Terra Madre


Just back from Slow Food Terra Madre Salone Del Gusto 2018, the biggest international event, anywhere in the world, dedicated to food, 1.2 million people attended in 2016. Every two years a most intriguing mix of people from all over the world, farmers, fishermen, artisan food producers, transhumant shepherds, food scientists, chefs, food writers, activists, university professors, seeds savers, migrants and indigenous people descend on Turin, a beautiful small city in Piedmont. They come from all four corners of the earth to attend a massive 5 day artisan food fair and a variety of seminars on how to change our current fractured food system.

Carlo Petrini, the messianic president of Slow Food International,  who was named “one of the 50 people who could save the planet” by The Guardian, gave an impassioned speech about Food For Change – a global campaign aimed at educating all of us on the effect of our food choices have on climate change. Slow Food is committed to a food system that not only provides Good, Clean and Fair food for all but is also sustainable and positive for the planet,

Each and every one of us can and must make a difference by choosing food that doesn’t harm the environment though its production, its transportation or its disposal.

It comes as quite a shock to realise that we could reverse climate change by changing our diet. I attended a variety of intriguing sessions; one on natural ferments, the panel included one of my food heroes Sandor Katz, the king of Fermentation, and Venetia Villani, director of Cucina Naturale.


In another session on pesticides entitled The Poison in The Pot Miryam Kurganoff de Gorban from Argentina showed a heart rending video on the effect of glyphosate on farm workers in Argentina.

On a more positive note Earth markets are changing communities from Krakow to San Diego, Uganda to Turkey.

A  session on soil, ‘the Future is Under Our Feet’ included Arwyn Jones a soil scientist from the EU Soil Research Centre in Milan – he and his fellow speakers painted a grim picture of the effect of intensive chemical farming on the soil that feeds us and suggested many ways to rebuild the diminishing fertility.

I learned from chef Yuriy Pryiemskyi from Kiev that there are 76 different types of Bortsch. Imagine that, I thought there was just one.


Ireland was represented by the Raw Milk cheese producers – Italians were intrigued to taste Young Buck Mike Thompson. Long-time Slow Food member Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork gave an engaging session to a packed audience on Ireland’s smokehouses and also demonstrated kedgeree and ceviche.


Feeding thousands of people every day is quite the mission but there are many options. The ‘street food’ area offered many intriguing dishes as did the ‘smoke food over fire’ and several others including Terra Madre Kitchen.


The Slow Food Youth area was buzzing with passionate young people from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo determined to make a difference. Slow Seeds, Slow Fish, Slow Insects, Slow Meat, and Slow Cheese all offered back to back sessions.

Slow Chickens were determined to put an end to caged birds.


Slow Food Terra Madre is quite simply a life changing event, thousands of inspirational people all helping to change, or wanting to change the fast food culture that has enveloped our lives and make a difference to the planet with how they spend their food euro.


Just by coincidence Joe Trivelli of the River Cafe in London’s new book The Modern Italian Cook has just arrived…. now this is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Joe is the much loved co head chef at River Cafe and has worked there since 2001 but this book is packed with recipes for the food Joe likes to cook at home for his lovely wife and two children and his fortunate friends…..just the sort of comforting food I too love….

Here are a few recipes to tempt you – could be a delicious Christmas present for a food loving friend.





Focaccia di Recco

One of the stalls in the Slow Food Street Food area served thin crackly paper thin focaccia, oozing with Stracchino, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and lo and behold I have a recipe in Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cookbook.


Joe Trivelli’s Focaccia from Recco Focaccia Di Recco

Recco is a town on the Ligurian coast between Genova and Portofino. If you go there you can eat this on the street or at a focacceria, where it is treated more like a pizza. If you’d like to make a large one, it’s easier to do it with another pair of hands, stretching the dough very gently between you. The stretching of this dough requires a lightness of touch and a minimum of pulling.


If you’ve never had this before I think you should opt for the plain version, but you can also ‘pizzerise’ with a tomato and herb topping and a little oil before baking, if you like.


Serves 2


250g (9oz) organic ‘oo’ flour

125m1 (4fl oz) whole milk

200g (7oz) stracchino or crescenza cheese

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil.



Mix the flour and milk together until you have a dough, then transfer to a clean work surface for kneading. Lightly flour the bench if the dough is tacky. Knead it constantly, rotating it all the while, and flouring the worktop where necessary, for about 4 minutes or longer if your batch is bigger. It quickly feels very smooth on the outside and will bounce back when pressed with your fingertip.


When smooth to the touch, cover well and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 220°C/400°F/Mark 6 and oil a light, large non-stick baking tray.


Cut the dough into two roughly equal amounts, but make one slightly bigger than the other. Use the bigger one for the base. Roll it out into a rectangle as thinly as possible, to about 2mm. Keep the tray you are going to use beside you to help you gauge the size and begin to work with your hands.  The aim is to make something thinner than regular pasta, almost as thin as filo. The under sheet can be slightly thicker than the top but make sure that it doesn’t have any holes in it. The second will have holes made in it, so it’s not as much of a problem.


Work with your hands together as if you were praying but with the dough sheet draped over. Carefully move your hands apart, but do this very gently, almost as though trying not to stretch the dough. It will, however, do so. Hop the dough on your hands so that it turns around by 45 degrees at first and repeat. Pay particular attention to the edges of the dough, not the centre, which will naturally be pulled by the weight of the dough. Stretch the parts that are thicker and avoid those that look too thin.


When large enough to fit, place on the baking tray and dot with pieces of stracchino cheese. Stretch out a second piece of dough, ideally slightly thinner. Place on top of the cheese and cut around the edges with a knife. Crimp the border together and tear a few holes in the top. Lightly sprinkle with olive oil and salt before baking.


Bake for 8 minutes until golden and slightly bubbling through the holes. Eat immediately and make another straight away.



Joe Trivelli’s Tomato Frittata Ruthie Rogers Frittata Al Pomodoro Ruthie Rogers

This is straight from the boss, something she makes at home rather than serves in the restaurant. It’s evocative for me as we ate this all summer in between shooting her Classic Italian Cookbook in southern Tuscany with Rose Gray. It’s a dish without a time. Quick to prepare; quick to enjoy; fine to eat standing up but also great to linger over with a glass of wine.


I have tried hard not to be too specific with ingredients but here I must insist that this is made with only the very ripest and tastiest tomatoes at the height of summer and spanking-fresh eggs. This is because it’s what Ruthie would insist on when making it for us. It would be less than half the dish otherwise.


Add some cheese if that’s your thing but it’s not really necessary.


Serves 1


2 eggs

½ ripe oxheart tomato or 1 plum tomato, cut into 2cm slices

2 small basil sprigs

sea salt, black pepper

extra virgin olive oil



Break the eggs into a bowl, season and lightly mix with a fork,


Heat a 25cm trusty pan to smoking hot with oil just covering the bottom. Add the tomato and turn over with a spatula as soon as it is hot, i.e. quite quickly. You don’t really want to cook it, just heat up and scorch it a bit.


Add the basil and pour over the eggs, moving them a little after 20 seconds when the middle has started to cook so that that cooked egg is distributed throughout the pan. Position everything to look pretty, if you care about this sort of thing. Cook for minute.


Flip and cook for 1 minute more.




Barny Haughton’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

The sauce for this deeply delicious and simple dish has four basic ingredients: tomatoes, shallots, chilli and bacon. But there are some rules about the ingredients:

You really need to get the right bacon; the deep flavour of a good Amatriciana comes from the rendered-down fat. The best bacon cut is guanciale (pork cheek) but a good fatty unsmoked pancetta will do fine as well.

Bucatini, (like thick spaghetti) is best for the pasta but rigatoni or penne will also do well – but don’t use fresh pasta.

And finally: use pecorino not parmesan. The difference may not seem a big deal but what you get from pecorino (made from sheeps milk) is a sharpness which works brilliantly with the rich Amatriciana sauce. Parmesan (made from cows milk) is sweeter and less defined in its flavour


Serves 4 people


400g (14oz) guanciale or a piece of fatty pancetta

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

3 shallots very finely sliced

600g (1¼lb) ripe tomatoes – or a 380g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

80g (3¼ oz) aged pecorino, grated

400g (14oz) bucatini

olive oil


You are going to make a passata out of the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and bake them for about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pass through a mouli or sieve, leaving behind only the dry skin and seeds. You should end up with about Note: if you have lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, say, five kilos, you could do as above, then reheat the passata to simmering and transfer to sterilised jars, screw the lids on tight and keep in a cool place for up to three months until needed.


Slice the guanciale into thickish rashers and then into lardons about 1cm wide. Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a deep solid bottomed sauté or frying pan, bring to a medium heat and put the lardon in the pan. Once they have started to fry, turn the heat down and continue to fry gently. As the fat renders down, pour it off into a bowl. Continue doing this until the lardons become crispy. Drain the remaining fat off into the bowl, put the lardons to one side. In the same pan, fry the sliced shallots until they or soft but not brown. Add the chilli flakes, fry a little longer, then add the passata, bay leaves and a few twists of black pepper. Simmer gently for 25 minutes and keep warm


Cook the pasta in the normal way but make sure you cook it to just before it’s al dente. This is because you are going to finish it in the sauce for a further 30 seconds or so. Drain, toss in olive oil and put to one side.


Meanwhile, add the rendered fat to the tomato sauce and have the crispy lardons ready in a warm place.


Now add the pasta and lardons to the sauce in the frying pan, simmer for 30 seconds and serve immediately with lots of grated pecorino.



Our fig trees in the glasshouse are giving us a second flush of fruit at present. The first plump fruit ripened in May but there’s an extra bonus in the Autumn so I was thrilled to find this recipe. Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen guanciale and pancetta are worth seeking out.


Joe Trivelli’s Rigatoni with Figs Al Fichi

This sounds like an unusual pairing but actually the faintly spicy figs with the rich cured meat is a delicious combination.


Serves 4


400g (14oz) rigatoni

150g (5oz) guanciale or pancetta, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

6 fresh figs, washed and sliced into three

100g (3½oz) grated mature pecorino, plus extra to serve

sea salt and  black pepper

extra virgin olive oil


Put a large pan of salted water on to heat. You can start cooking the pasta as soon as it boils as the sauce is that quick to make.


Fry the guanciale or pancetta in a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. When it is nice and crispy, and most of the fat has melted, acid the thyme and figs and toss quickly.


Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the other pan and toss everything together, adding the cheese and using the cooking water to emulsify the sauce as necessary. Add a good grind of pepper and salt to taste.


Serve with more cheese for grating at the table.



Joe Trivelli’s Ricotta Ice Cream Gelato Alla Ricotta

Super-easy, super-creamy, with figs, hazelnuts and chocolate, I’ve thrown all the good stuff at this.


Serves 6


100g (3½oz) dried figs

juice of  1 lemon

140g (4¼ oz) caster sugar

500g (18oz) ricotta

6 egg yolks

300g (10½oz) double cream

200ml (7fl oz) whole milk

70g (3oz) roasted hazelnuts, chopped into small pieces

80g (3¼ oz) dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces



Take the tips off the figs and cut into pieces. Put the lemon juice in a pan with log of the sugar and the figs. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to soften.


Pass the ricotta through a sieve and then do it again to make it creamy. Whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until pale then add the cream, milk and ricotta.


Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Towards the end, stir through the nuts, chocolate and figs. Best eaten as soon as it’s scoopable, after about 3 hours in the freezer, but this ice cream will keep for a week.


Remove from the freezer well ahead of serving to soften once frozen solid.

The Humble Spud

This week’s column is a celebration of the potato – the super versatile, super nutritious and super cool tuber often referred to as the ‘humble spud’.

Somehow, despite its many virtues, the potato has managed to acquire a frumpy image. Several recent surveys indicate that potatoes sales are down whilst sales of rice pasta and noodles have risen significantly.

Millennials particularly are opting for microwavable options and see potatoes as a bit of a ‘faff to cook’. Many, it seems, prefer microwavable rice (although far more expensive) – I didn’t even know such a thing existed but apparently the market is now worth millions.

Well call me old fashioned but the potato is still my number one vegetable, it’s certainly not just ‘a bit on the side’. I’m still a dedicated aficionado for more reasons than I can mention, not least its nutrient density and flavour plus it’s naturally gluten free.

Recent research has also shown conclusively that potatoes contain blood pressure lowering compounds called kukoamines and a range of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.

They are a rich source of vitamin B6, C and B1, both types of fibre and have more potassium than bananas – good for the brain, no fat, a brilliant source of energy, a slow release food and on and on it goes….

From the cooks point of view they are a blank canvas for all kinds of flavours. But there are spuds and spuds and variety really matters so try to find some of the old or what are now called heritage varieties in farmers markets and local greengrocers. I snap up local, organically grown potatoes whenever I can find them. At present we are enjoying (varieties on the off ask Eileen) and pink fir apple (a waxy fingerling type).

My favourite Winter varieties are Golden Wonders and Kerr’s Pinks which grow brilliantly in the soils around the Ballycotton area but also in pockets around the country so seek them out…..


Now I’m back in to the kitchen with bag of floury and a few waxy spuds. So what to do? There are so many delicious way to cook potatoes, they soak up a myriad of flavours, fresh herbs, spices…

The flavour of the East, Far East, Mexico, South America from whence they came. They are estimated to be well of over 4,000 native varieties still growing ‘in Peru. You can’t imagine how beautiful and diverse they are, every colour, shape, texture…like jewels.


Here in Ireland the most traditional way to cook potatoes is to boil them and I am rarely without a few left over boiled spuds in my fridge. They’re a brilliant standby and the basis of so many tasty filling supper dishes.

But a word about boiling potatoes, they can be bland and virtually tasteless or full of flavour depending on the variety and the way they are cooked…they need plenty of SALT in the water and cook them in their jackets. I add a tablespoon to 2 pints, better still use sea water….. If you happen to be near the coast or are out for a Sunday drive. Go for a paddle and bring back for a container of sea water with contains a host of other minerals and trace elements as well as salt.

As you stroll across the beach maybe pick up some kelp, add a piece to the pot for extra flavour and nutrients and bring a bag of mixed seaweed home to add to the soil in your garden. So here are some of my favourite ways to use up left over boiled potatoes.


Traditional Irish Jacket Potatoes


Here is the best way to cook old varieties, so they don’t dissolve into a mush before they are fully cooked. It’s not at all traditional, but a Chinese steamer over a wok, (with well-salted water underneath) works really well and the potatoes remain intact. Many people now peel potatoes before they boil them, however, it’s worth remembering that they have considerably more flavour if cook them in their jackets. Plus, there’s less waste, and most of the nutrients are just underneath the skin.


Serves 4


900g (2lb) ‘old’ potatoes such as Golden Wonders, Kerr’s Pink or Red Duke of York



3 teaspoons of salt to every

1.2 litres (2 pints) water


Put the potatoes in a deep saucepan, cover with fresh, cold water and add salt. Cover and bring to the boil and continue to cook over a medium heat about 15 minutes, until half-cooked. Pour off most of the water, leaving about 2.5cm (1 inch) liquid in the saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover and leave the potatoes to steam for the remainder of the cooking time, at least a further 15 minutes, until a skewer goes through the centre easily.


Put into a hot serving dish and serve with lots of good butter or a terrific olive oil (rather than on top) and some flaky sea salt.


Potatoes with Cumin and Ginger

Love the way the cayenne and spices can add oomph to leftover potatoes in this recipe. Enjoy them on their own or as a ‘ side’ with a couple of lamb chop


Serves 6


1kg (2¼lbs) potatoes, cooked in jackets in well salted water

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin, freshly roasted

3 teaspoons freshly ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

a generous pinch of cayenne

3 tablespoons freshly ground coriander


Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes.  Heat a wide frying pan.  Pour in the oil, and add the freshly ground cumin, ginger, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Stir and add the potatoes, toss gently and cook until the potatoes are hot and crusted with the spices.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander.  Taste. Correct seasoning.



Potato and Pecorino Frittata

I love the flavour of Pecorino with the eggs and new potatoes it gives the dish real depth of flavour.  However, Parmesan would be a good alternative.  The fritatta is great for a picnic or cut into neat squares and serve as a pre-dinner nibble or canapé.

Serves 4


450g/1lb new potatoes or left over potatoes

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 small onion, finely sliced

6 free-range eggs

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

140g/5oz Pecorino finely grated,

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife.  Allow to cool slightly, then cut into chunky slices.

Heat a heavy-based non-stick frying pan big enough to take all the ingredients.  Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.


Meanwhile whisk together the eggs and chives.  Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper then add the cheese and whisk again.

Heat the grill to moderately hot.

Add the potato slices to the onions and then pour over the egg mixture.  Cook over a low heat until the edges are beginning to firm up and the frittata is lightly set.  This may take up to ten minutes.

Finally place under the grill.  Don’t place the pan too close to the heat or it will burn on top before the centre is cooked.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is a lovely golden colour.

Serve hot or cold.  This would be delicious with a mixed leaf and tomato salad.


Note: Alternatively cook in a pre-heated at 160C for 10 to 12 minutes


Elizabeth’s Cheesy Potatoes

Serves 2-3

This was one of my sister Elizabeth’s favourite recipes when she was a penniless student but it continues to be one of our favourite recipes, loved by all the family of every age.


1lb (450g) left over boiled potatoes, peeled and dice into 1 inch (2cm) dice

1/3 pints (150ml) whole milk

4ozs (110g) Irish Cheddar cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground pepper


greased pie dish – 1 pint (600ml) – capacity


Put the diced potatoes into a saucepan, add the cold milk, season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Stir over a low heat until the potatoes have absorbed the milk, then add 3ozs (85g) grated cheese and stir gently, then turn into a pie dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1oz (30g) grated cheese over the top. Cook in a preheated oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, until nicely brown on top, approx. 20 minutes.

Note: Some potatoes will absorb more milk than others, if the mixture looks a little dry, add a little more milk. Delicious served with fish.


This recipe can be varied a little by adding some chopped cooked smoked ham or rasher, or a little sautéed onion.


Rustic Roast Potatoes with Sweet Chilli Sauce & Sour Cream

All the rage in Oz.


Serves 4


1½lbs (680g) rustic roast potatoes (see recipe)

Sweet Chilli Sauce *

Sour cream


To Serve

When the rustic roast potatoes are crisp and golden.  Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.  Season with salt.

Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.


Note: Deep-fried cooked potato may be used instead.

Rustic Roast Potatoes

Serves 4-6


These are my children’s favourite kind of roast spuds. They particularly love all the crusty skin.


6 large ‘old’ potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks

Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious

Sea salt


Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.   Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx.   Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil.   Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.

Rustic Roast Potatoes with Garlic Cloves

18 garlic cloves


Proceed as above, add the garlic after the potatoes have been cooking for 10 – 15 minutes. Toss in the oil.  Keep an eye on the garlic cloves, they will probably be cooked before the potatoes, if so remove and keep warm in a serving dish.

Press the soft sweet garlic out of the skins and eat with the crispy potatoes




Sauté Potatoes with Rosemary



Sounds so easy but it is surprisingly difficult to do perfect sauté potatoes – the secret is to allow to brown well on one side before turning over


900g (2lbs) potatoes

extra virgin olive oil

fresh rosemary sprigs

pepper and salt


Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just cooked. Peel and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) slices. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, scatter in some fresh rosemary. Cook the slices of potato over a medium heat until golden on one side, then turn over and cook until golden on the other side. Drain on kitchen paper and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper before serving. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.


Sauté Potatoes with Sage Leaves

Substitute sage leaves for rosemary in the above recipe.


For garnish

Heat 2.5cm (1 inch) olive oil in a frying pan, deep fry sage leaves for a few seconds until crisp and frizzy, drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle over the sauté potatoes as garnish.


Potato Spring Onion Salad

Serves 4-6


900g (2lbs) freshly cooked potatoes – diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

lots of nasturtium leaves and red, orange and yellow nasturtium flowers (75-110g/3 – 4oz)


The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.


Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.



Hot Potato Salad


Serves 4-6


Serve with sausages, boiled bacon, hot terrine, hot spiced beef or pate. Can be accompanied by red cabbage.


Ingredients as for potato salad above plus the following:

2 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons chopped gherkins


Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Add the eggs cut in 5mm (1/4 inch) dice, gherkins and capers if used.



Piped Potato Salad


1 generous litre freshly mashed potato


Add French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives and mayonnaise to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish starter salad or hors d’oevures.


Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad


Serves 6 approximately


Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice


110ml (4fl oz) fruity extra virgin olive oil

2-4 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available

sea salt and pepper to taste


Coat potatoes in a good extra virgin oil while still warm. Season to taste. Sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves.  Garnish with lots of purple and mauve thyme flowers.

Twice Cooked Roasted Potatoes with Shallots and Thyme leaves

Serves 8-10

I love to cook potatoes and shallots (or baby onions) in the roasting tin after I’ve roasted a duck.  The fat and juices soak into the potato and shallots and give them a sublime flavour.


8-10 large potatoes cooked in their jackets in boiling salted water

24-30 shallots

Duck or goose fat or extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons thyme leaves



Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.  If the potatoes are new season, there’s no need to peel them, otherwise remove the skin.  Cut into approximately 2cm (3/4 inches) thick slices.  Peel the shallots and cut in half if large.  Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of duck or goose fat in 1 or 2 roasting tins.  (Alternatively use extra virgin olive oil.)  Put in the potato slices and shallots.  Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and thyme leaves.  Toss gently to coat in the duck or goose fat.  Roast for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, turning regularly until the outsides are all crisp and golden.

Wild Foods

Wild foods have never been so much in vogue, they are all over restaurant menus and we love it…..

Foraging has virtually become a national sport, young and old are scurrying about in woodlands and along the hedgerows in search of nuts, berries and wild mushrooms. It’s been a fantastic year for fungi,  we got baskets and baskets of wild mushrooms, not just field mushrooms, but porcini, yellow legs, chanterelles and even a huge cauliflower mushroom proudly delivered by a particularly knowledgeable local forager. I’d never cooked one before so that was super exciting.

We used field mushrooms in every conceivable way, mushroom soup, mushrooms on toast, mushroom a la crème, mushroom risotto and we made mushroom ketchup for the first time in over a decade. Our farm around the Cookery School has been managed organically for over 20 years now and this year Mother Nature rewarded us with a bounty of field mushrooms. We couldn’t collect them fast enough, several of the fields were literally white with mushrooms.  we had such fun showing our grandchildren how to recognise and gather field mushrooms. For the first time in almost a decade the conditions were perfect – warm moist weather and chemical free fields.

There’s also a bumper crop of blackberries, not sure I’ve ever seen so many eager foragers scrabbling around in the brambles. Local children have been collecting the plump berries and we’re thrilled to buy them both for the Cookery School and the restaurant. There are a million delicious ways to use them. We all know that blackberry and Bramley apple is a winning combination on their own but add a few leaves of rose geranium and you have something sublime.

Earlier this year, 15 year old Simon Meehan from Ballincollig was declared Young Scientist of the Year for his discovery that blackberries contain a non-toxic, organic, original antibiotic which is effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus, a bug that infects humans and is increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment especially when it comes in the form of the common hospital acquired infection MRSA. So gorge yourself on blackberries while they last, they also contain loads of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, magnesium and calcium.

My youngest grandchild Jago, (2 years old), can’t get enough of them, he’s like a kid in a candy shop gobbling them up like smarties off the blackberry bushes, ignoring the prickles in an effort to reach every last one.

Maria Walsh’s Blackberry Tincture

Blackberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Tinctures are easy and convenient to use.


recycle an old jam jar – 290ml

Three quarter fill the jar with  wild blackberries, picked on a dry day.

Cover the berries with alcohol – vodka or brandy. For a non-alcoholic version use apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar.

Place the tincture in a dark cupboard.  Shake the jar once a day and leave for 6-8 weeks.

When ready, one could take a teaspoon every day or add to water, jazz up cocktails or add to water kefir.


Wild Mushroom a la Crème on toast

Mushroom à la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you’ve got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms. Mushroom à la crème keeps well in the fridge for 4–5 days and freezes perfectly.



Serves 8


50g (2oz) butter

175g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

450g (1lb) wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles or the common field mushroom), sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

good squeeze of lemon juice

225ml (8fl oz) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)



Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 5–10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured; remove the onions to a bowl.


Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in the remaining butter, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a

tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning, and add the chopped herbs.


Toast or pan-grill the bread and pile the hot creamy mushroom mixture on top.

Enjoy immediately.



Grandpoppy’s Mushroom Ketchup


It only makes sense to make mushroom ketchup on the rare years when there’s a glut of wild mushrooms in the fields. This is becoming less and less common because of the level of pesticides used in conventional farming. Occasionally, though, when the weather at the end of the summer is warm and humid as it was this year, we get a flush of mushrooms, and we can’t bear to waste any of them. make a supply of mushroom ketchup, which keeps for years. You can dash it into game, beef, lamb and chicken stews and casseroles, shepherd’s pie, or just use it as you would soy sauce.


as many wild field mushrooms as you can gather



For each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup, use:

10g (1⁄2oz) whole peppercorns

7g (1⁄2oz) whole ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon mace

50ml (2fl oz) whiskey or, if you prefer, omit the whiskey and add 1 tablespoon of best brandy to each bottle before sealing


Put the mushrooms into a large basin. Sprinkle salt between each layer to extract juice. Steep for 24 hours, occasionally stirring and breaking the mushrooms. Allow to stand for a further 12 hours to settle the sediment.


Pour into another vessel, leaving behind the sediment. Measure, strain and to every 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup add the above ingredients. Bottle and seal.


Mushroom ketchup keeps for years: I have some that is over 5 years old and is still perfect. The steeped mushrooms themselves can be composted or fed to the hens.



Wild Mushroom and Thyme Leaf Tart


Serves 6


A really flavoursome tart, one of the few that tastes super warm or cold. Use cream! Both the flavour and texture are quite different if you substitute milk. Flat cultivated mushrooms also work well when field mushrooms are not available


Rich Shortcrust Pastry

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50-75g (2-3oz) butter

water to bind or a mixture of water and beaten egg


225g (8oz) wild mushrooms, flats if possible

15g (½ oz) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

225ml (8fl oz) cream

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, free range if possible

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or preferably Parmigiano Reggiano

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

a good pinch of cayenne


1 x 7 inch (18cm) flan ring or tin with pop up base (low sided)


Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way.


Sieve the flour, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the 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 or egg yolk and add some water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and 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 crispier shorter crust.


Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.


Allow to rest, line the flan ring and bake blind for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the mushrooms finely, melt the butter, add the oil and fry the mushrooms on a very high heat. Add thyme leaves and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until all the juice has evaporated and then allow to cool.


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


Whisk the cream in a bowl with the eggs and the extra egg yolk, stir in the cool mushrooms and the Parmesan cheese. Taste, add the pinch of cayenne and more seasoning if necessary. Pour into the pre-baked pastry case.


Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set and the top delicately brown.


Serve with a good green salad


Note: Tiny mushroom quiches may be served straight from the oven as appetisers before dinner or for a drinks party.




Apple, Sloe and Sweet Geranium Jelly


This apple jelly recipe is the most brilliant mother recipe to add all sorts of flavours. If you have lots of sloes increase the quantity to half apples and sloes. Serve on scones, with game, pork, duck or guinea fowl.


Makes 6-7 pots


2.2kg crab apples or Bramley Seedlings

450g sloes

2.7 litres water

6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

plus extra as needed.

2 lemons, unwaxed organic



Wash the apples and cut into quarters, no need to peel or core.  Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts.   Put the apples in a large saucepan with the sloes and geranium leaves, the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until the apples and sloes dissolve into a ‘mush’, approx. 2 hours.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight.  Measure the juice into a preserving pan, allow 450g sugar to each 600ml of juice.   Heat the sugar in a moderate oven 180C/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan, add a few more geranium leaves if the flavour is still very mild.   Bring to the boil and add the sugar.   Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.   Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the geranium leaves.   Skim, test and then pour the jelly into sterilized jars, put a sweet geranium leaf in each jar.  Cover and seal immediately.




Blackberry and Lime Scones


For lime scones, just roll out the dough to 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp or cut into scones and dip the egg – washed tops in lime sugar.


Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (71/2 cm) cutter


2lb (900g) plain white flour

6oz (175g) butter

pinch of salt

2oz (50g) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

15fl oz (450ml/) approx. full cream milk to mix (not low fat milk)


egg wash


Lime Sugar

2oz (50g) granulated or Demerara sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon lime zest for the top of scones


Lime Butter

150g (5oz) butter

250g (9oz) pale brown sugar

2 teaspoons lime zest


Preheat the oven 250ºC/475ºF/Gas Mark 9.


First make the Lime Butter.

Cream the butter, sugar and lime zest together and beat until light and fluffy.


Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.


Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre.  With the fingers of your ‘best

hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.  Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a rectangle about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick.


Spread the soft lime butter over the surface. Roll up lengthwise and cut into pieces about 2 inches (5cm) thick.


Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in lime sugar.  Put onto a baking sheet fairly close together.


Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.


Egg Wash

Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them brown in the oven.



Darina Allen Simply Delicious The Classic Collection


Darina Allen Simply Delicious The Classic Collection has just landed on my desk and I couldn’t be more excited – 29 years after the original little paperback was published to accompany the television series of the same name- I had red glasses and brown hair at that time and little did I know how Simply Delicious would change the course of the rest of my life.

It was terribly scary making the programmes, I had never seen a TV camera and had no idea how to go about it at first. I almost didn’t….. I was so scared it would be a complete flop and sure I’d make a total fool of myself. I tossed the idea backwards and forwards in my head, a mixture of apprehension and excitement. After much toing and froing I decided it would be easier to live with the series not being a huge success than with the eternal question of ‘What if…..?’

After the first few programmes people poured into local bookshops to buy the little 78 page Simply Delicious paperback. For many, it was the first cookbook they ever owned, the recipes well-tested for the Ballymaloe Cookery School worked, so as the Gill & Macmillan representative put it one night after a book signing, the book was selling in ‘telephone numbers’ and shops quickly ran out of copies. It went into a second printing immediately and there was a paper shortage, so for several of the eight weeks the programme was on air there was hardly a copy of Simply Delicious to be had in the country. Furthermore, the success was fuelled by another unlikely element. RTE didn’t anticipate the appeal of this new cookery series and ran it opposite Coronation Street. This was at a time when most houses would have been proud to own just one television and long before any form of playback, so there was many a family ‘fracas’ about which programme to watch. Viewers wrote to RTE and rang into chat shows to complain that it was causing ‘strife’ within the family. The repeat was rescheduled…

Simply Delicious went on to make Irish publishing history, topping the best sellers for months in a row and selling more copies than any previously published cookbook in Ireland: 115,000 copies in the first year of publication.


I’ve often been told that ‘dog-eared’ copies of these books are treasured possessions in many households and have in many cases been passed on to the next generation.


The Simply Delicious books have been out of print for many years but people regularly ask where they can find a copy of one or another, so this edition is especially for you. I’m delighted to be republishing this collection of 100 classic recipes from Simply Delicious I and 2 and Simply Delicious Vegetables. Choosing the recipes was a fascinating experience, so many have stood the test of time and are still perennial favourites. Some we have tweaked over the past 30 years or added more contemporary garnishes or complementary spices as the range of ingredients available has expanded considerably in the time since the recipes were first published.


People regularly complain that a friend borrowed their copy of Simply Delicious and didn’t return it. Others bring me well worn, gravy splashed copies for signing that are obviously well used and loved.

Many of our happiest childhood memories are connected to food. I hope you will enjoy this selection of recipes. For me it’s such a joy to know that for many, these simply delicious dishes have become treasured favourites to share with family and friends around the table. And I’m hoping that many of these time-honoured recipes will still be relished and enjoyed in 30 years’ time…

A Warm Salad with Irish Blue Cheese


Some ripe, crumbly Cashel Blue cheese now made by Jane and Louis Grubb’s daughter Sarah would be wonderful for this salad.  A few little cubes of ripe pear are of course delicious here too.  We also love their Crozier Blue cheese.


Serves 4


A selection of organic salad leaves, eg watercress, radicchio, endive, rocket, oakleaf and butterhead

12 round croutons, 1/4inch (5mm) thick, cut form a thin French stick.

45g soft butter

A clove of garlic, peeled

140g smoked streaky bacon, cut into 5mm lardons

50g Irish farmhouse blue cheese


Vinaigrette Dressing

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil

2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoon chopped chervil and 2 teaspoon chopped tarragon  or

4 teaspoon chopped parsley




1 heaped tablespoon of chervil sprigs or freshly chopped parsley


Whisk together the ingredients for the Vinaigrette Dressing.

Wash and dry the mixture of lettuces and salad leaves and tear into bite-sized pieces.

Spread both sides of the rounds of bread with softened butter.  Put onto a baking sheet and bake in a moderate oven, 180˚C/Gas Mark 4, until golden and crisp on both sides, 20 minutes approx.  Rub them with a clove of garlic and keep hot in a low oven with the door slightly open.

Blanch and refresh the bacon, dry well on kitchen paper.

Just before serving, sauté the bacon dice in a little extra virgin olive oil until golden.

To serve:

Dress the lettuces with some vinaigrette in a salad bowl.  Use just enough to make the leaves glisten. Crumble the cheese with a fork and add it to the salad, tossing them well together.  Divide between 4 plates.  Scatter the hot crispy bacon over the top, put 3 warm croutons on each plate and sprinkle sprigs of chervil or chopped parsley over the salad. Serve immediately.




Ballycotton Fish Pie


How fortunate are we to live close to the little fishing village of Ballycotton in East Cork.  Everyone loves fish pie, the combination depends on the fish catch. Omit mussels and shrimps if they are not available.



Serves 6–8


1.1kg (2½lb) cod, hake, haddock
or grey sea mullet fillets or a mixture

salt and freshly ground pepper

15g (½oz) butter

600ml (1 pint) milk

110g (4oz) cooked mussels, out of shells

110g (4oz) cooked and peeled shrimps

55g (2oz) roux, approx.

¼ teaspoon mustard, preferably Dijon

140–170g (5–6oz) grated Irish Cheddar cheese or 85g (3oz) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

800g (1lb 2oz) fluffy mashed potato or champ (optional)



30g (1oz) butter

55g (2oz) soft white breadcrumbs


Skin the fish and cut into portions: 170g (6oz) for a main course, 85g (3oz) for a starter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lay the pieces of fish in a lightly buttered sauté pan and cover with the cold milk. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4–5 minutes, or until the fish has changed colour. Remove the fish to a serving dish or dishes with a perforated spoon. Scatter the mussels and shrimps over the top.


Bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add the mustard, two-thirds of the grated cheese and a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley. Keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.


Next make the breadcrumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.


Coat the fish with the sauce. Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy mashed potato or champ around the edge for a more substantial dish.


Cook in a preheated moderate oven (180°C/350°F/gas mark 4) for 15–20 minutes or until heated through and the top is golden brown and crispy. If necessary, place under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edge of the potato.


Note: This dish may be served in individual dishes: scallop shells are particularly attractive, are completely ovenproof and may be used over and over again.




Chocolate Meringue Gateau

Serves 6


This recipe makes two layers of meringue but you can double the ingredients for a celebration cake or make individual little meringues.


2 egg whites

125 g (4½oz) icing sugar

2 rounded teaspoons cocoa powder, (we use Valrhona)


Chocolate and Rum Cream

30 g (1 oz) best quality dark chocolate

15 g (½ oz) unsweetened chocolate

1 tablespoon Jamaican rum

1 tablespoon cream

300 ml (½ pint) softly whipped cream


Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/regulo 2


Mark two 7½ inches (19 cm) circles on parchment paper.


Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease.  Put the egg whites into the bowl and add 110g (4oz) icing sugar all at once; whisk until the mixture forms stiff, dry peaks, 10 minutes approx.  Sieve together the cocoa and the remaining 15 g (½ oz) icing sugar and fold in very gently.  Spread and bake immediately in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until just crisp.  Allow to get completely cold then peel off the paper.

Meanwhile, very gently melt the chocolate with the rum, and 1 tablespoon of cream in a very cool oven, or in a bowl over simmering water.  Cool and add 2 tablespoon of cream into the chocolate. Mix well, then fold that into the remaining softly whipped cream to avoid a blockage; don’t stir too much or it may curdle.

Sandwich the two meringue discs together with Chocolate and Rum Cream and decorate with chocolate wafers.



Chocolate Wafers

55 g (2 ozs) best quality dark chocolate


Meanwhile make the chocolate wafers.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water.  Stir until quite smooth.  Spread on a flan piece of heavy, white notepaper or light card.  Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut in square or diamond shapes.


Good to know

The chocolate and rum cream can be tricky to make so stir well with the rum and cream, cool a little and fold in the softly whipped cream.



Lemon Fluff with Limoncello Cream


Serves 4-6


This is a gorgeous old-fashioned family pudding which separates into two quite distinct layers when it cooks; it has a fluffy top and a creamy lemon base, provided it is not overcooked.


40g (1½oz) butter

225g (8oz) castor sugar

3 organic free range eggs

75g (3oz/) plain flour

2 organic, unwaxed lemons

300ml (10fl oz) whole milk


icing sugar


To Serve

300ml softly whipped cream flavoured with Limoncello or crème fraiche


1 x 1.2L (2 pint) pie dish

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4,


Cream the butter until really soft, then add the castor sugar and beat well.

Separate the egg yolks and add whisk in one by one, then stir in the flour. Grate the rind of 2 lemons on the finest part of the grater. Squeeze and strain the juice and add the rind and the juice, then add the milk.


Whisk the egg whites stiffly in a bowl and fold gently into the lemon mixture. Pour into the pie dish, place in a bain-marie and bake in a moderate oven, 180ºC/Gas Mark 4,for 35-40 minutes approx.

Dredge with icing sugar.


Serve immediately alongside the softly whipped cream flavoured to taste with Limoncello, or some crème fraîche.


Slow Food Grandmothers Day

On Sunday 30th September, we celebrate Slow Food Grandmothers Day at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Grandparents from all over will gather their grandchildren around to share their favourite memories and experiences and to pass on some of their valuable life skills, to have fun and show them how to bake a cake, sow a seed, knit a scarf…

Grandparents are the guardians of inherited wisdom – this is the perfect opportunity to pass these skills onto our grandchildren.

Slow Food International has celebrated Grandmothers Day since 2009.

Now that I’m a grandmother 11 times over I’m even more aware of the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

It’s even more important than ever nowadays. Years ago at a time when many families lived in multi-generational groups the skills were effortlessly passed from generation to generation this situation is more unusual nowadays. The myriad of pressures of modern living mean that both parents are working.


We hope Slow Food Grandmothers’ Day will encourage grandmothers to get together not only once a year but once a month with their grandchildren to have fun together in the kitchen.

From 12 noon to 5.30pm Sunday 30th September we’ll have all sorts of events…

Rebecca O’Sullivan of Granny Skills, Australia will demonstrate how to make flower petal tote bags and edible skin care. She will also talk about how to use edible flowers and herbs for health.


Maria Walsh, our Dairy Queen and Lydia Hugh-Jones will show us how to make butter and have a ‘disco butter making’ session with the children.  Maria also plans to pass on her knowledge of how to make tinctures, teas and natural cleaners. Penny Porteous will introduce us to ferments and demonstrate how to make kombucha and kefir.

There will also be a talk on bees to encourage young bee keepers.


Karen O Donoghue of GIY, co-star of Grow Cook Eat on RTE will show how to sow seeds in pots to take home.

Bill Frazer will talk about heritage apples and provide tempting tastings.

Rupert Hugh-Jones will set up an apple press so bring along some of your windfall apples (and bottles) to make your own apple juice.


Granny Rosalie Dunne will show us how to make glamorous and crazy hats.


Saturday Pizzas will be open on Sunday for this special Grandmothers Day and there will be lots of food stalls.


Guided walks around the organic farm and gardens, a foraging walk for children and grandparents with Pat Brown and Lydia Hugh-Jones to teach them to recognise wild and edible foods, a treasure hunt with your granny and much, much more.

Check out our Grandmothers Day competition on page ?????? today.

Here are some favourite recipes from our local grannies.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Macaroni cheese is one of my grandchildren’s favourite supper dishes. We occasionally add a few cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni. The little ones are deeply suspicious of green bits in the sauce so you may want to omit the parsley

Serves 6

225g (8oz) macaroni

3.4 litres (6 pints) water

2 teaspoons salt

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

850ml (1½ pints) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese

25g (1 oz) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top


1 x 1.1 litre (1 x 2 pint) capacity pie dish

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

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


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


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




Scalloped Potato with Steak and Kidney

I’m sure all of you have a favourite recipe that you might ask your grandmother or mother to cook, have bubbling on the stove or in the tin when you came home for the weekend from college or after a hard week at work. Mine was scalloped potato, a layered casserole of beef, kidney and potatoes. We ate plates and plates of this comforting dish with lots and lots of butter.

Serves 4–6

1 beef kidney, about 450g (1lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

450g (1lb) well-hung stewing beef (I use round, flank or even lean shin)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes – Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks, thickly sliced

350g (12oz) onions, chopped

50g (2oz) butter, or more

370ml (13fl oz) beef stock (see recipe) or hot water


freshly chopped parsley

large, oval casserole, 2.3 litre (4 pint) capacity

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/ gas mark 2.

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard. Cut the flesh of the kidneys into 1cm (1⁄2 in) cubes, put them into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 5mm (1⁄4 in) cubes. Put a layer of potato slices at the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney cubes and mix them with the beef slices, then scatter some of the meat and chopped onions over the layer of potato.

Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole. Finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Pour in the hot stock or water. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven, and cook for 2–21⁄2 hours or until the meat and potatoes are cooked. Remove the lid of the saucepan about 15 minutes from end of the cooking time to brown the top slightly.

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve in deep plates with lots of butter.




Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Bramley Apple Sauce

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

Homemade Sausages or best quality bought

Homemade Sausages:

Makes 16 Small or 8 large sausages


450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

2 tablespoons mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (2½oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)


450g (1lb) Puff Pastry


First make the homemade sausages. Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a

little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill. Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.


Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.


Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .


Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size.  Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce.




Great Grandmother’s Butter Sponge with Summer Berries

This is the best sponge cake you’ll ever taste. The recipe has been passed from my great grandmother through the generations in our family and now I delight on passing it on to my grandchildren and their friends.

175g (6oz) flour

175g (6oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, organic and free-range

125g (4½oz) butter check

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon baking powder



110g (4oz) homemade raspberry jam or 110g (4ozs) strawberries, sliced or raspberries

300ml (10fl oz) whipped cream


castor sugar to sprinkle


2 x 7 inch (18cm) sponge cake tins


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


Grease the tine with melted butter, dust with flour and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture). Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.


Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked – the cake will shrink-in slightly from the edge of the tin when it is cooked, the centre should feel exactly the same texture as the edge.  Alternatively a skewer should come out clean when put into the centre of the cake. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.


Sandwich together with homemade raspberry jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.



Blackberry, Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

We’ve had lots of fun for the last few weeks picking blackberries and making jam with the children – what a fantastic crop this year. The grandchildren love chopping some of the sweet geranium leaves into the jam to give it a haunting lemony flavour.



Makes 9-10 x 450 g jars approx.


All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows.  Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made – so full of Vitamin C!  This year organise a blackberry picking expedition and take a picnic.  You’ll find it’s the greatest fun, and when you come home one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam.  The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting home-made jam labels, with personal messages like “Lydia’s Jam – keep off”!, or “Grandma’s Raspberry Jam”. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea.


Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour.


2.3 kg blackberries

900 g cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season)

1.8kg sugar (use 225g) less if blackberries are sweet) – since Ireland has gone over to cane sugar which appears to be more intensely sweet we reduced the sugar to 1kg.  The intensity of sugar varies in different countries.

8-10 sweet geranium leaves


Wash, peel and core and slice the apples.  Stew them until soft with 300ml of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp.


Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 150ml of water if the berries are dry.  If you like, push them through a coarse sieve to remove seeds.  Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop sweet geranium leaves and add to the fruit.  Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.


Boil steadily for about 15 minutes.  Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars.





Jam Tarts and Starlets


One of course can make jam tarts from start to finish, but I usually make these with the trimmings when I’m making other pies and tarts, I can’t bear to waste any scraps. When the grandchildren are around, get them involved, they love making jam tarts so it teaching the children about the important of not wasting s scrap of any precious scraps of food.

Makes about 36


Sweet Shortcrust Pastry OR ‘Break all the Rules’ Shortcrust Pastry OR Shortbread Biscuit mixture


homemade jam of your choice or Lemon Curd


1–2 shallow non-stick bun trays


6cm (21⁄2in) round or 8.5cm (31⁄2in) star-shaped cutter


Make the pastry as directed in the recipe. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour; or better still make the pastry the day before.

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

Roll the pastry out thinly to about 2.5mm (1⁄8 in) and stamp into rounds or star shapes. Use to line the bun trays.

Put a small teaspoon of jam or lemon curd into the tartlets and bake for 14–18 minutes, until the pastry is a pale golden colour.

Alternatively, bake the empty tartlets (no need to use beans). Leave them to cool. Fill the centres with a teaspoonful of jam or lemon curd.

School Days


Yet, another special day, one more of our little dotes had her hair brushed, (no mean feat), donned her school uniform, shiny new shoes and school bag for the very first time, always a bitter sweet moment and an anxious one.

She’s really excited now but how will she take to school? Her big sister and brother will take special care of her so she will hopefully settle in a couple of days….

In the UK and US children are provided with a school lunch, a subject of much controversy.

Jamie Oliver did much to highlight the poor quality of the school food in the UK. A few schools do a brilliant job and where extra effort is made, the teachers find a tangible difference in the children’s behaviour and concentration levels in the classrooms. Some are convinced that this results in happier kids who miss less school days through colds and flus.

