ArchiveMarch 2008


Hugh Fearnley -Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver’s recent campaign to highlight the fate of intensively produced chicken has helped to focus attention on the real price of cheap food in health, socio-economic and animal welfare terms. It doesn’t make easy viewing but the quality of the food we eat and feed our families is such an important issue that we simply cannot justify shrugging our shoulders and saying – we don’t care two tuppenny hoots as long as the end result is cheap food. It is difficult to justify putting animals or birds through unnecessary stress and suffering just to shave another few cents off the price. A free range organic chicken will cost you anything between 13 and 16 euros, whereas two intensively produced chickens, particularly those produced ‘off shore’ can be bought two for the for price of one for about €5.99 depending on size . By now many readers will be muttering ‘its all very fine for her’ – the perception is that I can afford it, but the reality is not about being able to afford it, its about priorities – we all make time and money for what we perceive to be important. Think about it, how much did you spend on booze or even magazines last week? How much did that mobile phone or those fancy runners cost? When we ask ourselves these questions we realize that it is all about our sense of values.

Every culture around the world has similar sayings about the importance of food to our very existence. “We are what we eat”, “Your health goes in through your mouth”, “Our food should be our medicine”….

Yet nowadays many of us do not connect the food we eat with how we feel and perform.

We shovel any kind of old rubbish into ourselves and then wonder why we aren’t feeling full of energy and vitality. We can’t do anything about our genes but we can certainly do something about the quality of the ‘fuel’ we put in the tank to keep ‘the machine’ ticking over.

An equally important question which neither Hugh nor Jamie posed, was what exactly is in the feed the birds are fed which enables them to grow at such astonishing speed?

Chicken is by far the cheapest and most popular meat, yet when I was a child, chicken, even though we reared our own, was a rare and truly delicious treat.

At that time farmers’ wives all over the country had a few laying hens and many reared birds for the table. The introduction of the deep litter and intensive production systems, in combination with stricter health and safety regulations, hastened the demise of the small flocks around the country. This time-honoured system had provided pin money and superb free range chicken and eggs for people in virtually every parish in Ireland .

I personally regret the loss of this type of production. It was, and can be again, part of our traditional food culture and our rural skill base.

Those of us who are part of the growing Farmers Market network, experience at first hand the deep craving and growing numbers of people who are seeking out this kind of food, and more importantly are prepared to pay for it.

The skill of rearing poultry is still in folk memory and I’ve been battling for some time now for a simple set of regulations that are proportionate to the risk involved and that would encourage and facilitate the re-establishment of this kind of local food production around the country.

Now that Minister Trevor Sargent is chairing the Artisan Industry Committee, I am hopeful that this vision can become a reality.

The older generation are the guardians of the traditional food production skills, lets learn from them before its too late.

If you would like to be able to rear birds in this way or have access to truly free range or free range organic birds, please log onto

We also have a course on ‘How to keep a few chickens in the garden’ on Saturday 19th April 2008.

Pan Grilled Chicken breasts with Parsley salad and Sundried tomatoes

Separate the fillet from the underneath side of the meat, cook separately or slice thinly at an angle and quickly stir-fry. The chicken breast cooks more evenly when the fillet is removed.

Serves 8

8 Chicken breasts

olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Basil Dressing

175ml (6fl.oz) extra-virgin olive oil

50ml (2fl.oz) white wine or rice wine vinegar

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

1 garlic clove

10-15 basil leaves

1 finely chopped shallot (optional)

Parsley Salad

4 handfuls destalked Italian and curly parsley

Worcester sauce

8 chopped sundried tomatoes

slivers of Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)

First make the dressing, whizz the basil with the oil, vinegar, shallots, garlic and seasoning in a liquidiser or food processor. Keep aside.

Just before serving cook the chicken breasts.

Heat a cast iron grill pan until quite hot. Brush each chicken breast with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill for about a minute, then reverse the angle to mark attractively, cook until golden

Brown on both sides. The grill pan may be transferred to a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Be careful not to overcook the chicken breasts, they will take approx. 15 minutes in total.

