Sam Stern – Learn from the Student


Students come from all over the world to the Ballymaloe Cookery School. It’s a lovely mixture of ages, nationalities and backgrounds – this term eight countries are represented. It’s always interesting to meet the new batch. Last term we had the usual cosmopolitan mix, some had never cooked before, others had dabbled in the kitchen, one or two were chefs who had missed some of the basics and wanted to hone their skills.

They got started and settled in and I gradually became familiar with everyone’s names – one of the young lads was called Sam Stern – why did that ring a bell? Wasn’t sure         until I picked up a cook-book at Heathrow airport and there was Sam smiling from the cover. He had been with us for five or six weeks by then and never breathed a word that not only had written four best selling cook books but also did a TV series with a big fan base check out


He wrote his first book in 2004 at the age of thirteen with the support and encouragement of his mum, Susan Stern – a writer, teacher and voice coach to the stars.

Sam’s books are written for young lads and ladettes like himself who love to cook or would love to be able to rustle up a spontaneous pasta or delicious thrifty nosh with the occasional treat for themselves and their mates.

His latest book ‘Sam Stern’s Student Cookbook’ is a little gem which should not be reserved for students alone – the first few pages are full of thrifty tips and brilliant nutritional advice. Keeping fit is a great motivation. If you’re into sport, training, or just want to feel good about the way you look, cooking’s key to sorting energy and performance. Tailor your menu to your physical needs and you can trust that what you’re eating is fit for purpose – e.g. carbs for energy (eat pasta), protein for muscle (get pork or tofu). Same goes for exams, work etc. Eating the right stuff (iron, protein, omega 3s, and vitamins) gives you the focus you need but hey, do it in style with some great home-cooked tastes and maximise the pleasure. There are lots of savvy and smart shopping tips, advice on planning ahead, a basic store cupboard, how to source free food, energy and cash saving ideas, making the most of your food and basic techniques. The first few pages are worth the price of the book alone. But there are over 200 cracking recipes which are categorised into:

£ Skint/ saving, ££ Average, £££ Flush / celebration. Veggie options and fast to cook are also highlighted.

A little gem, not only as a present for young people but for all the rest of us as well.


Bacon, Cheese and Potato Tartiflette


All your favourite basics on meltingly hot and softly gorgeous form. An easy one-pan classic. There’s one rule – don’t rush it.


Feeds 2 – 3 – £


olive oil

4 rashers good bacon, chopped

bit of butter

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

450g (1lb) potatoes, waxy style are best (Charlotte, Wilja) peeled weight

fresh or dried thyme

110g (4oz) Gruyere/Cheddar



Heat oil in large frying or sauté pan. Fry bacon ‘til just crispy. Remove. Add butter, Fry onion, garlic gently for 10 till softened and just colouring.
Meantime, slice potatoes very thinly for speedy, even cooking. Add to pan with the bacon, onion, garlic. Sprinkle thyme. Cover.
Leave pan on low heat for 15 – 20 minutes or till spuds or ‘til spuds are soft. A knife should pass through easily. Grate/slice cheese over top.
Replace lid. Cook for a few minutes more till cheese has melted. Scrummy, good with a sharp salad.


My All-Time Favourite Char Sui Pork


Pork fillet’s a great lean meat for soaking up sweet Chinese flavours. Marinate overnight or do it in the moment. Veggies: try this marinade with tofu (pan fry it).


Feeds – 4 – ££


2 x 450g/1lb pieces pork fillet




2 tbsps runny honey

2 tbsps soy sauce

2 tbsps hoisin sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

pinch of five-spice powder


eat with: stir fry, rice, noodles



Stick the pork fillets into the mixed marinade. Turn. Leave for as long as you have. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Lay foil in roasting tin. Sit grill rack on top.
Roast meat on rack for 20 minutes or ‘til cooked through. Brush with marinade occasionally. Remove. Rest it in a warm place for 5 minutes.

You can

Eat cold in a lunch box to go with noodle salad
Slice up Chinese pancakes with hoisin sauce, cucumber sticks, spring onion

Skint Lentils, Rice and Lovely Sticky Onions


So simple – caramelised onions lift earthy tasting lentils and rice to a different level, surprisingly gorgeous. A top skint number. You can top with a sliced hard-boiled egg and yogurt. Great with a tomato and onion salad.


Feeds 3 – 4 – £


1 very large peeled onion, very thinly sliced

1-2 tbsps olive oil

1.2 litres/2 pints water

225g/8oz brown lentils

50g/2oz basmati/long-grain rice

salt and black pepper



Fry onion very gently in olive oil over low heat ‘til it caramelises (don’t let it burn). This could take 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile boil water in a pan. Add lentils. Cook for 20-25 minutes or ‘til almost tender. Add washed rice.
Cook rice and lentils for another 10 minutes or ‘til tender and water is absorbed. Drain is a colander if this doesn’t happen.
Leave covered with a tea towel for 5 minutes. Tip on a plate Stir in most of the onions leaving a good few on top. Season.

You can: use green lentils: add rice sooner as green lentils cook faster.


Hot Sticky Chicken Rice


Teriyaki your chicken. It makes great sticky finger food. Get your chopsticks into the rice bowl. Also great cold on noodle or rice salad.


