ArchiveOctober 2009


Halloween creates almost as much excitement as Christmas nowadays, for weeks shop windows have been packed with witches, broomsticks, pumpkins and scary masks to tantalise the kids. Our grandchildren and their friends can’t wait to dress up in witches attire and ghoulish rig outs to frighten the life out of their neighbours and extract a ‘trick or treat’.

Even though it’s all becoming very commercial, kids still love the old fashioned games as well as apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. Another favourite game was to arrange five saucers on the table, put some clay in one, water in another, a wedding ring in another, a rag in the fourth and a coin in the fifth. One after another we were blindfolded, and the plates were switched about before we reached out tentatively, to inevitable giggles – the water meant that you were going “on a journey”, the coin meant untold riches were coming your way, the rag signified hard times ahead, the soil was also bad news, it meant you’d be six feet under before long but the ring meant that wedding bells would soon ring, even if you were only six!

You can always lure the little witches and goblins into the kitchen to cook. They love to make popcorn and spooky sounding soups like ‘Dragons blood’ (aka tomato soup) or spicy bones (spare ribs) can keep them interested and nibbling. Spiders web buns are also a great favourite and involve icing which is always a great hit with both boys and girls – don’t worry about the mess!

Buy a couple of pumpkins and you’ll have several hours of peace, but keep an eye out while they carve and make sure to save the pulp to make a pumpkin soup.

Dragon’s Blood

Tomato Soup with Pesto Crostini

Serves 5

The soup is a scary red colour hence the name, especially for Halloween.

We worked for a long time to try and make this soup reasonably foolproof. Good quality tinned tomatoes (another must for your store cupboard), give a really good result. Homemade tomato puree although delicious can give a more variable result depending on the quality of the tomatoes.


2 x 14 oz (400g) tins of tomatoes, liquidised and sieved

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 oz (15g) butter

8 fl ozs (250ml) Bechamel sauce (see recipe)

8 fl ozs (250ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

4 fl ozs (120ml) cream

Pesto – see below

6 crostini made from 1/3 inch (5mm) thick slices of thin French bread cooked in olive oil until crisp and pale golden

Sweat the onion in the butter on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chopped tinned tomatoes plus juice, white sauce and homemade chicken stock. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Liquidise, taste, dilute further if necessary. Bring back to the boil, correct seasoning add a little cream if necessary.

Put a little blob of Pesto on 6 freshly cooked crostini and drop one into each serving.

Note: This soup needs to be tasted carefully as the final result depends on the quality of the tomato puree, stock etc.

Béchamel Sauce

1 pint (300 ml) milk

Few slices of carrot

Few slices of onion

3 peppercorns

Small sprig of thyme

Small sprig of parsley

1½ozs (45 g) roux

Salt and freshly ground pepper

This is a wonderfully quick way of making Béchamel Sauce if you have roux already 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, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken to a light coating consistency by whisking in roux. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup with Rosemary Oil

Serves 6

50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice

350g (12oz) chopped pumpkin, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (1/4 pint) creamy milk

3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

Rosemary Oil

4fl ozs (100ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the rosemary oil:

Heat the chopped rosemary with the oil until hot but not smoking. Cool and strain.

Add the vegetables and stock to the saucepan with the potatoes and onions. Boil until soft, do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Liquidise with the chopped rosemary. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To Serve

Drizzle a little rosemary oil over each bowl of soup before serving.

Spicy Bones

Adapted from “Barbeque, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavour” by Eric Treuille & Birgit Erath”

Serves 8

1.8kg (4lbs) meaty preferably organic pork spare ribs

2 tablespoons sunflower

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 teaspoons of ginger, grated

175g (6ozs) finely chopped onion

125ml (4floz) pineapple juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce, Nam Pla

3 tablespoons tomato purée

4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Ask the butcher to cut the ribs across horizontally into two strips. Divide each piece into individual short ribs.

Put the ribs into a deep saucepan and cover with cold water, add salt and bring to the boil. Skim and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again, allow to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan and add the crushed garlic, grated ginger and chopped onion, cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the pineapple juice, fish sauce, tomato purée, lime or lemon juice, honey and 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens, then put into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add in the ribs and toss until completely coated (hands are best for this).

Place under a hot grill for 10 – 15 minutes, basting and turning frequently until golden, transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle with a little more sweet chilli sauce and serve the sweet and sticky ribs. You’ll need lots of paper napkins!



Halloween Barnbrack – Gluten Free

A simple and totally delicious barnbrack – suitable for Coeliacs or those with a wheat intolerance. This loaf keeps very well and is delicious cut into slices spread with butter. Hide a ring, pea, stick or a coin in the mixture for extra excitement at Halloween.

Makes 1 loaf

75g (3oz) sultanas

75g (3oz) raisins

75g (3oz) currants

40g (1½oz) cherries, halved

40g (1½oz) candied peel, chopped (preferably homemade)

200ml (7fl oz) tea

1 egg, lightly beaten, preferably free-range

150g (5oz) soft brown sugar

175g (6oz) rice flour

50g (2oz) cornflour

1½teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1 level teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon mixed spice

3 tablespoons milk

3-4 tablespoons Stock Syrup – boil 2 tablespoons sugar with 2 tablespoons water

1 x 1kg (2lb) loaf tin, lined with parchment paper

Soak the fruit in cold tea overnight


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

Next day, add the lightly beaten egg and sugar to the fruit and tea and stir together well. Sift the rice flour, cornflour, gluten-free baking powder, xanthan gum and mixed spice together. Add to the fruit mixture and stir well.

Wrap the charms individually in greaseproof paper and hide in the mixture.

Gently mix in the 3 tablespoons of milk and pour into the prepared loaf tin. Cook in the preheated oven for 11/4 hours approximately until a skewer comes out of the loaf clean. Brush with stock syrup (if using) so the top and sides are sticky and delicious. Cool on a wire rack. Serve out in slices with a little butter.


Chocolate Spider Web Buns


Makes 24


225g (8 oz) butter, chopped

225g (8oz) castor sugar

225g (2oz) cocoa powder or drinking chocolate

285g (10oz) white flour

4 eggs, free range and organic

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Dark Chocolate Icing


170g (6oz) icing sugar

55g (2oz) cocoa powder

85g (3oz) butter

70ml (3fl oz) water

110g (4 oz) castor sugar

110g (4oz) white chocolate


2 bun trays


Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 30 seconds approximately. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise. Bake for 20 minutes in total approximately. Cool on a wire rack and decorate as desired.


Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

Melt the white chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water. Ice the top of each bun with chocolate icing. Pipe a circle of white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate icing, then pull the icing up and down with the tip of a cocktail stick so the pattern resembles a spiders web.



Witches’ Toffee Popcorn


3 tablespoons sunflower oil

75g (3oz) popcorn

25g (1oz) butter

25g (1oz) brown sugar

1 generous tablespoon golden syrup

pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the popcorn and swirl the pan to coat the popcorn in oil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and the corn should start to pop in a couple of minutes. Make the toffee coating by melting 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan. Then add 25g (1oz) brown sugar and 1 generous tablespoon golden syrup and stir over a high heat for ½ to 1 minute until thick. As soon as the popcorn starts popping (after 5 – 7 minutes) take the saucepan off the heat. Pour the toffee over the popcorn, put the lid on the pan and shake to mix. Pour out into little bowls and cool before serving.


Thrifty Tip

Keep the scooped out pulp from carving Halloween pumpkins to make soup.

Continuing Our Countdown to Christmas.

Last week I used my mother’s Christmas cake recipe, this week I will use my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen’s recipe. Closer to the big day I will give you a recipe for a lighter Christmas cake that can be made a few days before.

Myrtle Allen’s Christmas Cake

Approximately 20 slices

The first Christmas cake is rich and moist, it keeps until Easter anyway, I can tell you that, but there my experiment ended!


1 cup/225g (8oz) butter softened

1 cup/225g (8oz) brown sugar

1 ¾ cup/225g (8oz) flour

4 eggs preferably organic free-range

½ cup / 55g (2oz) almonds

¼ cup / 60ml rum or brandy

1 ½ cups / 225g (8oz) currants

1 ½ cups / 225g (8oz) sultanas

¾ cup /100g (3 ½ oz) raisins

¾ cup / 100g (3 ½ oz) glace raisins

¾ cup / 100g (3 ½ oz) chopped candied peel

1 lemon

1 orange


Blanch, peel and chop almonds. Grate orange and lemon rinds very finely without any white pith. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and white. Add the sifted flour and eggs alternately, beating well then add fruit and other ingredients. Put into a greased and lined tin. Bake for ½ an hour in a moderate oven 170°/325°F/Mark 3. Then reduce to 150°C/300°F/Mark 2 and bake for a further 3 hours approximately watching carefully towards the end. Keep in a tight tin in a larder or unheated room until about 12 days before Christmas when you can ice the cake.





Hot Tips

Pumpkins galore

– if you want to find a pumpkin David and Siobhan Barry, Ballintubber Farm have a terrific selection at the Midleton Farmers Market today. Contact 086 8238187.The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore

, Co Waterford is hosting a wine tasting dinner with Rocca delle Macie from Tuscany, Italy on Friday 6th November 2009 to book a wine tasting dinner, bed and breakfast package or just the dinner phone 024 87800 or visit

A new Farmers Market has opened in Limerick

contact Gareth Granville 0868069605

www.thecrescentfarmersmarket.comHow about an early Christmas presie

– learn how to choose, serve and get the most from your wine at a one Day ‘Wine Course for the Festive Season’ with John McDonnell & Colm McCan on Saturday 5th December at Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry – to book 021 4652531 at the Crescent Shopping Centre -every Wednesday from 9:30am to 2:30pm. Over 20 exciting stalls to choose from.


This year we have had our best crop of aubergines ever in the greenhouse. Our Black Pearl and Falcon plants from Vitalis Organic Seeds have produced with a vengeance. Aubergine plants grow to a height of about 2ft and have beautiful grey, g

reen leaves, and pretty purple flowers.
Aubergines are not a vegetable that appeal to everyone at first but after a few encounters the earthy flavour can become addictive. There are many more varieties besides the dark purple we are familiar with. They may be cream, wine or green striped. We have also grown a pale lavender variety called Asian Bride which is very beautiful. Anyone who has seen the white egg shaped variety will know why they are also called eggplants.
I find the slimmer varieties have the most flavour and are favoured by many cooks. As in all of nature there are male and female plants, and you can tell the difference by appearance. The male is more rounded at the end, the female more pointed. The female aubergine tends to have more seeds. Slight bitterness is one of the characteristics of aubergines – the males are less bitter than the females – a flavour some find off-putting at first but soon grow to love. Aubergines are enormously versatile, they can be grilled, barbequed, roasted, stuffed, sautéed or steamed as in Madhur Jaffrey’s Steamed Aubergines with a Peanut Dressing where the texture becomes meltingly tender. When I char them over a gas flame until the skins are blackened the interior flesh takes on an irresistible smoky flavour. Aubergines are a favourite ingredient in the Middle East, Indian and Mediterranean repertoire of recipes. They make delicious fritters and marry well with the gutsy flavours of the Mediterranean anchovies, olives, garlic and of course roast peppers and tomatoes and herbs like oregano and basil. The grape aubergines which look like a bunch of grapes are also delicious in Thai curries, but if you can’t find those just dice one of the larger ones.  If the aubergines are large, one can draw out the moisture and bitterness by salting first. To prepare aubergines, cut or slice the aubergines into slices or cubes, sprinkle with dairy salt or sea salt, toss and drain the slices by standing upright in an oven rack on a roasting tin. The cubes should be put into a colander and allowed to drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, dry each piece well and continue with the recipe. Vitalis Seeds  

Aubergine Fritters

These are delicious as a snack or served with roast lamb – courgettes work very well also.

1 – 2 aubergines cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices


125g (good 4oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg preferably free range organic
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 150ml (1/4 pt) water

First salt the aubergine slices for 15 minutes, drain and dry well. Meanwhile make the batter.
Whisk the ingredients together, adding extra water if necessary. Dip the slices of aubergines into the batter and fry them in 1cm (1/2 in) of extra virgin olive oil. This may sound expensive but fritters cooked in olive oil have an extra good flavour and crispness. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Rose Gray’s and Ruth Rogers’ Caponata

Taken from the new River Café Classic Italian Cookbook published by Penguin Books.

