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Blood Orange Season

The new seasons blood oranges have arrived, they’ve been trickling into the shops ever since Christmas – such joy. I long for their delightful fresh taste after the rich food of the festive season. Their sweet, tart flavour flits across the tongue and brightens so many of my February dishes. The season is short, just like the marmalade oranges from Seville and Malaga, but these oranges with their rose blushed rind and red tinted flesh, come from Sicily, Spain and Malta. They thrive in Mediterranean climates and are now grown widely in Florida, Texas and Arizona in the U.S. I love the way they come wrapped in tissue paper like all oranges used to years ago.

Every time I peel or slice a blood orange, it’s a surprise. . . Will the flesh be flecked with red or will it be pale crimson or a deep magenta? Depends on the type, I now know that there are three main varieties and several crosses. From Sicily, Moro with a warm red blush on the rind, and Tarocco, the most colourful of all comes also from Sicily but from a different area. Sanguinello, native to Spain is the sweetest and continues to fruit into May. I wondered how blood oranges came about, well apparently Anthocyanin is the polyphenol responsible for the colour and although it’s also in many fruit and flowers its unusual in citrus fruit.

Chrysanthemin, the main component, is rich in antioxidants and is associated with improved cardio vascular health, type 2 diabetes and obesity. They are a super-rich source of vitamin C but also contain fibre, vitamin A, folate and potassium.

What’s not to like about a fruit that combines the nutrients of fruits and berries in one delicious package.

Let’s start with breakfast – I love a glass of OJ, freshly squeezed, moments earlier but rosy blood orange juice is even more special.

When I say freshly squeezed juice I don’t mean a container from the supermarket or a bottle labelled freshly squeezed. There’s the world of difference in flavour and nutrients and the supermarket version may well have added sugar and several other stabilizers and additives. Treat yourself to an electric citrus juicer, they are relatively inexpensive and are likely to last over a decade in a domestic situation. Even small children can learn to squeeze their own juice, a brilliant way to ward off winter colds and flus. (Dry the peels, they make brilliant firelighters).

We love to use the juice for homemade lemonade, sodas, spritzers or topped up with prosecco to make a zingy blood orange mimosa. Blood orange juice makes brilliant sorbets or granita on its own or posh it up with a dash of Campari.

Blood orange marmalade is also gorgeous as is blood orange curd.

We use them in a variety of starters & winter salads, It marries deliciously with shaved fennel, mozzarella, toasted nuts, fresh mint. . . .

In fact one of my favourite winter desserts is a simple blood orange salad with frosted mint leaves or even fresh mint leaves if you don’t have the time to frost them. Peel and segment them into a February citrus fruit salad to add extra glam to a mix of oranges, ruby grapefruit, mandarins, clementines, tangerines and kumquats. Now there’s a splendid way to cleanse the palate and cut through the richness of a delicious roast duck supper. I’ll also include a recipe for upside down blood orange tart which I know you’re going to love.

Good to know, blood oranges freeze brilliantly and can be used for marmalade.

Campari and Blood Orange Granita

An irresistible and deliciously non-fattening appetizer. Of course it can be made with juicy oranges any time of the year, but look out for blood oranges from January to March. A non-alcoholic version with blood orange juice alone is also perfectly delicious, as is a Campari and Blood Orange Fizz –  Put a scoop of granite into a tall champagne glass, top up with prosecco or cava.

Serves 10 approximately

1 litre (13/4 pints) blood orange juice or a mixture of blood oranges and ordinary oranges

125ml (4fl oz) Campari

350g (12oz) caster sugar

1 egg white, optional

To decorate

1-2 blood oranges, segmented

Mint leaves

Mix the freshly squeezed orange juice with the sugar and Campari. Stir and taste and add more sugar if necessary. Make the granita in one of the following ways:

1. Pour the mixture into a stainless steel or plastic container and put into the freezer or the freezing compartment of a refrigerator. After about 4-5 hours when the mixture is semi-frozen, remove from the freezer and whisk until smooth; then return to the freezer. Whisk again.

Top Tip: For a lighter texture when almost frozen fold in one stiffly-beaten egg white. Keep in the freezer until needed.

2. If you have a food processor, simply freeze the mixture completely in a stainless steel or plastic bowl, then break into large pieces and whiz up in the food processor for a few seconds. Add one slightly-beaten egg white, whiz again for another few seconds, then return to the bowl and freeze again until needed.

3. Pour into the drum of an ice-cream maker or sorbetière and freeze for 20-25 minutes. Scoop out and serve immediately or store in a covered bowl in the freezer until needed. This method produces a less granular texture which might be called a sorbet rather than a granita.

To serve

Scoop out the granita and serve just as it is in chilled cocktail glasses, white bowls or plates, or garnished with blood orange segments and fresh mint leaves.

Watercress, Blood Orange, Medjool Date and West Cork Mozzarella Salad with Pistachio Nuts

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on gives the Mozzarella its quintessentially Irish taste.

A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

Serves 4

2-3 balls of fresh Irish Mozzarella

2 blood oranges

a bunch of fresh watercress

4 Medjool dates, stoned and quartered lengthways

2-3 tablespoons Irish honey

a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

some coarsely ground black pepper

50g (2oz) pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut one into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices and segment the other.

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top.  Tuck a few orange slices/segments here and there in between the watercress, mozzarella and dates.   Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil.  Scatter with pistachio nuts. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

Roast Chicken Salad with Fennel, Blood Orange and Pistachio

Serves 8

1 freshly roasted organic chicken

3-4 blood oranges depending on size

2-3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and fronds reserved

2 tablespoons of Forum red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

1-2 teaspoons honey

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 little Gem lettuce

2 good fistfuls of watercress and rocket leaves

3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Rub the breast and legs of the chicken with soft butter, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Insert a spring of thyme or tarragon into the cavity, Transfer to a roasting tin and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 hours depending on size.

Meanwhile, segment the oranges over a bowl and save all the juices as well. 

Trim the fennel fronds and save until later.  Cut the fennel bulbs in half lengthways and slice very thinly.  Add to the oranges in the bowl.  Whisk the vinegar, oil and honey together, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and pour over the oranges and fennel, toss gently.  

Split the little Gem lettuces in half and arrange around a serving plate.  Tuck some watercress and rocket leaves in between the lettuce. Top with the blood orange and fennel salad.  Carve the chicken and the crisp skin into nice little chunky wedges and arrange on top.  Coarsely chop some of the fennel fronds and scatter evenly over the salad with the pistachio nuts.

Blood Orange Salad with Frosted Mint Leaves

Serves 4 – 6

4 Blood Oranges (preferably Sanguinello)

Castor sugar

Mint leaves

Frosted Mint Leaves

Fresh Mint Leaves

Beaten egg white

Castor sugar

Peel the oranges with a serrated knife so as to remove all the outer membrane as well as the peel and pith.

Slice the oranges into ¼ rounds and arrange, overlapping on a plate. Sprinkle with castor sugar, the amount will vary depending on the sweetness of the blood orange.

Chop the mint, sprinkle over the blood orange slices, toss gently, allow to sit for 15 minutes or more. Decorate with frosted mint leaves.

Frosted Mint Leaves

Whizz the egg white gently, just enough to break it up. Using a fine paint brush, brush each leaf on both sides with the egg white. Sprinkle both sides with dry castor sugar and allow to dry out on a sheet of parchment paper. Allow to dry out for several hours. Store in a sealed glass jar.

Upside Down Blood Orange Cake

Serves 8

270g(9 ½ oz) butter

130g (4½ oz) pale brown sugar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3-4 medium sized blood oranges,

125g (4 ½oz) medium cornmeal

65g (2½ oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking Powder

Pinch of salt

200g (7oz) castor sugar

4 large organic eggs

Scant 75mls (3floz) sour cream or crème fraiche

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 x 10” sauté or frying pan or 9 inch cake tin (not one with a  removable base) greased. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) degrees.

Melt 45g (1 ½ oz) of butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add the soft brown sugar and lemon juice; stir until the sugar melts. Scrape the mixture into the base of the greased tin.

Grate ½ teaspoon blood orange zest. Cut away the rind and all the pith. Slice each orange, crossways into ¼ inch thick rounds. Flick out the seeds. Arrange the orange slices on top of the brown sugar mixture in a single close layer.

Whisk together, the orange zest, cornmeal, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cream together the remaining butter with the castor sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, add the sour cream and the vanilla extract then fold in the dry ingredients. Spread evenly over the orange slices in the tin.

Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is fully cooked and a and golden brown, approx. 50 – 60 mins.

Cool in the tin for 10 – 15 minutes. Loosened around the edges with a knife and invert onto a plate so the slightly caramelized orange slices are on top. Serve warm or at room temperature with slightly whipped cream

Giorgio Locatelli’s, Sicilian Orange and chocolate cake

from ‘Made at Home’

This is a very simple cake. You can use any really juicy oranges, but Sicily is famous for its blood oranges, which are planted mainly over the plain of Catania and on the slopes of Mount Etna, so if you can find blood oranges in season this cake is even better. Most Sicilian orange cakes are glazed with orange syrup, but I really like the extra dimension that comes from covering it with a crisp casing of dark chocolate.

Makes 1 x 24cm Cake

250g softened unsalted butter cut into cubes, plus a little extra for greasing the tin.

250g caster sugar

Zest of 5 oranges or blood oranges (preferably Sicilian)

5 organic eggs

250g self-raising flour sifted

For the glaze

200g dark chocolate (we use 62% Valrhona)

150ml whipping cream

20g liquid glucose

Preheat the oven to 160 ˚c / gas mark 3

Grease a 24cm round cake tin, with a removable base, with a little butter and line with baking paper.

In a bowl using a wooden spoon, or in a food processor, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest in a bowl until pale and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs in one by one, then fold in the flour a little at a time, very gently until it is all incorporated

Spoon into the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 40 mins, until golden and springy on top

Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Better still put it in the fridge once it has cooled down, so that when you cover it with the chocolate glaze it will set really quickly.

To make the glaze, have pieces of chocolate ready in a bowl. Pour the cream and glucose into a pan and bring to the boil, then take off the heat and whisk into the chocolate

Allow to cool for about 15 minutes until just warm enough to touch (if you have a kitchen thermometer it should be 35 ˚c)

Spread over the top and sides of the cake with a spatula

Traditional Irish Black Pudding

The food scene in Ireland has changed out of all recognition during the past few decades, Dublin is absolutely rocking, Galway too, Cork also has more and more star attractions. Good Day deli in the Nano Nangle Centre continues to garner fans, St Francis Provisions, a San Francisco inspired café in Kinsale has everyone talking. Put Franks and Daddy’s in Dublin on your list as well as Tartare in Galway.

All of the hottest places are really celebrating local produce and incorporating seasonal and foraged foods into their menus. Seaweed is everywhere, in bread, soups, stews, drinks, as are ferments and pickled kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir. The artisan sector continues to grow and flourish and theres a growing confidence which encourages creativity both in the food and drink area and a growing realisation and pride in our traditional food culture. There can be no meaningful future without a connection to our past, so the strap line might be  “Respecting the past – building the future”

A current concrete example might be the inaugural Post Grad Diploma in Irish Food Culture at UCC spearheaded by food historian Regina Sexton whose Ted Talk entitled ‘Are we brilliant or what?’ You must google. . . .

Some time ago I launched National Black Pudding day at the Samhain Festival in Kells in Co Meath. Local artisan butcher Hugh Maguire (aka the Smokin Butcher) demonstrated how to make traditional black pudding with fresh pigs blood to a packed auditorium in the Headfort Arms Hotel. See Hot Tips. . . ..

