ArchiveJanuary 2016

Shrove Tuesday

Orange Crepes-002


Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner again – a perfect excuse to have a pancake party – what fun that is….

The tiny tots love it, teens have fun and the ‘wrinkles’ reminisce about pancakes in the past. So where did the custom come from?  The name Shrove Tuesday originally came from the word Shrive meaning to absolve. Christians were encouraged to examine their conscience, confess and repent before the penitential season of lent commenced on Ash Wednesday. Fasting was an integral part of Lent so it became a custom to use up all the sugar, butter, flour and eggs before the long period of fast and abstinence began.

I hadn’t quite realised how many countries celebrate Shrove Tuesday. In Germany it’s called Fastnachtsdienstag and some other equally unpronounceable words. In Netherlands, it’s known as Vastenavond and is also linked to a carnival. In Portuguese, Spanish and Italian speaking countries it’s actually known as Carnival which is derived from the Latin ‘farewell to the flesh’. In Brazil the Carnival in Rio is the most famous while Venice they celebrate with a masquerade. In Spain, Carnival Tuesday is named ‘dia de la tortilla’, omelette day. In Portuguese-speaking Madeira, they eat malasadas on Terca – feera Gorda – Fat Tuesday and on and on it goes…

In Denmark and Norway the day is called Fastelavn, children dress up in costumes and gather treats. Iceland  calls it  Sprengidagur – Bursting Day and is marked by the tradition of eating peas and salted meat.

In Sweden Fettisdagen – Fat Tuesday is celebrated by eating a marzipan filled pastry called semla. The Lithuanian’s celebrate the day called Užgavènês by eating pancakes or  a special type of doughnut and then of course there’s Mardi Gras in New Oreleans which again means Fat Tuesday and on it goes.

There are pancake races and pancake flipping competitions in many countries so let’s get in on the act. I love the simple pancakes of my childhood which my own grandchildren also love to help to cook and flip but here are some other recipes to choose from if you’d like to ring the changes before you consider 40 days of abstinence!

Hot Tips

10 Great Brunch Recipes, Friday 5th February 2.30pm

Brunch, more substantial than a breakfast is the perfect meal for enjoying quality time with family and friends and enjoying hassle-free entertaining.

For the last number of years we have run an extremely popular breakfast course here at Ballymaloe Cookery School, but never get a chance to share the wonderful repertoire of brilliant brunch ideas that Darina has picked up on her travels… until now! From spicy Sri Lankan chilli eggs to the classic Mexican huevos rancheros, light-as-a-feather ricotta hot cakes with honey, all-American Corn cakes or Dutch pancakes with crisp home cured bacon or tangy blueberry drop scones dripping with fresh butter. Home cooks will head away with so many simply delicious recipes to entertain and delight.

Past Ballymaloe Cookery School student

Jack Crotty, aka The Rocket Man, has opened E A S T an exciting new food venue at the Old Winthrop Arcade, Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City. Super tasty falafel and in house flatbreads with pickles, cheeses and slaws. Open 7 days a week.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Don’t miss the 2nd annual food and nutrition conference at Thomond Park, Co Limerick on February 6th and 7th 2016, focuses on wise traditions in food, farming and the healing arts. Visit the website for full details

Get Blogging with Lucy Pearce

Join pro-blogger Lucy Pearce and some of our 12 Week Certificate Students for ‘Get Blogging’ on Saturday February 6th. Join Lucy from 2pm-5pm for a whistle-stop tour of the food blogging world and see what’s hot, and what’s not, right now. You’ll see just how diverse food blogging is, and how to find your niche! Lucy will compare the different blogging platforms, highlighting their pros and cons so that you can select the best one for your food blog.


Crêpes with Orange Butter

This crêpe recipe is very nearly as good as those Crêpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crêpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approximately


Pancake Batter

6oz (175g/generous 1 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) castor sugar

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

scant 15fl oz (450ml/2 cups) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American teaspoons) melted butter


Orange Butter

6oz (175g/1 1/2 sticks) butter

3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind

6oz (175g/1 1/3 cups) icing sugar

freshly squeezed juice of 5-6 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan


First make the batter.

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 castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so Рlonger will do no harm. Just before you cook the cr̻pes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the cr̻pes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time

Next make the orange butter.

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy.

Make the crêpes in the usual way.

Heat the pan to very hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

* A small ladel can also be very useful for this, loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

Note: If you have several pans it is perfectly possible to keep 3 or 4 pans going in rotation. Only necessary if you need to feed the multitudes.


To Serve

Melt a blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the pancakes in the foaming butter. Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 or 3 per person on warm plates.  Spoon the buttery orange juices over the top. Repeat until all the pancakes and butter have been used.

Note: A tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of orange liqueur eg. Grand Marnier or Orange Curacao is very good added to the orange butter if you are feeling very extravagant!


Crêpes with Chocolate Spread, Toasted Hazelnuts and Cream

Spread a little chocolate spread (Green and Blacks) in the middle of the crêpe, top with a blob of cream and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts.


Crêpes with Chocolate Spread, Kumquat Compote and Cream

Spread a little chocolate spread (Green and Blacks) over each crêpe.  Top with a little kumquat compote (see recipe).  Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes).  Serve with softly whipped cream.


Crêpes with Mascarpone and Kumquat Marmalade

250g (9oz) mascarpone

1 tablespoon honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Kumquat Marmalade or Kumquat Compote (see recipe)


Mix the mascarpone with the honey, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and mix to combine.  Spread a layer on a warm crêpe.  Drizzle some kumquat marmalade or kumquat compote over the top.  Fold or roll up and enjoy.  Alternatively serve bowls of mascarpone, maple syrup and kumquat marmalade or compote with the hot crêpes so guests can assemble themselves.


Kumquat Compôte

A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham.  Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt.

Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served


235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz/1 cup) water

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


Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.


Russian Fluffy Pancakes

Julija Makejeva, who works with us at the Cookery School, taught me how to make these pancakes, known as oladushki in Russian.

Serves 6


225ml (8fl oz) buttermilk

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda or bread soda)

2 organic eggs, whisked

scant 1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons caster sugar

250g (9oz) white flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Put the buttermilk into a bowl, sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda on top and leave for 3–4 minutes to allow the mixture to bubble.

Whisk the egg, salt and caster sugar into the buttermilk mixture. Slowly add the flour to the batter, whisking all the time, until the mixture has an even consistency. The batter should be very thick and reluctantly fall off the spoon.

Heat a wide frying pan on a medium heat. Add the vegetable oil. Pour a tablespoon of batter into the pan and repeat – you should be able to fit about 5 more pancakes in the pan, spaced evenly apart. Fry until golden brown on one side, flip over once bubbles have appeared on the surface and popped. Repeat the process until all of the batter is used. Serve with sour cream mixed with raspberry jam or sour cream sprinkled with brown sugar.


Semlor Lenten buns

Serves 12


80g (2½oz) melted butter

250ml (9 fl oz) whole milk

25g (¾ oz) fresh yeast (or 12g active dry yeast)

40g (1½ oz) caster sugar

400 g (10½ oz) plain bread flour, plus extra for dusting

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cardamom

1 egg, lightly beaten



100g (3½ oz) almond paste, see recipe

6-8 tablespoons of custard, see recipe

500ml (18 fl oz) whipping cream

1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract

Icing sugar to dust


If using mixer, set it up with the dough hook attachment. Melt the butter and add the milk, ensuring a lukewarm (blood) temperature. Add the fresh yeast and stir until dissolved.

Add sugar and stir again. Add 300 g of flour as well as the salt, baking powder and ground cardamom. Add  ½ the egg (preserve the other half for brushing before baking).

