ArchiveApril 2009

Grandmothers Day April 25th

Today we celebrate the first Slow Food Grandmothers Day. All over Ireland and many parts of the world grandmothers and indeed grandfathers will gather their grandchildren around to share their memories and experience and to pass on some of their valuable life skills, to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, catch a fish and sew a seed… Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is a perfect opportunity to pass these forgotten skills on to our grandchildren.

Now that I am a grandmother six times over, I’m even more aware of the special bond that can be nurtured between grandchildren and grandparents. So my friend Alice Waters, an iconic chef from Chez Pannisse in Berkley California and a wannabe grandmother and I who have the good fortune to already be a grandmother proposed this special day at the Slow Food Terra Madre in Turin last October. The idea was adopted and embraced by international president Carlo Petrini who said,

“Grandmothers’ Day, to be held on April 25, is a good starting point. We will continue to strike while the iron is hot, and will communicate widely the virtuous example being set by Ireland. Following their experience, we will see the best way to go ahead. I also discuss it’s importance in the new Manifesto on the Future of Knowledge Systems.”

It’s even more important than ever nowadays. Years ago at a time when many families lived in multi generational groups the skills were effortlessly passed from generation to generation this situation is more unusual nowadays. The myriad of pressures of modern living mean that both parents are working. The Irish Examiner enthusiastically supported the idea of a special Grandmother Recipe Competition. The competition for people to send in their favourite recipes generated a lot of excitement. Here are the winning recipes and excerpts from the letters that accompanied them. Last week at the Ballymaloe Cookery School grannies and grandchildren will cooked together and had fun with my grandchildren.

We hope Slow Food Grandmothers’ Day will encourage grandmothers to get together not only once a year but once a month with their grandchildren to have fun together in the kitchen.

Slow Food East Cork also organised an art competition with local schools. The children drew and painted pictures of cooking with granny. There was a huge response and you can imagine how lovely the entries that flowed in are. Each picture speaks volumes about a special relationship between Grand parents and Grand children.


Aoife O’Callaghan’s Granny’s Apple Tart


I think this is a great recipe because it is tasty with hot custard and we go to my Granny’s house to eat it with a cup of tea. It is the best apple tart ever and she a great cook. That is why I love her and this recipe!



175g (6oz) margarine

350g (12oz) flour

pinch of sugar

drop of water



6 cooking apples, chopped

4 cloves


Rub margarine, flour and sugar together in a bowl until they look like breadcrumbs. Gradually add drops of water mixing the ingredients together until you have combined everything into a dough. Flour your table, place half the dough on the table and roll over to a thin round flat pastry, the size of a dinner plate. Place the pastry on a dinner plate, place one layer of chopped cooking apples, some cloves and a spoon of sugar on top. Roll the second piece of dough and place on top of the apples. Pinch around the edges and prick the top with a fork. Place in a hot oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes. Leave cool for 2 minutes then enjoy with hot custard or cream and dust with icing sugar. Mmmmm!


Billie Turnbull’s Granny’s Madeira Cake


I think this should be a winning recipe because I am a diabetic and my nana made this especially for me.


175g (6oz) butter or margarine

12 tablespoons Splenda or 175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

pinch of salt

a little milk if necessary

grated rind of 1 lemon

Cream the butter or margarine with the Splenda in a bowl until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in the eggs. Sift the flour and fold into the mixture. Add the lemon rind with the flour. Add a little milk if it’s very stiff. Turn the mixture into a greased and lined (7 inch/18cm) tin. Bake in a fan oven at 145°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 or in a conventional oven at 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 1 – 1 1/4 hours.


Janet Payne’s Granny’s Oriental Sweet and Sour Pork


“For as long as I can remember Granny has been asked to make this recipe for parties to the delight of off those who taste it. I would love to see this recipe win the prize because even though she probably wouldn’t say so herself she really deserves it.”

350g (12oz) pork fillet

2 level dessertspoons of seasoned corn flour

1 clove of garlic

1 medium sweet green pepper

225g (8oz) tinned pineapple chunks

3 mushrooms, peeled and sliced

2 ripe tomatoes, quartered (optional)



1 chicken stock cube

300ml (10fl oz) water

2 tablespoons honey

1 dessertspoon soy sauce

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Cut the pork into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes and toss in the seasoned cornflour. Remove the stalk and seeds from the pepper and chop. Drain the pineapple cubes, reserving the juice. Heat the garlic in the oil. Fry the pork cubes briefly until brown on all sides. Lower the heat and add the chopped pepper and continue cooking over a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the pineapple chunks, mushrooms and tomatoes for the last 5 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce by dissolving the chicken stock cube in the boiling water. Mix with honey and soy sauce. Blend the leftover cornflour from the dish with a little of the pineapple juice and add to the mixture. Bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring all the time. Add it to the pork and stir well.

This dish can be served on a bed of organic rice or with mashed potato.

Kellie Murphy’s Granny’s Bacon and Cabbage


“I like bacon and cabbage because it is really delicious and every time I go up to my Nan’s house she cooks it for me. I think it should be kept in our family because I love it so much and it is a traditional Irish meal.”

