ArchiveMarch 2009

Don’t believe the hype – food hygiene and safety

The paranoia that has developed around food hygiene and food safety in the last decade is nothing short of frightening. In a just a few short years, many people have lost the ability to judge for themselves when food is safe to eat.

Instead we rely on food manufacturers who of necessity need to err on the side of caution to guide us on the best before and sell by dates. As a result much perfectly good food is thrown out. The constant barrage of ads on TV warning us about the hazards of having a picnics, barbeques, Christmas turkey… has served to further undermine people’s confidence in their own judgement. The tidal wave of regulations that have been visited upon us by the European Union and our own government, the majority of which are way out of proportion to the risk involved, have wearied and frustrated the Irish people. The regulatory business has developed into an unstoppable industry. Restaurants, food businesses, butchers, bakers and fishermen can not afford to keep continually tweaking their facilities unless there is a genuine problem. At this point in time each regulation needs to be examined carefully to see if it really adds real or just hassle.

I remember life before electricity; I was about nine when electricity came to our little village in Co Laois. Before that there were no fridges or freezers or cold rooms. We had meat safes on the north side of the house with perforated zinc, fly proof sides, so the cool air could filter through. We learned from our mothers how to judge with our senses whether food was safe. If meat smelled a bit high it was given a good wash, seasoned well and thoroughly cooked. I was reminded of this the other night when I found a vac packed duck in the back of my fridge. I had been away for a few days so it had been hidden behind some other bits and pieces for over two weeks. When I slit open the pack and it was good and high. I suspect most people would have run to the bin but I just gave it a good wash inside and out and rubbed a bit of salt into the skin and roasted it.

Six of us had it for supper with some apple sauce and lots of vegetables and everyone remarked on how exceptionally delicious and gamey it tasted.

The duck was reared by Nora Aherne from Elfordstown near Midleton (021) 463 2354. Nora has been rearing beautiful ducks, geese and turkey for us to serve at Ballymaloe for over 30 years. They are available at the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday mornings, as are JJ and Dan Aherne’s (no relation) organic ducks and chickens (021) 4631058. The latter have to be sent to Cappawhite in Co Tipperary for slaughtering and plucking. We badly need top quality farm facilities and mobile abattoirs to facilitate at a time when more and more farmers and food producers are endeavouring to add value to their produce and raw materials. Free range, organic ducks and chickens are not cheap and nor can they be, they take time to rear 40 ducks and 500 chickens, a week and the organic feed is approximately double the cost of commercial feed.

The only positive development from this recession is the growing interest in self sufficiency, more and more people, are keeping hens, a couple of pigs, growing a few herbs. Last year the sale of vegetable seeds has outstripped flower seeds and already this year promises to be a bumper year for vegetable sales and every vegetable growing class is oversubscribed.

Many doctors and nutritionists tell us we eat far too much meat so why not eat less and trade up, when you buy and use every scrap of Nora Aherne, JJ or Dan Aherne’s ducks in East Cork or from Skeaghanore ducks in West Cork (028) 37428, you can use every morsel and make a fine duck stock from the giblets and carcass and a delicious pâté from the duck liver.


How to Joint a Duck and make the most of every little morsel

First remove the wishbone from the neck end – next remove the wings – stockpot

Remove the legs – roast or use for duck confit

Remove the duck breasts. Tear off the inside fillet, use on a salad tiéde.

Trim excess fat off the duck breasts and save to render down for duck fat

Remove all the rest of the duck fat from the carcass – particularly the pieces near the tail end inside the carcass. Cut into small pieces and put onto a roasting tin in a low oven 100C/200F. The liquid fat will render out slowly, the skin will gradually become crisp and golden. Pour the fat into a stainless steel saucepan or Pyrex bowl.

Save the crispy ‘grillons’ in France these delicious morsels are sprinkled over a salad.

Finally there is the duck carcass, if you have a cleaver, chop into smaller pieces and use for duck stock. Add the duck wings and giblets also and lots of aromatic vegetables and seasoning.

Save the duck liver for pâté or for a salade tiede.

In France, I once ate delicious duck rilettes in a restaurant called La Treille in the Dordogne. The chef explained that he used the little pieces of meat from the duck wings and carcass, which had cooked in the stock. The shredded meat was seasoned with salt, freshly ground pepper and quatre epices, and mixed with duck fat and served with hot thin toast. It was absolutely delicious. In this way every scrap of the duck is utilised and the stock may be used for duck gravy or beetroot soup.


My maternal grandfather, whom we called Papie Tynan, was very fond of his food. He reared ducks, geese, chicken and guinea fowl for the table. The ducks and geese had a happy life, paddling about in the pond and pecking at the rotten apples in the orchard, and they tasted exquisite. Every scrap of the ducks and geese was used, including the blood which was made into a soft pudding and eaten on bread. The feathers were kept for pillows, and the down for quilts.

1 free range duck – 4 lbs (1.8kg) approx. allow 1 lb (450g) duck per serving


2 ozs (50g) butter

3 ozs (75g) chopped onion

1 tablespoon finely chopped sage

3 1/2 ozs (100g) soft white breadcrumbs

salt and freshly ground pepper


neck and giblets

bouquet garni

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

Bramley Apple Sauce

1 lb (450g) cooking apples

1-2 dessertspoons water

approx. 2 ozs (55g) sugar (depending on tartness of apples)

Put the neck, gizzard, heart and feet into a saucepan with a sliced carrot and onion. Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme. Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt.

Bring slowly to the boil, skim and simmer for 2-3 hours. This will make a delicious broth which will be the basis of the gravy. Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.

To make the stuffing: Sweat the chopped onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Remove from the heat add the breadcrumbs and freshly chopped sage. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Unless you are cooking the duck immediately allow to get cold.

When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and stuff. Roast in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 1 1/2 hours. approx. When the duck is cooked remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or fried potatoes). Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary. Strain gravy into a sauceboat and serve with the duck.

apple Sauce: Peel, quarter and core the apple, cut pieces into 2 and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm as an accompaniment to the duck.

Duck Roast with Honey and Rosemary

Serves 4

1 free range duck 3-4 lbs (1.35-1.8kg) weight

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons chopped shallot or onion

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

2 teaspoons chopped rosemary

sea salt and coarsely ground pepper

2 cloves finely chopped garlic

6 fl ozs (175ml) chicken stock

1 oz (25g) butter


2 oranges – segmented

sprigs of flat parsley

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

Put the duck into a roasting tin. Season with a little salt on both the skin and inside the cavity. Cook in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Then brush the duck with the honey. Sprinkle on the herbs, shallot and garlic. Cook in a moderate oven and roast for approx. 40 minutes. Baste the duck regularly during cooking, it should develop a rich glaze. After 40 minutes remove the duck to another roasting tin for the remainder of the cooking time 10 – 20 minutes approx. Reduce the heat to 160°C/325°F/regulo 3 if it’s browning a little too much.

