Archive2024

National Food Days

Today, I took a little ramble through the Internet to check out the World, National and International Food days in May. Can you imagine there is one for virtually every day of every month of the year.
Several captured my imagination – May 13th was international Hummus Day, just missed that, but Sunday 19th is World Baking Day, Monday 20th is Quiche Lorraine Day. Fancy that and wait for it, Tuesday the 21st is National Strawberries and Cream Day, that’s the next three days sorted.
So what to bake? Well tomorrow is Sunday, so if there are kids around, how about making some cupcakes together to share. Can you believe National, Give Someone a Cupcake Day is also a thing, that was on May 8, but still it’s never too late to have fun, pass on skills and spread some delicious joy.
So how about Lemon Meringue Cupcakes? There are three elements to this recipe, just the thing to make on a wet afternoon to keep several of the family gainfully employed.
(1) The cupcake mixture, (2) lemon curd, and (3) tiny meringues. If you can’t be bothered to make the meringue. Although they are super cute and delicious the cupcakes will be delicious alone or with a little homemade lemon curd. The little bakers will have learned three skills plus the joy of gifting to grandparents, neighbours and their friends 
Can you imagine that there’s a National Quiche Lorraine Day…Well, here’s my favourite recipe for Quiche Lorraine, which I think is based on a recipe from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking from the 1960’s

Here again, there are several techniques how to make a delicious, buttery, shortcrust pastry, line a flan ring and excellent proportions for a quiche. But the secret of a memorable quiche, which has been so debased and pedestrian from overuse, is really good eggs, lots of cream and excellent streaky bacon, I like it a little smoked…. (Quiche was certainly never meant to be made with milk or ‘perish the thought’ low fat milk…
And finally, for Strawberries and Cream Day on Tuesday, how about Ballymaloe Almond Meringue with strawberries and cream. ‘This Break all the Rules’ meringue was the very first dessert I tasted from the famous sweet trolley when I arrived in Ballymaloe House in 1968. Plus, it was also the very first dessert I learned to make in the kitchen, it’s still one of my favourites. Also brilliant for entertaining and for birthdays. The discs can be stored in an airtight tin for several days and it’s a really brilliant way to showcase the first of the early Irish Strawberries.
Enjoy…

Quiche Lorraine 

Probably the most famous quiche of all, named after the Lorraine region of north-east France, this classic is delicious served with a simple green salad. Best served warm or room temperature.

Serves 6

Shortcrust Pastry

175g plain flour, sieved (spelt or sieved wholemeal flour may also be used)

pinch of salt

75g butter, chilled, 

1 egg (to bind) – 4 tablespoons liquid approx.

Filling

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

175g nice fatty streaky bacon cut into 1cm lardons

100g finely chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml single cream

1 scant tbsp chopped parsley

1 scant tbsp chopped chives

110g Gruyère cheese, grated or 75g Gruyère and 25g grated Parmesan

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 23cm round tin

Make the pastry.

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

Whisk the egg. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and slightly more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with parchment and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured worktop, line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’ for about 25 minutes. The base should be almost fully cooked.  Remove the parchment paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the bacon over a medium heat until almost crisp. Remove to a plate and cool. Add the finely chopped onions to the pan, cover and sweat gently on a low heat in the same pan for a further 5-6 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheese, bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning. Taste and correct, if necessary, quiches need to be well seasoned. Otherwise, heat a frying pan, cook a teaspoon of the quiche mixture on a gentle heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it coagulates – taste and if necessary, correct the seasoning. (A bit of a faff but so worth the effort to get the seasoning right).

Stir, Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has just set. Serve warm with a green salad. 

Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes

These cupcakes are absolutely adorable and really delicious, the way to everyone’s heart.

Makes 24

Cupcakes

225g butter (at room temperature)

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons

Lemon Curd

50g butter

100g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

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

Lemon Curd Cream

110ml whipped cream

4 tbsp lemon curd (see recipe)

1 tbsp sieved icing sugar or to taste

Meringue Kisses (see recipe)

Garnish

sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena

2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processor, whizz until smooth. Add a little milk if the mixture is too thick.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in a muffin tin. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, freshly grated lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the whipped cream and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.

Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the cupcake, add another teaspoon of lemon curd, then top with a meringue kiss and garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.

Meringue Kisses

Makes 30

2 egg whites

110g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.

To make the meringue.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe into 4cm rosettes onto the baking sheet.   Bake immediately in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until set crisp.

Ballymaloe Almond Meringue with Strawberries and Cream

We use this all-in-one meringue recipe for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines Day, or simply for a special dessert, it’s particularly delicious with fresh strawberries, but raspberries, loganberries, peaches, nectarines, or even kiwi fruit are also very good.

Serves 6

90g whole unskinned almonds

240g icing sugar

120g egg whites, preferably free range

Filling

300ml whipped cream

225g fresh Irish strawberries in season 

Garnish

little sprigs of mint or lemon balm

6-8 crystallised rose petals (optional)

Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them up. They should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty, (you could cheat and use nibbed almonds!). Toast in a moderate oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 8-10 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on them and stir occasionally. 

Mark 2 x 18cm circles on parchment paper or a prepared baking sheet.  Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free from grease.   Mix all the icing sugar with the egg whites in the bowl, whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Fold in the almonds quickly.  Divide the mixture between the two circles and spread evenly with a palette knife.  Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150°C/Gas Mark 2 for 45 minutes or until crisp.  Turn off the oven and allow to cool.  The meringue discs should peel easily off the parchment paper.

To Assemble

Slice the strawberries.  Sandwich the meringue discs together with the fruit and whipped cream.  Reserve a little fruit and cream for decoration. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.  Garnish with little sprigs of mint or lemon balm and crystallised rose petals.

Note:  If you chill for an hour before serving it will be easier to cut.

The meringue discs will keep for several weeks in a tin.

Almond Meringue with Loganberries or Raspberries

Substitute 110g loganberries or raspberries for strawberries in the above recipe.

Crystallized Flowers

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.

Flowers and leaves must be edible and are all worth doing.

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals. We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements.  Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.

The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on parchment paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box with an airtight lid.

Anna Jones Cookbook ‘Easy Wins’

Today was a joyous day! We’ve just dug the first new potatoes of the season, they were planted in the greenhouse on January 2nd, 2024 (Solist, a blight-free variety) and are now ready to enjoy.

Digging potatoes, fresh from the soil, is for me one of life’s great pleasures, a magic moment. Where we planted just one potato back then, there are now anything from eight to twelve potatoes under each green leafy stalk. Once again, Mother Nature’s gift to all of us.
The hungry gap is almost over. The first of our beets are ready as is asparagus.
We spied the first tomato flower yesterday in the greenhouse, another exciting moment… a harbinger of deliciousness to come. We’ve planted twenty-three varieties this year, they’ll be available in small quantities in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop and our stall at the Midleton Farmers Market from about mid-July onwards with other new seasons organic vegetables and herbs as they become ready for harvesting. We only sell what we grow on the farm.
Look out for new seasons produce at your local farmers markets and indi shops and the growing number of farm stalls around the country.
Meanwhile, guess what’s just landed on my desk, Anna Jones new book, ‘Easy Wins’. This is Anna’s fifth book, she also wrote ‘One Pot, Pan, Planet’, ‘A Modern Way to Eat’, ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ and the ‘Modern Cooks Year’. Her books are sold in ten countries, have been translated into five languages and have won many awards, including James Beard, Fortnum and Mason and André Simon. Definitely a shining light on the culinary writer’s firmament – she’s the voice of modern vegetarian cooking. Anna believes  that vegetables should be put at the centre of every table.
I’m hoping that you’ll have access to beautiful fresh local produce by now, even better if some comes from your own garden, then you really ‘get’ the magic of fresh vegetables, You’ll want everyone to know you grew them and you won’t want to waste a scrap.
Anna’s new book is genius, she gives her golden rules for easy wins in the kitchen, super simple recipes, bursting with flavour and kind to both the planet and mindful of our crazy busy schedules. What’s not to like?
There’s practical advice on how to season your dishes, plus plenty of invaluable ideas for vegetarian swaps, as well as how to reduce waste and use less energy when cooking.
Her 12 ‘hero’ pantry ingredients all last a long time, are relatively affordable and easily available.
 As in all Anna’s books, the recipes are choreographed and carefully thought out so that they take the least time possible. Also dotted through the book are recipes from some of her friends and favourite cooks – I love that.
It was very difficult to pick just three recipes, but here are a few to tempt you to dash into the kitchen.

Tortilla Español with Herbs and Shallots

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

Tortilla is one of my favourite things in the world to eat. A Spanish friend, Carolina, used to make it for us. She’d make a huge panful and we’d eat it for dinner warm and then cold the next day with vinegary tomato salad or in bocadillos. To me a tortilla is the perfect olive oil recipe, as frying the potatoes and onions in a generous amount of oil is key. The oil can be strained and kept for your next tortilla or any other savoury dish. A special mention here to my friend Kitty, who lent me her tortilla knowledge.

2 large onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

400ml extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp

6 medium waxy potatoes (650g), peeled and cut into 3mm­ thick slices

8 medium organic eggs

1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 stick of celery, finely sliced

a small bunch of parsley (25g), leaves picked

Serves 4

Cook the onions.

Peel, halve and thinly slice 2 large onions. You want the slices to be equally thin, so they all cook at the same time. In a small, non-stick round pan (about 24cm) heat 400ml of your best extra virgin olive oil on a medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring every so often, for 5 minutes until they are soft and slightly golden. Remove the onions from the oil with a slotted spoon to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Cook the potatoes.

Cut 6 medium waxy peeled potatoes into thin 3mm-thick slices, again making sure they are the same size, so they cook evenly. Add them to the same hot oil and cook for 8-10 minutes, until they are soft, and a knife goes through with no resistance.

Drain the potatoes, keeping the oil in a heatproof bowl or jug for later. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the onions. No need to wash the pan as you will use it later.

Whisk and add the eggs.

Lightly whisk 8 medium organic eggs in a small bowl, then pour them over the warm potatoes and onions and stir gently to bring everything together. Season well with a good pinch of flaky sea salt, then cover with a plate that snugly fits over the bowl to rest for 10-15 minutes. This is a really important stage, as it makes everything thicken up, meld together and cook evenly.

Cook the tortilla.

Once the mixture is rested, heat the same pan on a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of the oil you used earlier. Pour the egg mix into the pan and turn the heat down to the lowest setting for 1-2 minutes. Run a spatula around the edges a few times to make sure it’s not sticking, then leave to cook for around 4-6 minutes until you can see that the bottom and edges are setting.

Flip the tortilla.

Give the pan a shake to make sure the bottom hasn’t stuck, then place a plate that’s larger than the pan over the tortilla, cover your hand with a tea towel and carefully but confidently and quickly flip the tortilla on to the plate.

Slide the tortilla back into the pan, tucking in its edges with a spatula to get the characteristic rounded shape. Continue to cook over a low heat for a further 4-6 minutes until just set around the edges but still a little soft in the middle. Slide the tortilla out on to a plate, then leave to cool while you make the salad.

Make the parsley salad

Put 1 small finely diced shallot in a bowl with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil

and mix until the shallot is coated. Add 1 finely sliced stick of celery and the leaves from 25g parsley, toss together once more and pile on the tortilla.

Roast Spring Vegetables with Mustard Cheese Sauce

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

This is a plate of everything that I find comforting. Roast broccoli with its crispy roasted flowery ends, and roasted spring peas and asparagus with a cheesy mustard sauce that brings it all together. The mustard lifts the flavour and puts a bit of punch into the plate of comfort. Some roast herbs add texture and fresh dimension.

Serves 4

a bunch of purple sprouting or Tenderstem broccoli (200g)

1 bunch of asparagus

150g fresh, unpodded peas 4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fennel seeds a few sprigs of thyme (5g), leaves picked

300g creme fraiche or oat creme fraiche

50ml whole milk or oat milk

175g mature Cheddar or vegan Cheddar-style cheese, grated

2 tbsp Dijon mustard 10g unsalted butter or vegan block

½ a bunch of parsley (15g), leaves picked

½ a bunch of sage (15g), leaves picked

½ a bunch of tarragon (15g), leaves picked

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Prepare the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 240°C (220°C fan).

Cut 200g purple sprouting or Tenderstem broccoli into florets, then trim any tough bits from the stalk and slice the stalk into 1-2cm thick pieces. Trim the tough ends from 1 bunch of asparagus.

Roast the vegetables.

Put the broccoli, asparagus and 150g of unpodded peas into a large roasting tray with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.

Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then toss together so the vegetables are all evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Make the sauce.

Meanwhile, put 300g creme fraiche and 50ml milk in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer over a medium heat. Turn off the heat, add 175g grated Cheddar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 10g unsalted butter and stir until the cheese is melted and you have a cheesy, mustardy sauce.

Roast the herbs.

Remove the broccoli and asparagus from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. On a low-sided/flat baking tray, mix the leaves from ½ a bunch each of parsley, sage and tarragon with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then spread them out on the tray so they are all in one even layer, with no leaves overlapping. Bake in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the herbs have crisped up but are still green. Keep a close eye on them as they can overcook and turn brown very quickly.

Bring everything together.

Spoon the cheese sauce on to the base of a large serving platter or on 4 plates, top with the roast vegetables, the crispy herbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with bread for mopping up the sauce.

Miso Maple Beetroot with Goat’s Curd

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

We so often think of miso for Japanese dishes, bur miso is such a versatile flavour that I have found it works incredibly well in lots of other countries’ cuisines, from satay sauces to salad dressings. Here, miso pairs with some classically British ingredients. Roasting beetroot in this maple, miso, lime and mustard dressing creates a crispy, crunchy, caramelised umami-sweet coating to the beetroot which counters the earthy character inside. Paired with a crunchy celery and apple salad and served with crumbled goat’s curd or cheese, this plate has got all the textures and flavours in one place.

Serves 4

2 tbsp maple syrup or runny honey

3 tbsp white miso paste

3 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 unwaxed limes

4 raw beetroot, peeled and quartered

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 sharp, crunchy apple, halved, cored and thinly sliced

3 sticks of celery, finely sliced, and some leaves if possible

200-300g goat’s cheese or curd sourdough bread, to serve

(optional)

Make the miso maple dressing.

In a small bowl, mix together:

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, 3 tablespoons white miso paste, 3 teaspoons wholegrain mustard and the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime.

Roast the beetroot.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Quarter 4 peeled raw beetroot and put them into a shallow baking tray. Pour over 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss in the miso maple dressing, making sure all the beetroot pieces are evenly coated. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Make the celery and apple salad.

Halve, core and thinly slice 1 sharp, crunchy apple. Put in a bowl with

3 finely sliced sticks of celery, the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime,

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Add the celery leaves too if you have some.

To serve

Serve the beetroot with 200-300g soft goat’s curd, a pile of the celery and apple salad and, if you like, some toasted sourdough for scooping things up.

Campania (Naples)

Don’t we all love Italian food? Warm and comforting pasta, pizza, gnocchi, ragu, taralli, mozzarella, soppressata…
Many of our most beloved Italian dishes originate in Campania, so I recently made a pilgrimage to Napoli to start to explore the area and the Greek and Roman ruins in the surrounding countryside. My trip was cut short by a foot injury. Beware of the deeply, uneven cobbled streets and pavements, beautiful but remember we are on a fault line, in the shadow of the twin peaks of Mount Vesuvius, which has been rumbling and erupting for thousands of years. If you really want excitement in your life, you can explore the site as thousands do every year. Don’t miss a visit to Pompeii, the site of the tragedy in 79 BCE where more than 2,000 out of a population of 11,000 people were said to have died in 15 minutes when they were overwhelmed by the lava from the eruption. The exact total will probably never be known.
Few folks are prepared for the magnificence and grandeur of the 66 hectare site, resplendent with huge marble temples and palatial villas, plus produce markets, granaries, bakeries – over 33 have been discovered to date and more recently, ‘prison bakeries’ where slaves and donkeys ground grain for the bread.
Less visited but my number one recommendation is Paestum, the only ancient Greek city in Italy to have survived in its entirety. Three awe inspiring, fifth century (this is correct way of spelling for single digit century), BCE temples dedicated to Hera are among the best preserved in the world
While you’re in the area, famous for its mozzarella, visit the nearby Tenuta Vannulo dairy in the midst of lush farmland and gardens.
Stop at the café for a buffalo and ricotta themed lunch, don’t leave without tasting the yoghurt and gelato also. I greatly enjoyed the mozzarella en carozza. Unlike the water buffaloes in West Cork, which range freely on lush pasture, the Italian buffaloes are kept indoors and fed fresh forage and grain but are at least protected from the vagaries of the weather.
Burrata has a creamy interior while a soft tender version with cream inside is stracciatella. Mozzarella is genius, there are many, many variations on the basic fior di latte mozzarella di bufala.  Mini ones are called bocconcini, the braided version is called treccia, firm stretched curd is caciocavallo.
Scamorza can be plain or smoked, aged Provola is pear, sausage or cone shaped.
This area on the Amalfi coast is a wonderful mix of culture, great food and totally breathtaking scenery.

Wander through the streets of Napoli, the birthplace of pizza. There are a myriad of historic archaeological sites. Don’t miss the Catacombs di San Gennaro in Naples. If you want to avoid the full tourist impact, you may want to avoid the mythical Isle of Capri and Positano. If you have to choose just one more historic site it might have to be Herculaneum built in BCE by the Osci people. Herculaneum lay concealed by approximately 20 metres of volcanic ash until 1709. Excavations continue to the present day. There among many other extraordinary remains, you will clearly see kitchens, bakeries, huge olive oil pots and wine amphora – Roman’s loved to feast!
Close your eyes and imagine you are surrounded by Romans wearing togas going about their daily routine baking, cooking, farming, pressing grapes for wine, olives for oil, tanning hides, making sandals…
Between Temple hopping, lookout for restaurants and cafes serving some of the specialities of the Campania region,  pizza of course, pasta with ragu – the rich, slow cooked, chunky beef and pork sauce, Parmigiane di melanzane, spaghetti alla vongole, (clams), grilled razor clams, tagliatelle with sea urchins but here are a few simple dishes you may not have come across before.

Mozzarella en Carozza

Mozzarella en Carozza is a fried mozzarella sandwich. Seriously guilt making food but so quick and delicious.  We vary the filling depending on what’s in the fridge but it should always be highly seasoned and include a melting mozzarella cheese. Make it your own, sometimes the mozzarella is just flour, egg and crumbed.  

Serves 4

8 slices of best quality white bread

8-12 slices of Mozzarella cheese depending on size

4 tbsp basil pesto

1 red onion, thinly sliced

4 roasted red and yellow peppers or a mixture

salt and freshly ground pepper

beer batter (see recipe)

First make the beer batter.

Preheat the oil in the deep fry to 180°C.

Cut the crusts off the bread. Cover 4 slices of bread with Mozzarella.  Smear generously with pesto, add several rings of red onion and a few pieces of roasted red pepper. Season generously with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Top with the other pieces of bread to make four sandwiches. Press down the edges and seal well.  Make sure there is no cheese sticking out. Just before serving, dip into the beer batter and deep fry until brown crisp and deep golden.

