ArchiveSeptember 2023

End of Summer Glut

This week’s column is especially for you garden heroes who nurtured lots of your own beautiful produce during the Summer and are now faced with more than you can possibly enjoy. Lots of tips to preserve a glut of those tasty vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs. One doesn’t want to waste a single scrap of your precious crop.
Because of the rollercoaster weather pattern this Summer, tomatoes ripened late so like us you may well have a glut of super ripe tomatoes now. We’ve been making gallons of tomato purée to use as a basis for a tomato soup during the winter months. Tomato fondue and a spicy chilli version are also a brilliant freezer standby to use as a pasta sauce, a topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, sauce for chicken or fish or simply a vegetable side.  I’m never without this – it’s one of my great convertibles.
Beets are easily pickled. I did try cooking and freezing them, but somehow the texture changes, became sort of spongy so that wasn’t a great success for me. Pickled beets are great, keep for a year or more and don’t need to be refrigerated.
This beetroot soup is also super delicious and freezes perfectly for autumn and winter dinner parties. Float a little chive or dill cream on top for extra pizzazz.
We’ve also got a glut of courgettes, some monster ones and remember the bigger they grow, the less flavour so whip them off the plant and make a spiced courgette soup or a courgette chutney and how about this zucchini bread.
It may not be everybody’s problem but I’ve also got a glut of end of the season aubergines so I love to char them over a gas jet to make Turkish moutabal, it keeps very well, and Rory tells me that he has frozen aubergines successfully also.
Fresh herbs can be easily dried, of course it’s useful to have a dehydrator, but honestly many of them can be successfully dried on the shelf in a warm kitchen or on a wire rack on the windowsill.  We’ve been drying lots of lemon verbena for the herb teas during the winter. The last of your fresh mint can be chopped and frozen in little ice cubes. Mint syrup has also been a success for me. Fantastic for winter drinks or drizzles or to add a little pep and freshness to a winter fruit salad.

Spicy Tomato Fondue

Make a big batch or several of this delicious, spicy tomato – you can whip up a meal in minutes for pizza, omelette filling, sauce for a grilled chicken breast, lamb chop, or a spicy side – add a can of beans and it’s a bean stew…

Serves 6

For the Spicy Tomato Fondue

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

110g onions, sliced

1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

1 garlic clove, crushed

900g very ripe tomatoes in summer, peeled (see note)

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a large stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole over a gentle heat. Add the sliced onions, chopped chillies, ground cumin and garlic, and stir well to coat everything in the oil. Cover the pan with a lid and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft, but not coloured. It is vital that the onions are completely soft before you add the tomatoes.

Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes and add to the pan with their juices (if you are using tinned tomatoes, you can tip them straight in). Season with salt, pepper and sugar; tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity. Cover and cook for a further 10-20 minutes until the tomato softens, uncovering for the last 5 minutes or so to reduce the sauce a little. Fresh tomatoes need a shorter cooking time than tinned ones to preserve their lively fresh flavour. Depending on how you plan to use your fondue, you might want to reduce it a bit further.

Cool and freeze.


To Peel Tomatoes

Scald the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then pour off the water and slip off the skins.

Tomato Purée

Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe summer tomatoes for Winter.  Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.

900g very ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp sugar

good pinch of salt 

a few twists of black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook, covered on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water is needed). Put through the fine blade of the mouli-legume or a nylon sieve.

Allow to get cold, refrigerate or freeze.

Beetroot Soup with Chive Cream

A deliciously silky soup with a rich, vibrant colour – it also freezes brilliantly. Make lots with the end of season beets to enjoy during Autumn and Winter.

Serves 8-10

900g beetroot

25g butter

225g onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres homemade chicken or vegetable stock approx.

125ml creamy milk

Chive Cream

125ml sour cream or crème fraiche

finely chopped chives

Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap. Don’t scrub, simply rub off the clay with your fingers. You won’t want to damage the skin or cut off the top or tails because it will ‘bleed’ in the cooking.  Put the beetroot into cold water, and simmer covered for anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and age.

Meanwhile chop the onions, sweat carefully and gently in the butter until they are cooked.   The beetroot is cooked when the skins will rub off easily.

Peel all the beetroot and remove the stalks.  Chop the beetroot and add to the onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put into a liquidiser with the hot chicken stock. Liquidise until quite smooth. *  Reheat, add some creamy milk, taste and adjust the seasoning, it may be necessary to add a little more stock or creamy milk. 

Serve garnished with little swirls of sour cream and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.

Watchpoint: careful not to damage the beetroot during preparation or they will bleed

Golden Beetroot Soup

Use the golden Chioggia beetroot variety in the recipe above.

Chilled Beetroot Soup

Proceed as in the master recipe above to *. Liquidise with just enough stock to cover. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold in some cream and yoghurt.

Serve well chilled in small bowls with little swirls of yoghurt and finely chopped chives.

Smoky Aubergine Dip – Moutabal

This smoky aubergine dip was served on virtually every menu when I visited Syria in 2009.  It was always different but always delicious.  I ate moutabal fourteen times in a row, all in the name of research…Charring the aubergines over a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the dip a distinctive smoky flavour.  Be careful not to overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavour of the aubergines.

Serves 4

2 large aubergines (approx. 650g)

50g tahini paste

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)

sea salt

pitta bread, to serve

Char the aubergines directly over a gas flame, using tongs, until the flesh is really soft and tender and the peel is black and charred.  Peel carefully and discard the skins.   Leave the aubergines to cool to room temperature.

