AuthorDarina Allen

Call for Recipes: Traditional Irish Cooking

Darina Allen

In 1995 my book on Traditional Irish Food was published.  This book recorded traditional foods, recipes and culture.   It is still in print and continues to sell well, however my publisher has asked me to work on a new extended edition.

I am searching for any descriptions of traditional food, methods of preparation or production.  Any information or memories of what you, your mother or grandmother cooked, (and indeed grandfathers!) would be greatly welcomed. Even memories of conversations about food and old family recipes would be valuable.  I am be particularly interested in old handwritten recipes and if people lend me books I will look after them carefully and guarantee to return them.

Many families had their own way of preparing and cooking dishes and sadly these were not always documented, often its only when somebody has passed on that we realise that we no longer have the old recipes.  Perhaps all we have are some sketchy memories.  There is a real urgency to record this information before its too late,  food has changed utterly in our generation and we need to remember and document the food that has delighted and nourished us over the years.

Please send any memories, recipes, notebooks, recipe books or details you are willing to share to me at the Ballymaloe Cookery School by one of the following means.



Darina Allen
Traditional Irish Cookbook
Ballymaloe Cookery School
Co. Cork

Please include your name, address and phone number if possible.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from anyone with recipes to share and keep.

Darina Allen is awarded ‘Hall of Fame’ at Food and Wine Magazines Annual Awards.

On Sunday evening, Darina was delighted to accept an award at the annual awards ceremony for ‘Food and Wine’ magazine in the Four Seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge, Dublin.  Joining her Mother in Law Myrtle Allen who won the award several years ago, as well as many other important figures in Irish food, Darina gave a short speach reiterating the importance that all those in the room played in ensuring the next generation learn the vital life skill that is cooking. We all have a responsibility to teach our children how to cook.

Congratulations to Darina from All at Ballymaloe.

Book Signing – December 5th

Darina will be signing copies of her new Book ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ on Saturday December 5th from 1pm if you are in the area.  Darina’s new book has over 700 recipes using all the traditional methods and flavours.

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal AwardLast week brought an unexpected announcement, Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards honoured my “outstanding contribution to the Irish Culinary Sector”.
The citation read – “Darina Allen’s award was given in recognition of her exceptional work in providing an outstanding level of culinary education at Ballymaloe Cookery School, for her involvement in the Slowfood movement and her activities as a lobbyist for the artisan food industry, and for her commitment and passion in protecting and promoting traditional Irish and local food. Her contribution has been invaluable in creating the high standard of artisan food production and culinary expertise which exists in Ireland today.”

Was that not a lovely surprise on a Monday morning.

As a friend wryly remarked in her congratulatory note – great to get a pat on the back while you’re still alive, they (not Euro-toques) usually wait till you’re pushing up the daisies.

Euro-toques – The European Community of Cooks, was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europe’s top chefs and cooks about food quality and the future of food.

Every year they honour artisans and food producers who produce real quality. Speaking on behalf of Euro-toques, Founder member Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House commented “We cannot do our job as cooks without top-quality ingredients and recognizing and promoting the people who provide these is central to what Euro-toques is all about. We are delighted to have here today, a group of people who have championed traditional and local products and production methods and have carried on and developed their businesses in the face of great challenges.

One of our grave concerns in recent years has been the shutting down of small abattoirs right across the country, so we are delighted to recognize a butcher who has continued to raise, slaughter and sell his own animals on his own premises – this is the true meaning of traceability. We also see the depletion of native fish stocks as one of the major food threats currently and are therefore awarding a fisherman who has taken a special interest in conservation. All these people contribute in a small, but vital way, to ensuring a viable and diverse food supply into the future.”

This year, a butcher, a baker, a fisherman, a miller and a dairy farmer were amongst those commended by top Irish chefs for their contribution to Irish food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Cavan Crystal Hotel and this year’s awards were presented by Cavan Euro-toques chef, cookbook author and TV personality Neven Maguire.

Awards were presented to five outstanding food producers/suppliers:

Glenilen Dairy, Drimoleague, West Cork
Recognised for diversifying a traditional dairy farm into production of quality dairy-based products including traditional country butter, clotted cream and yoghurt, as well as a range of cheesecakes, mousses and desserts.

Michael McGrath Butcher, Lismore, Co Waterford
A fourth generation butcher recognized for maintaining traditional methods, above all for retaining their on-premises abattoir and slaughtering their own cattle, as well as providing a slaughtering service for local farmers.

Flahavan Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford
The well-known producer of Flahavan’s Oats, recognized for maintaining high production standards in keeping with traditional methods and environmental concerns.

Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth
A fisherman for 35 years, Terry Butterly now processes seafoods for supply to some of the top restaurants on the east coast. He was recognized for his special interest in conservation and the service he provides in informing chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish.

Ditty’s Home Bakery, Castledawson, Northern Ireland.
A third generation bakery producing traditional Ulster breads, using ingredients from local artisan suppliers. Recognised for promoting regional diversity and developing new artisan products.

These awards are unique in that nominations are made by the Euro-toque members, and winners are then carefully selected by the Euro-toques Food Committee, made up of chefs from all over the country. Therefore, these awards give producers recognition from the top industry chefs and cooks in the country.

Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved piece by Cavan Crystal Design.

Serves 8-10

425ml (15 fl ozs) Glenilen natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves
Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards
Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine.

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamom cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts.

Serves 4-6

2½ – 3 lbs (1.35kg) lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick
8 medium or 12 baby carrots
8 medium or 12 baby onions
8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like
salt and freshly ground pepper
1½-1¾ pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablesp. roux, optional – see recipe

1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tablesp. freshly chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render down the fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you could leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small leave them whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, if they are small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1½ hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

When the stew is cooked, pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan. Slightly thicken by whisking in a little roux if you like. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish.

4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables.
Increase the stock to 2 pints (1.2L) as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

These nutritious biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

1 lb (450g) Flahavan’s rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
12 ozs (340g) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

Swiss roll tin, 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla essence, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, until golden and slightly caramelised – about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 9 inch (23cm) x 13 inch (33cm) Swiss roll thin is used.

This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon cream

1½ lbs (675 g) beetroot cooked
½ oz (15 g) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar (if necessary)
5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream
1-2 tsp finely chopped chives.

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain!. Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the beetroot toss, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8½ x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

Choose a piece of perfect Irish farmhouse cheese made from cow, goat or ewe’s milk – Milleens, Gubbeen, Durrus, Cashel Blue, Baylough, Desmond, Croghan, Ardsallagh, Knockalara, Kerry, Cooleeney, Coolea, Abbey Blue, Killorglin, Chetwynd, Ardrahan, Lavistown, Ring, Boilie … there are over 80 to choose from and serve with Ditty’s Oatcakes.

Hot Tips
The winners
, Annagassan, Co Louth – Tel 042-9372527
, Main St. Lismore, Co Waterford –
Tel 058-54350


are now available in London at
Tom’s Deli, 226 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RH – Smoked Dry Cured Bacon/Rashers, Organic Salmon and if you’re lucky some Organic Gravlax – Call Sophie Taylor at Tom’s Deli – 0207 221 8818 to reserve a little taste of Ummera if you have a longing for a taste of West Cork.

One of the most popular Primary school campaigns, organised by Le Crunch French Apples, is back!

Schools around the country will focus on a healthy approach to eating and lifestyle when they return from the mid-term break as the students paint, draw, photograph or otherwise create posters depicting how they and their classmates get active and become health heroes.

The sheer joy coffee         18th jan

The sheer joy of that first sip of coffee in the morning – for me, like many others, the day is punctuated by coffee, from the morning’s first café au lait in a comforting Shanagarry Potterymug, to a frothy cappuccino dusted with chocolate mid-morning, to the rich dark expresso enjoyed with a truffle after dinner.
Good coffee is one of life’s exquisite pleasures and often when I enjoy a really good cup and smell the roasted beans, my mind drifts off uneasily to the coffee farmers of Mexico, Costa Rica and Vietnam.
Coffee grows in two narrow areas around the world in tropical and sub-tropical lands.
Even though I pay 18 Euros a kilo for my freshly roasted beans, the reality is that the global coffee market has collapsed. As ever it’s a case of over-production with new growers flooding the market. The official price per pound of coffee has crashed from a high of $6 in 1977 to a 100 year low of 42 cents last year.
For many of the world’s 25 million coffee growers, the future is bleak. In the recent past half a million have abandoned their farms in Latin America alone, unable to make enough money to stay alive. Both in Mexico and in Costa Rica, there have been mass protests, where millions of tons of beans have been burned or crushed for fertiliser in an effort to highlight the plight of coffee growers.
For years, the International Coffee Organization, founded in 1962, and made up of 60 nations had the power to set production quotas, but after the fall of Communism the US left the ICO, which then effectively lost its clout to enforce quotas and eventually stopped trying. The global coffee supply is now over-running demand by about 1.2 billion pounds, despite a sharp increase in global consumption.
From its initial discovery in Abyssinia in the 6th Century AD, coffee has become a million dollar business. Of the more than 50 known varieties just two make up the majority of the world’s production, Arabica indigenous to Ethiopia, and Robusta discovered in the Congo.
Arabica is the most sought after and highly prized by coffee connoisseurs. This bean accounts for 70% of the world’s production. It is grown at approx. 1,000 – 2,000 metres above sea level, but the higher the altitude the better the quality. Beans grown at 1,500 metres can be labelled as Supreme, AA or Estate. Interestingly, top quality Arabica beans contain about half the caffeine level of the lower quality Robusta beans.
The latter makes up about 25% of the world’s output and is found in the highest quality expresso blends as it helps in the development of the ‘crema’ on top of the expresso.
The four top companies that dominate international coffee purchases, Proctor and Gamble, Sara Lee, Kraft and Nestlé, have all devised ways to improve the taste of blends ground from robusta beans even when the beans are poor quality.

Flavoured coffees have also become increasingly popular and flavours like vanilla and hazelnut help to mask the sometimes gritty taste of robusta, consequently the big players have been buying more cheap robusta beans from big growers, particularly Vietnam and less of the superior arabica from the traditional growers in Latin America.
The situation is becoming increasingly desperate, but recently Nestor Osorio, a hugely committed Colombian diplomat, has become executive director of the ICO and launched a clever new campaign to control production, targeting falling quality, rather than price – alas it is difficult to get the despairing coffee growers to agree on anything.
However, as the US and other nations are becoming increasingly aware, this whole issue will have far wider implications, it is not just about a cup of coffee. It has produced furious protests all over the globe by desperate and increasingly militant coffee farmers. At recent ICO meetings Mexican officials have noted that the map of rebel activity in Mexico roughly traces coffee growing regions. Colombia is warning that coffee farmers are increasingly turning to coca to in a frantic bid to make a livelihood to feed themselves and their families. The crisis has at last got the attention of the US Congress which recently passed a resolution to study the coffee crisis and to consider membership of the ICO, so we can but hope.
Meanwhile, what can we do at home in our own kitchens. Well, the best solution is to seek out Fair Trade Coffee.
Bewleys sell fair trade coffee under the name of Bewleys Direct and it’s available through most supermarket chains and through Bewleys Cafes.
Cafedirect another fairtrade coffee is available through Superquinn, Health Food Shops, Oxfam Shops and Trocaire Shops – if your local supermarket doesn’t stock Fairtrade Mark products, just ask the manager, the Fair Trade organisation even have a letter on their website (see address below) which you can send to your local store manager.
All the main coffee roasters in Ireland also have a Fairtrade Mark coffee for the catering market so its easy to change to fairtrade – encourage your restaurant or canteen in your workplace to use it – it makes a difference – Bewleys direct, Cafédirect, Johnsons Costa Rica Fairtrade Blend, Percol Fairtrade, Robert Roberts Fairtrade, Tiki Caffee and the Viking Direct catalogue – contact details are available on the website 0r tel 01-475 3515.

