ArchiveMarch 2016

Easter Sunday Lunch

Well, Lent is almost over and if you are one of those virtuous souls who have been abstaining for the past seven weeks now is the time to feast and savour the rewards of your fasting. Years ago there would be a surplus of eggs particularly as this is the time the hens go into overdrive and start to lay with gay abandon. They too are super excited that the winter is almost over; Eileen has hatched out a batch of chicks in the incubator just in time to thrill our grandchildren and visiting friends of all ages. They are the most photographed fluffy little chicks. Even Julia is busy baking Easter biscuits and Pam’s making the Simnel cake, Emer has a batch of hot cross buns rising and Haulie is picking bundles of gorgeous pink Spring rhubarb.
Back to the kitchen for Easter Sunday lunch. I ordered a Spring lamb a few weeks ago; we butcher it ourselves and share it between the family. Spring lambs are born before Christmas and because they are milk fed the flesh is pale and sweet and particularly succulent. I’ve kept a couple of shoulders for family lunch on Easter Sunday. A roast leg is wonderful of course but I find the shoulder with just a little more fat even more delicious and juicy and it has the bonus of being a little less expensive than leg.
Spring lamb is so delicate that I am reluctant to add any extra flavours other than a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Cook it slowly at 160°C rather than 180°C; the skin will caramelise gently resulting in an unforgettable lunch. I’ll serve it with an old fashioned mint sauce made with the few sprigs of new season’s mint that I’ve managed to tease out of the ground by covering it with a cloche for this exceptionally early Easter. If however you’d rather do something more adventurous particularly if you have lamb rather than spring lamb score the skin and rub in a mixture of freshly roasted cumin and flaky sea salt for a Moroccan flavour. Alternatively, a spicy harissa would also do the trick, or a ‘Baharat’ spice rub from Green Saffron ( The gutsier herbs survived our atrocious Winter very well, so if you’d rather the taste of fresh herbs, tuck some little sprigs of rosemary or thyme into the skin at regular intervals and lay a sprig underneath to perfume the gravy and the joint as it roasts.
When Easter is late, we love to accompany Spring lamb with the first of the new potatoes and spring carrots but there’s no sign of either at present, so I’ll cook some purple sprouting broccoli and Rory O’ Connell’s chard gratin and we’ll have a feast and count our blessings. We’ve got an abundance of wild garlic at present so how about Wild Garlic soup, or if you’d like to use some of your freshly laid eggs how about delicate little wild garlic custards with fingers of toast. Both can be made ahead.
For pud, I’ll definitely bake a rhubarb tart. I particularly love the traditional tart my mother always made that has become known as Cullohill Rhubarb tart made with a pastry I’ve given you the recipe for several times (appeared in the Examiner 5th March 2013)
So to ring the changes, here is a rhubarb meringue tart recipe I ate at Shaun Hill’s restaurant The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, Wales in September 2015 last year.
Remember rhubarb is very tart so this is a time when you’ll need to be a little generous with the sugar but not too much because the meringue is also super sweet….
Happy Easter to you all.

Hot Tips
Broth is having its moment once again. It’s easy to make your own from bones and carcass. It’s a totally magical food, so full of nourishment and flavour and particularly important for those who have been laid low by a dose of flu or an interminable chesty cold. Meanwhile, seek out Rachel McCormack’s Sonny’s Broth at Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday from 10am-2.00pm and Douglas on Saturday mornings 10.00am-2pm. Tel: 086 821 2741
Properly delicious broths to enjoy right there or to bring home to sip by the fire. Try the Phŏ Bò, an aromatic beef bone broth with rice noodles and fresh Asian herbs or Phŏ Gà spiced chicken broth also with rice, noodles and fresh Asian herbs – soo good.

More Irresistible Cakes from Cakeface
Laura Mead and Rory Gannon met at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on a 12 week Certificate course in April 2010. They particularly love to bake and travelled together to France to work at Roger Vergé three Michelin star restaurant Moulin des Mougins in Cannes. From there it was on to the Savoy and Connaught hotels in London to hone their patisserie skills. Now they are back in Ireland and have started Cakeface Pastry in Piltown selling their super professional cakes and tarts that look as though they popped straight out of a French pastry shop window.
Tel: 086 601 7045


Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Cumin Seeds

Serves 8-10 approx.

