AuthorDarina Allen

A tribute to Theodora Fitzgibbon – Donal Skehan

Theodora Fitzgibbon was a beautiful elegant erudite lady, well travelled. Born in London in 1918 of Irish parents, Theodora was educated in England and France and travelled widely with her father and husband, the writer Constantine FitzGibbon, living in India, the United States and in many countries on the Continent. Her travels gave her the opportunity to investigate first-hand the food mores of many diverse cultures and she developed an extensive knowledge of both Irish and worldwide cuisine. It was her ability to bring social and historical context to food for her readers for the first time that marked her out as a game-changer when she began writing for the Irish Times in the 1970’s.

Theodora was also deeply interested in theatre and worked as an actress both in London and Rome.

She wrote over 30 books most of which were about food.  However, the books she will be most remembered for are her “Taste of ” serves, particularly A Taste of Ireland and A Taste of Scotland.

Her autobiographies  give us a glimpse into her eccentric family and upbringing and chronicle what life was like in wartime Paris and London and recalls her bohemian existence living in Bermuda, Capri and Rome where she moved in the literary and artistic circles with Salvador Dali, Picasso, Dylan Thomas, Graeme Greene, Greta Garbo and James Thurber.

Food is a constant thread in her memoirs. There are many mouth-watering recollections of how she managed to create meals from nothing during the ration years and how she got to grips with new ingredients for her many dinner parties as she moved from country to country.

More recently Donal Skehan, one of Ireland’s most exciting young food writers has linked up with Gill and MacMillan to publish a new collection in which he selects her very best dishes and photographs them beautifully.

Theodora’s fans will be delighted to be able to replace their dog-eared cookery books and collection of newspaper clippings with his beautiful new volume. Don’t miss the accompanying TV series – Rediscovering the Irish Kitchen (which started on 24th June) at 8.30 pm on Tuesday nights on RTE 1.



Theodora Fitzgibbon’s Convent Eggs


This recipe, which I have adapted very slightly for modern use, comes from Soyer’s A Shilling Cookery for the People of 1859, a book that circulated in many parts of Ireland after Soyer came over to help provide edible food for the famine victims. My copy originally belonged to my aunt in Co. Clare and was much used by her.

Serves 4


4 eggs

2 tablespoons butter

1 medium-sized onion, sliced

1 tablespoon flour

300 ml (½ pint) milk

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

grated cheese or chopped

herbs, optional


Put the eggs into cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes, then put the eggs into cold water again. When cool, peel and cut across into six pieces each. Heat the butter and lightly fry the onion in it until soft but not coloured. Add the flour and mix well, then add the milk, stirring until it forms a nice white sauce; add the salt and pepper. Add the eggs, toss, and when they are hot through, serve on toast. Grated cheese or chopped herbs can also be added.



Theodora Fitzgibbon’s Plaice Lahori


Serves 4

4 large plaice fillets

oil or melted butter

lemon wedges, to garnish


2 tablespoons onion,

finely minced

juice of 1 lemon

¼ teaspoon ground coriander or 2 teaspoons fresh

pinch each powdered garlic and turmeric

stem chopped green ginger or ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

pulp of 2 ripe tomatoes, no skin

salt and pepper


A great favourite of mine, but you do need large plaice, not those wafer-thin, tasteless little things you see most often. Actually, I have also made it with dogfish and monkfish fillets, and it was delicious, but it was cooked longer.

Take the 4 large fish fillets and score with a sharp knife if very thick. Mix the marinade ingredients together, pounding well, then pour over the fish and leave for about 2 hours. Line a grilling pan with foil and brush over with oil or melted

butter and turn on the grill. Let it get quite hot with the pan underneath so that the foil gets hot, but do not let the oil brown.

Lift the fish and marinade gently on and grill at medium level for about 7 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. The heat of the foil at the bottom will cook the underneath. Serve with brown rice and green beans.


Theodora Fitzgibbon’s Café Liegeois


Serves 4


6 tablespoons vanilla or coffee


4 coffee cups strong,

sweetened black coffee

150 ml (¼ pint) whipped cream

4 teaspoons crushed ice


Put all ingredients, except the whipped cream, into a bowl and stir well, or liquidise until the mixture is thick and creamy. Pour into 4 tall glasses and top with whipped cream.

Chill so that it is semi-frozen and serve with sponge fingers.



Theodora Fitzgibbon’s  Melting Moments


These very light, little cakes of Scottish origin (but now firmly established in Ireland) live up to their name.


Makes about 30 ‘sandwiches ’


275 g (10 oz) butter

50 g (2 oz) icing sugar

225 g (8 oz) sifted flour

50 g (2 oz) cornflour

lemon curd or thick honey


Cream the butter and sugar until very light. Add both flours gradually, mixing well. Put small spoonfuls onto greased baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes in the oven at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Cool on a rack, and when cool, sandwich together with a little lemon curd or thick honey in between.


All recipes are taken from The Pleasures of the Table – Donal Skehan

Published by Gill & MacMillan.

Hot Tips


Wild and Free

The Organic Centre Garden Party

Sunday 13th July from 11am -5pm

Entrance free!

Gardening and organic growing can be so much more than just producing food. Wild life, wild patches, hedgerows with wild plants and food and wild flower meadows all add enjoyment, health and natural wealth to our lives and families and help to protect our natural environment. This year’s event features activities for all the family:

How to create a wildflower meadow and make wildflower seed balls.

The top 10 edible weeds and the best flowers and shrubs for bees and butterflies.

How to grow unusual vegetables and find wild mushrooms.

There will be a masterclass in watering plants indoors and outdoors.

The Pop-up Hedgerow bar will serve wild fermented drinks and The Grass Roof Café will be serving the most wonderful wild dishes. We will bake pizza in our outdoor clay oven.

Special guest are “Eagles Flying” and we have local farm animals.

Music, drumming and tai-chi and displays of local tourism providers will be ongoing throughout the day.

Raffle and fundraising for The Organic Centre.

For more information call 071-9854338 or visit




Achill Mountain Lamb

I’ve just tasted the first of the seasons new Achill Mountain lamb, opens on July 5th – The Calvey family have been rearing lambs on Achill for over 50 years,they feed on the bladder wrack on the coastline and the grass on the cliffs. The herbs and heather seem to give the meat a delicious sweetness and the salt deposits from the sea breeze enhance the flavour further, chefs like J.P. Mc Mahon,  Aniar in Galway and  Derry Clarke from Ecrivain have already discovered it but you can order over the phone and have it delivered.

Grainne Calvey -  phone: 098 43158  -

Don’t miss the Achill Island Festival of the Sea, 18th – 20th July – for more information


Fab Food Trails

Do you know about these food tasting trails, Eveleen Coyle and her niece Alice Coyle had this brilliant concept in 2009.

They started in Dublin but have extended to Cork and more recently to Kilkenny. A wonderful way to explore a city, learn about its history and food culture in a fun and light hearted way. Visit and learn in markets, food halls, cheesemongers, butchers, fruit and flower stalls, fish mongers, bakers and have regular tastings.



Ireland has gone wild about food .Two festivals, not to be missed this weekend

Valentia Ireland King Scallop Festival 12th – 13th July –

Kenmare Food Carnival – as well as food markets, cookery demos, food trails there will be Samba dancers and a jazz band to ensure a Mardi Gras-style atmosphere – I had lots of fun and loved the vibe last year –



Butter is Best

The recent cover story on Time magazine was that butter is better so surprise surprise its official after all. Only two vitamins are water soluble, all the rest are fat soluble, so what does that mean? Well the reality is that unless you eat a little fat with the rest of your food the body can’t absorb all the nutrients from the food – that’s why, many people on a strictly low fat diet find themselves under nourished and often overweight.

Lovely Julia Child, the goddess of butter, cream and a good pinch of salt must be smiling wryly in his heavenly home. Butter is high in a compound CLA that protects us from tumour growth and cancer and provides omega 3 fatty acids. Recently a team of international scientists have completed an exhaustive new analysis of the research to date, drawing on 80 studies involving more than half a million people. They found NO evidence to support the theory that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. They did however find a link between trans fats and coronary problems
This meta analysis (basically a study of other studies) was published in the Journal Analysis of International Medicine.

More studies are underway but it does sound as though the days of – “I can’t believe its not butter” and the myriad of low fat products are numbered.
Its seems utterly incredible that the dietary advice that was stated with absolute certainly by the governments, Departments of Health, doctors and dieticians for over four decades was erroneous. Not only was it not based on fact but it now appears that a lack of saturated fat may in fact be damaging to our health. Why was it so easy to persuade not only the medical profession but the greater general public that butter, a totally natural product was less good than margarine and other highly processed low fat products.

Entire industries are now based on whipping up paranoia and demonizing fat. The war on fat is far from over, after years of conditioning, consumer habits are deeply formed and some people are actually nauseated by fat.

Interesting to be a fly on the wall in the marketing departments in some of those multi national company boardrooms these days. Flora have already launched a new “irresistible blend of butter and Flora” called GOLD. There is no doubt the real problem in our diet is an excess of sugar and ultra processed food – we can no longer say we don’t know.
We need to ditch fake food for real food and not just embrace any old fat, it needs to come from a pure and natural source.
Everyone agrees that people would be healthier if more of their diet was made up of what Michael Pollen aptly calls “Real Food”.

Pan grilled Mackerel with Parsley and Lemon Butter

The new seasons mackerel are in – such joy – fresh mackerel are my absolute favourite sea fish. This is a master recipe for pan grilling fish.
The simplest and possibly the most delicious way to cook really fresh mackerel.

Serves 1 or 2

2-4 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 6 ozs (170g) fish form main course, 3 ozs (85g) for a starter)
seasoned flour
small knob of butter

Parsley Butter
2 ozs (50g/1/2 stick) butter
4 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice

segment of lemon

First make the Parsley Butter.
Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.
Heat the grill pan.

Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some slices of Parsley Butter and a segment of lemon.

Parsley Butter may be served directly on the fish, or if you have a pretty shell, place it at the side of the plate as a container for the butter. Garnish with parsley and a segment of lemon.

Madhur Jaffreys Chicken in a Butter Sauce

From Indian Cookery

The Indians too love butter – The sauce in this dish should be folded into butter at the very last minute as it tends to separate otherwise. However, you can combine all the ingredients except the butter up to a day ahead of time and refrigerate them until they are needed.
This is a wonderfully simple but spectacular dish in which the Tandoori chicken is transformed with a sauce.

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons tomato puree
Water to mix
A 1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and grated very finely to a pulp
½ pint (275ml) single cream
1 teaspoon garam masala
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 fresh, hot green chilli, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon very finely chopped fresh green coriander
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds
4 oz (110g) unsalted butter
Tandoori-style chicken

Put the tomato paste in a clear measuring jug. Add water slowly, mixing as you go, to make up 8 fl oz (225ml) of tomato sauce. Add the ginger, cream, garam masala, salt, sugar, green chilli, cayenne, green coriander, lemon juice, and ground roasted cumin seeds. Mix well.
Heat the butter in a wide sauté pan or a large frying pan, When the butter has melted, add all the ingredients in the measuring jug. Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat for a minute, mixing in the butter as you do so. Add the chicken pieces (but not their accumulated juices). Stir once and put chicken pieces on a warm serving platter. Extra sauce should be spooned over the top.

Ballymaloe Green Gooseberry Tartlets

Use the last of the green gooseberries for these delectable tartlets, the butter pastry is rich, flakey and delicious.

Makes 36 tartlets approximately

1 quantity cold cream pastry
450g (1lb) green gooseberries (topped and tailed)
caster sugar

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.

Using plenty of flour roll the cold pastry to a thickness of 2mm (1/8 inch). Cut the pastry with a 7.5cm (3 inch) round cutter and use the disks of pastry to line a standard flat based bun tray.

Cut the gooseberries in half and arrange 6-7 halves on each disk of pastry. Place a rounded teaspoon of caster sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet. Bake the tartlets for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour. Remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot – use a palette knife for this – and place on parchment paper which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.

These tartlets are best served warm.

Open Apple Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly sliced eating apple.
Open Rhubarb Tartlets: Replace the gooseberries with thinly sliced pink rhubarb.

Cream Pastry

This superb pastry keeps in the fridge for up to 6 days.

110g (4oz/1 stick) cold salted butter
110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) cold cream

Sieve the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster). (DO NOT over mix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread like ball! Pour the cold cream into the coarse mixture and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms. Wrap the pastry in parchment paper and chill overnight.
Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!