Feeds 3-4 – ££


Teriyaki Sauce


4 tbsps soy sauce

1 ½ tbsps Chinese rice wine

2 tbsbs rice vinegar

1 tbsp caster sugar

¾ in piece fresh ginger, grated or chopped

few drops sesame oil


Kikkoman’s Teriyaki Marinade


8 chicken thighs

225g/8oz basmati or long grain rice

pinch salt


Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Mix teriyaki sauce ingredients.
Simmer gently 5-1 minutes in a small pan. Remove. Top two thirds into a bowl for the marinade. Save the rest to drizzle at end.
Prep chicken: pull skin off. Leave the bone in (holds together better and tastes sweeter)
Spread foil on baking tray/shallow roasting tin (stops sauce baking on.) Brush meat with marinade. Sit on foil in single layer. Slap in oven.
Brush with marinade every 5 minutes for 20 – 25 minutes. Remove.
Meantime, cook washed rice as basic (for brown start earlier)
Preheat medium grill. Grill chicken 5 minutes ‘til sticky brown but white inside. Leave it to relax. Drain rice. Cover with a cloth for 3 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
Pile rice into bowls. Top with chicken. Drizzle with saved one-third of marinade.

You can: Marinate chopped chicken breast in teriyaki for 30 minutes. Thread on skewers. Grill turning and brushing, for 5 – 7 minutes or ‘til cooked white through. Sit it on rice. Gorgeous.


Spanish Style Chorizo and Potato Complete Meal Deal



Don’t be thinking soup can’t fill you up. This bad-boy bowlful’s a complete meal deal. Spicy chorizo gets it hot and kicking. Potato and veg sort out layers of flavour…


Feeds 3-4 – ££


110g/4oz chorizo sausage, skinned, sliced

drizzle of olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 -3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 large floury old potatoes, peeled cut into large bite size bits


4 -5 cabbage leaves, finely shredded

1 x 400g/14oz can plum tomatoes, drained

salt and black pepper


Gently fry the chorizo in a bit of oil in a medium saucepan for 2–3 minutes. Remove the chorizo and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic and salt to the same pan. Cook gently for 5-10 minutes ‘til soft not coloured. Add the potatoes with enough water to cover without swamping. Increase the heat. Boil for 30 seconds.
Reduce heat. Simmer everything very gently for 10 minutes.
Slap in cabbage, chorizo, drained tomatoes with just enough extra water to cover everything. Simmer very gently on low heat for 15 minutes, ‘til potatoes are well soft and broth fully flavoured.
Add a bit of water if needed. Taste. Adjust seasoning.

You can: add a few cannellini beans, chick peas, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, add a pinch of smoked paprika and chopped parsley.



Onion Bhajis with Raita




Makes 12 – £


450g/1lb onions, halved very thinly sliced, crescent moon style

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1tsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

2 green chillies, de seeded, very finely chopped

fresh coriander, chopped

60g/2 ½ oz gram flour (from Indian/health food stores)

½ tsp baking powder

sunflower/groundnut oil



Few tbsps plain yogurt

length of cucumber peeled, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed (optional)


1 serving


1 mango peeled, diced

bit of red onion, diced

½ small red chilli, de seeded, chopped

1 tbsp lime juice

½ tsp caster sugar

fresh coriander

salt and pepper


Sprinkle onion slices with salt in colander or sieve. Leave 30 minutes to draw out moisture.
Rinse under running water. Squeeze. Dry very well in tea towel. Transfer to bowl.
Separately, mix cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, chillies, fresh coriander, gram flour, baking powder. Mix in with onions. 
Shape into bhajis. Squeeze well into 12 spiky balls.
Heat 8cm/3in oil in wok, deep saucepan or frying pan. When hot enough to crisp a breadcrumb, fry 4 bhajis at a time, carefully turning ‘til cooked, browned and golden. Drain a kitchen roll.
To make raita, tip yogurt into a bowl and mis with cucumber and garlic.

Mango Chutney


Chuck the lot into a bowl. Taste for seasoning.
Leave for one hour or eat now.

You can: team this with griddled fresh tuna. Cheat, use Sharwoods.


Fridge-Bake Tiffin


Don’t have an oven or saving on the bills? Make this one…


Makes 12 – ££


200g/7oz chocolate digestive biscuits

50g/2oz digestive biscuits

110g/4oz raisins

110g/4oz glace cherries

110g/4oz butter

10g/1/2 oz sugar

4 tbsps golden syrup

3 tbsps cocoa powder


Bash biscuits into varied-size crumbs/bits. Add raisins, cherries.
Melt butter, sugar, syrup, cocoa over a low heat
Stir into biscuit/fruit mix. Tip into 18×30.5cm/7x11in tin. Press mix down as evenly as you can.
Set in fridge. Mark into 12. Prise out with a spatula.

You can: add seeds, nuts etc.




East Cork Slow Food up Coming Events


Saturday 17th January, Slow Food East Cork is hosting a Celebration of Irish Pork. Learn about how the pigs at Ballymaloe Cookery School range freely, foraging for food. Watch a demonstration on how to make and link several types of homemade sausages with the opportunity to try it ourselves. Enjoy a sandwich from the pig spit roast too – €30.00 members and €40.00 non-members. 021 4646 785

The Four Rivers Convivium event promoting local pig farmers, will be held in the Arlington Lodge Hotel on the week-end of the 17th of January…€30 for Slow Food members €35 for non members.

For more details on these and other events
Thrifty Tip
Don’t shop when you are hungry – you will spend more…

If possible shop at the end of the day when supermarkets reduce some prices. Ask yourself, do you really need it – Mexican blackberries, American raspberries, and Chilean asparagus. Local stuff may be cheaper and uses less air miles.


About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters