ArchiveMarch 2014

Mother’s Day

I’ve only just discovered how Mother’s Day came about.  I’d often wondered but just recently came across a piece about an American lady called Anne Jarvis who conceived the idea of Mother’s Day in the early 1990’s after the death of her own mother. She imagined it as a way of honouring the sacrifices mothers make for their children and how it’s not until we have our own children that we truly begin to appreciate the heroism of our own mothers. We may whinge and argue and at times be totally unaware of how unreasonable and obnoxious we are particularly during those tumultuous teenage years but the penny drops pretty quickly during those first days when you bring home a new born babe and struggle to snatch a few hours sleep not to speak of keeping all the balls in the air.

I can’t imagine how young mothers (and fathers) manage to juggle as the responsibilities of motherhood and a job nowadays – heroic ‘is truly’ an understatement and if ever a celebration was justified its Mother’s Day.

Anna battled for a number of years to get Mother’s Day officially recognised and in 1914 her persistence paid off when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the 2nd Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in the US.

What originally started as a personal celebration quickly became highly commercialised much to the disappointment and disgust of its originator who disowned the festival altogether and actually lobbied the US government to remove the holiday from the American calendar without success.

Of course a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or some perfume and a hand-made card are always greeted with delight but how about the gift of a few hours off. Maybe a couple of gift tokens to do the ironing, wash the dishes or cook the supper even  breakfast in bed with a little posy of flowers on the tray.

Here are a couple of delicious one pot dishes that would make an easy family supper or Sunday lunch and our absolute favourite chocolate cake from 30 years at Ballymaloe.

Shermin’s Thai Chicken Curry


Arjard would be a nice accompaniment.


Your Mum and all the family will love this recipe which Shermin Mustafa Thompson shared with us.



Serves 4-6


350g (12oz) chicken thighs free range and organic

400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cups) coconut milk

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) green curry paste

1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)

175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup) chicken stock

1/2 aubergine, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes or 20-24 pea aubergines

2 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 tablespoon (1/2 American tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon) palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) fish sauce (Nam Pla)

20 basil leaves

1 large red chilli, pounded

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) soya sauce (optional)


Remove the skin and bone from the chicken thighs, cut into very thin strips.


Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Add the chicken strips, increase the heat to medium. Cook until the chicken changes colour, then add the stock, remainder of the coconut milk, aubergine dice, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce, half the basil leaves and pounded red chilli.


Stir constantly on a medium heat until the curry boils and foams up.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, otherwise the sauce may separate – it should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the basil leaves.  Taste for seasoning, add a dash of soya sauce if necessary.  There should be lots of sauce in proportion to the meat.  Serve hot with steamed rice.


Note: If using pea aubergines, add 1-2 minutes before end of cooking.


Arjard (Cucumber salad)


Serves 4-6


1 cucumber, quartered and sliced thinly

2 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly, lengthwise

1 red chilli, seeded and sliced in rings

1 green chilli, seeded and sliced in rings



4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) sugar

6 tablespoons (6 American tablespoons + 6 teaspoons) water

6 tablespoons (6 American tablespoons + 6 teaspoons) white malt vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt


Mix the ingredients for the marinade together in a saucepan.  Bring to the boil. Simmer for 3-5 minutes. When cool, pour the marinade over the cucumber.


Baked Hake with Smokey Maple Baked Beans and Aioli – Paul Flynn

Everyone loved this dish which Paul cooked at a recent class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.


Serves 4


4 fillets of hake (1 per person)

1 glug of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic sliced

1 knob of butter

4 thick slices of smoked bacon diced

1 large onion diced

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) tomato purée

1 teaspoons of smoked paprika

300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) of chicken stock

1 tin (400g/14oz) butterbeans, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of maple syrup

salt and pepper


Heat the oil over a gentle heat and add the garlic.  Carefully cook until golden, but no more, this will give you a roasted garlic oil, if you take it too far the garlic will burn.


Add the butter, bacon, and onions.  Cook slowly for 15 minutes and add the tomato purée, smoked paprika and the chicken stock.  Finally add the beans and cook for 5 more minutes, stir in the maple syrup, salt and pepper and serve.


Pan-fry the hake for 5-7 minutes, it may need more time depending on thickness.




Aioli is essentially a posh garlic mayonnaise.  The flavours are made more subtle and rounded by the blanching of the garlic.  The addition of olive oil gives it authenticity and an extra dimension.  We use this with any Mediterranean style dishes i.e. anything with olives, red peppers or basil.


This will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.


8 garlic cloves, blanched (cooked vigorously for three to four minutes in boiling water, then cooked for another three to four minutes in fresh water)

1 teaspoon English mustard

2 egg yolks plus one whole egg

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

juice half a lemon

275ml (9 1/2fl oz/generous 1 cup) groundnut oil

50ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) crème fraiche

salt and pepper


To make the aioli, whizz the garlic cloves, mustard and egg yolks and whole egg in a food processor until smooth. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and whizz briefly to combine. With the machine running, gradually trickle in the groundnut oil and then the olive oil to form a smooth rich mayonnaise. Fold in the crème fraiche, season and set aside.


Blathnaid’s Chocolate Cake


We have numerous chocolate cake recipes but this one given to me by my sister Blathnaid Bergin after much persuasion is our absolute favourite – it’s quite a mission to make but well worth the effort.



