto’ virtually all the skins come off in one go. If the nuts are still very pale, put them back into the oven for a few more minutes until pale golden and crisp. Slice thickly.

Just before serving spoon a generous portion of chilled natural yoghurt onto a cold plate, drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with freshly sliced toasted hazelnuts. Eat immediately.

Foolproof Food

Casserole Roast Chicken with Autumn Herbs

Serves 4-6
1 chicken (3½ lbs (1.575kg) free range if possible
1 oz (30g) butter
4-6 teasp. chopped fresh herbs eg. Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon, Chervil, Chives, Marjoram
¼ pint (150ml) light cream
¼ pint (150ml) home-made chicken stock
*Roux, optional
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs
1 oval casserole
Remove the wish bone and keep for the stock.

Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper and stuff a sprig of tarragon inside. Chop the remaining tarragon and mix with two-thirds of the butter. Smear the remaining butter over the breast of the chicken, place breast side down in a casserole and allow it to brown over a gentle heat. Turn the chicken breast-side up and smear the tarragon butter over the breast and legs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the casserole and cook in a moderate oven for 13-12 hours.

(To test if the chicken is cooked, pierce the flesh between the breast and thigh. This is the last place to cook, so if there is no trace of pink here and if the juices are clear the chicken is certainly cooked.) Remove to a carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. 

Spoon the surplus fat from the juices, add a little freshly chopped tarragon, add in the cream and stock if using* boil up the sauce until it thickens slightly. Alternatively bring the liquid to the boil, whisk in just enough roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.
Carve the chicken into 4 or 6 helpings, each person should have a portion of white and brown meat. Arrange on a serving dish, nap with the sauce and serve.
* Note: Some chickens yield less juice than others. If you need more sauce, add a little home made chicken stock with the cream. If the sauce is thickened with roux this dish can be reheated.
* This dish is also delicious without cream just made with chicken juices, stock and fresh herbs.

Hot Tips

Ummera Smoked Fish from Timoleague, Co Cork was respresented at the Organic Food awards – Tel 023-46644 for stockists
Dan Aherne sells free range organic chickens at Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
Forthcoming Slow Food events – Tastings in Temple Bar 2 October.
Fungus Foraging in Fingal – 10 October.  
Venison Farm Direct – their stall is a familiar sight at several markets – this healthy low fat meat can be ordered from their website and confirmed by phone with credit card. Check out the website.   
Valvona & Crolla – this world renowned Edinburgh Italian delicatessen and wine merchant has won Britain’s most prestigious independent cheese retailing award - the Dairy Crest and Grocer magazine Best Independent Cheese retailer in the UK, in the same week as it celebrates its 70th anniversary. Only days before Valvona & Crolla was also voted the Scottish Wine Merchant of the Year. 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh, EH7 4AA Tel 0131 556 6066

Annual Slow Food Picnic

Another convivial Slow food event – I’ve just had the best fun wending my way slowly but surely up to the top of Lough Ine Hill – my daughter and my well-toned friend from boarding school powered their way ahead, I adopted a more leisurely pace, traversing backwards and forwards up the steep slopes under the mossy trees, stopping regularly to admire the breathtakingly beautiful view over the lake.

This was the annual Slow Food Picnic so I was retracing the steps of Edith Somerville and Violet Martin Ross, who brought a picnic to Lough Ine on the last Sunday in August every year. I wonder if they were interested in wild mushrooms or did they scramble among the wild bilberry bushes in their long skirts to collect the tiny, wild intensively flavoured little berries.
When we eventually reached the top the view was spectacular. The plateau was covered with exuberantly blooming heather. We sat on rounded stones and tucked into Clodagh McKenna’s yummy picnics – Our reward for huffing and puffing our way to the top.

There was a choice of 4 picnics –

– Wild Smoked Fish Picnic – A plate of Smoked Wild Fish with Arbutus Irish Soda Bread, and Homemade Mayonnaise. Organic Leaves , Desmond, and Balsamic Vinegar Salad. Glenilen Summer Fruit Cheesecake and a 1/4 bottle of Sauvignon.

West Cork Cheese Picnic – West Cork Cheese Plate which included Durrus, Gubbeen, Cais Dubh (from Fermoy) and Hegarty’s Cheddar, with Fresh Arbutus White Yeast Bread. Rosscarberry Organic Leaves , Desmond, and Balsamic Vinegar Salad. Richard Graham- Leigh’s Franzipane and a 1/4 bottle Sauvignon.

Pate and Charcuterie Picnic – Clodagh’s Chicken Liver Pate and a selection of Frank Krawczyk and Fingal Fergusons Salami’s with Cucumber Pickle on Abrbutus Foccacia Bread. Organic Leaves , Desmond, and Balsamic Vinegar Salad. Glenilen Raspberry Mousse and a 1/4 bottle of Merlot.

Salads Picnic – A Selection of various seasonal salads with Fresh Arbutus Brown Yeast Bread. Joe Hegarty’s Chocolate Cake. A 1/4 bottle of Merlot.

Febvre who sponsor Slow food Ireland had supplied a bottle of Merlot or Sauvignon for each picnic.

Civilised people squabbled over the delicious Glen Ilen cheesecakes.

My smoked fish picnic included a piece of Wild Ummera smoked salmon (a Slow Food Presidia food), a fillet of Frank Hederman’s smoked mackerel and a chunk of succulent smoked eel. There were two generous slices of Arbutus bread, a little pat of Glen Ilen butter and a bottle of Merlot . A further rummage in my bag revealed a Victoria plum and a little golden Mirelle plum – a feast. My daughter was tucking into the local farmhouse cheese picnic.

For those of you who are interested in the Slow Food ethos, log into Slow Food Ireland website or Slow Food International.

You’ll read all about the huge Slow Food Fair in Turin in October. This biannual event is the biggest artisan Food and Wine Fair in the world. It is held in the Lingotto building in Turin, which was the old Fiat factory.

This year Slow Food will bring 5,000 farmers, gardeners and artisan food producers together for an event called the Terra Madre. The aim is to link up people from all over the globe so they can share their knowledge and discuss how to overcome obstacles and deal with the ever increasing burden of regulations, many of which are totally disproportionate to the risk involved.

There is a contingent of 80 people going from Ireland including representatives from the following Food Communities – Irish raw cow’s milk cheese makers, Kerry Cow Breeders, Dublin food producers and distributors, Kilrush Farmers market, Irish bakers, Irish Seedsavers, Irish Smoked Wild Atlantic Salmon, Temple Bar Food Market, North Kerry organic farmers, Cork food community, Dublin food community, Ballymaloe food community, Galway food community, Organic Growers and Breeders from the West of Ireland, GM-free Ireland network, Tipperary food community. For more details contact Fiona Corbett

The Salone del Gusto is open to the public, last time over 138,000 people (half of them from outside Italy) visited during 5 day period and 21,000 visited the Taste Workshops.

It is a truly amazing event for food lovers with a multitude of tastings of everything from cured meats, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, chocolate, pickles, heirloom varieties, rare breeds, breads, biscuits, cakes and of course wonderful wine – a feast for the senses. If you haven’t already taken a holiday this summer perhaps you might want to combine a trip to Piedmont an area famed for its food and strong gutsy wines, eg Barola and Barbaresca, with a visit to the Salone del Gusto, the biggest artisan food fair.

For information on your nearest Slow Food Convivium telephone 023 52977 or email:

Apple, Walnut and Cinnamon Tart

A yummy pud to share with family and friends. Pecans and hazelnuts are also delicious.

Serves 8-10

8oz (225g) self raising flour
½ teasp. baking powder
3oz (75g) butter
5oz (150g) castor sugar
freshly grated zest from ½ lemon or lime
1 free range egg
5 fl.ozs (150ml) milk


18ozs (500g) cooking apples – we use Grenadier or Bramley Seedling
1oz (25g) butter, melted
1oz (25g) chopped walnuts or pecans
2oz (50g) granulated sugar
1 teasp. freshly ground cinnamon
1 rectangular tin 30x20x2.5cm (12x8x1 inch)

Line the tin with parchment paper (Bakewell)
Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas 4

Sieve the flour and baking powder in a wide bowl, cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour. Rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the castor sugar and freshly grated lemon or lime rind.

Whisk the egg and milk together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be soft and smooth.
Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and spread evenly.

Brush the top with melted butter, arrange the apple slices in overlapping layers. Sprinkle the roughly chopped walnuts or pecans evenly over the top. Mix the cinnamon with the sugar and sprinkle evenly over the entire surface.
Bake for 40 minutes approx. or until puffed and golden. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
Serve with softly whipped cream or crème fraiche.

Variations; substitute mixed spice for cinnamon.

Apple Amber Tart

This is one of the delicious apple puddings that our mothers used to make.
Serves 6

Short Crust Pastry made with
4 ozs (110g) plain white flour
2-3 ozs (55-85g) butter
pinch of salt
cold water

3 or 4 cooking apples, Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
grated rind of half a lemon
sugar to sweeten
1 oz (30g) butter
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar
Enamel or pyrex plate 8 inch (20.5cm) diameter.
Preheat the oven to 200F (100C/gas ½)

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way, line the tart plate and bake blind. 

Peel, core and slice the apples. Put them into a saucepan with the butter and grated rind of lemon and cook until reduced to a pulp. Beat until smooth with a wooden spoon.
Cream the yolks of eggs and sugar, pour the apple mixture on to them, mix well and pour into the pastry case.
Beat the whites of eggs until stiff, fold in the castor sugar and pile roughly on top of the apple mixture. Put into a cool oven until the meringue is set and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. 

Penne with Tomatoes, West Cork Chorizo and Desmond Cheese

Serves 6
1lb (450g) penne
7 pints (4 litres) water
1 tablesp. salt
8 ozs (225g) Gubbeen Chorizo or Frank Krawczyk’s West Cork salami
1 oz (30g) butter
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
12 lb (675g) fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into 2 inch (1cm) dice or 12 tins tomatoes, chopped
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Pinch of crushed chillies
8 fl ozs (230 ml) light cream
2 tablespoons flat parsley, finely chopped
4 tablespoons freshly grated Desmond or Gabriel cheese 
Lots of snipped flat parsley

Bring 7 pints (4L) of water to the boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. 

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the chopped rosemary and diced tomatoes. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook until the tomatoes have just begun to soften into a sauce, about 5 minutes approx. 
When the water for the pasta is boiling fast, add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Stir well.
Slice the chorizo sausage or salami into ¼ inch rounds, add to the pan with the crushed chillies, season lightly with salt (be careful not to overdo the salt as the sausage may be somewhat salty). Add the cream and chopped parsley, cook, stirring frequently until the cream has reduced by about half. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked (it should be 'al dente'), drain and toss with the sauce, add the grated Parmesan. Toss again, check the seasoning. Sprinkle with flat parsley and serve at once. 

Fresh and Smoked Salmon Pate

This is a perfect way to use up some left over cooked salmon the texture of this pate should resemble that of pork rillettes, coarse and stringy, not smooth.
Serves 8

30g (1oz) butter 
28ml (2fl oz) water
170g (6oz) freshly cooked salmon
170g (6oz) smoked salmon
170g (6oz) softened butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
clarified butter – see below

Melt 30g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan, add the smoked salmon and 1 tablespoon of water. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until it no longer looks opaque. Allow it to get quite cold.
Cream the butter in a bowl. With two forks, shred the fresh and smoked salmon and mix well together. Add to the soft butter still using a fork (do not use a food processor). Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Taste and add freshly squeezed lemon juice as necessary.
Serve in individual pots or in a pottery terrine. Cover with a layer of clarified butter. Serve with hot toast or hot crusty white bread. 

Note: This pate will keep perfectly in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days provided it are sealed with clarified butter.

Clarified Butter

Melt 8 ozs (225g) butter gently in a saucepan or in the oven. Allow it to stand for a few minutes, then spoon the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a white sauce.
Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in a refrigerator for several weeks.

Baked Raspberry and Passion Fruit Cheesecake

2 egg whites
4 oz (110g) granulated sugar
7 oz (200g) desiccated coconut


8 oz (225g) mascarpone
8 oz (225g) ricotta cheese
4 fluid oz (120ml) crème fraiche
3 eggs, preferably free range
7 oz (200g) castor sugar
1 heaped tablespoon corn flour mixed with 2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 oz (225g) raspberries
3-5 passion fruit

9" springform cake tin

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/ regulo 3

To make the Base

Lightly oil the base and sides of the springform tin with a little sunflower oil. Cut out a disc of silicone paper to line the base of the tin. Place the egg whites, sugar and coconut into a bowl and mix well together to combine. Press the mixture into the oiled and lined springform tin. Bake in the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes until lightly golden on the top. Allow to cool.

To make the Filling

Either using an electrical mixer or preferably a food processor, combine the mascarpone, ricotta, crème fraiche, eggs, castor sugar, corn flour (and water), lemon rind and lemon juice. Mix or process the filling for a few seconds until smooth. 
Remove the pulp from the passion fruit and stir through the cheesecake mixture with half of the raspberries. Pour the mixture into the springform tin and scatter the remaining raspberries on top. Bake in a preheated oven for approximately 45-50 minutes. The cheesecake should be set around the outside but should still be slightly wobbly in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin, and then refrigerate until the cheesecake is completely cold and set – preferably overnight. Carefully remove from the tin and serve with softly whipped cream.

Baked Blueberry Cheesecake
This cheesecake is also utterly “yummy” using blueberries. Leave out the passion fruit and raspberries. Follow previous method using 8-10 oz blueberries.

Foolproof Food

Blackberry and Apple Fool
Serves 4-5 approx.

11-17 ozs (310-475g) blackberries
9 ozs (225g) very dry apple puree
4 ozs (110g) sugar
8 fl ozs (250ml) softly whipped cream

Make a dry puree by cooking apples in 1 or 2 tablespoons of water on a low heat. Liquidise or sieve and sweeten to taste while still hot. Puree raw blackberries and add them with the softly whipped cream to the apple puree.

Hot Tips

Every Step Counts – Small Changes Make the Difference – Launch of national public awareness campaign to tackle the issues of overweight and obesity in Ireland the Health Promotion Unit.  
To coincide with this campaign both the Irish Heart Foundation and Bord Bia are running healthy eating campaigns during September and October.

Open Apple Day on Saturday 25th September and Organic Food Fair on Sunday 26th at the Organic Centre, Rosinver, Co Leitrim -  
Tel 071-98 54338

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Next meeting Thursday 30th September at 7.30pm, Crawford Gallery Café - Food, Gardening and Nature for the Next Generation – through our schools – Speakers include – Mark Boyden of Streamscapes, Marion O’Callaghan, primary school teacher.

Youghal Through the Ages – Heritage Week - September 25-October 3rd - Programme will include An Open Air Market at Barry’s Lane in Youghal town at 10.00am on Saturday 2nd October. Tel 024-20170 – Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce,

The Olympic flame in Athens rekindled a passion for all things Greek

When the Olympic flame was lit in Athens at the start of the games it rekindled a passion for all things Greek from Nana Mouskouri to Telly Savalas.

The spectacular opening ceremony drew gasps of admiration from viewers all over the globe as they focused in on Greece – the Olympic Games had come home. 

For me, interested in gastronomy more than sport, memories of my last trip to Greece came flooding back – thick ewe’s milk yogurt, drizzled with local honey for breakfast at the Hotel Maronika in the little fishing village of Epidavros. In Ampeloesa Taverna across the quay I ate Octopus with lemon and rigani, Skordalia, Melanzana Salata, a delicious salad of black-eyed beans with finely sliced scallion and dill, drizzled with Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil and lemon and of course the ubiquitous Taramasalata. After the simple feast, my new Greek friends Georges, Dimitri, Charles and Andreas jumped up and spontaneously started to dance to the CD in the juke box, with their arms linked they stepped lightly and swirled gracefully, they knew all the words of the songs – sad songs, rebel songs, love songs and there was a wonderful easy camaraderie between them. They danced and sang for sheer joy long after I’d headed for my comfy bed overlooking the harbour.

Now that we’re in the Greek spirit, why not recreate the atmosphere of a Greek taverna –think whitewashed walls and blue paintwork, check table cloths- set the table with white utilitarian style plates and glasses, a bowl of fresh lemons as a centrepiece and maybe a few branches of olive or bay leaves. Greek food is all about conviviality and communal pleasure and taverna style dining is marked by its simplicity and generosity, dishes of food on the table for guests to share. Try to find some ouzo and retsina, the Aleppo pine flavoured wine to serve with the mezze.

Its easy to recreate Greek flavours if not the climate, think olives, lemons, feta, lamb, cod’s roe, dried figs, walnuts, pistachios, honey, vine leaves, saffron, yogurt, capers, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, strong coffee ……. Plan your menu, ring up the pals, whip up a Greek Village Salad, snatch a few minutes of the Olympics. Find a CD of Greek music to get you into the spirit. Demis Roussos or the theme music from Zorba the Greek would be terrific– you may want to dance after all that ouzo!.

Aubergine Puree with Olive Oil and Lemon

Serves 6 approx.
This is one of my absolute favourite ways to eat aubergine. It is served all through the southern Mediterranean, there are many delicious variations and it is often included in a plate of Mezze.

4 large aubergines
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, optional
Roast or grill the aubergines depending on the flavour you like.

Prick the aubergines in a few places. Roast whole in a hot oven for about 30 minutes, turning over from time to time – they will collapse and soften. To grill, prick them as for roasting, put on a wire rack under the grill and turn them regularly until the skin is black and charred.

Allow to cool. Peel the aubergines thinly, careful to get every little morsel of flesh. Discard the skin and drain the flesh in a sieve or colander. Transfer to a bowl, mash the puree with a fork or chop with a knife depending on the texture you like. Add extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

1. Freshly crushed garlic may also be added.
2. In Turkey some thick Greek yoghurt is often added, about 5-6 tablespoons for this quantity of aubergine puree, reduce the olive oil by half.
Mixed with ricotta and freshly chopped herbs eg. marjoram this makes a delicious 'sauce' for pasta.

Squid with Olive Oil, Fresh herbs and Garlic

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
2 medium-sized squid
4 tablesp extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek – Mani would be good
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tablesp. parsley, chopped
1 -2 tablesp. oregano or dill, chopped
Segments of lemon

First prepare the squid. .
Cut off the tentacles just in front of the eyes and remove the beak. Pull the entrails out of the sac and discard. Catch the tip of the quill and pull it out of the sac. (Now you know why the squid is called the scribe of the sea.) Pull off the wings and scrape the purplish membrane off them and the sac. Wash the sac, wings and tentacles well.

Cut the sac into ¼ inch (5 mm) rings, the tentacles into 2 inch (5 cm) strips and the wings into ¼ inch (5 mm) strips across the grain.

Just before serving, heat 4 plates. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, stir, (careful not to burn, toss in the squid (do it in two batches if necessary). Toss around for 30-60 seconds or until the pieces turn from opaque to white. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the herbs, taste. Serve instantly on hot plates with a segment of lemon on each.


This Greek speciality is a delicious cucumber and yoghurt mixture. It can be served as an accompanying salad or as a sauce to serve with grilled fish or meat. Greek yoghurt is most often made with sheep's milk and is wonderfully thick and creamy.
1 crisp Irish cucumber, peeled and diced into c-3 inch dice approx.
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaped tablesp. of freshly chopped mint
1 pint (450ml) Greek yoghurt or best quality natural yoghurt
4 tablespoons cream

If time allows, put the cucumber dice into a sieve and sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Dry the cucumber on kitchen paper, put into a bowl and mix with garlic, a dash of wine vinegar or lemon juice and the yoghurt and cream. Stir in the mint and taste, it may need a little salt and freshly ground pepper, or even a pinch of sugar.

Baklavas – Honey and Almond Cakes

From ‘Greek Food’ by Rena Salaman
This is a sumptuous cake, suitable for a large gathering and not difficult to make. Left covered at room temperature, it will keep for days even if it does become a little drier. This quantity will make approximately sixteen medium-sized pieces. Allow two per person

450g (1lb) walnut, coarsely chopped
55g (2oz) sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

225g (8oz) caster sugar
300ml (½ pint) water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablesp. lemon juice
some lemon peel
2 tablesp. Greek honey

450g (1lb) fyllo (filo) pastry
170g (6oz) unsalted butter, melted

Mix all the filling ingredients in a bowl.

Liberally butter the base and sides of an elongated or round, as is more familiar in Greece, baking dish. Measure the length of the fyllo against the baking dish roughly and, allowing 2cm (1in) extra approximately for shrinkage, cut to length with a sharp knife.

Brush each layer of fyllo with melted butter and spread over the base of the container as evenly as possible. (A few folds here and there will not mean the end of the world or your cooking career!) Once you have used 5 layers of pastry, sprinkle a thin layer of filling all over the surface and add 3 more layers. Sprinkle a thin layer of filling and place 2 more sheets of fyllo on top. Sprinkle on the remaining filling, spreading it evenly, and cover with 7-8 more layers of fyllo, brushing individually with butter. Fold any excess pastry on either of the sides over the filling and brush it with butter.

(Alternatively, spread 8-9 sheets of pastry on the base and sprinkle all the filling evenly on it. Cover with 7-8 sheets of pastry).

Brush the top layer liberally with butter in order to get it crisp and golden. Trim any excess pastry with a sharp knife, keeping in mind that it will also shrink. Cut the top layers of fyllo carefully, either diagonally into diamond shapes or straight, which will result in square or elongated pieces. Be careful not to cut right down to the base, but only the top layers. This is done in order to make cutting and lifting the pieces out, once it is cooked, much easier and efficient.

Using the tips of your fingers, sprinkle drops of water all over the surface, in order to prevent the pastry from curling up, and cook it in a pre-heated over, gas no. 5 (375F/190C) for 15 minutes; lower the heat to gas no.4 (350F/180C) and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Burgi Blaüel’s Moussaka

Serves about 16
4 tablesp. Mani extra virgin olive oil,
3 large onions, chopped
300-350ml (10-12flozs) red wine – preferably Greek
salt and freshly ground pepper
1-3 teasp. ground cinnamon to taste
3kg (6lb 10oz) aubergines or
1½ kg (3lb 5oz) aubergines and 1½ kg (3lb 5oz) zucchini (courgettes)
3kg (6lb 10z) potatoes, cooked, peeled and sliced
1½ kg (3lb 5oz) beef, lamb or pork, freshly minced
1kg (23 lb) of passata

Béchamel Sauce:
1 litre (1¾ pints) milk
250g (9oz) flour
1 teasp. nutmeg
5 free range eggs, whisked

Parmesan cheese 

2 x 25.5 x 21.5cm (10x 8½ inch) lasagne dishes

Slice the aubergines and zucchini into 1cm (½ inch) slices. Score the flesh with a sharp knife and sprinkle with salt. Leave for half an hour.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the chopped onion and sweat for 4-5 minutes, add the mince and wine. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, a little ground cinnamon and the passatta.
Stir and bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes.

Rinse and wipe the aubergines and zucchini dry. Heat a little olive oil in a pan grill until hot. Cook the aubergines on both sides until golden. Brush the zucchini with olive oil, pan grill until light golden on each side. 

Heat the milk, whisk in the flour, add the whisked eggs. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg.

To assemble:
Arrange a layer of sliced aubergine on the base of the dishes, followed by a layer of sliced zucchini and then a layer of potato. Season well between each layer, add a layer of meat sauce. Cover with a layer of Béchamel and sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/gas 4 for 30-35 minutes or until golden on top and bubbly at the edges. Rest for 10 minutes, serve.

Foolproof food

Traditional Greek Village Salad with Marinated Feta Cheese

This salad is served in virtually every taverna in Greece and is delicious when made with really fresh ingredients and eaten immediately. We use our local Knockalara ewe's milk cheese instead of Feta which is seldom in the condition that the Greeks intended by the time it reaches us!
Serves 6

3 oz (85 g) cubed Knockalara ewe’s milk cheese*or Fresh Feta
1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon marjoram
2-1 crisp cucumber
6 very ripe tomatoes
6 scallions or 1-2 red onions
12-18 Kalamati olives
2 tablespoons approx. chopped fresh Annual Marjoram
3 tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil (We use Mani, organic Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, freshly cracked pepper and sugar

Sprigs of flat parsley

Cut the cheese into 1 inch (2 cm) cubes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and some marjoram.
Just before serving
Halve the cucumber lengthwise and cut into chunks. Slice the red onions or chop coarsely the green and white parts of the scallions. Core the tomatoes and cut into wedges. Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, olives and marjoram in a bowl. 

Sprinkle with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Season with salt, freshly cracked pepper and sugar and toss well. Sprinkle with cubes of cheese and sprigs of flat parsley. Serve at once.
Note: Slices of red pepper may be included or cubed avocado or chunks of water melon.

Greek Salad in Pitta Bread
Split a Pitta bread in half across or lengthwise. Fill with drained Greek salad, shredded lettuce and serve immediately.

NB: Filling should be spooned into Pita bread just before it is to be eaten, otherwise it will go soggy.

Greek Salad Kebabs

Another speedy nibble to add to your Greek theme.
Thread a piece of cucumber ,tomato, olive, scallion, and a chunk of feta onto one end of a satay stick. Arrange on a round plate with the salad towards the centre. Just before serving whisk the dressing , sprinkle over each kebab and serve immediately.