For 350 producer groups representing some four and a half million producers and their families in 36 countries selling to the Fairtrade market across 17 countries in Europe and North America, Fairtrade means – guaranteed better prices, decent working conditions, fair wages and the security of long term trading relationships.

Chocolate and Coffee Mousse
Merrilees Parker gave me this yummy recipe.

Serves 4

5½oz (150g) good quality dark chocolate
3 tbsp expresso strength coffee
3½ oz (100g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes
3 free-range eggs, separated
2 tbsp caster sugar

Melt the chocolate with the coffee in a bowl, over a pan of gently simmering water.
Add the butter, a piece at a time stirring continuously until completely melted.
The bowl should be warm so the butter softens but does not split and turn to oil.
It should become the consistency of thick cream. Add the egg yolks, one by one, beating them until the mixture is very smooth.
Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat to glossy soft peaks. Carefully fold into the chocolate mixture to retain as much air as possible, making sure no white spots from the egg whites remain.
Spoon into individual glasses and chill for at least 2 hours.
Serve with cream poured into the top of each glass.

Coffee and Pecan Biscuits

This delicious recipe was given me by Sue Cullinane, one of our teachers here at the school, we are always delighted when students or staff share one of their favourite recipes with us and we include it in our repertoire of recipes.

Makes 20

4 oz (110g) butter, softened
4 oz (110g) muscovado sugar
5 oz (150g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon coffee essence
1 ½ oz (35g) pecans, chopped

For the icing
2 oz (50g/ ½ stick) butter
5 oz (150g/1 ¼ cup) icing sugar
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon coffee essence

pecans, toasted

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheated oven 180ºC/ 350ºF/Gas mark 4

Put all the cake ingredients into a magimix or food processor. Whizz for 1-2 minuntes to amalgamate. Spread the cake mixture evenly in the well buttered tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes approx. The cake should be well risen. Allow to cool in the tin.
Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the icing together. As soon as the cake has cooled, spread the icing evenly over the top using a palette knife. Sprinkle toasted pecans over the top. Cut into squares and serve.

This dessert originated in Venice and is now very popular not just in Italy. The name means ‘pick me up’, not surprising considering the amount of booze in it. This is our version which always gets rave reviews.

Serves 8

38-40 Boudoir biscuits
8 fl oz (250 ml) strong espresso coffee (if your freshly) made coffee is not strong enough, add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons Jamaica rum
3 ozs (85g) dark chocolate
3 eggs, separated, preferably free range
4 tablespoons castor sugar
9 ozs (255g) Mascarpone cheese *

Unsweetened Cocoa (Dutch process)

Dish 10 x 8 inches (25.5 x 20.5cm) with low sides or 1lb loaf tin (8 x 4 inches (20.5 x 10cm) lined with cling film

Mix the coffee with the brandy and rum. Roughly grate the chocolate (we do it in the food processor with the pulse button). Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the ‘ribbon’ stage and is light and fluffy, then fold in the Mascarpone a tablespoon at a time.
Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the cheese mixture. Now you are ready to assemble the Tira Misu.
Dip each side of the boudoir biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture and arrange side by side in the dish or tin. Spread half the Mascarpone mixture gently over the biscuits, sprinkle half the grated chocolate over the top, then another layer of soaked biscuits and finally the rest of the Mascarpone. Cover the whole bowl or loaf tin carefully with cling film or better still slide it into a plastic bag and twist the end. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours – I usually make it the day before I use it.
Just before serving scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top and dredge with unsweetened cocoa.
Note: Tiramisu will keep for several days in a fridge, but make sure it is covered so that it doesn’t pick up ‘fridgie’ tastes.
*Mascarpone, a delicious rich creamy cheese which originated in Lodi in Lombardy is made by curdling cream with citric acid. It is often used instead of cream with fruit and pastries


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