To Serve

Put a pan-grilled chicken breast on each plate. Toss the parsley in a little of the basil dressing, sprinkle with a little Worcester sauce. Put a portion of parsley on each plate, sprinkle with a few pieces of sundried tomato and slivers of Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately with Rustic roast potatoes or Buffalo chips.

Thai Chicken, Galangal and Coriander Soup

Serves 8

A particularly delicious example of how fast and easy a Thai soup can be. Serve in Chinese porcelain bowls if available. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal are served but not eaten. The chilli may of course be nibbled. Prawns and shrimp can be substituted for chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results.

900ml (32fl oz) homemade chicken stock (see recipe)

4 fresh lime leaves

2 inch (5cm) piece of galangal, peeled and sliced or less of fresh ginger

4 tablespoons Fish sauce ( Nam pla)

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

225g (8oz) free range organic chicken breast, very finely sliced

230ml (8fl oz) coconut milk (use CHAOKOH brand)

1-3 Thai red chillies

Fresh coriander leaves – about 5 tablespoons

Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice into a saucepan. Bring to the boil stirring all the time, add the finely shredded chicken and coconut milk. Continue to cook over a high heat until the chicken is just cooked 1-2 minutes approx. Crush the chillies with a knife or Chinese chopper add to the soup with some coriander leaves, cook for just a few seconds. Ladle into hot chinese bowls and serve immediately.

Note: We usually use one red Thai chilli – number depends on your taste and how hot

the chillies are.

Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also delicious added to this soup – hey presto, you have a main course. Serve in wide pasta bowl with lots of fresh coriander scattered over the top.

Top Tip: Fresh lime leaves are not available in every village shop so buy them anytime you spot them and pop them into a bag in your freezer.

Foolproof Food

Roast Chicken Pasta with Portobello Mushrooms and Pancetta

Serves 8

Bubbly super chef Merrilees Parker did this yummy recipe when she came to teach at the school in April 2004, we have adapted it somewhat but it really was her idea. A great recipe for using up delicious morsels of roast chicken – be sure to include the crispy skin. Alternatively use pan-grilled chicken breasts.

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

225g (8oz) pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, rind removed and cut into 1cm (¼ inch) lardons

500g (16oz) spaghetti or linguine

150ml (½ ) pint double cream

225g (8oz) sliced Portobello or field mushrooms

12oz (¾lb) leftover roast chicken or pangrilled chicken breast, coarsely shredded

2 tablespoons thyme leaves (preferably lemon thyme) or annual marjoram

110g (4oz) mixed salad leaves – rocket or baby spinach leaves would be terrific, roughly chopped

110g (4ozs) freshly grated Parmesan

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring 5.7 litres (10 pints) of water to the boil in a large saucepan, add 2 tablespoons of salt. Then curl in the pasta, stir gently. Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cover with a tight fighting lid and leave the pasta to cook for 5 minutes approximately until al dente.

Meanwhile heat a wok or a large heavy frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and then the bacon lardons. Cook over a high heat for 4-5minutes until really crispy. Remove to a plate. Add the remaining oil and the sliced mushrooms. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook for a further 3-4 minutes over a high heat.

Drain the pasta. Tip into the wok or frying pan on top of the mushrooms. Add the crispy bacon, thyme leaves or marjoram and coarsely shredded chicken and toss really well. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the cream into the pan, bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning then toss thoroughly again.

Finally add the fresh leaves and half the Parmesan, mixing gently. Give the dish one last toss and serve immediately in warmed deep bowls with the remaining Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Sticky Chicken Thighs with Soy and Ginger sauce

Serves 10


225ml (8fl oz) soy sauce

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

3 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon peeled and finely grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1-2 chillies finely chopped

10 free range and organic chicken thighs


Cucumber wedges

Spicy green salad (see recipe)

Sweet chilli sauce

Lime wedges

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl or pie dish. Slash the skin of the chicken thighs. Put into a pie dish, cover with the marinade and turn well to coat. Cover and keep refrigerated for at least an hour or even overnight.

To serve:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 4. Drain the chicken pieces and save the marinade for basting. Arrange skin side up in a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes approximately and then baste every 10 minutes or so with some of the extra marinade.

Serve with cucumber wedges about 6cm (2 1/2 inches) long and cut at an angle, spicy green salad, lime wedges and a bowl of sweet chilli sauce for dipping.

