ArchiveNovember 2021

Soup Bread Broth

What a tempting title for a cookbook published just as the Autumn weather begins to turn chilly.  Rachel loves soups, ‘there’s no better food to warm the heart and restore the soul.  Whether it’s smooth and silky, rustic and chunky or light and brothy, soup conjures up a feeling of cosiness and care for me’.  When she was a child, her Mum always had a pot of chicken or turkey stock on the go, ready to use as a base for the delicious soups for Rachel and her sister, Simone when they ran in from school.  The memory turned them both into avid soup-makers too. 

Rachel’s own home is also filled with soup lovers.  It’s the first thing she offers the children, if they’re feeling under the weather (after a hug, of course!).  Soup helps soothe everything from a sniffly cold to a tired body after a tough day.  Rachel’s daughter even takes broth or soup in a flask for her school lunch, a little bit of home from home. 

Rachel tells me that she loves rummaging in the fridge and seeing what needs to be used up and turned into a spontaneous soup – a great way to make the most of leftovers… So many cooked vegetables can be turned into a soup once you have just a few other ingredients to hand.  Cooked meat and seafood skills can also be transformed into a chunky broth or chowder with a little know-how, and leftover rice and pasta just love being given another lease of life in a beautiful bowl of soup. 

There’s also a brilliant and accompaniments and garnishes section to bling up a bowl of soup.  Different sauces, salsas, drizzles, oils and emulsions to liven up even the simplest soup, not to mention delicious crackers, croutons and crumbs.  There’s also a whole chapter of wonderful breads, plus some savoury buns, flatbreads, scones and muffins, including recipes for particular dietary needs.  Perfect to serve with a steaming bowl of soup, or simply to eat warm from the oven. 

Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (published by Penguin Michael Joseph – €25) 

Brussels Sprout Soup with Candied Bacon and Roasted Hazelnuts

A most Christmassy soup, with the candied bacon and roasted hazelnuts bringing a festive flavour and delicious crunch to the sprouts. To get ahead, make the soup in advance and freeze it. The candied bacon can be made hours in advance of serving, and the hazelnuts can even be roasted a couple of days ahead.

Serves 6

For the soup

50g butter

175g peeled and diced potatoes

175g peeled and diced onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

400g Brussels sprouts

1.1 litres chicken stock

250ml cream or milk, or a mixture

For the roasted hazelnuts

50g (2oz) hazelnuts

For the candied bacon

25g soft light brown sugar, such as

light Muscovado sugar

6 slices of streaky bacon (smoked if you wish)

First, make the soup. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.  When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, and stir to mix.  Cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper, then turn the heat down to low, cover with the saucepan lid and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the vegetables sticking and burning.

While the potatoes and onions are cooking, prepare the sprouts. Trim the base, remove and discard the outer two or three leaves, and slice the sprouts thinly. Set aside.

When the potatoes and onions have been cooking for 10 minutes, add the chicken stock and boil for 2–3 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Add the sliced sprouts to the pan and cook over a high heat, with the lid off, until tender, approximately 2–3 minutes. Do not overcook, or the sprouts will lose their fresh colour and flavour. Add the cream or milk and blend until smooth. If you want the soup to be a bit thinner, add a little more stock. Taste for seasoning.

To prepare the hazelnuts and the bacon, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.

Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 6–8 minutes, checking regularly, as they can burn quickly. To test them, take the tray out of the oven and carefully rub the skins off a few of them – the nuts should be golden underneath.  When ready, tip them out of the tray and on to a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins.  Discard the skins and chop the nuts coarsely.  Set aside until you’re ready to use them. 

To make the candied bacon, line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper.  Place the brown sugar in a bowl and dip both sides of the streaky bacon in it so that they are completely coated.  Use a little more sugar if you need to.  Cook for 5-6 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bacon is caramelized on both sides.  Remove from the oven and leave until cool and crisp.  Once crisp, break the bacon, or snip with scissors, into pieces about 1cm in size.

Reheat the soup gently until steaming, then pour into bowls and scatter over the roasted hazelnuts and candied bacon.  Serve immediately. 


For a Vegetarian version, you can use vegetable stock instead of chicken, and omit the candied bacon. 

If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to steaming point and serve.  Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups and also this soup’s smooth, silky texture. 

Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph – €25) 

Potato, Parsley and Thyme Soup with Chorizo

A potato soup is so versatile and works superbly with spices, fresh herbs, pestos and drizzles. I prefer to use floury potatoes, rather than waxy, for the lightest, silkiest consistency. If reheating this soup, avoid prolonged simmering, to retain its silky texture. This soup is also delicious unblended and served chunky.

Serves 4-6

25g butter

350g peeled and chopped potatoes

150g peeled and chopped onions

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

750ml chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon chopped thyme

250ml milk, or half milk and

half cream

75g chorizo

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat until it foams. Add the chopped potatoes and onions, season with salt and pepper, then stir well and cover with a butter wrapper or a piece of parchment paper. Add the pan lid and sweat over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes sticking.

Add the stock, bring to the boil, and cook until the vegetables are all tender. Add the chopped herbs and milk (or milk and cream), liquidize the soup and season to taste.

While the vegetables are cooking, peel the chorizo and cut into small dice. Pour the olive oil into a cool frying pan. Add the chorizo, then place the pan on a very low heat and gently cook for a few minutes, turning the chorizo every so often. Done over a very low heat like this, you’ll end up with beautifully cooked chorizo with the rich amber-coloured oils rendered out. You want both the oils and the chorizo itself for drizzling over the soup when serving. Take off when it is crisp, reserving the rendered oil.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, then pour into warm bowls and top with a few pieces of cooked chorizo, with a drizzle of the oil from the pan over the top.