Serves 10 – 12


225g (8ozs) plain white flour

pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon bread soda

2 level teaspoons baking power

225ml (8fl ozs/1 cup) milk

75g (3ozs) chocolate – we use 52%

150g (5ozs/1 1/4 sticks) butter

275g (10ozs/1 1/4 cups) soft light brown sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



200g (7ozs) plain chocolate – we use 52%

250g (9ozs/2 1/4 sticks) butter

4 egg yolks

150g (5ozs/generous 1 cup) icing sugar, sifted


Chocolate Ganache

150g (5ozs) plain chocolate, chopped – we use 52%

300ml (10fl ozs/1 1/4 cups) cream


2 x 9 inch (23cm) tins


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


Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper.


Put the milk and chopped chocolate into a saucepan, warm gently until the chocolate melts, allow to cool. Sieve the flour, salt, bread soda and baking power into a bowl.    Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract, add to the creamed mixture bit by bit alternating with flour.  Add the cool milk and chocolate and fold in the remaining flour.  Divide between the two prepared tins.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes approximately.  Allow to cool for a few minutes, turn out carefully and cool on a wire rack.


Meanwhile make the filling.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Allow to cool slightly


In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter in a bowl for at least ten minutes at the highest setting until it is white and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks and icing sugar. Beat vigorously for a further five minutes.


When the butter mixture is thoroughly mixed, take 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of it and add slowly to the melted chocolate. Then slowly pour the melted chocolate down the side of the mixing bowl and fold in quickly and gently until fully combined and smooth.


To make the chocolate ganache

Put the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil, pour over the chocolate and leave for 8-10 minutes or until cool. Then whisk the chocolate and cream gently until it reaches soft peaks – careful not to overwhisk or it will be too stiff to spread and may turn into chocolate butter. (Use as soon as possible otherwise it will become too stiff to spread).


To Assemble the Cake

Split the cakes in half with a sharp serrated knife. Spread a little of the chocolate filling onto each cake and sandwich the base of the cakes together. Ice the cake with the soft chocolate ganache and decorate as desired.  We use chocolate curls and dredge them with unsweetened cocoa and icing sugar.


Hot Tips

Seaweed Sprinkles – If you can’t make it down to the beach anytime soon then Seaweed sprinkles from Wild Irish Sea Veg are a brilliant condiment to use – you can sprinkle them over salads, or stir into soup, sauces …..

For more information:


Cookery Demonstration – Darina and Rachel Allen will do a fundraising demonstration in aid of East Cork Rapid Response at Garryvoe Hotel on Thursday, 10th April 2014 at 8.00pm.

Tickets €25 per person are available from the following:

John: (083) 179 5945 or Eoghan: (087) 706 1727


Date for your Diary

West Waterford Festival of Food, 10th – 13th April 2014 – a Celebration of Local Produce and Culinary Excellence!



Lucknow, An Update from India…

What a surprise Lucknow was, even though it is famous for its Awadhi food, sophisticated culture, gastronomic etiquette  and  Chickan embroidery,  it’s not really on the main tourist trail despite its fascinating history and memorable monuments.  We spent three days there and loved it. The city was founded by the Nawads who came from Persia at the invitation of the Mogul king Mohammed Shah in 1725.

I only knew one person in Lucknow, a lady called Vijay Khan whom I’d met briefly in Udaipur a couple of years ago and had promised to visit if I ever came to that city. She’d invited us to dinner at her home and a trip to their house in the country the following day. Well, it turns out that she is the wife of the Raja of Mahmudabad no less.

What a lovely surprise, we were collected from our hotel and brought to their residence in Lucknow. After lots of riveting conversation, we went down stairs to what appeared to be a family dining room with book lined walls, simple furniture, fascinating black and white photos on the wall and intriguing memorabilia.  The round table was groaning with some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten anywhere, several mutton (goat) dishes including Raan and Biryani, an aubergine raita, an intriguing sweet dish called Mutanjan with rice, mutton, yoghurt and spices apparently this was a favourite of the old Nawads, but few cooks know how to prepare it nowadays.  For dessert there was Royal toast, light fluffy balai ke tukre topped with silver leaf – all totally memorable.

Our gracious host Sulaiman Khan, is a great scholar and a graduate of Imperial College Cambridge with degrees in astro physics and theology. A native Urdu speaker who bursts into poetry every now and then to illustrate a point. It was a memorable evening in so many ways – The servants and cooks, Bawarchis (cooks), Rakabdars (mastercooks), stood around in a semi circle silently watching while we enjoyed the delicious food they had cooked for us.

Lucknow has many spectacular buildings and historical monuments but as ever food was my focus so I arranged to have a cookery class. My teacher Cyrus turned out to be a great fan of Rachel’s so I promised to send a signed copy of her latest book. He taught me how to make a Lucknow chicken korma and the mutton kebabs that Lucknow is so famous for.

The famous Awadi food of Lucknow evolved under the patronage of the Nawads and aristocrats who treated it almost like an art form but when time and history wrought havoc on the fortunes of the noble families, their ‘out of work’ cooks and chefs continued the gastronomic tradition on the streets and the secret recipes were passed down in families from generation to generation.

Cyrus also took us on a ‘culinary tour’ of the Chowk Bazzar in the heart of the old city. The frenzied atmosphere was similar to Old Delhi.

