ArchiveJune 2024

Eggs, The Great Convertible

‘An Apple a day keeps the Doctor away’ was the famous slogan of the 1960s and 70s – no longer so widely used because doctors and dentists nowadays both stress that many of the modern varieties are so high in sugar they are no longer beneficial to our health or our teeth but how about ‘An egg a day keeps us in fine fettle’…
Eggs are a magic food – incredibly nutritious, widely available, super versatile, the quintessential fast food and surprisingly inexpensive, considering their food value and satiety. Years ago, what’s now seen as a flawed study, warned us not to eat more than 4-5 eggs a week because they were too high in cholesterol and would be counterproductive to our health.
The study didn’t mention that the eggs came from intensive production systems, the hens were not free-range or grass fed which alters their nutritional value.
My grandfather ate several eggs every day and lived well into his 90s. That’s not exactly scientific evidence, however several other peer reviewed studies have concluded that a couple of eggs daily appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular heart disease and stroke and boosts the HDL, the ‘good’ cholesterol in our system. In 2022, almost 1,000,000 people were involved in the study conducted by Peking University in China.
But as ever there are eggs and eggs, and the flavour and nutritional content can be very, very different. The ultimate are eggs from free-range, organic hens, ranging freely on rich pasture. The grass not only enhances the flavour and nutritional quality of the eggs but keeps the hens healthier and indeed happier.

Eggs are a rich source of protein, folate B vitamins, antioxidants including lutein and zeaxanthin. Egg yolks are also rich in choline, particularly important for pregnant mothers and linked to higher IQ in infants.
I’ve kept a flock of hens for over 60 years. In fact, I wouldn’t be without our own eggs, and I regularly urge anyone who is prepared to listen, both urban and rural dwellers to consider, keeping a few hens for a supply of beautiful fresh eggs for the household. Anyone with even a small patch of lawn in a garden can keep a few hens. Four hens in a movable chicken coop would lay plenty of eggs to supply a family of four and you‘d occasionally be able to gift a few eggs to your friends when you’re going to a dinner party, a much more exciting ‘pressie’ than a dodgy bottle of wine…
Actually, keeping a few hens is win-win all the way – the food scraps from your kitchen can be fed to the hens and will come back as eggs a few days later. How cool is that? Apparently, Irish households waste €700 on average on food each year.
Plus as you move the ark around your lawn, the hens act as ‘lawnmowers’, and their poo fertilises the soil.
Kids of all ages love hens and it teaches them where at least some of their food comes from.
If you want chicks, you’ll need to include a rooster with the hens, I love the sound of a cock crowing proudly but it may not endear you to your neighbours in an urban estate.
I forgot to mention that I have several friends who legally keep a few hens in Manhattan – what they called ‘backyard chickens’. They are inordinately proud of them, can you imagine it’s the subject of conversation at many a dinner party, and super cool.
Back in the kitchen, there are countless ways to enjoy your eggs from a simple boiled egg and soldiers to a fried egg with crispy sage leaves, my favourite comfort food.
I want to share a couple of new recipes with you, all include eggs – what would we cooks do without eggs?

Maheshwari Scrambled Eggs, a recipe I brought back from Ahilya Fort in India plus this Irish Farmhouse Cheese Soufflé with Garlic Chives recipe which we tested last week. It also got a rave response.
We’ve got masses of chive flowers in the garden. Sprinkle some of the pretty chive flowers over the top. Add a salad and that’s supper sorted.
We also love this rhubarb tart, a new addition to our repertoire which Kaelin Whittaker, of Awn Kitchen in Edmonton, Alberta shared with us on a recent trip from Canada, so easy to make. It’s always brilliant to have a new rhubarb tart recipe. Enjoy it before the end of the season. We all love this one, I think it may become a favourite in your house too.

Maheshwari Scrambled Eggs

I came across this delicious dish on my last trip to India.

Serves 1 

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped 

2 tsp chopped red onion (20g)

3 tsp chopped tomato, 5mm dice (50g)

1 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted and roughly chopped

½ tsp ground turmeric 

2 eggs, organic if possible

½ tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 

1 tbsp finely grated cheese, could be mature Cheddar and Parmesan (20g)

finely diced fresh turmeric (2-3g)

2 tsp coarsely chopped coriander 

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.

Add the garlic, onion and tomato and stir and fry. Add the cumin and turmeric (both dry) and cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion softens.

Whisk the eggs, add the onion and tomato mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Film the base of the pan with the olive oil. Stir and cook the egg mixture for 15-20 seconds.  Sprinkle on the grated cheese, cook for 15 to 20 seconds, the texture should be soft. Spoon onto a warm plate. Sprinkle with diced fresh turmeric and fresh coriander.

Serve immediately with flat bread or toast.

Irish Farmhouse Cheese and Garlic Chive Soufflé

We love to bake this soufflé in a shallow oval dish instead of the traditional soufflé bowl until golden and puffy, a perfect light lunch or supper dish.