Loin of Bacon



Get a pot and put in the bacon, cover with cold water. Make sure it is covered with water at all times. Boil the bacon for an hour depending on the size. Chop up your cabbage then wash it. Put the cabbage in the pot with the bacon and leave for a further 30 minutes. Serve with potatoes.


Leah Flynn’s Granny’s Chocolate Biscuit Cake


“My Nannie’s chocolate biscuit cake is the best. It was her mammy’s recipe and now my mammy makes it too. I think it should be passed on because people will remember my nana, my mammy and me. When they make it they will have lots of fun cracking eggs, licking spoons, spreading chocolate and eating it up of course!”

2 x 300g (11oz) packets of rich tea biscuits

350g (12oz) butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 dessertspoons cocoa powder

3 eggs

225g (8oz) milk chocolate

1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin, lined with cling film

Break the biscuits into a bowl. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together, stirring all the time. When melted, add the cocoa powder. Allow to cool slightly. Beat the eggs lightly and add to the butter, sugar and cocoa mixture. Add the broken biscuits and mix well. Fill into a lined loaf tin. Leave to set in the fridge. Turn out of the tin and cover in melted chocolate.


Lynda O’Gorman’s Granny’s Rissoles with Onion Mash

“My grandmother’s name is Mary Miller. She is eighty seven and I am the eldest of her eleven grandchildren. As a child in my grandmother’s house I was adored, spoiled rotten and more than anything else, fed. If you were to ask any of the family for granny’s favourite recipe it would definitely be her brown soda bread which is lighter and crumblier than any other I’ve ever tasted. I always loved the sound she made knocking the dough around the blue plastic basin and the sweet smell from the oven as it baked and then the expectant hovering over the tea-towel wrapped loaf as it cooled. Then the parcel would be unwrapped so that we could launch ourselves at it, buttered knives at the ready.

When conversation turns to favourite dinners, last meal or death row requests, mine is always the same: Granny’s Rissoles with onion mash and baked beans. This is a simple, inexpensive, ordinary dinner which always leaves me feeling, nourished, nurtured and loved. ”



450g (1lb) round steak, minced

a small handful of sage, chopped

1 egg

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1 small onion, finely chopped

Mix everything together until fully combined. With wet hands form the mixture into palm-sized burgers. Fry gently on a medium heat until cooked through. Serve with onion mash and Batchelor’s baked beans.

Onion Mash


6-8 medium potatoes (Kerr’s Pinks)


50g (2oz) butter

225ml (8fl oz) warm milk

1/2 onion, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut into halves or quarters. Place in a saucepan of cold water with a large pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain off all the water and allow to steam on the warm ring for a minute or two. Add a pinch of salt and mash. Then add the butter and warm milk and beat with a wooden spoon (the sound of this rigorous beating will act as a dinner gong and bring the starving hoards to the table!) Oh, and don’t forget the onion (I almost just did!)


Maeve Brennan’s Granny’s Queen Cakes


“I love my Nan’s cakes because when you bite them they are so creamy and you can put on any colour icing. I like to win this because I’d love to spend a day with my Nan.”

168g (6oz) margarine

168g (6oz) caster sugar

3 eggs

252g (9oz) self-raising flour, sieved

Place the margarine and sugar in a bowl. Cream together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well into the mixture. Fold in the sieved flour. Place a teaspoon of the mixture into each cake case. Bake until golden brown and springy to the touch. You can add 28g (1oz) of coco if you want chocolate cakes. Ice the queen cakes with white or chocolate icing and decorate as you choose.


Meghan Ali Maguire’s Granny Grunts Boiled Fruit Cake


“My granny has been making this for as long as my mum can remember. It’s all done in a saucepan, apart from cooking, so it suits all lifestyles from student to super-cook, the wash up is minimal. This cake arrives at all our birthday parties and family celebrations. Friends would ring up and ask for charity donations of a fruit cake. Granny is sixty six and is very small and lively so we all call her ‘Granny Grunt’ for no logical reason at all!”

450g (1lb) margarine

600ml (1 pint) water

350g (12oz) brown sugar

450g (1lb) sultanas

4 large free-range eggs

900g (2lb) self-raising flour

2 teaspoons mixed spice

Put the margarine, water, sugar and sultanas into a saucepan. Bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool until it’s warm to the touch. Add the eggs and mix. Mix the spice and flour together and add gradually to the saucepan. Line 2 x 900g (2lb) loaf tins with greaseproof paper. Fill the mixture into both tins. Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 1 1/2 hours. Test with a skewer to ensure it’s cooked.

Thrifty Tip

Keep citrus peels for beer traps for slugs.


Five Winemakers Special European Tour come to Cork.


As a part of the European Tour by the Five Winemakers, Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School in association with Moët Hennessy Wines are running a unique wine event. There will be a Gala Dinner in The Long Room, Ballymaloe House, Saturday May 9th and the Winemaker workshops will take place at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday afternoon, May 9th, and Sunday morning, May 10th. Learn how the wines are made, tutored wine-tasting by the winemaker with emphasis on food & wine matching with a dish specially prepared at the same time to match the and by post from people all over the country – a collection of the county’s favourite Irish dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation. €1 from the sale of each book goes towards Age Action Ireland. Published by Mercier Press (021) 4614456

For further information and to book please contact Ballymaloe House 021 4653531


Our Grannies’ Recipes.

