ArchiveMarch 2013

St Patrick’s Day Dinner in Sri Lanka

Here I am in Sri Lanka wading out through the warm sea to the tiny island of Taprobane off Weligama on the South Coast. There’s no other way to get there, it’s just a 100 yards off the coast, palm fringed of course. I’d been invited to cook dinner for a Saint Patrick’s Day Ball. Irish stew and Champ in 35 degrees!  Cooking at the other side of the world is a challenge in all kinds of unexpected ways. The most mundane ingredients at home can be the most exotic here, it’s difficult to predict.

Lamb is not a common SriLankan meat; it has to be imported from New Zealand so the Irish Stew had to be made from mutton which is actually goat. It’s got tons of flavour, makes a great stew but does take hours to cook to melting tenderness. I found lovely little young leeks in the local market so we tossed those in butter and served them on top. The meal started with Spiced cabbage soup, a fusion of Irish and SriLankan cultures, then some fat sweet local prawns cooked in their shells then tossed in salt, freshly crushed black pepper and chilli powder and served with cucumber pickle and mustard and dill mayonnaise. If you want cucumber that resembles ours ask for a Japanese cucumber

We used a mixture of pale SriLankan kekiri and Japanese cucumber and used the angular cut so familiar to Asian chefs, rather than rounds. There were beautifully fresh red scallions in the market so they perked up our Champ to serve with Irish Stew.

Apart from ingredients, basic kitchen equipment is quite different and some seemingly similar ingredients behave in a different way in a tropical climate. Fresh cream simply isn’t available. UHT cream which I hate with a passion is the only option.

Meringues are not that easy to pull off either in an area of high humidity yet people love them, so I decided to have a go at Coffee Meringue with Irish Whiskey Sauce, what a mission! Fortunately I’d brought a food mixer from Ireland, how ridiculous does that sound but I was certainly glad of it when I discovered there was no operational whisk in the kitchen. Icing sugar is not a problem; I also brought instant coffee and parchment paper. The meringues whipped up ok, I dolloped them out in blobs on the baking tray and slid them into the oven hoping for the best in temperature terms. Virtually all cooking is done on the stove top so ovens can be a bit unpredictable – anyway they peeled beautifully off the parchment paper within 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile I made a dark caramel sauce and laced it liberally with Paddy whiskey – it was dark and bitter and very good. Next I whipped the cream but it simply wouldn’t stiffen, in fact the more we whipped the looser it got – guests are waiting up stairs, deep breath, let go of our pre-conceived notions and compromise fast, so I sweetened the cream a little and added some more Paddy. We now have Irish Whiskey Soup, where are the soup bowls? A dollop of that in the base of each wide soup bowl, a coffee meringue blob on top, a drizzle of Paddy caramel et voila! Send it upstairs to the unsuspecting guests and now it’s a hit!  Lots of compliments, So amazing, so delicious, great combination of sweet and bitter – love the whiskey…

We survive to fight another day, try it for Easter.

However, the biggest hit was the piece of home-made cheddar cheese from our herd of three Jersey cows and some home-made crackers and a loaf of Ballymaloe bread that we brought as a present from Ireland. Cheese is virtually unavailable here, so it was a major treat for the SriLankan guests.

Happy Easter to all our readers.


Spiced Cabbage Soup 


Serves 6


55g (2oz) butter

140g (5oz) chopped potatoes

115g (4oz) onions, chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1½ pints) homemade chicken stock

250g (9oz) chopped cabbage leaves (stalks removed) chopped

50-125ml (1½-4 fl oz) cream or creamy milk


4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoons whole black mustard seeds

4 cloves garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

½-1 hot, dried red chilli, coarsely crushed in a mortar

½ teaspoon sugar

freshly ground pepper



crème fraiche and fresh coriander leaves


Melt the butter in a heavy pan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and turn them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock (heat it if you want to speed things up) and boil until the potatoes are soft. Add the cabbage and cook, uncovered, until the cabbage is just cooked Рa matter of 4 or 5 minutes. Keeping the lid off retains the green colour. Pure̩ immediately and add creamy milk.


Now heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium flame.  When hot, put in the mustard seeds.  As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, put in the garlic.  Stir the garlic pieces around until they turn light brown, (be careful not to burn or it will spoil the flavour). Put in the crushed red chilli and sugar and stir for a few seconds.  Add this spice to pureéd soup to correct seasoning.   Serve piping hot with perhaps a blob of crème fraiche and a few coriander leaves.


Sri Lankan Goat Stew with Baby Leeks


Serves 4–6


1.3kg (3lb) goat shoulder chops not less than 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

6 medium or 12 baby onions

6 medium or 12 baby carrots

freshly ground pepper and salt

850ml (1 1⁄2 pints) lamb stock or chicken stock (see recipe) or water

12 potatoes or more if you like (Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pink are excellent)

sprig of thyme

about 1 tablespoon roux, optional



2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives


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


Cut the goats meat in 50g (2oz) pieces and trim off some of the excess fat.

Set the pieces aside and render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy frying pan (discard the rendered down pieces). Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young, leave some of the green stalks on the onions and carrots).

Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are young leave them whole.

If the onions are large, cut them small, if they are small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, and then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole. Season each layer generously with freshly ground pepper and salt. Deglaze the frying pan with lamb or chicken stock and pour into the casserole.


Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to the boil on top of the stove.

Then cover and transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, about 1 ½ to 2  hours.


When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, degrease and reheat the liquid in a saucepan. If you like slightly thicken the juices with a little roux. Check the

seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives and pour it back over the stew. Bring it back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.