There are as many ways to make caponata as there are cooks in Sicily. The basis of caponata is the popular aubergine, and the dish evolves according to what other vegetables you wish to include. All caponatas have wine vinegar as part of the seasoning and most include capers, olives and pine nuts. This recipe has celery as its other strong flavour, which makes a light, refreshing version.

For 6

1 large round, pale aubergine, about 12cm in diameter, or 2 medium round, pale aubergines
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 whole heads of celery, with leaves
1 large red onion, peeled
2 ripe plum tomatoes or 3 drained from a tin
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
3 tablespoons black Ligurian olives, stoned and kept whole
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, then soaked in 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mint leaves, washed
6 slices of sourdough bread

Cut the aubergine into 1.5cm cubes and place in a colander. Sprinkle with sea salt and drain for 30 minutes. Wash off the salt and pat dry.
Cut the tender white part of the celery into 2cm lengths. Put them into a pan, cover with water, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain. Cut the onion into fine slices and peel and core the tomatoes, then chop them into 1cm pieces. Heat 3–4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, and add the aubergine pieces in batches so that they just cover the bottom of the pan. Fry over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes, turning the pieces over until brown on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat this process; you may need to use extra olive oil if it has all been absorbed in the first batch. Wipe the pan clean and return it to the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Reduce
the heat and gently soften the onion until it becomes golden; this will take 10 minutes. Add the garlic and celery, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, to combine the flavours. Season with pepper and crumble in the chillies. Add the tomato pieces and just let them warm up in the mixture, but not really cook, then stir in the aubergines. Cook all the vegetables together briefly for 5 minutes. Test for seasoning and stir in the olives, pine nuts and the capers including the vinegar they have been soaking in. Finally, chop the mint and stir it into the mixture with a drizzle of sweet
extra virgin olive oil. Toast the bread on both sides to make bruschetta, and serve with the caponata.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Steamed Aubergines with a Peanut Dressing

Serves 4-6

Madhur Jaffrey introduced us to this delectable aubergine recipe from Northern China. It can be served as a starter or as an accompanying vegetable or as a salad. It goes particularly well with cold meats. Madhur urged us to seek out long slim variety of aubergines rather than the larger seedy ones.  She has lots of delicious recipes for this versatile vegetable in her cookbooks.

560g (1¼ lb) aubergines
50g (2oz) raw peanuts, roasted and ground to a paste in a clean coffee-grinder or 3 tablespoons freshly made peanut butter from a health food shop
50 ml (2fl oz) Chinese light soy sauce
25 ml (1fl oz) Chinese red vinegar (use red wine vinegar as a substitute
15 ml (1fl oz) sugar (use a bit more, if needed)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
15 ml (1fl oz) sesame oil
15 ml (1fl oz) garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
15 ml (1fl oz) fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons green coriander, very finely chopped, both leaves and stems, plus a few extra green coriander sprigs for garnishing

If the aubergines are the long, slim variety, quarter them lengthways, and then cut them into 7.5cm (3inch) long fingers.  If using the more common, fat aubergine, cut it into fingers that are 7.5 x 2.5cm (3inch x 1inch).  Steam over a high heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients except the green coriander in a bowl and mix well.  This is the sauce.
When the aubergine pieces are tender, lift them out carefully and arrange them neatly in a single layer in a large platter.  Stir the sauce.  Add the green coriander to it and mix again.  Pour the sauce evenly over the aubergines.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.  This dish may be prepared ahead of time, covered and refrigerated.  Garnish with the green coriander sprigs just before serving.

Rick Stein’s Aubergine Curry with Tomatoes, Ginger and Fennel Seeds

If you can get them, use ‘finger’ aubergines for this. They are shaped rather like small courgettes and hold their shape well during cooking. This is a simple curry, but interesting as it uses a lot of fennel seeds, a common flavour in Bangladeshi food. Incidentally, they call them aniseed there, but they are not because I wondered into a kitchen in Sylhet and tried them.
As through India, as indeed in some Indian restaurants in the UK, sugar-coated fennel seeds are offered at the end of a meal as a breath freshener and digestive.

This recipe is from Rick Stein’s great new book ‘Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey’ published by BBC books.

600g aubergines, ideally Asian finger aubergines
150ml vegetable oil
40 g fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
40g garlic, roughly chopped
2 green cayenne chillies, finely chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
400g chopped tomatoes, fresh or from a can
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and mint

Top and tail the aubergines and cut in half lengthways. If using larger Mediterranean-style aubergines, cut each one across in half and then each piece lengthways into 6 – 8 wedges. Toss them with ½ tsp salt and set aside in a colander for 10 minutes. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Pour the oil into a shallow dish. Brush the aubergine pieces, a few at a time, with oil, put them in the frying pan and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until richly browned. Cooking the aubergines in this way helps prevent them from absorbing too much oil, which would make the finished dish greasy. Set aside in a bowl and repeat with the remaining aubergines. Put the ginger, garlic and chilli into a mini food processor with 2 – 3 tbsp water and whizz to a smooth paste. Put 2 tbsp of the remaining of the remaining oil into the frying pan and add the fennel and cumin seeds. Leave them to sizzle for a few seconds, then add the ginger and garlic paste and leave this to fry for a further 2 -3  minutes. Add the coriander and turmeric, fry for 1 minute, and then add the tomatoes, black pepper, 3 tbsp water and ½ tbsp salt. Cover and leave to simmer for 8 – 10 minutes until reduced and thickened slightly. Return the fried aubergine slices to the pan and stir well to coat in the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the fresh coriander and mint and serve.

Continuing our Count Down to Christmas…
My Favourite Christmas Cake

This makes a moist cake which keeps very well. It can either be made months ahead or, if you are frenetically busy then it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know!. If you make it this week it will mature beautifully between now and Christmas. I will give instructions and suggestions on how to ice closer to Christmas.

Serves about 40

110g (4oz) real glacé cherries
50g (2oz) whole almonds
350g (12oz) best-quality sultanas
350g (12oz) best-quality currants
350g (12oz) best-quality raisins
110g (4oz) homemade candied peel
50g (2oz) ground almonds
zest of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
zest of 1 organic unwaxed orange
60ml (21⁄2 fl oz) Irish whiskey
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden caster sugar
6 organic eggs
275g (10oz) flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 large or 2 small Bramley seedling apples, grated

Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) round, or 20cm (8 inch) square tin with a double thickness of silicone paper. Then tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin. Have a sheet of brown or silicone paper to lay on top of the tin during cooking.

