Yummy Christmas Leftovers

What is it about leftovers that brings a glint to my eyes? I can think of so many ways to use up tasty bits. You can give them an Asian, Mexican or Middle Eastern twist, or just keep it traditional – all can be delicious. I hate to waste even a scrap of delicious food and can think of a zillion yummy ways to reincarnate it.

If you have some juicy morsels of turkey left over, why not try Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts or Boxing Day Pie with lots of fluffy mash on top. Chop up the turkey carcass and pop into a pot with a couple of chunks of onion, carrot, a couple of celery stalks, the green part of leeks and some little bunches of fresh herbs, thyme, parsley stalks, maybe a sprig of tarragon and a few peppercorns, no salt and cover with cold water and simmer for 2 to 3 hours on a low heat to make a delicious turkey broth which can be used as a basis for soup or  Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth.

Ham or bacon can of course be used in a myriad of ways, even added to a simple frittata, risotto or scrambled egg.  I love cheddar cheese and ham bread pudding which also uses up stale bread and scraps of dry cheese in a delicious moreish way.

Mexican tostadas and quesadillas are a terrific vehicle for all kinds of yummy scraps. Left over cold potatoes can be made into Finca Buenvino Mini Tortillas, see my column on 26th April 2014,  so delicious and moreish that you’ll want to cook potatoes especially to make them.

Brussels sprouts keep well and make great salads as well as soups.

Leftover Ballymaloe mincemeat keeps for years but you may want to try mincemeat and Bramley apple meringue tart. Throw a fistful of leftover cranberries into scones or a fruit or make a delicious tart or pear and cranberry chutney.

Stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs for croque monsieur, French toast and knights of Windsor, of course no apologies need to be made for Panettone or bread and butter pudding.

Left over vegetables make a comforting soup or a vegetable gratin. There’s just no end to the delicious reincarnations you can make that will win compliments for your ingenuity.

All the recipes mentioned here come from Darina Allen’s A Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan, here are a selection for you to try.


Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth

This broth can be the basis of a flavoursome light soup to use up delicious morsels of cooked poultry.

Serves 6

1 litre (1 ¾ pints)well-flavoured turkey, chicken or pheasant stock

pinch of chilli flakes (optional)

50g (2oz) orzo pasta

2 tender stalks celery, finely sliced at an angle

150 – 175g (5 – 6 oz) shredded cooked turkey, chicken or pheasant

110g (4oz) frozen peas

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced at an angle

lots of fresh coriander and/or fresh mint


Bring the stock to the boil; add the orzo, celery and chilli flakes. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked, add the peas and shredded turkey. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, correct the seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with lots of spring onion and fresh coriander and/or mint.



Christmas Couscous Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Pistachio Nuts

Serves 2-3

How did we cooks manage before we could access juicy pomegranates?


600g (1 1/4lb) leftover roast turkey, chicken or goose

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) chicken stock

175g (6oz) couscous

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) dried cranberries or cherries

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) golden sultanas

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) pistachio nuts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of fresh mint leaves

seeds from 1 pomegranate (keep a few back for garnish)

4 heaped tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) yoghurt

pomegranate molasses


Pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous, cover and allow to plump up until the water has been fully absorbed.  Chicken stock gives more flavour but if you haven’t any to hand use boiling water.


Shred the fresh cooked turkey, chicken or goose into bite-size pieces. Put it into a mixing bowl with the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or cherries, fat golden sultanas and shelled pistachios.  Season generously with salt, pepper and coarsely chopped mint leaves then add the pomegranate seeds.


Fluff up the couscous with a fork, sprinkle lots of coarsely chopped mint leaves and pomegranate seeds over the top, then fold in the dry ingredients and freshly squeezed lime juice.  Top with a few dollops of yoghurt, a generous trickle of pomegranate molasses, lots of fresh mint leaves, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds.


Inspired by Nigel Slater.


St Stephen’s or Boxing Day Pie 

Try to keep some left-over turkey and ham for this delicious pie – it’s the most scrumptious way to use up left-overs and can be topped with fluffy mashed potatoes or a puff pastry lid.

Serves 12

900 g (2lbs) cold organic or free-range turkey meat, including the diced crispy skin

450 g (1lb) cold ham or bacon

30 g (1oz) butter

1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)

340 g (12oz) chopped onion

225 g (8oz) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available

1 clove of garlic

900 ml (30 fl.oz) well flavoured turkey stock or 568ml (20 fl oz) stock and 300 ml/10 fl.oz) turkey gravy

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or tarragon if available

150 ml (¼ pint) cream

450 g (1lb) puff or flaky pastry or 900g (2lb) Duchesse or mashed Potato


2 x 1.1 L/2 pint) capacity pie dishes


Cut the turkey and ham into 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. pieces.  Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions and ginger if using, cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms.  When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate.  Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, a few at a time.  Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and add to the onions and garlic.  Toss the cold turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, using a little extra butter if necessary; add to the mushrooms and onion.  De-glaze the saucepan with the turkey stock.  Add the cream and chopped herbs.  Bring it to the boil, thicken with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill into the pie dishes, and pipe rosettes of potato all over the top.  Bake in a moderate oven, 190C/375F/regulo 5, for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a pastry crust, allow the filling to get quite cold.  Roll out the pastry to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness, then cut a strip from around the edge the same width as the lip of the pie dish.  Brush the edge of the dish with water and press the strip of pastry firmly down onto it; wet the top of the strip again.  Cut the pastry into an oval just slightly larger than the pie dish.  Press this down onto the wet border, flute the edges of the pastry with a knife and then scallop them at 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. intervals.  Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves to decorate the top.  Make a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven, 250C/475F/regulo 9, for 10 minutes; then turn the heat down to moderate, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the pie is bubbling.

Serve with a good green salad.

Cheddar Cheese and Ham Bread Pudding

Bread and Butter pudding can be sweet or savoury, try this one, even just with cheese, but if you have a little cooked ham or bacon it’s even better, it makes a tasty economical supper for 3 or 4 hungry people.


Serves 6

50g (2oz) very soft butter (for buttering the bread and greasing the dish)

6 slices of good white bread (1-2cm/½-¾ inch thick approx.), crusts removed – about 100g (3½oz) prepared weight

110g (4oz) mature Cheddar, coarsely grated

175- 225g (6-8oz) cooked ham, diced in 7mm (â…“ inch) cubes approx.

3 medium free-range eggs

450ml (16fl oz) milk

3-4 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

A generous pinch of mace

1½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 litre (1¾ pint) ovenproof soufflé dish.


Grease the soufflé dish with soft or melted butter.


Then butter slices of bread and cut into roughly 2.5cm (1inch) squares.  Put into the dish, add the grated cheese and ham and toss to combine.


Whisk the eggs well.  Add the milk, thyme leaves, mace and Dijon mustard and continue to whisk for a minute or two.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Pour over the bread, cheese and ham mixture.  Cover and pop in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or even overnight.


The next day, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake the soufflé for 40 minutes or until puffed up and golden like a soufflé.


Serve with a green salad.


Another great way to use up leftover turkey chicken, guinea fowl or pheasant, you’ll be wishing you cooked a bigger turkey.

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious!


Serves 8


8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.

225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken breast or leg, shredded

1 sliced chilli, optional

4 very ripe tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado or Guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion

3 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese

Sea salt


Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.

Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a few chives. If you don’t have refried beans to hand, just omit them. The tostadas will still be delicious.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!


Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart

Serves 10-12


A wonderful Christmassy Tart and also a particularly good way to use up leftover mincemeat.


The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.



175g (6oz) white flour

25g (1oz) caster sugar

10g (1/2oz) icing sugar

1 egg, beaten



450g (1lb) mincemeat – see recipe (p.00)

700g (1 1/2lbs) Bramley apples



3 egg whites

175g (6ozs) caster sugar


Egg wash


1 x 9 inch (23cm) deep tart tin


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


First make the pastry in the usual way. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.


Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-minutes or until almost cooked. Cool. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/250ºF/Gas mark 1/2.


Peel and core the apples. Cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) chunks. Place in a sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. Put on a very low heat and cook until the apples have broken down 25- 30 minutes approx. It should be tart to counteract the sweetness of the mincemeat and meringue.


Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread the apple puree over the cooked pastry base, spoon the mincemeat over the apple. Top with the meringue fluffing into peaks. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour until the meringue is crisp. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a bowl of softly whipped cream.


Mincemeat and Bramley Apple Tart

Omit the meringue and just cover the tart with another layer of pastry, decorate with stars, holly leaves and berries, or whatever takes your fancy.  Brush with egg wash and bake.


Hot Tips:

The Lettercollum Cookbook. Karen Austin has published her much anticipated cookbook of Lettercollum recipes at last. It is mostly vegetarian but her delicious weekly fish dinners have also slipped in. Karen Austin and Con McLoughlin occasionally enjoy a little chorizo with their beans so these are also included. A charming book with photos by Arna Rún Rúnarsdóttir.  The Lettercollum Cookbook was published by Onstream.


It’s the Little Things, Francis Brennan’s Guide to Life. Francis Brennan is terrifically good company, erudite and witty with a razor sharp eye for detail. His new book is a guide to modern manners  and etiquette.  A timely reminder at a time when many have forgotten the joy of sitting around the kitchen table with family and friends not to speak of how to fold napkins, interact with waiting staff or arrange the towels for guests. A best seller over the Christmas season.


Christmas – Food Intolerances

Even if you love all the razzmatazz, Christmas is certainly ‘a bit of work’ and can be a deeply stressful time for the cook or chef. This is exacerbated even further if you yourself or a member of the family have one or several food allergies or intolerances. Until relatively recently I never heard of anyone who had a food allergy or intolerance even though the Ballymaloe Cookery School has been in operation for thirty years and Ballymaloe House is celebrating its fiftieth year. The problem has really gathered momentum in the last decade. Nowadays between one quarter and a third of our students report a food allergy or intolerance on their booking form.

There is a very important distinction to be made between food allergies and food intolerance. The former can be life threatening e.g. a peanut allergy, the latter may cause varying degrees of discomfort.

Back to Christmas…

The cause of all this will be the subject of another article in the New Year, but meanwhile I’ve had many requests for festive recipes suitable for vegetarians and diabetics, (recipes with low sugar options for those with blood sugar balancing issues) and those on a wheat free or  dairy free diet.

My first bit of advice is to source as much local, organic, biodynamic and chemical free food as possible. You will be amazed at the difference that one change can make. Eat less meat but splurge on better quality. Gorge on organic vegetables and whole grains lightly cooked or in salads. You will need much less to feel satisfied, don’t just believe me, try for yourself. Butter is a beautiful natural product but people who are dairy intolerant can substitute olive oil, coconut oil or some other oils in all recipes for soups and even cakes. A bottle of beautiful extra virgin olive oil is a shortcut to flavour and health.

Coeliacs or those with a gluten intolerance don’t have to feel deprived; the turkey stuffing can be made with gluten free breadcrumbs, as can the delicious Gluten-Free Mummy’s Plum Pudding with Boozy Sauce on my website, There’s also a recipe for Debbie Shaw’s delicious gluten free bread. Vegetarians will enjoy the chunky vegetable soup or watercress, blood orange and new seasons Toonsbridge mozzarella salad. How about Smoked Gubbeen and pearl barley, cucumber, pomegranate and toasted almond salad for the main course? Diabetics of course need to be careful not to cause an insulin spike. Jerusalem artichoke soup is the highest in insulin of any vegetable, this vital ingredient promotes healthy gut flora. This soup is suitable not just for vegetarians but also coeliacs and those with a dairy intolerance provided olive oil is substituted.

Made with coconut milk, Asian ceviche (dairy-free) is one of my all-time favourites. A plate of Irish smoked fish or seafood also makes a delicious starter (a larger portion will make a substantial main course). Diabetics must avoid sugar or any of the sugar substitutes that raise blood sugar levels, however a little coconut flower sugar or maple syrup occasionally can be allowed so why not try Debbie Shaw’s raw chocamoca tart with espresso syrup or her mini Christmas plum puddings. The latter will also delight the growing number of raw food afficandos. The real joys of these recipes apart from the delicious taste is that there is no oven required

Medjool dates are a real treat enjoy them with blue cheese or in combination with oranges and fresh mint.

Recipes from Darina Allen’s Simply Delicious Christmas published by Gill and Macmillan.


Watercress, Blood Orange and New Seasons Toonsbridge Mozzarella Salad

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Toonsbridge Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste. A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.


Serves 4


2-3 balls of fresh Toonsbridge Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

2-3 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 4 American tablespoons) Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

50g (2oz) unskinned almonds, toasted and sliced


Toast the almonds in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool and then slice each almond lengthwise into 2-3 pieces.