Our Grannies’ Recipes is a unique collection of delightful recipes from Grannies’ kitchens all over Ireland. The book is available in hardback and is edited by Eoin Purcell. Recipes were collected online via

Spring Foraging

Spring Foraging

Spring foraging is so good for the body and soul. The wild flora of the Irish countryside provides a myriad of treasures for our pantry and medicine chest. Many of our grandparents and certainly great grandparents were deeply knowledgeable and knew exactly what to pick, and how to use nature’s bounty to nourish and cure and indeed as preventative medicine. Some families still hand written copy books which document old cures together with favourite recipes and formulas for furniture polish and cough bottles. Much of this knowledge and skill which hitherto would have been passed from generation to generation has been lost. However we can all have an exciting and fun time relearning the forgotten skill of foraging in the wild for culinary and medicinal plants plus it adds a whole extra element to a walk when you are keeping an eye out for tasty shoots and greens.

Slow Food East Cork had a Spring foraging event recently at Glenbower Wood in Killeagh, Co Cork. The walk was guided by local medical herbalist Kelli O’Halloran (tel: 087 965 2822.) who is passionate about nature; she has a background in chemistry and science. She holds an Honours Degree in Herbal Medicine from the University of Westminster, London and spent some time working at Whipps Cross NHS Hospital in London. It is obviously wise for novices to be guided by an experienced and responsible person and as ever ‘if in doubt leave it out’ is a good policy. Kelli stressed the importance of being totally sure of what you are identifying before eating “I would like to emphasise to the wild crafter that only plants growing in profusion should be harvested and then only in amounts that will not damage the overall viability of the colony. It must look like you were never there.”


After the long winter we need a vitamin boost. For those of us who live in the country many of the beneficial plants are easy to identify. Nonetheless a good herbal is a must, Kelli recommended ‘Cassell’s Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe’ by Christopher Grey-Wilson with beautiful illustrations by Marjorie Blamey ISBN: 13: 978 – 0304362141.

Spring is all about cleansing the system of toxins and there are many common plants which do just that. Tender young hawthorn leaves (Crataegus lavevigata) / (Mongyna) are delicious to nibble or to add to salads. They also make a soothing hawthorn tea and have the added bonus of being good for the heart and circulation.

The flowers and berries are also edible and the latter make a great hawthorn brandy or gin in autumn. The berries like sloes and damsons are best after a night or two of frost but you can cheat by popping them into a freezer for a few hours before putting them into a bottle or Kilner jar. Top them up with brandy, gin or vodka and it’ll be ready to sip by Christmas.

Young dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are one of my favourite spring greens, they add a delicious bitter note to a green salad and are a known aid to digestion as well as an effective diuretic – hence the French word pisenlit.

Bitter Cress (Cardamine hirsuta) with it’s peppery leaves and tiny white flowers is another little gem packed full of vitamins. It’s pungent flavour is unbelievably delicious in white bread and butter sandwiches or with cream cheese.

Bramble leaf (Rubes fructicosus) tea cures diarrhoea in children and the flowers are pretty in green salads. Kelli also encouraged us all to eat the young leaves of sticky cleavers (Galium aparine). Apart from nibbling them raw one can make cleaver tea. Infuse the leaves in cold rather than boiling water, leave for 24 hours, strain and drink. Brilliant for the lymphatic gland but beware they are slightly laxative.

The value of nettles (Urtica dioica) as a blood cleanser was emphasised by Kelli and the knowledge is very much alive in folk memory. Older people strongly believe in the benefits of eating “four feeds of nettles in the month of May to keep away the rheumatics.” The young leaves are mild and delicious at present, Nettles can be used in a variety of ways, soups, purées, nettle champ, nettle pizza, nettle sauce for pasta…perhaps the simplest way of all is to make nettle tea.

Simply fill a bowl with young nettles (use rubber gloves to pick them) cover with boiling water and allow to infuse for twenty minutes. Strain and drink a small glass a day.

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) also grows in profusion in shady woodland in late March and April – the leaves are terrific in salads, omelettes, frittatas, pesto and of course soups. We also use the leaves of the earlier (Allium triquetrum) which grows in abundance along the roadside and ditches. They resemble white blue bells but have a distinctly garlicky taste and smell. We scatter the flowers of both onto salads and use them for garnishing throughout the month of April. Wild garlic has strong anti microbial qualities – a guard against colds and flu.

As we ambled along we came across lots of darling little wood sorrel which looks like a large shamrock with pretty white flowers it grows in profusion in woodlands throughout many months of the year. Its sharp clean taste is delicious in salads and make a delectable garnish. Kelli suggested scattering it over a plate of smoked salmon or serving it as an accompaniment to roast belly of pork – a wonderful aid to digestion. Look out for lambs tongue and buckler leaf sorrel which is also growing in little clumps at present in grass or on verges.

Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) are also in season in late March and April and are easy to recognise. They grow along the roadside, about 3 – 4ft tall with thick stalks and greeny yellow umbelliferous flower-heads. The hollow stalks are delicious when peeled and boiled until tender and eaten like asparagus with melted butter.

