Ballymaloe LitFest 2013…Until next year…


A month after the Literary Festival of Food and Wine at Ballymaloe we’re still getting excited feedback and thank you cards in response to the event, from both participants and those who came along over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Plans are already underway for 2014 – looks like 16-18 May so perhaps that’s a date to go into your next year’s diary. We have a long list of tweaks and suggestions for next time around and I’m sure that the list will just grow and grow.


The Big Shed at Ballymaloe House which housed the Fringe ‘part venue part food market’ as Michael Kelly of GIY put it, was the lively heart of the festival which throbbed with energy throughout the entire weekend.


The workshops and sessions in the Grain Store and the Carrigaun Room inspired and stimulated attendees on topics as diverse as the Grass Roots of the Revolution: Edible Education with Stephanie Alexander, David Prior and Bill Yosses, The Art of Fermentation with Sandor Katz, Digesting Unsavoury Truths with Ella McSweeney, Suzanne Campbell and Joanna Blythman. Nordic Food Revolution with Klaus Meyer, co-founder of Noma and Ben Reade,  Head of Culinary Research and Development at Nordic Food Lab. Food Writing for a Digital Generation with Aoife Carrigy, Caroline Hennessy, Lucy Pearce and Michael Kelly. The Taste of Words: Food in Literature and Performance with UCC who by the way will be part of the new MA in Creative Writing course which starts at UCC in September.


We also wanted to nurture the next generation’s creativity. The winner of the Young Food Writers Competition was Sean Clancy from Kilbehenny National School and Clodagh Finn from Ballycotton who wrote beautifully about farm produce and a neighbour John Kennefick’s ‘pops’. The prizes were presented in the Children’s Education area in the Big Shed organised by Camilla Houstoun which was the most creative and stimulating place for to be. Over at the Ballymaloe Cookery School the cookery classes continued, I promised I’d share some of our favourite recipes from Thomasina Miers, Stevie Parle and our own Rachel Allen and that will be the last taste of the Litfest for this year.


David Tanis’s Duck Liver Toasts



These tasty toasts – the Italians call them crostini – perfectly complement the roast duck, or they can become a first course on their own.



700g (1 1/2lbs) duck or chicken livers

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 slices pancetta, in small slivers

2 large shallots, finely diced

2 teaspoons chopped thyme

a splash of dry sherry or sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 baguette, sliced and toasted


Trim the livers, blot on paper towels, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a wide pan over a medium flame.  When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and shallots and cook until the shallots are nicely browned.


Add the livers and turn up the flame.  Stir well and continue cooking, shaking the pan occasionally, until the livers are cooked through but still a little pink.  Slice one to check.  Add the thyme and sherry, and transfer the contents of the pan to a chopping board.  Let cool to room temperature.


With a large knife, chop the livers with the pancetta and shallots to a rough paste, then put the paste in a small mixing bowl.  Mash the butter into the paste with a wooden spoon.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Cover tightly with cling film and keep at cool room temperature until ready to serve (up to 2 hours), or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.


Spread on toasted baguette slices.


Thomasina Mier’s Caramelised Scallop, Avocado and Orange Salad with Spices


Serves 6


18 scallops

4 small cloves garlic

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted

1 chile de arbol

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 avocados

freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 oranges

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 heads chicory, broken up into leaves

a bunch of coriander, washed and stalks removed


Bash the cloves, to slip them out of their skins and toast the spices and chilli for a minute or two in a dry pan to release their flavour.  Mash the peeled garlic and spices into a pulp with a pestle and mortar, with the salt and stir in 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of the olive oil.


Cut the muscles from the scallops and marinate them in half the spice mix for at least an hour.


Meanwhile cut the avocados into quarters, remove the stone and peel.  Cut each quarter into 2-3 slices.  Squeeze over the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.   Segment the orange by cutting away the tops and bottoms and cutting each orange segment out from between the membrane.  Squeeze the membranes to get as much of the juice as possible.   Whisk the remaining oil into all the orange juice you can collect and add the remaining spice mix and the sugar.  Check for seasoning.


Heat a frying pan over a high heat and when smoking hot sauté the scallops, 6 at a time, for 3-4 minutes the first side and a minute or two on the second side until they are looking caramelized and delicious.


Carefully toss the chicory leaves, orange segments and scallops in the dressing and arrange on a large plate.  Top with the avocado and torn coriander and dive in.