Meanwhile make the gravy in the original roasting tin, degrease the roasting pan and deglaze the caramelized juices with chicken stock. Allow the stock to boil and simmer gently to dissolve the caramelized juices and to reduce slightly. When the duck is fully cooked allow to rest in a warming oven for 10-15 minutes.

Carve into 4 portions arrange on a hot serving dish, add the degreased juices from the carving dish to the gravy. Return to the boil, whisk in 1/2-1 oz butter and spoon over the duck. Garnish with orange segments and sprigs of flat parsley or watercress.


Duck Legs Roast with Honey and Rosemary

Use 4 duck legs or duck breasts (Magrets) instead of a whole duck. Cook at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes. Brush on the honey and sprinkle with the herb, shallot and garlic mixture. Reduce temperature to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 25-35 minutes depending on the size of the duck legs.

Salade Composee for Duck with Honey and Rosemary

Selection of lettuces and salad leaves: ie. Butterhead, Raddichio, Cos or Chinese leaves, Lambs lettuce, Curly Endives, Watercress, Rocket leaves beet or Swiss chard leaves.

2 oranges – carefully segmented

2 ozs of fine French beans, blanched and refreshed

4 tablespoons of lardons of bacon

8 croutons of bread (small French stick if possible)

Hazelnut or Walnut Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sunflower or peanut oil

4 tablespoons hazelnut or walnut oil

pinch of mustard, salt, pepper and sugar

To assemble the salad:

Brush the croutons with duck fat and place in a moderate oven to become golden brown. Blanch the lardons of bacon to remove the excess salt. Dry them and fry in a little sunflower oil until golden and crispy. Remove from pan and keep warm. Carefully tear the lettuces into bite sized pieces and toss with the beans in the dressing, until the leaves just glisten. Place the duck leg or breast on the plate. Arrange the croutons and orange segments around the salad in a large serving dish or on individual plates. Sprinkle the warm lardons of bacon over the salad and serve immediately.


Ballymaloe Duck Liver Pâté with Melba Toast

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.


225g (8oz) fresh organic duck livers

2 tablespoons brandy

200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the duck livers are)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large clove garlic, crushed

freshly ground pepper


Wash the livers and remove any membrane or green tinged bits.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone. Put the livers through a sieve or into a food processor. De-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame, add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves and then scrape off with a spatula and add to the livers. Puree for a few seconds. Allow to cool.


Add 225g (8oz) butter and fresh thyme leaves. Puree until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter, cut into cubes if necessary.


This pate should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Knock out any air bubbles.


Clarify some butter and run a little over the top of the pate to seal.

Serve with Melba toast or hot white bread. This pâté will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.



It is essential to cover duck liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the pate will oxidize and become bitter in taste and grey in colour.



Classic Duck Stock


5 duck carcasses

1¼ lb (560 g) carrots

14 ozs (400 g) onions

18 fl ozs (scant 600 ml) red wine

2¼ pints (1.3 L) brown veal stock or chicken stock

bouquet garni

pinch coarse salt

a few peppercorns


salt and freshly ground pepper


Remove the insides of the ducks and chop up the carcasses. Put into a large roasting pan and replace it in a very hot oven 225C/440F/regulo 7-8. Chop carrots and onions. When the duck bones are brown, add the vegetables and continue browning in the oven. When the vegetables are lightly browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer them with the bones to a large saucepan. Degrease the roasting pan. Deglaze the pan with red wine and reduce. Add the wine to the saucepan with the bones and the vegetables. Add the bouquet garni, pinch of coarse salt, a few peppercorns and veal stock. Add enough water to cover the bones completely Bring to a boil and let simmer for approx. 2 hours, skimming frequently. Strain the stock and reduce to about half.


Confit de Canard

Preserved Duck Legs

Makes 4

Confit is an almost exclusively French way of preserving. First the meat is salted and then it is cooked, long and slowly in the fat. Originally confit was made to preserve meat, particularly goose and duck for the winter, but nowadays this essentially peasant dish has become very fashionable.

4 duck legs, preferably free range (or 2 legs and 2 breasts or the equivalent amount of goose)

1 clove of garlic

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly cracked black peppercorns

a few gratings of fresh nutmeg

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 crumbled bay leaf

2 lbs (900g) duck or goose fat

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs thyme

parsley sprigs

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Cut the legs off the duck carcass. *(use the carcass to make duck stock, follow beef stock recipe). The breasts can also be used for confit but you may prefer to use them for another recipe, eg. Grilled Duck Breast with Caramelised Apples.

Rub the duck legs all over with a cut clove of garlic, mix the salt, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and bay leaf together; sprinkle the duck legs sparingly with the salt mixture and put into an earthenware dish. Cover and leave overnight in a cold larder or fridge.

Cut every scrap of fat off the duck carcasses – you will need about 2 lbs (900g). Render the fat in a low oven, strain and keep aside.*

Next day, melt the fat on a low heat in a wide saucepan. Wash the cure off the duck legs, dry and put them into the fat – there should be enough to cover the duck pieces. Bring to the boil, add the herbs and garlic, simmer on a low heat until the duck is very tender (about 1 ½ hours – a bamboo skewer should go through the thickest part of the leg with no resistance).

Remove the duck legs from the fat. Strain it, leave it to rest for a few minutes and then pour the fat off the meat juices. When the duck is cold pack into a sterilised earthenware crock or jar, pour the cool fat over so that the pieces are completely submerged and store in the fridge until needed. (Leave for at least a week to mature. When needed melt the fat to remove the confit).

Serving suggestions:

Serve hot and crisp on a salad or add to the cassoulet or serve simply with thickly sliced potatoes sautéed in duck fat and some Lentils du Puy.


Duck Breast with Spiced Lentils and Caramelised Apples

Serves 4

4 duck breasts, free range if possible

salt and freshly ground pepper


Spiced Lentils

8 ozs (225g) Lentils du puy

a few slices of carrot

1/4-1/2 onion

a small bouquet garni


1 large or 2 small chillies, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh coriander

extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice


Caramelised Apples

2 eating apples – Cox’s Orange Pippin or Golden Delicious

1 oz (25g) butter

1 tablespoon sugar

juice of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon Calvados (optional)




sprigs of coriander or flat parsley

wilted greens



Put the lentils in cold water with the aromatic vegetables and bouquet garni and bring to the boil, simmer until soft but not mushy – 12-16 minutes. Remove the vegetables and herbs and discard.

