ArchiveFebruary 14, 2018

Chinese New Year



Are you ready for another celebration? Chinese New Year is coming up. According to the Chinese 12 year annual zodiac cycle, February 16th,  marks the beginning of the Year of the Dog and the start of the Spring Festival  and the holiday season when the hardworking Chinese can take seven days off work to celebrate and feast with their families.

Chinatowns all over the world burst into a riot of colour, spectacular festivities, dragon parades, street parties, lion dances…. There will be bell ringing and fire crackers and red envelopes stuffed with lucky money to give to the children.

Last year, I visited China for the first time so I’m more excited than ever about Chinese New Year and am planning a little Chinese feast to celebrate. My first visit was not as you might expect to Shanghai or Beijing but to Chengdu in the Sichuan province to attend the International Slow Food Conference in the UNESCO capital of gastronomy

There were many fascinating elements to the trip, the city of Chengdu welcomed the Slow Food delegates from all over the world wholeheartedly with wonderful entertainment, opera, theatre, music and superb Chinese food for which the Sichuan province is justly famous

So let’s gather some friends to celebrate the end of the Year of The Rooster and the beginning of the Year of The Dog.

Spring rolls are the obvious choice, universally loved, and easy to make. They are traditionally eaten during the Spring Festival hence the name. Spring rolls are considered to be lucky because when fried they resemble gold bars.

Each food is symbolic in some way, long noodles served in various ways symbolise longevity. Citrus fruit are traditionally eaten for Chinese New Year because they too are considered to be lucky.



Chinese food is influenced by two major philosophies. Confucianism and Taoism. Devotees of Confucius cut food into small bite sized pieces. Followers of Taoism focus more on foods that promote health, longevity and healing. There are eight culinary traditions. Cooking styles, ingredients and flavours differ from region to region. The most prominent are Szechuan, Cantonese, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhuang.

A typical Chinese meal will have a carbohydrate or starch – rice, noodles or steamed buns and accompanying stir fries or dishes of vegetables, fish, meat or tofu and lots of fresh vegetables.

Each dish focuses on creating a balance between appearance, aroma and flavour. Sauces, seasonings and fermented products are an important part of the whole and of course beautiful teas to sip.

Here are a few of my favourite Chinese recipes to make at home. On my last trip I discovered green as well as red Sichuan peppercorns. I was familiar with the latter before but oh my goodness what a difference freshness makes. Sichuan peppers are fascinating to cook with, bite into one and it will temporarily numb your mouth in an intriguing way. It is one of the five spices in five spices powder along with cinnamon, cloves, fennel and star anise.




Chicken and Mushroom Noodle Soup

So comforting and delicious. Who doesn’t love slurping noodles


Serves 6


6-8 tablespoons  Iceberg lettuce, shredded

1.2 litres (2 pints)  homemade chicken broth

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh ginger, sliced

1 organic chicken breast

2 tablespoons chopped scallions, green and white parts

110g/4 ozs  mushrooms, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

110g 4 ozs egg noodles

1.1 litres/ 2 pints water


2-4 tablespoons soy sauce, I use Kikkoman


1 green chilli, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons coriander


Bring the stock slowly to the boil with the sliced ginger. Dry fry the sliced mushrooms on a very hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Keep aside. Bring the water to the boil, add salt and cook the noodles for 5-6 minutes, they should be al dente. Slice the chicken breast into very thin shreds at an angle, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Strain the chicken broth. When ready to serve add the chicken, bring the broth to the boil, add mushrooms, scallions and noodles and allow to heat through. Add soy sauce and seasoning to taste. Divide into 6 bowls and serve garnished with flat parsley.




Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines

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

cooking oil
 for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean paste, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon  cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.

In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).

Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.


Fuchsia Dunlop’s beef with cumin

The powerful aroma of cumin is always associated with Xinjiang, the great northwestern Muslim region where it is grown. On city streets all over China, you will find it drifting up from portable grills where Xinjiang Uyghur street vendors cook their trademark lamb kebabs, scattering the sizzling meat with chilli and cumin. In Hunan, the spice finds its way into “strange-flavour” combinations, Uyghur-influenced barbecues and a limited number of restaurant dishes. This one is irresistible. Tender slices of beef luxuriate in a densely spiced sauce, speckled with the gold and ivory of ginger and garlic, scarlet chilli and green spring onion, and suffused with the scent of cumin. You may use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with braising steak: the method of cutting it across the grain makes it seem almost as tender.

This particular recipe is one from the Guchengge restaurant in Changsha, and it’s one I fell in love with immediately. I’m sure you will too.

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

340g (11½  oz) beef steak, trimmed (see introduction above)
400ml (14fl oz) groundnut oil, for frying
2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, seeds and stalks discarded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
spring onions 2, green parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the marinade
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 4 x 3 cm. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Heat the groundnut oil to about 140C/275°F. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.

When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop


Fuchsia Dunlop’s Gong Bao chicken with peanuts
gong bao ji ding

This dish, also known as Kung Pao chicken, has the curious distinction of having been labelled as politically incorrect during the Cultural Revolution. It is named after a late Qing Dynasty (late nineteenth-century) governor of Sichuan, Ding Baozhen, who is said to have particularly enjoyed eating it – gong bao was his official title. This association with an Imperial bureaucrat was enough to provoke the wrath of the Cultural Revolution radicals, and it was renamed ‘fast-fried chicken cubes’ (hong bao ji ding) or ‘chicken cubes with seared chillies’ (hu la ji ding) until its political rehabilitation in the 1980s.


Serves 2 as a main dish with rice and one stir-fried vegetable dish, 4 with three other dishes


2 boneless chicken breasts (about 300g or ¾lb in total)
3 cloves of garlic and an equivalent amount of ginger
5 spring onions, white parts only
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
a handful of dried red chillies (at least 10)
1 teaspoon whole Sichuan pepper
75g (3oz) roasted peanuts
For the marinade:
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons  light soy sauce
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1½ teaspoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water
For the sauce:
3 teaspoons sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
3 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chicken stock or water

Cut the chicken as evenly as possible into 1cm strips and then into small cubes. Mix with the marinade ingredients.


Peel and thinly slice the garlic and ginger, and chop the spring onions into 1cm (1/2 inch) chunks. Snip the chillies into 1.5cm (3/4 inch) sections, discarding seeds as far as possible. Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.


Pour a little groundnut oil into the wok and heat until it smokes, swirling the oil around to cover the entire base of the wok. Pour off into a heatproof container. Add 3 tablespoons fresh oil and heat over a high flame. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the chillies and Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for a few seconds until they are fragrant (take care not to burn them).


Add the chicken and continue to stir-fry. When the chicken cubes have separated, add the ginger, garlic and spring onions and stir-fry until they are fragrant and the meat is just cooked.

Give the sauce a stir and add to the wok, continuing to stir and toss. As soon as the sauce has become thick and lustrous, add the peanuts, mix them in, and serve immediately.

From Sichuan Cookery (Land of Plenty) by Fuchsia Dunlop


Pork Wontons with Soy Dipping Sauce


Makes 30-35


1 stick lemon grass, chopped

2 inch (5cm) piece ginger, peeled and grated

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped finely

1 kaffir lime leaf, shredded finely

sunflower oil

11ozs (300g) pork freshly minced

2 tbsp grated palm sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce, Nam Pla

½ cup fresh coriander leaves


Soy Dipping Sauce


4fl ozs (125ml/¼ cup) light soy sauce

1 medium red chilli, sliced thinly

a generous pinch of sugar

squeeze of lime juice


To Serve


30-35 square wonton wrappers


Pound the tender lemon grass, part of the ginger, garlic, chilli and kaffir lime to a rough paste in a mortar and pestle.  Heat a little oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry the pork, stirring, until cooked through.  Remove from the pan.  Add a little more oil to the pan, increase the heat to high, add the paste mixture and fry for about 30 seconds.  Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and stir until the mixture bubbles.  Return the pork to the pan and mix well to combine.  Transfer to a bowl, add the coriander and set aside to cool.


To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together to combine well.  Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.


Lay a wrapper on a work bench and place a teaspoon of the pork filling in the centre.  Gather the wrapper around the filling and pinch together with a dab of cold water to seal and form a pouch.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.  Heat enough oil to deep fry in a large saucepan over a high heat until hot.  Test the oil with a cube of bread – if it sizzles and rises to the surface immediately it is ready.  Deep-fry the wontons in small batches until golden.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel before serving warm with the dipping sauce.


Deh-ta Hsiung’s Cantonese Sweet and Sour Prawns


This dish is best eaten with chopsticks or fingers, though it should be served hot rather than cold.