Serves 6

300ml milk

300ml cream

a few slices of carrot

1 small onion, quartered

4-5 peppercorns

sprig of thyme, a few parsley stalks and a little scrap of bay leaf

75g butter

40g flour

5 eggs, free-range organic, separated

110g crumbled goat cheese (we use Ardsallagh goat’s cheese)

75g Gruyère cheese, grated

50g mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, grated (alternatively, use 25g freshly grated Parmesan)

a good pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne and nutmeg

4 tbsp garlic chive leaves, finely chopped


garlic chive flowers if available

30cm shallow oval dish (not a soufflé dish) or 6 individual wide soup bowls with a rim

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Brush the bottom and sides of the dish (dishes) with melted butter.

Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, add a few slices of carrot, a quartered onion, 4 or 5 peppercorns and the fresh herbs.  Bring slowly to the boil and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.   Strain and discard the flavourings, (we rinse them off and throw them into the stockpot if there is one on the go.)

Melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a minute or two.  Whisk in the strained cream and milk, bring to the boil and whisk until it thickens.   Cool slightly.   Add the egg yolks, goat cheese, grated Gruyère and most of the grated Coolea (or Parmesan if using.)  Season generously with salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Add the garlic chives.   Taste and correct seasoning*.

Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold them gently into the mixture to make a loose consistency.   Put the mixture into the prepared dish, sprinkle with the remaining Coolea or Parmesan cheese. 

Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the sides and top are nicely puffed up and golden, the centre should still be creamy. Garnish with garlic chive flowers if possible. Serve immediately on warm plates with a good green salad.

*The soufflé can be prepared ahead to here (cover and refrigerate but, if possible, allow to come back to room temperature before cooking, otherwise it will take longer in the oven). Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites

Auntie Lil’s Rhubarb Pie

Thank you to Kaelin Whittaker from Awn Kitchen in Edmonton for sharing her Auntie Lil’s rhubarb tart.

23cm round tart tin


175g plain white flour

1 dsp of caster or icing sugar

75g butter, diced

1 large organic egg, whisked


2 tbsp butter, melted (30g)

85g light Muscovado plus 85g soft light brown sugar

1 organic egg

1 tbsp cream

2 tbsp flour (40g)

450g rhubarb, cut into approx. 7mm pieces

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour and the sugar into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour, rub in with the fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with 2 teaspoons of cold water and add enough to bind the mixture. But do not make the pastry too wet – it should come away cleanly from the bowl. Flatten into a round, wrap in parchment paper and rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured worktop and use it to line the tart tin. Line with parchment paper and fill to the top with dried beans. Rest for 15 minutes in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in a moderate oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.  Brush the pre-baked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 3-4 minutes or until almost cooked. Cool.

Be careful not to overcook because if this pastry gets too brown, it will be bitter, hard and unappetizing.

Mix the melted butter, brown sugars, egg, cream and flour together. Scatter the diced rhubarb evenly over the base of the blind baked tart. Cover with the topping.

Bake in a preheated oven 220°C/Gas Mark 7 for 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4, bake for a further 30-40 minutes. Cool.

Serve on a flat plate and sprinkle lightly with icing sugar.

One of Your Five a Day

‘Eat Five a Day’, is the super catchy phrase started out as a health marketing slogan in the US in the 1980’s. 

It’s unquestionably a good idea to include lots of fresh vegetables and fruit in our diet, but in practice there’s huge confusion and considerable manipulation about what constitutes ‘one of your five a day’.

It’s certainly been a boom to food manufacturers who have used it to promote their products with phrases like ‘counts towards your five a day’ but for this column, I dug deeper to try to find the source of this nutritional recommendation/advice.

Is it fact or myth? I have to say, I’m more confused than ever. Lots of phrases like ‘recommended by’, ‘studies show’….And what kind of fruit and veg? Surely, we should be encouraged to eat fresh organic vegetables and fruit in season, and surely it should be chemical-free and organic rather than loaded with residue of the chemical pesticides used in growing to produce unrealistically cheap fruit.

Strawberries, for example are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits, raspberries too, peaches, apples, cherries, grapes, particularly imported ones. Vegetables too – potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, celery. Pretty much everything that’s intensively produced and non-organic will have had a cocktail of sprays to inhibit pests and diseases. This information does not have to be on the label.

Not sure about you, but I can distinctly taste the chemicals in many fruits and vegetables. If you are in doubt, look up the Department of Agriculture websites.

So, how do you avoid this? Well, seek out organic fruit or vegetables. Have a conversation and try to buy directly from a small grower at your local farmer’s market. Best of all, try to grow some of your own, you’re unlikely to spray the produce your family plan to eat.

We are super fortunate here in Ireland to have one of the best growing climates in the entire world (Well OK, this year was an exception, at least we hope it was an exception!).

Invest in real nourishing, wholesome food, don’t be conned into imagining that you are doing the best thing by buying some of the well-known brands of fruit juices and smoothies with added sugar and preservatives. Let’s pay the farmers a fair price for their produce to keep us healthy, it doesn’t have to break the budget.

Enjoy lovely fresh, super nourishing and inexpensive cabbage –

how about these cabbage salads and I’ve also included a delicious old-fashioned gooseberry pudding, everyone will fight for the last morsel…

Summer Cabbage Salad with Satay Sauce

Any leftover dressing will keep for several days in the fridge, delicious drizzled over a pan-grilled chicken breast.

Serves 6

summer cabbage, 650g approx.

2 red peppers, 400g approx.

a bunch of spring onions

2 ripe mangoes, 400g approx.

½ a cucumber, 175g approx.

freshly squeezed juice and zest of 2 limes

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and maybe a little sugar

Satay Dressing

Makes 250ml

110g peanut butter (we use Meridian brand)

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

½ tsp fresh turmeric powder

½ tsp Tabasco

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon

110ml coconut milk (we use Thai Gold brand)

lots of fresh mint leaves

a handful of toasted salted peanuts, 400g approx.

First make the dressing.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor or blender, pulse until smooth.  Cover and allow to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow the flavours to blend. (Add a little more coconut milk if it’s too thick).

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core and thinly slice crosswise. Toss into a large bowl.

Seed the peppers, dice the flesh into 7mm-10mm and add to the cabbage with the sliced white and green parts of the spring onions.

Peel the ripe mango, slice off the chunks and dice into 7mm cubes. Cut the cucumber into quarters lengthwise and then into 7mm slices at an angle.

Add both to the bowl with the lime zest. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Best served immediately, otherwise, cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving, sprinkle on most of the dressing and the juice of 1 lime, toss gently but thoroughly. Taste, add more dressing and lime juice and adjust the seasoning adding a little sugar if necessary.

Turn into a wide salad bowl, add lots of fresh mint leaves and crunchy peanuts.

Cabbage, Pineapple and Onion Salad

A simple but really tasty salad. Save the juice for a cocktail or for glazing bacon.  It is quite delicious with meat, particularly cooked ham, bacon or pork. 

Serves 6

½ small Savoy Cabbage, 350g approx.

½ tin pineapple (120g)

1 small onion (75g) very finely sliced into onion rings or 4-5 spring onion, sliced at an angle (use the green as well as the white part)

3 tbsp finely chopped parsley

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

French Dressing

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar, we use Forum

a clove of garlic, crushed

¼ tsp Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

First make the dressing.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well to combine.

Cut the cabbage into quarters, cut out the hard core and slice into very thin shreds across the grain.  Put into a salad bowl.  Cut the pineapple into chunks and add to the cabbage with the very finely sliced onion rings and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.  Toss in French dressing, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Sprinkle the rest of the parsley on top. 

Serve with cold ham or bacon. 

Gooseberry and Elderflower Pudding

This recipe brings back nostalgic memories for many of us, and it is certainly one that has stood the test of time. I remember it as an important part of the pudding repertoire of my childhood, and so will my children and grandchildren. Here you use the basic Madeira mixture for the topping and add fruit – whatever you please, depending on the season: green gooseberries, cooking apples, rhubarb, pears, damsons, raspberries. Blackcurrants are also gorgeous, as is a mixture of blackberry and apples or rhubarb and strawberries.

Serves 4-6


700g (1 ½lb) gooseberries

4 elderflower heads

about 275-300g sugar, depending on the ripeness of the gooseberries

For the Topping

50g butter

50g sugar

1 organic egg, beaten

75g (3oz) self-raising flour

1-2 tbsp milk


Caster sugar

crystallised elderflowers if available

900ml pie dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Top and tail the gooseberries and put them in a heavy saucepan with 50ml water, elderflowers and sugar. Cover the pan and stew the gooseberries gently until just soft but not burst. Remove the elderflowers. Spoon into a buttered pie dish with a slotted spoon, reserve any excess liquid for a sauce. Allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, using a handheld beater, cream the butter until soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the beaten egg by degrees and beat well until completely incorporated. Sieve the self-raising flour and fold into the butter and egg mixture. Add about 2 tablespoons milk or enough to bring the mixture to a dropping consistency. Spread this mixture gently and as evenly as possible over the gooseberries.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponge topping is firm to the touch in the centre. Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of caster sugar and decorate with crystallised elderflowers.

Serve warm with homemade custard or lightly whipped cream.

Summer Vegetables

National Eat Your Vegetables Day is this coming Monday, 17th June.

By now the penny has dropped with even the most ardent carnivore that we don’t need huge quantities of meat to be fit and healthy. Best to invest in a little top quality preferably organic meat from a good local butcher.

Here and there all around the country, there are small farmers who are selling their meat direct to the consumer from their farms, often rare breeds e.g. Dexter, Kerry, Irish Maol and Droimeann, a little trawl on the internet will bring up lots of addresses.

But this column is not about meat, it’s actually about vegetables. This has to be my absolute favourite time of the year for vegetables.  Here we are super fortunate to have an acre of greenhouses, a relic of a horticultural enterprise. We are in the midst of the growing season, so the plants are jumping out of the ground.

There are several rows of fresh peas which we eat fresh from the pods. You can imagine how much the grandchildren love picking the pea pods directly from the plants with their friends and having a little feast of peas. The students too love them, for many it’s the very first time they’ve seen fresh peas out of a packet.

