It’s Such an Exciting Time in Food…..

It’s such an exciting time in food and even though the figures for obesity and Type 2 diabetes continue to increase expedientially, there are real grounds for optimism as growing numbers of young and not so young, don their lycra and take to their bikes or run or swim or even walk. I’m a fan of the latter and greatly enjoy a bit of hill walking every now and then. Most gyms are oversubscribed and despite my pessimistic prediction that Operation Transform would never catch on, it’s been the biggest success and has got many couch potatoes off the sofa and transformed them into messianic walkers or bikers.

So much to be encouraged about, not just here in Ireland but there also appears to be a global grassroot movement who really want to take back control over their food and their lives. Millennials, many of whom, are hugely successful with high powered jobs in the city are beginning to ask themselves searching questions. In the midst of all the pressure and traffic jams, there’s the nagging thought, ‘there has to be more to life than this’…..

So some at least (and the numbers are growing) are finding solace in the joy and satisfaction of growing some of their own food – instead of planting flower beds, they are sowing vegetables and herbs, seeds, planting a few apple trees, a cherry, a few gooseberries and blackcurrants and are like children in a toy shop when their produce is ready to eat. A decade ago 70% of all seeds were flower seeds now vegetables seeds are outselling flower seeds by 78% to 22% and the graph keeps climbing.

In the US, the Grow Food not Lawns Movement continues to grow as does GIY here om Ireland. Cully and Sully’s program, Give Peas a Chance in conjunction with national secondary schools had entries from 7,000 students, 3,000 teams, a fifth of secondary schools and was won by the St Augustine’s in Dungarvan. Their teacher Margo McGann and David McCarthy told us about the excitement it generated among her class, the parents, fellow teachers and how the whole school is basking in the warm glow of success and will now further develop a school garden with the prize they won and continue to teach the children how to grow vegetables and fruit – many of the children have already encouraged their parents to start a vegetable garden at home, the very best use of pester power.

The craving to reconnect with how food is produced and to relearn skills is particularly evident in the response to a new course we introduced onto the Ballymaloe Cookery School curriculum this year. A Six Week Sustainable Food program where the participants learn everything from how to sow a seed, plant a seedling into the ground, how to milk a cow, make butter, cheese, yoghurt , keep chickens for eggs and the table. They learn how to rear heritage pigs, butcher, bake breads, forage, preserve, ferment, make charcoal and cook and address a number of food issues. The course filled in a couple of weeks and was oversubscribed by 100%+, six nationalities – how interesting is that…..many of course, will return to their former careers, several have already bought some land or will now begin to cultivate their gardens or at least plant a window box depending on their situation but whatever their future path life will never be the same. In their own careers, each have a skill set that I couldn’t even begin to aspire to but you can’t imagine the joy they are finding in learning these basic life skills and baking their first loaf of bread or roasting a free range organic chicken…..
In this column, I include a few of the recipes they have learned to make from scratch over the past six weeks.

Hot Tips
Check out the Carlow Garden Festival, 21st July – July 30th 2017. A full program of tv and radio gardeners, international garden designers, tree trails, garden visits, free events, workshops….

Irish Street Food Awards. We are looking for the best street food dishes in Ireland with the winner going on to represent Ireland in Berlin in the Autumn. European Street Food Awards Final. Applications and nominations are now open at to any street food vendor trading in Ireland. Closing date July 7th 2017. For more information contact Ali Dunworth on 087 4144288 or

Midleton Farmers Market
Check out Michael Barrett’s lobster sandwich and oysters at the Midleton Farmers Market, every Saturday 9.30am-2pm

Caramelized Carrot, Beetroot and Apple Salad with toasted sesame seeds

A couple of bocconcini make this salad into a more substantial lunch
Serves 6

600g young carrots, with a little green top
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
Extra Virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
450g beetroot, cooked and peeled
1-2 dessert apples, unpeeled and coarsely grated or julienned
25g pumpkin or sesame seeds
Watercress, purslane and chickweed or a mixture of interesting leaves and ‘weeds’
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 230C/mark 8
Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big. Put into a large bowl, add the thyme leaves, drizzle with the olive oil and honey, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat.
Spread out in a roasting tin. As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200C/mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Just before serving, toast the pumpkin or sesame seeds on a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, you’ll need to keep tossing them or they’ll burn on one side and become acrid and bitter.
Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on size.

Make the dressing – Whisk the lemon juice, oils and honey together, add the thyme leaves, keep half the dressing aside.

Grate the apple on the coarse side of a box grater, directly into the rest of the dressing. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

To serve
Arrange a few sprigs of watercress, chickweed, and purslane on each plate. Whisk the dressing.
Sprinkle over the carrot and beets. Taste, it should be nice and perky. Divide them between the plates. Spoon some grated apple here and there, sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.

Rory O’ Connell’s Salad of Beetroot with Raspberries, Honey and Mint

Serves 4

2 cooked beetroot, peeled and very thinly sliced on a mandolin
24 raspberries
16 small mint leaves
olive oil
lemon juice
Maldon sea salt
cracked black pepper

Divide the sliced beetroot between 4 white plates.

Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle on the tiny mint leaves and serve.

I sometimes place a few teaspoons of thick yoghurt or labne on the salad when assembling.

Kohlrabi or White Turnip and Coconut Curry

Serves 4-6

225g onion, peeled and finely chopped
25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
700g kohlrabi or white turnip, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon roasted and ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
seeds from 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
20g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock or water
200ml coconut milk
handful fresh coriander leaves

Rice and Naan bread
Mint or coriander yoghurt

Melt the butter and the oil in a wok, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, prepare the kohlrabi, add to the onion, and cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.
Stir in the mustard, cumin and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes, careful not to brown the seeds or they will become bitter. Add the ground turmeric or coriander, crushed cardamom seeds, ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for 30 seconds. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, add the chopped tomatoes, stock or water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the coconut milk and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the kohlrabi is tender. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Pour into a hot serving bowl, scatter with coriander and serve with rice, naan bread, and mint or coriander yoghurt.

Maunika Gowardhan’s Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

This was recently voted in a survey as one of people’s top ten dishes to eat on their bucket list! Murgh Makhani which is basically tandoori chicken in a buttery sauce, is an all-time Indian favourite.

Tandoori Chicken
2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh root ginger
4 garlic cloves
1 green bird’s eye chilli
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) Greek yoghurt
2 teaspoons gram (chickpea) flour
1 teaspoon mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder (or a little more if you’d like it spicy)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of crushed saffron
450g (1lb) skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt to taste
butter for basting
1 teaspoon chat masala
juice of 1/2 lemon

To Serve
salad and chutney

Tandoori Chicken.
Put 5-6 wooden skewers in water and leave them to soak.

Put the ginger, garlic and bird’s eye chilli into a wet grinder or mini food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. Set aside.

Put the yoghurt in a bowl. Add the gram flour and mix well to get rid of any lumps and create a thick, paste-like consistency. Add the ginger-garlic paste, the paprika, chilli powder, garam masala, coriander, cinnamon, saffron and salt. Stir well, then add the chicken, mixing well to make sure the pieces are coated in the thick marinade. Leave to marinate for 2-3 hours or preferably overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill until medium-hot.

Shake the excess marinade off the chicken pieces and thread them onto the skewers. Place them on a wire rack and grill on the top shelf for 15-20 minutes, turning the skewers every 5 minutes and basting with melted butter until the meat juices run clear. The chicken should be cooked through and slightly charred around the edges.
If you wish, the tandoori chicken can be served at this point just as it is – over parathas sprinkled with chaat masala and lemon juice along with a salad and mint and coriander chutney.
However, to make an authentic butter chicken, serve with the gravy (see recipe).

Murgh Makhani Gravy

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) unsalted melted butter
6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2.5cm (1 inch) cassia bark
4 cloves
1 onion (about 50g/2oz), finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon ( 1 1/4 American tablespoons) grated ginger (made from 8cm/3 1/4 inch) fresh root ginger
2 green bird’s eye chilliest, slit lengthways
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder or mild paprika
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) tomato purée
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) double cream
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) honey
1 tablespoon ( 1 1/4 American tablespoons) kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaf)
salt to taste
chopped fresh coriander to garnish

Top Tip
Crush the dried fenugreek with your fingers before adding to release the aromas in the curry.

Place a deep saucepan over a low heat and add the butter. When hot, add the cardamom pods, cassia bark and cloves. Fry for 20 seconds, then add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes over a medium heat until it takes on a light brown colour.

Add the grated ginger and bird’s eye chillies. Fry for a further minute, add the chilli powder and garam masala, stir for 20 seconds and add the tomato purée. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes. Now gradually add the double cream, stirring continuously to mix it with all the spices. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the honey and fenugreek. Season to taste and add 50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) water.

Add the cooked chicken pieces and simmer the curry over a low heat for 6-8 minutes.

Garnish with coriander and serve with naan bread.

Pork Osso Bucco

This recipe is also lovely made with lamb or rosé veal shanks. The leftover meat and juices are delicious over pasta.

Serves 8

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
3 medium onions, sliced
5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
2 yellow peppers, seeded and sliced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig thyme
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) sweet or smoked paprika
900ml (11⁄2 pints/3 3/4cups) homemade chicken stock
16 thick slices of pork shanks (you’ll want 4 shanks for 8 people, ask the butcher to saw them into thick slices for you or do it yourself)
seasoned flour
450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) dry white wine
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4cups) sour cream
about 50g (2oz) roux
lots of flat parsley

a cast-iron or heavy roasting tin

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/Gas Mark 3.

Heat 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of olive oil in a casserole, add the sliced onion and garlic, toss, cover and cook over a medium heat while you prepare the peppers. Add the peppers and continue to cook until the onion and peppers are soft. Add the bay leaves, thyme and chopped tomatoes with their juice. Add salt, freshly ground pepper and paprika. Stir, then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, heat another 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan. Toss the pork in seasoned flour. Sear the meat a few pieces at a time, and add to the tomato base. Deglaze the pan with white wine and bring to the boil.

Dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the wine. Add to the casserole.
Cover and cook gently for 2–2 1⁄2 hours.

When the meat is almost falling from the bones, remove the pork from the casserole and set aside. Skim the fat off the cooking sauce, add the sour cream, bring to a boil
and thicken lightly with roux. Taste and correct the seasoning. Return the pork shanks and their juices to the sauce. Bubble over a medium heat until the meat heats through.
Taste and correct the seasoning.

Transfer to a shallow serving dish. Scatter with lots of flat parsley sprigs and serve with noodles, rice or mashed potatoes. Serve one small and one large piece of shank per person.

Jacob Kenedy’s Blackcurrant Leaf or Meadow Sweet Panna Cotta

Panna cotta (‘cooked cream’), normally, is a somewhat bland vehicle for fruit or sauce. Here infused with blackcurrant leaves (which magically have more aroma than their fruit, that comes later in the year), it becomes the star attraction. Something of a charlatan, I actually prefer to make my panna cotta without cream at all, replacing it with yoghurt – both for a lightness of taste, and reduction of guilt.

Serves 4

3 sheets gelatin (2.5g each – ‘standard’ size)
400ml (14fl oz) whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split
25g (1oz) fresh blackcurrant leaves (or, equally lovely, fig leaves) or meadow sweet flowers
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
150ml (5fl oz) double cream (or 200g/7oz Greek yoghurt)

To Serve
Optional: Blackcurrant Compote (see below)

Bloom the gelatin in cold water.

Bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod, and take it straight off the heat. Allow it to cool to about 70oC/158ËšF, then add the blackcurrant leaves (or meadow sweet flowers if using). Keep it around 60-70 oC/140-158ËšF (put over a low flame briefly if it cools below) for 5-15 minutes, and taste to judge when the infusion is correct (too long and it starts to taste bitter, too short and it will be bland).

When you’re happy, strain the milk and, while still hot, add the sugar and the bloomed gelatin. Stir to dissolve. At room temperature, stir in the cream or yoghurt and portion into glasses or moulds.

Serve turned out onto little plates, just as they are or with a spoonful of blackcurrant compote (see recipe), which though not seasonal can be made using frozen berries and not much sugar.

Blackcurrant Compote

350g (12oz) fresh blackcurrants, strings removed

Stock Syrup:
50g (2oz) sugar
50ml (2fl oz) water
Put the blackcurrants into a stainless steel saucepan, cover with stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts – this will take about 4 to 5 minutes.

Jacob Kenedy, Bocca di Lupo (LitFest 2017)

Vegan Cookery

Recently, I’ve had several requests for vegan recipes as the interest in a vegan life style gathers momentum. The increase in numbers continue to confound the sceptics. There are a variety of reasons why people decide to embrace a vegan diet. For many, it’s a combination of concern for the environmental impact of many of our food producing systems and animal welfare issues.