If you are planning a walk on the beach look out for sea spinach, it is easy to spot on the verges and resembles a robust spinach plant. It has a ton of vitamins and although tougher than cultivated spinach it makes great soups, salads, purées…

Many of these wild foods contain precious vitamins, minerals and trace elements that are sadly lacking in our modern diet. Foraging is free and fun for the family but be sure of identification and just harvest what you need, never endangered plants no matter how tempting.


Wild Salad Leaves

The secret to a really good salad is something bitter, something sharp and something a little more bland in flavour to add texture and bulk. Dressing can add sharpness. Use roughly four parts oil to one part acid. The oil can be a mixture of clean flavourless oils such as sunflower or canola with a little good olive oil or nut oils such as walnut, sesame or hazelnut for extra flavour. The acid element can be wine, lemon juice, yoghurt, buttermilk or vinegars. Sweeten with a little sugar or honey, season with salt & pepper and add some crushed garlic, shallot or mustard for extra flavour.

Hawthorn, Chickweed, Dandelion, Ground Elder, Watercress, Wood Sorrel, Common, Sorrel, Hairy Bittercress, Salad Burnet, Ramsoms, Hedge Mustard/Garlic, Three cornered Garlic


Scott Walsh’s Nettle Soup

We can still feel chilly on Spring days and there is nothing more satisfying than a hearty soup made possible by an enjoyable afternoons foraging. It never ceases to amaze me how previously rejected green vegetables suddenly take on a magical appetising quality when children have donned gum boots and spent an afternoon in the woods!

Serves 6

2 large onions sliced

3 medium potatoes (roosters)

6-8 fistfuls of nettle heads

1litre (approx) chicken/vegetable stock

salt & pepper

100ml single cream

Fry finely chopped onion and potato for 3 to 4 minutes in sunflower/olive oil. Add stock and simmer until cooked. Bring to the boil and add nettles. Remove from heat, add cream and purée immediately. Garnish with buttered croutons and a little fresh goat cheese or lardons of smoked streaky bacon.

You can use the same method but replace the nettles with 2 handfuls of wild garlic for a yummy wild garlic soup or 3-4 handfuls of sorrel or watercress.


Scott’s Spring Foraging Tart

Serves 6

Tart Base for 8-10″ tart tin

225g (8oz) plain flour

50g (2oz) chilled unsalted butter

50g (2oz) chilled vegetable/animal fat

3-5 tbsp full fat milk

Tart Filling

2 large free range eggs

1 egg yolk

1 cup of double cream

25g (1oz) grated parmesan cheese

1 clove of garlic

zest of half a lemon

2 handfuls of watercress finely chopped

Place flour and fat in a food processor and pulse until very fine crumbs. Add enough milk while pulsing the mixture until it just forms a mixture resembling bread crumbs. Gently bring this mixture together in a bowl and allow to rest in the fridge for a couple of hours. Line a greased tart tin with rolled out pastry, prick with a fork and blind bake at 180º C, 350°F, Mark 4 until barely golden.

While the pastry is resting combine the filling ingredients, cover and leave in the fridge to let the flavours infuse the custard.

Pour filling into a cooled blind baked tart base and bake at 180º C, 350°F until set (the middle should wobble like jelly). Allow to cool and serve with a mixed wild salad.

You can substitute a handful of wild garlic for watercress. If you lack the time to make pastry and are feeling ravenous after your busy afternoon spent foraging, then whisk three eggs, add parmesan, season and add your chosen herb for a delicious omelette made in minutes.

Roast Pork Belly with Cannelloni beans, Woodland Sorrel, Apple & Mustard

Serves 6

1 200g cannelloni beans (cooked & chilled/canned)

1 -2 apples (hard crisp variety)

1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

pork belly (roasted)

mustard Dressing

3 handfuls of woodland sorrel (leaves & flowers)


Mustard Dressing

Mix 4 parts oil with 1 part white wine vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and season with salt & pepper and add sugar to taste.

Cut the apple into small cubes and mix with parsley, beans and a light dressing of the mustard vinaigrette. Serve a portion of warm roast pork belly on top and garnish with a sprinkle of the woodland sorrel leaves & flowers. The sorrel adds a zesty sharpness to the dish, aiding digestion by helping to ‘cut ‘the fat of the meat.

Dandelion leaves can be substituted for a delicious alternative.

Woodland sorrel is delicious with hot smoked salmon, yum yum…

Spaghetti with Wild Garlic and Herbs

Serves 6 – 8

450g (1 lb) spaghetti or thin noodles


110g (4 ozs) butter or ½ butter and olive oil

2 tablesp. parsley, chopped

1 tablesp. mint, chopped

2 tablesp. wild garlic leaves, chopped

2 tablesp. basil or lemon balm

2 large or 4 small crushed garlic cloves

55-110g (2-4 ozs) freshly grated hard cheese preferably Desmond, Gabriel or Parmesan



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.




Wild Food


Cleavers Cleanse


2 handfuls fresh cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cold water


Quickly wash the just picked cleavers, roughly chop them and place in a bowl. Add enough cold water to just cover the herb, cover and leave to soak over night. The next day strain, and drink the liquid throughout the day (about 2 glasses).


Thrifty Tip


Freeze left over wine in ice cubes to put into sauces.