We ate some amazing street food in surroundings that were challenging even for me!

We started with Kebabs at Tundys, a 108 year old kebab house in the Chowk which originally made its name catering for the Nawabs of Awadh. Kebabs in Lucknow aren’t remotely like kebabs as we know them, Tunday is famous for little tender spicy mutton patties cooked on an enormous pan to a secret recipe. They are now cooked by the great grandson of the original owner sitting there with a little white crochet cap.

We tasted another Lucknow delicacy at Museem’s, another ‘hole in the wall’ place famous for pasanda, a spicy barbecued meat dish marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked over a charcoal grill.

Locals also queue up at Raheem’s for a spicy, oily dish called nigiri. The sealed pot of mutton is cooked  slowly overnight with lots of spices. In the morning, it’s opened and each diner gets just one piece of mutton with lots of really flavoursome gravy which is eaten with a stack of fluffy flat breads called Kulchas, heart stopping but delicious…

Lucknow is also famous for its sweets, Rehmat sweets have some of the very best Jauzi Habshi and Halwa, all tooth achingly sweet but very typical.

As we wound your way along the lanes, we came to the Parathi wali gali where one shop and stall after the other turned out to be serving a  mesmerising selection of freshly cooked breads from fluffy Rulchas and bakarkhani to paper thin romali roti and spongy sheruals  kneaded in milk – the skills are simply mind boggling.

Shammi Kebab

Mutton Kebabs from Lucknow

These mutton kebabs for which Lucknow is famous are like no kebabs you’ve encountered before in fact they are much more like little spiced meat patties – delicious. In India the word mutton often means goat and very delicious it is too but of course we can use lamb over here if goat is unavailable.


Serves 4


1 kg (2¼ lbs) mutton, boneless

150 g (5 ozs) split bengal (channa dal), lentils

50 g (2 ozs) onions

Salt, to taste

1 teaspoon cumin seed

3 whole red chillies

seeds from 5 small green cardamom

seeds from 3 big black cardamom

2 inch (5 cm) piece cinnamon

6-8 black peppercorns

2 inch (5 cm) piece fresh ginger

5 allspice berries

20 g (¾ oz) garlic

3 bay leaves


1 green chilli

2-3 tablespoons onion

2-3 tablespoons green coriander


Pass the boneless mutton through a mincer and make a fine paste.

Soak the channa dal (split lentils) in water and keep aside for 1 hour.

Chop the green chillies, green coriander and onion. Keep aside to be added later.


Take a deep saucepan; put the mutton mince and all the ingredients into it. Add a little water  (approx. 5 fl ozs) enough to almost cover the ingredients.

Put on a medium heat and cook until all the water has evaporated and meat is cooked through. Cyrus cooked this in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes.

Add a little fat to the mixture and stir so that the moisture evaporates and the mixture firms up. Remove from the saucepan and allow to cool and make a fine puree in a food processor.

Add the chopped chillies, coriander and onions to the meat and mix in well.

Divide the mixture into equal portions.

Make round patties of 2.5 inches (6 cm) diameter and shallow fry on heated  tawa, griddle or frying pan on both sides till golden brown and serve hot.

We ate these delicious kebabs with sheermal an Indian flatbread with freshly chopped coriander and mint or naan would be good too.

Note: If the mixture is not firm enough to shape into balls or cracks on the outer side when rounded add 1 beaten egg to bind.


Lucknow Chicken Korma

Cyrus introduced me to Screw Pine Essence of course  it’s not essential but it really enhanced the flavour of this korma which was delicious anyway.


Serves 6


1 kg (2¼ lbs) chicken breast

3 onions, peeled and finely crushed

6 garlic cloves, crushed

¼ teaspoon white peppercorns

½ teaspoon black cumin

2 inch (5cm) piece cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cloves

6 green cardamom, seeded

1 blade mace

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

2 black cardamom

2-3 dried chillies or ¼ teaspoon dry chilli powder

½ teaspoon coriander seeds

50 g (2 ozs) cashew nuts, coarsely ground

200 g (7 ozs) natural yoghurt


Few drops of screw pine essence (Kewra) optional


Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes, approximately.

Whizz the onions and garlic with all the spices. Cook in a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes to dry stirring to prevent sticking. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of oil or ghee.

Add the ground cashew nuts and allow to cook until pink in colour, 5-6 minutes.

Add the chicken pieces and sauté. When all the liquid has evaporated, add the yoghurt stirring in a little at a time. Add salt to taste.

Cover and cook on a gentle heat until the chicken is tender – about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add a few drops of Screw Pine Essence if available. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Serve hot with rotis, (Indian flat breads) or basmati rice.


Mangoes and Bananas in Lime Syrup


Serves 4


1 ripe mango

1-2 bananas

2 ozs (50g/1/4 cup) sugar

4 fl ozs (110ml/1/2 cup) water

1 lime


Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, allow to cool.


Peel the mango and slice quite thinly down to the stone. Peel the banana into cut rounds.  Put the slices into a bowl and cover with cold syrup.


Meanwhile remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime.  Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Serve chilled.

