ArchiveJune 2019

Eurotoques Awards 2019

Ireland became a member of the European Union in 1973, within a short time a tidal wave of regulations swept over the country. Small producers, butchers, bakers, cheesemakers were often asked to comply with regulations far out of proportion to the risks involved and to spend more than the business could afford. Many long established businesses ceased to exist and many important enterprises were lost.

It was in this climate that the Europe wide Eurotoque organisation was  established, in 1986. Myrtle Allen was a founder member and the instigator of the original Eurotoques awards in 1996. She was a passionate supporter of local farmers, fishermen, artisan producers cheesemakers, fish smokers, foragers….long before local became a sexy word on the food scene.

The aim of Eurotoque was and still is to preserve Irish culinary heritage by supporting traditional cooking methods and promoting producers of local and seasonal artisan products. The members, chefs and cooks of which I am proud to be one, are part of a nurturing community who pride themselves in being custodians of Irish food culture and actively support local artisan producers. This year’s Eurotoque Food Awards honoured dedicated food producers, who make exceptionally good raw materials which enable the chefs to create their magic. I was delighted that the awards were held in Virginia Park Lodge, which gave me an excuse to visit, renowned Irish chef Richard Corrigan’s, beautiful establishment on an 18th Century country estate in the midst of acres of vegetable, fruit and herb gardens overlooking the banks of Lough Ramor in Co Cavan.

The awards were presented by Richard Corrigan himself and Caroline Hennessy under the grape vines in a tunnel in the ‘Gooseberry Garden’ with a back  drop of the Lough and Leagh mountains.

Here are a list of the awards winners who were presented under the categories Water, Craft Growers, Land, Farm, Dairy and Artisan Produce.

Water Connemara Seaweed Company

Craft Growers Ballyholey Farm, Glensallagh Gardens, Iona Farm, Gorse Farm and An Garrai Glas,

Dairy The Village Dairy,

Land Bumblebee Flower Farm

Artisan Produce went to Ballyminane Mill.

For more information on all the winners go to www.euro-toques.ie

Lunch cooked by Chef Eoin Corcoran and his team, was a celebration of Irish produce. The winners were presented with a piece of bespoke Fermoyle Pottery www.fermoylepottery.ie, each piece representing their award category. This hand thrown and hand painted pottery was new to me and an exciting discovery.

The award lunch dinner was refreshingly uncheffy, a delicious lobster cocktail, sole with asparagus and the first broad beans of the season and soft meringue with rhubarb. Richard’s chef, Eoin kindly sent the recipes to share with our readers.

Richard Corrigan’s Lobster Cocktail

Serves 4 – 6

1 lobster (600g/1 1/4lb approx.)

1 head of crunchy lettuce

1 cucumber

1 lemon

Cocktail Sauce

200g (7oz) homemade Mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Horseradish Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon homemade Ketchup

1 tablespoon sherry

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon tabasco

To Serve

lemon wedges

Bring a large pot of heavily salted (seawater) to a simmer and gently place in the lobster.

Simmer for 10 mins and immediately remove into ice cold water.

Remove the tail and claws from the lobster.

Extract the meat from the tail by firmly pressing a hand until the shell cracks allowing easy removal.  Crack the claws and use a pick to remove any remaining lobster meat.

Mix all ingredients for the cocktail sauce. Taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.

Shred the lettuce. 

Peel and deseed the cucumber and slice into chunks.

To Serve

Assemble the lettuce and cucumber in a serving dishe.

Slice the lobster and place on top.

Spoon a generous mound of cocktail sauce to the side, serve with lemon wedges.

Dillisk Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

1 – 2 tablespoons of dried seaweed – Dillisk or a mixture

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions and chopped chives and place them in a saucepan.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Just as the milk is coming to the boil add the pre-soaked dillisk, drained and cut into strips. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions and seaweed, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  The mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

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 (3 1/2oz) freekeh

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

12 ripe cherry tomatoes

2 teaspoons za’atar

lots of edible flowers, perhaps violas, rocket flowers, or borage (remove furry calyx from behind the flower), chive or coriander blossom to hand in the summer

Put the freekeh 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 (4 American 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 flakes of sea salt if necessary.

Note

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

Crispy Irish Snails with Garlic Mayo

Gaelic Escargot in Co Carlow are Ireland’s first snail farm, check them out on www.gaelicescargot.com

250 Pre cooked snails

100g Rice flour + a little for dusting the snails

 2 red chilli

1 tsp crushed black peppercorns

1 tsp salt

2 tsp iced water or more if needed

Heat a pan or deep fat fryer of oil to 180˚C.

Finely chop the chilli and mix with the rice flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Whisk in the iced water to form a light batter.

Just before cooking, drain and dry the snails, dust with a little flour.

Coat each snail with the batter and fry in very hot oil until crisp and golden.

To serve, provide cocktails sticks and a bowl of garlic mayonnaise for dipping.

Ballyminane Brown Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin.  This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted. If you can, source the flour from one of the winners, Ballyminane Mill, based in Co Wexford and established in 1832, it is the last working water-powered flour mill in Ireland www.ballyminanemills.com

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14ozs) Ballyminane stone ground wholemeal flour or other flour of your choice

75g (3ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon salt

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

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon  sunflower oil, unscented

1 teaspoon honey or treacle

425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in) OR 3 small loaf tins 5.75 inches (14.6cm) x 3 inches (7.62cm)

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

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins – using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Note

The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).