Spicy Green Salad

Sweet and sour dressing:

2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons castor sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Nam pla (fish sauce)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 handful fresh coriander leaves

1 handful flat parsley leaves

1/2 handful mint leaves

4 spring onions, white and green part, sliced at an angle

4 finely shredded kaffir lime leaves (optional)

1-2 large red chillies thinly sliced

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and stir to dissolve. Continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, or until it becomes liquid. Remove from the heat and add the fish sauce and freshly squeezed lime juice. Pour into a jam jar or small bowl.

Put the coriander, parsley and mint leaves into a bowl, add the sliced spring onions, shredded kaffir lime leaves and thinly sliced chilli.

Just before serving toss with enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Serve as soon as possible.

Hot Tips

First Waterford Festival of Food

Will take place from 11-13th April in Dungarvan. Friday opening ceremony with Minister Cullen in Town Hall, followed by food trails in local restaurants, special menus featuring local producers.

Saturday will have seminars with top chefs and food writers – Richard Corrigan, Paul Flynn, Regina Sexton, Biddy White-Lennon, Eunice Power. Workshops and story telling for younger food fans. Sunday – Farmers Market Extravaganza in Grattan Square launched by Darina Allen. www.waterfordfestivaloffoodcom for further information or tel 058-21104

Wild Garlic is now in Season

Pick it in the wild or at the Farmers Market in Mahon Point on Thursday or Midleton on Saturday.

Look out for the heritage Blue Potatoes exclusive to Superquinn for a limited period

First grown in Scotland a century ago, these potatoes were re-introduced in a limited edition recently by Peter Keogh & Sons Cream of the Crop, a Dublin potato growing and packaging company. The have a dark purple skin and deep indigo-blue flesh and retain their colour when cooked. They have a nutty taste and steam and fry well.


Chocolate is inextricably linked with the Easter celebration, so in this weekend’s column I’ll focus on chocolate, one of the most exciting ingredients in the chef and cook’s repertoire.

Gone are the days when ‘scotchoc’ was our only option, unlike many other ingredients the quality and availability of chocolate seems to get better and better. As the consumer gets rapidly more sophisticated, the demand for dark chocolate has for the first time outstripped milk chocolate. Specialist chocolatiers are sourcing quality cocoa beans from around the world, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Chocolate is now talked about in the same way as fine wines.

The botanical name for the cocoa tree is Theobroma Cacao meaning ‘food of the gods’.

It grows in a narrow band around the world, 20º on either side of the Equator. The cocoa pods begin life as tiny white flowers emerging directly from the trunk and lower branches of the tree.

They gradually swell and ripen to form beautiful large pods which contain 30-40 seeds or beans nestled into white pulp.

Criollo, Forastro and Trinitario are the main varieties, each has its own unique and distinctive flavour. Virtually no other food has such a variety of complex flavours – a mind blowing 300 chemical compounds and 400 aromas have been identified in the cocoa bean.

Apart from its addictive flavour, the health-giving benefits of chocolate have been recognized for centuries and more recent research has proved beyond doubt that really good quality chocolate not only alters the mood and evokes happiness, but also gives an adrenalin rush more potent than coffee or tea. Not only is chocolate high in minerals – magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, iron and calcium, but it is high in antioxidants which we are told help to reduce heart disease and cancer.

Seek out a good brand of chocolate and preferably Fair Trade also – there are lots of names- Valrhona, Green & Black, Menier, Suchard, Lindt, Callebaut, Leonidas….. Choose chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. Milk: at least 10% cocoa mass and at least 12% milk solids. Dark: 50-70% cocoa solids. White Chocolate is not strictly speaking a chocolate, it contains no cocoa mass and is merely a mixture of cocoa butter, sugar and flavouring, buy the best quality otherwise it will be difficult to melt.

Melting chocolate

Good chocolate melts beautifully but be careful not to overheat.

Chocolate needs to be melted with great care. It burns easily and is then irretrievable. White chocolate is particularly sensitive.

Below is the method that we use: Break the chocolate into even-size pieces. Put into a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of water and bring slowly to almost simmer­ing point. Turn off the heat immediately and allow the bowl to sit over the saucepan. The water must not boil as the chocolate softens. Stir occasionally. Do not allow even a drop of water to get into the chocolate or chocolate will block or seize. If this happens no amount of stirring will remedy the situation however if a few drops of vegetable oil or clarified butter are added it will loosen the mixture to the extent that it can be blended with other ingredients.

Note: If you need a large quantity of chocolate, do it in batches.

Chocolate may also be melted in the microwave in a pyrex or plastic bowl. Different brands melt at different rates.

A new book for chocolate lovers called ‘101 Best Loved Chocolate Recipes’ has just been published by Hotel Chocolat – it includes favourite recipes from some well known chefs worldwide. Here is a selection from the book.

No-bake Chocolate Slice – Australian Women’s Weekly

24 slices

90g butter, in pieces, plus extra to grease

200g white marshmallows

1 tbsp water

200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

125g digestives or rich tea biscuits, coarsely chopped

125g glacé cherries, halved

75g roasted hazelnuts, halved

50g walnut halves, broken into pieces


200g dark chocolate

60g butter

Grease two shallow 8cm x 25cm oblong baking tins (or plastic containers with similar dimensions).

Line the bases and sides with baking parchment, allowing the paper to extend 2cm above the long edges.

Put the marshmallows, water and butter into a medium saucepan and stir constantly over a low heat until the marshmallows have melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the biscuits, cherries and nuts, and stir gently until evenly combined.

Divide the mixture between the baking tins and spread evenly (do not crush the biscuits). Cover and chill for 1 hour.

For the topping, melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over simmering water. Stir until smooth and let cool slightly. Spread the mixture evenly over the no-bake slices and chill for 1 hour or until firm.

Lift the chocolate slices out of the tins, using the paper, then peel off the lining paper. Cut each slice into 12 pieces.

Jane Suthering’s Chocolate Mud Pie

Serves 10-12


125g plain flour

15g cocoa powder

40g icing sugar

75g unsalted butter

1 egg yolk


175g dark chocolate

175g unsalted butter

175g light or dark muscovado sugar

2 tsp instant coffee powder

3 eggs, plus 1 egg white

142ml carton whipping cream

100g pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Whiz all the ingredients for the pastry in a food processor to make a firm dough. Roll out thinly and use to line a 25cm fluted flan tin – use all the pastry and don’t worry if you have to patch it! Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas5

Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the filling, slowly melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a very low heat. Take off the heat and beat in the remaining ingredients.

Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for about 25 minutes until lightly risen and just firm. Leave to go cold before serving, sliced into wedges.

Alastair Hendy’s Swiss Chocolate Cake

8-12 slices

180g butter, plus extra to grease

210g shelled, skinned hazelnuts

20g plain flour

280g, dark, bitter chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), in pieces

200g caster sugar

6 medium eggs, separated

To serve:

Icing sugar

Whipped whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Grease a 24cm springform cake tin. Scatter the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 8 minutes until they smell lightly toasted. Tip onto a plate and allow to cool, then grind the nuts to fine crumbs and mix with the flour.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (making sure the water isn’t in contact with the bowl) and leave until melted, then take off the heat.

Beat 130g of the sugar with the butter and egg yolks until pale and creamy. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar until stiff. Mix the melted chocolate with the egg yolk and sugar mixture, then gently mix the hazelnut flour mixture through this. Finally fold through the beaten egg whites.

Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around 60-70 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin a little, then transfer to a wire rack and dust with icing sugar – don’t fret if the cake sinks a little and cracks, its all part of the charm. Eat slices tidal-waved with whipped cream.

Anne Willan’s Chocolate Tartlets

With candied orange

Candied orange zest and a luscious dark chocolate ganache form the filling for these stunning tartlets. Serve them within a few hours of making – for afternoon tea or as in indulgent dessert.

Makes 8


175g plain flour, plus extra to dust

½ tsp salt

100g caster sugar

3 medium egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g butter, in pieces, slightly softened


4 oranges

150g sugar

250g dark chocolate (about 60% cocoa solids), chopped

125ml double cream

90g butter

2 tbsp Grand Marnier

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a mound on the work surface and make a well in the centre. Put the salt, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract and butter into the well and work these ingredients together with the fingertips of one hand until thoroughly mixed and the sugar is partially dissolved. Gradually draw in the flour until the dough comes together, then knead lightly until smooth. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Pare the zest from the oranges with a swivel peeler and cut into fine julienne strips, using a large knife. Put the orange zest strips in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then drain.

Squeeze the juice from the oranges and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and heat gently until dissolved, then bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the julienne zest and lower the heat. Simmer very gently, without stirring, until the zests are translucent and very tender, and almost all the liquid has evaporated; this will take 30-40 minutes. If the pan appears to be becoming a little dry before they are done, add a little water. Lift out the julienne with a slotted spoon, spread them on a sheet of baking parchment and leave to cool and dry. Strain the syrup and set 2 tbsp aside in a small pan.

Heat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and butter eight 8cm tartlet tins. Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each one into a ball, roll out to a 10cm round and trim the edges with a 10cm pastry cutter. Line the tartlet tins with the pastry rounds, pressing well into the base. Prick the bases with a fork and chill until firm, about 15 minutes.

If you have more tartlet tins, place a second one in each pastry case, so it keeps its shape during baking. Otherwise, line the cases with greaseproof paper and dried beans or rice to weight it down. Set the tins on a baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until the cases are golden brown and cooked. Leave to cool in the tins, then carefully remove.

To assemble, reserve about 2 tbsp of the orange zest julienne for decoration. Chop the rest, and spread evenly in the tartlet cases.

For the ganache filling, tip the chocolate into a small bowl. Put the cream, butter and reserved 2 tbsp orange syrup into a pan and heat gently until the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then pour onto the chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute until melted. Stir the mixture until smooth, then stir in the Grand Marnier.

Pour this ganache into the tartlet cases, covering the orange zest completely and filling the cases almost to the rim. Tap gently on the work surface to level the ganache. Leave the tartlets at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes, but don’t refrigerate. Just before serving, top with the reserved candied orange zest.

Foolproof food

Rose Elliot’s Berry Skewers with White Chocolate Sauce

Makes 20

200g mixed berries (such as small strawberries, large blueberries, raspberries)

White Chocolate Sauce:

100g white chocolate, in pieces

120ml double cream

To make the sauce, melt the chocolate, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Put into a small serving bowl and set aside to cool.

Spear one or two berries onto each of 20 small wooden skewers or cocktail sticks – enough for a mouthful. Arrange the skewers around the bowl of dip and serve.

Hot Tips

Joy Larkcom, renowned vegetable gardener, horticulturist and garden writer will be the Guest Speaker at the next meeting of Ladysbridge & District Flower & Garden Club at Garryvoe Hotel, Garryvoe, Co Cork on Monday 31st March at 8pm – all welcome, non-members €10 – come and see how to grow vegetables and salad crops creatively – slides will be shown.

EUROPAIN 2008, the International trade show for the bakery, patisserie and ice cream industry, will open its doors from March 29th to April 2nd at PARIS PORTE NORD VILLEPINTE. With an overall exhibition area of 80 000 m2, EUROPAIN 2008 will bring together more than 600 exhibitors from 32 countries. Register on-line

Feale Valley Slow Food Convivium

A celebration of Food through Literature on Sunday April 6th from 2-5pm at the Seanchai Centre in The Square, Listowel, where the lives of North Kerry’s most famous writers are celebrated. Drinks reception and tour of the centre followed by a buffet lunch featuring locally-sourced food and the best of local entertainment in song and story. Tickets Members €30, non members €35