Preparation time 10-15 minutes


225 g (8 oz) king prawns

1 egg white

1 tablespoon corn flour

Oil for deep frying

1 spring onion, finely chopped

2 slices ginger root, peeled and finely chopped



2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons stock or water


Trim the heads, whiskers and legs off the prawns but leave on the shells. Cut each prawn into 2 or 3 pieces. Mix the egg white with the corn flour and coat the prawns with this mixture.


Heat the oil in a work or deep saucepan but before it gets too hot, add the prawns, piece by piece and fry until golden, then remove with a perforated spoon and drain.


Pour off most of the oil, leaving about 1 tablespoon in the wok or pan and stir fry the spring onion and ginger root, then add the sugar, wine or sherry, soy sauce and vinegar, stirring constantly. When the sugar has dissolved, add the prawns and blend well, then add the corn flour mixed with the stock or water. Stir constantly and serve as soon as the sauce thickens



Ken Hom’s Spring Rolls with Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce
Spring Rolls are one of the best-known Chinese snacks.  They are not difficult to make and are a perfect starter for any meal.  They should be crisp, light and delicate.  Spring roll skins can be obtained fresh or frozen from Chinese grocers.

Makes 15-18

1 packet of spring roll skins, thawed if necessary
1 egg, beaten
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) groundnut oil for deep-frying

100g (3 1/2oz) raw prawns shelled, de-veined and minced or finely chopped
100g (3 1/2oz) minced fatty pork
1 1/2 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh root ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
225g (8oz) Chinese leaves (Peking cabbage), finely shredded
25g (1oz) dried Chinese black mushrooms, soaked, stems removed and finely shredded

1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sweet and Sour Sauce
150ml (5fl oz) water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Chinese white rice vinegar or cider vinegar
3 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cornflour, blended with 2 teaspoons water

To Serve
1 quantity of sweet and sour dipping sauce (see recipe)

First make the dipping sauce.
In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sweet and sour sauce except the cornflour mixture.  Bring to the boil, stir in the cornflour mixture and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
For the filling, combine the prawns and pork with all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat a wok over a high heat.  Add the 1 1/2 tablespoons of groundnut oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 20 seconds.

Add all the rest of the filling ingredients, including the prawn and meat mixture and stir-fry for 5 minutes.  Place the mixture in a colander to drain and allow it to cool thoroughly.

Place 3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) of the filling near the end of each spring roll skin, then fold in the sides and roll up tightly.

Seal the open end by brushing a small amount of beaten egg along the edge, then pressing together gently.  You should have a roll about 10cm (4 inch) long, a little like an oversized cigar.

Rinse out the wok and reheat it over a high heat, then add the oil for deep-frying.  When the oil is hot and slightly smoking, gently drop in as many spring Rolls as will fit easily in one layer.

Fry the spring Rolls until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Adjust the heat as necessary.  Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on a wire rack then on kitchen paper.  Cook the remaining spring rolls in the same way.

Serve at once, hot and crispy with the sweet and sour sauce for dipping.


Buttered Cabbage with Sichuan Peppercorns

The flavour of this quickly cooked cabbage has been a revelation for many and has converted numerous determined cabbage haters back to Ireland’s national vegetable.


Serves 4-6


450g (1lb) fresh Savoy cabbage

25g (1oz) butter or more if you like

1 teaspoon of highly crushed Sichuan peppercorns to taste

salt and freshly ground pepper

a knob of butter


Remove the tough outer leaves and divide the cabbage into four. Cut out. the stalks and then cut each section into fine shreds across the grain. Put 2 or 3 tablespoons (2-3 American tablespoons + 2-3 teaspoons) of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes. Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and the knob of butter. Serve immediately.

St Valentines

  1. Panna cotta 600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream 50g (2oz) castor sugar 1-2 vanilla pods, split lengthways 2 teaspoons gelatine 3 tablespoons water   Rose Water Cream chilled whipped cream rose blossom water (careful some brands a very intense) organic rose petals pistachio nuts       8 heart shaped (75-110ml (3-4fl oz), Coeur a la crème moulds, lined with cling film and brushed with non-scented sunflower oil lightly   Panna cotta Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pods and castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage.  Meanwhile, sponge the gelatine in the water.   Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Remove the vanilla pods, then pour into the moulds.  When cold cover and refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.   To Serve Add the rose blossom water to taste to the cream. Sprinkle generously chopped pistachio nuts.  Decorate with rose petals.     Chocolate Carrageen Moss Pudding     Serves 4-6   ½ oz cleaned, well-dried carrageen moss (2 semi-closed fistfuls) 900ml (1 1⁄2 pints) whole milk 1 vanilla pod or 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 3 tablespoons cocoa 1 organic egg 2 tablespoons caster sugar   To Serve soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream or a compote of fruit in season   Soak the carrageen in a little bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will swell and increase in size. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with the milk and the vanilla pod, if using. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, covered, for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. By now the carrageen remaining in the strainer will be swollen and exuding jelly. You need as much of this as possible through the strainer and whisk it into the egg and milk mixture. Blend cocoa with a little of the milk and add to the hot strained carrageen. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with caster sugar and cream.  
  2. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake
  3. Gluten-Free Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake


V-Day is just around the corner once again. Shops are stocking up with cheesy cards, heart shaped everything and anything – from brooches and cushions to balloons and saucy underwear. Chocolatier’s  are working flat out to stock pile sweet treats for the Valentine’s day stampede and horticulturalists are coaxing their blooms to a state of perfection so there will be zillions of red roses to satisfy the love-lorn Valentines.

Everyone is in on the excitement, several bakers I know are making heart shaped loaves, “Tear and Share” ones are particular easy and fun to make at home.  Pizzaiolo’s like Philip at Saturday Pizza’s at Ballymaloe Cookery School are having fun with heart shaped pizzas …Where will it all end,  yet another commercial opportunity to capitalise on.

But instead of whinging, let’s all enter into the Valentine’s Day spirit. In my case I’ll give my patient hubby of 45 years an extra big hug and perhaps surprise him with a bowl of chocolate carrageen which he loves and I don’t necessarily share his enthusiasm for – true love comes in many guises…

Valentine’s Day was super charged when I was a teenager in an all-girl boarding school. This was a unique opportunity to impress your friends, so much depended on getting at least one Valentine card in the post. Several cards meant your status and popularity sky rocketed with your fellow classmates, wonder if it still the same…

If you haven’t booked a table for two at your favourite restaurant or one that you have been lusting after for ages it’s probably too late by now.

Nonetheless there couldn’t be a better time than St Valentine’s day to remind oneself, that a sure fire way to everyone’s heart is the same way as it always was and always will be,  through our tummies. Could be a few luscious cup-cakes, a heart shaped pavlova, a Valentine’s day chocolate cake or a romantic dinner for two in your place, a sure fire way to bring on a proposal, but consider the menu carefully, nothing too terribly extravagant or it may appear that you’ll be too expensive to keep.


Here are a few suggestions…

A comforting soup and a crusty loaf of freshly baked bread could do the trick, but oysters have always been considered to be an aphrodisiac, all that zinc does the trick… I love them au nature but if you’d prefer them warm try this version with a little horseradish cream, inspired by a dish I enjoyed at a restaurant called Fleet in Brunswick Heads near Byron Bay, Australia.

The choice of main  will depend on whether your intended loves a hunk of meat or is a veggie or vegan. Choose carefully…

Perhaps a little heart shaped goats cheese, with a green salad, Coeur De Neufchâtel, from The Pigs Back in the English Market would be delicious.
We’ve got lots of cute little heart shaped desserts, we made these delectable little panna cottas in coeur a la crème moulds. Decorated with rose water cream, rose petals and pistachio nuts – they are both adorable and delicious.

A homemade soda or cordial is also stylish, a few home-made crackers to accompany the cheese, easy to make and are mightily impressive; just serve them nonchalantly with the cheese.


Warm Oysters with Horseradish Cream and Chervil


Serves 6-8


24 Gigas oysters


Horseradish Cream (see recipe)



sprigs of chervil


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


To Serve

Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas Mark 10.


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


Horseradish Cream


Serves 8 – 10


3 – 6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream


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


“Tear and Share” Heart Bread

We use Dove’s organic white bread flour, the water quantity may vary for other brands.  This bread can be baked in loaf tins or made into plaits or rolls.


Makes 1”Tear and Share” heart

20g yeast

20g organic sugar

390g warm water

700g strong organic flour

25g butter

16g pure dairy salt


2 x loaf tins 12.5cm (5 inch) x 20cm (8 inch)

Crumble the yeast into a bowl, add the sugar and 390g of warm water (anything above 45C will kill yeast).  Mix and allow to stand for a couple of minutes.  Meanwhile, put the flour into a wide mixing bowl, add the salt, mix then rub in the butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add all the liquid ingredients to the flour and mix to a dough with your hand.  Turn out onto a clean work surface (no flour). Cover with the upturned bowl and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Uncover, if it feels a little dry and tough, wet your hand, rub over the dough and knead by hand until silky and smooth – 10 minutes approximately.  Return to the bowl and cover with a damp tea-towel.  Allow to rise until double in size.