Meringue Roulade with Roast Rhubarb, Rosewater Cream and Crystallised Rose Petals

Serves 6 – 8

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) castor sugar

Filling

300ml (10floz) softly whipped cream flavoured with 1-2 teaspoons rose water

Roast Rhubarb (see recipe)

Garnish

sprigs of mint, lemon balm or sweet cicely

Accompaniment

Crystallised Rose Petals (see recipe)

Swiss roll tin 12 x 8 inch (30.5 x 20.5cm) or 13 x 9 inch (33 x 23cm) for a thinner roulade

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

First make the Roast Rhubarb (see recipe).

Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer.  Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together.  Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak, 10 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (e.g. sunflower oil).

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

Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work top and turn the roulade onto it.  Remove the base paper and allow to cool in the tin.

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and drained roast rhubarb over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6 –8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate as you wish with crystallised rose petals and mint leaves.  Serve, cut into slices about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.

Note:  This roulade is also very good filled with fresh raspberries, loganberries, sliced ripe peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Roast Rhubarb

A dish of roasted fruit couldn’t be simpler – rhubarb, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches, apples, pears.  Once again I love to add some freshly chopped herbs, e.g. rose geranium or verbena to the sugar or the accompanying cream.  

I’ve become a huge fan of the sweet and intense flavour of roast rhubarb

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb

200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6.

Stainless steel or non-reactive ovenproof dish, 45cm x 30cm (18 inch x 12 inch) (size depends slightly on the thickness of the rhubarb)

Trim the rhubarb stalks if necessary.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in an oven proof dish.  Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for an hour or more, until the juice starts to run. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks – until the rhubarb is just tender. 

Serve alone or with ice-cream, panna cotta, labneh or thick Jersey cream……

Good to know….uncover the rhubarb after 10 minutes for more caramelisation

Coombeshead Farm

A few weeks ago we flew from Cork Airport to Bristol, hired a car and headed for Devon and Cornwall. I’d forgotten how beautiful the English countryside can be, the abundance of wildflowers in the hedgerows and so many beautiful mature trees.  One can’t but draw comparison to our Irish countryside, so often denuded of hedgerows and with so few mature trees.  Of course it depends on the area in both countries but I’m becoming ever more alarmed at the wanton disregard for the environment.

We had booked a few nights stay at Coombeshead Farm near Lewannick, a ‘farm to fork’, guest house with just five bedrooms owned by chefs Tom Adams and his partner April Bloomfield. We arrived tired and hungry and felt instantly at home. The bedrooms are small by most hotel standards but charmingly decorated with a homemade soap made from the lard of their own pigs, a little decanter of mint vodka to sip and two pieces of homemade toffee to share or argue over. The house is surrounded by organic gardens in a working farm with vegetable and herb gardens and a flock of heritage chickens.

The farmhouse is in the midst of 66 acres of woodlands and meadows grazed by sheep, there are beehives and a wood burning oven and a fire pit. Curly haired Mangalitsa pigs romping and rooting around the fields underneath the oak spinney behind the house. The bread is made in the ‘state of the art’ bakery in the barn by Ben Glazer, beautiful dark crusty loaves of natural sour dough that also make their way to some of the top restaurants in London.

The food is super delicious, we stayed for three nights and looked forward to each and every meal with eager anticipation. The atmosphere feels like a house party, comfy sofas, crackling fires – guests tend to congregate in the kitchen around the stove. Breakfast each day was a simple feast, dark crusty sourdough bread with homemade Guernsey butter, compote of seasonal fruit -rhubarb, apple, gooseberry with elderflower, raw honey, homemade jams, granola, bircher muesli, gut boosting water kefir, kombucha and gorgeous unctuous yoghurt . A most fantastic slab of fine home cured streaky bacon and homemade sausages from the happy rare breed Mangalitsa pigs with a soft flowing scramble of their own eggs.

Lots of pickling, fermenting, curing and preserving. Small plates of creative, flavourful real food. No silly foams, gels or skid marks on plates.

Here these young people are really ‘walking the walk’, not just ‘talking the talk’ as so many places do, skilled, accomplished earthy organic food, locally sourced and seasonal.

The menus sang of the season and the produce picked at its peak from the vegetable garden and hedgerows – zero miles food. I’m licking my lips remembering some of the flavours still so vibrantly fresh in my mind Country loaf and Guernsey butter, new seasons asparagus wrapped in crispy filo parcel, Garlic scapes and Jack of the Hedge, Pickled ramson and cabbage terrine, curds and nettle, Mangalitsa loin and turnip, hazelnut tart with fresh cream…..you’ll just have to go there yourself to experience the magic!

Coombeshead Farm, Lewannick, Cornwall

www.coombesheadfarm.co.uk  

Coombeshead Farm Giardiniera

110g (4oz) salt

200g (7oz) heritage carrots chopped into irregular shapes

230g (8 1/4oz) Cauliflower or broccoli, small florets

200g (7oz) radishes, halved

1 red onion, cut into small wedges

10 frigitelli peppers halved

2 red peppers cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

1 head of garlic, cut in half

2 celery sticks, peeled and sliced

400ml (14fl oz) water

900ml (1 1/2 pints) cider vinegar

30g (1 1/4oz) castor sugar

110ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

110ml (4fl oz) organic rapeseed oil

10g (1/3oz) dried oregano

3g chilli flakes

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

10g (1/3oz) black peppercorns

Prepare the vegetables and put into a stainless steel saucepan or Delph crock pot. Sprinkle with salt. Add enough water to cover and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

Drain the vegetables, rinse well and check for salinity, pat dry.