Mix well until all ingredients are incorporated and then start to add remaining 100 g of the flour, bit by bit, until you have a dough that is only a little bit sticky. Take care not to add too much flour: you will get dry buns. Knead the dough for at least five minutes in the mixer, longer by hand. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Turn the dough out to a floured surface. Knead again for a few minutes, adding more flour if needed. Cut the dough into 12 equal sized pieces. Take care that the balls are completely round and uniform in size. Place on baking tray with good spacing between buns. Leave to rise for another 40-50 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Gently brush each bun with the remainder of the egg wash and bake in a hot oven for about 20 minutes or until baked through – keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Remove from oven and cover the tray with a lightly damp tea towel immediately – this will prevent the buns from forming a crust.

When the buns have cooled down completely, cut a ‘lid’ off the buns – about 1½ cm from the top. Scoop out about ⅓ of the inside of the bun and place crumbs in a separate bowl.

Mix the almond paste with the crumb until it forms a very sticky mass –add a dash of milk or custard  at this point to help it along. You want a spoonable even mixture.

Spoon the filling back into the buns, equally divided. Whip the cream with the vanilla sugar until stiff and use a piping bag to pipe cream on all the buns’ tops. Put the ‘lids’ back on and dust with icing sugar.


Almond Paste


225 g (½ lb) ground almonds

225 g (½lb) golden castor sugar

1 small organic or free-range egg

a drop of pure almond extract (really careful, its very intense)

1 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) Irish whiskey

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds.  Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg).  Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.


Crème Anglaise (Custard Sauce)

This basic sauce is usually flavoured with vanilla but can be make with any number of other ingredients, such as lemon or orange rind or mint.  It is used in many recipes including ice-cream, though in that case the proportion of sugar is much higher than usual because unsweetened cream is added during the freezing.


1 pint (600 ml/2 1/2 cups) milk

vanilla pod or other alternative flavouring

6 egg yolks

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


Bring the milk almost to the boil with the vanilla pod.  Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and light.  Whisk in half the hot milk and then whisk the mixture back into the remaining milk.  Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly.  Your finger should leave a clear trail when drawn across the back of the spoon.

Remove from the heat at once and strain.  Cool, cover tightly and chill.  The custard can be kept up to 2 days in the refrigerator.



These Portuguese-style raised doughnuts are super-popular in Hawaii.

Makes 24 large doughnuts


3 large eggs, room temperature

5½ oz (160 g/3/4 cup) sugar

5 oz (140 g) salted butter

1 lb 2 ox (500 g/5 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

½ oz (14 g) quick-rising dry yeast

8 fl oz (200 ml/1 cup) hot water (40°C)

2½ fl oz (65 ml/1/3 cup evaporated milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

Additional sugar – caster, cinnamon or vanilla


Put 1 egg, sugar, butter and salt in bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with dough hook attachment; beat until blended, 1 minute.

Add 5 cups flour and yeast; beat until blended. Add the hot water, milk and vanilla and beat until well blended, 1 minute. Beat in remaining 2 eggs, then 1/2 cup flour. Beat until dough is smooth, soft and slightly sticky but begins to come away from sides of bowl, adding more flour by tablespoonful if very sticky, about 8-10 minutes. Scrape down dough from sides of bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1½-2 hours.

Punch down dough. Cut into 2 equal pieces. Roll out 1 piece on lightly floured surface to 12×16-inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into 3 strips and crosswise into 4 strips, making twelve 4-inch squares. Repeat with remaining dough.

Pour enough oil into large saucepan to reach depth of 1 1/2 inches.

Attach deep-fry thermometer and heat oil to 350°F. Fry 2 or 3 malasadas until puffed and golden brown, turning once, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer malasadas to paper towels and drain.

Repeat frying with remaining dough squares, heating oil to 350°F for each batch.

Generously sprinkle warm malasadas with additional sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Before The Holidays…

Before the holidays every magazine, newspaper, food programme and TV ad was shamelessly luring us into temptation, encouraging us to over spend and over indulge in a myriad of different ways. It was hard to resist and of course many of us succumbed. Now the day of reckoning has come. It’s all about lean, keen and frugal, instead of tempting food supplements in newspapers, there are diet supplements each promising miracles.

Slim and trim in 28 days….The five pound weight loss trick that works…How to lose weight and keep it off…..yeah, yeah, yeah….

How gullible are we, who ever checks the results? Cook books that promise to make you glow and make you beautiful, vaporize off the shelves as we clutch at straws. One super food after another rises and falls. At last there’s the beginnings of a backlash- after countless hopes have been raised and dashed, a badly needed note of scepticism is being introduced So could it really be that after all the false promises the answer is quite simply a balanced diet of fresh natural food in season and everything in moderation,  how undramatic and boring does that sound – yet it is unquestionably true. I’ve never been on a diet in my life and I don’t intend to start now but there are some things I really do feel strongly about. Eat as much organic and naturally produced food as possible. In the words of George Orwell in 1937 when he wrote ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, “we may find in the long run that tinned food/ processed food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun”.  Eliminate processed food entirely from our diets. We can no longer say we don’t know the damage they are doing to both our essential mental and physical health.

Eat less meat but better quality and lots of unsprayed vegetables and fruit that have been grown in rich fertile soil not hydroponically.

We need to reduce our sugar intake by at least 50% NOW.

Nowadays, according to most recent research, 1 in 2 of us will suffer from some form of cancer. I was brought up with the understanding that food should be our medicine and that if we didn’t put effort into the food on the table we’d give it to the doctor or chemist.

How true is that – of course we are all insanely busy but there are few things more important than the quality of the food we put on the table. I’m not talking fancy – I’m just talking real simple food that comforts and nourishes.

We have got to take back control of our food choices from the multinational corporations who can’t be expected to have our best interests at heart. Their sole concern is to make the maximum profit for their shareholders, not our personal health.

So dump all those breakfast cereals and go back to porridge, ban all fizzy drinks and rediscover water. We used to have homemade lemonade everyday on our lunch tables here at the school but now it’s water kefir – a simple fermented drink that can be flavoured with anything from lemon to loganberries and lots of fresh herbs. It’s exceedingly good for your gut flora and the students love it. We’ve got to reintroduce cooking classes back into the school curriculum from ‘baby infants’ upwards. It could single-handedly help to change our eating habits and up skill the next generations in such a way that they can take back control of what they eat.


Hot Tips

Learn how to make a St Brigid’s Cross

On Saturday January 30th,  Mrs Cowhig and Hannah Conroy will pass on the traditions and give a lesson on how to make a St Brigid’s Cross at the Midleton Farmers Market from 11am-12pm.


Hands on Lamb Butchery

Philip Dennhardt is our resident master butcher at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and on Saturday January 29th 2016 from 2pm-5pm, Philip will teach the skills needed to butcher a whole lamb into your favourite pieces. Course includes half a lamb which you help butcher and then take home for the freezer, so make sure there is room.

This is the ideal course for anyone who would like to be able to buy a whole lamb from a local butcher or farmer.


Guest Chef Mary Jo McMillin from Ohio

We’ve known and admired Mary Jo for many years. She has a cult following in the US and is particularly famous for her braises and slow cooked dishes and of course her baking.  On Saturday January 30th, 2.00pm-5.30pm, Mary Jo will teach two fool proof menus and the secrets of several of her sought after cakes, pastries and French bread. This course was inspired by a conversation Mary Jo had with one of our 12 Week Certificate students who couldn’t leave the day job because of financial commitments, In her uniquely generous way, Mary Jo will advise on how to scale up recipes for larger numbers and set up a catering business from home for the many aspiring chefs who may be searching for a way to have a part time career in food.




Water Kefir

With Water Kefir you can turn sugared water into one of the most vibrant, probiotic-rich drinks you can make at home!