So what exactly is the definition of a vegan, some would say it’s an extreme form of vegetarianism. The Vegan Society define veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude as far as possible and practicable all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

Most vegans will also avoid the use of all personal household products tested on animals and avoid buying all animal derived products such has leather, fur and wool. So strict vegans will not only avoid fish and meat but also butter, honey, eggs and even some wines which may be cleared with egg white. Some vegan cheese contains casein which is not acceptable to vegans. So creating a balanced diet can be deeply challenging and I personally have a concern about ‘dairy delights’, faux franks’, ‘mock meats’ and many of the substitutes.

Vegans need to have a real understanding of nutrition to ensure a balanced diet and to avoid deficiencies such as B12 which is only found naturally in animal products.
Many new cookbooks are hitting the shelves – Aine Carlin from Derry in Northern Ireland. Her cookbooks, The New Vegan and Keep it Vegan published by Kyle Books are favourites of many.
A new book entitled Vegan Recipes from the Middle East, written by Parvin Razavi has just landed on my desk. It’s full of really appealing recipes from Iran, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey and, as a dedicated carnivore friend once remarked about the food at Café Paradiso in Cork – “you wouldn’t miss the meat”. It was of course meant as a compliment but it may sound a bit offensive to vegans.

Parvin Razavi is a new name on the culinary scene but certainly one to watch. She was born in Iran and spent her early years by the Caspian Sea and in Teheran before her parents moved to Europe. Many of the Middle Eastern recipes she’s created and shared are super simple and can actually be prepared in less than half an hour. That’s worth checking out. Parvin also has a blog Thx4cooking. By the way Grub Street publishers have a whole range of vegan cookbooks, check them out

Garden Workshop:- Designing a Herbaceous Border. During this half day course Susan Turner, Head Gardener at the Cookery School and Ballymaloe House will discuss general layout, good plant choices for a long season of interest with vibrant colour combinations and contrasts in texture and form, combining structural plants, underplanting and extending the season with annuals, self-sowers and interplanting with bulbs, seasonal maintenance to include pruning, dividing the plants, weeding techniques and tools, staking and mulching…… Coffee on arrival and light lunch. Monday July 10th

Kilmore Quay Seafood Festival, 6th -9th July 2017. Harbour food stalls, singing, dancing, seafood platter competition, family fun events…..proceeds raised from the festival will support local projects in the area. 25 minutes from Wexford Town
The Garden Café Shack at the Ballymaloe Cookery School has reopened for the summer. Check out gardencafetruck. Short menu of fresh food from the farm and gardens and delicious homemade cakes and biscuits.

Harmony in Food and Farming, a two day conference organised by the Sustainable Food Trust from July 10th and 11th in Wales. Wide range of panel discussions on farming, food, ecological and environmental issues, eating as an agricultural act… Adele Jones – +44 (0) 7909588681

Parvin Razavi’s Caramelised Fennel with Fennel Seeds and Barberries

Preparation time: 20 minutes

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 bulbs of fennel, cut lengthways in ½ cm thick slices
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon barberries
1 tablespoon fresh mint
Pomegranate seeds to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Put the fennel in the hot oil, sprinkle with sugar, salt, pepper and fennel seeds and fry until golden brown.

Serve the fennel on a plate and grate lemon zest on top.

Serve garnished with barberries, pomegranate seeds and mint.

Taken from VEGAN Recipes from the Middle East, Parvin Razavi, published by Grub Street, London

Parvin Razavi’s Roasted Almonds

Preparation Time:- 10 minutes

250 g almonds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pinch of sugar
1 pinch of chilli
1 pinch of ras el hanout

Mix the almonds well with the other ingredients. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and spread the almonds on top. Carefully roast in a preheated oven at 180C/250F/gas mark 4 for 5 minutes.

Taken from VEGAN Recipes from the Middle East, Parvin Razavi, published by Grub Street, London

Parvin Razavi’s White Bean Hummus

Preparation Time:- 15 minutes

400 g tin white beans
2 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch of paprika
1 pinch of ras el hanout
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper
3-4 tablespoons water

Strain the beans and puree all the ingredients together in a blender.

Season well to taste.

Taken from VEGAN Recipes from the Middle East, Parvin Razavi, published by Grub Street, London

Parvin Razavi’s Tabouleh with Pomegranate Seeds and Apple

Preparation time: 15 minutes

1-2 tart eating apples, diced
2 spring onions, sliced into rings
1 pomegranate seeds removed from the fruit
1 teaspoon sumac
2 tablespoons roast pine nuts
50 g mint, chopped
50 g parsley, chopped
1½ level teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and season with the lemon juice and olive oil.

Steep for 30 minutes and then enjoy.

Taken from VEGAN Recipes from the Middle East, Parvin Razavi, published by Grub Street, London

Parvin Razavi’s Soya Yoghurt with Cucumber, Rose Petals and Sultanas

Preparation time:- 15 minutes

1 cucumber
500 ml soya yoghurt
5 sprigs of fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 handful of sultanas (approx. 25 g)
Rose petals to garnish

Coarsely grate the cucumber, season with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Then squeeze out well by hand and put in a bowl.

Mix the soya yoghurt, cucumber and mint in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish prettily with sultanas and rose petals.

Tip:- a small clove of crushed garlic can be added, according to taste.

Taken from VEGAN Recipes from the Middle East, Parvin Razavi, published by Grub Street, London

Barbeque Fare

Despite the crazy changeable weather, we’re having fun cooking on the barbeque. We fire up the grill at every opportunity, have to say that even though the flavour of food cooked over charcoal or wood is far more delicious, the gas Barbie is mighty tempting,  particularly when you want to snatch a moment between the showers.

Not the same magic of course as cooking over fire but one needs time and a deal of advance planning. This group of 12 Week students built a ring of fire on the gravel in the courtyard with some large rocks. They’ve had some super fun sitting around the camp fire cooking up big pots of stews or just grilling. It’s all the more exciting because they collect their own timber, (they walk around the farm with  a wheelbarrow to stock up with lots of wood and twigs that have fallen from the trees. They couldn’t raid the wood shed so instead they’re having a bit of gas practicing sustainability.  Double bonus, clearing up and free timber.

There’s something about cooking over fire that seems to connect with our inner ‘hunter gatherer’ and it particularly appeals to men, even wily chaps who can’t boil an egg for themselves, fancy their chances on the barbeque, the aroma of the good food sizzling on the grill certainly fuels the appetite. Steaks and chops, sausages and chicken breasts are still the favourites but don’t forget vegetables and of course fish. We’ve been catching some fresh mackerel and pollock in Ballycotton and cooking those on the barbeque – wow, how delicious….

Sauces, are super important for a barbeque. Some béarnaise with steak or a punchy mustard aioli add magic to a simple steak.  Romanesco sauce is addictive with grilled chicken thighs and of course a good barbeque sauce is always a favourite.

We also love our new seasons, onions split in half, tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and grilled. They char deliciously on the outside and become melting tender and sweet. A little zucchini either whole or thickly sliced are also great, sprinkle  them with chopped marjoram. Young beets can be wrapped and roasted and buried in the coals or just grilled. But best fun of all is barbequed pizza, you’ll need a Weber type barbeque with a lid to cook them properly but it’s a really easy way to feed lots of people deliciously in a short time. An accompanying salad and a glass of something delicious is all that’s needed.


Hot Tips

Give your teenager a gift for life – a Transition Year Cookery Course. In just five days beginning on Monday 24th July 2017,  students will learn a variety of skills in both demonstration and hands on cooking sessions. Homemade bread, jam, soups, yummy starters, main courses, desserts, biscuits and even a cake or two plus how to make butter and yoghurt from our own Jersey cow’s milk and cream. Students will also have a guided educational tour around our organic farm, gardens and greenhouse. They will also have the opportunity to learn about the hens, pigs, chickens and livestock and herb and wild food garden on the Organic farm. 021 4646785.  Limited Numbers.


Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks with Romesco Sauce


Romesco Sauce is a Spanish sauce, a mixture of peppers, garlic and nuts, sweetened and sharpened with tomatoes and lemon juice.


Serves 4 as a main


4 x 150g (5oz) chicken drumsticks

4 x 160g (5 1/2oz) chicken thighs

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) olive oil

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 recipe quantity of romesco sauce (see recipe)


20g (3/4oz) toasted flaked almonds


Light the barbeque or preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.


Put the chicken in a roasting tray.  Drizzle it with olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook either on the grill or in the oven for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.


Gently warm the romesco sauce in a small pan and serve with the chicken, with the toasted almonds sprinkled over the top.


Romesco Sauce


Serves 12


1 head of garlic

4 – 6 tablespoons (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

2 slices slightly stale country bread

75g (3oz) almonds, preferably Marcona

3 large very ripe tomatoes or 15 ripe cherry tomatoes

1 large or 2 small red peppers

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon juice to taste

7 tablespoons cold water


Preheat the oven to 200ËšC/400ËšF/Gas Mark 6.


Trim the top off the head of garlic to expose the bulbs. Wrap in a little tin foil parcel but allow space to pour in about a dessertspoon of extra virgin olive oil. Pinch in the top to close. Cook on the barbeque or in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and squishy.


Cut the crusts off the bread and fry in extra virgin olive oil until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper and put into the food processor.


Fry the almonds in the remainder of the oil until golden (add a little more oil if needed), add to the bread.

Half (or quarter) and deseed the pepper, put into a bowl.

Half the tomatoes around the equator, add to the peppers in the bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with flaky salt and freshly ground pepper, spread in a single layer in a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven until the tomatoes are soft and peppers are catching at the edges, 30 – 40 minutes. Allow to cool.

Add the tomatoes and peppers to the bread and almonds in the food processor. When the garlic is soft remove the skins and add to the mix. Whizz, taste, correct the seasoning and add lemon juice to taste. Add enough water to thin to a soft consistency. Delicious.



Mustard Aioli

 Makes 300 ml (½ pint)


2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

8 fl ozs (225ml/1 cup) oil (sunflower, or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6 fl ozs (175ml/3/4 cup) sunflower oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml/1/4 cup) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)

1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard


Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the crushed garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley and mustard.  Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.


If the aioli curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons  of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled aioli, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.


Chargrilled T-Bone Steak with Chimi Churri Sauce or Bernaise Sauce


Serves 6

2 x 750g (1 1/2lb) t-bone steaks, a good 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



Chimi Churri Sauce

 Chimi Churri sauce is a hot perky sauce from Argentina.


Serves 6-8

Makes 225-255ml (8-9floz/1 cup) Chimi Churri Sauce


50g (2oz) flat parsley leaves

4 large cloves garlic peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) water

100ml (4floz/1/2 cup) extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil

50ml (2floz/1/4 cup) red wine vinegar

1 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 chilli seeded and chopped or 1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes



Or Bernaise Sauce, see recipe


First make the chimi churri sauce.

Chop the parsley finely with the garlic and water. (Alternatively, whizz in a food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl until well pulsed) Transfer to a bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar gradually. Add the red onion, chilli and salt. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.


Drizzle the steaks with olive oil.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.


Grill over hot coals for about 6 minutes each side for rare, 8 minutes each side for medium rare or 12 minutes each side for well-done.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.


To serve, remove the bone to release the meat.  Cut the meat across the into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices.  Serve hot drizzled with chimi churri sauce or with a dollop of Bernaise.


Bernaise Sauce


The consistency of Béarnaise sauce should be considerably thicker than that of Hollandaise or beurre blanc, both of which ought to be a light coating consistency. If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped fresh French tarragon.


Serves 8–10


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) tarragon vinegar

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots

pinch of freshly ground pepper

2 organic egg yolks

110g (4oz/1 stick) butter

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) freshly chopped French tarragon leaves


Boil the first 4 ingredients together in a low, heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and leave to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.


Using a coil whisk, whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally, add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning.


If the sauce is slow to thicken, it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!


Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.


Keep the sauce warm in a bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it.


Serve Béarnaise Sauce separately.

Pan-grilled Spring Onions


I’m absolutely not a gadget person so I tend to keep kitchen equipment to essential to avoid clutter, however one good buy in my book is what we call a pan-grill. This is a black ridged cast iron pan which I find gives a super result for vegetables, fish meat and polenta. For me its one of the few bits of indispensable kitchen equipment.


Serves 6


18 Spring onions or scallions

3 tablespoons  olive oil

sea salt


Wash the spring onions, trim the root ends and cut into 6 inch (15cm) lengths approx. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and toss on a preheated pan-grill.  Cook on a medium heat until golden on one side, turn and allow to cook on the other side. Serve hot as part of a vegetable plate with grilled fish or meat.

Note:- if the onions are large split in half lengthways and cook until well charred on each side, they become delicious sweet and tender.