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 5mm (1/4 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.  Scatter with toasted almonds. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.



Smoked Gubbeen and Pearl Barley, Cucumber, Pomegranate and toasted Almond Salad.

Pearl Barley is inexpensive and fantastically nourishing – lots of protein, vitamins, and minerals – some varieties are also high in Lysine.  In tandem with other grains it’s having a revival of interest in gastronomic circles.  We also use it for pilaffs and to add to winter stews and casseroles like our Granny’s did!


Serves 8


185g (6 1/2oz) pearl barley

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) water

1 teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber

2 dessert apples, Cox’s Orange or Gala, cored and diced

freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1 lemon

seeds from 1/2-1 pomegranate, depending on size

60g (2 1/2oz) halved toasted almonds

coarsely chopped diced smoked Gubbeen cheese



125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons Forum Chardonnay vinegar or cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Flat parsley leaves


Put the pearl barley and water into a saucepan and add salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.


Drain very well. Whisk the extra virgin olive oil and vinegar and crushed garlic together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss while still warm. Spread out to cool.

Cut the cucumber lengthways, remove the seeds, cut at a long angle into 7mm (â…“ inch) slices and add to the bowl.

Meanwhile, quarter and dice the apple. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, and add the pomegranate seeds, well toasted almonds and diced smoked Gubbeen cheese. Add the remainder of the dressing. Toss gently and combine with the pearl barley. Taste and correct the seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and allow the flavours to meld for an hour or so. Scatter with flat parsley leaves and serve.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes were a sadly neglected winter vegetable, but many people have discovered them in recent years.  We love the flavour and of course they are brilliantly nutritious – packed with inulin. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants!


50g (2oz) butter or 4 tablespoons of olive oil

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken or vegetable stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) approx. creamy milk or soya milk



Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa (see recipe)


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with avocado and roast hazelnut salsa.

Note This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.


Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

2 ripe avocados

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped roast hazelnuts

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) hazelnut oil

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped chives


Peel and dice the avocados.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the avocado and chopped roasted hazelnuts over the soup, drizzle with a little hazelnut oil and chopped chives.

Asian Ceviche

Antony Worrall Thompson introduced me to this Asian–inspired version of ceviche when he taught at one of his hugely entertaining classes at the cookery school. He used Asian prawns but we have adapted the recipe to use monkfish instead with great success.  This is also a way of preserving fish in the short-term.


Serves 8


450g (1lb) monkfish, plaice or lemon sole, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

4 tablespoons coriander leaves

2 tablespoons fresh mint, shredded

1 avocado (peeled and diced into 1cm/1/2 inch dice)

4 tablespoons peeled and diced mango into 1cm/1/2 inch dice (1 small or 1/2 large mango)

4 spring onions (sliced)

2–3 red chillies (deseeded and thinly sliced)

4 tablespoons diced cucumber (approximately 1/2 cucumber)



175ml (6fl oz) freshly squeezed lime juice

75ml (3fl oz) fish sauce (nam pla)

75g (3oz) caster sugar

175ml (6fl oz) thick coconut milk


Trim the monkfish of all skin and membrane. Next, make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl. Add the dressing, toss to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.


Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Add to the monkfish and mix gently to combine.


Serve with a little shredded lettuce in little bowls or glasses, or in a martini glass for extra posh.


Debbie Shaw’s  Raw Chocamoca Tart with Espresso Syrup


Serves 10-12

20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or 20.5cm (8 inch) round silicon cake mould


For the base:
300g (10oz) lightly toasted pecan nuts or almonds
1 teaspoon of pink Himalayan salt or Maldon sea salt
200g (7oz) Medjool dates, stones removed

For the filling:
4 large ripe avocados, skin and stones removed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste plus beans from 1 whole vanilla pod
5-7 scant tablespoons (6 1/2 -9 American tablespoons) raw cocoa powder or ordinary cocoa powder (for a more milk chocolate tart use 5 tablespoons and for a rich dark chocolate tart use 7 tablespoons)
2-3 teaspoons Irel coffee essence
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut oil, melted
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) coconut flower sugar (use an additional 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of maple syrup instead, if unavailable)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) maple syrup
100g (3 1/2oz) 70% dark chocolate


Espresso Syrup:
110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) agave syrup

110gml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) very strong freshly brewed coffee

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) cocoa powder

1 heaped tablespoon (1 American tablespoon and 1 teaspoon) espresso powder

juice of 1/2 lemon

First make the tart. Place the pecan nuts in a dry frying pan and toast lightly, moving them around the pan constantly for 3-4 minutes, until they smell toasty. Allow the nuts to cool and then place them in a food processor and blend. Add the stoned Medjool dates and salt and blend until a dough is formed, which sticks together when pressed between your fingers.


Line an 20.5cm (8 inch) spring-form tin or use a round silicon cake mould, no lining required. Press the base evenly into the tin or mould. Place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, just barely melt the coconut oil in a pan over a very low heat. Place all of the filling ingredients, except the coconut oil, in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the coconut oil to the filling while the motor of the food processor is running. Taste the filling and make sure it does not need a little extra sugar, vanilla or coffee essence. Pour it onto the set base and smooth out the top. Place in the fridge to set for 4 hours or freeze the tart for 2 hours and remove it from the freezer 30 minutes before serving.


Lastly make the espresso syrup.


Debbie Shaw’s Mini Christmas Plum Puddings Sweeties 

Debbie is a nutritionist and teacher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
3oz (75g) Medjool dates, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) dried apricots, roughly chopped
3oz (75g) prunes, roughly chopped
2oz (50g) walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sunflower seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) toasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 generous teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoons of Irish whiskey

For decoration:
100g (4oz) white chocolate, melted
A little sliced crystallised angelica and a few diced red glace cherries

Mix all of the chopped ingredients (except those for decoration) together in a bowl or whizz briefly in a food processor. Shape into mini plum pudding and decorate with a little melted white chocolate, angelica and glace cherry.

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and allow to reduce for 5-10 minutes until it reaches a light syrup consistency.

Serve the tart with espresso syrup and natural Greek yoghurt.


Medjool Dates with Crozier Blue Cheese  

How easy can a delicious bite be – the blue cheese needs to be mild and meltingly ripe.

Split the Medjool dates lengthways and remove the stone. Arrange on a plate, top each half with a little nugget of creamy blue cheese and a sprig of chervil. Serve as a canapé or amuse gueule


Edible Gifts



With only one and a half weeks to go to Christmas, this week I am devoting my column to edible gifts, there are a zillion delicious suggestions I could make, and you too can have fun in the kitchen, so why not decide to have a cooking party with a couple of pals.

Many people like to cook alone in the peace and quiet (if there is such a thing) of their own kitchen, others love the buzz of  cooking with kids and teenagers  and don’t bother about the mess. After all, these fun session are what memories are made of.

Really good homemade jams and chutneys are always welcome, but we also love relishes and perky sauces. Moroccan tomato jam and confiture d’oignons or onion marmalade or beetroot and ginger relish will do so much to perk up cold cuts and chunky sandwiches around Christmas, and you’ll find your friends sidling up to you, begging for more. The beetroot relish is also delicious with goats cheeses and makes a tasty topping for canapés, it’s also a winner as a simple starter paired with crusty bread and a few fresh rocket leaves.

Rolls of fridge or freezer cookie dough or Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits, buttery short crust or puff pastry are terrific little treasures to have in your fridge. The latter can be used to top a pie or to whizz up a comforting apple tart. Cookie dough keeps well in a fridge or freezer. Pop a few slices of cookies dough into the oven, and what’s not love about cookie dough – the eternal standby. The Doune McKenzie’s cheese biscuits use up scraps of slightly dry cheese in the most delicious way.

If you make sloe or damson gin earlier in the autumn now is the time to transfer it into those cute little stoppered bottles. Sloe gin and tonic is delicious to sip with a slice of Christmas cake.

There’s a whole chapter in my revised edition of Simply Delicious Christmas on edible presents.

Pear and cranberry, blood plum and apple or banana and date chutney, pickled pears – these are quick and easy condiments to rustle up. Pop them into quirky small jars, dress them up with fun labels and make up some home-made Christmas hampers.

How about marshmallows or nougat, the recipe makes a million! Snowballs dusted in icing sugar also make an irresistible gift as do frosted candied peel, home-made macaroons and how about festive chocolate pops or melt in the mouth chocolate truffles. I won’t go on – a reader just texted me to say the new Simply Delicious Christmas was worth the price of the book just for the Edible Presents chapter alone – fancy that!


Moroccan Tomato Jam

A high percentage of cinnamon is in fact cassia, so seek out cinnamon from Sri Lanka or Ceylon.  I first came across this delicious jam when I visited a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains in the 1980’s – delicious with cold meats, cheese, crostini……

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) jars


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

2.2kg (5lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1-2 teaspoons Sri Lankan cinnamon (careful might be too much)

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped coriander

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) tomato purée

4-6 (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) tablespoons honey


Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan or sauté pan, add the chopped onion.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook on a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, while you peel and chop the tomatoes.  Add the tomato purée to the onions with the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of the freshly chopped coriander.  Cook uncovered until the tomato is thick and concentrated, approx. 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally, otherwise it will catch on the bottom.

It will be thick and jam like, stir in another teaspoon of cinnamon, the remaining coriander and the honey.  This is meant to be sweet, but reduce honey if you rather it less intense.

Cook, taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.


Beetroot and Ginger Relish

This recipe was also published in my ‘Forgotten Skills’ book but I couldn’t omit it from this book because it’s so good with cold meats, coarse country terrines, pickled ox tongue, goats’ cheese …  Another great presie and a contender for a Christmas  hamper.


Makes 4 jars (yields 500ml approximately)

Serves 8 – 20 depending on how it’s served


225g (8oz) onion, chopped

45g (1½ oz) butter

3 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1 lb) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

25ml (1fl oz) sherry vinegar

120ml (4fl oz) red wine


Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.

This relish keeps for ages.


Pear and Cranberry Chutney

Everyone loves this, its quick to rustle up, makes great presents, and is of course, delicious served with cold meat, cheese, and slathered onto crostini.

Makes 8 x 200ml (7fl.oz) jars


350g (12oz) cranberries

900g (2lb) pears (6 pears approx.. depending on size) peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1cm (½ inch) dice

450g (1lb) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 x 5cm (2 inch)  piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated – 35g (1½oz)

1 x 10cm (4 inch) cinnamon stick

1 clove

100g (3 ½oz) raisins


Put the pears, cranberries, sugar, vinegar, and ginger into a large saucepan.  Tie the cinnamon stick and clove in a square of cheesecloth and add to saucepan.  Bring to the boil over a medium heat.  Simmer uncovered until the cranberries collapse and the pears are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir the raisins into the chutney and cook for 25 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  When cool, remove cheesecloth bag.  Refrigerate in a covered container or pot into 6 sterilized jars.

Serve with cold meats.


Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Another favourite which ticks all the boxes.   Try it with Duck, Goose or Pork.

Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) small jars


110ml (4 fl ozs) cider or wine vinegar

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped


Put the vinegar and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan with the cinnamon, star anise and ginger.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chopped plums and apples, simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick.  Pour into jars.  Cover and keep in the fridge.


Fridge or Freezer Cookies

Particularly good with coffee.  A crisp, rich biscuit.  The mixture can be kept in the fridge for several days or popped in the freezer.

Makes 50 approximately

200g (7oz) butter

150g (5oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 large organic egg

75g (3oz) shelled walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, chopped


Cream the butter and sugar, then add the flour, beaten egg and chopped nuts.  Shape the dough into a long roll or rolls, about 5cm (2 inches), in diameter, or smaller if you prefer, and wrap in silicone paper or foil.  Chill in the refrigerator until the next day.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Cut the dough into very thin rounds.  Arrange well apart on a baking tray.  Cook them for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, they should remain pale in colour.  Transfer to a wire rack.


Doune McKenzie’s Cheese Biscuits

This is a brilliant recipe for using up leftover cheese. A little soft cheese may also be added, but you will need to balance the flavour with hard cheese. Delicious to nibble with a glass of wine or to tuck into a lunch box.

Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyère or other cheese of your choice


plain white flour


Weigh the cheese, then use the same weight of butter and flour. Preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF/gas mark 9.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice, then cream the butter. Stir in the flour and grated cheese and form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (11⁄2in) thick. Alternatively whizz in a food-processor until it forms a dough – shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1–2 hours, until solid.

Slice into rounds about 7mm (1⁄3 in) thick. Arrange on a baking tray and bake for about 5 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool for a couple of seconds, then transfer to a wire rack. These biscuits are best eaten on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.



Pat Browne’s Almond Macaroons

We’ve got lots of macaroon recipes, but this one given to us by one of our tutors Pat Browne, is the most foolproof of all.  They can be flavoured or coloured as you wish, a few drops of rosewater or orange blossom water, a little crème de menthe……

Makes  74 approx of petit four size

4 free range organic egg whites, depending on size

25g (1oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) icing sugar

115g (4¼oz) ground almonds


Baking tray or trays

No 9 plain piping nozzle


Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1

Cover the baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.


Whisk the egg whites and castor sugar until stiff.

Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar.

Mix half the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the remainder.

Pipe into approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds onto a baking tray.   Rest for 30 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 12-14  minutes until pale golden. Continue to cook the remainder.

The macaroons are cooked when they lift easily off the paper.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.


Sandwich together with chocolate, lemon or coffee butter cream.


Chocolate Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

1 level tablespoon cocoa powder, sieved

1 dessertspoon hot water


Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar.  Mix the cocoa powder with the hot water and beat into the mixture until light and fluffy.


Lemon Butter Cream

110g (4oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

Finely grated rind of ½ lemon



Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest.  Beat until light and fluffy.


Coffee Butter Cream

110g (4oz) butter

225g (8oz) icing sugar, sieved

2-4 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence


Whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence.  Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.


Festive Chocolate Pops

225g (8oz) dark  or white chocolate, chopped

Chocolate Pop moulds


Put the chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water (the base of the bowl should not touch the water). When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave until the chocolate melts.

Melt the white or dark chocolate as above, spoon into the moulds.  Insert a lollipop stick.

Tap the work top to smooth over the top.

Decorate the top with freeze-dried raspberries or dried cranberries or Santas…

Allow to set.  Unmould.

Serve in a piece of oasis decorated with holly or coloured tissue etc.


Hot Tips

Wilson on Wine 2015.   I’ve just come across John Wilson’s (one of Ireland’s more iconic wine writers) new wine book ‘Wilson on Wine 2015’. It features John’s favourite wines & what a list….it could be the ideal stocking filler for the wine lover in your life. Signed copies are available in Bradley’s Off Licence, Cork and The Ballymaloe Shop.


Helen James at Dunnes Stores.  A few weeks ago, I got a gorgeous hamper choc-a-bloc with ‘artisan food’ products and housewares from Helen James. This talented designer has teamed up with Dunnes Stores to create a new range entitled ‘Considered’. Check it out it’s exceptionally good quality. Paul Costelloe’s range is not to be missed either and congratulations to Dunnes Stores for creating these visionary partnerships.


Ballymaloe Pop Up wine shop. Award winning sommelier Colm McCan has amassed a tempting selection of wines for Christmas (including some organic, biodynamic and  natural wines) from the award winning wine cellar at Ballymaloe. Open weekends at Ballymaloe House, beside the Grainstore on Saturday 11pm -4pm and Sunday 12.30pm – 4pm. Tel 021 4652531

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‘A Simply Delicious Christmas’

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Can you believe it’s 25 years since my ‘Simply Delicious Christmas’ was first published, I had brown hair and red glasses and had just done my first Simply Delicious series on television. The response amazed us all and was so overwhelmingly positive that Michael Gill commissioned a second book in time for the festive season.

It was written and photographed in just five busy weeks, and that little green paperback solved many people’s Christmas present dilemma that year. It included many of our favourite Christmas recipes, a delicious moist Christmas cake encrusted in toasted marzipan, Ballymaloe mincemeat, and mince pies with a dreamy shortcrust pastry. The traditional roast stuffed turkey and goose are there and a sugary caramel glazed ham studded with cloves, and of course there was Mummy’s favourite trifle, and both my Mum’s and Mother-in-law’s plum pudding. What a saga that was – the latter had a misprint in the measurements which caused a great furore and prompted a cartoon in the Sun and an interview on the Gay Byrne Show to clarify the situation. I often see a copy of that original, greatly coveted paperback on peoples’ kitchen shelves tattered from use but much loved. Well 25 years later Gill and Macmillan have published a brand new hard-back edition. Many of the old favourites are still there, but I’ve included over 100 new recipes. Much has changed in those 25 years apart from the colour of my hair….ingredients, expectations. After all, I remember a time when a cap-gun or a Beano annual, or even a tangerine in your Christmas stocking, was a cause for excitement. Pomegranates were beyond exotic and certainly not widely available as they are now.

Crown roasts of turkey are now an easy option for the many white meat lovers, consequently those of us who love brown meat can often have the legs at bargain price.

I have discovered the magic of brining, not only for the turkey, but also for the chicken and pork. It’s a brilliant way to transform even a mundane turkey into something quite delicious.

There’s also lots of advice gleaned over many years on how to ‘survive’ Christmas, and a whole raft of tips and suggestions on how you too can have fun rather than feeling utterly resentful and exhausted. Unless you are a super hero or modern-day saint, one can’t do it all oneself. So make yourself a cup of coffee, put your feet up and accept that Christmas is not just one day it’s an 8 to 10 day affair, and start to make lists and plans.   A rough draft of 9 to 10 day menus is a brilliant idea. Use the left-overs for the next meal, for example ham or spiced beef. Also, allocate a couple of hours on several days to cook for the freezer, stock up on chunky soups and stews and bread crumbs for stuffings. A few frosted meringue cakes and maybe tangerine sorbets…then you have a cushion of staples to see you through any situation. It’s a good plan to freeze in small portions. They can be defrosted easily singly, or three or four at a time, if a group of pals unexpectedly turn up. A few tubs of stew or tagine can be defrosted in minutes.

Meanwhile, if you have not already made the basic Christmas comfort foods, it’s time to get started. These are the tastes that Irish Christmases are made of.  There are recipes for several delicious plum puddings in the Christmas book, but here’s a lighter version you may enjoy as well or instead of the original. Also, a delicious light Christmas cake instead of the richer traditional version. There are also several gluten and fat free mince-meat recipes so have fun….


Darina Allen’s ‘A Simply Delicious Christmas’ is published by Gill & Macmillan.


Frosted Meringue Christmas Pudding with Chocolate Sauce and Toasted Hazelnuts


It’s fun to bring this chocolate covered ‘pudding’ to the table with sparklers on top.  Other meringue flavours may also be used, but we love this combination.

Serves 6

150g (5oz) Hazelnut Meringue (see recipe)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of finely grated orange rind

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) softly whipped cream

150g (5oz) good quality chocolate, melted

15g (1/2oz) peeled, toasted hazelnuts or hazelnut praline (see recipe)



sprinkles or sparklers

1.2 litre (2 pint) pint pudding bowl

Line the pudding bowl with a double thickness of cling film.

First make the Hazelnut Meringue (see recipe).


Break the hazelnut meringue into chunks and put into a wide bowl.  Sprinkle the ground cinnamon and orange rind over the meringue.  Fold in the whipped cream.  Pour into the lined pudding bowl, pressing down well.  Cover with cling film and freeze overnight.


To Serve

Melt the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over simmering but not boiling water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water).  Allow the chocolate to cool a little while you turn the frosted meringue pudding out onto a serving plate.  Pour the chocolate over the pudding, allowing it to drop down the edges (the chocolate will go solid).


Decorate with peeled and toasted hazelnuts or Hazelnut Praline (see recipe) and sprinkles or sparklers.

Hazelnut Meringue

1 1/2oz (45g) toasted and peeled hazelnuts

2 egg whites

4 1/2oz (125g/1 cup) icing sugar


Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease.


Meanwhile put the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake until the skins start to flake away. Rub off the skins with a cloth and chop the hazelnuts roughly.


Mark two 19cm (7 1/2) circles or heart shapes on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the hazelnuts. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles or heart shapes and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 45 minutes or until crisp they should peel off the paper easily, turn off the oven and allow to cool.

Hazelnut Praline

110g (4oz) toasted and peeled hazelnuts

110g (4oz/1/2 cup) sugar


Put the hazelnuts with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour. Stir if necessary. When the caramel stage is reached, and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin, marble slab or parchment lined tray. Allow to get quite cold. When the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.


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Light Christmas Cake

This light fruit cake was Mummy’s favourite. She used Royal Icing and made a snow scene with Santa standing on top – thanks for the memories.


Makes 35 pieces

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) castor sugar

4 large or 5 small eggs

275g (10oz) flour

50g (2oz) ground almonds

50g (2oz) whole almonds

a pinch of salt

â…› teaspoon bread soda, dissolved in 1 teaspoon milk

Grated rind of 1 orange

200g (7oz) sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

50g (2oz) currants

100g (4oz) home-made chopped candied peel

50g (2oz) cherries, cut in quarters



Almond Paste:

175g (6oz) ground almonds

175g (6oz) castor sugar

1 small free range or organic egg

1 drop of almond extract

2 teaspoons of whiskey


Beaten egg white or apricot jam for applying the almond paste


Fondant Icing:

560g (1¼lb) ready to roll fondant icing


Corn flour for rolling out

Vodka to brush over almond paste


Decorations – optional – Santas, candied angelica, holly leaves

1 cake tin 20.5cm x 33cm (8 inch x 12 inch) x 5cm (2 inch) deep,  lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2


Blanch the whole almonds in boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop.  Mix all the fruit together with the cherries, peel, ground and chopped almonds. Cream the butter until really soft, add in the castor sugar and beat until light and creamy.  Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition.  Add the grated orange rind, stir in the flour and all of the fruit.  Dissolve the bread soda in the milk and stir thoroughly through the mixture.  Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.  Allow to get cold, turn out of the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper until ready to ice.


To make the Almond Paste:

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds.  Beat the egg; add the almond extract and whiskey.   Add to the dry ingredients and mix to a stiff paste (you may not need all the egg.)


To ice the Cake

Brush the top of the cake with beaten egg white or apricot jam.


Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar.  Roll the almond paste into a rectangle slightly larger than the cake.  Roll the almond paste over the rolling pin, then unroll over the cake.  Press carefully onto the cake.  Allow to dry for at least four hours, or preferably overnight.


When ready to apply the fondant icing, brush the almond paste with vodka or other non-coloured spirit.

Next apply the fondant icing.  Roll out again slightly larger than the cake.  Roll over the rolling pin and then unroll over the cake.   Press lightly.


Decorate if you wish with Santas, candied angelica, or holly but it looks great just as it is.


Cut the cake into 35 pieces (5 across x 7 on the length) or to whatever size you prefer.


Emer’s Mincemeat

This delicious recipe, developed by Emer Fitzgerald, tutor at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, is suet-free and suitable for vegetarians.


Makes 6 pots

700g (1½lb) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped

1 orange, rind and juice

1 lemon, rind and juice

330ml (11fl.oz) cider or apple juice

500g (18 oz) Barbados sugar

500g (18 oz) sultanas

250g (9oz) currants

125g (4½ oz) mixed candied peel

100ml (3½ fl.oz) Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon mixed spice


Place the apples, orange and lemon juice and rind and cider in a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the apple has cooked.  Stir in the sugar, mixed spice, mincemeat, sultanas, currants and candied peel.    Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for a further 15 minutes.   Remove from the heat, allow to cool.   Stir in the whiskey and pot into sterilized jars.


Ballymaloe Mince Pies with various toppings with Irish Whiskey Cream


Makes 20-24 mince pies


225g (8oz/2 cups) plain flour

175g (6oz/3/4 stick) butter

a pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon icing sugar

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

450g (1lb) Emer’s Mincemeat (see recipe)

egg wash


Sieve the flour into a bowl, cut the butter into 1/2 inch (1cm) approx. cubes, toss into the four and rub in with the finger tips. Add the icing sugar. Mix with a fork as you gradually add in the beaten egg (do this bit by bit because you may not need all the egg), then use your hand to bring the pastry together into a ball: it should not be wet or sticky. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.


Roll out the pastry until quite thin – about 1/8 of an inch, stamp out into rounds 3 inches (7.5cm) diameter and line shallow bun tins, put a good teaspoonful of mincemeat into each tin, damp the edges with water and put another round on top. Egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves in the shape of holly berries etc.


Bake the mince pies in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 20 minutes approx. Allow them to cool slightly, then dredge with icing or castor sugar.

Serve with a blob of whiskey flavoured cream.


We have so much fun with mince pies and do lots of variations.  Sometimes we press out a star shape from the top, so the mincemeat is visible, then we use that star to cover the next one, a tiny heart can be put on top of another.


All mince pies with a pastry top, need to be brushed with egg wash before going into the oven.