Hot Tips

New Seasons Marsh Samphire has just arrived. This is also called Glasswort and is quite different to rock samphire but equally easy to cook in boiling water (not salted) for about 3 or 4 minutes. Toss in melted butter and serve with fish and salad. Available from the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall in Midleton.

My latest find was at the in Skibbereen Farmers Market in West Cork a vibrant melange of stalls selling not just beautiful local and artisan produce fresh fish and shellfish, it also has bric a brac, organic seeds, hand-woven rugs and fancy poultry…. Look out for one the newest stands Bantry Bay chocolates was selling little cellophane bags of crunchy toffees with a hint of sea salt – so good we fought over the last one.

Ballymaloe Cookery School Gardens are open to the public at present, the finest vegetable and herb gardens are bursting with produce as is the greenhouse. We even have peaches, apricots and a pomegranate. Don’t miss the shellhouse and maize and check out the fancy fowl and fat pigs. Gardens open daily from 11am – 5.30pm.

The OOBY Food Market which caused such a stir in East Cork reopens and will be operating from the wall outside Shanagarry Church from 10am – 12 noon every Sunday for the Summer – not to be missed….. Telephone: Olivia Connolly 021 4646041

Darina’s trip to Bordeau

No mistaking where I was – Bordeaux airport has grape vines planted close to Arrivals with a red rose at the end of each row to encourage bees to help with pollination. Even thought Bordeaux is all about wine, that wasn’t the primary purpose of our trip. We had been invited to the wedding of the granddaughter of Andre Lourton, the patriarch of one of the most famous wine families in Bordeaux. The young bride and groom looked radiant, the sun shone, the wine flowed, the food was delicious, lots of oysters, crepinettes, foie gras, duck in every possible way, exquisite cheese in sublime condition and molten chocolate pudding with pistachio ice cream.
Fireworks lit up the starlit sky over the vineyards and chateau, guests from all over the world danced till the early hours.
It’s an ill wind that doesn’t benefit someone – the Aer Lingus strike meant we had to leave a day early so we had an unexpected mini break. The countryside was so beautiful, lush and green, and well wooded in areas not suitable for vines. The names of some of the most famous wines in the world leap off the road signs, wild flowers grow in the hedges, poppies here and there, frequent war memorials a poignant reminder of the devastation in this area during the first and second world war.
There are markets virtually in every town Lilbourne was recently voted the best in France, an appealing melange of beautiful fresh vegetables, fruit and Summer truffles, farmhouse cheeses, Agen prunes, oysters, kitchen utensils, plants, live poultry, espadrilles and some of the best charcuterie I’ve ever seen in France .
We stayed in the most charming bed and breakfast called the Forge owned by Carol de Montrichard, a beautifully restored French farmhouse in the middle of almost a hectare of gardens, wild flower meadow and fruit orchards. The house was packed with antiques and chic finds, comfy chintsy sofas, French tapestry chairs, a baby grand piano and rows and rows of interesting books and old New Yorker magazines to browse through. The bed sheets were old French linen and bliss to sleep in and the breakfast table was laden with pretty china and silver and a bowl of freshly picked cherries still warm from the tree. Carol who has an art and culture background also does week long culinary cooking tours for small groups of 6-8 friends. There’s hands-on cooking in private houses with talented young chefs, trips to local markets, vineyards and artisan producers with lots of little surprises thrown in. Her bed and breakfast can also be let to a family for a week or more and sleeps up to 11. The garden is a haven for all the song birds as well as hoopoe, storks, eagles, frogs and crickets. Guests can help themselves to ripe cherries from the trees et al.
A real find close to Branne and St Emillion, with its cobbled streets and myriad of wine shops, don’t miss the canelles and macaroons for which the area is so famous. Lots of gardens open to the public including Etamines a rambling garden with fish ponds and avaries and the Jardin des Legumes in Oublies , we had a particularly delicious lunch at La Poudette in Puzoles. Langoustine bisque with savoury Chantilly with Espelette pepper, carpaccio of duck breast with roasted peanuts, parsley, shallot and extra virgin olive oil with a quail egg on top and some wild rocket leaves. The chef was Frederick Jombart, his partner Sophie Bantous was the maître d. Their son Martin played the clarinet for us as we drank our coffee – utterly charming.
A dish made from the black pig of the area was also delicious and I loved the cherries with pistachio ice cream and with a filo cigarette sitting on top.
La Caffe Cuisine in Branne was also highly recommended but we didn’t make it. www.cuisinecafe.

Morello Cherry Pie

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

8 ozs (225g/2 sticks) butter
2 ozs (50g/1/3 cup) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
12 ozs (300g/2 1/2 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

2lbs (900g) fresh cherries
1 – 2 tablespoons Kirsch (optional)
5 ozs (150g/2/3 cup) sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 tablespoon ground almonds
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
softly whipped cream

1 x round tin, 9 inches (23cm) by 1 inch (2.5cm deep)

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

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

To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about a little more than half of it to line the tin. Destalk the cherries and fill the tart tin. Sprinkle with Kirsch if using. Then cover with a mixture of sugar, ground almonds and cornflour. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with cherry shapes and pastry leaves. Egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the cherries are tender – 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream.



Agen Prune and Armagnac Tart

We love this delicious version which comes from The River Café Cook Book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers


Serves 10-12

225g (8ozs/generous 1 cup) flour
25g (1oz/1/8 cup) castor sugar
110g (4ozs/1 stick) unsalted butter
1 egg

400 g (14oz) Agen prunes
425ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups) strong breakfast tea, leaves strained
4 tablespoons (60ml/2 1/2fl oz/generous 1/4 cup) Armagnac
300g (11oz/scant 3 sticks) unsalted butter
300g (11oz/scant 1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
300g (11oz) peeled, blanched whole almonds, ground to a sandy consistency in a food processor
3 large eggs, free range if possible
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of flour (optional)

To Serve
crème fraîche

1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin with ‘pop-up base

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

Remove the stones from the prunes and soak in strong breakfast tea for 30 minutes. Remove the prunes from the tea and drizzle with 4 tablespoons of Armagnac.

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

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

Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.
Line the flan ring and bake blind for 20-25 minutes. Blind bake the pastry for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
Reduce the temperature to 160°C/315°F/Gas mark 2 1/2.

Meanwhile make the almond filling.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and light. Add the almonds and combine. Stir in the eggs one by one, carefully stir in the flour. Arrange the prunes on the base of pastry shell. Pour any juices from the prunes into the almond mixture then spoon the filling on top of the prunes. Lift the prunes up out through the frangipane a little so they peep out. Bake in a preheated at 160°C/315°F/Gas Mark 2 1/2 oven for about 40 minutes – 1 hour. Serve with a dollop crème fraîche.

Pat Browne’s Almond Macaroons

We’ve got lots of macaroon recipes, but this one given to us by one of our tutors Pat Browne, is the most foolproof of all. They can be flavoured or coloured as you wish, a few drops of rosewater or orange blossom water, a little crème de menthe…… They are not exactly the same as the St Emilion macaroons but are very close, easy and utterly delicious.

Makes 74 approx of petit four size
4 free range organic egg whites, depending on size
25g (1oz) caster sugar
225g (8oz) icing sugar
115g (4¼oz) ground almonds

Baking tray or trays

No 9 plain piping nozzle

Preheat the oven to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1
Cover the baking tray with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Whisk the egg whites and castor sugar until stiff.
Sieve the icing sugar twice into a bowl. Add the ground almonds to the icing sugar.
Mix half the dry ingredients into the egg whites and then fold in the remainder.
Pipe into approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds onto a baking tray. Rest for 30 minutes, then bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes until pale golden. Continue to cook the remainder.
The macaroons are cooked when they lift easily off the paper.
Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.
If you want an extra treat, sandwich together with chocolate, lemon or coffee butter cream.


Prawn or Lobster Bisque with Chantilly Cream and Espelette Pepper

We can’t bear to waste any scrap of the shellfish. Use leftover prawn or lobster shells to make this delicious bisque – then you get double value from the shellfish. It’s rich so serve it in small bowls.

