ArchiveNovember 21, 2020

The Joy of Food by Rory O’Connell

‘The Joy of Food’, Rory O’Connell’s excellent third book was published by Gill Books at the beginning of October. My signed copy arrived in the post, beautifully wrapped with a limited edition linen tea towel from Stable. That’s the gorgeous shop in Westbury Hall, off Dublin’s Grafton Street where I want to buy absolutely everything in the shop. The package also included several post cards of Rory’s line drawings that illustrate the pages of this enchanting book. All so beautifully chic and stylish.

I know what you’re thinking – Well, She would say that wouldn’t she? After all, Rory is Darina’s brother who co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School with her in 1983… True, but many of you who have been watching the accompanying series, The Joy of Food on RTE, will have realised that Rory is an exceptional talent….A curious chef with his own unique style, who not only loves to cook but also loves to share his knowledge, making him a much-loved teacher here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork.

For me, as his older sister, it’s a trip down memory lane, an extra fascinating element. We were both brought up in the little village of Cullohill in the rural midlands of Co.Laois by a mother (our Dad died when I was 14) who loved to cook yummy meals for us every single day. Simple but truly delicious comforting food, vegetables and fruit and berries from the kitchen garden. Chickens and eggs from our own hens, milk from the Kerry cow, meat from the local butcher, wild food in season…..This was our norm and was unquestionably where we learned to cook but also to appreciate the magic of food and its ability to enhance both our family life and the experience of friends and the students we share with.

The evocative introduction to the chapters in this new book gave me an even  deeper insight into my brothers psyche, his passion for good food, and superb ingredients in season. Memories of family picnics, foraging expeditions up Cullohill ‘mountain’ to gather hazelnuts, the importance of laying a beautiful table and lighting a candle, even when dining alone. Read about the difference a little bunch of flowers makes, I also loved his homage to the pestle and mortar, his musings on the joy of owning a few hens and was intrigued to read how much Jane Grigson’s book ‘Good Things’ meant to him because it’s my favourite too.

It’s packed with delicious sounding recipes, special tips and insight into how to use some less familiar ingredients e.g. sumac, perilla, shiso…..

I’ve chosen a few of my favourite seasonal recipes to tempt you. Don’t miss the Pantry and Preserving section towards the end of the book – a personalised copy would make a brilliant Christmas present.

Eggs stuffed with Mayonnaise and Nasturtium

Serves 4

4 eggs

3 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise

2 tablespoons finely chopped nasturtium leaves and flowers

2 green olives, stoned and halved or quartered

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To decorate

8-16 small nasturtium leaves

8 nasturtium flowers

8 slivers of green olive (2 olives will easily yield this)

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and add a good pinch of salt. Drop in the eggs carefully and boil for exactly 10 minutes. Remove immediately and chill in cold water.

Peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthways. Remove the hard yolks and place in a sieve over a bowl. Push the yolks through the sieve and then scrape the bottom of the sieve to ensure you have not wasted any. Add in the mayonnaise and chopped nasturtiums and mix well with a wooden spoon. Taste and correct seasoning. I find it is easy to over season stuffed eggs as the eggs have been salted in the cooking and the mayonnaise will have been salted in the making, so proceed with caution.

Use a teaspoon to drop and divide the egg yolk mixture into the hollowed out egg white. You could also use a piping bag fitted with a large plain or star nosel. Decorate each egg with a nasturtium flower and leaf. Finally place the sliver of green olive in a prominent place so that its sharp flavour does not come as a surprise to diners. By now the eggs embellished with flower and leaf should look like the smartest hat ready for the Chelsea Flower show or a day at the races.

Rory O’Connell’s Casserole Roast Pheasant with Jerusalem Artichokes and Indian Spices

Jerusalem artichokes have just come back into season.

Serves 4 -6

2 Pheasants oven ready

20g butter at room temperature

650g Jerusalem Artichokes, scrubbed and sliced in half lengthways

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves

Spice paste

1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, lightly roasted and finely ground

1 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 180°c/ 350°f/ gas 4

Mix all of the ingredients for the spice paste and reserve.

Heat a heavy casserole large enough for the two birds on a gentle heat until quite hot. Dry the skin of the birds and smear the butter over the breasts and legs and place them breast side down in the heated casserole. The breasts should sizzle on contact with the casserole, if they do not, remove and allow the casserole to become hotter. Equally you don’t want to burn the birds so make sure your heat is not too high. Allow the breasts to become a golden brown colour and then remove from the casserole and turn off the heat. Do not wash out the casserole at this point unless it has over-heated while browning the birds. Place half of the artichokes in the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Smear half of the spice paste over the breasts and legs of the birds and also a little into the cavity. Reserve the rest of the spice paste for another use. It will keep covered in the fridge for a week or freezes well. Place the remaining artichokes around the birds, season and cover with a tight fitting lid.