Trish Deseine

Trish Deseine has taken France by storm.  In just six years she has scaled the heights of culinary endeavour in France with a series of lavishly illustrated books that have captured the imagination of food fans and critics alike.    She has been described as a “phénomène editorial” by French Elle and “the new queen of French cookery book publishing” by L’Express.
In France, the ultimate chauvinistic country, it is highly unusual for a woman to have such a dramatic effect on domestic cooking especially when not even French.  Trish is Irish – in other words, an outsider has taken on the most sophisticated, competitive and macho field, and won over a nation with a simple no-nonsense approach to everyone’s most basic need.
The appeal of Trish’s cooking is that it is like real life – she admits to shifting from triumph to disaster all the time.  She knows that not everyone owns a Magi-mix, few have the time or inclination to make stock from scratch, and fewer still have a garden bursting with herbs.  It’s these ‘limitations’ that Trish works around.  No one suffers from cooking crises of confidence while reading Trish Deseine.  But everyone swoons as she describes the joys of cooking with huge pats of butter and full cream.
Trish Deseine was born in Belfast in 1964 and went on to read French and Linguistics at Edinburgh University.  Trish moved to Paris in 1987 where she worked with the fashion retailer French Connection.  She married in 1990 and worked for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as Southern European Marketing and Press Executive for eight years.
In 2000, she set up Au Comptoir des Chefs, a business to sell her favourite product – chocolate.  So successful was this venture, that publishers Marabout commissioned her to write a book, the result, Petits plats entre amis (2000) won the prestigious Ladurée and Seb prizes, sold over 100,000 copies and has since been translated into five languages.
Her second book Je veux du chocolat (2002) now translated into 7 languages, won a World Gourmand Award and sold over 300,000 copies.  Subsequent books including Fêtes Maison (2003) about ultra-modern party food themed by colour; J’en veux encore (2004) on food for children; and Du caramel plein la bouche (2005) a celebration of all things caramel, have all been best sellers.   Her small format books – Trifles, Best of Chocolate – and Bonbons Forever have become hip that they sell alongside clothes by Nicholas Ghesquière and Alexander McQueen in Paris’ most fashionable boutique – Colette.
Her latest book has instructive chapters such as ‘Shops Wisely’, ‘Knows her Classics’, ‘Steals from chefs’ and ‘Rises to the Occasion’, this book will both charm and inform.  Trish teaches us how we can take a feuille out of the archetypal French woman’s livre  from the classic dinner party recipes to the latest trends as well as how to tackle difficult ingredients such as truffles and lobster.   An affectionate but unsentimental, irreverent but non-patronising cookbook – a fresh new talent who deserves to be better known in her home country , now that I’ve found one of her books I’m desperate to find the others.
Coincidentally Trish called in to the school recently and I’ve managed to persuade her to come and teach a course here in September.   Here are some recipes I’ve enjoyed.

Lamb Spare Ribs with Méchoui flavours – Travers d’agneau façon méchoui


Le méchoui, or kharouf machwi in Arabic, is a traditional North African way of slowly roasting a small animal (goat, sheep or lamb), flavoured with spices and basted constantly, over a wood fire on an open spit.   It is a popular way of feeding the multitudes at large French summer gatherings.  This is my quick-fix version.

For 4-5

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pinch of saffron strands, optional

Harissa Paste, to taste


I kg of lamb ribs

Grind together all the ingredients except for the lamb ribs, using a pestle and mortar or in a mini food-processor.  Smear the paste all over the lamb and leave it to absorb the flavours for an hour or so.

Heat the grill of your oven to hot or set up your barbecue, and cook the meat for 20-30 minutes, turning it regularly.

Serve with fresh salad vegetables or taboulé

Baby Leek and Reblochon pie – Tarte au poireaux et reblochon


This also works well with baby red onions or spring onions

For 4

About 20 baby leeks

4 squares of ready-rolled puff pastry – about 15 x 15 cm each

1 ‘ ripe’ reblochon cheese (or you could use camembert, or saint nectaire or anything creamy or pungent

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4

Blanch the leeks in boiling water for about 5 minutes.  Drain and cool.

With the tip of a sharp knife, but without cutting through the pastry completely, score a square about 2cm in from the edge of the pastry for each piece.  This will make the sides puff up more when cooking.

Slice the cheese finely and set the slices in the centre of each pastry square.  Spread the crème fraîche over the cheese and then set the leeks on the cream, lining them up evenly – cut off their tops if they are untidily reaching over the edge of the pastry.  Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the cheese bubbling into the cream.

Serve with a crisp salad.

Pigs cheeks braised in cider – Joues de porc braises au cidre


For 6-8



2 tablesp olive oil, plus extra for frying

50g butter

1 kg pig’s cheeks

4-5 shallots

750ml dry cider

200g button mushrooms

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based casserole with a lid.  Brown the meat with the shallots for a few minutes, then pour over the cider and scrap the bottom of the pan to deglaze, bring to the boil and cover.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes.