A shoulder of lamb is much trickier to carve than a leg, but the flavour is so wonderfully sweet and juicy, it’s certainly worth the struggle particularly at home where perfect slices of meat are not obligatory. I sometimes put this into the low oven of the Aga in the morning. By 7.30 in the evening, it is beautifully cooked – how easy is that!

1 shoulder of lamb 3.3 – 3.6kg(7-8lb) on the bone
2 tablespoons approx. cumin seeds
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (1 pint) homemade lamb or chicken stock
1-2 teaspoon freshly roasted amdground cumin

Roux optional (see recipe)

Warm the cumin seeds slightly on a pan, crush them in a pestle and mortar. Score the skin of the meat in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and cumin and drizzle with olive oil, roast in a low oven 140C/275F/gas mark 1 in the usual way for 6 – 7 hours – this gives a delicious juicy succulent texture. Alternatively cook in a moderate oven 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3 for 3 – 3½ hours. The cumin seeds give a delicious flavour to the meat. Carve it into thick slices so that everybody gets some cumin. Serve with a light gravy to which a little freshly ground cumin has been added.

To make the gravy: Spoon the fat off the roasting tin. Add the stock into the remaining cooking juices. Boil for a few minutes, stirring and scraping the pan well, to dissolve the caramelised meat juices (I find a small whisk ideal for this). Add the freshly ground cumin. Allow to thicken with a very little roux if you like.
Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Strain and serve the gravy separately in a gravy boat.
Serve with crusty roast potatoes.

4 ozs (110 g/1 stick) butter
4 ozs (110 g/scant 1 cup) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Mint Sauce

Traditional mint sauce, made with tender young shoots of fresh mint, takes only minutes to make. For those who are expecting a bright green jelly, real mint sauce has a slightly dull colour and watery texture.

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup)
Serves about 6

25g (1oz) fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar
110ml (4fl oz1/2 cup) boiling water
25ml (1fl oz/1/8 cup) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the freshly chopped mint and sugar into a sauce boat. Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice. Allow to infuse for 5–10 minutes, before serving.

Gratin of Chard and Gruyére

Big and leafy, looking like an exceptionally healthy leaf of spinach and with several colourful varieties, Chard is great. The most well-known variety with its thick white stalk and glossy leaves is sometimes called Swiss chard. The colourful members of the family are the red stemmed Ruby chard and the variety known as Bright Lights or Rainbow chard which has a range of multi coloured stems varying from white, yellow and orange to pink, purple and red. Generally, unless the leaves are tiny, the stalk is removed from the leaf and cooked separately. The cooked leaves and stalks can be served together or as individual dishes. The flavour of the leaf is similar to spinach, but somewhat stronger and earthier in flavour, though the two greens are pretty much interchangeable in any recipe. I like to cut out the stalks or stems from the leaves with a sharp knife to achieve a neat finish. This is another vegetable that needs to be well cooked and there is no flavour or texture advantage to having to chew it when eating it cooked. The tiniest leaves, no more than 8cm long and including the stems, colourful or otherwise sometimes end up in the salad bowl.

This recipe combines the vegetable with gruyere in a gratin and is finished with a crisp bread topping. This dish can be prepared ahead and reheated later. It will make a delicious vegetarian supper dish or to serve with a roast shoulder of lamb or a grilled lamb chop.

Serves 4-6

3 litres (5 1/4 pints/generous 6 cups) of water
3 teaspoons of salt
2 1/4lb (1kg) chard
30g (1 1/4oz/generous 1/4 stick) butter
30g (1 1/4oz/generous 1/4 cup) flour
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) milk
100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) cream
160g (Gruyére cheese, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) marjoram leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g (2 1/2oz) coarse bread sour dough crumbs
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) olive oil

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Remove the stalks from the chard with a sharp knife. Cut the stalks against the grain in 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces. Add the stalks to the boiling water and cook at a simmer for about 6 minutes or until nearly tender. Add the leaves to the pot and cook for a further 3 minutes until the leaves and the stalks are both cooked. Strain off all of the water and allow the chard to sit in the strainer to drain off the rest of the water.

Toss the bread crumbs in the olive oil and spread out on to a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until toasted and golden. The crumbs tend to cook unevenly, so you will need to move them around on the tray a couple of times during the cooking. When ready, remove from the oven and reserve for later.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and stir to mix. Cook on a gentle heat for about 3 minutes to cook the flour. You have just made a roux and this mixture will thicken the sauce. Add the milk and cream and bring the mixture to a boil while whisking constantly. The sauce will by now have thickened. Turn the heat down low and allow the sauce to simmer for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Add the drained chard to the sauce with 110g (4oz) of the grated gruyére and the chopped marjoram and mix gently but thoroughly. Taste again and correct seasoning.

