ArchiveAugust 2008

Future Food

In the words of Lady Eve Balfour “Food is my subject so it concerns everyone”. Even those people who profess to have absolutely no interest in food have to eat.  Food is the fuel that nourishes our bodies, gives us strength and keeps us well. So the quality of the food ought to be of interest to each and everyone of us.  In an ideal world our food should be our medicine, providing the essential minerals and trace elements that our systems need for energy, vitality and the ability to concentrate.

For millions of people food is also their livelihood, over a third of the population are involved in primary or secondary food production, farmers, fishermen, restaurateurs, butchers, and marketers are all a vital part of the food chain.

At this point in history food production is at a cross-roads, the cost of fossil fuels is rising, there are food riots in over 30 countries world wide, the Word Trade Organisation policy has a major impact on how we proceed.

Despite our favourable growing conditions in Ireland, a small island off Europe can’t hope to compete on economies of scale with rising production costs.  The future prosperity of our farmers and food producers lies in producing the finest quality food that can guarantee a premium price.

Food with a story, we need to identify the breed, the feed, the variety, the pasture, the whole provenance.

Irish food will need a USP (Unique Selling Point) to compete. In a country that exports over 80% of its beef we need to ask ourselves, why should a consumer pay more for Irish beef .  The confident answer will need to be ‘because it tastes much, much better’, there will need to be a guaranteed ‘wow factor’ so we can justify a premium price.

I’m convinced we can do it but it may mean evaluating some of our present systems, flavour comes from breed and feed but that’s just part of the picture.  The slaughter process, the method of hanging and ageing are crucial to the quality of the finished product.

It all costs money. I like the system used by Tim Wilson at the Ginger Pig butchers shop in Borough Market and Moxton St in London.  All meat is dry aged and customers can choose whether they would like their rib of beef, for example, hung for 2,3,4 or 5 weeks and pay accordingly.  The customer is being educated to realize that ageing enhances both flavour and texture, but the extra time involved costs the butcher money so they need to pay more. When the end result really delivers flavour Ginger Pig customers are more than happy to pay for the oomph.

Tim Wilson is just one of the many delegates who think outside the box and will be in Waterford contributing to a work shop at Terra Madre on Friday 5th September 2008 in Waterford.

Terra Madre, a ground breaking event, will explore the future of sustainable food production in Ireland.  Terra Madre, hosted by Slow Food Ireland is predicted to be the most important food policy event in Ireland in 2008.   It is a gathering of food producers, together with chefs, scientists, academics, medics, policy-makers, writers, manufacturers, food enthusiasts and the general public from the 32 counties and a variety of world-class keynote speakers.

Slow Food Ireland is part of the Slow Food international movement which was set up in 1989 to help local producers compete with the mass advertising of processed foods by the major multinationals.  It promotes good, clean, fair, food, locally produced where possible.  Terra Madre is an event none of us can afford to miss, we all need to make our voices heard.  Mark September 5th in your diary right away

Meanwhile visit the Terra Madre website and contribute your opinion to the blogs on over 50 food-related topics. 

Hot Tips

Sweet Corn

This is the time of year when Catherine and Vincent O’Donovan set up stall on the side of the main Cork to Innishannon road to sell juicy sweetcorn.   They are open every day and hope to have sweetcorn for the next two months.  Also available in Super-Valu in Bantry, Clonakilty, Carrigaline, Kinsale and Midleton, Superfruit in English Market and some farmers markets around Cork. Freezer orders also taken, contact 087-2486031


Castlefarm Cheese –

Congratulations to Peter and Jenny Young on the launch of the first Kildare Farmhouse Cheese – Castlefarm Cheese is Gouda type cheese – Castlefarm Natural is a plain milky cheese and Castlefarm Shamrock is a nutty flavoured cheese made with Fenugreek, both are covered in a distinctive green wax.  Available at Castlefarm Shop and Jenny’s stall at Athy Farmers Market on Sundays – www.castlefarmshop Tel 059-8636948

Irish Seed Saver Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare

Forthcoming courses – Making Herbal preparations – Saturday 6th September. Introduction to Beekeeping – Saturday 13 & Sunday 14th September, Commercial Orchards – Wed 17th  September .For More Courses/Workshops 2008 click  Tel 061-921866


2nd Annual Harvest Festival in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim 13 & 14th September 



Pasta with Chanterelles, Tapenade and Flat Parsley

I just got a basket of freshly picked chanterelles – delicious


Serves 4-6

225g (1/2 lb) Penne, Conchiglie or Farfalle

4.5L (8 pints) water

1 tablespoon salt

25g (1oz) butter

225-450g (1/2 -1lb) chanterelles or a mixture of wild mushrooms

Salt and freshly ground pepper

120ml /4fl oz double cream

2-3 tablespoons Tapenade – see recipe

4 tablespoons snipped flat parsley



Bring a large saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil, add salt and pasta.  Stir and cook until al dente.  Meanwhile, gently wash the chanterelles under cold running water.  Trim the base of the stalks and discard.  Slice the mushrooms thickly.