One way or another, school lunch is vitally important for children’s health and wellbeing yet it seems to be very low on many governments list of priorities. In the US, Alice Waters original Edible School Yard Project in Berkley in California has been an inspiration for many more initiatives across the country and indeed the world.

Each school has a school garden where the children learn how to grow some of their own food, then cook it and sit down at the table with their friends to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

They love the experience, learn lots of skills and get credits for eating school lunch- what’s not to love about that model.


Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden project is similar and has been rolled out into over 650 schools in Australia and still counting….

I have visited both these projects and several others,  and have been blown away by the enthusiasm of both children and teachers, as well as the deeply grateful parents.

Most recently at the MAD food Symposium in Copenhagen I attended two sessions on school food given by Dan Giusti who was originally sous chef in Noma (the top restaurant in the world). After years of feeding 45 or 50 privileged guests a night, he felt the need for a change and yearned to feed more people. So after much thought and consideration, he decided to create a school lunch project called Brigade, based in a small town in Connecticut called New London where 1 in 4 children are below the poverty line. Many are certified homeless so the food they eat on Friday  at school is most probably the last meal they will eat until the following Monday…..

The challenge for Dan and his team  on the Brigaid project is not easy. There are 85 pages of government nutritional guidelines, allergies, ethnic preferences, logistics…

Plus the budget for each child’s food is $3.31, which must include a glass of milk and cover other expenses so  $1.25 in real terms.

In that case one has to let go of deeply held preferences for local sustainable produce and do ones very best within the restrictions. Dan has gradually changed the system to do ‘from scratch’ cooking and uses plates as opposed to disposable moulded plastic containers. The kids have become much more engaged and now it will be rolled out in some schools in the South Bronx in New York City, where a million kids get a free school lunch every day.

I asked Dan what was the kids favourite lunch – he told me barbequed bone-in chicken with warm corn bread and potato salad.

So back to the reality in Ireland – where like everywhere else much depends on the quality of our children’s school lunch. It’s a constant concern and hassle for parents, it needs to be nutritious, delicious and not too nerdy. It’s quite a tight rope to navigate. If it is too different from the norm, we run the risk of our kids being teased or ridiculed by their friends which may be ‘water off a ducks back’ to parents but can devastate a child and may well result in them skipping lunch altogether.

It’s fun to involve older children in making their own packed lunches, many are now becoming very adventurous, hummus, wraps, dips, chunky soups, yoghurts, rice bowls and salad jars are becoming the norm but ham sandwiches are still the favourite so the quality of bread is super important, ditch the processed ham for a piece of thinly sliced home-cooked bacon and a piece of good cheddar. A  mixture of nuts or spiced seeds make a delicious nibble, chunks of melon with berries tossed in honey, lemon juice and a shred of mint – delicious.

A little rainbow salad in a jar or hummus pots are easy to transport and eat. A grated carrot and apple salad is another winner and if your child likes avocado, it’s a brilliant option or you might like to try a guacamole dip. Alternatively, sticks of raw vegetables and a little pot of aioli (garlic mayo) may make an irresistible nibble. A hard-boiled egg is full of protein, a super easy option and also great with a dollop of mayo.

When the weather gets a little colder, think how your child would enjoy a warm glass of soup and a little buttered brown scone.

One Dad who take his kids foraging on a regular basis, told me how they love to have wild sorrel and sprigs of purslane and pennywort in their salad – how wild and cool is that and super nutritious. Fortunately their school friends and teachers are curious rather than dismissive, so gently does it.

Dan Giusti made another interesting observation, when they sliced the apples particularly for younger children, they ate the slices rather than throwing away the apple after taking a bite or two- obvious when you think about it (slice and tightly wrap the  apple or half apple again)

Here are a few suggestions that I hope will prove enticing…




Hummus Bi Tahina

Hummus bi Tahina is a very inexpensive and delicious source of protein, this recipe makes quite a lot but you could half it. It can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days


Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)


170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml (5fl oz) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)

1 teaspoon ground cumin




pitta bread or any crusty white bread, raw vegetables cut in to batons.


Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour. Pop a lunch-box sized serving into little jars. Layer up the hummus with a selection of fresh vegetables in the jar, could be diced carrot, diced cucumber, maybe a few peas whatever you have to hand but make sure it tastes delicious


Rachel’s Bulgur Wheat Salad

Rachel likes to serve this bulgur wheat salad with roast chicken as an alternative to roast vegetables. It does a great job of soaking up the chicken juices and the ruby-like pomegranate seeds bring their gorgeous sweet-sour flavour. Any leftover chicken and salad can be simply mixed together for a divine school lunch the next day.


200g (7oz) bulgur wheat

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 pomegranate, seeds and any juices, see tip below

1 tablespoon chopped mint

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil

salt and pepper


Cover the bulgur wheat in boiling water and allow to soak for 10-15 minutes until just soft. Drain well.


Mix the lemon juice and zest, pomegranate seeds and any juice, herbs and olive oil. Stir through the bulgur wheat and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Rachel’s Tip: There is a smart trick to quickly removing the seeds of a pomegranate without removing much pith and avoiding any fiddly peeling. Cut the pomegranate in half, then hold in the cupped palm of your hand, cut side down over a large bowl. Use the back of a wooden spoon to hit the pomegranate and let the seeds fall through your fingers. Keep hitting the back of the pomegranate and you’ll soon have a bowl full of pomegranate seeds. Remove any small bits of pith then repeat with the other half.




See-in-the-Dark Soup

Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 6 approx.


This soup may be served either hot or cold, don’t hesitate to put in a good pinch of sugar, it brings up the flavour.


450g (1lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

45g (1½oz) butter

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

140g (5oz) potatoes, chopped

140g (5oz) sweet potatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

sprig of spearmint

1.1Litre (2 pints) home-made light chicken or vegetable stock

62ml (2½fl oz) creamy milk, (optional)

3 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint


a little lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche

sprigs of spearmint


Melt the butter and when it foams add the chopped vegetables, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a sprig of mint, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the stock and boil until the vegetables are soft. Pour the soup into the liquidiser. Add 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped mint, puree until smooth. Add a little creamy milk if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning

Garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint.

Tip: Buy unwashed local carrots whenever possible, they have immeasurably better flavour and keep longer  Heirloom seeds are said to have more  vitality and food value than F1 hybrids.


A Little Brown Soda Bread Loaf

The buttermilk in the shops is low fat but if you have access to rich, thick buttermilk, there is no need to add butter or extra cream.


This little loaf of brown soda bread is mixed in minutes and then just poured into a tin.  A few seeds can be sprinkled over the top or added to the dough for extra nourishment. Why not weigh up x 5 times the amount of flour and salt (but not bread soda).  Mix well and each time just scoop out 450g (16oz), add bread soda and buttermilk – mix and pour into the tin.

Makes 1 loaf


225g (8oz) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda) sieved

450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk plus 2 tablespoons cream

A selection of sesame, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds (optional)


1 loaf tin 13x20cm (5x8inch) approx. brushed with sunflower oil


First preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6


Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, (if using cream, add to the buttermilk).  Make a well in the centre and pour all of the buttermilk. Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the centre of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it into the oiled tin – slide a knife down the centre of the loaf.  Sprinkle with a mixture of sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and poppy seeds.

 Bake in the preheated oven for 60 minutes approximately.

(In some ovens it is necessary to turn the bread upside down on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before the end of baking) It will sound hollow when tapped.  Cool on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean tea-towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust.

Note:One could add 12g (1/2oz) fine oatmeal, 1 egg, and rub in 25g (1oz) butter to the above to make a richer soda bread dough.

 Note:  Bread should always be cooked in a fully pre-heated oven, but ovens vary enormously so it is necessary to adjust the temperature accordingly.



Easy even for the kids to make, a delicious dip for home made crisps, corn chips or raw vegetable sticks
1 ripe avocado

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon fresh coriander or flat parsley


Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Homemade Potato Crisps or Game Chips

 Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

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

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying



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


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


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


Stewed Bramley Apple Pots

The trick with stewed apple is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water. Pop it into little pots and maybe top with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of soft dark brown sugar…

Also great with flapjack dips… see below
Serves 10 approx.


450g (1 lb) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

1-2 dessertspoons water

55g (2 ozs) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are


Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces into two and put in a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and cook over a low heat. As soon as the apple has broken down, beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm.


These nutritious oatmeal biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better. This is the recipe that I use when I want to prove to people who swear they can’t boil water that they can cook. We often drizzle them with melted chocolate as an extra treat. Makes about 24


350g (12oz) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

225g (8oz) caster sugar

450g (1lb) rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)


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


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

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and vanilla extract, stir in the sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread evenly into the Swiss roll tin.

Bake until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm – they will crisp up as they cool.



Oatmeal and coconut flapjacks

substitute 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut for 50g (2oz) oatmeal in the above recipe.


Rachel’s Drop Scones

Makes 12

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz/1/8 cup) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl ozs/) milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)


Ambling though the Burren

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels sooo ancient,  I can virtually feel the spirit of those who chipped away patiently to build the drystone walls that still provide enduring shelter for the little fields.

It’s like driving through the Garden of Eden, fields of wild flowers interspersed with an occasional elderberry or hawthorn bush scattered here and there, a flock of sheep grazing contentedly, even a few cattle.

Can you imagine how delicious the meat of the animals reared on this bio-diverse pasture must be.  Looks like there will be lots of sloes and hazelnuts too, the blackberries are just ripening on the brambles pleading to be picked.

We’re on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street.  A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubeen sambo on flatbread

Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use.

Just across the street, a little further up,  Pot Duggan’s is also rocking so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.

Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms.  First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce.

Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise,


known as Rare Ruminare, Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush,  organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co  Sligo. Loved his paintings too –detailed drawings of insects and plant life, beautifully observed.


From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee,  I won’t easily forget the few minutes I spent leaning on a farm gate watching Drumanilra’s herd of gentle Dexter cattle grazing naturally and contentedly on the nourishing pasture.  These cattle will have an honourable end on a plate in the café in their much sought after Dexter burgers or for local people to buy in the farm shop, look out for their rashers and sausages too.


Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare.  I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well.

We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days…. On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town.  Another cool café – delicious brunch and a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear.  A lovely surprise to find Mueller, O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.

Our next stop, the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery, wonderful smells….we had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sour dough loaves in the  wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes,

Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford whose rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter, people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.

They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork.  Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product.

That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance

trip – so many inspirational people.  We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison – we hear it’s worth a detour.


Orange Lentil Soup with Turmeric, Masala, Yoghurt and Toasted Seeds and Coriander

Serves 6


225g (8oz) onions – chopped

extra virgin olive oil or butter

2 teaspoons turmeric, peeled and freshly grated

225g (8oz) orange lentils

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pints of vegetable of chicken stock

6 tablespoons yoghurt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon each of black and white sesame seeds

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

fresh coriander leaves



Bring a saucepan of the chicken or vegetable stock to the boil.


Meanwhile heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the freshly chopped onion, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.


Uncover, add turmeric, cook for a minute or two, add the lentils. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the boiling stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the lentils are soft.


Meanwhile, toast the seeds by stirring continuously on a dry pan over a low to medium heat until they smell toasty, 3-4 minutes, turn into a bowl,  add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cool.


Heat the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to smell aromatic. Turn into a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to the natural yoghurt, add salt to taste.


Whizz the soup to a coarse puree. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Correct the seasoning.


Ladle into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt on top. Sprinkle with an assortment of seeds and some fresh coriander leaves and serve


Braised Beef Cheeks with Colcannon and Swede Turnips


Gary Masterson from Fire and Ice Café in Midleton served delicious beef cheeks with a gutsy red wine sauce and sea spinach at a Winter Slow Food event – perfection.  He shared the recipe with us.


