Christmas Memories

  1. A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats
  2. Gravadlax with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise
  3. Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Salsa
  4. This is our new favourite an excellent way to use up any stray pumpkin leftover from Halloween. This comes to us from the Autumn Certificate Course students who created this version to serve at the Slow Food Pop-up dinner in aid of the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches kids in nine local schools to grow and cook their own food. This is gluten free, Serves 6   700g (1 1/2lbs) pumpkin or butternut squash (see below) 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/2 red chilli, chopped (depending how spicy it is) 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed 1 heaped teaspoon of grated ginger 4 kaffir lime leaves (small ones), roughly chopped 1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped 1 teaspoon chana masala 1 scant teaspoon tamarind paste (soak it in hot water and press through the sieve) 2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla) 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice 400ml (14fl oz) homemade chicken stock, a little more if too thick 350ml (12fl oz) coconut milk (we use Thai Gold) salt to taste   Coriander Salsa 25g (1oz) fresh coriander 3 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds 75 ml (3fl oz) olive oil salt to taste   To Serve 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed   Preheat the oven to 180/350/Gas Mark 4.   First roast the pumpkin or butternut squash. Remove the outer skin and seeds from the pumpkin and cut it into slices 2 1/2cm (1 inch) thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes depending on the size, turn occasionally during cooking. The pumpkin is cooked when the tip of a knife inserts easily into the thickest part of the wedge.   Fry the chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and lime leaves for a few minutes.  Add the roasted pumpkin and chana masala to the spices and continue to cook stirring occasionally over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes.  Add the tamarind paste, lime juice, fish sauce and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil.  Add the coconut milk, stir and reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for further ten minutes.  Blitz in a liquidiser and sieve to make the soup really smooth. Taste and add salt if needed.   Best to prepare in advance in order for all the flavours to blend.  To make the coriander salsa: Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes until golden at the edges. Allow to cool. Put all the salsa ingredients into a food processor. Purée until smooth. The salsa should have a loose-ish texture. Taste and correct the seasoning.   To Serve: Serve the hot soup with a blob of crème fraîche and a drizzle of coriander salsa, sprinkle a few crushed roasted pumpkin seeds over the top of each bowl.     Succulent Glazed Loin or Streaky Bacon
  5. Ballymaloe Spiced Beef
  6. Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Traditional Bread Sauce
  7. Turkey Stock
  8. Best Brussels Sprouts Ever
  9. Rory’s Scrambled Eggs with Lobster and Chives
  10. Celeriac Fritters with Pears, Walnuts, Radicchio and Caper Mayonnaise
  11. Tart of Macroom Buffalo Ricotta with Roasted Red Onions,
  12. Mushrooms, Thyme and Marjoram

Memories of my childhood Christmas come flooding back at this time of year. How on earth did my beautiful mother manage to create such a wonderful Christmas for all of us, Rory and I have five brothers and two sisters. The excitement built from mid-November onwards when Mummy would start to plot and plan. The Christmas cakes and puddings were made, this took two whole afternoons – she’d specially wait until we came home from the village school so we could participate, washing and chopping cherries, deseeding moscatel raisins, chopping and peeling – everything had to be done from scratch then, and of course it was an advantage to have a few more hands around to help cream the butter and line the cake tin and stir the plum pudding. That was super exciting because we each had to make a wish, eyes tightly shut, before the fruity mixture flecked with suet  was packed into white delph bowls and covered with grease proof paper, “don’t forget to overlap it in the centre to allow the pudding to expand”. Little fingers held the knot to secure the twine handle tightly. Best of all the tradition in our house was to eat the first plum pudding on the night it was made. The Christmas season had begun and without doubt my mother’s plum pudding recipe (inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother) is the best recipe any of us have ever tasted and I’m not just being nostalgic. If you don’t believe me, try it this year and I’ll be expecting a flood of cards and emails after Christmas.


So Christmas is all about tradition, few want surprises on Christmas day. Everyone, particularly those who are coming home for the festive season, look forward to the same delicious Christmas dinner, a fine roast turkey or goose with all the trimmings, lots of gravy, roasties, Brussels sprouts and in our house creamed celery (sounds old-fashioned, there’s a ring of the Grand Hotel about it) but so good with the roast turkey particularly and it’s cooked several days ahead. Keep covered in the fridge or pop it into the freezer, and just reheat. Christmas is definitely a ton of work particularly for those who don’t normally spend much time in the kitchen.

So let’s make a plan so it’s easier and less stressful. Lists and lots of them are the way to start, allocate some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into helping. Start with a two week planner; fill in the basics and your social engagements.

We often overestimate the amount of food we need. Next a list of jobs, dishes, a shopping list, what can be done ahead. Have the turkey, goose or ham been ordered? The best organic and free-range turkeys get snapped up early so hurry, hurry…

If there’s just two or four people, ask yourself do you really need a turkey, how about a beautiful organic chicken or a fat free range duck. Decide if you would like a rich Christmas cake – bake it right away, wrap it well and store it in a cool dry cupboard, wonderful for cutting into fingers to share when friends or neighbours drop by with a glass of port or a cup of tea.


Maybe you’d prefer a lighter cake, I love it baked in a low sided rectangular tin and cut into small squares and there’s also a white Christmas cake iced with meringue frosting in my Darina Allen’s Christmas book.  One way or another it’s time to get cracking if you want to have the satisfaction of ticking off some of the “to do” items on your list.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for  your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.


Rory has shared several recipes from his new lovely book, “Cook Well, Eat Well”, which has just won the “Eurospar Cookbook of the Year Award” at the recent Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.


A Plate of Irish Charcuterie and Cured Meats


One of my favourite easy entertaining tricks is to serve a selection of Irish artisan charcuterie from inspired producers like Fingal Ferguson from Schull, West Cork and James McGeough from Oughterard, Co. Galway, Jack McCarthy from Kanturk, Co Cork, Patrick Mulcahy from Ballinwillin, Mitchelstown, Co Cork,  and Eoin Bird from The Wodded Pig in Tara, Co Meath.

The quality is so wonderful that I’m always bursting with pride as I serve it.


A selection of cured meats:

Air dried smoked Connemara lamb

Smoked venison

Gubbeen Prosciutto and Chorizo

Woodside Farm Salami and Chorizo

Dunmanus Castle beef salami

Pepper and Caraway salami

Three Castle Pastrami

West Cork Kassler

Rillettes, brawn


A selection of:

Crusty country breads, sour dough, yeast and Irish soda bread.

Tiny gherkins or cornichons

Fresh radishes, just trimmed but with some green leaf attached

A good green salad of garden lettuce and salad leaves


Arrange the meats and potted meat on a large platter, open a good bottle of red and tuck in!


Gravadlax with Cucumber Ribbon Salad and Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

A delicious light starter and also gluten free.

Serves 8


225-350g (8-12oz) Gravadlax


For the pickled cucumber strips,

1 cucumber

2 teaspoons salt

110g (4oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) cider vinegar


Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tablespoons French mustard

1 tablespoon white sugar

5fl oz (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon  dill, finely chopped

salt and white pepper


To serve

sprigs of dill,

freshly cracked black pepper




Two or three days before, prepare the gravlax.

On the day of serving: Make the cucumber pickle. Cut the cucumber in half, then cut into strips using a potato peeler. Put the cucumber into a deep bowl, add the sugar, salt and cider vinegar. Toss gently, leave to macerate for at least 30 minutes.


To make the Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise: Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.


To assemble: Unwrap the gravadlax, cut down to the skin in thin slices. Arrange the drained cucumber strips and the gravadlax in a haphazard way on each serving plate. Drizzle with Mustard and Dill Mayonnaise. Garnish with tiny sprigs of dill and chive or wild garlic flowers.


Finally add a little freshly cracked black pepper over each serving. Serve with Ballymaloe Brown Yeast Bread.



Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Salsa

This is our new favourite an excellent way to use up any stray pumpkin leftover from Halloween. This comes to us from the Autumn Certificate Course students who created this version to serve at the Slow Food Pop-up dinner in aid of the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches kids in nine local schools to grow and cook their own food. This is gluten free,
Serves 6


700g (1 1/2lbs) pumpkin or butternut squash (see below)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 red chilli, chopped (depending how spicy it is)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 heaped teaspoon of grated ginger

4 kaffir lime leaves (small ones), roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon chana masala

1 scant teaspoon tamarind paste (soak it in hot water and press through the sieve)

2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
400ml (14fl oz) homemade chicken stock, a little more if too thick
350ml (12fl oz) coconut milk (we use Thai Gold)
salt to taste


Coriander Salsa
25g (1oz) fresh coriander
3 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds
75 ml (3fl oz) olive oil
salt to taste


To Serve
2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds, crushed


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


First roast the pumpkin or butternut squash.

Remove the outer skin and seeds from the pumpkin and cut it into slices 2 1/2cm (1 inch) thick. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes depending on the size, turn occasionally during cooking. The pumpkin is cooked when the tip of a knife inserts easily into the thickest part of the wedge.


Fry the chopped chilli, garlic, ginger and lime leaves for a few minutes. 
Add the roasted pumpkin and chana masala to the spices and continue to cook stirring occasionally over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. 
Add the tamarind paste, lime juice, fish sauce and the chicken stock. Bring to the boil.  Add the coconut milk, stir and reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for further ten minutes.  Blitz in a liquidiser and sieve to make the soup really smooth.
Taste and add salt if needed.


Best to prepare in advance in order for all the flavours to blend. 

To make the coriander salsa:

Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray in the preheated oven for 5-8 minutes until golden at the edges. Allow to cool.

Put all the salsa ingredients into a food processor. Purée until smooth. The salsa should have a loose-ish texture. Taste and correct the seasoning.


To Serve:

Serve the hot soup with a blob of crème fraîche and a drizzle of coriander salsa, sprinkle a few crushed roasted pumpkin seeds over the top of each bowl.



Succulent Glazed Loin or Streaky Bacon

A ham is traditional at Christmas but I prefer a piece of succulent streaky bacon or loin, less expensive, just as delicious and so easy to carve.


Serves 12-15


1.8-2.25kg (4-5lbs) streaky or loin of bacon, either smoked or unsmoked

400g (14oz) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons approx. of the juice

350g (12oz) brown Demerara sugar

whole cloves 20-30 approx.


Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb.  Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves.  Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid.  Spread this over the bacon.  Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.


Ballymaloe Spiced Beef

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas in these parts without spiced beef. Although Spiced Beef is traditionally associated with Christmas it’s available all year round in the English Market.   It may be served hot or cold and is a marvellous stand-by, because if it is properly spiced and cooked it will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.  Butchers have their own secret recipe but this superb recipe has been passed down in the Allen family of generations,


Serves 12-16


1.35kg-1.8kg (3-4lb ) lean flap of beef or silverside


Ballymaloe spice for beef

This delicious recipe for Spiced Beef has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family and is the best I know.  It includes saltpetre, nowadays regarded as a health hazard, so perhaps you should not live exclusively on it!  Certainly people have lived on occasional meals of meats preserved in this way, for generations. This recipe is also gluten free.

The recipe below makes enough spice to cure 5 flanks of beef, each 1.8kg (4lbs) approx. in size and can also be used to spice beef tongues.


225g (8oz) demerara sugar

350g (12oz) salt

15g (½oz) saltpetre (available from chemists)

75g (3oz) whole black pepper

75g (3oz) whole allspice (pimento, Jamaican pepper)

75g (3oz) whole juniper berries


Grind all the ingredients (preferably in a food processor) until fairly fine.  Store in a screw-top jar; it will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time.


To prepare the beef:  If you are using flank of beef, remove the bones and trim away any unnecessary fat.  Rub the spice well over the beef and into every crevice.   Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3-7 days, turning occasionally.   (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.).  The longer the meat is left in the spice, the longer it will last and the more spicy the flavour.

Just before cooking, roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape, cover with cold water and simmer for 2-3 hours or until soft and cooked.  If it is not to be eaten hot, press by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin; cover it with a board and weight and leave for 12 hours.


Spiced Beef will keep for 3-4 weeks in a fridge.


To Serve

Cut it into thin slices and serve with some freshly-made salads and home-made chutneys, or in sandwiches.


Other good things to serve with Spiced Beef  are horseradish Sauce and Cucumber Pickle or warm potato, hard-boiled eggs and scallion salad or avocado, rocket leaves, tomato and chilli jam.


Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Traditional Bread Sauce


Serves 10-12


This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but it’s moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.


(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets


Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper

Turkey Stock

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey (save the liver for a pâte)

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For self-basting the turkey

225g (8ozs/2 sticks) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)

Bread Sauce (see recipe)


To brine the turkey

6 litres (10½ pints) water

600g (1¼ lb) salt



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


Brine the turkey the night before, not essential but it makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.


Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve.  Put the turkey into a clean stainless steel saucepan, plastic bucket or tin.   Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours.  Drain and dry well.  This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.


The next day, remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.


To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end.


Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2¾ -if brined) to 3¼ hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.



To test the turkey is done the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy. Easier said than done when oven space is at a premium, so cover with a large sheet of parchment, (I’m not keen on tin foil) and then wrap the whole thing snugly with a warm bath towel. It will keep hot while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De-glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.


Present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crisp roasties. Garnish with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.


Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce and lots of gravy.



Traditional Bread Sauce


I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  It’s good with roast chicken and guinea fowl as well as turkey. Use gluten free bread for a gluten free version – you may need more breadcrumbs.


Serves 6-8


600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4½ oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 or more cloves

35 – 50g (1½  – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75-110ml (2-3fl oz) thick cream

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices (a French spice, equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.)


Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.


Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.


Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.


Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

Not surprisingly many people loathe Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.

The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways, or better still quarters, they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent Brussels sprout haters! This recipe is also gluten free.

Serves 4-6


450g (1lb) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom)

600ml (1 pint) water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper


Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half or quarters lengthways – cut into quarters if they are very large. Salt the water (its really important to add enough salt) and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and continue for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Drain very well.


Melt a little butter or extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.


Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, drain and refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.


Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Crispy Bacon or Chorizo

Add 2-4oz (50-110g) of crispy bacon lardons or chorizo and 50g (2oz) of toasted and chopped hazelnuts to the above recipe and serve immediately.



















Rory’s Scrambled Eggs with Lobster and Chives


Cooked lobster is now so much easier to find – so this treat can be made without having to cook the lobster yourself.


Serves 4 as a starter or 30 as a canapé


225g cooked lobster, chopped into 2cm pieces

4 tablespoons cream

8 free-range eggs

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

25g butter

grilled sourdough bread


to serve

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons finely chopped

fresh chives

1 tablespoon chive flowers (optional)


This is a delicious combination that can be served as a starter or canapé on grilled bread or melba toast. Shrimp or crayfish could replace the lobster in the recipe. The addition of cream to the cooked eggs prevents the mixture from solidifying, making it an ideal dish to prepare in advance. I hold the cooked mixture at room temperature for a couple of hours and serve it on hot grilled or toasted bread.

The optional chive flowers make a pretty and delicious garnish, but they could be replaced another time with garlic, kale or fennel flowers.


Place the lobster and cream in a small saucepan and gently heat to a bare simmer, then remove from the heat.


Beat the eggs with a good pinch of salt and pepper.


Melt the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the beaten eggs and cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon. When the eggs are just beginning to scramble, add the lobster and cream and keep cooking for a few more minutes, until the eggs are a creamy consistency. Remove from the heat and transfer from the saucepan to a bowl. The eggs will not set hard like cold scrambled eggs, but will retain their lovely softness. The eggs are best served barely warm but are also good at room temperature.


