ArchiveMay 2023


Food is my subject so everywhere I go, I’m on the lookout for new ideas, new trends, delicious flavours, both new and traditional.…

Recently I popped over to Amsterdam, ostensibly to see the once-in-a-lifetime Vermeer exhibition, but also to get a flavour of the food scene.

I have an enviable hot list of restaurants, cafés, bakeries, markets, wine bars passed on to me by Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni from the Netherlands.

Amsterdam feels like it would be a wonderful city to live in, meandering canals, houseboats, beautiful, elegant houses with Dutch gables reflected in the water, cycle lanes…

My head was virtually on a swivel from looking to left and right but

I managed to survive a few days without ending up on the handlebars of a super fit ‘Dutchie’s’ bike…It’s notable how few people are overweight or obese.…

More and more of the cobbled streets are like gardens with cars hidden in underground car parks.

We were super lucky to get a last-minute cancellation for a table for lunch at De Kas, a plant to plate restaurant in a series of greenhouses dating back to the 1920’s, the dynamic kitchen crew create a menu of delicious, small plates every day from their homegrown fresh herbs, vegetables and local seasonal produce. Everyone was all agog because Obama had eaten there on the previous day. He too loves beautiful, fresh, seasonal food – put De Kass on your Amsterdam list.

Just round the corner from where we were staying in the Museum Quarter, we found a super chic café and shop called Edible Treasures where we met a lovely red-haired girl from Tipperary. The Saturday Zuider Farmers Market close by was really worth checking out for the quality of its produce, I stocked up on some aged Gouda and in the midst of it all on the fish stall was Harty’s oysters from Dungarvan! Cheese lovers shouldn’t miss Betsy Kosters shop, La Amusé and a visit to Duikelman is like a wander round Aladdin’s cave for cooks and chefs…

There’s so much to discover… Ballymaloe alumni, Florence Gramende’s bakery levain et le vin on Jan Pieter Heijestraat 168 bakes some of the very best bread and pastries in Amsterdam and there’s superb coffee and a fine selection of really interesting natural wines, this is just one of many really interesting bakeries in Amsterdam. Also loved LOOF where I happily joined a queue of 20 plus people to order a couple of their superb focaccia sandwiches. There was also a long queue at Brod, another notable artisan bakery. Don’t miss the original Holtkamp in a beautiful art deco shop for a dazzling selection of pastries and apparently the best meatballs in Amsterdam.

Zacht Staal, a properly authentic farm to table restaurant is a 30 minute drive out through the beautiful flat Dutch countryside. There we found yet another restaurant in a greenhouse in the midst of a 40-hectare organic farm with lots of cool cabins and pods constructed from mainly recycled materials to snuggle up in the midst of the long grass. The chef, Kees Elferink spent a number of years at Chez Panisse in Berkeley with Alice Waters before returning to the Netherlands to open several restaurants including Marius in Amsterdam. This is his newest venture and the food was super delicious, I particularly enjoyed it.

We took a 45 minute boat ride to the Lighthouse Island, Vuurtoreneiland … to have dinner at Zomerrestaurant, a repurposed army camp, an interesting experience. Another of my favourite meals was at Restaurant VRR in a converted shipyard workers canteen, the owner Sandar Overeinder also spent time with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in California which was evident in the many plates of delicious, fresh tasting food and really impressive list of natural wines.

We also loved having lunch overlooking the canal at Buffet van Odette and at Bambino, a natural wine bar and bistro with a mainly vegetable based menu. We didn’t manage to get to their sweet little sister restaurant BAK in the former timber port of Amsterdam Houthaven but it’s definitely on the list for next time – more simple seasonal dishes.

One doesn’t necessarily associate Amsterdam with delicious food, but I have to say that my perception has completely changed. We didn’t have enough meal slots to enjoy all the recommendations we got this time. Virtually everywhere we ate and drank, the food, coffee, wine and focaccia sandwiches were super delicious and really, really good…

Here are some of the delicious dishes we enjoyed and don’t forget frites and mussels…

Roast Peppers with Anchovies, Walnuts and Chervil

A delicious little starter, inspired by Café Bambino in Amsterdam. Use the best anchovies you can find.

Serves 2

2 plump organic red peppers

6 beautiful anchovies

4 or 5 whole walnuts

sprigs of fresh chervil 

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Chargrill the red peppers on a gas jet, turning frequently until blackened all over, they should be soft and tender and completely charred. Put into a bowl, cover tightly and allow to soften in the steam for about 10 minutes. Rub off all the skin, then remove the stalk and discard all the seeds.

Open out each pepper and arrange in a square on the base of two white plates. If necessary, trim the edges to neaten.

Lay three beautiful anchovies diagonally on top of each pepper.  Crack the walnuts and divide each half into two pieces. Arrange 6 or 7 quarter walnuts and 5 little sprigs of chervil on each one.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and serve with crusty sourdough bread or focaccia and good butter.

A Little Spring Salad

We’ve just picked the first of our new season, broad beans… bliss!

Once again inspired by a little starter at Café Bambino in Amsterdam.  The original was made with green peppers but we used red because we had no green in the pantry. 

