ArchiveNovember 2012

Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette’s Spice Trip

Yippee, another book from Stevie Parle, one of the New Young Voices in food who is now really going into orbit – a couple of years ago I wrote about Stevie’s first book, Real Food from Near and Far and restaurant Dock Kitchen in Ladbroke Grove in West London. Stevie has achieved huge critical acclaim for his creative yet unpretentious and exceptionally delicious food cooking. He was chosen as Observer Young chef of the year in 2010 and writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph.

In just over two years, Stevie has written three books. In his latest book – Spice Trip The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting – he has linked up with Emma Grazette to document their incredible journey to all corners of the world to discover the secrets of six essential everyday spices.  For nutmeg and mace they went all the way toGrenada, next it was cloves inZanzibar, cumin inTurkey, cinnamon inIndia, beautiful black pepper inCambodiaand for chillies where else butMexico. As well as exploring the culinary uses of each spice, Emma also reveals their therapeutic value through the secrets she discovered from the remarkable people she met on her journey. The photographs are just gorgeous, rich, and evocative and enough to truly whet your appetite and spike the curiosity of even the most determined meat and two veg fan.

This book accompanies Stevie and Emma’s first TV series Spice Trip on More 4 on November 25th 2012.


Stevie Parle’s Swiss Chard with Cinnamon, Pine Nuts, Raisins and Vinegar


This is a great side dish, particularly with simply roasted chicken. Don’t worry if you can only find Swiss chard with fine stalks or no stalks at all, as it’s just as good. You can use spinach instead of chard.

1kg (2 ¼ lb) Swiss or rainbow chard, leaves stripped from stalk and stalk cut into1cm (1/4 in strips)

25g (1oz) butter

olive oil for frying

1 shallot, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

50g (2oz) pine nuts

6cm (2 ½ inch) cinnamon stick

a pinch of saffron threads soaked in boiling water

50g raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the chard leaves until soft, about 1 minute, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and lay them out on kitchen paper to drain and cool. In the same pan, boil the stalks until soft, about 10 minutes, then drain.

In a heavy based pan melt the butter with a splash of olive oil and gently fry the shallot with a pinch of salt over a low heat until soft and sweet, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, pine nuts and the cinnamon stick and continue to fry, stirring occasionally for five minutes, add the saffron water and raisins for the final minute.

Roughly chop the chard leaves and add to the pan, along with the stalks, Give it a good mix, season well and serve.


Musa’s Cumin Köfte with Melon and Tomato Salad


Serves 4 – 6


Köfte are Turkish meatballs, Musa Dugdeviren at the Ciya restaurant in Instanbul taught me how to make his köfte. He always cuts the meat by hand (I used the biggest knife I’ve ever seen, though he wasn’t too impressed with my knife skills) Of course you can use minced meat, as I’ve done here – you won’t quite get the crumbly texture of Musa’s köfte  but they will still taste great. It’s important to get enough fat in the mixture – as when making sausages or burgers – to keep the patties moist and tasty. I always use the beef fat as it’s not as greasy as lamb fat. I like to serve these with melon, tomato, chilli and feta salad.


For the Köfte


1 small red onion finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

a handful of parsley leaves finely chopped

a pinch of ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground allspice

a pinch of chilli flakes

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

250g (9oz) lamb mince

olive oil for frying

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the Salad

1kg (2 ¼ lb) watermelon or other small melon, such as cantaloupe or galia cut into large chunks

2 tomatoes cut into large chunks

100g (3 ½ oz) feta

A handful of mint leaves

1 chilli finely chopped

olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place all the köfte ingredients, except for the oil in a large bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Mix everything with your hands until the mixture is just combined but try not to over mix. With slightly wet hands, shape the meat into patties about 4cm (1 ½ inch) in diameter and press a finger in the middle of each patty to make an indentation.

To make the salad place the melon and tomatoes in a bowl and season. Break up the feta, tear in the mint, and sprinkle in the chilli. Drizzle generously with oil and squeeze the lemon juice over the salad. Toss very gently for a few seconds and then leave to sit while you cook the köfte.

Heat up a large pan with a good glug of oil. When the oil is hot, fry the köfte for 2 minutes on each side until golden and just cooked through. Serve with the salad.


Stevie Parle’s Cauliflower and Potato Curry


Serves 3


This is a brilliant dish to know as it’s incredibly cheap and immensely satisfying. It’s one I like to teach to people going off to ‘uni’ as it’s a great healthy staple. It also makes a terrific side dish for grilled meat or fish.

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

olive oil for frying

1 red onion, sliced

2 tablespoon cumin seeds

1 x 5cm (2 inch) piece ginger peeled and finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon chilli powder

1 cauliflower, broken into large florets and leaves roughly chopped

A small bunch of coriander, leaves picked

3 tablespoons Greek Style yoghurt

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the potatoes to the boil in a pan of salted water and cook until tender. Drain and leave to cool.

Heat a little oil in a large, heavy based pan (with a lid) and gently fry the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the cumin seeds. When they begin to crackle, add the ginger, ground coriander, turmeric and chilli, Stir for 1 minutes, adding a little extra oil if it begins to stick.

Add the cauliflower, followed by 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) water and good pinch of salt. Place the lid on the pan and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is just done. Stir in the potatoes and coriander and finish by swirling in the yoghurt. Taste for seasoning and serve.


Stevie Parle’s Turkish Pizza


Makes 4


These are called lahmacun in Turkey and they’re one of my favourite snacks. This is a classic version, but there are loads of different ones so experiment as you like. The dough keeps in the fridge overnight but needs an hour to wake up before you roll it.


For the Dough

350ml (12fl oz) lukewarm water around 37ºC

1 tablespoon dried yeast

a pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g (1 ¼ lb) strong white bread flour (or 00 pasta flour) plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon table salt


For the Topping

300g (11oz) lamb mince

1 red onion, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 green chilli, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

A pinch of Turkish chilli flakes or 1 red chilli, finely chopped optional

1 teaspoon sumac (optional)

a squeeze of lemon juice

sea salt


To Serve

A large handful of parsley leaves

A large handful of mint leaves

In a bowl mix the warm water with the yeast, sugar and oil. Leave for about 10 minutes to froth up. Leave for about 10 minutes to froth up. Meanwhile mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the liquid, then stir, gradually incorporating all of the liquid to make a sticky dough.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead until it is transformed into a glossy, stretchy dough. Return to the bowl, cover tightly with cligfilm and leave somewhere warm for about an hour. Once risen, turn out again and knead for a few more minutes.

Preheat the oven to its hottest setting 230 – 300ºC/450-450-474ºF/gas 8 – 9 and put a pizza stone or heavy roasting tray in to get really hot.

On a large board, chop together the lamb, onion, tomato, green chilli, garlic, cumin and coriander to make a smooth much. Season well.

On a well-floured surface, roll your dough into 4 large rounds, about ½ cm (1/4 inch) thick. Spread the lamb mix thinly on top of the dough. Remove the hot baking tray from the oven and very carefully transfer the lahmacuns onto it (you might find a tart tine base or something flat useful for this) Bake for about 5 minutes, until bubbly and slightly brown at the edges. Sprinkle with the chilli flakes and sumac if you want to. Add a squeeze of lemon and roll up with the parsley and mint leaves to eat.


Stevie Parle’s Cumin and Coriander Chicken Livers


Serves 4 – 6


This is quite a wet dish, so it’s best to serve it in a bowl, preferably with flatbread. The sauce is a green masala (hara masala) which you can add to lots of things from clams to fish to roast chicken.


2 bunches of coriander

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 x 5cm (2in) piece ginger

1 green chilli

a handful of cumin seeds, toasted and ground

juice of 1 lime, plus a squeeze for serving

olive oil

400g (14oz) chicken livers trimmed

2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


To Serve


In a food processor, blend the coriander, ginger, chilli, spices and lime juice with a glug of oil until you have a wet green paste. Season to taste. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the chicken livers.

Heat a drizzle of oil in a large, heavy based pan. When hot add the livers and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, turning once. Take off the heat, stir in the yoghurt and serve in bowls. Add an extra squeeze of lime to taste. Serve with a pile of flatbread.




Tracton Community and Arts Centre Christmas Fair will take place on Sunday, 25th November from 10.30am to 5.30pm and will launch the first community bread and pizza oven in Ireland. Delicious woodfired pizza will be served along with local artisan food producers – Gidi Gur’s election of organic pitas and vegetarian food Tel. 087-2255608 Chloe’s Chocolates – Homemade chocolate truffles and chocolate biscuit cakes, Tel. 086-660 7105 East of Boston Foods (Barbara O’Mahony) – dessert sauces, relishes and honey, Tel. 021 477 0740 Ovenbuilder Hendrik Lepel ( in conjunction with Pompeii Pizza (087-7572615)- Delicious pizza from the new wood-fired oven. Finders Inn Gourmet Foods  (Aaron Mc Donnell) – A range of bread, soups and pates Tel. 087 2787070. For more information about the Christmas Fair, please contact: 086-0711910.


Look out for Wilkie Chocolates– Shana Wilkie is the only Bean to Bar Chocolate Maker in Ireland, she produces small hand tempered batches of premium organic chocolate made from cocoa beans sourced from the Amazon region in Peru. Her 75% Amazonian Organic Dark Chocolate won Best Organic Confectionary at Bord Bia National Organic Awards in September –

A Gastronomic Foodie Day Out

Midway through every 12 Week Certificate Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we all pile onto a bus and go on a foodie tour. It’s not just a gastronomic foodie skite, the object of the exercise is to introduce the students (11 nationalities) this time, to as many inspirational food producers, restaurateurs, artisan brewers, cheese makers and great ideas as possible in one fun and action packed day. We start early. This time we began at 8am sharp with a short foraging walk through the farm down to Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smokehouse. Bill started to smoke fish almost 30 years ago when he was made redundant from Cork Marts.  Ever since he’s been concentrating on smoking salmon.  “Keep it simple, do one thing and do it right” was Bill’s council to the students. Originally he sourced wild salmon from Ballycotton but nowadays he uses Irish organic farmed salmon which he smokes with a mixture of beech and oak chippings. Over the years he has built up a loyal clientele of local and overseas customers. The students tucked enthusiastically into slivers of salmon, fresh from the smoker before they piled on to the bus en route to Mahon Point Farmer’s Market.

Plenty of ideas here, over 40 forty entrepreneurs selling a fantastically good selection of fresh locally produced foods – home grown vegetables, fresh herbs and plants, farmhouse cheese, a variety of breads and home baking to make your mouth water. Then there was Glan Gluten for Coeliacs and those who have wheat intolerance. Fresh fish from Ballycotton and Schull being filleted at the speed of light, organic and free range chickens both fresh and roasted, heritage pork, cured meats, sausages and salamis. Homely meat pies flying off the stall, smoked fish and fish cakes, local honey, hand-made butter, cheese and thick unctuous yoghurt, and beautiful fresh milk (un- homogenised). Cake pops, cupcakes, macaroons and on and on.

The smell of freshly ground coffee pervades the market. My multi ethnic batch of students were mighty impressed, there’s also lots of tasty ready to eat food so I gave them a meal ticket to present to the stall of their choice.

If they fancied a steak sandwich with rocket and mushroom on crusty Arbutus bread, they headed to Lolo’s stall “Boeuf A Lolo”. Alternatively, they could order a wood fired pizza from Volcano Pizzas or a selection of curries or a bowl of steaming porridge with a decadent spice infused fruit topping from Green Saffron.  How about that for a choice. Later I found two new arrivals since my last visit, Jack Crotty, the Rocket Man with a selection of gorgeous salad and raita and a tantalizing drink called Rocket Fuel and Ian Browne with irresistible tiramisu and gooey chocolate fudge or sticky toffee pudding.

And there’s much, much more of beautiful quality and local and fresh and exceptional value.

It was pretty hard to entice everyone back on the bus but we needed to be at Fermoy Farmhouse Cheese by 12 noon. Here Frank Shinnick and his Swiss wife Gudrun have been adding value to their milk and making exceptional raw milk cheeses for over 15 years.


Slow Food created a presidia around St. Gall in 1992 and it was one of the most sought after of the Irish farmhouse cheese at the Salone del Gusto in Turin recently. Frank and Gudrun and their team continue to innovate and now make six different cheeses and a small quantity of yoghurt. Their natural yoghurt with elderberry puree is one of the most delicious new products I’ve tasted this year.

Next stop, Eight Degree Brewery. As mass produced beers have got more and more dull in recent years, craft brewing has really taken off in response to the deep craving for beers with character. The boys from Eight Degree Brewery on the outskirts of Mitchelstown are producing some terrific bottles and I can tell you the students liked it a lot and so did I, difficult to decide which we liked best.

Sunburnt Irishman, Howling Gale or Knockmealdown Porter made by an Aussie and a Kiwi, Cameron Wallace and Scott Baigent who are having the best fun producing some really terrific beer and they can scarcely keep up with the demand – ask your local pub to stock it.

From there our jolly bunch went over the Knockmealdown mountains to visit the Old Convent in Clogheen, Dermot and Christine Gannon have created a romantic retreat with just seven bedrooms and a restaurant where they serve a seven course dinner menu made up almost entirely of locally produced foods. Christine had sweetly invited three of their suppliers, Kitty Colchester from Urlingford who makes my favourite organic rape seed oil. Julie Finke from Ballybrado Organic Farm who gave us a taste of her new organic spelt brown bread mix (with wonder food ceci included) and her “Little Bakers” Kid’s cake mix. Both these girls are second generation farmers again adding value to their raw materials. Alan of Baldwin’s ice cream had no difficulty encouraging people to taste; I particularly loved the caramel fudge ice cream and still feel guilty that I finished a whole tub.

Finally we whizzed over to the Apple Farm just outside Cahir owned by another young entrepreneur and second generation farmer Con Traas. In the 18 years since he took over from his Dad, Con has built up a brilliant apple juice business and farm shop. Visitors can also camp under the apple trees and local people can have their surplus apples juiced and bottled for the winter. We send ours up to be pressed by Con every year – that’s when we have a good harvest – this year was an exception. We barely had enough apples to make an apple tart. Look out for Apple Farm sparkling apple juice – light, bubbly and non- alcoholic.

Time to head for home with our heads swirling with ideas and full of hope for the future of artisan food and drink in Ireland.


St Gall Raclette


A Raclette evening is one of the easiest ways to entertain friends and have lots of fun. St Gall cheese works brilliantly. If you do a lot of impromptu entertaining a Raclette stove is really worth having.