Melt the butter in a frying pan on a high heat.  When it foams add the mushrooms.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook on a high heat, the juice will exude at first, but continue to cook until the chanterelles reabsorb the juices.  Add the cream and bubble for a few minutes.  Stir in the Tapenade.  Strain the penne and drain well, put back into the saucepan, add the sauce.  Sprinkle on the flat parsley, toss gently, turn into a hot bowl and serve immediately.



2 ozs (55g) anchovy fillets

3½ ozs (100g) stoned black olives

1 tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons (37ml) olive oil 

Whizz up the anchovy fillets (preferably in a food processor) with the stoned black olives, capers, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.

Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil as you whisk and process to a course or smooth puree as you prefer.

Serve with: Cruditees or Bruschetta or Crostini with Lamb, Pasta..
Shanagarry Beef Stew

A good gutsy stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

2 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

285g (10 oz) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions and carrots on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 1/2-3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with Polenta, mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Foolproof Food

Tomato Purée

We make lots of homemade tomato puree at the end of the Summer when the tomatoes are really ripe – it’s brilliant to have in the freezer for tomato soup, stews, casseroles etc.


900g (2 lb) very ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

a good pinch of salt and a few twists of black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into quarters, put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water needed). Put through the fine blade of the Mouli-legume or a nylon sieve. Allow to get cold then refrigerate or freeze.

Note: Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe, summer tomatoes for winter. Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.


Fresh Sweetcorn with Marjoram

Fresh sweetcorn just quickly cooked and served with butter and sea salt is hard to beat, or try this delicious variation with marjoram.


Serves 6


6 ears of corn, preferable freshly picked!

salt and freshly ground pepper

30-50g (1-2oz) butter

1-2 tablespoons annual marjoram freshly chopped


Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add salt.

Peel the ears of corn, trim both ends, drop into the water.  Cover the saucepan and bring back to the boil, cook for just three minutes.  You can just eat if straight off the cob with butter and sea salt at this stage if you prefer – children love it this way

Drain, allow to cool, then slice the kernels off the cob, melt a little butter in a saucepan, add the corn.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the marjoram, stir once or twice.  Taste, correct the seasoning.  Serve immediately.


Apple and Cinnamon Fritters

Serves 6

Apple Fritters have been one of my absolutely favourite puddings since I was a child – nothing changed, I still love them.  Try them with the new season’s Grenadier cooking apples.


4 cooking apples, Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

4 ozs (110g) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 egg, free range if possible

5fl.oz (150ml) milk

sunflower or peanut oil for frying

8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

1 teasp. cinnamon


Sieve the flour into a bowl, add a pinch of salt. Make a well in the centre, whisk the egg slightly, pour into the centre slowly add the milk whisking in a full circle, gradually bring in the flour from the outside. Continue to whisk until the batter is light and bubbly. Peel and core the apples, cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices. Heat about 1½ inches (4cm) of oil in a frying pan. Dip a few slices of apple into the batter one by one. Fry on both sides until crisp and golden, drain well. Add cinnamon to the castor sugar, toss each fritter in and serve immediately with softly whipped cream.

Banana Fritters

Bananas also make great fritters. Split in half lengthways and then in half again if you would like shorter pieces. Omit the cinnamon from the castor sugar if you want them unadulterated.


Blackberry and Apple Sponge Pudding


The blackberries seem to be late ripening this year due to the lack of sunshine, but feast on them when they do appear in pies, puddings, jam or just as they are.


Serves 4-6


1½lbs (675g) new season’s cooking apples

4-6ozs (110-175g) blackberries

1 tablesp. water

3-4ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar

2 sweet geranium leaves

For the topping:

2ozs (55g) butter

2ozs (55g) sugar

1 beaten egg, preferably free range

3ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved

1-2 tablesp. milk


1 pie dish 1½ pint (900ml) capacity


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.


Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water, sugar and sweet geranium leaves. Cover and stew them gently until just half-cooked, then add the blackberries at the last minute.  Allow to cool a little, then tip into a buttered pie dish.


Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture.  Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency.  Spread this mixture gently over the fruit.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre.  Sprinkle with castor sugar.  Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream

A Florentine Feast of Food .

Florence is hot in the summer, in fact on one day during a recent visit it was the hottest place in the whole of Europe, 39 degrees centigrade.  That sort of temperature renders most of us unable to function. Sight seeing becomes hard labour, even shopping seems too much of an effort.  Nothing for it but to follow the Florentine tradition and indulge in a long lunch followed by a siesta.


Many tourist spots especially places like Florence and Venice which have so many breath-taking artworks and masterpieces of architectural brilliance are sitting on an absolute goldmine, with an estimated 7 million tourists a year it is a sellers market, consequently, restaurant standards are not always what they should be.  If like me, food is an important part of your holiday experience it pays to do a bit of research and I am happy to pass on the results of mine.