Place the mixture in an ovenproof gratin dish and sprinkle on the remaining gruyere and finally the roasted bread crumbs.

The gratin can be put aside for later or reheated now in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 to 20 minutes until bubbling and golden. If you are reheating it from cold it will need 30 minutes.

Wild Garlic Soup with Pesto and Flowers

We use the broad leaves of ramps or ramsons for this delicious spring soup.

11/2 ozs (45g/generous 1/4 stick) butter
5 ozs (140g/1 cup) peeled and chopped potatoes
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) peeled and chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pint (900ml/3 3/4 cups) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 pint (300ml/1 1/4 cups) creamy milk
5 ozs (150g/3 cups) chopped wild garlic leaves

Garnish: Wild garlic flowers – use the flowers of which flourish along the roadside.

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

Meanwhile chop the wild garlic leaves. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 3-4 minutes approx. until the wild garlic is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.


Rhubarb Meringue Tart

A lovely seasonal recipe from Shaun Hill who now has a restaurant called The Walnut Tree in Monmouthshire, Wales.

Serves 4

300g (11 oz) sweet shortcrust pastry

1 kg (2¼ lb) rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
3 egg yolks
120g (4 oz) sugar
2 tbsp. plain flour
3 egg whites
3 generous tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6

Line a 26cm pastry case – preferably with a pop up base – with sweet pastry and bake blind.
The rhubarb goes in next. Then mix together the egg yolks, sugar and flour and spread this over the rhubarb.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes; this will start the rhubarb cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until stiff. As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar.
Take the tart from the oven and spread the meringue on top.
Reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and return the tart to the oven. Bake for a further 25 minutes.

Note: The egg whites must be completely free of imperfections – including yolk – if they are to be successfully whisked. The bowl used must be dry and clean also. Don’t add sugar too early; the whites should already form peaks before you start.


Tamil Nadu in South India particularly the Chettinad area is a ‘road much less travelled’ than many of the trendier tourist destinations like Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala but intriguing, particularly for those who have a penchant for temples, architecture and of course food. I’m interested in all three but I have to say one can easily get ‘templed out’ in many parts of India.  Chettinad is particularly fascinating from the architecture perspective.

In the 1990’s,  pioneering lady Meenakshi Meyyappan from one of the most prominent Chettinar family was the first person to open one of her houses as a delightful heritage hotel. Just 4 simple rooms at first and a welcome as though one was a guest of the family. She served the fresh food of the Chettinad homes where everything was not just prepared and cooked ‘from scratch’ but grown in the gardens or produced on the family farm.

Since my last visit in 2011 the Bangala has expanded to 21 rooms, there’s a swimming pool and a cookery school where Meenaskshi chefs can pass on the secrets of the much requested Bangala recipes.  Freshly squeezed juices, watermelon or pineapple or dosa or breakfast with idli and sambar, rice…if that all seems too challenging there were of course masala omelettes and pancakes but for me lunch was the most exacting meal of the day, a wide variety of dishes served on a  banana leaf in the traditional way. Rice of course, then both a fish and meat dish, several vegetarian curry and stews fritters, a raita, several chutneys and a poppadums. The selection was different every day, cutlery is provided but one is encouraged to eat with one’s hands in the elegant Indian way. Dinner is a multi-ethnic affair with a mixture of Asian and Anglo Indian dishes but I don’t go to India for bread and butter pudding or crème caramel, no matter how delicious…..

The Bangala is heart of Karaikudi so one can comfortably wander around the colourful vegetable and fruit market and bazaar and the antique area, best in the early morning or evening when the temperature has dropped to the mid-twenties. The hardware and household utensil shops are also intriguing and I love the simple little tea shops where people congregate in the evenings to have a glass of a chai and a snack. I had some delicious plantain fritters  cooked in a lentil batter with a fresh coconut chutney served a square of banana leaf – for just 50 rupees.

Not everyone’s idea of ‘chilling out’ but I love to attend cooking classes when I’m on holidays to vamp up on the local food culture and ingredients and learn a few new dishes to pass on to my readers and students.

Here’s some of what I learned from Karuppiali, Chef at The Bangala, the ingredients are easy to find and techniques familiar to those who have already discovered the magic of spices.