Wash the cherries and dry them gently. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon zest. Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F/gas mark 3.

Cream the butter until very soft. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the mixed spice with the flour and stir gently into the butter mixture. Add the grated cooking apple to the plumped up fruit and stir into the butter mixture gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake – this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.

Now lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat. Bake for 1 hour. Then reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 21⁄2 hours, until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the remainder of the whiskey over the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.

Next day, remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap the cake in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.

Store in a cool, dry place; the longer the cake is stored the more mature it will be.

Everyone at O’Connell’s Restaurant in Ballsbridge in Dublin was celebrating last week; they have just been awarded The “Just Ask!” Georgina Campbell Restaurant of the Month Award for October 2009. This brilliant concept is a public awareness campaign that aims to encourage consumers when eating out to look for information on where the food (particularly meat) on their plate comes from and to encourage chefs to provide this information on their menus. O’Connells Restaurant, Ballsbridge – telephone 01 665 5940.
Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Learn ‘How To Make Sourdough Bread’ A step by step demonstration and explanation by Declan Ryan of Arbutus Breads at the Crawford Art Gallery Cafe at 7.30pm on Thursday 29th October Admission €6.00 including tea, coffee and tastings. For further information contact Caroline Robinson on 021-7330178.

Good Things Café and Cookery School in Durrus. Carmel Somers’ new season schedule has just been published and includes lots of tempting cookery courses. Everyone loves the informative and convivial atmosphere. Telephone 027 61426 –

Pizza Workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday 30th October 2:00 to 5:00pm. Philip Dennhardt has built up a cult following for his pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. Learn how to make the dough, shape the pizza and make a variety of sauces and toppings €85.00. Tel 021 4646785

Holden’s Organic Farm Wales

I haven’t been to Wales for so long; I’d forgotten how easy it is to get there. Just throw a few things into the car, pack a picnic and head for Rosslare. The ferry to Fishguard takes three and a half hours, and even

though it’s quite a short time it’s worth considering taking a cabin for €39.00 (sleeps two) so you arrive fresh as a daisy. We were on our way to Holden’s Organic farm near Lampeter to do a cheese making course. First we detoured 20 minutes south of Fishguard to Porthgain in search of a little seafood restaurant called The Shed. We found it on the harbours edge and had delicious fish, spanking fresh crab, mussels, and grey sea mullet. It was a pity about the squidgy bread and bought mayonnaise. The pretty waitress was a mine of information! She appeared to have no idea about the village, the story of the restaurant or where the local cheese came from. The cheese I discovered later was Caerphilly, Wales’ most famous cheese!
After lunch, we made our way up hills and down dales through forest and woodland and village after village with unpronounceable names, eventually arrived at Bwlchwernen Fawr Organic Dairy Farm. The Ayrshire cows that provide milk for the cheese were grazing contentedly in the fields. Up to four years ago Sam and Rachel Holden were immersed in the corporate world in London; Rachel was a press officer for Sainsbury’s and Sam was account manager for a small graphic design company. Through a series of events they decided to return to the family farm in Wales to oversee the renovation of the farmhouse. As luck would have it Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy brought a group of UK farmhouse cheese-makers to see the dairy herd. Sam’s father Patrick Holden director of the Soil Association had harboured an aspiration to add value to their beautiful milk by making a cheese but didn’t quite know quite how to go about it. After the cheese-makers visit, he asked Sam whether he might consider taking on the project, after initial discussion with his wife Rachel they decided to take the plunge. They borrowed a ton of money and spent four months learning and visiting cheese-makers. A new fully equipped dairy was built and on August 26th 2007 Sam and Rachel made their first batch of cheddar. They continued to make cheese twice a week through out the year without even having tasted the fruit of their labours – it was a year later before they could sample the mature cheese. What a leap of faith and extraordinary courage. To their immense relief the cheese was really good and well received. They decided to call it ‘Hafod’ (pronounced Havod) which means Summer pasture in Welsh. Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, the iconic cheese shop in London tasted, approved and decided to stock it alongside the legendary English cheddars, Montgomery, Keens, Westcombe and Isle of Mull.
On 25th June 2008 Prince Charles came to officially open the dairy as a beacon of local enterprise. Now they are beginning to offer cheese making courses to pass on their skills to others who have an interest in this.
It takes two days milk to fill the vat so the cheese is made from a mixture of morning and evening milk. In comparison to most other cheese, cheddar making is immensely laboursome in the initial stage but once it is made, moulded and pressed there is little store work in the way of handling and turning. It just slumbers away on timber shelves in the cheese ‘cave’ at 10°C for a year to 18 months under the watchful eye of Sam and Rachel who turn it every five weeks. We were also shown how to make a simple soft cheese and a Jarlesberg (a mild cow’s milk Norwegian cheese)
The day cheese making course, including a delicious lunch of Welsh cawl, Hafod Cheddar and salad followed by homemade cakes and tea and coffee costs just £70.00
Soil association members get the discounted price of £57.50.
Quite incredible value for money. Sam and Rachel were enormously generous with their information and were passionate about passing on their knowledge and skills. They also had a very experienced French cheese-making student called Marie Decherf working with them who is presently on a tour of farmhouse cheese-makers in UK and Ireland. She was on her way to spend two months working with and learning from Jaffa Gill who makes the award winning Durrus Cheese on her farm outside the village of the same name in West Cork.
The following day we visited the Brecon Beacons Food Fair and bought several Welsh cheeses, Welsh cakes, pickled samphire and cob nuts.
The local Welsh Male Choir was in full voice at the end of market hall.
There was lots of salt marsh lamb and Welsh mutton from Elan Valley for sale and some quite spectacular bread made by young artisan baker Alex Gooch – his family made three deliveries of bread to the festival and sold it as fast as they could bake it.
We also visited Penpont self catering cottages beside Penpont House, cottages and farm shop, in the middle of an organic estate, a really special place to stay, close to Brecon.
Also in that area is another of my favourite pubs with comfy rooms and a menu of delicious local foods – The Felin Fach Griffin Inn.