Regina Sexton introduced us by putting black pudding making in its historical context, I reminisced and shared my memories of killing the pig and making black and white puddings with my great aunt Lil on a farm in Co Tipperary in the late 1950’s, I reminisced about the fun I had, washing out and scraping the intestines under the spring water from the pump in the yard, , helping to mix the pudding and fill it into the natural casings. How fortunate was I to catch the end of an era and to taste the pudding and to realise how different, more delicious and crumbly puddings are made from fresh pigs blood rather than imported dried beef from Spain and Belgium.

Fresh blood puddings are an integral part of our traditional food culture. Its also interesting to remember that every civilization around the world knew the value of fresh blood sausage both in nutritional terms and as a gourmet product, France has Boudin Noir, Spain, Morcilla, Portugal, Morcela, Germany Bratwurst, Sweden & Denmark, blodkorv, Tibet has Gyuma Ngoe Ma flavoured with Sichuan peppercorns – All have fresh blood as a base.

Here in Ireland almost every family butcher would have made their own pudding up to a decade ago, now a mere handful of butchers are making their own fresh blood pudding due to more stringent regulations. However there is a renewal of interest and appreciation among chefs and the general public and a growing realization that traditional black pudding in its many manifestations is an important part of our traditional food culture.

Originally every village butcher had their own secret recipes for both black and white pudding, a dozen or more stalwarts around the country continue the tradition, some fill the mixture into natural casings, others cook it in a tin or mould e.g. Inch House Pudding in Inch , Co Tipperary and Ashe’s  Annascaul Black pudding in Co Kerry .

 Jack McCarthy in Kanturk is passionate about blood puddings and has made several award winning variations on the theme.

Some enthusiastic young butchers are now anxious to learn the skills and are launching traditional black pudding once again to fulfil the growing interest and demand for our traditional blood sausage.

Smoked black pudding with charred onions & Jerusalem artichokes

Serves 8

I love this combination, in fact I’m rather addicted to the Irish smoked black pudding made in the traditional way with fresh blood and natural casings.  The texture is soft and crumbly and totally delicious.

– 4 medium onions, peeled

– extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

– 6–8 medium Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed really well

– 200g piece of smoked black pudding (from The Smoking Butcher)

   or traditional black pudding, skin

   removed and cut into 16 pieces

– 8 sprigs of watercress

– 1 teaspoon Forum Chardonnay vinegar or good-quality white wine vinegar

– flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


– 300ml apple sauce

– 125ml double cream

– 2–3 rounded teaspoons grated fresh horseradish

Preheat the oven to 250°C/gas mark 9.

Halve the onions and brush the cut side with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on an approx. 40 x 43cm roasting tray lined with parchment paper.

Slice the artichokes into 7mm rounds and place in a bowl. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and arrange in a single layer around the onions.

Roast for 30–35 minutes until the vegetables are cooked and well coloured.

Place the pieces of black pudding in the same bowl, drizzle over 2 teaspoons of olive oil and toss well to coat. Arrange
the black pudding over the roasted vegetables and roast for a further 3–4 minutes until coloured.

To make the sauce, combine the apple sauce and cream in a small pan, bring to the boil and stir in the horseradish.

Place the sprigs of watercress in a bowl and drizzle with the vinegar and 3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil. Toss well to coat.

To serve, divide the dressed watercress between eight plates and arrange half an onion and two pieces of black pudding
on each. Scatter with the artichokes and dollop the sauce here and there.

Black Pudding Sausage Rolls with Bramley Apple Sauce

Who doesn’t love sausage rolls – try these with a twist

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size

Homemade Black Pudding Sausages (see recipe)

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Make the sausages; form into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.

Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.  Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s .

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size.  Serve with Bramley Apple Sauce

Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Brush the top of the sausage rolls with egg wash and sprinkle with caraway seeds.

Bramley Apple Sauce

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons (2-4 American teaspoons) water

2 ozs (50g/1/4 cup) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness.  Serve warm.

12/03/2009 (SH) (9425)

Revised 05/09/2018 (PB)

Ballymaloe Pork and Black Pudding Sausages

Choose traditional Black Pudding. Made from fresh rather than imported dried blood.

Sausages made from 100 percent lean meat may sound good, but for sweetness and succulence one needs some fat. The addition of breadcrumbs is not just to add bulk, it greatly improves the texture, too.

Serves 8

(Makes 16 small or 8 large rolls)

225g black pudding, peeled & crumbled.

450g (1lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, rosemary and sage)

60g (21⁄2oz) soft white breadcrumbs (see recipe)

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

50g (2oz) natural sheep or hog casings (optional)

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Peel the casing from the black pudding, crumble and add to the bowl. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a

little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the

seasoning. Correct if necessary. Fill the mixture into natural sausage casings and tie. Twist into sausages at regular intervals. Alternatively, divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths to make skinless sausages. Cover and chill.

Homemade sausages are best eaten fresh but will keep refrigerated for 2–3 days.

When ready to eat, fry gently on a barely oiled pan on a medium heat until golden on all sides. These sausages are particularly delicious served with Bramley Apple Sauce

(see recipe) and Potato Cakes (see recipe).


For breakfast sausages, you may want to omit the herbs and garlic.

24/01/2020 24069 (DA/TV)

Boudin Noir with Golden Delicious Apple Sauce

Irish black pudding is entirely different but also married well with both pommes puree and Golden Delicious Sauce, plus maybe a drizzle of grainy mustard and cream.

Boudin Noir is available from ‘On The Pigs Back’ in Corks English Menu

Serves 4

Golden Delicious Apple Sauce

450 g Golden Delicious Apples

1-2 dessertspoons water

25g approx. sugar

olive oil

4 pieces boudin noir 10-12.5cm long

Pommes de Terre Purée

Serves 6-8

900g old potatoes

110ml approx. hot milk

50g butter

1-2 egg whites

salt and freshly ground pepper

Curly or flat leaf parsley to serve

First make the Golden Delicious Apple Sauce.  Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut the pieces into two and put them in a stainless or cast-iron saucepan with sugar and water.  Cover and cook on a very low heat until the apples break down into a fluff.  Stir and taste for sweetness. 

To make the Pommes de Terre Purée. 

Boil the potatoes still in their jackets in a little boiling salted water. Peel immediately while hot, put through a ricer, beat in the boiling milk, egg whites and lots of butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

The potato purée should be light and fluffy.

Brush the slices of boudin with extra virgin olive oil.  Cook gently on a pan on a low to medium heat, turning constantly until heated through. 

To serve

Spoon a generous helping of hot fluffy pommes de terre purée onto a hot plate, top with a piece of boudin and a dollop of hot Golden Delicious Sauce.

Serve hot, maybe sprinkled with a little snipped parsley.

Scallion & Black Pudding Champ

Serves 4-6

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

110g (4oz) Traditional Black Pudding or smoked black pudding peeled

350ml (10-12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Add the crumbled black pudding.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Black Pudding Potato Cakes

Shape leftover scallion and Black Pudding mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Jane Grigson’s Sussex Pond Pudding

Recipe from English Food by Jane Grigson

Yet another delicious steamed pudding. I cant get enough of these comforting puds these days.

The best of all the English boiled suet puddings. In the middle the butter and sugar melt into a rich sauce which is sharpened with the juice from the lemon. The genius of the pudding is the lemon. Its citrus bitter flavour is a subtlety which raises the pudding to the highest class – this one is iconic among foodies.

When you serve it, make sure that everyone has a piece of lemon, which will be much softened by the cooking, but still vigorous.

Once when I had no lemons, I used a couple of small limes, which were equally successful. The name of the pudding refers to the sauce, which runs out of it, when it is turned on to a serving dish and provides it with a moat of buttery brown liquid.

8 oz self-raising flour

4 oz chopped fresh beef suet (ask your local butcher)

4 oz cubed butter

Milk and water

4oz Demerera sugar

1 large organic lemon

2 pint pudding bowl

Softly whipped cream

Mix the flour and suet together in a bowl. Make into a dough with milk and water, half and half; ¼ pint should be plenty.

The dough should be soft, but not too soft to roll out into a large circle. Cut a quarter out of this circle, this will be used later as the lid of the pudding.

Butter the pudding basin lavishly. Drop the three-quarter circle of pastry into it and press the cut sides together to make a perfect join.

Put half the butter, cubed into the pastry, with half the sugar.

Prick the lemon all over with a skewer, so that the juices will be able to escape, then put it on to the butter and sugar. Add the remaining butter, again cut into cubes, and sugar.

Roll out the pastry which was set aside to make a lid. Lay it on top of the filling and press the edges together so that the pudding is sealed in completely. Cover the bowl with a piece of parchment paper with a pleat in the middle. Tie it in place with a cotton string, and make a string handle over the top so that the pudding can be lifted out easily.

Put a deep saucepan of water on to boil, lower the pudding into it; the water must be boiling and it should come halfway, or a little further up the bowl.

Cover the saucepan and leave to boil for 3 – 3 ½ hours. If the water gets low replenish it with boiling water.

To serve, put a deep hot dish over the bowl after removing the lid and quickly turn the whole thing upside down: it is a good idea to ease the pudding from the sides of the basin with a knife first. Serve immediately with softly whipped cream

Royal Cuisines Festival in India

On a recent trip to India I was invited to attend the Inaugural Royal Cuisines Festival in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. From the middle of the 19th Century until 1947 when there were 150 princely states, tikanas and jagers in Central India, can you imagine the richness and diversity of the food culture.

The Madhya Pradesh Tourism association created this colourful festival to highlight the heritage and food culture of the province and share the flavours that were hitherto only accessible to those who were guests of the royal families. Many of these recipes are still jealously guarded within families and in some cases known only to the cooks. 10 royal families accepted the invitation of the Tourism Minister Surendra Singh Baghel, to participate. The event was held at the Minto Hall Palace, the former home of the assistant viceroy of India and launched by the first minister of Madhya Pradesh in the midst of a media frenzy.

Field kitchens were set up behind the palace where the royal couples watched over their chefs and students from the Bhopal Institute of Hotel Management while they prepared their dishes. Ravi Pratap Singh Ranawat from the Sarwaniya Royal family was preparing an intriguing family speciality called Chicken Sula. First the chicken was marinated overnight, then it was covered in a secret masala spice mix, then cooked and wrapped in overlapping chapatti and tied into a parcel before being cooked in a pit in the ground. Ravi was adamant that the recipe was secret but the Royal house of Garha in the nearby kitchen was equally adamant about the importance of sharing so the recipes and techniques would be passed on to the next generation. He told me that recipes had been lost in the past because they had ‘died with the cooks’, who have refused to share their legacy. Many of the royal families are now impoverished but some like the Holkar Royal family of Indore and Maheswar has embraced the hospitality business and have restored some of their palaces, as with Ahilya Fort, on the banks of the River Narmada in Maheswar. Prince Richard Holkar, a descendent of Queen Ahilya Bai who ruled from 1755 to 1795. Richard, a superb cook, divides his time between India and his second home in Paris. His cooking maintains the authenticity of the Holkar flavours using beautiful fresh produce from his organic farm and gardens. Guests come from all over the world and return over and over again to this hidden gem well off the beaten track. His chef Krishna, cooked three dishes, stuffed baby aubergines, Batteyr Survedar Quail Curry and Rosso Golla Espresso, Krishna was super excited when the first minister Kamal Nath personally complimented him on the Quail Curry and asked for a tiffin box of it to take home.

Students from the Bhopal school of hospitality were honoured to have the opportunity to participate in the event, they were stirring huge metal kari’s of masala, making chapatti on a stone in the gardens and most exciting for them was having their photos taken with Indian celebrity chef, Harpal Singh Sokhi in his turquoise and orange turban. I did so many spontaneous interviews for Indian TV and my photo appeared in several Indian newspapers.
In most people’s mind, the city of Bhopal, where the festival was held, is firmly connected to the Union Carbide Tragedy of 1984, when a gas leak was responsible for the deaths of over 15,000 people. The incident understandably decimated the tourist industry both in the city and surrounding area. This was my first visit, to what is a truly beautiful city, built around two large lakes with two outstanding museums, the Tribal Museum and the Museum of Man as well as an unforgettable Chowk (bazaar).

