Let’s pretend its Summer! We’ll whip up a few delicious salads from the bounty of fresh Summer fruit and vegetables in season. Once again I am snatching a few days holidays in West Cork and am reminded of just how fortunate both locals and visitors to this area are – the quality of the produce from local farms, fishermen and markets is truly superb.

I managed to catch Bantry market on the first Friday of the month – that’s the big one – when the usual weekly market quadruples in size and spills out along several of the roads from the central square. Everything you might need or not need is available at Bantry market from fancy fowl, knick-knacks, frilly dresses and all manner of apparel both vintage and new, fresh herbs, flowers and rare plants, fishing gear, wellies, handy tools and of course artisan food. I filled up my bags and baskets and did my bit for several of the other retailers too, all of whom seemed to be doing a roaring trade on market day. West Cork markets have a very special quality which I find totally charming, slightly anarchic in the best possible way – a mixture of food, craft, and lots of surprises. Skibbereen is another example of a great little market which totally reflects the diversity of the area and the creative mix of locals and newcomers. You’ll find the eclectic collection of stalls in the Fair Field just off Bridge Street on Saturday mornings.

Schull Country Market is another brilliant example; this is tucked into the car park over looking Schull Pier and Harbour on Pier Road. Fewer stalls but an appealing mix of local food, plants and craft. It was thronged recently with regulars and holiday makers, many of whom were deeply envious and wished they could clone the market and transport it to their own area. If you are close to Baltimore on Sunday mornings, check out the market just outside Caseys Hotel close to Glebe Café and Gardens.

I didn’t manage to make it to the Clonakilty market on Thursday and I hear there is also a market in Leap on Wednesday and yet another in Roscarberry on Saturday mornings.

Scarcely enough days in the week to visit them all and certainly not enough meals to eat all the tempting produce.

Don’t forget the original and still brilliant Country Markets – Skibbereen on Fridays in Abbeystrewry Church Hall – and for details of others and

Here are some of the dishes I enjoyed from my forays around the markets.


Rory O’Connells Hot Mackerel Salad with Land Cress, Ruby Beetroot, Eggs and Horseradish Mayonnaise


Mackerel is a wonderful fish, beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. Its elegant and streamlined shape, beautiful markings and flashing silvery colouring make it a sight to behold. The most important thing, though, is the freshness of the fish. In east cork where I live near the fishing village of Ballycotton, there is an expression that goes “the sun should never set on a mackerel”. I am in the fortunate position of being able to drive the couple of miles to the village, and can buy fish from the anglers at the pier, before the sun sets. Straight home with them then and into the pan. Regardless of your closeness to the source of the fish, do try to ensure you are bringing home a really fresh fish.

Mackerel responds very well to many different cooking techniques. It can be poached, baked, roasted, pan fried, or as in this case grilled. I also like to souse and pickle it. Mackerel is one of the busiest fish in the sea and is constantly moving through the water and feeding. Its athletic lifestyle is fuelled by the omega oil that it stores in its body and which is regarded as highly beneficial for us all. So how can you go wrong with a fish that looks that good, tastes that great and is cheering our bodies up as well, and not forgetting that is still great value for money.

Beetroot and horseradish are obvious combinations with this oily fish and the eggs add a little richness. If you can’t kind the peppery land cress that I suggest here, replace it with watercress, rocket leaves or a few organic or wild greens.

This salad can be served as a starter or a main course. Here I am giving quantities for serving as a main course so just reduce the quantities accordingly for serving as a starter.

Serves 4

4 mackerel, filleted

4 ruby beetroot, gently washed and leaves trimmed

pinch of salt and sugar

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon more for cooking the fish

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seasoned flour

4 handfuls of land cress, washed and dried

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 organic eggs, hardboiled, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons horseradish mayonnaise (see recipe)


2 tablespoons chopped chives

Place the beetroot in a saucepan they fit snugly into. Season with a good pinch of salt and sugar. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the beetroot are cooked. The length of cooking time of the beets is determined by the size, age and freshness of the vegetable. They will take a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two hours to cook. Any that take longer than that to cook tend to be either too big or too old and can be woody and faded when peeled. If the water evaporates during the cooking, top it up with fresh water. Check to see if the beetroot are cooked by lifting one out of the saucepan and rubbing the skin. If the skin rubs off with no resistance, they are cooked. If not, replace in the saucepan and cook for longer. When cooked, remove and allow to cool slightly. I like to dress them while still warm. Mix the olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Peel the beetroot and slice in 1cm (1/2 inch) slices or cut into sections. Toss in the dressing, taste and correct seasoning.

Heat a heavy frying pan until hot but not quite smoking and glaze the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil. Dip the mackerel fillets in seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Place the fish, skin side down in the hot oil and cook until a rich golden colour is achieved. Turn and cook on the other side.

While the fish are cooking, divide the greens between four, large hot plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the beetroot and their dressing on the greens and then divide the egg quarters between the plates. Drizzle each plate with a dessertspoon of horseradish mayonnaise, particularly over the eggs and the beetroot. Place the cooked fish, straight from the pan on top of the salads. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.


Horseradish Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

1/4 pint (150ml) sunflower oil or light olive oil or a mixture

1 heaped tablespoon of finely, grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon of chopped parsley and tarragon

Put the egg yolks, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk well and add the oil gradually, whisking all the time. The sauce will emulsify quite easily. Add the horseradish and chopped herbs. Taste and correct seasoning. It is unlikely to need salt because of the large quantity of mustard.

Chill until needed.


Skye Gyngell’s Crab Salad with Nam Jim and Mixed Cress

I found some really delicious cooked crab meat in Fields Supervalu in Skibbereen so I could make this delicious salad – we love Sky Gyngell’s food at Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond – this comes from her book “A Year in my Kitchen”

Serves 4

500g (1lb 2oz) freshly prepared white crab meat

Handful of mixed cress or wild rocket

1 large, mild red chilli, finely sliced (optional)

Nam Jim

2 garlic cloves, peeled

bunch of coriander, roots and stems only, washed

Sea salt

1 green bird’s eye chilli, chopped

2 tablespoons palm sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

2 red shallots, peeled and finely chopped

To Serve

lime wedges

First make the nam jim (as close to serving as possible). Using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic and coriander roots and stems with a pinch of salt until well crushed. Add the chilli and continue to pound. Mix in the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, then stir in the chopped shallots. Before serving, taste and adjust the flavours as necessary, perhaps adding a little more salt or lime juice.

Dress the crab with about 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of nam jim – enough to give it a clean, clear, sweet, hot flavour, but not too much otherwise you will overpower the delicate taste of the crab. Scatter the mixed cress through, along with the red chilli for an extra kick if required. Serve with lime wedges on the side.


Nectarine, Proscuitto, Irish Mozarella and Mint Salad

I picked up some Irish Buffalo Mozarella and Ricotta from the Real Olive Stall at the Bantry Market and made this salad.


Serves 6

4 ripe nectarines or peaches

Rocket leaves – enough for 6 plates

12 slices of prosciutto or Serrano ham

3 fresh Irish Buffalo Mozarella

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 30 spearmint leaves

extra virgin olive oil

Halve the ripe nectarines, remove the stones. Slice each nectarine or peach into 3 pieces. Scatter a few rocket leaves on each plate. Put 3 pieces of fruit on each plate. Tear the mozzarella and tuck it in here and there. Season with flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Scatter with torn mint leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.


Ricotta with a Compote of Apricots and Sweet Geranium Leaves


Serves 6

2 balls of fresh Irish Ricotta

450g (1lb) fresh apricots

225g (8ozs) sugar

250ml (8 fl ozs) cold water

4-6 large rose geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens) if you can’t find rose geranium, lemon verbena, spearmint or lemon balm are delicious alternatives.

Put the sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan with the sugar and water, bring slowly to the boil. Meanwhile, slice the apricots in half and remove the stones.


Add the halved apricots to boiling water cover the saucepan and simmer until the apricots are soft. Turn into a bowl and chill.

To Serve

Spoon a portion of fresh Irish Ricotta onto each individual plate. Serve with a few poached apricots and some juice, garnish with a sweet geranium leaf and some softly whipped cream

Telephone Toby Simmonds 021 4270842 for details of your nearest stockist of Irish Mozzarella.


Garden Workshop: Summer Pruning at Ballymaloe Cookery School

on Monday 15th August at 9.00 am – 2.00pm. The Fruit Garden at the Ballymaloe Cookery School is bursting with lush juicy fruit – peaches, plums, apples and pears. Susan Turner who was head gardener at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for many years is teaching a half day course on pruning fan trained peaches, plums and cherries as well as training apples and pears in cordons, espaliers and step overs…..This course is ideal for those who want to develop their fruit garden both in a functional and decorative capacity…….Limited places available…€95 Light lunch included. Booking Essential 021 4646785

West Cork Garlic – I met Axel and Mary Miret at the Skibbereen Farmers Market, they grow five or six different varieties of French garlic near Enniskeen – Albigensian, Solent, Picardy and Lautrec…a welcome home-grown alternative to the Chinese garlic flooding the country – 023 8847302.

If you are looking for rare plants and unusual herbs seek out Doris and Achim Hoffmann from Peppermint Farm – they sell beautiful healthy plants at several West Cork Farmers Markets. Telephone – 028-31869 or

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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