ArchiveJuly 2023

Summer Barbeque

Nothing beats the tantalising aroma of a piece of good beef, a lamb chop or a whole fish sizzling on an outdoor grill or barbecue. 

I’m daydreaming as the rain pours down in torrents, but the sun WILL shine again, and I’ll be out like a flash to grill up a storm. 

I really love to cook over fire, I can make magic in a little circle of stones on the strand. Even sausages take on a new dimension of flavour when eating outdoors but during these crazy uncertain weather patterns you can’t beat the Weber covered barbecue. It’s brilliant for a barbecued pizza, a super easy way to feed lots of family, friends, hungry kids and teenagers. 

Just make a batch of pizza dough. Sounds like a lot of bother but honestly it isn’t, just mix the few ingredients, knead for a couple of minutes, cover the bowl and let it rise until soft and pillowy while you get some toppings together.

Everyone can have fun shaping, topping and cooking the pizzas and all you need is a big bowl of fresh greens and maybe a gorgeous summer tomato salad with lots of fresh basil.

For a more sophisticated barbecue, how about a butterflied shoulder of lamb marinated with lots of spices. This Madhur Jaffrey version is definitely one of my favourites, have a bowl of banana raita, some Ballymaloe relish, a few poppadums and you have a feast.

Here too are a few riffs on sausages, my favourite is simply a slick of Colman’s mustard, not the ready mix but the powder which really packs a punch. I just add a little water to make it into a soft paste, it does wonders for even a nondescript sausage and really clears the sinuses.

Its peak summer fruit at present, lots of currants and berries, which of course you can serve just as they are, piled up in a bowl with lots of cream and a good sprinkling of castor sugar and maybe a scattering of shredded mint leaves. Hope you loved the summer fruit salad flavoured with the haunting lemony aroma of sweet geranium leaves from a couple of weeks ago.  It’s fresh and gorgeous and actually keeps in the fridge for up to a week. We love it for breakfast too with a dollop of yoghurt. This sweet geranium plant which as you all know is one of my signature flavours is a must to have on your windowsill. You’ll find it in many Garden Centres… the Latin name is Pelargonium graveolens. Look out for it, you’ll find so many ways to use it – If you don’t already have it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it…

But this week, let’s make delicious use of the apricots that we’ll have for just a few more weeks.

Chargrilled Pizza

Pizza Margherita is possibly the most traditional and universally popular pizza in Italy.  You’ll need a Weber style barbecue with a lid for chargrilled pizza.  Vary the toppings as you fancy.

Makes 1 – serves lots

150g quick and easy pizza dough (see recipe)

175g Mozzarella cheese, grated

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

4 tbsp tomato fondue or tomato sauce

1 tbsp Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best), freshly grated

1 dsp freshly chopped basil or annual marjoram

Slice mozzarella and sprinkle with the olive oil.  Season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. 

Heat the barbeque to medium temperature.

Roll out pizza dough to a 30cm rectangle or circle, about 5mm thick.  Brush one side with olive oil.

Gently place the oiled side of the dough on the grid in the centre of the barbecue, directly over the heat.  Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom of the crust is well marked and browned.  Flip it over.

Sprinkle the grated Mozzarella over the cooked side of the crust, within 2.5cm of the edge. Spread the drained, well-seasoned tomato fondue over the top. Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan.   Season very well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Close the lid and cook until the bottom is well browned, toppings are warm, and cheese is bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.

Sprinkle lots of freshly chopped basil or marjoram on top, cut into pieces and serve immediately.

Quick and Easy Pizza Dough

The beauty of this recipe is that it is so quick and easy, using this fast acting yeast does away with the first rising.  By the time your tomato fonduesauce is bubbling, your pizza base will be ready for its topping! This dough also makes delicious white yeast bread which we shape into rolls, loaves and plaits.

Makes 8 x 25cm pizzas

680g strong white flour or 600g strong white flour and 110g rye flour

2 level teaspoons salt

15g sugar

50g butter

1 packet fast acting yeast

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

450 – 500ml lukewarm water – more if needed

In a large wide mixing bowl, sieve the flour and add in the salt, sugar, rub in the butter and fast acting yeast, mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the lukewarm water.  Mix to a loose dough.  You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about 5 minutes. 

Then knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and springy (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).

Leave the dough to relax again for about ten minutes.  Shape and measure into 8 equal balls of dough each weighing approximately 150g.  Lightly brush the balls of dough with olive oil.

If you have time, put the oiled balls of dough into an oiled bowl and cover or reusable Ziploc bag and chill.  The dough will be easier to handle when cold, but it can be used immediately. 

On a well-floured work surface roll each ball into about a 25cm disk.  I find it convenient to pop a few rolled out uncooked pizza bases into the freezer.  You can take one out, put the topping on and slide it straight into the oven.  What could be easier!

Tomato Fondue

Tomato fondue is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6 approximately

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

110g sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g very ripe tomatoes in Summer or 2 tins (x 400g) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

1 tbsp of any of the following:

freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

Heat the oil in a stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole.  Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.  Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add all the juice to the onions.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).  Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little.  Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the fondue as a vegetable, sauce or filling.

Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Ask your local butcher to butterfly the leg of lamb for you – it’ll take a bit of time to make the marinade, a labour of love but so worth it.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it’s only a matter of adding all the spices to the mix.

Serves 10 – 12

1 leg of lamb, butterflied (3.4-4kg)

1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped

1 piece of fresh ginger 7.5cm x 2.5cm long, peeled and coarsely chopped

7 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

175ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp Garam Masala (see recipe)

1 tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp ground mace

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

225g olive oil

2-2 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Spring onion and radishes

Ballymaloe Relish (optional)

Whizz the onion, ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a food processor or liquidise for about a minute.  Put this paste into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Cut off all the fat and tissue from the meat and make lots of holes in it with the point of a knife, rub the paste well into the meat and make sure it goes into the holes.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Turn it over several times during that period. Light the barbecue 15 minutes ahead if you are using natural charcoal otherwise 45 minutes or better still an hour before you start to cook. Lift the meat out of the marinade and drain for a few minutes. Sear on both sides first then raise the rack to the uppermost notch and cook for 20 minutes on each side. Brush frequently with the marinade until it’s all used up. The meat needs to cook for about 50 minutes in total and should be very dark on the outside but still pinkish inside.

