ArchiveOctober 2008

Cheaper Cuts

At a smart dinner party last weekend for a world renowned wine writer, our host proudly announced that the meat for the meal had cost just 12 euros, there were 9 of us and we had eaten very well.  We had polished off large plates of shin of beef stew with fluffy mashed potato.  It was rich, unctuous and meltingly tender and could have graced the table of any fine restaurant.  These cheaper cuts of meat have been neglected by many in recent years particularly during the prosperous era of the Celtic Tiger.  Butchers were in despair trying to interest their ‘prime cut’ customers in a bit of scrag end. Only the ‘new Irish’ really valued these cut or for that matter knew what to do with them.
This generation has quickly lost the skill of how to make delicious meals with cheap cuts, anything more challenging than slapping a steak on the pan is now a mystery to most of us.
Well, lets ask our Gran’s if we are fortunate enough to have them still with us, particularly in Cork, which has been a provisioning town right back to the Phoenicians. Hense, there has been a long tradition of eating offal and the cheaper cuts so there are many people who can still cook a fine pot of tripe and onions, skirts and kidneys or pigs tails and turnips.  If the latter seems a bit too esoteric for your next dinner party why not start with some pork knuckles or ham hock terrine. Coincidentally, I was amused to read that the sale of swede turnips has gone up by 80% in the UK in the past few weeks, the credit crunch is obviously giving us a new appreciation of winter root vegetables.
Ham hocks are also delicious served just cooked until the meat is almost falling off the bones.  You can imagine how good they are with cabbage and parsley sauce or mashed swede turnips and of course some flowery Golden Wonder potatoes.  The Cork market is a rich source of all these meats, nowadays the label and price may also be in Polish and Russian as well as English.
Local butchers will have all the cheaper cuts and many are knowledgeable about how to cook them. Canny chefs also enjoy the challenge of dealing with less expensive joints. Paul Flynn at the Tannery, in Dungarvan, has delighted his customers for years with his  ham hock, belly of pork and beef cheek recipes. La Gueuleton, Chapter One and The Winding Stair, among others in Dublin and Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore all serve delectable dishes using less expensive cuts side by side with steaks and rack of lamb.
Beef Short Ribs also make the most delicious succulent stew, the flavour will be even better if it is made the day before you plan to tuck in.  Kay Harte in the Farmgate Restaurant in the English Market in Cork often serves wonderful traditional Cork dishes – one of my favourites is corned mutton with Caper sauce and Scallion Champ.  Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite without breaking the bank.
Jellied Ham Hock and Parsley Terrine

Serves 12 – 16

4kg (9lb) ham hocks, or a nice 2.7kg (6lb) piece of dry cured ham, bacon or oyster cut is good
Water and dry white wine
2 onions, stuck with 1 clove each
2 carrots
1 stick celery
1 small bay leaf
Few sprigs of thyme
10 black peppercorns
Parsley stalks (keep the leaves for later)
4-5 teaspoons approximately powdered gelatine
50g (2oz) parsley

Tomato Salad (see recipe)
Spring onion
Green salad

If the ham or bacon is salty, soak in cold water overnight or at least for a few hours, discard the soaking water. Cover with fresh water and blanch and refresh three or perhaps four times depending on how salty the ham or bacon is.  Finally cover with fresh water and a dash of white wine. Add all the remaining ingredients except the gelatine and parsley. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2-2 1/2 hours depending on the blanching time – a skewer should go through easily. Remove the ham, strain the liquid through a fine sieve or one lined with muslin, degrease and allow to cool.

Remove the rind and cut the ham into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes approximately.  Measure the liquid and allow 4 teaspoons of gelatine for each 600 ml (1 pint) – you won’t need much more than 600ml (1 pint). Put 4 tablespoons of the cooking liquid into a small bowl, sprinkle on 4 rounded teaspoons of gelatine and allow to sponge for a few minutes while you bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Put the bowl into the simmering water to dissolve the gelatine. When the gelatine is clear add a little of the measured liquid, stir well and then mix with the remainder, finally stirring in the finely chopped parsley. Mix well. Pour the liquid over the ham and then fill into an oiled bowl or terrine (it should be about 10 cm (4 inches) deep). Cover and refrigerate overnight.
In France it is traditionally made in a round-bottomed bowl but it can be made in a rectangular terrine also.  Serve in slices with summer salads.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Flageolet Beans

Lamb shanks were served as a main course at a posh wedding I attended recently and got a tremendous response.