Top Tips

Real Greek and Mezedopolio Restaurant in 15 Hoxton Market, London N1, Tel 00 44 207 739 8212 –
If you can’t get to the Real Greek you can recreate the food at home from Chef Theodore Kyriakou’s cookbook ‘Real Greek Food’ published by Harper Collins.

Rupert Hugh Jones sells adorable little olive trees at the Farmers Market in Midleton and Douglas on Saturdays from 9-1. You’re unlikely to produce enough olives for olive oil but they’ll look great on your table surrounded by mezze for a Greek lunch.

Charles Byrne will bring groups to Greece for the Olive Harvest between November and January, this year promises to be a good one. Contact Charles at 087-6482415 

Savour Kerry – a directory of small local producers of good food from all over the Kingdom – this great little guide has been written by Sarah Caridia and produced with the support of the Kerry County Enterprise Board – ‘a reference guide to those who add so much to the flavour that is Kerry’ with particular emphasis on the artisan producers and their speciality foods which thrive outside the mainstream of mass production.

We picked our first Beauty of Bath

This is a fantastic year for fruit – the best for maybe 10 years. In the orchard the trees are groaning with fruit, there’s a huge crop of apples and plums and although the pears are not quite as abundant there’s still a terrific crop.

We picked our first Beauty of Bath a few weeks ago, this variety more than any other reminds me of my childhood. Almost every family had a few apple trees, as children we knew exactly where the best apples were and where to clamber over the wall into our neighbour’s orchard. My first bite of that bittersweet apple with its red and yellow speckled skin brought memories flooding back.

Grenadier is the earliest cooker to ripen. We have already had some grenadier apple sauce with some of our oven succulent roast pork. The pigs are Saddleback and Tamworth crossed with red Duroc for good measure. The flavour of the meat from these happy lazy pigs is sublime. These breeds have a decent layer of fat, which renders out to baste the meat while the skin crisps into the most irresistible crackling. The pigs adore snuffling around under the apple trees to find wind falls – we joke that they then come with built in apple sauce! Plum sauce is also delicious with pork, duck, even a goose – in fact now is the time to order a plump goose for Michaelmas and have a Thanksgiving feast.

But what to do with the surplus, I’m always desperate to store some Brambly apples for winter tarts and pies. This year I have plans to spread them out in a single layer on fruit trays in a cool shed. We’ll stack the recycled boxes so the air can circulate. I’m racking my brains to try to remember how it was done years ago “in life before electricity”. Perhaps some of the readers can share their tips with me. I certainly remember our old gardener Pad digging a long shallow pit to store cooking apples. I must have been tiny, 3 or 4 when I helped him to select unblemished cooking apples. I seem to recollect that the pit was lined with straw and then covered with a good layer of soil then covered with an old mat

Nowadays, almost everyone has a freezer, so make as much stewed or apple puree as you can manage. It can be used not only for sauce but also in crumbles and tarts in winter. The flavour is immeasurably better than the under mature Brambly available in the shops. Have you noticed how they don’t break like the homegrown apples that are picked when they are properly matured. Apple juice is another option – you’ll need to buy a centrifuge, Krups, Magimix, Kenwood and other manufacturers have models worth investing in (you can also use the centrifuge to make a variety of other fruit and vegetable juices.

Chutneys are another delicious way of preserving surplus fruit and vegetables, there are a myriad of recipes, try this Spicy Apple Chutney and then start to experiment yourself.

Plums, greengages or pears poached in a sweet geranium or even a simple syrup is completely delicious and freeze brilliantly – a terrific standby pudding to have in the freezer. Store them in smallish plastic tubs so that they can be defrosted easily. Meanwhile feast on as many apples, plums and pears as you can for breakfast, lunch and dinner and build up your stock of vitamins to guard against winter colds – remember to old adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

Spicy Apple Chutney

makes 2.7-3.6kg (6-8 lb) pots

In season: autumn
1.8kg (4 lb) cooking apples, we use Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
450g (1 lb) onion, peeled and finely chopped 
450g (1 lb) sultanas
900g (2 lb) granulated sugar
1.1L (2 pint) white malt vinegar
30g (1oz) salt
2 teaspoons mustard seed (white)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2-1 level teaspoon ground cloves 

Peel and cut the apples into quarters, remove the core and chop finely (¼ inch approx.)
Put all the ingredients into a wide stainless steel saucepan. Simmer gently until soft and pulpy, stirring frequently. Cook, uncovered for approx. 12-2 hours until very thick and dark brown. (should be reduced to about 1 third of the original volume). Allow to mature for about two weeks before using. Wine vinegar is less fierce bit obviously more expensive.

Plum Sauce

Delicious with duck breast or wild duck. This also freezes brilliantly.
450g (1lb) blood plums 
225g (½lb) sugar
2.5cm (1inch) piece cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly 
100ml (4fl oz) port
25g (1oz) butter

Put the plums into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, one tablespoon of water and the butter, cook slowly until reduced to a pulp.
Push the fruit through a fine sieve and return the puree to a clean saucepan. Add the redcurrant jelly and port, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce may be used either hot or cold. Keeps well

Compote of Plums – Poached Plums

Poach the plums whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing - He loves me - he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number!
Serves 4

400g (14ozs/2 cups) sugar
450ml (16 fl ozs/2 cups) cold water
900g (2 lbs) fresh Plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in autumn

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the plums and poach, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst. Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

*The poached plums keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream! 
Note: If plums are sweet use less sugar in syrup

Normandy Pear or Apple Tart

Serves 8 - 10
This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days. Splash in a little kirsch if you are using pears and calvados if you are using dessert apples. 

4-5 ripe pears or apples, poached 

Shortcrust Pastry
7 ozs (200g/scant 1 ½cups) flour
4 ozs (110g/1 stick) cold butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
pinch of salt
3-4 tablesp. (4-5 American tablesp.) cold water

3 ½ ozs (100g/scant 1 stick) butter
3 ½ozs (100g/½ cup) castor sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) kirsch if using pears or calvados if using apples
4 ozs (110g) whole blanched almonds, ground or 2 ground almonds and 2 blanched and ground 
1 oz (30g/2 American tablesp.) flour

To Finish
¼ pint (150ml/generous ½cup) approx. apricot glaze 

9 inch (23cm) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base 

First make the shortcrust pastry,
Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. 
Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.
Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.
Next poach the pears and allow to get cold. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin with it, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges and chill again until firm. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes.

Next make the frangipane. Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour and then add the kirsch or calvados. Pour the frangipane into the pastry case spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then lift the sliced pears intact and arrange them around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends towards the centre. Arrange a final half pear in the centre.
Turn the oven up to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Bake the tart for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4 and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.
Meanwhile make the apricot glaze. When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with apricot glaze, remove from the tin and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze

Apricot glaze is invaluable to have made up in your fridge. It would always be at hand in a pastry kitchen and is used to glaze tarts which contain green or orange or white fruit, eg. kiwi, grapes, greengages, peaches, oranges, apples or pears. It will turn you into a professional at the flick of a pastry brush!
In a small saucepan (not aluminium), melt 12 ozs (350g/1 cup) apricot jam with the juice of 3 lemon, water - or enough to make a glaze that can be poured. Push the hot jam through a nylon sieve and store in an airtight jar. Reheat the glaze to melt it before using. The quantities given above make a generous ½ pint (300ml/1 ¼ cups) glaze.

Poached Pears

6 pears
½lb (225g/1 generous cup) sugar
1 pint (600ml/2 ½ cups) water
a couple of strips of lemon peel and juice of 2 lemon

Bring the sugar and water to the boil with the strips of lemon peel in a non-reactive saucepan. Meanwhile peel the pears thinly, cut in half and core carefully with a melon baller or a teaspoon, keeping a good shape. Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut side uppermost, add the lemon juice, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just soft - the tip of a knife or skewer should go through without resistance. Turn into a serving bowl, chill and serve on their own or with homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, in which case you have Poires Belles Helene - one of Escoffier's great classics.

Foolproof Food

Bramley Apple Sauce

The trick with Apple Sauce is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water.
If you have a surplus of apples, why not make more and freeze it in small containers for another occasion. Great served with roast pork, duck goose…..

Serves 10 approx.

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
1-2 dessertsp. (2 - 1 American tablesp.) water
2 ozs (55g/scant 3 cup) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and put over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm. 

Note: Apple Sauce freezes perfectly, so make more than you need and freeze in tiny, plastic cartons. It is also a good way to use up windfalls.

Hot Tips

West Cork as a region has become synonymous with a lifestyle that embraces the pleasures of life whilst at the same time pursuing an ethnic, excellence, integrity and innovation writes Ivan McCutcheon of West Cork Leader Co-op in his introduction to a taste of West Cork. 

The guide has been developed in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland as part of a comprehensive training programme for local tourism establishments. Chef Rory Morahan who honed his skills in some of the worlds finest kitchens including the Ritz and Dochester in London and the George V in Paris created the recipes using local produce from the West Cork area where many of the most passionate artisan food producers in the country are based.

I hugely welcome any initiative that encourages bed and breakfasts, hotels and restaurants to serve their fine local food proudly. West Cork in the vanguard of Irelands culinary revolution provides more choice than virtually any other area in the country. What a joy to find a breakfast of Macroom oatmeal, Ummera or Gubeen bacon, plump sausages from Martin Carey, Fingal Ferguson or Stauntons, traditional black and white puddings from local butchers. Mushrooms from Fran Frazier, cured meats from Frank Kraychek. Smoked fish from Ummera or Woodcock Smokery. A selection of local West Cork farmhouse cheeses, some fresh baked crusty soda bread with local butter and any one of a number of local honeys, homemade jams and marmalades.

Any West Cork establishment would be proud to highlight these and many other local foods on their menu. The publication has a list of producers, shops, activities and catering establishments and suggested prices – a terrific resource but the highlight for me are the enchanting and as ever brilliantly researched contributions on the various foods by Irelands leading food historian Regina Sexton who wrote the book “A Taste of West Cork” published by Collins press at a price of €12.95. 

If you fancy being able to drizzle everything from Balsamic vinegar to chocolate sauce over your culinary creations just like the hot chefs, look out for a squeezy sauce bottle – the kind that used to be used in less salubrious surroundings filled with brown sauce. Available for Nisbets or good kitchen shops

Keeping something in the tin

Remember those carefree bygone days when one always kept ‘something in the tin’, just in case some friends dropped by. In country houses the table was religiously laid for tea every afternoon at 4.30, white linen or perhaps a cut lace tablecloth, silver tea pot, delicate china cups, and a little jug of cream as well as milk.
For children in particular, afternoon tea was a serious business, I remember many such outings and the strict protocol. My brothers and sisters and I were dressed up in our finest clothes. I got to wear a smocked dress and one of my angora boleros – I had two which Mummy had painstakingly knit for me from a pattern in Women’s Weekly – one was pale green, the other a soft shade of baby pink. I adored wearing my bolero and my black patent shoes, I felt like a princess.
As we drove to the tea party Mummy would remind us of how to behave, not to speak until you were spoken to, sit quietly in the allocated chair. Start with a slice or two of bread and butter, followed by a dainty sandwich or two, then one could progress to the scones, followed by tartlets and fairy cakes or butterfly buns and a maybe a ginger or fruit cake. Finally one could indulge in a gorgeous slice of chocolate or coffee cake. Careful not to speak with one’s mouth full and it was simply unthinkable to grab or to start to eat before the hostess started. How times have changed – nowadays one could be trampled in the stampede! 
Formal and elaborate tea parties such as the one I’ve just described are rare nowadays but I still subscribe to the ‘must have something delicious and dainty in the tin to tempt and comfort and share with family and friends.’ 
I love to bake and I know I’m not alone because any time my column includes cakes and bikkies, I get a terrific reaction so here are a few tempting treats to try.

Devotees of Sue Lawrence will be thrilled to hear that she has published yet another tempting book ‘Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking’ – from Agas to conventional ovens she covers it all and her chapters deal with a range of goodies from breads and savoury pies, pasties and tarts to traditional cakes and modern ones too. For the adventurous cook who has been exposed to other cultures there are international dishes from countries like America, with their delicious cornbread and New York Cheesecake; Argentinean Alfajores (shortbread and toffee sandwiches); Australian Lamingtons; Chilean Cheese Empanadas; Anchovy Pirozhkis from Russia; Swedish Lucia Rolls, Irish Soda Bread; Welsh Cakes and of course a few Scottish dishes like Forfar bridies and Cullen Skink bridies, shortbread and tattie scones, to name but a few, plus, all our old favourites such as scones; angel cakes; brownies, custard creams and Victoria sponge are also there.
Other chapters focus on healthy alternatives and even quick bakes for those of us who find time to be more of a challenge than baking. There’s also a chapter covering festive baking - in time for Christmas and Easter next year.