Season the duck breasts well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Score the duck fat well with a sharp knife. Put the duck breasts onto a cold grill pan fat side down first. Cook on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes or until the fat is crisp and fully cooked. Then turn over and continue to cook until fully cooked but still tender and juicy. Quite a lot of fat will run out and it may be necessary to pour some off the pan. (Duck breasts take about 15 – 20 minutes on the fat side depending on the thickness).


Meanwhile prepare the apple. Peel, core and cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) slices. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan, toss in the apple and cook gently for 5 minutes, add the sugar and allow to caramelise slightly. Add the lemon juice and calvados (if using) and allow it to become syrupy. Remove from the pan and keep warm.


To Serve

Heat the lentils, stir in the finely chopped chilli, coriander, a good squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and some olive oil to taste.

Divide the lentils between 4 hot plates; arrange a whole crispy duck breast or very thin slices of duck breast on top. Garnish with caramelised apples and sprigs of coriander or flat parsley and serve with wilted greens.



Pangrilled Duck Breast with Glazed Turnips

4 duck breasts

25g (1oz) butter

6-8 white turnips

1 tablespoon water

100g (4oz) onion finely chopped

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Score the fat side in a diamond shape pattern. Put the duck breast skin side down on a cold grill pan. Put the pan on a low heat, cook very gently for about 20 minutes on the skin side until the fat becomes crisp and golden. All the fat should render out from underneath the skin, turn over onto the other side and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes. Alternatively transfer to a preheated oven at 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Remove to a warm plate and allow to rest. Meanwhile, peel the white turnips and cut into generous 2.5cm (1 inch dice). Melt a little butter in a casserole, add the turnip and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add about 1 tablespoon of water, cover and cook on a gentle heat for 5-8 minutes depending on the age of the turnips. When almost cooked remove the lid to reduce the liquid.

In another saucepan melt the rest of the butter, add the finely chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until soft and golden. Add the honey, stir for 2-3 minutes, add the wine vinegar and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Add the slightly caramelised turnips and toss gently in the sauce. Taste and correct the seasoning, add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.



Fool Proof Food

Florrie’s Banana Nut Brownies

Moist, rich and delicious. Can be an irresistible nibble or a gorgeous pud with a blob of crème fraiche.


Makes 24 medium or 18 large squares

175g (6oz) butter, cut into dice

300g (10oz) light muscovado sugar (5ozs caster sugar and 5ozs soft brown sugar)

175g (6oz) dark chocolate, broken into pieces

100g (4oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

100g (4oz) walnuts and hazelnuts chopped

3 free range organic eggs

2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4

20cm x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) Swiss roll tin (deep tin)

Line the Swiss roll tin with silicone paper. Put the butter, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan on a gentle heat stirring until it’s smooth and melted. Remove the pan from the heat, cool a little

Sieve the flour and the baking powder, add the chopped nuts. Beat the eggs and add to the chocolate. Add the mashed banana to the chocolate mixture. Finally add the chocolate mixture into the flour, mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until almost firm in the centre. Cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into squares.



Hot Tips

Food Heroes

Connemara Smokehouse is one of the few remaining that specialises in wild smoked salmon caught from Clare Island off the West coast of Mayo. Graham Roberts incredibly does all the filleting by hand – 40 to 50 fish an hour – ready for smoking. The family business – opened in 1979 – also specialises in line caught Irish smoked tuna and gravadlax. In 2003 they were invited to BBC Good Food Show as one of Rick Steins’s food heroes; they continue to supply him with smoked tuna for his restaurants. Tel: 095 2373, Patisserie Championship

The first Irish ‘Valrhona Patisserie Championship’ will be held on Tuesday 23rd June in the Dublin Cookery School. The closing date for entry is Friday 8th May. Six people will be chosen to compete in the two categories; the theme is Summertime – with two parts; Bonbons and Plated Dessert. The long term aim is to enter an Irish team in the World Pastry Cup. Winner will receive a three day Stage in L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona in Tain l’Hermitage, France. For details on how to enter contact Freda Wolfe of Odaios Foods +353 1 4691455

Organic and Wild Food Dinner – Brooklodge

The Garden Slow Food Convivium in Dublin celebrated their tenth Anniversary with an Organic and Wild Food dinner at Brooke Lodge in Macreddin Village in Co Wicklow recently. It was a feast with beautiful, thoughtfully sourced ingredients simply cooked so that everyone at the big table – it seats 40 people – at the Strawberry Tree Restaurant were licking their lips.
Evan Doyle moved from Killarney in 1999 to open a hotel in the beautiful Wicklow hills. His ambition was to own the first organic restaurant and hotel in Ireland, no easy task when over eighty percent of organic produce sold in Ireland is still imported. He quickly set about creating links with local farmers and food producers to supply Brook Lodge with organic produce both fresh and wild. Meanwhile he experimented with smoking his own salmon and beef. In 1999 Evan discovered and bought a smoker from the lovely Innes Walker from Scotland who came over to give hands on lessons on how to get the best results from the smoker.
Both the Macreddin home smoked beef and salmon were part of the menu on Saturday night. The salmon was served with citrus poached pear and avocado jelly. The beef came with a grape tapenade and blue cheese.
Evan’s kitchen team are every bit as passionate about sourcing good produce as he is. Early in the day Evan, head chef Tim Daly, and sous chef James Kavanagh, went to pick wild garlic and lots of wild greens and leaves. One of Paul Crotty’s plump organic chickens was anointed with wild garlic, butter and roasted until the skin was crisp and golden. We almost fought over the last pieces. There were squabbles too over JJ Ahern’s duck from Born Free Farm near Carrigtwohill in Co Cork. That was not all we tasted by a long way.
Kerry Cattle are Ireland’s proud contribution to the World’s Heritage of rare breeds. Considered by many to be a dairy breed, I too, can vouch for the fact that they produce wonderful meat with rich yellow fat. Raymond Hilliard of Killarney – who has done such a valiant job to preserve the Kerry breed – introduced Evan to these beautiful black cattle years ago. Evan now works with several farmers to get a supply of this prized indigenous meat throughout the year. The succulent venison came from Michael Healy down the coast in Rathdrum. The piece de resistance was milk fed lamb. Slow Food member and pork butcher Ed Hicks sourced a week old pure bred Lleyn lamb. We had a small morsel each; the flavour was delicate and delicious. There was also some baked haddock served with wild sea spaghetti. Organic vegetables, roast beets and Swede turnips came from the local farms of Denis Healy, Alan Pierse and Mark Winterbotham In Kiltegan and Aughrim. But the most memorable flavours of an altogether memorable meal for the me was the salad of wild leaves picked that afternoon – penny worth, wild sorrel, tiny dandelion and primrose leaves, simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil from Evan’s olive groves in Basilicata in Southern Italy.
Where else in Ireland would you find such a beautiful salad, handpicked by the chefs themselves? Sadly it is much more usual for chefs nowadays to pick up the phone and ring a long order into a restaurant supplier whose lorries criss cross the country with food conveniently prepared and portioned. The salad leaves come flushed with gas and washed in a chlorine solution many times stronger than an average swimming pool.
The menu becomes more and more similar in restaurants around the country; chefs are losing their skills because with this kind of food they no longer need to be able to chop vegetables or fillet fish – it’s all done for them. Tartlets come baked, brandy snap baskets and gateau arrive ‘picture perfect’ but somehow they all taste the same. As one cynic remarked to me recently ‘If there was a strike there would scarcely be a bite of food in a restaurant in Ireland.’
Of course there are exceptions, chefs like Evan Doyle who go out of their way to source local or at least Irish food, they are to be applauded for refusing to take the easy option and offering their customers an altogether more interesting eating experience, supporting local farmers, fishermen and food producers who embody the Slow Food philosophy of good clean and fair. Tel: 0402 36444