Overall, Florentines themselves are still very traditional in their eating habits so the gastronomic scene is dominated by homely osterie and trattorie offering hearty cucina casalinga (home style cooking), prices are reasonable and food authentic.  If you have any interest in food, avoid menu tourismo like the plague and remember Florentines only eat pizza in the evening.  It only tends to be tourist joints that serve them at lunch time, always choose a Pizzeria with a wood-fired oven and ask for a  Florentine pizza with a thin crisp crust as oppose to the puffier Neopolitan style pizza.  Good options are Vico del Carmine, Via Pisana , Santa Lucia or La Poule Alle Mosse.


A full blown Italian meal will start with an Antipasto – a selection of hors d’oeuvre followed by Primo – a pasta, soup or risotto, Seconda is the main course, meat or fish with or without contorno, vegetables, formaggio (cheese) and dolce (dessert) will round off the meal.


Dolce tend to be fairly simple, the ubiquitous tiramisu, a chocolate cake or torta di nona or of course gelata. Ice cream lovers will be in heaven in Florence. There are old favourite haunts to choose from, but there are now some exciting new kids on the block threatening to knock local institutions like Vivoli and Perché No!  off their perch.  You must not miss Grom (via Del Campanile), Vesti, Albizi and Granita.


People watching on warm balmy evenings is of the greatest pleasures of a trip to Tuscany.  Choose one of the many cafes with tables outside to sip an aperitivo, Gilli with its belle époque interior, and Rivoire must not be missed.  Florian of San Marco Square, Venice fame, has just opened in Florence also.


My best new find on this trip was a classy contemporary sandwich bar calle ‘Ino’. Superb quality produce and just around the corner from the must see Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio. Great place to buy a picnic for the plane if you can’t make it to the San Lorenzo market (open daily).
We also made a pilgrimage to two of my favourite Florentine haunts, Osteria di Benci which does the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina, a pan grilled but still bloody T-bone steak cut from the famous Chianina beef.  Follow it with a Rucola salad dressed with a few drops of local extra virgin olive oi and Tuscan white beans anointed with the same.  There will also be tripe and ribollita.  My second favourite Ils Zibbibo is owned by a woman chef Benedetta Vitali, this simple neighbourhood restaurant with its fresh unfussy food is in Via di Tersollena about 10 minutes from the centre.  Benedetta was co-founder of Cibreo another Florentine institution.  If your budget cannot quite stretch to its steep prices, Ciberino around the corner in Via de Macci also serves great food with many tasty morsels of offal, certainly not for the faint hearted.  There’s lots more, Nerbone in Greve for cows udder and spleen sandwiches and the best pot au feu you’ll find in many a long day. 


For lovers of Tuscan salami famous Falori butchers are just across the Piazza.  I could go on, but you’ll need some time for sight-seeing and sampling the local wines – lots of more information in local guides.  Here are some simple recipes I enjoyed.


Chickpea Purée with Shrimp

From Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger

Published by Clarkson Potter Publishers, New York


Serves 4


1 cup dried chickpeas

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 garlic clove

1 sprig fresh rosemary

16-20ozs (450g-600g) fresh shrimp, in shells

3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Put the chickpeas in a large pot, cover with about an inch of water, mix in 3 tablespoons sea salt, and soak for at least 12 hours.

Drain the chickpeas, rinse them, and put them in a 3-quart pot.  Cover with water by about 3 inches, then add the garlic and rosemary.  Over low heat, bring the water to a boil and simmer at least 1 hour, until the chickpeas are tender.  Add ½ cup boiling water if the liquid gets too low.

Purée the chickpeas with your method of choice.  You can rub through a sieve, but the fine disk of a food mill works well, too.  Puréeing with a processor or an immersion mixer grinds up all the skins and produces a less refined soup).  Thin the soup to desired consistency (a little thicker than heavy cream is ideal) with some of the chickpea broth; add boiling water if there’s no enough broth.  Season with salt and pepper , and serve warm.

Remove the shells and black veins from the shrimp.  Put them in a streamer basket over ½ cup of boiling water in a pot, cover, and steam for 2-3 minutes, until they turn pink.

Put one-fourth of the chickpea purée in each soup bowl, top each with 4 or 5 shrimp, then add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve



Ricotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers – Faith Heller Willinger


Serves 4-6


1cup ricotta, fresh, if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta

12-16 fresh zucchini flowers

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Fine sea salt

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil


If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.

Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag – I use a disposable one and simply cut the tip off the end.  Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet.  Place the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and place pan over the highest heat.  When the pan heats and the oil  begins to sizzle, cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the flowers are hot, steamed by the moisture of the ricotta.  Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper and salt, minced basil, and the remaining extra virgin olive oil.



Melon Proscuitto

Serves 4-6


Eat as part of Antipasto


One ripe and juicy melon

Sea Salt

Cracked Pepper


Peel, deseed and slice the ripe melon

Arrange on a plate, Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper.