Gluten – Free Strawberry Sponge Cake

From Healthy Gluten-free Eating by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney

125g (4 ½ oz) butter
175g (6oz) castor sugar
3 eggs preferably free-range
110g (4oz) rice flour
50g (2oz) ground almonds
1 ½ teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 tablespoon milk

225g (8oz) sliced fresh strawberries or home-made raspberry jam
300ml (10 floz) whipped cream
Castor sugar to sprinkle

2 x 18 cm (7 inch) cake tins

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/regulo 4

Grease and rice flour the two cake tins and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. 
Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and the sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture.)
Sieve the rice flour, ground almonds, the gluten-free baking powder and xanthan gum together and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.
Divide the mixture evenly between 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked and a skewer comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.
Sandwich together with whipped cream and sliced strawberries or homemade raspberry jam. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

Gluten-free Chocolate and Raspberry Torte

From Healthy Gluten Free Eating by Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney
Serves 8 – 10

This is a very rich chocolate cake and a little goes a long way!

200g (7oz) best quality dark chocolate (Lesme, Callebaut, Valrhona)
50g (2oz) butter
3 eggs, preferably free range
50g (2oz) castor sugar
110g (4oz) ground almonds
150g (5oz) raspberries
50g (2floz) cream

Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/gas4

Line the base of a 20cm(8”) spring - form tin with bakewell paper and brush the sides with a little melted butter, followed by a dusting of ground almonds. Place the chocolate and the butter in a pyrex bowl, over a pan of simmering water on a very gentle heat. Separate the eggs and using an electric whisk beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale light and fluffy. When the chocolate / butter mixture has melted add to the egg yolk/sugar mixture and mix well to combine.
Stir in the cream and the ground almonds.
In a clean Pyrex bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage. Fold in the egg whites a third at a time into the chocolate mixture very gently until they are combined. 
Now, gently fold in the raspberries and pour into the lined spring - form tin. Bake in the moderate oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. The edges should be cooked but the centre should be slightly underdone.
Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin and serve a little slice with softly whipped cream and a few extra fresh raspberries.

Lemon Fudge Cake

From Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking
Makes 24

150g (5½ oz) unsalted butter, melted
200g (7oz) condensed milk (half a regular can size)
400g (14oz) digestive biscuits, crushed
100g (3½oz) desiccated coconut
300g (10½ oz) golden icing sugar, sifted
juice of 1 large juicy lemon

Butter a 23x33cm/9x13 in Swiss Roll Tin.

Mix the melted butter and condensed milk together in a bowl and stir in the biscuits and coconut. Spread into the prepared tin and press down. Chill well for 2 hours.
Mix the sifted icing sugar with the lemon juice and carefully spread this over the biscuit base. Using a palette knife, spread very gently to cover. Chill again, then cut into bars.

Poppyseed and Lemon Muffins

From Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking
Makes 8 American style large muffins (ideal for breakfast or brunch) or 14-16 friands (these are little buttery two-bite size cakes which Sue discovered in Sydney)

150g (5½ oz) golden caster sugar
150g (5½ oz) self-raising flour, sifted
25g (1oz) poppyseeds
grated zest and juice of 1 medium unwaxed lemon
125ml (4fl.oz) sunflower oil
2 large free-range eggs

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas5. Put 8 American style muffin cases into a bun tin, or butter 14-16 mini-muffin or friand moulds.
Place the sugar, flour and poppyseeds in a bowl, then stir in the lemon zest. Make a well in the centre, then tip in the oil, eggs and lemon juice. Stir gently until combined.
Spoon into muffin cases or moulds. Bake for 15-20 minutes for the friends or mini muffins, and 25 minutes for the larger muffins.

Chocolate, Cherry and Coconut Slice
Makes 24-28 squares

450g (1lb) good quality milk chocolate (minimum 30% cocoa solids)
200g (7oz) glace cherries
4 medium free range eggs
175g (6oz) golden caster sugar
250g (9oz) desiccated coconut

Butter a 23 x 33cm (9x13in) Swiss roll tin.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of hot water or in a microwave on medium, then pour into the base of the prepared tin. Smooth out with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and harden.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4
Halve the cherries and place at intervals over the chocolate. Break the eggs in a bowl, then add the sugar and coconut. Stir until well combined, then carefully spoon this mixture over the cherries, taking care not to push them into one corner. Pat down gently to smooth the surface.
Bake for about 25 minutes until the coconut mixture looks golden brown and feels firm to the touch.
Leave to cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes before marking into squares, then allow to become cold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes until completely hard, then cut and remove the squares from the tin.

Tempting though it is, do leave this in the refrigerator for the specified times, so the chocolate can fully set, after it has been baked. If you try to lever out the pieces while the chocolate is still soft, it will collapse.

Banana Cardamon Cake

2 very ripe bananas, peeled
4 free-range eggs, separated 
2 tsp natural vanilla extract
3floz/90ml sour cream 
12oz/360g plain/all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder 
½ tsp. salt 
2 tsp ground cardamom 
6oz/180g butter, softened
6oz/180g dark brown sugar 
6 tbsp caster/granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Butter a 9 ½ inch/24 
springform cake tin and line the bottom with a round of baking 
parchment. Mash the bananas and mix in the egg yolks, vanilla and 
sour, cream. Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt and; 
Beat the softened butter with the brown sugar until light and; 
creamy. Add about half the banana mixture and half the flour 
mixture to the creamed butter and (either by hand or on the lowest: 
speed of a mixer) work them all together until almost combined.
Then add the rest of the banana and flour mixtures, again being
careful not to overmix.
Put the egg whites in a large and scrupulously clean bowl an 
whisk until soft peaks form - that is, when you lift up some of the 
egg white with the whisk it forms a soft, slightly drooping peak.
Start whisking in the rest of the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, and
whisking well after each addition until stiff and glossy. Gently fold
this meringue into the banana mixture in two batches. Spoon the cake mixture into the buttered cake tin and bake for about an hour, until a toothpick or skewer hushed into the middle of the cake comes out dry. Let the cake cool completely before unmoulding.

NOTE The cake can certainly be made the day before; when completely cooled, wrap it in cling film but don't put it in the fridge because chilling is quite simply death to cakes.

Foolproof Food

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

Delicious served for afternoon tea with new season’s homemade raspberry jam and cream, or just buttered straight from the oven.

Makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter

900g (2lb) plain white flour
170g (6oz) butter
3 free range eggs
pinch of salt
55g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
For glaze:
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 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. 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. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (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.
Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.
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.

Fruit Scones

Add 110g (4oz) plump sultanas to the above mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.
Useful tip:
Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead - even the day before. Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before baking.

Hot Tips

Some New books not to miss -
Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking – published by Headline
Not on the Label – by Felicity Lawrence
Shopped – the Shocking Power of British Supermarkets – by Joanna Blythman
Healing with Whole Foods - Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition by Paul Pitchford, published by North Atlantic Books.

O’Connells Restaurant at Bewleys Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin
Have ‘gone public’ on their greater commitment to gluten-free cooking. They have retained Rosemary Kearney (co-author of Healthy-Gluten Free Eating) as Consultant.
So good news for all coeliacs visiting the hotel and restaurant.
O’Connells – Tel. 01-6473304 
Bewleys Hotel – Tel 01-6681111

Griffins Garden Centre Restaurant, Dripsey, Co Cork
The restaurant at Margaret Griffin’s award-winning Garden Centre (5 minutes from Inniscarra Dam) is also committed to catering fro those on a gluten-free diet – their light lunches offer a gluten-free soup and main course, as well as gluten-free scones, rolls, tea cakes and apple tart, and trained staff are always ready to help. Tel. 021-7334286 email:

Antony Worrall Thompson Teaches at Ballymaloe

We’ve just had a highly entertaining and inspirational few days here at the cookery school with the flamboyant, irreverent and completely irrepressible TV chef Antony Worrall Thompson.
It was Antony’s fourth visit to the school. Over a series of four cookery
demonstrations he cooked American, Moroccan, Asian and Mediterranean dishes, some were favourites from his restaurant menus, others came from his cookery series. Antony and his lovely wife Jay own two restaurants, the critically acclaimed Notting Grill and the Kew Grill. They also have an interest in the Angel Gastro Pub in Heytesbury in Wiltshire..
He appears regularly on television and is currently presenting Saturday Kitchen on BBC2. In Spring of 2003, much to Jay’s horror, he volunteered to participate in “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, on ITV. He captivated the viewing nation when he led a revolt. He came fourth and was responsible for raising € 84,000 for Save the Children. He lives in Henley-on-Thames with Jay and his two children Toby and Billie.

Over the years Antony has become more and more outspoken about food issues, and practises what he preaches by rearing his own Middlewhite pigs and growing a wide variety of organic herbs and vegetables for his restaurant. The Aberdeen Angus beef served in his restaurants and for which he has now become famous, is dry aged and hung for 28 days. 

Highly opinionated, he is regularly called on for a comment on gastronomic issues and has locked horns on many occasions with the establishment. There have been well-publicized spats with such luminaries of the culinary world as Gordon Ramsay and Giorgio Locatelli. A few years ago he showed his disdain for the Michelin by flambeeing the guide on television and as a consequence got more publicity than all the starred restaurants put together.

Readers of Antony’s autobiography RAW will be aware that his passage to culinary stardom has not exactly been smooth. Abandoned by his father, a Shakespearean actor, when he was just three, Antony was sexually abused and maltreated throughout his childhood. His extra-curricular activities at boarding school included pushing cars into the swimming pool and generally getting on the teacher’s nerves. Antony’s story very nearly came to an abrupt halt at sixteen when his face was crushed in a horrific rugby accident, which left him badly disfigured and chronically insecure. But pioneering surgery saved the day, enabling him to pursue what was to become the enduring love of his life – cooking.
After much hard graft and some close encounters of the violent gangster kind, AWT’s flamboyant style as a restaurateur soon brought him to the attention of cookery’s cognoscenti. Things didn’t always run according to plan, however – he once had to serve tinned tomato soup, tarted up with croutons and basil, to the customers in his restaurant because there wasn’t time to make his own from scratch. (They loved it.). And today Antony is to the culinary establishment what a bull is to a china shop. His no-nonsense style in the kitchen is loathed by a few, but loved by millions.

His autobiography RAW was published in 2003 but he has also written numerous cookbooks including the ABC of AWT, Supernosh, How to Buy and Cook Real Meat, Modern Bistrot Cooking, The Small and Beautiful Cookbook, Sainsbury’s Quick and Easy fish, Top 100 Recipes from the Food and Drink Series.
His most recent book ‘Healthy Eating for Diabetes’ was written when was diagnosed as being precursor to being diabetic when he was tested for Syndrome X, he volunteered for testing on the programme Food Junkies. You may also like to look out for his weekly column in the Express.
Here are some of the delicious recipes we enjoyed while he was with us.


Serves 2-4

4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
half teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
2 tablespoons chopped coriander
1 egg, beaten
150 ml (quarter pint) milk
140g (5oz) plain flour
sunflower oil for cooking
Greek yoghurt
Coriander leaf

1. Combine the grated carrots with all the remaining ingredients except for the oil. Mix well to combine everything together.

2. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan, when hot carefully drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel.

3. Serve with a small dollop of Greek yoghurt on each fritter and top with a coriander leaf.


1 lb (450g) pumpkin, roasted, peeled and mashed

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed with a little salt
4 tsp harissa
1½ tsp ground caraway seeds
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

1. Mix together the vinegars, oil, garlic, harissa and caraway in a bowl. Add the pumpkin and combine. Check the seasoning. Garnish with the coriander and quartered eggs.


Serves 2-4
115g (4oz) unsalted butter
550g (1¼ lb) shallots, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained, peeled and trimmed
12 garlic cloves peeled
300ml (½ pint) fresh vegetable stock 
200g (7oz) sheet ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed (from a 425g/15oz packet)
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh leaf salad, to serve

1 Heat a large frying or sauté pan. Melt 40g/1½oz of the butter in the pan, toss in the shallots and gently fry for about 10 minutes until golden, tossing occasionally. After 5 minutes add the garlic cloves. Pour in the stock and simmer for another 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the shallots, until they are tender when pierced with a sharp knife but still holding their shape. Remove the shallots & garlic with a slotted spoon, drain well and pat dry with kitchen paper - you could use the remaining stock later for sauces or soup. Leave to shallots & garlic to cool completely.

2 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5; fan oven 170C from cold. Unroll the pastry and cut out a 25 cm/10 in circle, using a large plate as a template, don’t worry if some of the edges the pastry sheet fall a bit short. Transfer to a baking sheet and chill for at least 30 minutes to allow the pastry to rest.