To book a cheese making course at Bwlchwernen Fawr Organic Dairy Farm telephone Sam and Rachel Holden on
00 44 1570 493283 or email  or visit their website Hafod Cheese Neals Yard Dairy Felin Fach Griffin Inn Durrus Farmhouse Cheese Alex Gooch Organics  Penpont House and Self Catering Cottages

Welsh Cawl

A comforting meal in itself, you’ll want to tuck into several bowlfuls on chilly Autumn days or after a long walk in the countryside. Both collar of bacon and neck of lamb are inexpensive and delicious.

Serves 10

750g (1 ½ lb) collar of bacon
750g (1 ½ lb) neck of lamb
3 stalks celery sliced
3 – 4 carrots peeled and sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cloves
3 white turnips peeled and quartered
A bouquet garni of parsley stalks, thyme and a bay leaf
3 – 4 litres (6 ½ pints) water
2 leeks
450g (1lb) baby carrots if available, other wise peel, quarter and cut into chunks
700g (1 ½ lbs) small new potatoes or ¼ larger ones
350 g (12 oz) green cabbage cut in ¾ inch strips
lots of chopped parsley

Put the bacon, lamb, celery stalks, carrots, onion, peppercorns, cloves, white turnips, the green part of leeks and bouquet garni into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim and continue to simmer for one and half hours, skimming regularly. Slice the white part of the leeks and add to the pot with remainder of the vegetables, except the cabbage, cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or until both the meat and vegetables are fully cooked. Remove the bacon and lamb and cut into rough chunks, return to the pot, taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle into wide, deep soup bowls. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and enjoy.

Cyrus Todiwala’s Mutton Coriander Gosht

(Executive chef, Café Spice Namaste) – taken from Renaissance Mutton booklet

Mutton is used in many Indian style dishes commonly served in the UK. This simple dish can form part of an Indian feast or serve on its own with steamed rice or naan bread.
Serves 4
550g (1/4 lb) diced leg of mutton
3 onions, roughly chopped
15ml (1 tablespoon) ginger, finely chopped
30ml (2 tablespoons) coriander seeds
15ml (1 tablespoon) cumin seeds
1 whole dried red chilli, cut into 3 pieces
Cinnamon stick, 5cm (2inch) piece
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or I can of chopped tomatoes
600ml (1 pint) hot, good lamb stock
60ml (4 teaspoons) fresh coriander, chopped
75ml (5 tablespoon) vegetable or corn oil

In a frying pan, roast the whole chilli and cinnamon stick over a low heat until light brown. Set aside to cool. Repeat with the cumin and coriander seeds then crush with the cinnamon and chilli in a pestle and mortar until you get a crushed peppercorn consistency. Heat the oil in heavy-based pan on a high heat. Add the mutton and seal well. Maintaining the heat, add the red chillies and cinnamon and stir-fry for one minute. Add the onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes on a medium heat and add enough stock to just cover the mutton. Keep the pan covered, add the salt and simmer the mutton for 1 hour. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further hour or until the mutton is tender and the gravy is thick. If there is too much liquid after the first hour, remove the lid for the final stage of cooking. Before serving check the seasoning then stir in the fresh coriander.

Welsh Cakes

I bought a bag of bag of delicious Welsh cakes from a cheery lady on a stall at the Brecon Beacons Food Fair. This is a delicious recipe – Welsh cakes are best made with a mixture of lard and butter but use all butter if good lard is unavailable.

Makes 24

450g (1 lb) white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mace
110g (4oz) butter
110g (4oz) lard
175g (6oz) castor sugar
¼ lb currants, sultanas or raisins
2 eggs preferably free range organic
caster sugar for dipping

Put the flour, salt, baking powder, and mace into a bowl, rub in the butter and lard add the sugar and dried fruit and mix well, whisk the eggs and add just enough milk to bind.
Roll out thinly and stamp into ¼ inch rounds with a 2 ½ inch cutter.
Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle. Grease with a little butter and cook the Welsh cakes for 2 to 3 minutes each side. Remove and dip in sugar. Best eaten warm.

Continuing our countdown to Christmas

This week I share the recipe for my mother’s plum pudding with you. It was always the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it was made.   The grandchildren could hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that first plum pudding seemed the most delicious, it was our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helped to stir so we could all make a wish.

It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.

Mummy’s Plum Pudding

This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.

12 ozs (350g) raisins
12 ozs (350g) sultanas
12 ozs (350g) currants
12 ozs (350g) brown sugar
12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)
12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet (preferably home-made)
4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)
2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated
4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds
rind of 1 lemon
3 pounded cloves (½ teaspoon)
a pinch of salt
6 eggs
2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica Rum

Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.

Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.

On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates.

Hot Tips

Savour Kilkenny Festival kicks off on Friday 23rd October and runs until Monday 26th October with a list of exciting events to attend. To see the programme, visit

Glebe Gardens course schedule is available for winter 2009 / 2010 and includes ‘Composting and mulching – putting the garden to bed for the winter’ on Sunday 18th October and ‘Salads all Year Round’ Sunday 1st November, both courses cost €60.00 including lunch. To book and for information about further courses, phone: 028 20232 or email

A Pizza Heaven – Ballymaloe Cookery School. Learn how to make the perfect pizza with lots of unusual and delicious toppings with Philip Dennhardt. Hendrik Lepel will also give a talk about how to build and maintain your own pizza oven in your back garden. Friday 30th October 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Booking essential 021 4646785 or