Finely chop the aubergine flesh and place in a bowl.   Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste and mix well.  Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if serving immediately.  Otherwise, put into a sterilised jar/jars, cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil and the lid.  Refrigerate until needed.

Serve with pitta bread.  Eat alone or as part of a Middle Eastern mezze.

Rachel’s Zucchini and Walnut Bread

We’ve got several recipes for zucchini/courgette bread but Rachel says this version originally given to her by an American friend is the favourite. First published in Rachel Allen’s book ‘Bake’.

Serves 16-20 approx.

400g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

pinch of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 

¼ tsp ground cloves

75g walnuts, chopped

300g caster sugar

100g Demerara sugar

3 eggs, beaten

200ml sunflower oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

380g zucchini grated (with skin left on)

50g chopped walnuts for scattering on top of the breads

Line 2 loaf tins (13 x 23cm) with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. 

In a large bowl, sift in the flour, the bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder then mix in the salt, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ground cloves and the chopped walnuts. Add the caster sugar and the Demerara sugar and stir well to mix. 

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the oil and the vanilla extract. Grate the whole unpeeled zucchini then add into the eggs and oil and mix well until combined.

Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf tins. Scatter the remaining 50g (2oz) walnuts over the top of each zucchini bread.

Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for about 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve, sliced on its own or toasted and buttered.


Tightly wrapped in parchment paper, these loaves keep well for up to 10 days.

Honey & Co’s Courgette, Golden Raisin & Pistachio Cake

Taken from Honey & Co ‘The Baking Book’ published by Headline Home

I love this recipe and you will too.  Thank you Sarit and Itamar.

Makes 1 x 1kg (2lb) loaf

60g pistachios

175g self-raising flour

a pinch of table salt

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground star anise

200g light brown soft sugar

50g caster sugar

185ml olive oil

2 eggs

60g golden raisins

3 courgettes, unpeeled but trimmed, grated (200g)

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)/Gas Mark 5.

Butter the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with a sheet of baking parchment, allowing a little overhang at the sides. Once the oven is hot, roast the pistachios for 8 minutes. Keep them whole and leave to cool a little. Mix the flour, salt, ginger and star anise

together and add the pistachios. Place the sugars and oil in a large mixing bowl (or you could use a machine with a whisk attachment if you are super-lazy) and whisk together until combined. Whisk the eggs in one at a time and keep whisking until you have a lovely, emulsified texture, a little like mayonnaise. Now add the rest

of the ingredients, get rid of the whisk and use a large spoon or spatula to fold and combine to an even mixture. Transfer the cake batter to your lined loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the tin around so that it bakes evenly and leave for a further 15-20 minutes. The end result should have a lovely springy feel. Allow to cool in the tin before removing. This will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days and for up to a week if you store it in the fridge.

A Taste of Wexford

Recently, I had many delicious ‘tastes’ of Wexford. I just love the way one county after another around the country is beginning to proudly highlight and showcase its local artisan foods.
Recently the Irish Guild of Food Writers, of whom I am a member, visited Wexford for an action packed day of visits to artisan producers around the Gorey area.
We started at Wild About, a company who creates magic with wild and foraged foods. Fiona Falconer and her husband Malcolm showed us round their wild, permaculture gardens and tunnel where they purposely grow crops of young nettles, fennel and other wild plants to make an extensive range of sparkling drinks, syrups, jellies, and chutney, all delicious but I particularly want to mention just one – a Nettle syrup full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Customers come from far and wide to seek out this nettle syrup which they firmly believe helps to alleviate arthritis. No official health claims but people buy it by the case, there must be something in it!
We had a tasting of the range accompanied by velvety Meadow Field goat’s cheese, and Isle of Crackers also from the local area.
Just down the road. We were surprised to find ourselves in Jodi‘s donkey sanctuary, but we discovered that the donkeys whom she tenderly cares for,  love the leftover nettles – another riff on recycling waste products.
Lunch, created by Anthony O’ Toole, one of the dynamos behind the Taste Wexford initiative was at Salt Rock Dairy…love this concept also, Catherine Kinsella sells the milk from their herd of Holstein cross dairy cows directly to local people in recyclable glass bottles from her travelling vending machine.
Catherine has no wish to expand further. She simply wants to limit the food miles but plans to extend her range from fresh and flavoured milks to homemade yoghurt and butter.
Next, it was on to Tara Hill Honey, where Anne and Michael Wilde’s bees produce a range of honeys. We all dressed up in bee suits to visit the hives and hear a fascinating talk about beekeeping in the sunny southeast region from these multigenerational beekeepers.
I came home with several pots including a raw Heather honey and some beeswax candles.
Our ‘almost’ last stop of the afternoon was at Bean and Goose chocolates. Sisters, Karen and Natalie, work with Original Beans to source their fine couverture, a company, just as passionate as they are, about ethical and sustainable choices. They make a wide range of bars, inspired by the Irish landscape. Gorse, Toasted Soda Bread, Umami Seaweed, Smoky Sea Salt, Salty Almonds, Sour Cherry Orchard. They too have received many awards.
What a day – then back to the Ashdown Park Hotel in Gorey where MD, Paul Finegan was waiting with a taste of Jackford Irish Potato Gin with Poachers tonic and a taste of beautifully reared and matured beef from the Stafford’s home farm.
Feet up for a short interlude before dinner at Table Forty One where Chef Andrew Duncan once again did Wexford proud with a tasting menu of local foods. I particularly enjoyed the buffalo carpaccio with mount leinster raw milk cheddar, pickled baby carrots, basil aioli and hazelnuts – who knew…buffalo in Wexford.
The evening was further enhanced by many of the artisan producers who joined us for dinner as well as Lorraine O’Dwyer from Gallivanting Tours, our tour guide for the day and organiser extraordinaire, Anthony O’Toole. You too can have this experience because many of the producers arrange food tours which can be booked through