Delicious, refreshing and so easy.



Smoked Gubbeen Crostata


Faith Willinger made these crostata for us in Florence with smoked mozzarella, but they are also delish with smoked Gubbeen.


Serves 4


Extra virgin olive oil

4ozs (110g) of coarse white bread crumbs

4ozs (110g) grated smoked Gubbeen

1 non stick pan


Optional Extras

Chopped zucchini blossom

Chopped parsley or marjoram

A little chilli pepper


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and toss in the bread crumbs and cook for 3-4 minutes or until starting to crisp. Grate the cheese into a bowl add the cooled breadcrumbs. This is delicious on its own but, if you want to add extra seasoning this is the moment.

Spread in a thin layer not more than ¾” (2cm) thick on the base of a non stick pan. Cook until pale golden on one side and flip over and continue to cook on the other side.

Cut into small wedges and serve as a nibbles with a drink or with a salad of mixed leaves and summer tomatoes.

Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

Makes about 36, serve 6 as a starter, 4 as a main course


Ravioli, those tiny stuffed pockets of pasta, may be made ahead and kept covered for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, depending on the filling, or may be frozen.  Make sure you defrost it thoroughly before cooking.


225g (8oz) fresh pasta dough – home made or good quality bought fresh pasta


Spinach and ricotta filling

225g (8oz) fresh spinach, without stems

110g (4oz) fresh ricotta

3 teasp. freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


110g (4oz) grated parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano (for serving)


First make the filling. 

Wash the spinach and cook in a covered saucepan on a low heat until the leaves wilt. Drain the spinach thoroughly and squeeze it dry. Allow it to cool, then chop it and mix with ricotta cheese, freshly grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.


Roll out the dough until paper thin and divide in half. Brush one piece of dough lightly with water and put out teaspoons of filling at 4cm (1½inch) intervals. Cover with the remaining sheet of dough, press the top piece down gently to seal each mound of filling, making sure the all the air is released.

Cut into squares with a fluted pastry wheel or stamp out squares with a ravioli cutter. Cook immediately, or if they are not being cooked the same day, transfer to floured greaseproof paper and leave for 5-6 hours to dry, depending on the filling.

Poach the ravioli in a large saucepan of gently boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes, or ‘al dente’ and drain. Serve the grated Parmesan separately.


Tuscan Brownies

We have adapted Faith Willinger’s recipe slightly


Makes 16 squares


110g (4 oz) finest quality (70 percent) bittersweet chocolate

2fl oz (50ml/ â…“ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for preparing the pan

55g (good 2oz) plain flour, plus more for dusting the parchment

⅛  teaspoon of salt

2 eggs, at room temperature

175g (6oz/¾ cup) of castor sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g (2oz/½ cup) chopped walnuts (optional)

1 cup unsweetened whipped cream (optional)


Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas4.  Line an 8-inch (20.5cm) square baking pan with a lightly oiled and floured piece of parchment paper that’s larger than the pan by 2 inches (5cm).

Melt the chocolate over hot water or in a microwave and whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.  Cool the mixture.

Mix the flour with the salt.  Beat the eggs and sugar until pale and thickened, around 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and chocolate mixture, and combine well.  Fold in the flour and optional walnuts, then, pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for 22 to 26 minutes.  The top will be dry, though a toothpick inserted in the centre will be wet. Cool completely, then, cut into squares, using a knife with a serrated blade.  Serve with whipped cream.


Hot Tips

Youghal Medieval Weekend Family Festival– this Saturday and Sunday in the grounds of  St Mary’s College Gardens 4-8pm Saturday and 12-6 Sunday

Includes live music, family entertainment and a market – 024-20745

Congratulations to West Cork Producers Gubbeen and Ummera for winning awards in the prestigious Great Taste Awards in London –

Ummera Smoked Products from Timoleague won a much coveted Gold Great Taste Award in London for its Smoked Chicken and Organic Gravdlax.

Gubbeen Farmhouse Products were presented with four awards for their Gubbeen Cheese Oat Cakes, Smoked Streaky Bacon, Wild Venison Ham and their Unsmoked Ham which won a very prized 3 star which is through to the finals for Supreme Champion  Tel 023-46644  Tel 028-28231


2 day Gardening Course with Brian Cross at Ballymaloe House August 31st – September 2nd –  021-4652531

Special packages available


Soil Association Organic Food Festival, Bristol 6-7 September 2008

Pizza Defined

I haven’t counted for quite some time but I would guess that the cookbook library here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School must now contain in excess of 2000 books – mostly cookbooks, but also books on wine and other food related topics.   The library has grown gradually from a base of my own personal collection of nine or ten in 1983, with books on everything from traditional Irish cooking, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Indian, baking, herbs, fish, meat, entertaining – from basic cooking techniques to weighty tomes on the science of cooking.

Some books sit virtually undisturbed on the shelves from one end of the year to the other, but then there are others that are in constant demand, eg River Café, Nigel Slater, Marcella Hazan, The Book of Ingredients, Harold McGee’s Science of Food – and then there are the books that disappear.   These are cookbooks that touch a chord and appeal so much that the ‘borrower’ can’t bear to return them.   After replacing the book several times we’ve learned over the years to eventually remove these favourites to the safety of my private stock.

I was reminded of this recently when a copy of ‘Pizza Defined’ arrived on my desk.  This little paperback by Bernadette O’Shea was originally published in 1997, when it went out of print I carefully hid my very precious only copy.  It has now been republished by Estragon Press,  there isn’t a better book on Pizza Cookery, or if there is I certainly don’t know of it.

This book, written by the indomitable Bernadette O’Shea, whose restaurant Truffles in Sligo became a magnet for food lovers during the 1990’s.   Bernadette retired from professional cooking after the publication of Pizza Defined and now cooks privately.   Her free-spirit and unique creativity live on in this delicious little book. 

It feels every bit as fresh and exciting today as it did when it was originally published.  The superb photographer Mike O’Toole and design by Nick Cann make ‘Pizza Defined’ a classic.

Basic Pizza Dough Ingredients

350ml (12 fl.oz) of lukewarm water (113F/45C)
20g (¾ oz) fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dried yeast 560g (1lb 2oz) strong white flour ¾ teaspoon salt 2¼ tablespoons olive oil 35g (1¼oz) extra flour for kneadingBernadette gives brilliantly detailed step-by-step instructions over 126 pages which guide even total novices through the process of making the dough and shaping the pizza.   I’ve just given the ingredients here so you’ll need to seek out the book to get the method which is brilliantly explained and not complicated.  When you’ve made the pizza dough the fun continues, there are lots of recipes for sauces and toppings.Pizza Defined by Bernadette O’Shea, published by Estragon Press €20.

Milleens Pizza
This is one step up from a pizza baked blind.  It doesn’t have a sauce, it doesn’t have Mozzarella, it doesn’t have any of the traditional things you associate with a pizza.When Milleens is cooked and melts, it has a buttery, slightly nutty sharp taste and the perfect pairing for that is sun-dried tomatoes, and a glut of soft herbs on top, always soft herbs: yellow marjoram, sweet marjoram, basil and oregano.  These suit the herbaceousness of one the great West Cork cheeses.
140g (5oz) basic pizza doughBasil oil or sun-dried tomato oil
85g (3oz) sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out, shredded into strips85g (3oz) cream cheese85g (3oz) Milleens cheese, very finely slicedFresh herbs (marjoram, oregano, basil, yellow marjoram, lemon thyme etc.)Rosemary oil or sun-dried tomato oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Assembling the pizza –Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circleBrush the surface with basil oil, or sun-dried tomato oilScatter the sundried tomatoes on top of the baseDot with cream cheese to prevent from burningCover with Milleens

Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.

After cooking brush the outer edge of the pizza with either rosemary oil or olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and scatter over a generous amount of the fresh herbs.

CABBAGE PIZZA What do the Irish like? Bacon and cabbage!  What do the Irish eat? Bacon and cabbage! Or so we are told.People do love it, and it was inevitable that I would ask: can I interpret this on a pizza?  The answer was yes.  The genius of this pizza is in the classical combination of a great Parma ham with well-flavoured cabbage.  The funky idea, then, is the use of the pine nuts as both texture and for that nutty flavour which is an echo of the flavour of the cabbage, that hint of nutmeg.  The little drizzle of truffle oil, added right at the end just before serving, is there because of the prosciutto: they are made for each other.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough175g (6oz) cabbage, shredded40g (1½oz) butter3 tablespoons cream¼ teaspoon of nutmeg, grated2 tablespoons basic tomato sauce40g (1½oz) Parmesan, freshly grated

70g (2½oz) Mozzarella, grated

115g (4oz) cream cheese, crumbled

25g (10z) pinenuts

Parma ham

Truffle oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

To prepare cabbage

Cook and drain the cabbage and season with salt and pepper when still hot.  Add the butter, cream and nutmeg and toss to combine.Assembling the pizza Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread the tomato sauce over the pizza 10mm (½”) in from the rim.  Sprinkle with Mozzarella, then the cabbage and dot with the cream cheese, sprinkle over Parmesan and finally the pinenuts.  Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.  Remove from the oven and drape with thin slices of Parma and drizzle with truffle oil.


