ArchiveSeptember 2011

The Thrifty Forager – Alys Fowler

Alys Fowler dedicated her book The Thrifty Forager “to my mother – thank you for teaching me to eat my weeds” – how cool is that!

It’s a terrific book; Alys’s mum taught her how to forage when she was just a tot, the first thing she distinctly remembers is sucking nectar from clover flowers.

Foraging, or searching for food ‘in the wild’ brings out the latent hunter-gatherer that exists deep in many of our physic. Nowadays it’s as likely to be in towns and cities as in the country side.

Ever since I was a child when I picked watercress from the edge of the stream by the Chapel Meadows, I have always loved foraging, except we didn’t call it that back then. Throughout the year we had little expeditions, to find wild strawberries down the bog lane, bilberry or fraughans on Cullohill mountains around Lunaghsa (the first week of August.) Later there were damsons around the old castle and wild hazelnuts, rowans and elderberries in the hedgerows.

Where others see weeds or nothing at all I can see dinner, not just fruit, berries and nuts. There are all those greens and leaves that feed and nourish and heal.

Early in the year, young hawthorn leaves are known to be excellent for your cardiovascular system. Young nettles have long been incorporated into our diet, their value as a blood cleanser is well known and the knowledge has been passed from generation to generation. Chickweed, sorrel, ground elder, sweet woodruff, bittercress, garlic mustard, oraches, daisy, borage, shepherds purse, ladies smock, mallow, ransomes and on and on.

Fowler writes “It’s true; I’ve been less than truthful to my husband for the last couple of years about where our dinners have come from. I can see his point, it is a little weird to go out and forage when there’s a supermarket at the bottom of our road. But I gain so much pleasure from foraging; every leaf, seed and berry that I pick somehow seems to connect me both to my past and my future. I think about what my mother has taught me about the outdoors. I think of the many women over the millennia that have done this.”

Flowers are also edible – violets, pansies, roses (wild and old varieties are best, avoid heavily sprayed flowers from the florists) daisies, clover, field poppy, dandelion, day lily, mallow, marigolds, nasturtiums and many many more.

Guess what, as local has become the sexiest word in food and not only over here but also in the United States and Australia where local is more valued and evocative than organic, foraging has now become so hip you can’t imagine, if you happen to wander through a park in London on a week-end you’re bound to encounter lots of foragers with bags and baskets eagerly gathering weeds, berries, fruit plants and leaves, depending on the season. And not just in the parks, there are also rich pickings on common areas, railway embankments, playing fields, along the seashore…

Once you start to think foraging you’ll see the bounty of nature in a new light when you go for a walk you’ll see delicious pickings to incorporate into your menu, even more importantly many wild foods are as nature intended and their full compliment of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to supplement what can nowadays be a diet of seriously denatured food.

So if you’d like to join the new movement, arm yourself with a good book – my Forgotten Skills book has an extensive chapter on foraging – but I totally love Alys Fowlers The Thrifty Forager published by Kyle Books and even though I reckon to be an old hand, I have discovered many new finds which I can’t wait to taste.

Birgit’s Stone Soup

Stone soup comes from an old folk story found in many parts of the world about making something out of nothing. Birgit is quite used to me turning up at her house with a handful of this or that and staying long enough for them to be whipped into something nourishing for lunch. Her version of the soup is excellent for instant positive results after foraging, and ideal when coming back cold from a long foraging walk. This is a warming soup that takes just 30 minutes from bag to bowl.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main course

2 medium onions

Garlic (2 cloves or more to taste)

3 big potatoes

2 big handfuls of mixed foraged herbs: stinging nettles, wild garlic, chickweed, lemon balm, sow thistles,

ground elder, bladder campion, three-cornered leeks, herb bennet leaves, sorrel, dandelions, dead nettles, mallows (though these make for a mucilaginous soup if you include too many), fat hen, oraches or borage.