Melted Leeks


Serves 8-10


2lbs (900g) leeks (once prepared)

2 ozs (50g) butter

2 tablespoons water if necessary

salt and freshly ground pepper

chopped parsley or chervil


Cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks.   Slit the leeks about half way down the center and wash well under cold running water.   Slice into 1/3 inch (5mm) rounds.   Melt the butter in a heavy casserole; when it foams, add the sliced leeks and toss gently to coat with butter.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.    Cover with a paper lid and a close-fitting lid.   Reduce the heat and cook very gently for 8-10 minutes approx., or until semi soft and moist.   Check and stir every now and then. Turn off the heat and allow to continue to cook in the heat.   Serve on a warm dish sprinkled with chopped parsley or chervil.


Note: The pot of leeks may be cooked in the oven at 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3 if that is more convenient.


Taprobane Coffee Meringue with Paddy Caramel


Serves 6 – 8


2 egg whites

4 1/2 ozs (125g) icing sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder (not granules)


1/2 pint (300ml) very softly whipped cream

2 tablespoons approx. Paddy whiskey


Parchment paper


Paddy Caramel

8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

3 fl ozs (80ml) cold water

4 tablesp. Irish Paddy whiskey

22 fl ozs (60ml) hot water

First make the meringue. Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry bowl. Add all the icing sugar except 2 tablespoons. Whisk until the mixture stands in firm dry peaks. It may take 10-15 minutes. Sieve the coffee and the remaining icing sugar together and fold in carefully.

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C\300°F\Gas Mark 2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Scoop 8 blobs of meringue onto the parchment. Cook for 30 – 40 minutes or until the meringues will lift easily off the paper.

Meanwhile make the sauce. Put the castor sugar into a saucepan with water, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves and syrup comes to the boil. Remove the spoon and do not stir. Continue to boil until it turns a dark chestnut-brown colour.  Remove from the heat and immediately add the hot water. Allow to dissolve again and then add the Irish Paddy whiskey.

Allow to get cold. To serve, choose shallow wide soup bowls, put a scoop of softly whipped whiskey cream in the base, top it with a meringue blob and drizzle with a little Paddy Caramel, so good…

Hot Tips


Darina Allen and Rachel Allen will do a cookery demonstration to raise funds for the ICA (Irish Countrywomen’s Association) in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House on Wednesday 17th April 2013 at 7:30pm. Tickets €25.00, available at the Ballymaloe Cookery School shop or book online Everyone is welcome. Great raffle and door prizes.


Good Food Ireland recently launched a new Food and Travel page on their website, the first of its type in Ireland to target food lovers from around the world. It includes a tempting online artisan food shop where people can buy gourmet Irish artisan foods, gift hampers or vouchers and a facility called My Food Trip that allows users to book accommodation, restaurants and cookery classes with Good Food Ireland members – or


Glenilen Farm artisan dairy products have wooed many people since Alan and Valerie Kingston began to experiment in their dairy and farmhouse kitchen in 1997. They started by selling homemade cheesecakes, yoghurt, beautiful traditional cream, creme fraiche, clotted cream, handmade butter and eventually lemon posset and lemonade. Originally just at the local Farmers’ Market and a couple of local shops, using milk from the their dairy farm in Drimoleague. Now widely available in supermarkets also. Look out for the new Glenilen Farm range of blue Glenilen aprons, tea towels, wooden spoons and recipe book stands – a new development for artisan producers –


Book of the Week: Buy a few copies of the new Recipes from the English Market – published by University Press; it’s the best pressie for visitors who come for The Gathering and for all the rest of us as well. It’s also a potted history of the market established in 1788 through the eyes of its charismatic stall holders. Author Michelle Horgan who describes herself as a ‘market anorak’ manages to tease favourite recipes from everyone from Donogh O’Reilly, third generation tripe seller to Pat O’Connell who will be eternally remembered for making the Queen of England laugh heartily during her visit to the Market in May 2011.


Wild Food

Wild and foraged foods are once again becoming part of chic restaurant menus as well as family meals. Beware; once you get on the foraging groove it becomes totally addictive. Every walk whether in the woods or the countryside turns into a foraging expedition and it’s free. Even more important wild foods still have their full complement of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, unlike much of the food we now have access to.

People usually associate an abundance of wild foods with late Summer and Autumn but we forage throughout the year. Even in depths of Winter there’s always something to nibble on or add to a salad. At present Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) are growing in profusion along the roadside, peel the stalks, cook the pieces gently in well salted water, then toss in a little melted butter or olive oil, the delicate flavour is delicious with fish or scallops.

Young nettles (urtica dioica) the cure for so many ailments, are already springing up. Use them in pesto and soups or add the wilted leaves to champ or colcannon. We’ve got tons of chickweed (Stellaria media) in the greenhouse; you’ll pay $10.00 a pound for it in the Union Square market in New York but here it’s the bane of gardeners’ lives – just eat it, it’s delicious in a green salad. Pennywort (Centella Asiatica), another of my favourite wild foods, grows with wild abandon out the stone walls and stony ditches, sometimes called navel wort or ‘bread and butter’, it is thirst quenching and a favourite nibble for hill-walkers. We use it in salad and as a garnish. Bittercress (Cardamine hirsute) grows in little clumps in gravel paths or in damp places – we love its peppery taste. The Queen had it included in the starter for her 90th birthday feast. Watercress (Nasturtium officinal) too is lush and abundant at present, it grows side by side with wild celery also called fools watercress (Apium nodiflorum) but the top leaf of the watercress is always the biggest.

The shamrock shaped leaves of wood sorrel (oxalis) lend a clean lemony taste to starters and salad, there’s also lots of sheep’s tongue sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and buckler leaf sorrel ( Rumex scutatus) in the orchard, sea beet (beta vulgaris) down by the strand and the ramsoms or wild garlic (allium ursinum) are bushy and green at present. We’ve been making lots of pesto and adding it to everything from pasta sauce, to flavoured butters and mashed potatoes and even soda bread.