Tapenade & Grilled Red Peppers140g (5oz) basic pizza dough85g (3oz) Mozzarella, grated 2 tablespoons, black olive tapenade (see below)2 red peppers, grilled 25g (1oz) Parmesan, freshly gratedBasil oil or olive oilPlace Pizza Tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

Assembling The Calzone

Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle. Place the filling over one half of the circle, making sure to leave a clean 10mm (½”) rim and then layer one ingredient on top of another. Begin with a layer of Mozzarella.  Cover with the tapenade, red peppers and Parmesan.  Fold the other half of the dough over the mixture and press the edges together.  Bake for approx. 20 mins in the hottest oven.  Check after 10 mins, and cover with tin foil if it browns too quickly.  Remove from the oven when cooked and brush with basil or olive oil.  Serve with pesto, or with the basic tomato sauce.


 175g (9oz, 1 cup) black olives, pitted2 tablespoons capers 2 cloves garlic, minced3 tablespoons olive oil3 tablespoons lemon juice2 anchovies

Pound all the ingredients together using a pestle and mortar until u reach the desired texture, which can be chunky of smooth.


This Provencal pizza uses both tomato sauce and Mozzarella, for those who like to always use them on a pizza.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough175g (6oz) onion confit – see recipe 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced10 olives1 clove garlic, very finely chopped2 tablespoons basic tomato sauce85g (3oz) fresh Mozzarella (optional)

140g (5oz) goat’s cheese

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

Place pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Assembling the pizza  Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread tomato sauce over the pizza 10mm (½”) in from the rim and top with the Mozzarella.  Place the tomato slices at the outer edge of the pizza, making sure not to overlap.  Pile the confit in the centre of the pizza.  Crumble the goat’s cheese around. Arrange the olives on top and sprinkle with the thyme and chopped garlic.  Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.

Onion Confit:
85g (3oz) butter
3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced1 large teaspoon sugar225ml (8 fl.oz) red wine50ml (2 fl.oz) sherry vinegar1 tablesp Cassis

50ml (2 fl.oz) vegetable stock (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme leaves

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a moderate heat.Add the onions, cover and cook for 10 minutes.Halfway through add the sugar, salt and pepper.Add the fresh thyme, wine, sherry vinegar and Cassis.  Give the pot a good stir and continue to cook for about 1 hour uncovered, over a low heat.


This pizza was my response to the clutch of new recipes which were part of the nouvelle cuisine in Ireland, when age-old ingredients such as black pudding were “outed”, it was one of those outed ingredients.  I remember as a child my mother making black pudding and my father frying either onions or leeks which we always ate with the pudding.  I love the look of the pizza.  I use Clonakilty black pudding and there’s nothing to beat it with beautiful, small young leeks, drizzled with a good strong rosemary oil.  I use Mascarpone because it doesn’t interfere with the flavour, shape or style of the other ingredients.140g (5oz) basic pizza dough115g (4oz) leeks, sliced Olive oilSalt and pepper2 tablespoons mascarpone 140g (5oz) black pudding, sliced25g (1oz) pine nuts

Rosemary oil

Place pizza tile on floor of oven.  Protect the base of your oven with cooking foil (if this pizza leaks it burns, prepare yourself for smoke!) Preheat the oven to its maximum temperature.

To cook the leeks  Saute the sliced leeks in a little olive oil until tender.  Alternatively toss in a little olive oil, place on a baking tray and cook in a hot oven. When cooked, season with salt and pepper, and allow to cool.

Assembling the pizza  Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Gently spread on the mascarpone with your fingers, making sure to leave a 1cm (½”) rim all around.  Pile the leeks in the centre.  Circle the pizza with the black pudding slices and scatter the pine nuts in between the black pudding and the leek.  Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.  Drizzle with rosemary oil and serve

Pizza Margherita
There is a restaurant in Naples called Da Michele, one of the oldest pizza houses, where they only bake two types of pizza.  Neapolitan and Pizza Margherita, and they are jam packed, making pizzas non-stop, all day long.   Fabulous, beautiful flavours.  I have never had a Margherita or a Neapolitan anywhere in the world which tastes anything like it.  It is distinctly, completely, a Neapolitan activity.  We can only try to emulate it, we can never do more than that.
140 g (5oz) basic pizza dough3 tablespoons basic tomato sauce 55g (2oz) fresh, hand-rolled Mozzarella torn into pieces or diced 15g (½oz) Parmesan, freshly grated1 clove garlic, very finely sliced
Basil oil
8 fresh basil leaves

Salt to taste

Place the pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circleSpread the tomato sauce over the pizza, 10mm (½ inch) in from the rim.Scatter the Mozzarella slices on top of the sauce.Sprinkle on the Parmesan and garlic and drizzle with the basil oil.Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.Serve garnished with the basil leaves.SEAFOOD PIZZA Bernadette liked to gather cockles and mussels herself, and added clams when she could get them.  She created the fennel sauce because shellfish love the flavour of aniseed

INGREDIENTS140g (5oz) basic pizza dough 85g (3oz) cockle meat85g (3oz) mussels55g (2oz) clams4 oysters2 tablespoons tomato & fennel sauce

1 tablespoon, parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, very finely chopped

METHOD Place pizza tile on the floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.

