Camelot – Somerset

This weekend I was in Camelot, bet you thought it was an imaginary place. In real life Camelot is in the beautiful verdant Somerset. I was in the area for a Literary Festival at Wyke Hall near Gillingham. Two other Irish authors Victoria Glendinning, Edna O’ Brien were there but now at last cook book writers are included in the literary scene!

The village pub (with rooms) at Corton Denham called the Queens Arms was heaving at lunch time. A little sign by the door assured us that “dogs and muddy boots are welcome”. A pile of warm pork pies were stacked on the counter with a selection of mustards to slather on top. A cute little twenty year-old was busy grating fresh horseradish onto Bloody Marys. Open fires blazed at both ends of the pub and there was a comfy convivial atmosphere. One party had driven up from Cornwall for lunch; others had come all the way from Bristol. There was no hope of a table but people seemed so eager to stay that they were prepared to sit outside on damp seats under umbrellas in the drizzle. Despite all that, the food, when it arrived, was not all that brilliant. Local heritage tomato and peach salad with toasted pine nut vinaigrette could have been delicious but it really is too late in the season, the peaches were actually crunchy and the tomatoes pale and insipid. The Corton Denham figs, crispy prosciutto rocket and Beenleigh Blue salad sounded great but the sadly the figs were also dull. Nonetheless I look forward to trying both of these combinations next year. My wild rabbit stew was heart warming but the warm pork pies were the best of all – I’ve never had a warm pork pie before and these were delicious. There was also a melt in the mouth Dorset apple pie cooked in a little iron frying pan. And then there was the cheese – this area – the West Country is home to two iconic English farmhouse Cheddars – Keens and Montgomery both of which are part of the Slow Food raw milk cheese presidia. I visited Keen’s farm on Saturday morning, where traditional farmhouse cheese has been made since 1899. Cheese buyers like Randolf Hodgson from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London come once a month to taste and choose. Each day’s cheese will taste different depending on the quality of the pasture, the richness of the milk and the skill of the cheese maker.

George Keane showed us around the cheese store. Timber shelves piled high with hundreds of beautiful mouldy truckles of Cheddar quietly maturing – the cheese is turned regularly at first but then allowed to gradually age to mellow fruitfulness. Sadly I couldn’t stay to see the whole process because I had to whizz off to give a cookery demonstration, but next day we visited Montgomery’s, another iconic Cheddar farm close by in North Cadbury – Jamie Montgomery is the third generation to make cheese from the milk of their Friesian Holstein cows that graze on the edge of Camelot. When we arrived Steve and Wayne had the process well underway. They had cut the curd into small granules and pitched it from one vat to another to drain out the whey. It looked like fine curdy scrambled egg. They use the same traditional culture from when the family started cheese making 70 years ago. A slightly different strain is used each day which means they only lose one days production if something goes awry.

The curd continued to tighten as we watched, it was cut it into blocks which were stacked and restacked on top of each other until Steve judged it was ready to mill. This is an essential part of the cheddaring process. Montgomery still use a traditional peg mill rather than the more modern chip mill. It gently tears the curd into shreds which are then dry salted and forked over to prevent it from clumping before being packed into moulds. It’ll be pressed overnight then turned and pressed again, dipped into almost boiling water (85 degrees). The labour of love continues, the naked cheese is carefully wrapped in soft cheese cloth and greased with lard in the time honoured way. Montgomery make some small truckles, about one and half kilograms in weight. They mature more quickly and are in huge demand for the Christmas market. Over the years we would occasionally order one of these smaller truckles which would arrive through the post in a brown paper and twine parcel. They also make two other cheeses, one called Danegeld and another called Ogleshield and were also experimenting with a Comté type while we were there. Their huge cheese store had over £1million worth of cheese. It is now well alarmed since the big ‘Break In’ just before the British Cheese Awards a few years ago. The irony was that the thieves couldn’t dispose of the cheese because it is so distinctive.

Both Keens and Montgomery win top awards every year and are the yard stick by which mature farmhouse cheddars are measured world wide.

The Queens Arms, Corton Denham, Somerset, DT9 4LR. Telephone / 01963 220317

James Montgomery, Montgomery’s Cheddar, Manor Farm, North Cadbury, Yeovil, Somerset, BA22 7DW T: 01963 440 243

George or Stephen Keen, Keen’s Cheddar Ltd, Moorhayes Farm, Verrington Lane, Wincanton, Somerset UK BA9 8JR
Tel: +44 (0)1963 32286

Gratin of Haddock with Keens or Montgomery Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake, pollock or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock

salt and freshly ground pepper

225g (8ozs) Keens or Montgomery Cheddar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoon cream

Piquant Beetroot

1 1/2 lbs (675g) beetroot cooked

1/2 oz (15g) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

a sprinkling of sugar

5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain! Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the beetroot toss, add the cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8 1/2 x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

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

Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

How to Cook Beetroot

Leave 2 inch (5cm) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.


We baked these in a tin but usually they are hand formed. I love Jane Grigson’s filling from her book ‘English Food’ published by Macmillan.

12 oz (340g) white flour

6 oz (170g) butter

4 fl oz (100ml) water

pinch of salt

1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 tins, 6 inches (15cm) in diameter, 1 1/2 inches (4cm) high or 1 x 9 inch (23cm) tin

Pork Pie Filling

For 4 – 6

900g (2 lb) boned shoulder of pork or spareribs, with approximately ¼ fat to ¾ lean meat

225 g (½ lb) thinly cut un-smoked bacon

1 teaspoon chopped sage

½ teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

1 teaspoon anchovy essence

salt, freshly ground black pepper

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5mm/1/4 inch thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.)

The characteristic note of pork pies from Melton Mowbray is the anchovy essence. It makes an excellent piquancy, rather as oysters do in a steak and kidney pudding.

Chop some of the best bits of pork in 5mm (¼ inch) dice. Mince the rest finely with 2 or 3 rashers of the bacon (the bacon cure improves the colour of the pie on account of the saltpetre: with it the filling would look rather grey when the pie is cut). Add the seasonings. Fry a small amount and taste to see if adjustments are needed. Mix in the diced meat. Line the base of the pastry with remaining bacon and fill with the pork mixture. You will always get a better texture if the meat is finely chopped rather than minced. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/regulo 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Jane Grigson’s Cheese and Oatmeal Biscuits

Use a hard, dried-out piece of cheese, Cheddar or a mixture of Cheddar and Parmesan in the proportion of 3:1. These biscuits are delicious with soups, or soft curd cheese.

75g (2 ½ oz) oatmeal

150g (5oz) white flour

100g (3 ½ oz) salted butter

125g (4oz) grated Cheddar cheese

Salt, pepper, cayenne

2 egg yolks

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. Mix the oatmeal with the flour, rub in butter. Add grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and cayenne, add the egg yolks and a very little iced water, just enough to mix to a dough. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Roll out in batches and cut into triangles or rectangles. Place on trays lined with parchment paper. Bake 10 minutes, or until nicely coloured. Cool on a wire rack.

Dorset Apple Cake

Serves 12

225 g (8oz) butter

450 – 500g (1lb to 18oz) Bramley Seedling apples

1 organic lemon finely grated zest and juice

3 organic eggs

225g (8oz) self raising flour

225g (8oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 teaspoons baking powder

25g (1oz) ground almonds

1 tbsp Demerara sugar

5 tbsp milk softly whipped cream to serve

1 x 23 – 24cm springform tin lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Peel and core the apples, cut them into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces, then toss them in the lemon juice. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add a little flour with each egg to prevent the mixture from curdling. Sieve the remaining flour and the baking powder into the bowl and fold gently into the butter mixture with the ground almonds and milk. Stir in the apple pieces. Spoon the cake mix into the prepared tin. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the Demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until well risen and golden brown. Test the centre with a skewer, when inserted into the centre of the cake it should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with plenty of caster sugar. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Can’t wait to meet the eventual finalists of Cully & Sully’s contest Cheffactor! Members of the public are invited to enter the contest on to be in with a chance of winning a place on the coveted January’s Ballymaloe 12 week certificate cookery course. The top prize which includes accommodation can be redeemed in either 2011 or 2012 and will include two weeks with Colum O’ Sullivan (Sully) and Cullen Allen (Cully) to learn the ways of the food business.  It is open to everyone-whether you’re a whizz in the kitchen or just a novice. Visit!

Sustainable Clonakilty Energy Festival (18th – 23rd October ) the Local Food group are promoting a “50 mile meal” initiative. The aim is to showcase locally produced food through the menus of local restaurants and to increase awareness of food miles.

Restaurants in Clonakilty will provide a three course menu from local produce for the entire week – a super idea which hopefully other areas with be inspired to copy.

Alice Glendinning, (085) 143 9007 or email:

Lots of activity at grass roots level, lots of creative ideas and projects bubbling up as people explore alternative ways of earning a living. John and Olive Hallahan from Castlemary near Cloyne are making several delicious cheeses and yoghurt from their goat’s milk plus they have opened up a little farm shop to sell home reared lamb, pork and goat as well as other local produce from their farm. Open Saturdays 10am to 4pm – look out for a sign for Canine Country Club. Contact 0877977203

Slow Food Dinner – another convivial East Cork Slow Food dinner at Wisteria Restaurant in Cloyne on Thursday 28th October 2010 at 7:30pm. Darina Allen and Colm Falvey have chosen a delicious menu to showcase and celebrate the food of the local farmers, fishermen and cheese makers. There will be guest speakers and tastings. Numbers are limited and booking is essential 021 4646785.. Slow Food members €45.00 and non Slow Food members €50.00

Game for Deer

So many menus nowadays are utterly predictable, chicken, farmed salmon, steak and maybe lamb. Sometimes there is duck but it’s rare enough to be offered any wild food or game. The deer hunting season opened on September 1st  to February 28th depending on the type of deer (check the different dates with National Parks and Wildlife Service) so in response to a readers request I have decided to concentrate on venison in this week’s article.
In Ireland we have three main types of deer the native Red deer a large noble animal and Seka and Fallow which are similar in size to a lamb. The meat is dark, rich and virtually fat free so is apparently lower in cholesterol.
The haunch or back leg roasts beautifully and makes a terrific dinner party dish; lots of easy carving and depending on the breed will feed 20 to 30 people. It’s delicious served with a simple gratin dauphinois and some red cabbage.
Venison can be incredibly dry and dull if it gets over cooked, so aim to cook it rare – no more than ten minutes to the pound and remember it will go on cooking after you turn off the oven, so try to calculate the cooking time to allow for 30 minutes resting in a warm oven. The juices will redistribute themselves so the venison will be evenly pink and juicy. Well-done roast venison is not a gastronomic experience. Shoulder is best stewed or braised, it will benefit from a red wine marinade, use lots of root vegetables and maybe add a few chestnuts close to the end of cooking. Serve with a big bowl of champ or colcannon or better still, turn it into a pie dish and top with a lid of flaky puff pastry.
The loin can be roasted or cut into chops to be grilled or pan-fried. Better still just use the eye of the loin, cut into medallions and quickly pan fry.
Left over haunch can be made into a gamekeeper’s pie as opposed to shepherd’s pie and very delicious it is too.
The lap and indeed the shoulder can also be made into Venison chilli con carne or venison sausages or venison burgers. You will need to mix it with some good fatty streaky pork otherwise it will be dry and crumbly.
One of the best things of all is fresh venison liver so if you are fortunate enough to know someone who butchers their own venison – put in a special request, it must be very fresh, just slice thinly, toss in flour well seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, cook the liver in sizzling butter and eat immediately – delicious.

Venison Stew with Chestnuts
When you buy venison, allow time for marinating, and remember that unsmoked streaky bacon or fatty salt pork is essential either for cooking in with the meat (stew) or for larding (roasting or braising), unless the meat has been well hung.

Serves 8

1.3kg (3lb) shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced into 4cm (1 1⁄2in) pieces

350ml (12fl oz) red wine
225g (8oz) onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and lightly crushed black peppercorns
bouquet garni made with parsley stalks, 1 bay leaf and a fine sprig of thyme

seasoned flour

225g (8oz) fat streaky bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
450ml (3⁄4 pint) beef or game stock
bouquet garni
24 small mushrooms, preferably wild ones
250g (9oz) cooked and halved chestnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice or redcurrant jelly, as required
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potatoes

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade overnight. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and toss in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the bacon in the olive oil in a frying pan, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat until crisp on the outside. Transfer to a casserole.

Brown first the venison in the fat, then the onion, carrot and garlic (do this in batches, transferring each ingredient to the casserole). Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the pan with the strained marinade and pour over the venison. Heat enough stock to cover the venison and vegetables in the casserole and pour it over them. Add another bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer, either on top of the stove or transfer to a preheated oven at 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2. Cover closely and continue to cook gently until the venison is tender.
Test after 1 1⁄2 hours, but you may need longer – up to 2 1⁄2 hours cooking time. For best results, it is wise to cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat it the next, which improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is tender.

Sauté the sliced mushrooms in the extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and add to the stew with the cooked and halved chestnuts. Finally taste the sauce;
it may need seasoning or perhaps a little lemon juice. It also sometimes benefits from a pinch of sugar or some redcurrant jelly (be careful not to use too much.)

Serve with lots of mashed potatoes, champ or colcannon.


Roast Haunch of Venison with Quince and Rosemary Compote

A haunch of venison makes an excellent, easy, delicious and impressive dish. Venison tends to be very lean—an advantage for those who fear fat. However, some fat is needed to baste the joint while roasting to ensure succulence. The sweet pork caul fat will melt over the joint, basting as it roasts. It virtually disappears.

Serves 20 people approximately

1 haunch of venison – approx. 6-7 lbs (2.7-3.2kg) in weight

To lard venison
225g (8oz) back fat or very fat streaky pork. Alternatively, bard the whole joint in caul fat.

2 tablespoons fresh herbs; I use a mix of thyme and marjoram
4 tablespoons olive oil
125ml (4fl oz) dry white wine

900ml (1 1/2 pint) venison, game or beef stock


Quince and rosemary compote

First lard the venison. Cut the pork back fat into 5mm (1/4 inch) wide strips. Insert a strip into a larding needle, draw a lardon through the meat to make a stitch; trim the end. Repeat the stitches at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals to make horizontal rows, positioning each row about 1cm (1/2 inch) away from the previous row, repeat with the remainder of the fat.

Put the haunch into a shallow dish, stainless steel or cast iron, not tin or aluminium. Sprinkle it with the freshly chopped herbs. Pour the olive oil and wine over the meat. Cover the dish or tray and marinate the meat for about 4 hours at room temperature or in the refrigerator overnight, turning the meat occasionally. I use the marinade to baste the meat during cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Weigh the venison and calculate 10 minutes to the pound. We like our venison slightly pink and still very juicy, so I usually turn off the oven then and allow the meat to relax for 20-30 minutes. Baste every 10 minutes during the cooking time with the oil and wine marinade and turn the joint over half way through.  Meanwhile make the quince and rosemary compote. When the venison is cooked, remove to a serving dish while you make the gravy.

Degrease the roasting pan, add about 300ml (1/2 pint) stock. Bring to the boil, scraping and dissolving the sediment and crusty bits from the roasting pan. Thicken very slightly with a little roux, taste and correct the seasoning, pour into a warm gravy boat. Serve a creamy gratin of wild mushrooms and potatoes.

Quince and Rosemary Compote

5-6 quinces
225g (8oz) sugar
60ml (2 1/2fl oz) water
1-2 teaspoons rosemary – chopped

Peel, core and chop the quince into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice. Immediately put in the saucepan with sugar and water, cover and cook on a medium heat until soft—about 20 minutes. Add chopped rosemary, taste and add a little more sugar and rosemary as needed.

Note: It is very easy to overcook venison mainly because it goes on cooking after the oven has been turned off and the need to avoid this happening cannot be overemphasized. It is better to allow the meat to cool quite considerably than to risk overcooking and for this reason it is served in thin slices on very, very hot plates, which has the effect of reheating it at the very last moment.

Venison Burgers

Another good way to use the stewing meat. Venison is so lean that it benefits from the addition of the fat streaky pork. Makes 6

25g (1oz) shallot or onion, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) venison shoulder or flap, trimmed
175g (6oz) streaky pork, rind removed
1 teaspoon or more thyme leaves
1 teaspoon or more marjoram
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper
caul fat if available

burger buns

Sweat the shallot or onion gently in the olive oil until soft. Allow to get cold. Meanwhile, cube the venison and pork. Chop or mince in batches in a food processor. Mix the meat, cold shallots, fresh herbs and chilli sauce together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a frying pan. Fry off a bit of meat to check the seasoning. Tweak if necessary. Divide the mixture into burgers. Wrap in pork caul, cover and chill until needed.
Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Cook burgers for about 5 minutes on each side.
Serve each on a toasted bun with the usual accompaniments. Wild Mushroom à la Crème and a watercress salad are delicious on the side.

Venison Chilli Con Carne

Serves 6

You can use tinned red kidney beans but it is far cheaper to buy them loose and uncooked at a good grocery or delicatessen. Another alternative is to omit the kidney beans from the stew and serve them separately in a salad, or as part of three bean salad.

1- 1 1/2 lbs (500-725g) shoulder of venison, well trimmed, cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch (1-2cm) cubes
extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small green pepper, seeded, sliced
chilli sauce, see below
1 tablespoon tomato concentrate (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 ozs (250g) red kidney beans, cooked
salt and brown sugar

sour cream
cheddar cheese
fresh coriander
avocado sauce 
tomato salsa

Trim the meat where necessary and brown it in olive oil. Transfer to a casserole. Brown the onion and garlic lightly in the same oil, and scrape on to the meat. Add the pepper, sauce and just enough water to cover the ingredients. Cover tightly and leave to stew until cooked, keeping the heat low. Check the liquid occasionally. By the end of the cooking time it should have reduced to a brownish red thick sauce. If it reduces too soon
because the lid of the pan is not a tight fit, or you had the heat too high, top it up with water.

Last of all add the tomato if used, the cumin, the kidney beans if you are not serving them separately as a salad, with salt and brown sugar to taste. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, put a blob of sour cream on top of the chilli con carne, sprinkle with grated cheese.  Garnish with fresh coriander, and serve with Tacos and optional Avocado and Tomato Salsa.

Chilli Sauce

A delicious sauce to use when making chilli con carne, rather than the chilli powder sold in small bottles. It can also be used as a marinating mixture.

6-7 small dried chillis, or 4-5 large fresh ones
1 large red pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic

If the chillis are dried, soak them in a little water for an hour, then slit them and wash out the seeds. Discard the stalks, do the same with the large pepper. Puree with the other ingredients, using the soaking water if necessary to moisten the vegetables. If you use chillis, you might need a tablespoon or two of cold water. Season with salt. You can keep this sauce in a covered container in the fridge for two days, or you can freeze it.


Fool Proof Food

Venison Liver with Bubble and Squeak

If ever you have the chance to taste fresh venison liver, do so. It’s a revelation, but it must be super fresh. It is best eaten on the same day but would still be worth trying the following day. Serves 4–6

fresh venison liver (about 450g/1lb) cut into 1cm (1⁄2in) slices
flour seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) clarified butter more if you need it
extra virgin olive oil
bubble and squeak
watercress or flat parsley, to serve

Dip the slices of liver in the seasoned flour. Heat some clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil in the pan over a high heat. Cook the liver for 30 seconds on each side. Serve immediately on hot plates with Champ or Colcannon and some watercress or sprigs of flat parsley – divine.



Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate Marco Brouwers opened Pizzeria San Marco in August 2010. The theme of the restaurant is Venice and was fitted out by Venetian artisans – it has the atmosphere of a real Italian Pizzeria with talented chefs expertly spinning freshly made dough into circles in full view. The Italian built wood burning oven reaches temperatures of 450ºC for the perfect crispy pizza. Most of the produce for the pizzeria is locally sourced and if you order the day before Marco can make you a delicious gluten free pizza. They serve good coffee too. 9 Main St., Midleton. Tel 021 4633030

Savour Kilkenny – you might want to head for Kilkenny for the Savour Kilkenny Festival from Friday 22nd to Monday 25th October to see the tented Food Village show-casing local food. There will be cookery demonstrations, an innovative Food Camp, a young chefs competition, quirky cupcake icing and much more. The Smithwicks October Fest will feature the 50 mile meal. Think what a difference it would make to local farmers and fishermen if all restaurants incorporated even 20% local food into their menus.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy

 The food world, particularly those of us who love spices are all a twitter on hearing the news that Indian cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey has just written another cook book. This one is especially for those who feel that Indian food takes a long time and a ton of ingredients to make. It is entitled Curry Easy and is published by Ebury Press.Madhur taught classes at Ballymaloe Cookery School several times during the 1980s and 1990s and we all loved her food. She has built up a devoted following all over the world. Her carefully chosen and finely tuned recipes have introduced several generations to spices and her meticulously tested recipes have given all of us the confidence to experiment. From my own part, Madhur’s cooking classes were the beginning of a love affair with India and Indian food which has endured for several decades.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we are also fortunate to have access to super fresh spices imported directly from India by Arun Kapil of Green Saffron Spices. These are particularly easy to access if you live in the Cork area because Arun and his wife Olive charm people at several Farmers Markets every week: Macroom on Tuesday, Mahon Point on Thursday, Midleton on Saturday, and Limerick Milk Market on Friday and Saturday. Otherwise Green Saffron spices and spice mixes are available from 62 different outlets in Ireland, visit

to find out the shop closest to you.When purchasing spices, buy them in small quantities from either a shop or stall with a quick turn over. Try as far as possible to buy whole spices with the exception of turmeric, cayenne, paprika (mostly sold ground) and ground ginger which you may need for baking ginger bread. Whole spices are infinitely more flavourful than ground. If you want to use whole spices on a regular basis it’s worth investing in a good pestle and mortar or spice grinder. An electric coffee grinder works brilliantly but we also love our Mexican Mojacete made of coarse lava rock. It makes hand grinding so much easier than struggling with a smooth pestle and mortar. As soon as spices are ground the flavour starts to tick away and as they get older the flavour and aroma diminishes rapidly. Once you start to experiment with spices there is no going back, they add magic to your food. Having a few jars of spices in your kitchen is like having a wonderful Pandora’s Box to dip into. Depending on the combination of spices you use you can add the flavours of the Far East, Mexico and Morocco…

It may seem intimidating at first but you will soon be able to judge how much to use and what combinations work best. It’s good advice to start by using one spice at a time, say cumin or coriander, you will soon be able to judge the strength of the spice and then you can start to combine and add other spices to compliment the original one or two. Madhur Jaffrey’s essential spices are cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, chillies, coriander, fenugreek, which Madhur Jaffrey says “smells like India in a jar” and asafoetida “which is essential for the deep flavour that comes with Indian food”

Here are a few of my favourite spicy recipes for you to experiment with.




