ArchiveJanuary 2019

St Brigid’s Day

My year is punctuated by little highlights, occasions to look forward to and celebrate. I particularly love St Brigid’s Day, it’s now just around the corner, on February 1st, so I’m all set to celebrate and to share the story of this feisty woman with my students from all over the world and everyone else around me. This is a quintessentially Irish celebration, St Brigid’s Day or Lá Féile Bríde also marks the beginning of Spring, the season of hope and new life and comes about half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, when days begin to lengthen. In Pagan times it was referred to as Imbolc or Imbolg which in old Neolithic language translates literally to ‘in the belly’. Imbolc is one of the four major fire festivals referred to in Irish mythology, the others are Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

Brigid, an icon for women was born near Faughart just north of Dundalk in the 5th Century. She is the goddess of fertility in Celtic mythology, patron saint of dairy and founded the first monastery in Ireland in Kildare.

Many legends are associated with Brigid who by all accounts was an extraordinary woman – a force to be reckoned with, a feminine role model, well before her time. So I’m overjoyed that at last there is a movement to elevate St Brigid to here rightful place beside St Patrick as our female patron saint.

Last year, and once again this year, there will be a celebration of Lá Féile Bríde at the Irish Embassy in London, a gathering to celebrate not just St Brigid but the achievements of Irish women around the globe.

Just as the shamrock is associated with St Patrick, the little woven cross, made of rushes is associated with St Brigid and was chosen as the RTE logo when the station launched in 1961, and it was used until 1995. Let’s bring it back and display it proudly as a beautiful symbol of our culture.

Last year, St Brigid’s cross maker extraordinaire, Patricia O’Flaherty, came over from Ireland clutching a bag of freshly cut rushes to demonstrate how to make the traditional St Brigid’s cross at the Irish Embassy in London She makes many versions and I was intrigued to learn from her that originally all counties in Ireland had different patterns which sometimes even varied from parish to parish.

To invoke Saint Brigid’s blessing we have a little cross made of local rushes hanging over the door in our micro dairy to protect our small Jersey herd which produces the most delicious rich milk.

My research into St Brigid, mentioned not only dairy but also honey and the tradition of eating a big plate of floury boiled potatoes slathered in rich homemade butter on St Brigid’s Day or St Brigid’s Eve.

So here’s a recipe for how to make your own home churned butter… It’s super easy. We use our own cream, but one can of course make butter with any good rich cream. Just pop it into a bowl, whisk until it becomes stiff, continue until the butter globules separate from from the buttermilk. Strain, wash well, salt generously, and pat into little slabs or butter balls – easy-peasy. Impressive and delicious, even for chefs, to slather over potatoes or a thick slice of warm soda bread or spotted dog.  Pancakes were also mentioned in several articles as was cheese and honey so that gives me lots of scope.

I’ve also included the recipe for our favourite St Brigid’s Day cake which was requested many times since last year, it’s become a real favourite with many of our readers.

So let’s all make or buy a little St Brigid’s cross and make St Brigid’s Day into a real celebration, sharing a traditional meal around the kitchen table with family and friends.

How to make Homemade Butter

Everyone should be able to make butter. Let’s face it, most of us have over whipped cream from time to time, don’t dream of throwing it out, whisk for a minute or two more and you’ll have your very own butter. If there are butter bats in the house it makes it easier to shape the butter into blocks or balls but they are absolutely not essential. They’re more widely available than you might think, in kitchen shops, but also keep an eye in antique shops and if you find some, snap them up. A good pair will bring you butter luck!

Unsalted butter should be eaten within a few days, but the addition of salt will preserve it for two to three weeks. Also, you can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount used in the recipe below will keep you going for a week or so and give you enough to share with friends (though not in my house!). Remember, sunlight taints butter (and milk) in a short time, so if you are serving butter outdoors, keep it covered.

Butter (Salted)

Makes about 1kg (2 1/4lb) butter and 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) buttermilk


2.4 litres (4 pints/10 cups) unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature

2 teaspoons dairy salt (optional)

pair of butter bats or hands (optional)

If you have wooden butter bats or butter hands. Soak them in iced water for about 30 minutes so they do not stick to the butter.

Pour the double cream into a cold, sterilized mixing bowl. If it’s homogenised, it will still whip, but not as well. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, where the temperature is about 8°C (46°F), for up to 48 hours.

Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped. Continue until the whipped cream collapses and separates into butterfat globules. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and slosh around the bowl. Turn the mixture into a cold, spotlessly clean sieve and drain well. The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl. The buttermilk can be used to make soda bread or as a thirst quenching drink (it will not taste sour). Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before. Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water. Use the butter bats or your clean hands to knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. This is important, as any buttermilk left in the butter will sour and the butter will go off quickly. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands, it will liquefy.

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear. Weigh the butter into 110g (4oz), 225g (8oz) or 450g (1lb) slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.


Salted Butter

If you wish to add salt, you will need 1/4 teaspoon of plain dairy salt for every 110g (4oz/1 stick) of butter. Before shaping the butter, spread it out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with dairy salt. Mix thoroughly using the butter pats, then weigh into slabs as before.


Spreadable Butter

I much prefer unadulterated butter, rather than butters with additives that change the texture. So if you want to be able to spread butter easily, simply leave it out of the fridge for a few hours in a covered container.


St Brigid’s Griddle Scones and Honey

Makes 12


110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

110ml (4fl ozs) whole milk

Clarified butter, for greasing

Honey to serve

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 griddle or frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 individual tablespoons 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.)

St Brigid’s Day Cake

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

Serves 8

175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour


To decorate:

Tart lemon icing, see below

8 pieces of kumquat compote – drained

8 wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves


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


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


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

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

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

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Serves 8 to 10

Tart Lemon Icing

160g (6oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

2-3tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

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


A little White Soda Bread Loaf

You can make it in the round traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches

1 lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)


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


Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. Place in the hot oven immediately turning down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and return the bread to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.  If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).

Zero Food Waste

Zero Food Waste: even for those of us who are super committed, it’s quite the challenge, so in 2019, lets redouble our efforts to do what we can to reduce food waste, right here in our own homes.

We know the stark statistics – The numbers continue to grow daily. At a time when 1/3 to 1/2 of all food produced in the world (depending on who you read) is being binned, a billion people are starving and over a billion are suffering from obesity.

Countless factors, from the field to the market place contribute to the accumulation of food waste. However, the media focus on the topic is helping to raise awareness and force change.

Consequently, both in the UK and over here, many of the supermarket chains have brought forward initiatives in response to severe and growing criticisms from their customers not only about food waste but also about excess packaging.

Supermarket policy could be a game-changer but there are several easy steps we could take in our homes to reduce food waste. High on the list is to have a clear understanding of the difference between ‘sell by dates’ and ‘use by dates’ which is still super confusing to an alarming number of us. In a recent (unscientific) straw poll here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, I discovered that in excess of 90% of us are still ‘woozy’ about the difference between one and the other and whether they refer to food quality or food safety.

So lesson number one, treat ‘use by dates’ with scepticism, they are always conservative. Supermarkets are understandably terrified of poisoning their customers, they have calculated the dates for the worst possible scenario – food being left in hot cars for hours on end and/or stored in dodgy fridges. So let’s relearn to trust our senses in the time honoured way – observe, smell, taste, if you can hear it bubbling, it’s time to throw it out unless it’s fermenting…

Ironically, the whole cheap food policy has contributed hugely to the waste problem. Research has clearly shown that we find it much easier to bin without guilt when an item doesn’t cost much.

‘Buy one, get one free’ has also been counter-productive plus, many customers are still unaware that is not the supermarket out of the goodness of their hearts who provide the free item but the producer who is ‘encouraged’ to donate, and rarely if ever gets the credit and we are tempted to buy more food than we need.

However, once we decide to take up the zero waste challenge at home it can quickly become a fun obsession. Regard it as an opportunity to be creative, instead of seeing waste, see it as a chance to create a yummy snack or dinner…

A change in mind set quickly results in savings which can be reinvested in sourcing more nutrient dense organic and chemical free food.

Chefs too are increasingly concerned about the levels of waste in their kitchens, Michelin starred establishments, where it’s often just the choicest morsels that are served, are by their own admission, guiltiest in this regard but many are resolved to review the situation. Dan Barber from Blue Hill at Stone Barns located north of New York city kick-started the discussion when he brought his thought provoking food waste Pop Up – WastED to Selfridges in London in 2017.

At Ballymaloe House Myrtle Allen, who came, as I did from a generation for whom waste was not an option imbued us with a ‘zero waste’ culture long before the term was coined.

So as we settle into 2019, let’s resolve to take on the challenge of reducing our food and packaging waste to as close to zero as possible. Happy New Year!


Let’s think of food groups one by one – start with bread. Buy less but better quality. Family members with gluten intolerances will find they can eat every scrap of natural sourdough (but beware of ‘faux sourdough’, there is lots of it around).

Better still bake your own bread as often as possible, you’ll be much less likely to throw even a crumb of your crusty loaf in to the bin. The end of a pot of yoghurt can be added to a soda bread mix for extra deliciousness.

One way or another, there are a myriad of ways to use up left over bread, make bread crumbs, use fresh or freeze for stuffing, gratins, French toast, Eggy bread, Tunisian orange cake, bread and butter puddings…Freeze ripe bananas for banana bread.

French Toast with Ripe Bananas and Maple Syrup

French toast is so good that you forget how economical it is. The French don’t call it French toast. They call it pain perdu or “lost bread”, because it is a way to use up leftover bread you would otherwise lose. This recipe also uses up ripe bananas simply and deliciously.

Serves 1

1 egg, free range if possible

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon of sugar, (maybe use Rapadura or Barbados)

1 ripe banana

2 slices white bread

A little clarified butter


1 banana

Best quality yoghurt chilled

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

Maple syrup or honey

Whisk the egg in a bowl with the milk. Add the sugar.

Mash the banana well with a fork and add to the mixture. Alternatively whizz the whole lot together in a liquidiser or food processor. Pour onto a plate and dip both sides of the bread in it. Melt a little clarified butter in the pan, fry the bread on a medium heat, when golden on one side turn over onto the other. Put on a hot plate, top with the sliced banana and a blob of chilled yoghurt, drizzle with maple syrup or honey and scatter with a few chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.



Preheat the oven to 150C (300F/gas mark 2)

Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible.  Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container. Serve with pâtés, cheese or just as a snack slathered with something delicious, or with soup


Root to Shoot

Get on the totally trendy ‘root to shoot’ mindset, and use every scrap of every vegetable, all parts are super nutritious. At present, we throw out more food than would feed whole nations….

Broccoli stalks (grate for coleslaw), cauliflower leaves (roast or use in a soup or cauliflower cheese), green leek leaves (great in a soup), turnip tops (delicious melted and slathered in extra virgin olive oil. Add leftover roast vegetables are great added to frittatas or a pasta bake. How about this cool way to use up potato peelings….

Potato Peel Crisps

Scrub the potatoes well. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or in a pan with at least 3cms of oil. Dry the peelings as best you can.

Drop one into the hot oil to check the temperature, it should sizzle and rise to the surface.

Cook the remainder of the peelings in batches until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen paper, or a towel.

Sprinkle with pure salt and maybe a little chilli powder or dry roasted cumin powder for extra fizz.

Roast Cauliflower with many toppings and flavours

Roast cauliflower is a brilliant vehicle for a myriad of flavours.  For minimum effort just scatter the hot roasted cauliflower with chopped parsley.  Sprinkle on a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmesan or frozen blue cheese.  A fresh herb laced butter or olive oil is also super delicious but try this version and have fun with the variations and then create your own. Don’t be afraid to use the leaves too.

Serves 4-6

1 fresh medium cauliflower, 1.4kg approx.

75-100g butter and 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary



1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g piquillo pepper, chopped (or ripe cherry tomatoes, chopped)

15g anchovies, chopped

4-6 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

20g toasted flaked almonds


1 x round  22cm x 10cm high casserole.


Remove the outer leaves and trim the base.  Chop the leaves and stalk into 4cm pieces.  Cut a deep cross in the base of the cauliflower.  Pour 2cm of water into the casserole.  Bring to the boil, salt generously.  Add the leaves and stalks and pop the cauliflower on top, cover, return to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230˚C/Gas Mark 8.

Remove the lid from the casserole for the last couple of minutes so all the water evaporates.   Remove the cauliflower and leaves to a plate.

Melt the butter in the casserole and allow to become beurre noisette, add the thyme leaves.   Add back in the leaves and cauliflower.  Baste the head with the thyme butter and pop into the preheated oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes.  Regular basting, though not essential, makes it even more delicious.  Pierce the base with a skewer to test for doneness.

Mix the topping ingredients together, add the olive oil and stir.  Spoon the topping over the roast cauliflower stalks and leaves.  Sprinkle with flaked almonds and serve with crusty bread.

Stocks and Broths – Make stocks and broths from bones and vegetable trimmings. It’s the nourishing and delicious basis for soups, stews, casseroles not to speak of a comforting drink to warn off cold and flu and top up your calcium levels.

Chicken Stock 

Chicken Stock is really indispensable. For soup making, sauces and gravies it really has no substitute. There are a couple of important rules to remember when making

chicken broth and they apply to all stock making. Choose a saucepan that the ingredients fit snugly into. If your saucepan is too big, you will have too much water and as a result will end up with a watery stock that is lacking in flavour. Always pour cold water over the ingredients as the cold water will draw the flavour out of the bones and vegetables as it comes up to the boil. A rich and well flavoured chicken stock can be achieved in two hours and I find that cooking the stock for hours on end makes it too strong and the sweet chicken flavour becomes too strong and some of the delicacy is lost. The stock will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen.

2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both

giblets from the chicken, i.e. neck, heart, gizzard (Save the liver for another dish)

3.4 litres (6 pints) cold water, approx

1 sliced onion

1 leek, split in two

1 outside stick of celery or 1 lovage leaf

1 sliced carrot

few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

6 peppercorns

Chop or break up the carcasses as much as possible.  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly up to the boil and skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.  Simmer very gently for 3-5 hours, uncovered.  Strain and remove any remaining fat.  If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-third or one-half the volume.  Do not add salt.

Leftovers – Learn how to use up left overs creatively, some of our most iconic dishes were repurposed from leftovers, Shepherds pie, rissoles, croquettes….

Shepherd’s Pie

Everyone’s favourite way to use up leftover cooked lamb from a roast dinner.

Serves 6

1oz (25g) butter

4oz (110g) chopped onion

1oz (25g) flour

15fl oz (450ml) stock and left over gravy

1 teaspoon tomato purée

1 dessertspoons mushroom ketchup (optional)

1 dessertspoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1lb (450g) minced cooked lamb

2lb (900g) cooked mashed potatoes


Melt the butter, add the onion, cover with a round of greased paper and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes.  Add the flour and cook until brown.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, skim.  Add the tomato puree, mushroom ketchup, chopped parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.


Add the meat to the sauce and bring to the boil.  Put in a pie dish, cover with the mashed potatoes and score with a fork.  Reheat in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes.  Garnish with parsley.


Ballymaloe Cheddar Cheese Croquettes

Makes 25 – 30, depending on size

This is a brilliant recipe, our ‘go to’ for using little scraps of grated cheese, delicious!

We get into big trouble if these crispy cheese croquettes are not on the Ballymaloe lunch buffet every Sunday.  They are loved by children and grown-ups, and are a particular favourite with vegetarians.  They are not suitable for vegans. Make tiny ones for canapés and provide cocktail sticks to eat them and Ballymaloe country relish as an accompaniment.


450ml (15fl oz) milk

few slices of carrot and onion

1 small bay leaf

sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

200g (7oz) roux (see recipe)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

225g (8oz) grated mature Irish Cheddar cheese

a pinch of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

beaten egg

fine dried white breadcrumbs

Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion and herbs, bring slowly to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes if you have enough time.  Strain the flavourings, rinse them and add to a stock if you have one on the go.  Bring the milk back to the boil, whisk in the roux bit by bit; it will get very thick but persevere.  (The roux always seems like a lot too much but you need it all so don’t decide to use less).


Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat, stir in the egg yolks, cheese, pinch of cayenne, mustard and optional chives.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Spread out on a wide plate to cool.


When the mixture is cold or at least cool enough to handle, shape into balls about the size of a golf ball or 25g (1oz) approx.  Roll first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and then in fine breadcrumbs.  Chill until firm but bring back to room temperature before cooking otherwise they may burst.  Just before serving, heat a deep fryer to 150°C/300°F and cook the Cheese Croquettes until crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with a green salad and perhaps some Ballymaloe Country Relish.

Note: Cooked Cheese Croquettes can be kept warm in an oven for up to 30 minutes. They can also be frozen and reheated in an oven.

Food Trends for 2019

I’m always excited about the start of a brand New Year, new resolutions, new opportunities, new challenges, lots of fun. So what might be coming down the line in 2019, what do we think is hot and what’s not?….

Food trends are notoriously volatile but in any business, it’s super important to keep an eye on the indications relevant to your area, analyse them but beware of following them slavishly.

In my business, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the food, farming and beverage scene is essential to staying on the cutting edge and attracting both customers and students from all around the world to Ballymaloe and Ireland. I travel quite a bit, this past year I’ve travelled to China and the US…New York, Florida, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Turin, London…. Food is my subject and so I consider travel to be a vital element in my research. Everywhere I go, I meet artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, visit Farmer Markets, seek out Food Trucks, taste Street Food and eat in a wide variety of cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, and fine dining establishments. I keep my eyes and ears open, ask lots of questions, take lots of photos and lots of notes.

So, here are some of my predictions for food trends in 2019 based on my observations over the past year…

The number of people choosing a plant based or vegan diet continues to grow exponentially. Countless others are becoming flexitarians and are choosing to eat less meat and are actively seeking meat and poultry that has been ethically and humanely reared. Believe me this ‘meat-free movement’, now linked to climate change, is no ‘flash in the pan’. Pasture-raised is the buzz word here, rotating animals through lush grasslands can dramatically improve their health, the health of the soil. Trap CO2 in the soil where it belongs, help with water reduction and reduce erosion – good news for Ireland.

Expect to see more shopper support and shopping brands committed to good animal welfare practices and environmental stewardships. Businesses and farms that support programs to relieve poverty throughout the world are also influencing consumers and has become a definite global trend. Mindful choices, ‘waste not want not’, is a growing preoccupation, consequently some supermarkets are now selling ugly and misshapen but perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables at a lower price point.

There’s a growing annoyance among consumers about the excess packaging they are forced to accept. There is a definite awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and planet and that it is gradually leaching into our food. We will see an increase in more eco conscious packaging, single use plastic is being replaced by multi-use and compostable. We are all addicted to plastic so it will be a difficult habit to break.

B.Y.O.V.B (bring your own vegetable bag) and coffee cup are becoming the norm. Waxed canvas or silicone alternatives for sandwiches and snacks is a significant growth area for manufacturers.

A growing body of research confirms that all disease starts in the gut… The realisation that both our physical and mental wellbeing depend on the health of our gut biome has prompted a huge increase in the number of probiotic foods that contain gut friendly bacteria to improve the immune system. Even granola bars, nut butters and soups are fortified but my advice is to eat real food, seek out raw milk, raw butter, good natural yoghurt, original cheeses, organic vegetables….and ditch ultra-processed food altogether.

Gut awareness continues to drive the interest in fermentation. Cool restaurants and hotels are serving house made kefirs, kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods.

Nootropics – brain food is coming to the fore, Crickets and other insects, (a ‘new’ inexpensive source of protein) are being added to processed foods.

In the US dietitians are becoming celebrities as the health crisis deepens and the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease continue to increase at an alarming rate. We are moving towards more personalised food experience. Once again lets eat real food, chemical free food rather than ‘edible food like substances’ that are unquestionably fuelling the health crisis.

In the world of medicine, young doctors are calling for training in nutrition to equip them with the necessary knowledge to advise their patients on diet.

Whether we like it or not, increased automation is coming our way- and fast. Robots are already making pizza in France and coffee in San Francisco. They are taking orders and delivering room service. Hotel employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their new rivals – certainly not good news for the job market.

We are edging ever closer to lab grown meats becoming main stream. Jaw dropping amounts of money have been invested in ‘motherless meat’ in the past couple of decades. The Impossible Burger is now a reality, it can even bleed like a real burger if carefully cooked, however the jury is still out on the flavour. I’ve tasted three different versions of what are described as ‘insanely delicious’ plant based burgers and I’m here to tell you that ‘insanely delicious’ it is not despite the considerable hype to the contrary. Look out for sushi grade ‘not tuna’- made from tomatoes….It’ll be interesting to watch this space, a phenomenal investment has already been sunk into this plant based burger….

Meanwhile meat-free days are on the increase and multiple restaurants are now offering an optional Meat Free Monday menu.

In the US, UK and several other countries, more people are eating at  home, the millennials are cooking again. How cool is that, if you’re not convinced, pay a trip to a Farmers Market here in  Ireland, London, New York or the Flea Market in Dublin and watch the action.

Farm to Table and Root to Shoot eating continues to gather momentum and drive purchases. Urban vertical indoor farming in cities is exploding, reducing expensive and environmental impact.

