ArchiveMay 2008

Sometimes a broody hen hatches out a clutch of chickens secretly in the ditch and arrives in proudly with them all clustered around her. So far none this year, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. This week we’ve just had some little chicks hatch out in the incubator in the shed. Twenty one days ago we filled it with a mixture of fertilized eggs from a variety of fowl – Marans, Araucana, Rhode Island Red, Light Sussex. Three weeks later it’s not just the kids who are excited when they start to cheep and peck their way out of the shells.
Everyone clusters around cooing and snapping shots of the cute little chicks, some still damp and scraggly from the shells. After 24 hours they are transferred to the Palais des Poulets, where they keep warm under a lamp until they are hardy enough to be able to scratch and forage for themselves outside. After about five months they’ll be starting to lay a variety of different coloured eggs – the marrans produce deep brown speckledy eggs, light Sussex – white, the araucana lay true blue eggs which are always a kitchen talking point.
No eggs will ever taste better or be fresher than the eggs from your own hens and there’s also the feel good factor – food miles are non –existent and the food scraps from the house can be fed to the hens who return the compliment by rewarding you with eggs a few days later, a delicious holistic system.
For anyone with a tiny garden with even a scrap of lawn, space shouldn’t be a problem. Hens come in two sizes, large fowl and bantams which are quarter of the size and they can be decorative as well as functional.
Provide as much space as is feasible, a mobile ark is a good idea. There are a variety of houses available from the tiny Eglu hen houses and movable arks to larger portable hen houses.
If you move the ark and run around every few days, three or four hens will be happy on even a small patch of grass. Don’t worry about annoying the neighbours, your hens will be quite happy without a cockerel , they will also lay eggs but they won’t produce chicks.
It takes less than ten minutes a day to look after your poultry and can provide hours of pleasure watching their antics. Don’t forget to give your neighbours a present of a few of your beautiful eggs from time to time, so they will be happy to look after your flock when you are on holiday!
From the cook’s point of view, the quality of the eggs makes an enormous difference to one’s cooking. Sponges and scones are lighter and more delicious, homemade mayonnaise emulsifies in seconds, even boiled eggs are different. For many they taste like a forgotten flavour, a simple hard-boiled egg becomes like a gourmet experience. Eggs are enormously nutritious and still incredible value at €3 – €3.50 for 6. Two or three boiled or poached for supper with some good soda bread will leave you feeling full and satisfied and cost a fraction of some of the other proteins.
This week I’m suggesting a few of my favourite egg recipes, many of which are dinner party fare, including a couple of delicious summery salads.
For eglu hen houses –

Canice Sharkey’s Rocket, Chorizo and hard-boiled egg salad

Serves 6

A delicious combination, good as a starter or main course for a summer lunch.

6 freshly laid organic eggs
6 tiny or 3 medium beetroots, cooked, peeled and quartered.
6-8oz (175-225g) chorizo, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil

A piece of aged Coolea, Desmond or Gabriel cheese
A mixture of salad leaves, cos, little gem, purslane, rocket leaves.

Home made mayonnaise

Vinaigrette made with:
3 tablesp extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp red wine vinegar
A little Dijon mustard
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Boil the eggs in well-salted water for 6-7 minutes. Drain, cover with cold water to stop the cooking.

To prepare the beetroot, leave 5cm (2 inch) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked when the skins rub off easily and when they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a bowl.

Just before serving, heat a little olive oil in a pan, over a medium heat cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two until they warm through and the oil begins to run.
Meanwhile toss the salad leaves in a little dressing and arrange on the base of the serving plate. Peel the eggs and cut lengthways, the centres should be still soft (they will be best if still warm). Arrange haphazardly on top of the leaves. Tuck beetroot quarters in between the leaves and sprinkle the slices of chorizo over the salad. Grate some hard cheese over the top. Drizzle the salad with the chorizo oil from the pan and serve immediately with lots of crusty sour dough bread and some homemade mayonnaise.

Classic Parmesan and Gruyère Cheese Soufflé

Serves 8-10
Guests are always wildly impressed by a well risen soufflé and believe me its not rocket science so don’t imagine for one moment that you can’t do it – a soufflé is simply a well flavoured sauce enriched with egg yolks and lightened with stiffly beaten egg. Soufflés are much more good humored than you think and can even be frozen when they are ready for the oven. The French do infinite variations on the theme, both sweet and savoury. I love to make this recipe with some of the best Farmhouse cheese eg: Desmond or Gabriel or a mature Coolea

For the moulds:
Melted butter
15g (½ oz) Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is best) – optional
45g (1½ oz) butter
30g (1 oz) flour
300ml (½ pint) milk
4 eggs, preferably free range and organic
55g (2 oz) Gruyere cheese, finely grated
55g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 individual soufflé dishes, 7cm (2¾ inch) diameter x (4cm)1½ inch high or one large dish 15cm (6 inch) diameter x 6.5cm (2½inch) high.