Mild Madras Curry with Fresh Spices



Serves 8

2 lb (900g) boneless lamb (leg or shoulder is perfect)








Nut milk

4 ozs (110g) almonds

16 fl ozs (475ml) light cream


1 tablespoon pounded fresh green ginger



2 oz (50g) ghee or clarified butter

4 onions – sliced in rings

4 cloves of garlic – crushed

2 teaspoons coriander seed

2 teaspoons black pepper corns

1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, start with whole green cardamom pods if possible

8 whole cloves


1 tablespoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons sugar

some freshly squeezed lime juice


segments of lime


Trim the meat of the majority of the fat. Blanch, peel and chop up the almonds (they should be the texture of nibbed almonds). Put into a small saucepan with the cream and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.


Meanwhile peel the ginger thinly with a vegetable peeler, pound into a paste in a pestle and mortar, or chop finely with a knife, or grate finely on a slivery grater.


Cut the meat into 4 cm (1 1/2in) cubes and mix it with the ginger and a sprinkling of salt.

Melt the butter and cook the onion rings and crushed garlic over a gentle for 5 minutes. Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods and measure 1 teaspoon. Discard the pods.

Grind the fresh spices, coriander, pepper, cardamom and cloves in a clean spice or coffee grinder. Add the spices to the onions and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the onions and then add the meat to the saucepan. Stir over a high heat until the meat browns. Return the onion and spices to the pot. Add the nut milk, turmeric and sugar. Stir well. Cover and simmer gently on top of the stove or better still in a low oven 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3, until the meat is cooked (1 hour approx.)


Finish by adding a few drops of lemon or lime juice to taste.

Serve with plain boiled rice, lime segments and other curry accompaniments which might include – bowls of chopped mango, Tomato chutney, Mint chutney, Raita, sliced bananas, chopped apples and poppodums.

A hot chilli sauce is also good and of course some Indian breads, Naan, Paratha …..






1 biggish leg of lamb or mutton will yield approx. 3 lbs (1.35kg) of meat.



Rachel’s Coriander Rice

This is basically plain boiled rice, but with added chopped coriander. This way of cooking rice is great – you can keep it warm really well for about half an hour, or of course you can reheat it.

Serves 4-6 people

1 teaspoon salt

300g (10 1/2ozs) basmati rice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or 25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons chopped coriander (or mint)

Bring a big saucepan of water to the boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the rice, stir, and let boil for 5 minutes – by this stage, the grains should be three-quarters cooked. Strain through a sieve, and place the rice in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil or butter, and season to taste. Leave in a low oven, 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1, for 10-15 minutes, by which time it should be lovely and fluffy. If you want to prepare it half an hour in advance, put it into an oven at 110ºC/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4. Sprinkle with lots of fresh coriander and serve.

Rachel’s Roasted Vegetable Coconut Curry

The creamy coconut milk and myriad spices grant these vegetables both elegance and luxury. Roasting the vegetables in the paste really brings out their sweetness. Making your own curry paste takes minutes and the complex depth of flavour means it’s always worth doing.

Serves 8–10


2 x 400ml tins of coconut milk

600ml (1 pint) vegetable stock

400ml (14fl oz) natural yoghurt

4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

6 parsnips, peeled, cores removed and flesh cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

700g (11/2lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4in) cubes

4 onions, peeled and cut into eighths

150g spinach (any large stalks removed before weighing), chopped

For the paste

1 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp chana masala

50g (2oz) root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

12 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 red chillis, deseeded

200g (7oz) onions, peeled and quartered

50ml (2fl oz) vegetable oil

1 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tsp caster sugar

2 tsp salt

To serve

Large bunch of coriander, chopped

100g (31/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and chopped

200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt or crème fraîche

Large casserole dish or saucepan

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3.

First make the paste. Place a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the coriander, cumin and chana masala. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute or until they start to pop, then crush.

3 Place the ginger, garlic, chilli, onions and vegetable oil in a food processor and whiz for 2–3 minutes or until smooth. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan or casserole dish and stir in the freshly ground spices, along with the turmeric, sugar and salt, then place on a medium–low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has reduced slightly.

Remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture into a large bowl. Pour the coconut milk and stock into the remaining half in the saucepan or casserole dish, stirring to combine.

Stir the yoghurt into the spice paste in the bowl, then add the root vegetables and onions and stir in the mixture to thoroughly coat. Tip into 1–2 roasting tins or baking trays and cook in the oven for about 1 hour or until lightly browned.

Remove the vegetables from the oven and add to the saucepan or casserole dish. Place on a medium heat for a few minutes to warm through, and then stir in the spinach and spoon into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, a scattering of the toasted nuts and a spoonful of yoghurt or crème fraîche.



Beena’s Fish Curry

Serves 4

1 1/4 lb (570g) Mahi Mahi (or any other firm fish, eg monkfish) cut into 2 inch (5cm) pieces

16 fl ozs (450ml) coconut milk (preferably fresh) or 400ml (1 x 14oz) can coconut milk (brand: Chaokoh)

1 1/2 fl ozs (40ml) coconut oil

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated

2 green chillies, split lengthwise

3/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon freshly ground coriander

1 oz (25g) dry tamarind and 2 fl. ozs (50ml) hot water

salt to taste

For tempering:

1/2 fl oz (12ml) coconut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seed

1 tablespoon fresh curry leaves

To Serve

Rice and poppodums

Heat 12ml (1 ½ fl oz) coconut oil in a sauté pan. Add the shallots, ginger and green chillies. Stir and sauté for about 5 minutes or until they start to turn brown.

Add the turmeric, sugar, chilli powder and coriander. Stir and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the coconut milk and the tamarind water. Season with salt and add the fish. Cover and poach the fish over a medium heat until just cooked – monkfish will take 5-6 minutes.

To prepare the tempering.

Heat 1/2 fl oz coconut oil in small saucepan, when the oil is smoking hot, add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds finish crackling, pour the tempering over the curry.

If possible leave the curry overnight in a cool place.

To serve, bring to boil in the same pot and serve with rice and poppodums.

How to prepare tamarind.

Soak the tamarind for 30 mins to 1 hour in 50ml (2fl oz) hot water in a small non-metallic bowl. (The water should cover the tamarind.) Strain through a sieve, discard the pulp – the strained liquid is your tamarind water.


Damsons are in season now and still grow wild in Ireland in ditches along farm boundaries; they usually ripen towards the end of September so find out where you can gather them to make into damson sauce – delicious with duck breast or wild duck.

Damson or Plum Sauce

Serves 6–8

450g (1lb) damsons or blood plums

225g (8oz) sugar

2 cloves

2.5cm (1in) piece cinnamon stick

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons red currant jelly

110ml (4fl oz) port

Put the plums into a stainless-steel saucepan with the sugar, cloves, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon water and the butter. Cook slowly until reduced to a pulp. Push the fruit through a fine sieve and return the purée to a clean saucepan. Add the redcurrant jelly and port, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes. The sauce may be served either hot or cold. It keeps well.



Irish apples are now in season

The new edition of the Seilide


the Slow Food magazine has just gone online – its packed with articles on food and food issues and is well worth a browse., there are so few Irish apple growers left so let’s support the valiant growers who remain. Seek out Keanes of Crinnaghtaun Fruit Farm in Cappoquin (058) 54258, Con Tras Apple Farm (052) 7441459 and Philip Little – Little Apple Company, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (051) 567872.



www.cookingisfun.iadhur e




Duchess of Devonshire – Chatsworth House

I’ve never met the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, yet she has been a hero of mine for many years. Debo, as she is known to her friends, now a feisty 90 year old was the youngest Mitford sister. He recently published autobiography called ‘Wait for Me’, immediately conjures up images of a determined little girl desperately trying to keep up with her five sisters. I recently took a couple of days off to visit her family home, Chatsworth House and Gardens in Derbyshire. Members of the Cavendish family have lived at Chatsworth since 1550. It’s a huge stately house in the midst of a 100 acre garden in the centre of the 1,000 acre Chatsworth Park, surrounded by the Peak district national park. It takes serious initiative, a ton of creativity and buckets of hard work to keep the roof on a stately home of this size.

Her Grace also loves chickens as I do and once complained that when John F Kennedy and his brothers came by helicopter to visit their sister-in-law Kathleen’s grave, her neighbours chickens were blown away by the force of the helicopter blades and were never seen again! Kathleen Kennedy died in a plane crash in 1948 and is now buried in the Cavendish family plot at St Peter’s Church near Chatsworth. Chatsworth attracts in excess of 600,000 visitors from March to Christmas every year. People come from all over the world to see the house, extensive gardens, parkland, sculptures and a farmyard full of happy farm animals. Visitors can see the cows being milked; under-fives can have fun on the pedal tractors or learn how to sow seeds. There’s several fantastic farm shops the most recent has just won the ‘Best Farm Shop’ in Britain award. It’s stuffed with local produce. Six butchers work full time in full view of the customers to prepare joints from meat much of which is reared by tenant farmers on the estate.

There are several restaurants, cottages to rent and a couple of pubs with rooms including two called the Devonshire Arms one in Beeley the other at Pilsley. I loved the yummy lamb and mint faggots in gravy they served there. When I inquired about how they were made they told me they were for sale in the Chatsworth Farm Shop with many other tempting things.

If you are in the area Hardwick House originally owned by Bess of Hardwick is a ‘must see’ not only for the utterly beautiful collection of tapestries and handmade rush floor covering but also for the original kitchens (now a restaurant) with dressers full of polished copper and kitchen utensils.

Just down the road is Stainsby Mill a stone mill which still grinds flour once or twice a week. Sadly they weren’t milling flour on the day we visited but none the less it was intriguing.

Derbyshire has several food specialities. I loved the oatcakes. It was quite difficult to get a recipe, their slightly spongy texture resembled South Indian flatbreads. Nowadays most people buy them but I found this recipe at We tested the oatcakes and found them delicious but not quite as light as the ones I bought, perhaps one could reduce the oatmeal by an ounce and replace it with an equivalent amount of white flour. You may also need to add a little bit more water if the batter is standing for more than half an hour.

The Derbyshire Fruit Loaf is reminiscent of any Irish tea brack but I loved the addition of a few spoons of marmalade. Like a tea brack it keeps for ages and is delicious served buttered or unbuttered.

We stayed in Fischer’s Baslow Hall in Baslow, where Max Fischer and his Chef Rupert Rowley get huge ratings in the Good Food Guide for his innovative food, lots of foams and little bits to nibble. Max keeps a half acre kitchen garden packed with fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit. We had a delicious compote of plums with lemon verbena for breakfast and I couldn’t resist the home made passion fruit marshmallows, one of several tempting petit fours made by the young kitchen team. Max and Rupert also co-own Rowleys Restaurant and Bar in Baslow. We particularly remember a sweet potato soup with chilli oil – here’s a delicious recipe from Neven Maguire’s book ‘Neven’s Real Food for Real Families’

Neven’s Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger and Coconut

Choose firm sweet potatoes with orange flesh for their vibrant colour.

Serves 4 – 6

450g (1 lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, finely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger

½ red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed and halved

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon tomato purée

250ml (9fl ozs) coconut milk

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place the sweet potatoes in a baking tin, drizzle over half the sunflower oil, tossing to coat evenly, and roast for 20 – 30 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan. Add the onion, leek, ginger, chilli and lemon grass and sweat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved roasted sweet potatoes with the stock and tomato purée, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has slightly reduced and all of the vegetables are completely tender, stirring occasionally.