You can use leftover mash in place of some or all of the raw potato, but instead of adding at the start, stir it in when the milk goes in and continue as above. Other leftover vegetables, such as cooked carrots, broccoli, parsnips or even spinach, can be added with the milk, keeping in mind that you may need extra stock and milk to thin it out at the end.

Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph) 

Oxtail Soup with Gremolata

Oxtail is a great but often under-used cut of beef. There isn’t a huge amount of meat on an oxtail, but what you do get is deliciously rich and flavoursome. The intensely refreshing gremolata cuts 1hrough and complements the richness perfectly. A wonderful bowl of soup for a blustery day.

Serves 10–12

2–3 tablespoons olive oil

1.5kg oxtail, cut into pieces (see note at end of recipe), and trimmed of excess fat

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, peeled and chopped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced 2 large cloves of garlic

250ml red wine 1 bay leaf

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 litres beef stock

For the gremolata

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely grated

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Place a large saucepan or casserole pot on a high heat and allow to get hot. Drizzle in 1–2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the oxtail pieces in batches, adding a little more olive oil, if necessary, for 4–5 minutes in total, or until they are well browned all over, seasoning them with salt and pepper as they cook. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and tip in the chopped onion, carrots, celery and garlic, season with salt and pepper, then cover with a butter wrapper or a sheet of parchment paper and a tight-fitting lid and cook on a very gentle heat for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender.

Return the oxtail pieces to the pot and add the red wine, bay leaf, thyme, tomato purée and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper, then pour in the stock and bring slowly to the boil, skimming off any frothy impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat to very low, cover with the lid and gently simmer for about 3 hours, or until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Continue to occasionally skim off any impurities as well as any rendered fat.

Remove from the heat and strain through a colander over a large bowl to catch the liquid. Tip the meat and vegetables into a large, shallow bowl and leave to cool a little. Add a few ice cubes to the liquid and wait for the fat to rise to the top, then remove and discard it. Once the meat and vegetables are cool enough to handle, discard the bay leaf and thyme sprig and remove the meat from the oxtail bones.

Pour the liquid into a blender with the reserved vegetables and two-thirds of the meat (you may have to do this in batches) and blitz to a smooth soup, then return it to the pan. Add the remaining shards of meat and bring slowly to the boil.

Mix together the ingredients for the gremolata, then check the seasoning and serve the soup in warm bowls, with the gremolata scattered over the top.


To cut the oxtail into pieces, using a sharp knife, slice between the bones where they are connected to each other with tissue similar to ligament – it’s easier if you feel with your fingers first where the joints are. Where the oxtail is thick and wide, at the top end, cut at every joint, but where the oxtail is thin and skinny, cut at every second or third joint.

For an alcohol-free version of this soup, just omit the red wine and use extra stock, though do bear in mind that a lot of alcohol evaporates in cooking anyway.

Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph) 

Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Paprika

I love the combination of nutty cumin and smoky paprika used in Middle Eastern cuisine, which also works so well in this smooth and velvety soup. Topped with the roasted vegetables and the smoked paprika oil, this soup is supremely simple, completely delicious, and just perfect on a cold day.

Serves 6

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium parsnips (450g in weight)

1 small head of cauliflower

2 large red onions, peeled and cut into chunks

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.25 litres vegetable or chicken stock

For the smoked paprika oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Place the olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Cut the parsnips into quarters, remove and discard the tough cores, then cut them into 1cm chunks. Add these to the olive oil in the bowl. Now remove the tough outer green leaves from the cauliflower and cut off the base of the stem. Cut the cauliflower into florets and add these to the parsnips, along with the red onion chunks. Scatter over the smoked paprika, cumin and some salt and pepper and toss well together.

Lay the vegetables and all the oil in a single layer on a large roasting or baking tray and roast for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are golden around the edges, and tender.

Now remove 3 tablespoons of the vegetables (these will be scattered over the soup when serving, so save some nice-looking florets and parsnip and onion chunks) and blend the remaining vegetables with the stock until smooth, adding more stock if it is a bit thick. Pour into a saucepan, heat through and season to taste.

Mix the smoked paprika with the olive oil and set aside.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, then serve in bowls, with a few pieces of roast vegetables arranged on top and a drizzle of smoked paprika oil.


I use sweet smoked paprika for this soup, but you can also use hot smoked paprika.

Soup Broth Bread by Rachel Allen (Penguin Michael Joseph) 

Guinness Bread

A delicious wholemeal bread that has a deep, dark flavour from the Guinness or Irish stout. This recipe uses a whole 500ml can of stout to make 2 loaves, but you can make just one loaf by halving the recipe. The bread will freeze well if frozen when fresh, and if you like you can cut the loaf into slices before freezing.

Makes 2 x 450g loaves

800g coarse wholemeal flour

100g plain flour

50g rolled oats

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

2 eggs

500ml Guinness or Irish stout

200ml buttermilk

2 teaspoons brown sugar, treacle or molasses

50g butter, melted, or 50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame, poppy, pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6. Brush the inside of two 2lb loaf tins with some olive oil or melted butter and set aside.

Place the wholemeal flour, plain flour, oats and salt in a large, wide mixing bowl. Sift in the bicarbonate of soda and mix everything together. Make a well in the centre.

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then add the Guinness, buttermilk, brown sugar (or treacle or molasses) and the butter or olive oil. Whisk to mix.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones (making sure to scrape out the wet bowl), then, using one hand in a claw position, mix everything together until combined.

Tip the mixture into the loaf tins, then gently shake the tins and cut down the centre of the loaves with a knife – this helps to give an even rise in baking. Scatter with seeds if you wish and bake in the preheated oven for 60–70 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when gently tapped on the base. I like to remove them from their tins for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, to get a nice crust on the bottom. 

Cool on a wire rack. If you want a softer crust, wrap the bread in a clean tea towel until cool, as soon as it comes out of the oven.


Despite the times that are in it, we have seven nationalities with us here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for the Autumn 12-Week Program. All have of course fully quarantined having made the long and tortuous journey from the other side of the world to come to a cookery school in the midst of an organic farm in East Cork to learn how food is produced from the much-hackneyed phase ‘from the farm to the fork’. 

They are of course learning how to cook and bake but also how to keep hens, milk cows, make cheese, smoke food, make charcuterie, pickles and ferments as well as wonderful 48 hour naturally fermented sourdough bread.  They are snapped up after the intensive course by restaurants, catering businesses and publishing houses around the world. 

Excitement is gathering for our American students as they look forward to celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of November.

Thanksgiving is almost bigger than Christmas in the US, I only recently discovered the history of this flamboyant feast and celebration.

According to my students, The Pilgrim Fathers arrived in New England in 1620 having crossed the wild Atlantic to America. They almost starved during their first harsh winter, so when the first harvest was gathered, they had a celebratory feast to thank the good Lord and Mother Nature.   This became known as Thanksgiving and is still celebrated every year on the last Thursday of November by Americans both at home and abroad.  This year, 2021, it will be on November 25th

Americans crisscross the country and the globe to join their family and loves ones.  They feast on turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potato, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie.  Another bizarre favourite is sweet potato casserole with marshmallows.  The latter is quite the leap of faith for us but apparently, it isn’t Thanksgiving without this bizarre sounding dish, so pick up courage and try it, you may find that it is super delicious as my American students predicted.

Every family has their own favourite stuffing and traditions.  Column inches are written every year to encourage readers to try lots of variations on the theme.  The turkey in particular can be cooked in an ever-evolving number of ways.  One way or another, dry or wet brine the bird for 6-8 hours, this really enhances the flavour.  Then stuff with your favourite ‘dressing’. Alternatively spatchcock the bird and slather with spices or a gutsy herb butter. Best fun of all is to deep-fry the turkey, sounds terrifying but I have to tell you, it’s delicious. You’ll need a large deep saucepan and a powerful gas burner.  Don’t attempt this in the house, best to experiment in the garage or outdoors if the weather is clement.  Fill the deep saucepan with oil or dripping, gently dunk the turkey up and down a few times before submerging in the hot oil.  Keep a good eye on progress, this is more of a ‘macho thing’ – it’ll take about 45-50 minutes to cook through.  The skin will be a crisp mahogany colour and irresistible and the flesh, moist and juicy – extraordinary!

We surely need another celebration and indeed, despite the challenges, many of us have much to be grateful.  Let’s gather our families around us, give thanks and remember those who are no longer with us … 

Here are a few tried and tested recipes that friends and students have shared with me over the years. 

Happy Thanksgiving.

Brine for Turkey

6 litres (10 1/2 pints) water

600g (1 1/4lb) salt

Brine the turkey overnight, not essential but it makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.

*Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve.  Put the turkey into a deep stainless-steel saucepan, bucket or a plastic bucket.   Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours.  Drain and dry well.  This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.  

Deep-Fried Turkey for Thanksgiving

Who but the Americans would have thought of deep-frying a turkey?  Bet you are deeply skeptical, so was I but I’ve become quite an enthusiast, it is such fun and a much faster way to cook the bird.  So how about trying out this method but NEVER leave the deep-fryer unattended.

1 x 4.4 – 5.4kG (10-12lb) organic or free-range turkey, brined (see recipe) (Remove the giblets before brining – use the neck, heart and gizzard to make stock to use for gravy.  The liver makes a delicious smooth pâté or parfait.)

oil to cover (in America, they usually peanut oil – pomace oil is also good)

To cook the bird, you’ll need a large deep pot, preferably with a turkey tray, lift hook and thermometer.  If you don’t already have a suitable pot, there are several options on the internet so get GOOGLING.  Grill gloves or thick oven mitts are also worth having.

Carefully choose a safe, level spot preferably concrete on your patio or close to the door in the garage.  Set up the gas burner and cylinder.  Remove the turkey from the brine.  Lift the empty saucepan onto the propane burner.  Lower the turkey into the pot, cover with water, mark the level on the side of the pot – the waterline should be at least 10 – 12.5cm (4-5 inches) from the top of the pot. 

Remove the turkey onto a tray, pour out the water and dry the pot.  Fill to the water mark with oil.  Turn on the heat and warm the oil gradually to 190˚C/375˚F.  Meanwhile, drain and dry the bird meticulously both inside and out.  Insert the lifting hook and impale the turkey neck downwards on the tray (there are several designs so follow instructions on your model.) 

When the temperature reaches 190˚C/375˚F, turn off the heat. 

Gently and GRADUALLY lower the turkey into the hot oil.  Relight the burner, maintain the oil temperature at 180˚C/350˚F and cook for 40-45 minutes allowing 3 – 3 1/2 minutes per 450g (1lb).

Slowly and carefully, lift the turkey out of the hot oil allowing it to drain over the pot for a few seconds and transfer to a tray.  Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh).  The internal temperature should read 75˚C/165˚F.  Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Serve on a large platter.  Carve and serve with all the trimmings.