When ready to serve, spread the scrambled eggs over the hot grilled bread. Grate over the lemon zest and finish with a sprinkling of chives and chive flowers (if using).

Serve immediately.


From Rory O’Connells “Cook Well, Eat Well” published by Gill Books, photographs by Joanne Murphy




Celeriac Fritters with Pears, Walnuts, Radicchio and Caper Mayonnaise


sunflower oil, for deep frying

120g (4¼ oz) celeriac (weight after peeling), peeled and cut into fine julienne, like long matchsticks

12 watercress sprigs

12 radicchio leaves

1 ripe pear, cut in quarters lengthways, cored and thinly sliced

16 walnut halves

4 generous teaspoons homemade mayonnaise 28 capers


140g (4¾ oz)plain flour

pinch of salt

1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

100ml (3½fl oz) water

1 large egg white, beaten until quite stiff


6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon honey

sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

Celeriac, or root celery, as it is sometimes called, is a terrific vegetable. It make a marvellous soup, is great roasted or as a purée and is the essential ingredient in the classic remoulade, in which case it is eaten raw. The flavour of celeriac is milder and sweeter than the green celery we are more familiar with. These crisp fritters are served here as a main course but would also be very good as a starter, in which case the recipe would serve eight people. I use peppery watercress sprigs and radicchio leaves here, but you could substitute a mixture of leaves.


Makes 4


Make the batter for frying the fritters first. Place the flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and whisk in enough water to form a smooth batter the consistency of thick cream. Chill for 30 minutes, then fold in the stiffly beaten egg white.


Whisk all the dressing ingredients together. Taste and correct the seasoning.


When ready to cook the fritters, heat 10cm of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless steel saucepan until it reaches 180°C, or if you have a deep fat fryer, that will work perfectly.


Mix the celeriac through the batter. Gently drop four large spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil and cook until crisp and golden brown on both sides, which should take about 10 minutes in total. Remove from the oil, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven. They will remain crisp for 20 minutes or so.


To serve, place the salad leaves, sliced pear and walnuts in a large bowl and dress with the well-mixed dressing. Divide between four plates and place a fritter on top of each salad. Drop 1 teaspoon of mayonnaise on top of the fritters and scatter on the capers. Add a few grains of sea salt and serve immediately.

From Rory O’Connells “Cook Well, Eat Well” published by Gill Books, photographs by Joanne Murphy


Tart of Macroom Buffalo Ricotta with Roasted Red Onions,

Mushrooms, Thyme and Marjoram

250g puff pastry

2 medium red onions, peeled and each onion cut into 8 even-sized wedges

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

2 large sprigs of fresh thyme

sea salt and freshly ground black


100g buffalo or sheep’s milk ricotta

25g Parmesan, grated

½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 large flat mushroom

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram leaves

To serve

salad of mixed leaves

I am delighted to be able to use Irish ricotta that comes from

Macroom in County Cork, where the buffalos that produce the milk for the cheese are happily grazing on Irish grass. I find these sort of sustainable developments in Irish food production quite thrilling and I congratulate all involved who had the vision and energy to run with an idea that may have sounded hare-brained to many.


The tart can be served as a starter or as a main course and I always serve a salad of mixed leaves with a simple olive oil dressing to accompany it. The quality of the puff pastry you are using is really important for a fresh-tasting result that isn’t greasy. I always make my own puff pastry and freeze a few pieces so that I have it to hand when I need it. If you are buying puff pastry, make sure it is made with butter. The technique used here for creating a tart using puff pastry is one that can be repeated over and over again with other vegetables and fruit.


The mushroom in the recipe is one of those big flat mature mushrooms that has dark brown gills rather than the smaller ones with pink gills. The more deeply flavoured mushroom that I favour here stands up well to the robust flavour of the roasted onions and pairs well with the delicate ricotta. Serves 4


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.


Roll the pastry out and cut into a neat 22cm circle, saving the pastry trimmings for another day. Place on the lined baking sheet. To achieve a rim on the cooked tart, cut another circle 1cm in from the edge of the pastry. Your knife should pierce the pastry about 1mm deep and should be an obvious cut, not just a mark. This 1cm rim will be the risen edge of the cooked tart and will hold the vegetables in place.


Now pierce the pastry inside the 1cm rim all over with a normal table fork, making sure you feel the tines of the fork hitting the baking sheet. Do no pierce outside of the 1cm ring with your fork. The somewhat alarming holes you have created will close and reseal when it cooks. Chill the pastry until you are ready to assemble the tart.


Toss the onions in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper. Tip into a roasting tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until tender. Cool completely.


Mix the ricotta with the Parmesan, thyme leaves and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.


To assemble the tart, spread the ricotta mixture over the base, making sure not to go onto the pastry rim. Arrange the roasted onions on top. Cut the mushroom into slices 1cm thick and place cap side down, stalk side up, in a circle on top of the onions. Season the mushroom slices. If the thyme sprigs still look reasonable respectable, I pop these on top as well as I love their roasted appearance.


Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and cooked through. Add a final few grains of sea salt and the marjoram leaves and serve as soon as possible.

Christmas Presents

How do we keep the magic of Christmas alive at a time in history when we are all being mercilessly manipulated by commercial interests. Resentment is mounting, particularly among Mná na h’Éireann, the mothers, grandmothers, aunties who are feeling intense pressure to deliver on the unrealistic expectations built up by constant advertising and clever marketing. Several people recently told me that they have to resist the urge to run and hide “until it’s all over” and what they are really looking forward to most is that delicious moment after Christmas when they can punch the air and say, Hooray- thank goodness that’s over for another year – how sad is that – but hardly surprising that we feel completely frazzled instead of festive.

Some feel like screaming when they hear, yet again, the words “Black Friday” or “Cyber Monday”. How many more shopping days to Christmas …such pressure, we can’t stop the clock or halt the relentless advertising.

We all know shopping doesn’t do it….so let’s just snuggle up together, make some lists and start to cook some yummy things that we can share with family and friends. It’s really is a good feeling to know that much of the preparation is done and tucked neatly into the freezer or preserved in bottles and jars, ready for the off.  I love to have lots of soup in the freezer to defrost at a moment’s notice or to give as pressies. So I’ve chosen a variety of recipes that can be used as gifts or to enhance you and your family’s Christmas.









Angels Hair (Carrot Jam)

This unusual jam is super delicious with ham or roast pork.

600g (1 1/4lbs) carrots

500g (18oz/2 1/4 cups) caster sugar

zest of 2 large lemon, cut into strips

freshly squeezed juice of 2 large lemon

6 cardamom pods, split


Trim and scrape the carrots.  Grate on a medium sized grater.  Put into a pan with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cardamom pods.  Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then boil hard until the mixture is very thick.

Place into a warmed, sterilised jar and seal tightly.



Pear or Nashi Chutney with Lemon Verbena

Makes 4 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars


2 large onions, chopped

1 organic lemon, quartered and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seed

175g (6oz) sugar

2 cloves garlic, chopped

200ml (7fl oz) white wine vinegar

6 Conference or Nashi pears (700g/1 1/2lb) peeled and diced into 5mm (1/4 inch)

60g (2 1/2oz) sultanas

1 tablespoon lemon verbena


Put the onions into a stainless steel saucepan, add the lemon, fennel seed, sugar, garlic and white wine vinegar.

Peel, core and chop pears and add to the saucepan with the sultanas.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently stirring occasionally for 25 minutes approximately until reduced by more than half its original volume.  Add the lemon verbena and continue to cook for a further 4-5 minutes.

Pour into sterilized jars and cover.

Allow to mellow for 2 weeks before serving.  Keeps for 6 months or more.


Marie and Gustav Mandelmann’s Green Tomato Marmalade with Chilli


You may not have green tomatoes at this time of year but this recipe transforms the under-ripe Winter tomatoes into something totally delicious.   We always have masses of green tomatoes at the end of the season when it becomes colder in the Autumn and the tomatoes ripen more slowly. Really good with cold meats and pâté.



1 kg (2¼ lbs) green tomatoes

3 organic lemons

1 chilli

500 g (18 oz) sugar


Blend the tomatoes roughly, slice the lemons thinly and finely chop the chilli. Mix all the ingredients and stir in the sugar. Leave overnight. The next day bring it to the boil until it is the perfect consistency, approximately 1 hour. Put into clean sterilise jars.

Red Pepper and Tomato Chutney

Good with spiced beef, cold meats and coarse pâtes and terrines.


Makes 3 – 5 jars depending on size


8oz (225g) onion, finely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1lb (450g) very ripe red peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

4oz (110g) raisins

1 clove garlic, chopped

7oz (200g) white sugar

5fl oz (150ml) white wine vinegar


Sweat the onions in the olive oil in a tall narrow stainless steel saucepan, add the chopped peppers, salt and spices. After 10 minutes, add the tomatoes, raisins, chopped garlic, sugar and vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 1 1/3 hours or until it looks thickish. Pour into small sterilized glass jars and store in a cool dry place.

Christmas Mustard

Pot into tiny pots and label creatively

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz)


1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds

1 dessert brown mustard seeds (optional)

175ml (6fl oz) boiling water

1-2 teaspoons freshly chopped herbs: dill, tarragon, chives, parsley, chervil or a combination

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Grind the mustard seeds in a spice grinder or a food processor until fine.  Put into a small heavy bottomed saucepan with the boiling water, stir well over a low heat and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes.  It will thicken gradually.

Remove to a bowl, add the herb, seasoning and vinegar to taste.  Store in glass jars with screw tops.  Allow to mature for a few days before using.


Cheese Sablées with Sesame Seeds

A brilliant recipe for using up left over bits of cheese, add a little blue cheese if available.

Any bits of left over cheese eg. Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyére, Coolea, Cashel Blue … a little soft cheese may also be added but you will need some hard cheese to balance the flavour.


Weigh cheese then use equal amounts of butter and plain white flour.

Grate the cheese – rinds and all. Dice the butter.  Cream the butter and stir in the flour and grated cheese, form into a roll like a long sausage, about 4cm (1 1/2 inches) thick.

Roll in sesame seeds to coat the exterior.

Alternatively whizz in a food processor until it forms a dough, shape using a little flour if necessary. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 -2 hours until solid.

Slice into rounds – about 7mm (1/3 inch) thick.  Arrange on a baking tray, cook in a preheated oven 250ºC/475ºF/regulo 9 for approximately 5 minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool for a couple of seconds then transfer to a wire rack.   Best eaten warm on the day they are made as they soften quite quickly.


Charlotte’s Swedish Seed Crackers

Delicious, just with butter, cheese or smoked salmon and perfect for a present I pop some into cellophane wrap and tie them with a tartan ribbon and a sprig of holly, alternatively put them in an airtight tin and include it in the present.


Makes 48 approx.

200g (7oz) sunflower seeds

130g (4 1/2oz) pumpkin seeds

70g (2 3/4oz) flax seeds

70g (2 3/4oz) sesame seeds

2 tablespoons psyllium husk

2 tablespoons almond flour

1 teaspoon salt

450ml (15fl oz) water


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

Line the two baking trays with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together (should be the consistency of watery porridge).

Divide in half and spread as thinly as possible on parchment paper.

Sprinkle with sea salt and poppy seeds on top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 70 minutes approximately until dry.

Store in pieces in an air-tight tin.  Keep dry, pop into a hot oven for a few minutes before serving to crisp them up.

Delicious, just with butter, cheese or smoked salmon.


Lily O’Connell’s Best Ever Plum Pudding with Mrs. Hanrahan’s Sauce


It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.


It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.


This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.


12oz (350g) raisins

12oz (350g) sultanas

12oz (350g) currants

10oz (300g) soft brown sugar

12oz (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12oz (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4oz (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4oz (110g/) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl oz (62ml) Jamaica Rum


Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.


Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.


On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with

Brandy Butter.


You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding! Love to use sparklers too.



Mrs. Hanrahan’s Sauce

This recipe is so delicious that people ask to have more Plum Pudding just so that they can have an excuse to eat lots of sauce.  This makes a large quantity but the base will keep for several weeks in the fridge, so you can use a little at a time, adding whipped cream to taste.


110g (4oz) butter

200g  (7oz) Barbados sugar * (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 organic free-range egg

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) port

1.3-1.4litres (2 ¼  -2½pints) lightly whipped cream

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Refrigerate.

When needed, add the lightly whipped cream to taste.

This sauce is also very good with mince pies and other tarts.






Another irresistible present that lasts for months.


Makes 2 cakes


sunflower oil, for greasing

100g (3 1/2oz) blanched almonds – toasted

100g (3 1/2oz) blanched hazelnuts – toasted

100g (3 1/2oz) unsalted shelled pistachios

50g (2oz) whole sour cherries

50g (2oz) Lexia raisins

50g (2oz) Medjool dates, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) figs, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel, chopped (see recipe)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch ground cloves

pinch freshly grated nutmeg

100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1 cup) plain flour

pinch of salt

200g (7oz) clear honey

200g (7oz) granulated sugar

icing sugar, to serve


2 x 18cm (7 inch) round tins


Line the base of each tin with rice or parchment paper.


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


Mix the toasted almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios in a large bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit and mix well. In another small bowl, mix together the spices, flour and salt. Add to the dried fruit and nuts and mix until thoroughly combined.

Combine the honey and sugar in a medium-sized pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 115°C/240°F on a sugar thermometer.


Remove from the heat, pour into the fruit and nut mixture and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level.


Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 45–50 minutes, until firm. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Run a palette knife around the edge of the tin and carefully ease out the panforte. Dust with icing sugar to serve.


*Stored in an airtight container, panforte keeps for weeks even months but gradually gets harder!.



Mead is a honey wine and it’s super easy to make. Use raw local fresh honey.

The process of yeasts fermenting sugars into alcohol is a natural phenomenon.  It happens easily with overripe fruits, or in the case of mead, when honey is diluted in water. Use pure water

Makes  1.25 litres (2 pints)

1 part raw honey

4 parts water

Mix the honey with the water in a jar.  Stir vigorously creating a vortex in the middle.


Cover the jar with a piece of muslin or a cotton handkerchief to keep out flies and dust.  Stir vigorously several times a day.  After a few days of frequent stirring, you will notice that the honey water has bubbles on the surface.  Keep stirring, on and off,  for a few more days until the bubbles increase.  After a week or 10 days the bubbling begins to subside.  The mead is ready to drink at this stage but it will better at 3 weeks.


The quality of water is very important here so avoid chlorinated tap water.  Tap water can be de-chlorinated by simply allowing it to sit uncovered in a wide rimmed bowl overnight.










Christmas Biscuits

This dough can be used for all kinds of shapes, round, square, rectangles, stars, hearts, teddy bears, animals, birds……


Makes 20-30


175g (6oz) flour

75g (3oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1/2 – 1 egg, free-range and organic


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


Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Rub in the butter, add the caster sugar and mix well.  Beat the egg.  Mix the dry ingredients to a stiff dough with the beaten egg.

Turn out on to a floured board and roll out to a scant 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness.  Cut the biscuits with the cutter of your choice.  Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes depending on thickness.  Cool on a wire rack.

When cold, decorate as desired. Alternatively ice them together with butter cream or jam, or a simple dusting of icing sugar.