Mince Pies with Meringue



1 egg white

50g (2oz/1/4 cup) castor sugar


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


Make the meringue.


Line the tins with pastry rounds and mincemeat.  Pipe a blob of meringue on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  Turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool in the oven.



Mince Pies with Almond Crumble


110g (4oz/1 cup) self-raising flour

75g (3oz/scant 1/2 cup) castor sugar

75g (3oz/3/4 stick) chilled butter

25g (1oz) flaked almonds


Line the tins and fill as in master recipe, but do not put another pastry round on top of the pies.

Mix together the flour and sugar and then rub in the butter with your fingertips to make a coarse crumble.  Add the flaked almonds.  Sprinkle a generous teaspoon of crumble on top of each mince pie.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.



Irish Whiskey Cream

1 teaspoon icing sugar

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) Irish whiskey

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) whipped cream


Fold the sugar and whiskey into the cream.


Hot Tips

Pop-Up dinner in the BIG SHED on Ballymaloe Farm Saturday 6th December. Ted Berner and Ivan Whelan will coo up a storm for the Ring Table Dinner. The exciting set menu will cost €50 and  may contain wheat, meat and alcohol! Booking is essential, please text Roisin 086 1905605

Slow Food West Cork Terra Madre Day Event Thursday 10th December,Organico Cooks the Books! Come and join Slow Food West Cork for a bite to eat and a glass of wine on “Good, Clean and Fair” Terra Madre Day in the newly and beautifully extended Organico Cafe on 10th December at 5pm. It will be a celebration of 3 great books and short talks by the authors: Giana Ferguson, Karen Austin and Sally McKenna with a convivial, casual supper in Organico Cafe using inspiration from each book. €20 members/€25 for non members. To avoid disappointment; advanced booking essential via email to, or call Organico Cafe on 027 55905

Christmas Cooking with Rachel Allen, Friday 12th December at Ballymaloe Cookery School. We are delighted to tell you that we have put on an extra 1 day Christmas cookery course with Rachel Allen on Friday 12th December at the Ballymaloe Cookery School (the earlier one on Monday 8th December is fully booked). So this is your chance to gather a few pals together or come alone to discover a whole raft of delicious Christmas dishes for entertaining and family and lots of tips not only on how to survive but also enjoy the festive season. All of the dishes can be prepared ahead – could be a super pre-Christmas pressie for a fun day just for you. Bookings telephone 4646785, email

Highbank Orchards Christmas Food and Craft Fair 13th and 14th December. Another date for your diary. The Christmas Food and Craft Fair at Highbank Organic Farm, Cuffesgrane Co. Kilkenny,  over 30 local stalls, orchard train rides, puppet shows, cookery demonstration, Christmas trees and nature trails. Did you know that Highbank is the smallest distillery in Ireland, the official opening is on 13th December at 12 noon. Ticket prices and bookings see Email and phone: 056 7729918.


Remember Mutton

Mutton – remember mutton!  now in reality an almost forgotten flavour.


So what exactly is the definition of mutton? It is simply the meat of older sheep. Just as beef is mature veal, so mutton is mature lamb. Spring lamb is the term used for the milk-fed lamb, born before Christmas and usually ready for the Easter market. We use the term hogget for any sheep sold after Christmas whose flavour will by then be a little more robust. There is no legal definition but the full flavoured sheep, over two years old, are referred to as mutton. I’m a big fan of mutton with its distinctive flavour but nowadays it’s almost impossible to source. Sadly, few farmers are willing to keep their lambs for two years or more.


I love the distinctive flavour – slightly gamey, yet juicy and succulent. I had virtually forgotten about the complex deep flavour until a couple of years ago when a friend in Galway offered to rear me a couple of animals. He brought them down in the boot of his car and we had a feast of mutton with caper sauce.


In the UK there has been a tremendous resurgence of interest in mutton led by Prince Charles. Several top chefs like Fergus Henderson have highlighted it on their menu and extolled its attributes. Recently, Bob Kennard, an organic farmer from Wales has written a book with the catchy name ‘Much Ado About Mutton‘. Even for those not necessarily interested in the subject, this book is fascinating. It relates the history of mutton, a meat eaten for thousands of years by everyone from royalty to peasantry. Songs have been sung and poems, ditties and rhymes have been written about mutton. The word has been absorbed into popular language and interpreted in a million ways – Mutton chops, Mutton sleeves, Mutton head, Mutton dressed as lamb, Laced Mutton  (slang for a prostitute). Mutton was used for candles, soap and, of course, the wool was also of great value.


When New Zealand lamb arrived it brought the demise of mutton, and meant a whole way of life and livelihood disappeared for drovers and inns in the early 20th Century.


I had no idea that there were so many types of mutton, ewe mutton  & wether mutton, some of course more sought after than others. How wonderful would it be to be able to source Kerry, Galway or Wicklow mountain mutton where the sheep had nibbled on the rich mountain pasture for over two years. It’s up to us! Make inquiries from your local butcher and guarantee to buy it when he commissions it from the farmer. Remember, it costs the farmer quite a lot more to produce, so it’s essential to guarantee a fair price to the producer and honour your word. Meanwhile, make enquiries, try these recipes with Irish mutton from your local family butcher.


Recently, after considerable research I got some superb mutton much closer to home than I could have imagined. Eddie O’Farrell, a craft butcher in Midleton, has built up a market for his carefully sourced mutton. I bought two legs, slow roasted one and boiled the other to take to Turin for the Slow Food Terra Madre event where the Ark of Taste created a protection around a variety of endangered and almost forgotten flavours from around the world. We also entered Carrageen Moss and Dillisk into the Ark of Taste.


Here are a few delicious mutton recipes from ‘Much Ado About Mutton’ to try with mutton, or indeed lamb if you can’t source mutton.


Bobotie (pronounced Bo-boor-tee)

One of the greatest contributions to South African food culture has been made by the Malay community. In the 17th century, these were slaves transported by the Dutch East India Company from the Dutch colonies in Indonesia, particularly Java. Later, these were joined by dissidents to Dutch rule who were exiled to South Africa by the Dutch authorities in the Far East. They brought with them their knowledge and a combination of sweet and sour as well as spicy sauces, curries, chutneys, and blatjangs (pronounced blud-youngs), which is a condiment traditionally served with bobotie and other meat dishes. It is a cross between fruit chutney and jam. These spice combinations and flavours create very tasty yet mild dishes that have become part of South African cookery, and which work well with mutton.


The author Bob Kennard’s student daughter and her friends are particularly fond of this traditional recipe which has been a family favourite for many years.

Serves 4


500g minced mutton

1 slice white bread

200ml milk

1 medium onion

60gm seedless raisins

60gm blanched almonds

2 tsp apricot jam

2 tsp fruit chutney

1 tsp curry powder

½ tsp turmeric

1 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tsp salt

2 tsp butter or oil

2 eggs

1 bay leaf


Soak the bread in half the milk, squeeze to remove the milk and mix the bread with the minced mutton. Mix all the other ingredients, except the butter/oil, eggs, milk and bay leaf. Melt the butter/oil in a frying pan and brown the meat mixture lightly. Turn out into a casserole. Beat the eggs and the rest of the milk together and pour over the meat. Garnish with the bay leaf. Bake in the oven at gas mark 4/350F/180C until set, about 50 minutes.


Clarissa Dickson Wright’s Mutton with Sumac and Butterbeans


Mutton and dry beans are a classic combination. This recipe was sent by the author celebrity chef who was a staunch advocate of mutton. This selection of recipes reflects the modern take on cooking delicious mutton meals.

Serves 4-6


1.4-1.8kg loin mutton, boned and rolled

3 tbsp. rapeseed oil

500g shallots, chopped

1 tablespoon sumac or the peel of 1 lemon

2 wine glasses white wine

3 tbsp. brandy

pinch cayenne pepper

1½ tbsp. runny honey

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped


180g butter beans or haricot beans, soaked overnight

white wine vinegar (optional – to taste)


Heat the oil in a heavy casserole and brown the shallots. Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon and set aside. Rub the mutton with sumac or, alternatively, pierce the meat and put slivers of lemon peel in each of the slots. Put the mutton into the casserole and brown all over.

Add the wine, brandy, cayenne pepper, paprika, honey, garlic and 1-2 teaspoons of salt. Stir and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours.

Alternatively, place in the oven at gas mark 3/325F/170°C. Add the beans, cover the casserole and cook for a further 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. If necessary, you can add a little water at this point and then taste. If light, add another tablespoon of runny honey and a little white wine vinegar.



Tagine of Mutton and Chickpeas


This recipe was developed for the organic meat company which was founded, and owned until 2009, by the author Bob Kennard and his wife. It was a customer favourite. Like many mutton dishes this is especially suitable for cooking in a slow-cooker.

Serves 6-8


1kg diced mutton

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground paprika

½ tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp chilli powder

1 tbsp. plain flour

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

250ml water

400g tin chickpeas, drained

90g raisins

salt & black pepper

mint or coriander to garnish


Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, paprika, ginger, cinnamon and chilli and cook, stirring, until spicily fragrant, about a minute. Add the mutton, sprinkle the flour over it, stirring until thoroughly coated with the spiced mixture, then cook gently until lightly browned all over, 10-15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water, mix well and bring to a simmer.

Cover the casserole dish and transfer it to the oven. Bake for about 1¾ hours at gas mark 3/325F/170C.

Take out the dish and stir in the chick peas and raisins and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, garnished with herbs and with hot buttered couscous or mashed potato.


Hot Tips

All Grain Beer making Made Simple for just 30c a pint.

This course will teach you everything you need to know about making all-grain beers (as opposed to extract or kit beers). Over the course of the day, you will make an actual beer; including mashing, sparging, boiling, cooling, aerating, and pitching the yeast. You will be familiarised with the required equipment and methods to produce your own wholesome and inexpensive brews. Extensive notes provided. To book, go to Contact Seed Savers on 061 921 866 or email


East Cork Christmas Market.
Local producers of food and crafts at Garryvoe Hotel,  Ballycotton Bay, Cork, on Sunday December 7th 11.30am until 4.30pm.  Delicious Christmas treats, unique handmade crafts. Order your Christmas poultry, baking and locally grown vegetables. Face painting and fun for children. Admissions: voluntary donation .Proceeds to the local Vincent de Paul. For further information contact  Olivia Connolly on 0214646041 or email


The Creatives present The Long Table Suppers.

There are lots of pop-up long table suppers, but be sure not to miss The Creatives,  a series of  delicious suppers created by Jette Virdi,  a past student of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The emphasis of these will be on giving back to the community, with profits going to a different community project each  time. The first event will be held in the Fire Station Rathmines, Dublin

Price €60 for four courses & welcome drinks & live music. Tickets available from Mart, Rathmines or phone 083 167 7977

A Taste For Spices

Have we Irish got a taste for spices or what!! Thirty years ago when I first started the Ballymaloe Cookery School garlic was still considered by many to be daring and exotic. It was ten years before most of us dared to experiment with chilli, not to speak of spices other than a few cloves in an apple tart or ginger with rhubarb in jam or gingerbread. Somehow in the mid 80’s I heard about Madhur Jaffrey and found her BBC Far Eastern Cookery book. I was hooked and longed to learn more about spices so I picked up the courage to telephone her in New York and invite her to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – she agreed. I was beyond thrilled, and so my spice odyssey began. Shopping for that first course was challenging. I hadn’t even heard of some of the ingredients- puffed rice, poha, urad dhal, chana dhal….

Finding the finest basmati rice was difficult in itself but what was as asafetida, amchur powder…… I had no idea what fenugreek or black cardamom even looked like. With the help of Mr Bell in Cork’s English Market in Cork city, we gathered all the ingredients – Madhur arrived and the magic began.

Even that first cooking course was completely oversubscribed. Madhur introduced us to a myriad of new and exciting flavours and techniques, and life has never been quite the same since.

Fast forward 17 years, in 1997, a young Anglo Indian chap called Arun Kapil enrolled on the 12 week Certificate Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. He’d been an ace disc jockey in the UK for a number of years but wanted a break for a short spell from the London scene. Shanagarry in East Cork sounded just the ticket….

Spices were part of Arun’s DNA. After a time in Ballymaloe House kitchen, he started to experiment with spice blends. Customers at his Farmers Market stall were thrilled to find such a selection of beautiful fresh spices imported directly from Arun’s relatives in the Cardamom hills in Kerala. Demand grew, the top chefs both in Ireland and the UK loved the quality, mail order was added to the equation, Arun fell in love and married Olive, a lovely Irish girl whom he met at Ballymaloe. Lots of TV appearances and now at last the book- Fresh Spice has been published by Pavilion, a collection of vibrant recipes for bringing flavour, depth and colour to home cooking.