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) water kefir grains

2-3 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 4 American tablespoons) organic raw cane sugar

4 unsulphered dried apricots or other dried fruit.

Approximately 1 litre (1 3/4 pints/scant 4 cups) of water – must be free of chemicals

Slice of unwaxed lemon


It is important not to use any metal utensils or brewing vessels while making Water Kefir.

Stir the sugar into approximately 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of hot water until it dissolves, then add remainder of cold water and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Place the water kefir grains into a 1 litre jar, pour in the cooled sugar water, and drop in the dried fruit.


Cover the jar loosely with a lid, or with a cloth secured with a rubber band to allow air in but to prevent stray debris from spoiling your water kefir. Allow the water kefir to ferment for 2 to 3 days. The longer it ferments, the drier and less sweet it will become.

When the water kefir acquires a flavor that suits you, strain it using a plastic strainer into a jug. Discard the dried fruit (or eat it) but reserve the water kefir grains which can be immediately reused or stored.

While the water kefir can be enjoyed as it is, after its initial fermentation, you can also ferment it a second time. Secondary fermentation allows you to flavor the water kefir, and the secondary fermentation process, which occurs in a tightly capped bottle allows carbon dioxide to develop, producing a fizzy water kefir.

Transfer the bottles of water kefir to the fridge to slow down fermentation and enjoy

Second Fermentation

After transferring you water kefir into a bottle add a handful of one of the following to your taste.


  • Fresh or Frozen Raspberries
  • Fresh or Frozen Strawberries
  • Other soft fruit
  • 5 – 6 small pieces of Crystallised Ginger.
  • Several crushed mint leaves and juice of 1 Lemon

Leave to ferment for another 12 – 24 hours with a lid on.  It’s a good idea to release pressure every so often particularly if your kitchen is warm as secondary ferments have been known to explode!  Keep tasting to understand when your ferment is ready to your liking.


Caring for your Kefir Grains

Water Kefir grains are alive being a Scoby (Symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts) and therefore require looking after to ensure they produce the best kefir for you.

Occasionally it is beneficial to give your grains a mineral feed.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Crispy Croutons

Serves 8-10


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

Nutrition: Jerusalem Artichokes are a very important source of inulin which enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in our systems.  Particularly essential after a course of antibiotics.


50g (2oz/1/2 stick) butter

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

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

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints/5 cups) light chicken stock

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



freshly chopped parsley

crisp, golden croutons


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

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons.



This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.


Salad with Pears, Pomegranates , Persimmons and Pecans

Serves 8



2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar or  Sherry vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


3 ripe Fuyu persimmons (little firm persimmons)

3 ripe d’Anjou or other pears

1 lime, freshly squeezed

Seeds from ½ pomegranate

A selection of frizzy lettuce, watercress and rocket leaves

1 lime freshly squeezed

85-110g (3- 4oz) fresh toasted pecans


First make the vinaigrette.

Mix the Balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.


Slice the persimmons and pears into slices about ¼ inch thick.  Put into a medium bowl and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice.  Add the pomegranate seeds.  Toss gently.

Wash and dry the greens, store in a clean towel in the fridge until ready to use.

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

Put the nuts onto a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 5 -6 minutes, tossing gently from time to time.  Alternatively toast under a grill.


When ready to serve

Toss the greens in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on eight plates.  Toss the fruit mixture lightly in the remaining vinaigrette.  Arrange on top of the greens and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.   Serve immediately.


Jam Pudding (Irish Traditional Cooking revised edition)


This was one of our favourites, we raced home from school for lunch even faster when we knew Mummy was cooking a steamed jam pudding, a warm and comforting winter pudding.


Serves 4

110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature

110g (4oz) caster sugar

2 eggs, free-range if possible

few drops of pure vanilla essence

170g (6oz) plain white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

about 1 tablespoon milk or water

3 or 4 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam


Raspberry Jam Sauce

4–6 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam

rind and juice of ½ lemon

150ml (¼ pint) water

sugar, to taste


12.5cm (5in) capacity pudding bowl


Cream the butter, add the caster sugar and beat until white and creamy. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and beat, a little at a time, into the creamed mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder and add a little milk or water if necessary to make a dropping consistency.

Grease your pudding bowl. Spread raspberry jam over the bottom and sides. Carefully spoon the cake mixture into the bowl. Cover with pleated greaseproof paper, tied on firmly, and steam the pudding for about 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the raspberry jam sauce. Heat the jam with the water, add the lemon rind and juice and sweeten with a little extra sugar if necessary.

Turn the pudding on to a hot dish and serve with the sauce and lots of softly whipped cream.



An Adventure in Burma, Now Myanmar


I’m sitting on the balcony of the View Point Hotel in Nyaungshwe overlooking the jetty where most of the skiffs and narrow timber boats leave for Inle Lake, one of Myanmar’s biggest attractions. It’s really chilly at this time of the day. There’s two-way traffic: some boats, laden down with tomatoes, aubergines and gourds in huge bamboo baskets are on their way to the Mingalar Market in front of the pagoda. Farmers and their families sit, hunched up on the floor of the boats in woolly caps or hoodies. Up here, in the Shan Valley  away from Yangon, virtually all the men still wear the lungi, a piece of cloth, worn sarong style, like a skirt. Other slender wooden canoes fitted with long tail outboard motors have a row of little timber chairs to take tourists out onto the Inle lake. It’s 22 kilometres long and about 11 kilometres wide, bordered by the Shan mountains on either side and numerous small villages. This watery world is home to the Intha people who live in stilt houses in villages that create a fringe around the lake. They grow fruit and vegetables in floating gardens anchored to the lake bed with bamboo poles and fish with traditional Intha conical nets using a distinctive leg rowing stance on timber skiffs – fascinating to observe.

Since the 18th century, the Intha people’s way of life has gradually adapted to the climate and ecosystem. It is noisy here by the bridge with the put-put of the long tail motor engines that spew out a sheet of spray behind.

To the right, motorbikes, tricycles, lorries and cars and an occasional horse drawn wagon, clip clop over the bridge on the way to the main street.  School girls with long plaits on their way to class. The Buddhist monks walk through the town with their bowls collecting food and alms at dawn, wandering towards the monasteries and pagodas of which there are many in this small town, which is now the principal hub for Inle lake.

I love the markets and local shops, they tell you much more about the food and culture and way of life than any guide book. I took a tricycle down to the Mingalar Market close to the entrance of the town. Both men and women stall holders sit squat – legged on raised platforms with their goods and produce beautifully displayed in front of them, up off the mud floor sometimes on rice or jute sacks or on bamboo or reed matting.

All the tropical fruit of course, papaya, mangoes, dragonfruit, loquats, guava but also an extraordinary array of greens, chickpea shoots, Burmese pennyworth, squash tendrills, watercress…

We bought rice cooked in bamboo, little red rice cakes stuffed with bean paste and some crispy ants but I stopped short of trying a barbequed rice-paddi rat despite the guide’s assurance of how delicious they were with a beer or glass of rum toddy.

Little old ladies dispensed medicinal advice on how to use the herbs and roots they were selling.

Bright plastic and stainless steel are fast replacing tin and stainless steel cooking utensils.  Nonetheless, there are still wonderful handmade clay pots that keep the water cool and fresh. The area is also famous for handmade knives and kitchen utensils, I also couldn’t resist some of the light wok and handmade watering cans – try to get to Burma soon, it’s fascinating, beautiful and changing fast.


Hot Tips

Carrageen Moss

Where do I find carrageen moss? Well I found some beautiful local carrageen recently at the Village Greengrocer in Castlemartyr. I also saw several bags of the moss on the Olive Stall in the English Market in Cork City.  Such a joy to see that this precious and health giving traditional food is still available. See for recipe for Carrageen Moss pudding.