Chad Robertson’s Nettle Fritatine

Famous San Francisco baker Chad Robertson introduced us to this recipe when he taught a class here several years ago.  Look out for his book ‘Tartine Bread’ published by Chronicle Books

Serves 1-2

3 tbsp olive oil

225g approx. young nettle leaves

croutons (see recipe) made from 3 slices sourdough, crushed to make coarse breadcrumbs

1 large egg

350g homemade tomato sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lemon wedge

Heat a heavy skillet over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the nettle leaves. Remove the pan from the heat and stir and toss the nettles for about 2 minutes as they continue cooking. When the nettles are completely wilted, remove them from the pan and chop roughly.

In a bowl, combine the nettles, coarse crumbs and egg. Stir well to coat the crumbs and nettles with the egg.

Heat a 15cm skillet over a medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the nettle mixture and distribute evenly in the pan. Cook until the edges appear crisp, about 2 minutes. Fold the omelette in half and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate.

Pour the tomato sauce into a skillet and heat over high heat. Carefully place the omelette in the sauce and simmer for about 30 seconds. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.


3 slices day-old sourdough bread, each 2.5cm thick torn into 4cm chunks

2 tbsp olive oil


Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Midway through the baking time, redistribute the croutons if they are colouring unevenly.

Breadcrumbs – use your hands or a rolling pin to crush the croutons to the desired consistency. For a superfine texture, sift the crumbs through a sieve.

Courgette Flower, Meadow Field Goat’s Cheese and Local Honey

A delicious little starter combining good cheese, local honey and the last of the courgette flowers.

Serves 2

4 courgette flowers

250g Meadow Field goat’s cheese (or other good quality goat’s/sheep cheese)

2 tsp local honey

Tempura Batter

200g rice flour

20g corn flour

1 tsp baking powder

cold sparkling water

First make the tempura batter.

Mix the dry ingredients with a little water, it should be a thickish consistency (can be used immediately).

Dip the courgette flowers in boiling water for a couple of seconds to soften – dry on a tea towel.  Crumble the cheese and half fill each courgette flower.  Seal the ends.  Place the courgette flowers into seasoned flour, then dip into the tempura batter.  Deep-fry at 190°C for 1 minute.  Drizzle with honey and serve.

Andrew Duncan’s Macamore Buffalo Carpaccio, Mount Leinster Raw Milk Cheddar, Pickled Baby Carrots, Basil Aioli, Hazelnuts

Special thanks to Andrew Duncan from Table Forty One Restaurant, Main Street in Gorey who shared this recipe –  

Serves 6  

Buffalo Carpaccio

300g centre cut of buffalo fillet, from

5g fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

5g fennel seeds

5g ground ginger

5g ground nutmeg

5g ground cloves

10g ground white pepper

5g ground coriander

5g ground cinnamon
20g caster sugar
10g Achill Island sea salt

Mix all the dry cure ingredients; this should be a dry, sandy texture.

Rub the dry cure onto the buffalo fillet, making sure to coat it evenly.

Place on a tray, cover in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for 6 hours; turn once and leave for another 6 hours.

Remove the fillet from the tray and place on some kitchen paper. There should be some liquid in the bottom of the tray. This is normal as the sugar and salt draw moisture from the fillet.

With some kitchen paper or a clean towel, dry off any excess moisture from the fillet.

Place a double layer of clingfilm onto your counter and place the fillet in the middle.

Roll as tightly as possible in clingfilm and twist both ends of the film to make a cylinder shape. Return to the fridge for 2 hours, allowing the fillet to rest and be easier to slice. 

Slice as thinly as possible using a very sharp knife. A handy tip to aid slicing is to place your fillet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Pickled Baby Carrots 

10 baby carrots, peeled, leaving the green top on them
100ml white wine vinegar
100ml water
100ml granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt 
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 shallot, peeled and sliced

1 sprig of fresh thyme 

Slice the carrots in half lengthways and place them into a medium-sized bowl.

Bring the rest of the ingredients to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan, making sure to dissolve all the sugar.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrots and allow them to cool.

Basil Aioli 
¼ clove of garlic, finely chopped into a paste

2 egg yolks, organic or free-range eggs are best
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300ml Irish extra-virgin rapeseed oil. I use a local brand called Wild About.

50g fresh basil leaves
½ unwaxed lemon, zest only

pinch of Achill Island sea salt

Place the garlic paste, egg yolk and mustard into a blender. Turn the blender on a low setting and slowly dribble in the oil.

Once blended in a quarter of the oil and you see the mixture is thick and emulsified, you can increase the speed and add the rest in larger amounts.

Blend in the fresh basil leaves and lemon zest.

Season to taste with sea salt.

To Serve

Place five slices of thin Buffalo onto the centre of the plate, making a petal shape by layering one over the other at the edges.

Dot the aioli randomly over the Buffalo. Place five pieces of baby carrots on top.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave your Mount Leinster cheddar over the plate, 6-7 slices approx.

Scatter over some chopped hazelnuts.

The plate should look rustic and flat on the plate. I like to garnish this dish with some micro cress and a bit of smoked Achill Island sea salt for a special touch.