The Royal Cuisines Festival was a brilliant excuse to visit, otherwise I might never have gone, but if you are planning a trip to India, add Bhopal to your itinerary, it won’t be inundated with tourists. Meanwhile here are some of the recipes from the Royal Cuisines Festival.

Small Stuffed Baby Aubergines

Sounds like it could be a bit of a fiddle to make but once again the end result is super delicious.

Serves 12

1 kg (2 1/4lbs) small black aubergines, the size of a really large egg

350g (12oz) finely chopped onion

350g (120z) finely chopped tomato

4 tablespoons ground fresh ginger,

4 tablespoons ground garlic.

1 teaspoon whole cumin seed

125ml (4floz) vegetable, groundnut or sunflower oil

3 teaspoons turmeric powder

3 teaspoons red chili powder, medium heat

3 teaspoons garam masala

3 tablespoons coriander powder

100g (31/2oz) fresh green coriander

2 tablespoons Mango powder (Amchoor)

2 teaspoons salt

3 Indian dried bay leaves or 1 fresh

Cut the aubergines, from the bottom to the top in a cross. The aubergines should not come apart. Steam them for 10 minutes, untill they are half tender.

Masala stuffing for the aubergines:

Heat the oil.  When nice and hot, add cumin seed , bay leaf and finely chopped onion. Sauté, stirring till the onions become light golden brown. Add ground Ginger and Garlic. Reduce heat to medium and  Sauté till the masala and oil separate, adding a little water from time to time to prevent sticking cook. About 10 minutes. Add chopped tomato and cook for 5-7  minutes,  till the tomatoes are well melted. Check the seasoning and add more salt if required. Raise the heat, and add the rest of the ingredients,  except the garam masala, and sauté  till the liquid from the tomatoes is largely gone. Add the garam masala.

To assemble the dish, insert as much of the masala as you can into the cut aubergines. Add the stuffed aubergines and half a cup of boiling water to the remaining masala, and cook, covered, over medium heat, till the aubergines are meltingly tender. The masala should not be runny. Serve in a large platter and garnish with the green coriander leaves.

Quail Survedar (Maharaja YeshwantRao Holkar’s favourite).

This quail dish was one of the stars of the Royal Festival, do try it. You can source Irish quail in Coolnafearagh in Monasterevin (quailireland@gmail.com)

Serves 10 (1 quail per person)

1 kg quail (about 10 quails)

6 tablespoons clarified butter

2 tablespoons onion paste

2 tablespoons garlic paste

2 tablespoons ginger paste

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

20 cashew nuts

450mls (16floz) coconut milk

Heat the clarified butter in a pan on a medium heat. Add onion, fry till translucent.  Add ginger, garlic, salt, poppy seeds and turmeric powder, Stir fry, adding water from time to time, till the sharp smell of the masala (spice mix) is gone and the oil separates and  masala comes together in the pan. This is an essential cooking technique for Indian masalas. This will generally take 10 minutes or so. The masala should neither boil nor fry.

Add the freshly ground black pepper, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and add the quail and the cashews. Stir, and sauté for 5 minutes ensuring the masala coats the quail,

Add coconut milk. Check the salt. As soon as it starts to bubble reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. There should be a good quantity of gravy. If necessary add more coconut milk. The quail will be done when, with a gentle tug, the leg and thigh will come away from the body.

Serve with smoked pomegranate riata and spinach with yoghurt.

Smoked Pomegranate Raita

Serves 12

1.5 litres (2.4 pints) whisked Greek style yoghurt

4 tablespoons roasted cumin seed

2 tablespoons Sea Salt

12 cloves

3 small pieces Charcoal (like for a barbeque)

350g (12oz) pomegranate Seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped green coriander

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)

Heat three walnut size pieces of charcoal on a gas jet, until glowing reserve.

Toast, the cumin seed in a dry pan until fragrant.

Roughly crush the cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and set aside.

In a serving bowl whisk the yoghurt till smooth. Add toasted cumin seed and salt. Mix thoroughly. Check the seasoning.

Prepare a piece of tinfoil large enough to cover the serving bowl tightly. Shape a smaller piece of tinfoil to hold the charcoal. Put the small piece of foil into the middle of the yoghurt. Put the burning charcoal in the tinfoil.

Put the cloves on the burning charcoal. Drizzle the ghee (clarified butter) over the hot charcoal, taking care not to smother the coals. The coals will start to smoke. IMMEDIATELY cover the bowl tightly with large piece of tinfoil to form a tight fitting lid. Don’t let the smoke escape!! Let this sit for about half an hour. The longer it sits the more smokey and clovey the flavour.

Remove the foil and the coals. Add the pomegranate and the chopped coriander to the yoghurt, stirring well. Serve at room temperature.

Ahilya Fort Spinach with Yoghurt

A superb spinach dish made from freshly picked leaves from the Ahilya Fort organic vegetable gardens.

Serves 6

500g (10oz) natural yoghurt

1 tablespoon rice flour

15 cloves roughly crushed in a mortar

8 tablespoons clarified butter

2 teaspoons ginger paste

2 tablespoons garlic paste

50g (2oz) onion, separated into rings

500g (10oz) spinach, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh cinnamon powder

10 green cardamom (seeds only) crushed in a mortar

2 teaspoons salt

Add rice flour to the yoghurt and hang it for 4 hours in a muslin bag and allow to drip. The result should be thick but pourable.

Toast the cloves until fragrant. Heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter in a pan and cook the ginger and garlic paste together for 10 minutes on a low heat, stirring until the oil and the masala separate. Add 4 tablespoons of clarified butter to a hot pan and fry the onion until light brown. Turn the heat down to medium and add in the cooked garlic and ginger paste, spinach and salt. Mix well, the spinach will release a lot of liquid which should be cooked back into the mixture.
When the mixture is cooked and dry add the yoghurt, cinnamon and cardamom, mix well and remove from the heat. The consistency should be like heavy yoghurt, if it is too dry add a little milk.

Heat the remaining clarified butter and add the toasted crushed cloves until fragrant. Add to the yoghurt and spinach mixture and mix well. If necessary, this is best re-heated in a warm oven or a very low flame stirring. High heat will curdle the dish.


Serves 8-10

2kg (4 1/2lb) thick homemade yoghurt or Greek yoghurt

generous pinch of saffron strands

1 tablespoon warm water

1/4 teaspoon roughly crushed green cardamom seeds

175g (6oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped pistachio nuts


Put a square of muslin into a bowl.  Pour in the yoghurt, tie the ends and allow to drip overnight (save the whey to make soda bread).  Transfer the dripped yoghurt into a clean bowl.  Infuse the saffron in a tablespoon of warm water in a small bowl.  Stir into every last drop into the yoghurt.  Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods.  Crush lightly, add to the yoghurt with the caster sugar, mix well.  Turn into a serving dish.  Chill.  Sprinkle the top with roughly chopped pistachio nuts and serve.  Delicious on it’s own but also memorable with Summer berries.

Our new students have arrived…

We’re back in full swing at the Ballymaloe Cookery School after our break, Students from 12 different countries are settling into life in the midst of a working organic farm close to the sea in East Cork. They’ll be with us for three months. They’ve just discovered the long sandy strand at Ballynamona, a few brave ones are joining Rachel Allen for early morning swims-BRRRRH, but they assure us its super exhilarating. Others get up early to be in the ‘Bread Shed’ by six o clock to discover the magic of making totally natural sourdough bread, a few others link up with the gardeners at 7:30 to harvest the fresh herbs, veg and salad leaves for the mornings cooking.

Already we have a few keen foragers, just met a couple of those making their way to the stone boundary wall to pick the fleshy leaves of pennywort to use as a garnish for their starter. They’ve already picked some winter cress, a few dandelion leaves and some chickweed to add to the big wooden bowl of green salad. Another couple of eager students have met up with David Cullinane to bring the small herd of Jersey cows in to be milked. Afterwards they’ll separate the thick rich cream from the milk. Some will be served with the lunchtime pudding, its Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart today and they’ll learn how to churn the remainder into homemade butter before coming into the kitchens at 9 o clock.

Just a couple of weeks ago, several of these students had never been ‘up close and personal’ with a cow in their entire lives. They might have had a vague idea that butter came from cream but no idea how the transformation occurred. They are all super excited to learn these almost ‘forgotten skills’.

Several others have gone to Penny in the Bubble Shed to learn the secret of the water kefir, that wine correspondent John Wilson told his Irish Times readers was “the best I’ve tasted” and its available on a daily basis from The Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, just outside the village of Shanagarry. But you too can learn how to make your own Water Kefir and Kombucha on 25th February 2020 at Penny’s Fermentation workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Even though the weather is still wintery we’ve got lots of seasonal vegetable and fresh herbs.

Already, the fresh green spears of chives are peeping above ground and of course there’s lots of rosemary, sage, thyme and bay, the gutsy perennials that keep on going year round and are particularly good with comforting winter stews and gratins.

We’ve got an abundance of winter vegetables, still some Brussels sprouts, lots of leeks and of course all the root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, celeriac, gorgeous white turnips, swedes and of course Jerusalem artichokes, the most exciting and nutritious veg of them all.

I’ve been enjoying lots of comforting stews and chunky soups for the past few weeks and delicious rice pudding with a golden skin on top

Now I’m about to enjoy my other almost forgotten winter pleasure – Steamed puddings – love, love, love steamed puddings. For me they evoke memories of sitting around the kitchen table in Cullohill, Co Laois, when I was a child, tucking into one of Mummy’s delicious steamed puddings with some custard or jam sauce – for those of you who have never tasted a steamed pudding – now’s the time to choose from one of these… First a suet pudding….

Valencia Pudding or Steamed Sultana Pudding

Oh my goodness, does this bring back memories or what?!  Serve a steamed pud for a Winter dinner party and everyone of ‘our’ age will dissolve into a sepia tinted haze of nostalgia!

Serves 6 ish.

75g (3oz) fat yellow sultanas or 75g (3oz) stoned Valencia, lexia or Muscatel raisins or fat yellow sultanas

110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature

110g (4oz) castor sugar

Grated rind of 1/2 unwaxed and organic lemon

2 eggs, preferably free-range and organic

175g (6oz) plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1-2 tablespoons milk

15g (1/2 oz) butter for greasing the pudding bowl

Homemade Custard

1/2 vanilla pod or a few drops pure vanilla extract

300ml (1/2 pint) rich milk

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

1 tablespoon castor sugar

12.5cm (5 inch) pudding bowl

Brush the pudding bowl with melted butter.  Press some of the sultanas or seeded and split raisins around the sides.  Cream the butter, add the sugar and lemon rind and beat until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour and baking powder and enough milk to make the mixture just loose enough to drop from a spoon, add the remainder of the fruit.  Spoon into the pudding bowl.  Cover with a pleated piece of double greaseproof paper or foil and tie down.  (The paper is pleated to allow for expansion.)  Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, put in the pudding bowl, the water should come half way up the sides.  Cover and steam for 2 hours. 

Meanwhile make the homemade custard.

Put the vanilla pod (if available) into the cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.   Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl.   Remove the vanilla pod from the milk and pour the milk onto the yolks, whisking all the time, (add the pure vanilla extract if using), return to the saucepan.   Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon, careful it must not boil.  Pour into a cold bowl and stir occasionally as it cools.

Raspberry Jam Pudding also called Canary… don’t ask me why…

Another children’s favourite – substitute 4-6 tablespoons of handmade raspberry jam for the raisins.  Spread the raspberry jam over the sides and base of the pudding bowl, serve with a warm raspberry jam sauce.

(Thin the jam with a little water) and lots of softly whipped cream.

Marmalade Steamed Pudding with Marmalade sauce

Recipe as above but substitute the jam with 4 to 6 tablespoons of marmalade.

