ArchiveJune 2010

Flower Power

For years and years, I’ve scattered flower petals over food for extra colour and pizzazz. At first I was pretty cautious, using mostly flowers of fresh herbs from the garden; I sprinkled thyme, sage and rocket flowers and little purple chive blossoms over salads and starters plates. In late spring when wild garlic was in season we enjoyed the pretty star (allium ursinum) and bell like (allium triquetrum) flowers in a myriad of ways.

Gradually I discovered that lots of garden flowers were also edible so I became more daring and flamboyant. I distinctly remember the first time I saw nasturtium flowers in a salad rather than a flower vase – what a revelation! We were having supper with artists Anne and Louis Le Broque at their house near Ardgroom in Co. Kerry. It was a memorable meal for several reasons, the boys had caught a bucket of fresh mackerel so Anne decided to salt and warm smoke them for supper. While they were smoking she cooked some new potatoes from the village shop – they were freshly dug, floury and beautiful. While they were still warm, Anne chopped them into chunky cubes, seasoned them with salt and freshly ground pepper and tossed them in good extra virgin olive oil, wine vinegar and lots of chopped scallions and freshly snipped herbs. Then she gathered some red, yellow and orange nasturtium flowers and sprinkled them over the top of the green flecked potato salad. Warm smoked mackerel, potato and nasturtium salad, followed by strawberries and thick rich cream for pudding – exquisitely simple but nonetheless a perfect feast.

I’ve just realised it was over 30 years ago! Since then I’ve discovered there are literally hundreds and for all I know probably thousands of edible flowers – I discover more all the time and new ways to use them. As I sit in the garden writing this article I see six or seven edible flowers around me, daisies, red roses, day lilies, marigolds, pansies and the small johnny jump-ups, lavender….

On a recent trip to Cornwall, cook and garden photographer Melanie Eclare, who lives in Devon, also put the flowers of Pink Campion and Stitchwort into our salad for lunch – yet another discovery. I’ve added them to my ever growing list. Flowers are of course more plentiful in Summer but even in the depths of Winter there are fragrant violets and early primrose blossoms and you’ll find some gorse flowers virtually year round They too are pretty scattered over salads and make a delicious wine provided you are patient enough to wait for the best part of the year to drink it.

Here’s a short list to whet your appetite. Violets, primroses, dandelions flowers, daisies, jasmine, hyssop, elderflowers, rocket flowers, day lilies, nasturtiums, chrysanthemums, marigolds, lavender, violas, zucchini blossom, camomile, pansies, pinks, borage… Let me know your favourites and how you use them

Seek out organic flowers – a word of caution, don’t use flowers that have been heavily sprayed for obvious reasons,


Elderflower Champagne


This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.


2 heads of elderflowers

560g (11/4lb) sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

4.5L (8pints) water

1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler. Pick the elderflowers in full bloom. Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water. Leave for 24 hours, and then strain into strong screw top bottles. Lay them on their sides in a cool place. After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink. Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.

The bottles need to be strong and well sealed; otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.


Rose Petal Syrup

Pour a little of this rose petal syrup into a champagne glass and top up with Cava or Prosecco to make a gorgeous perfumed aperitif. Stir well and float a rose petal on top. Makes 800ml (1 1/2 pints)

225g (8oz) fragrant rose petals from an old variety of unsprayed roses

500ml (18fl oz) water

700g (11/2lb) white sugar, warmed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juicePut the petals into a stainless-steel saucepan with the cold water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and simmer gently for 20–30 minutes. Strain the petals through a sieve, pressing to get out as much of the liquid as possible. Add the warmed sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, bring back to the boil and simmer, uncovered, until thick and syrupy. Pour into bottles and seal.






Ice-Cubes with Mint, Herbs, Lemon Verbena, Flowers and Berries


Fill ice trays with water and pop in each one…

1. Sugared Cranberries

2. Redcurrants and Mint leaves

3. Lemon Segments

4. Pomegranate Seeds

5. Star Anise

Summer Parties

Fill ice trays with mint, lemon balm, sweet geranium or sweet cicely leaves, violas or violets, rose or marigold petals…use in drinks or homemade lemonade.

Sarah Raven’s Edible Flower Couscous Salad

This recipe comes from Sarah Raven’s new book ‘Food for Family and Friends’ with photography by Jonathan Buckley – published by Bloomsbury.

Serves 4-5

Ready in 15 minutes

A couscous or bulgur wheat salad makes a good change from new potatoes and goes with almost any meat or fish.

500ml good quality vegetable stock (of bouillon powder)

275g couscous

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Large handful fresh mint, chopped

Large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Large handful edible flowers, such as runner bean and chicory flowers, marigolds, violas, rocket flowers and nasturtiums

Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil, or dissolve the bouillon in boiling salted water according to pack instructions. Put the couscous into a deep bowl, pour over the olive oil and stock or bouillon and stir just once to combine. Cover and leave for 10 minutes to allow the grains to soften before forking it through. Done this way, your couscous should be dry, with each grain separated rather than a claggy mush, Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the herbs, lemon and lime juice and zest. Transfer the cous cous to a serving bowl. Sprinkle over the edible flowers and serve.

Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

This is the solution my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen created for keeping the ice-cream cold on the sweet trolley in Ballymaloe House.

“In desperation I produced an ice bowl. It turned out to be a stunning and practical presentation for a restaurant trolley or a party buffet”

Ballymaloe Ice Bowl with Flowers

Take two bowls, one about double the capacity of the other. Half fill the big bowl with cold water. Float the second bowl inside the first. Weight it down with water or ice cubes until the rims are level. Tuck some leaves in between the two bowls. Place a square of fabric on top and secure it with a strong rubber band or string under the rim of the lower bowl, as one would tie on a jam pot cover. Adjust the small bowl to a central position. The cloth holds it in place. Put the bowls on a Swiss roll tin and place in a deep freeze, if necessary re-adjusting the position of the small bowl as you put it in. After 24 hours or more take it out of the deep freeze.

Remove the cloth and leaves for 15-20 minutes, by which time the small bowl should lift out easily. Then try to lift out the ice-bowl. It should be starting to melt slightly from the outside bowl, in which case it will slip out easily. If it isn’t, then just leave for 5 or 10 minutes more, don’t attempt to run it under the hot or even cold tap, or it may crack. If you are in a great rush, the best solution is to wring out a tea-towel in hot water and wrap that around the large bowl for a few minutes. Altogether the best course of action is to perform this operation early in the day and then fill the ice bowl with scoops of ice-cream, so that all you have to do when it comes to serving the ice-cream is to pick up the ice bowl from the freezer and place it on the serving dish. Put a folded serviette under the ice bowl on the serving dish to catch any drips.

At Ballymaloe, Myrtle Allen surrounds the ice bowl with vine leaves in Summer, scarlet Virginia creeper in Autumn and red-berried holly at Christmas. However, as you can see I’m a bit less restrained and I can’t resist surrounding it with flowers! However you present it, ice-cream served in a bowl of ice like this usually draws gasps of admiration when you bring it to the table.

In the restaurant we make a new ice-bowl every night, but at home when the dessert would be on the table for barely half an hour, it should be possible to use the ice bowl several times. As soon as you have finished serving, give the bowl a quick wash under the cold tap and get it back into the freezer again. This way you can often get 2 or 3 turns from a single ice bowl.


Don’t leave a serving spoon resting against the side of the bowl or it will melt a notch in the rim.

Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream


Honey and lavender is a particularly delicious marriage of flavours. We make this richly scented ice cream when the lavender flowers are in bloom in early Summer. Lavender is at its most aromatic just before the flowers burst open. Serve it totally alone on chilled plates and savour every mouthful.


Serves 8-10


250ml (9floz) milk

450ml (16floz) cream

40 sprigs of fresh lavender or less of dried (use the blossom end only)

6 organic egg yolks

175ml (6floz) pure Irish honey, we use our own apple blossom honey, although Provencal lavender honey would also be wonderful



sprigs of lavender


Put the milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the lavender sprigs, bring slowly to the boil and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. This will both flavour and perfume the cream deliciously. Whisk the egg yolks, add a little of the lavender flavoured liquid and then mix the two together. Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon (careful it doesn’t curdle). Melt the honey gently, just to liquefy, whisk into the custard. Strain out lavender heads.


Chill thoroughly and freeze, preferably in an ice-cream maker.


Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh or frozen lavender.


Frosted Lavender

Frosted lavender sprigs are adorable and delicious to use for garnish. Pick lavender in dry weather while the flowers are still closed. Whisk a little egg white lightly, just enough to break it up, brush the entire lavender sprig with the egg white, sprinkle all over with sieved, dry castor sugar. Lay on a sheet of silicone paper. Allow to dry and crisp in a warm spot – hot press or near a radiator until dry and crisp. Store in an airtight tin.

Wild Food

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) When to Pick: flowers in profusion in early summer but you’ll find some blooms almost all year round.

As the old saying goes, ‘When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of fashion!’ The ubiquity of gorse – or furze as it is called in Ireland – around the Irish landscape, meant that it was once widely used as fuel, as fodder for livestock, to make fences, hurleys and walking sticks, for harrowing, for cleaning chimneys, to fuel bakers’ ovens and limekilns. We love a few blossoms added to salad, steeped in boiling water for tea or dropped into a whiskey glass for a fragrant tipple. Look for the spiky bushes growing near the sea, with yellow flowers that stay in bloom nearly all year. Wear gloves to harvest the flowers, as the thorns can be very sharp.


Roger Phillip’s Gorse Wine

We loved this recipe – it makes a fragrant, slightly effervescent, very refreshing summer drink. It comes from Roger Phillip’s Wild Food – a book no serious forager should be without.