Andrew Duncan’s Lemon Posset, Green’s Berry Farm Raspberries, Buttery Shortbread Biscuit
From Table Forty One in Gorey, Co. Wexford.

Lemon Posset

Makes 6 small glasses or ramekins

450ml cream
65g caster sugar
juice of 2 unwaxed lemons, strained

Slowly heat your cream and sugar in a medium-sized pot.

Add the strained lemon juice once it starts to simmer (little bubbles will appear on top).

Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure not to boil.

Pour mixture into glasses or ramekins and set in the fridge to chill for at least 3-4 hours. It’s best to make it the night before.

Shortbread Biscuit

Makes 12 biscuits

125g salted butter, soft
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed – you can use one teaspoon of vanilla extract/paste instead.

50g icing sugar

20g egg white
155g plain flour

pinch of salt

Whisk your soft butter, vanilla seeds and icing sugar together in a food mixer until white and fluffy.

Add the egg white and mix thoroughly. Then, slowly add your flour and salt until all ingredients are mixed well.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a medium-sized star nozzle and pipe onto a tray with greaseproof paper to your desired biscuit size. 

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake until light golden, approx. 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with fresh raspberries. I buy them from a local grower near me, Green’s Berry Farm in Gorey.

Back to School

Can’t bear it, I’ve suddenly realised that the Summer is almost over and like many of you, I have scarcely seen it… 

It’s just somehow passed me by in a blurry maze and now it’s back to school. A time of mixed feelings, although if the truth be told, many children were really looking forward to meeting with their friends again and getting back into a comforting routine after so many disappointments, false starts and abandoned plans whilst fleeing from yet another downpour.

And now, the tyranny of school lunches!

Mums and Dads are racking their brains for some new ideas. Don’t forget the ‘forever favourites’ like simple Cheddar cheese and ham sandwiches with good bread and lots of butter. The latter is essential for brain development despite impressions to the contrary.

If you can get your kids to tuck into a really good breakfast, that’s half the battle.

A grand big bowl of organic porridge with any drizzle they fancy, runny honey, peanut butter, a blob of runny jam or stewed fruit… inexpensive and super nutritious.

Homemade granolas and muesli are easy to make in bulk, ready to shake into a bowl with a good blob of yoghurt, sliced banana, some berries or grated apple.

Apples are in season now; this is a great way to use up your windfalls or a present from a neighbour.

Pancakes or waffles with a few slices of crisp bacon always get a positive response.

Here’s a recipe made with cornmeal that’s absolutely irresistible for all ages.

Eggs in some form, a brilliant protein, filling, and satisfying. ‘Go to work (school) on an egg’ as the slogan goes.

The children’s energy, vitality and ability to concentrate during the morning, will depend to a great extent on the fuel they’ve got in the tank to keep the system going…

Simple hard-boiled eggs are great for a lunchbox with a little pot of flavoured mayo, or maybe Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt to sprinkle over. Sounds very posh but nowadays many children love spicy food and a little chilli, Aleppo pepper is deliciously perky but not very hot and can be tucked into a lunchbox in a little pot.

Hummus is a definite favourite with several of my grandchildren, sometimes for weeks on end…then it’s something else, best to keep your ear to the ground and lean into the current favourite. Nothing more dispiriting than to discover half eaten sandwiches or worse still not even touched food in the lunchbox.

Add a few dippers of fresh carrots and cucumber sticks. Cherry tomatoes are also brilliant.

Get the children involved in making their school lunch. They’re much more likely to eat every morsel when they themselves have made the choices. 

If you have an apple tree, there should be lots of ripe apples for the next few weeks, fresh apple juice is a revelation. You need a centrifuge – a bit of an investment, but it’ll last for years and it’s brilliant for carrot and beetroot juice too. In fact, all kinds of vegetables even leftover bits from the bottom of the fridge can be juiced, add some fresh ginger to perk up both the flavour and nutrients.

Soups in a flask is another comforting ‘must have’ particularly on a chilly wet, dark day.  Sweet treats are always just that, so many options but in response to a request for my timeless flapjack recipe, here it is. 

A few ideas to add to your lunchbox offerings.

Savoury Muffins

Have a look in your fridge, this basic recipe can be embellished with all kinds of tasty little leftover morsels…

Makes 12-14

225g plain white flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

10g caster sugar

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 tbsp chives

2 organic eggs

225ml milk, buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream

75ml sunflower oil

100g grated cheese (a mixture is good e.g., Gruyére, Cheddar event a little leftover camembert or blue cheese) – hold back a little to sprinkle over the top

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

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cayenne and chives in a bowl.  In another bowl whisk the eggs with the buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream and sunflower oil.  Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir to barely combine (don’t overmix or the muffin will be heavy and tough).  Gently fold in the tasty bits.  Spoon into muffin cases, scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 20 minutes or until pale golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  Best served warm.


·      Swap the grated cheese in the above recipe for the same quantity of any of the following (or create your own!).

·      Chopped spring onions and crispy bacon

·      Chopped chorizo, Kabanos sausage, cooked ham or streaky bacon lardons

·      Roasted peppers, basil, a little goat’s cheese and marjoram

·      Chopped rosemary and raisin


Most people don’t realise how easy it is to make your own hummus, For the least expensive and most delicious version, start with fresh chickpeas, soak them overnight and cook them in fresh water next day with a good pinch of bicarbonate of soda or just use a tin of ready cooked, preferably, organic, chickpeas, a bit it more expensive, but very convenient. 