Some 20 minutes before serving, fry up the mushrooms in a little olive oil and add them to the casserole.

Serve with fresh ribbon pasta.



Nougat and honey ice cream – Nougat glace au mile


For 6


50g whole blanched almonds

30g whole hazelnuts or walnuts

30g pine nuts

50g candied fruit, such as cherries, orange and lemon peel, and angelica, plus extra for decoration

3 egg whites

2 tablespoons runny honey, preferably a flavoured one such as lavender, rosemary or thyme

300ml very chilled whipping cream or whippable double cream

For the coulis:

300g fresh or frozen raspberries

75g sugar

Roughly chop the nuts and the candied fruits.  Try to vary the size of the pieces, and leave some whole.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Heat the honey in a saucepan until it caramelises slightly.  Pour it hot onto the egg whites then whisk for a further 2 minutes.

Whip the cream until it is stiff, add the nuts and fruit and fold the mixture gently into the beaten egg whites.

Pour the whole lot into a small loaf tin or a silicone mould and freeze for at least 12 hours.

Cook the raspberries with the sugar to a jam-like consistency.  Cool completely before serving with the nougat.

Exotic Fruit Crumble – Crumble aux fruits exotiques


For  8-10



1 pineapple

40g butter, cold and cut into cubes

3 bananas

2 mangoes (frozen and peeled)

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons rum

For the crumble:

125g plain flour

125g cold butter

125g brown sugar

80g dessicated coconut


Peel the pineapple, take out the hard middle part and cut it into chunks.   In a saucepan, melt the butter and cook the pineapple for about 10 minutes.   Add the bananas and mangoes, cut into thick slices.  Add the vanilla seeds,the sugar and a little water if the fruit looks a bit dry.  Generally the moisture from the mangoes is enough.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Put the flour, butter, brown sugar and coconut in the bowl of your food-processor.  Mix until the crumble forms.  It should look like coarse breadcrumbs.  Keep an eye on it in case it becomes lumpy.  Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Mix the rum into the fruits.

Butter a gratin dish and sprinkle some sugar into it.  Put the cooked fruit in and cover with the crumble.   Cook for about 30 minutes until the crumble is golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Pizza – Pizza au Chocolat

For 6



1 ready-made round pizza base

Dark chocolate spread, or Nutella

Dried and sugared fruit (candied orange peel, dates, candied pineapple…..)

Fresh fruit (clementines, pineapple, apple……)

Pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Unroll the pizza base onto a baking tray and cook it for about 5 minutes until it starts to crisp up.

Remove from the oven and spread with chocolate.   Dot the candied and fresh fruit over the pizza.   Sprinkle with pine nuts and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until the chocolate and fruit are hot.   Serve the pizza straight from the oven.

Hot Tips

Trish Deseine will be Guest Chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School for a 1 day Course on Monday 15th September – Tel 021-4646785



As part of Fairtrade Fortnight and to highlight Midleton’s move to become a Fairtrade town, two cocoa bean farmers from Ghana will visit Midleton today – the growers are members of a cooperative whose cocoa beans end up in the Divine chocolate range. The Fairtrade producers will be at the entrance to Hurley’s Super Valu from 10.30-12.00 today Sat 8th March.   Sample some of the best chocolate with a clear conscience and enjoy the festival atmosphere with attractions for children and ‘real’ bananas walking through the Farmer’s Market. 


 Patrick’s Day Dinner at La Fromagerie in London

Thursday 13th March 2008 at 7.30pm Moxon St.

We thought we would start the celebrations a few days early in preparation for the St Patrick’s Days parade The evening begins at 7.30pm with aperitifs including Black Velvets, followed by a dinner of fine Irish fare including Irish smoked salmon with Potato Pancake & Ryefield fresh goats cheese, followed by Irish Spring Lamb Stew with Colcannon. For dessert we will be making Irish whiskey soaked Portercake Icecream. Finishing with a tutored tasting of Irish cheeses with Patricia. If you still have space after all that, maybe an Irish coffee to finish? Tickets to this four course supper incl. wines £70.00 pp.
Please telephone the shop to make a reservation: 0207 9350341 or download a booking form


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