Pour the coconut milk into the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste. Remove the lemon grass and then blend with a hand blender until smooth.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and scatter over the basil.

Passion Fruit Marshmallows

180g (6 ¼ oz) passion fruit juice

20g (¾ oz) powdered gelatine

500g (18oz) caster sugar

240g (9oz) water

60g (2 ½ oz) egg white

Boil the sugar and water to 125°C. Mix the passion fruit juice and gelatine and whisk until it thickens. Add the passion fruit juice and mix into the syrup. Pour the mixture over semi-whipped egg whites. Continue to whisk the mixture to stiff peaks. Pour into a lined 15cm (6 inch) square container, the mixture should be 2cm (1 ¾ inch) deep, leave to cool. Cut into bite size pieces and roll in icing sugar before serving

Derbyshire Oatcakes

Makes 15 approximately

450 g (1 lb) fine oatmeal (we used Macroom Oatmeal)
450g (1 lb) plain white flour
25g (1 oz) fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ litres (2½ pint) warm water

Mix the oatmeal, flour and salt in a warm bowl. Cream the yeast with the sugar and add ½ pint of the warm water. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and add the rest of the water, mix slowly to a thin batter. Cover and set aside in a warm place until well risen, about 30 minutes.

Grease a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat; add a very little clarified butter. Pour a ladle or cupful of the batter on to the hot pan, shake the pan until it spreads into a round. Cook like a thick pancake for 3-4 minutes on each side, don’t turn until all the bubbles have burst.

The oatcakes will keep for 2-3 days. Reheat and serve with bacon and eggs or with lemon juice and sugar or toasted with honey or cheese.

Bakewell Pudding

Bakewell is a charming little village, well worth visiting. We’ve all heard of the Bakewell Tart but in Bakewell in Derbyshire – home of the Bakewell tart and Bakewell pie – they prefer the latter. They sell them in local shops but here is a recipe to make your own.

Serves 6 approximately

6oz to 8oz puff pastry

sieved raspberry jam – ¼ lb approximately

225g (8oz) butter
1 egg and 7 egg yolks
225g (8oz) castor sugar

almond extract

Line a round or oval pie dish or plate at least one and a half inches deep with puff pastry. Spread the base with sieved raspberry jam. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl over simmering water, adding the eggs and sugar. Stir until the custard is thickened. Flavour with a few drops of almond extract. Pour into the pastry, cook in a preheated oven at

180°C/350°F/Mark 4 for 45 minutes turning the heat down after 20 minutes to 160°C as necessary. Rachel’s Bakewell Bars

Derbyshire Fruit Loaf

Makes 2 loaves or with

10 – 15 slices in each

450 g (1 lb) mixed dried fruit
225g (8 oz) caster sugar
300 ml (½ pint) hot tea
1 x organic egg
450 g (1 lb) self raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons marmalade

4 tablespoons milk

1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake tin or 2 x 450g (1lb) loaf tins

Put the dried fruit and the sugar into a mixing bowl; add the hot tea and leave to soak overnight. Next day, preheat the oven to

180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Grease the cake tin or with grease proof paper. Stir the beaten egg, flour, spices and the marmalade into the fruit, milk, sugar and tea mixture. (We added 4 tablespoons of milk to soften the dough) Pour into the cake tin or tins/ Bake for l hour in loaf tins or for 1 ¼ hours in a cake tin or until firm to the touch or until a skewer pushed into the cake comes out clean. Do not open the oven during the first hour of baking time or the fruit will drop. This cake will keep well. Serve cut into slices.

Compote of Plums with Lemon Verbena

Poach the plums whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – He loves me – he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number! Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.

Serves 4

400g (14ozs) sugar

450ml (16 fl ozs) cold water

6 to 8 lemon verbena leaves

900g (2 lbs) fresh Plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn

Put the sugar, water and verbena leaves into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the plums and poach, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst. Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

*The poached plums keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream!

Note: If plums are sweet use less sugar in syrup

Wild Food

Sloe or Damson Gin

It’s great fun to organise a few pals to pick sloes and have a sloe gin-making party. Sloes make a terrific beverage for Christmas presents. Either enjoy it neat or put a measure of damson or sloe gin in a glass, add ice, a slice of lemon and top it up with tonic.

700g (11⁄2lb) sloes or damsons

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

1.2 litres (2 pints) gin

Wash and dry the fruit and prick it in several places (we use a sterilised darning needle). Put the fruit into a sterilised glass Kilner jar and cover with the sugar and gin. Seal tightly.

Shake the jar every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 3–4 months, by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months.

Gallweys Whiskey Truffles 051334970

The local food crusade continues to gather momentum for more details.

There’s just time to catch the last of the sloes

Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford sister, by Deborah Devonshire – published by John Murray

Chatsworth Estate, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP: 00 44 1246 565 300

Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S44 5QJ: 00 44 1246 850 430

Stainsby Mill, Heath, Chesterfield, Derbyshire: 00 44 1246 850 430

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Calver Road, Baslow, Derbyshire:

00 44 1246 583 259, easy and fun to gather. If you make a batch of sloe gin now it’ll be ready to sip for Christmas. (see Wildfood). Fields in Skibbereen and Scallys in Clonakilty have been flying the flag for quite a long time. If you are in Schull look out for the ‘local produce shelf’ in Centra, on a recent visit, there were, cucumbers and leeks from Lisacahill, courgettes from Castletownsend, tomatoes from Rosbrinn, apples from Ballydehob carrots, cabbages from Goleen…Alternatively for more local produce visit Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday and the Schull Farmers Market every Sunday. Email are one of my favourite melting moments – fans will be delighted to hear that they have opened two Gallweys chocolate cafes – one in Tramore, the other in Waterford city – where you can not only sip hot chocolate guiltily but also have freshly roasted coffee, sandwiches, Panini, homemade soup and a couple of delicious desserts.

This is a delicious tray bake perfect for school lunches or to nibble with a cup of tea.

Makes 12 Bars

75g (3oz) butter, softened

25g (1oz) caster sugar

1 egg yolk

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g (7oz) raspberry jam


100g (3 1/2oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs, beaten

a few drops of almond extract

100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds

100g (3 1/2oz) semolina

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

flaked almonds for sprinkling

20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square cake tin

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

Butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

First, make the biscuit base. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and mix well, then sift in the flour and mix together to form a dough.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to the right size to fit the base of the tin and then press into the prepared tin. Spread the raspberry jam over the top then allow to chill in the fridge while you make the topping.

Place the melted butter in a bowl, add the beaten eggs and almond extract and mix well. Stir in the ground almonds, semolina and caster sugar.

Take the tin out of the fridge and spread the almond dough over the jam, being careful not to mess up the jam too much. (I usually place the almond dough in dots over the jam, then join it all together using the back of a spoon).

Sprinkle the top with the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin, then cut into fingers.

Island Life – Inis Meáin

I’m sitting with my back to a stone wall on Inis Meáin – on Ireland’s western seaboard – watching islander Padraic McDonagh hand threshing rye in the time honoured way. He chooses a flat lime stone area and then he made a little circle of sheaves to catch the seed. He grasps a sheaf and bashes it against a flat stone which he has propped at a perfect angle. When all the seed is threshed out he carefully collects every grain to replant for his next years crop of rye. The precious straw will be used to thatch his sheds and outbuildings. I feel hugely fortunate to come upon this gentle islander threshing his rye in a way that may date back thousands of years. It makes me wish I’d come to Inis Meáin thirty years ago.

Each of the Aran islands are truly unique and offers a different experience, understandably island life has changed dramatically in the last few decades; nonetheless it was quite a shock and a delight to discover that many of the older inhabitants of Inis Meáin – the least visited of the Aran Islands – have little or no English. All the native islanders speak a beautiful lilting Irish quite unlike the ‘civil service’ Irish I learned in National School. Not being a native speaker I connected the island with and Inis Meáin knitwear of which I’ve been an avid admirer for many years and more with the writings of John Milligan Synge. However I was eventually lured to the island by glowing descriptions of Ruairí and Marie Thérèse de Blacam’s little guest house rather incongruously named Inis Meáin Suites.

So how does one get there? There are regular ferries from Rossaveel and Doolin. Guests are met by the grey Inis Meáin ‘shuttle’ and transported way up the hill from the new harbour past an occasional white washed and sometimes thatched cottage and past the little meadows each surrounded by stark and beautiful dry stone walls. There were a few cattle here and there, a profusion of wild flowers, brambles and sloes and occasional potato ridges full of floury spuds that have been grown in a mixture of sand and seaweed. Red seaweed, kelp and black sea bladder wrack each deliver its own minerals. The islanders have collected seaweed on Caladh Mór and around the island since time immemorial and have gradually built up the soil on the solid rock face of Inis Meáin.

Ruairí de Blacam was reared on the island but educated in Blackrock College.

His mother Áine was and still is the school teacher on the island. During his gap year he went to work in an Irish pub in Germany and soon realised that cooking and playing music were a lot more appealing than college. He did a month long apprenticeship with John Desmond on Heir Island off Baltimore, Johnny, a brilliant chef and teacher kindled his passion for beautiful fresh local produce, simply cooked. Back in Dublin, Ruairí pestered Johnny Cook until he took him into his kitchen. The message was further reinforced there and on ‘stages’ in Italy, Austria and Paris. Friends urged him to open a restaurant in Dublin but he longed to return to his native Inis Meáin to open a B&B and a restaurant, a brave brave step but Ruairí knew as did his father before him that people will make a detour for quality – Inis Meáin knitwear is sold in the swankiest shops in London, New York and Tokyo…

The low slung stone building tucked into the landscape was designed in conjunction with his uncle’s firm de Blacam and Meagher. There are just four suites each with a twenty foot long window with superb views across the island, across the Twelve Pins in Connemara and Black Head.

When dinner starts with a little bowl of warm periwinkles – picked off the rocks just below the restaurant at Caladh Mór, you know you’re on the right track. The short menu illustrates the brilliance of keeping it simple. We had three delicious dinners there, gorgeous crab salads, one with mango salsa and another with celeriac remoulade and roast peppers. The juicy T bone steak came from their animals reared on the island. Ruairí served it with tiny roast carrots and parsnips and a big bowl of floury spuds again grown by Ruairí under the guidance of his maternal uncle. Lobster, like the crab, are caught in pots by the island currach fishermen.  Scallops are from the Inis Meáin bank less than a mile from the island’s coast, and spanking fresh hake is fished by local trawlers. For pudding, gorgeous crème brulee, crumbles and tarts made with apples from a local orchard. Ruairí also served crúibíní that he had picked which I think must be wild redcurrants close to the small – no one knew the English name. Deceptively simple and delicious food.

Ruairí and his wife Marie Thérèse (who hails from Midleton) are determined to produce as much of their own produce as possible. They recently acquired a couple of traditional breed, saddleback pigs so there will be succulent home produced pork on the menu before too long. After dinner we wandered up to Teach Ósta Inis Meáin pub to chat and listen to the locals speaking beautiful Irish. There are no night clubs or discos, no hurdy gurdies or juke boxes and no chicken nuggets but there is Teach Synge where the playwright stayed on the island, Dun Chonchúir (Connor’s Fort) and breathtakingly beautiful walks and timeless landscape with many prehistoric monuments – makes for a relaxing and refreshing break as Ruairí and Marie Thérèse wish for you. Booking is essential so plan ahead – well worth the detour.