Drain on kitchen paper, cut in half at an angle, arrange on hot plates and serve immediately with a tomato and mint or basil salad and a mixture of tasty well-dressed salad leaves. 

Beer Batter

Makes 425ml

110ml plain white flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, yolks separated from whites

3 tbsp olive oil or melted butter

200ml beer or water

Mix together the flour, salt, egg yolks, and oil or butter in a bowl. Gradually add the beer or water and whisk for only as long as it takes to produce a nice smooth batter. Do not overwork the mixture. Leave the batter to rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature otherwise it will provide an uneven coating.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and fold them into the batter just before using.

Zippoli or Zeppole

A delicious snack from Calabria, I loved these deep-fried doughnuts which can be savoury or sweet. This version has the addition of some anchovies and mozzarella (sardines work too). If you’d like a sweet version, add a couple of teaspoons of sugar into the initial pastry liquid and dredge with icing sugar when cooked.

Makes 15-20

Pastry 

75g strong flour (Baker’s)

small pinch of salt

110ml water or a mixture of water and milk

50g butter, cut into 1cm cubes

2 eggs depending on size (free range if possible)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g anchovies or sardines (1 tin, drained), finely chopped

80g mozzarella, finely diced

finely grated Parmesan

oil for deep-frying 

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour with the salt onto a piece of silicone paper.  Heat the water (or water and milk) and butter in a high-sided saucepan until the butter is melted. Bring to a fast rolling boil, take from the heat. (Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough).  Immediately the pan is taken from the heat, add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Return the saucepan back onto a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to furr the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl.  Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little. Use just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and just drops reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet.  

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir in the finely chopped anchovies and mozzarella.

Heat the oil in a deep-fry, drop a morsel of the mixture into the hot oil.  Cook until it puffs and crisps.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill the remaining mixture into a piping bag with an eclair nozzle. Pipe little blobsinto the hot oil a few at a time, snipping each one off with a scissors or small knife or drop generous teaspoons into the hot oil.  Cook for 3-5 minutes turning frequently depending on size until crisp and golden.

Cook until puffed, crisp and golden. Roll in finely grated Parmesan if you fancy.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve while still hot sprinkled with lots of finely grated Parmesan. 

Angioletti with Rocket, Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad

Angioletti or ‘little angels’ of fried pizza dough.  Another delicious riff on your pizza dough inspired by a dish I ate in a Starita pizzeria in Napoli.

A Simple Pizza Dough 

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 tbsp olive oil

450 – 500ml lukewarm water – more if needed

Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad (see recipe)

rocket leaves

First make the pizza dough.
Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a large wide mixing bowl. Rub in the butter and sprinkle in the 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 five minutes. 

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. 

Pinch off small pieces. Roll gently into 4-6cm pizza sticks.

Heat oil in a deep-fry.

Meanwhile, make the tomato and basil salad.

Drop the angioletti a few at a time into the hot oil.

Cook until puffed, golden brown and crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.

Sprinkle the rocket leaves with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of vinegar, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper and toss.

Transfer 6-10 angioletti (depending on size) into a serving bowl Scatter with some fresh rocket leaves and top with a couple of tablespoons of cherry tomato and basil salad.

Enjoy immediately with a little freshly grated Parmesan on top while the angioletti are still hot and crisp. 

Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad

red or red and yellow cherry tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Dressing

1 tbsp wine vinegar or wine vinegar and Balsamic vinegar mixed or freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar or honey

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing.

Slice the tomatoes around the equator, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, toss in a little dressing and scatter with fresh basil leaves.

Just before serving.

Toss the rocket leaves in just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Scatter the tomatoes over the salad also.

Ragu

I’ve been told that if you want to make your way to an Italian man’s heart it is essential to be able to make a good ragu.

It is a wonderfully versatile sauce – the classic sauce for Tagliatelle alla ragu, indispensable for lasagne, also delicious with polenta and gnocchi not to be confused with the well-known brand of the same name.  I have been making Marcella Hazan’s version for many years from her Classic Italian Cookbook (a book you would do well to seek out).  It is the most delicious and concentrated one I know.  The late Marcella says it should be cooked for several hours at the merest simmer, but I find you get a very good result with 1-1 1/2 hours cooking on a diffuser mat.  Ragu can be made ahead and freezes very well.

Serves 6

45g butter

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

2 tbsp carrot, finely chopped

350g minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck

salt

300ml dry white wine

110ml milk

1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1 x 400g tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

small casserole

In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well.

Heat the butter with the oil and sauté the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next, add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy.)

Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.  Turn the heat down to medium, add in the milk and the freshly grated nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring every now and then. Next add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down to the very lowest so that the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer – just an occasional bubble. I use a heat diffuser mat for this.

Cook uncovered for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours (better still 2 or even 3), depending on how concentrated you like it, stirring occasionally. If it reduces too much add a little water and continue to cook. When it is finally cooked, taste and correct seasoning. Because of the length of time involved in cooking this, I feel it would be worthwhile to make at least twice the recipe.

Serve with tagliatelle, preferably homemade and lots of freshly grated Parmesan.

National Tea Day

National Tea Day is celebrated on April 21st.

Sure, you’ll have a cup of tea? A warm and friendly welcome, an icebreaker, a comforting gesture in stressful times, a way to pass the time – for many it’s the first gesture of the day, the last before bedtime.
Making tea is a way of life here in Ireland but the ritual has radically changed during the past few decades. It’s now mostly a teabag dropped into a mug rather than tea leaves brewed slowly in a China or tin teapot.
Tea drinking is an important Irish custom, a symbol of hospitality, camaraderie and friendship. We in Ireland are the second biggest consumers of tea per capita in the entire world at 4.83lbs, Turkey being number one.
Well-known brands of Irish tea like Barry’s, Bewley’s and Lyons are packed into suitcases and carried far and wide as nostalgic presents for Irish emigrants who crave the unique  flavour of Irish when they are away from home.
Irish tea is mostly a blend of Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Kenyan. We like to make it strong, drink it with rich milk and occasionally a spoon or two of sugar.
As I write, memories come flooding back to my childhood and the bottles of sweet milky tea, wrapped in newspaper or tea towels, that we brought out to the fields to the men during haymaking. They put down their pitchforks when we appeared with our baskets and sat with their backs to a haystack, sipping tea from huge mugs that hung on the farmhouse dresser while eating thick slices of soda bread, or spotted dog slathered with country butter.
Is there another ‘sup’ of tea in the pot was a regular question.
I particularly remember Joe who always drank his tea from a saucer, presumably to cool it. I was reminded of this recently, when we were warmly offered sweet chai on a visit to the families of transhumant herders in Madya Pradesh. At sunset, we sat on their charpai’s (woven day beds) sipping saucers of sweet, milky chai, watching women in their bright, colourful saris milking the cows and buffaloes into tin buckets. I won’t easily forget the deep rich flavour of the spicy chai made from the fresh milk.
Every country has its tea traditions.

China, of course has its tea ceremony which I was fortunate to experience in Shanghai a number of years ago. The tea was light and exquisite and of course drunk without milk.
In Morocco, the beloved mint tea is also a symbol of hospitality and friendship, made with gunpowder green tea, peppermint and lots of sugar added, it’s traditionally made in an ornate metal teapot and poured from a height into small decorative glasses, instead of a cup or perish the thought, mugs!
Traders often offer a cup of mint tea to entice you to buy some of their wares.
Turkish tea or çay is typically made in a çaydanlik, a metal vessel specially designed for making tea over the open fire or on a gas jet.
This too is drunk in small glasses or little cups with sugar lumps dissolving in the bottom.
Even though we hear more about Turkish coffee, Turks drink an inordinate amount of tea which is grown along the Black Sea coast, nearly 7lbs a year per capita.
After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world.
Tea is traded as a commodity, consequently, there is constant price pressure resulting in increasing challenges for the millions of smallholders who grow and hand harvest tea around the world.
While traditional hand harvesting is still the norm in many countries, mechanisation can of course reduce production costs by as much as 40%. Inevitably, though irresistible to the large tea companies, it threatens employment and thousands of tea pickers in Kenya’s Rift Valley, recently lost their livelihoods.
All tea varieties come from the Camellia sinensis plant which produces five different tea types, black, green, white, oolong and dark teas depending on the degree of oxidation.
If you are concerned about helping tea farmers and pickers to get a fair price for their work and product,  enquire from the tea companies. Look out for the Fair Trade or Ethically Sourced stamp and examine the criteria it is based on.
The Rare Tea Company offers a selection of sustainably sourced, single estate loose teas. These rare teas are available both retail and wholesale on the rare tea website www.rareteacompany.com   
It’s worth knowing that each loose leaf brew can be refreshed two or three times. It’s a whole new adventure and one that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly.
For those who would like to know more about, what can be an exquisite beverage or indeed the story behind the true cost of tea, Henrietta Lovell, the intrepid lady behind The Rare Tea Company has also published a really informative and fascinating book entitled, ‘Infused’.
For those of you, who would also like the delicious recipe for Ballymaloe Irish Tea Barmbrack check out my Examiner column of 28th October 2023.
This week I’ve included some of my favourite afternoon tea treats for you to enjoy.

Chai

Everyone needs a recipe for this spiced tea – beware it becomes addictive.

250ml full fat milk

2-3 cardamom pods

2.5cm piece of cinnamon

3 peppercorns

500ml boiling water

3 tsp loose tea leaves

sugar

Put all the ingredients except the tea leaves and the sugar into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Bring back to the boil, add the tea leaves and sugar to taste, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow the leaves to settle.  Serve in teacups.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

A delicious version of everybody’s afternoon tea favourite.