1. Good: the food should taste delicious, be wholesome and nourishing and importantly be good for you.
2. Clean, the food should be prepared in a hygienic manner and should not damage the environment.
3. The farmer or food producer should be paid a fair price for his produce.

St Tola Goats Cheese Tartlets with Roast Beetroot and Balsamic Jelly

Serves 4

500g (18oz) St. Tola soft goats cheese.
50g (2oz) Glenish organic cream.
500g (18oz) fresh beetroot.
250g (9oz) Balsamic vinegar.
2/3 leaves gelatine
short crust pastry
4 x 10cm short crust pastry tartlets, baked blind

Mix the goat’s cheese and cream together in a mixing bowl. Season with a little salt and pepper. Seasoning will depend on how ripe your goat’s cheese is. Divide the mixture between the tartlets. Cover and leave to set in the fridge for about one hour. Meanwhile make the balsamic jelly, warm the rest of the vinegar up a little and 2/3 leaves of pre-soaked gelatine pour into a bowl. Leave to cool and set in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4. Wash and the peel the beetroot. Cut into wedges, transfer to a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat evenly. Roast for 20 minutes approximately.
Add half of the Balsamic vinegar toss the beetroot and bake for a further 5 to 6 mins.

To serve

Put a tartlet on a plate, with some roast beetroot and a little balsamic jelly on top. Serve with a rocket salad.

Wild Garlic, Lemon Roasted Chicken

Serves 4 – 6

1 organic chicken 1 ½ kg approximately
250g (9oz) wild garlic butter
100g (3 12 oz) wild garlic
2 lemons
salt & pepper

Chop the wild garlic. Mix with the softened butter, add the juice of half a lemon. Take the organic chicken, legs facing away from you, and place your hand in between the skin and flesh of the bird. Work your hand through the bird gently, trying not to rip the skin. Put the butter and garlic into a piping bag and pipe the mix into the chicken under the skin. Slice the lemons and place some into the cavity of the chicken and the rest around the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast in a pre-heated oven around 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4 for about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half depending on the size of the chicken.
Yoghurt Marinated Wild Monkfish, Linguini, and Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4 as a main course

640g monkfish (without bones and skin).
500ml yoghurt (natural).
10g fresh coriander leaves (roughly chopped).
20g fresh ginger (peeled, chopped or grated).
2 cloves of garlic (chopped).
3 lime’s zest and juice
sea salt (fine).
450g (1lb) fresh linguini pasta
8oz cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablesp (approximately) sesame seed oil

Cut the monkfish into chunky pieces. Mix the yoghurt with the chopped coriander, ginger, chilli, garlic, and lime zest and lime juices. Put the pieces of monkfish into the yoghurt; make sure it is well covered. Leave in the marinate for at least 3 hours or maximum one day. Transfer the monkfish onto a tray. Sprinkle a little bit of sea salt over each piece and put them in the preheated oven 190°C, 375°F, gas mark 5 for around ten minutes. Cook the linguini in salted boiling water until ‘al dente’. Heat a pan, add some sesame oil and the halved cherry tomatoes, stir until the tomatoes begin to soften. Mash them with a wooden spoon. Cook the fresh linguini in lots of boiling salted water for 30 seconds to a minute drain well add to the tomato, season with salt and pepper and stir in piece of butter as well.
Serve the pasta on warm plates with the monkfish on top, drizzle sesame oil and a squeeze of lime juice over the pasta and enjoy!

Marmalade Pudding

Serves 6 – 8

150g (5oz) brown soda bread crumbs
110g (4oz) light brown sugar
25g (1oz) wholemeal flour
110g (4oz) butter
350g (12oz) coarse cut marmalade
3 free range organic eggs
1 teasp bicarbonate soda
1 teasp boiling water
1 x 900g (2lb) pudding bowl

Melt the butter with the marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Turn off the heat when melted. Mix the flour, breadcrumbs and sugar together and add to the marmalade and butter and mix together. Whisk eggs until fluffy and gently beat into the marmalade mixture.

Pour into a 2lb pudding bowl, cover tightly. Put into a saucepan of water and cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn the marmalade pudding out onto a hot plate and serve with softly whipped cream.

Fool Proof Food

Spaghetti with Wild Garlic and Herbs

Another delicious way to use all that lovely wild garlic that’s in season.

Serves 4-6

1 lb (450g) spaghetti or thin noodles

2-3 ozs (55-85g) butter or butter and olive oil
2 tablesp parsley, chopped
1 tablesp mint, chopped
2 tablesp wild garlic, chopped use both leaves and bulb
 tablesp basil or lemon balm
2 large or 4 small crushed garlic leaves
2-4 ozs (55-110g) grated cheese preferably parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

Garnish: Wild garlic and chive flowers
Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente – approx. 20 minutes for shop pasta, 2-3 minutes for home made pasta. Mix all the herbs and mashed garlic with the melted butter.  Sweat gently for 2 minutes not longer.  Stir into the hot spaghetti and serve with grated cheese, preferably Parmesan, though we often use Irish Cheddar.  Sprinkle wild garlic and chive flowers on top for extra excitement.

Hot Tips

Tucked into a little corner at the end of Brighton Street in Dublin, Thomas’s of Fox Rock is a little gem of a shop, fresh vegetables and fruit are stacked up inside and outside. For 25 years Thomas Murphy has been looking after his customers through boom and recession. These are the sorts of local shops that we need to support during this downturn. (Personal service and good produce) 01 2894101

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Presents…
Make your own Breads with Andrew Whitley Author of ‘Bread Matters’
Learn about starting from scratch, old doughs, sour doughs, ciabattas, sweet breads…
Crawford Art Gallery Café, Thursday 26th March at 7.30pm
Entrance €6.00 including tea or coffee

East Cork Slow Food Events

Bread Matters – Andrew Whitley, author of Bread Matters will give a talk about how hidden additives and high-speed processing have changed our bread and how corporate domination has all but wiped out the neighbourhood craft baker. Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 25th March at 7:30pm €15 for Slow Food members and €20 for non-members. Telephone 021 4646785.

