ArchiveJune 2023

Pastry Chef, Natasha Pickowicz

We’ve just had Natasha Pickowicz, one of the hottest young US pastry chefs to teach a class here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Natasha is a San Diego, born NYC-based, chef and writer and three times James Beard Foundation Award finalist. She created magic in the pastry section of two of my favourite restaurants in New York, Flora Bar and Café Altra Paradiso before starting her blog, Natasha now has over 46,000 followers on Instagram…check it out (@natashapickowicz).

Natasha is no ordinary pastry chef, much of her pastry work explores the relationship with baking and social justice, including ongoing collaborations with New York City institutions, like the The Bridget Alliance, Lenox Hill Neighbourhood House, God’s Love We Deliver, and Planned Parenthood of Greater New York.

Natasha has a really fresh approach, I was intrigued by how she combined savoury ingredients with her sweet confections. I love how she decorated the top of one of her cakes with fresh Castel Franco and radicchio salad leaves, it looks and tastes so beautiful and needless to say it’s quite the conversation piece.

Before her class, she wandered round the farm and gardens collecting fresh herbs and flowers to embellish her delicious creations.

Natasha picked fresh fig leaves from the tree in the fruit garden to line muffin tins for the Leafy Dinner Rolls. The leaves imparted their characteristic coconut aroma to the crumb, why didn’t I ever think of that neat idea!

The crispy capers scattered over the olive oil cake was another unexpected stroke of genius, the crisp saltiness was the perfect foil for the slightly savoury cake.

Her vanilla bean Swiss buttercream was quite a mission to make but so silky light and delicious. She used it to ice a passionfruit, coconut and tequila cake, a really sumptuous cake that would be perfect for a special celebration – a wedding, birthday, anniversary…

During her class, she regaled us with stories of her legendary Charity Cake Sales, where up to 30 pastry chefs have fun, cooking together to raise money for good causes, an inspired idea.

Natasha’s debut cookbook, ‘More Than Cake’, which weaves unique baking recipes with stories of her family, social justice and food history, was published by Artisan Books earlier this year.

Enthusiastic cake makers will love all the brilliant little tips that she adds to each of her recipes which help to ensure a perfectly delicious result.

Leafy Dinner Rolls

Excerpted from More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan Books)

There’s a large fig tree that grows in the corner of my backyard, but the squirrels eat the budding fruits well before I can harvest them myself. Luckily, there’s so much more to this plant than its jammy lobes of fruit—the flat, wide leaves, like edible sheets of wrapping paper, have plenty of uses, too. And, like banana and grape leaves, fig leaves are sturdy enough to wrap anything from sticky rice to poached fruit while also infusing the contents with their unique, dreamy scent.

When gently toasted in the oven or over an open fire, fig leaves release an intoxicating aroma—something between coconut sunscreen and vanilla buttercream. They also provide an elegant, natural lining for fluffy dinner rolls, infusing the dough with their sweetness in the oven. Think of these as Parker House rolls on a beach vacation.

You can absolutely make these rolls without fig leaves; the coconut milk in the bread dough has the same beachy notes as the fig leaves.

makes 12 rolls


60g warm water

2 tbsp (40g) honey

2 tsp active dry yeast

240g full-fat coconut milk, warmed

1 egg (50g)

420g all-purpose (plain) flour, plus more for rolling the dough

½ – ¾ tsp salt

8 tbsp (112g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

12 small or 6 large fresh fig leaves (see tip #1)

1 large egg white (30g)

flaky sea salt


Tip 1 — To create a similar frilly skirt to dress the rolls, try substituting other flat, wide leaves like Swiss chard, beet greens, or Savoy cabbage for the fig leaves.

Tip 2 — The motion of shaping dough balls by hand is a very tactile, intuitive feeling. Add too much flour to the counter, and you won’t have enough grip on the table to create the tension needed to shape the balls; don’t add enough flour, and the enriched, buttery dough will stick to the counter and smear. Form a protective cage over the dough ball with your palm, and don’t apply any downward pressure. Just lightly move it around in a circular motion until you feel the bottom of the dough “catch” on the table and tighten up. Remember that feeling. It will also serve you for shaping the matcha buns for Buttered Cucumber Sliders (opposite).

Mix the dough. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water, honey, and yeast and let sit for a few minutes, or until the yeast looks foamy and puffy. Add the coconut milk, egg, flour, and salt and mix on medium-low speed until the dough begins to wind around the hook, about 5 minutes. With the mixer still running, pinch 4 tablespoons (56g) of the butter into small pieces and add piece by piece to the dough, beating until the dough looks smooth and the butter is incorporated. (The dough will be sticky and wet; scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula halfway through mixing to ensure that the dough mixes evenly.)

Let the dough rise. Transfer the dough to a medium bowl. Cover tightly and let rise in a warm area until doubled and puffy, about 1 ½ hours. Then refrigerate the bowl of dough for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours) to make it easier to handle.