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8

Turn out onto the work surface, knead for a minute or two and shape as desired.


Divide the dough into 4, shape 6 rolls from each piece. Shape into 32 small rolls less than 15g (1/2oz) each in weight and build into a heart shape on a baking tray.

Leave a little space between each one to allow room for rising.  Cover and allow to double in size.  Egg wash and bake in the preheated oven 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes then reduce to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further 20-25 minutes.


Cool on a wire rack.




Puy Lentils, Spring Onion, Avocado, Chicory, Walnut and Pomegranate Salad


Serves 6-8


350g (12oz) puy lentils

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 chilli, finely chopped

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head of chicory, thinly sliced

1 pomegranate

4 spring onions or scallions, sliced on the diagonal

2 ripe Hass avocados

12 walnuts, shelled

lots of flat parsley or wild Rocket leaves


Cook the lentils in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until just tender, drain, toss in extra virgin olive oil, chopped chilli and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Leave to cool.


Slice the chicory thinly across the grain.  Cut the pomegranate in half and remove the seeds.  Chop the spring onions on the diagonal.  Peel, stone and dice the avocado.  Add all four to the cold lentils, toss, taste and correct the seasoning.  Scatter with the shelled walnuts and lots of parsley or wild Rocket leaves.

Panna Cotta with Rose Water Cream, Rose Petals and Pistachio Nuts


Serves 8

Panna cotta

600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream

50g (2oz) castor sugar

1-2 vanilla pods, split lengthways

2 teaspoons gelatine

3 tablespoons water


Rose Water Cream

chilled whipped cream

rose blossom water (careful some brands a very intense)

organic rose petals

pistachio nuts




8 heart shaped (75-110ml (3-4fl oz), Coeur a la crème moulds, lined with cling film and brushed with non-scented sunflower oil lightly


Panna cotta

Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pods and castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage.  Meanwhile, sponge the gelatine in the water.


Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Remove the vanilla pods, then pour into the moulds.  When cold cover and refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.


To Serve

Add the rose blossom water to taste to the cream. Sprinkle generously chopped pistachio nuts.  Decorate with rose petals.



Chocolate Carrageen Moss Pudding



Serves 4-6


½ oz cleaned, well-dried carrageen moss (2 semi-closed fistfuls)

900ml (1 1⁄2 pints) whole milk

1 vanilla pod or 1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 organic egg

2 tablespoons caster sugar


To Serve

soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream or a compote of fruit in season


Soak the carrageen in a little bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes. It will swell and increase in size. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with the milk and the vanilla pod, if using. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, covered, for 20 minutes. At that point and not before, separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. By now the carrageen remaining in the strainer will be

swollen and exuding jelly. You need as much of this as possible through the strainer and whisk it into the egg and milk mixture. Blend cocoa with a little of the milk and add to the hot strained carrageen. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine.

Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently; it will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with caster sugar and cream.


Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake


Bake in a heart-shaped tin for extra romance


4oz (110g) best quality dark chocolate (We use Lesmé or Val Rhona chocolate)

2 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum

4oz (110g) butter, preferably unsalted

3 1/2oz (100g) castor sugar

3 free-range eggs

1 tablespoon castor sugar

2oz (50g) plain white flour

2oz (50g) whole almonds


Rich Chocolate Icing

6oz (175g) best quality dark chocolate

3 tablespoons Red Jamaica Rum

6oz (175g) unsalted butter


Rose petals


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


Grease two x 7 inch (18 cm) heart shaped or sandwich tins and line the base of each with greaseproof paper.  Melt the chocolate with the rum on a very gentle heat, peel the almonds and grind in a liquidizer or food processor they should still be slightly gritty. Cream the butter, and then add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.   Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of castor sugar and continue to whisk until they reach the stiff peak stage.   Add the melted chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture and then add the almonds.   Stir in 1/4 of the egg white mixture followed by 1/4 of the sieved flour.   Fold in the remaining eggs and flour alternatively until they have all been added.


Divide between the two prepared heart shaped tins and make a hollow in the centre of each cake.


IMPORTANT: Cake should be slightly underdone in the centre.  Sides should be cooked but the centre a little unset.  Depending on oven it can take between 19 and 25 minutes.


Chocolate Icing

Melt best quality chocolate with rum.  Whisk in unsalted butter by the tablespoon.   Beat occasionally until cool.  When the cake is completely cold, fill and ice with the mixture.   Pipe the remaining icing around the top and decorate with rose petals.



Gluten-Free Valentine’s Day Chocolate Almond Cake

Omit the flour and increase the whole almonds from 50g (2oz) to 110g (4oz) – proceed as in master recipe.

St Brigid


Time for St Brigid to be as big as St Patrick, after all neither of their lineages stands up to real scrutiny so no grounds for nit picking there but if what we can gleam from folklore and much repeated hearsay is to be believed Brigid was a feisty spirited entrepreneur and quite the role model for modern women. She is purported to be the patron saint of the dairy.

St Brigid’s day is still celebrated in virtually every school in Ireland; many of our local national schools also teach the children how to make the Crois Bríde or St. Brigid’s cross.

So on February the 1st, the beginning of Spring,  children’s nimble fingers wove green rushes into the little Brigid’s cross while they listen to the colourful story of Ireland’s female patron saint, Brigid, we are told, was born in 451 in Faughart, near Dundalk, County Louth. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. It was thought that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. The story goes that she converted a pagan chief in his last hours by explaining the story of Christianity as she wove a little cross from the reeds that were strewn on the bedroom floor (as was the custom circa 500A.D.).


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

So this week, we will choose recipes made from milk, a magical ingredient with infinite possibilities found in everyone’s fridge. Milk be transformed into numerous products. Every country has its own traditions and Ireland was for ever famous for the quality and variety of its bán bia (or white meats, as dairy products are known in Gaelic) not surprising because in our climate we can grow rich nourishing grass pastures like virtually nowhere else in the world.


Chargrilled Lamb with Labneh, Pomegranate and Fresh Mint Leaves


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread


50g (2oz) Labneh (110g, (4oz) natural yoghurt dripped overnight), seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and freshly roasted cumin 1/4 teaspoon approximately.


110g (4oz) slice of leg of lamb or a lamb chop


1 generous tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of pomegranate seeds


fresh mint leaves, shredded


extra virgin olive oil


a few flakes of sea salt



Slice the lamb, Heat a frying pan or grill pan. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cook until well seared on both sides.


Chargrill the bread, spread a generous layer of well-seasoned labneh on top. Cover with slices of the warm lamb and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.


A little shredded mint, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt complete the feast.

Chicken Poached in Milk


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


Serves 10-12


1.8kg (4lb) chicken (free-range and organic if possible)

a dash of extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

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

thinly sliced peel from 1 lemon, unwaxed

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

4 cloves garlic, cut in half

sprig of marjoram


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


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


Old-Fashioned Milk Rice Pudding

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


Serves 6–8


100g (31⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

40g (1 1/2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

850ml (1 1/2 pints) milk


1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish


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


Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1 1/4–1 1/2 hours approximately (usually the latter but keep checking). The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have absorbed up the milk, but the rice pudding should still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time it so that it’s ready for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.


Three good things to serve with rice pudding:

  • Softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar
  • Compote of Apricots and Cardamom (see recipe)
  • Compote of Sweet Apples and Rose Geranium (see recipe)
  • Spiced Fruit (see recipe)



Melktert (Milk Tart)

Alicia Wilkinson from the famous Silwood Cooking School in Capetown generously shared this recipe with us.

 Serves 12

 For the crust:

125g (4 1/2oz) butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

185g (6 1/2oz) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence


For the filling:

35g (1 1/2oz) flour

3 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons custard powder

1.2 litres (2 pints) milk

150g (5oz) white granulated sugar

2 eggs, separated

1 vanilla bean, split in half

2 teaspoons butter

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


28cm (11 inch) fluted tart tin

baking beans


To make the crust, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Add the egg, flour, baking powder and vanilla and mix until combined.

Press the pastry into the tart tin and chill for 45 minutes.


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


Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper inside the pastry case so that the edges come over the rim and fill with the baking beans.

Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes or until the sides begin to colour.

Remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and continue cooking the pastry case for 5 minutes to dry out the base.


To make the filling, mix together the flour, cornflour and custard powder, adding a little of the milk to form a smooth paste.

Place the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean and the cornflour paste.  Bring to a boil, stirring continuously, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and baking powder and set aside.  Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Fold the whites into the custard mixture, then spoon into the pastry case, discarding the vanilla bean.

In a small bowl, stir together the caster sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle the mixture over the custard filling.


Place the tart in the refrigerator to set.