Around 9pm In the morning a breakfast tray loaded with goodies arrives in your room – warm smoked mackerel, boiled eggs, good natural yogurt, home made muesli and fresh berries, freshly baked and still warm scones and soda bread, homemade marmalade and jams and maybe a slice of craftily cut pineapple – there’s plenty for a picnic later. The fridge and cupboards in the bedrooms are stuffed with tempting goodies, a far cry from the usual mini-bar offering, Green and Black dark organic chocolate, Ortiz tuna, Farmhouse cheese, Gubbeen chorizo, Carr’s water biscuits, good wine and Irish apple juice.

Everything has been carefully selected and thought through. There lots to do on the island. Two mountain bikes sit outside the suite and a couple of fishing rods are ready and baited for those who would like to catch a few mackerel to cook for supper.

Inis Meáin was recently awarded the Best Restaurant in Connaught by Food and Wine Magazine.


Cáca Risíní

We ate this delicious Cáca Risíní when we visited Áine and Tarlack de Blacam’s house on Inis Meáin.

450g (1 lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

110g (4 oz) mixed fruit – raisins and sultanas

½ level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

½ level teaspoon baking powder

no salt

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400 ml (12-14 fl ozs) approx.

1 x 21cm (8 inch) round tin


3 x small loaf tins 7cm (5 ½ inch) length and 6cm (2 ½ inch) depth

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl, rub in the butter and add the dried fruit. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softer than white soda bread but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together divide it between the well greased tin or tins. Bake in the preheated hot oven. If baked in the larger round tin bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the tin and turn upside down in the oven for 10 minutes. In the smaller tins, bake for 15 minutes at 230ºC and 15 minutes at 200ºC then out of the tin, turn upside down for 5 minutes or until fully cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: it should sound hollow. Cool on wire rack, slice and eat freshly baked with a little butter slathered over each slice.

Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites Brown Bread




Makes 2 loaves



750g (1lb 10oz) self raising flour

3 fists wholemeal flour 275g (10oz)

2 fists wheat bran 250g (9oz)

1 teasp bread soda

400ml buttermilk

400ml water

2 x 20cm loaf tins

NB – this is based on Marie Thérèse’s fist size which is very, very big. Depending on how big your hands are, adjust the amount of liquid, more than likely downwards!

Preheat oven to 210ºC/425°F/Mark 7 and grease 2 x 20cm long loaf tins. Mix the dry ingredients together by hand in big bowl and make well in centre.

Pour half of liquid in and mix very lightly by hand. Pour remainder of liquid in and mix very lightly by hand. Divide the mixture in-between the tins. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35mins turning midway for even baking. Turn out onto wire rack to cool

Cáca Tanaí



Cáca Tanaí literally means thin bread


Makes 7 to 8 cáca tanaí

If you need bread in hurry this griddle bread is a perfect and delicious solution. Halve the recipe and make the dough as above. Heat a griddle or heavy iron frying pan over a medium heat, take a fistful of the dough (approximately 6oz) roll it into a very thin round (scant ¼ inch) Slap onto the hot griddle or pan. Cook for four to five minutes on each side. Serve immediately on a floured board with butter and chosen topping.


Ruairí Blacam’s Island Crab with Celeriac Remoulade



“I have rarely needed to write down anything that we plate up in the restaurant because the food we serve is really quite simple. The key is the produce and the produce is king. Elizabeth David’s famous quote ‘first catch your chicken’ comes to mind. So, for a decent crab salad first catch your crab!”

To serve four people you will need a dozen good sized claws. Drop them into a big pot of salted boiling water for 4 minutes.

To cook the crab claws quickly and accurately you should use no less than 5 litres of water. The more the merrier. Getting the meat out is the fun part. Use the back of a heavy kitchen knife to crack the claws and make sure to double check that there are no little bits of shell through the meat.

In a large bowl, julienne a small sized celeriac on a Liam óg O’Flynn, more commonly known as a mandolin. Add the following and mix the whole lot together.

5 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 5 tablespoons crème fraiche, 2 tablespoons chopped non pareil capers, 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of chopped flat leaved parsley, 2 teaspoons of chopped tarragon, 2 teaspoons of chopped chives, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Evenly share the crabmeat between 4 plates, likewise the celeriac remoulade and finish off with a nice little tuft of rocket. Eat.


Marie Thérèse de Blacam’s Inis Meáin Apple Sponge


Serves 18


225g (8oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

350g (12oz) white flour


250g (9oz) butter

350g (12oz) caster sugar

6 free-range eggs

350g (12oz) flour

2 rounded teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons milk


6 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar

1 rectangular baking tray 40 x 30 x 4cm (16 x 12 x 1.5in)

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

Make the pastry first and leave in fridge overnight if possible. If you are short on time, you can divide the pastry into 2cm thick discs, wrap in cling film and place in freezer making sure the disks are not touching each other. Leave for no more than 30mins in freezer to chill while you are preparing the sponge and filling. However the pastry is a little bit more difficult to work with this way, than if you refrigerate it overnight and then take out of fridge 15mins before rolling.

To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together in a food mixer, add the egg and beat for several minutes. Add the flour, turn out onto a floured surface, flatten into a round to chill overnight or smaller discs for the freezer as described above.

To make the sponge, cream the butter in a food mixer, then add the caster sugar and mix well. Add the eggs gradually and mix well between each addition. Sieve the flour and baking powder and mix in gradually. Add the milk and mix lightly.

Grease the baking tray with butter and dust with flour. Turn the pastry out onto a well floured surface. Roll the pastry to a thickness of 3-4mm (1/8in) and line the baking tray base with it. As it can be difficult to move such a large layer of thin pastry to the tray at once, this can be done in two separate pieces that each line half the tray, using your finger to blend the two halves together in the middle

Prepare the apple slices and spread gently and evenly on top of the pastry. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Spread sponge mixture gently on top of apple slices.

Place tray in oven. After 10mins turn tray to make sure the sponge browns evenly. Check after a further 10mins and again after a further 5mins turning as necessary (total baking time approximately 25mins). It is done when the sponge is an even golden brown. Leave to stand and cool a little in the tin before portioning into 18 slices. Delicious served warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.


Wild Food




Periwinkles can be found all along the coast of Ireland. Cover with cold fresh water and leave to soak for at least 1 hour, longer if possible. You’ll need to cover the bucket because they make a valiant and determined effort to escape, which can be a bit unnerving. Discard the water and cook.



fresh live periwinkles

boiling salted water (6 ozs (170g) salt to every 4 pints (2.3L) water

homemade mayonnaise or vinegar (optional)

Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and the periwinkles, bring the water back to the boil, strain off the water and allow the periwinkles to get cold. Pick the periwinkles out of the shells with a large pin. Eat on their own or with mayonnaise. Some people like to dip them in vinegar.




If you are shopping in Newbridge pop into the Silverware Restaurant in the Visitors Centre – delicious freshly made cakes and coffee in the morning – homemade dishes for lunch and many temptations. A lovely spot to get together with friends. Don’t forget to run upstairs to visit the Museum of Style Icons while you are there. Contact 045488439

Saturday Pizza – For just three hours every Saturday, Philip Dennhardt cooks delicious pizzas in the wood burning oven in the Garden Café at Ballymaloe Cookery School. It’s the best fun, you can watch as Philip makes the pizzas in the traditional way. He uses fresh seasonal ingredients from the organic farm and gardens and the local area. There’s always a Pizza Margherita but for Pizza of the Week see



National Organic Food Week

National Organic Food Week, now in its sixth year continues to gather momentum. The raison d’être for the week long campaign from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 September is to raise awareness about organic food and where to buy and enjoy it.During the Celtic Tiger era in Ireland the demand for organic produce grew year after year. At present, there are approximately 1500 registered organic farmers and 1.25% of arable land is being farmed organically in contrast to the European average of 4%. Now that we are in more challenging times the ‘true believers’ depending on their circumstances have continued to seek out organic produce or have decided to grow their own and possibly keep a few hens also. Some farmers who were tempted by the extra supplement offered to organic farmers under the REPS scheme have reverted now that the scheme is under review. Bord Bia estimated the organic farming market was worth €124m in 2009 and is projected to grow to €239m by 2013.


The Ballymaloe Cookery School farm has been organic for over a decade. We have built up the fertility of the soil by regular applications of well rotted farm yard manure, compost, seaweed and the use of green manures.

We grow in excess of 85 crops, all be it in small quantities, year round. We also keep a few cattle for beef, free range traditional breeds of pigs for pork sausages and cured meats. Two gentle Jersey cows provide milk and cream to make homemade butter, yoghurt and a few simple cheeses. As a result we regularly sit down to meals where every single thing on the plate including the butter and cream comes from the farm or our neighbours – such a joy and for me that is real luxury – much more thrilling that owning a pair of Louboutins or a Prada handbag – whatever turns you on!

People regularly argue about whether organic food tastes better or not, as ever it’s difficult to be dogmatic, the skill of the grower affects the quality, variety affects flavour and freshness is of paramount importance. Organic food that comes from half way across the world may not have any chemical residues but it is unlikely to make you go ‘wow’ when you taste the first forkful.

So look out for fresh, local organic Irish produce at Farmer’s Markets and neighbourhood shops. Seek out and subscribe to organic vegetable box schemes so you will have a year round supply of vegetable for yourself and your family. Some of the best also include free range eggs, fresh herbs and maybe a recipe of the week and advice how to prepare and cook unfamiliar produce.

Check out the Bord Bia website for news of over 70 events around the country during National Organic Week, including Portumna Forest Picnic on Sunday 12th of September. The picnic takes place from 12 noon to 4pm and admission is free.. Peter Ward from Country Choice, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary is organising the annual Blas an Fhomhair organic lunch on Sunday 19th September.

In addition to nationwide events, Bord Bia will host the National Organic Awards 2010 on Tuesday 14th September, alongside a one day trade conference on the opportunities within the German organic market. I myself will do a talk at the Nano Nagle open on how to make the most on cheaper cuts of organic meat cuts in the Nano Nagle Centre, Ballygriffin, Co. Cork on Wednesday 15th September at 6:30pm.There’s all sorts of exciting events to choose from – how about an Organic Apple juicing demonstration at Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, 37 Tara Cove, Balbriggan. Co. Dublin.

All around the country, there are organic farm walks, tastings of organic food in shops and super markets and some like Urru in Bandon are giving a 10% discount on all organic food in the store.

Teagasc has scheduled its National Organic Conference entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Organic Producers’ in Birr, Co. Offaly on Thursday 16th September.


Eric Treuille’s Thai Lime and Organic Coconut Chicken

Eric Treuille and his wife Rosie own the iconic Books for Cooks in Blenheim crescent in London. Eric has written several excellent cookbooks.


Serves 8


2 organic lemon grass stalks

3 organic fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped

2 organic garlic cloves, chopped

3 organic spring onions, chopped

1 handful fresh coriander leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

grated zest of 1 organic lime

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce

125ml coconut milk

8 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts, butterflied

salt and black pepper


fresh Mango or Papaya Sambal (see recipe)


To Serve



Little Gem lettuces


Butterflying a chicken breast.


With one hand on the breast to hold it in place, slice through the middle horizontally to cut almost in half. Open out flat.