Great as a dip with a few mini pita breads or veggie dippers, also delicious with kebabs or meatballs… 

Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)

175g chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml Lebanese tahini (we use Al Nakhil)

1 tsp, dry roasted and freshly ground cumin


62ml iced water


pitta bread or any crusty white bread

Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini, cumin and salt to taste. Add the iced water and blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour; it should be soft and silky.  Enjoy or keep covered and refrigerated and use within 3 days. 

Spicy Roast Chickpeas

These chickpeas are seriously addictive, kids love them too – I’ve used freshly ground cumin and coriander here but garam masala, smoked paprika, chilli powder, chopped rosemary or thyme leaves are also delicious.   The chickpeas get crispier as they cool.  Perfect as a lunch box nibble or sprinkle over sprinkle over a salad. 

Enough for 4-6 as a nibble or add to salads.

Makes 100g roasted weight

400g can chickpeas

1-2 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.


Drain the chickpeas, rinse under cold water and drain again. Lay on kitchen paper, shake and pat gently until dry. Spread the chickpeas out in a single layer on a small baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and the cumin and coriander seeds (if using). Shake to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool, taste, add more salt and spices if necessary. Store in an airtight jar.

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple Syrup

These pancakes inspired by Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, New York, are the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, so I wanted to share them with you. This recipe uses coarse polenta, also known as polenta bramata, really good and nourishing.

175g plain flour

175g coarse polenta (cornmeal)

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 organic, free-range egg, plus 1 egg yolk

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp melted butter

300ml whole milk

225g clarified butter (see recipe)

butter and maple syrup, to serve

Put the flour, polenta and sugar into a bowl. Whisk the egg and egg yolk together and add the salt and baking powder. Stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, along with the melted butter. Don’t beat the mixture – it can still be slightly lumpy.

Heat a heavy cast-iron pan over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Pour in a generous 3mm of clarified butter and allow to heat through. Pour about 60ml batter into the pan for each pancake and allow some space between each one. Cook for 3-4 minutes until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp. Flip over carefully and continue to cook on the other side for about 2-3 minutes until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges. You will probably get about two pancakes in the pan at a time, so you will need to cook them in batches until you have used all of the batter.

Serve immediately on warm plates allowing two pancakes per person. Slather some butter on each one and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. Quite simply sublime!

Clarified Butter

Melt 225g butter gently in a saucepan on the hob or in a Pyrex jug in the oven at 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Leave it to stand for a few minutes, then with a spoon, scrape the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a bechamel sauce. Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in the fridge for several weeks.

Homemade Potato Crisps

Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips but mind your fingers! 

Serves 4

450g large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying


Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180°C.

Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

Darina’s Flapjacks

Here it is, these super nutritious biscuits keep really well in an airtight tin.  Kids of all ages love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

450g rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

350g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

175g caster sugar

Swiss roll tin, 25.5cm x 38cm lined with a strip of parchment with overhang at each end

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla extract, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven (on low shelf), 180°C/Gas Mark 4, until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.


Note: Make half the recipe if a 23cm x 33cm Swiss roll tin is used.

Chocolate Briskies

Cut the oatmeal biscuits into squares.  When cool, dip diagonally into melted chocolate.

Coconut and Oatmeal Biscuits

Substitute 20g of unsweetened desiccated coconut for 25g of oatmeal in the above recipe

Common Knowledge Centre

Have you heard of Common Knowledge, it’s a really interesting not-for-profit social enterprise, based near Kilfenora in North Co Clare.

Harrison Gardner, a young Australian designer and eco-builder had a craving to restore a stone cottage. He found what he was looking for outside Ennistymon, Co Clare. Then met a charming Irish colleen called Erin and the rest is, as they say, history.

But the extra dimension to the story is that Harrison decided to share and pass on his skills to others who were eager to learn how to build, mend, recycle and grow. Build School was created to empower, upskill and give individuals and communities confidence to do it themselves.

In 2022, Common Knowledge was established as a sustainable living project in the midst of 50 acres in the Burren.

Nowadays, during this cost of living crisis, many young people can’t afford to buy a house. Hence every Hands On Common Knowledge course, teaching the skills to build your own house is over subscribed with an eclectic mix of men and women and LGBGT, eager to learn basic building skills.

Check out the web site for info on the wide range of courses on offer…

More recently, as part of National Heritage week, Harrison and his co founder and CEO, Fionn Kidney organised The School of Lost Skills Festival. I was invited to participate in a panel and decided to show everyone how to make a loaf of our traditional Irish soda bread and a little block of homemade butter. Most certainly, an almost forgotten skill from many.

Soda bread or ‘a cake of bread’ as it was traditionally known is made in minutes. Next time you are out of bread, instead of hunting for your car keys to go to the supermarket, turn on the oven, take out your scales and weigh 450g of flour, add a level teaspoon of salt and the same of bicarbonate of soda, stir in 350-400 mls buttermilk. Shape it into a loaf or cut into scones, then straight into the oven.

The scones will be baked in 10 to 12 minutes, a loaf will need 35 to 40 minutes.

It’s crazy to say “I don’t have enough time to bake”, You wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is baked… And ooh, the aroma of freshly baked bread and the satisfaction of taking a loaf of crusty bread out of the oven.

such joy. Don’t forget to pass on the skills and urge them to pass this basic life skill on to their friends, a gift for life…

I also made butter in a twinkling. Now, I can hear you saying, where does she think I’ll get time to make butter – Well once again, it’s made in no time. Remember all you have to do is over whip cream, either intentionally or accidentally and hey presto, you have butter. Just wash it well in several changes of cold water, add 2% salt, chill and enjoy. Pure magic and you can either drink the buttermilk or save it to make soda bread, a day or two later.