Serves 6

110g (4oz) of feta crumbled 

150g (5oz) cream

a tiny bit of flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

and maybe a tiny drizzle of runny honey if needed

125g red onion, diced 7mm

125g (4 1/2oz) white radish or mooli, diced 7mm (1/3 inch)

125g (4 1/2oz) organic green pepper, diced 7mm (1/3 inch)

125g (4 1/2oz) blanched and peeled broad beans (1/3 inch)

a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

a good squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

fresh dill and flowers when available.

Place the finely crumbled feta and cream into a food processor and blitz lightly until really smooth. Taste and season with a very little flaky sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of runny honey if necessary. Mix, taste and tweak.

Dice the red onion, put into a sieve and rinse well in cold water, allow to drain.

Wash, peel and dice the white radish or mooli and green pepper, put into a bowl. 

Add the drained red onion and broad beans, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a little flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sprinkle with coarsely chopped dill. Toss, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

To Serve

Spread a generous tablespoon of feta cream on the base of each plate, sprinkle a pile of the chopped salad on top, add a few more sprigs of dill and a few fresh dill flowers if available.

Enjoy with good crusty bread. 

Dutch Cheese Croquettes

The Dutch love croquettes of all kinds – meatballs and fish fritters…

Makes about 20 croquettes

450ml (16fl oz) whole milk

225g (8oz) roux (equal quantities of butter and flour – melt the butter and cook the flour for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally)

2 egg yolks

225g (8oz) Gouda or mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1 heaped tbsp snipped fresh chives (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dijon mustard

For the coating

100g (3 1/2oz) plain flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large egg

dried breadcrumbs, toasted

To Serve

Ballymaloe Country Relish or a chutney of your choice

Pour the milk into a medium-size pan, bring it to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Whisk in enough roux while the milk is simmering to make a thick white sauce.  Then stir in the egg yolks, cheese and chives if using.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and add a little Dijon mustard if necessary.  Leave to cool off the heat. Shape the mixture into about 20 sausage-shaped croquettes or round balls.

To prepare the coating, place the flour on a plate and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk the egg well.  Spread the breadcrumbs out onto another plate. Dip each croquette in the seasoned flour, then the beaten egg and roll in the toasted breadcrumbs.

These can be fried in a shallow pan but are best deep-fried at 160°C. If the oil is any hotter, the filling tends to leak out into the fryer.  To check if the oil is hot enough, drop in a breadcrumb. If it comes back up to the top relatively quickly, the oil is the perfect temperature for frying. If it immediately burns, the oil is too hot.

When the oil is at the right temperature, add the croquettes and cook for about 8 minutes turning over a few times.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately with some Ballymaloe Country Relish or your favourite chutney.

Dutch Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

This will become a family favourite.

Serves 6

2 large eggs preferably free range and organic

175g (6oz) caster sugar

110g butter

150ml (5oz) creamy milk

185g (scant 6 1/2oz) plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3-4 Bramley Seedling cooking apples

25g (1oz) granulated sugar

Cinnamon Sugar

Mix 25g (1oz) caster sugar with 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon or alternatively use caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Grease and flour a 20 x 30cm roasting tin.

Whisk the eggs and the caster sugar in a bowl until the mixture is really thick and fluffy. Bring the butter and milk to the boil in a saucepan, and stir, still boiling, into the eggs and sugar. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin. Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices, arrange them overlapping on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining 25g (1oz) caster sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180°C/gas mark 4, for a further 15-20 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream.


Watch out when you buy your next pot of honey…

Nearly half, (46%) of the honey sold in the EU market is fake, according to a recent investigation by the European Commission’s Anti-Fraud office.

It is adulterated with cheap sugar syrup made from rice, wheat or sugar beet. Honey fraud is lucrative and apparently difficult and expensive to detect but EU countries led by Slovenia are pushing back and demanding action against the unfair competition of faux honey which as one EU official put it is basically ‘sugar water’ and is damaging the livelihoods of small beekeepers, misleading customers and discouraging would be apiarists.

The perpetrators are sophisticated fraudsters, and it seems continually ahead of the investigators in many countries.

According to Safe Food, there is no evidence to indicate that adulterated honey causes any significant health risk but this is scarcely the main issue.

The consumer has clearly been duped, paying dearly for faux honey that has been adulterated not just with sugar syrup, but also artificial colourings and additives to falsify the true botanical and geographic origin of the natural product. Much of this fake honey is imported from China, Turkey and Ukraine.

At present, honey is one of the most adulterated foods on the planet, but mostly goes undetected.

Be particularly wary of cheap honey labelled a blend of honey from EU and non-EU countries. 

Slovenia wants an end to ‘trafficked honey’ and ‘honey laundering’.

Really pure natural honey is laboursome to produce and needs to cost €7.50 or more for a jar depending on size.

Pure honey is a wonderful food with many health benefits. Its flavour and components vary significantly depending on what the bees are feeding on. You’ve all heard of the much sought after Manuka honey from New Zealand, famed for its health benefits but wait for it… research on Irish heather honey found it contained similar powerful antioxidants called phenolic compounds at a fraction of the price.