Eco Friendly Garden Sleepers

Suirside Joinery and Sleepers in Kilkenny supply new hard wood oak sleepers for use in vegetable gardens. The sleepers are from an eco friendly and sustainable source and last for more than eighty years. Unlike old railway sleepers they don’t contain any hazardous chemicals. Contact Fintan Dermody on 087-2693095 or email for a price list ot visit their website  


Isle of Man Queenie Festival

The Isle of Man Queenie Festival is a food festival that celebrates the local delicacy of the Manx Queenie, the local name for the Queen Scallop that is caught in and around the Isle of Man’s clear waters between June and October each year. The Festival runs from 29th June to July 5th this year. For a full program of events visit

Maggie Beer’s Sangiovese Verjuice

Sangiovese Verjuice is made from unfermented grapes and is the perfect companion to desserts or as a Summer cordial. Available in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop 021 4646785

Allotments ready for Planting

Pre-cultivated plots ready for immediate planting are available at Ballintubber Farm only three miles from Midleton, Co Cork. Contact David and Siobhan Barry 021 4883034

Easter Celebration of Spring

I love Easter Sunday lunch, it feels like a celebration of Spring. I’ve just got a beautiful bit of young Spring lamb from my butcher, a once a year treat – sweet, succulent and juicy. Spring lambs are born before Christmas and are at their best at 3-4 months old weighing approximately 9-10kgs. You may need to order ahead from your butcher to be sure of lamb like this. It has quite a different flavour and texture to the hogget we’ve been enjoying up to recently. Spring lamb needs very little embellishment, just a few flakes of sea salt rubbed into the skin before roasting.

We’ve been using the first of the new season’s rhubarb for the past few weeks. I’d eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner, I can’t get enough of it after the winter, it’s like a craving.

For starter it’ll be new season asparagus on toast with Hollandaise Sauce. This is the earliest I have seen fresh asparagus on sale – usually we have to wait until the end of April or beginning of May to savour the first tender spears. This year Tim York (086 8593996), who grows asparagus in West Cork near Roaring Water Bay, harvested the first of his outdoor asparagus at the end of March – spooky or what – yet another example of accelerated global warming. I’m not complaining – I know one can get imported asparagus almost year round but nothing compares to the exquisite flavour of fresh asparagus.

We usually have a rhubarb tart for pudding on Easter Sunday after the feast of roast lamb and mint sauce. This year I thought I’d ring the changes and try Alison Henderson’s delicious Rhubarb Meringue Tart, served at the Ballymaloe Shop Café.

It’s also traditional to have something eggy on Easter Sunday so here’s a recipe for a delicious frittata. I’ll pile wild garlic and watercress on top and sprinkle with wild garlic flowers for a taste of April. A few little frosted primrose fairy cakes would be adorable for tea. Other spring flowers like violets and jasmine can also be frosted. All you need is a little patience and a paint brush.

Have fun and a very happy Easter to all our readers.




Asparagus on Toast with Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4


In season: late spring


This is a simple and gorgeous way to serve fresh Irish asparagus during its short season. We feast on it in every possible way for those precious weeks, roast, chargrilled, in soups, frittatas; quiches don’t forget to dip some freshly cooked spears in a soft boiled egg for a simple luxury. This was my father-in-law’s favourite way to eat Irish asparagus during its short season.


16-20 spears fresh green asparagus

Hollandaise sauce, (see recipe)

4 slices of homemade white yeast bread




sprigs of chervil


Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do. Cook in about 2.5cm (1inch) of boiling salted water in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 4 or 8 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Meanwhile make the toast, spread with butter and remove crusts. Place a piece of toast on a hot plate, put the asparagus on top and spoon a little Hollandaise sauce over. Garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.



Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces. The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water. Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

125 g (5ozs) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon) cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.

Another good tip if you are making Hollandaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water (do not have gas jet on). A thermos flask is also a good option.



Frittata with Wild Garlic and Watercress


Serves 6-8


A frittata is an Italian omelette. Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy. Pile some wild garlic leaves and watercress leaves on top for a taste of spring.


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons) parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons basil or marjoram chopped


Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan


Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.


Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.


Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Serve cut in wedges, arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata and top with a blob of tomato and coriander salsa or alternatively you can serve with a good green salad and perhaps a tomato salad.


Roast Spring Lamb with Roast Spring Onions & Mint Sauce


Serves 6-8

1 leg of Spring lamb – about 2.7kgs

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1 pint (600ml) lamb or chicken stock

a little roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

mint sauce (see recipe)

Remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb or ask your butcher to do it for you. This makes it so much easier to carve later, then saw off the knuckle from the end of the leg. Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer into a roasting tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4. Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approx. for rare, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size. When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a hot carving dish. Rest the lamb in a low oven at 50-100°C for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy. Degrease the meat juices in the roasting tin (* see note), add the stock. Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux, just enough to thicken slightly. Taste and allow to bubble until the flavour is rich enough. Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring vegetables and lots of crusty roast potatoes.


Mint Sauce

Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise. That’s how it is meant to be, try it.

Makes 175ml/6 fl ozs approx.

25g (1oz) finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons sugar

110ml (4fl oz) boiling water

25ml (1fl oz) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.


4oz (110g) butter

4oz (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.

How Do I Degrease the Juices?