As we edge ever closer to Christmas, my desk is piled high with new cookbooks published just in time for the festive season. They are penned by a mixture of aspiring chefs and seasoned cookbook writers, packed with gorgeous photos and immensely cravable dishes, so I’ll devote this column to my 10 of my favourites and a very difficult choice that was…


David Tanis’s “Market Cooking. Recipes and Revelations, Ingredient by Ingredient” published by Artisan, is definitely one of my new ‘go to’ books; I find David’s recipes irresistible and simply have to buy every new cookbook he produces. David, who was head chef at Alice Water’s Chez Panisse in Berkley for 25 years is a gifted cook and tantalizingly talented tutor.  He cooks the sort of food that I really love to eat, honest creative and deeply flavourful.

In Market Cooking, David is encouraging those of us who do a weekly supermarket shop to change our ways. Do as he does, and discover the magic of shopping every day at a Farmers Market or a local shop, without fixed ideas, chose the freshest, most beautiful produce and cook it simply- sound familiar…..?

David lives in downtown Manhattan, not far from the Union Square Market in Greenwich Village. I’ve chosen his version of the Roman classic,  Cacio e Pepe, to share with you, it’s one of my favourite pasta dishes of all time.


Who doesn’t love Nigel Slater and his homey comfort food. “The Christmas Chronicles” published by Fourth Estate also gives us a glimpse, in fact more than a glimpse of Nigel’s childlike love of Christmas, frost and tinsel, baubles and plum pudding……love this quince and cardamom mincemeat.


Rick Stein is back on the road again. Many of you will be watching his latest TV series on BBC2, “Road to Mexico” published by BBC Books – get the book too….

Rick has got the uncanny knack of creating dishes that best illustrate a taste of that place, some classics, some with appealing twists on the originals. So many good things,  love the Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado.

Georgia, close to Russia, is high on my “must see” list of countries so I keep a keen eye on Olia Hercules. Her new book “Kaukasis” is enchanting, a journey through Georgia, Azerbaijan and beyond. She’s a born story teller and her recipes are deeply tempting. So difficult to choose ….try this comforting Khingal, one of Olia’s favourites.


“Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love”- what an irresistible title. Giorgio Locatelli, another of my favourite chefs also feels strongly that home cooking is by far the most important type of food. His latest book is packed with lots of Italian influenced gems that you’ll long to cook – Giorgio makes it all sound so effortless but as ever, the magic of simple food is in the quality of the ingredients.


Nigella’s new book, “At My Table”, a celebration of cooking at home, published by Chatto and Windus is another gem, written in beautiful prose by someone who truly loves to cook and has an extraordinary way with words. You’ll love the Beef and Aubergine Fatteh recipe, so fun to share.

Everything Helen James touches is chic, stylish and comforting. She epitomizes sophisticated Irish hygge. Look for her new book “A Sense of Home: Eat – Make – Sleep – Live”….. all kinds of brilliant tips for natural cleaning products, household management tips and inspiration for your own home as well as some recipes you’ll definitely want to try.


Award winning food write and broadcaster Tim Hayward’s “The Modern Kitchen: Objects that Shape the Way We Cook, Eat and Live” is definitely for the food geek in your life. In his latest book Tim features 70 carefully chosen kitchen implements and explores the history, beauty, aesthetics and functionality of each piece. A fresh approach, intriguing entertaining and beautifully written. Published by Quadrille.


“The Gannets Gastronomic Miscellany” by Killian Fox, and published by Mitchell Beazley is a collection of fascinating, funny and unexpected facts about food and drink. Going beyond the usual food fixations, the book is presented in a fresh, visually inventive style that will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in food.


Few outside Caís, the Irish Farmhouse cheese makers association and the cheese industry will know the name Bronwen Percival but cheese-lovers and microbiologists make a note….. Bronwen’s book “Reinventing the Wheel: Milk, Microbes, and the Fight for Real Cheese”, co-authored with Francis Percival is a very important work for all of us who know the value of good dairy and love it. Bronwen is a founder of Microbial and head cheese buyer at Neal’s Yard Dairy in London – a present for the cheese lover in your life.


Giorgio Locatelli’s Carta di muscia with bottarga and lemon

This is one of the shortest recipes in Giorgio’s latest book and one of the most delicious. Carta Musica is crisp, paper thin, Sardinian bread and I always have a couple of packets in the cupboard to make snacks or just nibble. It is particularly sublime paired with bottarga (dried mullet roe). It’s a totally delicious combination.

Serves 6 as a starter

12 carta di musica
120g (4 ¼ oz) bottarga
1 lemon, halved

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F

Put the sheets of carta di musica one on top of each other on a baking tray and put them into the oven for about 1 minute, until they turn golden in patches.

Remove from the oven and spread out the breads on a large board.

Grate the bottarga over the top and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little olive oil and black pepper.

From Giorgio Locatelli’s “Made at Home – The Food I Cook for the People I Love” published by Fourth Estate


Rick Stein’s, Crab Tacos with Chili, Lime and Avocado

serves 4 as a starter

12 x 10cm corn tortillas

250g (9 oz) white crab meat

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 green seranno or jalapeño chillies (seeds in), cut in half and sliced

16 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 little gem lettuce, finely shredded

2 limes cut into wedges

2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced

small handful of coriander, chopped



Warm the tortillas in a dry frying pan, in a microwave or in the oven.

Combine the crabmeat with the mayo.

Pile the crabmeat, chillies, tomatoes and lettuce on to the tortillas and top with lime wedges, slices of avocado and chopped coriander.

Season with salt to taste.

From Rick Stein’s The Road to Mexico published by BBC Books, photography by James Murphy.

David Tanis’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic. You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish. The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter, and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Makes 2 servings


Cook  225g ( ½ lb) linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat and add ½  teaspoon coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with ½ cup of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add 2 cups grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

From David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Evan Sung.


Nigella’s Beef and Aubergine Fattah


This is a subtly textured, richly flavoured arrangement of toasted pieces of flatbread topped with meaty aubergine and beef, a garlicky tahini-yogurt sauce, red pepper flakes, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and fresh shredded mint. I think of this rather as a refined, Middle-Eastern form of nachos.


Serves 4–6


For the base:

4 (approx. 250g/ 9oz), Pitta breads,  split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles


For the topping:

500g  (18oz) Greek yogurt

5 tablespoons (75g), Tahini, at room temperature

1-2 lemons to give 3 tablespoons of juice

2 cloves garlic peeled and minced

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, to taste


For the aubergine-beef layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small (approx. 125g) onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 (250–300g/ 9oz-11oz) aubergine cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin –

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus more for sprinkling

1-2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

500g (18oz) minced beef  


To sprinkle over:

125g (4½ oz) Pomegranate seeds

50g (2 oz) Pine nuts, toasted

1 tablespoon mint


Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.


Spread the pitta triangles out onto a large baking sheet and toast for 10–15 minutes, or until they are crisp. You don’t need them to colour, but if they do just a little here and there, that’s not a bad thing. Set the pitta triangles aside for the moment.


Beat the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes together in a heatproof bowl that will later sit over a saucepan. Taste to see if you want any more salt. Put to one side while you cook the aubergine-beef layer.


Warm the oil in a wide, though not deep, heavy-based saucepan or casserole and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, over a medium/low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and carry on cooking it, still stirring occasionally, until soft and a pale caramel colour. This will take another 4 minutes or so.


Turn the heat up to medium, tumble in the aubergine cubes and stir well to mix with the onion. Stay by the hob as you will need to stir frequently, and cook them for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.


Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each of Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes and, now over a high heat, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat while you return to the tahini-yogurt sauce.


Pour some just-boiled water into a fresh pan, enough to come about 3cm up the sides, and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the tahini-yogurt mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream.


Now for the grand assembly: arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large round plate (I use one of about 32cm in diameter). Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yogurt-tahini sauce.

Sprinkle with the Aleppo pepper (or paprika, if you’re using that) to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves.


Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

Extracted from AT MY TABLE by Nigella Lawson, published by Chatto & Windus  Copyright © Nigella Lawson 2017. Photograph copyright © Jonathan Lovekin.


Olia Hercules’s Khingal


We often perceive comfort food as something lovely yet also a little bland, unassuming. It may not blow our minds with flavour, but it gives us that feeling of safe satiety. When I tried khingal in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, it was a complete revelation to me. It did all those things that comfort food does, except it also made my eyes widen as my mouth was filled with firm pasta, crispy aromatic lamb and milky, but also oh so fresh, sauce. And then there is the butter. Pasta, spice, butter, crispy meat bits, yogurt, herbs – this dish has every single component that makes me feel safe and yet also titillates my senses, what I imagine a perfect marriage may be like.


Serves 8 as a starter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

60ml (4 tablespoons) water

200g (7oz) plain flour, plus extra if needed and for dusting

100g (3½oz) clarified butter, or 60g (2¼oz) unsalted butter and

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra for cooking the onions

300g (10½oz) coarsely minced lamb

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground

1 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly toasted and ground

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 onions, thinly sliced

200g (7oz) natural yogurt

1 garlic clove, finely grated

a little milk or water

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

1 tablespoon chopped dill

½ teaspoon ground sumac

sea salt flakes and freshly ground

black pepper

To make the dough, mix the egg and water together in a bowl, then gradually add the flour (stop if the mixture seems to be getting dry) and knead the mixture in the bowl into a dough. You should end up with a firm, elastic pasta dough, so knead in more flour if it feels too wet. Cover it in cling-film and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 15–30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F), Gas Mark 3, ready for keeping the lamb and onions warm.


Heat half the Clarified Butter or half the ordinary butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. When really hot, add half the minced lamb – you want the meat to be crispy, so overcrowding the pan is not an option here. Fry it without disturbing it too much until it starts crisping up. Add half the spices and some seasoning and cook for 1 minute, then pop into a heatproof bowl and keep warm in the oven.


Repeat with the second batch of meat.

Don’t wipe out the frying pan but add some more butter or oil and cook the onions gently until they become deep golden and luscious. Be patient – it will be worth it. Season them too and add them to the lamb keeping warm in the oven.


Roll out the pasta, either by hand or using a pasta machine, but not too thin – about 2mm (1/16 inch) thick – as you want a little bit of a bite here. Then cut the pasta into 3cm (11/4-inch) diamonds. You can let them dry out slightly while you rustle up the yogurt sauce.


You can leave this sauce simple – just mix the yogurt with the garlic and a tiny bit of salt, adding a little milk or water to loosen it up. I also like adding the chopped coriander and dill to it, as well as dusting the whole dish with sumac at the end.


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and drop in your pasta diamonds. They will be ready within 2 minutes. Check they are cooked by tasting one when they float to the top.


Drain them quickly and layer with the meat and onions, drizzling over the yogurt sauce as you go.



Tip Sometimes I stir a little bit of brown butter into the yogurt. Don’t judge me.

From Olia Hercules “Kaukasis” published by Octopus Publishing Group Ltd.


Nigel Slater’s Quince and Cardamom Mincemeat (without suet)

I feel a little sorry for those impervious to the charm of a mince pie. I want to offer them something. Calling the recipe that follows ‘mincemeat’  is stretching it a bit, but it still contains the fruits and spices of the original (many early recipes include quince in place of apple), and it smells like the classic as it cooks. But it has another appeal, that of no suet, or indeed fat of any kind. Think of it as Christmas jam. The colour is gold rather than black. It is rather good with cheese too, in the way a slice of Cheshire is good with fruit cake. Oh, and can I suggest grinding the cardamom seeds at the last minute the ready-ground stuff loses all its magic.


Makes3x 400g jars

100g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 litre (1¾ pints) water

juice of 1 lemon

500g (18oz) quinces

8 pods green cardamom

1  teaspoon mixed spice

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

200g (7oz) golden sultanas

200g (7oz) raisins

200g (7oz) currants

200g (7oz) dried apricots

100g (3½ oz) light muscovado sugar

100ml (3½fl oz) brandy or quince liqueur


You will also need 3x 400g jam jars, sterilised.


Put the caster sugar into a medium-sized saucepan, add the water and bring to the boil.

Pour the lemon juice into the syrup.

Peel the quinces, cut them into quarters, remove the core, then lower them into the pan. As soon as the syrup comes back to the boil, lower the heat to a simmer, partially cover the pan with a lid and leave for forty minutes, or until the quinces are soft but far from collapsing. Take off the heat.


Break open the cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and crush them quite finely, using a pestle and mortar or spice mill. Put them into a capacious saucepan with the mixed spice and ground cinnamon.

Add the golden sultanas, raisins and currants, then roughly chop the dried apricots and stir them in.

Pour in 400ml of the quince cooking liquor and add the brown sugar. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for twenty minutes.

Cut the quinces into small dice and add to the mincemeat. Pour in the brandy or liqueur, simmer for a further five minutes, then spoon into sterilised jars and seal.

From Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, published by Harper Collins

Wow, the food is fantastically good in Australia.

Wow, the food is fantastically good in Australia. I’ve just come back from a two week trip to promote my new book Grow Cook Nourish. A whistle-stop tour where I visited Sydney, Melbourne, Byron Bay and Tasmania. Lots of radio interviews, TV and a sell out Grow Cook Nourish dinner at Merricks General Wine Store on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne. So what’s new on the Australian food scene? It’s been over a decade since I last visited, the food was already fantastic, creative and delicious but on this visit it was even more memorable. I should say that there was nothing random about my choice of restaurants, I can’t bear to waste even one eating slot so breakfast, lunch or brunch and dinner were all carefully plotted. This piece is too short to include and wax lyrical about all of them but here are some highlights.
The most notable change was many of the top cooks and chefs are proudly incorporating lots of native ingredients into their menu and are showcasing indigenous foods. Some attribute this to the ‘Rene Redzepi effect’, the acclaimed Danish chef who changed the image of the Nordic peninsula brought his whole team to Australia in 2016. He was intrigued by the wealth of indigenous foods and the knowledge and inherited wisdom of the Aboriginal people.
On my last visit over 15 years ago, I ate witchetty grubs, mountain pepper, marrans and several other tasty bites but now there is a far greater variety, understanding and pride. I won’t easily forget Kylie Kwong’s salt bush dumplings at Billy Kwong. She and Ben Shewry of Attica in Melbourne have been proudly serving native ingredients and herbs for many years. Ben showed me around his vegetable garden at Rippon Lea Estate. Ben Shewry pays tribute to the aboriginal tradition by wrapping fish in paper bark which imparts a delicious smoky aroma.
Lennox Hastie’s food at Firedoor in Sydney was truly creative and delicious, each element even dessert was cooked on the open fire over different woods.
I had an unforgettable evening sitting at the counter chatting and watching him cook.
Still in Sydney, loved the warm oysters with horseradish cream at Ester and Gnudi with brown butter, currants and almonds at Cumulus in Melbourne, beautiful simple food handmade with superb ingredients.
When I visited Melbourne, Stephanie Alexander took me to Auburn Primary School to see one of her Kitchen Garden projects, a seriously impressive school garden. They even had a wood burning oven in the centre and a brilliantly equipped kitchen so the children could learn how to cook the wide variety of fruit and vegetables they grew. The teachers baked a pumpkin cake in my honour and sweetly shared the recipe.
Little purple society garlic flowers were everywhere even on the new seasons’ asparagus. I enjoyed Fred’s in Sydney, where one of Alice Waters prodigies from Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California has created one of the hottest tickets in town.
Always a surprise to find the seasons ‘upside down’. In Oz they are just enjoying the first of the early summer produce as we snuggle up around the fire and tuck into stews. Perhaps my most memorable meal was at Fleet in Brunswick Heads near Byron Bay. The tiny restaurant only seats 14 guests but I pleaded for a little space and Astrid , Rob and Josh squeezed me in at the counter – totally memorable food. The smoked mackerel fish pâte was inspired by a dish I enjoyed there and the radish dipped in honey and roasted sesame seed was also one of their moreish canapés.
Some say that the Aussies invented brunch, I’m not sure but they certainly do some of the most exciting and tasty brunch dishes ever. I loved Three Blue Ducks both in Roseberry and at the Farm at Byron Bay and schlepped the cookbook all the way home. I met several of our Australian students during the trip and loved the super chic Old Clare Hotel in Sydney with Jason Athertons, restaurant Kensington Social serving up some delicious food.
Hugely enjoyed my trip and Grow Cook Nourish was warmly received in Australia at t the beginning of their growing season – can’t wait to return, pity it’s sooooo far away.