These help to prevent cell damage in the body and are important to overall health and well-being.

Honey is known to have antibacterial properties and a unique pH balance and has been used for thousands of years for healing wounds and burns.

Despite the fact that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory, there is a widely held belief that local honey helps to alleviate hay fever but even if it doesn’t help it certainly won’t harm provided it is pure honey.

From earliest times, Ireland has been known for the quality of its honey hence the name, ‘the land of milk and honey’. The name Ballymaloe means the townland of sweet honey, meal means honey in Gaelic and luath is soft or sweet. These place names entered into the language over 2,000 years ago and usually reflected a particular attribute of the area.

Beekeeping was first recorded in Ireland in the 17th century, there’s been a surge in popularity in recent times and the number of beekeepers with many young people becoming involved. 

The island of Ireland produces a wide variety of honey. Early in the season, the bees collect pollen from a variety of trees, flowers, furse bushes, whitethorn, dandelion, rapeseed, wildflower, heather, apple blossom, ivy. Each has its own unique flavour and can be used accordingly.

The Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association and The Native Irish Honeybee Society are rich sources of information and support for beekeepers and the public. There are local beekeepers in virtually every parish in Ireland –

So where to find real honey…go along to your local Farmers’ Markets or a shop in your local village where everyone knows everyone!

Here are a few delicious ways to enjoy honey apart from my favourite way to slather it on hot buttery toast.

Apricot, Chamomile and Honey Scones 

Taken from ‘Love Is A Pink Cake: Irresistible Bakes for Morning, Noon and Night’ Claire Ptak’s new book published by Square Peg 

I’ve never been a huge fan of chamomile tea, but it’s one of my favourite baking flavours, particularly as vanilla is so ubiquitous.  I especially love it paired with apricots – they harmonise to be greater than the sum of their parts.  Add clotted cream and a perfectly buttery scone and it’s difficult to do better.

Makes 6 large scones 

For the compote:

1kg firm, ripe apricots, halved and stones removed 

½ vanilla pod 

1 tbsp dried chamomile flowers (or 2-3 teabags, opened, depending on size)

150g caster sugar 

For the scones:

280g plain flour 

1 tbsp baking powder 

2 tbsp caster sugar 

½ tsp fine sea salt 

115g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1cm cubes 

100g double cream

100g whole milk 

For the egg wash:

1 egg white, beaten 

2 tbsp milk

2 tbsp caster sugar 

clotted cream to serve (or use whipped cream or mascarpone)

Honey for drizzling 

First make the compote – put all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss together well.  Macerate for 1 hour to dissolve the sugar and draw the juices out of the fruit.  

Tip into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apricots have broken down a bit.  Allow to cool and then transfer to a container to chill in the fridge.  This will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge. 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 (170°C fan) and line a baking tray with parchment paper. 

In a food processor; combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt, then add the cold butter, blitzing until it resembles a coarse meal texture.  (You can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter).

Drizzle in the cream and milk, mixing until the dough just comes together (be careful not to overmix).  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, pat into a cube shape and leave to rest for 10 minutes.  

Once rested, roll to a thickness of 2cm, then cut into 6cm rounds and place on a tray.  Chill for 20 minutes in the freezer, then remove and transfer to your lined baking tray.  Whisk together the egg wash ingredients and brush this over the chilled scones.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until springy and golden at the edges. 

Allow the scones to cool slightly before filling with compete and a dollop of the cream.  Add a drizzle of honey and serve immediately. 

Turkish Cereal

A delicious gluten-free breakfast cereal and an addictive nibble.  This recipe was given to us by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey & Co Restaurant in London.

95ml (scant 3 1/2oz) vegetable oil – coconut oil
110g (4oz) honey
110g (4oz) dark soft brown sugar
1 tsp table salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mahleb seeds or replace with freshly ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom pods
1 x packet puffed rice (160g/scant 5 1/2oz)
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) pecans, roughly chopped
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) sunflower seeds
50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds
30g (1 1/4oz) sesame seeds
85g (scant 3 1/2oz) almonds, very roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to fan 170°C/gas mark 4.

Line a couple of large flat baking trays with baking parchment.

Combine the oil, honey and sugar in a medium saucepan and set on a high heat. Mix well and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to avoid it burning on the base.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Once the honey syrup is bubbling, carefully pour it over the dry ingredients in the bowl.  Use a large spoon to stir, turning the contents of the bowl over a few times until everything is well coated with the syrup.  Transfer the mixture to the baking trays and flatten it out a little so that there is an extra there is an even layer of cereal.

Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove one tray at a time and mix the cereal around to make sure everything is getting roasted and crispy.  Return the trays to the oven for an additional 5-6 minutes, then remove and leave the cereal to cool entirely on the trays before breaking into large clusters.

Once the cereal is cold, transfer it to an airtight container.  This keeps for well over 2 weeks, if you don’t get addicted and eat it all before then!