Hot Tips

Green Saffron Pops Up in Paris

Arun Kapil from Green Saffron in Midleton is hosting a three week Green Saffron Pop UP in Paris from April 26th to May 14th 2016 in Alcazar restaurant in St Germain des Près.. Arun has created a spicy menu to entice the French people to enjoy spicier food and drinks.

Tel:  021 463 7960 or


Don’t forget to place an order for Spring Lamb from your butcher for Easter Sunday lunch – it’s a special treat so not available everywhere


Check out the Examiner website for the Ballymaloe Hot Cross Bun recipe


Date for the Diary

Pop-Ups Everywhere!

Michelle Darmody from The Cake Café in Dublin is hosting a Pop Up Café in The Projects Arts Centre in Temple Bar in Dublin in an effort to highlight the fact that asylum seekers living in direct provision are not able to cook for themselves. Don’t miss the two day Pop Up restaurant, on 5th and 6th April 2016 from 12pm-3pm where the menu will be devised and cooked by those in direct provision. Proceeds will go to the Refugee Council of Ireland

Tickets €15.00. Booking Essential. Phone Michelle Darmody 087 938 4455 for more details.

Good Things Cafe

Carmel Somers’s many fans will be delighted to hear that Good Things at Dillon’s Corner in Skibbereen is now up and running. Carmel is a beautiful cook who uses fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients to create delicious food for her growing number of devotees. For reservations Tel: 028 51948 or



Potato Karuvattu Poriyal

Don’t let this unprouncable title or long list of ingredients put you off trying this recipe – it was totally delicious.

Serves 4


Wet Paste

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 fresh green chillies

â…“ cup grated coconut

400 g (14 oz) potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges like potato chips

2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon urad dal, hulled split

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

50g (4 oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ heaping teaspoon ginger paste

10 curry leaves

1½ teaspoons red chilli powder, mild

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped


Grind cumin seeds, fennel seeds, green chillies and coconut in a blender with some water to make a wet paste. Set aside.

Pour enough water into a saucepan to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Slide in the potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt. Let them boil, covered, till fork tender, 7-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add oil to a wok over a medium –high heat. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, slide in the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to crackle, add the urad dal and stir. Add the fennel seeds and onion, and sauté for 1 minute.

Add garlic and ginger followed by curry leaves, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir before adding the reserved wet paste. Continue to stir constantly.

When the oil has separated from the masala and the mixtures looks cooked, sprinkle with salt and then add the drained pototaes, mixing well. Sauté for 2-4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the carmaelized bits of masala. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.


From The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Meyyappan with Jill Donenfeld


Brussel Sprouts Masala Poriyal

Most of our international guests at The Bangala enjoy this masala poriyal. They are familiar with Brussel sprouts and like the masala presentation.


250 g (9 oz) brussel sprouts, cut in quarters if large

½ teaspoon salt

50 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil

100g (3½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder, mild preferably made from goondu milagai

½ cup fresh tomato puree

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped


Pour 2 cups of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slide in the brussel sprouts and ½ teaspoon salt and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, till tender. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add oil to a large wok over a high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, slide in the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Follow by adding the ginger and garlic paste, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir once and add tomato puree and ½ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, reducing the heat to low, stirring and scraping to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.

When the oil separates from the masala, add the drained Brussel sprouts to incorporate. Stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the wok. Remove from the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.


The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Neyyappan with Jill Donenfeld


Raisin and Cashew Nut Pulao

An aromatic pulao with flavours of whole spices, dry fruit and coconut milk. This is serves as‘main rice’ for dinner at The Bangala. Cooking the rice in coconut milk instead of just water adds depth and a lovely, flavourful creaminess to this dish.

Serves 4


300 g (11 oz/1½ cups) basmati rice

125 ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) vegetable oil

3 green cardamom pods

Once 3- inch piece cinnamon, broken in half

13 cloves

3 fresh green chillies slit at the base

60 g (2½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

10 unsalted cashew nuts, broken

1½ tablespoons raisins

1½ teaspoons sea salt or to taste

350 ml (12 fl oz/1½ cups) thin coconut milk

¾ cup thick coconut milk


Place rice in a bowl and wash under running water, gently stirring and mixing the rice with your hands, draining each time the bowl fills up. Do this 2 or 3 times, till the water runs clear; then let soak in fresh water, covered for at least 30 minutes. Drain.