We’ve also had the first of the radishes, beets, carrots, globe artichokes and we’ve made our wish with the first of the new potatoes. I never want to do anything fancy with them, just cook them in lots of well salted water, slather them with Jersey butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Now that the asparagus season is over, we’ve been enjoying the beginning of the broad bean crop too.

Last week, our guest chef was Giuliano Hazan, son of the famous Italian cook, Marcella Hazan.  He was enchanted by the garden harvesting fresh vegetables. He showed us how to prepare the first of the new season’s tiny globe artichokes, he served them in the traditional Italian way, thinly sliced, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. We used Capezzana from Tuscany, sprinkled with freshly squeezed lemon juice and some flaky sea salt.

He did the same with the raw broad beans, peeling each bean is certainly laborious but it was worth the effort with paper thin slices of pecorino over the top. Sweet and delicious, we served them as a starter.

Young, thinly sliced zucchini were served in a similar way drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and flaky sea salt and garnished with the yellow blossoms.

For dessert, he shared his mother’s favourite carrot cake recipe, baked not in a loaf tin but in a 25cm round tin, enough for 8-12 people to enjoy. It was moist and particularly delicious, add it to your repertoire.

Giuliano has written five best-selling cookbooks including ‘The Classic Pasta Cookbook’ which has sold well over 500,000 copies – seek it out.

I’ve included three recipes incorporating vegetables currently in season to whet your appetite – I hope you enjoy.

Marcella Hazan’s Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

There are both male and female blossoms, and only the male, those on a stem are good to eat. The female blossoms, attached to the courgette, are mushy and unappealing.

Serves 4-6

12 male courgette flowers

vegetable oil


250ml water

75g plain flour

To Serve


First make the batter.

Put the water into a bowl and gradually add the flour, shaking it through a sieve and with a fork, constantly beating the mixture that forms. When all the flour has been mixed with water the batter should have the consistency of sour cream. If it is thinner, add a little more flour, if it is thicker, add a little more water.

Wash the blossoms rapidly under cold running water without letting them soak. Gently but thoroughly pat them dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper. If the stems are very long, cut them down to 2.5cm. Make a cut on one side of each blossom’s base to open the flower flat, butterfly fashion.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to come 2cm up its sides and turn the heat to high. When the oil is very hot, use the blossoms’ stems to dip them quickly in and out of the batter, and slip them into the skillet. Put in only as many as will fit very loosely. When they have formed a golden brown crust on one side, turn them and do the other side. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer to a cooking rack to drain or to a platter lined with kitchen paper. If any blossoms remain to be done, repeat the procedure. When they are all done, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

Risi e Bisi (Risotto of Peas or Broad Beans)

Comfort food at its very best, a heavenly way to enjoy some of your precious fresh peas.  Young shelled broad beans can also be added.

Serves 6 -9

1kg fresh young peas (podded weight approx. 500g)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g butter, softened

1.75 litres homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

200g onion, finely chopped

300g risotto rice

3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

110g Parmesan, freshly grated

Pod the peas and save the pods.  Bring a large saucepan of water (4.8 litres approx.) to the boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Add the pea pods and cook for 5 minutes.  Then scoop them out.  Put through a mouli, with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.  Blanch the peas in the boiling pea pod water, drain and add to the pea-pod pulp.  Season with lots of freshly ground pepper and add 45g of the butter 

Put half into a food processor and pulse.  Return to the whole peas. 

Heat the stock. Taste and check for seasoning.

Melt half the remaining butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Gently fry the onion until soft and just beginning to colour.  Add the rice, stir to coat each grain with butter and cook for 2-3 minutes.  When the rice is opaque, increase the heat to medium and start to add the hot stock ladle by ladle, adding the next only when the last of the stock has been absorbed.  Stir continuously.  After 10 minutes add the peas and parsley, continue to cook until the rice is al dente – about 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in the remaining butter, and most of the Parmesan – the texture should be soft and flowing.  Taste and correct seasoning.  Serve immediately in deep wide soup bowls, with a little more Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Carrot Almond Cake

Recipe adapted from ‘Marcella’s Italian Kitchen’ by Marcella Hazan

A particularly delicious carrot cake of his mothers, it keeps really well and may well be the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten!

Serves 8-12

250g shelled, unblanched almonds

225g plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

110g dry ladyfingers

250g carrots, peeled

2 ½ tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp Amaretto liqueur

4 large eggs

flaked almonds (optional)

1 x 25.5cm springform pan

2 tsp butter for greasing the pan

1 tbsp flour for dusting the pan

To Serve

225ml heavy cream, whipped with 1 teaspoon of sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Put the almonds and the sugar in a food processor and chop as finely as possible.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Break up the ladyfingers into pieces about 2.5cm long, place them in the food processor, and grind to a powder.  Add to the almonds and sugar in the mixing bowl.  Cut the carrots into pieces about 2.5cm long and chop in the food processor as finely as possible.  Add to the bowl, mixing them in well with the other ingredients.