Chargrilled Pizza Margherita


Possibly the most traditional and universally popular pizza in Italy. As this pizza is basically cheese and tomato it is crucial your tomato sauce has a really supper flavour.


Makes 1


150g (5oz) pizza dough (see recipe)

175g (6 oz) mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) olive oil

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) tomato fondue (see recipe)

1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) freshly chopped annual marjoram

1 tablespoon Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best), freshly grated


Slice mozzarella and sprinkle with the olive oil.


Roll out pizza dough to 30cm (12 inch) rectangle or circle, about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.  Brush both sides with olive oil.


Gently place dough on the grid in centre of the barbecue, directly over the heat for 2-4 minutes, until the bottom if the crust is well marked and browned.  Turn upside down.

Arrange the grated Mozzarella over the cooked side of the crust, within 2.5cm (1 inch) of the edge. Spread the tomato fondue over the top. Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan.   Season very well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Return pizza to the centre of the cooking grate and cook with the lid closed until bottom is well browned, toppings are warm and cheese is bubbly, about 5-10 minutes.

Sprinkle the freshly chopped marjoram on top serve immediately.


 Chargrilled Broad Beans

One of the simplest most delicious ways to enjoy broad beans – I also cool on the cold plate of my ancient Aga.

6-10 freshly picked broad beans, per person

flaky sea salt

extra virgin olive oil


Pecorino Romano, optional

Heat a pan grill over a high heat. Lay the pods directly onto the pan in a single layer – allow to colour on one side, 2-3 minutes, flip over and cook on the other side. Serve on a hot plate with a little bowl of extra virgin olive oil, some flaky sea salt for dipping.  A few crumbs of Pecorino Romano are a delicious accompaniment.


New Season’s Summer Food

It’s been a busy week, just doing the final corrections for my next book, Grow, Cook, Nourish…. Every time I think we’re there, another list of queries come winging their way by email. This book has been over two years in the making and may just be the most important book I ever write because I’m encouraging people to think about growing even a little of our own food. Once you experience the magic of harvesting something you grew yourself and then prepare and enjoy it, you’ll be hooked, not to speak of the joy and health giving properties of freshly picked food.

This really hits home at the moment when I’m picking new season’s broad beans and peas, it’s a Zen like experience and then we sit around the kitchen table shelling the peas and unzipping the broad beans to retrieve the little treasures from the velvet lined pods. Every supper or dinner party starts with a preparty get together with the guests. I pour a glass of wine or cordial and then we all sit around shelling, podding and gossiping in a blur of nostalgia, recalling childhood memories. For some it’s the first time they have ever podded a broad bean or shelled a pea, an American visitor to the school recently asked me what the fresh peas were and when I showed him how to open the pods he tasted a fresh pea for the very first time in his life – his eyes were as big as saucers and he suddenly said, maybe if I grew these I could get my kids to eat some vegetables at least – what a revelation.

This is not the first time I’ve been asked how to shell peas. Peas are so worth growing for the home gardener because one can eat them at every stage, the pea shoots, flowers, ‘wizard whiskers’, as the tendrils are called. The peas can be eaten at mange tout stage and then of course the peas and the pea pods can be used for a soup.

In Rome, the arrival of the first broad beans are considered to be the harbinger of Spring. Both at home and in local trattorias people sit around the table in little groups podding broad beans and flecking out little chunks of pecorina romana, a sharp salty sheep’s milk cheese that contrasts deliciously with the sweet tender broad beans. The season starts earlier than ours, so Fave e pecorino are often enjoyed for Easter Sunday breakfast with crusty bread and a special pork fat studded salami called corallina, a delicious ritual that has endured.

We also love to dip each bean in a little extra virgin olive oil and a little flaky sea salt.  As the season progresses the skin thickens and the sugars turns to starch, so at that stage the broad beans are best double peeled. It’s very easy to over cook them, they just need to be cooked  in boiling salted water for a minute, then drained and refreshed in cold water, then popped out of their shells and continue with the recipe. Gorge on both peas and broad beans while the season lasts.

In last week’s column I mentioned a pea mousse but it didn’t make it into the text because of space restriction so here it is. It is a delicious summery little starter. Hope you’ll also find time to make and enjoy this green gooseberry and elderflower tart and elderflower fritters from the fluffy blossoms that are adorning the hedgerows all over the country at present –


Hot Tips

A Farmers Market near you

Killavullen Farmers Indoor Market is located on the grounds of the Nano Nagle Centre. Raw Milk and Yoghurt, Hegarty’s Farmhouse Cheese, Free Range Rare Breed Pork, Jams, Chutneys, Cordials, Arbutus Bread, Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables, Home Baking, Gluten Free Baking, Crafts, Flowers……on Saturday 17th June and every fortnight,  just 10 minutes from Mallow on the N72, 10.30am to 1pm.


New on the scene:-  The Cottage Market at the CreameryYard in Kildorrery, Cork has a great selection of vegetables, free range rare breed, smoothies, preserves, cordials and flowers. Fortnightly Saturday market from 11am to 2pm, ten minutes from Fermoy and Mitchelstown, next market 24th June, 8thJuly…..Phone Ciaran Cotter on 086 376 1816 for details.

Pilgrims Restaurant

Swing off the main road in Rosscarbery up to the charming villagesque Pilgrims restaurant – lots of small plates and some foraged ingredients and lots of imagination combine to create a memorable experience. Tel: 023 8831796 or

East Cork Slow Food Summer Pop Up Dinner.  Our 12 Week Certificate students at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday June 24th cook up a feast from the organic farm, gardens and glasshouses, fish from nearby Ballycotton and meat from our local butcher. Tickets €40.00 for Slow Food members and €45 for non Slow Food members. Booking Essential on 021 4646785 or


No Dig Gardening Workshop with Charles Dowding

Another opportunity to learn the principles of ‘No Dig’ gardening. Charles Dowding has been advocating the ‘No Dig’ technique since 1983 when he started a market garden. His original methods give superb results.  In our experience here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we have healthier crops, higher yields and about 80% less weeds – so what’s not to like about ‘No Dig’. We were deeply sceptical at first but have become big converts.  His recent course was oversubscribed and got a brilliant response. Charles will teach another one day course on Monday June 19th. He has written nine books and appears on radio and TV including Gardeners World. He teaches extensively both at home and abroad.  Monday June 19th 10.00am to 4.30pm Tel: 021 4646785

Taste of Dublin in the Iveagh Gardens is on this weekend, June 17th and 18th. Plenty of cookery demonstrations, tastings, market stalls, food and wine pairings, whiskey and craft beer tastings.


Risi e Bisi


Comfort food at its very best, a heavenly way to enjoy some of your precious fresh peas.  Young shelled broad beans can also be added.

Serves 6 -9


2kg fresh young peas (podded weight approx.2 lbs)

1 kg broad beans (podded 500 g approx.)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g butter, softened

3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1.75 litres homemade chicken stock (see recipe)

200g onion, finely chopped, we use our new season’s spring onions

300g risotto rice

110g Parmesan, freshly grated


Pod the peas and save the pods.  Bring a large saucepan of water (4.8L) to the boil, and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Add the pea pods and cook for 5 minutes.  Then scoop them out.  Put through a mouli, with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.  Blanch the peas in the boiling pea pod water, drain and add to the pea-pod pulp.  Next bring the water back to the boil, add the broad beans and cook for one to 2 – 3. Drain, refresh and shell.

Season with lots of freshly ground pepper and add 45g of the butter

Put half into a food processor and pulse.  Return to the whole peas.


Heat the stock. Taste and check for seasoning.

Melt half the remaining butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Gently fry the onion until soft and just beginning to colour.  Add the rice, stir to coat each grain with butter and cook for 2-3 minutes.  When the rice is opaque, increase the heat to medium and start to add the hot stock ladle by ladle, adding the next only when the last of the stock  has been absorbed.  Stir continuously.  After 10 minutes add the peas and parsley, continue to cook until the rice is al dente – about 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in the remaining butter, and most of the Parmesan.  Taste and correct seasoning.  Serve immediately in deep wide soup bowls, with a little more Parmesan sprinkled over the top.


Pea Mousse with Pea Shoots, Radishes and Shrimps

This is my interpretation of a delicious starter dish that I ate recently at a restaurant in London. It is exquisite made with fresh peas but I have to admit, I have also made it with frozen peas and the result has been pretty delicious.   We use the beautiful little shrimps (palaemon serratus) from Ballycotton but it’s also good without them.

Serves 6


500g fresh peas

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 gelatine leaf

150ml water

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

100ml of softly whipped cream

1 tablespoon chopped mint



50g fresh peas, blanched and refreshed

A mixture of French Breakfast and Cherry Belle radishes

Tender fresh pea shoots

75 – 100g small pink shrimps (palaemon serratus), cooked

Extra virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt


Bring 150ml fresh cold water to a fast rolling boil, add salt. sugar and peas, return to the boil for 2-3 minutes, drain, save the cooking water, and refresh the peas under cold water.

When cold, whizz to a smooth puree with 100ml cooking water. Push through a nylon sieve into a bowl, chill.

Soak the gelatine in cold water, allow to soften for 4-5 minutes, drain, then dissolve the softened leaf in a tablespoon of hot water. Add the pea puree gradually then cover and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until just beginning to set. Fold in the softly whipped cream. Divide between 6 wide soup bowls, cover and allow to set.

Meanwhile, trim and slice the radishes lengthwise and put into iced water.

To Serve:

Put the peas into a bowl, add the peeled shrimps and the pea shoots. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, a few flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss.

Top each mousse with a generous portion, scatter 5 or 6 slices of radish over the top, add a couple of drops of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt and serve.


 Chargrilled Peas


Serves 4-6


Peas cooked in this way are super delicious and totally addictive


450 g (1 lb) fresh peas, about 88 pods

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Flaky sea salt


Pop a pan grill on a high flame. Toss the pea pods in a very little extra virgin olive oil and some flaky sea salt. When the pan is very hot, lay the pods in the pan in a single layer, allow to colour from the grill, 3-4 minutes,  flick over and char on the other side.


Taste, add a little more salt if necessary.

Put the pod between your teeth and enjoy the peas as they pop out…..


Ballymaloe Green Gooseberry Tartlets


Makes 36 tartlets approximately


1 quantity cold cream pastry (see recipe)

450g (1lb) green gooseberries (topped and tailed)

caster sugar


Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.


Using plenty of flour roll the cold pastry to a thickness of 2mm (1/8 inch). Cut the pastry with a 7.5cm (3 inch) round cutter and use the disks of pastry to line a standard flat based bun tray.


Cut the gooseberries in half and arrange 6-7 halves on each disk of pastry. Place a rounded teaspoon of caster sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet. Bake the tartlets for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour. Remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot – use a palette knife for this – and place on parchment paper which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.


These tartlets are best served warm.


Cream Pastry

Sounds scary but this pastry is really delicious and flaky


This pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.


110g (4oz/1 stick) cold salted butter

110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) cold cream
Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster).  (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!


Elderflower Fritters


These are very easy to make, very crispy and once you’ve tasted one, you won’t be able to stop! Serve them with the Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote, below. Serves 4


110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) lukewarm water

8–12 elderflower heads

caster sugar

sunflower oil for frying


Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using a whisk, bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the water at the same time. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Hold the flowers by the stalks and dip into the batter (add a little more water or milk if the batter is too thick). Fry until golden brown in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper, toss in caster sugar and serve immediately with gooseberry and elderflower compote.



Picnic at Ballyandreen Strand

We’re sitting on the bouncy grass on the cliffs above Ballyandreen Strand   watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below. It’s a beautiful day, the sea pinks and mallow are in full bloom.  It has become a tradition to have a breakfast picnic on the Monday after the Litfest with some of the speakers whose flights leave late in the afternoon. Rashers and eggs cooked in the open air, soda bread and jam, freshly squeezed orange juice and lots of coffee – it’s what memories are made of.

Lovely Claudia Roden is with us, at 81 years of age, she’s still super sprightly and still writing and cooking and game for everything that’s going on. Last night when I left the throbbing music and dance scene in the Big Shed at Ballymaloe, she was still there enchanted by the energy and excitement.

Earlier in the day she had been foraging on the seashore with Alys Fowler and given a talk on My Favourite Ingredients in the Cookery School.  Everywhere she turned someone wanted a photo, for many at the Litfest, meeting and having the opportunity to chat to Claudia was a highlight of the weekend and there were many many highlights at Litfest 2017.  Ben Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella from Edinburgh Food Studio spent 3 days cooking for Saturday night dinner, it was a triumph.  Robin Gill  from The Dairy in London also cooked a memorable Pop Up lunch at Ballymaloe on Saturday, Margot Henderson from Rochelle Canteen worked her magic on Sunday lunch. Jason Fahey and his team cooked the delicious food for the Natural Wine dinner at Ballymaloe House with the legendary Isabelle Legeron.