Want to know more about Aboriginal culture, native and indigenous Australian foods? Seek out a copy of Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe, unputdownable…..

Gnudi with Roasted Almonds, Currants and Parmesan
Serves 6
500g (18oz) buffalo ricotta
1 organic egg yolk
30g (1 1/4oz) ‘00’ flour
30g (1 1/4oz) freshly grated Parmesan
zest of 1 small lemon
2kg (4 1/2lbs) semolina flour, for dusting

salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g (1oz) currants
25g (1oz) unskinned almonds, quartered
25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan
lots of freshly ground black pepper and flaky sea salt

Day Before
First make the gnudi.
Mix the ricotta, egg yolk, ‘00’ flour and Parmesan together in a bowl, then add the lemon zest and salt, freshly ground black pepper and mix again.

In a wide, deep baking tray or plastic container, spread out a generous layer of semolina flour, about 5mm thick.

Roll the gnudi mixture into 30balls and then lay each one on the semolina flour in a single layer, making sure they do not touch each other.

When you have used up all the mixture, completely cover the gnudi with the remaining semolina flour and chill in the fridge for 24 hours. By then, the semolina will have formed a crust on the gnudi – this helps the dumplings to hold their shape.

Next Day – just before serving.
When you are ready to cook the gnudi, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil (1 level tablespoon of salt to 8 pints of water). Dust the excess semolina flour off the gnudi (any excess semolina flour can be kept in the fridge and used again). Cook in batches, a few gnudi at a time for about 3 minutes or until they rise to the top of the saucepan, remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper. Reserve some of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, melt a little butter in a saute or frying pan. Bring to the boil, allow to bubble for a minute or two until the colour changes to hazelnut, add some of the reserved cooking water. Add the raisins and almonds. Add the drained gnudi to the pan. Toss gently, season well with freshly ground black pepper and divide between the hot plates.
Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt, some freshly grated Parmesan and add a few rocket leaves.
Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Potato Crisps and Dill or Fennel Sprigs and Flowers

A fun and delicious way to serve a fish pâté.

Serves 6-8

Cooked fresh salmon, smoked salmon, mullet, mackerel, trout or herring can be substituted in the above recipe.

110g (4oz) undyed smoked mackerel or herring, free of skin and bone
50-75g (2-3oz/1/2-3/4 stick) softened butter
1/4 teaspoon finely snipped fennel
freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2-1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste
salt and freshly ground pepper

Homemade Potato Crisps (see recipe)

sprigs of dill or fennel and flowers

First make the potato crisps (see recipe).

Next make the smoked mackerel pâté.
Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste, add freshly squeezed lemon juice and garlic. It should be well seasoned and soft. Cover and chill until needed.

To Serve
Put a generous tablespoon of smoked mackerel pâté on a small plate. Cover the entire surface with homemade potato crisps. Tuck tiny sprigs of dill (or fennel) in between the crisps and dill or fennel flowers.

Homemade Potato Crisps or Game Chips

Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce
a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers! When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes
extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying

Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

Carpaccio of Sea Bream or Haddock or Grey Sea Mullet with Salmon Eggs and Dill or Fennel Flowers

Haddock, Hake or Grey Sea Mullet are also delicious.

Serves 4

225-300g (8-10oz) very fresh sea bream, haddock or grey sea mullet, filleted
freshly squeezed organic lemon and orange juice
salmon eggs (cured salmon roe)
little sprigs of dill or fennel
dill or fennel flowers
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt

To Serve
Slice the fish very thinly down onto the skin. Arrange the slices in an over-lapping line across each of the chilled plates. Squeeze some lemon and orange juice over the top. Arrange a line of salmon eggs along the centre of the fish slices. Garnish with tiny dill or fennel sprigs and flowers. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt. Serve immediately.

Warm Oysters with Horseradish Cream and Chervil

Serves 6-8

24 Gigas oysters

Horseradish Cream (see recipe)

sprigs of chervil

First make the horseradish cream (see recipe), cover and chill.

To Serve
Preheat the oven to 250ËšC/500ËšF/Gas Mark 10.

Put the oysters into a baking tray on a bed of coarse salt. Pop into the oven and cook until the shells just pop open. Lift off the top shell. Spoon about a dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) of horseradish cream over the oyster. Top with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately. The oyster should be hot and the horseradish cream cold. Serve on a bed of seaweed or coarse salt.

Horseradish Cream

Serves 8 – 10

3 – 6 tablespoons (4-7 1/2 American tablespoons + 3-6 teaspoons) freshly grated horseradish
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) softly whipped cream

Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle. The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.

Stephanie Alexander’s Spiced Pumpkin Cake

Serves 20 approximately

350 g (12 oz) pumpkin (skinned and de seeded)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil

Pumpkin Cake
180 g (6¼ oz) dark soft brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 ml (5 fl oz) olive oil
250 g (9 oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Lemon Glaze
250 g (9 oz) icing sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Fresh thyme sprigs, (to serve)

2 x 1 lb loaf tin

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

Chop the pumpkin into 2 cm pieces. Place in a bowl with olive oil and cinnamon; give a good toss making sure all pieces are coated. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz with a food stick blender or in a magimix.

Line the loaf pan with baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick and combined. Pour in the olive oil and combine. Stir through the pureed pumpkin. Sieve over the flour and spices, stir together until all incorporated.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a medium bowl; gradually add the lemon juice until you have a thick runny consistency. Pour over the cake and decorate with fresh thyme sprigs.

This Autumn, four members of our family published cookbooks within a couple of weeks.

This Autumn, four members of our family published cookbooks within a couple of weeks. It wasn’t planned that way but it was a lovely coincidence.
My latest tome “Grow Cook Nourish” was three years in the making, but is a slight departure from my other 15 books. This one is encouraging us all to grow some of our own food. Even if you live in a high rise apartment with just a window sill or a balcony, you can grow your salad leaves year round and much more besides, but in this article I’m going to focus on Rachel’s “Home Baking” and Philip Dennhardt’s “Saturday Pizzas”. Philip who did the 12- week Certificate Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2006 is less well known than Rachel. He teaches butchery, charcuterie and pizza workshops and runs the Saturday Pizza Café at Ballymaloe Cookery School. In 2007 Philip came to us with an idea for a Pop-Up pizzeria on Saturdays and wondered whether we would be happy for him to experiment in the wood-fired oven in the Garden Café at the school. We’re always excited by a new venture and of course, said yes.

Philip hankered after those delicious pizzas he had tasted in California and was excited about incorporating the fresh organic produce from our farm and gardens with fish and shellfish from the nearby fishing village at Ballycotton. He made a pilgrimage to Italy and tasted pizzas from Rome to Naples. Back home he experimented with flours and doughs until he was happy with the crust. The result delighted us all and soon Saturday Pizzas had a cult following. There was always a Margherita and pepperoni, but also a new vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizza, reflecting the seasons. Philip is meticulous about his research, recording each week’s specials and tweaking the recipes. He is always creative and inspired by the fresh ingredients, artisan produce and foraged foods around us, and every Saturday we look forward to the specials.

One day, Philip told me that he would love to write a pizza cookbook. Now here it is, a beautifully written book that will inspire even those who have never made a pizza before to have a go. And you don’t need to own a wood-burning oven – you can get excellent results in a conventional oven. The fun continues every week at Saturday Pizzas here in Shanagarry with Philip’s carefully chosen combinations. Some are traditional, but there are some unorthodox concoctions too, such as apple and black pudding, or braised beef with BBQ sauce and pickled red onions, perhaps finished with a drizzle of homemade aioli, hoisin sauce, gremolata or tapenade and served with a salad of organic leaves with edible flowers on top. When you start making your own pizza, there’s no end to the fun. Once you have made the dough, there are many more options than just pizza. You can make calzone, sfincione, stromboli, panzerotti, piadina, sgabei … the list goes on. I hope you will be inspired by Philip to release your inner pizzaiolo.

Rachel, familiar and much loved by the fans of her TV programmes, serves up another helping of delicious sweet treats in her 15th book. Rachel loves baking and is forever dreaming up and testing new temptations. Her newest book “Home Baking” has also been enthusiastically received. It hit the shelves on October 5th and has been shortlisted for Cookbook of the Year in the Bord Gáis Irish Book awards, as has Rory O’Connell’s, Cook Well Eat Well.
Rachel like Philip highlights the importance of sourcing really good quality ingredients as the basis for real yumminess and nourishment.I ate the magnificent salted caramel peanut bar with a fine pot of tea at the Stephen Pearce Café at the weekend, I thought I’d ask Rosa for the recipe. She looked baffled and told me it comes straight from Rachel’s new book Home Baking. It’s on page 132 – worth the price of the book alone for this one recipe.

Hot Tips

The Irish Cheese Biennial Awards was held recently at the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House. Over 160 cheeses were entered including 16 brand new cheeses.
Mount Leinster Clothbound’ Coolattin was crowned the overall Supreme Champion, a superb cheddar cheese from summer milk when the cows were grazing on fresh clover rich pasture. Made by Tom Burgess on his farm near Tullow, Co. Carlow. For a full list of awards check out and let’s showcase them proudly on our Autumn and Winter cheeseboards.
A Special Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to two pioneers, Louis and Jane Grubb of Cashel Blue who have inspired so many. Jane and Louis who started to experiment in their own kitchen now run a several million euro business with the help of their daughter Sarah, her husband Sergio and a loyal and highly skilled team – an example of ‘from tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow’. Cashel Blue, is exported all over the world and could well become the next Kerrygold. A popular and well deserved award to two of the heroes and greatest innovators of the Irish farm house cheese industry.

2017 wasn’t a brilliant honey season, the mild winter confused the bees somewhat and once the temperature reaches 8 degrees, the bees tend to fly out of the hive to collect pollen. This year they were out in mid January visiting snowdrops and flowering daphne. If there’s a sudden cold snap this can be disastrous. The new season honey is in the shops and Farmers Markets now so stock up while it’s still available. I particularly love raw honey and found some from the Little Apple Farm in Co Kilkenny at the Midleton Farmers Market last weekend. I ate slice after slice of toast and honey for breakfast, nature’s bounty – super delicious. Philip Little

Santa’s coming……Excitement at Midleton Farmers Market today – Saturday 18th November, Santa arrives on the train from Cork to Midleton with his elves and will visit the Midleton Farmers Market where he will be welcomed at 1pm by Darina Allen…..Christmas Carols, treats and lots of fun.
Contact Irish Rail for tickets to travel with Santa from Kent station to Midleton or just come along to the Midleton Farmers Market.
Rachel Allen’s Spanish Cheese, Honey and Thyme Tarts
Makes 4
1 lb of Puff Pastry
Flour for dusting
1 egg
150g (5 ½ oz) rind removed Manchego cheese or other hard, matured cheese
4 teaspoons thyme leaves
2-3 teaspoons honey

baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/gas mark 6. Line the baking sheet with baking parchment. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to 22 x 35cm (8 ½ x 14 in).

Cut the rectangle in half lengthways and then in half widthways to make 4 smaller rectangles, each about 11 x 18cm (4 ¼ x 7in) (Alternatively you can make 4 round tarts; roll the pastry into a square instead of a rectangle and cut 4 circles about 14cm, (5 ½ in) in diameter – I use a saucer for this.)

Dust off the excess flour on top of the pastry, then flip the pastry pieces over and dust off again. I flip them over after cutting for a better puff around the edges. Using a small sharp knife, score an 8mm (3/8in) frame all-round the edge, cutting two-thirds of the way through the pastry. Put the pastry pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Whisk the egg with the pinch of salt to make an egg wash, then brush the egg wash over the frame, not going over the edges. Inside the frame, lay down the slices of cheese, making sure to cover the whole surface of the pastry inside the frame. Scatter ½ teaspoon of the thyme leaves over the cheese in each pastry.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and put on warm plates, then drizzle the honey thinly over the top of each tart. Scatter the remaining thyme leaves over the top, and serve.
From Home Baking by Rachel Allen, photography by Maja Smend, published by Harper Collins.

Rachel’s Peach and Almond Squares
Makes 9
175g (6oz) butter softened, plus extra for greasing
175g (6oz) caster sugar
3 eggs
175g (6oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g (3½ oz) ground almonds
5 peaches cut in half and pitted
2-3 tablespoons peach or apricot jam (optional)

20cm (8in) square cake tin with high sides.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the base and sides of the tin with baking parchment. Put the butter in a large bowl and cream it with a wooden spoon until soft, or use an electric beater on slow or a food processor. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour each time and beating well after each addition. Sift in the remaining flour and the baking powder and add the ground almonds. Fold in to combine.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top using the back of the spoon. Put 9 halves of peaches in 3 rows of 3, cut side up (there will be half a peach left over for the cook!)

Bake for 45-50 minutes until the sponge is pale golden and springy to the touch. Gently warm the jam in a small saucepan over a medium-low heat, and brush over the sponge and peaches while still warm. Serve warm or leave to cool.
From Home Baking by Rachel Allen, photography by Maja Smend, published by Harper Collins.

Philip Dennhardt’s Classic Pizza Dough
200 ml (3/4 cup + 4 teaspoons) cold water
300g (2 cups) ‘oo’ flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1⁄2 x 7g (1⁄4 oz) sachet of fast action dried yeast
1 tsp fine sea salt
Makes enough for 2 x 25 cm (10 in) pizzas

Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then add the flour on top of the water and add the yeast and salt in separate piles. Mix for 10 minutes on a medium–low speed. For the
first few minutes it will look shaggy and you might be worried that it won’t come together, but leave it be and by the end of the 10 minutes the dough should be smooth, springy and slightly sticky. Check the dough after a couple of minutes, though, to see how it’s coming along.
If it’s really dry and isn’t coming together, add another tablespoon of water. If it looks really wet, add another tablespoon of flour. Alternatively, if you don’t have a mixer, you can knead the dough by hand. Sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it by hand a few times to bring it together into a smooth, round ball that holds its shape well and springs back when you poke it. If it doesn’t pass those tests, knead it for 1–2 minutes more. Using a dough cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough in half. Pressing it firmly into the work surface, roll each piece into a smooth round, like a tennis ball. Put the dough balls on two side plates or a baking tray dusted with flour. Cover tightly with cling-film/plastic wrap or soak a clean tea towel in cold running water from the tap and wring it out really well, then cover the dough with the damp cloth. Place the covered plates or tray in the fridge for at least 6 hours, but ideally overnight or even up to 48 hours to let it have a long fermentation and a slow rise. The longer you let the dough sit in the fridge, the more flavour it will have.

Take the dough out of the fridge 1 hour before you want to cook the pizzas, making sure you keep it covered with the clingfilm/plastic wrap or damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out. When you’re ready to shape the dough, dust a pizza peel or a thin wooden chopping board generously with flour. You can either stretch the dough by hand or use a rolling pin. If you’re using a rolling pin, dust that with flour too.