To Serve

Slice into thin slices with a sharp knife. Serve immediately on a hot serving dish garnished with spring onions, radishes and flat parsley.  Add a bowl of yoghurt and fresh mint or a raita.  Ballymaloe Relish is a particularly delicious accompaniment.


Spicy Lamb Kebabs

Serves 10 – 12

The meat can be cut into 2.5cm cubes and marinated as above. Thread 5 or 6 on a skewer, grill for 8-10 minutes on a rack over hot coals.  Serve with a green salad.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Garam Masala

A brilliant spice, mix to use on lamb, beef, pork, chicken…  Commercial garam masala loses its aromatic flavour very quickly, so it’s far better to make your own kind.  Grind it in small quantities so that it is always fresh and used up quickly.  Brilliant to use as a rub also.

Makes about 3 tablespoons

1 tbsp green cardamom seeds

1 x 5cm piece of cinnamon stick

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

½ whole nutmeg

Put all the ingredients into a clean electric coffee grinder and whizz for about 30 seconds or until all the spices are finely ground.  Store in a dark place in a tiny screw top jar and use up quickly.  Don’t forget to clean out the coffee grinder really well or your coffee will certainly perk you up!  Better still, if you use spices regularly, keep a grinder specially for that purpose.

Banana and Cardamom Raita

One of my favourite raitas, you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful and also dollop on granola for breakfast too…!

Serves 6 approximately

25g approx. raisins or sultanas

15g blanched slivered almonds

90ml natural yoghurt

40ml cream

40ml sour cream

1 dsp pure Irish honey

2-4 firm ripe bananas depending on size

pinch of salt

3-4 green cardamom pods

Pour boiling water over the raisins or sultanas, leave for 10 minutes.

Toast the almonds (watch them, they burn really easily).

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.  Mix the yoghurt with the creams and cardamom, add the honey, taste and add more if needed. Add the raisins. Slice the bananas, season with a pinch of salt and add to the yoghurt base. Turn into a serving bowl and scatter with toasted almonds, chill for an hour if possible.

Serve with curries and spicy dishes.

Sausages with Honey and Grainy Mustard and variations

Super easy and delicious.  Everyone including children love these honey and mustard sausages, even if there’s lots of other fancy food.  They are brilliant to nibble with drinks while waiting for the remainder of the food to be ready.

Makes about 30

450g good-quality sausages

2 tbsp Irish honey

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

Prick the sausages and cook on the grill, turning occasionally until cooked and golden. 

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.

Poached Apricots with Sweet Geranium Leaves

A gorgeous combination – another way to use the leaves of your sweet geranium plant.

Serves 4-6

4-6 large lemon scented geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

175g sugar

225ml cold water

450g fresh apricots, left whole or cut in half and stoned

To Serve

Jersey pouring cream or Sweet Geranium Cream (see recipe)

Put the sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan with the sugar and water and bring slowly to the boil. Meanwhile, add the apricots whole or if you prefer, slice the apricots in half and remove the stones.  Cover the saucepan and simmer until the apricots are soft (5-10 minutes depending on ripeness and whether they are stoned or not).  Turn into a bowl, serve chilled with Jersey pouring cream.


Poached Apricots with Lemon Verbena

Substitute 6 lemon verbena leaves for sweet geranium in the master recipe and proceed as above

Sweet Geranium Cream

600ml cream

3–4 sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Put the cold cream into a saucepan with the geranium leaves.  Bring slowly to the shivery stage over a low heat.  Allow to cool. Whip softly and serve.

Cherries, Watermelon and Raspberries

This week, I thought I would pick just three glorious summer fruits and share some of my favourite recipes.

I love cherries, but mostly I love to eat them fresh, rather than cooked.  That’s unless of course one can find morello cherries which make the most delicious pies.  They are smaller and far more tart but cook deliciously with a bittersweet flavour.

I hate cheesecake with a passion but try this irresistible version with a crunchy kataifi base and a tumble of stoned cherries scattered over the creamy mascarpone topping with lots of fresh mint and coarsely chopped Iranian pistachios.

Cheesecake will never be the same again.  I’m indebted to Sarit and Itamar from Honey and Co for introducing me to this concept, one can vary the fruit on top.

How about tossing some stoned cherries into a ‘green’ salad, cherries also add a delicious pop of sweetness to savoury dishes.

I like to keep a beautiful organic watermelon as a standby in the fridge all summer long, what could be more versatile – a cool, super refreshing dessert in a twinkling or a juicy addition to both sweet and savoury salads. We also love watermelon lemonade or a crystally granita. This combination of watermelon with tomatoes and radishes, a little red onion and lots of fresh herbs is also super delicious and a few added cherries wouldn’t hurt. 

All these fruits are standby desserts during the high summer days.  What’s not to love about a big bowl of cherries – no need for any further embellishment.

And how about ripe raspberries piled high with a little bowl of caster sugar and a jug of rich, yellow Jersey cream. 

As ever, I urge you to think about planting some of your own fruit and can you imagine the joy of picking cherries from your very own cherry tree. 

We are super fortunate to have lots of grandchildren living close by, one of my greatest summer joys is to watch and sometimes join them when they are deliriously picking berries straight off the bushes, what wonderful childhood memories they will have…

It’s worth planting some raspberry canes or fruit trees just for the sheer joy of watching their delight, not to mention learning where their food comes from – direct from Mother Nature rather than just a supermarket shelf…

Beetroot, Raspberry, Honey and Mint Salad

This is a surprising but delicious combination of raspberries and beetroot that I first came across in a restaurant in London. Now we use this bizarre sounding duo in several salads and in ice cream to rave reviews. My brother Rory likes to add a few teaspoons of thick yogurt or labneh when serving.