First prepare the soufflé dish or dishes: brush evenly with melted butter and if you like dust with a little freshly grated Parmesan.
Preheat the oven to 200º C/400º F /gas mark 6 and warm a baking sheet. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes. Draw off the heat and whisk in the milk, return to the heat, whisk as it comes to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large copper, glass or stainless steel bowl, making sure it’s spotlessly clean and dry. Whisk the yolks one by one into the white sauce, add the cheese, season with salt, pepper, cayenne and a little freshly ground nutmeg. It should taste hugely seasoned at this because the egg whites will dull the seasoning. Stir over a gentle heat for just a few seconds until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. (can be made ahead up to this point)
Whisk the egg whites with a little pinch of salt, slowly at first and then faster until they are light and voluminous and hold a stiff peak when you lift up the whisk. Stir a few tablespoons into the cheese mixture to lighten it and then carefully fold in the rest with a spatula or tablespoon. Fill the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or dishes (if you fill them ¾ full you will get about 10 but if you smooth the tops you will have about 8). Bake in a preheated oven for 8-9 minutes for the individual soufflés or 20-25 minutes. For the large one you will need to reduce the temperature to moderate, 180ºC / 350º F /gas mark 4, after 15 minutes and a bain marie is a good idea.
Serve immediately.

Top Tip: If you fill the soufflé dishes to the top smooth off with a palette knife then run a washed thumb around the edge of the dishes before they go into the oven to help to get the ‘top hat’ effect when the soufflé is well risen.
Individual frozen soufflés can be baked from the frozen but they will take a few minutes longer to cook.

Cheese Soufflés with salad leaves:
Just before the soufflés are cooling, toss a mixture of salad leaves and divide between the plates.

Son-In-Laws Eggs Khai Loog Kheoy

Wasinee Beech, the lovely Thai cook who has taught at the Ballymaloe Cookery School gave me this family recipe.

Serves 6

6 free range eggs
5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
100g (3 ½ oz) minced free-range pork
5 fresh shitake or dried Chinese mushrooms, sliced.
2 tablespoons palm sugar or soft brown sugar
2 tablepoons nam pla fish sauce
5 tablespoons tamarind juice (see below)
125ml (4floz) of water
1 tablespoons lemon juice
3 spring onions, sliced into lcm (½ inch) long pieces
8 shallots, sliced thinly and fried with crispy in oil
2 dry red chillies, fry in a little oil or roast until fragrant but do not burn

To serve: Arjard Thai Cucumber Salad (see recipe)

Cook the eggs gently in boiling salted water for 7 minutes. Drain and cover with cold water. When cool, shell and set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a wok, add the cooked and shelled eggs and fry until golden brown on all sides. Transfer the crispy fried eggs to a serving dish. Cut each egg in half and arrange nicely.

Clean the wok and heat the rest of the oil. Stir-fry the garlic until golden.
Add the minced pork and sliced shitake or Chinese mushrooms. Stir and fry until the pork is cooked.

Add the palm sugar, nam-pla, tamarind juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice. If more liquid is required, add a little bit of water from soaking the mushrooms.

Taste and correct seasoning. Add the spring onions, give a quick stir and spoon the sauce over the arranged eggs. Top with crispy shallots and chillies. Serve with plain boiled rice and Arjard.

Note: If using dried mushrooms, put into a bowl, cover with warm water and allow to soak for 15-30 minutes. Cut the shallots lengthwise as they do in Asia.

Tamarind juice: Put a 2oz lump of tamarind in a small bowl. Cover with 125ml (4floz) of warm water. Allow to soak for a minimum of 15 minutes and squeeze the stones from the bulb with your fingers. Then press through a sieve into another bowl.

Arjard Thai Cucumber Salad

Serves 4-6

1 cucumber, quartered and sliced thinly
2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise
1 red chilli, seeded and ringed thinly, sliced into rings
1 green chilli, seeded and sliced into rings

3-4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. When cool, pour the marinade over the cucumber.

Soft Hard-Boiled Eggs with Lettuce and Anchovies

I recently came across this recipe of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s in the Guardian Weekend – delicious and simple – A pared-down version of the classic niçoise, which places a bit more emphasis on the eggs.

Serves 4

2-4 lettuces (ideally a combination of cos/romaine and butterhead)
6 eggs, at room temperature
Olive oil
A pinch of sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 anchovies

Wash and gently dry the lettuce. Tear the larger leaves in half and put them in a salad bowl. The eggs should be what I call soft hard-boiled, ie, the whites completely set but the yolks just a bit runny in the middle. I achieve this pretty reliably by putting the eggs in a pan of hand-hot water, bringing it quickly to the boil and cooking them for exactly four minutes (five if they are extra large). Then I run them under the cold tap and peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle.

Mix the oil and the vinegar in a ratio of 5:1, adding a pinch of sugar, a dab of mustard and some salt and pepper. Shake it up in a jar. Roughly chop the still-warm eggs and put them on top of the lettuce. Chop the anchovies and scatter over the eggs, then drizzle over the dressing. Serve at once.

Foolproof Food
Egg white Omelette

Calorie free!!
Serves 1

4 egg whites preferably free range organic
salt and freshly ground pepper (careful with the salt)
2 tbs of freshly chopped herbs eg parsley, chives, tarragon, thyme or rosemary.
Your chosen filling (optional)

1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil
omelette pan, preferably non stick, 23cm (9 inch) diameter

Warm a plate in the oven. Whisk the eggs whites in a bowl, just enough to break up the albumen with a fork or whisk. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the warm plate beside the cooker.