Our Spring Foraging, the first foraging course of the year (at Ballymaloe Cookery School) will be on Saturday 27th April 2013.  But if you want to get going yourself there are now several good illustrated field guides to help you including Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle’s excellent new field guide and cookbook Wild Food Natures Harvest: How to Gather, Cook and Preserve published recently by O’Brien Press. This book was born out of the Slow Food Wild and Slow Festival held at Macreddin Village in Co Wicklow every year, but both Biddy and Evan have been seasoned foragers since childhood. Evan showcases wild food on his menu at the Strawberry Tree Restaurant at Macreddin Village. All the chefs are trained to forage and have a bountiful wild food pantry beside the restaurant to store jars of pickles, chutneys, cordials, preserves and infusions. Evan Doyle employs one person whose sole job is to forage for the restaurant.

This field guide and cook book combined also includes a charter for sustainable harvesting of wild foods, a foragers calendar and a whole chapter on preserving wild foods. It’s a must have for any wanna-be forager.


Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle’s Wild Garlic, Leek and Potato Bake

30 leaves of fresh wild garlic, roughly chopped

125ml organic chicken or vegetable stock

150ml carton of organic cream

150ml organic milk

a knob of organic butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 organic leeks, thinly sliced

175g real ham, chopped

500g last year’s organic potatoes peeled, sliced thinly

90g organic cheddar, grated


How it Goes

Pour the stock, cream and milk into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Season well.

Butter a one-litre gratin dish. Layer the potatoes, leeks and ham together in the dish, and spread out in even layers with the chopped wild garlic leaves. Pour over the seasoned liquid. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes at 180°C.

How to Finish

Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cheese and bake for another 30–40 minutes, spooning stock over occasionally, until the potatoes are tender.

What you Get

Well, the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast chicken, or as the first touch of spring to the last of the winter spuds or a great TV snack, when you have the munchies …


The Strawberry Tree’s Wild Sea Beet and Crab Tart

Two handfuls of sea beet, stalks removed, leaves washed, roughly chopped


300g fresh wild crabmeat

1 organic onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped

juice of one lemon

50g Parmesan, grated

250ml organic cream

4 organic egg yolks, plus 1 whole egg

Sea salt and pepper

Organic olive oil


Your favourite recipe for savoury pastry, blind baked in a 20-22cm tart dish

How it Goes

In a large frying pan, fry onions until soft. Then add chilli, garlic and fry for a few more minutes. Add the sea beet, and when soft, toss in the crabmeat. Fry together and mix thoroughly, then add the coriander, lemon juice and Parmesan. Lightly beat together the egg and cream and season.

How to Finish

Spoon the sea beet mixture into your baked tart case. Pour over your egg and cream. Bake, for 30–40 minutes at 140°C, or until set.

What you Get

Is a quiche-style seafood pie that oozes the sea and that can be served cold, warm or hot, all the way through the summer. We like to serve it warm, with a baby leaf salad and mayonnaised baby new potatoes.



Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle’s Wild Nettle Beer


5 litres of water

Wild young nettle leaves, enough to fill a 5-litre bowl by volume

500g sugar

10g root ginger

30g cream of tartare

1 lemon, rind and juice

30g beer yeast

30g dried hops (optional)


Place sugar and cream of tartare in a lidded fermentation vessel.

In a very large pot boil the nettle leaves, ginger, lemon rind and hops (if using) for 10–15 minutes.

Strain the liquid through a sieve into the vessel. Stir and allow cool to room temperature. Stir in the lemon juice and sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover with a cotton or muslin cloth and allow ferment for four days. Carefully skim the surface to remove any scum or froth. Using a siphon, rack the liquid into bottles with a swing action beer lid or, if you prefer, into a demi-john and cap with a rubber bung.

Store for a week in a very cool place. Then it is ready to drink. Take care when you open the bottles as, depending on the success of the fermentation, it may be very fizzy indeed.


Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle’s Chowder with Dillisk and Carrageen


600g fresh pollock or similar inshore fish, skinned and cubed

500g shellfish (mix of mussels, cockles, clams, winkles, prawns)

125g hot-smoked fish (eg pollock, haddock or mackerel), skinned and cubed

50g smoked dry cured bacon, cut into lardoons

30g butter

7g dried dillisk

7g dried carrageen

500ml fish stock or water

600ml milk (or milk and cream mixed)

1kg mixed vegetables in equal quantities (waxy potatoes, onion, leek, carrot, celery), peeled and finely chopped

A handful of chopped parsley, or parsley and chives mixed


Lightly cook and peel the prawns if using (or peel them while raw). Scrub clean the shellfish.

Cook bacon in butter until crisp; add all the vegetables except the potatoes. Season and cook over a gentle heat for 4–5 minutes. Add stock or water and the crumpled seaweeds and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and milk and simmer until potatoes are soft. You may set it aside at this point and finish off just before serving.

Add the cubed fish and shellfish and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring. Serve with plenty of chopped herbs. Good with dillisk-flavoured bread, scones, or oatcakes.


The Strawberry Tree’s Pickled Wild Rock Samphire


500g wild rock samphire

300g organic caster sugar

Small organic onion, sliced finely

1 organic celery stick, chopped finely

2 organic bay leaves

½ tsp organic pink peppercorns

½ tsp organic fennel seeds

1 tsp organic mustard seeds

½ organic red chilli – chopped finely

zest of 1 lemon

500ml organic red wine vinegar

How it Goes

Twice wash the wild rock samphire and set aside in a large container. In a large pot, place sugar, onion, celery, bay, seeds, chilli, lemon zest and pour over the vinegar. Put on the heat and stir until everything is mixed. Bring to boil and then simmer for a few minutes. Let cool a bit, then pour the pickle over the rock samphire in the large container.

How to Finish

Pack the warm rock samphire into sterilised Kilner jars, then pour in the strained pickle, filling the jar right to the top. Put the lids back on and it will keep up to 3 months in a cool, dark place.

What you Get

Pickled samphire works well with all shellfish, but it is also perfect to keep for when flatfish are caught after September. It is also a treat with honky-heady Irish blue cheese or really well-matured Irish hard cheeses and, finally, is a cool pickle that works really well with slow-cooked winter Irish Hill Hogget.