Bill Gates has bought 25,000 acres to develop a new ‘smart city’ from the ground up.

At last some good news for farmers and food producers, new routes to market have been developed where consumers / members order their food on-line, not from the supermarket, but directly from the farmer or food producer who gets 80% of the retail price as opposed to 25-35% through the current retail system. Farmdrop in the UK  is a brilliant example as is NeigbourFood launched in Cork city in late November. It’s already increasing  membership and producers week by week – a very welcome development, check it out on

The ‘clean eating fad’ it seems, is waning but has been partly subsumed into the vegan food movement.

On the global restaurant scene, molecular gastronomy appears to have peaked, top chefs are moving away from using spheres and extreme molecular elements and are putting down their paint brushes and tweezers and chucking out their palette knives – I’m told smears on plates and skid marks are out….

Seems like growing numbers are annoyed by the favouritism shown by restaurant critics to avant-garde molecular food. More diners would like to see restaurants concentrating on flavour and not overly complicating dishes, just to make them look pretty. Apparently we’re also over frilly foliage and limp pea shoots but lots of edible flower petals are still in evidence. Small plates are a definite trend.

Amazon’s takeover of Wholefoods in the US is having a profound impact on retail. There are greenhouses on supermarket rooftops in Japan, talk of being able to pick your own tomatoes straight from the vine when shopping….

Smart fridges that will automatically replenish when you are out of the branded products you can’t live without, is already a reality.

Every conceivable type of meal kit and ready meal….Home delivery of restaurant meals, soon by drone rather than bike, it’s a brave new world out there….

Hot Ingredients

  1. Chefs and home cooks are becoming more adventurous with chilli pepper flakes, Aleppo Pepper or Pul Biber, Piment d’Espelette, Timut pepper from Nepal and Korean Gochugaru.
  2. Bitter greens of all kinds are on the best menus, Radichios, Chicory, Sorrell, Tardivo Dandelion leaves…. Amaranth is the new Kale…
  3. Marine Munchies –Seaweed and sea vegetables, all more nutritious than anything on land and intriguingly delicious – dried seaweed sprinkles, kelp noodles, samphire, dillisk soda bread… Dillisk has three times the nutritional value of kale.
  1. More unusual herbs, Lovage, Claytonia, Hyssop, Shiso. Wild and foraged, Pennywort, Purslane, Winter Cress, Tagetes, Ground Elder, Chickweed….
  1. Artisan Bakeries – Real natural sourdough fermented for at least 24 hours, better still 48 hours, made with flour from heritage grains.
  2. Specialist Teas – Tea bars are springing up serving exquisite (and super expensive) teas like we can’t imagine, Pu-erh tea has changed my life. Check out a little Taiwanese tea bar in New York called Té on 10th There are even tea cocktails now.
  3. Good fats are back, not just butter but ghee from grass-fed cows, organic pork lard, goose and duck fat…
  4. Argan oil and MCT oil
  5. Organic raw milk and raw butter ($19.99 a pound in San Francisco) much more nutrient dense and delicious
  6. Puffed and popped snacks – Organic popcorn with many flavours, sweet and savoury
  7. Faux meat snacks, a big trend. …. Yuk!
  8. Alcohol free spirits, booze-free cocktails, flavoured whiskeys, artisan gins, beers and ciders…
  9. Natural wines and organic wines are a particularly welcome trend for those who can no longer drink the chemical laden cheap wines.
  10. Hemp derived products are exploding…
  11. Doughnuts are still huge in every sense of the word, remember the excitement when Krispy Kreme opened in Dublin…
  12. We’ll see more African flavours, in particular Ethiopian food
  13. Flavours of the Pacific Rim (Asia, Oceanica and the Western coasts of North and South America) are also a strong trend so stock up on fish sauce, wasabi, lemongrass, star anise, pandan leaves, black sesame, soy sauce….
  14. Mushrooms, particularly the wild varieties are naturally rich in umami flavours so are being used in ever more creative ways to create ‘a meaty bite’
  15. Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are really having their moment, an important and inexpensive source of protein, there’s a growing choice of pulse based snacks.
  16. Dried, pickled and smoked foods are ever more evident, smoked butter, salt, chill flakes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, black pudding – even porridge…
  17. Riced and diced as a carb substitute…cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoli…
  18. Stracciatella is everywhere, where can we get it here? – .
  19. Cold Brew Coffee – nitro coffee…

I’m running out of space but there’s so much more, meanwhile here’s what I’ll be enjoying this week….

Bitter Endive, Escarole, Dandelion or Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy Dressing and Pangrattato

Bitter greens are enormously nutritious, we need more in our diet.

Serves 8

8 handfuls of salad leaves, cut or torn into generous bite sized bits (use a selection of bitter greens endive, escarole, dandelion, pursulane, winter cress….)

Caesar dressing (see recipe)

1 -2 fistfuls of freshly grated Parmesan

Pangrattato (see below) OR

40 croutons, approximately 2cm square, cooked in extra virgin olive oil

16 anchovies (Ortiz)


Choose a bowl, large enough to hold the salad comfortably, make the caesar dressing as below, sprinkle with enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Add a fistful of finely grated Parmesan. Toss gently and add the warm croutons (if using.) Toss again. Divide between eight cold plates. Top each salad with a couple of anchovies and serve.

If using pangrattato instead of croutons, scatter over each of the salads and serve immediately.


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

150g white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Heat the extra virgin olive in a frying pan; add the garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Remove the garlic cloves and keep aside. Add half the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until they turn golden. Spread out on a baking sheet, repeat with the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Grate the garlic cloves over the bread crumbs. Finely grate the lemon zest over the crumbs also. Toss, season with salt and taste.


Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 50g tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175ml sunflower oil

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml cold water

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.


Té Dates

Té Company is a tiny secret Taiwanese tea shop on 163 West 10th Street in Manhattan, superb teas, add it to your New York list…

12 Medjool Dates

12 Strips of homemade candied orange peel

12 Fresh walnuts

A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Assemble all the ingredients.

Split the dates down one side, prise open and remove stones.


Carefully pour a drop of balsamic vinegar into each date. Tuck a strip of candied peel and half a fresh walnut into each. Press and seal.


Enjoy with a cup of special tea.

Nollaig Na mBan

Nollaig Na mBan…

That’s the enchanting Irish name given to Women’s, Little Christmas on the 6th of January– the feast of the Epiphany.

It’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the day we take down the Christmas tree and pack the baubles and tinsel into the attic for another year. But most importantly, it’s the day when the women of Ireland get to have time off from household chores after all the festive cooking.

A special day to get together with friends, sisters, mothers and aunts…The men, cheerfully take over the household for the day so the women can gather together to party and have a glass of fizz.

I was surprised to discover that many other countries have a similar tradition although the date sometimes varies. The Nordic countries have many customs, as have Ukraine, Slovenia, Galicia and closer to home there are high jinks and ceilis in the Scottish highlands it’s called, Là Féill nan Rìgh, The Feast of the Kings in Gaelic. La Fête des Rois is also celebrated in France with the delicious Galette des Rois as the centre piece of the table. Every boulangére offers their version of the flaky pastry galette, with a little trinket known as a ‘fève’ hidden deep inside the marzipan filling. Each comes with a golden paper crown which the lucky person who finds the fève in their slice will wear when they are crowned king for the day.

Here in Ireland the custom had almost disappeared, apart from in the counties of Cork and Kerry but there has been an enthusiastic revival of Women’s Little Christmas in recent years. Many restaurants and hotels are offering jolly Nollaig na bMan celebrations with exciting entertainment, dancing and music as well as afternoon tea or dinner so the womenfolk can enjoy a night out.

Just found this funny poem on social media penned by Nuala Woulfe @NWoulfeWriter – a few lines to whet your appetite.

Mammys on the Dance Floor

Mammys on the dance floor, let out for the night,

Dancing round their handbags, whopping with delight,

Mammys on the dance floor, kicking up the dust

Checking out the six packs, overcome with lust!

Mammys on the dance floor, one more round of beer,

Eyeing up the bouncers, giving them the leer…..

So off you go ladies, let the hair down, but if you’d like a delectable afternoon tea and a gossip around the fire, instead here are some of my favourite sweet treats for those who love to bake…


Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size


450g (1lb) best quality Sausages

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and a drop of milk

50g (2ozs) Caraway seeds or sesame seeds


Form the sausage meat into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.


Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage meat 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.