Hot Tips

Let’s get Kids into the Kitchen, there’s a  half day cookery course coming up at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday April 14th from 9.30am-2.00pm. We’ll teach your children  how  to proudly cook a range of simply delicious food for friends and family. They will learn how to cook some of their favourite dishes from scratch – juicy home-made beef burgers in home-made buns, a seasonal salad, oriental chicken stir fry and rice and a whole host of sweet treats including a Swiss roll from scratch – even the raspberry jam, cupcakes and lovely ways to decorate them and home-made strawberry popsicles –

The Irish Seed Savers need your help!

They have been saving rare and heritage seeds and preserving our precious biodiversity since 1991. Like so many other organisations there funding has been severely reduced – send what you can even a letter of support to Lisa Duncan, Manager, Irish Seed Savers Association, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare. They are my heroes.

I popped into Hassetts Bakery in Carrigaline last week – it wasn’t even 10am and the display cabinet was packed with tempting cakes, biscuits and cookies of all kinds – someone must have been up all night baking – loved my cup of freshly ground coffee and my first hot cross bun of the year. or phone 021 4371534


The Whole World Celebrates St Patricks Day

The iconic site of Petra in Jordan, Niagara Falls, the Tower of Piza, the Sydney Opera House, the Pyramids in Egypt – these and scores of other iconic buildings and monuments across the world will be illuminated bright green on St Patrick’s Day. A simple, inspired and fun idea which immediately focusses attention on Ireland

The global greening is indicative of the relationship our little island has built up with our diaspora and the new partnerships Ireland has forged around the globe. The whole world celebrates with the Irish on St Patricks day. It’s a brilliant opportunity for Tourism Ireland to promote Ireland worldwide and to encourage people to study and invest in Ireland and to showcase Irish companies.

The word about the Irish food scene is spreading fast. Last week-end, the legendary Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York hosted a high profile event with Ballymaloe Relish “To celebrate the Irish food Renaissance.” and it caused a mighty stir among the media and food cognigency.

The latest book on Irish food to be launched in the US to considerable fanfare is Cathal Armstrong’s, My Irish Table, published by Ten Speed Press.  Dublin born, Cathal is now an internationally renowned chef with seven restaurants to his name in the Washington DC area. Food and Wine magazine called him a “one man urban-renewal engine” who kicked off a dining revival in Old Town using French techniques and local produce. Armstrong is a multi-award winning chef and the White House have honoured him as a “Champion of Change” for his work on ending childhood obesity and his involvement in improving the school lunch system.

Here are some of the recipes from Cathal Armstrong’s book – co-written with David Hagedorn.

Let’s celebrate St Patricks Day proudly ourselves by inviting our family and friends to a traditional Irish feast.


Irish Caesar Salad


Serves 4


In this recipe we use Cashel Blue Cheese and brown bread as a riff on what has become an American classic. Feel free to make the brown bread topping crouton size. At the restaurant, we use fine bread crumbs.




1 large egg

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 anchovy fillets

½ cup canola oil

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt




2 small slices brown soda bread

2 large heads romaine lettuce, dark outer leaves discarded, cleaned and cut crosswise into 2 inch pieces

4 ounces Cashel Blue cheese, crumbled

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Make the dressing: Combine the egg, garlic, lemon juice and anchovies in the bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, add the oils in a thin stream through the small tube in the bowl’s lid to create an emulsion. Add the salt to taste.


Make the bread crumbs: Preheat the toaster or conventional oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Crumble the bread into fine crumbs and place them on a small baking sheet. Bake them lightly for several minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are crunchy.


Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cheese and 1 cup of the dressing tossing to coat the leaves well. Mound the salad on 4 plates and sprinkle them with the bread crumbs and ground pepper. (Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)


Dublin Coddle


Serves 6


This is a classic Dublin peasant dish that we all hated growing up. It wasn’t anything more than breakfast sausage and bacon cooked with milk. So my version is more like a French blanquette, a rich and elegant cream-based stew, with potatoes added, of course. This recipe doesn’t call for salt because the bacon we use supplies all this is necessary. If yours doesn’t, taste and add ½ teaspoon salt if needed.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 yellow onion diced

8 (1/4 inch thick) slices streaky (American) bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes

8 Breakfast Sausages, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup homemade chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

3 large fresh bay leaves

½ cup coarsely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves


Crusty bread for serving

Cracked black pepper for garnish


Sweat the onion: in a medium flame proof casserole over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion to the pot and let it sweat for about 8 minutes, until soft but not browned at all (this is a white stew, you don’t want the onion to take on any colour.)


Cook the coddle: One the onion is translucent add the bacon and continue to cook over a low heat until the bacon in pale pink and a few tablespoons of the fat have been rendered, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, sausage, chicken stock, cream and bay leaves. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring liquid to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook slowly until the potatoes are cooked through about 30 minutes.


Add the herbs and serve: Remove the coddle from the heat, stir in the parsley and thyme and serve immediately with lots of crusty bread. If you wish, sprinkle a little bit of cracked black pepper on top. The coddle can be made a day ahead and gently reheated on the stove for in a 150°C/300°F/mark 2    oven for 30 minutes.


Pineapple Upside-Down Cake


Serves 8 – 10


1 pineapple, peeled

3 cups sugar1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

8 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour


Vanilla ice cream, for serving


Cut the pineapple: Quarter the pineapple length-wise. Remove and discard the core form the quarters, halve them lengthwise, and then cut each eighth crosswise into ½ inch slices.