Gorse Syrup

500g gorse flowers

a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, or to taste

1 litre water

500g sugar

Boil the flowers and water together for 10 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag. Place sugar and strained juice in a pot and cook slowly, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Then boil for about five minutes, skimming any froth from the surface. Cool before bottling in small sterilised bottles. Best stored in a fridge.


Hot Tips


Brown Envelope Seeds – Gardening Workshop – Propagating from Seed on Saturday 6th April 2pm-4pm, cost €20.00. Madeline McKeever is happy to tailor-make gardening courses for groups and if you are in West Cork why not arrange to have a tour around the farm at Church Cross, Skibbereen. You can buy your seeds, see how they propagate, enjoy a cup of tea in the barn and you can even take your own picnic – contact Madeline on 028-38184 –

Rachel Allen has a passion for baking. Join her for ‘Cake with Rachel Allen’ a two and half day hands-on baking course Monday 15th to Wednesday 17th April at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Learn how to make special cakes for every occasion. Phone 021 4646785 to book –

Leading figures from the world of gastronomy will converge on East Cork for the first Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, to be held at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork, 3-6 May 2013.  Among those flying in to participate are: Madhur Jaffrey, world-renowned for her books and television programmes on Indian food. Claudia Roden, acclaimed expert on Middle Eastern and Spanish food. Alice Waters, trailblazing founder of the famous Californian restaurant Chez Panisse. David Thompson, restaurateur, author and eloquent ambassador for Thai food. Stephanie Alexander, one of Australia’s best known and best loved cooks. Claus Meyer, co-founder of Copenhagen’s Noma, voted No 1 restaurant in the world. David Tanis, prominent American chef and New York Times cookery writer. Joanna Blythman, leading British investigative food writer and broadcaster. Stevie Parle, dynamic head chef at London’s Dock Kitchen and Jancis Robinson MW, one of the world’s most respected wine writers. Tickets for all events are available on  – box office 021 4645777 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday.

Celebrate the Wisdom


Slow Food International Grandmothers Day.

“A celebration of Food Heritage and Forgotten Skills”



Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 April 2013

Sandbrook House, Co. Carlow



Slow Food International and Sandbrook House are delighted to present the second International Grandmothers Day Celebration on 20th and 21st of April.


The event will be launched by Darina Allen who said:


“The success of last year’s event lead us to recognize that there is a tangible opportunity to use our food culture to develop opportunities for rural employment and for revitalising our small town centres and communities.



On Saturday April 20th “Slow Roots” an International, expert led Symposium will tackle the topic of how to use Traditional Irish Food to create jobs in rural communities as we explore the question:


“How can we learn from our Food Heritage to create employment for this generation?”



The debate will be lead by two keynote speakers of international renown: Professor Hartmut Vogtmann, former President of Nature Conservation, Federal Republic of Germany and Angelika Ploeger Professor of Food Science and Food Culture.


This event, lead by Dr. Margaret Linehan of Cork Institute of Technology brings together many third level Irish colleges who will present project outcomes on topics such as ‘Before the Potato’, ‘Food of the Monasteries’, Fish and Seaweed projects, Boxty, Artisan Food & Traditions and more.


Food Historian, Dorothy Cashman will speak of her work on the Culinary Manuscripts and their relevance today. The day will be concluded with a Fulacht Fiadh celebration – a one of a kind reproduction of the traditional Irish cooking method more than 3,000 years old.



Sunday the 21st of April is Grandmothers Day; a Celebration of Forgotten Skills. Join us for series of workshops and demonstrations from some of Ireland’s most passionate Slow Food experts. We will explore the food cycle from beginning to end, with focus on sustainability and celebrating good clean and fair food.



The Sunday will be opened by Darina Allen, Slow Food pioneer, who will give the keynote speech at 12 noon. Later Darina Allen, Pamela Black, Granny Florence Bowe, Niall Murphy of Donnybrook Fair and Sophie Morris of Kookie Dough will do cookery demonstrations. For the children there will be a couple of hands on sausage making sessions with Ed Hick.


A series of workshops and demonstrations on forgotten skills including butter, cheese and chocolate making, preserving, foraging and cooking bastible bread over the open fire will be free to attend. There will also be talks on Grow It Yourself, beekeeping,  willow weaving, seaweed, seed sowing and more. While you enjoy the workshops and demonstrations why not relax on the Sandbrook grounds and enjoy our spectacular Farmers Market featuring the best of Irish artisans and producers?


Grandmothers are invited to bring along a favourite recipe that they would like to pass onto their grandchildren to include in a Slow Food Grandmother’s scrapbook. As the guardians of inherited wisdom and forgotten skills, we encourage grandparents to gather their grandchildren around and show them how to bake a cake, sow a seed, catch a fish, knit or crochet…



Slow Food Grandmother’s Day at Sandbrook runs from 11am to 6pm on Sunday 21st April.


Admission is €10 with free entry to all children, free car parking and free entry to all talks & workshops.


Cookery demonstrations are €10.00-15.00 and are on a first come, first served basis.


Members of the public are welcome to attend on both days. (The fee to attend The Symposium on April 20th is €30, which includes lunch and a traditional Fulacht Fiadh dinner.)



For more information readers can access the website or email


Saint Patrick’s Day

How fortunate we are in Ireland to have a national feast day that is known and celebrated all over the world. St Patricks Day brings not only the Irish but the friends of the Irish, descendants of the Irish and the ‘wanna be’ Irish onto the streets and into the pubs to eat, drink, sing and be very merry on the 17th of March every year.

Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative will light up iconic buildings in over 30 sites all over the world on every continent to focus attention on the Emerald Isle.