3 Melt the knob of butter in a 23 cm/9 in ovenproof frying pan; preferably non-stick. Sprinkle over the sugar and cook for a minute or two until caramelised, Sprinkle over the vinegar, add the shallots, toss again until well coated and remove from the heat. Place the garlic in between the shallots.

4 Season generously. Top with the pastry, tucking the edges down the side of the pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden brown. Leave for a few minutes before loosening the sides with a knife and inverting on to a flat plate. Serve warm or cold, cut into slices and serve with a rocket salad.


Serves 4-6
1 shoulder of Lamb
1 and a half tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground turmeric
1½ tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
2 tablespoons olive oil
450g (1lb) grated onion
175g (6oz) dried apricots, soaked in a little water 
85g (3oz) flaked almonds
55g (2oz) sultanas /raisins
1 tablespoon liquid honey
1 teaspoon saffron stamens, soaked in cold water
600ml (1 pint) tomato juice
600ml (1 pint) lamb stock 
1 x 400g (14 oz) tin tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 pickled lemon, rind chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil
25g (1oz) coriander leaves, chopped

1. Cut the lamb into 1½ inch cubes and toss in half the ground spices and leave overnight. 
2.Brown the lamb in half the oil in a heavy casserole over a high heat. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining spices, crushed garlic and grated onion to the pan. Allow the onion to soften without browning.

3.Add the apricots and their soaking water, the almonds, raisins/sultanas, honey, saffron, tomato juice, tomatoes and lamb stock. Bring to the boil, place in a low oven and cook for approximately 1½ hours at 170°C/325°F/Gas mark 3, until the meat is tender. Remove meat and reduce the sauce over a high heat until thickened (if necessary).

4.Fry the lemon rind in the remaining olive oil for a few minutes.

5.Pour the sauce over the lamb and scatter with the lemon and coriander. Serve with jewelled couscous. 


Serves 4
400ml (14fl oz) chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
225g (8oz) couscous
finely grated rind of 1 lemon and the juice of 1/2 lemon (unwaxed)
55g (2oz) toasted flaked almonds
85g (3oz) apricots, soaked in a little water for 20 minutes, drained and chopped
55g (2oz) sultanas or raisins
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons coriander, roughly chopped
salt and ground black pepper

1.Heat the stock in a large pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour the couscous in a thin, steady stream and then stir in the lemon rind. Set aside for 2 minutes to allow the grains to swell – it should soak up all of the liquid.

2.Return the couscous to the heat and drizzle over the remaining olive oil. Cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring with a long pronged fork to fluff up the grains, then remove from the heat.

3.Fold in almonds, apricots, sultanas/raisins, parsley and coriander, season to taste.


For the base:
150g (5oz) chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed 
80g (3oz) butter, melted but cooling

For the filling:
1 tbsp gelatine
100ml (3½fl oz) boiling water
1½ lbs (700g) cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
225g (8oz) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
225ml/8 fl oz sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
150g (5½oz) Hob Nob biscuits, broken into small chunks
125g (4½oz) white chocolate, broken into small pieces
150g (5½oz) dark chocolate, broken into small piece 
Fresh berries, for garnish, optional

1. Mix the crushed digestive biscuits with the butter and press onto the bottom of an 8” springform tin. Transfer to refrigerator for a half hour to until set.

2. Mix the gelatine with the water, stir well and let cool.

3. To make the filling: Put the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the large bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle or beaters, or in a large mixing bowl. Using the stand mixer or a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the ingredients until smooth, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the bowl and under the blades with a rubber spatula. Turn the speed to high and continue to beat until the mixture is creamy. Stop the mixer and add the sour cream, gelatine, and vanilla; beat 3 minutes longer, again stopping as necessary to scrape down the sides of the bowl and under the blades.

4. Meanwhile, melt white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. .

5. Stir the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and continue to beat until well combined and smooth. 

6. Using the same process as point 4, repeat the process with the dark chocolate and then drizzle throughout the mixture making a ripple effect.

7. Pour half the cream cheese mixture into the springform pan. Sprinkle half the chunky chocolate biscuits over the mixture. Pour in the remaining cream cheese mixture, smooth its top with a rubber spatula, and then scatter the remaining chocolate biscuits evenly over its surface.

8. Place the cake into the fridge and leave to set for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

9. When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator. Dip a long, sharp knife in warm water and run the knife around the inside of the springform pan to loosen the cake. Remove the outer ring. Continue to dip the knife into warm water as necessary as you cut neat wedges. To serve, place a wedge of cake on a cake plate arid garnish, if you like, with fresh berries.

Foolproof Food

Buttered Courgettes

Try this delicious simple recipe if you have a glut of courgettes in the garden.
Serves 4

1 lb (450g) courgettes, no larger than 5 inches (12.5cm) in length
1 oz (30g) butter
A dash of olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly chopped parsley, dill, basil or marjoram

Top and tail the courgettes and cut them into ¼ inch (5mm) slices. Melt the butter and add a dash of oil, toss in the courgettes and coat in the butter and oil. Cook until tender, 4-5 minutes approx. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Raw: The Autobiography – my autobiography by Antony Worrall Thompson, published by Bantam Press – a jolly good read. (Click to go to

A Date for your Diary – Midleton Food and Drink Festival 4-5th September 2004.

O.C.C – Otto’s Creative Catering. Otto and Hilde Kunze run their restaurant with rooms at Dunworley, Butlerstown, Bandon, Co Cork. – open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday and Sunday lunch – delicious home-grown and local organic produce in a wonderful setting - Tel 023-40461,  

Fingal Food Fayre – Fingal Arts Centre’s new monthly Fingal Food Fayre is in Rush, Co Dublin, and is held on the last Sunday of every month. It started in May and has been a resounding success so far. As well as a wide range of organic, fresh and international foods, there is a range of family entertainment each month including food demonstrations by local chefs. Contact Vera Tyrrell 01-8437567  

For more information on Markets in the Dublin area and throughout Ireland, check out 

Food Waste Recycling Unit – 
Reduce pay by weight refuse charges use a stacking tray wormery – details from Element Green Solutions, Acorn Business Campus, Mahon Industrial Park, Blackrock, Cork. Tel 021-453 6153

Euro-Toques, the European Association of Chefs

Euro-Toques, the European Association of Chefs was founded in Brussels in 1987 as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group to voice the concerns of Europe’s top chefs.

The founder, Pierre Romeyer, owner of the 3 Michelin star La Maison de Bouche in Brussels, invited leading chefs in countries across Europe to join him in his ‘quest to protect the quality, diversity and flavour of our foods, indigenous food methods and the traditional cuisines that had been established over hundreds of years’.

Among the illustrious chefs who joined Pierre Romeyer and founded national Euro-toques branches were Paul Bocuse from France, Cas Spijkers from Holland and our own Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House. The organisation spread quickly and captured the imagination of creative chefs throughout the EU. Today Euro-Toques has a membership of almost 4,000 chefs, including 200 in Ireland, and has a permanent European Office in Brussels from which it coordinates its lobbying campaigns on issues affecting food quality and the culinary profession.

At the 3rd Euro-toques National Food Forum & Fair which took place recently in The Brooklodge Hotel, Co. Wicklow, the topic for discussion was ‘The Future of our Food’. The forum, which was chaired by Mr. John Hume, featured high-profile speakers from policy-making, culinary, environmental and scientific backgrounds and discussed topics including the future of the agri-food sector in Ireland and Europe, globalisation versus localisation of food production, changing consumer trends in food purchasing and the effects of technical and genetic manipulation of food.

Speaking at the event, Ross Lewis, the current Commissioner-General of Euro-toques Ireland, explained why chefs are more hopeful for the future of Irish food, “As chefs we are seeing increasing demand from consumers for locally produced foods, the organic market is growing, the number of farmers markets around the country has increased rapidly, and here in Ireland we are seeing a great resurgence in small-scale, artisan food production as evidenced by the number of high quality products available here today”.

“Euro-toques chefs believe that agriculture should be respectful of natural rhythms and oppose all measures which take away from the quality of food’’, he continued.

At the forum, panellist Alan Dukes discussed the latest European Common Agricultural Policy reforms which go some way towards putting more emphasis on quality rather than quantity in food production, by ending the association between production quotas and direct payments. 

Robert Cook of the International Society for Ecology and Culture also addressed the forum. He stressed that localisation of food production is not only a matter of food quality, but also an environmental necessity. UK figures estimate that the distance food is transported by road increased by 50% between 1978 and 1999, and the food system now accounts for between a third and 40% of all UK road freight. “The ingredients of a single supermarket meal may easily have travelled a total of over 24,000 miles”, said Mr. Cook. 

Chefs are in a unique position to encourage this type of production and Euro-toques chefs try to support local producers by promoting them on their menus. “By using local foods, and by advertising and promoting their use, chefs have it in their power to not only entertain our palates, but also to educate the minds of the public about the importance and the opportunities provided by choosing local produce”. Mr. Cook reminded us that “In the process, not only can local specialities be identified and promoted but also regional dishes can be revived or even invented”.

One of the major developments in globalised food production in recent years, the biotechnological and the genetic manipulation of food, was discussed by UK-based Scientist Dr. Mae-Won Ho, Director of the Institute of Science in Society, she underlined the inherent dangers involved in interfering with nature. The panel also featured US author Jeffrey Smith whose book, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Biotech Lies, discusses evidence of the dangers of GM and experiences in countries where GM crops have already been grown.

Chef Ross Lewis commented; “GM is obviously a very big concern for us as chefs. We believe that consumers should have the right to choose healthy, natural food that they can trust and we believe that the growing of GM crops will threaten that choice. We are privileged in Ireland to have some of the purest and most natural ingredients available in Europe and we would like to keep it that way”.

The panel also featured Michelin star chef Shaun Hill who flew in that morning from Ludlow. Shaun and his wife Anja cook and serve respectively in The Merchant House. Shaun works in a tiny domestic-sized kitchen and feeds 24 diners for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. The Merchant House has won numerous awards down through the years and earlier this year was ranked 21 in the Best Restaurants of the World by The Restaurant Magazine.

The fixed-price menu gives a small choice of over 3 courses, an eclectic mix, based on personal taste and sound cooking techniques, rather than any particular country’s cuisine. Sean is passionate about the quality of ingredients, organic where feasible and carefully chosen. The restaurant is booked out 3 months in advance for lunch and dinner …. So think ahead before going over.

A simple example of what you might find on Shaun’s menu is ‘grilled bass with saffron and pepper sauce’, ‘saddle of venison with foie gras’, ‘roast squab pigeon with parsley risotto, ‘muscat crème caramel with prunes in armagnac’, ‘apricot tart with amaretto ice cream’.

The restrained style of Shaun Hill’s restaurant complements the understated style of cooking. Both are a tribute to his impeccable taste and a chef that has the confidence to keep it simple.
The title of Shaun’s presentation was “Our responsibilities as chef” which highlighted 

The important relationship between the chef, his/her suppliers and the customer, the constant battle with bureaucracy, how food and catering have changed down through the years and our responsibility to educate the consumer. 
The event also incorporated a major food fair open to the public which brought together 60 Irish small food producers from around the country. 

Here are some recipes from Shaun Hill’s recently published book ‘How to Cook Better’, published by Mitchell Beazley. 

John Dory with Coriander

This is a Lebanese dish , with flavours that typify eastern Mediterranean and North African cooking. The fish is braised and served in its own sauce like stew.
Serves 4

1.5kg John Dory, filleted
salt and pepper
sunflower oil , for frying
150ml olive oil
4 shallots, finely chopped
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teasp ground coriander
½ a small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teasp ground cumin
juice of 3 lemons
1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves only, washed and dried on kitchen paper.

Salt the fillets, then heat enough sunflower oil to deep-fry them. When the oil is hot, fry the fillets for a minute to seal them and then lift out from the pan.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil. Fry the shallots in the oil until they start to colour, then add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add the ground coriander, chilli and cumin, then pour in the lemon juice and bring to the boil. 

Add the fish fillets and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the fish is cooked and the sauce thickened. Add the coriander leaves and serve.

Note: John Dory is about 50 per cent bone and head, so you can expect around 350-400g of fillet per person from each fish. They are awkward to fillet so have the fishmonger do the job for you if possible.

Spiced Aubergine Fritters

Serves 4
1 large aubergine
salt and pepper
a good pinch each of ground cinnamon, ground cumin and ground cardamom
1 tbsp grated orange zest
sunflower oil, for frying
lemon wedges, to serve

For the batter:
4 tabsp self raising flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
2 medium egg whites

Slice the aubergine into 5mm rounds and season with salt, pepper, spices and orange zest.
For the batter, whisk together the flour, oil and water – you want the thickness of porridge. Separately, and with a clean whisk, beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold the whites into the batter.
Heat the sunflower oil until smoking. Coat each slice of aubergine in batter in hot oil until crisp and brown; this only takes a minute.