Place the casserole in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test to see if the birds are cooked by checking to see if the juices are clear between the thigh and the breast. I loosen the leg a little and push in a teaspoon to get some of the juices and then can accurately judge the colour of the juices. If they are a little pink, I usually pop the covered casserole back into the oven for another 10 minutes and test it again.

The dish is now finished and ready to serve with tender artichokes and delicious cooking juices that are the sauce. If you wish you can spoon off the small amount of fatty juices from the surface of the sauce.

I often leave them on the sauce. Carve the birds on to hot plates or a serving dish. Surround with the artichokes and pour over the bubbling hot juices and a sprinkle of chopped coriander.

Notes; I love to serve simple boiled green cabbage or curly kale with this dish. York is a wonderful variety of winter cabbage.

Rory O’Connell’s Roast Plums with Pomegranate Molasses and Crème Fraiche

Serves 4-6

8 blood plums

110g caster sugar

1 lemon

Pomegranate molasses

Crème Fraiche

Preheat oven to 180°c

Halve the plums leaving the stones intact in some of the halves and place in a close fitting baking dish. With a swivel top peeler, peel 5 strips of peel off the lemon and push in around the plums. Scatter on the sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice. Wet a piece of parchment paper under a tap and then squeeze out the excess moisture. Spread the dampened paper over the dish and down to cover the sides. Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the plums as the cooking times of plums will vary depending on the ripeness and the variety of plum being used. You want the plums to be perfectly soft but also still holding their shape. There should be beautiful burgundy coloured juices surrounding the cooked plums.

I like to serve the plums still slightly war, though they are also delicious served chilled. If plating them individually, serve with plenty of the cooking juices, a dessertspoon of crème fraiche and a drizzle of the pomegranate molasses. If serving family style, serve the crème fraiche and pomegranate molasses separately and ensure all diners also spoon lots of the delicious cooking juices over the plums.

Rory O’Connell’s Homemade Stem Ginger and Chocolate and Ginger Mendiants

Learn how Rory makes his own stem ginger from The Joy of Food and then make these delicious treats.

225g dark chocolate, 62% cocoa solids

50g stem ginger

Place the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl and sit over a saucepan of cold water. The bottom of the bowl should not be touching the water. Heat the water to a simmer and turn off the heat immediately. The chocolate will not be fully melted at this stage but the residual heat in the saucepan will melt the chocolate perfectly. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula. 

Remove the ginger from its syrup and dry well on kitchen paper. Cut into c 3ml dice.

 Lay a sheet of parchment or silicone paper on a baking tray. Spoon small blobs of the melted chocolate on to the paper – about the size of a 2 euro coin. Leave a little space between the chocolate blobs as they will expand slightly. Carefully scatter little dice of the ginger on to the chocolate. Allow to chill and set. 

Peel the mendiants off the paper and serve. 

Rory O’Connell’s Ginger, Lemon and Turmeric Cake

175g butter at room temperature

3 eggs

175g self-raising flour

150g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

30g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated


45g butter at room temperature

55g cream cheese

80g icing sugar

1 teaspoon of finely grated peeled fresh turmeric

2 teaspoons lemon juice

50g stem ginger, chopped into 1/3 cm dice

1 x 22cm cake tin

Preheat oven to 180°c. 

Brush the cake tin with a little melted butter and line the bottom with a disc of parchment paper. Dust the sides of the tins with a little flour and tap the tins to remove any excess. 

Place the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, lemon zest and ginger in a food processor. Using the pulse button, process the ingredients very briefly to achieve a creamy consistency. This may take as little as twenty seconds. Ensure that all of the flour from the base and sides of the processor are amalgamated evenly into the mixture.

Spread the mixture into the lined tin as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes or until the cake is risen, richly coloured and just barely starting to come away from the edges of the tin. Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the cake and retracting it. The skewer should come out of the cake clean.

Place the cake still in the tin on a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes before carefully removing from the tin and replacing on the wire rack.

To make the icing, place the butter, cream cheese and sieved icing sugar in a bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until a creamy and fluffy consistency is achieved. Add the turmeric and lemon juice and mix in gently. Chill the icing until you are ready to ice the cake. 

When the cake has completely cooled, remove the parchment paper and place on a flat serving plate. Spread the icing over the top of the cake achieving a gentle and swirly finish. Scatter the diced stem ginger over the icing as evenly as possible.

Serve the cake with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream.


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