Pour oil into a large saucepan over high heat. When hot, add cardamom and cinnamon. Once the cardamoms have plumped up nicely, about 30 seconds add cloves and green chillies and stir. Next, slide onion into the pan and sauté till translucent, about 1 minute, before adding the cashew nuts and raisins.

Pour in 1½ cups water, salt and the thin coconut milk, mix to incorporate and cover to let simmer for 2 minutes before turning the heat to high. Add rice, stir and wait for it to come to the boil before reducing the heat. Let it cook, covered for about 10 minutes before adding the thick coconut milk. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Grains should be separate and not too soft. Check seasoning. serve hot.


The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Neyyappan with Jill Donenfeld

St. Patrick’s Day

IMG Farmette Cookbook_p69_boxty_Roost Books


As the whole world (it seems) gears up to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – have a good root through your cupboards and pick out your very best ‘greenery’ to don on Thursday next. Let’s all have fun and get into the emerald vibe. The Irish diaspora from New York to Shanghai are in high spirits, Tourism Ireland recently announced this year’s additions to the Global Greening initiative where famous sites and monuments throughout the world are illuminated in green to mark our National Holiday. It’s a totally brilliant initiative to focus the whole world’s attention on Ireland.

This year the 7 World Trade Centre at Ground Zero in New York, the famous Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde in Paris, the City Hall in Tel Aviv and Munich’s Hofbräuhaus and the Amazon Theatre Opera House in the midst of the Amazon Rain Forest are among the newest sites to join the Sydney Opera House, the Colosseum in Rome, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the Empire State Building in New York and Auckland’s Sky Tower……Here in Dublin, disability rights campaigner Joanne O Riordan from Millstreet has been chosen as Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Day Parade, at 19 years old, she’ll be the youngest ever to lead the celebrations.

Well, back to the kitchen, to plan a feast. For me, St Patrick’s Day is all about Bacon and Cabbage and Parsley Sauce with a big bowl of champ and a generous lump of Irish butter melting into the centre – the ultimate comfort food. Despite the atrocious weather we’ve been having our rhubarb is growing enthusiastically, so it’ll be a juicy rhubarb tart for pud with lots of soft brown sugar and Jersey cream. But if you’d rather ring the changes how about St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with soy dipping sauce.

This is just one of the tempting recipes in Imen McDonnell new book Farmette Cookbook which documents her recipes and adventures on an Irish farm.

Imen will be very familiar to the Irish Farmers Journal readers for whom she’s written a food and lifestyle column for many years. She’s also a contributing editor to Condé Nast Traveller and Irish Country Magazine. In a former life, she spent her days working in Los Angeles, happily going about her business in a successful broadcast media career. Then fate intervened, she met a dashing Irish farmer in Minneapolis and fell instantly in love. In short order, Imen found herself leaving behind her career, her country, her family and friends, to start a life from scratch on a centuries-old family dairy farm in County Limerick. When she’s not cooking, writing, weeding or photographing, you’ll find her in the farmyard with her husband and son, milking cows, feeding calves and chickens, or loving up their two donkeys and amusing Airedale terrier, Teddy. Imen highlights farmhouse skills such as butter and cheese making and the use of local, wholesome ingredients. Here are a few of Imen’s modern Irish recipes for you to enjoy from The Farmette Cookbook published by Roost Books.

Hot Tips

Organic Horticulture: Vegetable Garden Preparation

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Head Gardner Susan Turner will teach a day long course and provide you with the necessary skills to how to grow your own delicious and nutritious vegetables. Susan will cover site layout and design, soil preparation, compost making and crop rotations, dealing with weeds & pests in organic horticulture, raised beds, year round sowing plan and sowing methods, polytunnel and glasshouse crops….coffee on arrival and a delicious light lunch included. Monday March 14th 9.30am-5pm for more information

Slow Food Galway

are planning an exciting breadmaking demo with Jeremy Zanni from Les Petites Douceurs in Galway. It will be held on Cait Curran’s organic farm in Moycullen, near Spiddal on Sunday March 13th at 11.30am. Tickets €5.00. Contact Kate O’Malley for further details and directions 087 9312333


Imen McDonnell’s St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with Soy Dipping Sauce

Makes 20 medium-size dumplings


For the wrappers

2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup (120 ml) boiling water

½ cup (120 ml) cold water


For the filling

3/4 cup (300 g) cabbage, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

3 tablespoons finely chopped kale

â…“ lb (150 g) shredded boiled ham (or Irish bacon)

â…› teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)

½ tablespoon soy sauce

½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)

1 teaspoon sesame oil


For the slurry

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup (120 ml) water

Sunflower oil, for frying


For the dipping sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup (115 g) scallions, chopped

¼ cup (60 ml) brown rice vinegar

¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce


First make the wrappers. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Gradually stir in the boiling water until the mixture is mealy. Gradually add the cold water, and stir until  the mixture comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough  becomes smooth.

Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rest while you make the filling.

Next make the filling. Put the cabbage in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Pulse the ginger, kale, ham, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil in a food processor to mix well. Set aside.

Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and into the sink. Place the dry cabbage in a dry bowl and add the ham mixture. Fold together with your hands.

To make the dumplings. Roll out the dumpling dough into a circle and cut out wrappers  with 2-inch round cookie cutters. Set aside.

Mix together the cornstarch and water for the slurry in a small bowl. Take one dumpling wrapper, and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture into the middle.

Dip one finger into the slurry, and paint the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the bottom side of the wrapper over the filling and press into a half-moon shape.

Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat with the rest of dumplings. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

When all the dumplings are assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic  wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Gently slide in one-third of the dumplings. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, and repeat with remaining dumplings.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with the sunflower oil and place over medium heat until hot. Fry dumplings until they are golden on each side.


Make the dipping sauce:

Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan until it smokes. Add the  scallions, then the brown rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well, then take off the heat and pour into a bowl for dipping.

Scullery Notes: Salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being waterlogged and soggy


Imen McDonnell’s Boxty

Serves 4


6 medium potatoes

¼ cup (38 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon butter (or sunflower oil)

Fresh herbs, chopped, for garnish


Peel the potatoes. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a large mixing bowl. Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into the colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into the bowl. Put the dry grated potato in another bowl and discard the liquid.

Add the flour and salt to the grated potato and mix gently. Melt the butter in a heavy iron pan, and pour in the potato mixture to make an even layer, about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cook over medium heat until nicely brown on one side, about 15 minutes; flip the whole boxty cake and cook on the other side  for another 15 minutes, or until brown. It’s much better to cook the boxty slowly than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

Remove from the heat, cut into quarters, garnish with herbs  and serve with crème fraîche, apple sauce, or just on its own.

IMG Farmette Cookbook_p300_carawaycake_Roost Books (1)

Imen McDonnell’s Sweet Caraway Seed Cake

Serves about 8


¾ cup (175 g) butter, softened

1½ cups (175 g) superfine or granulated sugar

3 large eggs

About 1 tablespoon milk or water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon fresh caraway seeds


Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the base of a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs, milk or water, and vanilla together, and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar.

Fold in the flour in batches; mix the baking powder in with the last addition of the flour.

Gently mix in the caraway seeds. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Remove it from the oven, and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Cool completely before slicing.


Imen McDonnell’s Farmer’s Sunday Cake

Makes 2 loaves


¾ cup (170 g) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan

6¼ cups (800 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar

1 cup (150 g) golden raisins

1 cup (150 g) dried currants

2 tablespoons glacé cherries

½ cup walnuts

2 tablespoons candied citrus peel, finely chopped

Grated zest of ½ lemon

2 eggs, beaten

2½ to 3 cups (600 to 720 ml) buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans; set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl, and mix well. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the raisins, currants, cherries, walnuts, candied citrus peel,  and lemon zest. Mix well.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the eggs and 2½ cups (600 ml) of the buttermilk. Stir into the flour mixture, working in a spiral motion from the middle toward the sides of the bowl, and adding a bit more buttermilk if necessary to make a moist but cohesive batter. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 15 minutes

Reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out and cover with tea towels until ready to serve.

This cake will keep for up to a week in an airtight container or bread box.


London, just a little hop from any of our airports in Ireland has been one of the hottest food destinations in the world for over a decade now.

There are many multi starred establishments but also lots of small and teeny weeny restaurants run by passionate young chefs and cooks who are creating links with farmers and food producers and turning out edgy modern British as well as multi ethnic food.

I get regular requests from readers for my ‘London List’ so here are some of my current favourites.

Bao started in a little timber shack at Netil Market in Hackney from 12 O’ clock on Saturday mornings.  They serve a Chinese steamed bun with pulled pork and the veggie bao, filled with a fried daikon cake not dissimilar from a hash brown.  Chicken bits, crispybreaded morsels of juicy chicken with a hot sauce. An eager queue starts to form by 11.30; Bao are still in the market but have now moved into ‘bricks and mortar’. Like many cool London restaurants, they don’t take bookings so once again there’s a queue across the road from the restaurant – Bao is hot and deservedly so, the steamed buns are like fluffy tender pillows stuffed with the tastiest pork.