St Gall cheese – allow about 175g (6oz) per person

freshly boiled potatoes – 3 – 4 per person

lettuce – 3 – 4 leaves per person

cornichons or slices of dill pickle 3 – 4 per person

fresh radishes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

little gem lettuce, cut in half lengthwise or a good green salad


Raclette Stove


Put the Raclette stove in the center of the table and turn on the heat. Cut the cheese into scant 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices and put a slice onto each little pan.


Meanwhile serve freshly boiled potatoes and crisp little gem lettuce or a green salad on hot plates to each person. Just as soon as the cheese melts, each guest spoons it over their potatoes and puts another piece on to melt. Serve with pickles and radishes and maybe a few tiny spring onions as an accompaniment.


A Raclette party is so easy and such fun; just provide cheese, boiled potatoes and pickles. Guests do their own cooking and there’s a minimum of washing up.



Cabbage Salad with Raisins and Mint


Serves 8 approx.


If you are tiring of the ubiquitous coleslaw, then you might like to try this fresh tasting cabbage salad with rape seed oil and honey.


1/2 white cabbage with a good heart

2-3 large dessert apples, grated – we like Cox’s orange pippin

2 tablespoons raisins

4 tablespoons freshly chopped mint

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

4 tablespoons pure Irish honey

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Second Nature Rape Seed Oil


Cut the cabbage into quarters.   Wash it well and discard the coarse outer leaves.  Cut away the stalks and shred the heart very finely with a very sharp knife.  Put it into a bowl with the grated apple, raisins, freshly chopped mint and chives.  Mix the honey, vinegar and rape seed oil together.  Toss the salad in the dressing until well coated.  Taste and correct seasoning and serve soon.


Jane’s Brown Bread with Knockmealdown Porter and Walnuts


Jane Hodson who loves to bake and loved Knockmealdown Porter devised this recipe which got an enthusiastic response from everyone who tasted it.

400g (14oz) strong whole meal flour

50g (2oz) strong white flour

60g (2½oz) walnuts (roughly chopped)

330ml    (11fl oz) Knockmealdown Porter brewed by 8 Degrees (at blood temp)

100ml    (3 ½ fl oz) water (at blood temperature)

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

20g (3/4 oz) fresh yeast


sesame seeds

sunflower oil


Loaf Tin 13cm x 20cm (5” x 8”)


Preheat oven to 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8


Sift the flours and salt into a large mixing bowl, adding in the wholemeal chaff left in the sieve.  Add in the walnuts and mix well.  In a bowl/Pyrex jug put the water and honey and crumble in the yeast. While the yeast is working, grease the tin with the oil and sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds.  The yeast is working when a creamy and slight froth rises to the surface.  If this is not happening after a few minutes, put your ear to the jug and you should be able to hear it fizzing. When ready, pour the yeast mixture and the warmed Porter into the flours and mix to form loose wet dough.  Pour the dough into the tin, sprinkle to top with sesame seeds and leave, covered with a tea towel (to prevent drying out), in a warmish place until the dough has risen to the top of the tin.


Place in the middle of the oven at 230C/450F/Gas Mark 8 for 20 minutes.  Then turn it down to 200c/300F/Gas Mark 6 for another 40 minutes.


Remove from tin and if the sides and base are still soft, return the loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes until it looks nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.


Allow to cool on a wire rack


Double Chocolate Cupcakes and a Raspberry on Top


Makes 18 cupcakes



8oz (225g) soft butter

8oz (225g) caster sugar

3 large free-range, organic eggs

8oz (225g) self-raising flour

1 dessertspoon honey or golden syrup

1 tablespoon milk


18 pieces chopped chocolate or chocolate buttons


Chocolate Icing


5 ozs (140g) icing sugar

2 ozs (55g) soft butter

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa


2 cupcake trays, lined with paper cupcake cases


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


Cream the butter well, add the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, adding a teaspoon of flour with each addition. (Beat the mixture well before adding the next egg). Beat in the honey or golden syrup, and then gently stir in the remaining flour. Stir in the milk and mix thoroughly.


Divide ½ the mixture between the cupcake cases. Pop a piece of chocolate or a good quality chocolate button on top. Divide the remainder of the mixture between the cases. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 mins, or until cooked and lightly golden. Remove cupcakes from the tray and place on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, make the icing. Cream the soft butter with the icing sugar and cocoa.  Add a little hot milk or water to achieve spreading consistency.

Spoon the icing onto the cupcakes and decorate with a juicy raspberry and a fresh mint leaf.