St Brigid’s Day Cake

We love this super delicious cake which we created especially for St Brigid’s day, green white and gold – how naff.

Serves 8


175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour


To decorate:

lemon glace icing

candied kumquat

wood sorrel leaves


1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) sandwich tin, buttered and floured.  Line the base of the tin with parchment paper.


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


First make the kumquat compote, see below.


Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate and turn into the prepared tin – make a dip in the centre so it rises evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, remove and cool on a wire rack.


Meanwhile make the icing, once the cake is cool, pour the icing over the cake and spread gently over the sides with a palette knife.

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Serves 8 to 10

Candied Kumquats


440g (15 3/4oz) caster sugar

500ml (18fl oz) orange juice or water

1kg (2 1/4lb) kumquats


We are big fans of kumquats, and when Maggie Beer was with us for the Ballymaloe Literary Festival in 2014 she demonstrated this delicious recipe.


To prepare the kumquats, bring the caster sugar and orange juice to the boil in a stainless steel saucepan. Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the kumquats and bring back to the boil.  Simmer until the syrup is thick and the kumquats have collapsed and appear slightly translucent.  Store in glass jars in the fridge they should keep for a month or so and you’ll find lots of delicious ways to use them.


Lemon Glacé Icing


160g (6oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

2-3tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.   Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.


Buttermilk Pots with Primroses

from Darina’s new book Grow Cook Nourish


These buttermilk creams are also delicious with roast peaches, apricots, nectarines, or rhubarb in season.


Serves 6


2 sheets of gelatine (use 3 sheets of gelatine if you plan to unmould each one)

350ml organic buttermilk

60g caster sugar

1/2 vanilla pod

250ml cream



Fresh mint leaves


6 x 110ml glasses or white china pots


Soak the sheets of gelatine in cold water.


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring 100ml of the buttermilk to the boil with the sugar and a vanilla pod.


Drain the softened gelatine sheets and discard the water.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the gelatine to the buttermilk and stir until dissolved. Leave to cool and whisk in the remaining buttermilk and cream.


Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add to the cream. Mix well. Pour into 6 small pots or moulds.  Cover and refrigerate until set.


To serve:

Sprinkle each little pot with primroses and a few fresh mint leaves.   Alternatively, unmould into a deep soup plate and garnish as above.








Jerusalem Artichokes



This is becoming a habit – a few weeks ago I wrote an entire column on the swede turnip, a humble inexpensive and ridiculously versatile Winter root. It got a tremendous response so this week I’m going to continue in the same vein and showcase Jerusalem artichokes. I know this is a vegetable that some may not have heard of but it’s really worth seeking out, better still plant some in your own garden. It’s a kind of a miracle veg; you plant one this year there will be at least ten or twelve next year. They look like knobbly  potatoes; they remain in the ground all winter and vary in colour from white to golden to purple.

Jerusalem artichokes are members of the sunflower family, Helianthus Tuberosus. Their US name is “sunchoke”. The foliage grows to a 2 metre and is often used as a hedge, windbreak or even a maze. It has a pretty yellow flowers in August brilliant for flower arrangements or scattered in a salad bowl.

But in this column we are concentrating on their culinary uses. Look out for them in greengrocers. We can’t seem to find the name of the heirloom variety we have grown at Ballymaloe for over half a century, it has an excellent flavour, children love their uneven shapes they look like strange creatures so cause lots of amusement and curiosity. They love them roasted, crisp and golden at the edges or in their skins. Like the humble swedes I wrote about a few weeks ago they are super versatile. They make a silky puree alone or mixed with mashed potato or a sweet apple puree that pairs deliciously with all sorts of things, particularly pheasant or venison or use as a base of a vegetarian dish and top with rainbow chard stalks and leaves, and some chunks of sautéed mushrooms, crisp slivered garlic, a sprinkling of nutty Coolea farmhouse cheese.  Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes are not artichokes at all,  neither do they come from Jerusalem, their curious nutty flavour is reminiscent of an artichoke heart which has a wonderful affinity with fish particularly mussels and scallops.

They also mix deliciously with other winter roots either in a medley of roast vegetables. Peeled and cut into chunks, mix them with carrots, parsnip, celeriac, turnips… Toss in extra virgin olive oil  or even more delicious some duck or goose fat left over from Christmas. They also absorb the gutsy flavour of herbs like   rosemary and thyme, bay, sage and spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala. I’ve also included a recipe for Jerusalem artichoke soup – easy peasy to make and everyone will love it, if you have pernickty eaters in your family who are put off by the sound of something  odd or unfamiliar – just call it Winter vegetable soup and maybe up the quantity of the potato.

For a dinner party you can embellish it with chorizo crumbs (see my column of Saturday January 13th)  or a few slices of scallop or a few fat mussels as a garnish.

I’m crazy about Hugh Maguire’s smoked black pudding and found it pairs deliciously with slices of roast artichoke and some buttered leeks and a dice of sweet apple.


Just in case it comes as a surprise I should mention that they are hugely flatulent so very good for your gut biome. Peeling the older varieties can try your patience but the newer varieties are much smoother, I don’t bother to peel them at all when freshly dug or when  I decide to roast them, just cut lengthways or into thick rounds.

One other thing to know,  like artichokes  and celeriac they oxidise quickly when peeled so pop them into a bowl of acidulated water (add a squeeze of lemon juice) until ready to cook.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa


Serves 8-10


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


50g (2oz) butter

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

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

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.



Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa


1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1 cm dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Flaky  sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


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


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with avocado and roast hazelnut salsa.


To make the Salsa

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.


Other good things to serve with Jerusalem Artichoke Soup


Chorizo Crumbs see my column on Saturday 13th January for the recipe

Artichoke Crisps

A few mussels or slices of scallop and a sprig of chervil, dice of smoked salmon and sprigs or flat parsley or chervil


Roast Jerusalem Artichokes

The winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant. Here we half the tubers but they also work brilliantly cut into thick slices – more delicious caramelized surface to enjoy


Serves 4 to 6


450g (1 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional


Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Cut the well-scrubbed artichokes in half lengthways. Toss them with the extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt. Transfer to a roasting tin and cook cut side down for 20–30 minutes, when golden, flip over and continue to cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be mostly tender but offer some resistance. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary sprigs, season with pepper and serve.


Jerusalem Artichoke Purée with Chard, Garlic and Coolea Farmhouse Cheese


This smooth and creamy purée is excellent with pan-fried or grilled scallops.  It can also be used with game such as venison, pheasants and wild duck.  The trick to get a light and refined purée is to blend the vegetables while still hot.  Keep some of the strained cooking water which may be added to the vegetables when blending.

Serves 6 to 8

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes (weighed after peeling)

450g (1lb) potatoes, scrubbed clean

25g (1oz) butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

12-24 rainbow chard stalks, depending on size

8 garlic cloves or better still smoked garlic

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

3 to 4 dessert apples, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Egremont, Russet or Romano

50 to 75gr (2-3ozs) Coolea or Pecorino cheese

flat parsley sprigs or fresh watercress


First make the purée.

Cook the artichokes and potatoes separately in boiling salted water until tender and completely cooked through.  Peel the potatoes immediately and place them with the hot artichokes in a food processer.  Add the cream and butter and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Blend until a silky consistency is achieved.  Taste and correct seasoning.


Peel and slice the garlic into thin slivers, cook until crisp and golden  in hot oil in a frying pan, drain on kitchen paper.

Prepare the chard, rinse under cold water and chop into stalks of 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inch) lengths.  Cook in well salted boiling water for just a few minutes until tender when the stalk is pierced with a knife. Drain, toss in extra virgin olive oil and keep hot.


Peel core and dice the apples into 1cm (1/3 inch) pieces, cook in a little melted butter over a medium heat, tossing until golden and tender.


To serve

Choose  deep bowls, put 3 to 4 tablespoons of hot velvety artichoke purée on the base.

Top with a few pieces of chard plus leaves (3/4).

Sprinkle with apple dice, crisp garlic slivers and some coarsely grated Coolea.

Scatter a few flat parsley leaves or watercress sprigs over each dish and serve ASAP


Salad of Jerusalem Artichokes with Smoked Almonds and Preserved Lemon Dressing

Once can also use roast slices here instead of a raw artichoke.

Serves 4



4 good handfuls of perky bitter lettuce leaves

2 small Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean

a little freshly squeezed lemon juice

110g (4oz) of smoked almonds, rough chopped *(see note at end of recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey or agave syrup

a good pinch of sea salt

1/2 preserved lemon, seeds removed and finely chopped


Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together, add the preserved lemon.


Wash and dry the salad leaves.


Next, use a mandolin to slice the artichokes paper thin – otherwise slice with a very sharp knife.  Squeeze a little lemon juice over the artichokes to prevent them from discolouring whilst also adding some flavour.