Serves 6

6 lamb shanks, 1 kg approx.
12 small sprigs of rosemary
12 slivers garlic
8 anchovy fillets, halved
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Braising ingredients
1 oz (25g) goose fat or duck fat or olive oil
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
7 fl ozs (200ml) bottle good red wine
5 fl ozs (150ml) chicken or lamb stock
1 sprig of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
2 strips of dried orange peel

4 ozs (110g) streaky bacon, cut into lardons and blanched
2 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, finely diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
6 cloves garlic
4 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1/2 x 1/4 oz tin of tomatoes + juice
2 sprigs of thyme
leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
1 x 14oz (400g) tin flageolet beans, drained or 4-7 ozs (110-200g) dried flageolet beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 20 minutes

sprigs of rosemary and garlic

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/regulo 2.

Remove most of the fat from each shank, then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make 2 deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper. Heat the goose fat in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the meat in it until well browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until well browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stir for a minute or two. Add the chicken stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and brown the bacon in it. Then reduce the heat and add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and cook for 8 minutes approx. or until the vegetables have softened. Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, herbs, flageolets and enough stock to half cover the beans. Cover and simmer for 3-3½ hours.

When the lamb has finished cooking, remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serve the lamb shanks on a hot deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.
Braised Short Ribs

Serve 10-12

6 beef short ribs, trimmed

8oz (225g) streaky bacon (in a piece if possible. Remove rind, dice bacon, fry out fat in 1 tablespoon  olive oil or duck fat)
7-8 small or 2-3 large onions (1 sliced)
8oz (225g) diced carrot
6-8 cloves garlic
1 chilli, sliced
6ozs (175g) diced celery
1-2 red or yellow peppers, diced
2 level tablespoons tomato puree
200-250ml (7- 9fl ozs) red wine
3 large sprigs of thyme
1 cinnamon stick
1 spiral of orange zest
2 bay leaves

If possible trim and salt the beef the night before cooking.

Remove rind and dice the bacon.  Save the rind to cook with beef, it adds gelatine to the sauce.  In a wide sauté pan render the fat from the bacon using a little olive oil or duck fat.  Alternatively use all duck fat and omit bacon.  Remove bacon dice.

Brown beef in batches; do not overcrowd the sauté pan.  Leave 2 tablespoons fat in pan and sweat onion, carrot and celery, stirring to dissolve all browned bits in the sauté pan.  Add the garlic, optional pepper and sweat for 5-6 minutes or until limp.

Put the beef and vegetables in to a casserole or heavy braising pot, preferably enamelled cast iron.

Add tomato paste to the hot sauté pan and cook briefly.  Add wine and bring to boil.  Pour wine over beef and add thyme, bay leaf, orange zest and cinnamon stick.  Cover with a butter paper and tight fitting lid.  Braise in a moderate to low oven until tender, 3 – 4 1/2 hours (depending on the size).  The meat should be really tender and falling off the bones.

Remove herbs, cinnamon stick and orange zest, strain the liquid, skim fat and discard. Taste and correct seasoning and sprinkle with lots of snipped flat parsley.  Serve with mashed potato.
Stuffed Lambs Heart

Many children who happily watch bloodcurdling scenes on TV, would scream with horror if one of my favourite dishes, roast stuffed lambs heart were put on the table for dinner!  Sheep’s hearts are more tender and juicy than beef hear.

Serves 6 approx.

6 lamb hearts

75g (3oz) butter
175g (6oz) finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon annual marjoram
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
175g (6oz) white breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper

300ml (1/2 pint) beef stock
2-3 tablespoons mushroom ketchup (optional)

Trim the hearts, cut away any sinews to make a nice pocket.  Wash thoroughly in cold salted water, dry well.  Next make the stuffing.  Allow to cool.