Build the nests. Set out one large muffin tins. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons (56g) butter over low heat. Lightly brush the muffin cups with half of the melted butter. Gently drape a small fig leaf into each muffin cup, pressing it into the corners to adhere to the butter; the edges of the leaf should poke up out of the top of the tin. If using large fig leaves, tear into 7.5 – 10 cm pieces and press them into the cups to fit.

Shape the buns. Divide the chilled dough into 24 equal portions (between 30 – 35g each). Lightly flour a clean work surface. Cup your hand into a claw position and quickly roll each portion of dough into a tight, taut ball (see tip #2). Place 2 balls side by side in each lined muffin cup. Cover the muffin tins and let the dough rise again until doubled, 1 ½ hours.

Preheat the oven. About 30 minutes before the rolls have completed their second rise, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Egg-wash and bake the rolls. Whisk up the large egg white with a fork, then brush all over the rolls, being careful not to deflate their rise. Transfer to the oven and bake until the rolls are shiny and golden, about 20 minutes.

Soak the buns with more butter. Remove the rolls from the oven and immediately brush with the remaining melted butter, then add a sprinkle of flaky sea salt to each. Gently pop out each roll from the pan and admire the fig leaf pattern underneath.

Olive Oil Cake with Crispy Capers

(Artisan Bo Excerpted from More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan Books)

This olive oil cake, with its coarse, amber crumb, glows as if lit from within. Use your everyday workhorse cooking olive oils for the cake batter (see tip). Your fanciest finishing olive oil—the kind you’d dress a salad with, or drizzle over fresh fish—is best saved for the final soak after the cake is baked. For that, you want straight-up fireworks: you can’t go wrong with olio nuovo–style olive oils, which are the super-intense verdant oils made with the first pressing of just-harvested olives. A special cake soak “vinaigrette,” made from whisking orange juice, fancy olive oil, and fortified wine together, further underlines this cake’s subtle savoriness, as does a flurry of crispy capers, which add an addictive crunch and surprisingly mellow flavor.

makes one 25cm round cake

serves 8


1 large orange

2 eggs (100g), at room temperature

200g caster sugar, plus 2 tbsp (30g) for sprinkling

½ tsp baking soda

1 ¼ tsp baking powder

240g all-purpose (plain) flour

½ tsp salt

185g whole milk, at room temperature

150g olive oil

½ tsp almond extract

3 tbsp (20g) capers

3 tbsp (45g) grapeseed (or sunflower) oil

60g finishing olive oil

2 tbsp (30g) Marsala wine or sherry

flaky sea salt


Tip — Delicious, affordable choices include the cold pressed oils from Partanna, Campagna, and Palermo in Southern Italy and Arbequina olive oils from Catalonia, Spain, and Capay Valley, California. (Look for high-end brands sold by the gallon for more affordable options.)

Preheat the oven and prepare the cake pan. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4). Cut out a round of parchment paper to fit a 25cm round cake pan and secure with cooking spray.

Process the oranges. Grate the zest from the orange; you want about 1 tablespoon zest. Juice the orange and measure out 80g juice for the cake batter. Then measure out another 30g for the vinaigrette and set aside.

Dissolve the sugar in the eggs. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), whip the eggs on high speed until foamy, about 20 seconds. Slowly stream in 200g of the caster sugar and continue to whip until the mixture is lightened in color and doubled in volume, 5 to 6 minutes.

Combine the dry ingredients. Sift the baking soda and baking powder through a small tea strainer into a small bowl. Add the flour and salt and whisk to combine.

Incorporate the remaining ingredients. With the mixer running on low speed, stream in the 80g orange juice, the orange zest, milk, olive oil, and almond extract and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined (the batter will be thin with some lumps; do not whip until the batter is totally smooth, as that would make the cake tough).

Bake the cake. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle the surface with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until the cake springs back when poked with a finger, 35 – 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the capers. Spread the capers out on a tea towel and gently pat dry. In a small saucepan, heat the grapeseed (or sunflower) oil over medium heat. (A thermometer inserted in the oil should read around 175°C.) Add the capers all at once and fry, stirring constantly, until they have lightened in color and the flower buds are beginning to open up, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the capers to a paper towel and let drain completely.

Mix the cake-soak vinaigrette. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved 30g orange juice, the finishing olive oil, and the Marsala.

Soak the olive oil cake. Run a small offset spatula around the edges of the pan and gently tug the cake out and onto a platter to cool completely. Gently lift the cake up to peel off the parchment and discard. When ready to serve, gently dab the vinaigrette onto the cake with a small pastry brush. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Slice into wedges and serve with a scattering of crispy capers.


Cake soaks should have a balance of tart, sweet, and savory notes—just like a vinaigrette for your favorite salad. Try adding champagne or balsamic vinegar to the soak, a spoonful of jam, or a grind of black pepper.