Put the salad leaves into a bowl, add the artichoke slices and roughly chopped almonds.  Pour over enough of the dressing and toss to coat the leaves.  Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve immediately.


To Smoke Almonds

We hot smoke a lot of different ingredients in a biscuit tin over a gas jet.  Just scatter 2 heaped tablespoons of apple wood chips on the bottom of the tin.  Put a rack on top.  Place the almond on top of the wire rack.  Pop on top of the gas on a high heat until the wood chips start to smoke and cover the box.  Lower the heat and smoke for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and continue to smoke for a further 1 minute.


Braised Jerusalem Artichokes

The most basic and delicious way to cook artichokes. Serve with pheasant, chicken, pork, lamb…

Serves 4

675g (1½ lbs) Jerusalem artichokes

25g (1 oz) butter

1 dessertspoon water

salt and freshly-ground pepper

chopped parsley


Peel the artichokes thinly and slice 1/4 inch (5mm) thick.  Melt the butter in a cast-iron casserole, toss the artichokes and season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.  Add water and cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid.  Cook on a low heat or put in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, until the artichokes are soft but still keep their shape, 15-20 minutes approx.  (Toss every now and then during cooking.)

Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.


* If cooking on the stove top rather than the oven turn off the heat after 10 minutes approx. – the artichokes will continue to cook in the heat & will hold their shape.






What’s Hot And What’s Not


So what’s hot and what’s not on the 2018 food scene. Much energy and investment goes into predicting up-coming trends in the many areas of food production. From multinational companies to artisan producers and supermarket chains, all have a vested in having their finger on the pulse. Chefs too are keen to keep on top of emerging trends.  So let’s have a look at what’s coming down the line.

There appear to be several strong general trends. Even though there’s a definite backlash against clean eating, veganism is still on the rise.

Uber Eats reported a 400% rise in vegan searches in 2017and sales of vegan cheese increased by 300% in Sainsbury’s in the same period. Requests for meat free veggie burgers (that bleed from beetroot juice!) continue to rise. The flavour is apparently great and it ticks all the boxes for the growing demand for “cruelty free protein”. Vegetables are set to be the “new meat”.

The concept of Meat Free Monday is gradually becoming more mainstream, though I have to say I can’t see the Irish chaps abandoning their beef habit in favour of a char-grilled cauliflower steak anytime soon.


The supercool brunch boom continues to build and the avocado toast craze is undimmed even as the avocado farmers struggle to supply the phenomenal demand.


The health and fitness trend continues to drive market share and foods that promise better or brain function and enhanced performance are still vaporising off shelves.


The growing body of research linking our gut health with our mental and physical wellbeing has piqued peoples interest, consequently foods that promise to improve gut and digestive health are a huge trend. Pickled, preserved and fermented foods are filling up fridges and making your own sauerkraut and kimchi is becoming mainstream among the young health conscious. Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we now have a “Bubble Shed” where all the fermented foods are made and on-going experiments and classes are conducted see for details of our next Fermentation course.

Foods that promote a healthy gut microbiome, natural, organic and biodynamic foods, farmhouse cheeses and organic raw  B2 milk from a small herd of heritage breeds. Seek out Dan and Anne Aherne’s beautiful creamy milk at Mahon Point Farmer’s Market (Thursdays) and Midleton Farmers Markets (Saturdays), or visit the Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm Shop for raw milk from our small herd of Jersey cows.


There’s  a growing awareness and reaction to “food waste” issues. Chefs are now proudly boasting about serving the underused cuts of meat, so expect to see more oxtail, tongue, pigs ears, crubeens (pigs feet) and a  further interest in “nose to tail eating” and “root to shoot”,  where every scrap of vegetable is used rather than just the familiar section offered on the supermarket shelf.


Watch the “grow some of your own super-food movement” gather momentum in both urban and rural areas, not just for economic, social and lifestyle reasons but for mind-blowing fabulous nutrition. Check out GIY, Good Food Ireland  or treat yourself to a copy of Grow Cook Nourish, my latest tome, which was originally called  “For God’s Sake Grow Some of Your Own Food”.

It may surprise you to learn that more health conscious millennials are limiting their alcohol consumption. The rise in booze free, homemade  mocktails, fruity cordials and fizzy sodas reflects this definite super cool trend.

Chefs are buying land, growing fresh produce on their roofs or in their backyards and buying directly from local farmers and artisan food producers, will use local coast, grocers within walking distance….


Amazon has taken over Wholefoods, watch this space….


Foods to watch out for in 2018

  1. Street food inspired dishes, dosa, tacos, toastadas, falafel, shawarma, bánh mì, gyros, arepas, satay, empanadas, ramen, pupusas, noodle dishes…
  2. Veggie carb substitutes, zoodles (zucchini noodles), cauliflower rice is still up there.
  3. Homemade or housemade condiments, artisan pickles, mustard, ketchup…
  4. Buddha bowls – a bowl of greens, beans, veggies, grains, nuts and seeds with a dressing or favourite sauce – eat mindfully…
  5. Chinese dumplings, wontons, steamed buns….
  6. Poke, bowls of sushi rice, essentially sushi without the fuss, a raw fish salad with lots of yummy toppings on top (everyday food in Hawaii).
  7. Ancient grains, farro, spelt, and quinoa of course, but also kamut, emmer, teff, sorghum, freekeh in salads, breads, biscuits….
  8. Jackfruit- a hot new vegan ingredient, the largest tree fruit on the planet, nutritious, delicious with a texture and flavour of pulled pork when cooked.
  9. Smoked absolutely everything, black pudding, tomato, tofu…
  10. Goat meat, wild boar, more wild game in season.
  11. Seaweed – all type of algae, sprinkled on, and added to, almost everything from salad and bread to ice-cream.
  12. Wild and foraged foods. Look out for Winter cress, pennywort, watercress, all in season now.
  13. Ethnic dips and spreads and condiments beyond sriracha, zhug, harissa, peri peri, sambal, shichimi togarashi, pixian chilli bean paste, jocguang…
  14. Savoury jams and jellies not just bacon jam, try tomato jam, carrot jam, apple and seaweed jelly.
  15. Heirloom fruit and vegetables, not just tomatoes and potatoes….
  16. Imperfect, ugly produce, organically produced, “root to shoot eating”.
  17. Bone broths still huge
  18. Mushrooms are morphing into a superfood, even being added to coffee
  19. Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Jerusalem artichokes, another brilliant super delicious and a versatile winter root, highest in inulin of all vegetables and certainly on trend.
  20. We’ll hear more of lesser known herbs, borage, sweet cicely, chervil, hyssop, lemon balm, lemon verbena, papalo and also here to fore unknown edible flowers: forget-me-not, dahlias, crysthanamums, cornflowers, daylilies…..
  21. Activated charcoal and green dusts – think matcha, ras el hanout,
  22. Ethnic kids dishes, sushi, teriyaki, tacos, tostadas.
  23. Mac and cheese, porridge, scrambled eggs and French fries are all getting a makeover, perfect bases for all manner of toppings and additions.
  24. Turmeric – the super charged anti-inflammatory, both fresh and in dried form in everything and anything.
  25. Homemade charcuterie, sausages, guanciale, blood puddings.
  26. Mill you own flour and heritage grains.
  27. Eggs from rare breed chickens and non-traditional breeds of poultry. Blue/green shelled eggs from Aracuna hens, Marrans, Leghorns, Light Sussex’s, Speckledeys, Hebden black hens

Here are a few recipes using some of these on-trend ingredients…



Rory O’Connell’s Homemade Tomato Ketchup


It’s easy to make homemade tomato ketchup, everyone will love it.  We used Cox’s orange pippin apples and had exactly the same maddening consistency as the real thing. The result is irresistibly delicious.


Makes 5 – 6 bottles (8fl ozs per bottle)


1.6kg (3½ lb) tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped (weigh after peeling and coring)

450g (1lb) peeled onions, chopped

450g (1lb)  sugar

450ml(16fl oz) cider vinegar

1 level tablespoon Maldon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

6 black peppercorns

6 allspice/pimento berries

6 cloves


Place all the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for approx. 1 hour or until it has the consistency of a regular ketchup.  Stir regularly as it cooks to avoid sticking.  Allow to cool for 4-5 minutes.  Liquidise to a smooth puree.    If the consistency is a bit thin, return to the saucepan and cook to reduce a bit further.  Remember it will thicken as it cools.


Pour into sterilised glass bottles and store chilled.


Foragers Soup


Throughout the seasons you can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside. Arm yourself with a good well illustrated

guide and be sure to identify carefully, and if in doubt, don’t risk it until you are quite confident.


Serves 6


50g (2ozs) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk


75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.


Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

Recipe taken from Grow, Cook, Nourish by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Clare Winfield and Tim Allen.