Serves 6


6 beef cheeks

dripping or oil

1 head garlic, cut in half

2 onions, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

4 ripe tomatoes, cut in half

sprig of thyme and a bay leaf

1 bottle full bodied red wine

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

hot chicken or veal stock

salt and freshly ground pepper


Scallion or Parsnip Champ


Marinate the beef cheeks in half the red wine, vinegar, chopped vegetables and herbs for a minimum of 12 hours, up to 48 hours if you are organised enough.


Before cooking, take the meat out of the marinade and pat dry.  Heat a frying pan, add the dripping, season the beef cheeks with the salt and freshly ground pepper and sear the cheeks in the hot oil, allowing them to colour on both sides.  Remove from the pan and transfer to a casserole.  Add the vegetables to the oil and sauté until brown, then deglaze the pan with the marinade, scraping off all the flavour from the bottom.  Bring to the boil and skim off any impurities that rise to the top as it boils.  Reduce by half and pour over the beef and add the other half of the wine and enough hot stock to cover the cheeks.  Cover the casserole and cook in a low oven at 130°F/250°F/gas mark 1/2 for 3-4 hours or until the meat is soft and meltingly tender.


When cooked, remove from the sauce and keep aside.  Strain the sauce, pushing hard through the sieve to extract as much flavour as possible from all the vegetables.  If the sauce is too thin, put back into the saucepan and reduce until the required consistency is reached.  Check the seasoning, it may also need a touch of sugar and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.  Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce and serve in bowls with a few crispy smoked bacon lardons on top.


We like to serve with Colcannon and Swede turnips.


Reynard’s Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6


Buckwheat Batter

25g (1oz) butter

65g (2 1/2 oz) buckwheat flour

50g (2oz) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

175ml (6fl oz) milk

110ml (4fl oz) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar


To Serve

best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread

toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Maldon sea salt (optional)


First make the batter.

Melt the butter on a low heat – cool.  Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside.  Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.


Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat.  Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan.  Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds.  Slide onto a hot plate.


Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre.  Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre.  Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Crispy Capers


Buckwheat is deliciously nutty, rich in minerals and B vitamins and naturally gluten-free.


Serves 8


8 buckwheat pancakes (see recipe)

16 thin slices of smoked salmon (approximately 225g/8oz)

8 tablespoons of crème fraîche (see recipe)

56 capers, drained and fried until crisp in a little hot oil

4 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions or chives, cut at an angle

Freshly ground black pepper


To serve: place the pancakes on warm plates, divide the smoked salmon between the pancakes.


Drizzle 1 tablespoon crème fraîche over each pancake.


Sprinkle 7 capers and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped scallions or chives over the crème fraîche.


Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.


Buckwheat Pancake Batter


Makes twelve 18cm (7 inch) pancakes


2 tablespoons butter

225ml (8fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

60g (21/2oz) rice flour

21/2 tablespoons buckwheat flour

11/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 small free-range eggs

40ml (11/2fl oz) sparkling mineral water


Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Add the milk, salt, and sugar, stir well, and turn off the heat.


Put both flours in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the vegetable oil and eggs. Mix the eggs and oil with a whisk, gradually bringing in flour from the sides until it begins to thicken. Add the milk mixture little by little until all has been incorporated and the batter is smooth. Whisk in the water.


Pour the batter through a medium strainer into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using.  (This resting time will allow the batter to relax and the flour to absorb the liquids fully.) Pancake batter may be made a day ahead and refrigerated.


To cook: Heat a 15-18cm (6-7in) frying pan.


Add a very little oil. When the pan is hot, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan.

Allow to cook on one side for a minute or two, flip over onto the other side and continue to cook, until speckled and slightly golden.


Slide onto a plate, repeat with the other pancakes.


Stack one on top of the other, they can be peeled apart later but are best eaten fresh off the pan.



Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge.   The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.


Serves 6-8

melted butter, for greasing

140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 organic eggs75ml water

225g granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder




110ml cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon rosewater, optional

225-350g wild blackberries


pale pink rose petals, fresh or crystallized


2 x 20.5cm sandwich tins


Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.

Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour.  I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.


Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy, 10 minutes approx. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches. Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for 20 minutes approx.  Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.


Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.


Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with fresh or crystallized rose petals – it will look and taste enchanting.





Do you know about purslane? I’m crazy about it. For those who are not familiar, it’s a little succulent that spreads like wildfire and is considered by many gardeners to be just a weed. But if it has been romping around your greenhouse or tunnel since June, don’t just moan, harvest and eat it instead. It’s super tasty, will still be in season until September and there are a million things you can do with it.

Its juicy leaves are delicious raw in salads, or lightly tossed as a vegetable or ‘side’. Purslane also pickles well and can be used in ferments or added to a soup or stew. For the purpose of identification you may want to know that the Latin name is Portulaca Oleracea. A hugely nutritious and highly esteemed vegetable, from Iran to the Cacuses as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean, Mexico and India. Purslane is a powerhouse of nutrition, lots of Omega three fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. It has notable amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium as well as vitamins A B C and E in fact it has six times more Vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots. Those who have difficulty snoozing may like to know that purslane has high levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep…

In his ground breaking book ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, Michal Pollan called purslane one of the two most nutritious plants on the planet (the other being Lambs quarters).

Interestingly both of these plants are considered by many to be a nuisance in the garden. Purslane has pinkish stems; its leaves are crunchy and slightly mucilaginous with a flavour reminiscent of lemon and freshly ground pepper.

In urban areas it even grows up through cracks in the footpaths or at the base of walls.

Purslane has been grown since ancient times and thrives in hot climates so no doubt it will be considered to be even more important in the future.

Meanwhile seek it out and enjoy it often in as many ways as possible, here are a few ideas to get you started….


Jacob Kennedy’s Tomato and Purslane Salad


Serves 4 as a starter or side


500 g (18oz) delicious tomatoes

½ small red onion

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

100 g (3½ oz) picked purslane leaves and tips


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



Rory O’ Connell’s Purslane, Avocado and Cucumber Salad


The contrast of textures and flavours in this simple salad is really delicious.  The crisp cucumbers complement the creamy avocado and the juiciness of the succulent purslane. Rory sometimes adds a few green grapes for an extra touch of sweetness.



Serves 6-8


3-4 handfuls of purslane

2 avocados

1 cucumber

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper




3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Forum Chardonnay wine vinegar

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper



Top, tail and halve the cucumber.  Unless it’s very fresh scoop out the seeds, a melon baller or ‘pointy’ teaspoon is good for this.   Cut into 1cm diagonal slices and transfer to a wide bowl.

Halve the avocado, remove the stone, peel and cut into haphazard dice, about 7mm.  Add to the cucumber.   Season with flaky sea salt and add some freshly cracked pepper.  Add the sprigs of purslane.  Drizzle with dressing.  Toss gently.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Arrange on individual plates and serve as soon as possible.


Purslane Soup from Naomi Duguid


Springtime in Kurdistan means “paipina”, a thick soup of lentils (nisik in Kurdish) Purslane is a wild green with small, thick, succulent leaves and reddish stems. It’s often treated as a weed in North America, but it’s a much-valued vegetable from Iran to the Caucasus, as well as in the eastern Mediterranean region, where it’s used raw in salads. Some farmers are starting to cultivate it in North America, so it should soon become easier to find.


Serves 8


225g (8oz) brown lentils, rinsed and picked over

55g (2oz) finely chopped onion

100g (3½oz) Arborio or other short-grain rice, washed and drained

1.5 to 1.8 litres (2½ to 3 pints) water or unsalted light chicken or vegetable broth, or as needed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon turmeric

2 to 3 teaspoons sea salt, to taste

285g (10½ oz) finely chopped purslane leaves and stems

freshly ground black pepper




Fresh goat’s- or sheep’s-milk cheese

A generous Herb Plate: tarragon, chervil, mint, lovage, and scallion greens (use two or more)



Place the lentils, onion, and rice in a large pot, add 7 cups of water or broth, and bring to a vigorous boil. Skim off any foam, cover, reduce the heat to maintain a low boil, and cook until the lentils are tender, 35 to 45 minutes; add more water or broth if needed.


Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, turmeric, and 2 teaspoons salt, then add the purslane and stir thoroughly. Cook until the purslane is very soft and flavours have blended, about 30 minutes; add more liquid if the soup gets too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with black pepper. Put out the flatbreads, cheese, and herb plate, and invite your guests to sprinkle a little cheese onto their soup.



Summer Purslane with Tahini and Sesame seeds


Serves 2



½ or 1 small garlic clove

2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon local honey

2 tablespoons of tahini

Water as needed…

350g (12oz) fresh purslane


To serve:

sesame seeds


Peel and grate the garlic on a micro-plane, put into a bowl with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey. Stir to dissolve.


Bring a saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil. Drop the sprigs of purslane into the pan and cook for just 30 seconds. Drain and refresh under cold water. Drain again and dry gently.

Lay on a serving plate.

Put the tahini into a bowl. Stir in the lemon mixture. It will thicken at first but go on stirring and add a little water if necessary. It should be a thick pouring consistency.

Drizzle a little tahini dressing over the purslane. Sprinkle with a sesame seeds, (optional).

Serve as a side or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or aubergines.


Note: Roast Hazelnut dressing or tomato and chilli jam is also delicious drizzled over purslane.


Kemp Minifie’s Purslane and Avocado Tacos with Pico de Gallo  

Purslane has long been considered a weed, but it is increasingly showing up for sale in bunches at farmers markets. Meanwhile, Mexicans have known about its healthful properties for hundreds of years and they eat it both raw and cooked. In Mexico it’s called verdolagas. Cooking mellows its tang and shrinks it, which means you can eat more of it! Paired with avocado and a tomato relish, this is a super-healthy vegetarian snack or main dish.


For Pico de Gallo:

600ml (1 pint) grape tomatoes, quartered

50g (2oz) chopped white onion

1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste

2 teaspoons minced fresh Serrano chilli, or to taste

(1oz) chopped coriander

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


For Tacos:

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

450g (1 lb) purslane, including tender upper stems, chopped

8 fresh corn tortillas

2 avocados

(3oz) crumbled cotija cheese or to taste


coriander sprigs and lime wedges for serving


12-inch heavy skillet



Makes 8 tacos (4 servings)


Make Pico de Gallo:

Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chilli, and coriander in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Let it stand while assembling the tacos.


Cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add purslane with salt to taste and cook, stirring, until wilted and tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a sieve set over a bowl and let it drain.


Have a folded kitchen towel ready for the tortillas. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot, then heat a tortilla, keeping the others covered, flipping it occasionally with tongs, until it puffs slightly and gets brown in spots, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer tortilla, as toasted, to towel, enclosing it, and repeat with remaining tortillas. Keep them warm in towel.


Quarter avocados lengthwise and remove pit, then peel. Cut each section into thin slices (lengthwise or crosswise, it doesn’t matter) and season with salt.


Assemble tacos by spooning some purslane into a folded taco and topping it with avocado slices, cotija cheese, coriander sprigs, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime wedges.




Summer Purslane, Tomato, Cucumber and Sumac Salad

A little sliced red onion is also delicious added to this salad. Omit the sumac if difficult to source.



Serves 2-4

2 generous fistfuls of purslane sprigs

½ – 1 cucumber, seeded and diced 1.7cm (2/3  inch)

4 ripe tomatoes roughly chopped in a similar size

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

½ – 1 fresh chilli seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon local honey

1 – 2 tablespoons sumac


Wash the purslane spring and drain. Put in a wide bowl with the cucumber and tomato dice. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.



Put the chili into a bowl with lemon, extra virgin olive oil and honey.