Tiffany Goodall’s Ultimate Student Cookbook

September was all about school books, bags and uniforms and trying to find digs. Children were apprehensive and excited, parents usually relieved and comfortable to be back into a routine. For many it’s the most expensive time of the year, the following weeks feel a bit like January where everyone tightens the belt for a while to recover from the extra expense. As soon as the younger ones have settled in, it’s time to concentrate on getting the older ones off to college, scramble for places, and scramble for digs – how will they survive on their students’ budget? Will they feed themselves properly or will it all go on beer – worse still have they any idea how to shop or to knock a meal together with a few inexpensive ingredients. It would be worth buying a copy book to start a survival kit to record recipes and a few basic shopping tips. Teach the kids how to judge when food is safe to eat by using their eyes, nose and sense of taste, rather than relying merely on use-by dates. Add a list of what’s in season – it’ll be better and cheaper then and far more wholesome and nutritious. Teach them how to make a big bowl of porridge, and maybe a scrambled egg, basic muesli and a smoothie to kick start the day.
In the UK many students and others have also got very clever about collecting out of date – but still perfectly good – supermarket produce, before it is dumped. There is even a name ‘freegans’ very enterprising and at least it reduces waste and benefits those in need. Students about to embark on the new adventure of housekeeping and cooking for themselves need a basic kit, so family presents could include a grater, whisk, chopping board, a wok, a decent saucepan or two, a non-stick frying pan, vegetable peeler, a few knives, Bamix and a simple reliable cookbook. There are several but I have just come across a new publication – From Pasta to Pancakes – The Ultimate Student Cookbook. Coincidentally it’s been written by a vivacious past student, Tiffany Goodall, but proud as I am my of ‘babies’ that is not reason enough for me to wax lyrical about something unless I reckon it’s really worthwhile.
Even when Tiffany was in her early teens, she knew she wanted to cook, she landed a job at her local fish and chip shop ‘Fishers’ in Fulham. Life at university was fast and furious and she soon discovered that being able to cook was one the easiest ways to win friends and influence people. Breakfast with Tiffany and Tiff’s Tuesday and Tiff’s weekends became legendary.
The latter began in her second year at Newcastle University where she was studying business after she had a few people round for supper one Tuesday. Her friends asked if they all chipped in a fiver for ingredients could they continue this on a regular basis and it was a done deal.
Since graduating from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Tiffany has combined writing with guest appearances on BBC Market Kitchen and demonstrations for Marks and Spencers, the Home and Garden Show and Chanel 4’s Taste Festival in London and Bath. Plus her first cookbook written by a student who is realistic about what it’s like to be leaving home and facing up to the prospect of cooking for yourself for the first time. No need to panic, this book really will show you how to cook the basics and prove that you don’t have to resort to a diet of expensive takeaways or anything on toast. It’s very cleverly designed so not only does it tell you how to cook but there are witty step by step processes for every recipe. There are loads of tips for storing or using up left overs and giving meals a funky twist – ideal for those who have limited cash and equipment. Start off by learning a few basic skills, how to cook pasta, bake a potato then move on to stir fries, soups, salads, roasts and even curries. Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite; the book – published by Quadrille – has been in the shops since mid September.

Tiffany Goodall’s Beef Noodle Stir-fry

Serves 2–4

If you go to a Chinese restaurant you’ll doubtless find a selection of chow mein dishes on the menu. It is the generic term used for a Chinese dish of stir-fried noodles. You could use chicken, vegetables or even small prawns instead of the beef in this recipe.

225g/8oz rice noodles or egg noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped finely
3 sirloin or rump steaks, sliced
juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon honey

Cook the rice noodles

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, and then add the chillies, ginger, garlic and green pepper. Stir-fry for 4 minutes. Add the beef, lime juice and soy sauce.
Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the cooked rice noodles. Mix well and add the honey. Have a taste and add some more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Tiffany Goodall’s Hot hot Lamb Curry

Serves 4

How brave are you? This curry is punchy and spicy, perfect for a lads’ night in with a few beers. It is very spicy, so if you want to tone it down leave out the chilli flakes and use a couple of fresh green chillies instead.

1kg/21/4 lb lamb, diced
4 tablespoons plain yoghurt, plus extra to serve
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
2cm/1inch piece of root ginger, peeled and chopped finely
6 small green chillies, such as bird’s eye chillies
1–2 teaspoons chilli flakes
400ml/14fl oz boiling water
2 chicken stock cubes
large handful of spinach leaves
4 tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped

Mix the lamb, yogurt, turmeric and cumin together in a bowl. Put in the fridge for an hour to marinate. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger. Add the chillies and chilli flakes and mix around.

Add the yoghurt-marinated lamb, stir well and season with salt and pepper.

Mix up the boiling water and stock cubes, and then pour over the lamb. Cook over a low heat for 35 minutes until the lamb is tender. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve hot, hot, hot with a dollop of yoghurt to cool the flames!

Optional Extras: Feel free to use coconut milk instead of stock here. Red chillies would also be great and give the dish some extra colour.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with some buttered basmati rice with coriander, some naan bread and good mango chutney.

Tiffany Goodall’s Chilli con Carne

Serves 8

A hot and warming chilli con carne is quite simply an ultimate favourite and perfect for a house party when feeding the masses. I love a good bit of spice, so chillies and chilli flakes are brilliant in this.

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 red onions, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped finely
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
1.5kg/3lb lean beef mince
3 x 400g/14oz cans chopped tomatoes
2 glasses of red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
800g/11/2lb red kidney beans
150ml/5fl oz soured cream

Finely chop the onions, garlic and chillies.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the red onions, garlic and fresh chillies.

Add the chilli flakes. Cook gently for 3–4 minutes

You should be hit with the smells of the garlic and spice – all great.
Turn the heat right up and add the beef mince. Season well and cook until brown. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes, red wine, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco sauce. Stir well and then add the kidney beans.
Simmer for as long as time allows. I like this to simmer for at least an hour, as all the flavours really intensify. Taste it after an hour and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Serve hot with a dollop of soured cream.

Don’t add the Tabasco sauce if you don’t like it too hot, but it does give it a real kick. Chopped parsley or coriander would be brilliant at the end, sprinkled over.
I like this with rice and some soured cream, Guacamole and maybe a side salad. It’s so easy to do for large numbers.

Fool Proof Food

Tiffany Goodall’s Ma’s Carbonara Sauce

Serves 1

This is a tasty carbonara sauce – creamy, garlicky and delicious! The ingredients are basic: eggs, cream and milk – items I often find lying around in my fridge.

15ml/1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
100g/31/2oz un-smoked bacon lardons or normal bacon, chopped roughly
1 medium egg, whisked
2 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese
125ml/4fl oz double cream
15ml/1 tablespoon milk

Cook your pasta

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and add the garlic and bacon.
Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the bacon is brown, stirring regularly.
Tip the bacon onto a piece of kitchen paper to drain. Set your dirty frying pan aside for later. Mix up the egg, bacon, cheese, cream and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well. Check your pasta and when it’s ready, drain it and tip it into the large frying pan you used earlier. Add the egg mixture and gently heat it for 1 minute over a low-medium heat. This is very important because if the heat is too high you will end up with scrambled eggs! Taste to check the seasoning and then serve.