Pan Fried Haddock with Slivered Garlic, Fresh Turmeric, Chilli and Spring Onions

Serves 4


4 x 110g (4oz) portions of fresh haddock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly slivered

1 thumb sized piece of turmeric, peeled and julienned

4 spring onions – 4 heaped teaspoons approx., separate the white and the green.

Worcestershire sauce

1 green chilli, seeded and thinly sliced


To serve

4 segments of lime

1- 2 tablespoons coriander, shredded



Season the fish with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Heat a little oil in a wide frying pan, over a medium heat. Cook the fish on the flesh side until golden. Flip over and cook until crisp and golden on the skin side.


Meanwhile heat a little oil in a second pan. Add the slivered garlic, turmeric, sliced chilli and white part of the spring onion. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, until tender and golden at the edges. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. Add the green parts of the spring onions. Toss for a couple of seconds.


To serve

Transfer the fish on to four hot plates. Divide the mixture between the plates. Sprinkle with the shredded coriander and add a segment of lime. Enjoy immediately.


Dilisk Bread

One can make a loaf or divide the dough into scones, one can also use a mixture of dried seaweeds.



450g (1lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda

15-25g (1/2-1oz) dilisk

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14 fl ozs) approx.


First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.



Sieve the dry ingredients into a wide bowl. Chop the dilisk and add to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface.


Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.


Masala French Fries

The Perfect Chip


  1. Good quality ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
  2. Best quality oil, lard or beef fat for frying. We frequently use pure olive oil because its flavour is so good and because when properly looked after it can be used over and over again. Avoid poor quality oils which have an unpleasant taste and a pervasive smell.
  3. Scrub the potatoes well and peel or leave unpeeled according to taste. Cut into similar size chips so they will cook evenly.
  4. Rinse quickly in cold water but do not soak. Dry meticulously with a damp tea towel or kitchen towel before cooking otherwise the water will boil on contact with the oil in the deep fry and may cause it to overflow.


Do not overload the basket, otherwise the temperature of the oil will be lowered, consequently the chips will be greasy rather than crisp. Shake the pan once or twice, to separate the chips while cooking.



To cook the first two types: Fry quickly in oil at 195ºC/385ºC until completely crisp.


Masala Fries

This simple but totally irresistible recipe comes from the chefs in Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar in India.


Serves 2-3


500g  (18 oz) potatoes, peeled. We use Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pink

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

flaky sea salt


Heat the oil in deep fry to 120 C

Peel the potatoes, cut into medium size chips.

Blanch in the hot oil for 7 minutes approx.

Remove the basket. Increase the temperature of the oil to 160C . Continue to cook the fries until golden, 4-5 minutes.

Drain briefly on kitchen paper, transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with a generous teaspoon of garam masala and some salt. Toss well to coat. Taste, correct the seasoning and serve immediately.



Penny Allen’s Kombucha


Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweet tea.  It is said to have many health benefits when consumed regularly.


750ml (1 pint 15fl oz/scant 4 1/2 cups) boiling water

2 teaspoons loose leaf tea or 2 teabags (green, white or black -organic is best)

150g (5oz) organic caster sugar

1.25 litres (2 pints) filtered water

250ml (9fl oz) Kombucha

1 Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)


Equipment – 3 litres (5 1/4 pints/generous 13 cups) Kilner jar or large Pyrex bowl or similar. Measuring jug

(Don’t use a metal container when brewing kombucha)



Make the tea with 750ml of boiling water in teapot or bowl. Let this sit for a few minutes to infuse.  Strain the tea into your brewing vessel.


Add the caster sugar and stir to dissolve.


Add the filtered water and stir again. The temperature of the sweetened tea should now be tepid and you should have just over 2 litres of liquid.


Add 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of kombucha and the Scoby.


Cover jar or bowl with a clean cloth tied around with string or an elastic band. Don’t be tempted to put a lid on it because the kombucha scoby needs air to thrive.


Put in a warmish place for a week to ten days. It should be out of direct sunlight and somewhere it won’t have to be moved. Use a plastic spoon to take a taste each day and after about day 7 it should be almost ready. The taste you are looking for is a pleasing balance between sweet and sour.



Lift off the Scoby and put it in a bowl with 250ml (9fl oz/generous 1 cup) of your just brewed Kombucha and cover this with a plate or bowl while you bottle the rest.


Pour the brewed Kombucha into bottles through a funnel (makes 2 1/2 x 750ml bottles), or into another large Kilner jar. You can then store this in the fridge and enjoy as it is, or you can do a second ferment to add flavour and extra nutritional benefits!


Second Fermentation


To each bottle you can add a handful of any of the following:

  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) raspberries.
  • Fresh or frozen (defrosted) strawberries and 1 teaspoon raw cacao
  • 1/2 apple and a small beetroot chopped
  • 1 ripe peach sliced


Let this sit for 24 hours at room temperature with a lid on and then strain out the fruit (or vegetables) and bottle. Store in the fridge and enjoy Delicious!

January Blues


Suffering from January blues? Here’s the cure – a big pot of bubbling stew and even if you never cooked a thing in your life you can do this. Funds are probably low, it’s so easy to overspend both before Christmas and in the January sales so in this column I’ll focus on how to make several yummy meals from one of the least expensive seasonal ingredients – the humble swede turnip. All root vegetables are at their very best in Winter. Parsnips, carrots, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes and swede turnip all become even more delicious after a few nights frost where the low temperatures transform the starches into sugars. Same happens with fancy salsify and scorzonera and we’ve also been enjoying both oca and yakón – root vegetables that you can easily grow yourself if you can source the tubers. Contact the The Organic Centre in Leitrim

But never mind, we’ll focus on a vegetable that can be bought from any village shop or Farmers’ market. Try if you can to source local and fresh. Sorry to keep harping on about this but if we continue down the route of below cost selling the few remaining Irish vegetable growers who are hanging on by their finger-tips will not be able to survive. We are totally sleepwalking into a crisis where unless you grow your own, fresh Irish produce will be virtually unobtainable. Can’t imagine how a turnip that spends up to 5 months in the ground can be sold for as little as 49 cents. Well, enjoy while you can, all that nourishment and deliciousness for just a few cent. The versatile swede turnip was first introduced into Ireland in the 1800’s. It was a very important agricultural development, a vegetable sown in Winter that could stay in the ground until needed. Turnips grow on top of the ground so could be harvested easily, and didn’t need to be stored in a shed plus the farmer could nourish and feed both his family and his livestock with this inexpensive vegetable which originally grew wild in Sweden, hence the name.

From the cooks point of view, swede turnips are super versatile. They can be boiled, steamed or fried, made into soups or purees or gratins. Cut them into cubes to bulk out a casserole or stew. They benefit from the addition of herbs and spices or can be combined with other root vegetables in a myriad of ways. It keeps for months, use a quarter or half and store the rest in a cool place to use in another dish or at a later date.


Winter Irish Stew

The swede turnip adds more substance and flavour, don’t forget to season well. If you’d like a whole meal in a pot cover the top of the stew with whole peeled potatoes, cover and cook as below.


Serves 6-8


1.3kg  (3lbs) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

450g  (1lb) (8 medium or 12 baby carrots)

450g  (1lb) (8 medium or 12 baby onions)

450g  (1lb) swede turnip, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes

10 -12 potatoes, or more if you like

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (1¾ pints stock)  (lamb stock if possible) or water

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon roux, optional



1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives


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


Trim off the excess fat from the chops.  Remove the bones and cut into generous 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes, you should have a minimum of 1.1kg  (2½lbs) lamb. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).


Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole.  Peel the turnip and cut into cubes


Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole (add the bones also but discard later). Quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots, onions and turnip up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1 1/2 hours approx.., depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.  (If the potatoes are small, use twice as many and add half way through cooking)


When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan.  Discard the bones. Thicken slightly by whisking in a little roux. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot, in a large pottery dish or in individual bowls.



A Bubbly Gratin of Swede Turnips and Potatoes with Thyme Leaves, Smoked Bacon and Parmesan


This is a robust warming gratin made with one of my favourite winter vegetables, the cheap and cheerful swede turnip. This brassica, the least glamorous of the turnip family brings back happy childhood memories. I remember as a child going to our nearest  farm owned by Bill and Mary Walsh and grabbing the raw sliced turnips from the slicer before they were taken out the fields to be spread as winter feeding for the sheep when the grass had become scarce. We would dip the slightly muddy shards of turnip in the nearest churn of water, so cold it turned our little hands purple, give them a cursory rinse and then munch away with relish. That sweet and peppery flavour has stayed with me and I still think that this purple skinned and golden fleshed root is a thing of beauty.


Serves 8-10


450g (1lb) swede turnip, peeled and sliced into 4 mm slices

450g (1lb) potatoes, peeled and sliced into 3mm thick slices

110g (4oz) lardons of smoked or unsmoked bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

110g (4oz) grated Parmesan or even cheddar

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

350ml (12fl oz) cream or chicken stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 x 1.5 litre ovenproof gratin dish


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


Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and season with a good pinch of salt. Drop in the sliced turnips, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. The turnips will have tenderized slightly but will not be fully cooked. Strain out the turnips, reserving the water for cooking the potatoes. Place the turnips on a tray lined with a tea towel.