I also encouraged people to get a few hens and to learn how to forage for food in the wild, another really important, almost forgotten skill. Here are a few tried and tested recipes to have fun and experiment with.

Traditional Irish White Soda Bread and Scones

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake, scones will be ready in just 10 minutes.

 It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different additions and uses. The possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread. This bread which was originally baked in a pot oven called a bastible over the open fire can also be cooked in a casserole in the oven, to produce a similar result.

Makes 1 loaf

450g plain white flour

1 level tsp salt

1 level tsp bread soda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix, 350-400ml approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using just one hand to mix with your fingers stiff and outstretched, like a claw, mix in a full, circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.  

When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.

Then with floured hands, tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm deep and cut a cross on it (the traditional blessing), then prick in the four corners to let the fairies out of the bread, otherwise they will jinx it!

Transfer to a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

A few variations…

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 2.5cm deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 10-15 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above), depending on size.

Cheddar Cheese Scones or Herb and Cheese Scones

110g grated mature Cheddar cheese

egg wash

Make the White Soda bread or herb dough. Stamp into scones, brush the top of each one with egg wash and then dip into grated cheddar cheese, bake as for soda scones, or use to cover the top of a casserole or stew.

Basic Brown Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g stone ground wholemeal flour

75g white flour, preferably unbleached

1 tsp salt

1 level tsp bread soda, sieved

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tbsp sunflower oil, unscented

1 tsp honey or treacle

425ml buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm OR 3 small loaf tins 14.6cmx7.62cm

Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins – using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Important Note

The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness. Add 1-2 tbsp of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).

Spotted Dog

During my childhood, many people in the country were poor, and their daily staple would have been wholemeal bread. White flour was more expensive than brown so white soda bread was considered to be more luxurious – a treat for special occasions. At times of the year when work was harder, such as at harvest or threshing, or maybe on a Sunday when visitors were expected, the woman of the house would add a bit of sugar and a fistful of dried fruit and an egg to the white bread to make it a bit more special. Nowadays, this does not seem such a big deal but back then any money that the woman of the house got from selling her eggs was considered to be her ‘pin money,’ used for little luxuries such as hatpins. Putting an egg into the bread was one egg less that she could sell, so it actually represented much more than it would for us today. This bread was called Spotted Dog, and when it was still warm, she’d wrap it in a tea towel and bring it out to the fields with hot sweetened tea in whiskey bottles wrapped in newspaper or cloth to insulate them. The farm workers would put down their tools and sit with their backs to the haystacks. She’d cut the bread into thick slices and slather on yellow country butter. My memories of sitting down with them are still really vivid. We sometimes make ‘spotted puppies’ which are the same bread, shaped into 6 rolls and baked for 20minutes.

Makes 1 traditional loaf

450g plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 level tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

75g sultanas (or more if you’d like)

1 organic egg

about 350 – 425ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour and bicarbonate of soda; then add the salt, sugar and sultanas. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break the egg into the base of a measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 425ml line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement). Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.

Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.

The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads, is not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 5cm approx. Transfer to a baking tray lightly dusted with flour. Cut the surface with a deep cross and prick in each corner to let the fairies out of the bread. Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 35-40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg browns faster at a higher heat.

Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with Cheddar cheese.


American Emigrant’s Soda Bread

Caraway seeds and sultanas were added to soda bread in Ireland long ago, but the tradition went by the wayside. Not so in America, where soda bread often has caraway seeds and sultanas in it. Usually when I go to the US, I take Irish recipes there, but I was delighted to bring this one back to Ireland! Simply add 1 – 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the Spotted Dog recipe and proceed as above (the amount of caraway will depend on the freshness of the caraway seeds).

Soda Bread Pizza with Delicious Toppings

Far from traditional, this is a riff on a deep pan pizza. I can’t tell you how many times this soda bread pizza base has come to the rescue when I needed to whip up a dish of something filling and delicious in no time at all. It can be as simple as a topping of grated mature Cheddar cheese or halved, well-seasoned cherry tomatoes or you can go the full percorino or quatre formaggio.  

Serves 6-8

450g plain white flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 level tsp sea salt

375–400ml buttermilk

extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

1/2 – 1 tbsp chopped rosemary

50g chorizo, sliced

350g Tomato Fondue or chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes mixed with seasoning/spices

8 bocconcini, halved

15g Parmesan cheese, grated

lots of snipped flat-leaf parsley

Fully preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in 375ml of the buttermilk and, using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Mix to a softish, not too wet and sticky consistency, adding more buttermilk if necessary. When it all comes together, turn out the dough onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, tidy it up and flip it over.

Brush a roasting tin, approx. 31 x 23 x 5cm, with olive oil. Roll out the dough lightly to fit the tin and sprinkle with rosemary. Scatter the sliced chorizo evenly over the surface. Spread a layer of tomato fondue over the chorizo and arrange some halved bocconcini on top. Sprinkle over the Parmesan.

Transfer the tray to the fully preheated oven on a low rack and bake for an initial 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until the dough is cooked and it’s golden and bubbly on top.

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with a good green salad.

Other tasty toppings

’Nduja and Bocconcini

Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and replace the chorizo with 125g ’nduja. Sprinkle with lots of fresh marjoram to serve.