Where do I find a well reared bird? They are scarce so never too early to get your order in; we’ve been hearing good things about Mary Walsh’s free range geese from Shellumsrath, Kilkenny – 056 – 7763426 –


Find of the Week… Kilree Goats Cheese – another superb goat cheese from Helen Finnegan of Knockdrinna in Stoneyford Village, Co Kilkenny (0)56 7728446


Arbutus Night in Isaacs Restaurant, MacCurtain Street, Cork on Friday 30th November. Tasting Menu €70.00

Booking Essential 021 4503 805. Proceeds to Penny Dinners –


Darina’s Book of the Week – Clarissa’s Comfort Food. I’ve always loved the ‘Two Fat Ladies’ now sadly just one – Jennifer Paterson passed to her eternal reward and is doubtless now rustling up good things for all the hungry angels in paradise. Clarissa however  is still very much with us and her latest book Clarissa’s Comfort Food  published by Kyle Books, does exactly what it ‘says on the tin’ People are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of homemade simple food that will nourish friends and family instead of choosing a takeaway or buying ready meals that are often full of preservatives. There is a desire to go back to basics and cook food that is delicious and comforting as well as inexpensive and easy to make.

Get this book for Christmas or give it to a friend, Clarissa’s other books The Game Cookbook recently revised, A Greener Life and Sunday Roast are also favourites in my cookbook library.


Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis, London

Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis inLondonrolled into the town last week and gave a hilarious 1 day course here at the Ballymaloe Cooker School. Jeremy is tall, 6 ft. something with large horn rimmed glasses, a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous sense of humour.  His class was interspersed with scholarly  quips and the food was completely delicious.

Jeremy has an impressive pedigree, he cooked with Alastair Little, launched Euphorium in Islington and more recently spent 18 years as head chef at the much loved  Blueprint Café overlooking Tower Bridge – ‘Lifers get less’ he joked but he loved every second before he was head hunted by the Hart Brothers to head up their revamped Quo Vadis restaurant and club in Dean Street in Soho.

Jeremy, is a master of his craft. He doesn’t fiddle around with concepts or gimmicks. Not for him unnecessary ‘gewgaws’ on the plate, –  there’s neer a foam, gel or streak of reduced balsamic vinegar in sight. Rather his food has the comforting timeless quality of classic Anglo French cooking with shades of Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David. He sources his primary materials with care and discrimination and treats them with a rare respect.

His smoked eel and horseradish sandwich on grilled sourdough bread is now legendary, “sweet, a little smoky, sour and a concentrated horseradish cream that bit my nose off!”, wrote an appreciative customer.

Slow cooked Belly of Middlewhite pork served in various guises is another of Jeremy’s favourite and he shared one version with us.

People also rave about his puddings, his divine Chocolate St Emilion tart, dark chocolate mousse with crushed macaroons was inspired by an Elizabeth David classic of the 60’s French Provincial cooking. As we settle into Autumn there are lots of steamed puddings.

No sooner had he arrived at theBallymaloeCookerySchoolthan he was bouncing around the vegetable and herb garden with glee, chuckling with delight at the end of Summer produce in the greenhouses. He doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’. We wished he could have stayed for a week but his restaurant in London Theatreland beckoned and he had to get back to his own stove next day.

Jeremy’s menu changes every day and some dishes twice a day which generates excitement for both the chefs in the kitchen and the restaurant clientele. By the way Quo Vadis is the perfect place to have a pre theatre supper inLondonbut of course not to be missed for a more leisurely lunch or dinner either, you’ll need to look ahead.

Here are just a few of the dishes we enjoyed from his course




Salt Cod, Artichoke, Potato, Mint & Caper Salad

To feed 6 trenchermen.


800 g (1 lb 12 oz)  soft white salt cod, very well soaked, removed of much salt( I confess to only buying from Brindisa!!)

A small onion

A sprig of thyme

2 sticks of celery

6 small artichokes, cooked in white wine, olive oil & herbs

6 potatoes, cooked in their skins then peeled

A soupspoon of salted capers, very well washed and drained

A small handful of mint leaves

A small bunch of sturdy salad leaves

8 tablespoons of good olive oil

A lemon, juiced


Peel and chop the onion into large pieces along with the celery. Put these into a large pot along with the pieces of washed cod and the thyme. Pour in enough cold water until just covering the fish and vegetables. Place a disc of greaseproof paper over the surface. Bring this to a gentle simmer and let cook for 10 or so minutes until cooked, having a care not to over cook. Put the whole pan to one side and let cool.


Take a handsome great plate and on this lay the salad leaves. Take a wide bowl and sit alongside a chopping board. Slice the peeled potatoes and tip into the bowl. Likewise the artichokes and then the capers.


Lift the cooled cod from the pot and carefully remove all skin and bone from the flesh, keeping the flakes as large as possible. Place these in the bowl. Add in the mint leaves, spoon over the olive oil and lemon juice. Grind some pepper on top. Mix very gently, then heap upon the salad leaves.


Warm Salad of Pork Belly, Fennel and Herbs   


Serves 6-8


A pork belly, approx 2-3kg (4½ lb – 63/4 lbs) in weight

1 tablespoons of fennel seed

4 cloves of garlic

A half teaspoon of freshly milled pepper

3 heads of fennel

2 medium sized onions

A lemon

6 tablespoons of olive oil

6 tablespoons of white wine


A couple of handfuls of boiled, peeled potatoes

A few bunches of watercress or a lovely green leaf


Warm the oven to 240°C/450°F/gas mark 8.