Sausages with Honey and Grainy Mustard and variations

Super easy and delicious.  Everyone including children love these honey and mustard sausages, even if there are lots of other fancy bites.  They are brilliant to nibble with drinks.

Makes about 30

450g (1lb) good-quality cocktail sausages

2 tbsp Irish honey

2 tbsp Irish grainy mustard (such as Lakeshore wholegrain mustard with honey)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Prick the sausages and cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, shaking occasionally until cooked and golden.  Baste several times during cooking.

Mix the honey with the mustard. Toss the sausages in the honey and mustard mixture and serve hot or warm. 

Sesame and Honey Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of sesame seeds to the above recipe and omit the mustard.

Honey and Rosemary Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of freshly chopped rosemary to 4 tbsp of honey.

Sweet Chilli and Lime

Use 4 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce and the juice of ½ – 1 lime, depending on size.

Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs with Honey and Mustard and Aioli

These can be cooked on the BBQ, grill or in the oven.

Serves 8 or 4 hungry people

8 organic chicken drumsticks or thighs


5 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Maldon sea salt

Aioli – optional but a delicious accompaniment. 

Just add crushed garlic and chopped flat parsley to mayonnaise

Slash the drumsticks in 2 places on each side.  If using thighs, just cut through the skin side.  Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and toss the chicken in it so that all sides are evenly coated.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or more.  Drain.

Sprinkle the drumsticks with sea salt and grill over medium coals, turning regularly until no trace of pink remains – about 15 minutes.  Alternatively, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, roast in a preheated oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked.

Serve with Aioli. 

Ottolenghi’s Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey

One of our best loved recipes and a favourite for dinner parties.

Serves 6

8 large organic or free-range chicken thighs or 4 chicken thighs and 4 chicken drumsticks

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

a generous pinch of saffron strands

juice of 1 lemon

4 tbsp cold water

2 tsp coarse sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

100g (3 1/2oz) unskinned hazelnuts

70g (scant 3oz) honey

1-2 tbsp rosewater depending on strength of rosewater

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

sprigs of coriander

Mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice and water in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. 

Spread the hazelnuts out on an oven tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Chop roughly and set aside.

Reduce the temperature to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Transfer the chicken and marinade to a roasting tray large enough to accommodate everything comfortably.  Arrange the chicken pieces skin side up and put the tray in the oven for about 35 minutes or until nearly cooked.

While the chicken is roasting, mix the honey, rosewater and nuts together to make a rough paste.  Remove the chicken from the oven, spoon a generous amount of nut paste on to each piece and spread it to cover.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and the nuts are golden brown.

Transfer the chicken, the juices and toasted nuts to a serving dish and garnish with the sliced spring onions and coriander leaves.


Replace the hazelnuts with 100g (3 1/2oz) pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a delicious alternative.

Chilli Honey

This delicious, sweet, perky chilli honey is a delicious condiment to drizzle over pizza, bread, toast….

Makes 1 x 360g (scant 12 1/2oz) jar


1 jar (360g/scant 12 1/2oz) runny honey

2-3 tbsp chilli flakes, depending how hot you like it

pinch of salt

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


Pour the honey into a small saucepan, add the chilli flakes and a generous pinch of salt.  Warm gently on a medium heat, just as soon as it begins to simmer, turn off the heat and stir in the cider vinegar.  Pour into 1 or more sterilized jars.

Store in a cool dark place, no need to refrigerate.

Labneh with Medjool Dates, Pistachio and Honey

Serves 4-6

Labneh (see recipe)


6-8 Medjool dates

50g (2oz) Iranian pistachios


rose petals or wood sorrel leaves (optional)

To Serve

Put a generous 2 tbsp of labneh on each plate or in shallow bowls.

Stone the Medjool dates and slice into rounds or lengthwise. Scatter with some slivered pistachios and drizzle each with honey.  Sprinkle with rose petals or wood sorrel if available.  Serve.

Soft Yoghurt Cheese – Labneh

Use whole-milk yogurt for a creamier cheese – this can be made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk. You can also use commercial yogurt.

Makes 500g (18oz) labneh

1kg (2 1/4lb) natural yoghurt

Line a strainer with a double thickness of sterilised cheesecloth. Place it over a bowl. Pour in the yogurt. Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth to make a loose bundle and suspend this bag of yogurt over a bowl. Leave it in a cool place to drip into the bowl for 8 hours. Then remove the cheesecloth and put the labneh in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and store until needed in a covered glass or plastic container. The liquid whey that has drained off can be fed to pigs or hens.


The labneh should be like softly whipped cream.  If thicker, simply stir back in some whey. 

Bernie’s Lithuanian Honey Liquor

Bernie Ter Braak who attended our summer 12-Week Course in 2013 kindly shared this recipe with us.