The Food Programme

For me the BBC Radio 4 Food programme is unmissable, if you don’t manage to catch it on Sunday at 12.32pm  or Monday at 15.30pm, listen back to the pod cast.

Both Seville and blood oranges are now in the shops, so check out www.slowfoodireland website for some great marmalade recipes.


Learn all about Chillies

at our next East Cork Slow Food  event. Chris Young from the Irish Chilli Farm in Co Tipperary will tell share his story and how he started his chilli farm near Roscrea and the many varieties he grows

Wednesday January 27th 2016, 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Phone 021 4646785.


A Great Gatsby Gala Dinner

Have a fun night and support Ballycotton RNLI Lifeboat who will host a fundraising dinner on Friday February 5th 2016 at Ballymaloe House.

Drinks Reception at 7.30pm followed by dinner at 8.

Booking Essential 021 4652531.


Myanmar Chicken Curry

Use organic ingredients where possible


Serves 6

1½ lbs (700 g) free range chicken breasts

½-1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 teaspoons fish sauce, nam pla

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil

2 red onions, chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

½-1 teaspoon chilli powder

3 green cardamom, bruised

1 small knob of ginger, 15 g, chopped

2 sticks of lemongrass, finely sliced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon fish sauce, nam pla

4 ripe tomatoes, diced

8 fl oz (230 ml) chicken stock

2 stalks lemongrass, crushed, cut into 4 pieces, optional

2 tablespoons tamarind water, see recipe

Fresh coriander

Accompaniment – rice


Cut the chicken breast into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces and put into a bowl. Sprinkle with ½-1 teaspoon of turmeric, chilli powder, fish sauce and vegetable oil. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss and massage the meat with your fingers and allow to marinade for 30-35 minutes or while the remainder of the ingredients are prepared.

Put 4 tablespoons of oil in a wide wok or sauté pan, add the chopped red onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon turmeric, ½-1 teaspoon chilli powder, then add the crushed green cardamoms. Add the finely chopped ginger, sliced lemongrass and garlic. Stir and add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and the diced tomatoes. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the chicken cubes, toss, pour in the chicken stock and add 4 pieces of lemongrass.  Add 2 tablespoons of tamarind water (if available).

Simmer gently for 6-8 minutes more or until the chicken is fully cooked and sauce is balanced and delicious but still fresh tasting. Taste and correct the seasoning. Transfer to a warm serving dish. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Serve with sticky rice or Basmati rice.

Note, if tamarind water is not available, taste and sharpen with some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice.


Tamarind Water

a piece of tamarind, the size of a mandarin orange

6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup of hot water


Tear a lump of tamarind about the size of a mandarin, off the block. Soak it for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight in hot water in a small non-metallic bowl or cup. (The water should cover the tamarind.)

Push the tamarind pulp through a strainer, with your clean fingers. Keep pressing until just the fibre and seeds are left in the sieve. Scrape all the pulp from the outside of the sieve.  Use extra water, if necessary, to separate the pulp from the fibres. Discard the seeds and fibre.

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Burmese Tomato Salad

The Burmese include 1/3 teaspoon of ‘chicken seasoning’ which I prefer to omit.

Serves 2


2-3 ripe tomatoes, depending on size

1 teaspoon fish sauce

2 teaspoons toasted garlic oil

2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts

1 small red shallot or ½ red onion, thinly sliced

2 -3 tablespoons crispy shallot rings

Freshly squeezed lime juice, from one cheek of lime


Toasted Garlic Oil

4 fl ozs (125 ml) olive oil

12 garlic cloves

Chives, chopped

Fresh coriander sprigs


To make the toasted garlic oil. Finely chop the garlic, put in a small saucepan with the olive oil. Put on a low medium heat for 4-5 minutes and cook until the garlic is light and golden brown. If the garlic gets too dark both the garlic and oil will be too bitter.

Just before serving, half the tomatoes. Thinly slice the tomatoes sideways into julienne. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 2 teaspoons toasted garlic oil, crushed peanuts, thinly sliced red onion and half the crispy shallots. Squeeze the juice from one cheek of lime, toss well. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pile onto a plate, garnish with fresh coriander, chopped chives and the remainder of the crispy shallots. Serve ASAP.


Burmese Night Market Noodles

The direct translation of this dish is cooked oil noodles, but I tend to associate it with the night market in Rangoon because this was the place where my brother and I often went to eat a bowl of these noodles tossed in garlic oil. It usually came with some shredded meat and a bowl of hot chicken soup sprinkled with spring onions. Nowadays whenever I have leftover roast meat, I rustle up these noodles which go down really well.


Serves 2

Cooking time 10 minutes


250 g fresh egg noodles

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

Small handful of spring onions, chopped


Eat with

Shredded roast duck, chicken or pork

Chicken soup


Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and blanch the noodles for a couple of minutes until they are soft. Drain and rinse under cold water. If you are using dried egg noodles, follow the packet instructions.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the garlic until golden. Remove from the oil immediately and drain on kitchen paper. Add the noodles and soy sauce, and then toss for a minute until the noodles are warmed through and coated with the garlic oil. Check for seasoning and sprinkle with crispy garlic and spring onions. Serve with shredded meat and a bowl of soup.

From has*ba – Burmese Cookbook by Tin Cho Chaw


Burmese Caramelised Crispy Pancakes


Makes 10-12 pancakes

This is a sweet crispy stick golden pancake that reminds me of brandy snaps. The pancakes are extremely soft and sticky during cooking and transform into chewy caramelised discs when they are cool.


60 g sticky/glutinous rice flour

20 g rice flour

125 ml water

100 g palm sugar (or brown sugar)

4 tablespoons water

Peanut oil for shallow frying


Put both flours in a mixing bowl; mix in the water to form a thick batter. Leave to rest for 20 minutes while preparing the sugar.

If you are using palm sugar, grate it before placing in a small saucepan. Add 4 tablespoons of water and over a moderate heat stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow the sugar to cool. Gradually pour the sugar into the batter to form a consistency similar to single cream.

When you are ready to fry the pancakes, heat enough oil to shallow fry in a small non stick frying pan. Spoon a small ladle of batter into the oil and swirl the batter into the pan to form a circular shape.

Leave the pancake over a moderate heat until the edges are golden brown, then carefully flip over and cook the other side. When it is golden brown on both sides, remove from the  heat and cool on a plate. The pancake remains soft and sticky until it is cool. Repeat this process making one pancake at a time until all the batter is used up, replenishing the oil when necessary.

From has*ba – Burmese Cookbook by Tin Cho Chaw


I’ve just discovered Somerset!! Sounds like a bit of a random statement but even though I’ve been there on a fleeting visit before, I didn’t really register its multitude of charms – The Mendip Hills, Gardens at Stourhead, Albert’s Tower, Hauser and Wirth, Glastonbury Tor and Abbey, Dunster Castle, Jane Austen Centre, Wells Cathedral, Quantock Hills, Chalice Well, Bishops Lydeard Mill,  Rural Life Museum, galleries…..

My brother Rory O’ Connell and I had been invited to do a Pop-Up dinner at Roth Bar and Grill at Hauser and Wirth just outside the village of Bruton.

This complex has been painstakingly restored from an advanced state of dereliction by Iwan and Manuela Wirth. This dynamic pair are widely held to be the No 1 couple in the modern art world.

While we were there, a Don McCullin photographic exhibition was drawing people from far and wide. His powerful black and white photos from war zones in Africa, Vietnam and Biafran wars and England in the 1950s were profoundly thought provoking. More than one person emerged from the exhibition with tears pouring down their cheeks and Daphne Wright’s stallion sculpture quite simply awe inspiring. But we’d come to cook dinner with Steve Horrell and his team at the Roth Bar and Grill.