Season the inside of the hearts with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fill with the fresh herb stuffing, piling the extra on the top.   Cover with a butter wrapper and tie with cotton string if necessary.   Put into a small roasting tin or casserole and add about 300ml (1/2 pint) of beef stock.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Cover and bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until tender.

When fully cooked, lift carefully onto a serving dish.  Bring the cooking juices to the boil, thicken with a very little roux and correct the seasoning.  Serve with the stuffed hearts.
Stuffed Beef Hearts
Follow the above recipe – the stuffing will be sufficient for 1 beef heart, but the cooking time should be increased to 3 – 3 1/2 hours



Fool Proof Food


Almond Cookies
Claudia Roden “The Jewish Book of Cooking”

Makes about 30

I know these little sweets are highly esteemed in Turkey and the Balkans, because one of my elitist grandmother’s ironic remarks was “a los asnos maronchionos”, implying that you don’t give maronchinos to donkeys. They are perfect to serve with coffee – softer than macaroons, a little moist and not too sweet – and they never fail.

400 g ground almonds
125-200g superfine sugar
2 or 3 drops of almond extract
2 tablespoons rose water
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle on

Mix the almonds and sugar. Add the extract, rose water, and eggs and work to a smooth paste with your hand. Role into walnut- sized balls, flatten them slightly, and place in little paper cases or on greaseproof or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 oven for 25 minutes. Let them cool before dusting with confectioners’ sugar.

For value for money it would be well nigh impossible to beat the early bird menu at L’Atmosphere in Waterford, €20 for 3 courses of delicious French brasserie food.  Plus a glass of wine, consequently it was packed by 6.30pm.  Chef Arnaud Mary who hails from Brittany also offers an A la carte with such temptations as ox tongue and lamb.  There are daily specials also and he highlights local food s and buys from local producers which definitely give bonus points in my book. L’Atmosphere is easy to find its just off Custom House Parade on the N25 in Waterford City. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner 12.30-2.30pm and 5.30pm til late.  Saturday and Sunday for dinner from 5.30pm til late. 051-858426
If you would like to add value to your home produced raw materials be it meat, milk, cheese or gains you might want to enroll on the excellent  UCC Diploma in Speciality Food Production.  The course is in its 4th year and has already served to inspire and provide skills for successful food producers and regulators.  Enquiries: Dr Angela Sheehan, Food Industry Training Unit, UCC. Tel: 021 4901423  Email
Thrifty Tip – If you have access to surplus cooking apples why not store them for winter use in single layer on stacking trays in a cool garage.  Greengrocers will be delighted to give you surplus timber boxes and molded cardboard dividers which are perfect for the job.

Rachel Allen’s new slow cooker available from Argos and is absolutely terrific for this kind of cooking.

Memory Lane

A few weeks ago on 20th September, past students from 14 countries world wide converged on Ballymaloe Cookery School to help us to celebrate 25 years.

As ever it doesn’t seem that long ago since we converted some farm buildings into a little cookery school and tentatively put an ad in the Cork Examiner and the Irish Times.  We waited for the phone to ring and eagerly awaited the morning post. Eventually we started in September 1983 with just 11 students.  Within 2 years the first American student registered so we boldly added the word international to our next brochure.  From the beginning the school operated year round with a selection of 12 week certificate courses for those who wanted the skills to cook professionally and a variety of short courses for those who love to cook at home for family and friends.  In recent years we have added a series of ‘Forgotten Skills’ courses.  For those who would like to try their hand at homemade butter or cheese-making or curing bacon, smoking their own food or keeping a few chickens or bees………

There are afternoon cooking demonstrations on week days for those who are in the area and bespoke courses for corporate events, parties and celebrations.

We were blessed with the weather, a beautiful balmy autumn day, the sun shone on the hundreds of students as they hugged and greeted each other.  There was a lot of catching up to do, some hadn’t met for over 20 years. We had set up a Farmer’s Market with stalls brimming with delicious local food and the bounty of our farm.