Makes 2.2 – 3.4 litres (scant 4 – 6 pints) 

2 tbsp orange peel

1 tbsp lemon peel

3 sticks cinnamon (break lightly)

4-5 pods of cardamom, lightly crushed

1 nutmeg, lightly crushed

3-5 cloves (leave whole)

1 tsp fennel seed, crushed

3-4 allspice, lightly crushed

1 tsp black pepper, lightly crushed

1 tsp white pepper, lightly crushed

3-4 thin slices white ginger

3-4 thin slices red ginger (if available)

1 tbsp or 3 sticks of vanilla

a pinch of saffron (for colour)

1.3kg (3lb) honey

1.1 litres (generous 1 3/4 pints) of water

750ml (1 pint 5fl oz) vodka

Put the water into a large pot.  Simmer the dry spices until fragrant.  Add the moist spices.  When blended, add the honey, simmer but do not boil.  When the honey is dissolved, remove the spices (strainer).  Remove from any flame source and add the alcohol.  Allow to cool and bottle in sterilized containers. 

Some people drink this right away, but it is highly recommended that you allow it to mature in the bottle in a dark, cool place, for at least 6 months.  The longer it ages, the better it gets.

Portugal (Algarve)

Such a lovely surprise to get a spontaneous invitation to join my two super fit sisters for a relaxing week on the Algarve, A quick flight from drizzly, frizzly Cork to Faro and seemingly eternal sunshine. What’s not to like about blue skies, 28°C to 30°C and not a chance of rain…In this idyllic scenario, no one was mentioning last summer’s fires, but the charred remains of umbrella pines were a stark reminder of global warming, and that life is a trade off…already the temperature is several degrees higher than this month last year.

A week ago, the summer crowds had not yet descended so the restaurants and cafés were still eager and enthusiastic to welcome customers for the new season. We ate in several lovely cafés overlooking the white sandy beaches watching spectacular sunsets. As the light faded, little local fishing boats appeared along the horizon, close to the shore ‘lamping’ for squid and cuttlefish. Every menu features the beautiful fresh fish of the Algarve.

Giggi’s, close to the beach in Quinta de Lago served memorable spider crabs in the shell and delicious canilhas…the little sea snails that I love, I saved the beautiful curvaceous shells to add to the walls of the Shell House in the Ballymaloe Cookery School gardens. And then there was wild sea bass, simply grilled on the bone with a butter sauce and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, exquisitely simple. This is the signature dish on so many restaurant menus… Antonio’s, Izzy’s, Edwardo’s on the beach at Almancil….

Lots of highlights on this trip, Irish chef Johnny Pratt at Trimoulet introduced me to a board of delectable local cheeses and tempted me with wafer thin slices of cured tuna called Muxama, a new discovery for me…

I also linked up with several BCS alumni. Zé Canine and his mum, legendary restaurateur Jackie Price showed us around their farm, which supplies the Casa do Campo restaurant with fresh organic vegetables, fruit, herbs and chillies. Later we enjoyed the fruits of their gardener Fatima’s labours under the ancient fig tree in the outdoor dining room. Maria Flaminga’s organic farm and farm shop in Tavira was another exciting discovery. 

Lots of farmers’ markets and local craft in the area too, love the Saturday Market along the water’s edge in Olhão and the Loulé Market which meanders into numerous cobbled side streets. Check out the scene at O Postigo, a local taberna traditional Portuguesa or 8100 in the market, for an espresso and a pastel de nata or some of the much talked about artisan homemade ice cream. Look out for the huge squishy, juicy, red Portuguese tomatoes, local Tavira fleur de sel and a tantalising selection of salami made from the pork and blood of the long-legged black Iberian pig, studded with juicy chunks of tender fat. I also found little sachets of Aleppo pepper and many variations on the little fig and almond sweetmeats.

At the neighbourhood restaurant overlooking the sea at Vila Nova de Cacela, I particularly loved the riso con lingueirão, razor clam rice, a local Portuguese dish I love to seek out. Carob was everywhere, but somehow, I don’t love the flavour… 

For Sunday lunch, we travelled up into the hills to a busy traditional local village restaurant called A Tia Bia, where three generational families had come to tuck into fine helpings of hearty, home-cooked food. Meltingly tender, slow roast goat or pork cheeks with cabbage, wild boar stew, migos with deer, pheasant, partridge, and wild boar served in a scooped-out bread loaf.

For those of you who love fish, the market at Quarteira where the local fishermen land their catch is not to be missed. Spanking, fresh fish with many rare species not found around our coast.  Wild sea bass, (endangered in our waters), bream, Portuguese sole, corvina, eel, gurnard, gorgeous silver scabbard fish, octopus, clams, tiny conquilhas.  Beautiful little anchovies, whole or gutted, ready to be pickled or fried. Sadly, the sardine season doesn’t start until the end of May but there were pilchards and lots of superb, tinned sardines, mackerel and tuna. Sardine pâté is another Portuguese favourite often served with bread at the beginning of a meal, and then there’s Piri Piri chicken, delicious, spicy chicken that you can’t leave Portugal without tasting. There are several favourite haunts with their own interpretation, but we enjoyed SR Frango in Almancil. Their version is made with poussin, tender, delicious, spicy, but not too searingly hot. The perfect supper after a walk or cycle along the boardwalk or bird watching on the Rio Formosa lagoon and nature reserve, flamingos, bitters, storks, herons, egrets, spoonbills, hoopoes, blue magpies…

Here are some of the dishes that I’ve enjoyed recreating since my return from the beautiful Algarve.