Rory’s delicious starter of fresh orange segments, cucumber dice, myrtle berries and marigold paprika leaves with a lemon verbena granita on top, really wowed the guests. Main course, was roast pork with crackling and spiced aubergines – a worthy celebration of a free range Sandy Black pig from the estate.  Yoghurt and cardamom cream with pomegranate seeds and rosewater blossom made a perfect ending followed by a surprise piece of Ballymaloe fudge served with freshly roasted and brewed coffee.

The walls of the restaurant are hung with pictures from top contemporary artists from around the world. The bar was created by Björn, Oddur and Einar Roth from  Switzerland.  Carcasses of beef, lamb, pork and pheasant hang in the dry aging Salt house that is lined with 500 hand cut Himalayan salt bricks. That in itself looks like an art installation. Closeby there’s a blackboard offering a fine brace of wild pheasant and a pot of dripping for £20 pounds.

Steve’s food at the Roth Bar and Grill is simply delicious. We had many fresh, simple seasonal dishes, beautifully composed. A terrine of pork and pheasant was served with Medlar jelly and organic leaves from Charles Dowding’s garden in the nearby village of Alhampton. Charles is the grower who has championed the No-dig method of vegetable growing. I went along to visit his garden and was so impressed by the results that I’ve invited him to come and teach a class at the school in 2016, so watch this space.

Somerset is also Cheddar cheese country. I’d visited Keens and Montgomery Cheddar on a previous trip so this time we were shown around the Westcombe Cheddar dairy in Evercreech by Richard Calver. They’ve been making cheddar on this farm since the 1980s, and now his son Tom make Caerphilly and are trialling a Comté type cheese. He’s also provided space close to the dairy for some exciting young craft brewers to make a range of barrel aged beers close to the dairy, The Wild Beer Company.

The village of Bruton itself with its charming narrow cobbled streets has a variety of little shops, café and restaurants, far more lively than so many rural towns and villages nowadays which seem to be made up almost exclusively of charity shops and estate agents. This revival according to the locals is largely due to Hauser and Wirth which entices people from London and beyond to view the world class exhibitions and enjoy the food from the estate farm and gardens.

At The Chapel, on the main street also gets rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. We loved a Taleggio pizza with field mushrooms and thyme leaves from their woodburning oven and the croissants and pan au chocolat were deliciously buttery and flaky. We never did manage to eat at Matt’s, a tiny restaurant where chef Oliver Matt cooks and serves the food himself – it was booked out until Christmas with a long waiting list. Next time we’ll book well ahead and I’m looking forward to going back for a Family Saturday at Hauser and Wirth early in the New Year.


Pork and Pheasant Terrine with Medlar Jelly

Every charcuterie in France proudly sells its own version of Pâté de Campagne.  They vary enormously in content and makeup – some are made with rabbit, game and even sweetbreads.  A certain proportion of fat is essential, otherwise the terrine will be dry and dull.  It is meant to be rough textured so the mixture should not be too finely minced.

Serves 10

8 ozs (225g) fresh pheasant or chicken livers or a mixture of both

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) brandy

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper (yes, put it all in!)

8 ozs (225g) very thinly sliced, rindless streaky rashers (you may need more if they are not very thinly sliced) or better still, barding fat.

1/2 oz (15g/1/8 stick) butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 lb (450g) streaky pork, minced

8 ozs (225g) pheasant, minced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (Pimento or Jamaican Pepper)

a good pinch of ground cloves

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon +1 teaspoon) freshly chopped Annual Marjoram

2 small eggs, beaten

salt, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2 ozs (50g) shelled pistachios

6-8 ozs (170-225g) piece of cooked ham, cut in thick strips

bay leaf

sprig of thyme



Medlar Jelly (see recipe)

Cornichons; French breakfast radishes and a little salad of organic leaves and fresh herbs

Luting paste (see below) or tinfoil

3 pint (1.7 L/7 1/2 cups) capacity terrine or casserole with tight fitting lid


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


Wash the livers, separate the lobes and remove any trace of green.  Marinade in the brandy and 1/2 teaspoon of ground white pepper for 2 hours.   Line a terrine or casserole with very thinly sliced bacon or barding fat, keeping a few slices for the top.

Sweat the onion gently in the butter until soft but not coloured.  In a bowl mix the sweated onion with the pork, pheasant, garlic, allspice, ground cloves, chopped marjoram, beaten eggs and the brandy from the chicken livers.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and lots of grated nutmeg.  Mix very thoroughly.  Fry a little piece and taste for seasoning – it should taste quite spicy and highly seasoned.  Add the pistachios and beat until the mixture holds together

Spread a third of the farce in the lined terrine, add a layer of half the ham strips interspersed with half the chicken livers, then cover with another third of the pork mixture.  Add the remaining ham and livers and cover with the last third.  Lay the reserved barding fat or bacon slices on top, trimming the edges if necessary.  Set the bay leaf and sprig of thyme on top of the bacon or barding fat and cover with the lid.  Seal the lid with luting paste (see below) or else use a sheet of tinfoil under the lid.

Cook in a ban-marie in a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo4, for 1 3/4 – 2 hours or until a skewer inserted for 1/2 minute into the mixture is hot to the touch when taken out.  If you are still in doubt remove the lid and check: the pate should also have shrunk in from the sides of the terrine and the juices should be clear.

Cool until tepid, remove the luting paste or tinfoil and lid and press the terrine with a board and a 2 lb (900g) weight until cold.  This helps to compact the layers so that it will cut more easily.  Keep for 2-3 days before serving to allow the terrine to mature.  It can be frozen for up to 2 months.

To Serve: Unmould the terrine, cut into thick slices as needed and serve with medlar jelly, a good green salad and a glass of red wine.  Cornichons and crispy radishes are delicious as an accompaniment.


Luting Paste

8 ozs (225g/2 cups) flour

5-6 fl oz (150-175 ml/generous 1/2-3/4 cup) approximately water


Mix the flour and water into a dough firm enough to handle, roll into a rope and use to seal the lid on to the casserole to prevent the steam from escaping during cooking.

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Medlar Jelly

Makes 6-8 jars depending on size

Serve with game, pork or coarse patés or goat cheese


2 lbs (900 g) medlars

2 lbs (900 g) Bramley or crap apples


piece of cinnamon stick

2 cloves

2 star anise, optional

2 strips of lemon


Cut the fruit into quarters, put into a stainless steel saucepan.  Cover with water, bring to the boil and cover until soft.  Pour into a jelly bag and leave to drip overnight.  Don’t squeeze the jelly through the bag or the juice will be cloudy.  Next day measure the juice and allow 450g (1 lb) of sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) juice.  Heat the sugar and add to the hot juice.  Add the spices and boil until setting point is reached.  Pour into hot sterilized jars and cover immediately.


Roth Bar and Grill Doughnuts


250ml (9 fl oz) milk

50g (2 oz) sugar

500g (18 oz) strong white bread flour

40g (1¾) oz butter

15g fresh yeast

2 eggs


Sugar & little cinnamon powder for sugaring

Warm the milk and sugar in a pan until tepid. Mix the flour, butter, yeast & eggs in a mixing bowl – with a dough mixer. Add the yeast to the milk and sugar mix, then pour the milk mix into the flour mix.

Beat on a low speed for 5 minutes followed by 5 minutes on high speed. Place the dough in a bowl covered with cling film to prove. Take out the bowl, cut into 15g portions and roll in to balls. Place on a lightly oiled tray with cling film over the top

Leave to prove again until they double in size.

Deep fry at 180 degrees until golden brown – turn over half way through. It is best to do only a few at a time. Remove and drain onto kitchen paper.