For months before St Patricks Day every year I get requests for traditional Irish recipes from travel and food writers filing their copy for the March issue of their magazines and newspapers. Often they are looking for the old favourites but I use every opportunity to tell people not just about our traditional food culture but about the vibrant Irish food scene and to remind them that we don’t actually live on corned beef and cabbage in Ireland.

Sad fact is in Ireland most Irish people don’t really believe we have a food culture – try asking the people around you now to name ten Irish dishes, most will make an enthusiastic start with Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, corned beef and cabbage, maybe colcannon and champ perhaps soda bread but after that the stuttering starts.

I recently gave a prize during a lecture in one of our catering colleges for any student who could spontaneously name ten dishes, one person did but with difficulty – I gave them a present of my Irish Traditional Cooking book!

We’ve got tons to be proud of, there’s no point in arguing that Ireland has one of the great cuisines of the world.  There’s a wealth of information out there, from medieval times to the present day – food of farmers, fishing communities, the islands and monasteries. Food of the small houses, food of the great houses all reflecting our food heritage, through the ages. Over the years I’ve collected and researched traditional food. My first Irish Traditional Food  book was published in 1995 and the revised edition came onto the shelves in 2012.

More recently we have started a website of Irish recipes, a resource for those you want to find and rediscover some of our traditional foods, share with family and friends or particularly showcase Irish food on their menu in the year of The Gathering. The web address is check it out and have fun. If you have family recipes that you would like included or food memories we’d love to hear them, send them to

Here are some recipes from our rich baking tradition for you to share with family, friends and customers not only on St Patrick’s weekend but throughout the year.

Spotted Dog


At times of the year when the men were working particularly hard in the fields, the farmer’s wife would go out of her way to reward them with a richer bread than usual for tea. According to her means she might throw in a fistful of currants or raisins, some sugar and an egg, if there was one to spare. The resulting bread, the traditional Irish ‘sweet cake’, had different names in different parts of the country – spotted dog, curnie cake, railway cake and so on. Currant bread was not just for haymaking and threshing, but was also a treat for Sundays and special occasions.


Makes 1 loaf


450g (1lb) plain white flour

1–2 tablespoons sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda), sieved

75–110g (3–4oz) sultanas, raisins or currants

300ml (10fl oz) sour milk or buttermilk

1 egg, free-range if possible (optional – you may not need all the milk if you use the egg)


Preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.


Sieve the dry ingredients, add the fruit and mix well. Make a well in the center and pour most of the milk in at once with the egg. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured board and knead it lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and cut a deep cross on it. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and continue to cook for approximately 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: if it is cooked, it will sound hollow.


Serve spotted dog freshly baked, cut into thick slices and generously slathered with butter. Simply delicious!



Porter Cake  


Porter cake, made with the black stout of Ireland, is now an established Irish cake, rich and moist with ‘plenty of cutting’. Either Guinness, Murphys, Beamish or some of the fine stouts from the growing number of new artisan breweries can be used, depending on where your loyalties lie.


450g (1lb) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

225g (8oz) caster or brown sugar

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon mixed spice

225g (8oz) butter

450g (1lb) sultanas

55g (2oz) chopped peel

55g (2oz) crystalized cherries

300ml (10fl oz) porter or stout

2 eggs, free-range if possible


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Line the bottom and sides of a 20cm (8in) cake tin, 7.5cm (3in) deep, with greaseproof paper.

Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl. Add the sugar, freshly grated nutmeg and mixed spice. Rub in the butter. Add the fruit, then mix the porter with the beaten eggs. Pour into the other ingredients and mix well. Turn into the lined tin and bake for about 2½ hours. Cool in the tin, then store in an airtight tin.

Traditional Porter Cake


This recipe is adapted from the manuscript cookbook of Eliza Helena Odell.


350g (12oz) butter

450g (1lb) flour

300ml (10fl oz) porter

1 tablespoon bread soda

450g (1lb) currants

450g (1lb) raisins

450g (1lb) brown sugar

225g (8oz) citron

4 eggs, broken into the cake, not beaten

rind of 1 lemon

half 1 package of mixed spice and some nutmeg
Rub the butter into the flour. Heat the porter and pour over the soda, then pour the
porter mixure over the butter and flour. Add the remaining ingredients, mix by hand for
15 minutes then transfer to a tin and bake as for the Christmas Cake on pages 284–285.



Seedy Bread


Many Americans are convinced that Irish soda bread traditionally contains caraway seeds. I was baffled by this assumption until I discovered that seedy bread was certainly made in Donegal and Leitrim. The tradition of putting caraway seeds in bread must have been taken to the United States by Irish emigrants.


50g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

55g (2oz) butter (optional)

300–350ml (10–12fl oz) buttermilk


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

Sift all the dry ingredients and add the caraway seeds. Rub in the butter, if using. Make a well in the centre and pour in most of the milk at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured board and knead lightly for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1in) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! (Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this.) Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6 for 30 minutes or until just cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


Kerry Treacle Bread


This recipe was described to me by Mrs. McGillycuddy from Glencar in Co. Kerry, who still makes it occasionally. A richer treacle bread, closer to gingerbread, was and still is widely made in Ulster.


1–2 tablespoons treacle

1 egg (optional), free-range if possible

300ml (10fl oz) approx, sour milk or buttermilk to mix

450g (1lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)


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


Heat the treacle until it begins to run. Whisk the egg, if you are using it, add to the treacle and mix well. Then add the buttermilk.


Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the liquid all at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more liquid if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it comes together, turn it out on to a floured board. Tidy it up and flip over the edges with a floured hand. Pat the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1 inch) deep and cut a cross on it. The cuts should go over the sides of the bread. Bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, it will sound hollow if cooked. Cool on a wire rack.


Cooking From Scratch

Cooking ‘from scratch’ is the hottest food term in the restaurant world in the US, the UK and among the greater food cognegentsia around the world at present. Add seasonal, local and artisan and you are right on the button.