For almost a week during the cold January days the whole house smells of marmalade. We always looked forward to the final day when the last of the oranges had been turned into marmalade, because by tradition on that day there would be marmalade pudding for lunch.

Make and steam the pudding as above substituting marmalade for raspberry jam.

Meanwhile make the marmalade sauce


4 tablespoons water

450g (1lb) marmalade

juice of 1 lemon

sugar, to taste

To make the sauce, put the water and marmalade into a saucepan. Stir and then bring slowly to the boil for 4/5 mins. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and if necessary sweeten with a little sugar to taste. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on to a warm serving dish and pour the sauce around it.

Delia’s Steamed Treacle Pudding

 Thank you Delia for this delicious recipe … warming winter comfort food …. like a culinary hug….

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon of black treacle

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

6oz (175g) self raising flour

1 rounded teaspoon baking powder

6oz (175g) butter softened

3 large eggs

6oz(175g) soft light brown sugar

First of all butter the inside of a 1 pint pudding bowl.

Pour 3 tablespoons of golden syrup into it.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, add the softened butter, eggs, sugar and black treacle. Using an electric whisk, beat the mixture for about two minutes until it is thoroughly blended. Now spoon the mixture into the pudding bowl and level the top with the back of the spoon. Cover with lid.

Steam the pudding for two hours on a gentle heat, checking the water level halfway through. To serve, loosen the pudding all round using a palette knife, turn onto a warmed plate.

Serve warm with freshly whipped cream.

New Orleans

New Orleans – The Crescent City, nestled into a bend in the Mississippi river is truly wonderful – you might want to add it to your US bucket list. I was enchanted by the architecture, the live oak lined streets, the buildings and the Creole cottages each with porches, verandas and its own unique features. I particularly loved the old French Quarter, Marigny, Burgundy and the Garden District, the vibrant art and culture scene.  The street cars date back to 1893 and of course the food.

It was a quick trip, barely two days but I packed a tremendous experience into that short time – enough to make me long to return. I didn’t get to do a proper cemetery tour, one of the star attractions of New Orleans, with their Greek and Roman Sepulchres and palatial mauseoleums. My visit didn’t actually coincide with any of the festivals that New Orleans is famed for, yet the city abounded with Jazz and Blues and the swish new airport has been called after Louis Armstrong – There were even vases of fresh flowers in the loos – there’s style for ya…!

I stayed at Hotel Peter and Paul, owned by a former Ballymaloe Cookery School student Natalie Jordi and her husband New York Times Journalist, Brett Anderson. A four year restoration of a historic New Orleans church, school house, rectory and convent, now with 71 bedrooms. I was tickled to find myself in the Mother Superior’s bedroom, complete with a king canopy bed, adorned with tassles and holy fillials. But this is a food column, so I‘ll concentrate on the many new Orleans specialities I managed to taste on my far too brief visit.

My first taste of New Orleans was at a super cool café, Molly’s Rise + Shine in the Irish Channel for a brunchy lunch before a tour of New Orleans. Loved every bite, a huge glass of fresh orange juice squeezed just moments earlier, roasted carrot yoghurt with granola and other good things, a southern biscuit (moist, tender scones to you and I) with sausage scrambled egg and pickles and Texas toast – one inch thick triangles of toasted brioche like bread with a little bowl of superb butter and jam on a speckled blue enamelled plate. Don’t miss their sister restaurant Turkey and the Wolf if you make it to New Orleans – superb sandwiches with a permanent queue.

My sojourn didn’t coincide with the famous cray fish season so I missed those but went along to an iconic Irish pub Erin Rose – with a Lill Killer Po Boy joint at the back. The name is short for Poor Boys a term apparently coined by the Martin brothers during the 1929 Street Car strike when the brothers served this kind of robust sandwich to the hungry strikers.

To make a New Orleans Po Boy, split a French bread roll, crackly crust and soft fluffy interior, slather with a spicy mayo, add pickles and shredded salad, maybe some freshly chopped herbs or tomatoes and a topping of roast beef or fried sea food. Ours was packed with shrimps and was almost a cross between a Po Boy and a Banh mi – a meal in itself and quite the challenge at 10am in the morning but I take my research very seriously so I tucked in with gusto. Next stop Congregation Coffee and cool café, superb pastries and a tempting potato and turnip soup with horseradish dill and mushroom and a braised rabbit sandwich with blue cheese and watercress.

Christina Balzebre’s, Levee artisan bakery just off Magazine Street was also exceptional, superb naturally leavened bread, and handmade pastries. I bought a crusty baguette and some other tempting confections for my picnic on the plane and then headed over to St James’s Cheese Company for cured meats, Vermont cultured butter and some farmstead cheese.
Lunch was at Peche, a James Beard award winning restaurant where I tasted Hush Puppies with honey butter.

After an intriguing tour through New Orleans, dinner that night was at Apolline where chef, Michael Shelton, cooks contemporary American food. I got to taste okra in New Orleans, one of the many good things I ate there. My final meal was at the iconic Upperline Restaurant on Upperline Street, classic New Orleans dishes, contemporary Creole cooking and a warm welcome from the utterly charming, feisty 80 year old hostess JoAnne Clevenger – definitely the ‘hostess with the mostest’ in the whole of New Orleans – Described variously as ‘a girl scout with gumption’ and ‘the one dress hostess’.

I tasted so many classic New Orleans dishes, fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade, turtle soup, gumbo, and Upperline’s famous pecan bread pudding with toffee sauce – all so delicious….

I really long to go back to New Orleans and next visit maybe I’ll have time to taste the famous Beignets from Café du Monde….

Southern Hush Puppies

Inspired by a recipe in Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Graubart

Serves 6

280g cornmeal

1 tablespoon white flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped

270ml buttermilk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil or pure olive oil for frying

Sieve flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl, add the cornmeal.  Add the onions, buttermilk and egg, stir until thoroughly mixed. Heat the oil to 375°F and drop the batter by spoonful (about 2 teaspoons each) in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 3-5 mins.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

At Peche Restaurant they served the hush puppies with honey butter.

Honey Butter

110g (4oz) butter

2 good heaped tablespoons fresh honey

Cream the butter in a bowl.  Add the honey and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute the honey through the butter.

New Orleans Beignets

12 Servings

170mls  lukewarm water

1 7g sachet of dried fast acting yeast

115ml  evaporated milk

70g sugar

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

400g – 450g plain flour

3 tablespoons melted butter

Corn oil or any flavourless oil for frying

Icing sugar, for dusting

In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine lukewarm water and yeast, let it sit until it dissolves for about 5 minutes. Lightly whisk evaporated  milk, sugar, salt, egg and vanilla extract. Add it to the yeast mixture.

Mix in about half of flour and continue mixing with hand or dough mixer. If using a stand mixer, mix for about a minute or 2.

Finally add the melted butter, mix until dough is sticky but smooth. Add in additional flour (if needed) to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 – 2 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once risen, punch the dough down and remove from the bowl. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a long piece until approx.. ¼ – 1/3 thickness. Cut the dough into 1 ½ or 2 inch squares, you can use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Let it rest for about 10 minutes before frying.

Working in batches so as not to crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, drain on paper towels briefly and immediately dust with icing sugar. Serve immediately.

Brioche Pecan Bread Pudding with Toffee sauce

Serves 6-8

8 brioche buns or very good bread sliced

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

3oz plump sultanas

4 oz pecans, very coarsely chopped

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

2 tsp grated ginger

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

110g (4oz) sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

pinch of salt

Toffee Sauce – see recipe

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) square pottery or ovenproof  china dish.

Slice the brioche into 1/3 inch thick slices. Butter and arrange buttered side down, in a single layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle with half the pecans and half the sultanas and then arrange another layer of brioche, buttered side down, over the nuts and fruit, sprinkle the remaining nuts and fruit on top. Cover with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down. (Make sure the fruit is fully covered or it will shrivel up).

In a bowl, whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Stir in the grated ginger and pour evenly over the pudding. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Meanwhile make the toffee sauce.

Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream and toffee sauce

Note: This bread and butter pudding reheats perfectly.

 Toffee Sauce

110g (4oz) butter

150g (5oz) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

300g (10oz) golden syrup

225ml (8fl oz) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir as it melts gently on a low heat. Simmer for 4 or 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

Egg and Sausage, Melted Gouda and Hot Sauce in a Brioche Bun 

Serves 8

8 brioche buns with poppy seeds sprinkled on top

8 sausage patties

8 organic eggs, (1 egg omelette per bun)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g to 175g (4oz-6oz) Gouda, grated

Hot chili sauce

Homemade Sausage Patties:

(Makes 8 large patties)

225g (1/2 lb) good, fat streaky pork (rindless)

1 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram,  and a little rosemary)

30g (1 1/4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

1 small garlic clove

1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper

1 small organic egg (optional – helps to bind – reduce breadcrumbs to 50g/2oz if omitting egg)

dash of oil for frying

First make the sausage patties:

Mince the pork at the first or second setting, depending on the texture you like. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the breadcrumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg, and then mix into the other ingredients thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning. Correct if necessary. Divide in 8 and flatten into patties. Keep covered and chilled.

To serve, split the brioche bun in half but keep attached at one side.

Fry the pork patty in a hot pan in a little extra olive oil while you quickly make a 1 egg omelette.

Heat a small frying pan over a high heat. Whisk the egg, add a little dash of milk, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add a little clarified butter to the pan, when sizzling add the egg, tilt the pan and quickly make an omelette and fold.

Sprinkle a layer of grated cheese onto the base of the bun and pop under a grill. When the cheese has melted top with the pork patty and the omelette. Drizzle generously with the hot sauce, fold over the brioche and serve ASAP on a square of parchment.

 Tomato and Chilli Sauce

30g (1oz) green chillies, deseeded and chopped, or 2-3 depending on size

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 1 inch (2cm) dice.

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

1 clove of garlic , crushed

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

1 dessertspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablepsoons water

First make the sauce.  Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugar, vinegar and water.  Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

Weston A Price

Recently, I attended a Weston A Price conference in Dallas, Texas. Many inspirational speakers spoke on a variety of topics linked to optimum health, almost 1,000 people attended from countries around the world, many clinging desperately to the Weston A Price guidelines for optimum nutrition in an effort to recover their health after being on a variety of ‘diets’.

Have you heard of the Weston A Price Foundation? – I hadn’t either until I was asked to speak at a regional WAPF conference here in Ireland in Co Limerick in 2015. At the time I was spearheading a campaign with several others to protect people’s right to sell and buy raw milk should they so choose to do so for any number of health and culinary reasons.

I was invited to speak and so met Sally Fallon Morell MA who is Director of the WAPF and heard about Dr Weston A Price, a Cleveland dentist who died in the late 1940’s.
America was the first to introduce processed food into the market, so the impact of the change in diet on people’s health became evident sooner over there. Dr. Weston A Price observed the dramatic decay in his patients teeth. He suspected it was connected to the increased sugar and ultra-processed foods in their diets and began his lifelong research and documentation of his observations.

For over 10 years he travelled widely to study the diets of isolated, primitive and indigenous people. Comparing the food and culture of aborigines, the New Zealand Maori, Inuits, several African tribes, Polynesians, Pygmies, Lotschueld in Switzerland and the Native American Indians. He had planned to help with their teeth problems but found little decay…. Even though each group were eating very diverse foods he observed definite similarities between each one. All were eating an ancestral diet, none included ultra- processed, refined and denatured foods.

The 11 principals for the Weston A Price optimum nutrition were based on these observations.

I was intrigued to find an organisation that espouses similar values around nutrition to my own particularly their advice around fat consumption at a time when the received wisdom was that low fat was detrimental to our health 

Despite the fact that it now appears that there was not a jot of scientific evidence to link butter or any good natural fat to cardiovascular disease, rather the opposite.