Serve with lemon wedges or as warm component of salad.

Modern varieties of aubergine don’t need pre-salting to extract the bitterness. 10 minutes contact with the salt and spices will help soften the aubergine, however, and this does no harm.

The batter will keep for an hour or two and still be usable, but loses volume during this time. Its best made as near the time as is practicable.

Scallops with lentil and coriander sauce

– Shaun Hill
Serves 4
50g brown lentils
16 large scallops
a little groundnut or sunflower oil
½ onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped red pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, chopped
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
300ml chicken stock or water
25g unsalted butter
1 tsp crème fraiche
1 tbsp. fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
1 tbsp. lemon juice, plus a little extra to go on the scallops
salt and pepper
a little light sesame or groundnut oil

Put the lentils in tepid water and soak for 2 hours. Simmer for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through. 
Remove the corals from the scallops.

Heat a little sunflower or groundnut oil to a high temperature. Fry the onion, red pepper, ginger and garlic until they start to caramelize, then add the spices and half the cooked lentils.
Heat the scallop corals in the stock (this is to add a little more flavour to the stock, not to cook the corals, which I do not use), then strain the stock on to the spiced lentils. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Puree the lentil mixture in a liquidizer, then reheat with the butter, crème fraiche, coriander leaves, chives and lemon juice.
Season with salt and pepper, then add the remaining cooked lentils. Spoon this sauce onto warmed plates.

Slice the scallops into two or three discs depending on their size, and brush lightly with light sesame or groundnut oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a dry pan until very hot and then fry the oiled scallop slices very quickly on both sides. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on top of the shellfish then place in a heap on top of the sauce.

Chocolate Cake

Can be served with coffee – cream or crème fraiche optional. Or serve as a pudding with a fresh cherry compote.
Also suitable for coeliacs.

225g plain chocolate, grated or broken into pieces
100g unsalted butter
4 eggs
225g icing sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence (must be vanilla extract or a natural essence)
2 tbsp cornflour
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5

Melt the chocolate and butter together. The best way to do this is to put the chocolate and butter in a bowl and stand the bowl in warm water, stirring occasionally.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Be sure to use a clean bowl and whisk.
Separately, whisk the yolks, icing sugar and vanilla essence together, then add the cornflour. Whisk until the colour of the mixture lightens perceptibly.
Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg yolks.
Next add the whisked egg white, folding it in a third at a time. 
Line an 18cm cake tin with parchment paper and pour in the cake batter.
Bake in the preheated oven until done – for around 30-40 minutes.

The chocolate must be melted gently and slowly, it may be grated so that it melts faster if time is important.
There may be a tendency for the cake to sag in the middle if not completely cooked through, as there is very little flour – no wheat flour at all. In fact it is better under-cooked than over-cooked.

Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Serves 4
300g sweet shortcrust pastry
1 kg rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
3 egg yolks
120g Demerara sugar
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp. plain flour 
3 egg whites
3 tbsp. caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Line a 26cm pastry case – preferably with a detachable base – with sweet pastry and bake blind.
The rhubarb goes in next. Then mix together the egg yolks, Demerara sugar, salt and flour and spread this over the rhubarb.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes; this will start the rhubarb cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until stiff. As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar.
Take the tart from the oven and spread the meringue on top. 

Reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and return the tart to the oven. Bake for a further 25 minutes. 

Note: The egg whites must be completely free of imperfections – including yolk – if they are to be successfully whisked. The bowl used must be dry and clean also. Don’t add sugar too early; the whites should already form peaks before you start.

Foolproof Food

Summer Fruit Salad with Sweet Geranium Leaves

I discovered this recipe which has now become a perennial favourite quite by accident a few Summers ago as I raced to make a pudding in a hurry with the ingredients I had at that moment.
Serves 8-10 

4 oz (110 g) Raspberries 
4 oz (110g ) Loganberries
4 oz (110g ) Red currants
4 oz (110g ) Black currants
4 oz (110g) small Strawberries
4 oz (110g) Blueberries 
4 oz (110g) Fraises du bois or wild strawberries 

14 oz (400g) sugar
16 fl oz (450ml) water
6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Put all the freshly picked berries into a white china or glass bowl. Put the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves into a stainless steel saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil for just 2 minutes. Cool for 4-5 minutes then pour the hot syrup over the fruit and allow to macerate for several hours. Remove the geranium leaves. Serve chilled, with softly-whipped cream or Vanilla Ice-cream or alone. Garnish with a few fresh sweet geranium leaves.
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Hot Tips

Fresh Sweetcorn now available from Catherine and Vincent O’Donovan’s roadside stall on the main Cork to Innishannon road about a mile and a half from the Halfway Roundabout. Tel 087-2486031 to order some for the freezer.

To cook – pull off the husks and silks, just pop into boiling well-salted water and cook for no more than 3 minutes. Serve slathered with butter and sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt. Divine!

Corry Lane Home Smoked Fish
New to me – I tasted it at the Euro-Toques Conference – particularly delicious eel, warm smoked salmon and mackerel. Tel. John Rogan – 043-76264 087-9904707
Rathowen, Co Westmeath.

Ross Lewis at Chapter One Restaurant
Has recently introduced the new concept of a Charcuterie Trolley, customers can enjoy a starter plate of seven items primarily made from Irish charcuterie – some made in the restaurant and others supplied by specialist artisan producers like Frank Krycwzk and Fingal Ferguson. A few hot items come from the kitchen – eg pigs trotters, pickled lambs tongues, Westcorkian Ham with Celery Remoulade. A selection of salamis and terrines are served from a beautiful custom made cherrywood trolley with inlaid shelves to pull out and serve on – as Ross says to bring back a bit of drama to the restaurant! Chapter One, 18/19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1. Tel 01-8732266

Exciting Things have been Happening at Glebe House

Down Baltimore way exciting things have been happening at Glebe House. Jean and Peter Perry have had their gardens open to the public for 5 years now. Pay €4 into the honesty box by the stone pier and one can wander gently through the herb garden and potager bursting with organic vegetables, a variety of lettuces, kale and all manner of brassicas. Scarlet runner beans are eagerly romping up jute string, plump pea pods, chard, summer leeks ……

For those garden lovers who are more impressed by voluptuous herbaceous borders there’s also lots to impress in Jean’s cut flower garden. It was a riot of colour and texture last week when I visited. This garden was planted about 3 years ago to provide Jean with cut flowers for the bouquets she sold at the Skibbereen Farmers Market – not just roses and carnations but a glorious mixture of campanulas, salvias, daisies, eryngiums, delphiniums, astilbe, lady’s mantle, sweet William, love lies bleeding….

Last year with the aid of a grant from the Harold Barry Trust, Peter and Jean have created and planted a woodland walk, culminating in a small amphitheatre overlooking Church Strand Bay.

This year for the first time visitors and locals alike can enjoy the new café which opened its doors just a few weeks ago. Peter has built a conservatory off the dining room but visitors can also breakfast or lunch or do the crossword under the tree beside the herbaceous border, while the children explore the garden or peer into the hen run.

Brunch is served all day, full Irish, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, Crispy Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup or Eggs Benedict – two plump poached eggs on a bed of creamy spinach. This is not the spot to dash in for a quick breckie. Settle down with a pot of fine strong Fairtrade tea or coffee and the newspaper while Tessa or Flavie cooks to order.

The menu is simple, well chosen, a celebration of food from the garden and local area. Temptations like Borsch, Pea and Coriander Soup, Glebe Salad, West Cork Cheese Plate, a couple of gorgeous tarts – maybe Three cheese and Cherry Tomato Tart, or Blue Cheese and Onion Marmalade Tart. The challenge is to leave room for pud or a yummy slice – how about Flavie’s Chocolate Cake, or Plum Flan with Clonakilty Ice-cream. You might also want to polish off some Tunisian Orange Cake, or nibble a piece of Rosemary shortcake, or a bowl of fresh strawberries and local cream.

Just the sort of place one longs to find in one’s travels around the countryside but seldom does. Walkers and sailors can order a scrummy picnic, prices are very fair and reasonable. 

Glebe Gardens and Café open daily Easter till end of September 10am -6pm

Admission €4 (children under 16 free). 

Location - Skibbereen to Baltimore road, as you enter village ‘Baltimore’ sign is on left entrance directly opposite. Tel 028-20232. 

Here are some suggestions for a nice Summer menu

Courgette and Parsley Soup

Choose small courgettes for maximum flavour. If you are fortunate enough to grow your own you'll have lots of bright yellow blossoms. Include some in the soup and scatter a few petals over each bowl of soup to make a stunning garnish.
Serves 6-8
1 lb (450g) courgettes
1 oz (30g) butter
6 ozs (170g) onion, diced
6 ozs (170g) potato, diced
salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg
12 pints (900ml) light home-made chicken stock
2 tablespoons approx. chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon approx. chopped fresh basil or annual marjoram
a dash of creamy milk (optional)

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onion and potato, toss until well coated. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg, cover and sweat until soft but not coloured -5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile grate the courgettes on the coarse part of a grater and add to the soup base, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Bring the stock to the boil and add to the base, bring back to the boil and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Add the parsley and purée the soup in a liquidiser for just a few seconds - there should be flecks of green clearly visible.

Taste and correct the seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Smoked Salmon and Dill Quiches

Also delicious for a picnic.
Makes 24

6 ozs (170g) Shortcrust pastry 
Smoked Salmon Filling
6 eggs, preferably free-range 
12 fl ozs (350ml) double cream 
3 teasp. ground nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 - 6 ozs (110g-170g) smoked salmon, chopped into 3 inch dices
2 teasp. chopped fresh dill

Preheat the oven to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out pastry to 3 mm/c inch thick and stamp out twenty-four pastry rounds using a 6 cm/22 inch pastry cutter. Press pastry rounds into shallow, greased patty pans (tartlet tins). Line with kitchen paper and fill with baking beans. Bake blind while you make the filling. 

To make the custard, whisk the eggs with the cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Add the chopped salmon and dill. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

A Summer Green Salad with Ballymaloe French Dressing

Ballymaloe French Dressing
2 fl ozs (55ml) Wine vinegar
6 fl ozs (150ml) olive oil or a mixture of olive and other oils. eg. sunflower and arachide
1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)
1 large clove of garlic
1 scallion or small spring onion
Sprig of parsley
Sprig of watercress
1 level teaspoon salt
Few grinds of pepper

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

Green Salad

You will need a mild lettuce (eg. the common butterhead) as the basis of the salad and as many of the following as you care to or can put in:

finely chopped parsley, mint or any herbs of your fancy, spring onions, dice of cucumber, mustard and cress, watercress, the white tips of cauliflower, tips of purple sprouting broccoli, iceberg lettuce, cos, raddichio, oakleaf, Chinese leaves, rocket, salad burnet, and any other interesting lettuces available.

Wash and dry the lettuces and other leaves very carefully. Tear into bite sized pieces and put into a deep salad bowl. Cover with cling film and refrigerate, if not to be served immediately. Just before serving toss with a little French Dressing - just enough to make the leaves glisten. Serve immediately.

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

Green Salad with Edible Flowers

Prepare a selection of salad leaves (see above) and add some edible flowers, eg. marigold petals, nasturtium flowers, borage flowers, chive flowers, rocket blossoms etc. one or all of these or some other herb flowers could be added. Toss with a well flavoured dressing just before serving.

This salad could be served as a basis for a starter salad or as an accompanying salad to be main course. Remember to use a little restraint with the flowers!

Rustic Peach Tart with Summer Berries

Serves 6-8

8 oz/225 g plain white flour
1 tablespoon castor sugar
4 oz/110 g cut into ½ inch dice
Cold water or beaten egg to mix


3-4 oz/85-110 g sugar
2 generous tablespoons cornflour
1½-2 lbs/675-900 g ripe peaches, peeled and sliced ½ inch thick 
4 oz/110 g blueberries, picked over
4 oz/110 g raspberries, picked over

Castor sugar for sprinkling, about 1 tablespoon 
1 x 9 inch pie plate or tart tin.

First make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the cold butter. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, add just enough water or beaten egg to bind. Knead lightly to get the mixture to come together. Cover with wax or silicone paper and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. 

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 14 inch round approx. Line a 9 inch pie plate with it. Put the plate over a bowl to allow the edge to hang down, chill for 30 minutes in the fridge. 

To make the filling, mix the sugar with the cornflour. Toss in the peaches. Allow to sit for 5 minutes not more, tossing occasionally. 

Stir the blueberries and raspberries gently into the peaches. Pour the fruit and the juices into the chilled pie shell and distribute it evenly. Fold the overhanging edge to cover the outer portion of the filling, leaving a 5 inch opening of exposed fruit in the centre of the pie. Brush the pastry with water, sprinkle with a little sugar. 