Add the baking powder, the salt, and the Amaretto liqueur and mix well.  Separate the eggs and add the yolks, mixing them in until they are well distributed with the other ingredients. Put the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer or by hand until they form stiff peaks. Take a couple of tablespoons of the beaten egg whites and mix them with the ingredients in the bowl to soften the mixture a bit.  Pour the rest of the egg whites onto the mixture and carefully fold them in with a rubber spatula.

Grease the bottom and sides of the springform pan with the butter and dust it with flour.  Pour the batter into the pan, then shake the pan a bit until the batter is evenly distributed. Sprinkle some flaked almonds over the top if desired.

Place the cake in the upper level of the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake.

When the cake is cool, cut it into 8-12 pieces and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Summer BBQ

Nothing says Summer like wheeling out the barbeque, but this year because the weather has been so crazy, it’s been in and out of the shed on a regular basis. I’ve got a couple of different contraptions. One a very fancy barbeque Weber and several other ‘Heath Robinson’ types, all of which do the job, but it must be said, varying degrees of skill are needed to turn out nicely charred, succulent food.

I love cooking over fire, it definitely brings out my inner ‘caveman’ and awakens my primeval instincts. Can be as simple as a circle of stones with a feisty fire in the centre and a wire rack to lay the food on top. Grilling is all about controlling the heat and arranging the food at a careful distance from the heat source. If, however you really prefer not to play Russian roulette and would rather play safe to be sure of constant results, invest in a Weber or similar type barbeque – they are brilliantly reliable and have a lid so you can cook anything from a loaf of bread to a butterflied leg of lamb to a turkey deliciously. We love to give a smoky flavour. Tempting as it may be, don’t leave your gas barbeque out in all weathers, it will eventually deteriorate and rust.

Last weekend, I was invited to a friend’s 80th birthday party in the UK. It was such a brilliant party and a wonderful weekend of catching up with young and old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for over 20 years and certainly not since before the pandemic.

For Sunday lunch for over 80 guests, multiple sheets of marinated ribs were grilled on a long skinny repurposed scaffolding frame with two half barrels on top and a rack that could be adjusted to two heights (essential). I suppose the whole barbeque was put together for less than £50 and it worked like a dream. On the previous evening, five butterflied legs of lamb had been cooked to perfection on the same simple contraption.

A super easy way to feed a crowd of people and a brilliantly convivial way to whet everyone’s appetite.

Top Tips for tasty grilled food:

  • Marinade before, time will depend on the thickness of the meat or fish.
  • Use lots of gusty herbs and spices.
  • Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Buy really fresh fish and best quality ingredients.
  • Keep chops and steaks good and thick so they can char on the outside but remain juicy and pink in the centre.
  • Use lots of chunky vegetables doused in extra virgin olive oil and optional herbs and spices – carrots, aubergines, cabbage wedges, scallions, spring onions….
  • As an accompaniment, have a gorgeous bowl of chilled fresh organic salad leaves with lots and lots of Parmesan grated over the top.
  • Have lots of good sauces and salsa.

Jasper Wight’s Rosticciana – Charcoal Grilled Pork Ribs

Rosticcianaare whole sheets of pork ribs grilled over charcoal, then cut into single cooked ribs.

They are common in Tuscany, Italy, more in a home cooking environment (cucina casalinga) than in restaurant cooking.

Jasper learned this recipe and marinade from Piera Vegnani, at one of her Sunday lunches for 20 or so family and friends crowded around a long table in the kitchen of their rustic farmhouse on the edges of Panzano-in-Chianti, in the heart of Tuscany.

Sheet ribs are simply a single sheet of ribs cut close to the bone when the pork belly is taken off in a single piece (approx. 12 ribs). Do not be tempted to buy spareribs, with their extra inch or so of flesh, or to buy single ribs. 

A decent butcher should be happy enough to cut the sheet ribs off. 

There are of course many variations on the marinade, so feel free to improvise. Quantities depend on the quantity of ribs, but you want a light marinade, like a heavy dusting, not a heavy load.

  • finely sliced onion
  • finely sliced garlic
  • black peppercorns crushed in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder to a medium texture
  • fennel seeds likewise
  • a few crushed dried chillies if you like some extra heat to the pepper
  • strips of lemon zest
  • coarsely chopped rosemary
  • coarsely chopped sage
  • sunflower or olive oil
  • (no salt)

Rub the marinade all over the ribs in a large oven dish, cover and chill for at least 12 hours, ideally turning and mixing from time to time.

At least 4 hours prior to cooking, take the marinated ribs out of the fridge and bring up to room temperature

Around 90 mins before serving, light the barbeque, using only lump wood charcoal, ideally large restaurant grade chunks, not charcoal briquettes.

Ideally your barbeque will have a rack for the coals to sit on and an adjustable height grill. also keep a small squeezy bottle of water nearby to douse any flames, and a pack of fine sea salt that will be easy to sprinkle.

Our friend Mimmo Baldi, who runs the Enoteca Baldi on the main piazza of Panzano-in-Chianti, likes to clean the barbeque grill with an improvised brush of woody herbs, such as rosemary and bay branches, and also to drop some of the leaves into the coals a little before the ribs hit the grill, to give some extra perfume to the ribs in due course.