Remove and discard the tough outer skin from the lemon grass stalks and roughly chop. Put lemon grass, chillies, garlic, spring onion, fresh coriander, cumin, pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, fish sauce and coconut milk in food processor or blender; pulse until smooth. In a bowl, toss the chicken with the lemon grass mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Grill over medium-hot coals until the chicken is opaque with no trace of pink – approximately 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot with fresh mango or papaya sambal in little gem lettuce leaves.




Make marinade up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate chicken up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.


Organic Mango or Papaya Sambal


Makes 225g (8oz) approximately


1 ripe organic mango or organic papaya peeled and diced

1/2 organic red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed organic lemon juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)

1 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons

roughly chopped coriander

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the mango, chopped red onion, freshly squeezed lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and coriander in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently. Cover and allow the flavours to mingle for 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Aubergine and Tahini Dip: baba ghanouj

There are loads of lovely organic aubergines at present so make the most of them with this delicious Middle Eastern dip.

Makes about 550 g(1 lb 3 oz)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 organic aubergines

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-4 organic cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

3 tbsp light tahini paste (sesame paste)

juice of 1 organic lemon

125 ml (4 171 fl oz) Greek-style yoghurt

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375ºF/gas mark 5)

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a baking tray. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and place skin side down on the tray. Drizzle with another tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the garlic and aubergines are soft.

Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin of the aubergine. Discard the skin and put the flesh into a food processor with the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and the remaining olive oil. Blend until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in the bowl and puree using a hand-held beater. Allow to cool.

Once cool, fold in the yoghurt and almost all of the parsley. Check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary, then spoon into a serving bowl and scatter with the remaining parsley.


Heirloom Organic Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Runny Honey


The Ballymaloe Cookery School stall at the Midleton Farmers’ Market has a unique selection of organic heirloom tomatoes in all shapes and sizes. Red, yellow, black, striped, round, pear shaped and oval. They make a divine tomato salad and are wonderful with fresh buffalo mozzarella and lots of fresh basil.

Serves 4

8 very ripe organic heirloom tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

1–2 tablespoons organic lemon juice

2 teaspoons runny honey

2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, torn

Cut the tomatoes into 5mm (1⁄4 inch) thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the oil, lemon juice and honey together. Add the basil leaves, pour the mixture over the tomatoes and toss gently. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. A little freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavour in a very delicious way.

Pickled Organic Carrots with Star Anise


Scott Walsh a talented chef from Ballymaloe House came up with this recipe.

10 organic carrots, peeled and sliced thinly lengthways on a mandolin

600 ml (1 pint) unsweetened carrot juice

100 g (3 1/2 oz) castor sugar

200 ml (7 fl oz) white wine

200 ml (7 fl oz) white wine vinegar

200 ml (7 fl oz) water

250 ml (9 fl oz) Extra virgin olive oil

bunch of tarragon and thyme

8 star anise

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, whole

10 black peppercorns

Place all ingredients into a wide stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer gently until carrots soft. Allow to go cold before serving.


Green and Black Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies


Makes about 36-40, depending on size

In season: All year

225g (8ozs) butter

200g (7oz) brown sugar

165g (6oz) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

350g (12 oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

150g (5oz) Green and Black 70% broken into pieces

100g (3 1/2 ozs/ 2/3 cup) chopped nuts – hazelnuts

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

Cream the butter add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla extract.

Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Lastly, add the Green and Black chocolate pieces and the chopped nuts.

Divide the mixture into 7g (1/4 oz) pieces, for teeny weeny pieces, or 25g (1oz) for medium sized or 50g (2oz) for American style cookies onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.


Fool Proof Food

Hot Buttered Oysters on Toast

These wonderfully curvaceous oyster shells tend to topple over maddeningly on the plate so that the delicious juices escape. In the restaurant we solve this problem by piping a little blob of mashed Duchesse potato on the plate to anchor each shell.

12 Pacific (Gigas) oysters

25g (1oz) butter

1/2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped

To Serve

4 segments of lemon

4 ovals of hot buttered toast (optional)

Open the oysters and detach completely from their shells. Discard the top shell but keep the deep shell and reserve the liquid. Put the shells into a low oven to heat through. Melt half the butter in a pan until it foams. Toss the oysters in the butter until hot through – 1 minute perhaps.

Put a hot oyster into each of the warm shells. Pour the reserved oyster liquid into the pan and boil up, whisking in the remaining butter and the parsley. Spoon the hot juices over the oysters and serve immediately on hot plates with a wedge of lemon.

Alternatively discard the shells and just serve the oysters on the hot buttered toast. The toast will soak up the juice – Simply Delicious!






Our Friends in the North – Sweden

Slow Food has brought me to many remote places around the globe in search of ancient cultures and indigenous foods. Recently I found myself in Sápmi (Samiland) in northern Sweden – the land of the midnight sun; it was bright almost all night.

Since time immemorial an indigenous race called the Sami have lived in an area called Sápmi that extends across four countries from the Kola Peninsula in Russia to northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. At present there are about 80,000 Sami whose main occupation is reindeer herding, handicrafts, hunting, fishing and more recently tourism.

Throughout history indigenous people have been oppressed. Their land has been confiscated, their cultures have been suppressed and in some cases they have been victims of genocide. The Sami have had their share of challenges over the centuries however in 1993 the Sami government was set up by Act of Parliament. In 1998 the Swedish government apologised to the Sami people for Sweden’s oppression. There are still disputes about ancestral land rights but much progress has been made and this year a representative of the Sami will lead the procession of indigenous people at the opening of the Slow Food Terre Madre event in Turin from 23rd – 27th October, 2010.

The Slow food National Councillors meeting was held in Hemavan in Sápmi this year so we had the opportunity to learn about their food and culture. Like all indigenous tribes they live in harmony with nature. The Sami language is extremely rich, for example, they have over a hundred words for snow. Traditionally their diet consisted of a lot of reindeer and elk meat, fresh, dried, salted and smoked. Every scrap of the deer is utilised as well as the hide for clothing and rugs, the antlers for handicraft and the bones for handles of cutlery, whistles, paper knives… In Summer, they eat more fish and vegetables, in late Summer and Autumn, a variety of berries, wild mushrooms and fruit. They bake lots of delicious dry crisp breads before they go up the mountains to herd, it’s stored for months and then dampened and warmed again before they eat it.

We were invited to a Sami village called Daelvie to see their way of life and beloved reindeer. The entire year of the semi-nomadic Sami revolves around reindeer herding, they follow the deer throughout the seasons – up the mountain slopes in summer and down into the forests in winter. In May they mark the ears of the young ‘calves’ – each family has a distinct mark; September is slaughter month by then the calves are about six months old. Every scrap of meat is either eaten fresh or preserved and the surplus is sold. Reindeer is some of the purest meat on earth – very high in vitamins, minerals and omega 3 – the animals graze on wild herbs, lichens, grasses, young shoots and bark. The meat is absolutely delicious; we ate it in a myriad of ways, fresh, dried, salted, and smoked, in sausages and burgers, often in conjunction with a wild mushroom sauce. Lingonberries, and other wild berries are used for sauces, preserves and desserts. One evening we had cloudberry jam with waffles and cream. Cloudberies look like yellow raspberries, and grow in mossy areas and in the tundra.
We also ate wild mushrooms in many guises, morels and delicious chantrelles in a soup, little quiches and as a sauce with reindeer and artic char – the latter is a pink fish with pale flesh not unlike trout. The wild mushrooms are dried during the season and are much loved.

Sami are expert at preserving – in the past their very survival depended on it. Originally they stored food in underground water holes now freezers are more common. In early Spring – they eat the young shoots of rowan and beech and make a soup from spruce leaves and a syrup from the needles.

Angelica grows wild; the young stalks are peeled and eaten raw as a vegetable or candied as a sweetmeat.

They also pick buckets of wild sorrel in early summer and cook it in a little water until it wilts. Then it can be stored for months. They eat it with a blob of whipped cream and some sugar sprinkled on top – this was a revelation – totally delicious full of vitamin C – the oxalic acid is diluted by cream and milk.

The Sami women also explained that the children love to eat bilberry flowers in early June in the mountains. When I walked up the hill I nibbled some, they tasted of sweet honey.

As with many indigenous communities, they know the medicinal value of each plant and food and are passionate about passing on the skills, language, music and traditional dress (gakti) to the younger generation who seem to be hugely proud of their culture and heritage.

Years ago they lived in simple dwellings called Goahti and Lavvu. The latter was a portable tepee-like hut, the former was a permanent dome shaped structure consisting of a timber frame sealed with birch bark and covered with turf or sods of earth. Nowadays they are more likely to live in a typical Swedish timber house.

We had a wonderful feast in the village, of local food from the valley and surrounding area including dried reindeer (Suovasa) a product recognised as unique to the Sami by Slow Food who created a presidia to protect it.

They sang us some of the haunting traditional yoiks, made us coffee in smoked blackened kettles over the open fire and gave us slices of delicious homemade rhubarb Swiss roll. Here are some recipes that are typical to the Sami for you to enjoy.

Peppered Venison Salad with Horseradish Cream, Rustic Roast Potatoes, Red Onions and Chives


Serves 4 – 6




450g (1 lb) loin of venison, trimmed of all fat and gristle

4 tablespoons cracked pepper


Rosemary and Honey Vinaigrette


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon mustard

Horseradish Cream

Rustic Roast Potatoes

1 small red onion, thinly sliced


3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

Pinch of salt


2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

4 handfuls of mixed salad leaves

To Assemble

First make the vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients together in a jar and shake together, taste and adjust seasoning. Make the horseradish cream (see recipe).

Cook the rustic roast potatoes.

Marinade a thinly sliced onion in the sugar, vinegar and salt for 10 –15 minutes.

Cut the venison into 5mm (¼ inch) medallions.

Rub one side of each slice of venison with cracked pepper.

Heat a frying pan and sauté the venison in hot olive oil, season and cook very fast until just medium rare. While the venison is frying, toss the salad leaves in a little dressing and divide between four large plates or one large serving dish. Arrange the rustic roast potatoes around the sides of the plate. When the venison is cooked place the medallions overlapping, on top of the salad. Arrange a few slices of red onion over the venison. Drizzle with horseradish cream and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.


Horseradish Cream


A nice big chunk of horseradish keeps for ages in the fridge or pantry. The Sami use it for lots of dishes.


Horseradish grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can’t find it near you, plant a root in your garden. Watch out, it’s very prolific so plant it in an area of the garden where you don’t mind if it spreads.


Serves 8 – 10


3-4 tablespoons grated horseradish

2 teaspoons wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

(see recipe)


teaspoons mustard


teaspoons salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

250 ml (8 fl ozs) whipping cream


Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Stir in the cream but do not over mix or the cream may curdle. It will keep for 2-3 days: cover so that it does not pick up flavours in the fridge.


This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really clear the sinuses


increase the amount of horseradish!4 ozs (110g) plain flour

4 eggs, organic and free-range

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

rhubarb and ginger jam

whipped cream

Swiss Roll tin 1 x 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

First make the rhubarb jam. Then make the Swiss roll.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Line a large Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom of the tin exactly. Brush the paper and sides of the tin with melted butter, dust with flour and castor sugar.

Sieve the flour. Years ago, we would put the eggs and castor sugar into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Take it off the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool again. (Now we use an electric mixer, so no heat is required.) Add the water and vanilla extract. Sieve about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mousse using a large metal spoon.