Peel the onions and chop into large pieces along with the fennel and the lemon. Toss this with the garlic cloves and the chilli and lay in a roasting tray large enough to just hold the piece of pork belly.

Score the skin of the belly.

Pound the fennel seeds and pepper until ground. Rub this into the pork.

Sit the belly on the vegetables. Pour the wine over and then the olive oil.

Bake the pork in the oven for ten minutes or so until it darkens and the crackle begins to form. Cover the tray with tin foil, securely and lower the heat to about 120°C/230°F/gas mark ¼ and let cook gently. This can be overnight in an even gentler oven or for a minimum of 8 hours.

Come the time to serve, place the pork on a board and cut into coarse pieces. Decant the vegetables onto a handsome dish from the roasting tray. Strew the leaves around and then the potatoes then tumble the pork over this, then any crackling that may still be on the board. Spoon over any residual juices.


Ps………a thought, there is a happy moment that you may add lovely things that may suggest themselves from the garden such as herbs and any rogue vegetables such as beetroots, carrots beans, mint and or parsley.



A Warm Salad of Clams, Mussels and Squid


So simple and lovely a dish, clams appearing in our fish merchants with heartening regularity and requiring little more than washing well to rid them of grit, their cooking being little, not unlike mussels.


To serve 4


6 razor clams

6 handfuls of surf clams and/or palourdes

6 handfuls of mussels

400g (14 oz) squid, cleaned by an obliging fishmonger

50cl of white wine

2 small onions

50g (2 oz) unsalted butter

A clove of garlic, peeled and chopped very fine

A handful of flat leaf parsley

A lemon



In a pot, melt the butter gently. Peel and finely chop the onions and add to the pot and let cook gently until softened without colour, say 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, beard the mussels, pulling away the little black tuft to be found where the shells are clamped tightly shut. The shells that remain open should be discarded. Set the mussels in a vessel under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Place the clams in a bowl and do likewise.

Slit the squids lengthwise and rinse under the tap to wash away any grit therein. Use a sharp little knife to score the squid all over and then cut into little strips about 3 cms long.


Drain all the shellfish from their waterfall. Tip the mussels into the pot along  with the white wine, up the heat to a boil and cover with a lid. When the mussels have steamed open after about 4-5 minutes, remove from the pan and tip in the clams. They will cook in 3-4 minutes then need removing also, to be replaced by the razor clams, these requiring but 3-4 minutes also to steam open. Remove the razor clams to a chopping aboard. Pull the clams from the shells and cut away the dark grey that is the stomach roughly in the middle of the length of the clam. Lightly wash the clams free of any grit. Chop the razor clams into quite thin slices. Cut the lemon in two then squeeze into the pot with the remaining cooking liquor. Chop the parsley fine and likewise add to the pot. Add several grinds of the pepper mill and stir well.


Heat a frying pan. Dress the squid in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a small handful of squid to the hot pan and fry for a minute or two only. Tip into the pot. Wipe the pan then repeat the process until all the squid is cooked. Lay all the clams and mussels on a handsome dish, strew the razor clams over shellfish then spoon over the squid and the dressing from the pan. A few spoonfuls of good olive oil spooned over is a lovely addition at this point.


Walnut Pie



250g (9 oz) plain flour

150g(5 oz) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 large egg

1 dessertspoon cold water


250g (9 oz) dark muscavado sugar

250g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened

6 eggs

Juice & rind of 2 lemons

100g (3½ oz) golden syrup

80g (3½ oz) maple syrup

500g (18 oz) best walnuts, coarsely chopped+


Tart Tin 30 cm (12 inch)


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


Make the pastry in the time honoured tradition and let rest at least 2 hours or overnight which is always best.


Line a 30cm deep tart case, with a removable bottom, with the pastry. Rest in the fridge for half an hour then blind bake for 20 minutes or so until set and quite dried but not well coloured.

Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat well. Pour the eggs slowly into the eggs and sugar, very slowly. Warm the syrup slightly and then pour gently onto the eggs, butter & sugar. Fold in the walnuts with the lemon zest and juice. Tip the batter into the tart case and bake for 45 minutes until bronzed and lightly cracked at the edges.



There’s a frenzy of baking going on around the country – the revival of interest has been further whipped up by the ICA, TV series ‘The Great British Bake Off’, and Rachel’s Allen’s ‘Cake’ programme which really takes the mystery out of baking.  Millions tuned into watch the ‘The Great British Bake Off’ – it’s become a national phenomenon.  Baking equipment is flying off the shelves in kitchen shops as people in both islands rediscover the joy of home baking.

People who have never whipped up a bun or cupcake in their entire lives are rapidly gaining the confidence to produce gorgeous cakes and tortes.