Bring the water back to the boil and add the sliced potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 minute only. Strain and rinse under the cold tap and place on a tray lined with a tea towel like the turnips.


Heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add the bacon lardons. Cook stirring until the bacon is crisp and golden.  Strain out the bacon and place on a piece of kitchen paper towel to drain.


To assemble the gratin, grease the gratin dish with a light smear of butter. Place on a layer of the turnips and potatoes, followed by a sprinkle of thyme leaves, a sprinkle of lardons of bacon and a sprinkle of the grated parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Splash on a little of the cream. Repeat the process finishing the gratin with a final sprinkle of the cheese.


Place the gratin in a bain-marie in the preheated oven and cook for 60-80 minutes. After 60 minutes, test the gratin with a skewer to see if the potatoes and turnips are tender. The skewer should go through the vegetables with no resistance and the top of the gratin should be a rich golden colour. The cooked gratin will sit happily in the oven for an hour before serving with the temperature reduced to 50°C/120°F/Gas Mark 1/4.



Swede Turnip Soup with Pancetta and Parsley Oil


A poshed-up version of turnip soup, with some parsley oil dribbled on top and some crispy pancetta to nibble.


Serves 6-8


350g Swede turnips, diced

1 tablespoon sunflower or arachide oil

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

150g (5oz) potatoes, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1½ pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste



8 slices pancetta


Parsley Oil

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50g parsley, chopped


First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.  Push through a nylon sieve.


Next, make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.


Spread the slices of pancetta on a wire rack over a baking tray.  Cook under a grill for 1 – 2 minutes or until crisp.


Serve in bowls, drizzle each with parsley oil and lay a slice of crispy pancetta on top.


Those of you dislike puréed soups or may not have access to a blender, can of course serve this soup in its chunky form – also delicious.



Swede Turnips with Chorizo Crumbs and more


Best in winter and early spring, a little frost sweetens the flesh.

The humble swede is having its moment once again, and how … only costs a euro or two, keeps for months and can be used in soups, stews, gratins, mashes,


Serves 6 approx.


900g swede turnips

salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

50-110g butter



Chorizo crumbs

finely chopped parsley


Peel the turnip thickly in order to remove the thick outside skin.  Cut into 2cm cubes approx.  Put into a high sided saucepan.  Cover with water.  Add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook until soft – this can take between 30- 45 minutes.  Strain off the excess water, mash the turnips well and beat in the butter.  Taste and season with lots of freshly ground pepper and more salt if necessary. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with chorizo crumbs and serve.


Chorizo Crumbs


Chorizo Crumbs are delicious used in so many ways.  We like to scatter them over potato, celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke or watercress soup.  They are particularly good sprinkled over cauliflower or macaroni cheese.  Keep in a box for several weeks and scatter when you fancy!


Makes 175g (6oz)


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs


Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.


Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.


Vegetable Stew with Yogurt and Curry Spices


Fresh spices perk up the root vegetables here, parsnips and or celeriac could also be added, delicious meal served just with an accompanying green salad.  Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, most are just spices, so it’s just a question of adding a little of this and that……


Serves 6


900g medium sized potatoes

450g swedes, cut into 2.5cm cubes

225g carrots

675g very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped  or 1½ cans tomatoes,

2½ teaspoon cumin seed

3 teaspoon coriander seed

2.5cm piece cinnamon bark

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

8 cloves

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns

15g butter or ghee plus extra for cooking

225g onions, chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

45g ginger root, peeled and crushed

¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon sugar

175ml yogurt

120ml light cream


1-2 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped or flat parsley (but it will taste quite different)

Garnish: sprigs of fresh coriander or flat parsley


Boil the scrubbed but unpeeled potatoes until just cooked.  Pull off the peel and cut into 1cm thick slices. Peel and cube the swedes, cook in boiling salted water until tender.

Meanwhile scrub the carrots, if they are small leave them whole, otherwise cut into slices about 1cm thick. Cook in a covered saucepan in a very little boiling salted water with a pinch of salt and sugar and a blob of butter until just tender.  Grind all the spices to a powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.  Melt about ½ oz (15g) of butter in a wide heavy bottomed saucepan, add the chopped onions and sweat until tender and golden, then stir in the garlic, ginger, ground spices, grated nutmeg, turmeric and sugar, cook for a minute or so, then add the chopped tomatoes and yogurt.

Put the sliced potatoes, cooked swedes and carrots into this mixture and stir carefully to cook with the mixture, cover and simmer until the vegetables have finished cooking 5-10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, then add the cream or creamy milk, reduce until the sauce is the consistency you like. Taste and correct the seasoning, stir in the chopped coriander. Turn into a hot serving dish.  Garnish with lots of fresh coriander.

Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley

Here it comes, The Ballymaloe House ‘sweet trolley’ is legendary indeed. For over 50 years, now it has been wheeled around the dining rooms at Ballymaloe House piled high with tempting desserts to tantalize guests at the end of their meal. The first cart was made in the 1960’s by the carpenter, Danny Power, in his farm workshop to Myrtle Allen’s specifications. A shelf on top with a little ledge around the edge to hold the array of desserts and another underneath for plates, serving utensils and top ups. Ever since it has delighted diners. The “trolley dolly”  as the server is affectionately known is usually greeted with a whoop of delight or at least an appreciative murmur when they wheel their cart up to the table. All conversation ceases as the entire table listens to the description of the temptations on offer, home-made Ballymaloe ice-cream served in an ice bowl, a meringue cake or a pretty fluted dish piled high with little “kisses” sandwiched together with a tangy homemade lemon curd and always a compote of fruit in season. Tonight it’s poached pears in a saffron and cardamom syrup. Always a tart of some kind too, made with buttery puff pastry or perhaps a chocolate and hazelnut or almond tart in a buttery short crust.

There may be a fruit fool, tonight it’s blackcurrant from the Ballymaloe walled garden in the Summer and served with JR’s heart shaped shortbread biscuits, a recipe passed on from 1950’s in Ballymaloe kitchen. Many of the recipes have a story. Tonight panna cotta is served in glass pedestal bowls with an espresso jelly made with the coffee beans roasted on the farm by Mark Kingston of The Golden Bean, who sources his ethically produced beans from single estates around the world.

The coffee jelly lightens the rich panna cotta deliciously. This is JR’s inspired version of the Italian dessert which is every bit as unctuous as a crème brûlée, another Ballymaloe sweet trolley favourite served with a thin layer of caramel on top rather than torched as is more the norm nowadays. JR Ryall, is head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House and has been for over 10 years. He came to work with Mrs Allen during his school holidays when he was just 14, he joined the team permanently when he finished his education and has only left for short periods ever since when he travels all round the world, always on the look out for something new to add to his recipe repertoire. However both he and all of us still love the original recipes that Myrtle Allen first served from the first evening in 1965 when she and Ivan decided to open the doors at Ballymaloe House to welcome guests “to dine in a country house”. The plan was never to have more than 20 people …. An extraordinary thing to do at that time when restaurants and hotels were in cities and towns and certainly not out in the centre of a farm – unthinkable,  the rest is history. The sweet trolley was very 1960’s – Arbutus Lodge in Cork also had a wonderful sweet trolley that we all enjoyed. I particularly  remember the oeufs à la neige or floating islands of feather light meringue and the boozy rum babas.

And now the sweet trolley so beloved of Ballymaloe guests and considered in the 80’s and 90’s to be a bit passé is once again having its moment and are reappearing as a special feature in trendy restaurants.

The selection changes every evening and of course reflects the season and JR’s excitement.   Myrtle has always loved to incorporate little tastes of our local and traditional food into her menu.

Carrigeen Moss pudding, so much part of our traditional food culture is also a much loved feature of the Ballymaloe, little pots of the light delicate mousse with fluffy tops are still found on the Ballymaloe sweet trolley every evening.

The homemade ice-cream or granitas are chosen from a selection of 12 or 14 that JR makes, and continues to add to. The sorbets are made with the ripe berries from the garden. The ice-cream was originally made from the rich Jersey cream from Ivan Allen’s herd of purebred Jersey cows. Tonight there are also a chocolate marjorlaine and pistachio tuiles to enjoy with the fool – all impossibly tempting and delicious.

Ballymaloe Praline Ice-Cream with Praline Brittle

The praline can be made from almonds, hazelnuts or pecans.


Serves 6 – 8

110g (4oz) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream



110g (4oz) unskinned almonds

110g (4oz) sugar

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues).  Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, 106-113°C (223-236°F). It will look thick and syrupy; 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. Add vanilla extract and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick creamy white mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Meanwhile make the praline.  Put the unskinned almonds with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, DO NOT STIR, when this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold, when the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.