Heat the omelette pan over a high heat – add the clarified butter or oil, it should sizzle immediately. Pour in the egg mixture. It will start to cook instantly so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with a metal spoon or spatula, tilting the pan so that the uncooked mixture runs to the sides 4 maybe 5 times. Continue until most of the egg is set and will not run any more, the centre will still be soft and slightly under cooked at this point but will continue to cook on the plate. If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line across the centre at this point.

To fold the omelette: Flip the edge just below the handle of the pan into the centre, then hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again, then half roll half slide the omelette onto the plate so that it lands folded in three. (It should not take more than 30 seconds in all to make the omelette, perhaps 45 if you are adding a filling).

Hot Tips

This weekend the West of Ireland’s favourite family festival is back: Féile na Tuaithe – Turlough Park takes place at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 May 2008. Now in its fourth year, this free festival has proved itself to be a favourite with all members of the family attracting up to 12,000 visitors over the two days. Artisan food has been a part of the festival since the beginning, but this year there is a dedicated marquee with more stalls to meet demand and interest. E-mail:

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – next meeting Thursday 29th May 7.30pm
At Crawford Gallery Café, Cork -€6 including tea, coffee etc.
Allotments and Community Gardens – What is the present situation? Is there more demand? Where can more allotments be located? What is the Council’s role? What is their future? – speakers Mick Mack of Cork Greenmap, Councillor Chris O’Leary Green Party, Elinor Rivers of Mandala Gardens and Zweena McCullough of the Hydro Allotments – all welcome.

Darina Allen is going to Castlefarm, near Athy, Co Kildare to celebrate a year of great local food. She will attend Castlefarm Shop’s first birthday barbeque on Sunday afternoon June 1st. This local food celebration feast will include an organic pig on a spit and a smorgasbord of Castlefarm and locally produced food. There will also be cheese and cream making demonstrations and for the competitive a welly throwing competition. On the day local cheesemaker Elizabeth Bradley will demonstrate cheese making and we will be making cream from our own milk. Tickets are available at €20 per person and can be booked by calling Castlefarm Shop at 059-8636948 or email

We were at a wonderfully convivial but unconventional wedding recently. The church service was utterly beautiful with music and readings and hauntingly beautiful hymns, but I’m not going to dwell on that because after all this is a food column.
The groom was one of Ireland’s most innovative young artisan food producers, the bride a brilliant fund manager from the ‘City’ in London. Both have a huge eclectic circle of friends. They grappled with the usual dilemma – where to draw the line on the guest list and the ultimate challenge of how to provide so many cherished relatives, neighbours, and colleagues with a delicious feast.
The groom is a stalwart of the Farmers Market movement, so they decided to invite many of their market friends to bring their beautiful produce so wedding guests could wander from stall to stall nibbling and tasting, filling and refilling their plates.
The event was held in Robert Putz’s pristine horse arena overlooking Dunmanus Bay. There were little posies of bluebells on the white linen covered tables, hunks of Gubbeen cheese made specially for the occasion, cheese biscuits and pots of relishes.
As guests arrived, pink and white fizz was served from Febvre’s white French Citroen van, Barry and Ian of The Alchemists Cocktails were whipping up cool Caipirinhas and pressed apple juice and elderflower Collins. The Sam Hudson Quartet played jazz as the guests filtered into the arena.
John Pettersen, a favourite at Schull Country Market was ladling out his homemade lemonade and John Gowan of Cork Coffee Roasters who specializes in small batch roasting was dispensing steaming shots of freshly brewed coffee.
A traditional saddleback pig specially reared for the wedding, stuffed with Clovisse’s herbs was cooking on the spit since the early hours, Barry Tyner was in charge of the Hog Roast. He cooked it for 7-8 hours over wood flames until the flesh was juicy and succulent and the crackling to die for.
Farmers Market stalls were set up all around the perimeter of the inside of the arena so guests could help themselves. We started with Stephen and Sarah Canty’s sushi with wasabi and pickled ginger. There was a selection of Gubbeen pates, terrines, salami, ham, tapas, oysters, mussels, lots of fat prawns in the shell, and great big bowls of organic salad leaves. Clovisse, the groom’s sister had grown all the organic greens and herbs in her beautiful Garden of Eden for the big bowl of salad.
Arun Kapil and the team from Green Saffron were ladling out delicious spicy rogan josh, chicken korma and red lentil dahl.
The Spanish tortilla de patatas were made from fresh Gubbeen eggs and came with a dollop of chipotle pepper salsa, this and the Paella were made by Stephen Canty to Giana Ferguson’s Andalucian family recipes,
The breads came from bakers Pagan and Jim Cruit from Ballydehob, who must have been baking all night to produce the huge basket of bread and little pigs for the guests.
Chris Hedges created the dessert, a Grand Marnier bavarois, with macerated oranges. He also baked the delicious chocolate genoise wedding cake. When it was safely enrobed in a thin coating of marzipan he passed it on to Lynn Wright who painted the most beautiful West Cork landscape on top, with Mount Gabriel clearly recognizable in the distance, so beautiful.
The groom had also made delicious homemade icecream for the occasion, guests argued about their favourites, pistachio, fresh mint, coconut, dulce de leche with mango or lemon sorbet. Of course there was lots of wonderful Irish farmhouse cheese and Gubbeen Oatcake biscuits.
When the jazz band slipped off to Ballydehob to play at the International Jazz Festival, The Glorified Jam took over, a band made up of some farmers, fishermen, market boys and their musical friends. The guests boogied and danced and nibbled into the wee hours and continued to enjoy the convivial slow food wedding.
The Farmers Market concept was an inspired way to entertain a large number of guests in an easygoing and truly delicious way.
Here are the contact details of some of the participants.