There were similarities common to each culture. Each ate natural fats, offal, from healthy pasture fed animals and poultry and prized them above other meat, drank gelatine rich bone broths, raw milk, and ate fermented foods…

Here are the Weston A Price 11 Principals of optimum nutrition:

  1. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain no refined or denatured foods or ingredients, such as refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup; white flour; canned foods; pasteurized, homogenized, skim or low fat milk; refined or hydrogenated vegetable oils; protein powders; synthetic vitamins; or toxic additives and artificial colourings.
  2. All traditional cultures consume some sort of animal food, such as fish and shellfish; land and water fowl; land and sea mammals; eggs; milk and milk products; reptiles; and insects. The whole animal is consumed—muscle meat, organs, bones and fat, with the organ meats and fats preferred.
  3. The diets of healthy, non-industrialised peoples contain at least four times the minerals and water-soluble vitamins, and TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins found in animal fats (vitamin A, vitamin D and Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2) as the average American diet.
  4. All traditional cultures cooked some of their food but all consumed a portion of their animal foods raw.
  5. Primitive and traditional diets have a high content of food enzymes and beneficial bacteria from lactofermented vegetables, fruits, beverages, dairy products, meats and condiments.
  6. Seeds, grains and nuts are soaked, sprouted, fermented or naturally leavened to neutralize naturally occurring anti-nutrients such as enzyme inhibitors, tannins and phytic acid.
  7. Total fat content of traditional diets varies from 30 percent to 80 percent of calories but only about 4 percent of calories come from polyunsaturated oils naturally occurring in grains, legumes, nuts, fish, animal fats and vegetables. The balance of fat calories is in the form of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids.
  8. Traditional diets contain nearly equal amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.
  9. All traditional diets contain some salt.
  10. All traditional cultures make use of animal bones, usually in the form of gelatin-rich bone broths.
  11. Traditional cultures make provisions for the health of future generations by providing special nutrient-rich animal foods for parents-to-be, pregnant women and growing children; by proper spacing of children; and by teaching the principles of right diet to the young.

Source as much chemical free food as you can find and afford. You’ll easily save the extra cost on supplements and added vitamins and minerals.

Finally, the big new thing in the US is – Real Food – everyone I spoke to was desperately trying to source real unadulterated food. We still have wonderful produce but even here in Ireland it takes more and more of a concerted effort to find unadulterated, nourishing, wholesome food but it’s certainly worth it. Recipes are based on the Weston A Price Foundation principals….

Roast Fish with Winter Herb Butter

A delicious ‘master recipe’ for all very fresh flat fish e.g. brill, turbot, plaice, sole, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it can be a starter or a main course.

1 large, fresh, flat fish or a couple of smaller ones

Winter Herb Butter

110g (4ozs) butter

4 teaspoons mixed finely chopped fresh parsley, chervil and thyme leaves

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/regulo 5.

I like to leave the head on, but if you’d rather not, turn the fish on its side and remove the head.  Wash the fish and clean the slit by the throat very thoroughly.  With a sharp knife, cut through the dark skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh.  Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin.   Roast in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish.  The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked.  Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs.  Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut).  Lift the fish fillets onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them.  Serve immediately.

Devilled Lambs Kidneys on Toast

Serves 2

4 lamb’s kidneys, cut each into quarters

A little extra virgin olive oil

A good shake of Worcestershire sauce

A pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon English mustard

2 tablespoons cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wild watercress sprigs

Coarsely chopped parsley to garnish

4 slices of lathered toast or chargrilled sourdough

Cut the kidneys in half, remove the “plumbing” and cut each one into four pieces.

Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and cook for a minute or two, tossing them occasionally. Add a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce and a generous pinch of pepper, and some English mustard. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add the cream and bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and add more black pepper if you like.

Serve on toast or char-grilled sourdough bread with some sprigs of watercress. For a more substantial supper dish, serve with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Penny’s (Sauerkraut) Kraut-Chi

At its most basic sauerkraut is chopped or shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice.  It has existed in one form or another as ancestral food for thousands of years and sailors have carried it on ships to ward off scurvy because of its high Vitamin C content.  The basic recipe for sauerkraut is 2 tsp of pure flaky sea salt to 450g (1lb) of cabbage.  Any other vegetables in season can be added once they are finely sliced or chopped.  Avoid potatoes as they can become toxic when fermented.  Weigh the vegetables after slicing and calculate the amount of salt needed.  Below is a recipe we enjoy.

Makes 1 litre/900g (2lbs) approximately

500g (18oz) organic cabbage – red, green or a mixture, finely sliced

150g (5oz) onion, finely sliced

2 green peppers, finely sliced

150g (5oz) carrots, grated on a coarse grater

1 chilli, finely chopped

4 teaspoons pure flaky (or similar) seasalt

1 x 1.5 litre (2 1/2 pints) Kilner jar or crock

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Pack into a large jar or crock.  Pack a little at a time and press down hard using your fists, this packs the kraut tight and helps force water out of the vegetables. 

Cover the kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the jar or crock.  Place a clean weight on top (a jug or container filled with water works well).  This weight is to force water out of the vegetables and keep them submerged under the brine.  Cover the top with muslin or a light cloth to keep out flies and dust.  Press down on the weight ever few hours to help extract more liquid from the vegetables.  The liquid should rise above the vegetables.  If the liquid doesn’t rise above the plate level by next day, add some salt water (a basic brine is 2 teaspoons of salt mixed in 600ml/1 pint/2 1/2 cups of water) to bring the level above the plate. 

Place in a cool area and allow to ferment for 4-5 days.  At this stage the kraut is ready to eat.  As you eat the kraut make sure the remainder is well covered in brine by pushing the vegetables under the brine and sealing well.  It will keep for months, the flavour develops and matures over time.

April Bloomfield’s Chopped Chicken Liver on Toast

“A staple at the Spotted Pig, this creamy, still slightly chunky mash of lovely, iron-y livers on toast makes a fine snack, but it’s substantial enough to hold you over while you wait for a friend or a table.  Just the thing, too, with a glass of wine. The liver mixture is a touch sweet from the port and the browned garlic and shallots, with a whisper of acidity from the Madeira. Best of all, it takes just a moment to make. Be sure you get a nice colour on the livers when you cook them. (I like them slightly pink on the inside for this dish; anyone who doesn’t can cook them a bit longer.) Be sure to take in the aroma as they cook – toasty browning liver is one of my favourite smells.”

Makes 4 toasts

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

40g (1 1/2oz) finely chopped shallots

1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tablespoons dry Madeira

1 1/2 tablespoons ruby port

225g (8oz) chicken livers, trimmed and separated into lobes

Maldon or another flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

a small handful of small, delicate flat-leaf parsley sprigs

4 thick slices crusty bread, or 2 large slices, cut in half

Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large sauté pan and set it over high heat.

When it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until they’re golden brown, about a minute. Add the Madeira and port to the pan and give it a good shake, then scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside. Rinse the pan and wipe it out well with kitchen paper, then set it over high heat and add one tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, pat the livers dry and add them to the pan. Cook until the undersides are golden brown, 1 1/2 minutes or so. Carefully turn them over and sprinkle on about 1 teaspoon salt, then give the pan a little shake. Cook the livers just until they feel bouncy, like little balloons, about 30 seconds more. You want them slightly pink inside, not rare. Turn off the heat and add the shallot mixture, liquid and all, to the pan.

Winter Warmers

Love these crisp frosty mornings, fortunately my commute is just two or three minutes across the courtyard to the converted apple barn that has housed the Ballymaloe Cookery School for over 20 years now so I don’t have to worry about icy roads. Instead I day dream about the unctuous stew or casserole I’ll make for supper so this week I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Can you imagine anything better to look forward to than a bubbling pot of deliciousness, if you have a magic slow cooker or crock pot the aroma will greet you when you arrive home, battle weary after a day’s work – what could be more comforting?

There are a couple of golden rules to making a really good stew, choose the less expensive, cuts of meat more muscular such as shoulder or breast of lamb that benefit from slow cooking, flank or shin or beef, chicken thighs rather than breast which dries out easily. Some cubes of fat streaky bacon, or pickled pork add richness and a base of aromatic vegetables add sweetness. Onions, carrots, celery, perhaps a few cloves of garlic or a sprig or two of woody herbs.

Keep both the vegetables and the meat nice and chunky so they don’t disintegrate during the long slow cooking.

Sear the cubes of meat in a little goose fat of olive oil on a hot pan to start with. This simple step caramelizes the meat juices and add extra flavour, then toss the vegetables in the pan before adding to the stew pot or casserole, stock will add so much more flavour than water but a dash of wine, cider or beer, though not essential, add complexity. The seasoning is all important; a generous sprinkling of good salt and freshly ground black pepper early on will be absorbed in to the dish. You can taste and correct the seasoning at the end but it’s difficult to get it right if you’ve forgotten to season earlier.

For stewing and braising the cooking temperature is crucial, it must be slow cooking, reduce the heat the moment the liquid comes to the boil, cover the pot and keep it at a mere simmer until the meat is meltingly tender, 80°C is perfect – What food writer, Jane Grigson called “a mummer” with the liquid swirling gently but only bubbling now and then. Boiling ruins a stew!

Remember traditionally only the meat from older more mature animals was used for stewing. The flavour was richer and during long slow cooking the connective tissue dissolves into gelatine which adds a silky texture to the finished dish.

I also like to include some bone in the stew, it adds an extra depth of flavour – ask your butcher for a couple of slices of marrow bone to add to a beef stew it adds really magic. Now at last we can get more mature animals, chat to your family craft butcher they’ll know the provenance of the meat.

Here are a few of my favourite winter warmers ideal for batch cooking, for you, your family and friends to enjoy. Happy New Year!

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

You’ll love this curry, even ardent curry haters can’t get enough of this deliciously spiced dish.  It’s also an excellent base for other additions such as chunks of cooked potato.

Serves 4 -6

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 – 2 chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

zest of 1 organic lemon or 2 limes

110g (4oz) coriander leaves and stalks (coarsely chopped) plus extra to serve

60g (2 1/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 x 400ml (14fl oz) tin of coconut milk

400ml (14fl oz) homemade vegetable stock

500g (18oz) pumpkin or sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

1 small cauliflower, weighing approx. 350g (12oz), broken into small florets

225g (8oz) firm tofu, cut into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

225g (8oz) French beans, green or a mixture of green and yellow

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

organic lemon or lime wedges, to serve

Combine the garlic, chilli, citrus zest, roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks, cashew nuts, ginger, turmeric, cumin and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor and whizz to a chunky or smooth purée, depending on your preference.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, stir in the garlic and ginger purée and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring. Whisk in the coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 8–10 minutes.

Add the chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin and return to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and tofu chunks and bring back to the boil, then cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the French beans and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes, uncovered, until all of the vegetables are cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over a little lemon or lime juice, to taste. Sprinkle with lots of coriander and serve with lemon or lime wedges.

Venison and Parsnip Stew

If time allows, get this started the day before, the flavour will be even better, but ‘needs must’ if you are racing against the clock just mix all the ingredients in the casserole, bring to the boil and cook gently until the venison is tender and unctuous.

Baked potatoes work brilliantly with venison stew but a layer of potatoes on top provide a wonderfully comforting meal in one pot.   Scatter lots of fresh parsley over the top.

Serves 10

1.3kg shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced – 4cm


300-350ml gutsy red wine

1 medium onion, sliced

3 tablespoons brandy

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt, lightly crushed black pepper

Bouquet garni

Seasoned flour

225g fat salt pork or green streaky bacon, diced -4cm

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

225g small mushrooms, preferably wild ones, but flats have lots of flavour

2 large onions, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

1 large clove garlic, crushed

450ml beef or venison stock

Bouquet garni

Extra butter

Lemon juice

Salt, pepper sugar

8-12 potatoes


Lots of freshly chopped parsley

To serve

Green vegetable – eg Brussels sprouts, calabrese, cabbage

Horseradish sauce – optional

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade ingredients for at least an hour or better still overnight. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and turn in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the pork or bacon in olive oil in a heavy casserole, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat. Transfer to a large bowl.  Next sauté the mushrooms in batches on a high heat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and transfer to a plate, keep aside to be added later.