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

Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s . Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with optional caraway seeds. Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 


Galette des Rois

In France on the Festival of the Kings on 6th January, over 50 million flaky galette des rois are eaten. Tucked into the soft frangipane filling is a little surprise for the lucky person who chooses that slice. There is a wonderful ritual played out every year, where everyone sits around the dining table but the youngest child climbs underneath. As the galette is served, slice by slice, Madame points at the portion and asks ‘Who is that slice for ?’ The child calls out each person’s name, the lucky person who finds the feve in their slice is the king and the golden crown is placed on their head. As the king raises a glass everyone choruses, ‘The king drinks, the king drinks!’


Serves 8


450g all butter puff pastry chilled



110g (4oz) ground almonds

110g (4 ozs) castor sugar

40g (1½ ozs) melted butter

2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic

2 tablespoons double cream

1 dessertspoon rum (optional)

Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt


Icing sugar

To Serve

Softly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8

Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than 5mm (¼ inch thick), cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter.  Put one onto a damp baking sheet, Keep both pieces chilled in the fridge while you make the filling (the second piece could be on a sheet of parchment paper on a plate in the fridge).

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together (except the egg wash) in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge.  Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges. Flute the edges with a knife.

Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.*

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for 30 minutes approx. until well risen and golden. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

*Note: Galette des Rois is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated


Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes


Makes 24



225g (8oz) butter (at room temperature)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons


Lemon Curd

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)


Lemon Curd Cream

110ml (4floz) mascarpone

4 tablespoons lemon curd (see recipe)

2 tablespoons sieved icing sugar


Meringue Kisses (see recipe)



sprig of Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena


2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases.


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


First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processer, whizz until smooth.


Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.


Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.


Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.



2 egg whites

4½ ozs (117g/1 cup approx.) icing sugar


To make the meringue


Line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Drop little ‘blobs’ of the mixture on to the baking sheet and flatten slightly with a teaspoon.   Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C/300°F/regulo 2 for 10-15 minutes or until set crisp.


To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the mascarpone and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.


Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the top of the cupcake.  Top with a little more lemon curd and pop a meringue kiss on top, garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.


Tender Loving Care Biscuits (known as TLC’s in our house)

These little oatmeal and coffee sandwich biscuit are super delicious.


Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)


110g (4 ozs) butter

50g (2 ozs) castor sugar

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

55g (2 ozs) flour

150g (5 ozs) oatmeal (porridge oats)

55g (2 ozs) dessicated coconut

A pinch of salt

A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)


Coffee Filling

50g (2 ozs) butter

75g (3 ozs) icing sugar

Coffee essence – 1 teaspoon approx.


Coffee Icing

110g (4 ozs) icing sugar

1 tablespoon approx. boiling water

1 teaspoons approx. coffee essence



10 – 12 walnuts


Use a 12 inch (4cm) cutter


Cream the butter and sugar and add in the golden syrup, gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Roll out on to a floured board to about  inch (5mm) thickness – the mixture will be slightly sticky and will be a little difficult to handle.  Stamp out into rounds with a cutter and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden. They will take approx.12-15 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to become quite cold.  Meanwhile make the filling and icings.


Coffee Filling:

Cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence. Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two biscuits together.

Coffee Icing:

Sieve the icing sugar, add the coffee essence and enough boiling water to mix to a spreading consistency, very little does, so be careful not to add too much.  Spread a little blob of icing on top of each biscuit and decorate with a walnut half.


Little Choccie Mousses

Serve in little glasses, chocolate mousse is very rich – so don’t serve too large helpings.


Serves 8-10


225g (8ozs) plain chocolate (we use 52% Callebaut)

1 tablespoon of Jamaican rum

4 free range eggs, separated
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream to serve


Break chocolate into small pieces and put into a Pyrex bowl, melt over a saucepan of hot water. As soon as the water comes to the boil turn off the heat and allow to soften. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove, cool, whisk in the rum and egg yolks one by one. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the melted chocolate. Fill into small bowls or glasses. Allow to set in a fridge.
To Serve
Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

These little pots are very rich so extra crème fraîche may be welcome.


Darina’s Coconut and Jelly Cakes


Makes 18 – 20

150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Redcurrant jelly or redcurrant jelly mixed with raspberry jam

110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

300ml (10floz) cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar


2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.


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


Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Allow to cool on a wire cake rack.

Whip the cream with the sieved icing sugar and spoon into a piping bag.

Dip or brush each bun with the jelly, roll in desiccated coconut. Cut the top third of each cake almost all the way through and pipe in a large rosette of cream.

Serve immediately. Unfilled cakes can be kept in an airtight tin for a day or two.


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