Guided Herb Walk – Medical herbalist Kelli O’Halloran will lead a walk through Glenbower Woods, pointing out along the way the wild herbs, plants and what to forage for in the springtime.  Glenbower Woods, Killeagh, Sunday 5th April at 2.30pm €10 for members and €15 for non-members. Numbers are limited so booking essential, telephone 021 4646785.

International Grandmothers Day – Saturday 25th April 2009 – Grandmothers all around the world will gather their grandchildren around them to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, catch a fish, and sow a seed… Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is a perfect opportunity to pass forgotten skills on to our grandchildren.

Growing Vegetables in Schools

Despite the hardship that many are enduring as the result of the economic meltdown, much good is emerging at grass roots level. Many are rediscovering the joy of thrift and self sufficiency. At a recent Grow-your-own-vegetable lecture organised by Cork Free Choice Consumer Group and given by organic growers Caroline Robinson and Rupert Hugh-Jones, at the Crawford Gallery in Cork, over fifty people had to be turned away. There was standing room only, people were packed in like sardines anxious to learn or relearn how to grow food in their town and country gardens.
In Waterford a very successful food producer’s network has been established by young journalist Michael Kelly and Donal Lehane. This group meets once a month in the Waterford City library to learn and share what used to be known as home making skills; how to grow vegetables and fruit, how to keep a few chickens and even a couple of weanling pigs. They are planning to operate on a meithil system, where members share plants and seeds and the bounty they grow. A recent meeting in the the City Library; was jam packed and the atmosphere warm and neighbourly.
It’s a similar situation in many places around the country, gardening courses are over subscribed in many places. Once again everyone reports that there seems to be a deep craving for knowledge.
The Irish Beekeeping Association are also holding free Beginners Beekeeping courses all around the country at present check for details.
Minister for Food Trevor Sergeant is also doing his bit to spread the word, last year much to the amusement of some of his colleagues he organised to send a potato pack to every school in Ireland so 120,000 children could learn the magic of growing potatoes.
The initiative was a resounding success, warmly welcomed not just by pupils but by the teachers and parents many of whom responded to their children’s excitement by growing a few drills of potatoes at home.
This year the Minister has extended the scheme, schools will have the opportunity to grow not just the humble spud but cabbage, lettuce, scallion and strawberry crops. Each participating class will create a scrapbook (growing diary) documenting the growth, maintenance and progress of their crops and all additional farming activities the pupils participate in. A national prize-giving ceremony will award over €10,000 in educational funds to the winning schools. Every school gets a complete kit including a DVD completely free. The aim of this educational challenge is to provide school children with an understanding of the importance of farming, promote the benefits and increase consumption of local Irish produce. Each child will be provided with an ‘Incredible Edibles’ recipe and nutritional book and encouraged to prepare meals and snacks with their parents. This aspect of the programme has been developed in conjunction with Paula Mee.
So even if you only have a balcony or a window box and a few pots you can grow some food, a few herbs, some cut and come salad leaves, scallions… It’s not rocket science, just fork up the soil, run your finger along to make an indentation, drop in the seeds, cover and don’t forget to water.
Friends and neighbours in towns and estates could each agree to grow 3 or 4 packets of vegetable seeds and then share rather than having a huge glut of one crop.
From the cook’s point of view, it is a joy to have truly fresh organic produce to pick and share at a whim. Growing your own vegetables gives one a much greater appreciation of food and the time and energy that goes into producing it. It also engenders a respect for the farmers and growers who look after the crops for months on end to feed and nourish us.
When you and your family grow your own, everyone treats it with respect and we are much less likely to over cook it in the kitchen. Even if it’s only a cabbage or a few spuds, eating it feels like a celebration and it truly is.
From this time of the year to the end of April is called the ‘hungry gap’ many of the winter vegetables are coming to an end and the summer bounty is still far off or still in a seed packet. Nonetheless there’s still lots to enjoy.

Warm Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Hazelnut Oil Dressing

Serves 4

White turnips or Kohl Rabi are also delicious cooked and served in exactly the same way.

12 ozs (340g) Jerusalem Artichokes, very carefully peeled to a smooth shape

salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 oz (15g) hazelnuts, toasted and sliced

a few leaves oakleaf lettuce


sprigs of chervil

Hazelnut Oil Dressing

3 tablesp hazelnut oil or

1 1/2 tablesp hazelnut oil and

1 1/2 tablesp sunflower oil

1 1/2 tablesp white wine vinegar

1 teasp. Dijon mustard

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

Slice the artichoke about 1/2 inch thick. Bring 4 fl ozs (110ml) water and  oz butter to the boil in a heavy saucepan and add in the sliced artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put a lid on the saucepan and cook gently until they are almost cooked. Turn off the heat and allow to sit in the covered saucepan until they are almost tender. The maddening thing about artichokes is that they cook unevenly so it will be necessary to test them with a skewer at regular intervals; they usually take at least 15 minutes.

While the artichokes are cooking, prepare the Hazelnut dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. Slice the hazelnuts and reserve for garnish.When the artichokes are cooked carefully remove from the saucepan, making sure not to break them up.

Place on a flat dish in a single layer.  Spoon over the hazelnut dressing and toss while still warm. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

To assemble the salad.
Divide the sliced artichokes between 4 plates. Put a little circle of lettuce around the vegetables and sprinkle some of the dressing over the lettuce. Garnish with the toasted hazelnuts and chervil sprigs. This salad is best when the artichokes are eaten while still warm.

Carrot Soup with Wild Garlic Cream

Winter carrots are still good and wild garlic is just coming into season, if you can find it why not add some to this soup. Carrot soup is also delicious on it’s own.

Serves 6 approx.

560g (1¼ lbs) unwashed organic carrots, scrubbed, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
40g (1½ ozs) butter
115g (4ozs) onion, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
130g (5ozs) potatoes, chopped into ¼ inch (5mm) dice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.2L (2 pints) homemade chicken stock
65ml (2½ fl ozs) creamy milk, (optional)
a fistful of wild garlic leaves roughly chopped
Wild Garlic Cream

3-4 tablesp softly whipped cream
1 – 2 tablesp wild garlic leaves, chopped
1 tablesp freshly chopped parsley
wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, when it foams add the chopped vegetables. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cover with a butter paper and a tight fitting lid. Allow to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Remove the lid. Add the stock, increase the heat and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour into a liquidiser, add a fistful of wild garlic leaves and puree until smooth, (you may need to do this in two batches). Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Fold the chopped wild garlic leaves and parsley into the softly whipped cream. Garnish with a blob of wild garlic cream, garnish with a few wild garlic flowers and serve.