Take the rested dough ball off the plate or tray using a dough cutter or a bowl scraper, making sure the dough ball stays round at this point. Place the dough ball onto the floured peel or board and dust some flour on top of the dough too. Press down the middle of the dough with your fingers, but don’t press the edge of the dough ball, as that will be the crust later. It should already look like a little pizza.
The dough is now ready to be stretched by hand or rolled.
This recipe makes two pizzas, but if you want to make more than that, here are the quantities to use for four or six pizzas. Even if you’re only making two pizzas, you can still make a bigger batch and either freeze the leftover dough, ready to go for the next time you make pizza or you could make it into the recipes for garlic bread, dough balls with garlic butter and breadsticks.
Makes 4 x 25 cm (10 in) pizzas
300 ml (10fl oz/ ½ pint) cold water
500g (18oz) (31⁄3 cups) ‘oo’ flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
7 g sachet of fast action dried yeast
2 tsp fine sea salt
Makes 6 x 25 cm (10 in) pizzas
550 ml (18 fl oz) cold water
950 g (2 lbs) ‘oo’ flour or strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
11⁄2 x 7 g (1⁄4 oz) sachets of fast action dried yeast
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
From Saturday Pizzas at Ballymaloe Cookery School by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, photographer Mowie Kay and published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Philip Dennhardt’s Tomato Sauce
Makes 800 ml

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1⁄2 carrot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 x 400 g (14oz) cans of good-quality whole plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan set over a medium–low heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and season with the salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Cover the pan and sweat the vegetables for 8–10 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook, uncovered, for just 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes on a low heat. Good-quality canned tomatoes don’t need to be cooked for very long, plus the longer you cook the sauce, the more water evaporates and the thicker it becomes, which isn’t the consistency that you want – pizza sauce should be thin but not watery.

Whizz the sauce with a hand-held blender until smooth, or you could leave it a little chunkier if that’s what you prefer. Taste and check for seasoning – add a teaspoon of sugar if the tomatoes are too bitter or acidic. The sauce is now ready to be used right away, or it will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week or it can be frozen for up to six months. This recipe makes enough sauce for five pizzas.

From Saturday Pizzas at Ballymaloe Cookery School by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, photographer Mowie Kay and published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Philip Dennehardt’s Chorizo with Blue Cheese and Rocket
2 balls of pizza dough, see Classic Pizza Dough recipe
2 handfuls of rocket/arugula
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of fine sea salt
160 ml (2/3 cup) tomato sauce, see recipe
250 g (2 cups) grated mozzarella
16 slices of dry-cured chorizo
100 g (3/4 cup) crumbled blue cheese
Makes 2 x 25 cm (10 in) pizzas
Preheat the oven to 250°C/480°F/gas mark 9 or as high as it will go. Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking tray in the oven to heat up too. Get all your ingredients and equipment ready, including taking the dough out of the fridge 1 hour before you’re ready to cook.

Place the rocket/arugula in a bowl. Drizzle with half of the oil and season with a pinch of salt (you don’t need any pepper, since the rocket is so peppery on its own). Toss to combine and coat all the leaves. This adds flavour and helps protect the greens from burning.

Stretch the pizza dough by hand or roll it out as per the instructions on pages 24–25. Sprinkle a pinch of salt evenly over the dough, then brush a little olive oil onto the rim with a pastry brush to help it turn golden. Using a ladle or big spoon, pour the tomato sauce in the centre of the dough. Spread it over the pizza in concentric circles with the back of the ladle or spoon, leaving a 2.5 cm (1 in) border clear around the edges for the crust. You only want a thin layer of sauce.
Place a big handful of the grated mozzarella in a mound in the middle of the dough. Use your palm to spread it out evenly across the pizzas, leaving the edges clear for the crust. Scatter the chorizo and crumbled blue cheese on top of the mozzarella (or if you would prefer a bit more texture, add the blue cheese later – see the introduction), aiming to get a good balance of ingredients across the pizza.

Check that there is no liquid on the peel or board or your pizza won’t slide off. Shake the board gently to see if the pizza w move. If it doesn’t, lift up the pizza with a dough cutter or spatula and sprinkle a little flour on the board until it does move easily. Slide the pizza off the peel or board onto the pizza stone or upside-down baking tray in the hot oven. Cook for 7–10 minutes, but start checking it after 5 minutes – you want the bottom and the crust to be cooked through and golden and the cheese should be melted. Take the pizza out of the oven and scatter the rocket evenly across the top. Return the pizza to the oven for only 30 seconds to 1 minute more, until the rocket has just started to wilt.

Alternatively, skip this step to keep the rocket/arugula fresh and let it wilt only slightly in the residual heat of the pizza after it comes out of the oven. Remove from the oven again and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Slice after 1 minute standing.

From Saturday Pizzas at Ballymaloe Cookery School by Philip Dennhardt and Kristin Jensen, photographer Mowie Kay and published by Ryland Peters & Small.

Pure Butter

I rarely shop in a supermarket, I know this sounds quite extraordinary but I live in the country, in the middle of a farm and we grow a lot of our own food. I’m also a big advocate of Farmers Markets and small independent local shops so my reality is kinda different.
It can be months between one visit to a supermarket and the next – having said that I love a wander around Fields in Skibbereen when I’m in West Cork, a large supermarket which still manages to keep the local shop feel and one of the few (Scally’s in Clonakilty is another) that goes out of its way to source and support local farmers, food producers and fishermen.
Hadn’t been for a while and was in search of a pound of butter to make some hollandaise sauce to embellish a fine fresh hake that I had just bought in the Skibbereen Farmers Market.

At first I thought there was no butter but eventually I found some Kerrygold and Aughadown from Drinagh Co-Op at the very end of a long run of every conceivable spread. I had passed yards and yards of dairy products, mostly, light, low fat, no fat……

What IS going on? Surely people know by now, that pure natural butter is good for us and that other edible ‘food like substances’ predominately made in laboratories are most definitely not. The myth that low fat is good for you was the biggest con of the late 20th and 21st century. That theory and false science has been thoroughly discredited.

If you only remember one thing from this article, it ought to be the following fact. We need good fat in our diet to help the body to absorb the nutrients from other foods. Only two Vitamins, B and C are water soluble, all the others are fat soluble – so what does that mean? Unless we have some fat in our diet, we cannot extract maximum nutrition from the what we eat… So that’s just one of the many reasons why low fat is detrimental to our health and why ‘surprise, surprise’, people who were put on a totally low-fat diet were found to be suffering from malnutrition, yes malnutrition after a few months.

The fat doesn’t have to be butter, it can be extra virgin olive oil, lard or beef dripping but it must be a good fat, pure and preferably organic. If you don’t believe me, do your own research and see how ever since the Keys 1961 report followed by The Dietary Goals for the United States encouraged Americans to eat less high fat red meat, eggs and dairy and replace them with more calories from fruits, vegetables and especially carbohydrates. First in the US and then everyone else seems to follow suit without ever checking their science. So for four decades, our governments, department of health, dieticians and doctors (who by the way have virtually no training in nutrition) have repeated the same dogma over and over again. It wasn’t until 2014 when the result of the meta analysis of over 80 scientific papers and research documents that we learned that there wasn’t a shred of evidence to link butter and saturated fats to cardiovascular disease, fancy that….

Meanwhile, a multi-billion dollar/euro/pound industry has been developed on the back of this false science. But the most serious element is that by now the general public have been so brainwashed into thinking that fat of any kind is public enemy No 1 that they actually can’t face it.

Desperately serious for our health. Babies and small children need lots of good fat for their brain development. It’s connected to fertility, to our energy level, concentration…..
Least there be any misunderstanding, it’s not the fault of the supermarkets, they will sell what the public want……So don’t be conned, eliminate those low-fat products totally from your diet. Mother Nature did not put fat on meat and fish to annoy us, it’s there so we can absorb the maximum benefit from the lean meat. See Weston A Price Foundation –

Where can I find Jersey Milk ?
In the Cork area, whole raw milk is available from Dan Aherne’s stall at Mahon Point (Thursday from 10am-2.30pm) and Midleton Farmers Markets (Saturday from 9am-1pm).
Raw Jersey milk, cream and handmade butter are available from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop only – open Monday to Saturday from 11am – 5.30pm

Skibbereen International Mince Pie Festival
An exciting new Christmas event. Join Tessa Perry and myself on December 2nd 2017 at the Courtyard, Mardyke Street at 2pm in Skibbereen for the Mince Pie Festival Final. €10.00 enters up to 6 mince pies. I’ll be happy to sign copies of my new book Grow, Cook, Nourish for Christmas pressies. Phone Matt on 087 245 8627 for the details

10 Great Brunch Recipe Ideas at the Ballymaloe Cookery School
More substantial than a breakfast, lighter than a full lunch, brunch is the perfect meal for enjoying quality time with family and friends and enjoying hassle-free entertaining. In this half day cookery course, we will teach many simple delicious recipes to entertain and delight, sharing with you a wonderful repertoire of brilliant brunch ideas 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. Friday November 17th 2017.

Festive Cooking with Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Grain Store
Let us help you prepare for the Christmas holidays! Join us for a fun evening on Friday November 23rd 2017 at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Grain Store. Proceeds to support the Cork Quaker Meeting’s project to renovate and extend its Meeting House. Tickets €25.00. For more info or to buy tickets mail or phone Denise at 085-7285287.

Roast Haddock or Hake with Red Pepper Sauce
This is a super rich sauce with a sublime flavour, it makes any fish into a feast. The technique for roasting fish is one we all need in our repertoire – really quick and easy….. Serve naked or with any sauce you fancy.

Serves 4 – 6 as a main course

1 1/2 lbs (675g) haddock, hake or ling, carefully trimmed of skin and membrane
Butter or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 red pepper
5ozs (150g/1 1/4 stick) butter (preferably unsalted)
8 fl ozs (250ml/1 cup) cream

Sprigs of flat parsley or chervil

Cut the fish into 4oz or 6oz portions, refrigerate until needed.
Seed the red pepper and dice the flesh into neat 1/8 inch (3mm) cubes. Sweat gently in 1 teaspoonful of butter in a small covered pot on a low heat until soft (it’s really easy to burn this so turn off the heat after a few minutes and it will continue to cook in the pot).
Put the cream into a saucepan and gently reduce to about 3 tablespoons (4 scant American tablespoons) or until it is in danger of burning, then whisk in the butter bit by bit as though you were making a Hollandaise sauce. Finally stir in the diced red pepper. Thin with a very little warm water if necessary and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/regulo 9.
Arrange the skinless fillets on a baking tray, brush with melted butter or a little extra virgin olive oil. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for 4 – 6 minutes depending on the thickness.

To serve
Arrange the fish on warm individual plates. Coat each piece with the red pepper sauce. Garnish with sprigs of flat parsley or chervil and serve immediately.

Buttered Shrimps or Prawns with Bretonne Sauce

Shrimps are in season at the present. Another gorgeous herby butter sauce, quick and easy to make and also delicious with other fish even the humble mackerel.

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

2 lbs (900g) shrimps or prawns

4 pints (2.3 litres/10 cups) water
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) salt

Bretonne Sauce
1 eggs yolk, preferably free range
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbs)
1 tablespoon fresh herbs – mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped or as a last resort just parsley
75g (3ozs/3/4 stick) butter, melted

Flat parsley or fresh fennel

1oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter

Bring 2.3litres of water to the boil. Add 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of salt, toss in the live or very fresh shrimps, they will change colour from grey to pink almost instantly. Bring the water back to the boil and cook for just 2-3 minutes. The shrimps are cooked when there is no trace of black at the back of the head. Drain immediately, and spread out on a large baking tray to cool.

Next make the Bretonne Sauce.
Whisk the egg yolks with the mustard and herbs in a small pyrex bowl. Bring the butter to the boil and pour it in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens to a light coating consistency as with a Hollandaise.
Keep warm in a flask or place the bowl (not stainless steel) in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water.

Just before serving, peel the shrimps or prawns. Toss in foaming butter in a frying pan until heated through. Heap them onto a hot individual warm plates. Coat with the sauce. Garnish with flat parsley or fresh fennel and serve immediately.

Baked Plaice, Dover Sole with Herb Butter

This is a very simple ‘master recipe’ which can be used not only for plaice and sole but for all very fresh flat fish, e.g. brill, turbot, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it can a starter or a main course. Because it is cooked on the bone the flavour is superb. It is also delicious with Hollandaise Sauce, Mousseline or Beurre Blanc.

Serves 4

4 very fresh plaice or sole on the bone

Herb Butter
2-4 ozs (50-110g/1/2 – 1 stick) butter
4 teaspoons mixed finely-chopped fresh parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/regulo 5.

Turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin. Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs. Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut). Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them. Serve immediately.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream with Raisins and PX
Really good cream makes really good ice cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base with softly whipped cream. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips or muscatel raisins soaked in rum, finish the ice cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

Put a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream into a glass or a cappuccino cup, top with a shot of espresso and serve immediately. Yummeee

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding with softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on a cold winter’s day. Make it with whole milk and you’ll need to use short-grain rice which plumps up as it cooks. This is definitely a forgotten pudding and it’s unbelievable the reaction we get to it every time we make it at the Cookery School. It’s always the absolute favourite pudding at my evening courses.

Serves 6–8

100g (31⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)
40g (1 1/2oz/scant 1/4 cup) sugar
small knob of butter
850ml (1 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups) whole milk

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint/5 cups) capacity pie dish

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

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1–1 1/2 hours. The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk, but still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time it so that it’s ready for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

School Lunch Box Suggestion

Apple Fritters

Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadn’t had these for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan. You can add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the sugar to toss the apples in for extra flavour.

Serves 6–8


110g (4oz) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz) milk

good-quality vegetable oil, for frying

450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

225g (4oz) caster sugar


Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1⁄4in). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar. Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.

SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh

Ask any of my Certificate Course students where they would like to work when they finish their stint at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – at least a quarter will sigh wistfully and mention Ottolenghi and indeed many of my past students have worked there and loved their experience.

Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israeli-British chef, restaurateur, deli owner and bestselling food writer has won all our hearts with his chic and delicious food.
Sumac, zatar, pomegranate molasses are stocked in virtually every supermarket. Frekkah, mahleb, dried limes, rose petals and pistachios are also familiar ingredients to virtually all keen cooks – the ‘Ottolenghi effect’ but for many it’s the irresistible huge billowy meringues, luscious cakes, fancy friands, dainty financiers and pastries that they lust after.

Recipes for some of these specialties are sprinkled through Yotam’s earlier books, Ottolenghi The Cookbook, Jerusalem, Plenty, Plenty More…he and his business partner Sami Tamimi also have an uncanny knack for displaying the food, so it is beyond irresistible. They use beautiful ingredients, no grey or fawn food, it’s all super colourful and most importantly it is super delicious. In his latest book SWEET, Yotam has teamed up with Malaysian born, Helen Goh, a doctor of psychology, who was head pastry chef at Donovan’s, a landmark restaurant in a suburb of Melbourne and well known for its delicious cakes. A friend tipped off Yotam that Helen was coming to London and the rest is history.

Yotam and Helen have collaborated and meticulously tested recipes for over two years and the end result is SWEET, the book that his legions of fans have been waiting for…..110 innovative recipes. The advance publicity promised ‘it will bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, figs, pistachio and cardamom to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.’