Whisk with a fork


Drizzle over the salad. Toss gently and taste. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.


Note: You can imagine how a few slices of avocado are also a yummy addition.




Pickled Purslane


Use this tasty pickle in salads or with goat cheese; pan grilled fish, lamb chops or even a burger.


Makes 4 x 7oz jars


250g (9oz) purslane

200g (7oz) cider white wine vinegar

10g (1/2oz) pure salt

1 teaspoon sugar or a dessertspoon honey

2 cloves of garlic peeled and thinly sliced

1 organic lemon,

600ml (1 pint) water approx.


4 sterilised glass jars and lids (160°C/310°F/Mark 3, for ten minutes in the oven)



Wash the purslane under cold water. Drain.


Put the vinegar, salt, sugar or honey and sliced garlic into a stainless steel saucepan

Bring to the boil for a minute or two; add the juice of the lemon.


Meanwhile bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the purslane in batches for just 30 seconds. Drain, but save the liquid. Add the purslane to the hot pickle. Spoon into the hot jars, divide the liquid pickle evenly between the jars and top each one up with the purslane blanching water if necessary.


Cover and seal the jar immediately with a sterilised lid. Cool and store in a dark place. Use in two days or within 2 months.





KAUKASIS by Olia Hercules



For some time now I’ve become more and more intrigued by the food of the Caucasus  – Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia…..

I haven’t managed to get there yet, but it’s high on my list of places to visit just as soon as I can. My interest has been sparked by Olia Hercules, a beautiful, enchanting young cook who was born in Ukraine and came to London via Cyprus. She writes evocatively about the food of her homeland and the surrounding countries, rich beautiful peasant food, the sort of food I love to eat.

In this part of the world, where the home cooks have learned the skills from their parents, grandparents and great grandparents, they value every morsel of food and know how to use every scrap of seasonal produce deliciously. Foraging, pickling, fermenting and preserving is an innate part of their food culture. I long to taste some of the dishes Olia described so evocatively in her books – the result of many research trips to the Caucuses where she visited peoples’ farms and went into their kitchens to learn from traditional  home cooks. No fluffs or foams or skid marks going on here but beautiful real food, sometimes utterly traditional and other recipes where Olia has created a delicious twist on the original.  I met her recently at the Oxford Food Symposium where she cooked a delicious dinner Wild East Feast.

I’ve invited her to do a guest chef appearance here at The Ballymaloe Cookery School. I’ll keep you posted as soon as we finalise the date. I’m also hoping that she will do a Pop-Up dinner at Ballymaloe House in the Autumn and perhaps an East Cork Slow Food Event – all to be confirmed – you can see I’m smitten by this young cook whom the Observer Food Magazine named Rising Star of the Year in 2015 when her first cookbook Mamushka was published. Several of the recipes that follow come from her second book Kaukasis published by Octopus Books. I’ve especially picked delicious Summery recipes to use the bounty of fruit and vegetables that nature is providing for us at present.


Olia Hercules’s Tomato and Raspberry Salad

This salad came about when Ének, a first-generation Hungarian who had settled in Georgia, picked out some extremely good tomatoes at a market in Tbilisi. Inspired by Hungarian-rooted chefs from Bar Tarrine in San Francisco who do a version of this salad with sour cherries, she made one with raspberries, toasty unrefined sunflower oil and some green coriander seeds and flower heads. I know tomatoes and raspberries sound like a combination that should just be left alone, but it actually really works if you use excellent tomatoes, although not with hard, flavourless supermarket tomatoes. The tomatoes need to be ripe, sweet, flavoursome and juicy fruit so that they almost equal the raspberries in texture and juiciness. Strong, savoury, soft herbs also go very well here. Try marjoram or oregano mixed with mint or coriander leaves, dill or tarragon —you are going for intensity here. And make sure you season it really well with good flaky sea salt.


Serves 4 as a side

4 large super-ripe tomatoes

10 firm yellow, green and red cherry tomatoes

8 raspberries

5 black olives, pitted and torn

3 tablespoons unrefined sunflower oil

a few coriander flower heads or 3 sprigs of marjoram, leaves picked

1 sprig of mint, leaves picked and large ones torn

4 sprigs of dill, chopped

1/4 mild onion, thinly sliced

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper



Cut the tomatoes into sections. Your tomatoes should be so ripe that you will end up with loads of juice on your chopping board. Don’t throw it away but add it to a bowl to use as part of the dressing.


Pop the tomatoes on to a serving plate and scatter over the raspberries and olives.


Whisk the unrefined sunflower oil into the reserved tomato juices and pour over the salad Season generously with some salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the herbs and onion. The juices remaining at the bottom of the salad are made for bread-mopping.


Tip:  If you can’t find the correct sunflower oil, try another nutty oil. Mix a little sesame oil with some avocado or rapeseed oil, or try walnut oil if you can find the good stuff.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books



Olia Hercules’s Savoury Peach & Tarragon Salad

We are used to tarragon in creamy sauces in the West but mainly just with chicken, and it remains such an under-used herb, often declared as too strong and dominant. But Georgians love it and it finds its way into many, many dishes. We made this in Tbilisi in June, inspired by the gorgeous local produce. A savoury salad made only with fruit may seem unusual, but it works. Sour gooseberries or grapes combined with sweet peaches (or nectarines) along with savoury tarragon and salt makes a dream accompaniment to some grilled pork or iamb chops, or roasted meaty summer squashes.



Serves 2 as a side


2 peaches, stoned and sliced

50g (1¾ oz) gooseberries or grapes (or 4 tart plums, stoned and sliced)

1/2  small bunch of tarragon, leaves picked (or a few fennel fronds)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 small red chilli, deseeded and diced

1/2, teaspoon caster sugar or honey

1 small garlic clove, grated

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper


Arrange the peaches and gooseberries or grapes on a plate. Mix the tarragon leaves with the lemon juice, fresh chilli, sugar or honey, garlic, some salt and a generous pinch of pepper then pour the dressing over the fruit and serve.


Variation: Mix a handful of pumpkin seeds with ½ tablespoon of maple syrup, a pinch of chilli flakes and some salt, spread them out on to a lined baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 for 5 minutes. Remove from

The oven, leave to cool, then use as a savoury topping.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books



Olia Hercules’s Courgettes & Garlic Matsorii

This dish is simplicity itself. It used to be made with mayonnaise throughout the ex-Soviet Union, but thank goodness that’s all over and we can now use traditional premium dairy. As with all simple recipes, this is particularly tasty if you can source great home-grown or good-quality courgettes and make your own matsoni. If your courgettes are not the greatest, try using a mixture of all the soft herbs you like best to give them a bit of a lift. But if you have amazing vegetables and your own homemade yogurt, use just a little dill and let them sing their sweet, gentle song. And I love borage for its subtle cucumber flavour overtones.


Serves 4 as a side

2 large courgettes

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

100 (3½ oz) Homemade Matsoni or good-quality natural yogurt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon of your favourite mixture of soft herbs, roughly chopped

sea salt flakes


Slice the courgettes lengthways into 5mm (14 inch) strips.

Hear the oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices on each side until deep golden. Remove and drain them on kitchen paper.

Mix the matsoni or yogurt with the garlic and add some salt, then taste – it should be really well seasoned, so add more salt if necessary. Drizzle the mixture over the courgettes and sprinkle over the herbs.


Try lightly coating the courgettes in flour before frying – it will give them a bit more body. Buckwheat flour adds a nice nuttiness to the flavour.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books





Olia Hercules’s Herb Kükü OPTIONAL     

“I tried an Azerbaijani herby omelette called kükü I announced excitedly. “That dish was originally Iranian!” was Sabrina Ghayour’s response – there is no escaping her intensely Persian focus. While I agree with her that this dish definitely has Persian roots, it is also treasured in neighbouring Azerbaijan. I really love the name (it sounds so playful), love how herby it is (it’s mostly herbs held together by a little egg) and love the sprinkling of sumac on top. You can fry it in oil if you wish, but I do love soft herbs cooked in butter – there is so much satisfaction to be had from a combination of fresh, fragrant flavour, creamy dairy and eggs. Play around with the combination of soft herbs; there are endless variants to enjoy – I often use watercress, spring onion, sorrel, spinach or wild garlic. Serve with flatbreads, a simple tomato salad and some natural yogurt with chopped cucumber, chilli, salt and a tiny bit of garlic.


Serves 4

150g mixture of soft herbs, such as coriander, dill, purple or green basil, tarragon and chives

4 eggs

1 garlic clove, finely grated

3 spring onions, finely chopped

20g (3/4oz) Clarified Butter or ordinary butter and a drop of vegetable oil

½ teaspoon ground sumac

sea salt flakes

23cm (9 inch) diameter frying pan


Remove any tough stalks from your mixture of herbs, then finely chop the softer stalks together with the leaves.

Whisk the eggs with some salt and the garlic, then stir in all the chopped herbs and spring onions.

Heat the Clarified Butter in a 23cm (9 inch) diameter frying pan and add the herby eggs. Cook, without touching it, over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the eggs are just set and the underside develops a golden crust.

Now comes the tricky bit. To flip the kükü, cover the pan with a big plate, turn it upside-down plate, then slide the kükü back into the pan. Continue cooking for 1 minute until other side is golden then remove from the heat and slide it on to a serving plate. Sprinkle the sumac on the top and serve.


VARIATION You can also add a handful of lightly toasted and crushed walnuts to the kuku. For a winter version of the dish, use thinly sliced Swiss chard or beetroot tops or sweet white cabbage instead of the herbs.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books



Olia Hercules’s Tarragon & Cucumber Lemonade

Instead of cola and fizzy orange drinks, us ex-Soviet children grew up drinking a fizzy fluorescent green pop called “tarkhun”, meaning “tarragon”. It was poisonous-green, very sweet yet somehow delicious. Tarragon is extremely popular in Georgia – they do not shy away from its strong flavour. I do love the addition of cucumbers like they do in the Pheasant’s Tears restaurant in Signagi, a town in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia,  which makes this summer drink even fresher.

Makes about 3 litres (51/4 pints)

500ml (18fl oz) water

200g (7oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 4 (preferably Sicilian) lemons

2 bunches of tarragon

2 cucumbers, sliced

2 litres (31/2 pints) cold sparkling mineral water


Put the still water into a saucepan with the sugar and heat over a low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to cool completely, then stir in the lemon zest and juice.

Blitz the tarragon (reserving a few sprigs) and half the cucumber in a blender or food processor (easier and less splashy than using a pestle and mortar, although you can do it that way). Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.

Mix the lemony cordial with the tarragon and cucumber juice and dilute it as you would with any cordial – topped up with sparkling or still water. This is not too bad with a dash of gin, too.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books



Olia Hercules’s Buckwheat Ice Cream

1 really, really wanted to use Marina’s pine cones in a dessert of my own, as they are just so unusual, a chef’s dream. But because they are so tannic and taste so strongly of pine, only a tiny bit could be used. I also really wanted to make buckwheat ice cream, as when we were children, mum used to boil buckwheat in salted water and then dress it with melted butter and sugar. That flavour was haunting me, just like I imagine the cereal milk would for those who grew up eating sweet cereal. My friend Alissa and I threw a Kino Vino supper club during Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky Week in London, showing his 1975 film called Mirror, followed by a feast inspired by the movie. One of the last scenes depicted a buckwheat field bordering a malachite-hued pine forest. Bingo. The two came together. So this is my poetic nostalgic dessert, although don’t worry about trying to find pine cones, as I’ve suggested using fresh bay leaves instead here to add savouriness.