Heat the sugar and water in a pan until just dissolved and transfer to a large bowl. Add the herbs, peppercorns, chilli flakes, vinegar and oil together. Add the vegetables and store in airtight containers for a minimum of 2 weeks until ready.

This pickle is perfect served with grilled meats, charcuterie, cheeses….

Coombeshead Farm Bircher Muesli

This recipe is quite adaptable depending on seasonality – the below is the base for quantities but for example at the moment Coombeshead Farm are using semi dried rhubarb rather than prunes as that is in season on the farm at the moment.

Serves 4 – 6

500g (18oz) rolled spelt/rye grains (can be good quality barley oats or normal oats or even seeds such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

100g (3 ½ oz) pitted prunes or semi dried fruit of choice cut into bite size pieces

750ml (1 ¼ pints)good quality apple juice or red/white grape juice 

  • Completely submerge the grains and prunes in the juice by at least 3cm and leave for 24 hours minimum to allow the phytic acid to break down.
  • Finish with toasted seeds or nuts.

Serve to your liking, perhaps some farmhouse yoghurt, fresh seasonal fruits or berries and some local honey, a perfect breakfast.

Asparagus in Filo

Serves 12 (makes approximately 30)

12 sticks asparagus in season

12 sheets of filo pastry

175g (6oz) unsalted butter, melted

150g (5oz) Parmesan, finely grated

sea salt

freshly ground pepper

Trim the ends of the asparagus.  Put into a saucepan of boiling salted water, just enough to cover, bring back to the boil and simmer until tender, 3-4 minutes depending on size. Remove from the heat, strain and allow to cool.  Cut into 10-12.5cm (4-5 inches) pieces.

Alternatively, toss in a little extra virgin olive oil and pan grill on a high heat for 3-4 minutes, they should retain a nice bite.

Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Lay a sheet of filo on the worktop, cut into four pieces, brush with melted butter. Sprinkle it evenly with finely grated Parmesan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the asparagus in the middle. Tuck in the edges and roll up tightly. Arrange in a single layer on a baking tray, brush with melted butter and refrigerate.  Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese before it goes into the oven.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are crisp and golden all over.

Serve piping hot, sprinkled with a little more Parmesan.

Mint Vodka

1.3 litres (2 1/4 pints) vodka

175oz (6oz) picked freshly picked mint leaves (no stalks)

150g (5oz) sugar

1.5 litre (2 1/2 pints) Kilner Jar

Put the mint leaves into a Kilner jar.  Add the sugar and cover with the vodka.  Seal the jar, invert every couple of days to dissolve the sugar.  Taste after a week or two, best to drink sooner rather than later – delicious on its own or with soda water or tonic and lots of ice. 

Gooseberries…the forgotten fruit

This evening we had compote of gooseberries with elderflower after supper with a few friends, a simple dessert, just stewed gooseberries really but it blew everyone away. Most of our friends hadn’t tasted gooseberries for years – They had virtually forgotten about them. The intense flavour sent them into a spin of nostalgia many called them Goosegogs when they were children. They reminisced about the gooseberry bushes in Granny’s garden, picking gooseberries from the prickly bushes, top and tailing them around the kitchen table for gooseberry jam, and the dire warnings not to eat them before they were ripe or “you’d get a pain where you never had a window”.

Wonderful how  a flavour brings memories flooding back, one mouthful and I was back in our little vegetable garden in Cullohill, picking tart green berries into an enamel bowl, so hard they sounded like stones against the side of the bowl.

Mummy usually made red gooseberry jam from the riper fruit, but years later I discovered the magic of green gooseberry and elderflower jam from Jane Grigson’s Good Things cookbook published in 1971.

She also introduced me to the magical combination of green gooseberry and elderflower. Ever since, as soon as I see elderflower blossoms in the hedgerows, I know it’s time to dash down the garden to rummage through the prickly branches of the gooseberry bushes to pick the hard green bitter marble sized berries.

It’s difficult to imagine that they are ready to eat but believe me they make the best jams and compotes at this stage and also freeze brilliantly.

If you don’t have a gooseberry bush in your garden, dash out and buy at least one now, better still three, at least one should be Careless, Invicta  is another delicious variety which is somewhat resistant to mildew.

Unless you live close to a good Country or Farmers Market you are not likely to find fresh gooseberries. Unlike strawberries and raspberries which are available ad nauseam all year round, fresh gooseberries are rarely to be found on a supermarket shelf.

We grow several varieties of gooseberries; some in bush form. We train others as cordons or in a fan shape along a wall. The latter are a brilliant discovery, so much easier to pick. Gooseberries are deciduous and the fruit is high in Vitamin C.

Only today, I discovered the origin of the word gooseberry or spíonán in Irish, apparently they were so named because they were used to make a sauce for roast goose to cut the richness – Can you imagine how delicious that combination would be?

www.cookingisfun.ie

https://www.instagram.com/darina_allen
https://www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool

Green Goosegog Crumble

Serves 6-8

When we were little,  we always called gooseberries goosegogs. 

Crumbles are the quintessential comfort food, this is a brilliant master recipe, just vary the fruit according to the season.

675g  green gooseberries

45-55g soft dark brown sugar

1-2 tablespoon water

Crumble

110g plain white flour, preferably unbleached

50g butter

50g castor sugar

Elderflower Cream for serving (optional)

1.1L capacity pie dish

First stew the gooseberries gently with the sugar and water in a covered casserole or stainless steel saucepan just until the fruit bursts.

Then taste and add more sugar if necessary. Turn into a pie dish. Allow to cool slightly while you make the crumble.

Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles really coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the gooseberries in the pie dish. Scatter the flaked almonds evenly over the top.

Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with cream flavoured with elderflower cordial or just softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar

Variation: Gooseberry and Elderflower

Stew the gooseberries with white sugar, add 2 elderflower heads tied in muslin while stewing, remove elderflowers and proceed as above.

Variations on the Crumble

30g oatflakes or sliced hazelnuts or nibbed almonds can be good added to the crumble.

Gooseberry Frangipane Tart

This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days.

Serves 8-10

450g (1lb) green gooseberries

Stock Syrup made with:

150ml (5floz) water

60g (2oz) sugar

Boil sugar and water until all the sugar is dissolved and cool. Stock Syrup can be kept in the refrigerator until needed.

Shortcrust Pastry

200g (7oz) flour

110g (4oz) cold butter

1 egg yolk, preferably free range and organic

3-4 tablespoons cold water

Frangipane

100g (31/2oz) butter

75g (3oz) castor sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 egg yolk, preferably free range

110g (4oz) whole blanched almonds, ground or 1/2ground almonds and 1/2 blanched and ground

25g (1oz) flour

To Finish

25g (1oz) flaked almonds

To Serve

Elderflower Cream (flavour softly whipped cream with elderflower cordial to taste)

23cm (9inch) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base

First make the shortcrust pastry,

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, 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 yolk and add the 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 the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

Cover the pastry with greaseproof paper and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Meanwhile, top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to a boil and simmer until the gooseberries just begin to burst.  Cool. 

Next make the frangipane.

Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour.  Spread the frangipane over the top and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Turn the oven up to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Bake the tart for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.

Serve with Elderflower Cream.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam

Makes 6 x 450g (1lb) pots

It’s worth growing a gooseberry bush just to make this jam alone.

The gooseberries should be green and tart and hard as hail stones – as soon as the elderflowers are in bloom in the hedgerows search for the gooseberries under the prickly bushes or seek them out in your local greengrocer or Farmers Market.

1.6kg (3 1/2lbs) tart green gooseberries

freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons plus enough water to measure 300ml (10fl oz) in total

5-6 elderflower heads

900g (2lbs) sugar

Top and tail the gooseberries and put into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the water and elderflowers tied in muslin. Simmer until the gooseberries burst. Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (220°F on a jam thermometer). Pour into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.

This jam should be a fresh green colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Torched Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

Serves 4

4 large mackerel fillets, bones removed and filleted in half

Salt for curing

Sprig of fennel for serving

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Equipment: Blowtorch

First make the Green Gooseberry sauce see below.

This simple sauce is so much more than the sum of its parts, we love it with pan-grilled mackerel, goose, pork and other rich fatty meats.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests adding a tablespoon of chopped sage, I tried it recently and it was very good.

If you are stuck for a pudding just fold in some softly whipped cream and hey presto you have gooseberry fool.

275g (9 1/2oz) fresh green gooseberries

stock syrup to cover (see previous recipe) – 175ml (6fl oz) approximately

a knob of butter (optional)

Top and tail the gooseberries, put into a stainless steel saucepan, barely cover with stock syrup, bring to the boil and simmer until the fruit bursts.  Taste.  Stir in a small knob of butter if you like but it is very good without it.

Lay the mackerel fillets, skin side down on a baking tray. Sprinkle lightly with salt and allow to sit and cure slightly for 15 minutes.

Take the tray of salted mackerel and char with skin with a blow torch. The heat will refract from the tray underneath, allowing the fish to cook from both sides, leaving it slightly pink in the middle. Alternatively, you can use a grill or a pan grill.

To serve, arrange the fish on hot plates with a dollop of Green Gooseberry sauce and a sprig of fennel.

Ann Marie’s Gooseberry, Pistachio and Coconut Cake

Makes a 22cm (9 inch) diameter round cake

100g (3 1/2oz) sugar plus 20g (3/4oz) for the topping

90g (3 1/4oz) light brown sugar

180g (6 1/4oz) ground almonds

30g (1 1/4oz) ground pistachio

45g (1 3/4oz) desiccated coconut

50g (2oz/1/2 cup) self-rising flour

a pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of Elderflower cordial (optional)

150g (5oz) butter – melted

3 eggs 

250g (9oz) gooseberries, halved

1oz pistachio nuts coarsely chopped

Icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 (160C fan).

Lightly grease the cake tin with butter.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pour over the melted butter and mix in the eggs, spoon the batter into the pre-greased tin and smooth down. 