Vegetable Stew with Fresh Spices and Banana and Yoghurt Raita

Serves 6
This spicy stew tastes even better the day after you make it.  Vary the vegetables depending on what you have to hand.

4-8 carrots
2 large parsnips or white turnips
4 oz (110 g) button mushrooms
4 oz (110 g) cauliflower
3-4 potatoes
2 X 6 inch (15 cm) courgettes, green or golden
2 stalks broccoli
2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
10 whole cloves
3 inch (7.5 cm) piece of cinnamon bark
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 oz (30 g) fresh ginger root
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon sugar
4-5 tablespoons approx. olive oil or clarified butter
2 onions, sliced into rings
3 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
juice of 1 lemon

Flat parsley or coriander leaves
2 1/2 oz (70 g) roasted almonds or cashew nuts

Banana and Yoghurt Raita (see recipe)

First prepare the vegetables.  Peel or scrape the carrots and cut them into pieces 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) long approx.  If the pieces are very chunky cut them into quarters.  Peel and quarter the parsnips, cut out the core and cut into pieces similar to the carrots.  Quarter the mushrooms.  Break the cauliflower and broccoli into florets.  Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) cubes.

Grind all the whole spices in a spice grinder, add the turmeric and cayenne.  Chop the garlic and ginger and make into a paste either in a pestle and mortar or food processor.
Heat the olive oil or clarified butter in a wide saucepan, add the onion, garlic and ginger, cook over a medium heat until the onion has turned golden brown (6-8 minutes approx.), lower the heat, add the spices and sugar and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the carrots, parsnips, coconut milk, lemon juice and sea salt, increase the heat, cover and bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook until tender.

Meanwhile blanch the cauliflower and broccoli in boiling salted water, remove when almost cooked but still crisp, refresh in cold water, drain and keep aside.  Boil the courgettes for 5-6 minutes.

Fry the mushroom quarters in a hot pan in a little olive oil or clarified butter, season with salt and pepper and keep aside.  When the potatoes are cooked add the mushrooms, broccoli, thickly sliced courgettes and cauliflower to the stew, cover, allow to bubble up for a minute, taste and correct seasoning.  It often needs more salt at this point to enhance the flavour.

Garnish with flat parsley or coriander leaves and roasted almonds or cashew nuts.  Serve immediately with Ballymaloe Tomato Relish and Banana and Yoghurt Raita (see recipe).  Poppodums are also a nice accompaniment.

Banana and Yogurt Raita (see Fool Proof Food)
Potato and Parsnip Mash

This mash is particularly delicious with game, a haunch of venison or pheasant it’s also good for rack of lamb or with a steak.

Serves 8 approx.

1¼kg (2½ lbs) parsnips
450g (1 lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
300-350ml (10-12 fl ozs) approx. creamy milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper
55g (2ozs½ stick) approx. butter
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Scrub the potatoes, put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, (15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes), strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put onto a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.
Peel the parsnips, and cut into chunks, cook in boiled salted water until tender. Drain and mash, keep warm.
When the potatoes are just cooked, put on the milk and bring to the boil.  Pull the peel off the potatoes, mash quickly while they are still warm and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy mash. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then add in the mashed parsnip with the butter. Taste for seasoning.  Serve immediately or reheat later.  Potato and parsnip mash will reheat in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes approx.
Serve in a hot dish with a scattering of parsley on top or if you like piled high with parsnip crisps.

Braised Cavolo Nero
Black Tuscan Kale

This is one of the most robust of the kale family.

Serves 4-6 depending on size

4 heads cavolo nero
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil
bruschetta or polenta

Remove the stems from the cavolo nero leaves.  Blanch in a large pot of boiling well-salted water for 3-5 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook.  Drain well.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the garlic and fry gently.  When it begins to colour add the well-drained cavolo nero, season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.
Serve on its own or as a topping for bruschetta or polenta.

Gratin of Leeks and Ham

Serves 6 – 8

6 – 8 leeks
1 oz (25g) butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 – 8 slices cooked ham
1 pint (600ml) béchamel sauce (see recipe)
4 ozs (110g) grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar
1 teasp Dijon mustard

Top and tail and wash the leeks. Put an inch of water in a wide pan, add a little butter, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook on a gentle heat for 6 – 8 minutes depending on size. The tip of a knife should go through easily. Drain the leeks. Wrap each leek in a slice of cooked ham and arrange in a single layer in an oven proof gratin dish. First make the béchamel sauce (see recipe), add the grated cheese and the Dijon mustard, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning.
Coat with leeks with béchamel sauce, sprinkle the top with and ounce of grated cheddar cheese. Pre heat the oven to 230C 450 f Gas 8. Reheat the gratin for 10 to 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling and golden on top.

Bechamel Sauce

½ pint (300ml) milk
A few slices of carrot
a few slices of onion
a sprig of thyme
a small sprig of parsley
3 black peppercorns
1½ ozs (45g) roux (see below)
salt and freshly ground pepper

This is a marvellous quick way of making Béchamel Sauce if you already have roux made. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion, peppercorns, thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, and remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.


4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.
Fool Proof Food

Banana and Yogurt Raita

Delicious served with either these meatballs or with the mild madras curry, surprisingly it keeps for days in the fridge and we’ve also enjoyed it as a pudding.

2 heaped tablesp. (2 ozs 55g approx.) raisins or sultanas
1 oz (30g) blanched slivered almonds
7 fl ozs (200ml) best quality natural yogurt
3½ fl ozs (90ml/) cream or 3½ fl ozs (90ml) sour cream
1 tablesp pure Irish honey
3 firm ripe bananas
pinch of salt
4-6 cardamom pods

Pour boiling water over the raisins or sultanas, leave for 10 minutes, toast the almonds. Mix the yogurt with the cream, add the honey, taste and add more if needed. Add the raisins and almonds, remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar, slice the banana, season with a pinch of salt and add to the yogurt. Turn into a serving bowl and chill for an hour if possible.
Serve with curries and spicy dishes.

Hot Tips

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic is coming into season so gather this delicious wild herb from shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland. There are two types of wild garlic, Allium ursinum, and Allium triquetrum, the kind of wild garlic known as snowbells, which look like white bluebells and usually grow along the sides of country lanes.
Wild garlic lasts a few days when gathered into a bouquet and placed in water.  It’s easily over-used, so be sparse. Wild garlic butter melts deliciously over a steak or a spring lamb chop. The chopped leaves are delicious in broths and pasta sauces.