Serves 4

2 cooked beetroots, peeled and very thinly

sliced on a mandolin

24 raspberries

mixed flower honey

freshly squeezed lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

16 small mint leaves

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Divide the sliced beetroot among 4 white plates.

Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle on the mint leaves and serve.

How to cook beetroot

Leave 5cm leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise, the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 15-20 minutes (in May/June when they are young) depending on size (they can take 1-2 hours in late Autumn and Winter when they are tough). Beetroot is usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Morello Cherry and Pistachio Slice

A gorgeous slice that makes a yummy pud as well as an irresistible treat to nibble with a cup of tea or coffee. I like to leave the stalks on some of the cherries, but you may need to warm your guests to look out for stones. The combination of pistachio and cherries is a very happy one.

Makes 24

175g butter, softened

150g caster sugar

2 organic eggs

150g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

450g fresh morello cherries, stoned

50g pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Line a 25.5 x 18cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving an overhanging piece at each end.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and ground almonds into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the prepared tin.  

Sprinkle the cherries over the top, allowing a little space between the fruit.  I like to leave some whole with their strings on, but one could stone them all.   Sprinkle some pistachios between the cherries.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well risen. Cut into squares.

Top tip for removing cherry stones.

Find a paper clip, insert into the stalk end of the cherry, rotate and lift out the pip.  You can also do this by pushing up with a straw from the base.  If you do it over the top of a bottle, the pips will fall into the bottle. The latter is a little more wasteful but also works well.

A Crunchy Cheesecake with Cherries and Lemon Verbena

This version will win over even the most virulent cheesecake haters.

Kataifi is an amazing and fun pastry – it is made out of tiny thin shreds of filo that you bake with butter and sugar.  You’ll find it in a Middle Eastern grocery store. Brilliant for stress-free entertaining. 

If you can’t source kadaifi, just use a base of sweet shortcrust pastry.  It’ll still be delicious.  For extra oomph, sprinkle a few tiny pink rose petals over the top of each one.

Makes a generous 4 portions

Kataifi Base

50g melted butter

110g kataifi pastry (or shredded filo)

1 tbsp caster sugar 

Cheesecake Cream
80g full fat cream cheese
50ml extra thick double cream
12g icing sugar
25g local runny honey, raw honey if available

25g smooth, creamy feta
seeds from ¼ vanilla pod (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)


a few fresh mint and marjoram leaves

25g pistachios, roughly chopped 

12-20 fresh cherries, halved and stoned (3-5 halves per cheesecake depending on size)

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

Put the pastry and sugar into a bowl.  Drizzle with melted butter.  Fluff the pastry by pulling it and loosening the shreds with your hands until it’s evenly coated with the sugar and butter.  Divide into 4 equal amounts, pulling each clump of pastry out of the mass like a little ball of wool.  Lay on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  They should resemble ‘birds’ nests, each about the size of a drink’s coaster.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. The pastry nests will keep for 2-3 days, so you can prepare them well in advance.

Put all the cheesecake cream ingredients into a large bowl, mix gently with a spatula or a large spoon, using circular folding motions until the mixture thickens and starts to hold the swirls.  Don’t use a whisk. Check that it is sufficiently thick by scooping some onto a spoon and turning it upside-down: it should stay where it is.  If it is still too soft, mix it some more. You can prepare the cheesecake cream in advance (up to 48 hours before serving) and keep it covered in the fridge until it is time to assemble the dessert.

When you come to assemble the dessert, place a pastry nest on each plate and top with a generous scoop of the cheesecake mix.  Sprinkle over the chopped nuts, add a generous scattering of fresh stoned cherries.  If you want to be super-luxurious, drizzle with some raw honey as well.  Decorate with shredded lemon verbena, if unavailable, use mint leaves and maybe a few pale, pink rose petals.

Pan-grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon Salsa

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, free-range and organic (fillets removed – skin on unless you’d prefer otherwise)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Watermelon Salsa

225g (8oz) watermelon, seeded and diced

2 tbsp red onion, chopped

2-3 tbsp coriander leaves, freshly chopped

1 tbsp jalapeno pepper, diced

½ tsp salt

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed

First make the salsa.

Put all the ingredients into a stainless steel bowl. Taste and allow to stand while you cook the chicken breast.

Heat a cast iron grill pan until quite hot. Brush each chicken breast with oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill-pan skin side down and allow to become golden brown on both sides. The grill pan may now be transferred to a preheated moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4. If you are not putting it in the oven – be careful not to burn it. The chicken can take up to 15 minutes to cook depending on size.

Serve on hot plates with watermelon salsa.

Salad of Watermelon, Radish, Tomato and Summer Herbs

A delicious starter or summer lunch.

Serves 6

a thick slice of good bread, sourdough or pan loaf, 150g approx.

a large chunk of watermelon, about 750g with rind (¼ melon approx.)

8 ripe tomatoes (850g)

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

6 radishes (100g)

4-6 spring onions (50g)

1 fistful fresh mint, coarsely chopped

1 fistful flat parsley sprigs


6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chardonnay vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp runny honey

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat a grill.

Tear the bread into uneven chunks, 2cm approx.  Toast the bread under the grill, toss and continue until crispy all over.

Remove the rind from the watermelon, cut into uneven chunks and put into a bowl.  Cut the tomatoes into biggish chunks, season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Halve or quarter the radishes and add.  Trim and slice both the white and green parts of the spring onions at an angle and sprinkle over the other ingredients.  Add the radish leaves if fresh.

To make the dressing.

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey and seasoning in a bowl. 

To Assemble

Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, add the crusty bread.  Sprinkle on the freshly chopped mint and parsley sprigs.  Toss again.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Pile up on a serving dish.  Scatter with a few more sprigs of mint and serve as soon as possible.

Not Enough Meal Slots…

I’ve just returned from the hugely inspirational Groundswell Regenerative Agricultural Festival in the UK. This was my second attempt to get to this event which is held on Lanark Manor Farm near Weston in Hertfordshire. Last year I got as far as London, but a sudden train strike prevented me from getting to the festival. Since the initial Groundswell eight years ago, there has been an explosion of interest in regenerative farming and food systems change. Originally 400 farmers gathered in the Barn to share ideas in an open minded and positive setting. This year over 5,000 turned up to explore regenerative solutions that subsequent generations will thank us for. It was a broadchurch… from very intensive conventional farmers to organic and biodynamic even some small holders with just a couple of acres to landowners with 6000 plus acre estates… all with a common purpose …

It was a packed program with over 200 speakers including Joel Williams, Nicole Masters, Zach Bush, Anne Bilké, Richards Perkins… Often inevitably two talks that I desperately wanted to hear were running concurrently but most were recorded and will be available on Groundswell’s YouTube channel, so you too, can listen to many of the presentations. Gatherings like this stimulate mindset change and innovation at this challenging time.

If you’re one of the happy gardeners who planted a few packets of seeds in Spring to grow some of your own food, you’re probably overwhelmed with an abundance of beautiful chemical-free produce at present.

There are not even enough meal slots to enjoy all the fresh vegetables. The first tomatoes and cucumbers have ripened in the greenhouse. We’ve had beets and courgettes for several weeks now. The first of the French beans are dangling temptingly from the bean stalks. Chilies are coming fast, floury potatoes, tons of salad leaves and voluptuous basil to make pesto and to toss into salads and pasta dishes. So much work has gone into growing, I can’t bear to waste a scrap, but everything seems to peak together, quite the challenge….

We picked some super ripe loganberries and tayberries in the aptly named Currant and Berry Garden today…such a treat. After we’d enjoyed a simple little feast with a dollop of Jersey cream and a sprinkling of caster sugar, I made the remaining berries into jam – such fun and super easy. The recipe works brilliantly for raspberries too and even though I’ve been making jam since I was a child, I still relish a glow of satisfaction as I line up the jars of my very own homemade jam on the shelves in the pantry, I always think of them as good deeds to admire. 

Purely by coincidence, a copy of ‘The Greens Cookbook’, arrived in the post this week. A Grub Street, reprint of Deborah Madison‘s original book that created a revolution in cooking when it first appeared over 35 years ago. It’s now regarded as a classic and here in this handsome new addition are the recipes that helped to create the boldly original and highly successful Greens Restaurant on San Francisco Bay where I vividly remember eating in the 1980s. 

How about this Summer Garden Salad given to me by my good friend David Tanis.

Basil Pesto

Pesto, the famous Ligurian basil sauce, is best made with summer basil and Italian pine nuts. The price of pine nuts has skyrocketed in recent years, so I now use cashews instead, which work brilliantly. Home peeled almonds are also a good alternative. Homemade pesto takes minutes to make and tastes a million times better than most of what you can buy. To avoid mould growing, clean the top of the jar every time you take some out and cover the surface of the pesto with a layer of olive oil to exclude the air. That way you should be able to use every scrap. I make a wide variety of pesto throughout the year depending on the season – enjoy experimenting with the variations listed opposite or swap the basil leaves for watercress in the recipe below.

Makes approx. 2 x 200ml jars

110g fresh basil leaves

175-225ml extra virgin olive oil

25g cashews or fresh pine nuts (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid), chopped

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

50g finely grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

sea salt, to taste

Whizz the basil with the olive oil, chopped cashews or pine nuts and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar. Remove to a bowl and fold in the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste.

Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars or containers for convenience.

Raspberry, Tayberry or Loganberry Jam

Raspberry jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious.  Loganberries, Boysenberries or Tayberries may also be used in this recipe.

Makes 3 x 450g pots

900g fresh raspberries, tayberries or loganberries or a mixture

790g granulated sugar

Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in the oven 100°C/Gas Mark ¼ for 15 minutes.

Heat the sugar in a moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 5-10 minutes.

Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. * Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.

Hide the jam in a cool place or else put it on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!


If the jam overcooks, it will be too thick – just add a little boiling water to loosen.

David Tanis’s Summer Garden Salad

Some salads are tossed, while others, like this one, are composed. Feel free to improvise here: A few spinach leaves, watercress, a handful of raw sweet garden peas or fava beans, asparagus or thinly sliced raw artichoke can be nice additions. For a true celebration of early Summer, make sure to gather an assortment of complementary leaves, herbs and vegetables, and arrange them artfully.

Serves 4

For the Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, finely diced

salt and black pepper

50ml lemon juice plus 1 tsp zest

2 tsp Dijon mustard

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad

3 medium red or gold beets, cooked and cut into wedges (see Tip)

salt and black pepper

ribbons of peeled carrots

4 handfuls salad greens, preferably a mix of arugula and lettuce, such as Little Gem or Red Oak

5cm piece daikon radish, or 1 medium watermelon radish, peeled and very thinly sliced

1 bunch small radishes or baby turnips, trimmed and halved

1 medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced

4 eggs, boiled for 7-8 minutes, then cooled, peeled and halved

50g fresh mixed herbs, such as sprigs of tarragon, basil, mint, dill or chervil

Nasturtium or Calendula blossoms, for serving (optional)

Make the vinaigrette: Put the shallot in a small bowl, and add a pinch of salt, the lemon juice, zest, and mustard. Whisk until the salt dissolves, then whisk in the olive oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper to taste.

Start preparing the salad: Put beet wedges in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper, and toss with 1 ½ tablespoons vinaigrette. Set aside.

Put the salad leaves in a large mixing bowl, salt very lightly and dress with ¾ tablespoon vinaigrette. Divide among individual plates or arrange on a platter. Scatter the beets, carrot ribbons, radishes and fennel over the leaves. Arrange the egg halves over the top. Season the eggs with salt and pepper.