Drop the halved gooseberries onto the batter and sprinkle the top of the cake with the remaining 20g (3/4oz) of sugar.  Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes, then turn the cake around and bake for a further 8-10 minutes until the cake between the gooseberries goes all golden.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin, as it needs time to settle, then gently remove by running a knife around the edges.  Covered well, it will keep in the fridge for up to a week (not much chance of that happening), but for the best flavour, allow it to return to room temperature before eating. To serve sprinkle with some coarsely chopped pistachio nuts and dredge with a little icing sugar.

Ruffage by Abra Berens

An exciting parcel arrived on my desk today, a present from a past student who wanted me to have a copy of her very first cook book – Abra Berens is the twenty eight Ballymaloe Cooking School student to write a best-selling cook book. It’s called Ruffage, published by Chronicle Books and has just been chosen by the New York Times as one of the Top 10 Books of 2019 – and that’s no mean feat….

Abra did a 12 Week Certificate Course here in 2006. She’s chef at Granor Farm in Three Oaks, Michigan and a co-founder of Bare Knuckle Farm. She’s making quite the impact and strives to connect people with their food both through dinners and progressive food policy, helping to further a food policy where farmers earn a living wage, protect our environment through agriculture and waste as little food as possible…..no doubt influenced by the zero waste policy we do our best to espouse here at the Ballymaloe Cooking School.

A year and half after she left here she took up residence in a forest valley between two cherry orchards on Bare Knuckle Farm in Michigan. She plunged all her savings into the project, worked from dawn till dusk, ate brilliantly but by the end of the first year was so ‘poor and cold’ that she decided to return to Chicago to get a job that paid “in green backs” rather than green leafy vegetables. There was lots of delicious food at the pie shop where she worked but soon she was craving the carrots that seemed to get sweeter with every passing frost, the tiny kale greens that still sprouted from the stalk and the almost obscenely orange-yolked eggs. “Farming changed the way I cook”.

I too, know that feeling, when you sow and tend a seed and wait patiently for it to grow into something to eat you will cook it carefully and lovingly and use every single scrap. You will want everyone to know that you grew it…Furthermore, it gives one a far greater respect and appreciation for those who grow nourishing and wholesome food all for us.

The format of Ruffage is also interesting. It’s not a vegetarian book but Abra has chosen vegetables as the principle ingredient and gives deeply knowledgable advise on how to select, store, prepare, cook and serve them using a variety of cooking techniques. She starts with a pantry section and some essential condiments.  There are recipes for each vegetable and suggestions for 3 or 4 delicious variations, and many, many cooking methods, pan roasting, poaching, boiling, sautéing, grilling, oven roasting, braising, confit, frying, stuffed, marinated, baked, caramelized and of course raw.

Who knew, that there so many super exciting ways to serve vegetables, I love this book and plan to stock it in our Farm shop here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. We don’t have much space so I’m super fussy about what I ask Toby to stock but this is a ‘keeper’.

Here are a few treats to whet your appetite……for the tempting variations you’ll need to order Abra’s book.

Abra Berens Beet-dressed pasta w/golden raisins and poppy seeds

Generally, I use a microwave to warm up my forgotten morning coffee and for little else. But there are other uses. The beets in this recipe will purée to a significantly smoother texture if they are warm. If you have prepared a load of beets earlier in the week and want to make this sauce, simply warm them up in the micro­wave with a splash of water. Alternatively, if you are cooking loads of beets, it’s smart to make the purée when they are warm out of the oven. It will store in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for a good long time.

This pasta salad also works as a cold salad, but often needs an extra pinch of salt, since the flavours will be muted when cold.

35 g golden raisins

Juice of ½ lemon (22 ml)

2 steam-roasted beets (455 g)

60 ml olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cream (optional)

455 g small pasta, bow ties, orecchiette, or penne

10 g poppy seeds

Soak the golden raisins in ½ cup (120 ml) hot water with a squeeze of lemon for 10 minutes or until they are plump. Strain the raisins, saving the water.

In a food processor, purée the beets with the olive oil, raisin water, and a good pinch of salt and pepper until very smooth. If you like dairy, toss in a glug of cream.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water and drain.

Toss the pasta with the beet purée (to warm and coat), soaked raisins, and poppy seeds. Transfer to serving platter or individ­ual bowls. Drizzle with additional olive oil.

Seared duck breast w/brown sugar–vinegar cabbage, roasted potatoes, and herb salad

The richness of duck elevates the commonness of cabbage to fancy dinner status. That said, this dish would be perfectly at home with chicken, pork chops, or seared salmon. Note that if you don’t have the rendered duck fat in the pan, simply pan roast it with olive oil. Also note that if the skin softens while finishing the cabbage salad, simply kiss it in a hot pan or re-crisp under the broiler.

This brown sugar–vinegar sauce lives on my counter, close to the stove, ready to turn up the volume on anything I’m cooking that day. I love this dish because it combines a variety of tex­tures and simultaneously blends rich, comforting flavours with a bright, acidic, herby lightness. I tend to use red cabbage for the colour, but any variety will work.

910 g (or 2 to 3 potatoes per person) Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, cut into wedges

Olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 (170 to 230 g) duck breasts, see Hot Tips

1 head (1.4 kg) red cabbage, cut into ribbons

120 ml brown sugar–vinegar sauce

½ bunch parsley (68 g), roughly chopped

10 sprigs chives, minced (optional)

1 sprig rosemary, minced (optional)

Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Dress the potatoes with a glug of olive oil, a big pinch of salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, about 35 minutes. Reserve, rewarming if necessary for the final steps.