Oil-based cakes don’t mind lots of ingredient substitutions. Try Meyer lemon or lime in place of the orange. Sub out 3 tablespoons of flour for cornmeal for cake with a heartier texture. Add 2 tablespoons (18g) poppy seeds for a slight crunch. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons finely diced rosemary into the flour for an herbal note. The whole milk can be replaced by non-dairy alternatives like coconut milk or almond milk. You can truly make this recipe your own!

Vanilla Bean Swiss Buttercream

Excerpted from More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan Books)

My go-to layer cake is not too sweet, sumptuous but not greasy, and easy to customize with extracts and spices. The meringue base of the buttercream comes together in a double boiler before being whipped into a thick cloud. Once it is cool, nearly a pound (!) of butter is introduced into the meringue, which gives the frosting outlandish richness. Use to ice your favourite cake.

makes 615g, enough for two 20cm layer cakes


4 large egg whites (120g)

200g granulated sugar

48g icing sugar

1 vanilla bean

300g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

½ tsp salt


Cook the egg whites. In a heatproof medium bowl, combine the egg whites and granulated sugar and whisk well. Set the bowl over a pot of steaming-hot (but not simmering) water and whisk until the mixture is hot and the temperature is 115°F (45°C), 4 – 5 minutes.

Beat the meringue. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or to a large bowl if using a handheld mixer) and whip on high speed until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and add the icing sugar. Whip on medium-high speed; the meringue should look glossy and stiff.

Harvest the vanilla seeds. Use a small sharp knife to halve the vanilla bean lengthwise, pry open the halves, and use the knife to scrape the vanilla seeds out into the meringue. Whip to combine, about 1 minute.

Add the butter. With the mixer running on medium-high speed, add the cubed butter, piece by piece, over 3 – 4 minutes. The buttercream may look like it will break but keep beating; it will come back together. Add the salt and beat the buttercream for another 5 minutes. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

To ice a cake. When ready to ice a layer cake, let the buttercream come to room temperature for at least 2 hours (or overnight) and then re-whip for 5 minutes so it is fluffy and light.

Elderflowers and Green Gooseberries

I’ve just picked a bowl full of fresh green gooseberries, they’re about the size of hazelnuts, still tart and under ripe but at their best for pies, fools, jams and jellies. It’s difficult to convince people that these hard green berries are so good at this stage, not for nibbling, but for cooking. Try them.

My guide for when they’re ready to pick is when I spy the first of the elderflowers blooming in the hedgerows in late May early June.

Nature has cleverly arranged that gooseberries and elderflowers are in season at the same time of year. The combination of flavours is a marriage made in heaven. All the more mysterious because the white frothy umbelliferous heads of elderflowers made up of hundreds of tiny flowers have a slight musky smell and rather unpleasant taste when fresh, which disappears and instead becomes deliciously muscat flavoured when cooked. Wonder who first discovered the combination of flavours, I first read about it in Jane Grigson’s ‘Good Things’, one of my most treasured cookbooks…

For over 4,000 years, the early summer elderflowers and the elderberries in autumn have been used as medicine, the elder tree was often referred to as the ‘country folks medicine chest’.

Elderflower has many essential vitamins, including vitamins E, B1, B2, and B3 complex and a little vitamin C. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. All very important.

Elderberries have a whole other set of nutrients and a significant vitamin C content to help protect against winter colds and flu. The substantial amount of fibre helps to prevent constipation but they’re not around until Autumn so let’s enjoy the elderflowers while they last.

Gooseberry bushes are horribly prickly. Picking the berries one by one can be super tedious but I’ve got a brilliant tip for you. Put your hand underneath the base of a branch of gooseberries. Grasp, then run your cupped hand up towards the tip. The leaves and berries will come off together, but the leaves will protect you from the prickles, try it…special thanks to David Cullinane for sharing this tip a few years ago.

Green gooseberries and elderflowers both freeze well. Gooseberries can be frozen just as they are but it’s a good idea to tray freeze the elderflowers first, then store them in layers interleaved with parchment paper in a covered plastic box in the freezer. Try dehydrating them too, they’ll last for months in an airtight jar.

Elderflowers add magic to so many drinks and dishes – elderflower lemonade, syrups, jams, cordials, desserts, cakes, ice cream, popsicles and of course elderflower champagne. The latter is so much fun to make with children. They love how it fizzes up within a couple of days. All the more exciting if you show them how to identify and gather the elderflowers themselves, a gift for life… 

The whole heads are delicious, dipped in a light batter, then sprinkled with caster sugar, a perfect accompaniment to a creamy gooseberry fool.  

For a really fast and super delicious dessert, slice a few new season’s strawberries into a bowl, drizzle with a little elderflower cordial, add a squeeze of lemon juice, scatter with some shredded mint, toss, taste, tweak if necessary and enjoy!