Sugar the balls – they are now ready to serve


Roth Bar and Grill Roasted Squash & Pearled Spelt Salad 


1 Butternut squash

2 cloves of garlic

A small bunch of hard herbs – thyme, rosemary & marjoram

Spices – dried chilli, coriander seeds, fennel seeds

Pomice oil, olive oil & red wine vinegar

Pearled spelt

Cherry tomatoes


Parsley – chopped

Salt & pepper


Peel and deseed the squash – cut into long chunky wedges. Take a level teaspoon of each spice and ground in a pestle & mortar. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Pick and roughly chop the hard herbs.

In a bowl, sprinkle half the herbs, half the garlic, half the spices, salt and pepper and a good glug of pomice oil over the butternut squash.

Get your hands dirty – ensure the squash is covered in the oil, herbs & spices

Remove the squash and put on a tray – retain the bowl of oil.


Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, squeeze out the seeds and toss them in the oil bowl with the rest of the herbs and spices and salt and pepper – put in a small separate roasting tray.

Put the squash in the oven on 220°C/425°F gas mark 8 for 15 minutes – shake & turn frequently until golden brown then remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Roast the tomatoes in their own tray at 220°C/425°F gas mark 8 for 10 minutes – remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the spelt into a pan of salted cold water – bring up to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain off the spelt, whilst still warm add a good glug of olive oil, red wine vein gar, chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

Mix the squash, tomatoes and spelt together in a clean bowl – gently combining all ingredients using your hands.

Taste to check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

Serve and enjoy – great with grilled meat or fish or by itself for a light lunch.


Rory O’ Connell’s Salad of Oranges, Cucumber, Marigold and Myrtle Berries with Lemon Verbena Granita

Serves 4


4 oranges carefully segmented

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of peeled and very finely diced cucumber. Avoid using the seeds in the middle of the cucumber

2 teaspoons of honey

2 -4 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) of tiny marigold leaves

1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) of Myrtle berries

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of lemon verbena granita

2 teaspoons of marigold petals


Place the orange segments and diced cucumber in a bowl and add the honey and lemon juice. Stir very gently to mix. Be careful not to break up the orange segments. Taste and correct the sweetness if necessary with a few more drops of lemon juice. Add the marigold leaves and myrtle berries to the bowl, mixing them in gently. Cover and chill until ready to serve.


To serve, divide the orange mixture and its juices between 4 shallow bowls. Place 1 dessertspoon of granita on top of the fruit and finally sprinkle on the marigold petals.

Serve immediately.


Lemon Verbena Granita

This is a master recipe in that the leaf of choice, lemon verbena in this case, can be successfully replaced by others. The first time I made this recipe, I used blackcurrant leaves as in the leaves from a blackcurrant bush. For a few weeks in May, the leaves are highly scented and you end up with an ice that is pure white in colour, but tasting intensely of blackcurrants. Fabulous. Interestingly, the leaves of redcurrant or white currant bushes are not scented at all and not suitable for this recipe. If you have currant bushes in your garden, and as they will not be in fruit when you are making this recipe, in which case you may not be able to remember which bush is which, just pick a leaf off each bush, rub it between your fingers to release its aroma, and if it smells intensely of currant, then that’s it. Many other leaves such as spearmint, lemon balm and rose or lemon scented geranium all work brilliantly.  Elderflowers, though not a leaf but with a heady muscat flavoured scent, also work really well. As this is a granita we are expecting a slightly coarse, flaky and icy texture, so forget about your ice cream scoop here and just spoon it into pretty serving dishes. You will not need an ice cream machine here, though if you have one and freeze the mixture in the machine, it will then be a sorbet. The recipe is simple but watch out for the subtleties involved, such as using cold water with the sugar when cooking the leaves to draw out their flavour and allowing the syrup to cool completely before adding the lemon juice. The granita will keep for several weeks in the freezer but is considerably better when eaten as soon as possible after it has been frozen.

This granita of lemon verbena is good on its own but is even better when served with a splash of a dry sparkling wine. Serve as a light and refreshing dessert or as an equally light and refreshing starter on a scorching Summer’s day.


Briefly explained

Make a syrup with the leaves, sugar and cold water.

Cool the syrup.

Add the lemon juice, mix, strain out the leaves and freeze.


The ingredients

  • Lemon verbena, a wonderful citrus scented herb is used to flavour many sweet dishes such as mousses, creams and ices. The sharp pointy leaves are intensely lemony and make an utterly refreshing ice.


Serves 6-8

3 handfuls of lemon verbena leaves

225g (8oz/1 cup) granulated sugar

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water

3 lemons


Place the leaves, sugar and cold water in a saucepan. Place over a moderate heat. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve and bring it to a simmer. Allow it to simmer gently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is completely cold. You will end up with a pale green syrup. Juice the lemons and add to the syrup and right before your eyes you will see the green tinge leaving your syrup. Strain out the leaves through a sieve and I usually press on the leaves to extract as much flavour as I can. Place the strained syrup in a wide container and freeze until set. Remove from the freezer and break up the ice with a fork. It will look like a slushy mess. Refreeze and repeat the process twice more, three times if you can bear it, and eventually you will end up with the distinctive shard like consistency of a granita. Refreeze covered until you are ready to serve it. I serve it in coloured glasses or glass bowls, with a single relevant leaf to decorate and a splash of chilled sparkling wine

New Trends

As 2015 comes hurtling to a close, I thought it might be fun and interesting to have a look at food and drink trends for 2016.

  1. Sales of processed and junk food appear to have peaked (2005) and continue to slide. A recent New York Times article analysing future trends reported a seismic shift in our culture away from processed food towards whole,  real, fresh foods Consumer demands for natural and less processed food and drink are already forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients from their products and to replace them with more natural formulations.

McDonald’s in the US responding to consumer pressure now  plan use eggs sourced  from cage-free hens and antibiotic free chicken.

Joanna Blythman’s book Swallow This – Serving up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets has been hugely influential in informing the general public about what happens behind closed doors in food processing.

Clean labels, climate change, concerns about waste and other natural phenomenon are also affecting the worldwide food supply.

  1. Sustainability is now a necessity for the bottom line and the common good.
  2. The growing emphasis on physical fitness and diet has spawned a whole new craze and market for ‘clean foods’, energy and sports drinks, vegetable juices, raw foods and food that supposedly make us ‘glow’ with good health. The Spiralizer (a gadget to make spaghetti from vegetables) and the Nutribullet are still selling like ‘hot cakes’ as the juice craze continues to endure.
  3. As food allergies and intolerances become more widespread (a symptom of how our food is produced to provide max yield at minimum cost) desperation grows, to find alternatives – non-dairy, non gluten and ‘free-from’ foods continue to gain more shelf space. Looks like ‘alternative’s’ could be set to become main stream.

Do you have any allergies?  is a standard question in restaurants. There are now 14 allergens that restaurants need to be aware of.

  1. The growing distrust of large multinational corporations has given a boost to the artisan food and drink sector. This situation doesn’t appear to be going to change anytime soon. There’s a craving for real, honest, handmade,  homemade……

The FSAI and Taste Council of Ireland added gravitas in May 2015 when they published guidelines for the Use of Food Marketing Terms. There also seems to be a growing realization that the quality of food and indeed drink from small production systems is generally quite different to that of large intensive enterprises. Hopefully this will prompt a growing appreciation of the quality produce from the family farms of Ireland.

  1. Our shopping habits are gradually changing – little, often, local….

On line shopping, apps that simplify online and mobile ordering and delivery services are beginning to have a real impact.  Restaurateurs in the US and the UK are nervously watching the E-revolution and the trend of ‘home delivery’ and services like Munchery, who deliver restaurant quality  food from a production kitchen to your door cutting out restaurants altogether.