Be super careful, maybe prudent to keep a fire extinguisher close by and I REPEAT, NEVER LEAVE UNATTENDED!

Note: Allow to oil to cool completely, strain through a fine metal sieve, store for future use.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole

Jared Batson from Chicago shared this recipe from Prairie Grass Café. They piped a meringue mixture on the top of individual ramekins for each guest during thanksgiving time. They loved it…

Serves 8-10

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) sweet potatoes, washed with skin on (OR use half sweet potatoes and half butternut squash)

2 eggs

75g (3oz) butter (melted)

2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

pinch of ground clove

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 cups miniature marshmallows

25g (1oz) pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

20.5cm x 20.5cm (8 x 8 inch) baking dish

Pierce the skins of the sweet potatoes with a fork. Bake sweet potatoes (whole) (and squash flesh side down if using) on a baking tray with parchment paper for 45-60 minutes or until a small knife easily pierces through the flesh without resistance. Cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes.

Meanwhile, lower the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature. Scoop out the flesh of the potatoes being careful not to include any parts of the skins. Pass through a mouli and whip in the beaten eggs, melted butter, sugar and spices. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish. Top with the marshmallows and then with chopped pecans if desired. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until top is golden-brown and the mixture is nice and hot. Serve immediately.

Traditional Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse and as a filling for a meringue roulade.

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries (look out for the Irish grown cranberries)

4 tablespoons water

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a small heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water.  Don’t add the sugar yet, as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.


Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

The sauce should be soft and juicy. Add a little warm water if it has accidentally overcooked.

Green Bean Casserole with Mushrooms

This is super delicious, but I must admit I tweaked the recipe….  The original was made with packet of mushroom soup, freeze dried onions and frozen beans … this is even better…!

Serves 4-6

50g (2oz) butter

350g (12oz) onion, finely chopped

900g (2lbs) mushrooms, sliced

225ml (8fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

Roux (see recipe)

Green Beans

900g (2lbs) French beans

1.2 litres (2 pints) water

3 teaspoons sea salt

25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

Crispy Onions

700g (1 1/2lb) of onions, peeled and sliced into rounds.

25g (1oz) butter

4 tablespoons olive oil


50g (2oz) flaked almonds

First make the mushroom sauce.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams.  Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured.  Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a little butter, in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.  Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.  Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the milk and cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes.  Thicken with a little roux to a light coating consistency.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Next cook the crispy onions.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan, add the olive oil, toss in the onions and cook stirring regularly on a medium heat until golden and crisp – 10 minutes approximately.

Meanwhile, prepare and cook the beans.

Choose beans of a similar size.  Top and tail the beans. If they are small and thin leave them whole, if they are larger cut them into 2.5- 4cm (1- 1 1/2 inch) pieces at a long angle.

Bring the water to a fast-rolling boil, add 3 teaspoons of salt then toss in the beans. Continue to boil very fast for 5-6 minutes or until just cooked (they should still retain a little bite). Drain immediately.  Taste, season with freshly ground pepper and a little sea salt if necessary.

To finish.

Heat the mushroom sauce, stir in the beans and transfer to a gratin dish.  Sprinkle the top with crispy onions and flaked almonds and heat through in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.


110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Eoin Cluskey’s Pumpkin Pie

The recipe for this delectable Pumpkin Pie came from the same Eoin Cluskey, who is the brainchild behind Bread 41 in Pearce St in Dublin where there is a continuous queue for the sourdough bread and irresistible pastries. He did a 12 Week Course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Autumn 20212. Thanks for sharing Eoin …. 

Serves 8


200g (7oz) plain flour

100g (3 1/2oz) butter

50ml (2fl oz) water

pinch of salt


300g (11oz) pumpkin flesh (finely chopped) (variety – Uchiki Kuri)

225g (8oz) golden syrup

75-100g (3 – 3 1/2oz) pumpkin skin

80g (3oz) breadcrumbs

juice and zest of 1 lemon

pinch of ground ginger

23cm (9 inch) round tart tin

First make the pastry.

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

Using a fork to stir, add just enough water to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Flatten into a round and wrap in parchment paper and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes. 

Once rested, roll out, line the tart tin and retain the excess pastry. Line the tin with parchment paper and fill with baking beans and chill for 5-10 minutes in a refrigerator.

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

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.

Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-10 minutes or until almost cooked. Cool.

Peel the pumpkin and set aside the skin (keep the seeds for roasting for a healthy snack).  Finely chop the flesh.  Heat the golden syrup in a pan and add the pumpkin flesh, lemon zest and juice.  Bring this mixture to the boil and remove from the heat.   Blitz the breadcrumbs and pumpkin skin in a food processor and add a pinch of ground ginger.   Mix the bread crumb/pumpkin skin mixture into the pumpkin flesh/syrup mixture.

Fill the tart case with this pumpkin mixture and decorate as your wish with the left-over pastry – lattice, leaves etc.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.  Cool, remove from the tin.

Serve either warm or cold with softly whipped cream.

Guest Chef Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes

We were all super excited at Ballymaloe Cookery School this week, we’ve just had our first guest chef for almost two years.

Claire Ptak from Violet Cakes and Café on London’s Wilton Way taught a sparkling class for the current 12 Week Course students and it was beamed out to her many fans all over the world on Ballymaloe Cookery School Online.

Claire, who comes from California, started her career on a market stall in Broadway Market in Hackney. This was in 2005, soon she became known as the Cupcake Queen. People flocked to buy her adorable mini cupcakes in many flavours, made with beautiful, mostly organic ingredients. All were cooked in her tiny home kitchen but in 2010 Violet Bakery and Café was born. Claire baked a range of beautiful cakes with exquisitely pure ingredients, best Madagascar vanilla pods, pure cane molasses, Valrhona chocolate and limited-edition buttercream flavoured with freshly brewed espresso, homemade fruit cordials and dark caramel with sea salt. The flavours of the cakes reflect the season.  She constantly experiments with flavour combinations as new foods become available.

Claire has a very unique flamboyant icing style which looks effortlessly rustic but is quite difficult to achieve. She is the acknowledged master of the delicious ‘imperfect cake’ – no fondant icing here…!

Claire didn’t just ‘pop-up’. She’s been obsessed with baking since she was little, she had her first holiday job at a local bakery in Point Reyes in California when she was just 14.  Some years later, when Alice Waters tasted her baking, she offered her a job on the spot and so Claire became pastry chef at the iconic Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse.  Here, she was intrigued by the variety of exquisite seasonal berries and peaches, five different types of limes, and the nuanced flavours that influenced the food.

Word of the flavour of Claire’s cakes and café food spread around London like wildfire. She developed a cult following but it wasn’t until she was chosen to make Harry and Meaghan’s cake that her fame went global.

Claire introduced us to several new ingredients in her class.  She used blonde chocolate from Valrhona to make her Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies – it tastes like caramelised white chocolate – a new flavour for me but destined to become a new favourite…

She loves to use spelt and kamut flour and dark brown sugar for some of her cakes and is really into sheet pan cakes at present. Sheet pan cakes are made in a rectangular tin with approx. 5cm (2 inch) and are brilliant for portioning and icing. Try this bubble cake that blew everyone away at the class. The Roast Quince and Mascarpone Cake took quite a bit of making but was so worth the effort for a really special cake. You’ll also love the Autumn Carrot Cake with prunes and walnuts and the killer Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you’d like to watch Claire’s class, you can sign up on the website to view the recording via or call the Cookery School on 021 4646785 for more information.

Meanwhile, check out Violet Cakes on Instagram – @violetcakeslondon

Chocolate Bubble Cake

Makes one layer 20 x 30cm (8 x 11 inch) deep rectangular cake tin.

Serves 20-24

For the cake

330g (generous 11 1/2oz) plain flour

150g (5oz) cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 1/4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

520g (scant 1.1lbs approx.) caster sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

300g (10oz) plain yoghurt

150g (5oz) vegetable oil

340g (scant 12oz) hot water

For the marshmallow icing

5 egg whites (200g/7oz)

340g (scant 12oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) golden syrup

a pinch of fine sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


gold leaf (optional)

fresh flower petals for example Marigolds and/or Johnny Jump Ups

Preheat the oven to 160˚C/320˚F/Gas Mark 3/ (Fan – 140˚C/275˚F/Gas Mark 1). Butter and line your cake tin with enough greaseproof paper to come up the sides of the tin, this will help to remove the cake later.

Measure the dry ingredients, including the 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).

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Starting in the middle of the bowl, whisk in a clockwise, circular motion. Don’t switch direction or you’ll end up with lumps. Gradually whisk together until you have a smooth but thick batter.

Whisk in the hot water until smooth.

Pour the batter into your pan right away and bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is springy to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin.

Once the cake has cooled, prepare the marshmallow. Have ready your mixer with a whisk attachment.

Measure all of the ingredients into a metal bowl and place over a saucepan of boiling water (do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl or it will cook the egg whites). Whisk continuously until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is very warm to the touch. Use a thermometer and whisk continuously until it reads 72°C or 70°C (162˚F or 158˚F) for two minutes, whichever comes first. Transfer the mix into the bowl of your electric mixer and whisk on high speed until nearly stiff peaks form.

Put the icing into a piping bag with a large round nozzle and pipe 20-24 big bubbles in rows over the top of the cooled cake. Use a tiny sieve to dust a strip of cocoa powder lengthwise across the cake.  Decorate with flakes of gold leaf and a scattering of fresh flower petals.

Quince and Mascarpone Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

All Claire’s cakes at Violet are based on the seasons, this luscious confection could also be served as a dessert.

Serves 12-14

For the Roasted Quince

2 quinces

150g (5oz) sugar

4 tablespoons water

100g (3 1/2oz) fresh orange juice

peel from 2 oranges

8 cardamom pods, pounded open to release the black seeds

1 cinnamon stick

1 vanilla bean, scraped

For the Sponge

500g (18oz) caster sugar     

150g (5oz) unsalted butter, softened   

100g (3 1/2oz) sunflower oil/vegetable oil   

4 eggs (240g/8 1/2oz in weight)  

320g (generous 11 1/2oz) milk    

1 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

500g (18oz) plain flour        

1 tablespoon baking powder        

1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

For the Mascarpone Filling

400g (14oz) mascarpone cheese

200g (7fl oz) double cream

60g (2 1/2oz) icing sugar, sifted

For the Buttercream (can be frozen)

1 vanilla bean

9 egg whites (350g/12oz in weight)

600g (1 1/4lbs) dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

900g (2lbs) unsalted butter

3 x 23cm (9 inch) cake tins

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

Peel the quince and cut them into wedges by cutting them in half from top to tail and then cutting each half into three. Spread the wedges out in a single layer in a large, heavy-bottomed gratin or roasting dish. Sprinkle with the sugar and cover with water and orange juice. Add the zest, cardamom seeds and pods, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean pod and seeds. Toss all the ingredients together in the roasting tin to make sure the quince is nicely coated in the spices. Cover tightly with a lid or upturned tin.  Roast in the preheated oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, or until a deep pinky-orange and tender to the touch. If it’s still firm, leave it in a little longer. Cool completely in the tin.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3 (Fan – 150˚C/300˚/Gas Mark 2). Grease and line three 23cm (9 inch) cake tins.

