June and July are Sublime Months

For those of us who love food, June and July are sublime months when the fruit garden is bursting with produce begging to be enjoyed. How fortunate we are in Ireland to have the right climate to grow such an abundance of culinary treats. We’ve been enjoying green gooseberries and elderflower followed by strawberries for the past few weeks. This week we had the first raspberries and loganberries from Walsh’s farm across the road from the Cookery School. How fortunate we are, and everyone in Shanagarry village is, to have a wonderful farm so close that grows such a variety of produce. Juicy red rhubarb early in the year and very soon the tayberries and boysenberries will be ripe also – they are sublime just with a sprinkling of castor sugar and some pouring cream but also make a divine jam. I love to combine them with peaches – a marriage made in heaven, particularly if served with a good homemade vanilla ice cream.

I bought two little Jersey cows last year so we could have access to unpasteurised organic milk. We have been enjoying the thick pouring cream with Summer berries, in panna cotta and crème brulee. Homemade ice cream made with rich jersey cream reminds me of the flavour of ice cream we made when my father-in-law Ivan Allen had a Jersey herd at Ballymaloe. We serve it as a treat with fresh Summer berries.

This evening I’m going to serve Peach Melba, named for Dame Nellie Melba, a famous opera singer – how retro is that?! The combination of sugared peaches, fresh raspberry sauce and homemade ice cream is irresistible – the perfect ending to a Summer dinner party.

Peach Melba

This much abused recipe is one of the most delicious desserts of Summer when made with best quality home-made ice cream, sugared peaches or nectarines and a fresh raspberry sauce. Quite unlike the travesty which often is served as Peach Melba, consisting of 'well known brand' of ice cream and canned peaches smothered in a sauce made from thinned out jam and perhaps a bit of chocolate flake on top for extra excitement!
Home-made Vanilla Ice cream

Raspberry Coulis 

Sugared Peaches

Serve each guest some vanilla ice cream and sugared peaches with a little fresh raspberry sauce poured over the top.

Sugared Peaches or Nectarines

Serves 8
8 perfect ripe peaches
Castor sugar
Juice of 1-2 lemons

Put the peaches or nectarines into a deep bowl, cover them with boiling water, pour off the water and drop into iced water, peel immediately, slice into 5mm (1/4inch) slices removing the stone. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with castor sugar and lemon juice to toss.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice-cream

The Ballymaloe Ice-creams are very rich and very delicious, made on an egg mousse base with softly-whipped cream and flavourings added. Ice-creams made in this way have a smooth texture and do not need further whisking during the freezing period. They should not be served frozen hard. Remove from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 6-8

50g (2oz) sugar
100ml (4fl oz) water
2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic
2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
600ml (1pint) softly whipped cream

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the 'thread' stage, 106-113C/236F. It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Add vanilla essence and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick creamy white mousse. Fold the softly-whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

Raspberry Coulis

8 ozs (225 g) Raspberries
3-6 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons water
Lemon juice - optional

Make a syrup with sugar and water, cool and add to the raspberries. Liquidise and sieve, taste, sharpen with lemon juice if necessary. Store in a fridge.

Raspberry Jellies with Fresh Mint Cream

Makes 9-10
225g (8ozs) sugar
225ml (8 fl ozs) water

4 sprigs fresh mint
1 dessertspoon Framboise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 rounded teaspoon gelatine 
3 tablespoons water
450g (1 lb) fresh raspberries

Mint Cream
15 mint leaves approximate 
1 tablespoon lemon juice
150ml (5 fl ozs) cream
Mint leaves and Rapberries for garnish

9-10 round or oval moulds - 3fl.oz. capacity (2½x1¼ins/6.6x 3cm)

Make a syrup by bringing sugar, water and mint leaves slowly to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes, allow to cool, add Framboise and lemon juice.
Meanwhile brush the inside of the moulds with non scented oil, I use light peanut or sunflower oil

Sponge the gelatine in the water, then place the bowl in a pan of simmering water until the gelatine is completely dissolved. 
Remove the mint leaves from the syrup, then pour the syrup onto the gelatine. Add the raspberries and stir gently. Fill immediately into the lined moulds. Smooth them over the top so they won’t be wobbly when you unmould them onto a plate. Put them into the fridge and leave to set for 3-4 hours.

Meanwhile make the Mint cream.
Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the lemon juice, add the cream and stir, the lemon juice will thicken the cream. If the cream becomes too thick, add a little water.

To serve

Spread a little Mint cream on a chilled a white plate, unmould a raspberry jelly and place in the centre. Place five mint leaves on the mint cream around the jelly. Decorate with a few perfect raspberries, repeat with the other jellies. Serve chilled.