Preparing the shellfish Steam open the cockles, mussels and clams.  Remove from their shells and toss in the parsley and garlic.  Carefully open the oysters, removing any shell.  Place in a bowl and reserve.Assembling the pizza Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8”) circle.  Spread the tomato and fennel sauce over 10mm (½”) in from the rim and place in the preheated oven for 5 mins.  Take out and top with the mussels, clams and cockles.  Continue to cook for a further 3-4mins.  Place oysters on top and serve immediately.

NOTE: The measurements given are for shellfish meat, not including shells.

Hot Tips

Clandeboye Yoghurt
This is the most exciting new food product I’ve come across in ages – delicious Greek style yoghurt made on the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor, Co Down, from a blend of Holstein and Jersey Milk from their own herd which provides a creamy texture without high fat content.   Made by hand in their artisan dairy, the milk is prepared and cultured very gently over a twenty hour period in small batches.  This helps to create the exceptional flavour and texture.    Available in Northern Ireland and Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin.

Gwen’s Chocolates new shop
Schull based chocolatier Gwen Lasserre has opened a new shop at 46 Main Street, Kinsale – in the centre of the old town – also a small café section serving French specialities like Croque Monsieur and Tarte aux Framboises.   Tel 087-0520796

Easy Entertaining with Rachel Allen – 15th September -due to popular demand
1 day demonstration course – two delicious 5 course menus for
Entertaining -  plus breads, petits fours, aperitifs … now booking.  Tel 021-4646785 gift vouchers available. 
National Organic Week 15-21 September for details of events
 Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Open for the season – delicious menu of local foods –
Tel 027-61426





Sweet Berry Bliss


Such a joy to have been able to feast on berries in season for the past few weeks.  If you were fortunate enough to have managed to source fruit from small producers who are growing varieties for flavour you will have had a real taste of summer.  Sadly, most commercial strawberry growers have gone over to El Santa a variety I now assiduously avoid, more often than not it disappoints particularly when heavily irrigated. I long for some growers to have the courage to grow at least a percentage of old varieties like Cambridge Favourite or Cambridge Vigour or Sovereign.
I know they are more difficult to handle, but there is a growing number of disillusioned consumers who would be prepared to pay more for a guaranteed burst of flavour.
One can of course get strawberries, raspberries and indeed red currants year round but gooseberries and blackcurrants are definitely a short seasonal treat. I adore blackcurrants and we eat them in many, many guises during the few productive weeks.  It is really worth making a few pots of jam to lather on scones or to make blackcurrant drinks to protect against colds in the winter.  Home made “Ribena” type drink is also fun and worthwhile to make as cassis.  Almost my favourite way to eat the fruit is stewed blackcurrants and cream. The fruit must be warm and the pouring cream very cold sooo divine and sooo simple.
A pear and blackcurrant compote is also very good and a blackcurrant and apple sponge pudding tends to get polished off in double quick time.
Blackcurrant Fool is may favourite fool of all and the leftovers make a delicious frozen parfait which is even better if served with blackcurrant coulis. A squeeze bottle of that is a terrific standby to have inside your fridge door to serve over vanilla ice-cream or to drizzle over a meringue roulade. 
Make haste the season is almost over so enjoy the blackcurrant harvest while you can.
Blackcurrant Coulis
8 ozs (225g) blackcurrants
1 cup syrup, 4-5 fl ozs (120-150ml) water* see below
Pour the syrup over the blackcurrants and bring to the boil, cook for 3-5 minutes until the blackcurrants burst.  Liquidise and sieve through a nylon sieve.  * Allow to cool.  Add 4-5 fl ozs (120-150ml) water.
Stock Syrup

1 lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
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.
Poached Blackcurrants with Icy Cold Cream
12oz ( 340g) blackcurrants, strings removed

Stock Syrup (see recipe)

Icy cold cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup.  Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts – this will take about 4 to 5 minutes.  Serve with warm shortbread biscuits and icy cold cream.

Blackcurrant Fool
Serves 6 approx.

350g (12oz) fresh blackcurrants, frozen blackcurrants may be used

Stock syrup (see recipe)

Whipped cream

Cover the blackcurrants with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts about 4-5 minutes. Liquidize and sieve or puree the fruit and syrup and measure. When the puree has cooled, add up to equal quantity of softly whipped cream, according to taste. Serve with Jane’s biscuits.

Note: A little stiffly beaten egg white may be added to lighten the fool. The fool should not be very stiff, more like the texture of softly whipped cream. If it is too stiff stir in a little milk rather than more cream.

Alternative presentation, chose tall sundae glasses.  Put 2 fl ozs (50ml) of blackcurrant puree into the base of the glass, top with a layer of softly whipped cream, another layer of blackcurrant puree and finally a little more cream.  Drizzle a little thin puree over the top, serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Blackcurrant Ice Cream

Left over blackcurrant fool may be frozen – it makes a delicious ice cream.  Serve with blackcurrant coulis made by thinning the blackcurrant puree with a little more water or stock syrup.