Meanwhile, score the skin of the duck breast into either diamonds or slices, trying to avoid cutting the flesh, and season liberally with salt and pepper.

In a large, cold frying pan, place the duck breasts skin-side down and turn on a medium heat. As the heat builds in the frying pan, the fat will render through the cuts in the skin and crisp. Let it go longer than you might think you should. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy, and the meat medium rare, about 15 minutes. Flip the breasts for 4 minutes to cook in the fat. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let rest for 7 to 10 minutes.

Increase the heat under the frying pan to high and add the cabbage with a pinch of salt to roast in the rendered duck fat. Allow to sizzle and lightly brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the brown sugar–vinegar sauce, and toss to coat well.

Toss the warm potatoes with the dressed cabbage and the parsley, chives, and rosemary (if using).

Place the duck breasts on a serving platter next to the potato-cabbage salad, and serve.

Matchstick salad: turnip, carrots, kohlrabi, w/lemon, Parmesan, and parsley

I like this salad to have similar shaped vegetables. It doesn’t have to be matchsticks; could be wedges or half-moons, or a mix. Bottom line: don’t let the knife work dissuade you from making the salad. As long as you get the vegetables into bite-size units, you’ll be good.

For the variations, you can use the same proportion of vegetables or stick with only turnip or rutabaga. The key is to have a nice dose of fat and brightness to balance the brassica flavour

1 bunch salad turnips (455 g), cut into matchsticks

3 medium turnips or 1 large rutabaga (455 g), ends trimmed, peeled, cut into matchsticks

4 carrots (various colours are nice) (455 g), cut into matchsticks

2 kohlrabi (455 g), ends trimmed, peeled, cut into matchsticks

1 or 2 apples (455 g), unpeeled, cut into matchsticks

2 lemons (90 ml), zest and juice

120 ml olive oil

Big pinch of salt

1 bunch parsley (34 g), roughly chopped

55 g Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler or grater

Dress the vegetables and apples with the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, and salt. Toss all together, and let sit for 10 minutes to lightly marinate. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the parsley to the salad, garnish with the Parmesan shavings, and serve.

(All Recipes taken from Ruffage by Abra Berens, published  by Chronicle Books. All photographs by to EE Berger)

Claire Ptak

Claire Ptak – baker to the Royals, as one of our current 12 Week students put it, shared her magic with us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School recently. Claire, who loves to bake, started her career at Chez Panisse in Berkley in California, baking delicious, simple pastries, cookies and galettes with beautiful ingredients. Beautiful butter, beautiful fresh eggs, beautiful, seasonal fresh currants, cherries and  organic flowers and herbs to embellish the cakes.

In 2005, she moved to London and set up a stall in Broadway Market in Hackney selling cupcakes. There was a queue from the very first day for Claire’s beautiful but sometimes not picture perfect looking creations.

Somehow, people’s gut feeling told them that this was real and much more likely to taste delicious than the perfect looking fondant iced confections so prevalent nowadays.

Violet Café and Bakery was started and word spread fast. Both royalty and celebrities snuck in or sent along quietly for a goodie box of Claire’s treats from Violet Café, Claire never divulged their names or very personal cravings.

Her style is Anglo-American – her scones are long triangles with sugar tops and many delicious additions peach, raspberry, white chocolate…

Her buttery ‘biscuits’ which we would call scones are made with lots of sour cream and occasionally butter, are split in half and sold as breakfast ‘biscuits’ with bacon, egg and hot sauce inside.

Among the celebrities we now know who were her fans, was a fellow American girl with style, called Megan Markle which lead to Claire being asked to make ‘the wedding cake’ for Harry and Megan’s wedding. When the story broke, Claire was suddenly catapulted onto the international stage – her Instagram followers went from 69,000 to 205,000 in a few days.

There are now plans to open a second Violet Café next year and all because of cake….

Claire is passionate about the importance of using quality ingredients for baking delicious cakes, breads and pastries. She told us about a fast emerging trend for ‘seasonal cakes’. The wedding cake was an Amalfi lemon and elderflower perfumed cake because the wedding was in the midst of the elderflower season in May.

I love the idea of cakes reflecting the seasons, so easy as we come into the summer with an abundance of summer fruit, berries and currants around the corner. Claire also used lots of spelt, sorghum, kamut, rice and rye, khorasan flour and soft cane sugars for her cakes and has many gluten free and accidentally vegan confections – something for everyone to enjoy.

The chocolate devil’s food cake was the vehicle to show us how to ice the cake with frothy American butter icing and decorate it with organic, fresh flowers in the nonchalant Violet way, a stunning creation for a celebration. The rhubarb, strawberry and sweet cicely pie was perfect for a family meal, sweet cicely is a herb worth growing, it’s perennial so it comes back year after year, it’s fern like leaves have a sweet, slightly anise flavor so one can reduce the amount of sugar used to sweeten the rhubarb. The tart is still delicious without it or Claire loves to use a little fresh tarragon if that’s available. The sesame and tahini cookies were a terrific find – mixed in minutes and cooked to a soft, chewy texture, they are destined to become one of our staples here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and have the bonus of being gluten free.

The honey shortcakes were fragile and tender but so delicious, Claire pairs them with a fresh apricot and chamomile compote and a dollop of whipped cream but I can imagine enjoying them with berries and cream or just a gorgeous homemade jam or Amalfi lemon curd.