There were tasty shrimps from Ballycotton with thick homemade mayonnaise, smoked fish from Bill Casey and Frank Hederman. Bowls of cucumber pickle, organic salad leaves and sweet cherry tomatoes from the green houses.

Past student Arun Kapil from Green Saffron had commandeered his brother to help him to ladle out bowls of freshly made chicken tikka with spices he imports directly from India.

Philip Dennhardt, Ted Berner and Garreth Granville were spit roasting a fat saddleback pig from the farm served with Brambly Apple sauce, Ballymaloe relish and crusty bread from Scott Walsh and Declan Ryan of Arbutus Breads.  Almost the entire Ferguson family from Schull came to man the Gubbeen stall and give people a taste of Fingal house cured charcuterie and cheese.

Many of the local farmers, cheese-makers, fishermen, butchers, bakers also joined us to celebrate and we were particularly delighted to have retired butcher Michael Cuddigan from Cloyne who supplied both Ballymaloe House and the Cookery School with fine meat for many generations.

We had a fine selection of farmhouse cheese and several of the cheese-makers came along including Jane Murphy from Ardsallagh, Mary Burns from Adrahan, the Keatings from Baylough cheese, Jeffa Gill from Durrus and Maria Collier from Cooleeney.

For pudding there were meringues, pink and white, blackberry and chocolate cupcakes, homemade strawberry and raspberry ice cream in sugar cones and summer fruit salad with rose geranium leaves.

Cork coffee roasters doled out cup after cup of coffee.

Students wandered through out the farm and gardens and into the cottages to relive the memories and to check out any changes since they were with us.

The music played and the guests stayed chatting at the long tables into the early evening.  It was such a joy to be reacquainted with so many of our past students some of whom had traveled from the other side of the world.  We are so proud of each and every one.

A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats

One of my favourite easy entertaining tricks is to serve a selection of Irish artisan charcuterie from inspired producers like Fingal Ferguson and Frank Krawczyk from Schull, west Cork and James McGeough from Oughterard, Co. Galway.  The quality is so wonderful that I’m always bursting with pride as I serve it.


A selection of cured meats:

Air dried smoked Connemara lamb

Smoked venison

Prosciutto, Gubeen, Chorizo

Venison Salami

Derreenatra salami

West Cork Kassler

Rillettes, brawn


A selection of Crusty country breads, sour dough, yeast and soda

Tiny gherkins or cornichons

Fresh radishes, just trimmed but with some green leaf attached

A good green salad of garden lettuce and salad leaves


Arrange the meats and potted meat on a large platter, open a good bottle of red and tuck in!
Smoked Mackerel Pâte


4 ozs (110g) undyed smoked mackerel or herring, free of skin and bone

2-3 ozs (55-85g) softened butter

1/4 teaspoon finely snipped fennel

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2-1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste

salt and freshly ground pepper

crusty bread
Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Pork with Fennel Seeds
Serves 8 – 10


Shoulder of pork is best for this long slow cooking method, as the meat is layered with fat which slowly melts away, try to find a traditional breed, e.g. Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Black berkshire or Middle White.  We also slow roast shoulder of lamb which is succulent and juicy.


1 whole shoulder of free-range pork, with skin, about 2.75-3.25 kg (7-8 lb) in weight

8 garlic cloves, peeled

30 g (1 oz) fennel seeds

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)


Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas 8.


 Using a small sharp knife, score the rind of the shoulder with deep cuts about 5 mm (1/4’’) wide.


Peel and crush the garlic with the fennel seeds, then mix with salt, pepper and chilli flakes to taste.  Push this mixture into the cuts, over the rind and on the surface of the meat.  Place the shoulder on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes or until the skin begins to blister and brown.  Reduce the oven temperature to 150ºC/325ºF/Gas 3, and leave the meat to roast for 5-6 hours or more until

It is completely soft under the crisp skin.  The meat will give way and will almost fall off the bone.  Serve each person some crisp skin and some chunks of meat cut from different parts of the shoulder.  