Pour the mixture gently into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile put a sheet of greaseproof paper on the work top, sprinkle with castor sugar. The Swiss roll is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre, the edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin. The Swiss roll must be rolled up immediately; if it gets cool it will crack. Turn the Swiss roll out onto the sugar coated paper; spread a layer of rhubarb jam evenly over the surface. Roll tightly with the help of the paper. Keep covered with the greaseproof paper until cool.


To serve

Unwrap and cut into 3/4inch (2cm) thick slices and serve with softly whipped cream.

Waffles with Cloudberry Jam

Makes 12

Cloudberry jam is easy to find though expensive in Scandinavia if you can’t find it substitute your favourite jam or fresh summer berries.

175g (6ozs) white flour

15g (1/2oz) sugar

a pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

350g (12ozs) milk, slightly warmed

50g (2ozs) butter, melted

2 eggs, free-range and organic if possible, separated

cloudberry jam

whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Preheat waffle iron. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a deep bowl. Make a well in the centre. Mix the warm milk, melted butter and whisk in the egg yolks. Gradually pour the milk and egg yolk mixture into the well stirring continuously to make a smooth batter. Whip the eggs whites stiffly and gently fold into the batter.

Heat the waffle iron. Pour a 75g (3oz ladle of batter onto the hot iron. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden on both sides.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot with a blob of cloudberry jam in the centre and some softly whipped cream or ice cream.

Swedish Medals

These are the most delicious chocolate and apple shortbreads.

Makes 10-12


200g (7 ozs) plain white flour

50 g (2 ozs) icing sugar

zest of 1 small organic lemon

100 g (3½ ozs) butter

1 small beaten egg (you may not need all of it)

Apple Filling

2 dessert apples, I like to use Cox’ s Orange Pippin

100 g (3½ ozs) vanilla sugar

Chocolate Icing


Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel or eel, also great with pickled beetroot.

Rhubarb Swiss Roll – Sami Style


Serves 8 – 10

Swiss roll

200 g (7 ozs) dark chocolate

40 g (1½ ozs) butter

200 ml (7 fl oz) cream

2 baking trays

First make the biscuits, sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl, add the finely grated lemon zest. Grate the chilled butter on the coarse part of a grater (or chop into cubes). Add to the dry ingredients, toss and rub in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add just enough egg to mix to a dough (it shouldn’t be wet or sticky). Cover with Clingfilm, flatten into a round and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and chop the apples. Put into a small stainless steel saucepan with a teaspoon of water and the vanilla sugar (or plain sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract). Put on a low heat, cover and cook to a soft thick pur̩e Р8-10 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Roll out the biscuit dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm/⅛ inch. Use a 6-7 cm/2½-2¾ inch ‘cookie’ cutter or even a glass to stamp out rounds. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes or until pale golden. Allow to rest for a minute or two, then transfer carefully to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, put the chocolate and butter into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of water. The base of the bowl should not touch the water. Bring the water to the boil, turn off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt. Using a small palette knife spread half the biscuits with the chocolate icing keeping a 2 mm/â…› inch border around the edge. Leave on a wire rack to set.

Meanwhile whip the chilled cream quite stiffly. Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle.

To assemble, put a teaspoonful of thick sweet apple sauce in the centre of half the biscuits. Pipe a ring of cream around the apple sauce. Top each one with a chocolate ‘medal’. Serve immediately with tea or coffee as they do in Sweden but we also love them as a dessert.


Buffets are the perfect way to entertain any number of guests with the minimum of fuss.

Ballymaloe Cookery School are teaching a one day Ballymaloe Buffet Course. This includes dinner in Ballymaloe House on Sunday, 5th September 2010 – to give students the opportunity to see how the buffet is presented – followed by a full day of cookery demonstrations the following day. There are still some places left – book online or telephone 021 4646785.

You need to know about a very exciting new pub – Woodford on Paul Street in Cork City is the brainchild of Jacque and Eithne Barry and follows the same ethos, food from Cork, well sourced and sustainable. The yummy lunch menu includes Roast Tomato, Red Pepper and Chilli Soup and Shepherds Pie – Made From Slow Braised Shoulder Of Lamb. 021 4253932u 

The Real Thing

My goodness, it’s the end of the world as I know it! Last week my two and half year old granddaughter Amelia Peggy came along clutching an iphone and told me she wanted to show me how to make a cake! She pressed several buttons in the maddeningly confident way that all kids do and opened and an app’ called Cake Doodle. Up popped lots of pictures of cakes, every shape and size – “which one shall we make grandma?” pipes up the aspiring cook, I choose a three tier chocolate confection. Ping – up comes the recipe, then the bowl, Amelia touched each ingredient on the list and whoosh they leap into the bowl, up come the eggs, Amelia taps the screen with the side of her hand to crack the eggs one after the other they leap into the bowl. Then she stirs all the ingredients around, until well mixed and turns the phone on its side to pour the mixture into the tin. Next it’s popped into the virtual oven.

Now there are more decisions to be made – what coloured icing – it has to be pink, everything in Amelia’s life has to be pink at present so she presses the shocking pink icon and then spreads the lurid icing over the three tier cake with the tip of her finger. Next we have a choice of decorations, heart shapes, stars, flowers, princesses… Amelia chooses princesses, she dotted about 15 over her cake and then at last it was ready to eat. By now Amelia was beside herself with excitement, again she tapped the virtual cake on the screen with her tiny index finger, each time putting it into her mouth as though she was eating the cake. The iphone emitted realistic sound effects throughout, pouring, swishing, egg shell cracking, mixing and finally appreciative noises. I wondered if she would have a virtual tummy ache having eaten it all in one go! Amelia and all the children love this app’ and fusty old grandma doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry! But the good news is Amelia also loves to help her mum and grandma to bake real cakes. She particularly loves to make crumpets on the cool plate of the Aga, using a flexible egg slice to flip them over. Here are several simple recipes that children will love to make and bake and share.

Raspberry Buns



As far as I can remember, these buns were the very first thing I helped my Auntie Florence to bake. My grandchildren love filling the holes with jam, just as I did.

Makes about 10

200g (7oz) self raising flour and 25g (1oz) ground rice


225g (8oz) self-raising flour

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) butter diced

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon full cream milk

homemade raspberry jam

egg wash

caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

Put the flour and ground rice, if using, into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Add in the diced butter and toss it in the flour. Then rub it into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with the milk and then use a fork to mix it with the dry ingredients until you have a softish dough.

Divide the mixture in two, roll each half into a thick rope and then divide each into five pieces. Form each piece into a round, dip your thumb in flour and make an indentation in the centre of each bun.

Drop a little spoonful of raspberry jam into the hole, then pinch the edges of dough together to cover the jam.

Transfer to a baking tray, brush the top of each raspberry bun with egg wash and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, sprinkle with caster sugar and eat while nice and fresh.

Joshua’s Carrot, Coconut and Sultana Muffins



A lovely recipe which we have adapted from a super little book called ‘Grow It Cook It’ written by Amanda Grant published by Rhyland Peters and Small.

Makes 12

225 g (8 oz) carrots

3 eggs, preferably free range

140 g (4½ oz) pale soft brown sugar

6 tablespoons sunflower oil

150 g (5 oz) self raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

70 g (3 oz) desiccated coconut

75 g (3 oz) mixed dried fruit eg. sultanas

A muffin tray lined with 12 paper cases

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Wash, peel and grate the carrots finely. Crack the eggs into a large bowl, whisk with a whisk until lightly beaten. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk until light and creamy. Gradually add in the oil whisking all the time. Mix the flour, mixed spice, coconut, sultanas and carrots. Then stir gradually into the base mixture until it is well incorporated. Use a tablespoon to divide the mixture as evenly as you can between the muffin cases. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until firm and golden. Remove from the oven with oven gloves. Cool the muffins on a wire rack. They are delicious as they are but even yummier with some cream cheese icing on top

Cream Cheese Icing



3 ozs (75g) cream cheese

1 1/2 ozs (45g) icing sugar

1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

grated rind on 1/2 orange



Mix all the ingredients together and spread over the top of the carrot muffins. Sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds or pumpkin seeds, crystallized flowers if you fancy.

India’s Candied Orange Squares


My grandchildren love to make these; they can use a palette knife to spread the icing and then get creative making patterns on top with the candied peel

Makes 24


6 ozs (175g) soft butter

6 ozs (175g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

6 ozs (175g) self-raising flour

Orange Butter


rind of 2 oranges – finely grated

3oz (75g) butter

3 1/2 oz (100g) icing sugar

Candied Orange Peel


10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) Swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well-buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile make the orange butter. Cream the butter with finely grated orange rind, add the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy. When the cake is cooked, leave to cool. Spread the orange icing over the cake. Cut into squares. Decorate each one with little diamonds of candied peel.



























Amelia Peggy’s Crumpets

Amelia’s Aunty Rachel showed her how to make these delicious crumpets.

  Makes 12

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl ozs) milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop 3 tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the crumpets scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my grandchildren, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the crumpets in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)



Lucca’s Almond Macaroons

These are so simple to make and can easily keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container. Pop a peeled almond into the centre of each one, before baking for extra crunch.

Makes 12-16


110g (4ozs) ground almonds

75g (3ozs) caster sugar

1 egg white, lightly beaten


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


Put the ground almonds, caster sugar and the egg white into a bowl and stir to combine. It should be firm, but slightly sticky. Roll small dessertspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a wet fork. Cook for about 10 minutes or until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack.





These are also good with the grated zest of 1 lemon or orange mixed in with the coconut/almonds and sugar.


Desiccated coconut can also be used instead of ground almonds in the above recipe.



Willow’s Tropical Fruit Smoothie



My granddaughter Willow likes to use Kara coconut milk in this recipe, she gets this from Well and Good Health Food Shop in Midleton but you could try your local health food store.

2 slices of melon

I ripe banana

1 mini pineapple or ¼ of a full sized pineapple

1 big orange juiced

450 ml (16fl oz) Kara coconut milk


Peel and chop all the fruit and put it into the blender, add the coconut milk and whizz. Add honey to taste. Willow pours this into chilled glasses and shares it with her little sister India, mum and dad.


The proliferation of food festivals around the country manifests a deep craving for real local food but leaves us with a dilemma many tempting events are on the same dates.

The Midleton Food Fair is on Saturday 11th September 2010



 The main street in Midleton will be buzzing with interesting stalls, tempting you to have a taste of the best of East Cork. Midleton Farmers market will be celebrating their 10th anniversary. Visit 

for the full program. 

for the many, many interesting food events and dinners. Ludlow Food Festival in Shropshire –

10th to 12th September 2010 is the mother of all UK food festivals. Sadly clashing with the above events, nonetheless, I know several serious Irish foodies who make a pilgrimage there every year. Ludlow was Britain’s first successful food and drink festival when it started back in 1995, still the most famous and they maintained the original philosophy of highlighting only the great food and drink that’s available in the Marches. Check



– innovative West Cork artisans, Alan and Valerie Kingston have added yet another delicious product to their range. They already have a nationwide following for their thick rich cream, yogurts, cheese cakes and farmhouse butter. Their new Homemade Lemonade Cordial is unrelated to their dairy range but equally irresistible. It’s wonderfully concentrated so add lots of water and ice cubes or sparkling water to dilute to your taste. Contact 028 31179 –




Darina Allen is awarded ‘Hall of Fame’ at Food and Wine Magazines Annual Awards.