The gravy should be made in the roasting tin because that is where the flavour is. Usually there is not a great deal of juice in the roasting pan, there will be some caramelised meat juices and lamb fat. This is precious because it is the basis of the gravy. Tilt the roasting tin so the fat collects in one corner. Spoon off as much fat as possible. Then pour icy cold stock into the roasting tin, this will cause the last few globules of fat to solidify so they can be quickly skimmed off the top with a perforated spoon. Then continue to make gravy as in the recipe.

Ballymaloe Shop Café’s Rhubarb Meringue Tart

Alison Henderson who cooks so many delicious confections shared this delicious recipe with us.


500g (18oz) trimmed weight Irish Rhubarb, cut into 2cm chunks

25g (1oz) butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons plain flour

2 dessertspoons corn flour

juice of ½ orange

2 large free range organic eggs

Meringue Topping

2 large egg whites

110g (4oz) caster sugar and extra for sprinkling


Put rhubarb into a large sauté into large sauté pan with orange juice and heat gently to take the rawness out of the rhubarb – 4 – 5 minutes

Melt the butter in another pot off the heat, add 5 oz sugar and whisk in the egg yolks and flour – mix to a ‘roux’ type consistency

Strain the rhubarb reserving the juices. Toss rhubarb gently in corn flour and then place in a tart tin.

Add a little rhubarb juice to the butter, sugar, flour mix and then spoon this over the rhubarb.

Bake at 170°C 325°F, mark 3, for 25 minutes or until set

Make meringue, whisk egg whites in clean bowl until soft peaks form, gradually add 2oz of caster sugar, continuing to whisk until shiny. Gently fold in the remaining 2oz of castor sugar with a metal spoon. Spread the meringue on top- of the still hot rhubarb; sprinkle a little sugar on top and bake for a further 15 minutes at 170°C 325°F, mark 3. Allow to cool slightly before removing from tin.

Primrose Fairy Cakes

Makes 12

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

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self-raising flour

2 large free range eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.


icing sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice

crystallised primroses (see recipe)

1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.

Preheat oven to Gas Mark 5.

Put all ingredients except milk into a Magimix, whizz until smooth. Scrape down sides of Magimix, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture between cases in muffin tin.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 –20 mins or until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the icing by mixing the sieved icing sugar with enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to attain the required consistency. Use a palette knife ice each bun and decorate with a single crystallised primrose. Enjoy!

Crystallised Primroses or Violets

The art of crystallising flowers simply takes patience and a meticulous nature – the sort of job that drives some people around the bend but others adore, if it appeals to you, the work will be well rewarded, they look and taste divine.

freshly picked primroses or sweet smelling violets

egg white

castor sugar

a child’s paint brush

bakewell paper

The caster sugar ought to be absolutely dry, so for extra protection, sieve and dry out on a Swiss roll tin in a low oven, 140°C/275°F/regulo 1 for approx. 30 minutes. Break the egg white slightly with a fork; it doesn’t need to be fluffy. Using a child’s paint brush, brush the egg white very carefully and sparingly over each petal and into every crevice. Then gently pour some caster sugar over the violet so that every part is coated with a thin sugary coating. Arrange the flower carefully on a bakewell paper lined tray, continue with the other violets. Allow to dry overnight in a warm dry place close to the aga or over a radiator. If properly crystallised these flowers will keep for months. We store them in a pottery jar or in a tin box interleaved with kitchen paper.

Thrifty tip

In these challenging times why not enjoy a spot of foraging. Great fun and supplements out diet with free food. Buy a good book to guide you – for example ‘Wild Food’ by Roger Philips – ISBN 0 330 28069 3.

Alexanders Smyrnium Olusatrum are in season at present, the stalks are delicious simply boiled and tossed in butter. (see Food From the Wild)

Food from the Wild

Cooked Alexanders

Serves 4-6

700g (1 1/2lb) Alexander stalks (cut close to the ground for maximum length)

1.2 litres (2 pints) water

3 teaspoons salt

butter or extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground pepper

Cut the stems into 4-5 cms (1 1/2 – 2 inches) lengths and peel off the thin outer skin as you would rhubarb. Cook in boiling salted water for 6-8 minutes or until a knife will pierce a stem easily. Drain well, then toss in a little melted butter or extra-virgin olive oil and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Hot Tips

Easter Apple Trees


Instead of an Easter Egg, one of our teachers Florrie Cullinane gave each of her children an apple tree to plant – a huge success – they got plenty of Easter Eggs from other people.