Countdown to Christmas

To continue our count down to Christmas – only 11 weeks to go – how about getting the Christmas puddings made… This week I will use Myrtle Allen’s recipe, next week my mother’s plum pudding so you will have a choice. Last week I gave instructions on how to prepare your own suet, this week I include a tip for making homemade breadcrumbs from left over stale bread. Store the puddings in a cool dry cupboard so they will gradually ripen and mature in time for Christmas.

Myrtle Allen’s Plum Pudding with Brandy Butter

Serves 8-10

Making the Christmas Puddings (from The Ballymaloe Cook Book by Myrtle Allen)

The tradition that every member of the household could have a wish which was likely (note, never a firm promise) to come true was, of course, a ruse to get all the children to help with heavy work of stirring the pudding.  I only discovered this after I was married and had to do the job myself.  This recipe, multiplied many times, was made all at once.  In a machineless age, mixing all those expensive ingredients properly was a formidable task.  Our puddings were mixed in an enormous china crock which held the bread for the house hold for the rest of the year.  My mother, nanny and the cook took it in turns to stir, falling back with much panting and laughing after a few minutes’ work.  I don’t think I was really much help to them.
Christmas puddings should be given at least 6 weeks to mature.  They will keep for a year.  They become richer and firmer with age, but one loses the lightness of the fruit flavour.  We always eat our last plum pudding at Easter.
If possible, prepare your own fresh beef suet – it is better than the pre-packed product.

6ozs (175g) shredded beef suet
6 ozs (175g) sugar
7ozs (200g) soft breadcrumbs
8ozs (225g) currants
8 ozs (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) candied peel
1-2 teaspoons mixed spice
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 fl ozs (50ml) flesh of a baked apple
3 eggs
2 fl ozs (50ml) Irish whiskey

1 x 3 pints (1.75 L) capacity pudding bowl

Mix the ingredients thoroughly.  Whisk the eggs and add them, with the apple and whiskey.  Stir very well indeed.  Fill into the greased pudding bowl.  Cover with a round of greaseproof paper or a butter-wrapped pressed down on top of the pudding.  Put a large round of greaseproof or brown paper over the top of the bowl, tying it firmly under the rim.

Place in a saucepan one-third full of boiling water and simmer for 10 hours.  Do not allow the after to boil over the top and do not let it boil dry either.  Store in a cool place until Christmas.

Thrifty Tip

How to Make Bread Crumbs

I’ve just been to the shops and seen breadcrumbs for sale for more than the price of a loaf of bread for a 250g (9oz) bag, so let me share the secret of how to make your own.

There are two options. First save all left over white bread, for white bread crumbs, cut off the crusts. Tear each slice into 3 or 4 pieces, drop into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz for 30 seconds to a minute, hey presto – bread crumbs.  Use immediately or freeze in convenient size bags to use another time.

Secondly, ff you include the crusts, the breadcrumbs will be flecked with lots of crust but these are fine for stuffings and any other dish where the crumbs do not need to be white. Uses for bread crumbs, stuffings, coating fish, meat, croquettes etc. Use for bread sauce and buttered crumbs for gratins.

Hot Tips

Coeliac UK Gluten-free Chef of the Year Competition is being judged by Michelin starred chef Raymond Blanc this year. Submit recipes for a three course gluten-free menu to by 6th November 2009. Get more details about the competition including the prizes at

Keith Floyd

I always had a great fondness for Keith Floyd, the flamboyant TV chef who tore up the script and did it his way. What a breath of fresh air he brought to cookery programs adlibbing instructions to his long suffering TV crew. I first met him in the mid 80s when he bounced into the cookery school, bow tie askew with his long standing producer David Prichard, apologising for being three or four hours late. He wanted to film me teaching him how to make Irish stew but arranged to be reading the racing page at the back of the class; I’d never seen a TV camera in my life before that day and was terrified and hugely embarrassed in front of my students. We got off to reasonable start but when I told him to put down the paper and pay attention (as I’d been instructed) he had forgotten my name so we had to start all over again. After several abortive attempts, he suggested we have a glass of wine so after that everything went swimmingly, so much so that after we’d filmed the piece he same out and said to the others ‘she should do TV you know, she’s a natural’. We were all very amused, it hadn’t even occurred to me; in fact it was several years before RTE approached me to do the Simply Delicious Series.

Keith had a wonderful raffish charm and an infectious enthusiasm which was contagious. Our paths crossed occasionally during the years, he was always genial and larger than life but strangely sad and shy when one caught a glimpse of the real Floyd underneath.
Sadly he was less successful in business and one restaurant after the other, though hugely popular was not financially successful. A life long bon-viveur he struggled with a love of wine. Recently he had been suffering from cancer but at the time of his death – he lived in Provence with his life long friend Celia Martin – he had just been given an encouraging report from his doctor. The news provided him with a reason to celebrate Celia’s birthday and his good fortune. We are told that he dined on oysters with potted shrimps, red legged partridge with bread sauce and Perry jelly – a pear cider made into jelly with champagne and good wine. A fitting finale for a larger than life character. Many of us owe him a debt. Thank you Floyd for your contribution to the food world and for all your inspiration.

Ballymaloe Potted Shrimps

Serves 4 as a first course

1/2 clove garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 ozs (50-75g) clarified butter
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
4ozs (110g) shelled shrimps
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Bring clarified butter to the boil with thyme leaves and garlic. Add shrimps and toss for about 30 seconds, leave to rest.  Season carefully with 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Pack into pots and run a little more melted butter over the top, put into the fridge and allow to set. Serve at room temperature with melba toast or crusty bread.

Potted shrimps will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days.

Keith Floyd’s Partridge with Morels

Taken from ‘Floyd on France’ published by BBC books.

1 partridge per person, plucked gutted, giblets reserved
1lb (500g) fresh morels
5 oz (150g) smoked bacon, diced
1 small onion per partridge
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons nut oil
5ox (150g) butter
1 lump sugar
10fl oz (300ml) double cream

Marinate the partridge giblets overnight in Armagnac. Stuff each bird with 1 morel, 2 pieces of bacon, half an onion, pinch of thyme, salt and pepper and sew up the opening.
Brown the partridges in the oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole. Then add the rest of the bacon and the onions. When the onions have started to colour, flame with Armagnac. Throw in 10fl oz until the sauce is well reduced, then stir in the sugar and cream and allow to thicken. Check the seasoning and serve.