This is one of those rare books that you’ll want to cook your way from cover to cover and how about all that sugar…well, Yotam and Helen feel that there’s nothing wrong with a bit of sugar and baking some sweet treats from time to time. Mummy always had something homemade in the tin to serve with a cup of tea when friends dropped in, which was often…..

However there’s a lot wrong with gorging on stuff with a million ingredients that you haven’t made yourself and can’t even pronounce half of the long list of ingredients.
So difficult to choose what to include in this column but here’s a few temptations to make you want to rush to your local book shop to secure your very own copy – also a perfect present for a sweet toothed friend. You’ll have to buy the book to get the recipes for Love cakes, frozen espresso parfait for a crowd and chocolate tart with hazelnuts, rosemary and orange…these could well become their favourite dinner party desserts.

Hot Tips
‘Saturday Pizza’ Masterclass at the Ballymaloe Cookery School with
Bed and Breakfast at Ballymaloe House
Join Philip Dennhardt at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday 10th November and enjoy a three hour Pizza Masterclass. Philip will take you through all the basic ingredients from making dough, getting the best results from your oven and delicious ways to use classic and contemporary toppings.
Following Philip’s Pizza class, check in to Ballymaloe House on the same evening and enjoy a 5 course dinner in the charming surroundings of the house & gardens.
Dinner, bed & breakfast with Philip’s Pizza Masterclass from €275.00 per person sharing. or

Check out Listowel Food Fair, one of the originals and still one of the best. It runs from 9th -12th November 2017. See the website for lots of info on competitions, cooking, tasting, family fun, a farming seminar and lots more….

Find of the Week:- . I’ve just discovered the delicious smoked black and white pudding from The Smokin’ Butcher, Hugh Maguire based in Ashbourne, Co Meath – love it for breakfast and we’ve all being enjoying it as a starter with caramelised apple and grainy mustard sauce. Tel: – 086 893 9964

Wild Food of the Week:- Burdock can be found in woodland and on waste ground. The leaves and stalks can be boiled and eaten with melted butter in spring time but right now burdock root can be peeled and boiled in salted water, sautéed in butter, much like Jerusalem artichokes.

School Lunch Box Suggestion: – Pumpkin soup, fill a flask with pumpkin soup as part of a warm and comforting school lunch, add a couple of brown scones.

Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6 approximately

560g (1 1/4lb) pumpkin, preferably organic, chopped
45g (1 1/2oz) butter
110g (4oz) onion, chopped
140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1.1Litre (2 pints/5 cups) homemade light chicken or vegetable stock
62ml (2 1/2fl oz/generous 1/4 cup) creamy milk, (optional)
2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

a little lightly whipped cream

Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx.

Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour the soup into the liquidiser. Add the freshly chopped thyme, purée until smooth. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning

Garnish with a speckle of the whipped cream.

Ottolenghi’s Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs
This is a stunning dessert for a special occasion. Pavlova is the dessert to make when you have a bit of time and are feeding people you adore. The recipe calls for flaked almonds but you can easily substitute those with chopped pistachios.

Serves 10-12 (it’s quite rich, so the slices are not too big)

20 g flaked almonds
50 g dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
600 g fresh figs, cut into 1 cm discs
3 teaspoons honey

125 g egg whites (from 3 large eggs)
125 g caster sugar
100 g dark muscovado sugar
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

Praline Cream
50 g flaked almonds
80 g caster sugar
2 tablespoons water
200 ml double cream
400 g mascarpone

Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°F/gas mark 3.

Spread out all the almonds (for both the pavlova and the praline, 70g) on a baking tray and toast for 7-8 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven, divide into two piles (20 g for the pavlova, 50 g for the praline) and set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C/100°F/gas mark ½. Cover a baking tray with baking parchment and trace a circle, about 23cm in diameter, onto the paper. Turn the paper over so the drawn –on circle is facing down but still visible.

First make the meringue:- pour enough water into a medium saucepan so that it rises a quarter of the way up the sides: you want the bowl from your electric mixer to be able to sit over the saucepan without touching the water. Bring the water to a boil.

Place the egg whites and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk by hand to combine. Reduce the heat under the saucepan so that the water is just simmering, then set the mixer bowl over the pan, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bow. Whisk the egg whites continuously by hand until they are warm, frothy and the sugar is melted, about 4 minutes, then transfer back to the electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place and whisk on a high speed for about 5 minutes until the meringue is cool, stiff and glossy. Add the cinnamon and whisk to combine.

Spread the meringue inside the drawn circle, creating a nest by making the sides a little higher than the centre. Place in the oven and bake for 3 hours, then switch off the oven but leave the meringues inside until they are completely cool: this will take about 2 hours. Once cool, remove from the oven and set aside.

Place the chocolate into a small heatproof bowl and set it over a small saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. Cool slightly, and then brush the chocolate inside the meringue nest, leaving the top and sides bare. Do this gently, as the meringue is fairly delicate. Leave to set for about 2 hours.

Next make the praline: place the 50 g toasted almonds on a parchment lined baking tray (with a lipped edge) and set aside. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and place over a medium low heat, stirring until the sugar has melted. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally until it turns a dark golden brown. Pour the cream over the nuts (don’t worry if they’re not all covered) and leave until completely cool and set. Once cool, transfer the praline to the small bowl of a food processor and blitz until fine.

Place the cream, mascarpone and blitzed praline in a large bowl and whisk for about 1 minute, until stiff peaks form .be careful not to over whisk here – it doesn’t take much to thicken up or it will split. If this begins to happen, use a spatula to fold a little more cream into the mix to bring it back together. Refrigerate until needed.

To assemble:- spoon the cream into the centre of the meringue and top with the figs. Warm the honey in a small saucepan and stir through the 20 g almonds (or pistachios). Drizzle these over the figs and serve.

Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press

Ottolenghi’s Mont Blanc Tarts
Makes 8

You will need eight mini fluted tins, about 8-9 cm wide and 2-3cm deep. Alternatively you can make this in one large fluted tart tin, around 25 cm wide and 3 cm deep.

The pastry can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge (wrapped in cling film) until ready to roll. It can also be frozen for up to 2 months. The candied pecans can be made up to 5 days in advance and kept in an airtight container.

Once assembled the tarts are best eaten on the day they are baked.

Flaky Pastry
200 g plain flour
120 g unsalted butter, fridge cold, cut into 1 cm dice
30 g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons ice cold water

Candied Pecans
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
1 tablespoon caster sugar
120 g pecan halves
1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt

60 g dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
320 g sweetened chestnut spread (we use Clement Faugier; whichever brand you use just make sure that it is not the unsweetened variety)

Vanilla Whipped Cream
300 ml double cream
1 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon brandy

For the pastry: place the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz a few times, until it is the consistency of fine breadcrumbs, then add the vinegar and water. Continue to work for a few seconds, then transfer to your work surface. Shape into a ball and flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

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

To line the tart cases:- allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes (if it has been in the fridge for more than a few hours) and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough to about 3 mm thick and cut out eight circles, 14 cm wide. Re roll the dough if necessary to get eight circles. Transfer one circle at a time to the 8-9 cm wide and 2-3 cm deep fluted tins and gently press the pastry into the corners of the tart tin: you want it to fit snugly and for there to be a decent amount of pastry hanging over the edge of the tart case, as the pastry can shrink a little when baked. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

To blind bake the tart cases: line the pastry bases with baking parchment or paper liners and fill with baking beans. Bake for 18 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown at the edges. Remove the beans and paper and cook for another 8 minutes until the base is golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the tray. Once cool, trim the pastry (so that it c can be removed from the tray) and set aside until ready to fill.

Increase the oven temperature to 210°C/190°C/gas mark 6. Line a baking tray (with a lipped edge) with baking parchment and set aside.

To make the candied pecans: put the maple syrup, glucose and sugar into a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir gently until the sugar has melted, then add the pecans and salt. Stir so that the nuts are coated in syrup, then tip the nuts on to the lined baking tray. Place in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until the syrup is bubbling around the nuts. Remove the tray from the oven and set aside until completely cooled. When the nuts are cooled, the glaze should be completely crisp, if not return them to the oven for a few more minutes. Once cooled, break or roughly chop the nuts into 0.5cm pieces and set aside until ready to use.

Make the filling:- when you are ready to assemble, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted, then use a pastry brush to line the inside of the each case with the chocolate. Set aside for about 30 minutes, to set, then fill with enough chestnut spread so that it rises about halfway up the sides of the tart cases.

For the vanilla whipped cream, pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Add the icing sugar, vanilla extract and brandy and whisk on a high speed for 1 minute, or until medium soft peaks form.

Divide the whipped cream between the tarts, so that it is slightly domed on top of the chestnut spread. Sprinkle the candied pecans generously on top – you might have a tablespoons or two left over, but these can be saved to munch on, to sprinkle over your next bowl of breakfast granola or porridge. Serve.

Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press

Ottolenghi’s Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnuts and Rose Water

The cake is best eaten on the day it is made. Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge, wrapped in cling film, where it will keep for up to 2 days. Remove from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving so that it is not fridge cold.

Serves 8

For the Cake
120 g walnut halves
6 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
215 g caster sugar
215 g dark cooking chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped or broken up
2½ teaspoons instant coffee granules
50 ml hot water

Caramelised Walnut Topping
30 g caster sugar
40 g walnut halves, roughly chopped

Rose Water Cream
380 ml double cream
2½ tablespoons icing sugar
1½ tablespoons rose water (not rose essence)

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

Grease a 35 cm x 25 cm Swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment, then set aside.

Spread 120 g walnuts out on a baking tray and roast for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop and set aside until assembling the cake. Increase the oven temperature to 200°C/180°F/gas mark 6.

To make the cake:- place the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on a medium high speed and with the machine still running, gradually add the sugar. Continue to beat until the mixture is thick, lighter in colour and trebled in volume.

While the yolks are beating, place the chocolate pieces in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Place the coffee granules in a small cup and dissolve in 50 ml of hot water. Add the coffee to the chocolate and stir gently (it will seize up if you stir too often or too vigorously) until the chocolate has completely melted. Turn off the heat and fold the yolk and sugar mix into the chocolate mixture in three batches.

Place the egg whites in a clean bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Whisk on a high speed until stiff peaks form, and then fold gently into the chocolate mix. Scrape the mixture into the tin, spreading over the surface so that it is even. Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean, then set aside to cool completely.

To caramelise the walnuts:- line a small baking tray (with a lipped edge) with baking parchment. Place the sugar and 40 g of walnuts in a small sauté or frying pan and cook over a medium high heat until the sugar begins to melt and turn a pale amber colour. Use a spatula to stir the walnuts and sugar together, so that the walnuts are evenly coated. Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until the caramel is a dark amber and the walnuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and pour onto the lined tray. Set aside to cool, then roughly break any clumps of walnuts into smaller pieces. You can make these in advance and store them in an airtight container.

To make the rose water cream:- once the cake is cool, place all the ingredients for the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Whip until soft peaks form, then set aside in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.
Turn the cooled cake out onto a chopping board and remove the tin and paper. Place a second chopping board on top of the cake and flip it back over so that the crust side of the cake is facing upwards.
Trim about 0.5cm off the short edges of the cakes, then cut the sponge into three even pieces, each about 25 x 11 cm. carefully transfer one piece of cake onto a serving platter and spread one third of the rose water cream evenly over the surface of the cake. Sprinkle half the roasted walnuts over the cream and place another layer of sponge on top. Repeat with the cream and remaining walnuts, then place the final layer of sponge on top. Dollop and spread the remaining cream on top of the cake. Sprinkle the caramelised walnuts on top of the cream and serve.

Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press

Ottolenghi’s Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines

Traditionally, madeleines are best eaten as close to coming out of the oven as possible. The beating together of the eggs and sugar makes them super light and fluffy, but it’s all the air incorporated into them that also makes them dry out so quickly, if left to sit around for too long.
Here, untraditionally we forgo all the beating and just place the ingredients in a food processor. Mixing them this way means that the resulting madeleines won’t be quite as light as those made by hand whisking, but they’re every bit as delicate and buttery as you’d hope. We love the saffron here, but the spice is not to everyone’s liking so you can leave it out, if you prefer and focus on the orange and honey instead.

Makes about 22

90 g unsalted butter, plus an extra 20 g, melted for brushing
2 teaspoons honey, plus an extra 3 tablespoons for glazing
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, optional
2 large eggs
75 g caster sugar
Scraped seeds of ¼ vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of 1 small orange (1 teaspoon)
90 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
20 g shelled pistachio kernels, finely blitzed

Place the butter, honey and saffron threads (if using) in a small saucepan over low heat until butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to come to room temperature.
Place the eggs, sugar, vanilla seeds and orange zest in a food processor and mix until smooth and combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl, then add to the egg mixture.

Pulse a few times, just to mix in, and add the cooled butter, honey and saffron mixture. Process once more to combine, then pour the batter into a small bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°F/gas mark 6. If you are using metal madeleine trays, brush the moulds with melted butter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Silicone trays should not need any greasing or flouring, but you can lightly brush with a little melted butter if you like. Tap to ensure that all the moulds are dusted and then shake off the excess flour.
Spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter into each mould; it should rise two-thirds of the way up the sides of the moulds. If you only have one madeleine tray, place the remaining batter in the fridge until you have baked the first batch. You will need to wash and dry the mould completely before greasing and flouring again and repeating with the second batch.

Bake for 9–10 minutes until the madeleines are beginning to brown around the edges and they spring back once the tapped lightly in the middle. Remove the tray (s) from the oven and set aside for a minute before releasing the cakes. The best way to do this, with a metal tray is to go around the edges of each madeleine with a small knife or spatula (to make sure they are not stuck) and then tap the edge of the tray on the bench until they fall out. With a silicone tray they should just fall out of their moulds. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool.

Pile the blitzed pistachios on to a plate in a straight line and set aside. Melt the 3 tablespoons of honey in a small saucepan until very runny, then brush lightly over the shell patterned side of one madeleine. With the shell side facing down towards the nuts, roll the narrower end of the madeleine along the pile of pistachios so that you have a straight 1 cm strip of pistachios at the base of the madeleine. Repeat with the remaining madeleines and place on a serving platter, nut side up.
Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh published by Ebury Press

Ottolenghi’s Coconut Almond and Blueberry Cake

This cake is super simple and wonderfully moist. It’s also versatile, happy to be served warm for dessert with some double cream poured over or at room temperature when it’s time for tea.
This cake will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container or wrapped in aluminium foil. It also freezes well for up to a month.

Serves 10-12

180 g ground almonds
60 g desiccated coconut
250 g caster sugar
70 g self raising flour
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
200 g unsalted butter, melted, then set aside to come to room temperature
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 teaspoons)
200 g fresh blueberries
20 g flaked almonds

Grease and line a 23 cm round cake tin. preheat the oven to 180°C/160°F/gas mark 4.

Place the almonds, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to aerate and remove the lumps.

Place the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk lightly. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk again until well combined. Pour this in the dry mix and whisk to combine. Fold in 150 g blueberries, then pour the mixture into the tin. sprinkle the last of the blueberries on top, along with the flaked almonds, and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Keep a close eye on it towards the end of cooking, the relatively large number of eggs in the mix means that it can co from still being a little bit liquid in the centre to being well cooked in just a few minutes.
Set aside for 30 minutes before inverting out of the tin, remove the baking parchment and place the cake the right way up on a serving plate. It can either be served warm with cream or set aside to cool.