Prepare the caramel: Spread 1 cup of the sugar on the bottom of a well-seasoned 9 inch cast iron skillet and place it over a medium heat. Let the sugar cook for a few minutes, until you see a ring of clear syrup around the edge of the pan. Stir the sugar until it begins to caramelize (take on a golden hue,) breaking up any clumps of sugar crystals that may form. Continue stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved and the caramel is deep brown.

Cook the pineapple: Stir the pineapple into the skillet. The caramel will come together in a mass, but will turn to liquid again as the water in the pineapple boils and melts it. Continue cooking the pineapple, stirring occasionally, until most of its water evaporates and the caramel becomes a thin syrup, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Prepare the batter: Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the remaining 2 cups of sugar on a high speed until white, light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next and scraping the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the batter by hand.


Bake the cake: Spoon the batter into the skillet, spreading it over the pineapple. Bake the cake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove the skillet from the oven and immediately invert the cake onto a cake plate. Use a rubber spatula to scrape off any caramel or pineapple left in the pan and spread them onto the top of the cake. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream.


Wild and Free food


Wild garlic or ramps are in season again. There are two types, Wild garlic or ransoms (Allium ursinum), which grow in shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland. They have broad leaves and white star like flowers later in the season.

Snowbells (Allium triquetrum), resemble white bluebells and usually grow along the roadside or edges of country lanes. The leaves and flowers of both are delicious in salad, pasta, sauces, soups, stews and pesto.


Cork Food Policy Council brings the FEED THE CITY initiative to Cork today 10am – 4pm. There will be talks on growing your own veg, composting, managing waste and cookery demonstrations. A new urban dining initiative, “Feed the City” aims to feed 5,000 people a tasty and nutritious vegetarian curry absolutely free at 1pm.The initiative will highlight the issues of food waste and sustainability, and will only use vegetables that have been deemed surplus or otherwise going to waste.

Another Postcard from India

Another postcard from India…

1.5 billion people live in India, a country of extremes which is truly intriguing to visit.

Delhi is now one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world with a kilometre long mall, a burgeoning restaurant scene, glitzy designer shops, art galleries pop up supper clubs…

Much of New Delhi was designed by Lutyens, a thoroughly modern metropolis where one encounters the 21st century and the medieval side by side. Cows still nonchalantly roam the streets, bicycles, rickshaws and tuc tucs weave in and out of the crazy traffic in a noisy melee of beeping horns.

Old Delhi, is a city within a city, covering 1,500 acres and home to approximately 22 million people.  It includes the biggest wholesale spice market in Asia established in 1850. We met our guide beside the Metro station at the Chawri Bazaar  It was literally like being dropped into a time warp of India in the 1800s but with mobile phones and of course electricity which is transmitted through a  crazy mass of tangled overhead wires, it all seems to work but is enough to render a Health and Safety inspector apoplectic! Ancient haveli with exquisite plaster work and carvings stand side by side with soulless new flat concrete structures emblazoned with signs.

Everywhere there are eye catching ads, mostly in Hindi but a few also in English, and a particularly prominent one for the rather grand sounding Oriental Bank of Commerce on the front of a totally crumbling old Haveli. There is a frenzy of activity, the noise level is deafening, porters pulling trolleys, bearers with huge loads perched precariously on their heads, motor bikes and tuc tuc’s crammed with more people and /or produce than you could possibly imagine, cycle rickshaws groaning under the weight of  passengers of every age and size or a load of assorted merchandise , could be loos, cooking pots, newspapers, spices…

To an outsider there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the traffic, Indians tell you over and over, to survive you need “good brake, good horn, good luck”

I’m particularly interested in the street food, the myriad of little chaat shops and street stalls and occasional restaurants that feed the 22 million people estimated to live in Old Delhi.

Much of the food is deep fried in large iron woks called karhi, It is cooked in front of you so I reckon it’s perfectly safe to eat, little vegetables and occasionally meat filled pastries, mutton katchori, samosas, pakoras, bahji,  lots of little fritters, sometimes made with gram (chickpea) flour, spices, fresh coriander and turmeric. Occasionally fresh corn is added, it’s such a pity to miss out on these quintessential flavours of India.

Flat breads like roti and naan are cooked in deep clay tandoor ovens, others like poori and bhatura are deep fried in oil.  Rumali roti or handkerchief bread and flaky paratha are cooked on an upturned wok shaped iron karhi over the open fire.

There are lots of peanut roasters, the whole nuts are roasted in sand and the shelled peanuts in salt once again in the multipurpose karhi.

They are sold for a couple of rupees in recycled newspaper bags with a little portion of salt.

Further down the street I had one of the most delicious confections I’ve ever tasted, Daulat ki Chaat, made from the lathered up froth of boiling milk which is left outside overnight in a wide pan – the next day blobs of a saffron flavoured fluff are laid on top. The dish is lightly covered with muslin and kept over ice on the little street stalls It is served in little dried leaf bowls with grated jaggery (cane sugar) and chopped pistachios on top, exquisitely light and delicious, only available for 3 or 4 months in the year.

Naan – Kharai are yet another speciality of Old Delhi – these sweet crumbly cookies are cooked ingeniously in a khari with another khari with hot embers on top.