Spider Crab with Olive Oil and Lemon

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) spider crab meat

extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade mayonnaise

1 lemon cut into eight wedges

To serve, drizzle the crab meat with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, divide between the shells.

Put a generous tablespoon of homemade mayonnaise into a little shallow bowl and pop onto the plate, add a segment of lemon and serve.

How to cook spider crabs

All types of crab are best cooked in seawater.  Alternatively, cook in well-salted freshwater.  Put the crab into a deep saucepan, cover with cold or barely lukewarm water, using 175g (6oz) of salt to every 2.3 litres (4 pints) of water.  This may sound like an incredible amount of salt but try it: the crab will taste deliciously sweet.

Cover the saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes. 

We usually pour off two-thirds of the water halfway through cooking, and then cover and steam the crab for the remainder of the time.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes, then remove the crabs, cool and pick the meat from the legs and clean and wash out the carapace. 

Piri Piri Chicken 

Careful not to make it too hot…serve with chips and lemon wedges as the Portuguese do.

Serves 4

4 chicken legs – separate the thigh and drumstick but leave the skin on and bone in

For the marinade
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoons fleur de sel or flaky salt

For the piri piri sauce
1-4 red African or Thai bird’s eye chillies, to taste
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel or flaky salt
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
1 tablespoon port or 1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

Whisk together the lemon juice and garlic for the marinade. Slash the chicken skin and put into a small roasting tin just big enough to hold it, pour the marinade over it, turn to ensure it’s well coated. Season generously with the salt, cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, roughly chop two chillies and the garlic together. Add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and salt, whizz to a purée (or use a pestle and mortar). Whisk in the paprika and oil. Taste, add more chilli if you think it needs it.

Light or heat the barbecue, if using. When it’s up to temperature, grill the chicken for 20 – 30 minutes preferably on a BBQ with a lid on.  Check when it’s almost done, brush with piri piri and cook, lid off, for about another 10 minutes, until cooked through – cooking times will depend on the size of the chicken.

Alternatively, heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, roast the chicken for about 35 minutes, until cooked through, basting occasionally with its juices. Heat a grill pan to medium hot, brush the chicken with spicy piri piri, and grill for a few minutes on each side, until just starting to char.

Serve hot with some extra sauce on the side and lots of crispy chips.

Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Pasteis de Nata, the famous Portuguese custard tarts

Makes 24

1 large egg

2 egg yolks

115g (scant 4oz) golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons cornflour

400ml (14fl oz) whole milk

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

a sprinkling of ground cinnamon (optional)

900g (2lb) puff pastry

Lightly grease 2 x 12 muffin tins.

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

Put the egg, yolk, sugar and cornflour in a saucepan and whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk until smooth.

Cook on a medium heat and stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil, continue to cook for 2 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon if using.

Transfer to a Pyrex bowl, allow to cool.  Cover with parchment paper to prevent a skin from forming – prick here and there to allow steam to escape.

Roll the chilled puff pastry into a 3mm (1/8 inch) thick sheet, stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) discs.  Press into the muffin tins.

Spoon a generous dessertspoon of the cool custard into each pastry case. Bake in the preheated oven for 16 – 20 minutes or golden on top and slightly charred.  Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

Portuguese Coconut Roll

The Portuguese make several riffs on this egg roll, orange, praline, caramel…I really enjoyed a coconut version at A Tia Bia restaurant on my recent trip who have taken ‘poetic licence’ by adding a layer of lemon curd but it’s also pretty delicious without it.  Careful not to overcook or it will be dry. Traditionally egg rolls were made in convents to use up a surplus of egg yolks when the white were needed for fining wine.

Serves 12

4 eggs, separated

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) softened butter

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk

50g (2oz) grated coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon baking powder

75g (3oz) plain white flour, sieved

caster sugar for dusting

2-3 tablespoons coconut

Lemon Curd (optional) (see recipe)

softly whipped cream to serve

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

1 baking tray – 32.5 x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) lined with parchment paper and brushed with melted butter

Separate the egg yolks from the whites – save the whites until later. Whisk the egg yolks and 100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar in a food mixer at medium speed until the mixture is light and creamy. 

Add the soft butter, milk, grated coconut, vanilla extract and honey.  Mix for 2-3 or until evenly incorporated (it may curdle a little but don’t worry). Mix the baking powder with the sieved flour, stir into the wet ingredients and beat on a low speed until creamy. Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy, fold gently into the mixture. Spread the dough evenly into the prepared tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes approximately or until slightly golden.

Meanwhile, lay a tea towel on the worktop, cover with a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle with a mixture of caster sugar and coconut.  When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and flip the tin onto the parchment paper.  Remove the tin and carefully peel the parchment paper off the sides and base of the roll. Slather with lemon curd (optional).  Then using the towel and parchment, start to roll gently from either the long or short end depending on how chunky you would like the roll.  Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with a little more grated coconut and serve with softly whipped cream.