Taken from SWEET by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, published by Ebury Press

Slow Food International Congress in Chengdu in China

The seventh Slow Food International Congress was held recently in Chengdu in China, the capital of the province of Sichuan. The UNESCO capital of Gastronomy and now officially a Slow Food City.
China was honoured to be chosen as a venue for the Congress which focused on the impact of climatic change on countries and communities around the world. Banners were erected throughout the city of 14 million people to welcome the 500 delegates from 90+ countries. The strong message “Change your Food – Stop Climate Change”.

For whatever reason or reasons, climate change is a reality – it’s probably part cyclical but there’s no doubt that many elements of modern day living contribute to the problem not least our present industrial food system which is estimated to produce 40% plus of all the greenhouse emissions.

It was also painfully obvious that many of the countries like Bangladesh, Senegal, Kenya, Moritania, Burkino Faso, that are experiencing the greatest impact of climate change did little or nothing to contribute to the problem. It will be our present 10 year olds and younger who will have to cope with the devastation our generation has contributed to with reckless abandon.

Chengdu is famous for its Giant Panda breeding program which we visited but I’ll concentrate on food in this column.
Chengdu and the province of Sichuan have the most bio diverse cuisine of any region in China. We ate brilliantly from the time we arrived till we left a week later. A small group of Slow Food delegates who signed up for pre congress trips were fortunate to be granted access to places not normally open to westerners including the venue where the original spicy Pixian Doobanjiang or Douban sauce is made. This feisty chilli sauce is described as the soul of Sichuan food and it becomes pretty addictive, a quintessential Chinese flavour.

It’s been made since 1666 between the end of the Ming and the beginning of the Qing dynasties. During the Huguang Tian Sichuan migration at that time, one of the Chen family ancestors discovered that the fava beans they were bringing with them as the staple had gone mouldy so rather than throw them away they decided to try to dry them in the sun. The emperor tried with them with lots of chilli and discovered it was a brilliant combination so out of that was born the fermented sauce that’s now a fundamental condiment in Sichuan food. From there we went to visit the Sichuan Museum the only one of its kind in China. It was situated in a beautiful garden and apart from an intriguing collection of cooking implements dating back almost 3,000 years it had a fantastic restaurant and houses the Kitchen God Zaotang to whom we all bowed and offered incense in the traditional way.

We ate 10 or 12 dishes and one was more delicious than the last. I particularly remember a silky bean curd with chilli sauce, roasted peanuts and coriander.
The Chengdu Spice Market was another highlight. Stall after stall piled high with spices. Sichuan peppercorns, both green and red, cassia, cardamom, lots of medicinal spices, tons of chilli peppers, dried mushrooms – wood ears, shiitake, enoki….dried cuttle fish, dried shrimps, dried scallops, dried bean curd, sea cucumbers, sacks of brown, white and black rice, soya beans and a multitude of grains, nigella seeds and vats of fermented vegetables and sauces. We had lunch in the Tibetan Quarter an area, jam packed with tea rooms and little shops selling Buddha artefacts, prayer books and fine teas.

In a traditional Tibetan restaurant, we ate yak in lots of different ways and at last I got to taste yak milk with butter, definitely an acquired tasted but I loved it. Several very complex dishes including a yak blood sausage with star anise and chilli. Lots of chilli around here and Sichuan food is known to be particularly spicy. We also visited some organic farmers about three and a half hours north of Chengdu which gave us an opportunity to see the Chinese countryside.

We stopped at a motorway café for a ‘comfort break’, fascinating to see what was for sale in the supermarket. Lots of edible ‘food like substances’ and cooked chicken feet, drumsticks and pig snouts in little packets like tayto crisps to snack on…. Both in restaurants and in the food areas of shops, all the staff seem to wear masks…very off putting…Later our tour organisers told us were the first group apart from a CNN crew to get permission from the government to go to this area…eventually we go to the farm of Sun Wenxiang and his family near Qilong Village in Hongyha-Xian county.

Street food and night markets in Asian Cities always intrigue me; one gets a real taste of the country. Here in China, they are very keen on offal, chicken feet, rabbit, duck and chicken heads are everywhere, pig tails and snouts are favourites, necks and gizzards. In a motorway café, vac packed chicken feet, pig snouts and drumsticks were available alongside potato crisps. We ate in a variety of restaurants; we scarcely ate anything twice except a steamed aubergine dish they call fish fragrant aubergines, a famous Sichuan recipe that I love.
The City of Chengdu pulled out all the stops for the 500 Slow Food delegates. At every dinner there was amazing entertainment dancers in elaborate costumes, singers, magicians….Carlo Petrini of Slow Food International thanks the city of Chengdu for the warm welcome and generous hospitality but didn’t mince his words about climatic change and the importance of supporting and rewarding those who look after the land and produce nourishing food to keep people healthy. No healthy city without a healthy countryside.

Hot Tips
Connect with the Slow Food Network around the world…..become a Slow food Member, simply log on to

Pop Up Supper Club at Ballymaloe House
Beautiful Sumayya Usmani was born and raised in Karachi in Pakistan. She is recognised by BBC Good Food as the UK’s ‘go-to’ expert for Pakistani cuisine. Sumayya who is an internationally published food writer, author and cookery teacher will be hosting the Supper Club and has chosen an exciting Pakistani inspired menu for all of us to enjoy. Places limited, booking essential. Tel: 021 4652531 Wednesday 8 November – €75 pp

Gluttony Bakery, Blackrock in Dublin make a wide variety of gluten free sandwiches, scones, traybakes, brown soda bread, dairy free white loaf ……. One can also order celebration cakes with dairy free options; people rave about the dairy free chocolate fudge cake. Check out their facebook page

Chengdu Chicken Broth

My favourite Chinese breakfast.

Serves 6 approx

Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints/15 cups)

2–3 chickens, raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both plus giblets from the chicken (neck, heart, gizzard – save the liver for a different dish)
1 large onion, sliced
4 spring onions or 1 leek, split in two
2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
a few parsley stalks
a large sprig of thyme
6 peppercorns
1 inch (CM) piece of ginger, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper

A selection of cooked rice or flour noodles
greens, bok choi, garland chrysanthemum leaves
cuttle fish balls
beef balls (optional)

Sliced spring onions
Coarsely chopped fresh coriander
Chilli sauce from mild to super hot
Peanuts, chopped

Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints/17 1/2 cups) cold water. Do not add salt.
Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat.

Prepare a selection of additions and condiments in separate bowls. Bring the broth to the boil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a portion of chosen noodles, then a selection of greens which will wilt in the simmering broth. Add a couple of dumplings and fish or beef balls if using. Allow to heat through. Transfer to a deep bowl. Add topping of your choice, spring onions, coriander, chilli sauce, peanuts… with chop sticks and a Chinese spoon.

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines
Fuchsia, author of seven books and an engaging speaker was brought over by the Chinese government to speak to the Slow Food delegates about Sichuan’s food

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

600 g aubergines
cooking oil for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuan’s chilli bean paste, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced
Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.
In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).
Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

From Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Cold Chicken with a Spicy Sichuan’s Sauce

Serves 2-4

About 3/4 lb (300–350g) cold, cooked chicken, without bones
3 spring onions
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinkiang (brown rice) vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chicken stock
3–4 tablespoons chilli oil with 1/2 tablespoon of its sediment (or more, if you wish)
1/4–1/2 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut or tear the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-sized strips or slivers and place them in a deep bowl. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices. Mix them and the salt with the chicken.
If using sesame seeds, toast them gently in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip out into a small dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
When you are ready to eat, pour the sauce over the chicken, and mix well with chopsticks or salad servers. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Taken from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Sisters’ Dumplings
These sweet or savoury dumplings, which are served in little bamboo steamers, are named in honour of two pretty sisters who sold them around the Fire Temple, Huogongidian, in the early 1920s.

Makes about 20 dumplings

For the dough
225 g (8 oz) glutinous rice flour
2 tablespoons rice flour

For the savoury dumplings
1 dried shitake mushroom
1 small piece fresh ginger, unpeeled
50 g (13/4 oz) minced pork
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Light soy sauce
Salt and pepper

For the Sweet Dumplings
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons plain flour
A few grains of red yeast rice (a natural food colouring or drops cochineal, optional)

To make the savoury stuffing, soak the shiitake in hot water from the kettle for at least 30 minutes. Crush the ginger with the side of a cleaver blade and put into a small cup with a little cold water to cover. Chop the drained and squeezed shiitake finely and mix with the pork. Stir in the Shaoxing wine and sesame oil and season to taste with soy, salt and pepper. Add just enough of the ginger fragrant water to make a paste.

To make the sweet stuffing, toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over a gentle heat until fragrant, taking care not to burn them. Place in a mortar with the peanuts and crush finely. Moisten the sugar with ½-1 teaspoon of cold water, then add the nuts and the flour. You should end up with a stiff paste.

Line a steamer with a piece of clean muslin.

To make the dough, combine both rice flours with enough cold water to make a stiff, putty-like paste.

Roll the dough into sausages and break off walnut sized pieces. Take a piece in your hand, roll into a sphere, then flatten gently and make an indentation in the centre. Place a little of one of the stuffings in the indentation, and draw up the edges of the dough to enclose it. Roll the sweet filled dumplings into globes and place a dot of cochineal or a few red rice grains on top, if desired. Roll the meat filled dumplings into globes and then draw up the top of the dough into a pointy tip.
Place the finished dumplings in the steamer and steam over a high heat for 8-10minutes. Serve immediately.

Taken from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Comfort Eating

How quickly the evenings are closing in and now there’s a proper excuse to light a crackling fire, cuddle up in an armchair and tuck into a big bowl of comforting stew or colcannon with a nice lump of beautiful butter melting in the centre.

One doesn’t need a special reason to enjoy comfort food, we need it all the time but the term comfort food conjures up warm and fuzzy images of rich snooze inducing dishes. They certainly don’t have to be heavy or stodgy. We all have our own ideas of what constitutes comfort food. Risotto is high on my list and so is a super creamy mac and cheese or meat balls….chicken pilaff, a recipe I learned from Myrtle Allen when I came to Ballymaloe is another family favourite. It’s delicious, unctuous, creamy sauce flavours the pilaff rice to create one of the most comforting meals you can imagine. We used to make it from what we affectionately called an ‘old hen’, a bird of approximately two years which was coming to the end of its laying career with lots of flavour. We would give it an honourable end in a chicken pilaff and the French would have celebrated its life in a rich and flavoursome Coq au vin….

And then there’s broth – oh how I love broth, particularly in Winter, I often sneak into the larder in the Cookery School and fill myself a pint glass of chicken broth, I butter a slice of white yeast bread – must be white, slather it with butter and tear it into the glass – bet you are shocked but it is the best thing ever and so comforting, restorative and nutritious. One pot dishes also fit the bill and are so much less hassle to serve when you are whacked at the end of a busy day. Maybe it’s because we’re kinda sad that the summer is finally over that the craving for a big plate of comfort strikes more often.

Pasta too, particularly an unctuous one with a rich and creamy meat sauce has immense appeal. Here are a few suggestions to comfort you and all the family this week.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of our family’s favourite supper dishes, loved by everyone from the toddlers to Gran’s and Grandda’s. We love it just as it is but you can of course add whatever you fancy to the sauce….some cubes of cooked bacon, ham or chorizo, maybe some smoked fish or cauliflower florets with the cooked macaroni.

8 ozs (225g) macaroni
6 pints (3.4 litres/15 cups) water
2 teaspoons salt

2 ozs (50g/1/2 stick) butter
2 ozs (50g/1/2 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 1/2 pints (850ml/3 3/4 cups) boiling milk
1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) freshly chopped parsley, (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We love the mature Derg Cheddar from Co Tipperary)
1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place. Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top. Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce. Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel
Add 8 ozs (225 g) of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel dice to the macaroni cheese.

Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes
Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese. Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.

Macaroni Cheese with Chorizo
Add 8oz (225g) diced chorizo and lots of chopped parsley to the macaroni cheese as you put it into the dish.

Penne with Tomatoes, Spicy Sausage and Cream

Serves 6

1lb (450g) penne
8 pints (4 litres/20 cups) water
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) salt

6-8oz (175-225g) Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage
1oz (25g/1/4 stick) butter
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2lb (675g) fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) dice or 1 1/2 tins (400g/14oz tin) tomatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
pinch of crushed chillies
6-10fl oz (175-300ml/3/4 cup – 1 1/4 cup) cream
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) flat parsley, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
lots of snipped flat parsley

Bring 8 pints (4 litres/20 cups) water to the boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of salt, then add the pasta. Stir well. Bring back to the boil for 4 minutes, cover, turn off the heat and allow the pasta to continue to cook in the covered saucepan until al dente – 9-12 minutes depending on the brand of pasta.

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the chopped rosemary and diced tomatoes. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook until the tomatoes have just begun to soften into a sauce, about 5 minutes approx.

Peel the casing off the Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage if necessary and then half or quarter each round depending on size. Add to the pan with the crushed chillies, season lightly with salt (be careful not to overdo the salt as the sausage may be somewhat salty). Add the cream and chopped parsley, cook, stirring frequently until the cream comes to the boil. Simmer for 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked (it should be ‘al dente’), drain and toss with the sauce, add the grated Parmesan. Toss again, check the seasoning. Sprinkle with flat parsley and serve at once.

Note: Please omit chorizo for vegetarian option.

Chicken Broth with Julienne of Vegetables

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints/6 1/4 cups) of well-flavoured homemade chicken stock (see recipe)

50g (2oz) carrots
50g (2oz) celery
50g (2oz) white turnip
50g (2oz) leeks

flat parsley
4 spring onions, cut at an angle

First julienne the vegetables.
Peel and cut the carrot, celery, turnip and leek into very thin strips

Heat the broth, add the julienne, bring back to the boil and simmer gently until the vegetables are just cooked, 5-6 minutes.
Ladle into bowls and scatter with parsley and spring onion.

Pilaff Rice

Although a risotto can be made in 20 minutes it entails 20 minutes pretty constant stirring which makes it feel rather laboursome. A pilaff on the other hand looks after itself once the initial cooking is underway. The pilaff is versatile – serve it as a staple or add whatever tasty bits you have to hand. Beware however of using pilaff as a dustbin, all additions should be carefully seasoned and balanced.

Serves 8

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) finely chopped onion or shallot
400g (14oz) long-grain rice (preferably Basmati)
975ml (32fl oz/4 cups) homemade chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives: optional

Melt the butter in a casserole, add the finely chopped onion and sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the rice and toss for a minute or two, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the chicken stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes approx. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the water absorbed. Just before serving stir in the fresh herbs if using.

Basmati rice cooks quite quickly; other types of rice may take up to 15 minutes.

Pilaff with Mussels and Prawns
1 x mushroom a la créme
450g (1lb) mussels
110g (4oz) cooked shrimps or prawns
1-2 tablespoons (1-2 American tablespoons + 1-2 teaspoons) freshly chopped herbs – e.g parsley, chives, thyme, fennel

Wash the mussels in several changes of cold water. Put the mussels into a wide frying or sauté pan on a medium heat. Cover with a lid or a folded tea towel. Just as soon as the mussels open, whip them out, remove the beards and discard the shells.

Heat the mushroom a la créme, stir in the mussels, shrimps. When the pilaff is cooked turn into a hot serving dish, spoon the mushroom and shellfish mixture on top, sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve immediately.

Other good things to add to pilaff
Fresh spices, cubes of cooked ham or bacon freshly cooked, chicken and sautéed mushrooms, Tomato Fondue and Parmesan and Basil leaves, Red and yellow pepper. Stew with Marjoram.