Add a little more olive oil to the casserole, brown the venison in batches and add to the  bacon.  Add the onion, carrot, parsnip and garlic to the casserole, with a little more olive oil if necessary, toss and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add to the bacon and venison in the bowl. Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the casserole with the strained marinade, bring to the boil. Add back in the venison, bacon, vegetables and garlic and enough stock to cover the items in the casserole. Put in the bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer on top of the stove.  Cover tightly with the lid of the casserole.   Transfer to the oven and cook until the venison is tender.

Test after 1½ hours, cover the entire stew with the peeled potatoes.   Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the casserole and continue to cook for another hour approx. until both the venison and potatoes are cooked. Add back in the cooked mushrooms, return to the boil for 2-3 minutes.

Finally taste the sauce, it will need seasoning and perhaps a little acidity, use lemon juice or a couple of spoons full of crab apple jelly.

Serve with a nice big dish of brussels sprouts, calabrese or cabbage and some horseradish sauce.

Scatter with lots of freshly chopped parsley.

Good to know –  For the best results, cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat the next, this improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is really tender.

Venison Pie

Recipe as above.



340g Puff or Flaky pastry

egg wash

Follow and cook the recipe as above.  Fill the stew into a large pie dish and cover with puff pastry.  Flute the edges, egg wash and decorate with pastry leaves.

Bake in a hot oven 250C/Gas mark 9 for 10 minutes and then reduce heat for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is crisp and golden and pie is bubbling.

Lamb and Pearl Barley Stew and Fresh Herb Gremolata 

A substantial pot of stew fortified with pearl barley, this is really good with lots of gremolata sprinkled over the top. It is a variation of Irish stew, which is the quintessential one-pot dish – the recipe for the original Ballymaloe version can be found in my Forgotten Skills of Cooking book.

Serves 8-10

350g (12oz) piece of green streaky bacon (blanched if salty)

1.8kg (4lb) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb, not less than 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

well-seasoned plain flour, for dusting

a little extra virgin olive oil, for frying

350g (12oz) mushrooms, thinly sliced

700g (1 1/2lbs) whole, small onions – baby ones are nicest

350g (12oz) carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

150g (5oz) parsnips, peeled and thickly sliced

400g (14oz) pearl barley

approx. 2.8 litres (4 3/4 pints) homemade lamb or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Gremolata

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chervil and mint

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped organic lemon zest

flaky sea salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

First make the stew. Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in the well-seasoned flour.

Heat a little oil in a 25cm (10 inch)/3.2-litre casserole over a medium heat and sauté the bacon until crisp. Remove to a plate. Sauté the mushrooms, season well and set aside. Add the lamb to the casserole in batches, with a little more olive oil if necessary, and sauté until golden. Heat control is crucial here: the pan mustn’t burn, yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If the pan is too cool, the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Remove the lamb to a plate. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and sauté the onions, carrots and parsnips until golden. Return the bacon and lamb to the casserole, together with the pearl barley. Season well, pour in the stock, add the thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1–1 1/4 hours until meltingly tender; the cooking time will depend on the age of the lamb and how long it was sautéed for. Add the mushrooms about 30 minutes before the end.

Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Mix together the chopped herbs and garlic in a small bowl, add the lemon zest and season to taste with a little flaky salt.

Once the casserole is cooked, remove the thyme and season to taste. Leave the casserole to sit for 15–30 minutes to allow the pearl barley to swell. (If necessary, the casserole can be reheated later in the day, or the next day.) Serve bubbling hot, sprinkled with the gremolata.

Beef and Agen Prune Stew

Serves 6 – 8

This is a rich and delicious stew that just gets better and better. The flavour deepens when made the day before. Serve with polenta, tagliatelle or some fluffy mashed potato and a tasty green salad, as you wish.

18 Agen mi-cuit or semi-soft prunes, stoned

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

400g (14oz) carrots cut into 1cm slices

285g (9 1/2oz) onions, sliced

1.35kg (3lb) well-hung stewing beef or lean flank, trimmed of fat and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock (see recipe)

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

8 medium potatoes, washed and peeled at the last minute

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a good green salad and some polenta, tagliatelle or mashed potatoes, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325ºF/Gas Mark 3.

Place the prunes in a bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside to soak.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 25cm (10 inch)/3.2 litre (5 1/2 pint) casserole over
a gentle heat and cook the sliced carrots and onions for 10 minutes, covered, until soft. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.

Heat another tablespoon of olive oil in the casserole over a medium heat until almost smoking. Add the pieces of beef and sear on all sides in the hot fat. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, stock and chopped tomatoes and bring slowly to the boil, stirring. Add the onions and carrots back to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours.

Arrange the whole peeled potatoes on top of the meat and vegetables and replace the lid. Return the casserole to the oven and continue to cook for a further 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Add the whole drained prunes and chopped parsley about 15 minutes before the end.

Serve with a green salad and some tagliatelle, polenta or mashed potatoes, if you like.

Sausage and Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper.

Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages.

Serves 4-6

450g homemade or very best quality fennel and chilli pork sausages

550g dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans

Bean cooking water or chicken stock (if necessary)

3 tablespoons olive oil

175g chopped onion

4 large cloves garlic, crushed

1 x 400g tin tomatoes

1 large sprig rosemary chopped, approx 1 tablespoon

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar


flat parsley

Drain the beans and save the cooking water if you have cooked them yourself.

Meanwhile, sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary. Simmer for 5-6 minutes add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Meanwhile fry the sausages in a few drops of olive oil, on a medium heat, when coloured on all sides, add to the bean stew.  Continue to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the sausage is hot through. (Chorizo does not need to be cooked ahead).  Scatter with lots of flat parsley and chervil and serve with a salad of organic leaves.

Note: The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid.

Christmas Leftovers

Just four days to go until the big Christmas Dinner. Stop – allow yourself to slow down for a few minutes….Ask yourself, on a scale of 1 – 10 how vital is it to dash to the shops once again to buy those last few things?

I am challenging myself to ‘do’ presents rather than buy presents. It can be so fun, economically and frankly much more meaningful. Think of ‘a gift of a time’ – a pressie of a couple of babysitting sessions, an afternoon sowing seeds and gardening after Christmas, a-mid January pressie of a lamb or chicken casserole, a couple of litres of chunky winter warming soups.

Well, despite all my good advice to you on how to achieve as hassle free Christmas, I’ve still got several items on my own ‘to do’ lists that I haven’t had the satisfaction of crossing out as yet. Wrapping last minute presents often catches me out but this year many of the family and our lovely team here at Ballymaloe Cookery School are going to get a copy of my latest book One Pot Feeds All, which I hope will make their busy lives a little easier. I’ve already signed and wrapped them in brightly coloured tissue but still lots more to be done but I’m getting lots of help from my older grandchildren.

Then only five sleeps away from St Stephen’s or Boxing Day, when we can all relax and breathe a sigh of relief till next year but for me there’s still much fun to be had dreaming up delicious away to use some odds and ends and bits and bobs lurking in my fridge and pantry.

Even when you are super organised, Christmas dinner is still quite a mission, but whipping up some recycled leftovers is a more chilled affair entirely. I love the improvisation and creative challenge of incorporating dollops of this and that into something entirely different. Think Asian, Moroccan, Middle Eastern and Mexican as well as traditional favourites.

So let’s think what you might have left over apart from the usual morsels of turkey, ham or goose, maybe plum pudding, stale bread, cranberries, sprouts….

Cranberries, you don’t have to fuss about, pop them into the freezer, they’ll keep for months but better still, remember them and throw a fistful into scones, a muffin  mix or soda bread. Cranberry sauce keeps for weeks, maybe longer and will add oomph to a roast chicken or an apple tart.

Brussel sprout soup is absolutely delicious, quite the revelation actually.

Strip away every last morsel of turkey off the carcas, including the skin, there are so many delicious ways to enjoy any of those precious bits left over after the family have descended on the remains to make turkey and stuffing sandwiches. Make sure to make a batch or two of mayo for over Christmas, I love to add some chopped watercress to slather over those turkey sandwiches.

I’ve included two recipes, Mexican Chilaquiles and Laksa.

There’s also a million ways to use up the remains of the ham, chop up little morsels and add to mac and cheese or cauliflower cheese  – one of the most comforting of all dishes to tuck into in early January. Smoked fish also adds oomph to these two favourites.

I also love to have some plum pudding left over to slice and cook gently in a little butter on a pan. If you have Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce, well, have that with it otherwise slake some sweetened whipped cream with Irish whiskey and put a generous dollop on top.

By the way there’s no rush to use up the plum pudding it will keep perfectly well wrapped for several weeks at least.

How about all those miscellaneous root vegetables, I’ve got the perfect solution, why not make one of my favourite things in the whole world  – Picallilli. This recipe was given to me by Gary Masterson one of the senior lecturers at the Ballymaloe Cookery School – it’ll keep for months and will enhance so many meals and serve as a coveted present for your friends.

Perhaps you have some croissants left over, why not try this Ham and Cheese Croissant Pudding – Serve it with a salad of green leaves and the last of the soft herbs lurking in the corner for your fridge.

Little ends of cheese can be grated, rind and all, and added to sauces, into gratins, biscuits and scones…..scraps of blue are best added to soft butter to melt over steaks or burgers.

So enjoy the satisfaction of emptying your fridge and pantry in a delicious way so there’s zero waste – one of our big new year resolutions!  


Chilaquiles Verdes o Rojos

A delicious way to use up stale tortillas.

Serves 4

6 –8 corn tortillas (stale is fine)

12fl oz (350ml) Tomato and Chilli Sauce (see recipe)

8fl oz (225ml) chicken broth approx.

1 large chicken breast, freshly cooked and shredded with fingers

salt and freshly ground pepper


4 tablespoons sour cream

8 tablespoons crumbled Queso fresco or grated Mozzarella and Cheddar mixed

1 onion, thinly sliced (optional), rinsed under cold water and drained

fresh coriander leaves

Ovenproof dish 8 x 5 inches (20 x 10 cm)

Cut the tortillas into eights.  Dry them out in a moderate oven if they are moist, they are best stale and leathery for this dish.

Heat oil in a deep fry and cook the tortilla chips in batches until crisp and light golden.  Drain on paper towels.

Just before serving, spread half the tortillas over the base of a deep sided serving dish.  Cover with finely shredded chicken, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Thin out the sauce with a little chicken broth if it is too thick.  Put another layer of tortillas on top. Cover with the hot sauce and a sprinkling of cheese.

Heat through in a preheated oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 5-10 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve immediately with sour cream, more grated cheese for sprinkling and fresh coriander leaves.

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

1 1/2lbs (700g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled OR

2 x 14oz (400g) can good quality tomatoes, drained

hot green chillies to taste (2 – 4 Serrano chillies or 2 – 3 Jalapeño chillies)

2oz (50g) onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon sunflower or peanut oil

salt and sugar to taste

Roughly chop the tomatoes and whizz in a blender or food processor.

Seed the chillies if you wish. Chop and add to the blender or processor along with the onion and garlic.  Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan.  When hot, add all the pureé at once and stir constantly for about 5 minutes.  The pureé will cook into a thick, more orange-coloured sauce.  Season with salt and if necessary add a little sugar.  Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Turkey and Coconut Laksa

Serves 6-8 as a starter

2 red chillies, chopped with seeds

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2,5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

150g (5oz) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks coarsely chopped

juice of 1-2 limes

50ml (2fl ozs) toasted sesame oil

250g (8oz) leftover turkey (cut into thin shreds)

2 x 400ml (2 x 14ozs) tins coconut milk

generous 700ml homemade chicken stock

1 tablespoon Nam Pla, fish sauce

150g (5oz) fine rice noodles

8 spring onions, finely sliced at an angle

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pour boiling water over the bowl of rice noodles and allow to soak until soft – 10 minutes approximately. Drain and cut into 5cm (2 inch) lengths. Put the chilli, garlic, ginger, coriander and juice of one lime into a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste.