In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and oil until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until combined.

In a jug weigh out milk and vanilla and set aside. Add half of the dry flour mix to the butter mix and combine. Then add half of the milk mixture, mix well, scrape down thoroughly. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix. Add the remaining milk mixture and combine.

Divide the batter between the cake tins.  Tap gently on the worktop to release the air bubbles and bake for 25-28 minutes or until golden and springy to touch.

While the cake is baking, make the mascarpone filling. Whisk all the ingredients together until fluffy, being careful not to overmix. Keep this in the fridge until ready to use.

Next prepare your icing.

Beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft and pale, set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt over a bain-marie until the sugar is dissolved, the mixture is frothy and it reaches 75°C/167˚F.

Fit the bowl to your mixer and whisk until cool and peaks form. Add the soft butter in batches, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla and whisk until smooth, it may break but it will come together again, whisk until stiff.

Once the cakes are completely cool you can begin to assemble the cake. Use a paring knife to remove the core of the quince and thinly slice the quince. Line a deep 23cm (9 inch) cake tin with parchment paper, place one layer of sponge inside the lined tin and drizzle with some of the sieved roasting liquid from the quinces.  With a round nozzle, pipe a ring of Swiss meringue buttercream around the edge of the cake and then Put a thin layer of the sliced roasted quince within the centre. Spoon half the mascarpone filling over the cake. Repeat with the second layer of sponge, border of icing, fruit and mascarpone.

Place the final layer of cake into the tin and bring the sides of the parchment paper up. Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour, this will make it much easier to ice.

Remove the cake from the fridge and place on to a plate or stand and ice the top and sides with the rest of your Swiss meringue buttercream. Chill or serve right away.

Autumn Carrot Cake with Prunes and Walnuts

A delicious riff on the usual carrot cake.

1 Sheet Cake – serves 12

For the cake

4 eggs, separated plus 1 whole egg

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

200g (7oz) light brown sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) unsalted butter, softened

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

500g (18oz) grated carrots (700g/1 1/2lbs before peeling)

150g (5oz) walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

150g (5oz) Armagnac-soaked prunes, turn into quarters

zest of 1 orange

315g (10 1/2oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout

For the frosting

375g (13oz) unsalted butter, softened

600g (1 1/4lbs) cream cheese, brought to room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

200g (7oz) icing sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 walnuts for decoration (untoasted)

Butter and line a deep baking tin (24cm x 32cm/9 1/2 x 11 3/4 inch) and heat the oven to 170°C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3 (Fan – 150°C/300˚F/Gas Mark 2).

Separate your eggs. Put the whites aside to whip up later with the 100g (3 1/2oz) of caster sugar.

In another bowl, add the yolks, whole egg, brown sugar, soft butter, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk well together and to this add your grated carrots, toasted chopped walnuts, torn prunes and orange zest. Mix well with a wooden spoon and set aside.

In a large bowl, weigh out the remaining dry ingredients and whisk them together well. To this add your wet mixture. Mix together well.

Finally whip your egg whites with the caster sugar into lovely soft peaks. Fold this mixture into the cake mixture until fully combined. Spoon into your prepared baking dish and smooth the top. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the cake has some spring. Allow the cake to cool completely in the tin. Once cool, remove from the tin and place on a serving plate.

To make the icing, whip together the very soft butter and cream cheese. Add the remaining ingredients and whip with the whisk attachment until fluffy.    Cover the cake with the frosting. Decorate with grated walnuts.  Alternatively, with a sharp serrated knife, slice the cake into 12 squares before frosting and pipe a wiggle of cream cheese icing diagonally with a petal tip or your favourite nozzle.  Then grate a little fresh walnut over the top with a fine microplane zester.  Serve on flatted cupcake cases if desired. 

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Crisp outside, gooey inside…these might just be the ultimate choc chip cookies – plus they can be cooked from frozen.

Makes 21

200g (7oz) light brown sugar

150g (5oz) caster sugar

350g (12oz) plain flour

100g (3 1/2oz) cocoa powder (Dutch)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate powder

3/4 teaspoons sea salt

250g (9oz) unsalted butter, soft

350g (12oz) blonde (caramelised white chocolate)

OR USE 180g (6 1/4oz) blonde Valrhona chocolate (caramelised white chocolate) or white chocolate (Valrhona is our favourite)  

AND 180g (6 1/4oz) milk chocolate (Valrhona is our favourite)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Maldon sea salt for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/Gas Mark 5 (Fan – 170˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3).

Combine the dry ingredients in your mixer on a low speed with the paddle attachment fitted, don’t overmix.

Add the soft butter and mix until a sandy texture forms.

Add the chocolate discs, eggs and vanilla extract and mix until a dough forms.

Use a cookie scoop to scoop the dough into balls.

You can bake right away or from frozen.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Arrange just 6 cookies on the tray to allow them to spread during cooking.  Sprinkle each with a few flakes of sea salt.

Bake for 14 minutes, tapping the tray on the oven rack twice during the baking time. This helps the cookie to flatten and the chocolate to spread, whilst remaining gooey in the middle.  Leave to cool on the tray for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Serve chocolate chip cookies warm or a room temperature

Note: Uncooked dough keeps for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Food On The Edge

Recently, I spent an amazing two days at Food On The Edge, meeting and listening to an inspirational group of chefs, food activists, artisan bakers, millers, heirloom seed producers, food archaeologists and leading thinkers chosen for their passion and drive and their ability to inspire chefs around the world.  The theme this year was Social Gastronomy. 