Serves 6-8

100g (3 ½ oz) raw buckwheat groats (or use ready-toasted)

10 fresh bay leaves, crushed

250m1 (9fl oz) milk

250g (9oz) double cream

generous pinch of salt

150g (5½ oz) caster sugar (optional)

4 egg yolks

100-150g (3½ -5½ oz) granulated sugar poached rhubarb, to serve

You will also need (ideally) an ice-cream machine and a large piece of muslin



If using raw buckwheat, heat a large, frying pan over a medium heat, toss in the buckwheat and toast, wiggling the pan about from time to time, until it becomes golden but not burnt. Taste it and check that it is crunchy and edible – it’s very important that you get this right. Leave the buckwheat to cool.


Wrap the crushed bay leaves and buckwheat in the muslin and tie securely. Add it to the milk and cream in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the salt and taste the mixture – you should be able to detect the salt ever so slightly. If you intend to serve the ice cream with something tart, add 150g (5½ oz) caster sugar.

When the milk mixture is almost boiling, turn the heat off and leave to infuse for an hour.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a large heatproof bowl.

Remove the muslin and squeeze out all the flavour, then discard. Bring the milk mixture back up to almost boiling. Pour it on to the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly, then pour back into the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring, for about 5 this mixture minutes or until slightly thickened.

Cover the surface of the custard with clingfilm to prevent a skin from forming and leave the custard to cool.

Churn the ice cream in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturers instructions, then serve with some simple poached rhubarb.

Tip If you don’t have an ice-cream machine, create a semifreddo with the custard. Make the custard as instructed above and leave to cool, then fold  through  egg whites, whisked until firm peaks form. Freeze for 2 hours and serve slightly soft.

From Kaukasis, the Cookbook by Olia Hercules published by Octopus Books

Edible flowers 



Corn flowers, primroses, forget-me-nots, day lilies, marigolds, roses, lavender, nasturtiums, dahlias, chrysanthemum…

I love to scatter flower petals over desserts, cakes and biscuits. Judiciously used they also add a little magic to starter plates and salads. Of course the flowers must be edible but a wide variety of blossoms are, as well as the flowers of broad beans, scarlet runners, sun chokes, peas and sea kale, but remember they will  eventually grow into the vegetables so pick sparingly.


The canary yellow zucchini and squash blossoms are also irresistible not just to tear into salads but also to dip into a tempura batter – stuffed or unstuffed.


Even the cheery little nasturtium flower with its peppery taste are both cute and delicious stuffed with a little herby cream cheese. We also chop the gaily coloured nasturtium blossom and add them into a lemony butter to serve with a piece of spanking fresh fish.


Fennell and dill flowers have a delicious liquoricey, aniseed flavour. They too add magic to fish dishes and broths but also to some pastas and of course salads.

Dahlia flowers are gorgeous sprinkled over salads, I particularly love them scattered over an heirloom tomato or potato salad.


Thyme flowers are various shades of blue and purple – we love to use them to garnish little pots of pate or to sprinkle over a bowl of silky onion and thyme leaf soup.

Sage and hyssop flowers are even more intensely blue and they two give a vibrant and perky flavour to salads and summer vegetable dishes.

The kombuchas and water kefirs that we serve at the school every day also include edible flowers which introduce the yeast of the area into the gut enhancing drink.


This freekeh salad makes a wonderful vehicle for a variety of edible flowers. Pomegranate molasses is now widely available and now has become a favourite ingredient for those of us who have developed a passion for Middle Eastern flavours.


Heritage Tomato Salad with Flowers, Za’atar and Freekeh

This is a pretty salad with lots of edible flowers from the garden and the tomatoes are particularly good. Freekeh is a Lebanese wheat. It’s picked while still under ripe and set on fire to remove the husk, which smokes and toasts the grain.


Serves 4


100g (3½ oz) freekeh or farro

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

12 cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons za’atar

lots of edible flowers, perhaps marigolds, cornflowers, violas, rocket flowers, or borage (remove furry calyx from behind the flower), chive or coriander or fennel blossom depending on what’s available in Summer.


Put the freekeh or farro into a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-6 minutes, depending on the freekeh (some are broken grains, others whole). It should be soft but still slightly chewy. Drain, season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.


In a little bowl, whisk the pomegranate molasses with 3 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil to emulsify.


Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Season with salt and a little extra virgin olive oil. Lay the tomatoes on a plate, scatter with the freekeh, then sprinkle over the za’atar and edible flowers. Finish the plate by drizzling with the pomegranate molasses mixture.  Taste and add a few more sea salt flakes if necessary.



Freekeh cooking times vary quite dramatically depending on the type and age of the freekeh.

Onion, Thyme Leaf  and Thyme Flower Soup

Sprinkle thyme flowers over the top to add a little “je ne sais quoi”


Serves 6 approximately


450g 1lb (1lb) chopped onions

225g (8oz) chopped potatoes

45g (1 1/2oz) butter

1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

150ml (5fl oz) cream or cream and milk mixed, approx.



fresh thyme leaves and thyme or chive  flowers

a little whipped cream (optional)


Peel and chop the onions and potatoes into small dice, about one third inch.  Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. As soon as it foams, add the onions and potatoes, stir until they are well coated with butter. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place a paper lid on top of the vegetables directly to keep in the steam. Then cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes approx. The potatoes and onions should be soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock, bring it to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, 5-8 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup and add a little cream or creamy milk. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen garnished with a blob of whipped cream, sprinkle with thyme leaves and thyme or chive flowers.



Stuffed Nasturtium Flowers

Nasturtiums are the flower that keeps on giving – super easy to grow. This charming little bite, also good served with a little smoked mackerel alongside, a delicious little starter or a nibble to go with a glass of wine.

Children love helping to fill the flowers.




12 whole nasturtium flowers, freshly picked (+ 1 for tasting)

110g (4oz) fresh ricotta or goat cheese

2 teaspoons of chopped chives

1 teaspoon lemon thyme

1 teaspoon chervil, chopped

a little honey, optional

½ teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper



2 chive blossoms

12 pickled nasturtium capers


Mix the freshly chopped herbs gently with the cheese.  Taste, add a little honey and seasoning if necessary.

Open a flower, use a piping bag or teaspoon to fill the centre.  Almost cover with the petals.  (Taste to make sure the balance of flavours is good)

Tweak if necessary and continue to stuff the remainder of the flowers.

Cover a serving plate with nasturtium leaves, lay the flowers on top.

Garnish with a sprinkling of chive blossom and nasturtium capers.


Pan-grilled Fish with Vietnamese Cucumbers and Fennell Flowers


Pan-grilling is one of my favourite ways to cook fish, meat and vegetables.  Square or oblong cast-iron pan-grills can be bought in virtually all good kitchen shops and are a ‘must have’ as far as I am concerned.  In this recipe you can use almost any fish – mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock – provided it is very fresh.


Serves 8-10


8 x 175g (6oz) of very fresh fish fillets

seasoned flour

small knob of butter (soft)



Vietnamese Cucumbers (see below)

Fennell flowers


Heat the pan grill. Dry the fish fillets well. Just before cooking but not earlier dip the fish fillets in flour which has been well seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Pass the floured fillet between the palms of your hands to shake off the excess flour and then spread a little soft butter evenly over the entire surface of the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turnover and cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with the Vietnamese cucumbers and fresh herbs on the side.

Sprinkle a few fennel flowers on top.



Be sure to wash and dry the grill-pan each time between batches.



Vietnamese Cucumbers


Serves 8-10


4 cucumbers

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fish Sauce (Nam pla)

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine julienne

2 tablespoons palm sugar

1-2 Serrano or Jalapeno or fresh Thai chillies

juice of 2 or 3 limes


fistful of fresh mint sprigs

fistful basil sprigs

thinly sliced scallions or onion


Peel the cucumbers, cut them lengthwise in half, and remove the seeds with a spoon if they are large.  Slice the cucumbers into thickish half-moons and put them in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle lightly with fish sauce, then add the ginger and palm sugar.  Toss well, and let the cucumbers sit for 5 minutes or so.


Add a good spoonful of the chopped Serrano or Jalapeno chillies (seeds removed, if desired) or finely slivered Thai chillies.  Squeeze over the juice of 2 limes and toss again, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serving.


Just before serving add a fistful of roughly chopped mint and basil leaves.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with lime juice as well as salt and pepper.  Garnish with thinly sliced scallions or paper-thin slices of onion.




Honey and Lavender Ice-Cream

Honey and lavender is a particularly delicious marriage of flavours. We make this richly scented ice cream when the lavender flowers are in bloom in early Summer.  Lavender is at its most aromatic just before the flowers burst open.  Serve it totally alone on chilled plates and savour every mouthful.


Serves 8-10


250ml (9floz) milk

450ml (16floz) cream

40 sprigs of fresh lavender or less of dried (use the blossom end only)

6 organic egg yolks

175ml (6floz) pure Irish honey, we use our own apple blossom honey, although Provencal lavender honey would also be wonderful


sprigs of lavender


Put the milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the lavender sprigs, bring slowly to the boil and leave to infuse for 15-20 minutes. This will both flavour and perfume the cream deliciously.  Whisk the egg yolks, add a little of the lavender flavoured liquid and then mix the two together.  Cook over a low heat until the mixture barely thickens and lightly coats the back of a spoon (careful it doesn’t curdle).  Melt the honey gently, just to liquefy, whisk into the custard.  Strain out lavender heads.


Chill thoroughly and freeze, preferably in an ice-cream maker.


Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh or frozen lavender (see recipe)

Frosted Lavender

Frosted lavender sprigs are adorable and delicious to use for garnish.  Pick lavender in dry weather while the flowers are still closed.  Whisk a little egg white lightly, just enough to break it up, brush the entire lavender sprig with the egg white, sprinkle all over with sieved, dry castor sugar.  Lay on a sheet of silicone paper.  Allow to dry and crisp in a warm spot – hot press or near a radiator until dry and crisp.  Store in an airtight tin.


Honey Mousse with Lavender Jelly

JR Ryall, head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, loves to make this dessert in June using the lavender from the walled garden at Ballymaloe, just before the flowers open.  Using only the best quality local Irish honey will make this feather light mousse truly unforgettable.


Serves 6


For the honey mousse:


1 egg

1 teaspoon gelatine

1½ tablespoons cold water

350ml (12 fl oz) whipping cream

75g (30z) best quality local Irish honey

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, to taste


Whip the cream to soft peaks and keep in the fridge.  Sprinkle the gelatine over the cold water in a small bowl and allow to ‘sponge’.  Once fully rehydrated, melt the gelatine by placing the bowl over hot but not boiling water.  Add the honey and Grand Marnier to the melted gelatine and stir until the mixture is an even consistency and allow to return to room temperature.   Whisk the egg to a pale mousse, using an electric mixer, then gently fold the mousse into the whipped cream.   Now fold the cream mixture into the honey and gelatine in three stages.   Pour the mousse into its serving dish and chill until set.   Now prepare the lavender jelly.


For the Lavender Jelly


6 fresh lavender heads

225ml (8fl.oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar

1½ teaspoon gelatine

2½ tablespoon cold water


Put the sugar and the 225ml/8fl.oz water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Once the syrup has boiled remove the saucepan from the heat and drop in the lavender heads.  Enjoy the wonderful lavender perfume as the syrup cools to room temperature.   Meanwhile sprinkle the gelatine over the 2½ tablespoon cold water in a small bowl and allow to ‘sponge’.   Once fully rehydrated, melt the gelatine by placing the bowl over hot but not boiling water.   Strain the cooled syrup through a sieve, add to the melted gelatine and mix well.   Arrange 6 lavender heads on top of the set mousse and carefully spoon over enough liquid jelly to cover the lavender and chill until the jelly is set.







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