Baking is all about confidence and accurate recipes.  As ever one needs to start with good quality ingredients.  Use good Irish butter rather than margarine or any of those other spreads.  Butter is a shortcut to flavour, pure natural and better for us.  If one puts time and effort into making something it might as well be delicious.  It’s also worth remembering that baking is an exact science so it’s really important to have an accurate scales and to measure each ingredient carefully. Chucking in fists of this and that may accidently produce a brilliant confection but more often than not the result is more likely to disappoint.

If you’ve never baked a thing in your life, start with something easy like a tray bake that merely needs to be stirred and baked, like flapjacks.

ICA members have been perfecting and sharing recipes since 1910 when the association was founded to improve the standard of life in rural Ireland through education and co-operation effort.  They feel very strongly as I do that ‘in today’s busy modern lives, the importance of a family meal cannot be overstated.   It is around the family table that we learn so much about our values, where we right the wrongs of the day and discuss our problems and hopes for the future’.


Cake is Rachel’s ninth book, her fail-safe easy to follow recipes thoughtful tips and down to earth advice have won her a myriad of fans over a few short years.  Her new book ‘Cake’ had me really licking my lips – there really are cakes for every occasion, plus cake pops, beetroot brownies, white chocolate anniversary cake and banoffee blondies.


There are a ton of new baking books but here I include recipes from Rachel Allen’s ‘Cake’ published by Harper Collins and Aoife Carrigy’s ‘The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cookbook’ published by Gill & Macmillan both of which are carefully tested and will produce pleasing presents.





Madeleines are the quintessential delicate treat. The airy batter is baked in the traditional shell- shaped moulds to make a cake that is just crisp on the outside and elegantly light in the middle. This recipe is quick and easy to make, but there are many twists you can give to this recipe which are all delicious variations on a classic theme which are available in Rachel’s ‘Cake’ book.


Makes 12 madeleines


1 egg

50g (2oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

50g (2oz) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract icing sugar, for dusting

12-hole madeleine tray


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


Brush a little melted butter over the madeleine moulds (making sure to coat every ridge) and dust a little flour into each one, tapping out any excess.

Place the egg and sugar in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Using a hand-held electric beater or the food mixer with its whisk attachment, whisk on a high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale, thick and mousse-like and has grown almost three times in volume.


Sift the flour and baking powder into the whisked egg and sugar and carefully fold in, then fold in the melted butter and vanilla extract, taking care not to over-mix. Either pouring the batter directly from the bowl or using a tablespoon to spoon it in, divide the batter between the madeleine moulds, filling each almost to the top.


Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden and lightly springy to the touch. (Try not to overcook them or they will be dry.) Remove from the oven and carefully remove each madeleine from its mould using a palette knife, then place on a wire rack to cool, if you must, as there are few things more delicious than warm madeleines served straight from the oven with nothing more than a light dusting of icing sugar.


Taken from Cake by Rachel Allen published by Harper Collins

Hazelnut Praline Triple-Layered Cake


A triple-layered praline cake makes a fabulous birthday treat. The three layers of sponge are lightened with a good amount of whisked egg whites. For the filling, praline crumbs are mixed into a divinely rich custard cream. The cake is topped in a thick, snowy-white American frosting, crisp on the outside and fluffy and marshmallow-like beneath. As it’s covered in icing, the cake will keep for 3–4 days in an airtight container. If you don’t have an airtight box big enough, you can use a large mixing bowl upturned over the cake.




375g (13oz) plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

225g (8oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

675g (1⁄1 2 lb) caster sugar

325ml (11⁄1 2 fl oz) milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

9 egg whites (about 250ml/9fl oz)


For the praline

100g (3⁄1 2oz) caster sugar

100g (3⁄1 2oz) hazelnuts (skin still on)


For the custard cream

25g (1oz) caster sugar

3 egg yolks

175ml (6fl oz) milk

15g (1⁄2oz) cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100ml (3⁄1 2fl oz) double or regular cream


For the frosting

4 large egg whites

250g (9oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt


3 x 20cm (8 inch) diameter cake tins


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, then butter the sides of the cake tins and line the bases with a disc of baking parchment.


First make the sponge.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add 450g (1lb) of the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add about a third of the sifted flour along with about a third of the milk and continue to mix gently, in thirds, until all of the flour and milk is well mixed in, then stir in the vanilla extract.


In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites until foamy, then add the remaining sugar and whisk until the meringue holds stiff glossy peaks. Mix in a quarter of the meringue to the cake mixture, then carefully fold in the rest until fully incorporated.


Tip the mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides
of each tin with a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cakes from the tins before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. (The sponge can be made up to a day in advance and kept in an airtight container.)


To make the praline, first line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside. Place the sugar in a frying pan and scatter the hazelnuts over the sugar. Place the pan over a medium heat to allow the sugar to caramelise, swirling the pan every so often to ensure it caramelises evenly. Cook until the sugar has completely melted and is a deep golden colour and the hazelnuts are coated evenly.