Some speakers like Bill Schindler, Arlene Stein from Canada, Gísli Matt from Iceland, Petra and Paul Moinea from Romania and Anissa Helou were present in person.  Others like Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat flew in from Septime in Paris to deliver their presentations while others like Alice Waters from Chez Panisse delivered their fifteen-minute talk virtually from San Francisco, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Mexico, Ghana, India, Peru and London…The Happy Pear twins, Stephen and David Flynn were there, exuding energy as ever, living examples of the benefits of eating real food and living the good life, while spreading the message of a plant-based diet. 

The seventh edition of FOTE, the brainchild of Michelin chef, JP McMahon was appropriately held at Airfield Estate, a working urban farm of 38 acres in Dundrum.  A superb educational facility with a mission ‘to inspire and enable people to make food choices that benefit people, planet and pockets’.  Much of the delicious food for the event came directly from the farm and gardens and was curated by Luke Matthews in conjunction with Gather and Gather.

Virtually all the speakers referred to the lessons learnt during the Pandemic by a sector that hitherto considered itself to be ‘unshakeable’.  There was a realisation that much of the current staff shortage crisis had been brought on by the industry itself over many years of unacceptable kitchen culture and poor conditions.   A chastened industry is now determined to create optimum working conditions for our ‘second family’, so they feel valued and fulfilled!  ‘The job must be rebooted – it’s all about the team’.  Other speakers shone a light on the challenges for women chefs, the ‘Me Too’ movement and LGBT issues.

There was an emphasis on sharing and exchanging knowledge.  Chefs were also focusing on reducing food waste in restaurant kitchens.  Joshua Evans of the Novel Fermentations Research Group and senior researcher at the Danish Technical University’s Center for Biosustainability in Copenhagen urged chefs to be leaders and rethink waste – ‘No such thing as waste, just another product’.  Joshua, along with his colleagues at The Nordic Food Lab has spent years researching and relearning and experimenting with fermentation techniques, preserving and enhancing the nutrient value of what many would hitherto consider to be waste food. 

Incorporating wild foraged and fermented foods into menu’s is an exciting ‘new’ area for a growing number of cool chefs. 

Ellie Kisyombe and Michelle Darmody who created the ‘My Table’ project where refugees and asylum seekers can cook and share their food, focused on the importance of creating cooking facilities in direct provision centres so residents can cook their indigenous food for their children and themselves.  Dee Laffan, Mei Chin and Blanca Valencia of ‘Spice Bags’ also highlighted the not to be missed opportunity for the sharing of food cultures with the ‘new Irish’ and the conditions needed for that to become a reality.

Several other speakers including myself focused on the vital importance of teaching children to cook from an early age so they experience the joy of delicious food and are equipped with the practical life skills to feed themselves properly.

Others like Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills in South Carolina were making valiant efforts to recover heirloom and landrace varieties of grains and seeds that withstand the rapidly changing conditions as climate change accelerates. 

There was so much more – 40 speakers in total, all the presentations will be online shortly –

Baked Goat Cheese with Garden Salad

This recipe has stood the test of time – it’s been on the menu at Chez Panisse since it opened and comes from ‘Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook’ published by Random House Inc. now a collector’s item.

Serves 4

3-4 x 6cm (2 1/2 inch) rounds of fresh goat’s cheese, each about 1cm (1/2 inch) thick

175ml (6fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 teaspoon dried thyme

110g (4oz) approx. fine dry breadcrumbs

2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

16 garlic croutons

about 4 handfuls garden lettuces (rocket, lamb’s lettuce, small oak leaf and red leaf lettuces, chervil)

Marinate the goat cheese in 50ml (2fl oz) of the extra virgin olive oil with the sprigs of fresh thyme for 24 hours.  Mix the dried thyme with the breadcrumbs.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining olive oil into 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar until the vinaigrette is balanced and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Wash and dry the lettuces.  Make the garlic croutons.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

To bake the goat cheese, remove from the olive oil marinade and then dip them in the breadcrumbs.  Put the cheese on a lightly oiled baking dish and bake in the preheated oven for about 6 minutes, until the cheese is lightly bubbling and golden brown.

Meanwhile, toss the lettuces with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat them and arrange them on round plates.  Place the cheese in the centre of the plates with the browner side up and arrange the croutons around the cheese.

Garlic Croutons

1 baguette cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices

50ml (2fl oz) melted butter

2-3 cloves of garlic

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

To prepare the croutons, brush each slice of baguette with melted butter and bake in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes until the croutons are light golden brown.  Rub each crouton with a cut clove of garlic while they are still warm. 

Crab with Smoked Cheese Custard

Recipe taken from The Irish Cook Book By JP McMahon published by Phaidon

Serves 4

250g (9oz) crabmeat

extra virgin rapeseed oil

zest and juice of 1 lemon

sea salt

For the Cheese Custard

150ml (5fl oz) double cream

150ml (5fl oz) milk

100g (3 1/2oz) Irish smoked cheese, grated

4 egg yolks

chopped chives and seaweed powder, to garnish (optional)

To make the custard, add the cream, milk and cheese to a medium pan over a medium heat and bring to the boil.  Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, bring a separate medium pan of water to the boil.

Add the egg yolks to a large heatproof bowl and gradually pour the hot cream mixture over the eggs, whisking all the time to avoid scrambling.  Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and cook for about 20 minutes until the custard thickens.

Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.  Season to taste.

Pick through the crabmeat for shell and season with the oil, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt.  Place the crab in the bottom of four bowls and pour the custard over the top.  Refrigerate for 2 hours until set.

Serve garnished with chopped chives and seaweed powder if you wish.

Squash and Oyster Mushrooms

Recipe taken from The Irish Cook Book By JP McMahon published by Phaidon

Serves 4

2 small pumpkins or butternut squash

rapeseed oil

a few sprigs of thyme

150g (5oz) oyster mushrooms, thickly sliced and scored

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

edible flowers and fresh herbs such as parsley, fennel, sage or thyme, to serve (optional)

sea salt

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

Halve the squash horizontally and scoop out the seeds.  In a roasting pan, coat the squash with oil, season with salt and add the thyme. Put into the preheated oven and roast for about 25 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan (skillet) over a medium heat and fry the mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Add the butter towards the end of the cooking time and finish with parsley.  Place the mushrooms in the centre of each piece of squash.  Garnish with some fresh herbs and serve.

Vietnamese Coconut and Tempeh Curry

Taken from The Happy Health Plan by David & Stephen Flynn published by Penguin Life

This is a deliciously simple curry!  Tempeh is a fermented soy bean block, originally from Indonesia.  We know it’s not a very appealing description, but when prepared right, this dish is packed with flavour and really filling.  Tempeh is not as readily available as tofu, but it can be found in most good health stores.  If you can’t find it, just replace it with tofu.  We like to serve this curry with short-grain brown rice.

Serves 4

300g (10oz) sweet potatoes

400g (14oz) potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger

220ml (scant 8fl oz) full-fat coconut milk

400ml (14fl oz) water

juice of 2 limes

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

2 tablespoons curry powder

4 tablespoons tamari/soy sauce (make sure to use gluten-free soy sauce if you need to avoid gluten)

1 x 300g (10oz) pack of tempeh (if not available, substitute firm tofu/oyster mushrooms)

1/2 a head of pak choi

ground black pepper  

To Serve

a small bunch of spring onions/scallions (green part only)

a bunch of fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 (180˚C fan)

Chop the sweet potatoes and regular potatoes into bite-size pieces (leaving the skin on).  Put on a baking tray with a generous pinch of salt, mix well and bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.  Peel and finely dice the ginger.

To make the dressing, put the coconut milk, water, ginger, lime juice, maple syrup, curry powder and tamari/soy sauce into a blender and whizz until smooth.

Cut the tempeh/tofu into small cubes (around 1 1/2cm/2/3 inch) – the smaller they are, the more flavour each piece will have.  Put on a baking tray and dress with about half the dressing.  It’s important to mix the tempeh and the sauce well, to make sure each piece is full of flavour, and also to make sure that the tempeh is well spread out on the baking tray.  Put into the oven alongside the potatoes and bake for 20 minutes.  After 10 minutes, stir the tempeh to ensure that the dressing is well distributed.

Meanwhile, pour the other half of the dressing into a large pan – this will become the sauce for the dish, along with any remaining sauce from the baked tempeh.  Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and reduce to a simmer.

Once the tempeh and potatoes are done, transfer them into the pan of simmering sauce and mix well.  Finely chop the pak choi, removing the rub at the end, and add to the pan.

Remove from the heat, taste and season.  Finely slice the spring onions/scallions (make sure you just use the green tops) and fresh coriander and sprinkle them over the dish when serving.   

Heavenly Coconut Bars

Taken from The Happy Pear, Recipes for Happiness by David & Stephen Flynn published by Penguin Ireland

Growing up, Bounty Bars were always Dave’s favourite chocolate bars, so it was important that we created something equally delicious!  These are really easy to make, and as they are dairy and gluten-free, they’re perfect for everyone.  This recipe makes about 18 small bars, which might seem like a lot, but you’ll be surprised how quickly they disappear!

Makes 18 small bars

3 tablespoons coconut oil

4 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g (7oz) desiccated coconut

75g (3oz) ground almonds

a small pinch of sea salt

250g – 300g (9-10oz) dark chocolate

Put a medium-size saucepan on a medium heat and add the coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Heat until the coconut oil has melted, ensuring the liquid does not boil.

Put the desiccated coconut, ground almonds and salt into a mixing bowl and mix well.  Once the coconut oil has melted, add the heated liquid to the bowl and mix thoroughly.

Place some baking parchment on a baking tray and spread the coconut mixture over it.  Shape the mixture into a square shape roughly 20cm x 20cm x 2 1/2cm thick (8 inch x 8 inch x 1 inch thick).

Place the baking tray in the freezer for 20 minutes, for the mixture to harden.  After 20 minutes, the coconut bars should be firm enough to cut into sold bar shapes.  You should get about 18 small bars.

Next place the dark chocolate in a glass bowl and melt it over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stirring occasionally until it fully melts.  Remove from the heat.

We have found the best way to cover the coconut bars with chocolate is to place a bar on a palette knife or large knife and pour the chocolate over the bar with a spoon or ladle until fully coated.  Try to avoid dropping the coconut bars into the chocolate, as they will melt and make your chocolate lumpy with coconut.  Put a little chocolate on the bottom, repeat and leave to harden.  If you want ridged lines on the top of the bars, use a fork when the chocolate is still soft.  It will most likely take a few goes to get this right, but it is fun to practice!

Place the now coated bars on fresh parchment paper on a baking tray and pop them into the fridge for 10-15 minutes, to allow the chocolate to cool and harden.  


Past Letters