Lemon Curd

Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, smear it over a sponge or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues – store in a covered jar in the fridge.  It is best eaten within a fortnight.

Flavedo is the outer coloured skin of citrus fruits.

Makes 2 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

50g (2oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

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

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back of it.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)

Filhós (Portuguese Donuts)

A filhó is a traditional dessert in Portugal. Filhós are usually made by shaping balls from a mixture of flour and eggs but can be cooked in sheets. When the dough has risen, the balls or squares are deep fried and sprinkled with sugar or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.

Serves 12

2 x 7g (1/4oz) active dry yeast sachets

110ml (4fl oz) warm water 

350ml (12fl oz) warm milk 

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

5 tablespoons granulated sugar

60g (scant 2 1/2oz) butter, softened

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

625 – 685g (1lb 5oz – 1lb 7 1/2oz) plain white flour

oil, for deep-fat frying

225 – 350g (8oz) granulated sugar

2-4 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.

Add the milk, eggs, sugar, butter and salt; beat until smooth. Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough (do not knead). Start with 625g (1lb 5oz) flour, although you may need to use 685g (1lb 7 1/2oz) – the dough should not be sticky.

Place in a greased bowl, flip over to oil the top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size, about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 190°C/375°F.

Drop tablespoonfuls of dough, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Fry for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Immediately roll warm doughnuts in the granulated sugar or a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.


Sustainable continues to be quite the buzzword with many awards being meted out to establishments and companies who are making strides in this area. Yet Ireland with its clean, green image still ranks very poorly on the (SDG’s) Sustainable Development Goal’s. Having said that, we have apparently moved from 11th out of 15 comparable countries in the EU in 2022 to 10th out of 14 this year on the Sustainable Progress Index. Confusing or what…
Overall though, it seems the general public are anxious to make a difference and long for bold, courageous leaders to show us the way with legislation and incentives.
We fear that time is running out for our planet and desperately want to play our part in making a difference in the many little ways we can in our own environment.
Well, by coincidence, a brilliant new book I’d ordered recently arrived on my desk last week, It’s entitled ‘The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z’ by Tamar Adler, author of yet another gem, ‘Something Old, Something New’.
Regular readers of this column, and those of you who have been to the Cookery School will be aware that I have always loved to use up leftovers. It’s not a recent conversion on the road to Damascus…for me it’s almost like a game…I get terrific satisfaction out of using up leftovers deliciously. Plus, those of us who were brought up by parents who lived through the war and rationing will feel a kind of culinary caution until our final days. Butter, meat and eggs, no matter how plentiful are not to be lightly wasted. In the words of M.F.K Fisher, ‘there can be no more shameful carelessness than with the food we eat for itself’.
I suppose that dates back to my childhood, when wasting anything even a piece of spare string wasn’t an option, we actually washed and hung out plastic bags to dry on the clothesline in the early days…
I reckon to be able to do a ton of riffs on leftover bits of this and that but Tamar Adler has 1,500 recipes ‘for cooking with economy and grace’.
Here at the Cookery School, we have a ‘Leftover of the Day’ suggestion, so the students learn the art and skill of using up leftovers, creatively – an essential part of their culinary training.
After all, costs are so high and margins so small nowadays that the chef’s attitude to waste can quite easily be the difference between profit and loss in the hospitality business.
There is waste at every level in many different areas of production. There can be phenomenal waste in the vegetable and food sector on the farm, partly to do with the tight specifications on size and shape for the retail trade, but also for traditional reasons. Forever, we’ve chopped off and discarded the green tops of leeks and cauliflowers…dumped the turnip greens so sought-after in many countries.
Young beetroot, stalks and greens are delicious in salads or wilted with a lump of good butter or doused in a good extra-virgin olive oil.
The tender sprouting shoots at the end of the kale or broccoli crop are a true delicacy, meltingly tender. They ought to be sold at twice the price, that’s if you could even get them. Bravo to the Organic Stall at the Skibbereen Farmers’ Market for introducing them to their customers. Many will already know how good those thick broccoli stems are peeled and grated into coleslaw – free, delicious and nutritious food.
Use the tough ends of the asparagus that’s in season at present to make a simple asparagus stock… Remember you have paid a premium price for it, so use the stock to make an asparagus risotto.
Throw garlic and ginger peelings into a ‘stock box’ in the freezer with other vegetable peelings and fresh herb stalks to make a celebration pot of stock every now and then when you have the time.
The new season’s vegetables are jumping out of the ground right now. Don’t waste a scrap – we’re using broad bean shoots in soups, add to stews, gratins, risotto, frittatas, melted greens or use fresh in salads…
And on and on, once you begin to think zero waste, it becomes like an exciting challenge.
Enjoy the fun and feel-good factor of working towards being sustainable.

Soda Bread and Butter Pudding with Cheese and Herbs 

A delicious way to use up a few little slices of stale soda bread, vary the fresh herbs as you please.

Serves 4-6

12 slices of wheaten bread (brown soda bread) – 330g (generous 11oz) approx.