Terrific response to Vera’s column on 11th May so here’s another recipe from Vera’s wish list – Light, tender and delicious, this carrot cake is lovely for afternoon tea, not quite as worthy as any of the traditional carrot cake recipes.

https://www.instagram.com/darina_allen
https://www.instagram.com/ballymaloecookeryschool

Carrot and Cardamom Cake

Serves 8-10

Light, tender and delicious, this carrot cake is lovely for afternoon tea, but has also been much enjoyed for dessert.   It will also keep really well for a week or more in an airtight tin.

50ml (2fl.oz) vegetable oil (we use sunflower oil)

150g (5oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon ground cardamom (seeds about 10 pods)

2 large eggs, preferably organic and free range

100g (3½oz) castor sugar

55g (2¼oz) soft brown sugar

50ml (2fl.oz) natural yogurt

175g (6oz) finely grated carrot (1 large or 2 medium carrots approx.)

Icing

225g (8oz) icing sugar

2 tablesp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Dried rose petals (optional)

25g (1oz) pistachio nuts (optional)

20.5cm (8in) round spring-form cake tin

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

Brush the tin with oil and pop a round of parchment paper in the base.

Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom and salt into a bowl.  Whisk the eggs, sugars, yogurt and oil together until smooth.  Gently mix the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, add the carrots and pour the mixture into the tin.   Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean.  Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely while you make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, add enough sieved freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a thickish icing.  Pour onto the top of the cold cake. Spread quickly with a palette knife so it begins to dribble down over the sides of the cake.  Sprinkle the surface with dried rose petals and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts if available.

Claire Ptak’s Apricot, Camomile and Honey Shortcakes

makes 4 large shortcakes

For the compote

makes 1 jar

1kg just-ripe apricots, halved and pitted

½ vanilla pod

1 tbsp dried camomile flowers

½ cinnamon stick

150g caster sugar

Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss. Macerate for one hour to dissolve the sugar and draw the juices out of the fruit.

Turn out into a heavy saucepan or jam pot, cover with a lid. Cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apricots break down a bit.

Let the mixture cool slightly before transferring to an airtight container.

For the shortcakes

280g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp caster sugar, plus 50g more for sprinkling

½ tsp fine sea salt

100g unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1cm cubes

200g single cream

To serve

¼ batch apricot compote (from above)

300g double cream, gently whipped

A drizzle of honey

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/170Fan/gas mark 5. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients. Add the cold butter, blitzing until it resembles a coarse meal texture (or do this by hand with a pastry cutter).

Quickly add the cream, mixing until it just comes together. Be careful not to overmix.

Turn out on to a lightly floured surface, and pat into a cube shape. Rest for 10 minutes.

Once rested, roll to a 2cm thickness, then cut into hexagons, using a 7cm hexagon cutter. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Rest for 10 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes until springy and golden at the edges.

To assemble, cut the shortcakes in half, spoon over the compote and a dollop of whipped cream, then drizzle with honey.

Claire Ptak’s Battenburg

Serves 8 

6 ozs (170g) butter

6 ozs (170g) castor sugar

1.5 teaspoon of vanilla extract

3 eggs, preferably free range

6 ozs (170g) self raising flour

Red and yellow food colouring

Lemon zest (optional)

½ teaspoon rosewater (optional)

150g apricot jam

Icing sugar, for rolling

500g golden marzipan (almond paste, see recipe)

Preheat the oven to 170°C/335°F/gas mark 3½. Butter and line a 25cm x 30cm battenberg tin.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Divide the mixture between two bowls, and dye each with different food colouring. The amount to use varies greatly depending on the quality of your colouring. Start with a small amount and go from there until you have the desired colour intensity.

Beat the eggs together with the vanilla in separate bowl. Divide this between the yellow and pink mixtures. If using, add lemon zest to the yellow mixture and rosewater to the pink mixture, beating to combine.

Sift the flour twice. Divide the flour between the bowls and fold it into the mixtures.

Spread the mixture into the prepared tin or tins accordingly. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the cakes spring back to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool in the tin(s).

Remove the cakes from the tin. If you’re using a battenberg tin, simply remove the four pieces and trim, if needed, to make four even bars. If you’re using two loaf tins, slice each slab in half lengthways and trim likewise to make four neat bars.

Heat the apricot jam in a small pan. Brush all the long sides of the cake pieces with jam, then press them together in a checkerboard fashion.


Lightly dust a work surface with the icing sugar. Roll the block of marzipan out and trim to 25cm x 30cm. With a clean, dry pastry brush, dust away as much icing sugar from the marzipan as you can. Then check for the smoothest side (it may be the underneath side) and have that facing down.

Brush the top of the marzipan with melted apricot jam. Place the block of cake on the left-hand side of the marzipan and roll to the right until it is encased. Rest for 30 minutes for the jam to set and glue it all together, then slice and serve. This keeps well in a tin for up to a week.

Almond Paste

450g (1lb) castor sugar

450g (1lb) ground almonds

2 small eggs

a drop of pure almond extract

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond extract, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all the egg). Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.