Makes about 4.8 litres (8 pints)

2 litres (31⁄

2 pints) gorse flowers

about 1 teaspoon general purpose non-GM yeast

1kg (2.2lb) granulated sugar

juice and zest of 2 organic lemons

juice and zest of 2 organic oranges

Pick nice fresh flowers that have come out fully. Activate the yeast by stirring into a little tepid water. Simmer the flowers in 4.5 litres (1 gallon) water for 15 minutes then dissolve the sugar, pour into a bucket and add citrus juice and zest. Allow to cool to blood heat, add the yeast and let it stand with a cloth over it. After 3 days, strain off the solids and pour into a fermentation jar, fit an airlock and allow it to ferment until it is finished. Rack off into a clean jar, making it up to the full amount with cold boiled water. Leave for a month and then filter, or leave until completely clear then bottle in sterilised bottles.



The Brown Bear Restaurant

The Forgotten Skills marquee life skills Country Courses

What could be nicer than a day spent learning valuable life and food skills in the idyllic surrounds of Bantry House in West Cork?  This summer you can spend a day learning how to keep bees, how to weave baskets, master vegetable growing, work farm horses and get to grips with hen keeping – amongst other subjects. All the courses will be hands on learning conducted by working practitioners. Prices start from €80

This will build into a precious library of our Irish Food Heritage and be an invaluable reference for generations to come.

organised by Bord Bia and the Taste Council of Ireland at this year’s Bloom and Taste of Dublin was an overwhelming success. As well as many demonstrations and talks, Una Fitzgibbons of Bord Bia asked people to write down or email their favourite memory connected to food or food production to Bord Bia, Lower Mount St, Dublin 2 or in Co Kildare, recently won the Restaurant Association of Ireland’s ‘Best New Comer’ award, has a varied and delicious menu that lists the name of the local suppliers with the dishes. Contact owner Eugene Brennan on 045 883 561 or

Healthy Eating for Kids

It is absolutely vital to feed our children well – their energy, vitality, and ability to concentrate all depends on the quality of the food we feed them. When I say well I mean wholesome, nourishing naturally produced food, free of chemicals, additives and artificial colourings. Kid’s palettes are very sensitive and can pick up nuances of flavour or lack of much more acutely then we often can, I have observed this many times over with my own children and grandchildren. Little Amelia Peggy was first introduced to tomatoes and baby cucumbers where she as about 8 months old in the Summer of 2008. She loved them and ate them like fruit. It was quite noticeable that she ate less at the end of the season when both vegetables and fruit lose their sweetness through lack of sunshine. Eventually the crop was finished, but she was too young to ask where they had disappeared to. Some months later while she rode around the supermarket in her Mum’s trolley she got very excited when she suddenly spotted some cherry tomatoes in the vegetable section and gesticulated wildly in their direction. She was a bit baffled at the packaging but she couldn’t wait to get at them. She popped one into her mouth chewed a little, grimaced and promptly spat it out. She literally didn’t eat another tomato until she plucked one off the plant the following Summer. This and many other examples have led me to believe my theory about children’s palates but this is only anecdotal evidence (I would welcome some research)

Parents who grow their own vegetables, herbs and fruit will confirm that their children will eat everything particularly if they have helped to grow it. Visitors are constantly amazed to see our grandchildren tucking into platefuls of mussels or peeling shrimps or wiggling periwinkles out of their shells, no one bats an eyelid – they don’t think there is anything peculiar about it. The little ones run into the greenhouse and pluck the beans off the plants and eat them there and then. They love shelling the broad beans to find the tiny beans cuddled up inside the furry lining. Of course they also eat them cooked but many never even make it into the kitchen not to speak of the pot!

Porridge or fruit muesli is their favourite breakfast; several of the grandchildren don’t know any other breakfast cereal exists. When our eldest grandson Joshua was about 5 he arrived home from school one day and much to Rachel’s surprise asked for Corn Flakes, she wondered why he wanted them. It transpired that he had no idea what they were but wanted to have the little toys from the packet like his pals at school, so Myrtle collected them from the cornflakes in Ballymaloe House and then he was happy. They also baffle their friends by fighting over the drum sticks on a chicken which causes a bit of a problem considering each chicken only has two drumsticks, so far we have managed to pass off the delicious crispy wings as mini drum sticks!

Good food habits are unquestionably laid down when children are young. If they are introduced early to a variety of foods, they seem to enjoy them as the norm. One can control their diet well when they are little but it becomes more of a challenge when they go to school. It’s a huge help to parents if the school have a healthy eating policy and refuse to allow fizzy drinks and bars into school lunch. Nonetheless – once they go to school they’ll get to taste all kinds of foods that include flavours specially formulated to stimulate a craving. Still if you have managed to foster good eating habits when they are little you are likely to experience less difficulty.

I’m quite sure my grand children would tuck into a well known brand of burger as good as the rest, but it’s a rare treat. Nourishing food does not have to be expensive, food is cheaper and has a much better flavour when it is in season.

Radishes with Cream Cheese and Parsley

Get your kids growing radishes, even in a little timber box, at this time of year they will only take 12 – 14 days to be ready to eat. Then they can pick, wash and enjoy them.

Fresh Radishes complete with leaves

Cream Cheese

Chopped Parsley

Crusty bread

Gently wash the radishes, trim the tail and the top of the leaves if they are large.

To serve.

Put 7 or 8 chilled radishes on each plate; put a blob of cream cheese close by.

To eat, smear the radishes with a little cream cheese, dip in chopped parsley and eat – delicious.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Organic Chicken with Gravy and lots of Roast Spuds

Serves 6

In my experience all children love a roast stuffed chicken with lots of gravy and roast spuds. Nowadays, many people buy chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, so a traditional roast chicken is a forgotten flavour for many, partly because unless you have access to a really good bird the smell and flavour will be quite different to ones childhood memory. People often feel that making stuffing is too bothersome but if you keep some breadcrumbs in the freezer it can literally be make in minutes. Should I cook the stuffing inside the bird or separately? The best place for the stuffing is inside the bird where it absorbs lots of delicious juices as it cooks. Do not overfill the bird otherwise the heat may not penetrate fully. This is particularly important if you are using an intensively reared bird which may be infected with salmonella and or campylobacter.


4 1/2 – 5 lbs (1.5 – 2.3kg) free range chicken,

preferably organic



1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

3 ozs (75g) chopped onion

3-3 1/2 ozs (75-95g) soft white breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives and annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

a little soft butter



1 – 1 1/2 pints (600-900mls) of stock from giblets or chicken stock



Sprigs of flat parsley


First remove the wish bone from the neck end of the chicken, this is easily done by lifting back the loose neck, skin and cutting around the wish bone with a small knife – tug to remove, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish bone, giblets, thickly sliced carrot, onions, a stick of celery and a few parsley and thyme stalks into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting. This is the basis of the gravy.

Next make the stuffing,


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo4. Weight the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the lb and 20 minutes over – put on middle shelf in oven. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear.


To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh, hold a spoon underneath to collect the liquid, examine the juices – they should be clear.


Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table. Carve as best you can and ignore rude remarks if you are still practicing but do try to organise it so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and roast spuds.


Use the cooked carcass for stock.

, tilt the roasting tin to one corner and spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove. De glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 1 1/2 pints depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like (the gravy should not be thick). Taste and correct seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat. sweat the onions gently in the butter in a covered saucepan until soft, 10 minutes approx. then stir in the white bread crumbs, the freshly chopped herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold unless you are going to cook the chicken immediately. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter.


Roast Spuds


8 potatoes, unwashed Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks


Choose medium to large potatoes of even size. Scrub and peel. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to the boil. Drain thoroughly. Lightly scratch the surface with a fork and season with salt.


Put the potatoes into smoking hot fat or olive oil. Baste occasionally. Cook until soft in a hot oven 230°C/450°F/regulo 8 for 30-45 minutes depending on the size. Drain well on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.


Alternatively, put the potatoes into smoking hot fat in the same tin as the meat, 40-45 minutes before the meat is fully cooked and baste well. Cook until soft. (Baste the potatoes when you baste the meat and turn them over after 25 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.



Sweet Sticky Carrots


Serves 4-6


You might like to try this method of cooking carrots. Admittedly it takes a little vigilance but the resulting flavour is a revelation to many people.


450g (1lb) organic carrots, Early Nantes and Autumn King have particularly good flavour

15g (1/2 oz) butter

125ml (4fl oz) cold water

Pinch of salt

Good pinch of sugar



Freshly chopped parsley or fresh mint


Cut off the tops and tips, scrub and peel thinly if necessary. Cut into slices 7mm

(1/2 inch) thick, either straight across or at an angle. Leave very young carrots whole. Put them in a saucepan with butter, water, salt and sugar. Bring to the boil, cover and cook over a gentle heat until tender, by which time the liquid should have all been absorbed into the carrots, but if not remove the lid and increase the heat until all the water has evaporated. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shake the saucepan so the carrots become coated with the buttery glaze.


Serve in a hot vegetable dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or mint.



Note: It is really important to cut the carrots into the same thickness. Otherwise they will cook unevenly.

Baby carrots:

Scrub the carrots with a brush but don’t peel. Trim the tails but if the tops are really fresh, leave a little of the stalks still attached. Cook and glaze as above, scatter with a little fresh parsley and mint.


Rhubarb Fool with Shortbread Dippers


Kids love dipping and fruit fools make a delicious dessert.


Serves 6 approx.


450g (1 lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175-225g (6-8ozs sugar

2 tablespoons water

300ml (10fl oz) cream whipped or a mixture of cream and natural yoghurt


Shortbread Dippers (see recipe)


Top and tail the rhubarb stalks – rub with a damp cloth. Cut into approximately 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.


Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx. Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread dippers.


Shortbread Dippers


Makes 25 Approx


175g (6 oz) plain white flour

110g (4 oz) butter

50g (2 oz) castor sugar


Put the flour and sugar into a bowl; rub in the butter as for Shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm (1/8 or 1/4 inch) thick. Cut into strips to make ¾ inch to 2 ½ inch pieces to make nice dippers. Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4 to pale brown, 5-15 minutes, depending on size.



Fool Proof Food

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Oatmeal, a brilliant food with high glycemic index is very inexpensive and will provide breakfast for a week or more. Porridge in winter but try this irresistible fruit muesli in Summer. Everyone from kids to grannies and grandpas love it. This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – it’s a good recipe to know about because it’s made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn.

Serves 8


6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

8 tablespoons water

250g (8oz) fresh Irish strawberries

2-4 teaspoons pure Irish honey, preferably local to your area


Soak the oatmeal in the water for a few minutes. Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.




A great new Irish fizz

A great new Irish fizz

has just come onto the market; it’s called Dunhill Castle Sparkling Spirit. It’s made using a triple distilled natural Irish spirit from Carbery in West Cork and juice from an old fashioned flavoured apple called Karmine that grows very well locally in Kilkenny. There are no sweeteners, additives or preservatives. None of the sulphites that are found in most champagne and wines, so no headache the following day. I’ve been enjoying this fruity fizz as an aperitif on Summer evenings – it’s already available in 21 locations in the south east, to find out where your closest stockist is visit – just what we need to perk us up!

Keeping it Local in Lismore

All Slow Food events have an educational element as well as a hedonistic one. So when we gathered in Lismore recently we started our evening at Michael McGrath butchers shop on Main Street. We were all anxious to learn from this man whose skills have come down through four generations of the family – his father, grandfather and great grandfather were butchers. Michael and his wife Mary are one of only a handful of Irish butchers who still finish animals on their own farm, have their own abattoir and consequently are in charge of the process from beginning to end. The skill of butchery is not merely cutting up meat; it starts by being able to judge good pasture and then being able to judge a fine animal in the field. Good meat is not just about the breed and the feed, although both are crucially important. The slaughtering process must be stress free and humane and then there’s the skill of hanging, butchering and the ability to use every scrap – waste can so easily be the difference between profit and loss. Michael kills only Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Cross heifers from about 15 months to 24 months. He, like me, likes a nice bit of fat for juiciness and flavour and favours grass-fed animals with rich yellow fat rather than the white fat of predominantly grain fed cattle. Although the demand for cheaper cuts and offal is growing again, particularly among chefs, he doesn’t expect that there will be a queue for several weeks for pickled tongue like there was in the past. Michael, a traditional butcher, was taught the trade by his father and grandfather and has resisted the trend to toss his meat in sweet and sour sauce, he just sells excellent meat and people are prepared to travel for it. The Slow Food Feast was held at O’Brien Chop is Lismore. An old fashioned pub cum grocery shop now minimally converted into a charming bar and restaurant with a beguiling secret garden behind. Slow Food is all about supporting local. While we were sipping our Rhubarb Bellinis, two local producers also joined us and told us about their product. The Dungarvan Brewing Company is a family affair, they are passionate about real ale and beer, Cormac O’Dwyer is the head brewer who makes Helvick Gold, a blond ale, Copper Coast, a red ale and Black Rock, an Irish stout. It’s a relatively new venture and up to recently the beers could just be bought locally but they have big plans and now supply some pubs in Cork and Dublin. Julian Keane from nearby Cappoquin dropped in some of her Crinaghtaun Apple Juice freshly made from apples grown in their family orchards Local cheese makers, Agnes and Wolfgang Schliebitz originally from Germany told us how they make their ewes milk Knockalara Cheeses. Some cheese is coated with black pepper or garden herbs. Ewe’s milk is even easier to digest than goat’s milk and all vitamins and minerals are almost double those in cow’s milk and it’s lower in cholesterol. They also preserve Ewe’s milk cheese in extra virgin olive oil and they have a mature rind washed cheese, aged for ten months called Mature Knockalara.

Justin Green and his head chef Eddie Baguio had planned a delicious menu for the Slow Food feast. We started with a rhubarb bellini and nibbled some delicious freshly spiced nuts. We then had a salad of Knockalara Ewe’s Milk Cheese with asparagus Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

Justin managed to get just one wild salmon from the Blackwater River close by and he managed to do a ‘loaves and fishes job’ so each and every one of us got a taste of the new seasons salmon with some buttery hollandaise.

For main course we had roast butterflied leg of Michael McGrath’s Spring lamb with salsa verde, new potatoes and spring garden greens. For pudding Jenny Green chose new seasons rhubarb with meringue and cream, then as an extra treat, we finished our meal with a fresh mint tisane.

The asparagus, rocket, baby salad leaves and rhubarb were grown by Justin’s father Jeremy in the walled garden at Ballyvolane House.

It’s so wonderful to find a restaurant that serves local food proudly not only for a special Slow Food event but on an ongoing basis. To hear more about upcoming Slow Food events go to



Rhubarb Bellini & Rhubarb Lemon Fizz

The base for both of these is a Rhubarb purée

Rhubarb Purée

(Makes 1 litre)

1 kg local Irish rhubarb

300g sugar

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

Cook all the above ingredients till rhubarb is soft and tender. Blend this into a purée

Sugar Syrup

1 kg (2¼lb) sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

slices of half a lemon

6 cloves

Boil all ingredients until sugar has dissolved, remove lemon slices and cloves.

Add 300m (10fl oz (½ pint) l of Sugar syrup to rhubarb purée and store in a jug.




For the Bellini;

pour into a glass some of the purée / sugar syrup mixture then top up with a nice dry Prosecco and stir. The amount of purée will depend upon your own taste.For the Fizz;

pour into a glass some of the purée sugar syrup mixture, add a dash of lemon juice, ice cubes and top up with sparkling water. “Muddle” and serve.A Salad of Knockalara Ewe Milk Cheese with Asparagus, Toasted Hazelnuts and Fresh Mint Leaves

500g local Irish asparagus

300g Knockalara Ewe’s milk cheese

100g. Unsalted peeled hazelnuts

3 tbs olive oil

Bake the asparagus with the hazelnuts and olive oil for 15 minutes at 200ËšC and then allow to cool.

Mint Salad

200gr. Baby Spinach leaves

200g Rocket leaves

100g Mint leaves

Simple Vinaigrette

3 tbs. olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

salt & freshly ground pepper


Toss all the above leaves in the Simple vinaigrette, mix with the cooled asparagus & hazelnuts and top with crumbled Knockalara cheese.

Steamed Wild Atlantic Salmon, Sauce Hollandaise.

900g wild salmon fillet (Ask your fishmonger to skin and cut your fish into 6 equal pieces)

½ onion

2 stalks of celery

1 chopped leek

2 spring onions

4 Bay leaves

8 whole peppercorns

1 litre water

salt & pepper to taste

Boil all the above ingredients (except the salmon) together for 1 hour. Then add the salmon pieces and poach for 10 minutes, then remove and drain.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks

1 dessertspoon of cold water

150g diced butter

1 ½ tsp. lemon juice

salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a pan of water to the boil and place a stainless steel bowl over the water. Into the bowl put the egg yolks, add the water and whisk. Add the butter, piece by piece, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens. Season to taste.

Serve the warm fillets of salmon with the hollandaise.

O’Brien’s Chop House Roast Marinated Leg of Lamb, Salsa verde, Boiled New Potatoes with Creamed Spring Greens

Lamb & Marinade

1 ½ kg boned leg of lamb

50g thyme leaves

50g rosemary – chopped

50g parsley – chopped

1 bulb of garlic – peeled and chopped

200ml olive oil

Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Blend all the herbs, garlic, olive oil and seasoning then spread generously over the lamb, securely wrap with cling film and allow to marinade overnight in the fridge.

To cook the lamb;

Remove from marinade and cook in a very hot oven, 250ËšC for 30 minutes (for Medium rare) or longer if preferred.

Boiled Potatoes

1 kg new season Irish potatoes

100g butter

50g finely chopped mint

salt & pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in boiling water until tender then just before serving toss the potatoes in a pan with the melted butter, mint and seasoning.

Creamed Garden Greens

1 York Cabbage

500g Baby Spinach leaves


Chop cabbage into small strips and blanch with the spinach in boiling water for 2 minutes.

O’Brien’s Chop House Cream sauce

300 ml. cream

½ diced onion

2 sprigs rosemary leaves finely chopped

100 ml white wine

100 ml chicken stock

Reduce the white wine in a saucepan with the rosemary and onion by half to 50ml. Add the cream and reduce again to about 85ml. Add the chicken stock and reduce for around 10 minutes. Taste and add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

To serve, toss the blanched greens in a pan with the reduced cream sauce for a couple of minutes, season and serve.

Ballyvolane House Walled-Garden Rhubarb Mess

500g rhubarb

zest of ½ orange

juice of ½ orange

150gr sugar

6 scoops vanilla ice-cream

200g homemade meringue

150 ml. cream, whipped

Method for Rhubarb

Cook all the ingredients until the rhubarb is soft and tender. It should have started to break up a little.

Scoop out 6 portions of vanilla ice-cream and return the scoops to the freezer to harden. Crumble the meringue into the whipped cream with ¾ of the cooked rhubarb and mix. Remove the deep-frozen ice-cream scoops from the freezer and break into pieces and stir into the above mixture. Portion this mixture onto your serving plates and pour over the remainder of the cooked rhubarb.

Fool Proof Food

Ballyvolane House Spiced Nuts

800g mixed nuts (peanuts, pistachio nuts, macadamia, cashew nuts, almonds)
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons garlic (2 cloves)
2 teaspoons olive oil

Bake in oven at 160 degrees for 20 minutes or until brown









Clare Food Scene

Lots of excitement on the food front in Co Clare. Ballyvaughan Farmers Market has launched their new cook book compiled from recipes using produce from the market. The recent Burren Slow Food Festival highlighted the wealth of local produce – Burren lamb, smoked salmon…where can I get beef from those beautiful cattle I saw grazing in the buttercup filled fields around Lisdoonvarna – why aren’t we capitalising more on region specific foods? I loved staying at Sheedy’s family run hotel over looking the spa. Wild Honey

is another option and you get to enjoy chef and owner Aidan McGrath’s creative classics using lots of local produce, look our for the ham hock terrine with celeriac remoulade and crab royale with seared scallops. Phone: +353 65 7074300 email:…The Crescent Farmers Market

in Limerick is going from strength to strength after their recent re-launch; there are a wonderful range of stalls with delicious fresh local and organic produce. I picked up some really good loaves of organic spelt bread from Coolfin Organic Bakery contact Jonas 0872045593. Market every Wednesday, Contact market manager Gar Granville 0868069605.Mani –Bläuel

olive oil have now notched up five awards this year after recently winning a Gold Award at the Expo and Competition ‘Monocultivaroliveoil’ organised by Frantoi Celleti Cultivar in Milan and a DIPLOMA DI GRAN MENZIONE in Parma at the 4th International Olive Oil Competition ‘ARMONIA’ – ALMA Trophy – the first time a Greek oil was among the winners at this competition. Available in Ballymaloe Cookery School shop and Midleton Farmers Market.