50g (2oz) butter 

2 teaspoons each of chopped thyme, rosemary and chives

100g (3 1/2oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

8 organic eggs 

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk  

1 x 1.2 litre dish, generously buttered

Butter the slices of soda bread.

Arrange half the bread side by side in the dish butter side up, allowing a little space between each slice. Sprinkle with half the chopped herbs and half the grated cheese. 

Whisk the eggs with the milk.  Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Carefully pour half the egg mixture into the dish, making sure that the slices are evenly covered. Arrange the remainder of the soda bread on top.Pour the rest of the custard over the surface. Scatter with the remaining herbs and cheese.  Leave to soak for 30 minutes or more if time allows. 

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

When ready, pop the dish into the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the custard has puffed and the bread is golden brown at the edges.  Cover loosely with parchment paper if it’s getting too dark on top. Check that the custard is set in the middle – a skewer should come out clean when inserted into the centre, but careful not to overcook.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves in season. 

Ballymaloe Risotto with Asparagus

Everyone needs to be able to whip up a risotto, comfort food at its best and a base for so many good things, from crispy pork lardons or kale to foraged nettles…

Serves 6

225g (8oz) precious Irish asparagus, in season now

1 – 1.3 litres (1 3/4 – 2 1/4 pints) chicken or vegetable stock made from the asparagus ends

50g (2oz) butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

400g (14oz) risotto rice, such as arborio, carnaroli, or Vialone Nano

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a mixture of Parmesan and Pecorino

sea salt

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until al dente. Cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices at an angle.

Bring the stock to the boil, reduce the heat and keep it at a gentle simmer.  Melt half the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion, cover and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes until soft but not coloured.  Add the rice and stir until well coated.  Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (5fl oz) of the simmering stock, stir continuously, and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (5fl oz) of stock.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly.  The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside.  If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey.  It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously.

The risotto should take 25-30 minutes to cook.

After about 20 minutes, add the stock about 4 tablespoons at a time.  I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on.  The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly al dente.  It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick.  The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the asparagus plus the remaining butter and Parmesan, taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve immediately on hot plates.

Alternatively, you can pre-cook the rice for finishing later.  After about 10 minutes of cooking, taste a grain or two between your teeth.  It should be firm, slightly gritty, definitely undercooked but not completely raw.  Remove the risotto from the saucepan and spread it out on a flat dish to cool as quickly as possible.  The rice can be reheated later with some of the remaining stock and the cooking and finishing of the risotto can be completed.  Risotto does not benefit from hanging around – the texture should be really soft and flowing.

Pasta Frittata

Taken from The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z by Tamar Adler published by Scribner

3 eggs (whisked with a little salt)

400 – 600g (14oz – 1 1/4lb) cooked pasta

olive oil

30g (1 1/4oz) chopped parsley (optional)

freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Heat the oven to 190°C/375F°/Gas Mark 5.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and salt, stir in the other ingredients.

Heat a 20.5 – 23cm (8 – 9 inch) ovenproof saucepan over a medium heat.  Coat well with olive oil.  Add the egg mixture and move the set part toward the middle a few times.  As soon as the sides have started to cook, transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Cool briefly in the pan, then turn out onto a serving plate.  Frittatas are better served at room temperature than hot.

Egg Salad Fried Rice

Taken from The Everlasting Meal Cookbook: Leftovers A-Z by Tamar Adler published by Scribner

2-3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil

3 tablespoons sliced or chopped onion or scallion

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

250g (9oz) leftover cold cooked rice


anything else you want in your fried rice

1-3 tablespoons egg salad (see recipe)

Hea a wide pan or wok.  Add the oil, onion or scallion and garlic, fry for 5 seconds then add the rice.  Spread the rice over the surface of the pan and add salt to taste.  When it seems like every grain has had a moment to fry, scoop the rice all together, add anything you want and the egg salad and stir it through. 

Egg Salad

boiled eggs




grated lemon zest

minced chives

Smash the eggs with a fork and mix in mayonnaise sparingly.  You can always add more.  Pound the garlic to a paste with a little salt.  Add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon garlic paste for every 2 eggs, then sprinkle with lemon zest and minced chives.  Mix, taste and adjust seasoning. 

Brown Bread Ice Cream

This is also known as ‘poor man’s praline ice cream’ because it gives a similar texture but uses cheaper ingredients. This is a great way to use up brown soda or wholemeal yeast breadcrumbs that would otherwise be wasted.

Serves 12–16

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream (see recipe)

350g (12oz) brown soda or wholemeal yeast breadcrumbs

150g (5oz) vanilla sugar

150g (5oz) soft dark-brown sugar

Make the Ballymaloe vanilla ice cream and freeze.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Spread the chunky breadcrumbs on a baking tray. Sprinkle with sugar and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Stir every 4 or 5 minutes until the sugar caramelises and coats the breadcrumbs. Turn out onto a Silpat mat and leave to cool. Pulse the caramelised breadcrumbs into small, chunky bits in a food-processor. When the ice cream is semi-frozen, fold in the mixture and freeze until fully frozen.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks

100g (3 1/2oz) sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise, it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.


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