After around 45 minutes the coals should be white and not so fiercely hot, but still hard to hold your hand near.

Knock off as much of the onion, garlic, lemon zest and herbs as you can, but don’t fuss if some is left on.

Salt one side of each rib sheet (fairly generously) and place it facing salt side downwards on the grill.

Don’t move the sheet ribs around. They should sizzle gently, not flame and not burn. If they do flame excessively, raise the grill a bit and squirt a little water onto the flaming areas.

After around 10-15 minutes, salt the top side of the ribs (maybe a little less generously than before) and flip them over. You want to be sure the cooked side is cooked all over, with no patches of raw pork that maybe missed the main areas of heat.

Grill the second side for another 10-15 minutes, until there is no blood puffing from the bones, and the flesh is all cooked through.

Generally, we serve these pretty much straight from the grill, but they can be rested and held for up to an hour or so if you want to build up a larger pile.

To serve, cut between the ribs with a heavy knife and pile up on a warm plate.

Eat with your fingers, with paper towels to hand.

Pineapple, Chilli and Lime Salsa

Delicious served with the ribs or just a lamb chop.

Serves 8

½ fresh pineapple, cored and finely diced (use less canned if you are in a hurry)

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or mint

grated zest of 1 lime

3 tbsp lime juice

salt and sugar

Mix the pineapple with the chilli, onion, coriander or mint, lime zest and lime juice in a bowl.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavours to blend.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Harissa and Chickpea Salad

Serves 8 or more

1 butterflied leg of lamb (1.5kg approximately)

100g harissa or rose harissa

zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

Chickpea Salad

700g dried chickpeas

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 onions, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped 

flaky sea salt

½ – 1 pomegranate


175ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve

3 tbsp coriander, chopped

3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

150ml natural yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped mint leaves

Night Before.

Mix the harissa with the zest and freshly squeezed juice of the lemon.  Place the lamb in a large bowl.  Pierce some holes in the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife – this will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.  Pour the marinade over the lamb and rub in well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  A large Ziploc bag works brilliantly also.

Cover the dried chickpeas in plenty of cold water.  Allow to soak overnight.

Next Day.

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

Drain the chickpeas, put into a saucepan.  Cover with fresh cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 30-45 minutes approx.  Heat the oil in a saucepan, sweat the onion and garlic until soft.  Then allow to become golden and caramelised.  Season with flaky sea salt.   

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl. 

Remove the meat from the marinade, place on the barbecue near the coals to seal in the juices on each side.  Raise the grill and cook for 20 minutes on each side, occasionally basting with the remaining marinade.  We like it pink. Alternatively put on a roasting tray and roast in a preheated oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours depending on how well you like it cooked. 

When the chickpeas are cooked, drain and toss immediately with the caramelised onions, garlic and spicy dressing.  Allow to come to room temperature. 

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 

Toss the freshly chopped herbs through the chickpea salad. 

Slice the meat thinly, serve with chickpea salad and a blob of yoghurt and fresh mint.

Summer Salads (Sprout Saladology Cookbook)

A chunky brown paper parcel has just arrived on my desk via the ever reliable snail mail. Who doesn’t love the anticipation of opening a parcel but how about this for perfect timing. It’s a  cookbook entitled ‘Spout Saladology’, packed from cover to cover with photos and recipes for the most beautiful salads you could imagine, all made with delicious fresh ingredients.
Just in time, I’ve got lots of gorgeous fresh produce at present, the garden and greenhouses are bursting with new seasons vegetables and masses of fresh leafy herbs, radishes, beets, spring onions and cabbages even the first of the fresh peas. Once the rain stopped and the sun came out at last, everything seems to virtually leap out of the ground.
Have you heard about Theo Kirwan and his brother Jack, co-founders of Sprout & Co in Dublin? They’ve now got seven restaurants serving an ever-changing range of beautiful fresh salads to their growing numbers of devotees.
The first restaurant was launched 2015 in Dawson Street in an unlikely premises where everyone predicted ‘it’ll never work there’.  In 2018, they started their own organic farm in County Kildare overseen by a passionate and inspiring biodynamic grower Trevor Harris. This cut their supply chain of salad leaves from farm to restaurant to just 24 hours.
Theo, a former actor has quite the following for his recipe videos, he shares his recipes but people still queue around the corner for the fresh salads.
I’ve got a particular interest in this cookbook because both Jack and Theo trained here with us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and I was thrilled to read that the idea for Sprout & Co started when Jack cooked with a freshly picked, super ripe tomato from the greenhouses and couldn’t believe the difference in flavour…“ It was the lightbulb moment that made us think how a business could be built around just that: fresh, in season produce grown locally”.
They chose not to take the easy route, they decided to make everything from scratch, dressings, sauces and dips were and still are prepared daily. They choose the freshest and best from the Dublin Smithfield Market and other local growers and roasted tray after tray of whole chickens in their ‘bloom closet’ size kitchen and shredded them by hand for lunch service. Word spread like wildfire…
Apart from oodles of delicious recipes, Sprout Saladology has an all-important chapter in the beginning of the book entitled The Larder. It’s a list of the staple ingredients that Theo and Jack use in the restaurants and always keep a stock of in the kitchens to add magic to their salads. Towards the end, there’s another brilliant chapter called Dressings, Crispy Things and Pickles and these will make all the difference to even a simple green salad. I’ve already been experimenting, and I can vouch for them. Very difficult but I’ve managed to choose three recipes to whet your appetite, then you may want to dash out to your local bookshop to pick up a copy of Sprout Saladology.