Strawberries in Balsamic Vinegar

Marcella Hazan first introduced me to this unlikely sounding combination, it takes a certain amount of courage to try it but believe me it makes strawberries taste exquisitely intense. Aceto Balsamico the aristocrat of Italian vinegars varies enormously, it is precious and expensive, buy the best one you can find and use it sparingly.
Serves 6

2 lbs (900g) strawberries
3-5 tablesp. castor sugar
1-2 tablesp. Balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico)

Shortly before serving, remove the hulls from the berries and cut in half lengthways. Sprinkle with sugar and toss gently. Just before serving add the balsamic vinegar and toss again. Serve immediately.

N.B. this recipe is not successful with wine or malt vinegars.

Summer Pudding

We actually make our Summer Pudding with cake but many people line the bowl with slices of white bread instead. I've used a mixture of fruit here, but it is also delicious made with black currants alone. Summer fruit salad with sweet geranium leaves also makes a successful filling, but you need to cook the black currants and red currants until they burst and then add the soft fruit. Remember to pour the fruit and syrup boiling into the sponge-lined bowl, otherwise the syrup won't soak through the sponge properly.
Serves 12 - 16

2 x 7 inch sponge cakes (see Foolproof Food recipe)

½ lb (225g) black currants
½ lb (225g) red currants
1 lb (450g) raspberries or ½ lb (225g) raspberries and ½ lb (225g) strawberries
21 ozs (580g) granulated sugar
24 fl ozs (680ml) water

3 pint (1.7 L) Plastic pudding bowl 

First make the sponge (see recipe). 

Cut each round of sponge in half, horizontally. Line the bowl with the cake, crusty side inwards. It doesn't matter if it looks quite patched, it will blend later.

Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil for 2 minutes, add the black currants and red currants and cook until the fruit bursts -about 3 or 4 minutes - then add the raspberries (and strawberries). Taste. Immediately, ladle some of the hot liquid and fruit into the sponge-lined bowl. When about half full, if you have scraps of cake put them in the centre. Then fill to the top with fruit. Cover with a layer of sponge. Put a plate on top and press down with a heavy weight. Allow to get cold. Store in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours before serving, but it will keep for 4 or 5 days.

To Serve: Unmould onto a deep serving dish and pour any left-over fruit and syrup over the top and around the side. Serve with lots of softly whipped cream.

Almond Meringue with Loganberries

Serves 6
1½ ozs (45g) almonds
2 egg whites 
4½ ozs (125g) icing sugar

½ pint (300ml) whipped cream
½ lb (225g) loganberries

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them up. They should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty. Mark two 7½ inch (19cm) circles on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the almonds. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 45 minutes or until set crisp and just brown on top. Allow to cool.

To Assemble

Sandwich the meringues together whipped cream and loganberries. Chill for some hours before serving. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream.
Garnish with little sprigs of mint or lemon balm.

Summer Fruit Salad in Lemongrass Syrup

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 
4oz (110g) Blackberries


14 oz (400g) sugar
16 fl oz (450ml) water

2 stalks of fresh lemongrass chopped or grated rind of two unwaxed lemons. Put all the freshly picked berries into a white china or glass bowl. Put the sugar, water and lemongrass 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 lemongrass. Serve chilled, with softly-whipped cream or Vanilla Ice-cream or alone.

Foolproof Food

Great Grandmother’s Cake

Use this delicious tender sponge unfilled for the Summer Pudding , or sandwich together with whipped cream and homemade raspberry jam or fresh raspberries as a delicious treat for tea.
6 ozs (175g) flour
6 ozs (175g) castor sugar
3 eggs
4½ ozs (125g) butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder


4 ozs (110gg) home-made raspberry jam
10 fl ozs (300ml) whipped cream
castor sugar to sprinkle

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sponge cake tins

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

Grease and flour the 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 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 flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

Sandwich together with homemade Raspberry Jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.

Hot tips :

Seasonal goodies:

British Queens are now in season. The best I’ve had this year have come from Mary and Patrick Walsh. For a selection of summer berries contact -

Mary & Patrick Walsh, Shanagarry, Co Cork. Tel. 021-4646836
Sunnyside Fruit Farm, Rathcormac, Co Cork. Tel. 025-36253
Nick Westendorf – Tel. 021-4771477

Visiting Galway this summer - perhaps for the Arts Festival or Race Week - see the revamped Eyre Square - enjoy the buzz of this cosmopolitan city.
Stroll down Quay Street and enjoy a delicious meal at Martine McDonagh’s award winning Quay Street Wine Bar and Restaurant (No 21)– Tel 091-565662, www.winebar.ie  info@winebar.ie 

Have a cocktail in the wonderfully glamorous g Hotel, designed by milliner Philip Treacy – stunning décor and friendly staff, overlooking Lough Atalia – www.theghotel.ie  - midweek ESPA spa breaks also available. Tel. 091-865200

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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