Serves 8-10

175g soft butter

175g unrefined caster sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

175g self-raising flour

zest of 1 organic lemon

1-2 tbsp milk

Lemon Drizzle

freshly grate rind of 1 organic lemon

freshly squeezed juice of 1 organic lemon

75g caster sugar

1 x 20.5cm round cake tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Put the soft butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and lemon zest into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Add milk to soften the texture and whizz for a second or two more to combine. Spread evenly into the greased tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the drizzle.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cook and transfer to a wire rack.

Ballymaloe Chocolate Almond Gateau with Crystallized Violets

So difficult to choose my favourite, this is one of several rich chocolate cakes. Use the best chocolate you can buy, Valrhona, Menier, Suchard or Callebaut. For a gluten-free version, omit the flour and increase the whole almonds from 50g to 110g and proceed as in the master recipe.

110g best quality dark chocolate (62%) (We use Lesmé or Val Rhona chocolate)

2 tbsp Red Jamaica Rum

50g whole almonds

110g butter

100g caster sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

1 tbsp caster sugar

50g plain white flour

Chocolate Icing

175g best quality dark chocolate (52%)

3 tbsp Red Jamaica Rum

175g butter

crystallized violets or toasted almonds or praline

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

Grease two x 18cm sandwich tins, dust lightly with flour and line the base of each with parchment paper. 

Melt the chocolate with the rum on a very gentle heat. Peel the almonds by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water until the skins lift.  Strain, cool, peel and allow to dry.  Grind in a food processor – they should still be slightly gritty.

Cream the butter, and then add the caster sugar, beat until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.   Add 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and continue to whisk until they reach the stiff peak stage.   Add the melted chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture and then add the almonds.   Stir in a quarter of the egg white mixture followed by a quarter of the sieved flour.   Fold in the remaining eggs and flour alternatively until they have all been added.

Divide between the two prepared tins and make a hollow in the centre of each cake.

IMPORTANT: Cook in the preheated oven, depending on the oven, it can take between 19 and 25 minutes. The sides of the cake should be cooked but slightly underdone in the centre.

Chocolate Butter Icing

Melt best quality chocolate with rum, allow to cool a little until tepid.  Whisk in the butter by the tablespoon. 

When the cake is completely cold, fill and ice the mixture.   Pipe the remaining icing around the top and decorate with crystallized violets or toasted flaked almonds.

Rhubarb Tartlets

Recipe from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall published by Phaidon

This is a terrific recipe to have up your sleeve. These tartlets are ideal to serve after a simple lunch or even a formal dinner.  I always make the cream pastry a day or two in advance.  The tartlets themselves don’t take long to prepare and bake in just twenty minutes. 

Makes approx. 30 tartlets

1 quantity of cream pastry (see recipe), chilled

flour, for dusting

700g red rhubarb

220-290g caster sugar

softly whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.

Place the cold pastry on a generously floured work surface. Sprinkle flour over the top and roll to a thickness of 3mm, using a rolling pin. Cut the pastry into disks using a 7.5cm round cutter. Transfer the disks of pastry to a shallow, flat-bottom bun (muffin) pan, lining each well with a circle. Place the lined pan in the refrigerator to rest for 15 minutes. Shake excess flour from the pastry scraps, gather them together, wrap in baking paper and place in the refrigerator. The scraps can be re-rolled again when they are properly chilled and used to make another batch of tartlets.

Cut the rhubarb into coin shaped pieces, about 3mm thick and arrange the pieces of rhubarb in a pretty pattern on top of the pastry. Sprinkle a scant teaspoon of the sugar over the rhubarb in each tartlet and bake straight away for about 20 minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelise, and the pastry is a deep golden colour. While the tartlets are baking, line a heatproof tray with parchment paper and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the paper. Remove the tartlets from the oven and transfer them from the bun pan to the sugared baking paper while still hot. Arrange on a pretty plate and serve warm with softly whipped cream. 

Cream Pastry

For years I have tried to uncover the roots of this dough – I have never seen it being made or used anywhere but at Ballymaloe – this pastry may well have been invented here. One possible precursor to this recipe is Vienna pastry found in Irma Rombauer’s seminal book Joy of Cooking (1964), yet the two recipes differ considerably.

It is an incredibly versatile dough, and I always have some in the refrigerator ready to use. It handles bet when completely chilled and well rested. I make the pastry the day before I plan to use it and roll it straight from the refrigerator. It can be used on top of classic fruit tarts or to cover savoury pies, and it is good for open fruit tartlets. It is flaky, buttery and tender, not firm like a shortcrust and surprisingly light.

Makes 370g pastry

110g plain flour (Marriage’s brand)

110g cold salted butter, cut into 5mm cubes

150ml cold fresh cream

Place the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and then add the butter. With the mixer on low speed, rub the butter into the flour. Keep an eye on the mixture as it is being worked by the paddle. If overworked, the mixture will form a shortbread-like ball! Before this happens, when the butter and flour are on the cusp of coming together, pour in all of the cold cream and continue to mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms, about 1 minute. Wrap the pastry with baking paper and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!

New York

I love a few days in New York, my visits are usually business related – I did several events to help promote Ireland and spread the news about the revolution on the Irish food scene.

But I’m also got my antennae primed to pick up food trends and use every meal slot to try as many exciting new restaurants as I can manage. I also have a few longtime favourites that I love to return to including Buvette on 42 Grove Street, (Between Bedford & Bleecker St.) where I can’t resist returning for breakfast every time. Fortunately, it’s still really good, delicious freshly squeezed orange juice, great coffee and several iconic brunch dishes – croque monsieur, croque madame…but this time I actually had cold tarte tatin for breakfast and it was superb. All Buvette lacks at present is a friendly host, but the food and ambience are still wonderful.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for several others, particularly Daily Provisions which was on one of my all-time favourites and where I got the inspiration for cruellers and gougères filled with scrambled eggs with lots of variations and riffs.

Claud’s on 90 E 10th Street was a new discovery this time, particularly loved the kampachi with kumquat and yuzu and chicken liver agnolotti.

Epistrophy, an Italian restaurant on 200 Mott Street was also a new find – shaved Brussels sprout salad with walnut slivers of Parmesan and pomegranate seeds with a honey and Dijon mustard vinaigrette was definitely a highlight. So, I’ve been experimenting with that combination since my return. Lots of good pasta dishes including homemade cacio e pepe, one of my all-time favourites.  

Cloudy Donut Co on 14 Columbia Place in Brooklyn are doing a range of puffy ‘hole less’ vegan doughnuts with exciting icings and toppings – Balsamic fig, Grapefruit mimosa, Red velvet, Cotton candy, Maple butter and pecan…

Love the way Americans give funky names to their sandwiches. Court St. Grocers on 485 Court Street, Brooklyn had an enticing selection. Macho (Wo) Man, Catskill, Uncle Chucky, Uncle Grandpa, Ultimate Warrior, Cubano…

Foul Witch on 15th Avenue is another new discovery since my last trip, owned by the folk behind Robertas in Brooklyn, super chic with many tempting items on the menu.  This was definitely one of my favourite new discoveries.  Loved the grilled tripe with pecorino and mint, oxtail fazzolette with lovage and horseradish and roast goat shoulder with buttered turnips and alliums. The linguini with California sea urchins was another favourite.

New this visit was the number of offal dishes on cool restaurant menus – this is certainly a new development in a town where serving ‘variety meats’ was out of the question.

I hosted two luncheons while I was over, one media lunch at Sailor in Brooklyn. April Bloomfield was cooking, and she and her team did a super job reproducing Ballymaloe food, but we also returned to taste Sailor’s delicious menu a few nights later, essential to book. Tell her I sent you…

Another lunch to celebrate The New Ballymaloe Bread Book at King on King Street, super proud of Jess Shadbolt, a Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni – delicious, irresistible dishes, including this pain perdue ice cream which guests return for over and over again – don’t miss the panisse.

Also had a memorable lunch at sister restaurant, Jupiter in the Rockefeller Centre.  Loved the zucchini fritte, how did they get them so crisp? The gnocci with speck and nutmeg and crispy sage leaves is also calling me back and that salad of beautiful mini Romolo speckled Castlefranco with lentils.

I hate cannoli, the crisp mascarpone stuffed Sicilian pastries with a passion, but I was persuaded to taste one and had a conversion on the road to Damascus and I believe the homemade cassata is also sensational, but it wasn’t on the menu, a treat for my next trip…

While you are in the Rockefeller Centre, take a few moments to admire The Rink (ice rink). I also went back to Dominique’s Ansel Bakery on 189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson) to pick up a kouign amann. A super sweet crispy flaky pastry that I queued for hours for when it was first introduced in 2016 and I love it still – ask for a DKA!

All of this by way of research.

After another busy day, I returned to Cervos on 43 Canal Street which I am thrilled to report is still as brilliantly good as I remember.
I also love to go along to the Union Square Market, preferably on the day I’m returning to Ireland so I can buy a sprouted rye loaf from She Wolf Bakery – I know it sounds like coals to Newcastle but it’s that good that I’m prepared to schlep it all the way home! I also popped into Bedford Cheese Shop on 67 Irving Place to pick up some US artisan cheese for my picnic for the plane.

Librae Bakery on 35 Cooper Square should also be on your New York list, exceptionally good breads and pastries – don’t miss the pistachio stuffed croissant – Oh My! The pear, almond and coffee scone was also memorable.

Book lovers shouldn’t miss Archestratus Books and Food located on 160 Huron Street in Brooklyn – worth a detour.

Lots of good things out in Brooklyn – that could be another whole column…..

Panisse

Recipe taken from The King Cookbook by Jess Shadbolt, Clare de Boer and Anni Shi.

These fried ribbons of cooked chickpea flour have been on our menu since opening night. While the menu changes every day, these return night after night.