A green gooseberry or green gooseberry and elderflower compote makes a gorgeous accompaniment to a panna cotta or a scoop of good vanilla bean ice cream.

And last but not least, don’t forget that a tart green gooseberry sauce cuts the richness and is delicious served with pork, duck or pan-grilled mackerel.

Pan-grilled Mackerel with Green Gooseberry Sauce

This is a master recipe for pan-grilling fish.

The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.  I love a pat of simple parsley or herb butter melting over the top but I’ve been enjoying them with the first of the green gooseberries – they cut the richness of the mackerel deliciously.

Serves 1 or 2

2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 175g fish form main course, 75g for a starter)

seasoned flour

small knob of butter



Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with a little bowl of green gooseberry sauce.  Garnish with a sprig of fresh parsley or with some gooseberry leaves if available.

Green Gooseberry Sauce

Use the tart hard green gooseberries on the bushes at the moment, they make a delicious sauce.

275g fresh green gooseberries

approx. 175ml stock syrup to cover made with 110ml of water and 75g of sugar boiled together for 2 minutes

a knob of butter (optional)

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

Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

So simple to make but so good… As the Summer goes on and the gooseberries mature, less sugar is needed for this fool. The base purée freezes well, a terrific standby for a quick dessert another time …

Serves 6 approximately

450g green gooseberries, topped and tailed

3-4 elderflower heads

stock syrup (dissolve 175g granulated sugar in 300ml water, bring to the boil for 2 minutes, cool completely)

To Serve

whipped cream

shortbread biscuits

Barely cover the green gooseberries and the elderflower heads with the stock syrup. Bring to the boil and cook until the fruit bursts, about 5-6 minutes. Liquidise, purée or mash the fruit and syrup and measure.  When the puree has cooled completely, add one third to half of its volume of softly whipped cream according to taste.

Note: If you want to make the fool a little less rich, use less cream, and fold in one stiffly beaten egg white instead.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

My go-to recipe for a quick and delicious biscuit… This recipe was originally in imperial measurements, to get best results, weigh in oz.

Makes 25

6oz white flour or Spelt

4oz butter

2oz caster sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm thick.  Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/gas mark 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.

Delicious biscuits to nibble but we also serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content, they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.

However, if they are too pale, they will be undercooked and doughy.  Cool on a wire rack.

Elderflower Cake with Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

If you have a food processor, this can be whizzed up in seconds.  The elderflower syrup will keep for several weeks in your fridge.

350g soft butter

350g caster sugar

4 eggs, preferably free range

350g self-raising flour

Elderflower Syrup

50g caster sugar

150ml water

2 heads of elderflower

zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon

To Serve

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote (see recipe)

23cm round cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile make the syrup. 

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, add the elderflowers, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Leave aside to cool.  Strain.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pour all or most of the syrup over the top, leave to cool. (See note at end of recipe).

Remove the cake from the tin and serve with Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote and softly whipped cream for dessert.  Decorate with a few fluffy elderflower heads… 

A slice of the cake on its own with a cup of tea is also delicious.

Note: If you are serving the cake on its own, only pour half the syrup over it.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

When I’m driving through country lanes in late May or early June, suddenly I spy the elderflower coming into bloom.  Then I know it’s time to go and search on gooseberry bushes for the hard, green fruit, far too under-ripe at that stage to eat raw, but wonderful cooked in tarts or fools or in this delicious Compote.

Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with green gooseberries and by a happy arrangement of nature they are both in season at the same time.

Serves 6-8

900g green gooseberries

2 or 3 elderflower heads

600ml cold water

400g sugar

First top and tail the gooseberries.   Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes.   Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts.  Allow to get cold.  Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers. 

N.B.  The tart green gooseberries must actually burst otherwise the compote of fruit will be too bitter.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam

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

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

Makes 6 x 450g pots

1.6kg tart green gooseberries

5-6 elderflower heads

freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

900g sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.

Top and tail the gooseberries and put into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the elderflowers tied in muslin and the lemon juice and enough water to measure 300ml. Simmer until the gooseberries burst.

Warm the sugar in a bowl in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Remove the elderflowers and add the warm sugar, stirring until it has completely dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached (200°C on a jam thermometer) or put a teaspoonful on a cold plate, leave in a cool place for a few minutes, then if the jam wrinkles when pushed with the finger it has reached setting point.  This jam should be a fresh green colour, so be careful not to overcook it.

Pour into hot clean sterilised jars, cover and store in a dry, airy cupboard.

It will keep for 6-12 months but is best enjoyed when it’s fresh.

Elderflower Champagne

This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.

2 heads of elderflowers

560g sugar

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

4.5 litres water

1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler.  Pick the elderflowers in full bloom.  Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water.  Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles.  Lay them on their sides in a cool place.  After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink.  Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.

Top Tip

The bottles need to be strong and well-sealed, otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.