On Sunday evening, Darina was delighted to accept an award at the annual awards ceremony for ‘Food and Wine’ magazine in the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin.  Joining her Mother in Law Myrtle Allen who won the award several years ago, as well as many other important figures in Irish food, Darina gave a short speach reiterating the importance that all those in the room played in ensuring the next generation learn the vital life skill that is cooking. We all have a responsibility to teach our children how to cook.

Congratulations to Darina from All at Ballymaloe.

Tiffany Goodall, First Flat Cookbook

Tiffany Goodall was dragged kicking and screaming to the Ballymaloe Cookery School by her parents in September 2004. They earnestly hoped that their ‘wild child’ would enjoy a few months away from the bright lights in the middle of an organic farm in East Cork Ireland. Tiffany was appalled; it was like being dumped on another planet without a return ticket. But East Cork worked its magic and now Tiffany is a passionate foodie with an eye out for a strong farmer with a good parcel of land so she can keep chickens, a couple of pigs and grow organic vegetables. Meanwhile the beautiful blonde chef is in London doing guest appearances on TV and at Food Shows, has already written one best selling cookbook called ‘From Pasta to Pancakes’ – she’s recently moved into her first real flat.

“The transition from carefree student at college or university to becoming a professional, young earner and of course young foodie is the biggest change I have embarked on yet. Gone are the days of student loans, overdrafts, endless lie-ins and the misty morning hangover. Hello to work, earnings, busy life and responsibility. My first flat was a major milestone in my life.”

Tiffany moved into her new place last summer and it was both exciting and nerve racking. While at university she lived in a house of six girls, suddenly it was just her and another girlfriend and they could no longer ignore the council tax papers and the nasty brown envelopes with windows. .

When they first moved in, the kitchen was a disaster. Zero equipment, not even a chopping board or frying pan. So not only did they have to shop for food, but they also had to buy some basic kitchen kit. But behind every cloud there is a silver lining and that experience prompted Tiffany to write a book for others facing the same traumatic situation.

The book called ‘First Flat Cookbook’ published by Quadrille is perfect for young people with busy lives and a small budget. What equipment should you buy? What food should you get in? When you have a 9 – 5 job, how do you make time to shop or cook? Tiffany passes on her tips and you’ll find that with a bit of planning you can eat well, save money and consequently really enjoy the precious time you have at home.

There are recipes for nights you’re in on your own, and others for mid-week get-togethers. When you’re in a rush the chapter of 10-minute meals will feed you even faster than a takeaway, and then when you’ve got time to treat yourself there’s a chapter of cakes, puddings and other irresistible naughtiness. There are lazy weekend breakfast and brunch ideas, a selection of dishes to impress a hot date, and clever ideas for easy, speedy party food.

If you want to eat well you’ll need to be thrifty and savvy with your budget. Tiffany has lots of tips to help you to save money and sassy ways to use leftovers in a delicious way. The trick is not to waste anything, if you’ve got a bit of leftover chicken don’t chuck it, there are lots of delicious ways to reinvent it. Maybe add it to pasta or make a yummy chicken salad the next day, and a few leftover breakfast sausages can be transformed into a sausage stew for dinner.

First Flat Cook Book would make a terrific present and here are a few recipes to whet your appetite.

Chicken and Coconut Laksa



serves 1

Shopping List


60g (2½oz) rice noodles

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

1cm/½inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped finely

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

1 spring onion, chopped finely

1 teaspoon fish sauce

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk

200ml/7fl oz chicken or vegetable stock (optional)

1 chicken breast, cut into strips

handful of bean sprouts (optional)

handful coriander leaves

lime wedge

Place your rice noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan or wok, and when hot add your garlic, ginger, chilli and spring onion. Cook on a medium heat for 1–2 minutes. You don’t want them to colour but rather just start to smell fragrant. Add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and stir well. Reduce the heat and add the coconut milk. Follow with the chicken, allowing it to slowly poach in the coconut milk for 5–7 minutes until it is tender. Finally add the bean sprouts and cooked rice noodles. Serve sprinkled with coriander and with a wedge of lime.

My Fish in a Flash



serves 1

Get a roasting tin, chuck in some seasonal vegetables, and lay a piece of fish on top. Add a bit of garlic and a slug of oil and in 8–10 minutes you’re laughing. This recipe works wonderfully with pollack, coley or haddock. Coley is a very under-used and thus ethical choice with cod being so over-farmed.


Shopping List

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small red onion, chopped

½ teaspoon red chilli flakes

1cm/½ inch piece ginger, peeled and grated

2 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 x 300g/10½oz fillet of white fish, such as haddock, pollack or salmon

juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place the tomatoes and red onion in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the red chilli flakes. Add the ginger and garlic cloves and drizzle over the olive oil. Mix well. Now lay the fish fillet on top of the veggies, skin side down, and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemon over the top. Let the juice run through your fingers so you can catch any pips. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, and then place in the hot oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and check it’s cooked. The flesh should now be opaque. Serve with the roasted veggies. The tomatoes should be soft and bursting. I also like to eat this with a handful of baby spinach leaves and maybe a little French dressing

Tiff’s Tips

Salmon is a little bit more of a treat but its creaminess works brilliantly with these slightly sweet flavours. When you cut it through the middle after 8 minutes it’ll be just perfectly cooked. If you’re really hungry and want a more hearty supper, serve it with some penne pasta. This technique would also be ideal when cooking chicken.


Any extra roasted vegetables can do double duty for dinner the following night. Simply toss them through some cooked pasta, drizzle with olive oil, and then give it all an extra bit of bite by adding some Parmesan shavings.

Amatriciana Penne Pasta Bake



serves 2

This is a great twist on the classic Amatriciana sauce and it is a great speedy supper.

Shopping List


250g/9oz penne pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, chopped finely

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, crushed

200g/7oz pancetta cubes or bacon lardons

400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes

100g/3½oz mascarpone

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

100g/3½oz Gruyère cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the grill to hot. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the penne pasta and cook for 6–8 minutes, according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile make the amatriciana sauce. Drizzle the olive oil into a pan and when warm add the onion, chilli and garlic to soften for about 2–3 minutes. Then increase the heat and add the pancetta cubes. Fry for a couple of minutes until crispy. Now add the tomatoes and season well. Simmer for a few minutes, then stir in the mascarpone and parsley. Drain the penne and add it to the amatriciana sauce. Stir well, taste and season. Tip it all into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the grated cheese over the top. Place under the hot grill for 3–5 minutes until golden. Serve with a lovely crisp salad and dive in. Heaven.

How to Make Risotto



Mellow Pumpkin and Sage Risotto

serves 4

Risotto rice is a fantastic staple to have in your cupboard. The chances are you’ll always have some stock cubes and a splash of leftover wine – then you can just throw all sorts into your risotto, depending on what you have lurking in your fridge.

Shopping List


800ml/28fl oz chicken or vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

½ small onion, peeled and chopped finely

6–8 sage leaves, chopped finely, plus extra to garnish

300g/10½oz Arborio rice

1 glass of white wine

1 butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

sage leaves, to garnish

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the stock to the boil and then keep it at a low simmer while cooking the risotto. In a separate pan heat the oil and when warm add the garlic and onion, followed by the sage leaves. Stir and then leave to sweat until soft – this should take about 5 minutes on a low heat. Increase the heat a little and add the Arborio rice, then the white wine, if you’re using it, and keep stirring until it is absorbed. Add the cubed squash and a ladleful of stock, and stir again until absorbed. Keep doing this for about 20 minutes until the rice has expanded and is soft and creamy. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Now add the butter and Parmesan. Turn the heat off and let it sit for a couple of minutes while the cheese and butter melt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and garnished with some fresh sage leaves.

Hearty Spiced Bean Stew with Sausage



serves 4

Shopping List


4 tablespoons olive oil

6–8 sausages

1 red onion, chopped finely

3 garlic cloves, peeled, bruised but left intact

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

150g/5½oz pancetta/bacon lardons (optional)

1 bunch of thyme, rosemary or both

350g/12oz canned cannellini beans

800g/1lb 12oz canned tomatoes

1 glass red wine

1 teaspoon sugar

basil leaves, to serve

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Take a heavy frying pan and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When hot, fry the sausages for 5–8 minutes until golden brown and then set aside on a plate. Wipe the pan clean and then add a splash of the remaining olive oil. Add the red onion, garlic, and red chilli, and soften over a medium heat for 4–5 minutes. Increase the heat and then add the pancetta or bacon lardons, if you’re using them. Fry for 3–4 minutes until soft and slightly crispy. Now add the thyme and/or rosemary, cannellini beans, tomatoes, red wine and cooked sausages. Add the sugar and season well. Cover and cook for 1–2 hours on a very low heat. Just 1 hour is fine, but if you have the time 2 hours just matures and strengthens the flavours. Serve with mash or pasta, for example fusilli, gigli or even tagliatelle. Serve with some lovely basil leaves on top.




This freezes very well for up to a month or it’s lovely for lunch on a crispy oiled ciabatta half with some rocket and basil over the top. You could also blitz it, add some hot stock and make a delicious soup.

Epic Greek Lamb Burger



makes 4

I got the inspiration for these delicious burgers on a trip to a London food market – they were heaving with cumin and zingy mint. I recreated them at home and came up with this recipe. With the herbs, fresh tsatsiki and the hot halloumi to finish it’s brilliant for an easy yet innovative weeknight supper.

Shopping List


500g/1lb 2oz lamb mince

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ red onion, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped finely

2 sprigs mint, chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

125g/4½oz halloumi cheese, cut into slices

4 ciabatta rolls, opened

rocket leaves, to serve

salt and freshly ground black pepper





6 tablespoons plain yoghurt

2 tablespoons crème fraîche

cucumber, chopped finely

teaspoon cumin

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a large bowl mix together the lamb mince, cumin, coriander, red onion, garlic, rosemary, mint and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper and bind the mixture together with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Shape the lamb mixture into four burgers and put them in the fridge for 5–10 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile make the tsatsiki. Mix the yoghurt, crème fraîche, cucumber, cumin, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Season and set aside. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium heat then add the burgers. Cook for 4–5 minutes on each side. Gently fry the halloumi slices for 2 minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Now place the ciabatta rolls on a dry pan, under the grill or in a grill pan to toast for a couple of minutes on each side. Assemble your burgers. Place the rocket leaves on one half of the toasted rolls, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bung on the burger and top with delicious tsatsiki and a slice of halloumi. Put the top bun op top. Serve with a big green salad, absolutely delish!

Tiff’s Tips

When pan frying the burgers don’t try and turn them too much, as they are quite delicate until the sugars in the meat caramelise and give the burger a crust below. Then you can turn them after about 4 minutes.

Hot Tips

While making journey from Cork city to West Cork Coast via Dunmanway there is a very good little café in Ballineen – the ideal stopping point to stretch your legs and have a meal or tea and scones. Susan Fehily is very talented in the kitchen and is focused on sourcing quality local produce. Her quiches are fast becoming famous and you’ll be hard pushed to choose a dessert from the tempting list and she serves very good coffee too – well worth the stop. Located down a small lane behind Fehily’s Supermarket on Bridge Street, Ballineen (023) 8847173 or email 

 If you’re travelling from Cork to Dublin it’s well worth making a quick detour to pick up some treats from The Gallic Kitchen in Abbeyleix. Sarah Webb has a wonderful selection of cookies, tarts, cakes, pies, preserves and she also stocks Castlewood Organic Bacon, black pudding from Inch House in South Tipperary, Laois Honey

Open seven days a week 10am to 6pm. Main Street, Abbeyleix, Co Laois 0866058208




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