All recipes are from Sprout Saladology: Fresh ideas for delicious salads by Theo Kirwin, published by Mitchell Beazley.

Stir-Fried Savoy Cabbage with Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves

I love this dish, as it feels like you’re eating a big bowl of cabbage-y noodles. It involves a bit of prep, but once that’s done it’s quick to pull together. If you don’t want to matchstick the aromatics,

just make sure they are in chunks and of equal size so that they don’t burn. You’ll have more of the fried peanuts than you need, but you’ll thank me later, as they keep for a few weeks in an airtight container. Once comfortable with this dish, try adding spices and playing around with the formula depending on what you have to hand. This works great as a as a side with a Malaysian style curry and coconut rice or as a main with a crispy fried egg.

Serves 4 as a side

7 garlic cloves

2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh

root ginger

1 green chilli

1 bunch of spring onions (about 5)

1 Savoy cabbage

1 tbsp soy sauce


To serve

1 quantity Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves (see recipe), oil reserved

juice of 1 lime

1. This is a stir-fried dish, so it’s best to have everything prepped

before turning on the wok.

2. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel the ginger, then cut into thin

matchsticks along with the green chilli and spring onions.

Set aside separately on a plate.

3. Cut the cabbage in half, then into quarters to make 4 thick wedges.

Remove the core, then shred all the cabbage into thin strips and

set aside.

4. Pour the reserved peanut and lime leaf cooking oil into the

wok and heat over a high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilli

and a pinch of salt to the hot oil so that it all sizzles together.

Fry for about 2–3 minutes, stirring as you cook, then stir in the

spring onions for a further minute.

5. Now begin adding the cabbage in stages, as you don’t want to

overcrowd the wok. Toss the first batch to coat in the flavoured oil

and aromatics, leave to cook untouched for 20 seconds so that the

edges get crispy and then toss again before adding another handful

of cabbage. Repeat this process until all the cabbage is in the wok.

You want to end up with some charred crispy bits as well as some

fresh crunchy green strands.

6. Once the last bit of cabbage is in, toss it together and then let it sit in the pan for another few minutes off the heat until it has all softened and you don’t have any raw bits, and it’s all still vibrantly green.

7. Add the soy sauce and give it a final toss. Pile into a serving bowl,

then add the fried peanuts and crispy lime leaves on top. Serve with

a big squeeze of lime juice.

Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves

Makes about 150g or enough for 4 servings

4 tbsp vegetable oil

150g raw skin-on peanuts

15 fresh lime leaves

pinch of flaky sea salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Set a sieve over a heatproof bowl and line a plate with kitchen paper. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large, deep frying pan over a high heat, then once hot, add the peanuts and toss in the oil.

Let the peanuts bubble in the oil for 3-4 minutes until the skins turn red and the insides are toasted (be careful not to overdo the frying, as the peanuts will taste bitter).

Add the lime leaves at the last minute to pop and crisp up in the oil. Pour the peanuts and lime leaves with their cooking oil into the sieve to drain and catch the oil, then transfer to the paper-line plate to mop up any remaining oil. Season with the sea salt and cayenne pepper. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to a month.

‘Crispy’ Dukkah-Spiced Chickpeas with Tomato Salad and Yogurt

I took a food trip to Israel recently and I can’t tell you the number of times I was served a dish with a base of yogurt and tahini. Once the vegetable juices seep in, you are left with a delicious sauce that

is best mopped up with challah bread. I always have a can of chickpeas in the cupboard and frying them in oil until crispy is a great way to use them. Make this salad with or without the dukkah.

And feel free to use alternative vegetables depending on the season.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

½ cucumber

150g any in-season tomatoes you can get

handful of Kalamata olives, pitted

1 green chilli, finely sliced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

400g can chickpeas, drained

about 150ml neutral oil, such as vegetable or sunflower

small handful of dill, leaves picked and roughly chopped

small handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped

small handful of chives, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, finely grated

150g thick Greek yogurt

3 tbsp tahini

salt and freshly ground black pepper

challah bread, to serve

For the hazelnut dukkah

100g blanched hazelnuts

50g pumpkin seeds

3 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp dried thyme

1. Start by preparing the dukkah.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6.

2. Spread out all the dukkah ingredients except the thyme on a baking tray and roast for 8–10 minutes until the nuts are lightly golden and the spices are fragrant but not burned. Remove from the oven and pour on to a cold tray to stop the ingredients cooking any further, then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Once cooled and the hazelnuts are nice and crunchy, add to a blender with the thyme and pulse a few times until you have a very loose crumb. I like it to be quite chunky, so don’t pulse too many times. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

3. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seedy insides

with a spoon and discard, then roughly chop the cucumber into

small pieces. Roughly chop the tomatoes into 2cm chunks. Add both to a bowl with the olives, green chilli, a generous pinch of salt, the extra virgin olive oil and lemon zest, then set aside.