An Abundance of New Season’s Produce

How glorious is this time of the year? I seem to spend much of my time at present giving thanks for the blessing and joy of the new season’s produce. The thrill of being able to cut asparagus spears directly from the bed and pop them into a pot of well salted water within minutes of picking. Add a drizzle of melted butter or a blob of three minute Hollandaise sauce, a sublime feast…

And then there are the fresh peas swelling in the pods and the joy of watching the grandchildren and their little friends racing up and down the row tweaking the fattest ones off the vine and then the excitement as they learned the new skill of how to get the sweet, juicy peas out of the pods rather than out of a plastic bag in the freezer. It’s an eye-opener to realise how many folk and not just children have never seen a pea in a pod and have no idea how to go about getting them out or realise that they can be eaten raw.

We’ve also had the first of the broad beans, possibly my favourite vegetable of all.

Once again, they must be super fresh to blow your mind.

Freshness is incredibly important to flavour and indeed nutrients in vegetables. This is where home gardeners score, plus one enjoys every bite, even more, when you understand how much time and TLC went into growing them. 

Broad beans also grow nestled inside furry pods, so they are even more appealing to extract. We love to sit around the table, podding them before supper, while we sip a little glass of something.

When they’re young, I love to eat them raw, just dipped in a little bowl of extra-virgin olive oil, then a sprinkling of sea salt…. 

They are also delicious pan-grilled in the pods, brilliant on the barbecue too, then eat them straight from the pods.

We’ve also been gorging ourselves on new season’s carrots, I love to nibble them, freshly pulled from the ground, a quick wash under the tap in the greenhouse – crunch, crunch…

And the children love them raw too, it’s brilliant to see them feasting on fresh vegetables, preferring them raw when they might have turned their sniffy little noses up at a cooked version.

Carrots are also super tasty roasted.  Try it, they are particularly delicious added to salads with some labneh or a goat cheese and lots of fresh herbs. 

Last but certainly not least, we planted a few rows of a variety of cabbage called Caraflex in the greenhouses this year. They’ve got a pointy nose like ‘sweetheart’ or what we used to call ‘greyhound’ cabbage years ago. The flavour is absolutely wonderful, either raw or cooked. Once again, my favourite new way of cooking it is either fried in a ton of sizzling butter or a combination of frying and roasting…Who knew that roast cabbage would be so good. I’ve no idea who came up with this way of cooking cabbage but whoever it was, I will be eternally grateful for their ingenuity….Perhaps it was an accident as so many great discoveries are.

Looks like we will have a glut of blackcurrants this year. They won’t ripen until mid to late July but meanwhile, the leaves are incredibly aromatic, so we’ve been using them for Blackcurrant Lemonade and this irresistible blackcurrant leaf sorbet that makes a chic starter for a summer dinner party.

Here are a few of my favourite recipes to celebrate the bounty of the new season.

Chargrilled Peas in the Pod

Peas cooked in this way are super delicious and totally addictive

Serves 4-6

450g fresh peas, about 85 pods

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

Pop a pan grill on a high flame. Toss the pea pods in a very little extra virgin olive oil and some flaky sea salt. When the pan is very hot, lay the pods in the pan in a single layer, allow to colour from the grill, flick over and char on the other side.

Taste, add a little more salt if necessary.

Put the pod between your teeth and enjoy the peas as they pop out

Chargrilled Broad Beans in the Pod

Grill broad beans in a similar way.

Chicken Breasts with Green Asparagus

Soaking the chicken breasts in milk gives them a tender and moist texture. We often serve this recipe with orzo, a pasta which looks like grains of rice sometimes called riso.  Always worth having a packet in your pantry. 

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, free range if possible

milk, optional

salt and freshly ground pepper

15g butter

110g Irish asparagus in season

150ml homemade chicken stock

150ml cream

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


sprigs of chervil

orzo, optional (see recipe)

Soak the chicken breasts in milk, just enough to cover them for 1 hour approx.

To prepare and cook the asparagus.

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus, but we rarely do. Cook in about 2.5cm of boiling salted water (1 tsp salt to every 600ml water) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily.  Refresh in cold water, drain and cut into 2.5cm pieces at an angle.

Next, discard the milk, dry with kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.  Heat the butter in a sauté pan until foaming, put in the chicken breasts and turn them in the butter (do not brown), and cover with a round of greaseproof paper and the lid. Cook on a gentle heat for 5-7 minutes or until just barely cooked.

When the chicken breasts are cooked remove to a plate. Add the chicken stock and cream to the saucepan.  Bring to the boil, whisk in a little roux just enough to thicken the sauce slightly. When you are happy with the flavour and texture of the sauce, add the chicken breasts and asparagus back in.  Simmer for a 1-2minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve immediately garnished with sprigs of fresh chervil and some freshly cooked orzo as an accompaniment.