Transfer the coated nuts to the prepared baking tray. Before the caramel has a chance to harden, set apart about 10 hazelnut clusters (with 4–5 hazelnuts in each cluster) for decorating. Using two forks, spread apart the remaining hazelnuts and leave the praline to cool completely. Once cool break up the praline using your hands, then place the pieces (but not the reserved clusters) in a food processor and whiz until it resembles slightly coarse breadcrumbs.


To make the custard cream, place the sugar in a saucepan with the egg yolks, milk, cornflour and vanilla extract and whisking all the time bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Then cook, continuing to whisk, until thickened. Immediately remove from the heat before transferring to a bowl to cool completely. In a separate bowl, whip the cream just until it holds stiff peaks. Add the praline to the cooled custard and mix in, then carefully fold in the whipped cream. Cover the praline custard cream and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.


You can now assemble the cake. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand or plate. Spread with half of the praline custard, then cover with a second cake. Spread the other half of the custard cream over the cake, then top with the third cake. Use a pastry brush to brush off any excess crumbs from the cake.


Next make the frosting. First place a palette knife in a jug or bowl and put the kettle on. It makes it really easy to frost this cake if you can use a palette knife that has been dipped in hot water. Place all the frosting ingredients in a heatproof bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cold water and set over a saucepan of simmering water. (The bowl should sit snugly over the pan, with its base high enough above the water that it does not come into contact with it.)


Whisk slowly by hand until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Continue to heat and whisk until the mixture reaches 60°C (140°F) when measured with a sugar thermometer – this will take about 4 minutes.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can gauge whether the mixture is ready by how it feels and looks: it should be hot to the touch, glossy white in appearance and starting to thicken.


Quickly remove the bowl from the pan and pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Alternatively, whisk in the original bowl using a hand-held electric beater. Whisk on a high speed for about 3–5 minutes or until the frosting is very thick, glossy and has cooled.


Pour boiling water into the jug or bowl holding the palette knife. Before the frosting has a chance to cool and therefore set, spread it with the hot, wet palette knife over the top and all around the sides of the cake, covering it as evenly as possible. You can go for a smooth appearance or a slightly peaked look by tapping the flat side of the palette knife over the frosting. As you pull it up, it should create little peaks. Do this all over the cake.


Decorate around the top edge of the iced cake with the reserved hazelnut praline clusters.


Taken from Cake by Rachel Allen published by Harper Collins

Cake in a Mug


I’m not a microwave girl myself but I though this sounded intriguing.


Muriel Kerr, Leitrim: fun-loving granny


This quick-fix treat is a big hit with children, allowing you whip up an individual chocolate cake in three minutes. It’s a delicious dessert for somebody who lives alone and fancies a little bit of chocolate heaven. I make it in a one-pint Pyrex jug but a large mug does the trick.


Serves 1


4 dessertspoons flour

4 dessertspoons sugar

2 dessertspoons cocoa

1 small egg, beaten

3 dessertspoons milk

3 dessertspoons light oil

2–3 drops vanilla extract

1 handful chocolate chips



large mug or 600ml (1 pint) Pyrex jug



Combine flour, sugar and cocoa in a mug. Stir in the egg, milk and oil, then add vanilla drops and chocolate chips.


Cook uncovered in the microwave on high (1,000W) for three minutes.


Allow to cool, tip out on to a plate and tuck in.


Taken from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cooking by Aoife Carrigy published by Gill & MacMillan


Parsnip Cake with Walnuts and Raisins


Anne Gabbett, Limerick: dairy farmer’s wife and home economics teacher.


This cake came about from a seasonal surplus of parsnips from the garden. I decided to try baking them into a cake much along the lines of a carrot cake. It turned out delicious and is now a family favourite.


Makes 2 x 900g (2lb) loaves


300g (10 1/2oz) parsnips, peeled

250g (9oz) soft butter or margarine

125g (4 1/2oz) soft brown sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

3–4 drops vanilla extract

350g (12oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

4 eggs, beaten

200g (7oz) golden sultanas

125g (4 1/2oz) walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


Topping (optional)

125g (4 1/2oz) cream cheese

50g (2oz) butter

250g (9oz) icing sugar, sieved

125g (4 1/2oz) walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons apricot jam

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon



2 x 900g (2lb) cake tins


Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.


Grease two loaf tins or line with baking parchment.


Finely grate the parsnips and set aside. Cream butter or margarine with both sugars and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.

Mix about a quarter of the beaten eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, and then fold in some of the flour mix. Continue, alternating egg and flour mix, until all combined. Fold in grated parsnip, sultanas, walnuts and nutmeg, mix well and pour into prepped loaf tins.


Place in centre of preheated oven and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the centre springs back when touched or an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to rest in tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire tray to cool.


To make the topping, beat cream cheese, butter and sieved icing sugar until light and spreadable. Mix in chopped walnuts. Once the cakes have cooled completely, spread with apricot jam and then with cream cheese mixture. Finish with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.


This mix also makes be delicious muffins, which will bake in about 20 minutes.


Taken from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cooking by Aoife Carrigy published by Gill & MacMillan





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