O’Brien Chop House 058 53810

Ballyvolane House 025 36349

Knockalara Farmhouse Cheese 024 96326

Michael McGrath Butchers Lismore 058 54350

Dungarvan Brewing Company 058 24000

Crinaghtaun Apple Juice 058 54258


It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone some good. Even the volcanic ash has benefitted some people – The mâitre d’hotel at Rick Stein’s seafood restaurant in Padstow was beaming from ear to ear when I was there recently. Although they are virtually always full anyway, they have experienced a definite increase in business over the past few weeks as many British people decided to holiday at home rather than risk the hassle of cancelled flights. Let’s hope for the sake of the beleaguered Irish tourism industry the same sentiment prevails here.

We were in Cornwall for a few days to trace some ancient ancestors. Like Ireland Cornwall is utterly beautiful at this time of the year. Lots of gorse lighting up the countryside, hedgerows illuminated with pink and white campion, wild garlic, Queen Anne’s lace, forget-me-nots, buttercups, bluebells… As one drives through the Cornish lanes there are lots of signs for home baking and preserves. Little farm stands selling farm produce with honesty boxes for locals to pop in the money and of course signs for Cornish cream teas. I still dream about those delicious scones topped with homemade jam and clotted cream.

We booked out the super little pub with rooms at Gurnards Head, south of New Quay, and used that as a base for lots of cliff walks and expeditions to local villages and the Quaker graveyard in St Just where Nicholas Jose, tenth great grandfather of our grandchildren was buried. We couldn’t have found a better base for a family gathering; the extra bonus was the delicious breakfast and dinner menus of local food and cracking good soda bread. Walking gives one a terrific appetite and a virtuous feeling so one can tuck into beautiful meals without having a conscience. After a long walk to Landsend we had a smashing lunch at the Beach Restaurant overlooking the brilliant surfing beach at Sennen Cove. Roast fish and chips and homemade tartare sauce, a fritto misto of squid salted mackerel and gurnard with aioli and piperonata, a towering salad of local crab and fresh organic leaves, some lovely thin crust pizzas – compensation for the grim café and tourist centre at Landsend.

Rick Stein’s latest venture is a Fish and Chip restaurant in Falmouth beside the Maritime Museum. Seven different types of fish, battered and cooked in beef dripping, served with chips – cod, haddock, sea bream, lemon sole, ray, plaice and monkfish – grilled fish and charcoal roasted and fried fish galore – you can’t book so it works on a first come first served basis and there is a take-away next door.

Down in the Penzance area we also had a delicious pub lunch in the Victoria Inn. I particularly remember the faggots with swede turnips, not everyone’s cups of tea but I loved them. The little café out at the Tresco gardens on the Scilly Isles was also delightful and the gardens worth the effort – my third attempt to see them.

It’s easy peasy to get to Cornwall, there are regular daily flights to New Quay, so don’t miss Jamie Oliver’s 15 Restaurant at Watergate Bay, just 5 minutes drive from the airport, I didn’t make it on this trip but have had several excellent meals there on other occasions. For a treat check out the designer hotel, everyone is talking about; the Scarlet Hotel is again in a breathtakingly beautiful location on a cliff top site, over looking Mawgan Porth and very good food from Chef Ben Tunnicliffe.

If you get ‘ashed’ you’re not too far from the car ferries back to Ireland – we came back on the Julia from Swansea into Cork, perfect.


Gurnards Head Chicken Liver Pate

350g chicken livers, de-veined

225g unsalted butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 onion, peeled and diced

15ml Marsala

Chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

Melt 25g of the butter in a frying pan and cook the livers with a little salt and the garlic until they firm up but remain pink in the centre. Put the chicken livers into a food processor. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala and add the pan-juices to the food processor. Melt another 25g of the butter in the pan and gently cook the onions with a pinch of salt until they are translucent and soft but without colouring them. Add the onions to the food processor along with the remaining butter and chopped parsley and blend the ingredients until they are smooth. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Put the pate into suitable containers or dishes and put them into the fridge to set completely.


Gurnards Head Presse Of Tomato, Spider Crab, Haas Avocado

Tomato Presse

1kg vine tomatoes

500ml water

8 basil leaves

1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced

½ tsp celery salt

Tabasco to taste

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp caster sugar

Lemon juice to taste

Salt to taste

Put the vinegar and sugar into a pan and heat it gently to dissolve the sugar. Allow it to cool, this is the ‘gastric’. Halve the tomatoes, remove the seeds and place the rest into a blender. Add the basil, garlic, water, salt and celery salt to the blender along with the water. Blend the ingredients together lightly so the mix remains chunky.