Slow Food Clare – A Date for Your Diary

The Burren Slow Food Festival is from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th May in Lisdoonvarna this year. Clodagh McKenna will demonstrate her delicious recipes and Diane Curtin will cook yummy food for teenagers. Enda Conneely from Fisherman’s Cottage, Inishere, of the Aran Islands is keeping the Irish language alive by doing a cookery demonstration in Irish. Local food café, barbeques, traditional music, films, dance…For more information 065 6850027


slowfoodclare@gmail.comKackar Mountains Eco Trekking Holiday

Cheese Making, bird spotting, and dancing are all part of a seven day trek around the rugged Kackar region in Northeast Turkey, once part of the Georgian Kingdom. The trek is scheduled for mid June through wild flower valleys and over high passes at altitudes of 2, 700 meters. Particular attention is given to supporting local enterprise, sourcing the best local food along the way. For more information visit or phone 085 1655575

Vegetable Garden for the White House

I’ve just heard a most exciting piece of news which gives me hope for the world. Michelle Obama plans to cultivate an organic vegetable garden on the south lawn of the White House. Can you imagine what a strong message this will convey to the American people about the importance of the food they feed to their families to their health. The organic garden will provide food for the first family meals and formal dinners at the White House but according to Michelle Obama its most important role is “to educate children about healthful locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have a national concern”.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Much of the food people have access to are empty calories, filling but not nourishing. so this initiative is all the more important, at a time when obesity and diabetes is at an all time high. Sixty five percent of the American population are over weight and thirty one percent are obese and at risk of chronic diseases.

I am so thrilled to discover that promoting truly healthy eating – not just the lite and low fat mantra – has become a part of the Obama agenda. As a busy working mum Michelle Obama remembers well the challenges of feeding a family and the temptation to just grab a burger or a pizza for supper.

The Obamas we’re told love Mexican food so there will be lots of coriander, tomatoes, chillies and peppers, a terrific selection of greens including my pin-up winter vegetable kale and fresh herbs. There will be fresh berries for summer puddings so the White House chefs will have fresh beautiful produce to cook with – 55 varieties in total.

There will also be a couple of bee-hives. Word reached the Obamas that White House carpenter Charlie Brandt was also a beekeeper so he will look after the two bee hives for the White House honey. Bee colonies are dying all over the world so hopefully this initiative will also encourage more people to keep bees, an activity which can be indulged in urban or rural areas.

There is a precedent, when Eleanor Roosevelt planted a vegetable garden during World War 11 she inspired Victory Gardens around the country, emblems of self sufficiency.

A vegetable garden on the lawn of the Whitehouse is the brainchild of my lovely friend Alice Waters owner of the iconic restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkley in California.

Since 1971 Alice has served the fresh seasonal produce of local farmers and food producers on her menu which changes daily. For over fifteen years she has dreamed of seeing an edible garden at the White House. When Al Gore lost the election her hopes were dashed for a further seven years but now they are becoming a reality. Her passionate hope is that this initiative will inspire Americans from coast to coast to rediscover the joy of growing their own. In these challenging economic times it is encouraging to see these initiatives springing up in many diverse locations.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Rosie Boycott chair of London Food launched ‘Capital Growth’ in November 2008 to encourage Londoners to use every scrap of land and space to grow something edible.

This initiative was inspired by the Cuban experiment during what they euphemistically called their special period when blockades and trade restrictions imposed by the US and Russia caused drastic food shortages. In these dire circumstances Cubans relearned how to cultivate and used every scrap of land in towns and cities to grow food and rear poultry and pigs. What was originally a desperate response to a crisis situation is now serving as inspiration to others.

Our own lovely president Mary McAleese is well ahead – a true inspiration. Her vegetable garden at Áras an Uachtaráin continues to flourish. They also have hens, so our first lady can go to work on a beautiful freshly laid egg whenever she fancies.

Now is the time of the year to sow and plant so take a look around your property. Is there space for a vegetable bed or even a couple, a few barrels or tubs, a window box? Even a hanging basket can produce some salad leaves or a few herbs for you to snip into your dishes. So off to the local garden centre, buy a few packets of seeds, even a few cabbage plants and get them into the ground and remember if there kids around involve them also.


We just harvested a crop of cauliflower that was planted last June. They all came together so I had what you might call a glut of cauliflower. We ate every scrap; I chopped the fresh green leaves and cooked those as well as the white curd. Here are a few recipes that we enjoyed.


Cauliflower Cheese


Serves 6-8

I had rather despaired of cauliflower until I grew them myself. However I have failed to find the name of the old variety which we ate as children. Cauliflower varieties seem to have suffered more from the point of view of flavour than most other vegetables. The leaves have more flavour than the curd so make sure not to discard them. Even a mediocre cauliflower can be made to taste delicious in a bubbling cheese sauce.

1 medium-sized cauliflower with green leaves


Mornay Sauce


1 pint (600ml) bechamel sauce

4 ozs (110g) grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar

1/2 teasp. Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 oz (30g) grated mature Cheddar cheese for top.

chopped parsley

Béchamel Sauce


½ pint (300ml) milk

a few slices of carrot

a few slices of onion

a small sprig of thyme

a small sprig of parsley

3 peppercorns

1½ ozs (45g) roux

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.

Remove the outer leaves and wash both the cauliflower and the leaves well. Put not more than 1 inch (2.5cm) water in a saucepan just large enough to take the cauliflower; add a little salt. Chop the leaves into small pieces and either leave the cauliflower whole or cut in quarters; place the cauliflower on top of the green leaves in the saucepan, cover and simmer until cooked, 15 minutes approx. Test by piercing the stalk with a knife: there should be just a little resistance. Remove the cauliflower and leaves to an ovenproof serving dish.

Meanwhile make the mornay sauce. Make the béchamel sauce in the usual way and at the end add 4 ozs (110g/1 cup) grated cheese and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower and sprinkle with more grated cheese. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point.