Stephen Canty, Food for Thought Tel 087-7528945
John Pettersen 086-0767970
Barry Rogerson The Alchemists Cocktails – 086 3423522

John Gowan, Cork Coffee Roasters 087-7766322
Barry Tyner 087-6306761
Pagan & Jim Cruit 028-38961
Chris Hedges, Free-lance chef 086-8245984
Lynny Wright, ceramicist and artist 028-21889
Gubbeen Cheese and Cheese Oatcake Biscuits 028-28231
Arun Kapil, Green Saffron 086-8331030
Clovisse’s Gubbeen Greens 086-3991415
Febvre & Co. Wine Merchants 01-2161400

Peter Luke’s Paella Valenciana

Giana Ferguson shared her Dad’s recipe for his favourite paella.

1 chicken, preferably free range and organic, jointed, deboned and chopped
2 dozen mussels in their shells
1lb (450g) prawns in their shells
1lb (450g) squid
4-6 soft Spanish Chorizo
1 cup per 2 people of round Spanish rice
green and red peppers
bay leaves
white wine

Brown the chicken pieces and put aside.  Clean, chop and lightly fry the squid, put aside with chicken.
Sweat onions and garlic with pepper, add the bay leaves and reserve.
Take one box of saffron and add to warm water and leave to infuse.
Fry the rice in the paella dish in olive oil until the oil is hot and the rice translucent and not quite browning.
In a proportion of approx. ⅔ cup of good stock to one cup of rice, flood the rice in the paella dish and add the saffron liquid – it is a bad idea to stir as the rice becomes glutinous so shake the paella to keep it from sticking and to help it absorb the stock.
Meanwhile sweat the mussels in white wine and shelling some, leave a few in their half shells as garnish.
The chorizo can be lightly fried at this time too (or done much earlier – keep some for tapas.)
Add the prawns (again leaving some with their coats and whiskers on for garnish)
Add the prawns, first, then the mussels which mustn’t overcook then as the rice swells with the absorbed stock, tomatoes in quarters, the chicken, chorizo and squid.  Allow to heat thoroughly through while the rice absorbs the rest of the stock without becoming tight.
Season with generous amounts of pepper and salt (unless your stock is already salted) and garnish with the half mussels, the whiskery prawns, some loosely chopped flat parsley and a few nasturtium flowers – add a good few quartered lemons and serve hot in the paella – Salut.

Tortilla de Patatas

Serves 6-8

Tortilla de Patatas sounds deceptively simple but its not as easy to make to perfection as you might think.

8-9 eggs, free range and organic
14ozs (400g) diced potato (1.5cm)
6ozs (175g) diced onion
3fl oz (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

The secret of success is to use enough oil. Put a generous (2.5cm) 1 inch of olive oil into a frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes.  Add the crushed garlic and cook until the potatoes are golden on the outside and soft in the middle.  Drain off the excess oil from the potatoes.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add the potato and onion mixture. Put 2 tablespoons of oil back into the pan, when it begins to sizzle pour in the egg mixture then lower the heat, when the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge continue to cook shaking the pan occasionally. When the tortilla is well set and golden underneath, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn it out, be careful not to burn your hand. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary. Slide the tortilla back in cooked side uppermost. Cook until firm but still slightly moist in the centre. Serve hot or at room temperature cut into wedges.

Fingal and Ciara’s Wedding Cake

A Chocolate Genoese Sponge:
16 free range eggs
8 oz (225g) butter
1lb (450g) caster sugar
12oz (350g) plain flour, sieved
4 oz (110g) Green and Black’s or Fairtrade cocoa powder

8oz (225g) hazelnuts
8oz (225g) almonds
1lb (450g) castor sugar

Praline Butter Cream:
1lb (450g) butter
3 eggs
1lb (450g) caster sugar
5 fl.oz (150ml) water
Praline paste to taste (see recipe above)

Almond Paste:
2lb (900g) ground almonds
2lb (900g) caster sugar
2lb (900g) icing sugar
12 oz (350g) egg yolks, approx.
2fl.oz (50ml) brandy

Baking tray 16 inch x 20 inch, lined with silicone paper.
Preheat the oven to 375F/180C/gas 4.

To make the cake:
Sieve the flour and cocoa together with a pinch of salt.
Whisk eggs and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy and doubled in bulk, showing the signs of the whisk (ribbon stage).
Gently fold in the sieved flour and cocoa, and finally the melted butter.
Pour into the lined baking tray.  Bake for approx. 30 minutes, it should feel firm to the touch.
When cooked turn out onto a cooling rack and remove the lining paper.
Make 2 of these ‘sheets’ of cake, using the above quantity for each.

To make the praline:
Carefully roast the nuts in a hot oven.  If using nuts with skin on, rub skin off in a sieve.
Boil sugar with a small amount of water until it reaches the caramel stage.
Add the warm nuts and stir to coat in the caramel.  Use a slightly oiled wooden spoon to flatten.
Grind two thirds of the mix to a paste.   Chop the remaining into chunky pieces.
Use to add to butter cream.