  1. ‘Fine Dining is over’, sounds a bit dramatic but our eating habits have changed dramatically during the last decade. Casual restaurants and cafes offering fresh, seasonal, edgy food are’ jammers’ while many of the ‘starred’ establishments are finding it more difficult to fill. Small and shared plates are becoming a preferred way to eat.
  2. Food has shot to the top of the agenda in so many areas, TV food programmes like The Great British Bake Off and competitions like Masterchef are super popular ….Food supplements are guaranteed to boost newspaper  and magazine sales .. …….
  3. The rise of a ‘food centric media’ has apparently sparked a new interest in cooking. The number of food blogs has skyrocketed. For young people, its ‘cool to cook’ at home and share your creations via social media – it must be ‘good enough to tweet’.
  4. A whole range of small food business have proliferated, cupcakes to spice mixes, macaroons and cake pops to falafel, mozzarella to charcuterie…

Food carts and food trucks have enabled many passionate young people to get started in the food business.

  1. Vegetables are at last beginning to move to the centre of the plate. The interest in ‘natural’ has boosted sales of ancient grains and super foods. There growing suspicion of tricky chemical concoctions has prompted a revival of interest in traditional and indigenous diets, ‘historical’ ingredients and food processing the ‘natural and old fashioned way’.
  2. Meanwhile, scientists have made huge strides in mapping our DNA and so we will see diets designed specifically for our personal genetic makeup in the not too distant future.
  3. Soylent, a meal replacement beverage, described as a ‘staple meal’, is now in production. My heart sinks at the thought of that being the future of food but obviously many investors have high hopes for this becoming a reality.
  4. Fat is shedding its ‘demonic image’ as the public gradually becomes aware of the lack of any research to link fat to cardio vascular disease. So we now see that butter is back and not just duck or goose fat but dripping and lard are also having their ‘moment’. And surprise, surprise we’ve rediscovered, not just how delicious but also how properly nutritious they are. Well done, to butcher Pat Whelan from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, for leading the revival of interest in dripping of which both my own mother and mother in law Myrtle Allen were always great proponents.
  5. Sugar is the new fat, although it takes time to change ingrained habits the impact is already being acutely felt.

Sales of soft drinks and juices are plummeting and food manufactures are reducing sugar in their products or using alternative substitutes.


  1. Broths, particularly home broths are huge.
  2. Sales of almond milk have over taken from soya.
  3. Coconut products of all kinds both food and cosmetics are vaporizing off the shelves.

The health benefits seem to be endless!

  1. Sugar substitutes, xylitol, agave, date syrup, honey, maple syrup….Be cautious,  many of these may well be beneficial in their natural state but when highly processed……the jury is still out on whether they are better.
  2. Sales of avocados have had a huge boost from the raw and ‘clean food’ craze and are widely used in both sweet and savoury recipes – careful seek out organic avocados if at all possible.
  3. The popularity of kale still endures but cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts have made a remarkable come back, thanks to the ‘healthy eating ‘brigade. Chefs have shown us how versatile they are. Roasted, shredded, spiced, on pizzas,  in pilaffs….cauliflower rice is a terrific new discovery.
  4. Who could have predicted that fermenting and pickling food would become the trendiest pastime in 2015? We now realize that the live probiotics in fermented and pickled food are enormously beneficial for our gut flora.
  5. Homemade, home churned, housemade butter and natural sourdough breads are now a regular feature of top restaurant menus.

If you’d like to learn the simple secrets of how to make kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir….you might want to consider one of the Fermentation Courses at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – see the website – we’ve been running them since 2014.

  1. Whether for dietary or for medicinal reasons, there is a marked increase in the number of people avoiding dairy and gluten. The dairy industry need to be acutely aware that we mess with the quality of our dairy products at our peril….

Watch the rise in micro dairies mirror other areas where the consumer wants to know exactly how their product is produced and where. ….

  1. In-house Smoke Houses -smoking foods in restaurants and at home is a new party trick – everything from fish, meat, vegetables to chilli and even chocolate. See how to smoke in a biscuit box in Forgotten Skills, page 472, published by Kyle Books in 2009.
  2. Cooking over fire….. Guess who’s coming to the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine from May 20th-22nd 2016 – Francis Mallmann. Tickets go on sale on January 12th 2016 at midday, tel 021 4645777 or
  3. Seaweed in everything, from beer to icecream.
  4. Raw fish – ceviche and tartare are becoming main stream. Bottarga and cured mullet roe are also gaining popularity.
  5. Heirloom varieties and rare breeds continue to gather momentum
  1. Single estate chocolate, coffee and teas are garnering ever more devotees


  1. Butchering classes everywhere seem to be oversubscribed, ‘Lad culture’ grows, shooting, plucking, gutting, skinning, even the girls are at it – rediscovering and relearning the valuable traditional skills
  1. Growing – the urban farming and gardening movement is an astonishing worldwide phenomenon, people are growing on roofs, up walls, down walls on window sills, in disused ‘parking lots’. Allotments are oversubscribed, check out Grow Food not Lawns
  2. A myriad of miracle diets as desperation grows, vegan, paleo…volumetrics, iets…The popularity of the Meat Free Monday Movement has astounded many.
  3. Wild and Foraged foods is an enduring trend and using pebbles, seaweed, spruce shells …to serve food in as natural an environment as possible.

As people gradually discover that campylobacter and salmonella is a given on intensely produced poultry, there is a dawning realization that we may now need to go back to the days when chicken was a rare treat but are we prepared to pay the €20-€25 euros it really costs to produce an excellent organic free range bird.

There’s a lot more but enough ‘food for thought’ for today.

Happy New Year to you and yours and Happy Cooking in 2016


  1. The natural wine movement is gradually sparking public interest fuelled by the alarming number of people who cannot drink cheap wine any longer without ill effects. We’re not just talking ‘hang over’. ….A growing number of top restaurants are selling only organic, bio dynamic and natural wines. Watch this space……
  2. House made sodas and homemade lemonades.
  3. Water kefir, kombucha and a variety of fermented drinks are making an appearance on supermarket shelves as their benefits for our gut flora are more widely understood.
  4. Sales of procesco and cava have outstripped champagne by more than 7/1/.
  5. Cocktails and mocktails have become even more exciting and creative.
  6. The growth in the craft beer, artisan distillers has seriously impacted on the multinational companies as the craving for brews and spirits of character grow


Olia Hercules Armenian Pickles

My Aunt Nina’s grandmother, Liza from Karabakh, used to make this using mountain spring water, and the taste of those pickles was incomparable. Beetroot is often added to Armenian pickles for colour, which is similar to how it is made in the Middle East. These pickles are delicious and we eat them in the summer and in winter. You can buy horseradish leaves and dill stalks in bunches from Polish delis specially for pickling, but if you can’t find them or the blackcurrant and cherry leaves, just substitute with some spices or aromatics that you like (celery would be great) or simply leave them out.

Makes a 3 litre

(5¼  pint) jar

2 beetroots, peeled and sliced into discs

½ small white cabbage, sliced into wedges

200g (7oz) mixed runner beans or French beans, tailed

4 spring onions

1 head of new garlic, left whole, outer layer peeled

50g (2oz) dill heads or stalks

2 horseradish leaves, or 50g (2oz) fresh horseradish, chopped

2 blackcurrant leaves

2 sour cherry leaves

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

3 tablespoons sea salt flakes

10 black peppercorns


Place the beetroot at the bottom of a warm, sterilized 2 litre (3½  pint) preserving jar, then top with the cabbage wedges, beans, spring onions, garlic and all the aromatics, apart from the peppercorns.

Bring the water, salt and peppercorns to the boil in a saucepan, then pour over the vegetables. Make sure everything is submerged, then seal and leave in a warm part of your kitchen (25°C/77°F) for about

3 days to pickle, then store in the refrigerator. The beetroot will gradually turn everything a deep pink. It should keep unopened for several months.

From Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine & beyond by Olia Hercules, Photography by Kris Kirkham, published by Mitchell Beazley


Honey Cake

This is for honey lovers who are not scared of weird cake making methods. You can use a good-quality crème fraîche to make the icing, but what you are looking for here is a beautiful balance between slightly sour and honeycomb sweet.


Serves 8–10

200g (7oz) butter, cubed and chilled, plus extra for greasing

2 egg s, lightly beaten

200g (7oz) golden caster sugar

200ml (7fl oz) clear honey

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

300g (10oz) plain flour

150–200g (5–7oz) pecans, half left whole, the rest toasted and roughly crushed



500ml (7fl oz) soured cream

100g (3½ oz) golden caster sugar

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, and lightly butter 4 x 24cm (9½  inch) cake tins (or use 2 in batches).

Mix the eggs, butter, sugar and honey together in a large heatproof bowl and place it over a small saucepan of simmering water. Give it a stir, to help the butter to melt, then whisk with an electric whisk until the mixture becomes warm and fluffy. Let it cool.

Place the bicarbonate of soda in a cup and pour the vinegar over the soda, then tip the foaming mixture into the honey mixture and give it a vigorous stir.

Gradually fold in the flour to form a thick but fluid batter. Spoon one-quarter of the mixture into each prepared cake tin and bake for 15 minutes or until deep golden. The sponges will still be soft while warm, so let them cool before taking them out of their tins.

For the cream, put the soured cream into a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk. Add the sugar and whisk some more, then add the lemon zest and juice and whisk again until the cream is fluffy. Use

half the cream to sandwich the 4 sponge layers together, then use the remaining cream to cover the top and sides.

Decorate the sides with the crushed nuts. Use the pecan halves to decorate the top of the cake. Alternatively, crush all the nuts and sprinkle them evenly all over.

From Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine & beyond by Olia Hercules, Photography by Kris Kirkham, published by Mitchell Beazley


Anna Jones’ Three Vibrant Dips

These are three quick and easy dips that I keep in my fridge on rotation. They are great for boosting quick meals and for quickly slathering on sandwiches. But more than anything, these are what I snack on. I dip cracker or a carrot into whichever of these happens to be in the fridge. With these in my kitchen my 4pm raid of the biscuit tin is often avoided.


Red Lentil and Lemon Hummus


2 cloves of garlic

200 g red lentils, rinsed

Juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons tahini

A good pinch of dried chilli

1 tablespoon olive oil


To serve

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Chopped herbs or cresses (I use baby amaranth)


Bash the garlic and put into a small pan with the rinsed lentils. Cover with cold water and cook the lentils until tender and mashable, then drain and remove the skins of the garlic. Blitz the lot until whipped and smooth, add all the other ingredients and blitz again. Top with toasted seeds and the herbs.


Beetroot, Walnut and Date

1 x 250 g packet of cooked vacuum-packed beetroot

4 dates

2 tablespoons regular or coconut yoghurt

Small bunch of fresh dill

2 unwaxed lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

Handful of toasted walnuts


Blitz the beetroots, dates, yoghurt and half the bunch of dill with the zest and juice of the lemon and the oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Throw in the toasted walnuts and blitz again, keeping a bit of texture if you like; I like mine smooth.


Indian Green Dip

200g frozen peas

a small bunch of fresh coriander

a small bunch of fresh mint

1–2 green chillies

2 unwaxed limes

20g from a block of coconut cream


Fill and boil a kettle and get your ingredients together. Cover the peas with boiling water and put aside for a few minutes. Finely chop the coriander and mint and put

into a bowl. Finely chop the green chillies, zest of both limes, and add both to the bowl, along with the juice of one of the limes.  Season well with salt and pepper.

Drain the peas and mash well, then add them to the herbs. Grate over the coconut cream and mix well.

From A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones


Anna Jones’ Kale, Sumac and Crispy Rice Salad

This is an amazing salad based on one I ate at an incredible neighbourhood café in LA. Sqirl is one of those places where you want every single thing on the menu, right down to the drinks. On my last trip to LA I ate there five times. For someone who doesn’t like routine that’s pretty solid. This is a play on what was my favourite thing on the menu. It has inspired favours with sumac and lime, and textures with kale and crispy rice. I am going to ask you to cook your rice three times here, which may seem crazy, but it’ll create perfect little pops of crunch against the rest of the salad. This is a great way to use up leftover rice too – just skip the first cooking stage. It’s also really good topped with a softly poached egg or some feta and

flatbreads if you are hungry. Bear in mind that if you use brown rice it will take about 20 minutes to cook.


Serves 4 as a light meat, 2 as a main

100g basmati rice (I use brown)

a bunch of curly kale, green or purple (about 200g)

the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon

3 spring onions

2 tablespoons coconut oil

the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime

1 tablespoon sumac (optional)

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1 teaspoon runny honey

6 medjool dates


Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients and a large frying pan together. Cook the rice in a small saucepan of boiling salted water until cooked – this will take 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pull the kale from its stems and shred the leaves with a knife or tear into small pieces with your hands. Put the leaves into a bowl, then add the zest and juice of the lemon and a good pinch of salt and scrunch it in your hands for a minute to break it down a little. Chop the spring onions finely and add them to the bowl. Once the rice is cooked, drain it well. Put a large frying pan on the heat and when it’s hot, add the rice with no oil and dry-fry for a couple of minutes to get rid of any moisture.

Remove the rice from the pan, then put the pan back on the heat, add half the coconut oil at a time and fry the rice in two batches until starting to turn lightly brown and really crispy. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.

Now make your dressing. Put the zest and juice of the lime into

a screw top jar with the sumac, if using, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add the honey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Put on the lid and shake to combine. De-stone and roughly chop the dates and add to the kale. Once the rice is almost cool, add it to the kale and toss in the dressing.


From Anna Jones’ a modern way to cook


Anna Jones’ Bay and Saffron-Roasted Cauliflower

Something magical happens to a cauliflower when you roast it. I usually turn to Indian spices when I think of cauliflower, but one bright May Day I turned to the sunshine warmth of saffron. My bay tree was in full bloom and so this mellow but cheerfully favoured vegetable found its way into my oven. I throw in a handful of golden raisins for some sweetness and some almonds for crunch. Leftovers are delicious stirred through pasta with a little extra olive oil – conchiglie (shells) work well. I love the sight of a cauliflower – it’s a pretty vegetable to me, with its milky curds wrapped in pale leaves and the tiny little green leaves that cling to the sides in an act of complete protection. Keep those little leaves on – they are bright and tasty and look so pretty. If you can get your hands on a coloured cauliflower (vivid purple and orange are my favourites), then you’ve got added antioxidants too and your dinner will be fluoro. I make this with spiky Romanesco, too, when it’s about – its pale green looks amazing against the saffron.

Serves 4


2 pinches of saffron strands

1 large or 2 small cauliflowers (approx. 1kg), leaves clicked off, head broken into medium florets, stalk roughly chopped

2 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced

1 tablespoon Turkish chilli flakes or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes

3 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A handful of raisins, (I use golden ones)

A handful of almonds, roughly chopped

a bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped


Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°F/gas 6.

Put the saffron into a little bowl, cover it with a couple of teaspoons of boiling water and leave it to steep. Get a large deep baking tray, throw in the cauliflower, onions, chilli flakes and bay leaves, and season with salt and pepper.

Once the saffron has steeped, pour in the saffron strands and their liquid, add the raisins and almonds, toss everything together, then cover the lot with foil and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, until the tips are burnished and the cauliflower is tender to the bite.

Toss through the chopped parsley and serve.


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