I am endlessly in awe of the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit of the Indian people.  Another vendor was cooking diced chilli potatoes on a huge heavy concave griddle pan; they had been baked in sand for two hours first and then served with various chutneys, again completely delicious.

Every couple of hundred yards there were chai wallahs boiling up milky tea or chai masala flavoured with spices and served in glasses or earthenware pots. Kulfi and the chilled sweet lassi (yoghurt drink flavoured with rosewater) was also served in earthenware beakers that were thrown into a bin and returned to the earth after use.

We also visited Standard Sweets whose specialities apart from a selection of Indian sweets all made from milk was Bhatura, a puffy deep fried bread with chole and aloo (potato) curry, served in a little stainless steel plates on chipped Formica tables.

It was sooo good, I followed this with another of their specialities carrot halva garnished with almonds and cashew nuts. In India, it is the custom to eat with the fingers of your right hand although of course cutlery is provided in more up market restaurants. We also ferreted out a famous Kheer (rice pudding) maker whose family have made Bade Miyan ki Kheer for the last 135 years in the same spot in Old Delhi. It’s sold warm, once again in little dry leaf bowls and is usually sold out by 2pm.

Karin’s established in 1913 is  famous for its Moghul food, it’s actually a little collection of tiny restaurants, the mutton biryani and the  mutton stew are not to be missed eaten with the paper thin rumali roti, the seekh kebabs were also super delicious.

I could go on and on, of course food is just one tiny aspect of Old Delhi, there’s alley after alley of different products, utensils, sanitary ware, textiles, diamonds, shoes, saris – there are 1,500 wedding card shops alone…

Every possible service is also provided, tailoring, ironing, mending, deed reading – a lucrative business seeing as most Havali are owned by 10 – 12 families and even a man who cleans wax from people’s ears.

We saw skilled labourers, carpenters and plumbers, queuing up to be hired and labourers fighting to be given one more heavy load of bricks to carry on their heads, most work 8 – 10 hours a day and earn maybe 600-800 rupees, 1,000 if they are really lucky

We were taken up onto the roof tops to see the frenzy of old Delhi from above, and to see the pet pigeons and kites flying in the breeze favourite recreational activities for many.

Everyone also seemed incredibly devout and there are little shrines and temples at frequent intervals where people stop to pray and worship regularly.

There’s so much more – Old Delhi is a powerful experience, an assault on the senses – a humbling and in many ways inspirational experience.

To be continued…


Onion Bhajis with Tomato and Chilli Sauce


There are so many interpretations of onion bhajis, they are usually served hot, straight from the karhi as street food in little newspaper bags or dried leaf bowls both of which can be recycled. We serve them as a starter with the spicy tomato and chilli sauce.

Onions are a powerful source of quercetin, a plant compound that reduces inflammation. They also have powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties.


Serves 4 as a starter


4 onions, thinly sliced in rings

4 ozs (110g) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 eggs, beaten

5fl oz (150ml) water

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

oil, for deep frying


Tomato and Chilli Sauce


1oz (25g) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 1/4 inch (5mm) dice.

1/2 x 14oz (400g) tin of chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 dessertspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoons white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons water


First make the sauce.  Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water.  Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.


Sieve the flour, baking powder and chilli powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs, gradually add in the water, mix to make a smooth batter.  Stir in the thinly sliced onions and chives.  Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.


Just before serving heat the oil to 170°C/325°F approx.  Fry dessertspoons of the batter for 5 minutes approx. on each side until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Serve hot or cold with the tomato and chilli sauce.


Madhur Jaffrey’s Carrot Halva – Gajar ka halva

Serves 4


1lb (450g) carrots

1 ¼ pints (700ml) milk

8 whole cardamom pods

5 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee

5 tablespoons castor sugar

1 – 2 tablespoons sultanas

1 tablespoons shelled unsalted pistachios, lightly crushed

10 fl oz (275ml) clotted or double cream, optional


Peel the carrots and grate them either by hand or in a food processor. Put the grated carrots, milk and cardamom pods in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to meadium and cook, stirring now and then, until there is no liquid left. Adjust the heat, if you need to. The boiling down of the milk will take you at least half an hour or longer, depending upon the width of your pot.

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium low flame. When hot, put in the carrot mixture. Stir and fry until the carrots no longer have a rich reddish colour. This can take 10 – 15 minutes.

Add the sugar, sultanas, and pistachios. Stir and fry another 2 minutes.

This halva may be served warm or at room temperature. Serve the cream on the side, for those who want it.


Kheer Marwadi – Indian Rice Pudding


Serves 4


Rosewater varies in strength so be careful to add gradually and taste. This dessert can be made ahead and may be served warm or cold.


50g (2 ozs) Basmati rice, soaked for an hour and drained

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) milk

3 tablespoons whole almonds, peeled and ground to a paste

2 tablespoons water

100g (3 1/2ozs) sugar

50g (2ozs) fresh coconut, grated

25g (1oz) raisins

50g (2ozs) pistachio nuts, cut into slivers

50g (2ozs) blanched almonds, cut in to slivers

1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds

2 teaspoons Kewra essence (screw pine essence which keeps indefinitely) or use Rosewater instead but be careful – add 1/2 teaspoon first and then taste.


Heat the ghee in a pan.  Add the soaked rice, stir for 2 or 3 minutes then add the milk and cook over a low heat for an hour until the rice absorbs the milk and the pudding thickens.