Arun has been around spices all his life, and he could talk for Ireland and India about all the fascinating aspects of spice production. He urges us all to look on spices in a whole new way, think fresh and whole rather than ground. Buy in small quantities from a shop that has a quick turnover. Invest in a pestle and mortar or and /or an electric spice grinder or coffee grinder to grind to order for each recipe, think of the difference between fresh and dried herbs…. Sage advice that can revolutionise our food, here’s a few of the simpler recipes from Fresh Spice to whet your appetite for the vibrant flavours of spice.

Madhur Jaffrey, who by the way spoke highly of the quality of Arun’s spices when she was over for the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine in 2013, has also published a new book Vegetarian Curry Easy.


Aloo Tikki – Potato Fritters
with Sizzled Tomatoes 

My dad often used to make us fried potato cakes when he got into the kitchen when Mum was out. They’re a staple of any street-food vendor in northern India and a must-have whenever you’re walking around the streets of Old Delhi in winter. This is my version – simple, effective and totally delicious. If you have a splash guard, then I’d recommend using it here, because the tomato sauce really spits. A bit messy, I grant you, but essential for the finished dish, so don’t be tempted to turn down the heat – but do be careful not to burn it.

makes 8 patties

500g (1lb 2 oz) floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper, peeled

3–4 tbsp sunflower oil

150g (5½oz) onion, diced

30g (1oz) fresh ginger, finely grated

2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped (use less if you don’t want it too hot)

3 tsp Garam Masala blend (see page 267)

1 tsp powdered turmeric

2 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp sea salt

1 handful mint leaves, torn or chopped

1 small handful coriander leaves, chopped


For the sizzled tomatoes:

3 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

400g (14oz) tin whole plum tomatoes, drained

1 pinch finely ground black pepper

Sea salt


  1. Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover generously with water. Bring to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and lightly mash. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a heavy-based frying pan or sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry gently for 3 minutes, then add the ginger and continue cooking until the onion is soft.
  3. Add the chillies, the Garam Masala, turmeric, mustard seeds and salt. Stir and cook for 2 minutes more, then turn off the heat, set aside and allow to cool to tepid.
  4. Add the herbs and mashed potato and mix thoroughly. Divide the potato mix into eight mounds, then form them into evenly sized balls.
  5. Add a little more oil to the frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, add three or four balls. Gently press them down into flat but chunky patties and cook for about 10 minutes until light brown on each side. Repeat until you’ve cooked all the potato fritters. Serve immediately with
    Sizzled Tomatoes (see page 182).
  6. Put a large saucepan over a medium–low heat. Add the olive oil and garlic slices and cook for a few minutes to soften without browning.
  7. Add the tomatoes, pepper and salt to taste, then turn up the heat and cook fiercely, stirring to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  8. The tomatoes will release all of their juices. When all the thin liquid has evaporated, add a splash more olive oil, adjust the seasoning and serve hot.


Just Raw 

Beets, fennel, radish & shoots, black pepper & lemon dressing

 A superb, fresh and strikingly beautiful salad to serve as a starter, main or simply for when you want to treat yourself or friends to a light snack bursting with radiant, vibrant flavours. Just be careful if you’re going to use a mandolin and follow the ‘user guide’ to avoid nipping your fingertips!



2 medium Heritage golden & red beets, peeled

3 medium carrots, peeled

7 or 8 radishes

1 medium fennel bulb trimmed

75 ml, 2 floz good olive oil

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 small dried red Bird’s Eye chilli, crumbled

Sea salt, to taste

1  fresh pomegranate, cut in half

2 tsp star anise, freshly ground, fine

½ tsp black pepper, coarsely ground

small handful pea shoots, stalk chopped off

a generous amount flat leaf parsley thinly sliced 1mm (not chopped)

50g-100g, up to 3oz Goats cheese, choose a nice mature crumbly one, you can use less or more as you prefer



  1. Grab a mandolin slicer, if you have one, or a sharp knife if you don’t. Taking great care, very thinly slice the beets, carrots, radish, fennel, place them all in a medium sized bowl, then set aside
  2. To the bowl, add the star anise powder, olive oil and lemon, then sprinkle in the chilli, salt, and pepper
  3. Leave it rest for 5 minutes, then toss everything together to combine them
  4. Transfer to a serving platter
  5. Now, take a small bowl, then in one hand, hold the pomegranate half just above it, cut-side facing down. With your other hand, grab a wooden spoon, firmly and repeatedly strike the pomegranate to release the seeds and its juice into the bowl
  6. Remove any white pith from the seeds by hand, then scatter them over the salad followed by the gorgeous red juices; drizzled randomly over the salad
  7. Now just crumble the goats cheese, sprinkle the parsley, the pea shoots over and serve immediately!


Arun’s (Fat Free) Mincemeat

This recipe uses no fat, butter or suet. It just relies on the freshest of flavours. You’ll really notice the difference….it’s perfect for freezing or will keep in a jar in your fridge for at least 4 months. Don’t just reserve it for Christmas mince pies, spread it thick on toasted brioche, use as a topping for winter warming porridge…enjoy!


200g eating apples, cored, peeled, diced

100g Muscavado sugar

1 tblsp water

600ml (1 pint) sweet, local cider

1kg (2lbs) mixed dried fruit made up of:

180g Raisins

130g, Currants

220g, Sultanas

90g, Mixed peel

120g, Figs dried, roughly chopped

130g, Apricots, roughly chopped

130g, Prunes, stoned, roughly chopped

400g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled and grated

1 tsp, Green Saffron’s Mixed Spice

1 vanilla pod, split in half, beans scraped out into the mix

½ tsp, freshly ground black pepper

¼ tsp, freshly ground cubeb pepper

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

50g (2oz) almonds, toasted, roughly chopped (optional)
2 good tblsp, 50g Calvados


How to put it together:

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan add the Muscavado and water, stir to combine and heat until the sugar ‘melts’ and starts to bubble.

2. Carefully slide the diced apple into the hot, molten sugar being careful not to splash yourself!

3. Stir with a metal spoon until the apple pieces are evenly coated, then allow to cook until they’ve softened slightly. This will only take a couple of minutes.

4. Again, being very careful not to cause too much splashing, pour the cider into the pan, stirring all the time you’re pouring. It’ll sizzle and spit….mind the steam….

5. Next, slide in the dried fruit, grated apple, Mixed Spice blend, vanilla pod and its beans and the black pepper.

6. Simmer, lid half-on until the fruits have turned slightly pulpy and most of the liquid has evaporated. This should take about 15minutes.

7. Take off the heat, remove the vanilla pod, allow to cool slightly, then stir in the lemon zest, orange zest, almonds and Calvados.


Thyme & Pepper Lozenges

Simple biscuits, perfect crunch to fruity sorbet



40g plain flour

45g icing sugar

Rub or two of zest from an orange, not too much

2 egg whites, lightly whipped with a fork

40g butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly

1 tsp cracked black pepper

½ tsp picked thyme leaves



  1. Turn your oven on to low Gas Mark 2, 150°C and lay a sheet of baking parchment, or a silicone sheet onto a flat baking tray
  2. Take a bowl, sift the flour and sugar into it, then using a fork, steadily pour the egg whites into the flour, stirring all the time
  3. Add the zest to the melted butter, then pour this into the eggy mix and stir thoroughly to a smooth paste
  4. Take a good tablespoon’s worth and dollop onto your lined baking tray, then swoosh or rub the mixture along with the back of your spoon to form a lozenge shape about 3cm wide and 12cm long. Don’t worry too much about dimensions, let the mix take its own shape, no need for rulers!
  5. Repeat to use up all the mix, then pop in your oven for about 4 to 6 minutes, until they just turn a very light brown colour.
  6. Bring them out, immediately scatter the pepper and thyme across the biscuits’ surface and allow to cool completely, before carefully removing them with a palette knife.
  7. There, done! Serve alongside your sorbet for a little wow and crunch factor!



Hot Tips


It’s a case of art imitating life as Mary McEvoy stars as a cookery school teacher in her one-woman show, Fruitcake, in Ballymaloe Grainstore on Sunday 23 November at 3pm. Written and directed by Alice Barry, funny and poignant, this play will make you laugh and cry and remind you why life is ultimately exciting for all its ups and downs. Tickets for Fruitcake are €16 and may be booked online at or by phone on 021-465-1555.


Christmas Cookery Demonstration

Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell will give a Christmas Cookery Demonstration in partnership with Russell Rovers GAA Club on Thursday November 27th in the Garryvoe Hotel at 7.30pm. This will include Christmas fare from some of the locality’s top artisan food producers. Visitors will pick up valuable Christmas food and party tips as we guide them through festive treats and meals prepared from local ingredients For more information visit Tickets €25 available at


Slow Food Garden Convivium End of Year Dinner at, Clodagh’s Kitchen, Blackrock
Slow Food have teamed up with well-known chef, TV personality and author, Clodagh McKenna, who will host a seasonal Slow Food dinner at her restaurant, Clodagh’s Kitchen in Blackrock. The evening will commence at 7pm with a Cocktail and Canapé Reception, followed by a cookery demonstration and dinner. Advance booking is essential for this event.   Slow Food Members – €50 per person, Non-Members – €60 per person –  Please email Hermione Winters -  to reserve your place.

Ballymaloe Cookery School On Tour

Once a term on the 12 Week Certificate course, all the students pile into a bus. There’s always great excitement as we head off on our Ballymaloe Cookery School tour – Everyone reverts back to giggly school kids but although it’s a super fun day it’s all about garnering ideas that inspire the students. We visit a farmers market, artisan producers, fish smoker, farmhouse cheese maker, maybe a café and restaurant, food truck…..

This term, we started at Mahon Point Farmers Market – a sizzling ferment of brilliant ideas and a myriad of stalls selling predominately local food. Where to start?! The Old Millbank Smokehouse has a wonderful range of potato and fish cakes. Gorgeous pies – chicken and chorizo, steak and Guinness, roast vegetable and goat cheese… Scotch eggs in many flavours from the West Cork Pie Company, The Good Little Cook make Arancini to make even Italians weep, Middle Eastern falafel and hummus. Marshmallows to die for from Cloud Confectionary,  Marcus Hodder makes homemade gelato and serves it with  crispy waffles made fresh on the stall,  irresistible  cake pops from Treat Petite. Carl Fahy’s Galway Bay Bagels and pretzels made from scratch. Mick’s homemade nut roasts from Nutcase Food Company.  Spanish temptations, La Cocina from Silvia and Olga – super authentic Spanish style baking including their Portuguese custard tarts.  Gluten free treats from Gan Gluten for the fast growing wheat intolerant and coeliac market. Fumagalli’s fresh pasta, lasagne and pasta sauces, numerous cake, preserves and cookie stalls,  Arbutus Artisan bread and I haven’t even mentioned the farmers, fishermen, local veg or herb growers, Lolo’s steak sandwiches, Arun’s Green Saffron spices, Volcano pizzas, Rocketman salads  on and on ……..

From there we headed for West Cork to visit the Ferguson family farm at Gubbeen outside Schull. The multi ethnic student group loved driving through the beautiful Irish countryside and little towns with gaily painted pubs and shop fronts.

Three generations of the Ferguson family live on the 150 acre dairy farm and add value to the produce in a variety of ways. The milk from Tom’s herd of Friesians and Jersey cows goes to the dairy to make the now famous Gubbeen cheeses,  the whey from the cheese-making gets fed to the pigs for Fingal’s Gubbeen bacon and charcuterie. Clovisse grows the organic herbs to flavour the sausages and salad leaves and edible flowers for local restaurants. Giana also has a collection of fancy fowl, geese, ducks and chickens and Fingal in his ‘spare time’ makes hand-made knives when their three little boys have snuggled down for the night.

The produce is sold at five  farmers markets and specialist shops around the country. The students were gob smacked by the entrepreneurial spirit of the family.

The Gubbeen cookbook, ‘Gubbeen – the Story of a Working Farm and its Foods’ published by Kyle Cathie Books is now available in all good bookshops.

We had a picnic and food from the farm in the conservatory and gardens and then off to  Ummera Smokehouse near Timoleague.

There Anthony Creswell told us about the trials and tribulations and triumphs of running an artisan food business. We tasted his award winning smoked salmon, duck, chicken and dry cured nitrate free rashers – a wonderful story which started in 1980’s.

Our last stop was at just a few minutes away close to the beautiful Timoleague  Abbey in the Village of Timoleague  where Gavin Moore and Michelle O’Mahony opened a  pub/café (Monks Lane Wine Bar & Café)   last May. The revamp took just 5 weeks of super hard work with lots of help from family and friends. Their simple menu reflects the fresh local produce of the West Cork area where let’s face it they are spoiled for choice. My students from 7 different countries were thrilled and inspired by their brief interlude in West Cork and are already talking about planning a longer trip to discover even more West Cork Magic.


Mary Jo’s Waffles


Makes 12


Mary Jo McMillan worked with us at the Cookery School on several occasions – she was a passionate and perceptive cook. This is her recipe for waffles which I enjoy much more than mine.


175g (6ozs/1 1/2 cups) white flour

15g (1/2oz) sugar

a pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder


50g (2ozs/1/2 stick) butter, melted

350g (12ozs1 1/2 cups) milk, slightly warmed

2 eggs, free-range and organic if possible, separated


75g (3ozs/scant 1/2 cup) of batter for each waffle.


Preheat waffle iron.  Sieve all the dry ingredients into a deep bowl.  Make a well in the centre.  Mix the warm milk, melted butter and whisk in the egg yolks.  Pour the milk and egg yolk mixture into the well in the dry ingredients.  Stir together to form a batter.  Whip the eggs whites stifly and gently fold into the batter. Heat the waffle iron. Pour a 75g (3oz/scant 1/2 cup) ladle of batter onto the iron. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden on the outside.


Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot in a variety of ways both sweet and savoury.


Waffles with Fresh Fruit and Berries

Ripe berries of all kinds, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, sliced peaches, nectarines, apricots and bananas are all delicious with waffles. Pile the fruit on top of hot waffles, or serve it on the side of the plate. A blob of softly whipped cream doesn’t go amiss!


Waffles with Bananas, Toffee Sauce and Chopped Walnuts

2-3 sliced bananas

Toffee Sauce (see recipe)

110g (4oz) coarsely chopped walnuts


Toffee Sauce

110g (4oz/1 stick) butter

175g (6oz/3/4 cup) dark soft brown Barbados sugar

110g (4oz/1/2 cup) granulated sugar

275g (10oz) golden syrup

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


Put some banana slices on top of the waffles, pour Toffee Sauce over and sprinkle with the coarsely chopped walnuts.


Top Tip

Toffee Sauce is also delicious with ice-cream. It will keep for several weeks stored in a screw-top jar in the fridge.


Good things to serve with waffles:

Crispy bacon and honey or maple syrup

Crispy bacon and slices of Gruyére or Emmental cheese

Crispy bacon with sliced banana

White peaches with raspberries




Real homemade marshmallows are a forgotten flavour but are easy and great fun to make. Toast them over an open fire or drop one into hot chocolate and watch it slowly melt.


Makes about 64


vegetable oil

2 teaspoons icing sugar, sieved

2 teaspoons cornflour, sieved

25g (1oz) powdered gelatine

2 organic egg whites

500g (18oz/2 1/4 cups) granulated sugar


1 x 20cm (8 inch) square tin


Line the tin with a bakewell paper, brush lighting with sunflower oil and coat with icing sugar and cornflour. Sprinkle the gelatine to cover 125ml (4fl 1/2 oz/1/2 cup) water in a small bowl. Allow to sponge for 3–4 minutes. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.


Whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, preferably in the bowl of a mixer – this makes adding the sugar syrup to the egg whites much easier.


Put the sugar into a saucepan with 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) water. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat and continue to boil fiercely until it reaches 122ºC/252ºF (firm-ball stage) on a sugar thermometer. Turn off the heat.


Pour the dissolved gelatine into the syrup and stir. Watch out – the syrup will bubble up a little.


Switch the food mixer on the lowest setting so the egg whites carry on whisking, then pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a gentle trickle, whisking all the time. The mixture will change texture and become creamy. Continue to whisk until the mixture becomes really thick but is still pourable. Pour into the prepared tin and leave to set in a cool place – but not the fridge – for an hour or two.


Dust a clean chopping board with the rest of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture and coat a sharp knife with vegetable oil. Gently ease the marshmallow out of the tin. Make sure it is dusted all over with icing sugar, then cut into squares. Oil and dust the knife again as often as necessary. Thread the marshmallows onto skewers or spear them with forks. They are delicious toasted over an open fire.


In response to readers’ requests here are recipes that were not included in my column on Zionsville though they were mentioned in the text.


Marianne’s Beef Tenderloin

A perfect recipe for a stress free dinner party.

Serves 8-10

1 whole fillet of well hung beef, 5 lbs approximately

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Grey Poupon Dijon mustard

450-500g (16-18 oz) streaky bacon

Preheat oven to 230C/ 450F/regalo 8

Place the tenderloin in a roasting pan, tuck in the ends. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.  Slather the tenderloin generously all over with Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.

Wrap the tenderloin with slices of streaky bacon to cover it completely.

Roast, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 25 minutes for rare meat.

Test with a meat thermometer, it should register 60C/140F.

If you would like it a little better done, return it to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove, cover and allow to rest for at least 15 mins before carving.

Serve either hot or at room temperature with chosen sauces and accompaniments.


Regina Mehallick’s Guinness Cake with Sweetened Cream

This is a signature cake at R Bistro in Indianapolis. A delicious, moist cake that keeps really well.

Serves 16-20

Seeds from 6 cardamom pods

1 ½ inch cinnamon stick

3 whole black peppercorns

1 whole clove

225ml (8fl oz) stout, such as Guinness

350g (12oz) unsulfured molasses or treacle

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

3 large eggs

110g (4oz) granulated sugar

110g (4oz) packed dark brown sugar

165ml (5 ½ fl oz) vegetable oil

220g (8oz) all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

A square tin, 23cm x 7 ½cm, lined with parchment paper.


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

Toast the cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, peppercorns and clove over a moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer the spices to a spice grinder and allow to cool. Finely grind the spices.

In a large saucepan, bring the stout and the molasses or treacle to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda; it will bubble vigorously. Allow to cool.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Whisk in the oil and then the stout mixture.

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the ground ginger, baking powder, nutmeg, salt and fresh ground spices. Add the molasses mixture in 2 batches. Stir in the fresh ginger. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55 minutes, or until the top is springy when lightly pressed. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then unmould the cake.

To serve – cut the cake and top with sweetened whipped cream to resemble a Guinness.


Blueberry and Lemon Verbena Jam

Delicious with cheese but also great in a layer cake or on scones.

If lemon verbena is not available, include the zest of the lemons instead.

Makes 5 x 375g (13oz) jars


1kg (21⁄2lb) firm Irish blueberries

juice of 2 lemons

a large handful (about 50) lemon verbena leaves, roughly chopped

700g (11⁄2lb) granulated sugar, warmed


Pick over the blueberries and discard any that are bruised. Put the blueberries in a wide, low-sided saucepan or preserving pan. Add the lemon juice, lemon verbena and 300ml (1⁄2 pint) of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Boil until a setting point is reached. Fill the jam into sterilised jars, cover and store in a cool, dry place.


Hot Tips

The Nordic Food Revolution

Chef and cookbook writer Trine Hahnemann will do a  (not to be  missed) Slow Food Event at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on the exciting Nordic Food Movement, Thursday 20th November at 7pm. For details and to book telephone 021 4646785.


The Craft & Design Festival at Ballymaloe  returns for its fifth year of offering work by more than 100 of Ireland’s best craft professionals in Ballymaloe’s Grainstore and The Big Shed, Shanagarry.  The Living Craft area is a new addition to the Festival.  It will showcase skills from a cross section of craft makers and food producers.  Interactive stands and tastings will delight visitors as they watch and enjoy these masters of food, drink and craft doing what they do best – creating something of beauty by hand. The Festival takes place on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 November from 10am – 6pm.  Both admission and parking are free.


Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé

With the grape harvest coming to a close across the wine regions of France, celebrate ‘La Paulée’ – the years work in the vineyard , with the new seasons wines – Beaujolais Nouveau, and Muscadet Primeur, available from this Thursday 20th November in restaurants, cafés and wine shops.



Michael Kelly – GIY

Michael Kelly and his merry team of GIYers are definitely ‘ change makers’.

Similar to Slow Food, this movement was born out of frustration and indignation. This time, it wasn’t the appearance of the golden arches in Piazza del Spagna in Rome that sparked the outrage, it was a bulb of garlic ‘all the way from China’ that  set  Michael Kelly thinking, “what the hell’s going on”? So he started a quiet revolution which continues to gather momentum – GIY, an acronym for Grow it Yourself has fed into a deep hunger in a growing number of people (pardon the pun) who want to wrest back some control over the food they eat from the small numbers of  multinationals who control all food choices.

Like the financial world, the food chain is virtually out of control, a convoluted global web, almost impossible to unravel or keep track of.

At the same time, we are grappling with a worldwide obesity epidemic. Last year for the first time, more people died of obesity related diseases than hunger.

The environmental food system is failing us and creating food desserts in the midst of plenty. Back in 1990’s, Cherry Ripe, an Australian cookery writer, wrote a piece entitled “Starving To Death In The Supermarket”, which enraged the industry, but she reasoned that if one was seeking out fresh, naturally produced, local food in season, you were unlikely to find it in the conventional retail system.

Almost 15 years later, despite a lot of ‘green washing’ and overuse of the words ‘local’, ‘artisan’ and ‘homemade’, many would agree.

The GIY movement simply urges people to grow even a little of their own food. It could be just a few radishes, salad leaves or beets. What started with a handful of people desperately seeking knowledge and support has turned into a 50,000 plus army of zealots who are growing at home, at work, at school and in the community. The website is seriously good. The GIY conferences at the Waterford Harvest Festival, described by Mark Diacano  as the ‘Glastonbury for growers’, is a vibrant get together which reflects the enthusiasm at grass roots level with the inspirational speakers like Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Alys Fowler from The Guardian newspaper.  Michael Kelly continues to work tirelessly for the cause, and has been awarded the Inspiration of the Year award by the Bridgestone Guide and the Guinness

Work has begun on GIY HQ in Carriganore in Waterford which will be a home-grown food education centre. Meanwhile, in the midst of it all, Michael has written Grow, Cook, Eat, a GIY guide to growing and cooking your own food,  crammed with detailed advice and tips on growing of your own vegetables with seasonal recipes from some of GIY’s favourite chefs, cooks and growers.

Here’s a taste. You might want to snap up a few copies for Christmas presents.


Pumpkin Chutney


Chutney combines well with rich dishes such as braised meat, grilled fatty fish and, of course, cheese.



700g pumpkin, skin and seeds removed, diced into equal cubes

250g apple, grated

1tbsp fresh ginger, grated

¼ chilli pepper, finely chopped

200ml vinegar

60g brown sugar

20g jam sugar

1tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp cloves, crushed

½ tsp black peppercorns, crushed

¼ cinnamon stick

2 star anise

juice and zest of 1 lemon

salt to taste


Put the pumpkin, apple, vinegar and the chilli into a large pot. Add 2 cups of water and bring to the boil.

Turn down the heat and after 45 minutes add the spices and the sugar.

Let the chutney simmer until the pumpkin starts to shine and fall apart.

Add the ginger, lemon juice and zest. Simmer for a further 25 minutes, adding water if it becomes too dry.

Season to taste. Spoon into clean preserve jars and seal. Turn the jars upside down in order to create a vacuum.

Turn right side up after 10 minutes and store in a dark and cool place.

The chutney needs to mature for about 2 weeks before it is good to eat, but it can hold for up to a year. After opening, keep it in the fridge.


From Cliffhouse Hotel – The Cookbook, by Martijn Kajuiter. Published by Houghton  – Mifflin Harcourt Trade 2010.


Ploughman’s Chutney


This one is for those ‘gifted’ marrows offered up as a bag of courgettes. It is particularly good slathered over turkey on Boxing Day or with strong English Cheddar.


1kg marrow, courgette or pumpkin

a couple of handfuls of salt

500g apples (or green tomatoes) cored, peeled and chopped

500g onions, roughly chopped

250g raisins, sultanas, currants or dried elderberries

500g brown sugar

600ml cider vinegar

3-4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

pinch of cayenne pepper



3 teaspoons cloves (around 9 cloves)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick



sterilised jars with lids – how many depends on the size of your jars.



Peel and dice the marrow, courgette or pumpkin, discarding the woody part and any large seeds. Place in a bowl and scatter over a couple of handfuls of salt, just enough so that all surfaces are lightly dusted. Set aside for at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) to draw out all the moisture. Rinse and pat dry. This dry-salting process keeps the marrow in good shape and stops it collapsing, otherwise it just turns to mush.