If the sauce is too thick add a little chicken stock to thin to a light coating consistency.

Orzo with Fresh Herbs

Orzo looks like fat grains of rice but is in fact made from semolina. It is sometimes sold under the name of ‘Misko’.

Serves 4

2.3 litres water

1 ½ tsp salt

200g orzo

15-25g butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

Bring the water to a fast rolling boil and add the salt. Sprinkle in the orzo, cook for 8-10 minutes* or until just cooked. Drain, rinse under hot water, toss with a little butter. Season with freshly ground pepper and garnish with some chopped parsley.

*Time depends on the type of Orzo.

Orzo with Peas

275g of orzo and 200g peas

Add the peas to the orzo 3-4 minutes before the end of cooking – serve as in master recipe.

Charred Cabbage with Katsuobushi

Charred cabbage is a revelation, who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift this humble vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination.  Katsuobushi are shaved bonita flakes. Bonita is a type of tuna. Buy some – you’ll soon be addicted and find lots of ways to use it up.  Alternatively, omit the katsuobushi flakes and serve the butter basted cabbage as a side.   Can be served as a starter or as a side.

Serves 6

1 medium cabbage

1 tbsp light olive oil or a neutral oil

50-110g butter

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

katsuobushi flakes (optional)

Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas mark 8.

Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces, add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes ‘noisette’, spoon the melted butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes.  Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.

Add some katsuobushi flakes (if using) to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more katsuobushi flakes over the top and serve immediately. 

Rory O’Connell’s Salad of Roast Carrots, Chickpeas, Lemon and Coriander

Thank you to my brother Rory for sharing this delicious recipe.

‘This is a fresh tasting and delicious salad. It would fit into a selection of salads or could be a standalone dish when served with a little labneh. It would be a good accompaniment for roast or grilled lamb.’

Serves 6-8

To roast the carrots

850g carrots

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

pinch of sugar

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas

2 tsp roasted and ground cumin

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tbsp chopped coriander

zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

pinch chilli flakes

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

pinch of sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

If necessary, peel the carrots, otherwise scrub until spotlessly clean. If the carrots are large, they can be cut at an angle into 1cm thick slices. Very small carrots can be left whole or medium carrots can be halved lengthways. Toss the prepared carrots in the olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar and place on a roasting tray in a single layer. Roast for approximately 20 minutes until tender but not soft. Remove from the oven to cool slightly.

While the carrots are roasting, drain the chickpeas of their liquid and rinse well. Place in a bowl and add the cumin, olive oil, coriander, lemon zest and juice, pomegranate molasses and chilli flakes. Season with sea salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and mix well. Taste to ensure that seasoning is accurate and delicious.

When the carrots have cooled to tepid, mix them into the chickpeas and stir with a flexible spatula. Have one final taste to check seasoning.

Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet

Use only young blackcurrant leaves, when the bushes begin to flower, they lose their powerful blackcurrant flavour.   We also use this recipe to make an elderflower sorbet – substitute 4 or 5 elderflower heads in full bloom.

2 large handfuls of young blackcurrant leaves

600ml cold water

185g sugar

juice of 3 lemons

1 egg white (optional)

Crush the blackcurrant leaves tightly in your hand, put into a stainless steel saucepan with the cold water and sugar.  Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely.  Add the juice of 3 freshly squeezed lemons.

Strain and freeze for 20-25 minutes in an ice cream maker or sorbetière.  Serve in chilled glasses or chilled white China bowls or on pretty plates lined with fresh blackcurrant leaves.

Note: If you do not have a sorbetière, simply freeze the sorbet in a dish in the freezer, when it is semi-frozen, whisk until smooth and return to the freezer again.  Whisk again when almost frozen and fold in one stiffly beaten egg white.  Keep in the freezer until needed.

If you have access to a food processor.  Freeze the sorbet completely in a tray, then break up and whizz for a few seconds in the processor, add 1 slightly beaten egg white, whizz and freeze again.  Serve.

Celebrate Our Producer’s Day at Ballymaloe Cookery School

As cooks and chefs, we are totally dependent on the quality of the raw materials we can source to make beautiful fresh tasting food.

We are super fortunate in Ireland to have many fantastic artisan and specialist producers – since Covid even more seem to be popping up every week.

There’s a growing entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude around the country and the brilliant thing is that many of these start-ups are situated in rural areas, creating extra employment in the countryside.

Recently we had a Celebrate our Producers Day here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School to introduce our students to some of the food heroes behind the ingredients they cook with.

Rod and Julie Calder Potts came from Kilkenny and Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford.  There was also quite a representation from West Cork where many of the pioneers got started.

Sally Barnes from Woodcock Smokery overlooking Castletownsend harbour has been smoking fish for over 40 years.

She learned her trade by trial and error…her initial fish smoking efforts were a desperate attempt to preserve four beautiful brown trout that had been caught in Ballyalla Lough, now devoid of trout.