Pesto and Parmesan

Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and chorizo and replacing the tomato fondue with 3 tbsp of loose basil or wild garlic pesto. Top with 110–150g grated mozzarella or 110–150g soft goat’s cheese and 15g grated Parmesan.

Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion

Follow the main recipe, omitting the chorizo and replacing the rosemary with 4 tablespoons of sliced spring onions and the Parmesan with 100g grated mature Cheddar cheese.  

Homemade Butter

You don’t absolutely need timber butter bats to make butter, but they do make it much easier to shape the butter into blocks. They’re more widely available than you might think, considering butter making is certainly an alternative enterprise. Keep an eye out in antique shops and if you find some, snap them up. A good pair will bring you ‘butter luck’. Unsalted butter should be eaten within a few days, but the addition of salt will preserve it for two to three weeks. Also, you can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount used in the recipe below will keep you going for a week or so and give you enough to share with friends (though not in my house!). Remember, sunlight taints butter (and milk) in a short time, so if you are serving butter outdoors, keep it covered.

Butter (Salted)

Makes about 1kg butter and 1 litre buttermilk

This recipe may be halved for a small quantity.

2.4 litres unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature

2 tsps dairy salt (optional)

pair of butter bats or hands  

Soak the wooden butter bats or hands in iced water for about 30 minutes so they do not stick to the butter.

Pour the double cream into a cold, sterilized mixing bowl. If it’s homogenised, it will still whip, but not as well. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, where the temperature is about 8°C (46°F), for up to 48 hours.

Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped. Continue until the whipped cream collapses and separates into butterfat globules. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and slosh around the bowl. Turn the mixture into a cold, spotlessly clean sieve and drain well. The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl. The buttermilk can be used to make soda bread or as a thirst-quenching drink (it will not taste sour). Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before. Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water. Use the butter bats or your clean hands to knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. This is important, as any buttermilk left in the butter will sour and the butter will go off quickly. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands, it will liquefy.

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear.

Weigh the butter into 110g, 225g or 450g slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes  before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.


Salted Butter

If you wish to add salt, you will need ¼ teaspoon of plain dairy salt for every 110g of butter. Before shaping the butter, spread it out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with dairy salt. Mix thoroughly using the butter pats, then weigh into slabs as before.

Spreadable Butter

I much prefer unadulterated butter, rather than butter with additives that change the texture. So, if you want to be able to spread butter easily, simply leave it out of the fridge for a few hours in a covered container.

Traditional Country Butter

Irish country butter was made from cream that was ripened for several days in a dairy at about 8°C /46°F, so the flavour was more rich and complex.

My Grandchildren’s Favourites

Guess what, I celebrated my 75th birthday recently, I’m ancient by many young people’s standards, but they don’t seem to realise that I only feel about 20-something. 
Florrie made me a gorgeous Praline birthday cake; my favourite and I got lots of cute little handwritten and hand-painted birthday cards from my grandchildren plus two flasks to remind me to go on more picnics. 
Scarlet‘s pressie was a little bag of homemade cookies called Brookies, a new one on me. They came all wrapped up in little parchment parcels with a sweet little blue ribbon tied into a bow on each. They were super delicious, a brown butter biscuit base topped off with a gooey brownie on top. Scarlett sweetly shared the recipe with me and the extra secret of the deep rich flavour. I’ve renamed them Scarlett Lily’s Cookies. 
So, this week, I thought I’d share some of my grandchildren’s ‘specialities’ with you. 
Zaiah, aged 12, is the Muffin Queen, and her favourite star turn is this recipe which originally came from my Grow, Cook, Nourish Book for Myrtleberry muffins, but she often makes them with frozen raspberries instead. Jasper, aged 13, loves rustling up curries and stir fries so here is his Teriyaki Chicken. 
Thus far, Jago who is 7, much prefers mathematical puzzles than cooking, but he is very partial to shortbread 2.4.6’s which he likes to stamp out into rude shapes much to the hilarity of all his six-year-old friends. 
Ottie whizzes up super smoothies several times a day and she also loves making crispy deep-fried balloons in lots of crazy shapes. A favourite recipe from her great grandmother’s children’s teas in Ballymaloe House. Betsy aged 9 tells me that scrambled eggs are her ‘masterpiece,’ Amelia aged 15 also loves to bake, and rustles up brownies at the drop of a hat. I have 11 grandchildren, all of whom love to eat and many of whom love to experiment in the kitchen. I don’t have space to share all of their recipes this week, but watch this space. 

Scarlett Lily’s Cookies

Makes 25

For the cookie base:

215g butter

170g caster sugar

150g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 free range eggs

250g plain flour

125g milk or dark chocolate chips

For the brownie layer:

175g butter

150g dark chocolate

40g milk chocolate

2 free range eggs

225g caster sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

95g plain flour

125 white chocolate chips

dusting of icing sugar, to serve

20cm square cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)

Line the base and sides of the tin with parchment paper.

First make the cookie base.

Dice the butter, put into a heavy saucepan over medium to high heat and cook until the butter has brown specks appearing in the base of the saucepan.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Put the caster, brown sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl, whisk the browned butter into the sugar, add the two eggs, and mix well until combined. Add the flour and stir in the chocolate chips. Press the cookie dough evenly into the lined tin.

Next prepare the brownie layer.

Put the butter and dark and milk chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of warm water. Bring to almost boiling point, turn off the heat and leave the bowl sitting over the hot water until the chocolate and butter melt gently.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, caster sugar, salt and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. When the chocolate is melted, pour gently into the mousse, and whisk it all together then add the flour and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken, then mix in the chocolate chips. Pour into the lined tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mixture is no longer wobbly, but still slightly gooey in the centre with a few cracks on top. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then place in the fridge for 2 hours until firm. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.

Jasper’s Teriyaki Chicken

Serves 4

1 tbsp sesame or sunflower oil

500g chicken breast or thigh, thinly sliced. 

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2½ cm of ginger, finely grated

25g runny honey 

15ml light soy sauce 

½ – 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

50ml water 

To Serve

1 spring onion, thinly sliced at an angle. 

toasted sesame seeds, about 2 tbsp

plain boiled rice

Heat the oil and cook the chicken until browned, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the honey, soy sauce, vinegar and water and stir. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is coated in the sticky thick sauce and cooked through. 

Scatter spring onion and sesame seeds on top and serve with rice.

Ottie’s Smoothie

Use the same size glass or mug to measure each ingredient.

Makes 1

1 banana 

1 cup natural yogurt 

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup frozen raspberries 

1 tsp honey or more if needed… 

110ml milk

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender. Add a little more milk if you don’t like it too thick and a little more honey if needed. 

Zaiah’s Muffins

Zaiah loves to make this super easy muffin recipe with all kinds of berries, and even chocolate chips occasionally.

Makes 8

225g white flour

½ tsp salt

1 level tbsp baking powder

150g caster sugar

75g butter

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

175ml milk

110g myrtle berries, blueberries or raspberries or blackcurrants

1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Sieve the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla extract and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the myrtle berries. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.


We used frozen blackcurrants in the above recipe with delicious results!

Amelia’s Chocolate Brownies

Amelia found this recipe in BBC Good Food with a very good and thorough method.


185g unsalted butter

185g best dark chocolate

85g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

50g white chocolate

50g milk chocolate

3 large eggs

275g golden caster sugar

Cut the unsalted butter into small cubes and tip into a medium bowl. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces and drop into the bowl.

Fill a small saucepan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them.

Remove the bowl from the pan. Alternatively, cover the bowl loosely with cling film and put in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.

While you wait for the chocolate to cool, position a shelf in the middle of your oven and turn the oven on to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Using a shallow 20cm square tin, cut out a square of kitchen foil (or non-stick baking parchment) to line the base. Tip the plain flour and cocoa powder into a sieve held over a medium bowl. Tap and shake the sieve so they run through together and you get rid of any lumps.

Chop the white chocolate and milk chocolate into chunks on a board.

Break 3 large eggs into a large bowl and tip in golden caster sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar. They will look thick and creamy, like a milkshake. This can take 3-8 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume. Another check is to turn off the mixer, lift out the beaters and wiggle them from side to side. If the mixture that runs off the beaters leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second or two, you’re there.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Plunge the spatula in at one side, take it underneath and bring it up the opposite side and in again at the middle. Continue going under and over in a figure of eight, moving the bowl round after each folding so you can get at it from all sides, until the two mixtures are one and the colour is a mottled dark brown. The idea is to marry them without knocking out the air, so be as gentle and slow as you like.

Hold the sieve over the bowl of eggy chocolate mixture and resift the cocoa and flour mixture, shaking the sieve from side to side, to cover the top evenly.

Gently fold in this powder using the same figure of eight action as before. The mixture will look dry and dusty at first, and a bit unpromising, but if you keep going very gently and patiently, it will end up looking gungy and fudgy. Stop just before you feel you should, as you don’t want to overdo this mixing.

Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks until they’re dotted throughout.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping every bit out of the bowl with the spatula. Gently ease the mixture into the corners of the tin and paddle the spatula from side to side across the top to level it.

Put in the oven and set your timer for 25 mins. When the buzzer goes, open the oven, pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Take out of the oven.

Leave the whole thing in the tin until completely cold, then, if you’re using the brownie tin, lift up the protruding rim slightly and slide the uncut brownie out on its base. If you’re using a normal tin, lift out the brownie with the foil (or parchment). Cut into quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares and finally into triangles.

They’ll keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks and in the freezer for up to a month.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

This recipe was originally in imperial measurements, to get best results, weigh in oz.

Makes 25

6oz (175g) plain flour or spelt

4oz (110g) butter

2oz (50g) castor 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 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.

Gluten Free: Swap the flour for Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour for a delicious gluten free alternative

Demerara Shortbread

Proceed as in master recipe.  When rolling the biscuits, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and continue as above.

Ballymaloe Balloons – Cheats Doughnuts

My mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, made these for her children, and then passed on the recipe to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’ve also been a favourite of guest children at Children’s Tea in Ballymaloe House for over 40 years. They cook into funny little shapes, uneven in texture, which is a lot of fun – use your imagination to decide what they look like!

Makes about 10 balloons

150g white flour

2 tsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 level tsp baking powder

200ml or more full-cream milk

extra caster sugar or cinnamon sugar (granulated sugar mixed with a little ground cinnamon) to coat.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix to a thick batter (dropping consistency) with milk.

Preheat a deep-fryer to 190°C

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture and push it gently off with your finger so that it drops in a round ball into the fat. Fry until puffed and golden. Remove and drain. Repeat the process until you have used up all the batter.

Roll the balloons in caster sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve at once.

Also delicious with sweet apple sauce flavoured with a little cinnamon and a bowl of pastry cream for dipping.

Note: No deep fat fryer… Heat 4cm light olive or vegetable oil in a deep pan. Cook as above.


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