There were many inspirational and thought provoking events in the Grain Store on the theme of Our Responsibility.   Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner of Health and Food Safety spoke passionately about food waste. He was born in a Gulag in Siberia and he still remembers what it was like to be hungry, so feels food waste is totally immoral. He referred to the consequences to the Irish Famine and asked each and everyone of us in the audience to help tackle this challenging problem. The EU are drafting guidelines to facilitate food donations in the EU where approximately 88 tons of food are wasted every year with associated costs estimated at €143 billion.

We too fervently hope that he and his colleagues in the EU will work with us to remove the root cause of much of the problem – the scandalous waste of perfectly good produce because of EU regulations on size and uniformity and sell by dates in the retail trade.  He also spoke about ‘the need to fight against the supermarketization of our lives’.

Joanna Blythman, an investigative journalist and broadcaster and a thorn in the flesh of the processed food industry and supermarkets tweeted ‘the man is singing my song’……..In her presentation Joanna  urged us to base our diet on whole unprocessed foods that we cook ourselves. Her talks brought people from far and wide and urged us to be wary and aware of the dangers of  heavily processed food and not to allow ourselves to be misled by labelling.

Professor Ted Dinan’s talk on Diet Stress and Mental Health also had huge impact as did young agrarian leader, Severine von Tscharner-Fleming, from the Greenhorn Movement in New York who spoke on The Farmer’s Life.

Asylum seeker, Ellie Kisyombe’s talk was also deeply moving .

The Great Grocers panel which  included  Peter Ward from Country Choice, Ruth Healy from Urru,  from London, Leila McAllister from Leila’s,  Sally Clarke from Clarkes and Sally Butcher from Persepolis  …… also made a huge impact and got us thinking about the need to support independent shops.

All weekend, the Drinks Theatre was crammed with people who came from far and wide to see Colm McCan’s line up which included Isabelle Legeron who spoke about natural wines, Mary Dowey did a talk and tasting on superb champagne and sparkling wines, Kristen Jensen led a panel of Irish craft brewers…..there were artisan gins and our own Ger Buckley, cooper from Irish Distillers.

For me one of the frustrations of the Litfest is not been able to get to every single event. Rachel and I spent most of my time at the Ballymaloe Cooking School hosting inspirational chefs  – Sunil Ghai from Pickle in Dublin,  Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup in London, Monika Linton from Brindisa, Jacob Kennedy from Boca di Lupo, Sumayya Usmani  house cook, from Pakistan and Charlotte Pike past student who were doing cooking demonstrations. Others wandered around the Big Shed,  organic farm and Ballymaloe walled gardens and learned how to sow seed with GIY and so here is a sample of some of the exquisite food that was cooked.


Hot Tips

Cookery Demonstration  to raise funds for Aaron McMahon’s brain tumour treatment. Join Debbie Shaw at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday June 8th, 7pm who will teach a Middle Eastern Summer Feast. Tickets must be pre purchased and available from Debbie 086 389 3768 or at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop, 021 4646785


Limerick’s International Food Truck Festival runs from June 1st – 5th 2017 in the People’s Park.  Don’t miss this fun event, the weekend will see Limerick going large on food trucks when the European Food Truck Association will bring 60 food trucks from 14 countries to the city’s People’s Park.


 Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Gnudi with Watercress and Goat’s Curd

These great little ricotta dumplings – not to be confused with gnocchi, which are made using wheat flour and potatoes – are simple to make and take just a few minutes to cook. We can’t recommend making gnudi enough because everyone always loves it. We’ve chosen one of our favourite ways to serve gnudi here. If you are having a few friends over, make gnudi!

Serves 4

For the gnudi:
500g (18oz) ricotta
1 egg yolk
30g (1 1/4oz) ‘00’ flour
30g (1 1/4oz) grated Parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
2kg (4 1/2lbs) semolina flour, for dusting
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine the ricotta, egg yolk, ‘00’ flour and Parmesan together in a bowl, then add the lemon zest and salt and pepper and mix again.

In a large, deep, non-reactive baking tray or plastic container spread out a layer of semolina flour, about 5mm thick.

Roll the gnudi mixture into 10 balls and then place on the semolina flour in a single layer, making sure they do not touch each other.

Once you’ve used up all the mixture completely cover the gnudi with the remaining semolina flour and chill into the fridge for 24 hours. After 24 hours the semolina will have formed a crust on the gnudi – this helps the dumplings hold their shape.

When you’re ready to cook the gnudi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, dust off the excess semolina flour (any excess semolina flour can be kept in the fridge and used again) and boil for 3 minutes, reserving some of the cooking water.

To Serve:
80g (3 1/4oz) butter
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
large bunch of watercress, thick stalks removed
160g (5 1/4oz) goats’ curd or a good-quality cottage cheese, preferably unpasteurised
zest of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large pan until the butter begins to foam. Add the watercress and couple a small ladles of the gnudi cooking water and stir gently. As soon as the watercress starts to wilt, add the goats’ curd or cottage cheese and give it another stir (you may need to add a little more of the gnudi water to thin the sauce slightly).


Drain the gnudi and add to the sauce. Give everything a gentle stir, being careful not to break the gnudi. Divide the gnudi and sauce between four bowls and finish each bowl with a grating of lemon zest, a good drizzle of olive oil and a few twists of black pepper.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup (LitFest 2017)


 Sumayya Usmani’s Lahori Fish

In Chickpea Batter and Ajwain Seeds


Summer holidays spent with my cousins in Lahore were always a food adventure. This is a city that never stops eating, and one of the most authentic street meals from Lahore’s foodie hot spot is this lightly battered chickpea flour fish. The trick to a crispy coating is dipping the fish in rice water (that’s the starchy water that’s drained off after boiling rice) instead of tap water. An alternative is to mix a teaspoon of cornflour in tap water for a similar effect.

Preparation 20 minutes/Cooking 10–15 minutes

Serves 4–6


4–6 haddock fillets

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

100g (3 1/2oz/generous 1 cup) gram flour

2 tablespoons rice flour

1 teaspoon dry-roasted cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)

1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (or more if you like)

100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) rice water (made by boiling 1 tablespoon of rice in 120ml/4fl oz/1/2 cup water, straining and reserving the water, or 100ml (3 1/2fl oz/ scant 1/2 cup) water mixed with 1 teaspoon cornflour/cornstarch)

50ml (2fl oz/scant 1/4 cup) corn oil


Rub the fish with the lemon juice, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix the gram flour, rice flour, cumin, ajwain, red chilli flakes and remaining salt together in a bowl. Pour the rice water into another bowl. Dip the fish into the dry gram flour mix, then in the rice water and repeat again. Continue until all the pieces of fish are covered.


Heat the oil in shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for 4–5 minutes on each side until cooked through with a crisp coating. Serve hot with lemon slices.

Kitchen Secret

To get a really crisp coating, begin by patting the fish dry with kitchen paper to remove all the non-starchy moisture before dipping into the starch water. If your fish is a little smelly, rub some white vinegar on the fish then rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper before coating.


Sumayya Usmani’s Karhai Ginger Chicken

 On the days I was greeted with the hot citrus tang of fresh ginger from my grandmother’s garden as it was sliced artfully into julienne pieces, I knew I was getting Pakistani-style ginger chicken for supper. This is a dish that is found in every restaurant and home in Pakistan and is simple and quick to make, with bursts of raw ginger added at the end for a fresh finish. Serve with a daal and rice – and you can substitute chicken with boneless duck or turkey for a fuller flavour.


Preparation 10 minutes/Cooking 25–30 minutes

Serves 4


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon each of garlic purée and

grated ginger

200g (7oz) chicken breast cut into

5cm (2 inch) chunks

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tablespoons tomato purée

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

salt, to taste

1 tablespoons unsalted butter



5cm (2 inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne

handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

10 mint leaves, chopped


Heat the oil in wok-style pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and allow to splutter for 30 seconds. Add the garlic purée and grated ginger and fry for a further 30 seconds, or until the raw smell of garlic disappears.

Add the chicken to the pan and fry until it is sealed all over. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5–7 minutes until softened, then add the tomato purée and the yogurt and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until the oil starts to separate. Add the red chilli powder, black pepper, turmeric and salt and cook for a further 5–7 minutes until the chicken is done. Add the butter before turning off the heat and letting the butter melt.

 Before serving, add the julienned ginger, coriander, green chillies and mint, and stir through.


Jacob Kennedy’s Courgette Carpaccio with Parmesan and Anchovy

Spring and early summer, joy sprouts from the soil in leafy greens and a bounty of vegetables. Younger courgettes (where the seedy core is still embryonic) are delicious barely cooked, or boiled until tender and drenched in olive oil – but really sing raw. I like to use the Romano variety – firm, dry, sweet and mild, with a beautiful ridged form that makes stars when sliced. These are the best, for everything, but any courgette will make for a nice dish, particularly the paler skinned varieties.

Serves 4 as a starter

600g (1 1/4lb) youngish courgettes

8 fillets salted anchovy

4 tablespoons very finely diced parmesan

a few whole flat-leaf parsley leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Slice the courgettes across into very thin roundels. Arrange flat on a plate like a carpaccio. Chop the anchovy fillets coarsely or slice them lengthways into thin strips and lay on top of the courgettes. Season with salt and a little pepper. Scatter with the parmesan and parsley, and drizzle with oil. Serve straight away.

Jacob Kenedy, Bocca di Lupo (LitFest 2017)


Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Puff Pastry Strawberry Galette

 A galette doesn’t rely as much on the consistency of oven heat as a tart, where you want the heat to be perfectly even all over. Here the pastry needs to be perfect, as does the quality of fruit you are using.

We’ve made galettes with just about every fruit going, from pears and strawberries to plums and rhubarb, so do experiment with whatever fruits you have going and see what happens.

Serves 8–12

For the pastry:

375g (13oz) plain flour
50g (2oz) cornflour
200g (7oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
60g (2 1/2oz) crème fraîche
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
beaten egg, to glaze

First make the pastry. Tip the flour and cornflour into a food processor and add the diced butter. Pulse until you have a coarse crumb texture – you want to have small clumps of butter visible through the flour.

Add the remaining pastry ingredients (except the beaten egg) and pulse briefly to combine, adding a dash of cold water if needed to bring it together into a dough. Don’t overwork the dough as you don’t want all the butter fully combined. Tip out on to a work surface, pat into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile make the filling. Quarter your apples and remove the core. Use a mandoline slicer to thinly slice the apples and put into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, prunes and hazelnuts and give it a good mix with your hands. Leave to macerate at room temperature until needed.

Once your pastry is chilled preheat the oven to 180°C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

For the filling:

1kg (2 1/4lb) strawberries

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

a splash of rose water

handful of crushed pistachios

crème fraiche to serve


Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on to a work surface and dust with flour. Place the pastry on to the parchment and with a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a circle approximately 35–40cm (14-16 inches) in diameter and 3mm (1/8 inch) thick. The pastry will be quite soft so take care.

Tip the filling along with the juices on to the pastry and spread out, leaving a 5cm border all around. Fold the border over the fruit filling – this process doesn’t need to be too neat and if the pastry tears just pinch it back together. Remember this is rustic galette; it wouldn’t sit right in a French patisserie, but that’s the point. Once you’ve folded in the edges, brush them with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Slide the galette, still on the parchment paper, on to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked. Serve hot with crème fraîche or ice cream.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup (LitFest 2017)



Literacy Festival of Food and Drinks at Ballymaloe

It’s crazily busy at Litfest HQ – the fifth Ballymaloe Litfest is underway. This year we’ve changed the emphasis somewhat so the proper title is A Food and Drinks Literacy Festival at Ballymaloe.

We’ve continued to build on the previous years events which have by now been written about from New York to Sydney, Los Angeles to Capetown with well over 35 nationalities attending. They return to their own countries to spread the word of what’s happening on the Irish food scene and the fun and thought provoking events they attended at the Litfest. Sommelier Colm McCan has managed to assemble yet another world class line up in the Drinks Theatre. Isabelle Legeron M W, a London based wine writer and global crusader for the natural wine movement is coming along as well as many other luminaries from the spirit, craft beer and cider world. Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland will discuss their book The Brother Hubbard Cookbook. David Puttnam will be in conversation with John McKenna ‘Living, Working and Eating in West Cork’, Trish Deseine, Irish food writer and cookbook author will give her perspective on Irish food culture – also unmissable.