Raw Duck in Richmond Road is another of my favourites, lots of concrete and metal windows there, long wooden communal tables with random pots of herbs and flowers down along the middle, a tempting list of natural wines, drinking vinegars and shrubs.

The menu is made up of lots of little plates of carefully chosen combinations, I had brunch there recently and loved the coconut porridge with a blob of persimmon jam in the centre and chopped cashew nuts sprinkled on top. That was so good as was the avocado, poached eggs, bacon, coriander and chilli on sourdough toast. Lots of little plates of ferments and pickles, kefir, brownies….

The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street, in the midst of the ‘guitar district’ does barbequed wood ember food with strong Thai influences. I loved the scallop roasted in their shells over charcoal with chilli, coriander and lime and the barbeque smoked lamb ribs with nahm jiim jaew and the cornish mullet with pomelo salad. Rare breed meats and day boat fish from small production farmers and fishermen. They’re not big on puds and they don’t serve coffee….

Cooking over fire, a strong trend at present, Kitty Fishers’ Wood Grill  in Shepherd Market is also worth checking out . A widely travelled friend loved the escalop beef from an 11 year old Galician dairy cow, how about that for a rarity.

Lyles the tea building in High Street Shoreditch – where it’s all happening is a must for your London list, you’ll definitely need to book ahead for dinner but it’s slightly easier to get in for lunch, more clean and simple lines a semi open kitchen and a cool cocktail bar. James Lowe and John Ogner offer a beautiful selection of small plates; I particularly loved the smoked eel, beetroot and horseradish.

The beets were sweet and earthy still warm from the oven, the smoked eel also gently heated, horseradish cream cold and a seemingly simple combo made magical by superb ingredients and contrasting temperatures. Don’t miss the pumpkin ice cream with whey caramel and meringue.

The Portland is my top tip for a Michelin starred experience. It’s pulling in lots of plaudits for simple accomplished food, great ingredients and superb service.

Finally if you haven’t already had the Honey & Co experience – you will make lots of new friends, now this is quite a squash. Everyone is super excited to have bagged a table in this darling little restaurant owned and run by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer where the Middle Eastern food is instantly appealing and the cakes and puddings are the stuff of dreams.

Finally Violet Cakes in East London is another of my favourites, a tiny café and cake shop on Wilton Way, here are some recipes to make at home. Just one more hot tip, it’s worth going to the airport early to grab something to eat at Leon in Terminal 2….well done Allegra McEvedy who said one couldn’t get decent food in an airport!


Avocado, House Smoked Bacon, Poached egg, Coriander and Chilli on Sourdough

Serves 1 for lunch


2 organic eggs

2 slices smoked streaky bacon

1 slice of natural sourdough bread

extra virgin olive oil

1 ripe avocado

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 to ¼ fresh red chilli, sliced

3 coriander sprigs

First poach the eggs. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk is still soft and runny.

Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain.

Meanwhile fry the bacon on a hot pan until golden and slightly crisp.

Heat an iron pan grill, chargrill the sourdough on both sides.


To serve.

Put the chargrilled sourdough on a warm plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Peel, stone and quarter a ripe avocado. Chop two quarters in half, (three quarters is usually enough for one portion). Lay on the chargrilled sourdough.

Top with two freshly poached eggs and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Add a crisscross of two pieces of hot bacon. Sprinkle with thin slices of red chilli to taste.

Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh coriander and serve immediately.


Top Tip:

You can poach the eggs ahead of time and then reheat them briefly in boiling water. Just cook them for a minute less than usual, and then slip them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further.

To reheat the poached eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, draw off the heat and slip the egg back into the water for a minute or two until hot through.


Coconut Milk Porridge with Quince or Persimmon Jam and Raw Cashew Nuts


Serves 2-4


35 g (1½ oz) oatflakes

400 ml (1 can) coconut milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

25 g (1 oz) sugar


Quince Jam

Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly

Cashew nuts, roughly chopped


Put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve in a warm bowl with a generous dollop of quince jam or apple jelly and a scattering of roughly chopped cashew nuts over the top


Violet Coconut Macaroons


There is a sublime crispy gooiness to these biscuits that makes them like nothing else on earth. Warning: they are very addictive. Violet is the name of Claire’s bakery and shop on Wilton Way and her stall at Broadway Market, both in Hackney, London


Makes 12

3 free range egg whites

150 g (5 oz) caster sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons honey

150 g (5 oz) desiccated coconut

½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional



Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey and coconut in a large pan over a medium heat.