Top with the herbs and blossoms, if using. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad and serve.


  • To cook beets, place in a roasting pan with 2.5cm of water, tightly cover with foil and bake at 190°C/Gas Mark 5 until tender, about 1 hour. Once cool enough to handle but still warm, slip the skins off the beets. Peeled beets will keep refrigerated for up to a week.

Summer Fruit Salad with Sweet Geranium Leaves

Sweet geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) and many other varieties of scented geraniums are every present on our windowsills here at Ballymaloe.  We use the delicious lemon scented leaves in all sorts of ways, occasionally we use the pretty purple flowers also to enliven and add magic to otherwise simple dishes.  The crystallized leaves, all frosty and crinkly, are wonderful with fresh cream cheese and fat juicy blackberries.

I discovered this recipe which has now become a perennial favourite quite by accident a few Summers ago as I raced to make a pudding in a hurry with the ingredients I had at that moment.

Serves 8-10

110g raspberries

110g loganberries

110g redcurrants

110g blackcurrants

110g small Strawberries

110g blueberries

110g fraises du bois or wild strawberries 

110g blackberries


325g sugar

450ml water

6-8 large sweet geranium leaves

Put all the freshly picked berries into a white China or glass bowl.  Put the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves into a stainless steel saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Boil for just 2 minutes.   Cool for 4-5 minutes then pour the hot syrup over the fruit and allow to macerate for several hours.  Remove the geranium leaves.  Serve chilled, with softly whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream or on its own.  Garnish with a few fresh sweet geranium leaves.

Summer Berry Jelly with Sweet Geranium Leaves with Sweet Geranium Cream

Sometimes when we have a berry salad leftover, particularly if there is more juice than fruit, we make it into a jelly.  Use 4 teaspoons of gelatine to each 600ml of liquid.  You’ll need 1.2 litres for a large ring mould.  Turn it out carefully onto a large white China plate when it is set, fill the centre with softly whipped cream and decorate with geranium leaves.   

‘Talking About Cakes’ by Margaret Bages

I just love rummaging around in vintage and charity shops. You never know what you’ll come across. Often, I find nothing at all but occasionally I unearth a treasure of no particular interest to anyone else. During a recent trawl through random books in a West Cork shop, I came across what for me is a little gem. A cookbook entitled ‘Talking About cakes with an Irish and Scottish Accent’ by Margaret Bates.

When I went to pay, the sweet lady at the till quipped… “Thought you’d have enough baking cookbooks by now”!

From what I understand, Margaret Bates was vice principal of the Belfast College of Domestic Science in the 1960’s and author of the Belfast Cookbook, ‘Talking About Puddings’ and ‘Talking About Cakes’. The latter is definitely one of my all-time favourite baking books, I owned a paperback copy in the 1970’s which somehow, I managed to mislay. It was chock-a-block with brilliant recipes. Every recipe was tested and retested, over and over again until Margaret was happy that she had perfected the very best version of each for her students and readers. 

I bought this preloved, hardback copy, published in 1964. (Is this a first edition?) for the princely sum of €2.00 – how about that for a bargain!

Every recipe calls for margarine but as you know I don’t do marge so I’ve substituted butter for margarine in every recipe. 

Despite my best efforts, a deep dive into Google yielded little information about Margaret, perhaps some readers may be able to share some further details. Somehow, I understood that she also taught at Atholl Crescent in Edinburgh, but I haven’t been able to verify that.

The book looks really dated and old-fashioned, but don’t jump to conclusions, so many of the recipes are unusual and contemporary, delicious combinations of texture and flavour. 

Margaret has no less than 10 riffs on “good scone recipes” including coconut scones, dates scones, ginger and walnuts scones, Montréal scones…

There is a whole chapter on coffee cakes, another on favourite chocolate cakes and yet another on ginger confections.

The art of making a feather light sponge and super tender Victoria and Genoese sponges with lots of tips on “how to dress them up” deliciously.

She is fairly flaithiúlach with the bottle of sherry and rum and appears to love caraway seeds, which I hated as a child, but absolutely love now. 

There are cakes for the store cupboard and featherlight pastries and curiosities like conversation cakes – “troublesome to make but delicious “, Scots current bun, continues, English, rout biscuits, with five variations, Pitcaithley bannock, rich slim cakes… 

 Keep an eye out for the little paperback, ‘Talking about Cakes’, you may be able to find a copy on eBay. If you love baking, it’s really worth seeking out.

All recipes are taken from ‘Talking About Cakes – with an Irish and Scottish Accent’ by Margaret Bates

A Strawberry Meringue Cake

Strawberry meringue cake is equally at home on the tea-table or as a luscious pudding for a special occasion.  It is unusual in that a thin layer of cake mixture is baked with a covering of meringue and you might well imagine that this arrangement would not really be feasible.  In fact, it works very well, the result having a good eating quality as well as looking most attractive. Two of these are sandwiched together with a generous mixture of strawberries and whipped cream and, while any fruit might be used, one with a sharp flavour is best.


50g butter 

110g caster sugar 

4 egg yolks

110g flour

a little vanilla extract 

1 tsp baking powder 

5 tbsp milk 


4 egg whites

225g sugar 

2 tbsp flaked almonds


1 punnet strawberries 

225ml cream 

sugar if necessary  

Line the bottom of two 23cm cake tins with circles of greased paper.

To make the cake.

Cream the butter and the sugar together in a bowl and when light, beat in the egg yolks adding one at a time.  Then add the flour, vanilla extract, baking powder alternately with the milk. 

Divide this mixture between the two tins and spread evenly.

To make the meringue.

In the bowl of a food mixer, add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until stiff.  Gradually beat in the sugar.  Divide between the two cake tins and swirl attractively.  Sprinkle one cake with the flaked almonds.  Bake in a moderate oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 for approximately 45 minutes.   

When cold, sandwich generously with a mixture of fruit and whipped cream.  The cake sprinkled with almonds should be uppermost.

Chocolate Log Cake

2 eggs 

pinch of salt 

75g caster sugar 

50g flour 

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp milk 

40g cocoa 

a few drops of vanilla extract 

Chocolate Butter Icing 

110g butter 

175g icing sugar 

50g melted chocolate 

a few drops of vanilla extract 

Separate the whites from the yolks.  Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until stiff.  Then gradually beat in the sugar and yolks adding each alternately and beating well between each addition. Continue to beat until the mixture is light and thick.  

Sift the flour and baking powder onto the eggs and fold it in.  Gently fold in the cocoa, milk and vanilla extract.  Spread into a lined and greased Swiss-roll tin and bake in a hot oven 230°C/gas mark 8 for approximately 8-10 minutes.  Turn out onto a piece of baking paper lightly dusted with caster sugar and roll up without any filling.  Leave for a few minutes then carefully unroll. 

To Finish.

First make the chocolate butter icing.

Melt the chocolate over a bowl of simmering water and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.  Cream the butter in a bowl.  Add in the sieved icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  When cool, fold in the melted chocolate and vanilla extract.

Spread over the cake when quite cold and roll up once more.  Dust off any surplus flour.  Then cover the cake with the remainder of the icing, creating some peaks to simulate the bark.  Trim the ends.  If wished, a diagonal wedge may be cut from one end of the cake before it is iced.  This piece can be placed at the side of the roll to gauge an even more realistic appearance. 

Sherry Cake


2 eggs 

75g sugar

75g flour 

a pinch of salt 


1 1/2 egg whites 

75g ground almonds 

110g caster sugar 

a little almond extract


75g butter 

110g icing sugar 

2 tbsp sweet sherry (Harvey’s)

2-3 tbsp sherry to soak the cake plus chopped pistachio nuts and silver balls to decorate it 

one x 20.5cm square tin

Make the sponge.

Beat the eggs and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Sieve the dry ingredients together and fold into the egg mixture. Pop into the cake tin and bake at 200°C/gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes until golden and shrinking away from the sides of the tin.

To make the macaroons.

Whip the egg whites until stiff and then fold in the sugar, ground almonds and extract.  Spread the mixture on a baking tray lined with oiled parchment paper.  Use a wet palette knife for this purpose and spread to approx. 5mm in thickness measuring 25cm x 25cm.  The area of the macaroon mixture should be greater than the cake, to allow trimmingsto crush for the outside.

Bake the macaroon in a moderate oven at 180°C/gas mark 4 and when set and golden, remove from the oven and cut a piece the exact size of the cake.  Crumble the trimmings with the fingers and return to the oven.  Dry until quite crisp, then crush with a rolling pin. 

Make the icing by creaming the butter until light and then gradually beating in the sieved icing sugar together with the sherry, adding a little at a time, since it is likely to cuddle the mixture.

Put a generous spreading of the icing on the portion of macaroon and sandwich with the cake – the piece of macaroon makes the base of the sherry cake.

Next soak the sponge with sherry, being as generous as possible, without making the cake sodden.

Spread the icing on the sides of the cake and roll it, as you work, in the crushed macaroon.  Finally, spread the top of the cake with icing and cover, like the sides with macaroon.

Decorate simple with a sprinkling of chopped pistachio nuts and silver balls.

Ginger Crowns 

These little cakes are particularly delicious to eat and consist of a combination of marzipan and finely chopped ginger.  They are finished somewhat after the shape of a crown and the centre is iced with a ginger-flavoured water icing.  If this seems too laboursome, use the same basic mixture and simplify the shape as you please.

50g ground almonds 

50g caster sugar 

1 tbsp finely chopped preserved ginger 

1-2 egg yolks 

a little syrup from the jar of ginger 


2 tbsp icing sugar 

1 tsp ginger syrup 

a little boiling water 


small pieces of preserved ginger 

Put the ground almonds, caster sugar and chopped ginger in a bowl.  Stir in the ginger syrup and mix to a stiff paste with the egg yolks.

Divide the mixture roughly in half and, from one piece, shape small balls like marbles.  Roll the other piece out thinly and cut into strips, the width being a little greater than the diameter of the ball of mixture – one side of this strip should be cut with a fluted edge if possible.  Wrap these around the little balls in such a way as to make miniature ‘crowns’.

These are best left overnight before baking, then brown quickly by placing in a hot oven at 220°C/gas mark 7 for 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  Lastly fill the centre of each crown with a little ginger-flavoured icing and decorate with a small piece of ginger. 

Deep River Chocolate Fingers

A friend who lives in Deep River, Ontario, sent me this excellent recipe for chocolate fingers, hence its curious name.

Base Mixture

150g plain sweet biscuits 

110g butter

40g caster sugar

3 tbsp cocoa 

1 beaten egg 

1 tsp vanilla extract 

50g coconut 

50g chopped walnut

Middle Mixture

50g butter

175g icing sugar

2 tbsp custard powder

5 tbsp hot water 


110g chocolate

50g butter 

To make the base mixture.

Begin by crushing the biscuits with a rolling pin, then put the butter, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until smooth.  Stir in the egg and vanilla extract.  Remove from the heat and add the crushed biscuits, coconut and chopped walnuts.  Press the mixture into a greased Swiss-roll tin and put in a cool place to set.

When firm, prepare the middle mixture.

Cream the butter and gradually work in the icing sugar, custard powder and hot water.  Spread smoothly over the base mixture.  Again, leave aside in a cool place to firm.

Lastly,  prepare the top mixture.

Melt the chocolate and the butter together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water ensuring the bowl does not touch the water.  Spread like an icing on top of the cream mixture.  When firm, cut into finger pieces.

Peanut Biscuits 

Especially for those who enjoy peanuts.