To make the  praline butter cream:
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and continue to cook until it reaches 240F/115C (soft ball stage).  Pour the hot syrup onto the well whisked egg.   Continue to whisk until cool.  Beat in the well creamed butter and praline paste to taste.
Fold in chopped praline to taste.

To make the almond paste:
Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl, add the egg and brandy and mix to a pliable paste.

To assemble the cake:
Place one sheet of sponge on a suitable board, ie. ½ inch/1cm  plywood.
Spread buttercream over sponge and then place second sheet on top.

Roll out the almond paste into length to run down side of cake, dusting with ground almonds to prevent sticking to work top and rolling pin.  Cut to size.   Brush with heated apricot jam and attach to side of cake.  Do this to all sides, finally roll out piece for the top.  Brush heated jam on top of the cake.  Place almond paste on top.  Decorate as desired or ask Lynn Wright to paint a picture on top.

Orange and Grand Marnier Bavarois with Crystallised Orange Peel

This classic dessert can be made at least a day ahead.   Christ Hedges served it with orange slices and Grand Marnier.

Serves 8

½ pint (300ml) milk
2 free-range eggs
1-2oz (25-50g) castor sugar
Vanilla pod or pure vanilla extract
Grated rind of 1 unwaxed orange and 2 tablespooons Grand Marnier
¼ oz/4 teaspoons gelatine dissolved in 4 tablespoons water (if you like it a bit more wobbly use 3 teaspoons of gelatine and 3 tablespoons water.
¼ pint (150ml) cream, softly whipped

To decorate: crystallised orange peel

1 pint (600ml) mould or 8 small moulds

Prepare the moulds by brushing evenly with sunflower oil and drain.
Infuse the vanilla pod and orange rind in the milk.   Separate the eggs.
Cream the egg yolks and sugar, and pour the flavoured milk on to them.  Return to the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat until the custard thickens.
Put 4 tablespoons of water in a little bowl, measure the gelatine carefully and sprinkle over the water.  Leave to ´sponge´ for a few minutes until the gelatine has soaked up the water and feels spongy to the touch.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water and allow the gelatine to dissolve completely.  All the granules should be dissolved and it should look perfectly clear.  Add the dissolved gelatine to the custard mixture and stir gently until mixed in.  Strain and cool to setting point.  Fold in Grand Marnier and the softly whipped cream.
Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.    Mix a little of the whites into the custard and then fold in the remainder carefully.
Pour into the prepared mould or moulds and allow to set.
Unmould onto a flat dish or individual serving plates and decorate with crystallised orange peel.

Crystallized Orange Peel

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

2 oranges
16 fl oz/450 ml cold water

Sugar syrup (see recipe)

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

Put the julienne into a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque (10-15 mins approx.).  Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on bakewell paper or a cake rack.  When cold toss in castor sugar and allow to dry in a cool airy place.
Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.

Sugar Syrup

Makes 28 fl.oz (825ml)

1lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water

To make the sugar syrup:  dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.

Hot Tips

Summer at Country Choice in Nenagh, on Friday 23rd May Languedoc Wine Barbecue Supper – guest Catherine Wallace, one of the best winemakers in the South of France where she and her husband make an amazing biodynamic and organic red wine on their farm in St Chinian.  Evening starts at 8pm with new rosé tasting, followed by informal barbecue supper with tutored talk and tasting with Catherine.   Pre-booking essential –                 087-7931113         or call Anne Marie                067-32596

Farmers Market at Castlehyde Courtyard, Fermoy on Sunday 25th May 12-4pm
– The Brothers of Charity Southern Services are hosting an Open Day – Alongside the market there will be childrens’ workshops, entertainment, jazz band and art exhibition – a true family day out for a worthy cause.

Slow Food Ireland in Association with Irish Natural Forestry Foundation presents The Slow Food Forest Feast  ‘The Munch at the Manch’ to celebrate Bio Diversity Week –A great family day out not to be missed – there will be special workshops, competitions and games for children and teenagers with trained environmental teachers, knife making, hedge laying and basket making for the dads,  guest chef cookery demonstrations, guided woodland walks, traditional crafts demonstrations, workshops and lots of music – a day of Slow Fun –in the wonderful setting of the 300 acres of the Manch Estate, Ballineen, Co Cork also on Sunday 25th May – noon to 6pm
Tickets €25 adults €12 children, available from Lynn @ INFF Tel                023-22823         or email or

Cookery Demonstration by Darina Allen at Garryvoe Hotel on Tuesday 27th May at 7.45pm in aid of Shanagarry Playground Fund.  Pre-booking essential.
Tickets €25 available from Garryvoe Hotel, Mahon Point Shopping Centre (Customer Services),  Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, Brodericks Shanagarry, Stephen Pearce Gallery and Mark Doyle                087-6749503        ,   Great spot prizes –100% of money raised will go to the playground fund.