Put into a hot oven, 230C/450F/regulo 8, or under the grill to brown. If the Cauliflower Cheese is allowed to get completely cold, it will take 20-25 minutes to reheat in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Note: If the cauliflower is left whole, cut a deep cross in the stalk.


Aloo gobi – Cauliflower and Potatoes in spices

Serves 8


You’ll find this combination of cauliflower and potato all over India but it’s a particular speciality in Punjab.


3 tablesp sunflower oil

1 onion, sliced

1 teasp ginger-garlic paste

3 fresh green chillies, chopped

350g (12oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

225g (8 oz) fresh tomatoes, chopped

350g (12oz) cauliflower, washed and cut into florettes

1 teasp turmeric powder

2 teasp garam masala powder


Heat the oil in a wok or sauté pan. Add the onion and fry until soft. Add the ginger-garlic paste stir and fry for a few seconds.

Add the chillies and the potatoes. Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking. Add the tomatoes and allow them to soften. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a little sugar.

Then add the turmeric, garam masala, cauliflower and salt. Mix gently. Reduce the heat, adding a few spoonfuls of water if it begins to stick to the pan. Allow to simmer until the vegetables are just cooked about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve with roti or naan.


Roast Cauliflower

Serves 6-8


Seems rather peculiar at first but when cauliflower florets are blasted in a very hot oven it concentrates the natural sweetness and the flavour becomes addictive.

1 fresh cauliflower cut or divided into 4cm (1 ½ inch) florets

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. Put the florets into a deep bowl, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet roast, tossing occasionally. Cook until golden and tender, 15-20 minutes.

Mary Jo’s Indian Style Cabbage and Cauliflower Cooked with Tomato

Serves 4 – 6


This basic stir-fry and steaming method for vegetables may also be

used with green beans, zucchini, Swiss chard…

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or 1 tablespoon ghee + l tablespoon oil

½ teaspoon each black mustard seed and cumin seed

1 small onion thinly sliced

½ red or green chilli thinly sliced

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 ripe tomatoes diced

l medium potato peeled and diced

½ small cabbage sliced

¼ to ½ cauliflower broken into florets

salt and lemon juice to taste

lots of coriander or mint leaves

In a large frying pan with a lid, heat the oil and ghee until it begins to shimmer. Add the mustard and cumin seeds, cover, allow to pop and reduce heat. Remove the lid, add the sliced onion and sauté until limp and golden. Add the sliced chilli, chopped ginger, turmeric and stir to cook briefly before adding the tomatoes. As soon as the tomatoes release liquid, add the diced potato, sliced cabbage. Season with salt, cover and half-cook. Mix in the cauliflower, adding a bit of water if necessary and continue to simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt, and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice. Garnish with coriander leaves.


Spicy Indian Cauliflower Fritters


Serves 8


For the batter:

300g (10oz) flour

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoon cumin seeds dry roasted and ground

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

1 cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florets and steamed.

Put the flour chilli powder, turmeric and cumin into a bowl add water to mix to thickish coating consistency. Batter all off the batter ingredients and water as needed to achieve the consistency of thick custard.

Make a thick batter of all the batter ingredients and water as needed to achieve the consistency of thick custard.

Heat the oil in a deep fry until it is hot 200°C

Dip each cauliflower floret in the batter and gently shake off the excess and drop into hot oil. Allow the cauliflower to cook through. Cook a few at a time, frying until golden, and then drain on kitchen paper.

Serve hot with a spicy tomato sauce.


Fool Proof Food

Italian Cauliflower Fritters


A quick and easy way to perk up cauliflower, kids love it like this.

Serves 6-8


1 medium cauliflower (in florets, steamed)

well-seasoned flour

2 eggs, free-range and organic (beaten)

6-10 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, Parmigano Reggiano, freshly grated

olive oil for deep frying

Heat oil in a dry fry. Dip the steamed cauliflower florets into flour one by one. Next dip in beaten egg and then in Parmesan cheese. Fry the cauliflower florets immediately in the hot oil at 200C until golden and crisp. Serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Pocket Sized Meal Perker Uppers


Look out for Yasmin Hyde’s new brain-wave, tiny pots of Ballymaloe Country Relishes. Perfect size to carry in your handbag to perk up a less than exciting meal.

Tel. 021 438 4810

Gluten Free and Allergy Awareness Class


Con McGloughlin is teaching a Gluten Free and Allergy Awareness class at the Fionnuisce Centre in Bandon on Saturday 14th April, 10am to 3pm

Dishes will include gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free recipes. There will also be range of dishes, from baked goods and breakfasts. The cost is €95 and will include all recipes, tastings, and lunch. To book phone 023 46251

Caherbeg Wins Gold Medal for Black and White Puddings


Caherbeg Free Range Pork picked up two gold medals and one silver for their Black and White Puddings at ‘Les Compagnons de la Gastronomie Porcine’ in Belgium recently. They also received ‘champion d’Irlande en Pâté’ for their Pork Pâté. Tel. (023) 48474

Organic Herb and Vegetable Seeds


A selection of Alan Titchmarsh’s organic herb and vegetable seeds have just arrived in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop.

Thrifty Tip.


Save energy by not over filling your kettle. Put in just the amount of water you need to make tea or coffee.


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