Stir the mixture constantly until everything is dissolved and it just begins to scorch on the bottom.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Let the mixture cool completely, then use an ice cream scoop to scoop out 12 even sized macaroons, and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden and set. Let the macaroons cool completely before peeling off the paper.


Tip: The key to getting these macaroons just right is to stir the ingredients in the pan until they begin to dry out.


LEON Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleb



Claire’s Healthy Granola

You will not believe how good this tastes. It is light and clustery.


Makes 1.5 kg


500g buckwheat flakes

125g (4 1/2oz) whole almonds, skins on

50g (2oz) ground flax seeds

50g (2oz) sesame seeds

50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds

50g (2oz) amaranth

250ml (9fl oz) agave syrup

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil (not extra virgin)

100g (3 1/2oz) coconut oil

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

a grating of fresh nutmeg

a pinch of sea salt

100 g (4 oz) sultanas

50 g (2 oz) desiccated coconut



Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Line two baking trays or roasting tins with parchment paper.

Combine the buckwheat flakes, whole almonds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and amaranth in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the agave syrup, olive oil, coconut oil and water.  Place over a medium heat and whisk constantly to melt it all together.

Remove the syrup mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla, spices and sea salt.  Pour the syrup over the dry ingredients and stir well to completely coat all the nuts and seeds.

Spread the mixture out on the lined baking trays or roasting tins and bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour.  Remove from the oven, toss well with a metal spatula and return to the oven.  Lower the temperature to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 and bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the mixture is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before stirring in the sultanas and desiccated coconut. Store in an airtight container.

Serve with fresh dates and natural yoghurt for a naturally sweet treat.


LEON  Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby


Leon Pecan Pie

A simple, rich, gluten free pecan tart that has become a firm favourite.


Serves 8-10


For the sweet pastry

150 g (5 oz) butter

100 g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 free range egg, plus 1 yolk

270 g (9¾ oz) gluten free plain flour


For the filling

50 g (2 oz) butter

225 g (8 oz) golden syrup

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 teaspoon cornflour

2 large free range eggs

200 g (7 oz) pecan nut halves


Cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or in a free standing electric mixture until smooth.

Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour and quickly bring it together in a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Butter a 23-25 cm (9-10 inch) fluted flan tin. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to about 3-5 mm thick and line your tart case with it. Trim the edges and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill it with baking beans to stop it shrinking while it’s being baked. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes. The pastry should be a nice blond colour. Set aside to cool.

Put the butter and golden syrup into a medium saucepan over a low heat. When it becomes runny, take it off the heat and whisk in the sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornflour and eggs until smooth then add to the saucepan.

Fill the baked pastry with the pecan halves. Pour the golden syrup mixture on top and fill it up to just below the edge of the case. Put into the oven, taking great care not to spill any liquid over the sides, as this might make it difficult to remove from the tin once it is baked.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tart is a dark golden colour and has slightly risen in the middle. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Serve cold for tea or warm with vanilla ice cream


LEON Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby


Hot Tips

Saturday Pizza Masterclass

Philip Dennhardt will teach an exciting half day Pizza Masterclass on Friday 11th March 2016 from 2.30-5.00pm. Philip will take you through all the basics from choosing the right ingredients, making pizza dough, getting the best results from your oven, creating traditional and contemporary toppings….. from the classics Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone to modern gourmet masterpieces – think shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and homemade cottage cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!

Decorating Celebration Cakes

Pamela Black has been a senior tutor at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for many years now and her ultimate culinary passion is cake decoration. On Saturday March 12th Pam will wow you with her culinary magic as she pipes, drizzles and adorns cakes into edible masterpieces. All manner of icings will be covered marzipan, buttercreams, ganaches, glaces…….

From decorating simple birthday cakes to fancy celebration cakes, formal and informal, fun and quirky, Pam is full of innovative ideas.  There will be an opportunity to taste some of the cakes.


Pop Up Dinner

Our Winter 12 Week Certificate students are cooking a Pop-Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday March 13th at 6.30pm for the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.  An aperitif, delicious nibbles and three course dinner. The theme is masquerade/carnival, places are limited.

Tickets €50.00

Booking essential 021 4646785 or




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