She shared her passion for wild caught fish, fire and smoke and her deep knowledge of the state of the seas, lakes and rivers and the tragic demise of fish stocks around our coasts.

Sally, one of Ireland’s most iconic and feisty artisan producers is now teaching master classes in an attempt to pass on the skills she painstakingly acquired smoking award-winning wild salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and other white fish over the years. The herrings and sprats have now all but disappeared, much of the catch transformed into pellets for farmed fish.

Anthony Creswell’s Ummera Smokehouse is also in West Cork. A second generation multi award-winner who also smokes duck and chicken breast and traditional cured rashers as well as organic salmon. Ummera Smokehouse ships smoked salmon all over the world and they too are happy to have visitors to the smokehouse close to Timoleague in West Cork.

Toby Simmons, known to many from his stall in the English Market in Cork city but also based in West Cork where he and his lovely wife, Jenny Rose have transformed the Toonsbridge Dairy close to Macroom into a destination café with a woodfired oven, shop and dairy that produces five or six types of Italian filata style cheeses to supply his many Olive stalls around the country.

Toby’s story which started with olives is also intriguing. He set up the Real Olive Company in 1993. Toby imported a herd of buffalo into Ireland to make mozzarella, burrata, stracciatella, caciocavallo, halloumi, smoked scamorza, ricotta and Cheddar – also worth a detour…

Rupert Hugh Jones produces both native and gigas oysters in Cork Harbour close to Carrigtwohill in East Cork where his father David established oyster beds in the 1960’s. Rupert shared the intriguing story of the life cycle of the oysters, and the challenges and rewards of producing one of Ireland’s most prestigious products.

Rupert is also founder of the award-winning Mahon Point and Douglas Farmers Markets. Students were intrigued to hear about the many opportunities the farmers markets present to do market research and sell their artisan and specialist products.

Rupert does many exciting corporate events and bespoke tours of Rossmore Oysters.

Eunice Power from Dungarvan in Co. Waterford is another totally inspiring and seemingly unstoppable entrepreneur with a ‘can do’ attitude in spades. She enthusiastically regaled the 12 Week Certificate Course students with tales of her life in food…restaurants and gourmet catering, everything from weddings to huge rock concerts in the O2 Arena and delectable picnics for the Lismore Opera Festival. Always highlighting local ingredients, local fish and shellfish and meat from her treasured local butcher Michael McGrath from Lismore.

Her fish and chip restaurant in Dungarvan named ‘And Chips’ established in 2019 draws devotees from far and wide. This is no ordinary chipper……

And last, but certainly not least, lovely Rod and Julie Calder-Potts, from Highbank Nurseries in Co Kilkenny, an extraordinary couple of passionate entrepreneurs who farm with nature to produce a variety of beautiful apples, from which they make 15 plus organic products… apple juice, apple cider vinegar, several ciders, apple syrup, apple treacle, Calvados (apple brandy) and more recently a sensational rum (and I don’t use the word sensational lightly) Dark Doyle Apple Rum, created to celebrate their daughters marriage to Jamie Doyle last year.

Seek out their products in various locations all over the country (listed on their website) and online and watch out for events at the Highbank Farm.

A Plate of Locally Smoked Fish with Horseradish Sauce and Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

We have fantastic smoked fish in Ireland. Artisan smokers like sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork, Anthony Cresswell of Ummera and Frank Hederman of Belvelly near Cobh who have developed a cult following for their smoked Irish salmon and other fish.

Serves 4

A section of smoked fish – smoked salmon, smoked mussels, smoked mackerel, smoked trout, smoked eel, smoked tuna, smoked hake and smoked sprats.

Sweet Dill Mayonnaise (see recipe)

Cucumber and Dill Pickle (see recipe)

Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)


segments of lemon

sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves

First make the horseradish sauce and sweet dill mayonnaise. 

Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices down onto the skin, allow 1 slice per person.  Cut the mackerel into diamond shaped pieces, divide the trout into large flakes.  Skin and slice the eel.  Thinly slice the tuna and hake. 

To Serve

Choose four large white plates, drizzle each plate with sweet dill mayonnaise, divide the smoked fish between the plates.  Arrange appetizingly, put a blob of horseradish sauce and cucumber pickle on each plate.  Garnish with a lemon wedge and sprigs of watercress or rocket leaves.

Sweet Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range

2 tbsp French mustard

1 tbsp white sugar

150ml groundnut or sunflower

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp dill, finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Cucumber and Dill Pickle

Cucumber pickle keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Serves 10-12

1kg thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber

3 small onions thinly sliced

225g granulated sugar

1 tbsp salt

225ml cider vinegar

2 tbsp dill, chopped

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together, stir in the chopped dill and pour over cucumbers.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1-2 hours or overnight before using. 

Horseradish Sauce

This is a fairly mild sauce.  If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish!  Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.