110g butter 

110g sugar 

1 egg 

150g peanuts

150g oat flakes

60g flour 

1/2 tsp baking powder 

a pinch of baking soda

a pinch of salt 

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl and gradually beat in the lightly whisked egg, the roughly chopped nuts and the dry ingredients.  Put small spoonfuls of the mixture on a greased tray.  Flatten with a fork, making a criss-cross mark and bake at 190°C/gas mark 5 for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack.

Student’s Pop-Up Dinner

Last weekend on a balmy summer’s evening, we had a wonderfully convivial event here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

The Certificate Course students put on their fundraiser Pop-Up dinner.

This time the proceeds were divided between the Seva Mandir India Fund and The Marmalade Project, a charity launched by Belinda Davies, one of the current students whose Mum died tragically from a stroke a couple of years ago.

The Ballymaloe Cookery School students Pop-Up dinner occurs just three times a year, a delicious multi-ethnic event with a different theme each time.

On this occasion, it was Carpe Diem…live in the moment. A celebration of the bounty of beautiful fresh produce in season at present on the farm and in the gardens.

With a little guidance from Rory O’Connell, Pamela Black and Gary Masterson, the 3-month students planned and orchestrated the entire event.

They designed the menu, tested and retested recipes, created the artwork, designed the table setting, picked and arranged fresh flowers from the garden.

They churned the butter from the Jersey cream on the farm and added nasturtiums to make a fiesty butter to accompany the five freshly baked breads – rosemary and roasted garlic soda bread; potato and spring onion sourdough; turmeric and black pepper sourdough; caraway, nigella seed, fennel seed sourdough and a 3-day focaccia.

Other students designed and filled the goody bags for guests to take home as a memento of the evening.

Guests were greeted with a glass of elderflower fizz and some innovative canapés to nibble on.

Smoked cod gougère, chive, pickled cucumber

Beetroot, piccalilli, goat cheese

Summer roll, peanut satay

The starter was a fresh tasting salad of nectarine, buffalo mozzarella, anchovy, candied lemon

This was followed by a beetroot sorbet garnished with pretty pink elderflowers.

Organic harissa chicken, courgette, tabbouleh, Irish cherries, lemon yoghurt

The dandelion coffee panna cotta with nougatine biscuit and caramelised milk skins was quite the revelation.

Then to cap it all, a selection of four delicious petit fours, each created by a different student:

dark chocolate truffle, pistachio, fennel seed

almond, elderflower, gooseberry

fresh strawberry fool

raspberry macarons

Planning and ticking all the boxes went on for over five weeks.

It’s a brilliant learning experience for the students who quickly realise just how much advance planning needs to go into a successful event.

Another student, Fionn wrote a little poem for the menu, and two others, Luisa and Tyler provided the musical entertainment as guests made their way from the welcome marquee into the midsummer’s feast.

We were super proud of our students and lecturers who got a spontaneous standing ovation at the end of the meal from the 70 plus guests. The students (15 nationalities) were thrilled with the response. It’s worth noting that many scarcely had done little or no cooking nine weeks ago… a fantastic achievement.

They kindly shared the recipes for some of the dishes.

Heini Lanthaler’s Nectarine, Buffalo Mozzarella, Anchovy, Candied Lemon

Heini from Meran in Italy created this delicious summery starter – it got a rave review.

Serves 4

2 nectarines

2 buffalo mozzarella

10 anchovies, halved lengthwise

lemon zest

candied lemon peel (crunchy)

lemon oil made with 250ml olive oil, zest from 1 lemon and 3-4 lemon balm leaves (allow to marinate in the oil for 3 or 4 days before using)

a few mint leaves and corn flowers if available

Cut the unpeeled nectarines into 10 equal wedges.  Slice the mozzarella about 2cm thick.  Arrange the nectarine and mozzarella slices in a wheel pattern on a serving plate, lay an anchovy half over each piece of mozzarella.  Sprinkle with freshly grated lemon zest and candied lemon peel.  Drizzle with lemon oil and garnish with some fresh mint leaves or corn flowers if available.

Candied Lemon Peel

We always have lots of candied lemon, orange and lime peel in a jar to decorate tarts, scatter on mousses or just to nibble.


2 lemons

450ml cold water

Stock Syrup (dissolve 350g granulated sugar in 600ml water and bring to the boil for 2 minutes and allow to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed).


Peel 2 lemons very thinly with a swivel top peeler, be careful not to include the white pith.  Cut the strips into fine julienne.  Put into a saucepan with the cold water and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, cover with fresh water and repeat the process

Put the julienne into a saucepan with the syrup and cook gently until the lemon julienne looks translucent or opaque.  Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to cool on parchment paper or a cake rack.  When cold, toss in castor sugar and allow to dry in a cool, airy place. 

Can be stored in a jar or airtight tin for weeks or sometimes months.

Hilary Van Leeuwen & Eline Teunissen’s Beetroot Sorbet

Hilary from Australia and Eline from Rotterdam magicked up this fresh tasting sorbet with the beets from the farm.

Serves 10 as a palate cleanser

150g sugar

150ml water

440ml beetroot juice, from peeled beets

20ml lemon juice

60ml liquid glucose

2 gelatine leaves


pink elderflowers if available

sprigs of sweet cicely or mint

Put the sugar and water into a saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat to dissolve, boil into a syrup. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly. Add the sugar syrup to the beetroot juice, freshly squeezed lemon juice and liquid glucose.  It should be slightly sweeter than you would like it. (It will lose some of its sweetness during freezing).

Soften the gelatine leaves by soaking in cold water (3-4 minutes), squeeze out any excess water and add to the beetroot mix.

If the mixture is too cool to melt the gelatine, it can be warmed slightly on the stove. 

Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker until it is softly frozen then freeze.

To Serve

Scoop into individual bowls and drizzle with a squeeze of lemon and decorate with pink elderflowers if available and a sprig of sweet cicely or fresh mint.

Bryce Wyman’s Dandelion Coffee Panna Cotta, Nougatine Biscuit, Caramelised Milk Skins

Bryce comes from Alberta in Canada – the dandelion coffee panna cotta was a revelation.  Omit the caramelised milk skin if you are short on time.