I regularly get requests for special diet recipes, gluten free, low sugar and dairy free are top of the list.
Dairy free is easy, to change to extra virgin olive oil is no great sacrifice. There are many delicious cake and pastry recipes where oil can be substituted for butter and we’ve also got lots of terrific wheat free and gluten free recipes.
Those of you who must have reduced sugar recipes seem to have a deep and constant craving for something sweet and yummy. They feel deprived of one of the greatest pleasures in life.
Celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson discovered a few years ago that he was a prime candidate for diabetes, his resistance to insulin, a hormone that helps the body to process sugar and use it as a fuel, was so high that his doctor ordered him to take drastic steps to reduce his weight and sugar intake. Antony took on the challenge with characteristic enthusiasm but still hankered after a bit of pud and some cookies every now and then. He began to experiment with artificial sweeteners, most of which got the thumbs down, but then he started to test recipes with one called Splenda. He got terrific results and still managed to dramatically reduce his family’s calorie intake.
With his usual exuberance he wanted to spread the word so he wrote ‘The Sweet Life’, 101 indulgent recipes with less sugar for those who want to reduce their sugar consumption and calorie intake. If you are a diabetic, a little sugar can be fine but you will need to check with your doctor or nutritionist for advice on your particular condition.
Splenda is suitable for people with diabetes to use as part of a healthy balanced diet. Sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in Splenda, is not metabolized by the body. As a result, Splenda has an insignificant effect on insulin or blood glucose levels. This means that by replacing sugar with Splenda, even people with diabetes can enjoy sweet dishes and baked treats.
Antony has also written a book on ‘Healthy Eating for Diabetes’ which I have recommended to diabetics on several occasions. Here is a selection of sweet treats from
‘The Sweet Life’ by Antony Worrall Thompson, published by Kyle Cathie.

Fresh Strawberry Sponge
Serves 8

This cake uses a Genoise sponge as a base – a light and airy whisked sponge- with the addition of melted butter that adds extra flavour and moisture, and makes it keep slightly longer. Its delicious served as it is here, in a single layer with whipped cream and fresh strawberries, or you can sandwich the cream and fruit between the two layers.
Try this cake with the first of the new season’s Irish strawberries.

40g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing.
25g caster sugar
4 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
5 eggs
100g plain flour

For the topping:
400g strawberries, hulled
1 tablespoon Splenda granulated sweetener
200ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and base line two 20cm loose base sandwich tins.
Put the sugar, sweetener and eggs in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water and whisk with a hand-held electric whisk until the whisk leaves a trail when lifted from the bowl. Remove from the heat ad whisk for a further 2 minutes.
Pour the melted butter around the edges of the mixture. Sift half the flour into the bowl and fold in with the butter, using a large metal spoon. Sift the remaining flour into the bowl and fold in. Divide between the tins and spread gently to the edges.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until pale golden around the edges and just firm to the touch. Loosen the edges and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, make a sauce by blitzing half the strawberries with the Splenda in a food processor. Pass through a sieve into a little bowl. Slice the remaining strawberries.
Whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks. Spread over the cake , and top with sliced strawberries and the sauce.

Raspberry and Banana Muffins

Makes 8

Antony used frozen raspberries in this recipe as he feels they have a more intense flavour than fresh ones.

200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
100g frozen raspberries, briefly thawed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g butter, melted
100ml semi-skimmed milk
1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Place 8 paper muffin cases into a muffin tray, or use squares of greaseproof paper.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sweetener and raspberries.
Beat together the egg, vanilla extract, melted butter and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients with the mashed banana until just combined. Avoid overmixing and do not beat. The mixture will be quite lumpy, but there should not be any traces of dry flour. Spoon into the paper cases.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Brownies

Makes 15

Everyone loves chocolate brownies – they don’t stay on the plate for long!

250g plain chocolate, chopped
175g unsalted butter
3 eggs
25g Splenda granulated sweetener
60g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Grease and line a shallow 27x18cm baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and rest it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Leave until melted, stirring frequently. Alternatively melt in the microwave for 2 minutes at maximum power.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, gradually whisking in the sweetener until combined. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl. Add the walnuts and stir the ingredients together until just combined.
Turn into the tin and spread the mixture into the corners. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the surface is set but the mixture feels very soft underneath.
Leave to cool in the tin. Cut into squares and store in an airtight tin.

Apple Pie

Serves 6

This is a double crust apple pie that’s best made on a metal plate so the bottom has a chance to crisp up. If you don’t have a metal pie plate, use a small shallow pie dish and line the sides and top of the dish only.

50g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and sliced
4 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
10 cloves
1½ teaspoons mixed spice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
375g sweet shortcrust or puff pastry
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6, adding a baking sheet to heat through. Grease a 22cm pie plate.
Melt half the butter in a large frying pan. Add the apples and sweetener and cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the apples start to soften. Stir in the spices and lemon juice and leave to cool.
Roll out half the pastry on a lightly floured board and use to line the pie plate. Scatter the apples and juices over the top, piling them up in the centre. Dot with the remaining butter. Brush the edges of the pastry with the beaten egg.
Roll out the remaining pastry and use to cover the pie. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork to seal. Trim off any excess pastry and use to decorate if desired. Make a few slashes in the top with a sharp knife – this will allow the steam to escape. Brush the top with more beaten egg and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until pale golden.

Apricot Jam

Makes about 600g

This delicious, tangy fruit spread technically isn’t a jam – without sugar used in the method, it doesn’t have the same preservative qualities a ‘real’ jam would have. Its therefore best made in small quantities and it keeps in the fridge for up to three weeks.

1½ teaspoons gelatine powder
500g fresh apricots, stoned and roughly chopped
200ml apple juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
8 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener

Put 2 tablespoons water into a bowl and stir in the gelatine. Leave to soak whilst you cook the apricots.
Put the apricots into a saucepan and pour in the apple and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the apricots are soft. Skim off any foam that collects on the surface using a slotted spoon.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sweetener. Add the gelatine and stir again until dissolved. Ladle into sterilised jars and cover with discs of greaseproof paper and lids whilst still hot.