Brian McGinn Ex producer of Netflix and series Chefs Table will be in conversation with David Prior International Editor of Conde Nast Traveller, they’ll both be keeping their eyes open for stories. The festival takes place at Ballymaloe House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, The Grain Store and the Big Shed. This year the humming Big Shed at the heart of the festival will once again be brimming with good things to eat and drink from some of Ireland’s finest artisan producers. There will be the sound of music ranging from the gentle during daylight hours to the more energetic when the sun goes down. Some of the weekend’s many free Fringe events will take place here and the Family Corner will ensure that festival goers of all ages will be kept happy and amused.

So what am I looking forward to at the Ballymaloe Cookery School?

At last we’ve managed to tempt Clare Lattin and Tom Hill over from their restaurants in London’s Soho and Shoreditch to share some of their recipes. Readers of this column will know that Raw Duck and Duck Soup as two of my favourite London restaurants. Monika Linton from Brindisa who wrote the book I’ve been waiting for on Spanish food will teach a class on Saturday morning.

Then there’s Jacob Kennedy from Bocca di Lupo, back by ‘popular demand’ as is the beautiful and gracious Claudia Roden who will speak on both Saturday and Sunday.

Generous as always, Sunil Ghai from Pickle in Dublin will share the secret to many of the dishes that have made Pickle award winning new restaurant so renowned.

But you may not yet have heard of Sumayya Usmani who’s really making waves with her Pakastani food. This is award winning author’s first appearance in Ireland – don’t miss….

Charlotte Pike (former Ballymaloe Cookery School student) has already built up quite a following with her Fermented book but this time she will focus on her recently published book, Smoked and show us how to have fun at home, hot and cold smoking all manner of delicious foods.

Christian Puglisi of Relae, Manfred’s and Baest in Copenhagen can’t stay away. After his last trip to Ballymaloe he was so inspired by the farm, gardens and ethos that Mrs Allen had created that he is setting up the Farm of Ideas Project – he’ll tell us all about it on Sunday afternoon in The Carrigaun Room.
The Grain Store will host the symposium – a series of short talks and presentations on the theme – Our Responsibility.

The BBC Radio 4 food program, Sheila Dillon and Dan Saladino are coming over from London to record from the Litfest.

Want to go foraging on the seashore with Alys Fowler, garden correspondent of the Guardian? Or watch another of my food heroes, Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen will talk on the Joy of Cooking in the Grain Store on Saturday afternoon.
The pretty Garden Tent nestled alongside the scented rosemary bed is now an established and exciting venue over the weekend and will have a full programme of free events to which all are welcome. John Bowman from RTE will be back with his Questions and Answers as will Jim Carroll with his banter series.

There simply isn’t nearly enough space to mention all of the 64 speakers or events so go and check it out on

Some events are already booked out but there are still lots of opportunities, so come along it’s still not too late to book. Maybe our biggest coup of all is Vytenis Andriukaitis who will speak in the Grain Store on Sunday ‘To Eat is a Political Statement’ and then there’s the Great Grocers and Joanna Blythman speaking on Nutrition – Really? and our own Professor Ted Dinan on Diet, Stress and Mental Health and even a session on Food from Space by astrophysicist Niall Smith – sure where would you get it!
And believe me all of the above is just a taste. Check it out, see you there and speaking of taste here’s what to come.

Hot Tips
Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Duck Soup cookery demonstration, handful of places remaining for at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Saturday May 20th. Bookings through

Meet the Author, Rebecca Sullivan who will discuss her new book The Art of the Natural Home on Saturday May 20th. Further information on

Slow Food Galway is hosting an event on Sunday May 21st 2017.
Curing, Pickling, Smoking fresh vegetables, fish and meat at Cáit Curran Síol Centre in Moycullen, Galway.
Phone Trish 086 635 9920 or Kate 087 931 2333 for more information.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Courgettes, Broad Beans, Peas, Tahini Yoghurt, Pomegranate and Dill

Serves 4

800 g courgettes
Extra virgin olive oil
500 g peas in the pod
500 g broad beans in the pod
1 pomegranate
Juice of 1 lemon
250 g tahini yoghurt, see recipe
Handfuls of dill fronds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut each courgette into three on the diagonal; if you can do this on alternate angles you will get a more interesting shape which helps add texture to the dish.

Place a large frying pan over a medium –high heat until hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add your courgettes, frying them until they are golden brown on all sides. Season, with salt as you go. Once cooked, remove from the pan and set to one side.

Bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil while you pod the peas and broad beans. Once podded add to the water and blanch for just one minute and drain. Plunge straight into a bowl of iced water to stop them cooking further.

Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting it in half and then holding over a bowl, cut side down on your spread palm. Hit the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon or rolling pin so that the seeds drop out into the bowl. If you have trouble try turning the half inside out and gently coaxing the remaining seeds out with your fingers.

Drain the peas and broad beans well and add to a bowl with the courgettes. Dress with the lemon juice and some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

It’s now time to assemble the ingredients. Spoon the tahini yoghurt into the middle of a large plate and then use the back of your spoon to gently spread it out. Don’t go for a thin, even circle – you want some texture. Spoon your vegetables over the yoghurt, making sure that you don’t cover it completely – you want them to sort of look like they’re bobbing in a tahini pond. Tear over your dill, being sure to keep the fronds intact, and finally spoon over the pomegranate seeds – you want to try to spoon little groups into any gaps rather than just have a sprinkling of seeds here and there. Finish with a bit more lemon juice and a good helping of extra virgin olive oil.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Tahini Yoghurt

An absolute staple ‘go to’ accompaniment at the restaurant. We add toasted nigella and coriander seeds, garlic and olive oil to our tahini yoghurt. It works really well with a whole array of roast vegetables.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
Juice of ½ lemon
50g tahini paste
500 g thick Greek yoghurt
1 garlic clove, minced
50 ml extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Light crush the coriander seeds with a pestle and mortar and toast with the nigella seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat for 5 minutes.

Whisk the lemon juice and tahini paste together in a large bowl; it will go quite thick but that’s fine. When the seeds are toasted, add to the bowl along with all the other ingredients.

Whisk together until everything is combined. Decant into a jar or a covered bowl and keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.

The Wisdom of Simple Cooking Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Crispy Lamb, Labneh, Mint, Red Onion and Pomegranate

Serves 4

1 whole lamb breast, about 2 kg, cut in half
500 ml lamb stock
1 pomegranate
Extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Small handful of mint leaves
Small handful of flat leaf parsley
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
160 g labneh
Chargrilled flatbread or toasted sourdough bread, to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas mark 6. Season the lamb breast with salt and pepper and put into a large roasting tray. Pour over the lamb stock, cover tightly with foil and cook in the oven for 2-3 hours, or until the meat easily comes away from the bone.

Once cooked remove the lamb breasts from the stock and allow to cool. Keep the lamb stock as you can use it another day – simply pour into small tubs and freeze.

While the lamb cools, remove the seeds from the pomegranate by cutting it in half and then holding over a bowl, cut side down on your spread palm. Hit the back of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon or rolling pin so that the seeds drop out into the bowl. If you have trouble try turning the half inside out and gently coaxing the remaining seeds out with your fingers.

Once the lamb breast is cool enough to handle remove all the meat from the bones in large chunks and set aside. Heat a frying pan over a medium high heat and add a generous glug of oil. Add the chilli flakes and then fry the lamb until nice and crisp, giving it a pinch of salt as it cooks.

When the lamb is crisp transfer to a large bowl. Tear in the mint and parsley and add the sliced onion. Squeeze in the lemon juice, add another good splash of olive oil and half the pomegranate seeds and season with salt and pepper.

Toss everything together with your hands and gently coax the salad out of the bowl with your fingers onto individual plates. Spoon a dollop of labneh on to a third of the plate, and finish by scattering the entire dish with pomegranate seeds. Serve with chargrilled flatbread or toasted sourdough.

The Wisdom of Simple Cooking Ducksoup Cookbook by Clare Lattin and Tom Hill

Jacob Kennedy’s Tomato and Purslane Salad

Serves 4 as a starter or side

500 g delicious tomatoes
½ small red onion
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
100 g picked purslane leaves and tips

Quarter the tomatoes and slice the red onion very thinly across the grain. Macerate these with the vinegar, oil and plenty of salt and pepper for 5 minutes, then toss in the leaves and serve with a crust of bread on hand to mop the bowl afterwards.

Bocca Cookbook by Jacob Kennedy

Jacob Kennedy’s Orecchiette with ‘Nduja

Even a small amount of ‘nduja is enough to make for extremely spicy pasta, but the heat is tempered, slightly by the cream.

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

200 g semolina or 260 g bought fresh orecchiette or 200 g dried (but only if you must)

1 red onion, halved and sliced with the grain
120 g cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
50 g ‘nduja or 100 g if shop bought and not quite so strong
50 ml white wine
80 ml double cream
50 g rocket, very roughly chopped
Freshly grated pecorino romano, to served

First make a semolina pasta dough with the semolina flour and 80 ml of water. It should be firm but malleable. Knead well; let it rest for at least 20 minutes, then make the orecchiette.

Roll the dough into a sausage (it may help to do this in a few batches) 1 cm wide. Cut across to make 1 cm dumplings. Take a knife and make the orecchiette one by one. With the flat of the knife at 30° to the table, use a smearing action (away from your body) to press the dumpling out, using the rounded end of the knife blade. It should stretch, flatten and curl around the blade, becoming thinner in the middle than at the edges, one of which will be slightly stuck to the blade of the knife. Put your index finger gently against the centre of the little curl of pasta over your fingertip and simultaneously detach it from the blade. It should now look like a little ear, with a slightly thick rim (the lobe), and a rough texture on the thinner centre, from where the knife pulled against the dough. A lot of words for very small pasta, these take some practice before they come right, but after are as easy as pie. Leave them spread out on a wooden or floured surface until you’re ready to cook – they’re best left for half an hour or so, to become a little leathery.

Next fry the onion and tomatoes in the oil over a high heat for 3 minutes, until softened and slightly browned. Crumble in the ‘nduja and fry for 30 seconds, then add the wine and a small ladleful of water. Let it bubble for a few moments, then add the cream.

Allow the sauce to cook until the cream has reddened, and thickened if it looked watery. To cook the orecchiette, bring a pan of salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the drained pasta (still a little wet) and the rocket to the sauce, cook until the rocket is wilted and the pasta coated in the sauce. Serve with grated pecorino on top.

Bocca Cookbook by Jacob Kennedy

Shabbo Khala’s Cauliflower Pakoras with spiced moong daal batter

In Pakistan, a mother’s closest friends are like maternal aunts and are called ‘Khala’. Every Khala has her secret recipes – this one is my Shabbo Khala’s. As a child I would excitedly anticipate meals at her house, hoping to get some of these thinly sliced cauliflower florets in spicy lentil batter.

Preparation 25 minutes + 3–8 hours soaking | Cooking 10 minutes | Serves 6–8
150g/5oz/1½ cups moong daal
2 tbsp water
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chaat masala
1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
150–200ml/5–7 fl oz/2⁄3–scant 1 cup vegetable oil
½ cauliflower, cut into florets then florets sliced thinly vertically

To make the batter, soak the lentils in a bowl of water for at least 3 hours, or overnight, then drain and put them into a food processor or blender. Blend with the measured water until it is a smooth thick batter. Stir in all the spices, salt and chopped coriander.

Heat the oil in a wok-style pan over a medium heat. When the oil is smoking hot, reduce the heat to low.

Dip the slices of cauliflower into the batter (forming a thin coating of batter on the
cauliflower) and deep-fry in the oil for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Move the pakora around as they cook to allow them to cook evenly. Remove the pakoras with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.
Summers Under The Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani
Photography by Joanna Yee

Chicken salan on-the-bone chicken curry

Salan means a liquid-based stew, and the closest description in English would be a thin curry. An everyday staple, chicken salan is classically made using chicken on the bone alongside onion, ginger and garlic with tomatoes and a simple combination of spice. Feel free to experiment with different spice combinations to make this dish your own. It’s best served with an accompaniment of daal, rice and a vegetable dish.

Preparation 15 minutes | Cooking 45–55 minutes | Serves 4–6
3–4 tbsp corn oil
2 red onions, roughly chopped
1-cm/½-inch piece ginger, peeled
and grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes or 5 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp tomato purée (optional)
salt, to taste
1 tsp red chilli powder (reduce if required)
¼ ground turmeric
1 kg/2¼ lb chicken with bones (ask butcher to cut a whole skinned chicken into 16 pieces with bone or use about 500g/1lb 2oz deboned thighs or chicken breast pieces (2.5–5cm/1–2 inches large)
100ml/3½ fl oz/½ cup water plus 5–8 tbsp

For the ground spices
1 tsp cumin seeds
3–4 green cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander (cilantro) seeds

To garnish
handful of tender fresh coriander
(cilantro) with stems, chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
For the ground spices, grind all the spices together then set aside. Heat the oil in a
heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook for 8–10 minutes until golden. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until the raw smell disappears. Add the ground spices, reserving a teaspoon of the spices to garnish. Now cook for about 10–15 minutes until everything is caramelised. The onions will start to darken, and the garlic and ginger will also begin to caramelise. This is what you need for an intensely coloured base.

Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, salt, chilli and turmeric then turn the heat to medium
and bhuno (stir-fry) this mixture. If the tomatoes start to splutter a lot reduce the heat
slightly. Cook for about 20 minutes until you are left with a thick, rich sauce.

Turn off the heat, let the tomato mixture cool, then blitz in a blender until smooth.

Add 5–8 tablespoons water to make sure it is not too thick – it should be the consistency of a thick jam. Return to the pan, add the chicken pieces and 50ml/2 fl oz/scant ¼ cup of the water and increase the heat to medium-high. Bhuno (stir-fry) the chicken until you start to see the oil separating from the sauce, about 15 minutes of vigorous stirring.

Reduce the heat to low, add about another 50ml/2 fl oz/scant ¼ cup water, cover and
cook until the oil floats on top of the curry sauce and the chicken is cooked through.

Garnish with chopped coriander, chillies and a sprinkling of the spice blend. Serve with basmati rice, chapati and a salad such as crispy chapati kachumber salad.

Summers under The Tamarind Tree by Sumayya Usmani
Photography by Joanna Yee

Letting the Hens Out

Today was such a joyous day, after more than three months we were allowed to let our flock of hens out of their houses. They have been confined for over three months on the instruction of the Department of Agriculture along with all poultry in these islands because of the threat of Avian flu in Europe. We’ve been feeding them indoors, bringing them up the end of greenhouse crops – kale, bolted lettuce and salad greens but it’s not the same as being able to romp around and range freely in the sunlight.

You can’t imagine the excitement when we opened the popper in the door of the Palais des Poulets. At first, they were bewildered and then they made a dash for freedom and skipped out into the sunlight to range freely on the grass that is so so important to their wellbeing.

It was a joy to watch them scratching enthusiastically for worms and grubs and jumping into the compost skip to forage for scraps – no need for a brown bin here, the hens eat the vegetable scraps and then we have beautiful eggs a few days later and furthermore the hen manure and straw bedding is added to the compost heap. A brilliant activator which when it eventually breaks down into humus is added to the soil to increase the fertility to grow more wholesome fresh vegetables and herbs – a beautiful virtuous triangle and no waste.
See video link
I love poultry and encourage anyone who will listen to consider getting a little flock of hens, four or five in a little chicken coop in your garden would provide an adequate egg supply for most households. The coop can be moved around your lawn every few days, the hens do the mowing and their droppings will fertilise your grass so its win win all the way. Kids of all ages love hens, they are friendly and entertaining plus children get to learn a little more about how their food is produced, recycling and the value of compost. They will love collecting the freshly laid eggs and enjoy boiled eggs with ‘soldiers’ – an almost forgotten flavour.
Where to find hens and what to buy? For free range production try to find heritage breeds. Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we have about 600 hens in several flocks. We buy day old chicks from Willie Johnston in Armagh ( and O Leary Poultry in Macroom (0879697939) who hatch organic chicks. These traditional breeds are hardier for outdoor production. Occasionally a hen hatches out a little clutch of chicks – we had some just in time for Easter to the delight of the grandchildren and their friends.

Always buy from a reputable source and make sure they have been vaccinated.
The arucanas lay bluey green eggs, the Sussex or Leghorn white, Rhode Island red and the Marans dark brown – all are beautiful in their own way. Eggs are a perfect a rich source of protein. They contain vitamin B2, B12, Vitamin D, selenium, iodine, a powerhouse of disease busting nutrients. Two eggs provide a simple nourishing fulfilling supper enough for most people with a salad and some good bread. Excellent value for money.

If you have a little surplus your friends will gladly accept them or you can sell them at your local country or Farmers Market.
From the cooks point of view they are immensely versatile not just as an ingredient but as an emulsifier in sauces like Hollandaise and Béarnaise but also a binder and enrichment in cakes and pastries.
I did a column about eggs for Easter but one could easily write a whole book on eggs and many have so here are a few more ways to enjoy your beautiful fresh eggs.

Hot Tips
Skibbereen or Bantry Farmers Market often have live hens, ducks, geese and guinea fowl for sale. Alternatively contact O’ Leary Poultry at Skibbereen Market on 087 9697939 or Meynhaus at Bantry’s market 087 2208061.

GIY HQ Courses, Classes and Events
Check out the course schedule at the GIY HQ in Waterford……Beginners Guide to Growing, Soil Fertility, Managing Pests and Disease, Kids Club and Gardening lessons… Tel: 051 584422

Litfest 2017
The excitement is building here at Litfest HQ – watch out for is Sumayya Usmani, a native of Pakistan, a writer and cookery teacher based in Glasgow. She specialises in the cuisine of Pakistan and travels regularly to her homeland. Her debut book Summers Under the Tamarind Tree won the Best First Cookbook category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Sumayya will give a cookery demonstration at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday May 21st at 10.00am. Don’t miss this rare opportunity.

Support Cór Cois Farraige’s annual charity concert in aid of Time for Tilara on Sunday May 14th at the Garryvoe Hotel, 8pm. Tickets are €10.00 available at local outlets in East Cork and at the door.

Parmesan Custards with Anchovy Toasts

Serves 8

250ml (9fl ozs/generous 1 cup) cream
250ml (9 fl ozs/generous 1 cup) milk
4 organic eggs
100g (3 1/2 ozs) finely grated Parmesan or Coolea Cheese
salt, freshly ground pepper and a good pinch of cayenne
melted butter

Anchovy Butter
6 anchovy fillets
25g (1ozs/1/4 stick) unsalted butter

4 slices of good quality white yeast bread

8 deep ovenproof pots or ramekins (75ml/3fl ozs) (we use shot glasses)

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

Whisk the cream and milk with the egg yolks and the finely grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Whisk again. Brush the inside of the pots with melted butter. Divide the mixture between the pots.

Fill a bain-marie with hot water, put the pots into the bain-marie, the water should come about 2/3 way up the sides. Cover the tops with a sheet of silicone paper. Depending on the depth of the ramekin, bake for 30-45 minutes in the preheated oven or until the mixture has just set. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.

Meanwhile, make the anchovy butter.
Mash the anchovies finely with a fork, add the butter and mix well.

Just before serving, toast the bread quickly on both sides. Spread the anchovy butter sparingly on 2 slices of bread and make into sandwiches with the other slices. Press down to seal, trim off the crusts. Cut each in half crosswise and then cut into thin fingers. Put a pot or ramekin on a plate. Arrange a little trellis of anchovy toasts on the side, add a teaspoon. Serve immediately.

Variation:- Wild Garlic Custards
Serves 8

3 tablespoons wild garlic, finely chopped

Add to the custard just before pouring into the ramekins, serve with a few fingers of plain toast.

Leek Flamiche

There are many variations on this theme, some have no cheese, others no bacon. Similar leek tarts and pies are made in Belgium, France and many parts of the UK, including Wales and Cornwall. One can use the filling to make into a gorgeous pie with pastry underneath and on top, or just on top. Either way it is delicious.
No need to re-cook cooked ham
Serves 6-8

A pre-baked 22.5cm tart shell made with
225g shortcrust pastry – made with
175g flour
75g butter
1 egg yolk and a little water

450g white part of leeks, sliced in 1cm thick rings
50g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs or 1 large egg and one egg yolk
300ml single cream
100g rindless streaky raw bacon or ham cut into lardons
75g Gruyère, grated

22.5cm tart tin with removable base.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat. When it foams, add the sliced leeks. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss, cover and cook gently until soft and tender but not coloured, about 8-10 minutes. Drain if necessary and allow to cool. Cut the bacon or bacon or ham into 5mm lardons. Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add bacon and cook for 5-6 minutes or until slightly golden and cooked through.
Meanwhile whisk the eggs and cream together, stir in the cooled leeks and ham or bacon and most of the cheese. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spoon into the pre-baked tart shell, (It will be full to the top). Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just set in the centre and golden on top.
Serve warm.

Coconut and Apricot Fingers

Makes 24

110g (4oz) butter
110g (4oz) caster sugar
1 organic egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

275 g (10 oz) apricot jam

Coconut topping
1 organic egg
75g (3oz) coconut
110g (4oz) caster sugar

1 large Swiss roll tin 25 x 38cm (10 x 15in)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Cream the butter, add the caster sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat well and then stir in the flour. Brush the tin with melted butter. Spread the mixture over the base, then spread the apricot jam evenly over the base. Whisk the egg, then fold in the caster sugar and desiccated coconut.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Cool. Cut into fingers.

Irish Food Writers Guild Awards 2017

Awards are two a penny nowadays but it really has to be said, that some are scarcely credible, depending as they do on the number of people you can get to vote for you, by fair means or foul – not a particularly popular thing to say but sadly pretty close to the mark.
There are however, a few exceptions – Awards that really are worth winning. Amongst those are the Irish Food Writers Guild Awards established in 1990. These were one of the first of the kind in the country and remain unique. No one can enter their own company or their product into the awards and so they are unaware that they have been nominated or shortlisted. The Guild is the sole nominating and decision making body and as Georgina Campbell, president of the guild explained, the decisions are arrived at by a PR system and it’s “all incredibly correct”.

Products must be made with Irish produce or the main ingredient must be manufactured in Ireland. The announcement of the 2017 winners was made at a celebratory lunch at Patrick Guilbaud, two star Michelin restaurant in Dublin where head chef Guillaume Lebrun wove the winners products into a special menu with great panache.

This year’s IFWG awards went to a series of artisan producers . In no particular order The Friendly Farmer – Ronan Byrne from Galway who has been producing high quality chickens since 2007 when he identified a strong local demand from chefs and mothers desperate for tasty chicken. He produces 115 Hubbard chickens a week on a grass based system and has developed an onsite abattoir. He also rears, free range pigs, beef, cattle, turkeys, geese and ducks in season. How wonderful would it be to have a Friendly Farmer in every parish in Ireland? He sells direct to his customers through a farm shop in Moycullen and another in Galway.

Smoked Duck from Anthony Cresswell at Ummera Smokehouse near Timoleague won another well-deserved award. A second generation smoker, Anthony is also famous for the quality of this smoked salmon, dry cured bacon, chicken and recently developed picanha a Brazilian style cut of meat. Anthony chooses his raw materials carefully, he favours Silver Hill duck from? for its tenderness, delicate flavour and its generous layer of fat that keeps the hot smoked duck moist – the result, a delicious versatile product, ready to use, that is the combined creation of two exemplary Irish producers.

A third award went to Cuinneóg Irish farmhouse country butter and natural buttermilk from Co Mayo. Tom and Sheila Butler started to make this traditional butter in their family kitchen in 2009 and have since won numerous awards. Cuinneóg means ‘churn’ and once again this artisan produce is being made by the next generation – Breda who inherited the skills from her parents.

Another award for Cork, the county that has produced so many superb artisan producers. This time it went to an artisan beverage, Bertha’s Revenge – a highly original craft gin made at Ballyvolane House by old friends, Justin Green and Anthony Jackson.
Bertha’s Revenge is distilled with whey alcohol sourced from the local Carbery dairy plant and the milk of dairy from cows milk produced by Co Cork dairy farmers. The spirit is distilled three times with specially chosen botanicals including coriander, bitter orange, cardamom, cumin and clove as well as some locally foraged plants like alexander seeds, elderflower and sweet woodruff. This truly Irish gin continues the field to fork tradition that has long been at the heart of Ballyvolane House, a former dairy farm turned award winning country house hotel.
Mag Kerwin of Goatsbridge Trout Farm in Co Kilkenny is quite a force of nature and she won an IFWG award for her notable contribution to the Irish food and deservedly so. She is a tireless innovator and continues to add to her Eat Trout range of product and to promote Irish food in general.
The (brilliant) Little Milk Company were also awarded but more about them in another column.