Imagine that, talk about things coming full circle. Chefs are boasting about cooking everything ‘from scratch’ for their menus, doing in-house butchery, making house-cured bacon and charcuterie, homemade tomato ketchup, pickles, relishes…

My son-in-law just back from Portland Oregon tells me that there are over 400 food trucks and 40 artisan breweries in a city with a population of less than 600,000. The micro-distillery movement has also taken off. Chefs are infusing alcohol with wild foraged herbs, berries and fruit and using them in cool house cocktails.

A whole counter-culture to Fast Food is gaining momentum – a virtual revolution at grassroots level and not just among young chefs and cooks, it’s a whole generation of educated young and not so young people who are on a mission to find the best tasting naturally produced food with a story. Provenance is important to them. They want to know the variety, the breed, the feed… They are flocking back to butchers shops learning about meat cuts, dry aging hanging and pasture-raised.  New butcher shops are opening, butchery classes are oversubscribed. They are really enjoying learning how to cook and grow and pickle and forage.

It is beyond cool to be part of this scene, to be able to do all these things and to rediscover lost or almost forgotten skills which were certainly not part of the last generation’s experience. On trips to the US, during the past decade, I have also become increasingly aware of the young agrarians in the US, and the Greenhorns movement – a growing band of passionate, energetic young farmers and ‘wannabe’ farmers whose voice is growing louder and more persistent.

Many of the top chefs have vegetable and herb gardens and are growing at least some fresh produce on the roof or balcony or in a variety of containers – they are desperate to source really fresh organic produce for their menus. Of course it also adds to the story. Several chefs including April Bloomfield are buying farms upstate New York in order to have a trustworthy supply of fresh home produced food – it’s unlikely to be cheaper but it provides ingredients with impeccable provenance and a great story.

There’s a deep craving and a growing market for this kind of food and this kind of story. Food you can trust, from small production systems.  Interestingly, there’s a growing realisation that food from small production is distinctly different from intensively produced food and chefs are highlighting this on their menu. At Noma in Copenhagen, Rene Redzepi tells us that the butter comes from a herd of just five goats on a small farm in Sweden. I suppose I could boast that our Jersey butter comes from a herd of just three cows!

When people know the story they understand why they need to pay a little more but they must be able taste a difference otherwise why would you?


April Bloomfield shared these delicious recipes from her brilliant cookery book A Girl and Her Pig, published by Canongate Books.


April Bloomfield’s Sausage Stuffed Onions


Serves 4


4 medium red onions (about 225g each) peeled, stem ends trimmed but left intact

About 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Maldon or other flaky sea salt

1 head garlic

Small handful thyme sprigs, plus 1 teaspoon leaves

125g homemade sausage (see recipe)

Or shop bought, removed from casing if necessary

225ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Put the onions in a medium casserole or other ovenproof pot with a lid. Drizzle some olive oil into your hand and rub it on the onions. You’ll probably end up using about 2 tablespoons. Grab some salt and crush it between your fingers as you sprinkle it all over each onion, turning the onions to make sure the salt adheres to all sides. Put them in the pot.

Tear off the outermost layers of peel from the garlic head so the cloves are exposed. Put it in the middle of the onions and drizzle on a little olive oil. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the onions, and pour 75ml water around the onions and garlic. Cover the pot and put it in the oven. Cook just until the onions are lightly browned and soft enough that you can insert a knife into the centre with barely any resistance, 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the size of your onions. Let them sit, covered, on the top of the stove until they’re cool enough to handle, so they get even softer (leave the oven on.)

Carefully transfer the onions to a plate or cutting board, leaving the liquid behind in the pot. Use a small spoon to scoop out a few layers of the insides of each onion and stuff each one with about 2 tablespoons of the sausage. Add the scooped-out onion bits to a 30cm ovenproof pan or small baking dish. (when you add the cream and water, the liquid should come a little less than half way up the sides of the onions.) Squeeze the soft flesh of the garlic cloves into the pan and add the thyme leaves, cream and 225ml water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the mixture to a full boil, add the stuffed onions, sausage side up, and baste them with the liquid for a minute or so.

Pop the pan into the oven, uncovered, and cook, basting the onions every ten minutes or so, until the sauce is thick but not gloopy, about 40 minutes. Taste the sauce and add a little more salt, if you’d like. Bring the pan to the table, spoon a little of the sauce over the top of each onion and dig in.


April Bloomfield’s Simple Sausage


This is  a simple recipe, using  a loose sausage mix, which you can form into patties (for a lovely breakfast sausage, just leave out the fennel and chillies) and brown in a pan. Or try tossing browned chunks with orecchiette and broccoli rabe (also called rapini), or use it to make


Sausage-Stuffed Onions (see recipe). makes 1.1kg


675g boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2.5cm pieces

450g pork backfat, cut into 2.5cm pieces

2 tablespoons sea salt

½ nutmeg, grated

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground

10 dried pequin chillies, crumbled, or pinches of red pepper flakes

Special Equipment

Meat mincer or meat mincing attachment of a stand mixer


Combine the shoulder and pork backfat in a large mixing bowl and toss well.

Cover the bowl with Clingfilm and pop it in the freezer until the edges of the meat get crunchy, about 1 hour.

Use a meat mincer (or the mincing attachment of a stand mixer) to mince the mixture coarsely into a bowl. Add the salt, nutmeg, fennel, and chillies, then mix with your hands, folding over and pushing down on the mixture, for a minute or two. You’re trying to

get the fat and meat and seasoning evenly distributed, but you’re also mixing it so it gets a bit sticky. This will help the sausage stay firm and hold together.

If you’d like, make a little patty and fry it up to test the seasoning. You can add a bit more fennel, nutmeg, chilli, and/or salt, if you’d like. Use it straightaway, or cover with Clingfilm and keep it in the fridge for 2 to 3 days or the freezer for up to a month.