Or just a single green, such as sorrel or stinging nettles

Butter or good frying oil, such as rapeseed oil

Good-quality vegetable stock cube or powder

Good-quality salt (such as Himalayan rock salt or sea salt) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bread of your choice, to serve

Chop the onions and garlic finely.

Peel and chop the potatoes into fairly small cubes.

Roughly chop the herbs.

Heat the fat in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and stir until they start to glaze, then add the garlic and fry until just golden. Add the potatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to stop them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cover with boiling water, add a little vegetable stock (cube or powder) and cook for a further 7–10 minutes. Add the roughly chopped herbs and cook until just tender (say another 4 minutes) – do not overboil the herbs or they’ll lose their goodness. Season to taste. Serve with chunky bread.

If you prefer a smooth-textured soup, whizz it through a blender. This will also fuse the flavours together, particularly if you’ve used a lot of bitter herbs, and make it more palatable to those who may be a little wary of wild things.




Roast Rack of Spring Lamb with Membrillo




Serves 4-6




Many butchers will prepare a rack of lamb for you.




2 racks of lamb (6 cutlets each)


salt and freshly ground pepper






Membrillo (see recipe)






sprigs of fresh mint




Prepare the racks of lamb as in diagram.




Score the fat. Refrigerate until needed.




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




Sprinkle the racks of lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast fat side upwards for 25-30 minutes depending on the age of lamb and degree of doneness required. When cooked, remove lamb to a warm serving dish. Turn off the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re distribute evenly through the meat.




Carve the lamb and serve 2-3 cutlets per person depending on size. Serve with membrillo.






Alys Fowler’s Membrillo


Quinces or flowering quinces, japonica




1 vanilla pod, split


Lemon juice and rind of 1 lemon,


cut into strips


Granulated sugar


Wash the quinces well, as they have a sticky coating that attracts all sorts of dirt, then chop them into quarters and remove all their pips – like many other rose family plants, the seeds contain nitrites that are converted into hydrogen cyanide in your stomach. Too many seeds can be toxic and result in death.


Place fruit in a large pan, adding just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer until tender. This takes 20–30 minutes.


Strain the juice overnight to use for jelly (see opposite) and put the remaining pulp through a sieve or mouli, then add the vanilla, lemon juice, rind and sugar (the same weight of sugar as pulp). Return the pan to the heat and bring slowly to a boil, stirring constantly so that the sugar melts. Bring this to a rapid boil until it reaches setting point, when the paste will feel thick and scrape clean away from the sides of the pan. This takes between 30–45 minutes. Then take the pan off the heat and pour the paste onto greaseproof paper on baking trays to air-dry. If you have a dehydrator, use it at this stage.


The paste should be about 2cm thick. After several days, it should be slightly shiny and sticky to touch, but not moist. Wrap the paste in greaseproof paper and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last many months kept like this.


Perrine Puyberthier’s Plum Tarte


For the pastry


300g (10 ½ oz) flour


150g (5oz) butter


50g (2oz) caster sugar


2 egg yolks


1 glass of milk


Mix the flour with the butter and sugar until it becomes sandy textured. Add the egg yolks and milk and mix together into a ball. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge to stand for 1 hour. After an hour roll out the pastry to fit a 23cm (9in) tart case. Line the pastry with baking powder and baking beans or dried pulses and bake blind at 180ºC/gas mark 4 until it turns pale brown.


Let it cool. (obviously get rid of the paper and beans first!)


Meanwhile prepare the crème patissiere:


500ml (18floz) milk


1 vanilla pod


100g (3 ½ oz) caster sugar


2 egg yolks


50g (2oz) cornflour


Heat the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod. Do not let it boil.


In a bowl, mix the sugar with the two yolks until it becomes smooth and shiny.


Add the cornflour and stir well.


Take the hot milk off the stove and remove the vanilla pod.