Serves 8

panna cotta

600ml cream

50g sugar

50g dandelion coffee (roasted dandelion root – available to buy in health food shop, we sourced it from Well & Good in Midleton

pinch of salt

2 gelatine sheets

nougatine biscuits

87g mixed nuts

75g sugar

⅜ tsp apple pectin

67g butter

25g glucose syrup

1 tsp water

Irish coffee sauce

87g sugar

35ml water

115ml coffee

½ tbsp whiskey

caramelised milk skins

8 tbsp milk

pinch of salt

8 teacups

First make the panna cotta.

Put the cream, sugar, dandelion coffee and salt into a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Soften the gelatine sheets in a little water, drain well and add to the saucepan.  Stir and pour into the moulds, cover and allow to set overnight.

To make the nougatine biscuits.

Chop the nuts to a semi-coarse texture.  Combine the remaining ingredients and cook on a low heat until the mixture is melted and smooth.  Add the nuts. 

Preheat the oven to 190°C and bake until golden caramel in colour (10 minutes approx.).  As the biscuits cool, cut into shards.

To make the coffee sauce.

Put the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir until the sugar dissolves and the water comes to the boil.  Remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup turns a pale golden caramel.  Then add the coffee and put back on the heat to dissolve.  Allow to cool and add the whiskey.

To make the milk skins.

Add enough milk to cover the bottom of a non-stick saucepan with a pinch of salt.  Allow to boil and bubble until it collapses (be patient).  Allow to caramelise on the bottom of the pan and peel off with a spatula while hot. 

To Serve

Pour 1 dessertspoon of Irish Coffee Sauce over the panna cotta.  Top with a little softly whipped cream, nougatine shard and milk skin. 

Noor ter Meer’s Dark Chocolate Truffles with Pistachio and Fennel

Noor from Amsterdam created this irresistible petit four to nibble with an espresso after dinner.

Makes approximately 25 truffles

225g dark chocolate (we use 62% chocolate)

225ml cream 

50g pistachios

5g fennel seeds 

First make the ganache.

Put the cream and chocolate in a Pyrex bowl, sit over a saucepan of water.  Bring to the boil, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl, turn off and remove the saucepan from the heat immediately. Allow the chocolate to melt over the residual heat. Remove the bowl from the pan and gently stir the chocolate mixture until smooth. Cool, then cover and chill until set.

Meanwhile, make the coating for the truffles.

Finely chop the pistachios. Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan for 3-4 minutes until fragrant. Grind the fennel seeds finely in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder. 

Combine the fennel and pistachio in a bowl and mix well. Scoop a teaspoon of ganache, roll the ganache into a ball with cool hands. Drop the truffle into the fennel and pistachio mixture to coat well. If the ganache becomes too warm to roll, put it in the freezer for a few minutes and proceed to roll the truffles in batches. 

The truffles are best eaten cold.

Fionn Corcoran’s Turkish Delight

This treat is full of exotic sweetness. Flavoured with rose water and vanilla, they will surely put a smile on your face when you try them! They also happen to be vegan. Fionn hails from Killarney in Kerry.

Makes 36 squares approx.

sugar syrup

600g caster sugar

270ml water

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

thickening paste

100g cornflour

540ml water

Turkish delight flavour

2 tbsp rose water

1 tsp vanilla extract 

red food colouring (enough to create a bright red colour)


approx. 80g of icing sugar and 40g cornflour

1 x 20cm square tin – base and sides lined with parchment paper and brushed with a little vegetable oil

Place sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan, stir to dissolve. Bring to the boil, stirring now and then simmer until mixture reaches between 112-115°C on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Mix the cornflour and water in a large saucepan, stir over a medium heat until no lumps remain and the mixture is a thick glue-like consistency.

Gradually, stir the sugar syrup into the cornflour mixture. When all the syrup has been added, stir constantly for 5 minutes over a low heat.

Now simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, for between 45-60 minutes, until mixture is lightly golden.

Next add the rose water, vanilla extract and a few drops of natural red food colouring.  Stir to combine.

Transfer the Turkish Delight mixture to the lined tin.

Smooth the surface with a palette knife.  Allow to set ideally overnight or up to 24 hours. 

Slice the Turkish Delight into small squares, pat them dry. Arrange on a wire rack to prevent them from sweating. Toss the squares in the cornflour and icing sugar several times to create a dry, almost crusty outer layer of sugar. They are better eaten sooner rather than later as sometimes they can absorb the icing sugar.

Best stored in a cool/dry place away from sunlight.

Stephanie Hughes’s Raspberry Macarons

A gorgeous petit four made from fresh summer raspberries by Stephanie from London. 

Makes 70 approx.

120g egg whites
25g caster sugar

a few drops of natural red food gel
200g icing sugar
125g ground almonds

190 salted butter
750g icing sugar

100g crushed raspberries (crush with a masher)
2 tbsp of milk

34 raspberries for decorating (a few packs)

baking tray or trays

large plain piping nozzle 

Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas mark 1. This recipe works best in a fan oven. 

Cover the baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until stiff.  Add a few drops of red food gel and continue whisking until the colour has been incorporated. 

Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar. Mix half the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the remainder.

Pipe into approx. 2.5cm rounds onto a baking tray. Bang the tray on a flat surface to remove air bubbles. Rest for 20 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the macarons lift easily off the paper. Cool on the tray.

To make the filling. 
Whisk the salted butter using an electric or stand whisk. Add 250g of icing sugar and whisk until absorbed. Add the crushed raspberries and 2 tablespoons of milk and whisk until fully combined, cleaning down the side of your bowl as you go. The mixture may look as though it is separating at this stage. Add the remaining icing sugar in batches whisking all the time.

To Decorate
Lay the half macaron on a flat surface.  Using an icing bag with a star nozzle, pipe the butter icing on the top of the macaroon. Put half a raspberry on top of the butter cream, facing cut side up.


Past Letters