Make up your spice bag by putting the spices in a piece of muslin and tying them tightly with string. Place all the remaining chutney ingredients in a heavy-based pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is thick but not stiff, roughly 40 minutes or so. By the end you should be able to draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan so that it clears, but rapidly refills with syrupy juices.


Ladle the hot chutney into warm sterilised jars, cover with wax discs and put on the lids. Store somewhere cool and dark for at least 2 weeks before using. This chutney will keep well for up to 6 months.


From Abundance by Alys Fowler.

Published by Kyle Books, 2013.


Raw Kale Salad


The massaging action of the lemon juice and salt into the kale in this recipe softens it, almost “cooking” the leaves making them much more palatable while still retaining all of the nutrients contained in the raw green leaves. Adding the pine nuts and cranberries provides colour and texture, but you could add any extra ingredients you like to the kale, depending on your taste. This salad keeps for up to three days in the fridge and is a great way to make sure you are eating enough greens throughout the winter.




250g kale

juice of 1 lemon

25g dried cranberries (chopped finely)

25g pine nuts, roasted

4-5 spring onions, chopped finely

2-3 stalks of celery, chopped finely

olive oil

salt and pepper


Remove the stalks from the kale and roll each leaf before chopping into fine strips.


Place into a large bowl, add the lemon juice and 2-3 pinches of sea salt. Massage the juice and salt into the kale using your fingers until it starts to soften slightly, making sure that all the leaves are coated and the oil and salt are well worked in. Sprinkle with olive oil and leave to sit for 10 minutes to soften further. Before serving, add the cranberries, pine nuts, celery and spring onions and stir well. Sprinkle more olive oil if needed.


From Dorcas Barry


Celeriac and Lemon Thyme Crème Brûlée


There ought to be a custodial sentence for messing with the traditional crème brûlée, but mess with it I have. Celeriac and lemon thyme sounds an unlikely combination for a brûlée, but it is, I promise, really very fine. If you haven’t any lemon thyme, lemon Verbena works perfectly well, or you can substitute a couple of sprigs of regular thyme with some finely grated lemon zest. When I made the brûlée opposite, I had an accident that turned into a happy one: the blowtorch used to finish the brûlées ran out of gas on the last one and turned out, as in the picture, partly topped in hot sugar, with islands of solid caramel. It suited the celeriac perfectly.



370g celeriac

50g butter

120ml milk

8 free-range egg yolks

140g caster sugar

500ml double cream

1½ vanilla pods

8 or so sprigs of lemon thyme

120g soft light brown sugar



Peel and chop the celeriac into pieces about the size of a pound coin. Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the celeriac. Cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes until the celeriac begins to soften. Add the milk and simmer until the celeriac is tender, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the mixture in a blender until smooth.


Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 2.


Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Pour the cream into a pan. Split the vanilla pods lengthways, tease out the seeds and add them and the pods to the cream, along with the lemon thyme. Bring just to the boil, then strain the hot cream through a sieve onto the egg and sugar mix, discarding the vanilla pods and thyme. Whisk briefly, then add the celeriac purée and whisk to combine.


Stand 6 ramekins in a roasting tin and fill them with the custard. Pour enough boiling water into the tin to come two-thirds of the way up the side of the ramekins. Cover the tin loosely with foil. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the custard is just set – it should have a little wobble to it.


Lift the ramekins out of the water and leave the custards to cool, then refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or overnight.


Sprinkle each brûlée with 4 tsp sugar and caramelise with a kitchen blowtorch. If you don’t have a blowtorch, use a very hot grill.



 From A Year at Otter Farm by Mark

Diacono, Bloomsbury 2014.


Hot Tips:

1 day Christmas Cooking with Rachel Allen

Friday 12th December 2014 at Ballymaloe Cookery School

This course may only last a single day but it is life changing: turning a potentially fraught and tedious annual task into a stress-free and pleasurable experience.  Rachel and Pam will amaze you with the things that can be done in one day. You’ll learn lots of seasonal recipes, and even more importantly how to plan ahead so that you can eat, drink and be merry for the whole holiday without worrying about how you are also going to feed everyone. For this reason many of the dishes are designed so that they can be prepared ahead of time. The course covers both traditional and more innovative recipes.



Book of the Week

“Something in the Tin”, another cute little cook book to add to your list, choc full of tempting cakes, bikkies and squares, well tested favourites like
cashew caramel squares, ginger jumblies, Spanish almond cake, cinnamon swirls,  Love Kate Raggett’s illustrations – published by


Don’t miss the Wild & Slow Festival  at Brooklodge in Macreddin Village, Co. Wicklow. This 2 day event designed to showcase and celebrate the very  best wild and foraged foods that  Ireland has to offer. There’s also a Winter-fest style farmers market selling lots of pickles, chutneys, relishes, wild mushroom , game and foraged foods.

Check out the website  visit  for details on workshops, events and other excitement.

All proceeds go to Slow Ireland Ireland.


Darina Allen: HallowE’en

Almost every culture around the world marks Halloween, the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day in it’s own magical way, but despite the differences, the basic idea behind all these customs is to honour, remember and appease the dead.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations are the most colourful and flamboyant, it’s a huge festival, celebrated by Mexicans all over the world. Common traditions include creating altars, Ofrenda, in the home to honour the dead, laying out offerings, sharing stories and reminiscences and visiting and cleaning the graves. This is a convivial rather than sombre affair with relatives bringing the favourite foods of the deceased to the graveyard to share a picnic with relatives and friends as they share memories of their loved ones.

For non-Mexicans their first introduction to the Day of the Dead seems spooky and macabre. Colourful skeletons, bones and skulls decorate both homes and food. The tradition of making sugar skulls, calaveras de azucar, endures. These gaily decorated vibrant candied skulls are not considered to be creepy or morbid, instead they are happy , even smiling or laughing, embellished with eye popping colours, hot pinks, neon blue, bright yellow, vivid orange, glowing green…. They can be further decorated with glitter, sequins, beads, rhinestones, feathers, shiny foil and googly eyes, anything that will stick to the icing. Female skulls can be adorned with paper hats, male with cowboy or sailor hats.

There’s a lot of room for creativity, but they are rarely eaten. Sugar skulls are placed on the altar and last for up to year. Check out Pinterest for a feast of colour.

Other Day of the Dead foods are Pan de Muerto, traditional Mexican sweet bread which is made in a variety of ways across different regions of Mexico. It’s easy to make but takes time and again can be decorated in a myriad of styles with bones and skulls and sparkly sugar on colourful icing.

In Spain, Halloween is a three day celebration, starting on the 31st October every year. The first is, Dia de las Brujas or Day of the Witches, this is also called Samhain or Noite des Calacus, Night of the Pumpkins in Galicia. This is followed by Dia de Todos los Santos, all Saints Day and finally on 2nd November, the customs and rituals of Dia de los Muertos, All Saints day, are observed as in Mexico. Halloween is not just about the dead it’s also celebration of the continuity of life.

Once again there are specific foods and drinks including one made from herbs and set alight to chase away the evil spirits, called quemadas.

Here in Ireland, Halloween festivities gather momentum every year. As with Christmas, the original raison d’être is all but forgotten in the frenzy of ‘trick or treating’ but still local bakers mark the festival by adding the traditional ring to a fruity yeasted bread called barmbrack and maybe a stick, a pea and a piece of rag for added excitement.
In our house we also eat colcannon made with the early kale – traditionally eaten in Ireland and Scotland, a little bowl was put outside on a window sill to ward away the evil spirits. It’s comfort food at it’s best.

Halloween Colcannon

Colcannon was one of the festive dishes eaten at Halloween, when a ring and a thimble would be hidden in the fluffy green-flecked mass. The ring denotes marriage, but the person who found the thimble would be a spinster for life. Poems would have been written and songs sung about this much-loved dish.
Threepenny or sixpenny bits were sometimes hidden in the colcannon at Halloween for children to find.

Serves about 8

450g (1lb) Savoy, spring cabbage or kale (kale is the most traditional)
1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks
about 225ml (8fl oz) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) butter

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are half-cooked after about 15 minutes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan and put onto a gentle heat, leaving the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.
Meanwhile, if using cabbage, remove the dark outer leaves, wash the remainder, cut it into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter.
When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk and the finely chopped shallots into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard. Mash the potatoes quickly, while they are still warm, and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy purée. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.
Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20–25 minutes. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top.

Diana Kennedy’s Pan de Muerto

From The Art of Mexican Cooking (Bantam Books, 1989)
Makes 1 large bread, about 11 inches in diameter, or three small ones.

450g/1 lb (4 scant cups) plain white flour, plus extra for bowl and working surface
12g/ ½ oz (1 ¼ teaspoons) sea salt
50g/ 2oz ( 1/3 cup) sugar
Scant 25g /1oz (3 scant tablespoons) fresh yeast or 1 ½ scant tablespoons dry yeast
150ml /5 fl ozs ( ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a mixing bowl and gradually beat in the water and eggs. (Mexican bakers do not bother to cream the yeast, knowing that it is fresh – do it if you wish.) Continue beating until the dough forms a cohesive mass around the dough hook; it should be sticky, elastic and shiny – about 5 minutes. Turn out onto a floured board and form into a round cushion shape. Butter and flour a clean bowl. Place the dough in it and cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel and set aside in a warm place – ideally 21C / 70°F – until the dough doubles in volume, about 2 hours.

The Final Dough
The starter torn into small pieces
225g/ 8oz ( 1 cup) sugar
200g / 7 ozs (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing baking sheets
450g / 1 lb plain white flour, plus extra for board and bowl
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
50ml/ 2 fl ozs ( ¼ cup) water, approximately
1 teaspoon orange flower water and/or grated rind of 1 orange

4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
¼ cup melted unsalted butter, approximately
50g / 2oz (1/3 cup) sugar, approximately
Liberally grease 4 baking sheets (for both breads while proofing). Put the starter, sugar and butter into a mixing bowl and mix well, gradually beating in the flour and egg yolks alternately. Beat in the water and flavouring – you should have a slightly sticky, smooth, shiny dough that just holds its shape (since eggs, flours and climates differ, you may need to reduce or increase the liquid). Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a round cushion shape.

Wash out mixing bowl, butter and flour it, and replace the dough in it. Cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel and set aside in a warm place – ideally about 21C / 70°F – for about 1½ hours, until it almost doubles in size, or set aside overnight in the bottom of the refrigerator.

Bring the dough up to room temperature before attempting to work with it. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and divide the dough into two equal pieces. Set one aside for forming later. Take three quarters of the dough and roll it into a smooth ball. Press it out to a circle about 8 inches in diameter – it should be about 1-inch thick. Press all around the edge to form a narrow ridge – like the brim of a hat – and transfer to one of the greased baking sheets. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place (about 21c / 70°F) to rise about half its size – about 1 hour. Taking the remaining one-quarter of the dough, divide it into four equal parts. Roll one of the parts into a smooth ball. Roll the other 3 strips about 8 inches long, forming knobs as you go for the “bones.” Transfer the four pieces to another greased tray, cover loosely with greased plastic wrap, and set aside to rise for about 1 hour.

Repeat these steps to form the second bread with the other piece of dough that was set aside. Heat oven to 190C/375°F/regalo 5.

At the end of the rising period, carefully place the strips of dough forming the “bones” across the main part of the bread, place the round ball in the middle to form the “skull,” and press your finger in hard to form the eye sockets. Brush the surface of the dough well with the beaten yolks and bake at the top of the oven until well browned and springy – about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, open the door, and let the bread sit there for about 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle well with sugar.

Jeannie Chesterton Halloween Chocolate and Almond Cake

This rich, moist chocolate cake is made with whole almonds and, like many of the cakes we bake at Buenvino, it uses no flour.
Serves 8-12

For the cake
115g (4oz) unsalted butter, plus more for the tin
Plain flour, for the tin
115g (4oz) best quality dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate
2 tablespoons Spanish Brandy
50g (1 ¾ oz) blanched almonds
115g (4oz) granulated or caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon
3 free-range eggs, separated.

For the icing
115g (4oz) best quality dark (70% cocoa solids) chocolate
55g (2oz) icing sugar
2 tablespoons Spanish Brandy
115g (4oz) unsalted butter
Icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regalo 4.
Line the bases of two 20cm (8in) cake tins with greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the base and side with butter and dust with a little flour, turning to coat the tin and tapping out the excess.