Dutch Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

Serves 6

2 large eggs preferably free range and organic
225g (8ozs/1 cup) castor sugar
110g (4ozs/1 stick) butter
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) creamy milk
185g (6 1/2 ozs/generous 1 1/2 cups) plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3-4 Bramley cooking apples
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) sugar

Cinnamon Sugar
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) castor sugar
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6.

Grease and flour a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) roasting tin or lasagne dish.

Whisk the eggs and the castor sugar in a bowl until the mixture is really thick and fluffy. Bring the butter and milk to the boil in saucepan, and stir, still boiling, into the eggs and sugar. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin. Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices, arrange them overlapping on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4, for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Hot Tips
Remember Savour Kilkenny runs from 27th -30th October 2017.
Lots of exciting events, workshops and talks…..Join David Gillick, European Champion and Olympic sprinter at Savour Kilkenny for his One Pot Fits All cookery demonstration. David will show us how to make delicious and nutritious one pot dishes for busy parents and workers…..Saturday 28th October
Gill Meller will cook two seasonal recipes from his cookbook Gather on Saturday October 28th at Savour Kilkenny and of course our own Rory O’ Connell will cook some of his favourite dishes from his new book Cook Well, Eat Well the same afternoon.

Fit Foodie Workshop with Derval O’ Rourke at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. In one afternoon you will learn how to make great tasting, easy and healthy recipes that the whole family can enjoy plus a Movement Hour that is suitable for all level of fitness. Saturday, November 4th 2017

Cook Well Eat Well

I love Rory O’ Connell’s new book, sounds a bit soppy but I‘m a big fan of my brother’s food, simple beautiful and delicious – Rory and I started the Ballymaloe Cookery School together in 1983 and his first book Master It published in 2013 was long overdue. Since then he has gained a loyal and growing fan base, both for his TV programmes and his much anticipated book number two Cook Well Eat Well.

I also love that now, that people religiously ask if I am Rory’s sister instead of the other way around – long, long, overdue recognition.
Rory is a natural teacher and everyone loves the way he takes the mystery out of cooking and gently nudges us all to be a little adventurous. This book answers a frequently asked question about how to put a nicely balanced meal together
“and what do I serve with what”?

Almost all the meals in Cook Well Eat Well are three courses. Rory sometimes suggests vegetables or a salad to serve with the meal, some of the recipes can be used over multiple seasons with a simple tweak of an ingredient to suit the time of the year you are cooking in.
Rory’s starting point is always the freshest local food in season; he reminds us that it’ll be at its best and least expensive then and much easier to transform into something yummy, delicious and properly nourishing. Rory has the added talent of being able to effortlessly make each and every plate look beautiful. Cook Well Eat Well is published by Gill Books; here are a few recipes to whet your appetite.

Hot Tips
Check out The Fumbally Stables calender of Autumn events. Their Eat:Ith workshops, talks and events with food producers, baristas, sommeliers, food writers….

Cook and Surf…..Love it that there are so many passionate passionate young chefs writing cookbooks not just for their ‘tribe’ but chock full of good things that are easy to cook or toss together. Properly deliciously and nourishing. Finn Ní Fhaoláin is one name to watch. I met her recently at the Theatre of Food, Electric Picnic and have just got her book Finn’s World. She’s lives, surfs and cooks in Bundoran. She is a coeliac herself so many of the recipes have the bonus of being coeliac friendly.

Take Five Essential Sauces
Knowing how to make a few classic sauces adds magic to many dishes. ‘Mother sauces’ in culinary jargon, are a vital tool in the kitchen and when you’ve mastered the basic techniques, you can do lots of creative variations on the theme…
Take Béchamel, Mushroom a la Crème, Hollandaise, Bernaise and Mayonnaise – none of these sauces are difficult or complicated to make. In just an afternoon we’ll share the techniques and show you how to serve and make delicious dishes with each one and share many suggestions for other delicious ways to serve them. Friday October 20th 2017,

Slow Food Mushroom Hunt
Join Bill O’Dea’s Mushroom Hunt at the Park Hotel in Kenmare on October 21st. Bill will start at 1.30pm with a presentation on mushroom hunting followed by a forage and tasting of mushrooms including a wild mushroom soup. or email for the details.

Rory O’ Connell’s Parsnip Soup with Harissa
Winter root vegetables like the parsnip are terrific value for money and packed full of flavour. They seem to yield the deep, comforting taste we long for at this time of year. I always buy my root vegetables unwashed – in other words, with some of
the soil they grew in still attached. They have a great deal more flavour than ones that have had their protective coat of earth scrubbed off and also keep much better and for longer than the cleaned ones. It is of course a little more work for you at home, but the difference in flavour and texture is enormous – quite simply, there is no comparison.

Serves 6–8

25g butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
500g parsnips, peeled and diced
100g potato, peeled and diced
100g white onion, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
sea salt and freshly ground
black pepper
750ml homemade chicken stock
splash of cream (optional)
2 tablespoons harissa, see recipe
best-quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Melt the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan set over a medium heat until the butter foams. Add the prepared parsnips, potato, onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables and seasoning in the fat until well coated, then cover with a piece of parchment or greaseproof paper. Pop the lid on the saucepan and cook on a very gentle heat to sweat the vegetables. If the heat is too high the vegetables may stick to the bottom of the saucepan and burn. Cook for 15–20 minutes, until some of the vegetables are beginning to soften at the edges and collapse.
Add the stock and bring to a simmer again but don’t boil, as some of the stock may evaporate and the soup will be too thick. Cover with the lid and continue to cook on that gentle heat until the vegetables are completely tender. This will take about 15 minutes.

Purée the soup to a silky-smooth consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning. At this point I sometimes add a little more stock or a splash of cream to correct the consistency and the flavour.

Serve in hot bowls with a teaspoon of harissa and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil on each serving.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books

Rory O’ Connell’s Harissa

I keep a jar of this hot and spicy North African inspired paste in the fridge most of the time. It is a really useful condiment for seasoning and marinating and for adding a little heat to certain dishes. I use with grilled lamb, pork and chicken, with oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, on hard boiled eggs and in an omelette and stirred through a mayonnaise as a sauce or through olive oil to make a slightly hot vinaigrette for crisp, cool salad leaves.

I use medium hot chillies such as cayenne, jalapeno or Serrano to give a level of heat that is obvious for not scorching.

Makes 1 small jar

6 medium hot red chillies, such as cayenne, jalapeno or Serrano
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a paste
1½ tablespoons tomato puree
3 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted and ground
3 teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted and ground
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar or lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place the chilies on a small roasting tray and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. The skins will be blackening and blistering and coming away from the flesh. Place the roasted chillies in a bowl, seal tightly with cling film and allow to cool. When cool, peel off the skins and slit the chillies to remove the seeds. You just want the roasted flesh of the chilli for the harissa.
Place the chillies in a food processor or use a pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, tomato puree and ground spices and process to a smooth-ish purée. Gradually add the oil and vinegar. Add the chopped coriander leaves and season to taste, adding a tiny pinch of sugar if you feel the flavour needs a lift. The taste should be strong, hot and pungent.
Stored in a covered container such as a jam jar in the fridge, the harissa will keep perfectly for several months.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books

Rory O’ Connell’s Beetroot and Autumn Raspberries with Honey, Mint and Labneh

Beetroot and raspberries taste very good together and the labneh adds the savoury note. Labneh, a simple dripped yogurt cheese, is very easy to make, though you do need to start the process the previous day or at least early in the morning if you
are serving it for dinner. There are many uses for labneh, and once you make it for the first time you will probably wonder why you never made it before. Search out full-fat thick organic yogurt for a rich and creamy result.

Serves 4

2 medium beetroots, about 250g in total with tail and 3cm of stalk attached
Sea salt and freshly ground
Black pepper
Pinch of caster sugar
24 fresh raspberries
20 small fresh mint leaves

500g full-fat natural yogurt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey

To make the labneh, take a double thickness square of clean muslin or a fine linen glass cloth and place it over a sieve sitting over a bowl. Add the yogurt and olive oil and tie the four corners of the muslin to make a knot. Secure the knot with some string. You now need to hang the tied muslin bag by the string over the bowl to allow the whey in the yogurt to drip off for at least 8 hours, leaving you with a soft cheese. I hang the bag from a cup hook attached to a shelf and that works perfectly. If that
all sounds too complicated, just sit the muslin bag in a sieve over a deep bowl and that also will do the job quite successfully. When the whey has all dripped out, simply remove the muslin and chill the cheese, covered, until you are ready to serve it. It
will keep in the fridge for three or four days.

Rinse the beetroots under a cold running tap, being careful not to break off the little tail. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt and sugar to the water. Bring to a simmer, cover and continue to simmer until the skin rubs off the beetroots easily when pushed. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes for fresh new
season beetroots to 2 hours for older beets, so it is impossible to give an absolute time. The cooked beets should be very tender all the way through.

Peel off the skin and any remaining stalk and cut off the tail. The beets can be prepared up to this point hours ahead or even the previous day.

To make the dressing, whisk the olive oil, lemon
juice, honey and some salt and pepper together. Taste and correct the seasoning.

To assemble the salad, slice the beetroots very thinly (I use a mandolin for this) and divide between four serving plates (the salad can also be assembled family style on a large flat platter and brought to the table). Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross-section slices and scatter over the beetroots. Whisk the dressing well and spoon some of it on. Place a dessertspoon of labneh in the centre of each plate. Scatter on the mint leaves and a final drizzle of dressing and serve.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books

Rory O’ Connell’s Grilled Duck Breast with a Salad of Oranges, Watercress and Radicchio

Duck and oranges are a classic combination of flavours, but here the emphasis is on a lighter result rather than the rich sauce one normally expects. Peppery watercress and bitter red-leaved radicchio are a lively foil for the richness of the meat. A selection of salad leaves could replace the ones I have suggested, but including some bitter leaves makes all the difference to the balance of the finished dish. The vinaigrette used to dress the salad leaves also becomes the sauce, so the overall effect is somewhat refreshing. I like to serve a crisp potato dish to accompany, such as a pommes allumettes or rustic roast potatoes. I think two large duck breasts, when being served with accompanying vegetables and potatoes, are sufficient for four people, but you will know what is needed at your table.

Serves 2–4

2 oranges
Pinch of caster sugar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large duck breasts
2 handfuls of watercress, washed and dried
2 handfuls of radicchio leaves, washed and dried

To Serve:
Pommes allumettes or rustic roast potatoes with balsamic butter

Preheat the oven to 100°C.

Zest one of the oranges with a Microplane or on a fine grater. Carefully segment both oranges and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Mix the orange zest with the olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to make the vinaigrette. Taste and correct the
seasoning. Add the oranges to the vinaigrette and give them a gentle stir.

Place a cold grill pan on a medium heat and immediately put the duck breasts on the cold pan, skin side down. This seems like such an odd thing to do and contradicts most of the normal rules of grilling meat, but it works quite brilliantly,
as while the skin is slowly crisping, the liquid fat renders out of the duck. Save all that duck fat for roasting potatoes and vegetables – it will keep covered in the fridge for months. Cook the duck on that medium heat until the skin has become crispy
and a rich deep golden colour. This takes about 10 minutes. Turn over and finish cooking the duck on the other side for about 7 minutes more. By now the centres of the breasts should be pink, which is the way I like to serve them. I don’t like duck served rare as I find it to be tough. Rest the cooked duck breasts in the low oven for at least 5 minutes but up to 30 minutes – the juices will be more evenly distributed through the flesh after resting. I put a small plate upside down sitting on top of a
bigger plate and sit the breasts against the sloping edges of the upside-down plate. This way, any juices that run out of the duck breasts will be saved, and
equally importantly, the meat will not be stewing in its own juices.

When ready to serve, assemble the ingredients on a large hot serving dish or individual plates. Toss the leaves in just enough of the well-mixed vinaigrette
to make them glisten, then divide between the hot plates. Carve the duck breasts into neat slices and scatter through the leaves. Arrange the orange segments through the salad leaves and duck slices and drizzle on the remaining vinaigrette. I like to quickly reheat any of the cooking juices from the resting duck and add those as a final lick of flavour. Serve immediately with the pommes allumettes or rustic roast potatoes on the side.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books

St Tola Goats’ Cheese with PX Raisins

Good shopping is crucial if you are to put delicious food on the table, and this dish perfectly illustrates how thoughtful shopping for just a few ingredients can yield the most delicious and sophisticated results with virtually no cooking involved.
We are so lucky in Ireland that over the last 20 years, a whole raft of committed food producers have been creating products that help us to achieve our daily goal of great-tasting and health-giving food. St Tola goats’ cheese made in County Clare is a shining and outstanding example of the quality of the world-class foods that we can now buy, take home, simply unwrap and eat.
In this very simple recipe, which I serve in this instance to finish this meal, the addition of the sweet sherry-soaked raisins gets over the problem of no dessert being served and they are terrific with the pleasantly salty cheese. I like to use the ash-covered log from St Tola for this dish. In another meal this dish would be perfect served as a starter. The sherry I use here, Pedro Ximénez San Emilio sherry
from Jerez in Spain, is super-sweet with a real depth of flavour and is a great aid to any cook. It also pairs brilliantly with blue cheese, chocolate desserts or chicken livers, either pan fried or in a pâté, and is a great drizzle for a vanilla, coffee or
caramel ice cream. Serve a crisp cracker or hot and crispy white bread with
this dish.

Serves 4

30g raisins
2 tablespoons Pedro Ximénez
(PX) sherry
4 slices of St Tola goats’ cheese ash log (approx. 100g)
16–20 small rocket leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
sea salt and freshly cracked
black pepper
Place the raisins in a small saucepan and pour over the sherry. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a small container and leave to soak for 6 hours or overnight. The raisins will soak up some of the sherry and the remaining sherry will become syrupy.

Place a slice of cheese on each serving plate. Scatter the rocket leaves around the cheese, making sure that the beautiful black line of ash on the outside of the cheese is visible in its entirety. Drizzle the olive oil over the leaves and a little over the cheese, then squeeze a little lemon juice to follow the olive oil.

Carefully divide the sherry-soaked raisins and syrupy juices between the plates and finish each serving with a small twist of black pepper and a few grains of sea salt.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books

Rory O’ Connell’s Winter Chocolate Apple Pudding
This is a variation of the classic apple betty, which is a simple pudding that I love. This combination of bitter cooking apple, chocolate and the flavours of Christmas mincemeat is also charming. This is an ideal vehicle for using up last year’s
mincemeat. The pudding needs to be served warm on hot plates with cold softly whipped cream on the side.

Serves 4

1kg Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks
30g butter
2 tablespoons water

For the crumb layer
150g mincemeat
125g soft white breadcrumbs
75g light soft brown sugar
50g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
75g butter
3 tablespoons golden syrup

To serve
chilled softly whipped cream
Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Put the apples in a pan and toss with the butter and water over a gentle heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the apples start to soften and are collapsing just a little at the edges but still generally keeping their shape. Tip them into a 1.5-litre baking dish.

Mix together the mincemeat, breadcrumbs, sugar and chocolate and cover the apples loosely with this topping. Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a small saucepan and pour it over the crumbs, making certain to soak them all.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes, until the apple is soft and the crumbs are golden and crisp. Allow to cool slightly, then serve in heated bowls with chilled softly whipped cream.

Taken from Rory O’ Connell’s Cook Well Eat Well published by Gill Books


Past Letters