Claire Ptak’s Chocolate Devils Food Cake with Violet Icing

 Serves 12

220g plain flour

100g cocoa powder

1 tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tsp baking powder

450g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g  buttermilk or plain yoghurt

100g vegetable oil

225g hot water

Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C(fan)/gas mark 3. Butter and line a 23cm (9 inch) cake tin with paper.

Measure the dry ingredients, including the caster sugar, into a  large mixing bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to distribute the salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder evenly throughout the other dry ingredients.

In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (except for the hot water). Once they are well mixed together, slowly whisk in the hot water.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in half of the wet mixture. Starting in the middle of the bowl, whisk in a clockwise, circular motion. Resist the temptation to switch direction or you’ll end up with lumps of dry ingredients. Gradually add the remaining wet ingredients until you have a smooth, liquid batter.

Pour the batter into your tin right away and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until the top is springy to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Remove the cake from its tin by running a small paring knife along the inside of the tin to release the cake. Or, if you have used a loose bottom tin, set the base of the tin on top of a tin of tomatoes, or similar, and gently push the sides of the cake tin down. Wash and dry your cake tin well, then line with cling film with plenty lapping over the sides and set aside.

Using a serrated bread knife (the longest one you have), score a horizontal line half of the way up the side of the cake and then slowly cut the cake into three layers.

Slide the bottom layer of sponge into the lined cake tin. Pipe a border of icing around the edges of the sponge, and then fill the center with a little more icing. Add the next layer of cake and continue to ice as before. Top with the remaining sponge, then pull up the sides of cling film and wrap up the cake tightly. You may want to cover with another layer of cling film to ensure it’s airtight. Place in the fridge and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. Leave any remaining icing at room temperature.

If you have left the cake to chill overnight, you may want to re-whip the icing. The icing will naturally deflate ever so slightly and benefits from a second whipping.

Once you have taken the cake out of the fridge remove it from its tin, set on a cake stand and peel off the cling film. Use a palette knife to ice the sides and top of the cake. Scatter flowers over the top, and serve.

(Tip: the cake batter can hold in the fridge for days and can be used for cupcakes)

Violet Icing

100g whole milk

1 tbsp violet syrup

190g unsalted butter, softened

750g icing sugar very well sieved (divide into 3 x 250g portions)

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Measure out the whole milk into a bowl and stir in the violet syrup.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 250g of the icing sugar until smooth. Gradually add the milk mixture, scraping the bottom of the bowl as needed, this is an important step.  Add another 250g of icing sugar and mix on a low speed for at least 3 minutes (set your timer). Add the lemon juice, if required, adding the remaining icing sugar and beat on medium- high for 3 minutes.

Claire Ptak’s Sesame Halva Cookies

Makes 15

100g tahini paste

125g unsalted butter, softened

125g golden caster sugar

½ tsp fine sea salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 egg

250g rice flour

¾ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)

200g halva, broken into pieces

150g white chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tablespoon sesame seeds, for topping

1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt for topping

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°Fan/350F/gas mark 4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the tahini, butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the salt and vanilla extract, and then beat in the egg. Add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)

Add the halva and white chocolate pieces, and mix these through the dough. Using an ice-cream scoop, portion on to your prepared trays and sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt. Bake in the oven for 15‑18 minutes.

(Tip: These can be made as far as placing the mixture on the baking tray and frozen (uncooked) and then removed and cooked from frozen when needed)

Claire Ptak’s Slab Pie

serves 12

560g plain flour, sifted

2 tsp fine sea salt

340g unsalted butter, cold

8 tablespoons iced water

4 tablespoons cream, for brushing

4 tablespoons caster sugar, for sprinkling

For the filling:

500g rhubarb cut into 1cm pieces

600g strawberries (quartered)

½ teaspoon salt

1 vanilla bean, scraped for vanilla beans

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

150g light, soft brown sugar

50g castor sugar

5 tablespoons cornflour

20g Sweet Cicely chopped

Whisk together the flour and salt. Add half the butter. Combine well using a cutting motion. Add the second half of the butter and rub in until your mix forms roughly pea-sized pieces.

Sprinkle over the iced water (holding back the ice) and toss it through the mix as you go. The dough should start to become raggedy and eventually, when all the water is added, it will come together into a ball. Divide the ball in half, wrapping each piece in cling film. Flatten them into squares and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours – any longer than this, put it in the freezer.

Next make your fruit filling. Mix all the ingredients together well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190°CFan. Butter, flour and line with parchment paper the base a baking sheet that measures 23 x 33cm.

Roll out one square of pastry on a lightly floured surface to roughly 28 x 38cm, pastry needs to be larger than the tin. Press the pastry down into the prepared sheet, then chill in the fridge while you roll out the other piece. The second pastry sheet (which will form the top of the pie) can be rolled out to 23 x 33cm.

Remove the chilled pastry and carefully fill it with the fillingmixture. It can come right up to about 2mm shy of the top of the tin but don’t let it overflow. Roll the top layer of pastry over the pie. Brush the pastry with cream. Fold or roll over the excess pastry and pinch to seal. Use a knife to pierce the top of the pie a few times. Put in your freezer or fridge for 20 minutes.

Brush the edge of the pie with the cream and sprinkle with caster sugar. Place some parchment paper underneath to catch the drips, and bake for about 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 160°CFan/180°C/350F/gas mark 4 for another 35-45 minutes or until golden and the bubbles of filling coming through are thick. Cool for at least 3 hours before slicing.

Letters

Past Letters