Loin and streaky pork is also delicious cooked in this way but it will take a shorter cooking time.




Sprigs of fennel



Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste, add more lemon juice and garlic if necessary, it should be well seasoned. Put into little individual pots, or set in a loaf tin lined with cling film.


Alternatively, this pate can be piped in rosettes onto 1/4 inch (5mm) thick slices of cucumber, melba toast, crostini or savoury biscuits. Garnish each one with a sprig of fennel.


Serve with cucumber pickle and crusty bread.


Cooked fresh salmon, smoked salmon, smoked mackerel, trout or herring can be substituted in the above recipe.






Sugar Cones with Strawberry Ice cream


If you are a DIY fiend perhaps you could produce a board with circles cut out to fit the cones with Perspex or light timber.


Serves 6-8


225g (1/2 lb) castor sugar

300ml (1/2 pint) water

900g (2lb) very ripe strawberries

Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 orange

Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon

150ml (5fl oz) whipped cream


6-8 sugar cones or plain ice cream cones


Dissolve the sugar in the water, boil for 7-10 minutes, leave to cool. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender, sieve. Add the freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice to the cold syrup. Stir into the puree, fold in the whipped cream. Freeze immediately preferably in a sorbietere.  Store in a covered plastic box in the freezer. Store in a fridge. Scoop the ice cream into balls and fill into the sugar cones – enjoy.


Pink & White Baby Meringues



4 egg whites

9 ozs (130g) icing sugar

Pink, blue, purple organic natural food colouring


Cover four baking trays with a perfectly fitting sheet of silicone paper.


Mix all the icing sugar with the eggs at once in a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  This is best done in an electric mixer otherwise you’ll be exhausted.  Divide into separate bowls and add a few drops of the food colouring of your choice to the meringue mixture (careful not to overdo it). Spoon into a clean piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe into rosettes. Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C\300°F\regulo 2 for 30 minutes or until set crisp and just brown on top.



1/2 pint (300ml) whipped cream


Sandwich the meringues together with whipped cream.


Rose Geranium Cupcakes and Crystallized Rose Petals

Makes 12


150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self-raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 medium sized geranium leaves, chopped

8 medium sized crystallized rose petals


icing sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice


1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.


Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.


Put the chopped rose geranium leaves into a small saucepan with the milk and warm gently, turn off heat and allow to cool.  Put the remaining ingredients except the milk into a food processor, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of food processor, then add the infused milk to the mixture and whizz again.


Divide mixture between the paper cases in muffin tin.


Bake in preheated oven for 15 –20 mins or until risen and golden, then remove from tin and leave to cool on a wire rack


Meanwhile make the icing.  Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the freshly squeezed lemon juice to make thickish icing.  When the cupcakes are cool spread a little icing over the top of each one and decorate with a crystallized rose petal or a rose geranium leaf.


Fool Proof Food
Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Irish Honey

For the past few years we have growing a large selection of heirloom tomatoes of all shapes and sizes.  Red, yellow, black, striped, round, pear shaped, oval.  They make a divine tomato salad with fresh buffalo mozzarella and lots of fresh basil.  If you cant find heirloom tomatoes, use a selection of ripe red and yellow fruit


Serves 4


8 very ripe heirloom tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 dessertspoon pure Irish honey

3 tablespoons Mani extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves


Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix the oil and honey together and add ‘torn’ basil leaves, pour over the tomatoes and toss gently.  Taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  A little freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavour in a very delicious way.



Kinsale International Gourmet Food Festival

10th – 12th October

For lovers of good food there is never a bad time to visit Kinsale, but this October weekend has to be one of the best times to be there. It’s a packed programme of foodie events all day long, including tastings, dinners, parties and of course music and entertainment.

This year’s Slow food festival market is going to be bigger and better than previous years with over 30 local producers lining the pavements of Patrick’s Street..