Rachel Allen’s Lemongrass Coconut Cake


Coconut and lemongrass, two quintessentially Southeast Asian ingredients, are combined here in this deliciously moist cake. The lemongrass is added to a syrup that infuses the sponge with its aromatic flavour. Found in supermarkets as well as in Asian food shops, the taste of lemongrass is certainly reminiscent of lemons but has a unique floral flavour all of its own.

Serves: 6–8


4 stalks of lemongrass, base and tops trimmed, outer leaves removed but reserved for the syrup (see below)

250g (9oz) caster sugar

4 eggs

200g (7oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

125g (4⁄1 2 oz) desiccated coconut

125g (4⁄1 2 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons baking powder


To Serve

Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche


For the Syrup

reserved trimmings and outer leaves of the lemongrass (see above)

75g (3oz) caster sugar


23cm (9 inch) diameter cake tin with 6cm (2⁄1 2 inch) sides


Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.


Butter the sides of the cake tin and dust with flour, then line the base with a disc of baking parchment.


Slice the lemongrass stalks quite thinly into rounds about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick, then place in a food processor with the caster sugar and whiz for 1–2 minutes or until the lemongrass is finely puréed and very aromatic. Add the eggs, butter and coconut and whiz again until combined, then sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the machine, whizzing very briefly just until the ingredients come together.

Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking, make the syrup. Roughly chop the lemongrass trimmings, place in a saucepan with the sugar and 75ml (3fl oz) of water and set over a high heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes before removing from the heat and leaving to infuse.

When the cake has finished baking, take it out of the oven and let
it sit in the tin for 10 minutes. Loosen around the edges using a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cake from the tin before transferring to a serving plate.

Reheat the syrup, then pierce holes all over the cake with a skewer and pour the hot syrup through a sieve onto the cake, moving the pan and sieve around as you pour so that the syrup covers the top of the cake. Allow the cake to cool down completely.

Serve with a dollop of natural Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche.


Stevie Parle’s Madeleines


They are totally delicious as they are but one could dip them in melted chocolate and desiccated coconut as in the photo taken from Cake – Rachel Allen’s cookery book.


Makes about 24


135g (4 3/4oz) butter, plus extra for greasing tray

2 tablespoons floral honey

1 tablespoon orange flower water

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

135g self-raising flour or 135g (4 3/4oz) plain flour and 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted, plus extra for dusting


Melt the butter with the honey, then pour in the orange flower water and set aside to cool. Whisk the eggs and sugar in an electric mixer for 10 minutes or so, until they are really fluffy and double in size.  Fold in the flour, then the butter and honey mixture.


Pour into a container and leave the batter to rest for at least 3 hours in the fridge, or overnight is fine too.


Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.


Butter a madeleine tray (you can also do this in a small muffin tray), then dust with flour and shake off the excess. Fill the molds two-thirds full, and then bake for 10 minutes or so until golden brown and firm to the touch.




Seafood and Shanty in Ballycotton Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June – Darina Allen will open the weekend followed by a short fish cookery demonstration at 3pm today on the Pier in Ballycotton. There will also be fish tasting by the Ballycotton Fishermen’s Association, ice cream stalls, boat trips around the lighthouse… 3- 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.


Taste of Dublin is from 13th to 16th June 2013 – four days of summer eating, drinking and entertainment.

Darina Allen will be doing four, thirty minute cookery demonstrations on Saturday 15th June at 1:30pm, 3:15pm, 6:00pm and 7:30pm. Don’t miss a twenty minute Q & A session with Darina too at 7:00pm –


First Sunday Summer Barbeques at Wells House & Gardens Wexford. Get together with friends and the family for a summer barbeque – with Pat O’Neill’s award winning Dry Cured Bacon Co sausages, steak from Kinsellas Butcher in Gory, freshly made salads sourced from the Saturday Gorey Farmers Market – on the first Sunday of every Summer month. See a falconry display or take a woodland walk… – dates 2nd June, 7th July and 4th August, 2013 –


Love Gourmet Week in Limerick and Shannon is now in its third year and continuing to gain momentum. 1st to 9th June 2013 – see  for a list of participating restaurants and events.


Be one of the first to eat in Yannick and Louise’s new restaurant. Nede opened this month in Meeting House Square – Temple Bar. I’ve eaten their food on several occasions and I’m very excited. They are being dubbed as Ireland newest superstar chefs – a title they don’t relish or court but nonetheless watch this space – 016705372 or

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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