Hot Tips

Bake your own Bread and Bring it Home
There’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting out of your OWN oven – one of life’s simple pleasures and it’s sooo easy. On this half day course, a combination of demonstration and hands-on session, you’ll learn how to make several different bread recipes from traditional white and brown soda and multi seed to a really simple brown and white yeast bread technique and super quick scones. After a short demonstration, it’s into the kitchen for a hands-on session to bake your chosen loaves to bring home to share proudly with your family and friends. Friday May 12th2017,

East Cork Slow Food Event
Lady Balfour founder of the Soil Association once said “the health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible”. David Beecher will give a talk on soil, life beneath our feet on Thursday May 11th, 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Tickets €6/€8. Phone 021 4646785 or for further information

Litfest 2017 is ramping up now and Litfest HQ is in its fifth year. The theme for this year’s Litfest is ‘Local Hero, Global Hero’. Join us for two days of foraging walks, lunches; pop up guest chef dinners, panel discussions, free fringe activities and cookery demonstrations. Check out Sunil Ghai’s cookery demonstration at the BCS on Saturday May 20th at 9.30am. Sunil is the leading Indian chef in Ireland, winning an impressive array of awards including FOOD&WINE Magazine’s Chef of the Year 2009. He is currently at the helm of his own Venture at Pickle Restaurant Eating house & Bar on Camden Street in Dublin. Sunil’s food philosophy is inspired by the rich culinary traditions of his homeland, Gwalior in Central India using the very best local, fresh ingredients and the world’s finest spices. For Sunil “each plate is a journey, a delight for the eye and the palette.”

Wrappies – have you discovered these environmentally friendly food wrappers. They do the same as clingfilm except you can wash, dry and reuse them and they’re altogether pretty. They are made from cotton dipped in beeswax tree resin and jojoba oil. So you can feel like you’re saving the planet during day to day tasks like making packed lunches and putting things in the fridge. After use just wash in cool water with some soft soap (not detergent) rinse and hang up to dry. Available from Madeline McKeever, tel: 028 381 84and the Skibbereen Farmers Market.

Salad of Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breast with Beetroot and Horseradish

Serves 4

4 cooked beetroots cut into small cubes
olive oil
Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Ummera Smoked Silver Hill Duck Breasts, thinly sliced
2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced
prepared horseradish sauce, to serve
pistachios, to garnish
micro herbs, to garnish

Dress the cooked cubed beetroot in a little olive oil and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place the beetroot on a cold plate and add a few dots of olive oil and vinegar. Neatly arrange the thinly sliced smoked duck and pears on top. Finish with a small quenelle of horseradish sauce and garnish with a few halved pistachios, micro herbs and a little coarsely ground black pepper.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and Tonic Foam and Pickled Ginger

Serves 8

For the tomato jelly
3 leaves of gelatine
500g ripe plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of caster sugar
dash of Tabasco sauce

For the gin and tonic foam
2 leaves of gelatine
400ml tonic water
0.5g agar agar
100ml Bertha’s Revenge Irish Milk Gin

To assemble
1 large piece of Goatsbridge Cold Smoked Trout, cut into bite-sized pieces
pickled ginger, cut into bite-sized pieces

To make the tomato jelly, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Blend the tomatoes in a food processor, then pass through a fine muslin cloth. Season the tomato water with salt, pepper, sugar and Tabasco sauce. Gently warm the tomato water, then add the hydrated gelatine. Leave to set.

To make the gin and tonic foam, soak the leaves of gelatine in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes. Boil the tonic water briefly with the agar agar. Remove from the heat and add the hydrated gelatine and the gin. Leave to cool, then place in a cream siphon charged with one carbon dioxide canister.

To assemble, place 1 tablespoon of the tomato jelly in a small cup or shot glass. Add one or two small pieces of smoked trout, then one small piece of pickled ginger. Finish with the gin and tonic foam and serve straight away.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Friendly Farmer’s Pasture-Reared Chicken with Lemon Viennoise and Sweet Potato Purée

Serves 4

1 x Friendly Farmer pasture-reared whole small chicken

For the sweet potato purée
rock salt
6 sweet potatoes
100g butter, diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lemon viennoise
500g fresh white breadcrumbs
400g butter, diced
70g grated Parmesan
2 egg yolks
zest of 3 lemons
pinch of saffron powder

To serve
wilted pak choi
roast red pepper
roast chicken jus

Preheat the oven to 230°C.

Pour a thick layer of rock salt in a baking tray. Scrub the unpeeled sweet potatoes well, then pat them dry and nestle them into the bed of salt. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for about 1 hour, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, split them open and scoop the flesh into a Thermomix or food processor along with the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a smooth purée and keep warm.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.

To make the lemon viennoise, simply mix all the ingredients together in a food processor.

Remove the legs and wishbone from the chicken so that you’re left with just the crown. Stuff the lemon viennoise under the skin, then place the chicken on a large baking tray. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until completely cooked through. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the carved chicken on top of a spoonful of sweet potato purée. Finish with wilted pak choi and a few small strips of roast red pepper and drizzle with roast chicken jus.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

Cuinneog Buttermilk Ice Cream with Pear and White Chocolate Café au Lait

Serves 12

For the ice cream
2 litres Cuinneog Buttermilk
450g egg yolks
360g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

For the pear sorbet
1kg pear purée
360g caster sugar
10ml Poire Williams
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
100g white chocolate, melted

For the marinated pears
2 ripe pears
100ml freshly brewed espresso, cooled

To serve
chocolate biscuits, crushed

To make the ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a large saucepan, then immediately remove from the heat. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a large heatproof bowl. Pour over the scalded milk and whisk to combine. Allow to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

To make the pear sorbet, place the pear purée and all sugar in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the Poire Williams and vanilla seeds. Allow to cool, then churn most of it (save a little for decorating the finished dish) in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions and freeze.

When the sorbet has frozen solid, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Scoop the sorbet into 20g balls and dip them in the melted white chocolate, then place back in the freezer until needed.

Peel and core the pears and use a Parisienne scoop to make balls. Pour the cooled espresso in a bowl and add the pears. Allow to marinate for at least a few hours or overnight.

Serve a quenelle of ice cream on a spoonful of crushed chocolate biscuits with balls of the pear sorbet, marinated pears and dots of the remaining pear purée alongside.

Recipe created for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards 2017 by executive chef Guillaume Lebrun of Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

School Tour

On each 12 Week Certificate, course we all pile into a bus to go a ‘foodie’ school tour. We brain storm about opportunities in food and visit some of the exemplars in the artisan and specialty food area. This Spring we started close to home with a visit to Shanagarry Smoke House to see the artisan process and taste Bill Casey’s delicious organic smoked Irish salmon. Then we headed to Mahon Point where the Thursday Farmers Market was already in full swing. What a market, a ton of brilliant ideas and cheery stallholders passionate about the quality of their product. My new big find this time was Irena Tammik from Estonia who was selling her handmade rye sourdough from the community stall which is available for someone with a ‘new’ product to showcase each week. The table was proudly and beautifully decorated with an embroidered family cloth. She was wearing the traditional dress of her village. The little loaves of rye sourdough bread were absolutely authentic and delicious. Those who know this style of bread made all over the Nordic region, Estonia and surrounding countries were thrilled to find this almost ‘forgotten flavour’. For many Irish people, more familiar with soft white bread this may be an unfamiliar flavour but I urge you to try it. One slice of this nutrient dense bread will keep you going till lunch time and remember to wrap and slice thinly – it keeps for weeks.

Drove towards West Cork over the River Lee to the little village of Toonsbridge where Toby Simmonds of the Olive Oil Company and Jenny Rose Clarke bought the local creamery in 2009 and started to make Mozzarella. They now make pecorina vincenzo, occupato, cacio cavallo, halloumi, ricotta, scamorza, kachkeval, burratta ( a cream filled mozzarella and fior de latte). When Toby and Jenny Rose moved to Toonsbridge, local people wanted to buy his cheese so they decided to open a ‘teeny weeny’ shop, packed with good things and a little café so people could relax and have a cup of coffee.

They expected it to be very quiet but the reality was different so now its become a destination, people drive and cycle from far and wide for espresso and their pizzas from the wood burning oven, topped with mozzarella from the creamery next door. Brings a new meaning to the word local. The Italian cheesemakers Franco, Guiseppe and Pierre from Campania gave us a demonstration of the intriguing process of mozzarella making. The renneting, the milking, the stretching and shaping must be done with exact precision. While we were enjoying our picnic, the gardener was putting a layer of rich compost on to Jenny Rose’s kitchen garden in front of the café where she grows lots of vegetables, fresh herbs and edible flowers for the café

Next stop, Macroom Oatmeal where Donal Creedon, fifth generation miller produces richly toasted stone ground oatmeal and Macroom wholemeal flour in the time honoured way, in the last stone grinding oat mill in Ireland. It is unquestionably a product of the utmost integrity – no better way to start your day.
Michael Twomey’s butcher shop was our next stop (on the Main Street). Michael who is super enthusiastic about his craft explained his Wagyu beef breeding program and the ethos behind his three butcher’s shops.

A quick stop, at the much loved Castle Hotel in Macroom to hear about the reality of running a busy hotel in a country town.
Our final stop was at Cronin’s in Crosshaven, an iconic pub which everyone associates with great fun and great food and great music.
Thecla and Sean and their children Denis and Joleen are constantly thinking outside the box, apart from the Mad Fish restaurant. They have a cinema club, Crafty Wednesday, Turf Thursday….Soul and Seafood. The Red Head festival which had been such a resounding success is on hold this year unless a red headed sponsor emerges. Thecla was one of the first students to come to our Pub Grub and Seafood courses in the early 1980s. They’ve also got a mind blowing whiskey list and a similarly impressive rum and gin selection. There’s an exhibition of Jolene’s picture of Camden Fort on the walls of the Mad Fish restaurant – an inspirational family working together to create a multi award winning business.

Thanks to each and everyone for sharing their knowledge and vision.

Denis’ Smoked Mackerel Pate with Melba Toast

This is Denis Cronin’s super taste twist on a smoked mackerel pate.

Serves 10 – 12

350g smoked mackerel, skinned
250g soft butter
10 g fresh dill or fennell

1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 soupspoon capers
Zest one lime

Lemon wedge, to serve

Set butter aside till softens, also keep aside capers till the end,

First remove the skin from the smoked mackerel. Add the mackerel and the rest of the ingredients to a blender with the soft butter and whizz until a smooth paste.

Wash and roughly chop the capers and fold through the pate. Put the pate in a service dish or in a small lined loaf tin. Serve with melba toast. Garnish with dill and lemon wedges.

Mad Fish Soup

We can all vouch for the deliciousness of this chunky fish chowder, no wonder it’s a famous speciality.

Serves 4 – 6 hungry people and tastes very good with homemade soda bread!

2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large leeks, chopped
3 large potatoes, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
Glass of white wine
700ml fresh fish stock
50ml brandy
Tin of chopped tomatoes
300ml mussel stock
100ml cream
Fresh fish pieces such as cod, salmon, monkfish, mussels or whatever you fancy

First, sweat onions and garlic. Add the leeks and sweat for a further five minutes
Add potato, carrots and celery. Next add the wine. Boil up and cook for a few minutes until alcohol has evaporated. Now add the fish stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add brandy, tomatoes, mussel stock and cream. Now is the time to add your fish. The type of fish you are using will determine at what point you add them to the soup. Mussels, monkfish and salmon have firm flesh, and can be added at this point, they also add extra flavour. All other fish, such as cod, haddock, whiting must be added just before serving to prevent falling apart in the soup. Simmer for a few minutes to cook the fish thoroughly.
Serve garnished with a wedge of lemon and with a slice of traditional soda bread.

from Cronin’s Pub & The Mad Fish Kitchen, Crosshaven –

Halloumi with Lemon Zest, Honey and Marjoram or Thyme

A delicious little snack or starter made in minutes

Serves 4

4 pieces of Halloumi
extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 organic lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
honey – you’ll need about 4 teaspoons
2-3 teaspoons marjoram or thyme

Just before serving, slice the Halloumi into 7mm (1/3 inch) thick slices.

Heat a little oil in a pan or pan-grill. Season the cheese with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange the Halloumi in a single layer on the pan and allow to sizzle for a couple of minutes on both sides. Sprinkle with coarsely chopped marjoram or thyme leaves. Transfer each piece onto a warm plate. Drizzle with a little honey, grate on some lemon zest. Sprinkle with a few fresh marjoram or thyme leaves and serve as soon as possible with crusty bread.

Toonsbridge Burrata or Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella with Anchovies

Serves 4

4 burrata or 4 buffalo mozzarella
12 best quality anchovies
extra virgin olive oil

Put a burrata or buffalo mozzarella on a plate, tear apart a little. Put 3 anchovies on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with chargrilled sour dough or crusty bread.

If the burrata is large, use a half cheese for each portion.

Hot Tips
Oh My Donut
John Downey, past 12 Week graduate has opened Oh My Donut on 23A Washington Street, Cork. Open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 8pm. Try Boston to Mallow, Lemon On, Smarty Pants…..

Estonia Bread at Mahon Farmers Market
Next time you are visiting the Mahon Farmers Market checkout Irena Tammik’s handmade rye sourdough. Tel: Irena Tammik, tel: 087 1169 637 Facebook:- northrye Instagram:- northryesourdough

Wild Food
The flowers of the blackthorn come before the leaves. The fruit are sloes, so make a note of where the profusion of white blossom is in your area so you’ll know where to gather the fruit to make sloe gin in Autumn.