For further information on this event please call Rose-Anne Kidney at 021 4270475 or email



Its already time to think about making plum puddings,Christmas cake and mincemeat.  Look out for beautiful plump, dried fruit, muscatel raisins, Lexia sultanas and currants which can be purchased from Farm Gate Midleton, Urrú Bandon, Country Choice Nenagh, Fallon & Byrne Dublin, Gourmet Food Shop Rathgar………



Good Things Café in Durrus, West Cork offer a range of exciting day, weekend and week-long cookery courses. Carmel Summers can cater for your party or function and stock your fridge or freezer so you can take a weekend off.

Fruits of Foraging

Let’s go foraging and then have a dinner party to celebrate.  I pick and gather ‘wild things’ year round but this really is the best season as far as variety is concerned.  On the last spring tide my mother in law, Myrtle Allen, showed us how to gather carrageen moss off the little rocks in Shanagarry Strand.  It is now laid out on the grass to bleach the seaweed in the sun.  Then it will last almost indefinitely and is a tremendous source of iodine and vitamins and other trace elements.
In truth, early Autumn is a bit late to pick carrageen, but watch out for early spring tides next year so there’s lots of time to bleach the seaweed during the summer.
However, the hedgerows, woods and headlands are bursting with bounty at present, blackberries aren’t quite as abundant as last year but there are still lots and lots.  We also gathered some elderberries, damsons and a fine basket of sloes.  The latter grow on blackthorn bushes while damson trees can be 14 or 15ft high.  All these fruit, as well as crab apples, make delicious jams, jellies and boozy liqueurs. 
Watercress is growing in profusion at present as is wild sorrel and fat hen (oracla).
If you have wild roses or a hedgerow near you or rosa rugosa in your garden, you’ll have lots of rose hips, so try making a rose hip syrup to add to a glass of prossecco as an enticing aperitif.  Float a rose petal or two on top if there’s some still around. 
It’s not a brilliant year for wild mushrooms but a recent foray yielded lots of chanterelles, purple amethyst, deceivers, hedgehog mushrooms all distinctly different and delicious.
So next time you are going for a walk bring a basket and keep your eyes peeled for good things to eat, to incorporate into your diet.  Not only are they delicious to eat, they add badly needed vitamins, minerals and trace elements to our diet which are sadly lacking in much of our pre-prepared and processed food.

Her are some suggestions for a dinner party menu to enjoy with family and friends.
Watercress Soup

Serves 6-8

45g (12 ozs) butter
140g (5ozs) peeled and chopped potatoes
110g (4ozs) peeled and chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
600ml (1 pint) water or homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
600ml (1 pint) creamy milk
225g (8ozs) chopped watercress (remove the coarse stalks first)

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the watercress. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the watercress and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the watercress is just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.
Pork or Chicken with Wild Mushrooms & Ginger

You can use the formula of this quick and delicious recipe for fillet steak instead of pork or chicken breast, but be careful not to overcook the meat.  Terrific for a dinner party, it can be made ahead and reheated gently before dinner.

Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) pork fillet or chicken breast – naturally reared if possible
1-2 tablesp.  extra virgin olive or sunflower oil or a little butter
4 ozs (110g) onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger
¼ pint (150ml) home-made chicken stock
8 ozs (225g) wild mushrooms (chantrelles, hedgehog, deceivers), sliced
½ pint (300ml) light cream
a little roux
freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
Orzo or Fluffy Rice

Cut the pork or chicken into slices ⅓ inch (8mm) thick approx.  Pour a little of the oil or butter into a very hot frying pan and sauté the pieces of meat, a few at a time, until brown on both sides but not fully cooked.
Remove to a plate and keep warm.

Add a little more oil or butter and cook the onion and ginger gently until soft and golden.  Deglaze the pan, add the stock and boil to reduce by one-quarter.  Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms in a little oil or butter in another frying pan over a high heat, then add to the pork or chicken.
Add the cream to the onion and stock, then bring back to the boil, thicken slightly with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and parsley to the sauce and all the juices.   Taste, add a little lemon juice and bubble gently for a couple of minutes until the meat is fully cooked.  Taste again and correct seasoning if necessary.
Pour into a hot serving dish and serve with Orzo or a bowl of fluffy rice.