Melt the chocolate with the Brandy in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water. Let cool. Grind the almonds in a food processor; they should be left a little gritty, not ground to a paste.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and the 1155 (4oz) of sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one by one.
In a third bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Add the melted, cooled chocolate to the butter mixture with half the ground almonds. Fold in the egg whites, followed by the remaining almonds; then the remaining egg white.
Divide the mixture between the prepared tins and make a dip in the centre of each cake. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. The cake should be moist and slightly unset at the centre.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack, remove the papers and allow to get cold.
For the icing, melt the chocolate, icing sugar and brandy in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, then whisk in the butter bit by bit. Remove from the heart and whisk occasionally until cool.

When the cake is cold, fill and ice it with the chocolate icing.
To decorate, make a stencil of a witch or a pumpkin, lay on top of the cake and dust with icing sugar.
Delicious with a chilled glass of pale cream sherry.

Ballymaloe Halloween Barmbrack

This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the bakers Halloween Barmbrack made with yeast.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas
110g (4oz) raisins
110g (4oz) currants
50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) hot tea
1 organic egg, whisked
200g (7oz/scant 1 cup) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz/2 cups) self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
50g (2oz) homemade candied peel (see recipe)

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3in)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.

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

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Hot Tips:

  • Feel like an Autumn break? Can’t imagine anywhere lovelier that Finca Buenvino near Aracena in Andalucía. In the midst of oak forests where free range Iberian pigs destined for pata negra, gorge on acorns and then there’s Jeannie’s food which is beyond delicious.
    Check out
  • West Cork Garlic:
    Writing about Halloween reminded me that vampires abhor garlic or so I’m told!
    Bryan Perrin grows 10 different varieties of garlic with origins in many parts of Europe and Asia on the fertile land in and around the 16th Century ruins of Ballinacarriga Castle near Dunmanway in West Cork. It is sold in local farmers’ markets, supermarkets and wholefood shops. They also sell garlic seed and will offer advice on growing. Traditionally garlic was planted on the shortest day of the year, 21st December, and harvested on the longest (21st June) – you may need to adjust that slightly now with global warming. Contact or 087 133 3751 for your nearest stockist or growing advice.
  • Craft Beer and food pairing is all the rage.
    So brilliant to have a selection of craft beers at last.
    Guess where you can get a really well chosen selection?
    At Number 21, a little off licence tucked in behind the Lakeview filling station in Midleton, there’s another in Coburg Street in Cork and also in Charleville. They carry an unbelievable 250 lines, as well as the growing number of Irish craft beers and ciders, they stock Widmer Brothers from Portland, the Kona range from Hawaii, Brewdog from Scotland – Punk IPA has a cult following. There are gluten free ales, a whole range of English ales, Eviltwin Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Fruit beers, Icebocks, Belgian beers and Trappiste beers.
    Contact 021 463 8444, Twitter:@no21midleton or Facebook: Number 21 Midleton.

Darina Allen: Recipes That Will Warm Up Any Autumn

IFEST, The first major celebration of Irish culture and food was held in Boston recently. It’s the brainchild of Rachael Kelly, the young entrepreneur who was behind the Taste of Dublin festival for many years. Her vision is to take IFEST to all the American cities where there is a strong Irish diaspora and not just to celebrate Ireland but to generate both business investment and tourism.

Rachael invited me to cook the Welcome Gala Dinner at the Seaport Hotel on the opening night with Boston chef Lydia Shire, we had lots of fun in the kitchen with a terrific supporting cast.
Brigitta Hedin Curtin had brought her Burren smoked wild Irish salmon all the way from Lisdoonvarna in Co Clare. We served that with pickled red onions and Arjard, and lots of freshly baked Ballymaloe brown bread and white soda bread slathered with Irish Kerrygold butter. It’s now widely available in the US and much sought after not only by the Irish Americans with a craving for a taste of home but by many top chefs simply for its quality and flavour.

Next there was pea and cilantro soup followed by delicious lamb with eggplant and rocket leaves, Lydia Shire’s son had cooked a beautiful fish plate of haddock and lobster in foaming Irish brown butter with cape gooseberries and sugar pumpkin soufflé.

My team at the Ballymaloe cookery school had make hundreds of homemade crackers to go with the Cashel Blue and Dubliner and Skellig cheeses and then came Lydia’s interpretation of Irish coffee meringue, a fluffy tender pavlova served with a Irish Jameson cream and a square of coffee jelly, a real ‘ta dah’ dessert that rounded off the meal in a delicious and memorable way.
After dinner, there was a live performance of Riverdance and Heartbeat of Home, brought to Boston by Moya Doherty, who has supported the IFEST concept from its inception. Paddy Moloney joined them on stage with a surprise appearance by astronaut Cady Coleman who had taken one of Paddy’s tin whistles into space in 2011. They played a magical duet together on the stage , it was a ‘goose prickle’ moment for sure.

The festival ran over three days with Jameson and Dingle gin well represented as well as numerous other Irish companies. I gave a couple of cookery demonstrations of Irish baking, barn brack, orange scones, Spotted dog and Auntie Florence’ s crumpets. You can’t imagine the response, after each demonstration the audience surrounded the podium and devoured every morsel, Kevin Dundon from Dunbrody House and Cathal Armstrong originally from Dublin also gave cookery demonstrations as well as many well-known Boston chefs including Barbara Lynch, Ana Sortun and renowned Sofra pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick.

As usual I whizzed around town to check out the food scene, I loved the food at Sofra, a Middle Eastern Bakery and café and picked up lots of goodies at unmissable Formaggio, a grocer and cheese shop. I also had a delicious dinner at Barbara Lynch’s Sportello, most memorable was a dish of pasta with rabbit and green olives. Row 34, close to the Seaport was also throbbing, we ate out on the street so we could try to hear each other. Sadly, super loud thumping music is a persistent trend in many US restaurants not sure if it helps to turn the tables faster but it’s totally exhausting if you actually want to try to catch up with your dinner companions unless you can lip read.
Loved the raw fish, briny sea urchin roes on a crostini, several different types of oysters including crispy fried oysters with pickled vegetables in lettuce cups and tuna sashimi with avocado and crispy onions.

I managed to take in two Farmers Markets on Saturday morning, one at Union Square and the other at Eccleston Place, close to Jamacia Square where there was a Fermentation Festival in full swing. Guess who I bumped into, Sandor Katz, the fermentation guru who has been one of the stars of the LitFest for the past two years. He thought he was hallucinating when he saw me….
The fermentation and pickling movement is huge and still growing.

I also loved a little shop called Farm and Fable owned by Abbey Ruettgers who too was astonished when I walked in to her premises. She had been to the cookery school for a week when she was 12, can’t imagine how she recognised me, I had brown hair and red glasses back then…

Finally on Sunday evening just before I dashed to the airport, I had a selection of small plates at Coppa, delicious food in a really cool neighbourhood restaurant, a must for your Boston list. Farm and Fable, Formaggio and Coppa are within a few steps of each other on Shawmut Avenue in Boston.


Chef Jamie Bissonette won a James Beard Award and has recently published a new book on Charcuterie, to make and serve at home.


Jamie Bissonnette’s Cauliflower Kimchi

Makes 1 Gallon (3.7l)
If you want to learn about fermenting meats, I recommend learning how to make kimchi, or fermented vegetables, first. This is good training because it shows patience! You can substitute any number of vegetables in this traditional Korean recipe, including cabbage, swede turnip, carrots, radishes or cucumbers.
1 head cauliflower
2 tbsp (30g) ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
1.5oz (80g) coarse Chilean chilli flakes
3 red radishes, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 sprigs scallion chopped rough
16 fl oz (450ml) fish sauce
2 ozs (60g) palm sugar
Juice of 2 limes
1 cup (225ml/8 fl oz) water
Chop the head of cauliflower to resemble large pieces of couscous. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup (237ml) water, or enough water so that mixture is ¾ covered with water. Put in an airtight container and let it sit in a cool, dry place for 1 week. Check it every day and shake it up if any fuzz appears on the surface. After 1 week it’s ready to eat – and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 30 days.
If you’re not patient enough to wait a week, double the lime juice and let the kimchi sit overnight in the refrigerator. It will be ready to eat immediately.

From The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette, published by Page Street Publishing.

Jamie Bissonnette’s Green Tomato Chutney

Makes 2 quarts (1.8l)
A lot of farmers come to us with green tomatoes, and you can only pickle or fry so many! I started making chutneys out of them, and this recipe is so popular we make it in 20-pound batches. The sour, tart flavour of the green tomatoes combined with the sugar yields sweet and sour flavoured chutney that can be served on anything from cheese to Foie Gras Torchon.

4 cloves garlic
1 piece mace
1 broken piece cassia bark
1lb (450g) green tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 cups (480g) sugar
¼ cup (60g) yellow mustard seeds
1 tbsp (15ml) molasses
2 tbsp (30ml) white wine vinegar
1 tbsp (15ml) mustard seed oil
Sachet in cheesecloth: 4 garlic cloves, 1 piece mace and 1 broken piece cassia bark.
Mix the tomatoes with the sugar and let sit overnight in the refrigerator, or at least 12 hours. Combine sugared tomatoes with all other ingredients in a pot. Cook over a medium heat for 45 minutes, adding ¼ cup (60ml) water if it’s too thick.
Alternatively, add 1 cup (240g) chopped Indian lime (right out of the jar) and use over steamed white rice.
The New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette, published by Page Street Publishing.

Strozzapreti with Rabbit and Green Olives

We loved this dish from Barbara Lynch, which is considered to be a classic at Sportello, one of her restaurants on Boston.

16fl oz (450ml) strained stock (recipe below)
1 cup chopped green olives – conversion pending from Teachers
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 whole rabbit, broken down (forearms, thighs, loins) and carcass reserved for stock
Fresh strozzapreti (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Rabbit Stock:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 rabbit carcass, chopped
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
8fl oz (225ml) white wine

10 oz (275g) semolina flour, divided
Pinch of salt
8fl oz (225ml) warm water

Place strained stock in a sauce pot, bring to a simmer and reduce over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Add chopped olives, rosemary and rabbit meat and cook for another 20 minutes. Pierce meat with a fork — meat should pull away from the bone easily. Remove meat, chop into smaller pieces and add back to sauce, continuing to reduce for 10 minutes. Toss with cooked strozzapreti and season with salt and pepper to taste and a bit of grated Parmesan to pull it all together.

Rabbit Stock:
In a medium-size braiser, heat oil over medium heat. Add rabbit bones, and brown. Remove bones and set aside, then add forearms, thighs and loins and sauté until browned. Remove and set aside. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sauté until softened and fragrant, about 7 minutes. Add wine, scraping up any browned bits then add the bones and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 hour. Reduce to a simmer and cook for an additional hour. Cool, strain, and reserve.

Place 7½ oz (210g) semolina with salt in a mixer with hook attachment (save the remaining 2½ oz (60g) for the sheet trays). Add water slowly, and mix until a nice smooth ball of dough is formed, about 7 minutes. Remove and rest under a damp cloth. Divide the dough into thirds, and shape one portion at a time, keeping the remaining dough covered. On a wooden board, form large pea-size pieces of dough. Using you index and middle fingers, roll a piece toward you, back and forth a few times until about 2 inches (5cm) long and thicker in the middle. If the board is too dry, wet it with a damp cloth (You will know if you need damp cloth if the pasta isn’t rolling easily!). After rolling, place shaped pasta on a sheet tray or flat plate sprinkled with semolina and freeze or refrigerate until you are ready to cook it.


Hot Tips

  • Gubbeen Cheese are doing a special Offer to celebrate the publication of their much anticipated new book: GUBBEEN, The Story of a Working Farm and its Foods.From 16th October for two weeks they are offering a copy of the Book plus a small Gubbeen Cheese and some of their Oatcakes for €35 plus p&p,see for details.
  • Head to the Marble City for the eighth annual Savour Kilkenny food festival from October 24 to 27 2014.
    Chefs taking part in this year’s event include Rory O’Connell from Ballymaloe Cookery School, Kevin Dundon from Dunbrody House, Arun Kapil from Green Saffron and Stephen Gibson from Pichet.
    Events include Can the Critics Cook?, which sees food writers swapping their pens for aprons, and Meet the Maker, where some of Kilkenny’s best food producers tell us the stories behind their ranges.
    The festival wraps up on Sunday with a food market featuring 85 producers.
    You can see the full programme at
  • Another Hot Tip for your London list, SPRING has definitely sprung with the opening of the most anticipated new restaurant for several years, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant in a green house at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond was a game changer on the London food scene. When she left a couple of years ago having been awarded a Michelin star for her decidedly un Michelin style food, her devotees of which I am most certainly one were bereft, now we’re happy again…
    SPRING is in Somerset House on the Strand.
    Telephone: 0044 203 011 0115 – Website:


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