After about 1 1/2 hours when the ice cream is just beginning to set, fold in the 4 tablespoons of praline powder and freeze again. If you fold in the praline too early it will sink to the bottom of the ice cream. To serve, scoop out into balls with an ice cream scoop. Serve in an ice bowl, sprinkle with the remainder of the praline powder.

Hazelnut Praline Ice-Cream

Substitute skinned hazelnuts for almonds in the above recipe and proceed as above.



Gateau Marjolaine

This is a definitely one of JR Ryall’s iconic desserts. It’s a bit of a mission to make but so worth it.

Makes 2 gateau, serves 20-24


Nut Meringue

8 egg whites

225g (8oz) sugar

175g (6oz) ground hazelnuts

200g (7oz) ground almonds


Beat the egg whites, gradually add sugar and continuing to beat until mixture is a stiff meringue. Fold in the ground nuts. Spread 8mm thick (1/3 inch) onto 2 lined rectangular tray and bake for 5 minutes in a preheated oven, 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7, until light golden brown and soft to the touch. When cold, cut each in half.


Chocolate Cream

360g (12oz) dark chocolate in small pieces

360g (12oz) soft unsalted butter


Melt the chocolate. Add the butter and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool until it becomes spreading consistency.


Butter Cream

75ml (3fl oz) milk

75g (3oz) sugar

2 egg yolks

225g (8oz) soft unsalted butter

75g (3oz) praline powder

2 tablespoons (kirsch


Bring milk and half the sugar to the boil. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and pour the boiling milk onto them. Stir over a low heat, until the mixture thickens. Strain into a bowl through a fine sieve. Beat using an electric mixer until the mixture has cooled. Fold in the butter. Divide between two bowls. Stir the praline into one half of the butter cream add the kirsch into the other.


To Assemble

Spread the first layer of meringue with one third of the chocolate cream, allow to set. Cover with the next layer of meringue and spread with the praline cream, then another layer of meringue and the kirsch cream and then the final meringue. Use a knife to neaten the sides and cut in half. Spread the remaining chocolate cream over each gateau.



Almond Tart with Kumquats and Mint

This gorgeous tart is deliciously rich and moist, we serve it with many fruits in season, strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, cherries, roast rhubarb……….

Serves 10-12



225g (8oz) flour

25g (1oz) castor sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

1 egg


Almond Filling

285g (10oz) soft butter unsalted

225g (8oz) castor sugar

285g (10oz ) whole almonds

3 eggs

1 dessertspoon Amaretto or Rum or Kirch or Calvados

1 tablespoon of flour (optional)


Kumquat Compote (see recipe)

lots of fresh mint sprigs


1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin with ‘pop-up base


First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.


Whisk the egg. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.


Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.


Meanwhile, make the kumquat compote (see recipe).


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


Line the flan ring and bake blind for 20-25 minutes. Meanwhile make the almond filling. Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.


Cream the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy, add the freshly ground almonds, flour, eggs and amaretto if available. Pour into the pastry case, reduce the temperature to 160ºC/325°F/Gas Mark 3, and bake for 45-60 minutes.


Remove from the tin onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely.


Just before serving, drain the kumquats and arrange on top.  Tuck some little sprigs of fresh mint here and there between fruit or alternatively just serve with a slice of almond tart and serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream.


Kumquat Compôte

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

Serves 12-40 depending on how it is served


470g (17oz) kumquats

400ml (14fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


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

Serve warm or cold.

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge.



Irish Coffee Meringue

Another gem with an Irish twist.


Serves 6-8

2 egg whites

110g (4oz) icing sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee powder (not granules)



300m (10fl oz) whipped cream

2 tablespoons approx. Irish whiskey



chocolate coffee beans

parchment paper


Draw 2 x 7½ inch (18cm) circles onto a sheet of parchment paper. Then turn them over so the pencil or pen doesn’t mark the meringue.


Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean and dry bowl. Add all the icing sugar except 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons). Whisk until the mixture stands in firm dry peaks. It may take 10-15 minutes. Sieve the coffee and the remaining icing sugar together and fold in carefully.


Spread the meringue carefully with a palette knife onto the circles on the parchment paper.  Bake in a very low oven 150°C\300°F\Gas Mark 2 for approx. 1 hour or until crisp. The discs should peel easily from the paper.  Allow to get quite cold.

Add the whiskey to the whipped cream.


Sandwich the meringue discs together with Irish whiskey flavoured cream. Pipe 5 rosettes of cream on top. Decorate with chocolate coffee beans if available.


Irish Coffee Meringue Roulade

Ingredients as above x 2

Irish Coffee Sauce (see recipe)


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


Meanwhile, line a swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non scented oil (eg. sunflower or arachide)


Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.


Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work – top and turn the roulade onto it, remove the base tin foil and allow the meringue to cool.


To Assemble

Spread the whiskey cream over the meringue, roll up from the long side and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate with chocolate coffee beans.


Serve, cut into slices about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick accompanied by Irish Coffee Sauce.


Irish Coffee Sauce
This irresistible sauce keeps for several months and you’ll find yourself drizzling it over ice-cream, crêpes and even French toast.


175g (6oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) water

225ml (8fl oz) coffee

1 tablespoon Irish whiskey


Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; stir until the sugar dissolves and the water comes to the boil.  Remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup turns a chestnut caramel.  Then add the coffee and put back on the heat to dissolve.  Allow to cool and add the whiskey.



JR’s Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly

This is a delicious variation on a classic Panna Cotta. Serve with wafer thin Langue de Chat biscuits for a special treat.
Serves 6-8 people

600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream
50g (2oz) castor sugar
1 vanilla pods, split lengthways
2 gelatine leaves (or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine)
cold water for soaking gelatine leaves (or 3 tablespoons water if using powdered Gelatine)

1 x espresso jelly recipe (see below)

1 pedestal glass bowl

Panna cotta
Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pod and castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Squeeze excess water from the leaves, add to the hot cream mixture and stir to dissolve. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod (rinse the vanilla pod in warm water, allow to dry and save for later). Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before pouring into the pedestal bowl. To save time the hot cream mixture can be stirred over an ice bath to cool it faster. Place in the fridge and allow to set. Carefully spoon over the cooled, but not yet set, coffee jelly. Return to the fridge and allow to set.

If using powdered gelatine: Sponge the gelatine in 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) water. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Remove the vanilla pod and continue as above.

Espresso Jelly

very strong hot coffee
45g (1½ oz) castor sugar
1¼gelatine leaves (1¼ teaspoon powdered gelatine)

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Meanwhile, place sugar in a measuring jug and add enough coffee until there is 200ml (7fl oz) in total, stir to dissolve. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine leaves, add to the hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

Note: Allowing the Panna cotta mixture to cool before decanting into the glass serving dish will prevent vanilla seeds from pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Instead, they stay in suspension and look much prettier.

Variation: To make a more special version of this dessert the panna cotta can be layered in a glass bowl with the jelly. For a good result make 3 x espresso jelly recipe and set the panna cotta in 3 layers, each separated with a layer of the jelly. Each layer must be allowed to set completely before the next layer is poured over. The resulting dessert is both eye catching and delicious.


Rory O’Connell’s Pistachio Langues de Chat

These thin biscuits are so called as they are supposed to resemble the shape of cats tongues. Rory likes to shape these into long and skinny biscuits so perhaps more like a lizards tongue, but that name would not really sell them very well. Regardless of the length, they should be quite thin and delicate. He serve them with mousses, fools, soufflés, ices of all sorts and of course with a cup of tea or coffee. The flavouring here is vanilla but orange or lemon zest or ground sweet spices such as cinnamon or star anise also works well. Finely chopped nuts such as pistachio, almond, pecan or brazil nuts can be scattered over the shaped and uncooked batter to give a lovely crunchy and flavoursome finish.

Serves 8


125g (4½ oz) soft butter

125g (4½ oz)caster sugar

4 egg whites

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

175g (6oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) pistachio, finely chopped


Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas 4

Line a flat baking tray with parchment paper

Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously until pale and fluffy.

Add the sifted flour, vanilla extract and egg whites and fold gently with a spatula until the mixture is combined. It will look like a thick batter.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with 1cm nozzle or use a “disposable”  plastic piping bag and just snip off the top with a scissors to give exactly the size needed. I wash and dry the bag and keep it for the next time.

Pipe onto to baking tray in long thin rows 1cm thick and 10cm long.

Scatter the finely chopped pistachio on top of the batter.

Bake for 12 minutes by which time they will have coloured generously around the edges. Remove from oven and let cool still on the parchment lined baking tray. When cool remove to wire rack and store in an airtight box lined with kitchen paper.


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