Add the Tabasco, lemon, juice and gastric to taste and pulse it again quickly.

Transfer the contents of the blender into a cloth suspended over a clean bowl to catch the clear liquid that runs out. Allow the cloth to hang until all of the liquid has drained from the pulp in the cloth. Chill the consommé well before serving it.

To finish

300g picked white crab meat

2 lemons

4 tablespoons of olive oil

Maldon sea salt

A selection of mixed salad leaves

2 Haas avocadoes

6 tsp chopped fresh coriander

Remove the skin from the avocadoes and cut the flesh into 1cm dice. Put the avocado dice into a bowl and season it with a little salt, coriander and a little lemon juice to taste and mix it well together. Spoon a little of the avocado into a ring mould onto each plate. Remove any visible pieces of crab shell from the meat. Season the crab with the salt and lemon juice and stir in the olive oil. Spoon the crab into the rings on top of the avocado mix on the plates. Dress some mixed leaves with a little olive oil and lemon juice and season with little Maldon Salt. Place the salad on top of the crab.


Gurnards Head Squid Braised In Red Wine and Tomato

1kg whole squid

1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced

500ml red wine

250ml good quality tomato juice

800ml fresh chicken stock

I tsp salt

100 g unsalted butter

1 handful fresh curly parsley, finely chopped

Cut the squid into slices as thin as possible. Melt 50g of the butter in a wide pan and cook the onions and garlic gently for 5 minutes without colouring. Add the squid to the pan, season with a little salt, and continue to cook for a further 3-4mins. Add 1/3 of the red wine and turn the heat to full, reducing the wine to almost a glaze. Repeat this until all of the wine has been added, reducing the wine by ¾ only on the final turn. Add the tomato juice and mix well with the squid.

Pour in the chicken stock, bring to the boil and turn down the heat so the squid is barely simmering. Cover the pan with a round piece of greaseproof paper and leave to cook for 60-90 minutes or until the squid becomes very tender.


NOTE: (if the stock reduces to much before the squid has cooked then add a little water)


When the squid is cooked and the sauce is thick stir in the rest of the butter and the chopped parsley. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve.

Smoked Eel Salad with Dandelion Leaves and Crispy Capers

Serves 4

6ozs (170g) or more, smoked eel

a selection of salad leaves

dandelion leaves

preferably blanched frisee

chervil leaves



3 tablesp. extra virgin Olive oil

1 tablesp. Forum Chardonnay vinegar

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Skin the eel and discard the skin. Cut down towards the bone and then into thin slivers horizontally about 1 1/2inches long.

Heat ½ inch of Extra virgin olive oil in a deep fry or frying pan. Dry the capers, fry for 3 or 4 minutes until they fluff out and crisp up.

Dry on kitchen paper. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing together.

To Serve:

Sprinkle a little dressing over the salad leaves and toss gently.

Divide between four plates, piling the leaves in a little pyramid. Lay 2 or 3 pieces of smoked eel on top. Scatter each salad with crispy capers and serve as soon as possible.


Cornish Cream Tea

Scones with homemade jam and lots of clotted cream – bliss.

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix


egg wash (see below)

granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round. Roll out to about 21/2cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of clotted cream.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.



If you would like to try the smoked eel salad contact Frank Hederman’s Belvelly Smokehouse – on the way to Cobh – or visit his stall at the Cobh Farmer’s Market every Friday morning and the Midleton Farmer’s Market every Saturday. My brother Rory O’ Connell also folds smoked eel through soft scrambled eggs, adds a pinch of chopped chives and serves on Melba toast. Yum. Phone 021 4811089.

If you’re peckish in Cork in the morning, Kay Harte serves a terrific breakfast at the Farmgate Cafe in the Market from 9:00am to 11:00am Monday to Saturday. All the ingredients come from the market downstairs, bacon from Tom Durcan butchers, apple and pork sausages from Catherine O’Mahony and Son butchers, and black puddings from Jack and Tim McCarthy in Kanturk and free range eggs from Gerry Moynihan. Start with a bowl of organic oats porridge and freshly squeezed oranges to order or Paddy O’s Granola and lots of fresh fruit and hot buttery toast made with bread from Sheila Fitzpatrick from ABC Breadshop and Arbutus Bakery. The Farmgate Café caters brilliantly for coeliacs. Phone 021 4278134.

Taste of Dublin restaurant festival is back from Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th June in Dublin’s Iveagh Gardens – dine your way around Dublin’s top restaurants, for a full program of events visit

Nuala Kenny from Ballydehob in West Cork has produced a Seasonal Food Calendar that lists, season by season, the foods we should be eating with a shopping guide to help you choose foods from each of the food groups.

Phone 087 9719174 email:

Scarlet Hotel 0044 1637 861 800

The Victoria Inn 0044 1736 710 309

The Gurnard’s Head 0044 1736 796928

Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant Padstow 0044 1841532700

Beach Restaurant 0044 1736871191


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