The ever more alarming obesity figures are spooking governments all over Europe, the US, India, China…..

As yet experts can’t seem to agree about the root cause or indeed the remedy. Meanwhile, the public are completely bamboozled by conflicting messages but even more serious is the situation that many busy people find themselves where they cannot access nourishing food easily. The Americans have long ago coined a phrase – food desserts, the definition of which is a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to a car or local transport.

Desperation forces us to think outside the box and the results can be encouraging. When the bread in the US because so mass produced that it was virtually inedible,  artisan bakeries bubbled up . When food became so processed and ultra fresh nourishing food was virtually unavailable a few ‘desperately seeking’ souls started the first farmers market.

The same with beer and cider, as those drinks became increasingly chemical laden and mundane, a demand for craft beer and cider was created.

So what to do if you live in an area with no choice but to buy your food from a multinational discounter which offers no fresh produce?

Well faced with a crisis the human spirit tends to come up with a variety of mini solutions,  Guerrilla gardening allotments and urban farming are at an all-time high in cities from, LA to Shanghai.

There’s yet another initiative that has really caught peoples imagination particularly in the US, Grow Food not Lawns.

This movement was started in 1999 in Eugene, Oregon by a group of avant  – gardeners including Heather Flores who wrote “Grow food not lawns – how to turn your yard into a garden and your neighbourhood into a community” in 2006.  This initiative gradually inspired a global community  www.foodnotlawns.com.

There are many related initiatives here in Ireland – GIY and OOBY  has caught the imagination and enhanced the life style not to mention the nourishment of many. www.giy.ie

Growing some of our own food gives us an appreciation of the work that goes into producing beautiful nourishing  food and one rarely complains about the price of food again, not only is the food fresher but it tastes so much better when one has tended the garden for months on end – enough to savour every delicious mouthful.

The simple message from the Food Safety Promotions Board for children to drink water rather than juice is brilliant and empowers parents.


Radish Leaf Soup


Most people are unaware that radish leaves are edible and delicious. They need to be fresh or course.


Serves 4


11/2 ozs (45g/generous 1/4 stick) butter

5 ozs (140g/1 cup) peeled and chopped potatoes

4 ozs (110g/1 cup) peeled and chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pint (900ml/3 3/4 cups) water or homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

1/2 pint (300ml/1 1/4 cups) creamy milk

5 ozs (150g/3 cups) fresh radish leaves, chopped


Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.


When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the radish leaves and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes approx. until the radish leaves are cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.



Radish Soup with Chervil Cream

Make the soup as above.  Serve with a blob of chervil cream on top of each bowl just before it goes to the table (see recipe below).



Chervil Cream


Serves 6


large bunch of chervil

250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) full-fat crème fraîche

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Place the crème fraîche into a bowl.  Simply chop a large bunch of chervil very finely and mix with the crème fraîche. Season with some salt and a little freshly ground black pepper, to taste.


Smoked Mackerel Salad with Beetroot and Horseradish Sauce


Serves 8


4-6 fillets of smoked mackerel

a selection of baby salad leaves

pickled beetroot

horseradish sauce


sprigs of dill


Cut the smoked mackerel into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces and the pickled beetroot into 1cm ( ½ inch) dice.


To serve

Strew the base of a white plate with a mixture of salad leaves.  Put 5 or 6 pieces of mackerel on top.  Scatter with some diced beetroot and top with a few little blobs of horseradish sauce.  A few sprigs of dill add to the deliciousness.

Serve with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.


Pickled Beetroot


Serves 5-6


1 lb (450 g) cooked beetroot

8 oz (225g/1 cup) sugar

16 fl oz (475 ml/2 cup) water

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

8 fl oz (250 ml/1 cup) white wine vinegar


Dissolve the sugar in water and bring to the boil.  Add the sliced onion and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled beetroot and leave to cool.

Note: The onion may be omitted if desired.



Beetroot Tops

Young beetroot tops are full of flavour and are often unnecessarily discarded; but if you grow your own beetroots, remember to cook the stalks as well. When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl, both in terms of nutrition and flavour. This isn’t worth doing unless you have lovely young leaves. When they become old and slightly wilted, feed them to the hens or add them to the compost.


Serves 4


450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops

salt and freshly ground pepper

butter or olive oil


Keeping them separate, cut the beetroot stalks and leaves into rough 5cm (2in) pieces. First cook the stalks in boiling salted water (1.8 litres/3 pints water to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt) for 3–4 minutes or until tender. Then add the leaves and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Drain, season and toss in a little butter or olive oil. Serve immediately.



Beetroot Tops with Cream

Substitute 75–125ml (3–4fl oz) cream for olive oil in the recipe above. A little freshly grated nutmeg is also delicious.


Strawberry Soup with Mint Chantilly


A simple and absolutely delicious Summer dessert.


Serves 8-10


Strawberry Soup

450g (1lb) ripe strawberries

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) syrup (see recipe)

1 lemon

1 orange


Mint Chantilly

15 mint leaves approximate

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) lemon juice

150ml (5 fl ozs/generous 1/2 cup) cream

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

icing sugar to taste



mint leaves


Macaroons (optional)


Hull the strawberries, purée with the syrup, freshly squeezed orange juice and lemon juice. Put through a nylon sieve. Taste. Cover and chill well.


To serve divide the strawberry pureé between 6 soup plates or glass bowls.  Add a blob of mint Chantilly and some shredded mint leaves – serve immediately.


To make the mint chantilly.

Crush the mint leaves in a pestle and mortar with the granulated sugar and lemon juice, add the cream and stir, the lemon juice will thicken the cream.  If the cream becomes too thick, fluff a little with a whisk, taste and add a little more icing sugar if necessary.



Hot Tips

The Cottage Market, Ladysbridge, 10.30am – 12.30am – at the old cottage on the corner of Knockgloss Hill. Have a cup of tea or coffee while you chat and browse through the stalls – fruit, veg, salad, eggs, flowers, cakes and bread, jewellery, cards etc….   for details – Karen 086 2312899


Achill Island Festival of the Sea 18th – 20th July

While you are there on the Island check out Achill Island Lamb and Achill Island Sea Salt. The Atlantic Ocean’s rich harvest means fish has been a staple of the island’s  dining experience for thousands of years. Foraging sessions, boat trips, seafood tastings, seaweed safaris and a harbour market ensure a strong maritime theme.  www.Feilenamara.com


Thai By Night  – what a delicious surprise – The West Cork Gourmet Store in Ballydehob turns into a Thai restaurant in the evenings from Wednesday – Saturday.  Joanne Cassidy cooks and her lovely daughter Sophia  brings the food to the table . Joanna loves Asian food and it shows she lived in Hong Kong and Bangkok and makes regular visits to catch up. We loved the Thai fish cakes with sambal oleck and cucumber pickle, Skewered prawn sate with lime, Fragrant Thai green curry and Creamy chicken massaman curry with coconut milk, potato, onion, cinnamon and bay and Pan fried , marinated pork chop with lemongrass and coriander pesto,  and much, much more…….   Telephone: Joanne  087 9263255

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes