ArchiveJanuary 2015



Not sure if St Brigid’s day is celebrated in every school in Ireland but many of our local national schools teach the children how to make the Crois Bríde or St. Brigids’s cross.

Like many of our saints including St Patrick, there seems to be considerable confusion about the background facts, nonetheless I’ve always loved St. Brigid whom I understood was the patron saint of dairy.

Every year, children’s nimble fingers weave green rushes into the little cross while listening to the colourful story of Ireland’s female patron saint, Bridget, who was born in 451 in Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth. The story goes that she converted a pagan chief in his last hours by explaining the story of Christianity as she wove a little cross from the reeds that were strewn on the bedroom floor (as was the custom then, circa 500A.D.).

The children’s St. Brigid’s crosses are stuffed into school bags and proudly presented to Mum and Dad to bless the house and/or cow byre because this gentle saint was said to have loved cows who gave a prodigious amount of milk which she distributed to the poor.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we still continue the tradition every year and our neighbour Mrs Cowhig comes to the cookery school to teach the students how to make Crois Bríde, (this term there are twelve nationalities,  Irish and UK of course, US, Canadian, Japanese, Russian, Dutch, German, Norwegian, Australian…..).

Milk is a magical ingredient with infinite possibilities – the ultimate ‘fridge staple’. It can be transformed into numerous milk products. Every country has its own traditions and Ireland was for ever famous for the quality and variety of its bán bia (or white meats, as dairy products are known in Gaelic) not surprising because we can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world except perhaps New Zealand.

From 1759 to 1870, the biggest butter market in the world was in Cork and butter from the small farms of Cork County was exported as far away as India and the Caribbean. Can you imagine, and that was long before the days of refrigeration – it’s all about the quality. The whole fascinating story has been told in a recently published book  “Butter in Ireland, From Earliest Times to the 21st Century”, editors Peter Foynes, Colin Rynne and Chris Synnott,  cost €15, available from

If you would like to learn how to make butter, yoghurt, labne, paneer and lots of simple cheeses, check out the Ballymaloe Cookery School website for the next dates . Meanwhile have fun with these recipes using milk and milk products. Learn and pass on the skill of making a Cros Bríde and continue our Irish traditions.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labne


This thick, creamy, soft cheese from the Middle East is an easy way to dabble in cheesemaking and is wonderfully versatile. It can be used for sweet or savoury dishes.

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use a top quality commercial yogurt like Glenilen or Killowen.


Makes 500g (18oz) labne

1kg (2 1⁄4lb) natural yoghurt


Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labne in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. It will keep for four of five days in the fridge. The liquid whey that has drained off can be used for fermented dishes or to feed to hens or pigs if you have them.

Delicious served with dates, toasted hazelnuts, rose petals and pomegranate seeds see photograph.

It can also be eaten with berries or a kumquat compote and grated chocolate or simply add freshly chopped herbs and a little crushed garlic and serve with homemade cheese biscuits.


Figs with Labne, Sumac, Pistachio and Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Serves 4 as a starter


8 fresh figs in season


8 tablespoons labne

2 teaspoons fresh sumac

3 – 4 teaspoons pistachios, halved

extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

a few flakes of sea salt


Spoon two – three tablespoons of labne onto each plate. Cut the figs into quarters, push gently down into the yoghurt. Sprinkle with sumac and pistachios, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey, serve.


Pork Cooked In Milk


Cooking pork in milk produces the most delicious curdy liquid.  There is honestly no point in attempting this recipe if you cannot find really good free-range pork.  The lactic acid in milk has a tenderising and moistening effect on meat.  This recipe is of Italian origin where they also cook veal and chicken in milk on occasions. By the way this is also great with a whole chicken.


Serves 10-12


1.8kg (4lb) loin of pork (free-range and organic if possible)

a dash of extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz/1 pint) milk approximately

thinly sliced peel from 1 lemon, unwaxed

1 teaspoon of slightly crushed coriander seeds or a small handful of fresh sage leaves

4 cloves garlic, cut in half

sprig of marjoram


Remove the rind and almost every scrap of fat.  Season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole, large enough to fit the pork.  Brown the pork well on all sides, remove to a plate and pour off all the oil and fat. Add the lemon peel, coriander seeds and garlic.  Return the pork to the saucepan, add the milk, it should come about half way up the meat.  Add a sprig of marjoram or sage and bring to the boil and simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours with the pan partially covered – after about an hour the milk will have formed a golden skin.  Scrape all this and what has stuck to the sides back into the milk, continue to cook uncovered.


The liquid should simmer very gently all the time.  The whole object of this exercise is to allow the milk to reduce and form delicious, pale coffee-coloured “curds” and a golden crust while the meat cooks.  When the pork is cooked slice the meat and carefully spoon the precious curds over the top.


Earl Grey Milk Jam

I found this recipe from Angel Kim in the Cook supplement of the Guardian.

“This is one of the most delicious things I have made. The jam is full of milky, caramel goodness with a faint hint of Earl Grey tea. Spoon it directly out of the jar or drizzle it over pancakes, waffles or ice-cream.”


Makes 200ml

2 Earl Grey tea-bags

250ml (9floz) whole milk

3tablespoons sugar or vanilla sugar

1 tablespoons honey

a pinch of salt

250ml (9floz) single cream

40g (1½ oz) butter, cubed


Bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, steep for about 10 minutes, then remove.

In a large frying pan or non-stick saucepan with high sides, bring the infused milk, sugar, honey and salt to a gentle simmer. Stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cream to the pan in three stages, stirring constantly until it has been incorporated.

Add the butter, stirring until melted. Simmer the sauce over a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Once the jam has thickened and turned slightly darker in colour, simmer for 10-15 minutes longer. It will thicken further once cooled.

Pour into a hot sterilised jar or airtight container then seal with the lid to prevent a skin from forming. Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.


French Toast


French toast is so good that you forget how economical it is.  The French don’t call this French toast.  They call it pain perdu or “lost bread”, because it is a way to use up leftover bread you would otherwise lose – the only bread you’ve got on the baker’s day off.  French toast is actually better if the bread is a little old or sliced and dried out overnight.


Serves 4


3 free range eggs

175ml (6 flozs/3/4 cup) whole milk- not low fat

tiny pinch of salt

6 slices white or light wholemeal bread

4 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 4 teaspoons) clarified butter (see below)


Whisk the eggs, milk and salt together until well blended.  Strain the mixture into a shallow bowl in which you can easily soak the bread.  Dip both sides of each slice of bread in the batter. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a frying pan.  Fry the bread over a medium heat until very lightly browned, turning once.  Serve warm sprinkled with icing sugar.


To Serve

1) Serve with crispy streaky rashers and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.


2) Also delicious with sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or grated apple.


3) Serve with a blob of sweet apple sauce.



Spiced French Toast: Add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg to the batter.


Lemon or Orange French Toast: Add 2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest to the batter



Kheer with Saffron and Pistachio nuts

Kheer is a traditional Indian dessert made from rice, milk and sugar and flavoured with spices. You could garnish it with sultanas, raisins, hazelnuts, pistachios or any nuts of your choice.


Serves 6-8

100g (3½ oz) long-grain rice, such as Basmati

1 litre (1¾ pints) whole milk

a pinch of saffron strands

1 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom

40g (1½ oz) flaked, toasted almonds

55g  (2½ oz)  sugar or a little more to taste


Coarsely chopped pistachios or your choice of toasted nuts and dried fruit.

Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and then set aside.

Pour the milk into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat.

Add the rice, stir to combine, then add the saffron, ground cardamom and the flaked almonds. Simmer until the rice has cooked and the milk has reduced by half – around 25-30 minutes.

Stir regularly to make sure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the saucepan.

Add the sugar to taste and stir to dissolve. Pour into a serving bowl or individual dishes. Top with your choice of chopped nuts and dried fruit.


Hot Tips:

Slow Food Galway is celebrating St. Brigit’s Day with a Gourmet Banquet on Sunday February 1st at 5pm, in LOAM Restaurant, Fairgreen, Galway with Michelin Star Chef, Enda McEvoy.

Reception with canapés and wine, five course banquet with Slow Wines and musical entertainment. All proceeds to: Clowns without Borders Ireland; Cope Community Catering, Galway and Slow Food 10,000 Gardens in Africa. Tickets are €75 Euro Contact Eileen: 086-8533395, Kate: 087-9312333 or Cait: 087-2311580.


Give your loved one the gift of a lifetime. Why not impress your Valentine with a Ballymaloe Cookery School voucher which can be tailored in a number of ways to create the perfect gift for the food lover or gardening enthusiast in your life! For more information and to purchase a vouchers see or phone 021 4646785


Deasy’s Harbour Bar & Seafood Restaurant in Ring. How lovely is it to have a little black book full of addresses of good places to eat around the country. If Deasy’s in Ring, just a mile from Clonakilty is not already on your radar add it to your list right away. Caitlin Ruth is a beautiful cook. We had a really good dinner there recently with particularly memorable Korean fish cakes, Radicchio with whipped Toonsbridge ricotta and pickled green beans, monkfish with braised fennel, black rice and smoked chilli oil, and hazelnut cake, but there were appreciative sounds coming from all around the table to a variety of other dishes. Phone 023 883 5741

SPRING_S08_0056 (3)



Spring, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in London for several years. Skye, whose super fresh food at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond thrilled and excited real food lovers from all over the world, had not been actively involved in the restaurant scene for over two years. In that time she and her team were actively seeking out exciting premises in central London. After much toing and froing they eventually chose part of the New Wing at Somerset House, where the Inland Revenue had its office for 158 years. The new space could not be much further in style from the original charming greenhouse at Petersham Nurseries where mismatched tables, crockery and cutlery on the clay floor created a sophisticated up-cycled bo-ho chic look. Here in Spring, Skye shows her elegant ultra-chic side by transforming what by all accounts was a dull and dreary room into a haven of sophistication with a Zen like feel. The walls are pastel with tiny handmade porcelain flowers by Valeria Nascimento fluttering across the walls. There’s a marble counter at one end from which drinks and house cordials are dispensed. The cutlery is by English cutler David Mellor and the leather chairs are by Mario Bellini

The chandeliers which resemble bunches of frosted balloons cast a soft flattering glow. Not everyone loves the atmosphere or the eccentric staff uniform designed by Trager Delaney of Egg. I personally found them playful and quirky and why not.

The food was totally delicious, quintessentially Skye even though she wasn’t in the kitchen herself that night. Beautifully fresh ingredients shine through with the minimum of interference.

The delicious desserts at are the creations of Sarah Johnson and her team. Sarah interned here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for a while and honed her considerable skills at Chez Panisse in Berkeley  as well as Pizzaiolo in Oakland.

The wine list would also blow you out of the water impressing even the most seasoned wine buffs. Deeply knowledgeable sommelier Frank Embleton has been given both the brief and budget to create one of the most fascinating and well-chosen lists in London to compliment Skye’s food.

Put on your London list. Open seven days for lunch and dinner.

Here are some of the dishes that are creating the WOW factor at Spring.


Scallops, Agretti and Chilli Oil from Spring

Serves 4

20 scallops, shucked and cleaned

1 large red chilli

5tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch of Agretti

The juice of half a lemon

Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the chilli in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, slice into long fine strips. Bunch the strips together and chop finely across them so you end up with neat little squares. Place in a bowl, pour over all but 1tbsp of the olive oil, stir to combine, and set aside.

Clean, cook and drain the Agretti as described above. While still warm, dress with a tablespoon of the chilli oil and a squeeze or two of lemon juice.

Place two non-stick (if you have them) frying pans on top of a high heat. Divide the final tablespoon of olive oil (without chilli), between them. Season the scallops quite generously with salt and pepper. Then when the pans are very hot, add the scallops, diving them equally (don’t over crowd them or they will stew instead of cook)

Cook for a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. Remove from the heat and squeeze over what is left of the lemon juice. Divide the Agretti among 4 plates, place 5 scallops on top of each and spoon over the chilli oil. Serve straight away while the scallops are still piping hot.


Pumpkin and white bean curry from Spring

Serves 4

1 fresh coconut (or 1 tin coconut milk)

1tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1tsp black mustard seeds

1 onion squash (if you can’t get hold of this, Crown Prince or butternut squash will be fine)

1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated

1 dried chilli

10 fresh curry leaves

150 g/5 oz dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked according to packet instructions

A little sea-salt

1 inch thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4-5 sweet little tomatoes


I prefer to use fresh coconut it’s a little extra work but its flavour is far more delicate. If you do it this way, look for small, sweet, young coconuts, not the more typical older harder ones. Remove the outside husk by holding in your hand, rotating it slowly and tapping it gently on the top with a rolling pin until the outer flesh splits and you can gently remove the flesh with your hands. Cut in half down the middle with a sharp knife, catching the water in a bowl as it escapes. Roughly chop the flesh into chunks and place in a blender with cup or two of warm water. Blend until smooth and strain it into the bowl in which you have poured the coconut milk.

Next, peel and chop the pumpkin into 2cm (1in) wedges. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a medium-sized pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let them pop for a bit. Turn the heat down slightly and add the ginger, turmeric, tomatoes and dried chilli. Add the pumpkin and stir a couple of times to coat. Next, sprinkle over the curry leaves and pour in the coconut milk. Keeping the heat at medium to low, place a lid on the saucepan and cook gently until the pumpkin is tender. Season with salt. Add the cooked white beans and cook gently fir a further 5-10 min.

It’s delicious eaten alone, but it also lovely served with some simple steamed white fish.


Braised Oxtail with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar from Spring

Serves 4-6

3kg/6lb Oxtail

1tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil

5 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped

1 dried chilli

5 fresh bay leaves

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

100ml/31/2 fl oz. Sherry vinegar

3 Jars of good quality tomatoes

500ml/ 17fl oz. of water

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 whole cloves

Using a sharp knife, trim the oxtail of most of its fat. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When warm, add the carrots, onion, chilli, bay leaves and garlic. Immediately turn the heat to very low and sweat for 20 mins, stirring every now and then.

In a separate pan, brown the oxtail well on both sides; this should take about four minutes per side. Remove the oxtail from the pan and deglaze with the vinegar, removing the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oxtail to the veg along with the sherry vinegar.

Add the tomatoes and water, a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper, stir well and place lid on the pan. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring every now and then. Add the cloves 20 minutes from the end. The meat is ready when it falls of the bones. Turn off the heat and allow the dish to cool to room temperature. It will test better for this, twenty minutes before eating, reheat the dish over a low heat and serve piping hot.


Pear and Hazelnut Tart with Crème Fraîche and Espresso from Spring


For Pastry


500 g plain flour

40 g sugar

2 whole organic free range eggs

2 whole organic free range egg yolks

250 g unsalted butter (Chilled)


For Hazelnut Filling


250 g whole hazelnuts, skins removed

250 g unsalted butter

250 g caster sugar

2 whole eggs

Zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract


5 pears, room temperature and ripe to the touch.


For Pastry:

Place the flour in a food processor along with the sugar and diced butter. Blitz quickly until the butter starts to break up.  Add the eggs and yolks.  Once the pastry comes together pour out onto a work surface and gently knead together.  Wrap in cling-film and chill for two hours, or preferably overnight.


Unwrap the pastry, place on a floured surface and begin to roll with a rolling pin, turning the pastry to ensure an even thickness.  Roll until the dough is 5mm thick.  Lay the rolling pin on the edge of the pastry and roll the dough around it.  Gently lift over the tart case and unroll the pastry over the tin.  Using the tips of your fingers lightly press the dough into the sides of the tin, trimming away the extra pastry.  Rest the dough in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.  Remove pastry from the refrigerator and line with parchment.  Place baking beans in the pastry and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is set.  Remove the baking beans and continue to cook until golden.  Remove and cool before filling.


For Frangipane:

Roast Hazelnuts until lightly golden to help bring out flavour. Allow to cool, then pulse in robot coup until quite coarse.

Cream the butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, or by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Then add eggs one by one, taking the time to make sure they are properly incorporated. Take off the mixer (if using) and gently fold in the nuts by hand.


To assemble tart:

Spread frangipane onto the bottom of the cooled tart shell.  Slice the pears in half, then into thirds, so each pear gives you six slices.  Using a sharp knife, remove the stem and seeds taking care to remove as little as the flesh as possible.  Leave the skins intact. Gently press the pears into the frangipane, placing the skin side up and into a pinwheel pattern.


Bake at 180 for 40-50 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and firm to the touch.  The pears should be soft and the centre set, but still quite moist.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.


At Spring we serve this tart with a dollop of crème fraîche and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground espresso.


Spring Ice Cream Recipes:


Basic Anglaise:


450 ml Double Cream

350 ml whole milk

120 g caster sugar

6 organic free range egg yolks


Place the cream, milk and sugar into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a gentle heat until warm to the touch. Remove from the heat In the meantime, place the yolks into a bowl and using a whisk, gently beat to break them up.  Pour the warm milk over the yolks, whisking as you go.  Return the custard to the saucepan and place back onto a gentle heat.  Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the custard continuously, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pot and ensure even cooking.  Cook until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon.  This may take some time, so be patient.


Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl over an ice bath and stir until cool.  Continue to chill and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  See below for modifications.


Honey Walnut Ice cream


2 cups fresh walnuts

1 recipe for Basic Anglaise except replace 80g of sugar with honey


Replace 80g of the sugar with your favourite honey.

Preheat oven to 160C

Toast walnuts until crisp, and lightly collared. Between 15 and 20 minutes.  Cool, then roughly chop. Put aside.

Freeze honey Anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Once churned, fold in the toasted nuts.


Hot Tips

LitFest 15-17 May 2015:
It has been a whirlwind week at LifFest HQ with ticket sales kicking off last Wednesday 7th, the Ox Pop-up dinner was the first to book out but there are still many unmissable events to sign up for. So if you haven’t already done so – get booking. The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 weekend promises to be another ‘knock out!

Gluten Free Cooking:
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who is coeliac, will testify it is challenging producing really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand in the form of this intensive half-day course on Saturday 24th January. Packed with advice on alternative suitable ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking.

As part of the Slow Food, Meet the Makers series, Slow Food Four Rivers in the South East are hosting a Meet the Bakers, this is a follow up event with  Josephine Plettenburg (Speltbakers), Joe Fitzmaurice (RiotRye) and Declan Ryan (Arbutus Bakery) who are returning to Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny to continue the night of discussion and munching of real bread. During the evening Real Bread Ireland will be launched by Patrick Ryan from Firehouse (Dublin) and Kemal Scarpello SlowFoodCo (Donegal) to support the baking of real bread. Saturday 24th January 2015 at 6pm, tickets .




cauliflower soup


What’s not to love about Cape Town – it’s just one long sleep away, a mere two hours time change so virtually no jet lag and a guaranteed instant hit of Winter sunshine.

Yet again, The New York Times voted Cape Town as its top holiday destination in 2014.

Much has changed since my last trip a decade ago. Cape Town exudes confidence, it’s a brilliant cultural stew-pot, businesses seem to just spring up all over the place, hip urban coffee shops, farmers markets, roadside shacks, super cool cafés, restaurants,  pop-up concerts where the music can be anything from bongo drumming, French folk singing, classical to hip-hop.

On my earlier trips to South Africa, imported products and ingredients were greatly sought after but now virtually every shop and restaurant proudly touts the fact that the produce or products are produced in South Africa. The sea and farms around Cape Town produce some fine quality fruit, vegetables, meat, and beautiful fresh fish which is often cooked within hours of coming off the boats.

Many Cape Town eateries are casual affairs but it also has its share of stellar chefs and two of its top restaurants The Test Kitchen in Cape Town and The Tasting Room in Franschhoek  are on the world’s Top 100 Restaurant List. Over the festive season it was really tough to get a table in many of the most talked about places, but I had a particularly memorable lunch at The Pot Luck Club, the more casual and edgier roof-top sister restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen. Chef Wesley Randles and his gang of passionate young chefs turn out an irresistible range of pan African and Asian sharing plates.

Out in Franschhoek where I spent a few days to attend a family wedding. I greatly enjoyed staying at Le Quartier Français on the main street. Breakfast was one of the best I have eaten anywhere. Freshly squeezed, and I mean freshly squeezed, juices – orange, beetroot, grapefruit…  Beautiful fresh ripe fruit, crunchy granolas classic and gluten free, thick unctuous buffalo milk and Greek yoghurts, home-made jams and croissants and house cured bacon. Here the less formal, Living Room serves delicious tapas all day long. I particularly loved the prawn popcorn in a crisp tempura batter with Aioli and the duck and lentil crumble.

The Old Biscuit Mill in the Woodstock is not to be missed. What used to be a rundown area home to fishermen and factory workers is now a collection of little shops run by creative young artisans, furniture makers, artists and craftspeople. The Neighbourhood’s Saturday  Market is an insight into the vibrant artisan food scene with local farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, charcutiers with over one hundred traders selling their handmade and home grown produce.

Out in Kalk Bay we had brunch at the Olympia  Café for old times sake. There was a queue as ever for the plates of simple food, chippos (chippolates), scrambled egg, frittata, omelettes, bacon… served on chipped formica tables. I ordered coconut hotcakes with passion fruit and strawberries and soaked up the hippie vibe.

This year Silwood Kitchen, South Africa’s first cookery school established by the feisty Lesley Faull, originally from (from where) celebrates their 50th year with the publication of ‘A Year at Silwood’ published by Quivertree Publications.

Melissa’s The Food Shop in Cape Town is an interesting deli and café with an intriguing system. You can choose a selection of lunch dishes from her table and then have the plate weighed to arrive at the price,  it seemed to work brilliantly. This chunky pear, walnut, blue cheese and watercress salad was one of the options as well as Melanzane Parmigiana, lasagne and several other tempting salads.


Pear, Walnut, Blue cheese and Watercress salad.


Serves 6


6 pears

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) water

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) red or white wine

450g (1lb) sugar

50-75g (2-3oz) ripe blue cheese, Crozier Blue or Gorgonzola

salt and freshly ground pepper,

18 whole walnut halves

Watercress sprigs


Peel, quarter and core the pears. Put water, red wine and sugar into a deep stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the pears, bring back to the boil, cover with a cartouche and the lid of the saucepan and simmer gently until the pears are tender when pierced with a skewer or tip of a knife. Cool in the liquid and chill.


To serve, remove the pears from the poaching liquid, scatter the base of the serving bowl with watercress sprigs, lay the drained pear quarters on top, (half the pieces if the pears are too large). Scatter the walnut halves, large crumbles of blue cheese and some more watercress sprigs on top.


Season with a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground pepper and serve.


Cauliflower Soup with a Hint of Truffle from ‘A Year at Silwood’

Serves 6 to 8


180g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

75g (3 oz) potato, peeled and finely chopped

60g (2 ½ oz) butter

500ml (18fl oz) light chicken stock

250ml (9fl oz) milk

250ml (9fl oz) cream

750g (1½ lb) cauliflower, chopped

Sea salt

White pepper


Truffle oil

Micro herbs


Sweat the onion and potato in butter, until the potato is completely soft. Add the stock, milk and cream, and bring to the boil. Add the cauliflower and simmer until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Place in a blender and blend until completely smooth, then season with salt and white pepper.


To serve, reheat and serve in warm bowls with a swirl of truffle oil and a sprinkling of micro herbs.


Prawn ‘Popcorn’ with Aoili

Serves 4


20 fresh Dublin Bay Prawns

Tempura batter see below


Aoili/garlic mayonnaise


Peel the raw prawns and cut into ½ inch pieces. Keep chilled

Make a tempura batter.

Just before serving, heat oil in a deep fry. Dip the prawn pieces one at a time into the batter and drop into the hot oil. Cook for a couple of minutes until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve on a bed of watercress or organic leaves with a bowl of Aioli/garlic mayonnaise for dipping.


Tempura Batter


200g (7ozs/scant 2 cups) rice flour

20g (3/4oz/scant 1/4 cup) corn flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

cold sparkling water


Sieve the flour into a bowl and make a well in the centre.  Whisk in the water with a balloon whisk, until the batter is the thickness of double cream but not too smooth.

Cool and chill in the fridge until needed.



A twist on Millionaires Shortbread 

Serves 6 as a dessert


6-9 shortbread biscuits

Toffee sauce or dulce de leche

Hot dark chocolate sauce

18 toasted hazelnuts, halved

Maldon sea salt


To serve, have all the components ready.

Choose six small but deepish bowls or glasses. Break 1 or 1½   biscuits into roughly ¾  inch pieces into each bowl. Spoon two tablespoons of toffee sauce or dulce de leche on top. Sprinkle on some toasted hazelnuts and then some hot chocolate sauce. Finish with just 3 or 4 flakes of Maldon sea salt on each


Serve with Jersey cream or Vanilla bean ice cream.



Dark Chocolate Sauce


Makes 16fl ozs (450mls/2 cups)


8ozs (225g) best quality dark chocolate (semi sweet or bittersweet)

8fl oz (225ml/1 cup) cream

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) dark rum or orange liqueur or strong coffee or vanilla extract (optional)


Put the cream in a heavy bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted.  It will seem curdled at first but don’t worry, keep on stirring and it will become smooth and glossy.  Add the chosen flavouring if using.   Serve warm or at room temperature.


Hot Tips

Farmers Markets: After a busy Christmas and a little break our local Farmers Markets are back! Mahon Point on Thursday 8th  January from 10am to 3pm, Douglas Farmers Market on Saturday 10th January 10am to 2pm, Midleton Farmers Market Saturday 10th January 9.30am to 2pm, Wilton Farmers Market Tuesday 13th January from 10am to 2pm.

Slow Food East Cork Event with renowned food historian. Dorothy Cashman will speak about how a love of food and literature can take your life in a different direction, Thursday 22nd January 2015 at 7pm Ballymaloe Cookery School. Enquiries 021 4646785 or email Proceeds to East Cork Slow Food Educational Project

Guest Chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Mary Jo McMillan’s name may not be familiar to many of you but we’ve known and admired her for many years. She in turn loves Ireland and has been visiting for over 30 years. Mary Jo’s restaurant and catering business in Oxford, OH, USA had a cult following and she is particularly famous for her braises, slow cooked dishes and of course her baking. In this one day course on Saturday 31st January you’ll also learn two fool-proof menus and the secrets of several of Mary Jo’s sought after cakes, pastries and French bread. For more details see

Saturday Pizzas are back again – join the devotees. Wood fired pizzas with exciting seasonal toppings, great Margherita, Marinara and Pepperoni also. From 12 to 4pm every Saturday at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. See Facebook Saturdaypizzas for today’s specials.

Seville Marmalade Oranges are back in the grocers again. There’s something deeply satisfying about making a few batches of the real thing. Only the bitter oranges from the South of Spain produce the traditional flavour so beloved of marmalade lovers. Seek out a charming little book ‘Marmalade:  A Bittersweet Cookbook’ by Sarah Randall for classic recipes and new twists on how to use your neatly labelled jars of glistening preserves in a myriad of creative ways.

New Year’s Resolutions

Once again, it’s that time of the year when I make a ton of New Year resolutions that despite all the evidence to the contrary I’m totally sure I will keep. I’m totally obsessed by my new ‘best present’, a pedometer – it tells me how many steps I’ve walked each day. Apparently, to keep fit, it ought to be 10,000 at least. That’s pretty easy in my average day but I keep wanting to break my record. I reckon everyone should have one of these new ‘toys’ or alternatively, install the app on your phone. That will also tell you how many stairs you have climbed and how many miles you have covered – it becomes addictive but then again there’s far worse things to be addicted to!


Back to New Year resolutions, as the obesity crisis becomes ever more urgent, we’ve already started to reduce sugar drastically in our recipes – 20% across the board to get them back to the original degree of sweetness before we changed from sugar beet to cane sugar. Try it, you’ll be amazed how you scarcely notice the difference and 20% adds up to a lot of sugar…..


My next challenge is to reduce my meat consumption by 50% and increase our plant/herb and grain consumption by 50% instead.  Plants are by far the most important food group, you can live totally healthily on a plant based diet, but the same cannot be said for meat despite the popularity of the Atkins diet. The cost of unrealistically cheap meat particularly chicken and pork can no longer be ignored in health and socio-economic terms. There are also serious animal welfare issues to be addressed not to speak of questions on real traceability and sustainability. Interesting a growing number of people worldwide are becoming exercised about this subject and initiatives like ‘Meat Free Monday’ are growing in acceptance. Chefs too are embracing the concept and restaurants like The Grain Store in King’s Cross in London have already highlighted meat as a flavouring or garnish rather than the main ingredient on their menus.


There are many other examples – René Redzepi of NOMA in Copenhagen whose restaurant has helped to change the gastronomic image of the entire Nordic region, features fish and meat just once during his unforgettable 20 course meal.  It’s a total celebration of the fresh vegetables and wild foods.  The reality is that evidence is mounting that both we ourselves and the planet would be immeasurably better off if we ate less but much better quality meat.  My guess is that this is more than a trend ….


We are fortunate in Ireland to have access to some excellent meat.  Make some enquiries in your area to find a producer of properly free-range, organic poultry, you’ll need to pay €18-20 for a fine plump bird with giblets’.  That is closer to the real price of rearing a tasty, wholesome bird for the table.  It’s time we got real about the true costs involved. Paying what to many will seem like an astronomical price is enough to galvanise the mind so you use every single scrap and enjoy it as an occasional treat as used to be the case when I was a child.


The carcass and giblets will make a fine pot of stock.  The chicken liver can be whipped up into a pate or smooth parfait to enjoy with slices of crisp toast or crusty bread.  The drumsticks, thighs, breasts, tenders and wings can all be used in a variety of ways and bulked up with lots of vegetables and pulses or grains.  The skin on a good chicken cooked crisp and served with a lime and chilli dipping sauce will become a family favourite.  Offal lovers like me will also enjoy a confit of the hearts and gizzards served on a bed of winter greens just as guests do in 3 star Michelin restaurants or in Parisian brasseries.


Here are some delicious recipes to get the maximum from a beautiful free range organic bird should you be able to find such a treasure……


Thai Chicken, Galangal and Coriander Soup

A particularly delicious example of how fast and easy a Thai soup can be and how a little organic chicken can go a long way. Serve in Chinese porcelain bowls if available. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal are served but not eaten. The chilli may of course be nibbled. Prawns and shrimps can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results.


900ml (32fl oz) homemade chicken stock

4 kaffir lime leaves (use 3 dry if fresh are unavailable)

5cm (2 inch) piece of galangal, peeled and sliced or less of fresh ginger

4 tablespoons Fish sauce (Nam pla)

6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

225g (8oz) chicken breast, very finely sliced

225ml (8fl oz) coconut milk

1-3 Thai red chillies

fresh coriander leaves – about 5 tablespoons


Put the chicken stock, lime leaves, galangal or ginger, fish sauce and freshly squeezed lemon juice into a saucepan.  Bring to the boil stirring all the time, add the finely shredded chicken and coconut milk.  Continue to simmer until the chicken is just cooked 1-2 minutes approx.  Crush the chillies with a knife or Chinese chopper add to the soup for just a few seconds with some coriander leaves.  Ladle into hot bowls and serve immediately.


Note:  We usually use one red Thai chilli – number depends on your taste and how hot the chillies are.


Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are also great added to this soup.  Fresh lime leaves are not available in every shop, but you may be able to pick up a plant at your local garden centre. (I found several at Deelish Garden Centre near Skibbereen) Alternatively, buy the leaves any time you spot them, pop them into a bag and freeze them, though not quite the same as fresh they are surprisingly good.






Spicy Chicken Livers on Toast


Serves 6 as a starter


A tasty little starter but also great to serve with drinks.


1lb( 450g) organic chicken livers


1 teasp. cumin seeds


1 teasp. coriander seeds


a good pinch of cayenne pepper


1 teasp.sea salt


1 teasp. black peppercorns


1 tablespoon white flour


2 tablespoons freshly snipped flat parsley or coriander


6 slices of sourdough bread

Butter or extra virgin olive oil


Warm the cumin and coriander in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes by which time they should be smelling fragrant and spicy.


Put into a pestle and mortar with the sea salt and peppercorns. Grind with the pestle, add the cayenne pepper and flour and mix well.


Meanwhile clean the chicken livers, divide in two pieces if still intact. Remove any veins or traces of green. Wash and dry.


Just before cooking toss each chicken liver in the spicy coating.


Heat a little butter in a frying pan ,add a dash of olive oil, when it foams add the livers (you may need to cook in two batches depending on the size of the pan.  Cook on all sides until slightly crisp on the outside but still a little pink and juicy .Add the roughly chopped parsley or coriander.


Meanwhile, pan grill or toast the bread and butter or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Put a slice on to a hot plate.Spoon some spicy livers and juices over the top.  Serve immediately.



Confit of Gizzards


4 organic chicken or duck gizzards

200g (7oz) duck fat


Clean the gizzards and trim off all the fat. Tuck them into a small saucepan and cover with the duck fat. Put on a very low heat (or transfer to allow oven, 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2) and cook until tender, this could take three hours. Allow to cool,  transfer into a sterilized crock or Kilner jar, cover with strained duck fat and store in the fridge until they are to be used. They will keep for months and are delicious heated up on a pan and served on a little salad of seasonal leaves or in a risotto.




Spiced Chicken Legs with Banana and Cardamon raita


Serves 6


3 1/2 lbs (1.5kg) chicken drumsticks or a mixture of drumsticks and thighs (boned or unboned)

1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon  ground turmeric

1 teaspoon castor sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

5 tablespoons  freshly squeezed

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil



Ballymaloe Tomato Relish

Banana and Yoghurt Raita (see recipe)



Mix the cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, sugar, black pepper, salt, garlic and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl.  Slash the chicken legs with a sharp knife in a couple of places.  Rub the mixture all over the chicken pieces, put in a bowl and cover. Keep in a cool place for at least 3 hours.


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


Put the chicken pieces onto a roasting tin with all the paste, Brush or drizzle with a little oil and bake for about 20 minutes then turn over and bake for a further 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Baste 2 or 3 times during cooking. Transfer to a serving dish spoon the degreased juices over the chicken and serve hot or at room temperature with Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, Banana and Yoghurt Raita and poppadums.



Crispy Chicken Skin with Plum or Lime and Sweet Chilli Sauce


This recipe is only worth doing with an organic chicken. The idea of eating chicken skin may frighten some, but it’s soooo yummy. You’ll soon become addicted – just don’t live on it!


skin from organic chicken breasts

sea salt

Plum Sauce

or Lime and Sweet Chilli Sauce (mix Sweet Chilli Sauce with freshly squeezed lime juice to taste)


Peel the skin off the chicken breasts. Cut the skin into pieces about the size of a business card (if the pieces are reasonably even they will be more manageable to eat later).


Preheat the oven to 180Cº/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.


Spread the chicken skin upwards on a wire cooling rack on a baking tray. Cook for 25–30 minutes, until the skin is irresistibly crisp and the fat has rendered out. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with a little bowl of plum or lime and sweet chilli sauce for dipping.



Hot Tips:


Homemade butter, yoghurt, and some cheeses: Why not start the New Year  learning how to make butter, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products at home.   You’ll also discover how added flavour can be achieved with fresh herbs and fruit. Butter and cheese making is definitely one of those simple but deeply satisfying kitchen crafts not only that deserves to be resurrected but can also provide additional income or a vibrant business.  Course on Wed 14th Jan 2015 from  9:30 am to 1:45 pm, light lunch included. For more details see or phone 021 4646785


Midleton GIY Practical Skills of Horticulture: Learn about tree planting and pruning of apple trees at the Midleton Community Garden on January 10th, from 2pm to 4pm.  Classes are free of charge, children are welcome. Practical skills will be demonstrated with participants encouraged to practice, tools will be provided.   Bookings phone 085-8123617 or  See for the 2015 schedule of events countrywide.



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