April Bloomfield’s Jerusalem Artichoke Smash


Jerusalem Artichokes have a slightly sweet flavour and a nutty aroma. For this recipe, smash them, rather than mash them, keeping them pretty chunky and adding just a bit of cream, so you don’t mask their flavour. Consider Jerusalem Artichokes any time you’re thinking of serving mashed potatoes.


serves 4


900g Jerusalem artichokes

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Maldon or another flaky sea salt

2 tablespoons double cream

Freshly ground black pepper

A five-fingered pinch of parsley leaves


Fill a big bowl with cold water. Peel the Jerusalem artichokes as best you can. They’re a bit knobby, so it’ll take some time, but it’s worth it. It’s okay if you can’t get every last bit of skin. As you peel each one, drop it in the water to prevent browning. Once you’ve peeled all the artichokes, drain them and chop them into rough 2.5cm pieces. Add the pieces to a medium pot that has a lid, along with the olive oil, the salt, and 50ml water. Give a good stir, cover the pot, and set it over medium-high heat. Cook at a steady simmer, stirring once in a while, until the chunks are just barely crunchy, about 25 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat. Stir and smash the chunks a bit with a sturdy whisk or spoon, then add the cream and stir and smash to incorporate it. Keep stirring and smashing until you have a rough mash, some of it smooth and creamy and some of the chokes in medium and small chunks. Add a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkle of parsley. Serve piping hot.


April Bloomfield’s Rhubarb Fool with Cardamom Cream and Pistachios

The rhubarb’s earthy flavour and sharp tartness balance the floral cardamom whipped cream. Layer the fool in small clear jars, so you can see the pink and white, pink and white. Well chilled, it’s wonderfully refreshing. And not too sweet.


serves 4


For the Cardamom Cream

6 green cardamom pods

3 tablespoons caster sugar

225ml crème frâiche

225ml double cream


For the Rhubarb

550g rhubarb (about 3 fat stalks), topped and tailed, then sliced crosswise into 4cm pieces

50g caster sugar

100ml dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2½ teaspoons rose water

To serve the fool

75g shelled salted roasted pistachios

Pistachio Brandy Snaps for scooping

Make the cardamom cream: Use the flat of your knife to smash the cardamom pods one by one. Discard the greenish husks. Pound the cardamom seeds to a powder in a mortar, then add the sugar and pound briefly.

Put the creme fraiche and double cream in a large mixing bowl and stir in the

sugar mixture. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate it while you cook the rhubarb.


Make the rhubarb: Toss together the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl. Put the

mixture in a medium pot and add the white wine. Use a knife to scrape the seeds

from the vanilla bean into the pot; discard the pod. Set the pot over medium-low

heat, bring to a very gentle simmer, and cook, tenderly stirring occasionally, until the liquid is a little creamy and the rhubarb is very tender but the pieces are still more or less intact, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. (To cool it quickly, scrape the mixture into another bowl, set it over a larger bowl filled with ice, and stir gently.) Once the rhubarb is completely cool, stir in the rose water.

Make the fool: Use a whisk or handheld electric mixer to whip the cream mixture until it’s fluffy and full, with semi-stiff peaks. Grab four approximately 225g serving containers or one large bowl for a family-style presentation. It’s nice if they’re clear, so you can see the layers. Spoon some of the rhubarb mixture into the bottom of each glass (or into the large bowl), top with a layer of cream, and sprinkle on some pistachios. Keep layering this way until you’ve used everything up, making sure you finish with a layer of rhubarb.

Cover and pop into the fridge until well chilled, at least 1 hour.




Calling all Food Writers. At last, an invaluable insight into a food editors mind…How to Write About Food – the Top 50 Writing Bloopers to Cross an Editors Desk – straight from the horse’s mouth – one of Ireland’s longest standing restaurant critics and editor – Ross Golden-Bannon.

Ross has written a handy short eBook that covers the top fifty issues, mistakes and problems which have crossed his desk over the previous twelve years.

You’ll also find top-tips on style, logic, legal issues and syntax as well as some examples of the profoundly stupid. Available on Kindle, Amazon and for $3.68. If you do not own a palm book or Kindle you can download eBook reader apps and software onto your desktop and read it there.


If you have dreams of opening your own teashop or café you might consider attending the week long Start Your Own Café or Teashop practical cookery and business course at Ballymaloe Cookery School.  The course starts on Monday 8th April to Friday 12th April, 2013 and costs €895.00 for the week. See or phone 021 4646785 for more details.


Date for the diary…Galway Food Festival – 28th March – 1st April 2013

Know What You’re Eating…

As the horsemeat scandal continues to gain momentum what amazes me more than anything is why we are surprised. How exactly do we explain the incredibly low price of many processed foods? For those of us who are farmers and food producers we know it cannot be done without resorting to deeply unsavoury practices. Furthermore, what is going on behind the scenes has been well known in food circles for a long time.

It is a global issue and unlikely to be the only area of scary adulteration that comes to light. All the more reason for the Government, The Department of Agriculture and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) to encourage and support artisan food producers in farmers markets, country markets, small shops, local butchers, abattoirs, fish mongers…

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion among food producers who have ‘been put through the wringer’ or ‘constantly hassled’ as one woman put it.

Beef farmers are justifiably very, very angry. Could this be the time for farmers to take back control and start the co-ops all over again?

This whole affair which has resulted in a multimillion dollar recall is shining a bright and for some, deeply uncomfortable light on areas of a bewilderingly complex food chain that is very rarely scrutinised. Investigations have revealed an international criminal conspiracy and a tangled web where it would appear that rules and laws are constantly broken.

On the other hand, local food producers are known in their own area and their neighbours invariably know exactly how the food is produced and whether they operate to a high standard. Invariably they are passionate about quality and are acutely aware that their reputation and the success of their business depends on maintaining the highest standard.

“It’s easy to hassle the small people, let them prove to us that they are prepared to tackle the multinationals before they hassle me about labelling jam made from my own home-grown fruit and black berries from the ditches around me,” said another irate jam maker who was told under EU regulations that her jam needed to be labelled the same as the pots in the supermarket. Surely there needs to be a procedure to differentiate between these two very different production systems.

So it becomes more and more obvious that if we want food we can trust, we need to source as much as possible close to home from people we can trust, and where better to start than our own back yard.

In the midst of all this we can be justifiably proud of the FSAI who flagged up the problem in the first place and our Minister of Agriculture Simon Coveney who, despite the criticism levelled at him has dealt with a difficult situation in a carefully measured manner.

Meanwhile back to the kitchen for a weekend menu.


Watercress, Blood Orange and New Seasons Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad


A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply to make an irresistible starter.

Serves 4

2 – 3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

2 – 3 tablespoons Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top. With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into ¼ inch thick slices, tuck a few here and there in-between the watercress and mozzarella. Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.


Braised Neck of Lamb with Wild Garlic Mash


Wild garlic is back in season so let’s feast on it for the next few weeks. Lamb neck or scrag end is ‘cheap and chips’ and really sweet and juicy.

Serves 9-10


6 half lamb necks (scrag ends) on the bone

extra virgin olive oil or trimmed lamb fat

4 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, cut in chunks

1/2 head celery, coarsely chopped

5 bay leaves

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped or 1 lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 sprigs of rosemary

500ml (18fl oz) lamb stock or water

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) white wine


chopped parsley


Trim the excess fat off the necks. Cut into cubes, render out the liquid fat in a large sauté pan over a medium heat.

Season the lamb necks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the pieces of lamb fat from the pan and discard (alternatively you can use extra virgin olive oil).  On a high heat seal the meat for a couple of minutes on all sides turning until nicely browned.  Remove from the pan.  Add the coarsely chopped root vegetables, to the pan and toss and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Lay the lamb necks on top; add the herbs, white wine, chopped tomatoes, garlic and enough stock to come 2/3 of the way up the meat.


Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer into a preheated oven  250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10, to start with and when it’s simmering gently, cover the lamb loosely with the lid or parchment paper.  Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and cook until completely tender – 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat should be almost falling of the bones.

Cool and pop into the fridge until next day (alternatively skim off every bit of fat)


To Serve


Remove and discard the solidified fat and warm through uncovered in a hot oven. Taste and correct seasoning before serving.  Scatter with lots of chopped parsley.


Serve with Wild Garlic Mash (see recipe)


Wild Garlic Mash


Serves 4


2 lbs (900g) unpeeled potatoes, preferably Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

½ pint (300ml) creamy milk approx.

1 whole egg

1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter or extra virgin olive oil

6 tablespoon freshly chopped wild garlic leaves




Wild Garlic Flowers (Alium ursinum)


Scrub the potatoes well. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked, 15 minutes approx. for ‘old’ potatoes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are fully cooked. Peel immediately by just pulling off the skins, so you have as little waste as possible, mash while hot (see below). (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes into the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade).


While the potatoes are being peeled, bring about ½ pint (300ml) of milk to the boil. Add the egg into the hot mashed potatoes, and add enough boiling creamy milk to mix to a soft light consistency suitable for piping, add the freshly wild garlic and then beat in the butter or olive oil, the amount depending on how rich you like your potatoes. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Scatter with wild garlic flowers.


Note: If the potatoes are not peeled and mashed while hot and if the boiling milk is not added immediately, the potato will be lumpy and gluey.


Rhubarb and Custard Tart


Serves 10-12



8 ozs (225g) plain flour

6 ozs (175g) butter

pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon icing sugar

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind




1lb (450g) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces

6-8 tablespoons castor sugar

300ml (10fl oz) cream

2 large or 3 small eggs

2 tablespoons castor sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins


Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way (see recipe). Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes. Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.

Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly inside the tart shell.  Sprinkle with 6-8 tablespoons castor sugar.

Whisk the eggs well, with the 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and bake at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked. Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream.


Sweet Shortcrust Pastry


This is almost the most versatile of all the pastries. Use at least 1 part butter to 2 parts flour.  The higher the proportion of butter, the more delicious the pastry, but the more difficult it will be to handle.


Makes enough pastry to line a 23cm (9 inch) flan ring


175g (6oz) plain white flour

75g (3oz) butter

40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar

1 large organic egg, whisked


Dice the butter and leave to soften at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Sift the flour onto a work surface and rub in the butter.  Add the sugar.  Make a well in the centre and break in the egg, adding a little water if necessary.  Use your fingertips to rub in, pulling in more flour mixture from the outside as you work.  Knead with the heel of your hand, making three turns.  You should end up with a silky smooth ball of dough.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.  It will keep for a week in the fridge and also freezes well.




Neven Maguire, one of the nicest guys on the whole Irish food scene is coming to Trabolgan to do a cookery demonstration in aid of the Aghada GAA on Tuesday March 5th.  Doors open at 8pm. Cheese and Wine reception, craft and artisan food producer stalls. Tickets €20 per person. Tel: 021 4661223 Day’s Spar, Whitegate, East Cork.

The Organic Centre Rossinver, Co Leitrim, Complete Organic Garden Day at the Organic Centre on Saturday 9th March will focus mainly on soil fertility management, composting, sowing in the polytunnel. The course costs €75.00 and starts at 10am to 4:00pm. Spring into the Garden incorporating the annual Potato Day is on Sunday 10th March from 11am to 5pm – there will be gardening demonstrations, walks and talks with lots of brilliant advice on sowing, soil preparation, seed choice…don’t miss the Langford Lissadell Potato Collection  -that has over 150 distinct varieties – that will be on display.

Cooking for Baby – Natural and Wholesome Recipes half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School Friday 8th March 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Learn the best ways of feeding your baby healthy food, Darina Allen who is a mother of four and grandmother of eight, is happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding her healthy children and sturdy grandchildren totally without packets, cans or jars! – 021 4646785 –



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