Barry’s Nurseries

Transform your lawn into a productive vegetable garden. Learn how to grow your own vegetables on a four week evening course starting Wednesday 1st April 7pm – 9pm. Demonstration and hands on; sowing planting and soil preparation. Barry’s Nurseries, Inch, Killeagh – Tel: +353 86 814 1133
Thrifty Tip

To avoid leftovers, try not to cook too much. Freeze or refrigerate any leftovers to use at a later meal, rather than dumping. Feed meat scraps to pets: compost vegetable scraps in a rodent proof compost system; put suitable leftovers such as bread, crackers etc on the bird table or keep a few hens.

India – Spice up Your Life

India keeps calling me back. Few places on earth offer the diversity of travel experiences that this intriguing country delivers – a lifetime is not long enough to know it. In the space of less than an hour one can witness hand pulled rickshaws, camel carts and ceremonial elephants, oxen ploughing the fields with bells tinkling from their gaily painted horns, side by side with brand new tractors. All manner of enterprise and activity, roadside barbers lather their customer’s chins, cross legged tailors, chapatti makers, a myriad of food stalls, sweetmeat makers, spice wallahs, blacksmiths sharpening sickles to harvest the mustard crop – all alongside glitzy malls. Nowadays, the poorest stallholder is likely to have a mobile phone. Even though economic growth has slowed considerably, much is changing.
Cows nonchalantly roam the streets in the certainty that no one will harm them
Tuc tucs, cars, cycle rickshaws, goods carriers (as lorries are called), all slow down to avoid them. Cows are sacred and revered. In the country side women in beautiful saris still work on the roads and in the brickworks, carrying heavy loads on their heads with seemingly effortless ease. For casual observers this is extraordinary but there is an order and a logic that we simply don’t understand and are best to accept as part of the experience of India. Everywhere one goes, people have a ready smile.
This time we spent a few days in Ponticherry a French Colonial town in South East India. Like Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai, it really comes to life in the early evening. A wander along the promenade before sunset is an unforgettable experience. Food stalls selling sand roasted nuts – pani puri, bell puri, samosas, ice-cream…  Kids pedalling candy floss, bubbles pipes, balloons, squeaky toys and several brass bands belting out Indian rhythms alongside the huge statue of Ghandi on the march.
I had several delicious meals, in a restaurant called Sangan, the chefs kindly shared this recipe for their homemade kiwi ice cream with me.

Rajastan in the North West is possibly the most colourful part of India. This time we avoided the tourist magnets Jodhpur and Jaipur – beautiful as they are – and ventured out into the wild and beautiful country side to stay in a couple of the Rajput families houses. Many of these noble families have restored their castles and forts in recent years to entice the growing number of tourists. We loved Castle Bijaipur about 40 kilometres from Chittorgarh. The family still live there and warmly welcome the guests. The food cooked by family retainers was quite unlike the standard hotel food; secret recipes handed down through the generations. For those who like to ride there were wonderful Marwari horses and a tented camp overlooking Pangarh Fort and Lotus Lake to relax in.
Closer to Nimaj we found another place I long to return to – called Chhattar Sagar, three grandsons of Thakur Chhatra Singh a powerful nobleman run superb tented accommodation overlooking the dam which was built in 1890 to create a large water reservoir. The vision and generosity of their great grandfather changed the dry scrub into prime agricultural land, thus providing a livelihood for the local farmers who had hitherto struggled to survive on the parched desert.
It’s also a bird lover’s paradise – over 200 birds have been recorded many in significant numbers – antelopes and blue bull, amble through the savannah below the tents. The family organise wonderful tours of the local village and farms and the food was superb, I looked forward to every meal and when I expressed an interest in learning how some of the dishes were cooked, Harsh’s wife, dressed in a beautiful embroidered sari gave me and several other guests cooking classes before dinner. The tamarind aubergine and tomato chutney recipes are from Chhattra Sagar.

Finally we returned to Udaipur to possibly my favourite hotel in the world, the Lake Palace – which was built in 1743 by Maharana Jagat Singh and was the original summer retreat of the Maharanas – is in the centre of Lake Pichola. One gets there by boat and feels like a princess when greeted by a bearer carrying a parasol to provide shade from the midday sun. Fresh limeade, marigold garlands and the perfume of jasmine scent the air. In the morning and at sunset a resident flautist plays haunting Indian music on the flute. It’s a gentle magical place. Although breakfast is delicious overall the food is not great and rarely reflects the season or the produce of the local region. Nevertheless I love it there and Udaipur offers many other restaurant options. In the old town, I chanced upon a little cooking school run by Sushma Soni and spent a very informative few hours learning more about Indian food. Sushma cooked some easy to replicate dishes.

2 litres milk
1 teaspn vinegar or lemon juice
150 – 200g (5 – 7 oz)

Boil 2 litres of milk when first boil comes, add 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice and 150 – 200g (5 – 7oz) of yoghurt and stir it well, it will curdle almost immediately. Pour the mixture through a muslin lined strainer, until all the water drains out, and then put a weight over and leave it for 2 hours.

In India they use whey to make chapati dough or boil lentils for dhal

Punjabi Butter Paneer Masala

Serves 3 – 6 depending on how many dishes are served.

50g (2 oz) butter
200g (7oz) paneer
4 medium onions chopped
1 teasp chopped green chilli
½ teasp grated ginger
4 – 6 large tomatoes, peeled and pureed
6 almonds 6 cashew nuts (grind with coconut powder)
2 tablsp desiccated coconut
2 cups milk
½ teasp turmeric powder
½ teasp red chilli powder
½ teasp garam masala
salt according to taste
2 tablsp double cream

Cut the paneer into 1 inch cubes, grind chopped ginger, onions and green chilli together and fry it with butter in a kadhi (wok) until light brown, add all the spices, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, garam masala, salt according to taste.
Cook for 3 -4 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cook for a further 5 minutes, now add the double cream and crushed nuts.  Put the almonds, cashews and coconut into the grinder and puree, roast on medium heat until the butter and masala separates approximately 3 – 4 minutes. Now add the paneer pieces and add approximately two small cups of milk, cover for 5 minutes, add a pinch of garam masala and dried fenugreek leaves (methi).
Imli Baingan (Tamarind Aubergine)

Serves 6 – 8

1kg (2 ¼ lb) small aubergines cut in half, cut larger aubergines into 1 ½ inch chunks deep fried
4 onions finely chopped
5 -6 cloves garlic chopped
3 tbsp oil
3 – 5 whole red chillies
3 tbsp tamarind paste
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red chilli powder
salt (to taste)

Heat the oil; add whole red chillies immediately followed by the onions. Fry over a medium heat until soft, add the garlic – careful it doesn’t burn. Add the tamarind paste, brown sugar, red chilli powder and salt. Stir and cook for a minute and then add the fried aubergine, toss gently and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Taste to correct seasoning. Serve hot.

Tomato Chutney

Serves 6 approximately as an accompaniment to curries or roast meats.