Keith Floyd’s Pear and Raisin Tarts

Taken from ‘Floyd on France’ published by BBC books.

For the filling:

1lb (500g) pears, peeled, cored and quartered
4oz (125g) sugar
4 cubes dark chocolate
5 oz (150g) raisins
finely grated rind of 1 orange

For the pastry:
7oz (200g) flour sifted
4oz (125g) butter cut into small pieces
3 egg yolks, beaten
pinch of salt
Cook the pears in 10fl oz (300ml) water with the sugar, chocolate, raisins and orange rind, until you have a thick compote.
Meanwhile, make the pastry Put the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the butter and 4 tablespoons water, 2 of the egg yolks and salt. Mix together and knead until you have a firm, elastic dough – add more water if necessary. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Roll out the pastry into a rough square, approximately ¼ inch (6mm) thick. Cut rounds in the pastry with a cutter or glass and put a small dollop of compote on each. Fold in two and seal the edges with water. Paint with the remaining egg yolk and place on a buttered sheet. Pop into a hot oven, gas mark 6 400ºF (200°C) for about 20 minutes.

Keith Floyd’s Alsatian Plum Tart

Taken from ‘Floyd on France’ published by BBC books.

Bilberries can also be used, in which case omit the cinnamon.

For the pastry
10oz (300g) wheat flour, sifted
5oz (150g) butter cut into small pieces
¼ – ½ oz (7 – 15g) fine salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
For the filling
2fl oz (50ml) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 oz (125g) caster sugar
2lb (1kg) firm plums, stoned and halved lengthways
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Put the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the centre, and add the butter, salt, sugar and egg. Mix with your fingertips until well amalgamated and roll into a ball. Knead on a floured board until smooth, Wrap in a floured cloth and refrigerate for a couple of hours. When the pastry is well rested, roll it out on a floured board to an approximate thickness of ¼ inch. (6mm). liberally butter a flan dish (best to use one with a removable base) and line it with pastry. Prick the bottom all over with a fork and bake blind in the oven at gas mark 5, 375ºF (190°C) for 20 minutes.
While the pastry is cooking beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, and 1 oz (25g) of the sugar together. Pour into the pastry shell and return to the oven at, gas mark 5, 375ºF (190°C), allow the custard to set but not to discolour.
Remove the tart from the oven and arrange the plums in concentric circles on the custard, some skin side up, some down. Return to a hot oven, gas mark 7, 425ºF (220°C) for 20 minutes.
Remove and sprinkle with the remaining 3oz (75g) sugar. Pop back in the oven for a final 5 minutes.

Count Down to Christmas

Someone has just reminded me that it’s only twelve weeks to Christmas, how incredible is that… Well this year I am determined to start well ahead so we have no last minute scramble. We’ll do a countdown to Christmas every week between now and Christmas in the Examiner.
So how about having a Yule box to save any loose change for little treats…
Both the mincemeat and plum pudding can be made very soon. This week I include my favourite mincemeat recipe – this one keeps for ages. For extra deliciousness why not make your own candied peel from left over citrus peels. Go along to your local butcher and ask for fresh suet, if you are a good customer it may even be free, otherwise buy a packet ready prepared but this year it’s all about saving the pennies and enjoying the experience of making your own Christmas feast.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat

Makes 3.2 kilos approx. Makes 8-9 pots.

2 cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling
2 organic lemons
450g (1lb) beef suet
pinch of salt
110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably homemade)
2 tablespoons Séville orange marmelade
225g (8oz) currants
450g (1lb) sultanas
900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)
62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.

Homemade Candied Peel

Fruit should be organic if possible, otherwise scrub the peel well.

5 organic unwaxed oranges
5 organic unwaxed lemons
5 organic unwaxed grapefruit   (or all of one fruit)
1 teaspoon salt
3 lbs (1.35kg) sugar

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. Reserve the juice for another use, perhaps homemade lemonade. Put the peel into a large bowl (not aluminium), add salt and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 24 hours. Next day throw away the soaking water, put the peel in a saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil cover and simmer very gently until the peel is soft, 3 hours approx. Remove the peel and discard the water. Scrape out any remaining flesh and membranes from inside the cut fruit, leaving the white pith and rind intact. (You could do the next step next day if that was more convenient).
Slice the peel into nice long strips.

Dissolve the sugar in 1 1/4 pints (750ml) water, bring it to the boil, add the peel and simmer gently until it looks translucent, 30 – 60 minutes and the syrup forms a thread when the last drop falls off a metal spoon. Remove the peel with a slotted spoon, fill the candied peel into sterilised glass jars and pour the syrup over, cover and store in a cold place or in a fridge. It should keep for 6-8 weeks or longer under refrigeration.

Alternatively spread on a baking tray or trays and allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour to cool. Toss in castor sugar and store in covered glass jars until needed.

Fool Proof Food

How to Prepare Suet

To prepare suet start by asking your butcher for the fat that surrounds beef kidneys. Remove and discard the papery membrane and any red veins or fragments of meat. If you’re not meticulous about this, these bits will deteriorate and the suet won’t keep properly. The fat will separate into natural divisions. Chop it coarsely and either mince or whizz it in a food-processor for a minute or two or until it’s evenly grainy (years ago people used to grate suet on a simple box grater.) Refrigerate and use within a couple of days but if it has been properly trimmed it will keep for weeks in a fridge.

Thrifty Tip

Prepare your own suet for plum pudding and mincemeat, see above…


The Autumn series of night classes begin at Ballymaloe Cookery School on the 7th October every Wednesday evening at 7:00pm – 9:30pm until 25th November, 2009. Learn how to cook delicious affordable food for family and friends. Sign up for all eight classes for €350.00 or pay by class €50.00. For further information and on the different menus and to book phone (021) 4646 785 or visit

New Farmers Market
There is a brand new Farmers’ Market at East Douglas Village with twenty four exciting stalls every Friday from 10am to 3pm. Contact Roseanne Kidney on 086 8283310, email or visit

Campbell’s Tea recently won two gold stars in the Great Taste Awards 2009 in London for their tea that is still sold in an attractive yellow and gold tin with a taste that brings back memories of granny’s kitchen or of the little old shops that used to stock it.


Past Letters