Frosted Blackcurrant Parfait with Blackcurrant Coulis
Serves 10 approx

Pour the blackcurrant fool into a loaf tin lined with pure cling film.  Cover and freeze.  Serve cut in slices with blackcurrant coulis drizzled over the top.

Blackcurrant Jam

Makes 8-9 lbs (3.4-4 kilo) jam

4 lbs (1.8 kgs) fresh or frozen blackcurrants

2 pints (1.1 litres) water

5 lbs (2.3 kgs) white granulated sugar

Remove the stalks from the blackcurrants, put the fruit into a greased preserving pan, add the water and cook until the fruit begins to break. Put the sugar into a stainless steel bowl and heat for almost 10 minutes in a preheated oven at 150C/300F/regulo 2. (It’s vital that the fruit is soft before the sugar is added otherwise the blackcurrants will taste hard and tough in the finished jam). Add the heated sugar and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Boil briskly for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  Skim, test and pot. 

Serves 4-6

1½lbs (675g) cooking apples

4-6ozs (110-175g) blackcurrants, already strung

1 tablesp. water

3-4ozs (85-110g) approx. sugar

For the topping
2ozs (55g) butter

2ozs (55g) sugar

1 beaten egg, preferably free range

3ozs (85g) self raising flour, sieved

1-2 tablesp. milk

1 pie dish 1½ pint (900ml) capacity

Set the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.

Peel, core and slice the apples and put them in a heavy saucepan with the water, blackcurrants and sugar, cover.  Stew them gently until just soft, then tip into a buttered pie dish.

Cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture.  Add about 1 tablespoon of milk or enough to bring the mixture to dropping consistency.  Spread this mixture gently over the apple.

Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge mixture is firm to the touch in the centre.  Sprinkle with castor sugar.  Serve warm with home made custard or lightly whipped cream

Serves 6

6 pears, Conference, Doyenne de Comice or William

6-8ozs (175-225g) blackcurrants

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

10 fl ozs (300ml) cold water

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan or casserole and bring slowly to the boil.  Peel, halve and core the pears being careful to keep a good shape.  Add to the syrup.  Place a greaseproof paper lid on top of the pears and then a tight fitting lid on the casserole.  Place the casserole on a medium heat.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, adding the blackcurrants after 10 minutes.  Continue to cook until pears are tender. Serve chilled in the syrup.

Cassis Recipe
Skye Gyngell from Petersham Nurseries Café made this delicious drink when she was here with us last year as our guest chef.
650g (1 ¼lb) blackcurrants

650g (1 ¼lb) caster sugar

750ml (1 ¼ pints) (1 bottle red wine)

500ml (18fl ozs) good brandy  (Skye uses Julian Temperley’s Somerset Cider Brandy available at different ages: 5, 7 & 10 years)
Place blackcurrants in a large, heavy based pan. Add the sugar, wine and brandy, stir and bring to the boil. Continue to stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Use a sieve to strain. Store in a glass jar or bottle.

Home made Ribena
This concentrated blackcurrant cordial packed with vitamin C is delicious diluted with sparkling or plain water or sparkling wine – it keeps for several months in a cool place.
1.12kg (2½ lb) blackcurrants
2.6kg (5½ lb) sugar
4L (scant 7 pint) water
225ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar
Boil the blackcurrants and water together in a stainless steel saucepan for 15 minutes. Strain and add the sugar to the liquid. Add the white vinegar. Boil for 3 minutes. Pour into sterilized bottles and seal well.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread
Makes 25

170g (6oz) white flour

110g (4oz) butter

55g (2oz) castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm (¼ inch)  thick.  Cut into rounds with a 6cm (2½ inch) cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 to pale brown, 10 – 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.

Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.


Ovencraftsman Hendrick Lepel presents BUILD YOUR OWN BREADOVEN.

A 2 day workshop in Breadoven Building near Kealkil (Westcork).

During the 2 day workshop you will be learning to build and Outdoor Oven.  This unique event, held during the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of August, priced at 120Eur/Person including lunch for the 2 days, is limited to only 8 participants!
For booking & further details contact
Ovencraftsman Hendrik on 086 8838400 or email to
Gwen’s Chocolates new shop
Schull based chocolatier Gwen Lasserre has opened a new shop at 46 Main Street, Kinsale – in the centre of the old town – also a small café section serving French specialities like Croque Monsieur and Tarte aux Framboises.   Tel 087-0520796

Easy Entertaining with Rachel Allen – 15th September -due to popular demand
1 day demonstration course – two delicious 5 course menus for

Entertaining -  plus breads, petits fours, aperitifs … now booking.  Tel 021-4646785 gift vouchers available. 

National Organic Week 15-21 September  to order point of sale material to highlight any events being organized for National Organic week.

Good Things Café, Durrus, Co Cork
Now open for the season – delicious menu of local foods –

Tel 027-61426


Past Letters