Thinly slice the cooked turkey meat at an angle (1/8 inch wide) and set aside.

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and fry the chilli paste for 3 minutes. Add the whisked coconut milk and turkey or chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the thinly shredded turkey, bring back to the boil and barely simmer for a further 3-4 minutes or until the turkey is warmed through. Add the fish sauce and taste and add more lime juice, salt and pepper if necessary.

Divide the noodles into serving bowls, ladle in the hot soup and garnish with spring onion and coriander leaves.


Do not allow the soup to boil once the chicken is added, otherwise the meat will be tough. 

Gary’s Piccalilli

Good with Cheddar cheese, ham, oily fish, terrines, Paté, pork pies, cold meats etc.

Works well with different vegetables and vinegars, find your best combination

1 cauliflower (700g/1 1/2lbs)
3 large onions (600g/1 1/4lbs)
8 shallots (300g/10oz)
25g (1oz) salt
1 cucumber
300ml (10fl oz) malt vinegar
600ml (1 pint) white wine vinegar
1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
350g (12oz) castor sugar
50g (2oz) English mustard powder
25g (1oz) turmeric
3-4 tablespoons corn flour (70g)

Break or dice the cauliflower into small florets about 1 cm, chop the onions and shallots into small 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Place all in colander over bowl and sprinkle with salt and leave 24 hours or minimum overnight. Rinse in cold water and dry.

Peel (optional) and deseed the cucumber and sprinkle with a little salt and leave to stand in sieve for 10-15 minutes, rinse, dry and add the cauliflower onion mix.
Put the 2 vinegars and chili flakes and bring to a boil to infuse and leave to cool. Strain if required to remove chili flakes.

Combine the sugar, mustard powder, turmeric and cornflour in a bowl and make a paste with 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of cooled vinegar mix, bring the remaining vinegar back to the boil and pour in the mustard paste and whisk till blended, bring back to boil and cook for 3 minutes then pour over the vegetables and mix well and pour into hots jars. Best left to mature for a few days but is good eaten straight away.

Will keep for at least a month refrigerated.

Turkey, Watercress, Pomegranate and Pecan Nut Salad

Use up leftover morsels or turkey in a delicious way, it’s your call but I prefer not to refrigerate leftover turkey. Just wrap in a tea towel and keep in a cool place to use as required.

Serves 8

1 1/2-2 lbs(700-900g) unrefrigerated leftover turkey

Watercress or a selection of salad leave, frisée and rocket leaves


6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil

2 tablespoons best quality wine vinegar

1-2 teaspoons honey

1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 pomegranates depending on size

3-4oz (75/110g) fresh pecans or walnuts

If the turkey has been refrigerated, bring back to room temperature.  Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Cut the pomegranate in half and flick the seeds into a bowl – careful not to include any of the astringent pith.

Roast or toast the walnuts or pecans briefly, chop coarsely.  Just before serving, sprinkle a little of the dressing over the salad leaves in a deep bowl.  Toss gently.  There should be just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten.  Taste.  Add a little dressing to the pomegranate seeds, toss and taste, correct seasoning if necessary.  Slice the turkey into chunky pieces.  Sprinkle a little dressing over and toss gently.  Combine the three ingredients.  Divide pleasingly between 8 large white plates.  Sprinkle with roughly chopped pecans or walnuts and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Cheese and Ham Croissant Pudding

Serves 6 People

6 croissants

125g cooked ham or bacon

250g  gruyère and cheddar mixed, thinly sliced or grated

2 -3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard


5 eggs

100ml whole milk

50g grated parmesan

30g gruyere

Freshly chopped parsley

Cut the croissants crossways. Fill each one with a slice of ham, a slick of mustard and a generous layer of grated cheese, reserving half the cheese for adding to the ‘custard’ mix.

Butter an ovenproof gratin dish, arrange the croissant sandwiches in the base in a single layer. Whisk the eggs well with the milk. Fold in half the grated cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour evenly over the croissants. Allow to sit for 30 mins or longer if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 25 – 30 mins or until the ‘custard’ is set and the cheese is melted and golden on top. Flash under the grill if necessary.

Serve with a salad of organic leaves with lots of sprigs of flat leave parsley.

Macaroni with Cheddar Cheese

Serves 6

Macaroni cheese is one of my children’s favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8ozs (225g) macaroni

6 pints (3.4 litres) water

2 teaspoons salt

2ozs (50g) butter

2ozs (50g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 1/2 pints (850ml) boiling milk

1/4 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 ozs (150g) grated mature Cheddar cheese (We use our local Cheddar which is made at Mitchelstown and matured at Imokilly Creamery)

1 oz (25g) grated Cheddar cheese for sprinkling on top

1 x 2 pint (1.1 litre) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well.

Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place.  Turn into a pie dish, sprinkle grated cheese over the top.  Reheat in a preheated moderate oven – 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. It is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce.  Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Christmas Ham Leftovers

Add 8oz (225g) diced ham and lots of chopped parsley to the macaroni cheese as you put it into the dish.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon or Smoked Mackerel

Add 8ozs (225 g) of smoked salmon or smoked mackerel dice to the macaroni cheese.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat Ruggelach

Makes 16


110g (4oz) cream cheese

110g (4oz) softened butter

150g (5oz) flour


1/4 – 1/2 lbs Ballymaloe Mincemeat


1 egg, beaten

castor sugar

Beat the cream cheese vigorously with the butter until well mixed and softened.  Stir in the flour gradually.  Gather into a ball and wrap in cling film or parchment paper.  Chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll the pastry out into a 33cm (12 inch) circle.  Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the pastry.  Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and run the rolling pin over it a couple of times to fix the filling firmly into the pastry.  Lift off the paper.

Divide the circle up like a cake into 16 triangles.  Roll up each one, starting with the wider end, as if you were making a croissant.   Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with castor sugar.  Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Turkey and all the trimmings…

Once again the Christmas lights are twinkling in the high streets. Somehow it feels as though the festive season comes round earlier and earlier each year. Santa and his elves have elbowed the harvest pumpkins and Halloween ghouls well out of the way until next Autumn.  

Children of all ages are being whipped into a frenzy of excitement by ads for this year’s new big thing and parents are feeling emotionally blackmailed into fulfilling their little dotes unrealistic expectations. Is it any wonder that we are seeing more and more column inches about the growing number of people who ‘hate Christmas’ and just want to bury their heads and groan every time they hear Bing Crosby or Michael Bublé crooning over the airwaves.

It’s not just the unwanted presents and added expense coupled with the extra work and sheer exhaustion. The mere thought makes some people long to go to curl up and snooze until early January. Spending Christmas with their nearest but ‘not so dearest’ can cause acute anxiety in itself. Let’s spare a thought though for the many who have actually lost dearly loved ones. Christmas, when everyone around seems impossibly cheery, seems to accentuate the heartbreak and loneliness and bring memories of happier times flooding back.

Time to remind ourselves of the spirit of Christmas and to remember that it should be a time of caring and sharing, comfort and joy and dare I say ‘simplicity’. So after all that, let’s ‘Have ourselves a Merry, little Christmas’.

As ever, a bit of advance planning will mean that everyone’s more relaxed and able to enjoy the fun….so let’s make a plan. Regular readers will know I’m a great list maker, for me, lists and lots of them are the answer. I think we all now realise, that Christmas is not just a one-day event but closer to two weeks. If you’ve got a big family, don’t feel you have to do everything yourselves – it’s good to begin by allocating some fun roles to as many family and friends as you can cajole or shame into taking on some tasks.

Decide on the menu for the big day, whether it’s turkey and ham or maybe a goose, order the very best you can afford. Beautifully reared organic birds tend to get snapped up early…. Hurry, hurry. . . .

We tend to be total traditionalists – The Christmas dinner menu is sacred, no one seems to want to change a single iota, we must have a gorgeous plump really well hung turkey. I order it ‘New York dressed’ and hang it for 4 or 5 weeks for maximum succulence.

Start with a two week planner, fill in the basics and create a shopping list. It’s easy to overestimate the amount of food we need but a well-stocked larder means one can whip up simple meals in minutes. I know turkey sandwiches are delicious but if there are just 2 or 4 in your family, ask yourself do you really need a turkey or goose, how about a plump pheasant, a crispy duck or a really beautiful organic chicken?

This year I’ve included our new favourite Scrunchy Spiced Winter Vegetable Pie for those who enjoy a lighter meat free meal.

It’s time to get cracking, so let’s plan a couple of batch cooking sessions. We love to make lots and lots of soup, such a brilliant standby to have in the freezer in small containers, perfect to quickly defrost when you need to produce a comforting meal in a hurry.

I also love to have some bags of pre-weighed soda bread mix ready to pop into a bowl. Just turn on the oven then add  a level teaspoon of baking soda and some buttermilk, cut the dough into scones and hey presto, you’ll have a bowl of chunky soup and freshly baked scones in less than 15 minutes. Some cured meats, farmhouse cheese, membrillo, a few tangerines and you have a perfect little feast.

Most of the accompaniments and sauces both sweet and savoury can be made weeks ahead, make more than you need as gifts for your friends, cranberry sauce, brandy butter and lots of chutneys and relishes.

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup with Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

150g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

110g (4oz) onions, chopped

110g (5oz) potatoes, diced

350g (12oz) swede turnips, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) parsley, chopped


fried diced bacon

tiny croutons

flat parsley sprigs or coarsely chopped parsley

First make the Parsley Oil.

Whizz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the oil.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked.  Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. 

To Serve.

Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Scrunchy Spiced Vegetable Filo Pie

This root vegetable pie can also be made in individual ‘snails’, but this delicious flaky version comes in a sauté pan. This version is good for a feast as it serves 12–15 people. You can halve the recipe if you’re serving smaller numbers.

Serves 12-15

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) chopped onions

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

500g (18oz) chopped carrots

450g (16oz) peeled and chopped celeriac

220g (8oz) peeled and chopped parsnip

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

6 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

2 teaspoon turmeric

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

220g (8oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms

4 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (20fl oz) vegetable stock

9 – 10 sheets of filo pastry, 30 x 43cm (12 x 17 inch) (about one packet)

45g (2oz) melted butter, for brushing

egg wash, made by beating 1 organic, free-range egg with 1 tablespoon whole milk

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the vegetables into uniform sized cubes about ¾ inch.  Heat the olive oil in a 26cm (10 inch) ovenproof sauté pan, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, celeriac and parsnips.

Season with salt generously and freshly ground pepper, stir, cover the pot and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes.  Meanwhile heat the cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds on a pan until they smell aromatic – just a few seconds.  Crush lightly, add to the vegetables stir in the sautéed mushrooms.  Cook for 1 – 2 minutes.  Take off the heat – sprinkle over the flour, turmeric and a pinch of sugar. Stir well.

Return to the pan to heat and add the vegetable stock gradually, stirring all the time. Bring to the boil, cover the pot and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender but not mushy. Remove from the pan, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Allow to cool

Brush the sauté pan with melted butter. Brush each sheet of filo with melted butter, fold over width wise, layer up the pastry in the base of the sauté pan or roasting dish so that it comes up the sides, allow enough pastry to hang over the sides to fold over and encase the filling.

Brush another sheet of filo with melted butter, divide into quarters, scrunch each piece lightly and arrange on top.

Spread the filling evenly over the pastry and bring up the sides of the filo to enclose the filling. Scrunch 3 sheets of filo and place on top of the pie.