Bake the pie in a preheated oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 180C/350F/regulo 4 and bake for 30 to35 minutes longer. Serve warm or cold with softly whipped cream.

Alternatively, sprinkle with castor sugar when cooked

Eggs Benedict

This is our version.

Rich and gorgeous, often eaten for breakfast but best for brunch - again the quality of all the components can lift this from the mundane to the extraordinary.

4 free range eggs, preferably organic
4 English muffins or 4 rounds of toast made from good bread preferably not sliced pan
4 slices cooked ham or 4-8 slices of bacon

Hollandaise sauce
First make the Hollandaise sauce

If using bacon heat a very little sunflower oil in a hot frying pan. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the toast or split the muffins. Spread the hot toast or toasted muffins with butter. Top with a slice of ham or 2 slices of crispy bacon. Gently place the poached egg on top and coat with Hollandaise sauce. Serve extra hot toast and sauce separately.

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 70-80C/180F 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
125 g/4 ozs butter cut into dice
1 dessertspoon cold water
1 teaspoon 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 bowl over warm water, or in a thermos flask. Hollandaise Sauce should not be reheated. Leftover sauce may be used as an enrichment for cream sauces, or mashed potatoes, or to perk up a fish pie etc.

Light Hollandaise Sauce
Whisk in 2 tablespoons of water to lighten the sauce. 

Foolproof Food

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result - simply a really fresh egg laid by a happy lazy hen.
Serves 1

2 eggs, free-range if possible 
toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg and slip gently into the whirlpool in the centre. For perfection the water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the white is set and the yolk still soft and runny.

Meanwhile make a slice of toast, cut off the crusts, butter and pop onto a hot plate. Drain the poached egg or eggs and place on top. Serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 4-5 September 2004 at Oxford Brookes University, UK. – theme ‘Wild Food:Hunters and Gatherers’  Enquiries to 

More on Wild Food – A Walk on the Wild Side with Darina Allen – Foraging Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School 18th September –  Tel 021-4646785

Indian Summer Festival 2004 - 29th June to 22 September at Vermilion Indian Fusion Cuisine in Dublin – 94/96 Terenure Rd North, Dublin 6W Tel 01-499 1400

Our food should be our medicine

Regular readers of this column will be aware that over the years I have become increasingly concerned about the quality of much of the food we eat, and the deterioration in the diet overall. Many people just look at food as fodder and do not connect it in any way with their health and well-being. They shovel any kind of rubbish into themselves and then wonder why they are feeling sluggish or lacking in energy.

Despite my best efforts the reality is - people are spending less time cooking . 

The average time it takes to prepare the main meal of the day nowadays is 20 minutes, compared to 60 minutes twenty years ago and the average preparation time for all meals at home (including breakfast, evening meals, children’s tea etc.) is a mere 13 minutes per meal and one third of meals are prepared in 5 minutes or less.  

More people are ‘cash rich’ and ‘time poor’. Is it not ironic that we are convinced that we don’t have time to cook, yet at no time in history have we had so many ‘modern conveniences’, gizmos and gadgets to speed up preparation. Could it be that wholesome food is no longer considered a priority – the reality is we always make time for what we consider to be important.

I have long suspected that the food we eat affects not only our physical but also our mental well-being and new research appears to validate this ‘gut feeling’.

At the Conference for the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids in Brighton recently, scientists warned that changes in our diet will lead to an epidemic of mental health problems in the future.

According to keynote speaker, Professor Michael Crawford of London Metropolitan University “We are facing a health crisis more serious and more dangerous than that posed by obesity in the West”. Two key forms of fatty acids are involved in human diet. One set are the omega-3s, which are found in the meat of animals and fowl, such as cattle and chicken, which graze on grass, and in vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage. The second version are known as omega -6’s, found in cereals and in the meat of animals fed on cereals.

In the past, diets contained balanced amounts of these chemicals. However, omega-6’s have increasingly come to dominate the shelves of food shops, as farmers have fed more and more cattle on grain, and food manufacturers have turned to the use of sunflower and other similar oils. As a result, Western nations now have serious – and worrying – dietary imbalances. 

New studies have shown that modern diets are deficient in omega-3’s. Intensive farming methods, increased use of sugary breakfast cereals and the widespread use of sunflower oils have led to a dangerous change in our diets.

Deficiences in omega-3, a vital substance, critical to brain development, are linked to behavioural and attention disorders in children, and depression among adults.

In the brain, omega - 3’s and omega -6’s act as building blocks for the membrane that surround our neurones, However, omega-3 lipids are considered particularly vital for this task.

‘Individuals that are omega-3 rich end up with neurones that run very fast – like Pentium 3 microprocessors,’ said Professor Tom Sanders, of the Nutrition, Foods and Health Centre at King’s College London. ‘Those that have too much omega-6 are slow and sluggish, like a 20 year old silicon chip.’

Omega-3 rich cells also make more complex links with other neurones, scientists have found, and this lattice of nerve connections forms the basis of our intelligence. The last 3 months of pregnancy and the first six weeks after birth are particularly critical for laying down these brain cell lattices.

‘Omega-3 fats are therefore essential in the diets of pregnant women for the healthy development of brain, retina and nervous tissue in the unborn child’, according to Dr. Ray Rice, of the ISSL.

This point is underlined by a newly completed analysis of the replies of 14,500 families who took part in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study has found that pregnant women who had diets low in omega-3’s which are also found in high levels in fish – and high in omega 6’s had an increased risk of depression. Their children were more likely to suffer problems with coordination and behaviour and come in the bottom quarter of their class n verbal IQ tests.

Other studies have produced similar results, Dr Christine Albert of Harvard Medical school found the risk of heart attack is greatest in individuals whose omega -3 drops below 4% of the fatty acids found in the red blood cells. Omega 3 is found in fish, particularly oily fish and ‘green’ foods such as cabbage, due to the photosynthesis process.

Professor Crawford explained that omega -3 levels were higher because of traditional farming practices where cows and lambs were fed on grass.

Consumption of fish has decreased and intensive farming has meant that fewer cows and poultry are allowed to graze on grass and are instead fed on cereals high in omega -6’s. These fatty acids are also essential but an imbalance has now been created – studies suggest that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be between equality and four to one, a pattern typified by those who live on Mediterranean diets rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, olive oil and garlic, and low in meat. By contrast, normal Western diets with their high cereal content, now have ratios of between 11to one and 40 to one.

So this research is yet another good reason to seek out good grass fed Irish beef and lamb, free-range chickens and eggs, delicious fresh fish (feast on the mackerel now in season) and lots of green vegetables and fruit.

Scientists are pressing for omega-3 additives to be introduced into many staple foods, although this will no doubt pose ethical and practical problems for vegetarians, if fish extracts are added to foods.

In the end, we need to constantly remind ourselves that ultimately ‘our food should be our medicine’. So the reality is that we need to expend a bit more time and energy sourcing good quality fresh naturally produced seasonal food for ourselves, our family and our friends, it will be time and money very well spent.

Carpaccio of Zucchini with slivers of Parmesan

A simple dish which depends totally on the quality of your ingredients, use the very best Extra Virgin olive oil you can afford, small crisp zucchini, and a sweet nutty parmesan.
Serves 6

675g (1-1½lbs) freshly picked yellow and green zucchini, not more than 5 inches in length
225g (8oz) rocket leaves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-6oz (100-175g) Parmesan, (Parmigiano Reggiano) in the piece, sliced into slivers
Zucchini flowers (optional)

Trim the ends off the zucchini and slice at an angle into thin rounds. Place in a bowl. Wash and dry the rocket leaves thoroughly. Mix, then leave to marinate for 5 minutes. Taste and season. Divide the rocket leaves and a few zucchini petals between the serving plates. Put the zucchini on top, and then the Parmesan slivers. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper, and serve.

Fettucini with Salmon, Roast Peppers and Scallions

We have just another couple of weeks left to enjoy delicious wild Irish salmon, so seek it out immediately.
Serves 4-6

12 ozs (340 g) fettucini 
8 ozs (225 g) wild Irish salmon, skinned
3 shallots, chopped
2 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
5 tablesp. olive oil
1 lemon
4 red peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
12 fresh basil leaves
4-6 scallions
2 ozs (50 g) fresh white breadcrumbs toasted until dry
3 tablesp. Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of water to the boil – 6 pints (3.4L) water to 1 tablespoon 
salt. Add fettucini and stir well. Cook the fettucini until ‘al dente’ and strain well. 
Cut the salmon into ½ inch dice. Combine the chopped shallots, parsley and olive oil in a bowl. Add the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon and then stir in the salmon. Allow to marinate.

Meanwhile roast, peel and seed the peppers. Cut the flesh into thin strips, season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a few torn basil leaves. 

Cut the scallions into 1½ inch julienne. Heat the olive oil and cook the scallions for 2-3 minutes or until softened slightly, add the pepper and salmon and toss once or twice just to heat through. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and another squeeze of lemon juice. 

Drain the fettucini, put into the hot pasta bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Pour the salmon mixture on top, toss gently. Sprinkle with crunchy crumbs and a few more torn basil leaves and snipped parsley. Serve immediately on hot plates.

Penne with Wild Salmon and Garden Peas

Serves 4
Sanford Allen, a charismatic American violinist and friend gave me this fresh tasting pasta recipe.

8 ozs (225g) Penne
8 ozs (225g) wild salmon
1 tablesp. Extra Virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ozs (225g) peas, preferably fresh from the garden, but good quality frozen peas also work quite well.
1-2 tablesp. parsley or dill, chopped
2 tablesp. Extra Virgin olive oil 
2 oz (15g) butter
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons approx. chopped parsley

Extra chopped parsley

Cook the penne in boiling salted water, using 2 tablespoons of salt to 4 pints (2.3L) water, for about 15-20 minutes. Blanch the peas.

Skin the salmon and cut into 2 inch (1cm) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add in the garlic, cook on a medium heat for a minute or so, then add the salmon and toss gently until it changes colour. Add the blanched peas. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Drain the penne and toss in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and melted butter, add the salmon mixture, the parsley and freshly squeezed lemon juice, toss gently, taste and correct the seasoning. Put into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with a little extra chopped parsley and eat immediately.

Sugared Peaches or Nectarines with fresh raspberry sauce

Serves 6
A truly delicious combination even more irresistible with a scoop of home-made vanilla icecream. 

6 perfect ripe peaches or nectarines
castor sugar
freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh Raspberry Sauce
: lb (340g) raspberries
freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon
22-3 ozs (70-85g) castor sugar
sprigs of mint or lemon balm

First make the Raspberry sauce - purée the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice. Push through a nylon sieve to remove the pips. Taste and chill.

Put the peaches into a deep bowl, cover them with boiling water, pour off the water and drop into iced water. Peel immediately and slice into 3 inch (5mm) slices removing the stone. Nectarines do not need to be peeled. Put into a bowl, sprinkle with castor sugar and lemon juice to taste. Serve chilled with Raspberry sauce and perhaps a blob of home-made vanilla ice-cream. Garnish with a sprig of mint or lemon balm if you have it to hand.
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Foolproof Food

Char-grilled Summer Vegetables

In July we feast on these char-grilled vegetables as a starter. We use many different combinations. You could serve with Tapenade Toasts or bruschetta or a few whole roast garlic. They are also marvellous with goat’s cheese, with pasta and variously with Pesto.

Serves 8 as a starter or 4 as a main course 

4 medium sized green courgettes (zucchini) sliced lengthways, (one-eight inch (3mm) thick
2-3 aubergines, sliced ¼ inch (5mm) thick
Sea salt
2-3 fleshy red peppers, Italian or Spanish if possible
2-3 fleshy yellow peppers, Italian or Spanish if possible 
4-6 pieces of green asparagus 
1 head of fennel, sliced one-eight inch (3mm) lengthways 
Salt and freshly ground pepper

80ml (3 fl oz)very best Italian extra virgin olive oil 
Freshly squeezed juice of ¼ lemon approx. or 2 tablesps. Balsamic vinegar 
10-12 whole basil leaves (annual marjoram is also very good)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepperSlice the aubergines and courgettes (zucchini) sprinkle with pure salt, leave to drain in a colander to get rid of excess liquid - half an hour at least. If the zucchini are small home grown and very fresh this step is scarcely necessary. 

Chargrill the peppers, turning them so they become completely charred on all sides. We do this in various ways, on a chargrill, over the gas jet, under the grill or in the oven. Remove and place in a bowl. Cover and leave for 5 or 10 minutes. They will be easier to peel. 

Blanch the asparagus in boiling salted water for no more than 30 seconds, then plunge into iced water to refresh. Drain. 