Put it back on a low heat and add the sugary egg mixture, stirring constantly. It usually takes about 15 minutes for the crème to cook. It should become stiff and come away from the sides of the pan, but it can take a little longer.


The plum filling


1kg (approx 2lb) plums


Wash the plums, halve them and take out the stones. Spread the crème patissiere on the pastry and cover neatly with the plums. You can spread a layer of plum jam between the crème and the plums to add a touch of sweetness. The greatest joy about this tarte was its delicious tartness.


Bake the tart at 180ºC/gas mark 4 for 15 to 20 minutes – the plums will become soft and slightly caramelised.


Alys Fowler’s Rose Petal Jam


250g (9oz) rose petals (that’s roughly a quarter of a standard carrier bag of petals). I mix pink dog rose with a creamy yellow, highly scented rose from my garden.


1.1 litres (2 pints) water


Juice of 2 lemons


450g (1lb) granulated sugar


The petals may have a few bugs on them, so gently shake them free of any intruders, place in a bowl, add half the sugar and leave for several hours or overnight. This infuses the rose flavour into the sugar and darkens the petals.


In a heavy-based pan, add the water, lemon juice and remaining sugar, then gently heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the rose petals and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rose petals look as if they are melting and have softened – pull a few out and chew if necessary, they should melt in your mouth but have a slight bite. Turn the heat up and bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes or until setting point is reached. Remove any scum that may have risen to the top and allow to cool slightly, stirring gently so that the petals are evenly distributed. Cover and bottle as usual.


Alys Fowler’s Rose Petal Vinegar


Fill a bottle or jar with rose petals, then add very good-quality white vine vinegar and seal with a cork. If you use deep pink petals, the vinegar will go a lovely colour. Keep out of direct sunlight and the vinegar will be ready after two months.


Alys Fowler’s Raspberry Vodka


A bottle of vodka


As many raspberries as you can pick


A tablespoon of sugar (white or light brown so as not to colour the vodka)


Drink a little neat vodka so that there is space in the bottle to fill with wild raspberries. Add the sugar, but do not shake, as this will destroy all the raspberries. Instead, keep the bottle on its side or at an angle and turn every few days till the sugar is dissolved. After a couple of months, strain the contents and store in suitable bottles. This is a subtle flavour with none of the chemical taste of commercial raspberry vodkas and needs to be treated accordingly in cocktails. It is particularly good with soda water and lime.


Hot Tips


A feast of Irish food from artisan producers matched with award winning wines at O’Connell’s in Donnybrook is on Tuesday, 27th September 2011 from 7.00pm.


Donal O’Sullivan, Shellfish de la Mer, West Cork. Bill Casey, Organic Smoked Salmon, East Cork. Alan Pierce, Gold River Farm, Co Wicklow, Mary O’Regan, Organic Chicken, Co Wexford, Irish Hereford Prime Society and Gubbeen Chorizo, Salamis and Cheeses will be matched with wines from Bodegas Valdemar

from the Rioja Region in Spain. To book phone 01 2696116

Darina Allen


cookery demonstration at The Irish Seed Savers Apple Weekend on Sunday 25th September the Apple Weekend starts on Saturday 24th September at 12 noon at Capparoe Scarriff, Co Clare. Park at Scarriff National School and take the free shuttle bus to the Irish Seed Savers site. For more information 061 921866 –

Debbie Shaw (Naturopathic Nutritionist)is back on Saturday 1st October 2011 to teach Feel Good Food for Winter – a day course from 9:30am to 5:00pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School – learn how to make really delicious healthy recipes for energy, vitality and optimal health. 021 4646785.

Heirloom Potato Event with Shanagarry GIY Group

Shanagarry GIY Group
Monthly Meeting at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Heirloom Potato Event

Lissadell Estate in Co Sligo has the largest private collection of potatoes in Ireland. Dermot Carey and David Langford will give a talk on the collection from the Victoria Walled Garden on Lissadell Estate at Ballymaloe Cookery School. They will show us over 60 distinct varieties they have saved.