Stir in the almond paste, sugar, coconut, raisins, pistachios and almond slivers.  Cook for a final couple of minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground cardamom and kewra or rosewater.  Cool and chill.

Serve in individual dishes.


Indian Baked Yoghurt


This is often cooked and served in unglazed earthenware bowls which are broken and returned to the land later. A few drops of vanilla extract may also be added.


Serves 8


400g (14oz) thick natural yoghurt,

400ml (14fl oz) cream

400ml (14fl oz) condensed milk,


8 x 225ml (8fl oz) dishes


Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3


Whisk all the ingredients together, strain if necessary. Divide the mixture evenly between the bowls.  Arrange in a bain-marie. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the top seems firm to the touch.  Cool, cover, refrigerate and serve chilled with a compote of fruit or fresh berries.


Hot Tips

Date for the Diary

West Waterford Festival of Food Dungarvan – Thursday 10th to Sunday 13th April 2014.

Galway Food Festival – 17th – 21st April – Easter Weekend.

The Business of Food with Blathnaid Bergin – The vital information needed to set up a viable, enjoyable Food Service Business on this intensive 10 day course from 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday 31st to Friday 11th April at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The course format will be workshop, discussion, case studies, practical sessions and presentations. Up to 25% funding may be available for this course for Irish Residents.  If you would like to avail of this funding, see for further details.



Shrove Tuesday – Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday reminds us all of pancakes, almost the world’s most versatile recipe with a myriad of interpretations. For many, pancakes were the thin crêpes that, if we were lucky, our Mam’s rustled up on Shrove Tuesday and we then forgot about for the rest of the year.

Made in minutes from a simple batter it’s amazing that they were often just an annual treat.

In our house however they were my perennial standby, when I needed to feed tired and grouchy children in a hurry, put the pan on the Aga, shoot a mug of flour into a bowl, add caster sugar and a pinch of salt, crack a few eggs into the centre, whisk in some milk to make a thin batter. Melt some butter in a saucepan, grab a lemon and a bowl of caster sugar, by then the pan would be hot so I’d whisk a little melted butter into batter (that stops the batter sticking) and pour in a small ladle of batter into the very hot pan. Within seconds, it will have set on one side, flip it over when it’s speckled and golden a few seconds later. Turn it onto a plate, brush with melted butter, sprinkle with caster sugar and squeeze on a little fresh lemon juice, roll or fold into a fan shape and enjoy. Within a few minutes, as one child after another got a pancake, calm was restored. Nowadays my grandchildren love pancakes, they also slather them with chocolate spread with or without toasted hazelnuts and sliced banana. They also love savoury pancakes, particularly with mushrooms or ham and cheese in the French style. They are quintessential fast food but don’t just stop with crêpes. Remember virtually every culture around the world has at least one pancake recipe. Think Moroccan Baghrir, Chinese thin white flour pancakes called Moo shoo row, Vietnamese Banh xeo and Korean Pa ‘chon- both semolina flour pancakes made from a similar type batter but served with different accompaniments.
In India pancakes are made not just from wheat flour but also rice flour, split peas, mung beans, chickpea flour depending on the region and with names like Utthappam, Dosa, Cheela and Poora.  Mexican pancakes, Lithuanian pancakes, Russian pancakes, Italian Fazzoletti and Crespelle. Scotch pancakes, American pancakes…and that’s just the beginning.

The simple little crumpets or drop scones are another little gem of a recipe. Again the batter is made in virtually the length of time it takes to heat a cast iron pan.

Spoonfuls of batter are dropped onto the pan on a medium heat, I love to watch and as soon as the bubbles rise and burst, I flip them over to cook on the other side. Eat them warm with butter and honey or apple jelly.


Basic Pancake Batter and Good Things to Serve with It


Pancakes are far too simple and delicious to be served only on Shrove Tuesday. Whip up a batter with flour and milk and in a matter of minutes you will be flipping delicious speckled pancakes.


A Basic Pancake Batter


6 ozs (170g) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessert spoon caster sugar, (omit for savoury pancakes)

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant : pint (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessert spoon melted butter


Serves 6 – makes 12 approx.


Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place if you have time. Just before you cook the pancakes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the pancakes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Heat a non-stick pan over a high heat, pour in a small ladleful of batter or just enough to film the base of the pan. The batter should cook immediately, loosen around the edges with a rubber slice, flip over and cook for a few seconds on the other side. Slide onto a plate, serve with your chosen filling either sweet or savoury.


Good Things to Serve with Pancakes


Savoury Pancakes

Stir a few tablespoons of freshly chopped herbs into the batter, well-seasoned mushrooms or Mushroom á la crème, bacon, crispy pieces of chicken, mussels, shrimps or whatever tasty bits you come across in the fridge, added to mushroom á la crème, goat cheese, tomato fondue and pesto.


Sweet Pancakes

Butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar

Bananas and butterscotch sauce

Butter apples laced with mixed spices

Cinnamon butter

Chocolate Spread and Toasted Hazelnuts

Home-made jam and cream

Honey and chopped walnuts


Madhur Jaffrey’s Savoury Mung Bean Pancakes (Cheela).