4. Lay the drained chickpeas out on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper and shake the tea towel or paper to dry, gently rubbing the tops to remove any moisture. The drier the chickpeas, the better this will work and the less the oil will splatter everywhere.

5. Line a tray with kitchen paper. Pour enough of the neutral oil into a

medium saucepan to come 2–3cm up the pan. Place the pan over a medium-high heat and heat up slightly, then add the chickpeas, swirling them into the oil. Fry for 8–10 minutes until the chickpeas are lightly golden, crisp and light. Scoop them out of the oil on to the paper-lined tray, then toss with 4–5 tablespoons of the

dukkah to coat the crispy chickpeas. (The remaining dukkah will

keep in an airtight jar for a few weeks.)

6. Toss the chopped herbs into the tomato and cucumber salad with

the lemon juice and another pinch of salt.

7. Mix the garlic into the yogurt, then dollop on to individual serving

plates or a platter along with the tahini, followed by the tomato and

cucumber salad. Top with the dukkah chickpeas. Serve with slices

of challah bread.

The ‘Sataysfied’ Chicken

A top seller in our restaurants, this dish may be the reason you bought this book. This isn’t exactly how we present it in our restaurants because I thought I’d share a version more suitable to prepare at home.

Serves 4

4 skin-on chicken breasts

3 tbsp olive oil

4cm piece of fresh

root ginger, peeled and finely

chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 tbsp Madras curry powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

400ml can full-fat coconut milk

4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp soy sauce

juice of 1 lime


1 quantity Sweet Pickled Cucumber & Shallot Salad (see recipe)

a few handfuls of Peanut Sesame Brittle (see recipe), to serve

For the coriander & spring onion brown rice

200g brown basmati rice

400ml water

handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Start by preparing the rice. Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then drain. Add to a medium pan with a lid along with the measured water and a small pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan with the lid, immediately turn the heat down to its lowest setting and cook for 40 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Turn the heat off and fluff the rice up with a fork. Place the lid back on and leave to steam for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt and 1 tablespoon

of the olive oil. Place a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat,

and once hot, add the chicken breasts to the pan, skin-side down,

along with another tablespoon of olive oil. Fry for 4–5 minutes until

deeply golden and crisp. Flip the chicken over and cook for another

4 minutes until cooked through (the timing may differ depending

on the size of your chicken breasts). Remove the chicken from the

pan on to a plate to rest.

3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the chicken juices in

the pan along with the ginger, garlic, curry powder, turmeric and

chilli and fry for 2–3 minutes over a medium heat until softened

and fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer.

Then add the peanut butter and stir until the sauce thickens slightly.

Turn off the heat and season with the soy sauce. Squeeze in the

lime juice and pour in the resting juices that have collected on the

bottom of the plate of chicken.

4. Once the rice has cooled a little, toss in the coriander and spring

onions and season with more salt if needed.

5. Prepare individual plates or assemble a family-style platter by

pouring the satay sauce on to a warmed serving dish, carve the

chicken breasts and place on top of the sauce, and scatter over the

sweet pickled cucumber and shallot and peanut sesame brittle.

Serve with the coriander and spring onion rice on the side.

Peanut Sesame Brittle

225g roasted, unsalted

skinned peanuts

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp mixed white and black sesame seeds

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp chilli flakes

large pinch of flaky sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 210°C (190°C fan)/Gas Mark 6.

2. Line a small, low-sided roasting tray with nonstick baking paper.

3. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour into the lined tray and spread out. You should have a good layer of the liquid at

the bottom here, so if you don’t, just top it up with a bit more oil and maple syrup. You want the peanuts to fry and caramelize in the liquid. Bake for 8–10 minutes until lightly golden and you have

a bubbling caramel. Remove from the oven and set aside

for the peanut mixture to cool completely in the tray.

4. Once cooled, lift the brittle off the tray and peel off the lining

paper. Break the brittle into little clusters. Any leftover can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Sweet Pickled Cucumber and Shallot Salad

I must credit the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork for this, adapted from memory from their Thai-inspired pickled cucumber salad recipe called Arjard. When you simmer the vinegar and sugar mixture, it becomes a little syrupy and acts as a dressing as well as a pickle liquor. It’s great with rich sauces or served with other dishes such as the ‘Sataysfied’ Chicken.

Serves 2 as a side

150ml white wine vinegar

150ml water

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cucumber

1 shallot, finely sliced into rounds

1 green chilli, finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely sliced

1. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over

a medium heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from

the heat and set aside to cool completely.

2. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seedy

insides with a teaspoon and discard, then slice diagonally into

1cm thick half-moons. Place in a bowl with the shallot

and chillies.

3. Once the pickle liquor has cooled, pour it over the vegetables and

toss so that they are all coated. Set aside to pickle while you prepare

your accompanying dish.


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