Lay out the aubergines and courgettes on clean cloths or kitchen paper to dry off all the excess liquid. Brush each piece sparingly with olive oil. Grill the aubergines first using a chargrill or hot grill pan - they should be soft when pressed and scorched by the grill but not blackened. Put each vegetable into a large bowl as you grill. Next chargrill or pangrill the courgettes and fennel slices just give them a few seconds sufficient time to brown the places where they touch the grill. Finally season the blanched asparagus with salt and pepper. Grill for about ½ minute on each side.

The peppers should now be cool. Peel off the charred skin, remove the stalk and seeds with your hands, divide the peppers into four (they will divide naturally) and add to the other chargrilled vegetables. Don't wash them or you'll loose some of their sweet flavour. Mix the extra virgin olive oil with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Toss the vegetables in the dressing, taste and season with sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper (we crush ours in a pestle and mortar for this recipe). Arrange on a large white platter drizzle olive oil, scatter with basil or marjoram leaves and a few black olives.

Hot Tips

Green Cuisine Ltd, Penrhos Court, Kington, Herefordshire in UK – upcoming courses – Daphne Lambert, nutritionist and chef, shows you which foods to avoid and which to eat to help create balance and vibrant health in Seeds of Change Course –

5-8 September and other dates in October and November. Beating Candida with diet and lifestyle, 18-20 November, Women’s Health Course – 22-24th November. Details from Daphne 00 44 1544 230720,  

The Apple Farm, Moorstown, Cahir, Co Tipperary. 
Now in their farm shop they have strawberries and raspberries and by August they will also have plums. They will still have raspberries right through August with new autumn-fruiting variety. They also have apple juice, apple jelly, strawberry and plum jam and farm-made cider vinegar and Baylough cheese from Clogheen.

Raspberries now in season – The first written mention of raspberries in English is in a book on herbal medicine dating back to 1548 and this delicious little fruit was attributed with many qualities. Modern science has highlighted the range and potency of antioxidants in the raspberry, they help prevent cell damage and the anti-biotic properties of the fruit aid against irritable bowel syndrome and other infections. Loganberries, Tayberries and Boysenberries also in season, are not so easy to source. Try Sunnyside Fruit Farm, Rathcormac, Co. Cork. Tel. 025-36253, Walsh’s Farm in Shanagarry, Tel 021- 4646836, or your nearest fruit farm. 

Glebe Gardens and Café, on Skibbereen to Baltimore Road near entrance to Baltimore Village 
Open daily from Easter till end September 10-6, Tel 028-20232

God Bless the Cheese makers

God Bless the Cheesemakers – Ardrahan, Baylough, Coolea, Durrus, Fermoy, Gabriel, Hegarty’s, Lavistown, Milleens, Oisin, St Tola ….. Nowadays there is almost an Irish Farmhouse Cheese for every letter of the alphabet, over 60 in all and probably a few others that I don’t know about. 

The lovely Veronica Steele with her husband Norman, who makes the now legendary Milleens Cheese on their farm near Allihies on the Beara Peninsula, is considered to be the matriarch of the farmhouse cheese industry. She started to experiment in her kitchen in 1976 when she was faced with the dilemma of surplus milk from her three cows, a Kerry and two Friesians. The end result was the feisty Milleens we now know and love. The cheesemaking has long since moved out of her kitchen into her Palais de Fromage – the original cheese – a unique cheese type was about 9 inches in diameter with a gorgeous washed rind. About eight years later Veronica started to make some smaller 4 inch cheeses, which in her inimitable way she called her little dotes – they are now known as Milleens dotes.

Veronica shared her understanding of the potential of Irish Farmhouse cheese as an industry, with many of the other cheese-making icons, Giana Ferguson, Jeffa Gill, Mary Burns, Olivia Goodwillie, Louis and Jane Grubb, Paddy Berridge, Anne Brodie…..She recognised the need for education and organisation, and was instrumental in setting up CáIS, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association.

Since those pioneering days a whole generation of spirited cheesemakers have learned their craft and accumulated a wealth of knowledge on artisan cheese production. Their cheeses are enjoyed by lovers of good food both at home and abroad. Visiting travel and food writers seek out the cheeses and visit the farms, charmed by the passionate producers they encounter. 

Many of the cheesemakers have become expert on the science of their product and have to contend with ever more stringent regulations, frequently out of proportion to the risk involved.

Many of the Irish cheeses have won top prizes at the British Cheese Awards, Eurotoque Awards of Excellence and Slow Food.

The Irish Farmhouse Cheese Recipes book, edited by Jane Russell and supported by Bord Bia, was officially launched by Bord Bia at the Eurotoques Conference 2004, on Sunday 4th July at the Brooklodge Hotel, McReddin Village, Wicklow and is on sale nationwide price €1. The pocket size recipe book contains recipes from farmhouse cheesemakers all over Ireland and includes tips for cooking and storing cheese, as well as a list of stockists of Irish Farmhouse cheese in the United Kingdom for those who would like to seek it out.

For further information, consult the Bord Bia website:  

The whole artisan food sector is gathering momentum, there are currently 320 speciality food and small business companies in Ireland with a combined turnover of €296 million. The Irish farmhouse cheesemakers have a turnover of approx. €7.5 million and have had an impact far out of proportion to their size on the image of Irish food both at home and abroad.

Buying Cheese
For perfection just buy the quantity of cheese you need for immediate consumption, or what can be consumed within one or two days. Most cheese shops, though certainly not all will be better equipped to store cheese properly than an average household. Few houses nowadays have a cool larder or pantry not to speak of a cheese cellar with high humidity. Fridges basically 'hold' cheese but they don't improve it in any way.

Storing Cheese
For perfection cheese should be stored in a cool larder or cupboard, but very fresh soft cheese should always be stored in the fridge.
Hard or semi-hard cheese need high humidity or they will dry out. Wrap them individually in clean damp tea towels and keep an eye on them if they are to be stored for more than a few days.
All other cheese should also be wrapped individually in its own wrapping or in greaseproof paper or tin foil. Cooleeney or Carrigbyrne Camembert or large Brie type cheeses, should be stored in their wooden boxes. Cling film is not good for wrapping cheese.

Blue cheese particularly those without a thin rind, eg. Cashel Blue, Bellingham Blue, Crozier Blue and Roquefort should be wrapped closely in silver or gold foil. Otherwise the blue mould (Penicillium Roquefortii) which is very prolific will travel into other cheeses and make them blue also.

Do not keep any cheese in a warm kitchen for long - soft cheese tends to liquefy and harder cheese sweat and become oily. Despite the fact that some cheese manufacturers recommend freezing, it is better not to freeze cheese unless it is a stop gap measure.

Accompaniments to cheese
Celery, grapes, lettuce, tomato roses, and various other garnishes are often served with cheese. All one really needs to serve with cheese in perfect condition is fresh crusty home made white bread or simple cheese biscuits.

A recent trend particularly in Australia and United States where there is in a new evolving farmstead cheese industry is to serve a cheese course.

A cheese plate with complementary nuts, dried fruit, relishes, perhaps a little salad and some crackers or flavoured breads.

Nuts……fresh walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia or brazil nuts…...
Dried Fruit…… plump dried Turkish figs, dried peaches or pears……. 
Relishes…… beetroot, ginger, tomato relish jalapeno, pimento ……..
Membrillo…… or Quince cheese – delicious with Manchego or soft goat cheese.
Honey…… particularly good with blue cheese

Here are some recipes from Jane Russell’s book

Baylough Cheese and Spring Onion Soup

Serves 4
25g/1oz butter
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
25g/1oz flour
600ml/1pint milk
300ml/½ pint chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
11g/4oz Baylough farmhouse cheese or other semi-hard cheese, grated
2 tablesp. chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and lightly fry the spring onions, without browning. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the milk, stock and seasonings. Heat, whisking continuously, until soup comes to the boil and thickens. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cheese. Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with parsley and pepper.

Coolea and Leek Fritters

Serves 8
400g/14oz leek, very thinly sliced
25g/1oz butter
200g/7oz flour
2 free range eggs
250ml/9fl.oz milk
200g/7oz mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, freshly grated or other semi-hard cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 fresh red chilli pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
freshly grated nutmeg

Tomato dip:

8 tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
4 tablesp.fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 30ml/2 tablesp. pesto sauce
150ml/3 pint extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter, add the thinly sliced leeks, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft, but not coloured (approx. 5 minutes.) Cool for 40 minutes. Meanwhile make the tomato dip by putting the tomatoes, basil or pesto and oil in a bowl and mixing thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, add in the eggs and break up with a whisk. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl. Add the leeks, when cool, and the grated cheese and red chilli pepper. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg to taste. Heat a frying pan, preferably non-stick, on a medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of the batter onto the pan, allow to cook until golden on one side, flip over onto the other and cook for a moment or two more. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with the tomato dip.

Durrus and Potato Melt

Serves 4
900g/2lb waxy potatoes, cubed
1 small Durrus or 400g/14oz portion, rind removed, cubed
2 onions, finely chopped
200g/7oz bacon rashers, cut into small pieces
250g/9oz tub crème fraiche
black pepper and salt

Steam or parboil the potatoes until just soft. Gently cook the onions and bacon in a covered pan. Put the potatoes, onions, bacon and cheese in a buttered shallow oven dish. Add salt and pepper and pour on the crème fraiche, mixing gently. Bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Stir gently after 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad and a glass of red wine.

O’Connell’s Warm Salad of Gubbeen Cheese and Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen Bacon

(courtesy of Rory o’Connell of Ballymaloe House)
Serves 6
15ml/1 tablesp. olive oil
350g/12oz streaky Gubbeen bacon or other streaky bacon
6 handfuls of mixed green leaves
55g/2oz Gubbeen or similar cheese, diced


45ml/3 tablesp. sunflower oil
45ml/3 tablesp. olive oil
5ml/1 teasp. Lakeshore Whole Grain Mustard or other whole grain mustard
30ml/2 tablesp. Fruit of the Vine Cider Vinegar or other cider vinegar
salt, pepper and sugar 

Heat a frying pan and add a little olive oil. When it is smoking, add the lardoons of bacon and fry until crisp. While the bacon is cooking, put all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk with a fork. Toss the leaves in the dressing and divide between six hot plates. The leaves should be just glistening with the dressing. Sprinkle the cubes of cheese around the leaves and finally the bacon straight from the pan. Serve immediately. 

Homemade Crackers

Makes 20-25 biscuits
225g (8oz) plain white flour
½ teasp. baking powder
½ teasp salt
25g (1oz) butter
1 tablesp. cream
about 5 tablesp.water

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2.

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

Roll out very thinly to 2mm (1/16 in). Prick with a fork. Cut into squares with a pastry wheel or sharp knife. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned and quite crisp. Cool on a wire rack. Serve with cheese.

Foolproof Food

Milleens with Pasta

Serves 4
225g/8oz grated Milleens or other rind-washed cheese
300ml/½ pint cream
a handful of fresh sage leaves
350g/12oz tagliatelle

Place the sage leaves in a saucepan and pour in the cream. Warm the cream, but be careful not to overheat. Allow to sit in a warm place until the cream has absorbed the flavour of the sage and then strain. Add the Milleens and, if necessary, warm gently and stir until the cheese has completely melted. Cook the tagliatelle until al dente. Pour the creamy sauce over the tagliatelle, mix and serve.

This dish stands alone, but can be made more substantial by the addition of ham, which has been cut into strips the same width as the pasta or alternatively some white or smoked fish or chopped cooked spinach, or some lightly cooked fennel.

Hot Tips 

CáIS Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Association is a voluntary association made up of over forty cheesemakers. Independently run and managed by the cheesemakers themselves, CáIS provides essential information, knowledge and networking opportunities for members.  

One of Ireland’s best known cheesemakers Mary Burns who makes Ardrahan, has recently launched a new product called Lullaby. Research in Finland has shown that the early morning milk has a higher level of melatonin which helps us to relax and sleep. This prompted Mary to bottle the milk from the cows that are milked at dawn, and to launch Lullaby which is already being hailed as a boon for those who have difficulty sleeping. Available in Cork at On the Pig’s Back in The English Market and the Quay Co-op, for details of other stockists coming onstream, Tel 029-78099.

Douglas Farmers Market
Started on 3rd July and will be held every Saturday in Douglas Community Centre from 9.30-1.30 – Frank Hederman’s Smoked Fish, Arbutus Bread, Catriona Daunt Organic Vegetables, Clodagh McKenna’s pates, Gubbeen cheese and bacon, Dan Aherne’s organic beef and chickens, Sonia Bower’s pickles, Oli O’Driscoll’s fresh fish and lots, lots more.

New Food Market in Dingle
From 9th July every Friday 9am-6pm – farm and organic produce


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