Fit Foodie Workshop with Derval O’Rourke @ Ballymaloe Cookery School
This workshop is run by Derval O’Rourke former World athletics champion, 3 time Olympian and No. 1 bestselling cookbook author. Spend the afternoon , Saturday May 6th , learning how to balance food and fitness to live a healthier, happier life. During this workshop you will learn how to make great tasting, easy and healthy recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family. The afternoon includes a fitness session in the grounds of the Cookery School, is suitable for everybody and will take people of all levels through a fun and motivating session that you can replicate at home. This workshop is perfect for anyone that is looking for simple ways to eat well and keep moving. for further information.

Spring Pop Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School

The Hungry Gap is the expression that is used to describe the 6 to 8 weeks between the end of the winter produce and the beginning of the summer crops. Brussel sprouts, leeks, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes are all coming to the end of their season, not that you’d know if all your shopping is done in your local supermarket which manages to source fruit and vegetables all year round from one corner of the world or another.

But years ago, these few weeks, some of which also coincided with Lent were very lean ones, hence the importance of a wonderful perennial kale called, hungry gap, cottiers kale or cut and come. The latter was so called because the more you cut this tender green with the flavour of kale and the texture of spinach, the more it grew…….
Because it was propagated from slips (rather than seed) Cottiers kale was passed from one cottage garden to another and of course it filled the ‘hungry gap’ before the summer greens and new potatoes were ready to eat.

The botanical name is Brassica Olereaca and I’ve been fortunate to have a patch in my vegetable garden for years – mine came from Glin Castle gardens no less but theirs had come from their cooks, Nancy and May Liston’s cottage garden in Lower Athea in Co Limerick.
All of the above is by way of introduction to the main subject of this column, the Spring Pop Up dinner, organised by the 12-Week Certificate Course students to raise funds for the Slow Food Educational Project. Every term they plot and plan to create a special menu and vibe to celebrate their chosen theme. This year it was ‘Stepping into Spring – eating between the seasons’.

The students wanted to highlight the hungry gap between the seasons when fresh produce can be scare. With that in mind, they foraged around the farm and gardens for the end of the last seasons crops, wild foods and new shoots. They incorporated local lamb and the milk and cream from our small herd of Jersey cows. Students were also keen to encourage the guests to think about what they could grow themselves as the new season begins.

Planning started at the end of January. Phoebe, Shauna and Colm volunteered to be the event planners and together with their fellow students, they formed a creative team and divided themselves into small groups with responsibility for bread, canapes, starters, main course, desserts and petit four and dining room service…..

The creative team planned the décor to enhance the Garden Café at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. They spent several nights making pretty pom pom flowers from tissue paper to hang from the rafters, others cut out ‘Stepping into Spring’ in letters to loop across the huge demo mirror.

The menu was decided, Harry did the graphics and then they set out to harvest and forage. Where you and I might see weeds, they imagined a delicious dinner…..

Shauna and Phoebe led a team of helpers to sow pea shoots and now five weeks later, they were ready to harvest.

Fresh pollock from Ballycotton was cured with salt, sugar and dill while other students dug some fresh horseradish roots to grate into a bowl of rich Jersey cream to accompany the gravlax.
The starter was also made from scratch, homemade yoghurt was dripped for labneh then cold smoked.
Beetroot was dug out of the winter clamp and cooked two ways for the roasted and pureed beets to complete the starter plate of Roast Beetroot and Labneh with Sourdough Bread.
The enthusiastic breadmakers headed for the ‘Bread Shed’ to make and bake the natural sourdough bread, others went to the dairy to collect Jersey cream to make homemade butter.

For the next course guests were given a shot of flavoursome organic chicken broth sprinkled with foraged with wild garlic flowers.
The lamb from local butcher Frank Murphy was served three ways – crispy lamb cutlet, lamb breast stuffed with pearl barley and a mini lamb pie.
Haulie dug the leeks which were then seared and the plate was served with a wild salsa verde – lamb breast stuffed with pearl barley.

Other students were roasting new seasons rhubarb they has just pulled from the garden. Roasting is an easy and brilliant way to intensify the flavour.
Kate folded chopped stem ginger into the homemade ice cream – so delicious… This was served with one of Rory O’ Connell’s caramel and almond flats and chocolate soil.

Meanwhile another team were creating a sylvan setting in the Garden Room to hide petit fours so the guests could forage among the twigs and chocolate soil for white chocolate and orange truffles, little puff pastry apple bites….
They also had egg shells and tiny pots for guests to sow a seed to take home.

Louis Edmanson wrote a poem on ‘Stepping into Spring’ for the occasion and the gardeners played traditional music as the guests arrived.

Two of our grandchildren were commandeered to help to pass around the canapés, pollock gravlax with horseradish cream and crudités with anchoide and hummus all served with a glass of irresistible raspberry prosecco.

The guests hugely enjoyed the convivial Slow Food evening and delicious food. If you’d like to know about the next pop-up, email

Hot Tips
Ballycotton Island Lighthouse Tours
Have resumed again after the winter break. Join Jerry for a truly magical guided tour and hear about the life of the fishermen and the bounty of fish and shellfish in the seas around Ballycotton. Daily tours from 10.00am and take 90 minutes. Visit Ballycotton Island summit and explore the lighthouse. or phone 021 4646875

Ireland’s First Rooftop Cocktail Herb Bed at the Granville Hotel in Waterford is bursting with a beautiful assortment of herbs like chocolate mint, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, black peppermint together with the classics thyme, sage and rosemary…herbs are infused with fruits and botanicals to create special cocktails… Tel: 051 305555

East Cork Slow Food event
Bet you didn’t know that we now have several snail farms in Ireland.
Brian McDaid from the Irish Snail Farm in Carlow will give a fascinating talk about his snail farm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday May 4th at 7pm. We’ll also taste the fruits of his labour.
Tel: 021 4646785

Pollock Gravadlax with Horseradish Cream on Croutini

This was a canape – a delicious combination.
People in Nordic countries use this basic pickling technique with several types of fish and create many exciting variations. Gravadlax is flavoured with beetroot, black peppers, mustard, even vodka. Fresh dill is essential.

Serves 12–16 as a starter

700g (11⁄2lb) tail piece of fresh pollock
1 heaped tablespoon sea salt
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped

Horseradish Cream
1 1/2-3 tablespoons grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream

wood sorrel, wild garlic flowers and/or dill sprigs

Fillet the pollock and remove all the bones with a tweezers. Mix the salt, sugar, pepper and dill together in a bowl. Place the fish on a piece of clingfilm and scatter the mixture over the surface of the fish. Wrap the pollock tightly with the clingfilm and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours.

Next make the croutini.

Preheat the oven to 150ËšC/300ËšF/Gas Mark 2.
Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible. Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes. Store in an air-tight tin box if necessary.

Next make the horseradish cream. Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. There will be more than enough for this recipe, but save the rest for another dish. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn’t pick up flavours in the fridge.

To serve, wipe most of the dill mixture off the pollock and slice thinly.

Arrange a couple of slices of gravadlax on top of each croutini and add a blob of horseradish cream on top. Garnish with wood sorrel, wild garlic flowers and/or dill sprigs.

Stuffed Breast of Lamb with Salsa Verde

Serves 8-10

2 x breast of lamb, fat and bones removed

For stuffing
100g (3 1/2oz) pearl barley
50g (2oz) dried apricot, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy
1 1/2 large garlic clove, crushed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tablespoons pistachio, chopped
2 x shallots, chopped finely
15g (1/2oz) of curly or flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, wild garlic and mint, chopped

For braising
2 x medium onions, chopped
1 x large carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 bay leaves
1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes, chopped and sieved
4 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
250ml (9fl oz) chicken stock
40ml (1 1/2fl oz) white wine

black pepper
a large oval casserole dish

Wash the pearl barley, put into a saucepan, cover with a little cold water and cook until tender, about 30 minutes, drain and cool. (Best cooked the day before.) Put into a bowl, add the apricots, brandy, garlic, lemon zest and juice, pistachio nuts, shallots and herbs. Season, taste and correct the seasoning.

Lay the well-trimmed lamb breast on a chopping board to form a rough rectangle. Spread the stuffing evenly over the lamb leaving 2.5cm (1 inch) border all the way around. Fold in the ends and then carefully ‘roll into a Swiss roll’. Tie individually with cotton string. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Render some crispy lamb fat in a wide sauté pan or heavy roasting tin over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the bits of lamb fat and discard (birds love it). Brown the meat in the rendered fat (alternatively you can use extra virgin olive oil) on all sides and remove to a plate. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic, bay and rosemary. Toss and cook for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes (save the juice), season with salt, pepper and sugar and cook for a further 5 minutes or more. Return the lamb to the casserole. Add wine and stock to come 2/3 of the way up the meat.
Bring to a lively simmer on the top of the stove. Cover and transfer into the preheated oven at 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10 for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160°C/275°F/Gas Mark 2-3 and cook until completely tender – 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Allow to rest for 5 minutes, serve in slices with potato gratin and salsa verde.

Stem Ginger Ice-Cream with Roast Rhubarb and Chocolate Soil

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. The students added stem ginger and drizzled it with some of the syrup – the end result was totally delicious.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks
100g (3 1/2oz) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)
6 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped plus 2 tablespoons of syrup from the jar

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) 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. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

After one hour, fold in the chopped stem ginger and syrup. Cover and return to the freezer and chill until firm.

The students served it with roast rhubarb and caramel and almond flats.

Roast Rhubarb

Roasting rhubarb is super-easy and really intensifies the flavour. The sugar content can vary depending on the variety of rhubarb – the end result can be used in a myriad of delicious ways. Try it with warm rice pudding and a blob of cream – OMG!

900g (2lb) rhubarb
200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ËšC/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in a medium size oven proof dish. Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for 30 minutes. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes approximately depending on size, until the rhubarb is just tender.

Rhubarb Fizz
Purée the roast rhubarb, put 1-2 tablespoons in a glass, top up with Prosecco or Cava or sparkling water or soda water for a non-alcoholic fizz.

Rory O’Connell’s Caramel and Almond Flats

Makes about 60 biscuits

250g (9oz) plain flour
1/4 teaspoon bread soda/bicarbonate of soda
100g (3 1/2oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons water
300g (10oz) soft, medium dark soft brown sugar
110g (4oz) flaked almonds, unskinned if possible

Sieve the flour and bread soda into a bowl. Melt the butter, cinnamon and water on a low heat until just melted. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir with the almonds into the flour mixture. Place the dough on a piece of strong plastic (not clingfilm) or parchment paper. Form this mixture into a neat rectangular slab, 23cm (9 inch) wide, 2.5cm (1 inch) thick, and 9cm (3 1/2 inch) long. I use the sides of a shallow baking tray to help me to achieve neat and straight edges. Freeze until set. Slice into about 3mm thick slices and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, allowing a little room between the raw biscuits for expansion during the cooking. Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°FGas Mark 4 or until golden brown. Slide the biscuits still on the parchment paper on to a wire rack to cool. Store in an air tight box or tin.

Ottolenghi’s Chocolate Soil

45g (1 3/4oz) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon cornflour
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
30g (1 1/4oz) cocoa powder
40g (1 1/2oz) unsalted butter, melted
coarse sea salt.

Heat the oven to 160ËšC/325Ëš/Gas Mark 3.

Put the flour, cornflour, sugar, cocoa powder and half tsp of salt. Mix, then slowly pour in the melted butter.

Using first a wooden spoon and then the tips of your fingers, mix until it resembled cookie crumble texture, then spread out on a parchment lined tray.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring and checking after 5 minutes until cookie crumble like. Remove and allow to cool. Break up once it has cooled and set.

White Chocolate and Orange Truffles

This delicious petit-four recipe was created by past student Sara Al-Faraj for the Student Pop-Up Dinner, ‘Stepping into Spring’ in early 2017.

Makes 24 truffles

225g (8oz) white chocolate, chopped (we use Valhrona)
50g (50g) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons of cream
110g (4oz) icing sugar

To coat the truffles:
finely chopped pistachios
desiccated coconut
icing sugar
unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the butter and add the orange zest. Allow to bubble, stirring for 1 minute. Add the cream and continue to stir for a further 1 – 2 minutes or until bubbles appear around the side of the pan. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine sieve onto the chopped chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool.
Cover the truffle mixture and refrigerate for 1 – 2 hours or until the mixture is firm enough to handle

Shape into 24 balls and roll in the coating of your choice.
Chill on parchment paper for another hour.

Serve in little gold petit four cases.


Past Letters