Fruit, nut and seed bars

Makes 12

175g butter, plus extra for greasing
175g set honey
6 tablespoons Splenda granulated sweetener
200g porridge oats
Pinch of salt
200g fruit and nut mix (dried apricots, raisins or sultanas, cashew nuts and coconut shavings are nice)
50g dried cranberries
75g mixed seeds (like sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds)
50g desiccated coconut

These yummy energy bars are just the thing for a mid-morning boost, and they’re a perfect fit for a packed lunch or picnic.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Grease a 20cm square baking tin and line with greaseproof paper, leaving an overhang to make it easier to remove the bars later.
Melt the butter and honey in a large saucepan over a gentle heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
Mix together the sweetener, porridge oats, salt, fruit and nut mix, cranberries, mixed seeds and coconut. Add to the saucepan and stir together until thoroughly mixed. Tip into the prepared tin and level the surface with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 30 minutes, then remove from the tin and cut into bars. Cool completely on a wire rack. Keep in an airtight container, or wrap in greaseproof paper.

Hot Tips

All-Ireland Farmers Market Competition
Enniscorthy Farmers Market will host an all-Ireland Farmers Market Competition on Saturday 28th June and Sunday 29th June in the Abbey Square Enniscorthy. The competition will take place during the weekend of the Strawberry Fair and all markets are invited to get involved. Closing date 30th May – contact Anne Jordan, Enniscorthy Town Council, Market Square, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford for application form. Tel 053-9233540 or

Driving the Industry Forward –
The must-attend 2008 BIM Seafood Event ‘Fish Ireland 2008’ – Conference on Innovation and Sustainability – Thursday 26th June – Solis Lough Eske Castle Hotel, Donegal.
Online registration and latest information are available on the BIM website at Tel 01-2144204

Debenhams ban Unhealthy Ingredients from Cafes and Restaurants
Department store chain Debenhams has announced that it has banned a number of unhealthy ingredients in all of the food products served at its restaurants and cafes –
The group has removed all hydrogenated fats, genetically modified ingredients and artificial colours from the menus at the dining outlets at its 166 stores across the UK and Ireland. The move came after Debenhams launched a £5m overhaul of its instore restaurants earlier this year, including the update of interiors and menus.
‘Banning hydrogenated fats, GM and azo colours has been on our agenda for some time but the logistics involved in banning every product which contains them are extensive’ a spokesman stated.

How to Keep a Few Chickens in the Garden
– this course at Ballymaloe Cookery School has been rescheduled to Saturday 21st June (due to the death of Darina Allen’s mother it was cancelled on an earlier date) 9.30- 5 Tel 021-4646785

It seems like an eternity since I wrote my last column. In those seven days I lived through a whole lifetime of emotions -joy, helplessness, gratitude, guilt, relief, loneliness, deep sadness, not necessarily in that order.
During those seven days my eight siblings and I sat by our mother’s bedside, taking turns to watch over her and hold her hand, as she gradually slipped in and out of consciousness and finally passed away gently in her sleep as dawn broke on April the 17th.
Mummy was in her early eighties and had been a widow for 45 years. She was a woman of strong faith and was so looking forward to being with Daddy once again. She consoled us all by whispering that she was not frightened of death. As she lapsed into a coma we longed for her to open her eyes just one more time, until my sister reminded us of how disappointed she was likely to be if she woke up to find us all peering anxiously at her, rather than meeting Daddy with his arms open wide. During the long week with my brothers and sisters, there were several other comic moments, and even some laughter interspersed with sadness and grief as we reminisced and swapped memories.
With hindsight those seven long days and nights were some of the most precious of my entire life. How fortunate were my brothers and sisters and I to be able to spend that time uninterrupted, with the extraordinary woman of courage and fortitude who brought us into the world, and whose wonderful cooking brought joy and solace to family and friends for over eighty years.
Our home was always full of the delicious smells of cooking. Among many things, Mummy taught each and every one of us how to bake and roast, braise and stew and the joy of sharing food and sitting around the kitchen table with family and friends.
Her spirit lives on in every picnic we share and every skill she taught us, and in the smell of Cullohill Apple Tart and Mummy’s Sweet Scones.

Mummy’s Brown Soda Bread

I’ll never forget the flavour and texture of Mummy’s Bread. For years Mummy baked several loaves of soda bread every single day, and even after her stroke she continued to make bread with one ‘good hand’ on a regular basis. When I was little she would give me a little piece of dough to make a ‘cistín’, which I proudly baked alongside her loaf in the Esse.

Makes 1 loaf

225g (1/2lb) white flour
225g (1/2lb) wholemeal flour (Howard’s-one-way)
1 level teaspoon bread soda
1 level teaspoon salt
450ml (13floz-16fl oz) buttermilk (depending on consistency of buttermilk)

Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

Mix the flour in a large wide bowl, add the salt and sieved bread soda. Lift the flour up with your fingers to distribute the salt and bread soda.

Make a well in the centre and pour in all the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and outstretched, stir in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing concentric circles. When you reach the outside of the bowl seconds later the dough should be made.