Tuesday 27th September, 2011 at 7:00pm
All Welcome – Admission Free
Contact 021 4646785

Nana’s Favourite Recipes

We had a terrific day last Saturday, the winners of the Slow Food Grandmothers Day Examiner Competition arrived to enjoy their prize – a day at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Gardens –  six grandchildren, four grannies and a couple of mums.

They had sent in their favourite recipes that Gran or Nana cooked. We had a lovely response and the usual challenge to choose the winners. We did well.

First we had a cookery demonstration where we shared a few simple recipes and examples of deep pan soda bread pizza with tomato, chorizo and bubbly cheese. Then everyone donned their aprons and went into the kitchen where grannies taught their precious little grandchildren how to cook their favourite recipe – passing on the skills from one generation to the other in the time honoured way and nurturing the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

Maeve Falvey had chosen her Nana’s beef and carrot pie. Maeve’s beloved Nana has passed away so she came with her mum who explained which cut of beef to buy and how to cut and prepare the vegetables. Her mum reminded her, “don’t forget to season and do it with your fingers and not a spoon”

Then we all gathered around to watch how Maeve and her mum made them, folded and rolled the rough puff pastry to achieve a flaky texture. Maeve covered the pie with pastry, tucked in the edges, brushed it with egg wash and popped it into the oven. Meanwhile Gillian McCarthy from Dungarvan was making a porter cake, a traditional favourite. Her Nan Peg McCarthy showed her first how to line the cake tin, then they creamed the butter and sugar and folded in the fruit and flour carefully before baking in a round tin.

Close by Siofra and Sadhbh Mcelhinney were plumping up the fruit to make theirNan’s favourite Cider Cake. This versatile cake is used for birthdays, christenings, weddings, Easter and Christmas in the McElhinney household. It makes a moist and delicious cake which keeps brilliantly for several weeks in a tin if you can manage to hide it.

Clodagh Tanner’s Granny Noni has a terrific recipe for Biscuit cakes. This little gem makes about 48 discs which she sandwiches together with homemade raspberry jam. Then they made a white glace icing for the top. We rooted out some hundreds and thousands to sprinkle over the icing for the finishing touch.

Megan Lawton came with her mother and made some delicious raspberry jam and mummy’s sweet white scones. Megan won first prize in the local schools Slow Food Grandmother’s Poetry Competition. While the cakes and pies were in the oven, the cooks of all ages made scones and pizza, homemade lemonade and raspberry jam.

Eventually we sat down to enjoy lunch together and what a feast it was. Afterwards we had a walk through the garden, farm and greenhouse and saw the pigs, chickens and the Jerseycows. We tasted tomatoes and cucumbers straight from the vine and marvelled at the flavour. It was a wonderful day and I greatly enjoyed chatting to the spirited grannies and their much loved grandchildren. Look out for Slow Food International Grandmothers Day in April 2012 –


Nan Peg’s Meat Pie


This is so delicious and really easy and filling – a perfect family dish.

Serves 6 – 8


10 ozs (275 g) plain flour

6 ozs (175 g) butter

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 pint (500 ml) beef stock

2 lbs (900 g) round steak

Salt and pepper


Oven proof dish 12 x 9 inches (30.5cm x 23 cm)


Preheat the oven 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6


Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt and pepper. Cut the butter into cubes and mix into the flour. Don’t over mix just enough so that you can still see the butter cubes. Add 1 mug of water to the flour and butter mix and knead lightly. Wrap pastry in cling film and put into fridge for 15 minutes.

Cut steak into cubes and roll in seasoned flour then put them into the oven proof dish. Put the chopped onions and carrots over the meat. Pour the beef stock over the meat and vegetables, not above the level of the meat. Take out the pastry and then roll in out to fit the dish, then lay it over the meat and have some pastry left over so that you can roll it and put around the side. Put into the preheated oven and after 10 minutes take it out and cover with tin foil, reduce the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4  and cook for approximately 1 hour. Take the meat pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil, put back into the oven for approximately 10 minutes to brown.




Nana Noni’s Biscuit Cake


14½ ozs (410 g) plain flour

1½ oz (35 g) corn flour

8 ozs (225 g) butter

1 egg, preferably free range

3 ozs (75 g) castor sugar

3 tablespoons milk


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

Put the castor sugar, butter, flour and cornflour into a bowl and crumb them together. Add the egg and milk. Roll out and cut into shapes.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. When cool sandwich together with raspberry jam, ice the top and cover with sprinkles



Nana Peg McCarthy’s Porter Cake


1 lb 8 ozs (675 g) flour

1 tsp bread soda

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp cake spice

8 ozs (225 g) butter

8 ozs (225 g) brown sugar

1 lb (450 g) fruit – raisins, sultanas, mixed peel and cherries

3 eggs, preferably free range

1 small bottle stout


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


9in x 3in round tin


Sieve the flour, bread soda and spices together. Rub in the butter and add the brown sugar and fruit, some cherries and mixed peel as desired. Mix the eggs together with the stout; you may not need all the stout so keep some back. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, mix together well and put into the tin. Bake for about 1 ½ hours or hours in the oven or until a skewer comes out clean, cool in the tin. Nanny’s porter cake is always served with plenty of butter.



Granny McElhinney’s Cider Cake


1½ lbs (900 g) mixed dried fruit

1 heaped tsp mixed spice

500 ml(18 fl ozs) cider

Finely grated rind of 1 orange

1 rounded tsp baking powder

8 ozs (225 g) soft brown sugar

4 ozs (100 g) cherries, halved

4 ozs (100 g) mixed peel

4 eggs, preferably free range

8 ozs (225 g) butter

1 lb (450 g) plain flour

Pinch salt


9in x 2.5in pop-up tin


Put the dried fruit in a saucepan and cover with the cider. Over a gentle heat, bring slowly to just below boiling point and leave for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (to allow the fruit to absorb the cider). Remove from the heat, then leave to cool or leave overnight.


Preheat the oven 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3. Grease and line a 9 inch (23 cm) round or 8 inch (20.5 cm) square deep tin.

Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder and mixed spice into a bowl. Rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar, mixed peel, cherries and orange rind. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and set aside.

When the fruit is cold, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the beaten eggs and fruit. Stir well.

Place mixture in the prepared tin and level the top with the back of a wet spoon. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, then reduce the temperature to 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2 and cook for a further 90 minutes approximately. Leave the cake in the tin to cool.
Note: This cake will improve in flavour if left for a few days before cutting. It also freezes well







Hot Tips


Budding chefs will want to know that Chef Factor is back with the most sought after cookery prize in Ireland, a place on the 12 Week Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School including accommodation. Cully and Sully say ‘You don’t have to be a whizz in the kitchen, this is about the opportunity to become one!’ Enter online


Autumn Gardening Seminar ‘Dermot’s Secret Garden’ will be presented by RTE broadcaster and author Dermot O’Neill and Brian Cross at Fota House on Saturday 24th September from 9am to 4pm. Tickets are €60.00 including lunch –


Ella McSweeney (Ear to the Ground RTE) has been working on a brilliant online project to link people to Irish farmers who sell direct. It’s a not-for-profit website called Your Field My Fork – it’s free for farmers to use – all they need to do is list the food they rear or grow themselves


Karen Austin from Lettercollum has some exciting autumn cookery courses lined up, visit to see her schedule or call into the shop, Lettercollum Kitchen Project 22, Connolly Street, Clonakilty or email


Grow it Yourself

Did we ever think we would hear a discussion on the RTE airwaves about people choosing to go hungry rather than default on their mortgage for fear of loosing their house – the reality has stunned the Irish nation.

One can just imagine how paralysed with fear many must be by the situation they find themselves in. The problem is further exacerbated when people can’t cook or have few practical life skills.

Many nutritious ingredients are inexpensive but one needs to know how to turn them into a delicious nourishing meal.

For those who have a little land, a front or back garden can produce a prodigious amount of food. Beautiful flower beds and a manicured lawn and are all very well, but a well tended vegetable patch will nourish the family and can also be a thing of beauty. A few edible flowers like nasturtiums and marigolds scattered around add colour and are also very high in antioxidants. Even a few pots on a balcony or in a paved or concrete yard can produce a surprising quantity of salad, fresh herbs, spinach, chard… It’s a bit late this year to plant most things but one can still plant winter lettuces, spring cabbages. Autumn onion sets and winter garlic will be soon available, you can even sow broad beans as late as November.

Everyone should have a few hens! Even though the number of households who now have a chicken coop has increased dramatically, many people are still unaware how easy it is to keep a few hens and the enormous rewards for so little effort, it’s win win all the way.

You need to move the chicken-coop around the lawn every couple of days and four or five hens will provide enough eggs for most families. The leftover household scraps supplemented with a little meal can be fed to the hens on a daily basis. Your reward will be beautiful fresh eggs plus you can save money by not having to pay your local council to dispose of the food waste.

The hen manure activates compost and the well rotted result can be dug into the vegetable patch to make the soil more fertile to produce healthy nourishing vegetables for the family.

GIY (Grow it Yourself) Ireland is a brilliant grass roots organisation where members help and support each other in their efforts to learn how to grow vegetables. There are branches in many Irish towns, villages and urban areas, see

Members meet regularly, swap and share seeds, plants, surplus vegetables and fruit and are often happy to come and get you started if you don’t know where to begin.

Those of you who are desperate to learn how to cook, you are unlikely to learn practical skills from the celebrity chefs, what is needed are simple dishes that fill and nourish the family. Look out for cooking classes in your local vocational school the new term has started already.

Let those of us who are fortunate enough to have learned the skills of gardening, cooking and foraging pass on the skills at every opportunity to our neighbours, friends and the young people around us.

There are loads of blackberries dripping off the bushes all over the country. There’s a terrific apple crop this year, lets share if we have a surplus and look out for a crab apple tree, and they make a fantastic jelly that will delight your family and friends. Here are a few simple recipes.

Carrot and Cumin Soup

Carrots are inexpensive and nutritious and help you to see in the dark so you save on your electricity bill!

Serves 6 approximately


A little freshly toasted and ground cumin adds a Moroccan flavour to carrot soup. If you prefer a plain soup then leave the cumin out.


2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

45g (1 3/4oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

560g (11/4lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

1.1l (2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

150ml (1/4 pint) creamy milk, (optional)


a little whipped cream or yoghurt

freshly ground cumin

coriander leaves 

Heat the cumin seed on a frying pan, just for a minute or two until it smells rich and spicy. Grind in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan, when it foams add the chopped vegetables and cumin seed. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and toss until coated. Cover with a butter paper and a tight fitting lid. Allow to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened slightly. Remove the lid. Add the boiling stock, increase the heat and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour into a liquidiser add and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

Garnish with a blob of whipped cream, natural yoghurt, crème frâiche or sprinkle with a little ground cumin and coriander leaf.

Note : If you would like a more pronounced cumin flavour, increase the amount of cumin seeds to three teaspoons.


A delicious way to use up stale bread.

Croutons can be made several hours or even a day ahead with oil flavoured by sprigs of rosemary, thyme or onion. Cut into cubes or stamp out into various shapes – hearts, stars, clubs, diamonds or whatever else takes your fancy – and sprinkle over salads or serve with soups. Serves 4

2 slices of slightly stale white bread, 5mm (1⁄4in) thick

sunflower or olive oil

First cut the crusts off the bread, then cut into 5mm (1⁄4in) strips and finally exact cubes.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. It should be at least 2cm (3⁄4in) deep and almost smoking. Put a tin sieve over a Pyrex or stainless-steel bowl.

Add the croutons to the hot oil. Stir once or twice; they will colour almost immediately. When the croutons are golden brown in colour, pour the oil and croutons into the sieve and drain on kitchen paper. Reheat the oil to cook another batch or use for another purpose.

Gratin of Potato, Spring Onion and Bacon

Potatoes are filling and inexpensive.

Potato gratins are a tasty, nourishing and economical way to feed lots of hungry people on a chilly evening, this recipe could also include little pieces of bacon or a lamb chop cut into dice, so it can be a sustaining main course or a delicious accompaniment.

Serves 4 as a main course

Serves 6 as an accompaniment

4oz (110g) to 8oz (225g) of streaky bacon

3 lbs (1.5kg) ‘old’ potatoes, eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

2 bunches of spring onions

1 oz (25g) butter

3-6 ozs (75-175g) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground pepper

 (300-450ml) homemade chicken, beef or vegetable stock

Oval ovenproof gratin dish – 12 1/2 inch (31.5cm) long x 2 inch (5cm) high

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

Heat a little oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook on medium heat until the fat runs and the bacon is crispy.

Slice the peeled potatoes thinly, blanch and refresh. Trim the spring onions and chop both the green and white parts into approx. 1/4 inch (5mm) slices with a scissors or a knife.

Rub an oven proof dish thickly with half the butter, scatter with some of the spring onions, and half the bacon then a layer of potatoes and then some grated cheese. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Continue to build up the layers finishing with an overlapping layer of potatoes, neatly arranged. Pour in the boiling stock, scatter with the remaining cheese and dot with butter.

Bake in a preheated oven for 1-1 1/4 hours or until the potatoes and bacon are tender and the top is brown and crispy.



It may be necessary to cover the potatoes with a paper lid for the first half of the cooking.

Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Crumble


Serves 6-8

Crumbles are comfort food; vary the fruit according to the season.

1 1/2 lbs (675g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

4oz (110g) blackberries

1 1/2-2 ozs (45-50g) sugar

1-2 tablespoons water

2 chopped sweet geranium leaves (pelargonium graveolens)


4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached

2 ozs (50g) cold butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

1 oz (25g) chopped almonds or hazelnuts (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)


2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish


Peel the apples, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into large cubes.

Turn into a pie dish, scatter the blackberries and chopped sweet geranium leaves over the top. Sprinkle with sugar.


Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar and cinnamon and chopped nuts if using. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar.

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

This makes lots and will see you through the winter – also a handy and welcome present.

Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)

2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples

2.7L (4 3/4 pints) water

2 unwaxed lemons


Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 3/4 hour.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb/2 cups) sugar to each 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven.

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately.


Hot Tips

National Organic Week is on from Monday 12th to Sunday 18th September. for events and try to link into your local organic farmer to buy direct.

For brilliant chemical free vegetables, seek out Caroline Robinson’s stall on the Coal Quay Farmers Market in Cork every Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm.

Learn how to make your own cheese –

on Corleggy Farm in Belturbet, Co Cavan, with Silke Cropp on a one day cheese making course on Sunday 18th September and take home your very own kilo of cows milk cheese. €150.00 for the full day including lunch, to book email

Calling all pub owners!

If you’d like to learn some really great gastropub cooking don’t miss Jonathan Jones who owns the hugely successful Anchor and Hope pub in London. He will teach a practical two and half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School from Monday 12th to Wednesday 15th September. Book online at or phone 021 4646785.

The School of Restaurant and Kitchen Management

Pub Food Management course is 12 days spread out over September, October and November –giving participants the opportunity to put into practice what they learn as the course progresses – the first day is on Tuesday 13th September visit


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