Serves 8-10

3-6 tbsp freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ teaspoon mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 tsp sugar

225ml softly whipped cream

Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle.  The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours. 

Stracciatella with Raisins, Toasted Almonds, Preserved Lemons and Marjoram

Stracciatella is soft creamy cheese made from Buffalo milk in Bergamot near Puglia. It has a similar texture to the centre of Burrata.*  Look out for Toby Simmond’s stracciatella.

Serves 6

110g toasted almonds, coarsely and unevenly chopped (pistachio nuts can also be used)

75g plump raisins

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

35-50g preserved lemon, coarsely diced 

Espelette or Aleppo pepper

350g stracciatella – 3 mozzarella

flaky sea salt

fresh annual marjoram leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

Blanch and peel the almonds, spread out on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. (You can also do this in a frying pan on a medium heat.) Set aside to cool, then chop coarsely and unevenly.

Put the raisins into a little bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to plump up for 10-15 minutes.

Drain and dry the raisins, put into a bowl with the toasted almonds and diced preserved lemon. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, toss gently.

To Serve

Put a couple of tablespoons of stracciatella onto a serving plate, spoon some of the raisin, almond and preserved lemon mixture on top. Scatter with annual marjoram leaves. Sprinkle with a little pinch of Espelette or Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt. Serve with a few pieces of sourdough toast. Repeat with the other plates.

*Note: If stracciatella is difficult to source, buy the best mozzarella you can find, coarsely chop and cover with 2-3 tablespoons of rich cream. Marinade for an hour or so.

Highbank Orchards Mussels in Cider

Ruth Calder-Potts kindly shared this recipe with us.

Serves 4

4 rashers, dry-cured bacon

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2kg Irish mussels

1 bay leaf

50ml Highbank Proper Cider

150ml cream

freshly ground black pepper

handful of fresh parsley

crusty bread (for soaking up all the sauce)

Fry or grill the bacon until crispy then set aside.  When they have cooled, cut them into strips.

Wash the mussels in cold water.  Discard any open mussels.

Fry the shallots, until translucent along with the garlic.

Place the mussels, bay leaf and cider into a large pot.  Add the onion and garlic and cover with the lid. 

Place on the hot for about 5 minutes, shaking the pot a couple of times during cooking.  The mussels should all have opened, remove the closed ones.

Add the cream, pepper and chopped parsley and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the bacon.

Serve with the crusty bread to mop up all the yummy sauce. 

Eunice Power’s Raspberry Coconut Cake

Every now and then you want to make a cake for someone special and push the boat out! This is one of those cakes. The addition of coconut makes for a deliciously damp cake, the raw coconut on the exterior introduces an element of fun. It’s worth putting a little planning into the cake. Firstly, organise your ingredients, never underestimate the importance of a shopping list!  I suggest making the coconut filling the day before so that the cake can be assembled when it’s fresh.

275g self-raising flour

70g desiccated coconut

1 tbsp rosewater

375g caster sugar

175g butter, melted

3 eggs

375ml milk

Coconut Cream Filling

300g white granulated sugar

6 egg whites

350g salted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes

1 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

160g coconut milk

2 tbsp of raspberry jam

100g raspberries

100g raw coconut (available in health food shops, I buy mine in Blasta Health Food Store, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford – 058 23901)

a tiny drop of red food colouring

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3.

Lightly grease a 20.5cm tin with high sides and line with parchment paper.

Add all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir until mixed, then add in all of the wet ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool for 1 hour. This cake is moist and dense.

Coconut Cream Filling

Place egg whites and sugar in a saucepan and whisk until almost simmering. Remove from the heat and pour the egg white and sugar mix into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed for about 10 minutes, until the sides of the bowl are cool, and the mixture has about doubled in volume.  Add the butter chunks, a few at a time, and beat until incorporated.  It may look curdled but keep beating until the butter is well incorporated and the frosting is glossy.  

Add the vanilla, salt, and coconut milk.  Whip for another couple of minutes until smooth.  

If you make this ahead of time, you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  Before using, bring it back to room temperature and whip it for a few minutes until smooth.  

To assemble the cake.

Slice the cake into three equal size layers, the cake may be quite dense in the middle, don’t be alarmed – this is fine. Spread a tablespoon of raspberry jam over the first layer, then pipe lightly with a quarter of the coconut cream filling and sprinkle with half of the raspberries.  Place the next layer on top and repeat with the jam, coconut cream and raspberries. Put the third layer on top.

Using a spatula, spread the remainder of the coconut cream evenly over the cake and decorate with raw coconut.


To make the coconut pink in colour, add a tiny drop of red food colouring to a bowl of water, then stir in the coconut. Leave for about 10 minutes until the coconut turns pink and strain the water off using a sieve. Pat the strained coconut with a tea towel before spreading on a sheet of baking parchment and allowing it to dry overnight.


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