Sprinkle a little flour on the worktop. Turn the dough out onto the floured worktop. (Fill the bowl with cold water so it will be easy to wash later.)
Sprinkle a little flour on your hands. Gently tidy the dough around the edges and transfer to oven tray. Tuck the edges underneath with the inner edge of your hands, gently pat the dough with your fingers into a loaf about 4cm (1 ½ in) thick. Now wash and dry your hands.

Cut a deep cross into the bread (this is called ‘Blessing the bread’ and then prick it in the centre of the four sections to let the fairies out of the bread).

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for a further 15 minutes. Turn the bread upside down and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until cooked (the bottom should sound hollow when tapped). Cool on a wire rack.

Farmhouse Chicken

Serves 8

This was a favourite family supper in our house, a whole meal in a dish. Originally Mummy reared the chickens herself and she always served it in the big black roasting tin.

1 x 4 lb (1.8kg) free-range chicken
Seasoned flour
1¼ lb (560g) streaky bacon in one piece
2 tablesp sunflower or arachide oil
14 oz (400g) finely sliced or chopped onions
12-16 ozs (350g-450g) thinly sliced carrots
5 lbs (2.3kg) large ‘old’ potatoes approx.
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 pints (1.1L) chicken stock, made from the giblets and carcass

1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley

Deep roasting tin 15” (38cm) square approx.

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas 8

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces; separate the wing joints so they will cook evenly. Cut the rind off the bacon; cut 8ozs (225g) into ½ inch (1cm) lardons and the remainder into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices. If salty, blanch, refresh and dry on kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and cook the lardons until the fat begins to run and they are pale golden; transfer to a plate. Toss the chicken joints in seasoned flour, sauté in the bacon fat and oil until golden on both sides, remove from the pan and put with the bacon. Finally toss the onions and carrots in bacon fat for 1-2 minutes.
Peel the potatoes and slice a little less than half into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds. Arrange a layer of potato slices on the base of a deep roasting tin. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sprinkle the carrots, onions and bacon over the potatoes and arrange the chicken on top. Season again with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour enough hot stock over to almost cover. Cut the remaining potatoes into thick slices lengthways, 1½ inches (4cm) approx. and arrange cut side up on top of the chicken (the whole top of the dish should be covered with potato slices). Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx. After 30 minutes put the strips of bacon on top so they get deliciously crisp with the potatoes. Test after one hour – it may take a little longer. If its getting too brown, cover loosely with greaseproof paper or foil near the end of the cooking. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve at the table followed by a good green salad.

Mummy’s Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

Serves 4-6
We used to ask Mummy to make this comforting and economical dish when we came home from college on winter weekends. One can do lots of variations on the theme; streaky bacon is particularly good and shoulder of lamb would also be delicious.

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)
1 beef kidney
salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1-1.35kg (2½-3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks
340g (¾lb) onions, chopped
50-70g (2-2½oz) butter
water or homemade stock
Freshly chopped parsley

I use a large, oval Le Creuset casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity.

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard; cut the flesh into 1cm (½inch) cubes, put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into ½cm (¼inch) thick slices. Put a layer of potato slices on the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney and mix with the beef, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onion over the layer of potato. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the stock, 375ml (13floz) approx. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated slow oven, 150C/300G/gas mark 2, for 2-2½hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve from the casserole.
We eat this in deep plates with lots and lots of butter
You can remove the lid of the saucepan near the end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly for a more appetising appearance.

Cullohill Apple Tart

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

8 ozs (225g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
12 ozs (340g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1½ lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
5 ozs (140g) sugar
2-3 cloves
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
Castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
Softly whipped cream
Barbados sugar

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

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

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and barbados sugar.

Rhubarb Tart
Make in exactly the same way but use approx. 2lbs (900g) sliced red rhubarb (about ½ inch thick) and approx. 13 ozs (370g) -14ozs (400g) sugar.

For years Mummy cooked delicious pub food in our family pub The Sportsmans Inn in Cullohill, Co Laois. So many of your letters of support mention calling on the way to or from Dublin for Mummy’s Apple Tart or Scones with Apple Jelly, so I’m delighted to share the recipe to bring back happy memories.

Mummy’s Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)

2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples
2.7L (4¾ pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons

Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 2 hour.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb) sugar to each 600ml (1pint) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven.
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately and eat with scones.

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

The smell of freshly baked scones coming out of the oven was one of my earliest memories, and then there was the squabbling over the sugar tops with my brothers and sisters!

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

egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. 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.

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

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

Congratulations to Jacques Restaurant
This much loved Cork restaurant has been awarded the best restaurant in Munster by their peers at the Restaurant Association of Ireland restaurant awards in Mayo. Jacques is now in its 28th year and still run with passion by Jacque and Eithne Barry along with their team Eileen Carey and John Kelly. They also won the 2008 Georgina Campbell award for best Natural Food in Ireland in recognition of their commitment to using only local food, showcasing all that is best in Cork. Jacques, Phoenix Street, Cork, Tel 021-4277387

Burren Slow Food Festival 23-25 May, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare.
Slow Food Lunches and Dinners, Talks, Markets, Food Exhibitions, Supper Theatre and much, much more. Contact Birgitta Hedin-Curtin, 087-822 4173 or

Third Annual International Chefs Congress – A Kitchen without Boundaries – September 14-16, 2008 New York City


Past Letters