Panisse is a traditional street food from Nice (the Italian version from Ligura is called panelle). Creamy and salty, they are impossible to tire of. But making them is not easy: the batter is temperamental, requiring both time (they need to be made a day ahead) and attention. But panisse rewards the committed and brave.

Serving these hot and crisp, just as they come out of the oil, is essential.

Serves 10

For the batter

320g approx. chickpea flour

olive oil

salt

For the fry

2-3 litres sunflower oil

a handful of sage, at least 10 sprigs, leaves picked

salt

Bring a large, heavy pot filled with 1 litre of salted water and 50ml of olive oil to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and carefully stream in the chickpea flour while whisking continuously to prevent lumps. Once combined, reduce the heat to low, switch to a wooden spoon and give a good stir. Gently cook while stirring often so the pot’s bottom doesn’t catch (treat this as a polenta). After an hour, the chickpea batter should have a deep nutty flavour and not taste at all like raw flour. No better way to check than taste…Despite your best intentions, the pot will look like a lumpy porridge at this first stage. Most mornings, it draws a crowd of cooks – a couple of dollops make a hearty breakfast. Use a stick blender or food processor and blitz the batter (in batches, if necessary) until the pot is completely smooth, a few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Lightly oil a 23 x 32.5cm baking dish.

Pour in the batter, spreading it out evenly. Allow it to set at room temperature before transferring the trays to the fridge for an overnight rest. These need at least 8 hours of down time, and they hold for about 24 hours.

To fry.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a deep, wide pot, adding enough so it rises at least 7.5cm up from the base. Place the pot over medium heat. As the oil warms, slice the panisse into long ribbons, approximately 1cm across.

Once the oil is 180°C, fry the ribbons in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot. Upon contact, the panisse will sizzle; keep frying until they puff and crisp all around, about 5 minutes total. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move the panisse from the bubbling oil and to a tray lined with paper towels.

Once the first batch is fried and the pot is clear, drop a few sage leaves into the oil and fry them until crisp and sharp green, a few seconds. Remove the sage from the oil and sprinkle them over the panisse. Season with salt and immediately serve this hot first batch while frying up another round.

King’s Pain Perdu Ice Cream

Recipe taken from The King Cookbook by Jess Shadbolt, Clare de Boer and Anni Shi.

At Ballymaloe Cookery School where we both studied, we fell in love with the brown bread ice cream. So, we eventually added leftover bread to King’s own Fior di latte base, and this flavour was born.

Pain perdu’s direct translation from the French is “lost bread.” It’s a bit of a misnomer as the dish basically refers to French toast. In this recipe, we toast sourdough or a Shanagarry Loaf when Darina is in town and toss it with sweet, melted butter and then re-toast to caramelize.

Serves 4-6

For the ice cream

480g heavy cream

200g whole milk

3 tonka beans or 1 small stick of cinnamon

5 egg yolks

100g granulated sugar

For the Pain Perdu

sourdough bread, crust removed and torn into small, 2.5cm pieces (75g in weight after crust has been removed)

75g unsalted butter

75g granulated sugar

Begin by preparing the ice cream base.

In a heavy, medium pot, warm the cream and milk, along with the tonka beans or cinnamon stick, over high heat. Turn the heat off just before the milk quivers (take care it doesn’t!), about 5 minutes. If using cinnamon instead of tonka beans, pull the stick out so the flavour remains subtle; you’ll have to taste and see. If using tonka, proceed with the beans in the pot (they’ll come out later).

A boil will scald the milk’s flavour, so take care!

As the dairy warms, place the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or add them to a medium bowl and use a handheld). Beat at high speed until the eggs turn pale yellow and double in volume, at least 5 minutes. Beating in air at this stage is vital to producing a stretchy ice cream.

With the whisk running, gingerly ladle in some of the hot dairy, pouring it down the bowl’s inside wall, to avoid scrambling the eggs. Once the first ladleful is incorporated, add another bit, just as carefully, beating all the while. Continue on, stopping once the bowl’s outside feels warm to the touch. At this point, stop whisking and ladling. With a wooden spoon, stir the warm, whipped yolk mixture into the pot with the remaining dairy.

Place the pot over low heat and stir until a custard with the consistency of paint forms, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat as the custard thickens, which should start happening at about 160°C if you’re using a thermometer. Slow and low is best to protect the eggs. At any point, if the custard wafts smoke, remove it from the flame, whisk to cool and then return the pot to a low flame and proceed. You’re done when a dipped spoon holds a lush coating and, if you run a finger through the coating, a pronounced line forms (approximately 180°C). At this point, keep stirring but immediately remove the pot from the flame. Pour the custard into a metal bowl; or, if it looks at all curdled, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve and catch the base in the bowl below.

Let the base fully cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

As the base cools, make the pain perdu by preheating the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Spread the bread across a rimmed baking sheet, arranging it in a single layer. Bake, on the oven’s centre rack, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan set over a low heat. Once melted, stir through the sugar and mix until the granules dissolve.

Once the bread toasts, remove the tray from the oven and pour the sweet, melted butter over the croutons. Toss to evenly coat and then return the tray to the oven. Bake until crunchy and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool the pain perdu to room temperature. It’s important the pain perdu introduces no warmth to the custard once mixed in.

Place a sealable container in the freezer (a metal dish speeds the freezing along, which is good for texture!). When you’re ready to churn, remove the tonka beans from the custard, if applicable, and add the base to your ice cream machine. Churn according to the machine’s instructions. Once it’s the consistency of soft serve, scoop the ice cream into your chilled container and swirl through the pain perdu until evenly dispersed. Cover and freeze the ice cream until set, at least 3-4 hours.  

April Bloomfield’s Blood Orange Marmalade Tart

Serves 12

30.5cm round fluted tart tin

Tart Base Pastry

155g butter (cold)

70g caster sugar 

2 egg yolks

240g all-purpose flour (plain white flour)

Almond Frangipane 

500g skin on almonds 

500g butter 

250g caster sugar 

4 eggs

250g blood orange marmalade (see recipe)

5-6 tbsp slivered almonds (optional)

To Serve

softly whipped cream or crème fraîche

To make the pastry.

Put the butter and sugar in a food processor, blend together for a few seconds, add yolks and flour, blitz until it amalgamates. Cover the pastry and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin.

Line with baking parchment and fill with dried beans. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastry case ‘blind’ for 20-25 minutes approx. The base should be almost fully cooked. Remove the baking parchment and beans. Brush the base with a little beaten egg white and cook for 3–4 minutes. This will seal the base and avoid the ‘soggy bottom’ effect.

Next, make the almond frangipane.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until they become a fine crumb, remove the nuts and set aside in a big bowl. 

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, add the eggs slowly one by one, add this mixture to the finely ground almonds. Fold gently together to combine.

You’ll need about 900g for the tart (save the bit leftover for another tart).

When the pastry case is parbaked.  Cool, then spread about 250g of the blood orange marmalade over the base of the tart. Cover evenly with frangipane.

Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top of the tart if using.

Bake in the preheated oven at 170°C/325°F for 50 minutes approx. until set and nicely golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lots of softly whipped cream or crème fraîche.

April Bloomfield’s Seville or Blood Orange Marmalade

6 Seville or blood oranges

2.5kg water

pinch of salt

1.6kg caster sugar

1. Wash the oranges and wipe them dry. Cut each Seville orange in half, crosswise around the equator. Set a non-reactive mesh strainer over a bowl and squeeze the orange halves to remove the seeds, assisting with your fingers to remove any stubborn ones tucked deep within.

2. Tie the seeds up in cheesecloth or muslin very securely.

3. Cut each rind into 3 pieces and use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the rinds into slices or cubes as thin as possible. Each piece shouldn’t be too large (no more than a centimeter, or 7mm in length.) Cut the navel orange into similar-sized pieces.

4. In a large saucepan, add the orange slices, seed pouch, water, and salt, as well as the juice from the Seville oranges from step #1. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until the peels are translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes. (At this point, sometimes I’ll remove it from the heat after cooking them and let the mixture stand overnight, to help the seeds release any additional pectin.)

5. Stir the sugar into the mixture and bring the mixture to a full boil again, then reduce heat to a gentle boil. Stir occasionally while cooking to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. Midway during cooking, remove the seed pouch and discard.

6. Continue cooking until it has reached the setting point – about 103°C, if using a candy thermometer. I cook this slightly less than other jams and marmalades because the high amount of pectin helps the marmalade set up more stiffly. To test the marmalade, turn off the heat and put a small amount on a plate that has been chilled in the freezer and briefly return it to the freezer. Check it in a few minutes; it should be slightly jelled and will wrinkle just a bit when you slide your finger through it. If not, continue to cook until it is.

Cabbage is having a moment…

Guess it was bound to happen at some stage, but cabbage, the humble crucifer is definitely having a moment on the US food scene. I’ve recently come back from a few hectic days around the Saint Patrick’s Day period in New York. I did several events to help promote Ireland and spread the news about the revolution on the Irish food scene. Despite my best efforts, many who haven’t actually been to Ireland still think we live on corned beef and cabbage, but those who have visited tell me, usually in incredulous tones about how surprised they are to find such good food from the gastro pubs to Michelin starred high-end restaurants, definitely a positive development.
While I was in the New York area, I was anxious to taste as many delicious meals as I could manage to fit in, all in the way of research!
So what’s trending stateside? Well, virtually every restaurant had cabbage on the menu in one or several different forms…Food and Wine Magazine has several articles on it, The New York Times recently devoted an entire page to cabbage, “The darling of the culinary crowd”.
When you think about it, this long overlooked and overcooked vegetable ticks all the boxes. Plentiful and cheap, it keeps well, has a long shelf life and is loaded with nutrients. Super versatile cabbage can be served in a myriad of ways, cooked or uncooked, hot or cold, fermented and pickled. Kimchi and sauerkraut and their gut friendly reputation has certainly helped in no small way to spread the word.
Apparently China grows the most, Russia eats the most per capita.
Cabbage allows the chef to be super creative – roast, chargrilled, boiled, stir fried, deep fried…Suddenly chefs are praising its versatility, taste and texture plus it’s good for the bottom line during these challenging times.
I’m loving this renaissance. For as long as I can remember, cabbage was considered one of the most unglamorous vegetables in the vegetable firmament – now it’s one of the hippest items across the US.

Cabbage is super cool; wouldn’t that just amuse our Grannies!
And it’s good news for the farmers too. There are three major types of cabbage, green, red and Savoy with its textured curly leaves but there’s also Napa cabbage, pointy nosed caraflex and flattened ‘tendersweets’ with their loosely packed crisp, thin leaves – all are part of the brassica, oleracea family. Cabbage is related to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, so unsurprisingly it’s high in vitamins, has numerous health benefits and considerable anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage has been part of the world’s cooking history, not least our own here in Ireland forever.
Now chefs are using it in and on everything from tacos to pizza toppings, chargrilling wedges in wood burning ovens, mixing it with luxurious ingredients, basting in butter and exotic spices, sprinkling with gochujang and on and on.
Here are three recipes you might like to try.

A Spring Chicken in a Pot

If asparagus is in season, slice 4-6 trimmed spears at an angle and add them to the pot 4-5 minutes before the end of the cooking time for extra deliciousness in this spring pot. Florets of Romanesco in season are another of my top additions to this dish.

Serves 6

6 large organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

450ml homemade chicken stock

12 small new potatoes

a sprig of thyme

1 Hispi or spring cabbage, finely sliced

150g peas, podded weight

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

4 spring onions, sliced

2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4–5 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche (optional)

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 4.2 litre heavy casserole over a high-ish heat, add the chicken and brown them lightly on all sides.

Stir in the onions, then add the well-flavoured stock, potatoes and a nice sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprig, add the cabbage and simmer gently for a further 5-6 minutes, uncovered. Add the peas and tarragon and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in half of the spring onions and parsley, saving the rest to scatter over the top. Season to taste, add the cream or crème fraîche (if using) and serve.

Charred Cabbage with Smoked Paprika, Parsley and Toasted Hazelnuts

Charred cabbage is a revelation, who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift this humble vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination.  I love this with smoked paprika and hazelnuts. Serve as a side or as a separate course.

Serves 4-6

½ – 1 medium cabbage

1 tbsp light olive oil or a neutral oil

110g butter

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

125g toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Trim the cabbage. Cut into four or six wedges depending on the size.

Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or until well seared on one side. Flip over onto the other and continue to cook until both surfaces are well charred. Add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes pale ‘noisette’, spoon all over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and continue to baste regularly until tender.  Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.

Add the smoked paprika and some of the chopped parsley to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Scatter some coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts and the remaining parsley over the top and serve immediately. 

Cabbage, Parsnip and Cabbage with Mustard Seed

Try this Keralan cabbage recipe, deliciously perked up with a little chilli spice and lots of freshly chopped parsley.

Serves 6

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 chilli, seeded and chopped

225g carrots, coarsely grated

225g parsnip, coarsely grated

225g cabbage, finely shredded against the grain

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

2 tbsp freshly chopped mint

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the mustard seeds. They will start to pop almost instantly. Add the chopped chilli and stir and cook for a minute or so. Add the carrots, parsnips and cabbage. Toss over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the parsley and mint and toss again. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little sugar. Add the lemon juice, taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately.

Easter

 I’ve been in and out of the country like a yo-yo for the past few weeks, India, New York, London…
The weather here in Ireland has been mostly shocking but every time I flew home, I was thrilled. First by the daffodils, blooming their hearts out, willing us to cheer up after the long Winter and more recently little spears of chives, sweet cicely and salad burnet bravely popping up in the herb garden, how wonderful is the miracle of nature, Spring is here at last and now its Easter.

My flock of hens hate the wind and rain but in response to the warmer weather they are laying with a vengeance so lots of eggs for the children to paint and enjoy for Easter. Try my newest sesame fried egg recipe, inspired by my trip to New York.

Newborn lambs are bleating in the fields around us, delighted to be out in the sunshine at last. Traditionally, lamb is the meat of choice for Easter, you’ve heard the term spring lamb which now refers to lamb 3 to 6 months old but genuine spring lamb, 6-10 weeks, is now extremely difficult to come by and certainly must be ordered well ahead of Easter but so worth the effort. It’s incredibly tender and succulent and more expensive but a really special treat.
Nowadays, the term lamb is bandied around with gay abandon and can refer to meat from an animal 6-12 months old. I love lamb but am finding it more and more difficult to find lamb that is grass fed and not finished on concentrates.

But in fairness to the farmers, the weather has been a huge challenge this spring, but hopefully one of my favourite local butchers has sourced a young lamb for me.

I’ll roast it gently and eat it with the first of the fresh mint.  This is the value of supporting your local butcher who really knows the source of their meat and the farmers who rear and care for the animals.

The supermarket shelves are piled high with Easter eggs and bunnies for just a few euros, many of them made from doubtful chocolate but how about buying just one beautiful Easter egg made by an artisan chocolatier as a treat for yourself. You can nibble slowly and enjoy it over the next couple of days or even weeks.

There are many award-winning chocolate makers around the country:

KoKo of Kinsale, Bean and Goose in Wexford, Lorge Chocolatier in Kenmare, Hazel Mountain Chocolate in the Burren, Wilde Irish Chocolates in Clare, Nooo Chocolate in Mayo, Grá’s Chocolate in Galway… but there are many others.

Too late now to make a Simnel cake or a batch of hot cross buns (see my Examiner column 27th March 2021 on Easter Baking) but join me and make my favourite field rhubarb pie.

I’m going to enjoy it with both custard and Jersey cream.

Happy Easter everyone.

Sesame Fried Eggs

My favourite new fried eggs – an inspiration from my recent New York trip.

Serves 1

1 fresh egg

1 generous dessertspoon white sesame seeds

10g butter

freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper or hot chilli sauce (optional)

coriander or flat parsley

Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, sprinkle the sesame seeds into the centre.  Crack an egg on top, cook for a couple of minutes until the base is setting and the sesame seeds are toasty.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Flip the egg over, cook for a further minute or two.

Slide onto a warm plate, sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt, Aleppo pepper to taste and some coriander or flat parsley.

Enjoy with crusty bread.

Lamb Roast with Thyme and Garlic

Spike your leg of lamb with little tufts of thyme and tiny slivers of garlic – delicious hot, warm or at room temperature on a buffet. Loin of lamb, shoulder or rump may also be cooked in the same manner.

Serves 8-10

1 x 2.7-3.2kg leg of lamb

4-5 cloves of garlic

little sprigs of thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper

Gravy

600ml stock, preferably homemade lamb stock

Roux (optional)

Choose a good leg of lamb with a thin layer of fat.  Ask the butcher to trim the knuckle and remove the aitch bone for ease of carving later.

With the point of a sharp knife or skewer, make deep holes all over the lamb, about 2.5cm apart. It is a good idea not to do this on the underside of the joint, in case somebody insists on eating their lamb unflavoured. Divide the thyme sprigs into tufts of three or four leaves together.

Peel the garlic cloves and cut them into little spikes about the same size as a matchstick broken into three. Stick a spike of garlic into each hole with a tuft of thyme. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two if you have time.   Alternatively cook immediately.

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Sprinkle the joint with salt and freshly ground pepper and put it into a roasting tin in the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 after 20 minutes. Cook 1 hour approx. more for rare lamb, 1 1/2 hours if it is to be well done. Remove the joint to a serving dish and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

Gravy

Spoon the fat off the roasting tin. Pour the stock into the cooking juices remaining in the tin. Boil for a few minutes, stirring and scraping the pan well, to dissolve the caramelised meat juices (I find a small whisk ideal for this). Thicken with a very little roux if you like.

Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Strain and serve the gravy separately in a gravy boat. Serve with lots of crusty roast potatoes and apple and mint jelly on the side.

Apple and Mint Jelly

Easy to make, fresh tasting and delicious made with some fresh mint, serve with roast Spring lamb.

Makes 2.7-3kg

2.7kg crab apples or Bramley cooking apples

2.7 litres water

2 unwaxed lemons

sugar

Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 45 minutes.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight.  Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g sugar to each 600ml of juice*. 

Warm the sugar in a low oven.

*We use 350g of sugar, but if you wish to keep the jelly for 9 months or more, it may be preferable to use 425g (to each 600ml).

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.  Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh mint to the apples while they are stewing and add 4-8 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint to the jelly just before it is potted.  

Test, skim and pot immediately.

New Season Garden Rhubarb Pie

This gem of a recipe was passed on to me by my mother who was famous for her pies – it’s a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. This pastry can be made a day before, cover and keep in the fridge.

Serves 8-12

Pastry

225g soft butter

50g caster sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

900g sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick) (not forced) 

370g sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

caster sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

1 x tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the pastry.

Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick approx. and use about two-thirds of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

The Batch Lady Grab and Cook

Ever heard of The Batch Lady, aka Suzanne Mulholland? I certainly hadn’t until a cookbook of the same name landed on my desk last week. Yet another cookbook I thought…What could possibly be different this time?
Well for a start, batch cooking is definitely ‘of the moment’ at a time when many of us are stretched to the limit struggling to keep all the balls in the air in the midst of super busy lives.
This book has some great tips and new practical ideas for both sweet and savoury dishes to simplify everyday meals. Tempting isn’t it.
In the intro, Suzanne promises that “Every recipe in this book can be made in advance, with no cooking involved until the night you want to eat it. You will have minimal washing up; minimal thought needs to go into it and yet you get maximum results night after night. “
Also, in the first few lines of the intro, Suzanne drops an unexpected bombshell…I don’t like cooking! I thought that sounds a bit odd for a cookbook author, but then she qualifies it by saying (well not every night anyway).
In this book, (her fifth), she shares the secrets of how she has organised her life, so she herself can eat well and put a home-cooked meal on the table for her family and friends.
She makes best use of her air fryer, slow cooker, pressure cooker, oven and of course the freezer.
There’s a chapter on cooking from frozen, how to choose your cooking methods, a basic tool kit, and The Batch Lady Larder – it’s definitely impressive.
Also a very interesting choice of recipes, most of which take no more than five minutes to prepare and can be cooked there and then or popped into the freezer and retrieved for an easy meal whenever you fancy.
This girl Suzanne, whom I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of before, is changing how we cook from scratch, convincing those without time, confidence or inclination to still have a delicious, healthy home-cooked meal whenever they want.
‘The Batch Lady, Grab and Cook’ published by Ebury Press.
Here are three recipes to whet your appetite.

Creamy Sausage and Cannellini Bean One-Pot

I love an easy sausage one-pot, and this one ticks all the boxes. This recipe uses cannellini beans; but they can easily be swapped for chickpeas or butter beans if you prefer.

Tip: you can make this vegetarian with veggie sausages, a vegetarian Parmesan substitute and a vegetable stock cube. 

Serves 4 

Preparation: 5 minutes 

115g frozen diced onions

2 tsp frozen chopped garlic 

350g frozen mixed chopped peppers 

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp smoked paprika 

1 tsp dried oregano 

200g cream cheese 

60g grated Parmesan 

1 chicken stock cube, crumbled 

8 pork sausages

To Cook

1 tbsp olive oil 

500ml (2 cups) boiling water 

*If making ahead to freeze.

Put the onions, garlic, peppers, cannellini beans, smoked paprika, oregano, cream cheese, Parmesan and crumbled stick cube into a large freezer bag, mix together and freeze flat.

Keep the sausages in their packet, or put in a smaller freezer bag, and freeze alongside the bag of sauce. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Hob 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost. Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large casserole dish and place on a medium heat.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Add the contents of the freezer bag, stir well, then pour over the boiling water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost.  Turn the slow cooker to the sauté setting and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Add the contents of the freezer bag, stir well, then pour over the boiling water.  Pop the lid on and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost.  Turn the pressure cooker to sauté and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Once browned, add the contents of the freezer bag and pour over the boiling water.  Give it a good mix, then seal the lid and cook for 9 minutes.  Once cooked, allow the steam to quickly release. 

If cooking now. 

  1. Hob 

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large casserole dish and place on a medium heat.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water and stir well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  

  • Slow Cooker 

Turn the slow cooker to the sauté setting and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown all over.  Once browned, add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water and stir well.  Pop the lid on and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Turn the pressure cooker to sauté and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water, give it a good mix, then seal the lid and cook for 9 minutes.  Once cooked, allow the steam to quickly release. 

Satay Chicken Curry

This is one of my favourite curries! The mild coconut peanut sauce is so delicious, and it’s the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. If you’re a peanut lingered this one’s for you!

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes 

650g skinless and boneless chicken thighs

350g frozen mixed sliced peppers

3 tsp frozen chopped garlic 

3 tsp frozen chopped ginger 

1 onion, finely sliced 

3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter 

1 tbsp mild curry powder 

1 tbsp runny honey 

2 tbsp soy sauce 

juice of 1 lime 

1 tbsp frozen chopped coriander 

1 chicken stock cube, crumbled 

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk 

* If making ahead to freeze. 

Put all the ingredients into a large freezer bag, mix well, then freeze flat. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Hob 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into a large saucepan or casserole dish. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Pop the lid on the pan and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into the slow cooker. Pop the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into the pressure cooker.  Seal the lid and cook for 16 minutes on high pressure, then allow it to naturally release. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

If cooking now.

  1. Hob 

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan or casserole dish and mix. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, pop the lid on and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and mix. Pop the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Put all the ingredients into the pressure cooker and mix.  Seal the lid and cook for 16 minutes on high pressure, then allow it to naturally release. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

To Serve 

Serve with fluffy rice, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime. 

Hot Chocolate Pots 

These hot chocolate pots are so decadent and are totally delicious. Split them open and you get hot chocolate spread encased in sponge – so yummy. They are amazing to have in the freezer for when the sweet craving strikes. You will need four metal or ceramic ramekins. 

Makes 4

Preparation: 10 minutes 

140g butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tsp to grease the ramekins 

140g caster sugar 

2 eggs 

1 tsp vanilla extract 

110g plain flour 

30g cocoa powder 

4 heaped tsp chocolate spread 

* If making ahead to freeze.

  1. Grease all four ramekins with the teaspoon of butter and set aside. 
  2. Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the eggs, vanilla, flour and cocoa powder, and whisk again until you have a lump-free batter.
  4. Half-fill each ramekin with the batter. 
  5. Spoon 1 heaped teaspoon of chocolate spread into the centre of each ramekin, then cover with the rest of the batter. 
  6. Wrap each ramekin with cling film and tin foil, and place in the freezer. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Oven 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Unwrap the ramekins and cook the frozen puddings for 25 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

  • Air Fryer 

Preheat the air fryer to 160°C. Unwrap the ramekins and cook the frozen puddings in the air fryer for 20 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

If cooking now.

Follow the method in the ‘making ahead to freeze’ section up until the end of step 5.

  1. Oven 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Cook the puddings for 19 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

  • Air Fryer 

Preheat the air fryer to 160°C. Cook the puddings in the air fryer for 15 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

To Serve

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and some ice cream or double cream 

Saint Patrick’s Day

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, I hope you are celebrating…

I just love traditions, any excuse to add a little extra sparkle and fun and to enter into the spirit of the occasion. Sounds naff but we love to illuminate Ballymaloe House and the Cookery School in luminous green light in tandem with Tourism Ireland’s recent Global Greening initiative. Iconic buildings around the world were highlighted in what had been a very successful ploy to focus the world’s attention on Ireland. Buildings lit up green include the Opera House in Sydney; Empire State Building in New York; Niagara Falls in Canada; Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil, Prince’s Palace in Monaco, London Eye….
We’ll encourage the cookery students to pull out their green ribbons and glad rags, dress up and have fun.

As you know, Saint Patrick is reputed to have banished reptiles from Ireland so if we can find our felt snakes wherever they were carefully put away from last year we’ll set up a treasure snake hunt down by the pond garden. I know, I know…but it’s a bit of gas and silly fun for all ages.

Do you have a few special Saint Patrick’s Day dishes that you like to rustle up to serve to family and friends gathered around the kitchen table. I just love bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce. Of course, corned beef and cabbage is the emigrant’s favourite in America and very tasty it is too with some real Colman’s mustard mixed from the powder.
Many local butchers still make a batch of corned beef for Saint Patrick’s Day. We serve it at the Cookery School to our multi-ethnic students, but it has to be said that for many of our Irish students, it’s their very first taste of corned beef and they love it! Cook it with lots of chunky carrots and quartered cabbages and a big jug of parsley sauce and don’t forget plenty of floury potatoes and butter!
We also love to make a couple of spotted dogs to serve freshly baked and still warm slathered with butter for tea – totally irresistible. Remember, I’m on a mission to get everyone making some bread. Soda bread is the quickest and easiest and spotted dog, speckled with dried fruit is just a variation on the white soda bread. This recipe is from ‘The New Ballymaloe Bread Book’ published by Gill Books just before Christmas and I have to say it has been responsible for taking the mystery out of bread making for so many people which is definitely the object of the exercise. Now that the squishy commercial bread and faux sourdough have become so ubiquitous and seem to be unquestionably linked to the phenomenal rise in intolerances, it’s time to turn on the oven!.
Our field rhubarb is growing apace. For me, there has to be a rhubarb tart or rhubarb pie on Saint Patrick’s Day with lots of custard and a big dollop of whipped cream for a real celebration.

Once again, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Cork has a long tradition of corning beef – in fact, corned beef was a huge Cork export for much of the seventeenth century, and during the Napoleonic wars, Cork supplied the British army with corned beef. The skill of corning beef is still known, and some family butchers still keep a brine barrel, but the reality of Celtic-Tiger Ireland is that eating corned beef has gone out of favour. So even the butchers that know how to corn beef often don’t, because there is so little demand for it. It’s totally ironic that Americans seem to think that we still live on corned beef and cabbage, whereas many Irish people haven’t had it in years. Our local butcher Michael Cuddigan showed Mrs. Allen and her chefs how to corn beef before he retired, and they serve it in Ballymaloe for Sunday lunch. Now that we are passing on this skill to you, corned beef is something you don’t even have to ask your butcher for – you can just make your own. 

Serves 6-8

1.8kg corned silverside of beef

3 large carrots, cut into large chunks

6-8 small onions

1 teaspoon dry English mustard

large sprig fresh thyme and some parsley stalks, tied together

1 cabbage

salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the corned beef into a saucepan with the carrot, onions, mustard and the herbs. Cover gently in cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1-2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are soft and tender.

Serve the corned beef cut into slices surrounded by the vegetables. Serve lots of floury potatoes and freshly made mustard as an accompaniment.

Spotted Dog

Taken from ‘The New Ballymaloe Bread Book’ by Darina Allen, published by Gill Books

In some parts of the country, spotted dog is also called railway cake – ‘a currant for every station’ as the saying goes.   In my case though, it would be ‘a sultana for every station’. I prefer them for their more luscious flavour. This bread has always been a favourite with our children, freshly made on Sunday mornings for our picnics on the cliffs at Ballyandreen or relished with lashings of butter, jam and steaming mugs of drinking chocolate after a winter walk on Shanagarry strand. Perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Makes 1 round loaf

450g plain flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

110g plump sultanas

1 dessertspoon sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

1 egg

350ml buttermilk (approx.)

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Sieve the flour and bicarb into a large mixing bowl, then add the fruit, sugar and salt. Mix the ingredients well by lifting them up above the bowl and letting them fall loosely back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to the finished bread.

Now make a well in the centre of the flour. Break the egg into the bottom of the measuring jug, whisking to break it up, then add the buttermilk up to the 400ml level, so that the egg makes up part of the total liquid measurement. Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.

With your fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circular movement, drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Add more milk and egg mixture if necessary.

The dough should be nice and soft, but not too wet and sticky.

With spotted dog, as with all soda breads, mix as quickly and as gently as possible to keep the dough light and airy but avoid over-mixing. When it comes together – a matter of seconds – turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.

With floured hands, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round and press gently with the fingers to about 6cm high.

Transfer the dough onto a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. Mark the top with a deep cross and prick each of the dough triangles with your knife to let the pesky fairies out.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 35 minutes, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cut into thick slices and spread lavishly with Irish butter and jam.

Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with slices of Cheddar cheese.

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Pistachios

Rhubarb and custard are a combo made in heaven. This tart has a carefully arranged lattice of rhubarb on top but if you can’t be ‘faffed’ arranging the rhubarb meticulously, just scatter it into the tart base – it’ll still taste delicious.

Serves 10-12 

Pastry 

225g plain flour 

pinch of salt 

175g soft butter

1 dessertspoon icing sugar 

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind 

Filling 

600g or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces 

1-2 tablespoons caster sugar 

2 large or 3 small eggs 

3 tablespoons caster sugar  

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

300ml cream 

Garnish

45g coarsely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)

To Serve

softly whipped cream

1 x 30.5cm tart tin or 2 x 18cm tart tins 

Make the shortcrust pastry.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. 

Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.   Add the icing sugar.

Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Wrap in parchment paper and leave to relax in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.  It will keep for a week in the fridge and also freezes well.

Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes.   Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.   

Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly or in a chevron pattern on the base of the tart shell.  Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar.  

Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked.

Scatter with coarsely chopped pistachios.  Serve warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream. 

Turmeric

This week, an ode to turmeric, I’ve become somewhat obsessed by the Golden Spice as turmeric is referred to in India and other Southeast Asian countries.
The vibrant orange spice comes in both fresh and powder form, has a myriad of culinary and medicinal uses and is an essential component in many religious ceremonies and rituals.
Turmeric gives curry powders and many mustards their distinctive colour. It’s also used as a preservative.
Recently, I’ve been digging deeper into the growing body of research relating to its health giving properties.
Turmeric has been revered in India for over 4,000 years and is a mainstay of the Ayurveda as well as traditional Chinese medicine.
Its health benefits are being extensively studied by scientists. Turmeric may be one of the most potent anti-inflammatory compounds known to humanity. Preliminary evidence suggests that it reduces the risk of just about every major chronic condition.
How about that?
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, the culinary and medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome that grows underground.  Think ginger root but skinnier and bright orange inside with a slightly bitter, pungent taste.  In India, the fresh leaves are used to wrap fresh fish before cooking

You can grow it yourself, but fresh turmeric is widely available nowadays, maybe not in your local Circle K but at good supermarkets, health food shops and some Farmers Markets (see seasonal journal).
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric acts as an antioxidant and appears to have powerful disease fighting properties.
A 2021 Meta-analysis found curcumin effective in reducing inflammation and lessening pain in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Research also indicates that turmeric protects against several gastrointestinal diseases and acid reflux. It offers great promise in treating Type 2 diabetes. Helps lower blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and last, but not least a growing body of research indicates that curcumin inhibits cellular growth in several cancers.
I am not a medic, but all of that is certainly enough to convince me that adding a little turmeric to my diet particularly in fresh organic form could be a good idea.

Turmeric powder is even more accessible, but a word of caution, turmeric spice from Bangladesh and India sometimes contains lead chromate which enhances the spices appearance making it a more vibrant shade of orangey yellow. Lead is a dangerous poison and there is no safe level. So once again, I stress buy organic when you can.
A final thought worth knowing.
When we add black pepper to dishes that include turmeric, our systems can absorb up to 20 times more curcumin. While curcumin isn’t very water soluble, eating it with good fat or in combination with coconut milk, vegetable oil or ghee as in traditional Indian dishes also enhances the absorption.
A few of my favourite recipes to tempt you to get started…

Parsnip Gratin with Turmeric and Cumin

A super way to enjoy your parsnips in this golden, lightly spiced gratin.  We particularly enjoy it with a haunch of venison or roast goose.  The cooking time can be speeded up by heating the cream and spices before adding to the gratin.

Serves 6-8

1.1kg parsnips

800g potato

flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

10g butter for greasing dish

600ml cream

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp toasted and ground cumin

¼ tsp of cayenne

75g freshly grated Parmesan

20.5cm x 31cm ovenproof gratin dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Scrub the parsnips and potatoes. Peel, top and tail the parsnips and halve across the middle, cut into 7.5cm lengths. Peel the potatoes. Using a mandolin with a guard, slice the parsnips and potato into 5mm slices.

Butter the gratin dish, arrange a layer of parsnips on the base, lightly season. Add a layer of potato followed by another layer of parsnip, then another layer of potato, finishing with a layer of parsnip.  Season lightly between each layer otherwise the gratin will be bland.

Whisk together the cream, turmeric, cumin and cayenne in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the top and sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan. Put the gratin into the preheated oven and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes when the gratin is well coloured, lay a sheet of parchment paper loosely on top to prevent further browning if needed.

Bake for another 30 minutes until fully cooked. Check with a skewer, there should be no resistance from the vegetables.

Serve as a vegetable or a supper dish with a salad of organic leaves.

Rory O’Connell’s Chicken with Red Lentils, Turmeric, Chilli and Coriander

This flavoursome dish can be prepared ahead of time and gently reheated when needed. I use the brown meat from chicken legs, but white meat from the breasts can also be used with the cooking time reduced to allow for the quicker cooking white meat.

Serve with boiled basmati rice and a green vegetable such as peas, beans, spinach or sprouting broccoli. I serve a bowl of natural un-sweetened yoghurt with a little mint chopped through and a chutney such as tomato or apple.

Crisp mini poppadums complete the picture.

Serves 6

250g red split lentils

75g finely chopped onion

1 hot green chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

2 tsp of cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 level tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger

1.5 litres water

1.35kg skinned chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp lemon juice or to taste

¼ tsp garam masala

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Placed the lentils, onion, chilli, ground cumin, turmeric, half of the ginger and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on top, very slightly ajar, and cook at a bare simmer for 45 minutes. Add the chicken and a good pinch of salt and return to a simmer. Cover as before and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Keep an eye on what is happening in the saucepan as it may be necessary to stir with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon every now and then.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and when hot add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle straight away so be ready to add the remaining ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the cayenne and swirl to mix and immediately add the contents of the frying pan to the chicken and lentils.

Now add the lemon juice and garam masala, stir and cook at a simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Scatter the coriander over the dish just before serving.

Eloise and Annabel’s Magic Turmeric Sauce

This gem of a recipe was given to me by Annabel Partridge and Eloise Schwerdt.

Serve with roasted vegetables, beetroot, aubergine, paneer, tofu, quail or beef, monkfish or mackerel.

It may well become your favourite standby sauce.

Serves 20

200g ripe cherry tomatoes (16 approx.)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic

250g crème fraiche

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1-2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp chopped dill

1 tbsp chopped mint

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.

Put the tomatoes in a low sided roasting tin, season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with the red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Toss gently to coat and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds together in a pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they begin to smell spicy. Pound the toasted spices in a pestle and mortar.  Remove half from the pestle and mortar.  Add a couple of cloves of garlic and some salt to the toasted seeds remaining in the pestle and mortar. Pound half the cooled roasted tomatoes, add the garlic, pound again then add the crème fraîche or yoghurt and the turmeric.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard and the honey.  Add the chopped dill and mint.  Stir the rest of the tomatoes and juices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and adjust the balance of flavours to your taste (you may need to add the remainder of the spices).

Keralan Pan Grilled Fish with Turmeric and Freshly Cracked Pepper

In Kerala in south India, the spanking fresh fish is often wrapped in fresh turmeric leaves and barbecued or just grilled simply after the fillet has been dipped in flour seasoned with salt, turmeric and freshly cracked black pepper. The latter helps the body to absorb more of the curcumin from the turmeric.

Almost any fish works in this recipe – John Dory, mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock, brill, turbot – provided it is absolutely fresh.

Serves 6 

6 x 175g pieces of very fresh fish fillets, skinned.

75g plain white flour

1 tsp ground turmeric 

½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper 

¼ tsp freshly ground sea salt

50g soft butter

Garnish

lemon segments

sprigs of flat parsley or fresh coriander

Heat the pan grill. Dry the fish fillets well. Mix the flour, turmeric, freshly cracked pepper and salt well together on a plate.

Just before cooking but not earlier, dip the fish fillets in the seasoned flour. Pat the floured fillets between the palms of your hands to shake off the excess, then spread a little soft butter evenly over the entire surface of one side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly.

When the pan grill is hot but not smoking, place the fish fillet’s butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as it touches the pan. Reduce the heat slightly and allow to cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turn over and cook on the other side until slightly crisp and golden.

Serve on hot plates with a segment of lemon and a little fresh herb garnish. 

Tip

Be sure to wash and dry the grill-pan between batches. 

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