ArchiveMarch 31, 2024


 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


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.


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


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


225g soft butter

50g caster sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g white flour, preferably unbleached


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.


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