12 large ripe tomatoes chopped
2 green chillies deseeded and cut into long pieces
4 – 6 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
1 ½ teasp grated ginger
¼ teasp black mustard seeds
¼ teasp kiraita (nigella seeds)
¼ teasp fennel seeds
3 tabsp oil
2 teasp sugar
1 teasp red chilli powder
½ teasp salt

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the black mustard seeds, kiraita and fennel seeds, stir and fry for a few seconds then add the chopped garlic. Stir once or twice more and add the tomatoes. On a high heat add the ginger paste and the red chilli powder, cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chutney thickens and reduces, add the sugar and cook until little droplets of oil rise to the top. Finally add the salt and the green chillies, stir, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary and serve hot.

Makes about 16

Chapatis in varying sizes and thickness are eaten all over North India. If you cannot find chapati flour use sieved wholemeal. Salt is optional.
The dough should be quite soft.  The amount of water you need will vary with the type of flour and the general humidity in the air.  Use extra flour to roll out easily.
In India Chapatis are traditionally cooked on a tava, a slightly concave, circular, cast iron plate, which is heated slowly before the first chapatti is slapped on to it.  This preheating prevents the chapatti from becoming hard and brittle.  Use a heavy cast iron pan if you haven’t got a tava.

250g (9oz) sieved chapati flour or wholemeal (weigh after sieving)
170ml (6oz) water
¼ teaspoon salt, optional

Put the sieved flour in a bowl. Add the water, slowly mixing as you do so, to form a soft dough.  Knead the dough for 5-6 minutes until smooth.  Put the dough in a bowl.  Cover with cling film and leave to rest for half an hour.
If you are fortunate enough to have an Indian tava, slowly heat over a medium-low flame, alternatively use a cast iron frying pan.  When it is very hot, turn the heat to low.
Knead the dough again and form into a roll, divide in roughly 16 parts.  It should be fairly sticky, so use a little flour when handling it.
Flour your work surface, take one part of dough and roll into a ball. Press down on the ball to flatten. Roll out into a 14cm (5 ½ inch) round.  Pat off the excess of flour and then slap it on to the hot tava or frying pan.  Let it cook on low heat for about a minute.  Turn the chapati over (use your hands or a pair of tongs). Cook for about 30 seconds on the second side. Take the pan off the stove and put the chapatti directly on top of the low flame.  It should puff up in seconds. This takes courage but be brave its worth it, they deflate again in a few seconds.

Yellow Dhal Mewari Dahl Tadka

Serves 4 – 6

225g (8oz) any kind of lentil, yellow, green or white (or beans) soaked in hot water, (water to cover add ½ litre of water), for at least 1 hour

2 finely chopped onions
4 cloves garlic chopped
¼ teasp turmeric powder
¼ teasp red chilli powder
salt according to taste
¼ teasp garam masala (hot spices)
4 – 6 medium sized tomatoes chopped
½  litre (17fl oz) milk
1 ½ teasp chopped ginger or paste

Rinse the dhal 2 or 3 times

Boil the soaked lentils dhal with milk in a pressure cooker for 20 – 25 minutes or about an hour in an ordinary pan until lentils are soft. If you want it creamy and rich use milk, otherwise you use water.
Melt 3 – 4 tbls sunflower oil or ghee in a heavy saucepan, add the onions and cook on a medium heat until pale golden brown. Add the grated ginger and garlic, add spices and cook until the masala and the ghee separates 4 -5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and boil again. Now add the dhal, bring back to the boil and sprinkle some fresh coriander and a pinch of garam masala. It should be quite liquid. Cover for 2 – 3 minutes and then serve.
Garlic and ginger paste is an essential basic in Indian cooking. The garlic is usually ground first in an oval shaped pestle and mortar and then the ginger is added, then both are ground to a paste together. This mixture will last for 2 – 3 days in a fridge.
You can use this sauce for macaroni, spaghetti or for chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, vegetables or mutton.

Aloo Gobi (Potato with Cauliflower)

(No onions no garlic)
1 flower of cauliflower with little tiny florets (1/2 kg)
4 large or 4 medium size potatoes, diced ½ inch
4 tabsp cooking oil
1/3 teasp fennel seeds
¼ teasp mustard seeds
10-15 seeds of fenugreek
handful of fresh or frozen peas
¼ teasp garam masala
½ – 2 teasp chopped green chilli
2 tomatoes finely chopped
½ teasp chopped ginger
salt according to taste

Heat the oil in a pan, add all seeds when they start to pop after about a minute add the turmeric, potatoes, cauliflower, peas, garam masla and mix well. Cover for 10 minutes on a medium heat until they are soft, stir after 8 to 10 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes, ginger, chopped green chilli. Mix well, cover and leave for a few minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve hot.

Kiwi Fruit Ice Cream from Satsanga Restaurant in Ponticherry

Makes 8 – 10

1kg (2 ¼ lb) kiwi fruit – about 10
1/3 of 2kg (675g) icing sugar
1 litre double cream
3 – 4 kiwi fruit (garnish)
fresh mint leaves

Peel the kiwi fruit thinly and cut into four, puree the fruit in a blender, chill in a fridge.
Meanwhile whisk the cream stiffly, add the icing sugar and mix well. Fold evenly into the chilled kiwi puree and turn into an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. Alternatively pour into a plastic box cover and freeze.
Serve on chilled plates alone or with a wedge or two of kiwi and some fresh mint leaves.

Fool Proof Food

Sweet Lassi

50ml (2fl oz) best quality natural yoghurt
175ml (6fl oz) ice and water
1/2- 1 tabsp caster sugar
1/8–1/4 teasp rose water or kewra
rose petals, optional
Whizz all the ingredients including the ice in a blender. Pour into chilled glasses and serve immediately.  Scatter with rose petals.

Hot Tips

Steak sandwiches for lunch at Mahon Point Farmers Market

Gar Granville from Cobh serves steak sandwiches from his stall at Mahon Point Farmers Market every Thursday. These are truly delicious – beef that has been hung for four weeks, slathered with freshly picked horseradish sauce and homemade mayonnaise served on an Ockham bap, hot out of the oven from the bakery in Ballycotton that morning for €6:50

Vegetable Growing Workshop

Two hour hands on workshop on growing vegetables will be held every Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm, beginning 10th March. Course content; soil preparation, sowing, planting – potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, peas and beans. Cost €25.00 per week. Barrie’s Nurseries +353 86 814 1133
Sarah Raven comes to Ireland

Sarah Raven, well known writer, cook, broadcaster and teacher, is the expert on all things to grow, cut and eat from your garden. She will be teaching two one day gardening classes in April at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. ‘The Cutting Garden’ Thursday 16th April 9:30am to 5:00pm ‘Year Round Vegetables’, Friday 17th April 9:30am to 5:00pm. Booking essential 021 4646 785.


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