Chill in the fridge. Just before baking, brush all over with the egg wash.  Put the sauté pan onto a gas jet at medium, cook for 3-4 minutes or until the pan heats and the base begins to brown.  Transfer to the oven and bake for about ½ an hour until puffed up and golden.

Serve, cut into wedges, while still warm and flaky.

Roast Potatoes and Jerusalem Artichokes with Bay Leaves

Do you know about Jerusalem artichokes, they are in season from November to March and look like knobbly potatoes.  Avery important source of inulin which enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in our systems, particularly important after a course of antibiotics.

Jerusalem Artichokes are called sunchokes in the US, they are a member of the sunflower family

Serves 8

450g (1lb) potatoes

450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes                                 

12 unpeeled whole garlic cloves

flaky sea salt and cracked pepper

50g (2oz) duck fat or extra virgin olive oil

1 large sprig of bay leaves – about 20 leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6

Peel the potatoes, I like smaller potatoes best for this, but the large ones can be cut in to two, four or even 6 wedges depending on size. Scrub and cut the unpeeled Jerusalem artichokes in to similar size pieces.

Heat the duck fat or the extra virgin olive oil in a roasting tin.  Dry the potatoes and artichokes  well, toss in the fat or oil, add several sprigs  of bay, about 20 leaves. Season well with flaky sea salt and lots of pepper, and toss again.

Cook for 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, increase the heat to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, add the garlic cloves and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes.  Turn into a hot dish and serve.

I like the edges of the potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes to be a little caramelised.

Christmas Salad Wreath

We serve this salad family style in the middle of the table.

A delicious festive starter, light, refreshing and fun to serve.

Serves 6 – 8 or more depending on size

24 fresh walnut halves

175 – 200gr (6-7oz) of mixed small salad leaves

2 – 3 ripe juicy pears

300 – 350g (10-12oz) ripe Crozier blue, crumbled (Use your favourite blue cheese)

Pomegranate seeds from 1/2 -1 fruit

Fresh sprigs of chervil and mint if available


1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pre heat the oven to 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4.

Taste the walnuts and make sure they are not rancid.

Spread them out on a baking tray and roast in a preheated oven until nice and toasty (8-10 minutes), allow to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing, season with flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Just before serving

Arrange the salad leaves in a wreath shape on a large round plate.

Peel and core the pears and cut into wedges.

Arrange around the top of the salad wreath, sprinkle the crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds over the top.

Drizzle with a little dressing of put a little bowl of whisked dressing into the centre and serve immediately.




Two-Bite Parmesan Scones

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones only take 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.

Makes 41

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon  teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14fl oz/1) approx.

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan or 110g (4oz) finely grated cheddar cheese

Cutter 4cm (1 1/2 inch) approximately

First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Brush the top with a little buttermilk or egg wash, dip each scone into grated Parmesan.  Allow 2.5cm (1 inch) or so between each one on a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 10 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom, when cooked they will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g. rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

A Tear and Share Christmas Tree

Have fun building the teeny weeny scones into a Christmas tree shape.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

It’s also fun to cook three in a line and serve pierced with a rosemary or thyme sprig.

Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese Gratin

Serves 6-8

1 medium sized cauliflower with green leaves

1 head of broccoli


Mornay Sauce

600ml (1 pint) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion

3-4 slices of carrot

6 peppercorns

sprig of thyme or parsley

roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

150g (5oz) grated cheese, e.g. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyére, Parmesan and Cheddar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard


Chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Prepare and cook the cauliflower and broccoli.

Remove the outer leaves and wash both the cauliflower and the leaves well.  Put not more than 2.5cm (1in) water in a saucepan just large enough to take the cauliflower; add a little salt.  Chop the leaves into small pieces and cut the cauliflower in quarters or eighths; place the cauliflower on top of the green leaves in the saucepan, cover and simmer until cooked, 10-15 minutes approx. Test by piercing the stalk with a knife, there should be just a little resistance.  Similarly cut the broccoli into small pieces place the broccoli in simmering, salted water for 8 – 10 mins approx. or until tender when pierced with a knife.

The secret of maximum flavour is minimum water.

Meanwhile make the Mornay Sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the onion, carrot, peppercorns and herb.  Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in enough roux to thicken to a light coating consistency. Add most of the grated cheese (reserving enough to sprinkle over the dish) and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning, it should good and perky. Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower in an ovenproof gratin dish, and sprinkle with the remainder of the grated cheese. The dish may be prepared ahead to this point.

Put into the preheated oven or under the grill to brown. If the cauliflower cheese is allowed to get completely cold, it will take 20-25 minutes to reheat in a moderate oven. 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.  Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Old-Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing

Serves 10-12

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

Brining the turkey makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour, either dry or wet brine. (See below on Wet and Dry Brining).

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6oz) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16oz) approx. soft breadcrumbs (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper


neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey

225g (8oz) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2 ¾ – 3 ¼ hours depending on the weight.  A brined turkey takes a shorter time to cook. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey will brown beautifully. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with dampened parchment paper.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

To Test:  The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De-glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest and grandest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

A Simple Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse or as a filling for a meringue roulade. I like it pure and simple but of course you can add some grated orange rind or a splash of brandy if you wish!

Serves 6 approximately

175g (6oz) fresh or frozen cranberries

4 tablespoons (60ml/scant 2 1/2fl oz) water

75g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a small heavy-based stainless steel saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.

Note:  It should be soft and juicy, add a little warm water if it has accidently over cooked.

Bread and Parsley Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl. I’m loving the addition of some freshly chopped parsley at the end.


600ml (1 pint) whole milk

110g (4oz) soft white breadcrumbs

2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves

35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

75ml (3oz) thick cream

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice mix made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Brine a Turkey

Wet Brine

Brining hugely enhances the flavour of poultry and pork. Both add flavour. For wet brine, you’ll need a large enough container to fully submerge the turkey in the brine for 24 hours. Some people brine the bird in their stainless steel sink.

Use 100g salt to every 1 litre of water, stir to fully dissolve. Drain and dry well before stuffing and covering with butter soaked muslin.

Dry Brine

Rub pure salt all over the surface of the turkey. Leave overnight, next day pat the bird dry and proceed as above.

Gutsy herbs like thyme and rosemary can be chopped and added to the salt. Not sure why but brining decreases the cooking time so check for doneness at least 30 minutes earlier and allow to rest for a further 30 minutes.

Batch Cooking

The new buzz word in the kitchen is ‘Batch Cooking’. Quite simply, it means cooking double or triple the recipe each time so meals can be planned ahead, mixed and matched and frozen in handy, easy to defrost size portions. Typically, the big batch cooking session is done at the weekend, often on a Sunday.

It not only saves time during the week but also helps your budget

and reduces food waste. Here’s where the freezer, the magical kitchen appliance that almost everyone owns, can really transform busy people’s lives and you’ll also have more special time to enjoy and spend with your family. But you’ll need to use it ‘smartly’ so here are a few tips.

Most foods freeze brilliantly, including sausage rolls, meat balls, breads, soups, stocks, beans, stews, casseroles, tagines, muffins, fishcakes, burgers, cooked rice, cookie dough, cakes …..food will freeze for ever but as a general rule it’s best to use up within a few weeks rather than months. Of course it will keep frozen but both flavour and texture gradually deteriorate as does the nutrient value. Some foods like lettuce and mayo don’t freeze well – they will wilt and split.

For maximum convenience, freeze food in smaller rather than larger portions unless you plan to serve a whole dish for 4 – 6 people. If not, freeze individual or a two portion serving instead – they defrost so much faster and cut down on waste. Recycled yoghurt pots or muffin tins are perfect for freezing individual portions. Tray freeze whenever possible, meat balls, sausage rolls, homemade fish fingers and chicken nuggets…  Then pop them into a reusable plastic box, interleaved with parchment paper or bag them in reusable bags, defrosting what you want when you fancy it.

Save tetra packs and litre milk cartons for soups. Allow some space for expansion during freezing. Cook the favourite dishes that your family love but more of them.  Here are a few favourite standbys…

Tomato fondue, we are never without this ‘great convertible’ serve as a vegetable, a sauce for pasta, topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, base for a bean stew, sauce for grilled fish or a chicken breast…Peperonata and mushroom a la crème are two other indispensable standbys.

All soup…. I’d never be without a stock of soup both thin and chunky. Cook up a couple of batches of bean stew also and of course some veg and meat stews, gratins and lasagnes.

When you manage to source some really fresh fish, an increasing challenge, tray freeze a few portions and also cook up a batch of fish cakes and a few fish pies with some creamy mash on top. Mash potato or champ and potato cakes are also brilliant to batch cook, freeze both in dishes and individual portions. So here are a few dishes to get started on….

Tomato Fondue x 3

This is triple the recipe that serves 6 so enough to serve 18 portions.

You’ll never be short of a quick meal if you have some tomato fondue in the freezer, Use it as an accompanying vegetable, a base for a bean or fish stew, sauce for pasta, topping for pizza or frittata, filling for an omelette . . . .

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

350g (12oz) onions, sliced

3 garlic clove, crushed

2.7kgs (6lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled or 6 x 14oz tins chopped tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

6 tablespoons of any or a combination of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

a few drops of balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Cook, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes soften.

A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhance the flavour.

Homemade Fish Cakes x 3

Fish cakes are absolutely scrummy when they are carefully made and freeze perfectly.

Makes 24

3-3.5 lbs (1.3kg -1.5kg) cold leftover fish, e.g. salmon, cod, haddock, hake (a proportion of smoked fish such as haddock or mackerel is good)

3oz (75g) butter

12oz (350g) onion, finely chopped

3lb (1.3kg) mashed potato

3 egg yolks

3 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

2 beaten eggs

fresh white breadcrumbs

clarified butter or a mixture of butter and oil for frying

To make the fish cakes, melt the butter in a saucepan, toss in the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 4 or 5 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl, add the mashed potato and the flaked cooked fish, egg yolk and chopped parsley or a mixture of fresh herbs. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste. Form the mixture into fish cakes about 2oz (50g) each. Coat them first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally in crumbs. Refrigerate until needed, then cook on a medium heat in clarified butter until golden on both sides. Serve piping hot with pats or slices of garlic butter, tomato fondue and a good green salad.

 Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6 but will easily double up for batch cooking.

Freeze in portion sizes that suit your situation.

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz/1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups) milk

50-110g (2-4oz/1/2 – 1 stick) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Scallion and Potato Cakes

A great use for any leftover mash and easily frozen prior to cooking and defrosted as needed. Shape leftover scallion mash into potato cakes, cook until golden on both sides in clarified butter or butter and oil. Serve piping hot.

Basic Vegetable Soup

Serves 6

Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula. When following this formula you can easily double or triple your recipe and freeze in batches.

1 part diced onion

1 part diced potato

3 parts any diced vegetable of your choice, or a mixture

5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed


One can use water, chicken or vegetable stock and season simply with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added.

So one can make a myriad of different soups depending on what’s fresh, in season and available.

If potatoes and onions are the only option, one can still make two delicious soups by increasing one or the other and then adding one or several herbs.  We have even used broad bean tops, radish leaves and nettles in season but kale, cabbage or leek tops would work excellently now.


50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice

340g (12oz) chopped vegetables of your choice, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (5fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stock. Boil until soft, liquidise, sieve or put through a mouli. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Adjust seasoning.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

Another great recipe to double up and freeze for a busy day when you want something nourishing and comforting to eat.

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound ‘old hat’ always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.

Serves 4-6

1 x 3 1/2 lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

12oz (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

1lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)

12oz (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole, if large cut in chunks)

homemade chicken stock – 1 1/4 pints (750ml) approx.

sprig of thyme

Roux – optional


2 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. 1 inch (2 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sautéed for.

When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning.  The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la creme is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.


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