Makes about 9 pancakes


a 225ml (8fl oz) measure hulled and split mung dal, picked over, washed and drained

1cm (3/4 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 fresh, hot green chilies, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons finely minced green coriander

1 smallish onion, peeled and finely minced

about 110ml (4fl oz) olive oil


Put the dal in a bowl. Add 1 litre (32fl oz) water and soak for 5 hours. Drain.


Start your food processor with the metal blade in place. (An electric blender will also do.) Through the funnel, drop in the ginger, garlic and green chilies. When they are minced, stop the machine and put in all the drained mung dal. Start the machine again and let the dal turn paste-like. Stop the machine and add 110ml (4fl oz) water, the salt, baking soda and turmeric. Run the machine for another 2 minutes to make a thick batter. Empty the batter into a bowl and mix in the green coriander and the onion thoroughly.


Now see that you have everything near you that you will need to make the pancakes. You need an 18 – 20.5cm (7-8-inch) non-stick frying pan. Near it on your counter place a small bowl of oil with a teaspoon, a rounded ladle for spreading out the batter, your bowl of batter, a cup or ladle to hold about 70ml (2 3/4fl oz), and a plastic spatula. You will also need a plate lined with a long piece of foil that both lines and covers the pancakes as they get made plus another plate to upturn and cover the foil package.


Pour 1 teaspoon of oil into the non-stick frying pan. Spread the oil around by tilting the pan. Set the pan on medium-low heat. Wait for the oil to heat up. When the oil is hot, stir the batter well and remove 70ml (2 3/4fl oz) from the bowl. Plop it down in the center of your heated pan. Let it sit for 3-4 seconds. Now place the rounded bottom of your ladle very gently on the blob of batter. Using a slow, gentle and continuous spiral motion, spread the batter outwards with the back of the ladle. Make a pancake that is about 15cm (6 inches) in diameter. Dribble 1/2 teaspoon oil over the pancake and another 1/2 teaspoon just outside its edges. Using the plastic spatula, spread out the oil and also smooth out the ridges on the pancake. Cover the pan and let the pancake cook for about 2 minutes or until the underside turns a nice reddish colour. Uncover and turn the pancake over. Cook the second side for about 1 1/2 minutes or until it develops small red spots. Remove the pancake and put it on the foil-lined plate. Cover, first with the extra foil and then with the second upturned plate. Make all the pancakes this way, making sure to stir the batter each time. Stack the pancakes on top of each other, covering the stack each time. If not eating immediately the entire foil packet could be heated in a medium oven for 15 minutes. Or you can heat up a pancake at a time in the microwave oven for about 20-30 seconds.
Julija Makejeva  Oladushki (Russian Fluffy Pancakes) with Sour Cream and Raspberry Jam


Julija  – known to many from our stall at the Midleton Farmers Market has worked with us for nine years. She’s a super cook and here is her recipe.


Serves 4


250g (9 ozs) white flour

225 ml (8fl ozs) buttermilk

2 free-range organic eggs, whisked

1 level teaspoon bread soda

scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for pan frying


First, measure the buttermilk into a bowl and sprinkle the baking soda on top and leave for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the mixture bubble.   Whisk the egg, salt, and sugar into the buttermilk mixture.   Next, slowly add the flour to the batter by whisking all the time until mixture appears to have an even consistency, set aside.  The batter should be thick and fall very reluctantly off the spoon.


Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat. Add a little vegetable oil. Fill the pan with 5-6 tablespoonfuls of batter spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown, flip once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped (if the pan is too hot, turn down the heat). Repeat frying process until all of the batter is used. Serve with dips (see below).


Serving Suggestions


Make several dips


Mix 2 tablespoons sour cream (crème fraiche) with 2 tablespoons raspberry jam

sour cream with brown sugar sprinkled on top




Slow Food Event - Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday 6th March at 7pm. Sally McKenna author of Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweed will talk about this unique and ancient food, she’ll tell you how to find and harvest it and how to use it in the kitchen. There will be a tasting of different types of seaweed and some recipe suggestions. Ireland is rich in seaweed and macroalgae has been part of the Irish diet going right back to prehistoric times. It was valued in pre-famine times as a medicine, fertiliser and a food. Nowadays research into seaweed has shown us scientifically what our forebears understood culturally through experience, and the facts about seaweed are amazing. – Slow Food/Non Slow Food Members €6.00/€8.00 – Coffee and homemade biscuits on arrival  – Proceeds to the East Cork Education Project – 021 4646785.


Cooking for Baby Natural and Wholesome Recipes – Ballymaloe Cookery School

Friday 7th March - 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm - €50. Phone 021 4646785 or


Darina’s Book of the Week


Noel McMeel grew up on a farm in Toomebridge, County Antrim. According to Marie Hulsman – his American co-author – Noel’s mother’s kitchen pantry had a cooling marble workshop and sighing shelves laden with delicious traditional treats. His childhood was steeped in the food culture of Ireland and of Ulster in particular.

Noel is now Executive Head Chef at Lough Erne Resort in Fermanagh and the recipes in his first book Irish Pantry reflects his philosophy and unique food style. He urges us to “find the very best local ingredients. Support farms and grocers that respect the earth. Prepare meals that delight and excite the senses, but don’t get seduced into overcomplicating. Above all else let the natural flavour of good food shine out”

Irish Pantry – Traditional Breads, Preserves and Goodies by Noel McMeel published by Running Press 2014.



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