Fool Proof  Food
Damson or Sloe Gin

Its time to make a supply of damson and sloe gin to have ready for Christmas presents.
Damsons are wild plums, sometimes called bullaces, in season in Autumn and less tart than sloes.  Sloes are little tart berries that resemble tiny purple plums, they grow on prickly bushes in hedgerows or on top of stone walls. They are in season from September to the end of October. 

850ml (1½ pints) damsons or sloes
350g (12oz) unrefined white sugar
1.2 litres (2pints) gin

Wash and dry the damsons or sloes.  Prick in several places, we use a clean darning needle.  Put them into a sterilized glass kilner jar, add the sugar and pour in the gin. 
Cover and seal tightly. Shake every couple of days to start with and then every now and again for 2 – 3 months, by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. 
Damson or sloe gin will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for few a few months – should be perfect by Christmas.
Carrigeen moss is a seaweed which can be gathered off the south and west coasts of Ireland. It is one of the most valuable of all our wild foods as it is loaded with vitamins, minerals and trace elements, particularly iodine, and is rich in natural gelatine. It helps our metabolism to work to its optimum and so breaks down fats while giving us lots of strength and energy. It can be used to set liquids or give body to soups, stews and jams. Another ‘cool’ food!
Serves 6

(1/4oz) cleaned, well dried carrigeen moss (1 semi-closed fistful)
850ml (1 1/2pint) whole milk 
1 tablespoon castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free range
1/2teaspoon pure vanilla extract or a vanilla pod

Compote of fruit in season or soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream

Soak the carrigeen in a little bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will swell and increase in size. Strain off the water and put the carrigeen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrigeen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrigeen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and beat it into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream, or with a fruit compote,
Compote of Blackberry and Apples with Rose Geranium Leaves

A delicious Autumn dessert.

Serves 3 approx.

225g (8 ozs) sugar
450ml (16fl ozs) water
4 large dessert apples eg. Worcester Permain or Coxes Orange Pippen
275g (10 ozs) blackberries
8 large rose geranium leaves (Pelagonium Graveolens)

Put the sugar, cold water and rose geranium leaves into a saucepan, bring to the boil for 1-2 minutes. Peel the apples thinly with a peeler, keeping a good round shape. Quarter them, remove the core and trim the ends. Cut into segments 5mm (1/4inch) thick. Add to the syrup. Poach until translucent but not broken. Cover with a paper lid and lid of the saucepan.

Just 3-5 minutes before they have finished cooking, add the blackberries, simmer together so that they are both cooked at once.

Serve chilled, with little shortbread biscuits.


For those who are baffled by the maze of regulations the four week course on the Management of Food Hygiene may clarify the subject.
It starts on Monday the 10th November in Jury’s Hotel, Western Road, Cork
The fee of €395 per person includes textbooks, lunch and tea/coffee
Contact Karen Mulvaney to book a place (01) 6779901 or email

If we skip breakfast by mid morning our brain and body will be running low on fuel so we will feel a strong urge to grab a cup of coffee and a sugary snack. This may well kick start the engine but by lunch time we will be ravenous and a bit tetchy and more likely go for a quick fix rather than a healthy wholesome lunch.  Studies show that children who eat breakfast have more energy and can concentrate better at school.  Research also shows that those who eat a nourishing breakfast are more like to maintain a healthy weight.  In a society faced with the urgent problem of childhood obesity and overweight and undernourished adults its time to focus again on breakfast.  Slow Food Limerick and region are doing just that on
Wednesday October 15 at 8pm Garryowen Rugby Club
Anne Fox: 087 216 3706
Ellen O’Mahony: 087 274 4968


Remember Battenburg or Chapel Window cake?  I recently got a pressie of the delicious version made by Catherine Farrell and Annette Burke of the Gourmet Parlor in Sligo town.  Worth a detour not just for a trip down memory lane but for all the delicious home baking.


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