Serves 8

12 heads and claws of fresh prawn or the cracked claws and body shells of 2-3 lobsters 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
300ml (1/2 pint) fish stock (see recipe)
450g (1lb) fresh tomatoes or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) brandy
175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup) cream
salt and freshly ground pepper

Chantilly Cream
110g (4oz) whipped cream
Grated rind of ½ lemon
Pinch salt
Espelette Pepper
fresh flat parsley or chervil leaves

Use a hammer to crush the prawns and lobster shells into small pieces. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the bits of prawns and lobster shells and also the fish stock (see recipe). Stir and cook 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, parsley and brandy and cook for 5-10 minutes (the bisque should be just simmering).

Take the bisque of the heat, strain off the big bits, and liquidise. Then strain through a sieve. Return to the saucepan. Stir in the cream, season and taste. The bisque should be light and smooth in texture.

Fold the lemon rind into the softly whipped cream and add a pinch of salt. Top each bowl with a blob of savoury Chantilly, sprinkled with Espelette pepper.

Serve in warm bowls and garnish with a few flat parsley leaves.


Hot Tips
More excitement in Stoneybatter – The lovely Michelle Darmody of the Cake Café has opened a new place called Slice. As with the Cake Café they use local Irish produce to create good quality home style cooking. The salad leaves and most vegetables are sourced from Mc Nallys farm in North County Dublin, all of the milk in organic. Sally Barnes smokes the fish and all of the meat and cheese are from small Irish producers and of courses there are lots of cakes as you would image. Ray O’ Neill is a Ballymaloe Cookery School past student is her Manager in chief.

Date for your diary.
A Long Table Dinner at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Tickets have gone on sale for this year’s Long Table Dinner hosted by Darina Allen in the greenhouse in the midst of the tomatoes and scarlet runner beans on Tuesday, 22nd July (it’s been a sell out for the past few years). Rory O’Connell will create the menu – a celebration of the produce of the organic farm and gardens and local area with fish and shellfish from nearby Ballycotton. Dinner is €120 per person Advanced booking essential – proceeds go to East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Telephone: (021) 4646 785/


Teachers Culinary Research Visit to Dublin

The Dublin restaurant and café scene is really humming once again. Every now and then the Ballymaloe Cookery School team of teachers go on a research trip to see what is happening on the culinary food scene. Recently we did an intensive trip to the metropolis and tasted some very exciting food in a variety of restaurants and cafés. We began our trip to the Fumbally in Fumbally Lane run by Aisling Rogerson and Luca D’Alfonso and a vibrant young team. The food is simple, delicious, uncomplicated but put together in a chic and edgy way we loved the brunch dishes – the Fumbally take on the Dr Suess green eggs and ham toasted brioche with avocado and scrambled eggs and chorizo. The pulled porchetta with slow roasted shoulder of pork, caper mayo and spiced apple sauce was another great combo. Specials are written on the blackboard above the till. The fresh produce for the kitchen is piled against the wall in wooden crates like a glorious still-life in this airy contemporary space with a cool, retro, comfy, shabby chic feel yet elegant feel.
The GreenHouse on Dawson Street served a totally different style of food. Mickael Viljanen who hales from Finland is one of the most talented young chefs cooking in Ireland at the moment. He and his team cooked us a delicious three course lunch with lots of excitement on each beautifully crafted plate – a carpaccio of scallop, shoulder of suckling pig and apricot tart with elderflower ice cream.
We popped our heads into Murphys Ice cream from Dingle, wandered through the aisles of tempting fresh and delicates a produce in Fallon and Byrne. We found lots of new ingredients – fresh strawrasberries and pineberries (like underripe strawberries), Teff flour which I’d been looking out for to make an Ethopian flat bread and red rice from the Camargue. We also fled past the Pepperpot in the Powerscourt Centre where Marian Kilcoyne’s (a past student) Café Restaurant was throbbing with lots of unhearably tempting treats.
Ananda is the flagship restaurant of Asheesh Dewan’s Indian restaurant empire under the stewardship of Sunil Ghai and his team of Indian chefs certainly live up to its reputation. The Ballymaloe Cookery School tutors were totally wowed by his tasting menu which started with Pan Poori and ended with Gulab Jamun pistachio icecream and caramel mousse. We got another warm welcome from Garett Fitzgerald and James Boland at Brother Hubbards in Capel Street. This café cum deli has built up a fantastic reputation in the less than two years since they opened. The menu is packed with unbearably tempting choices, gorgeous sandwiches, salads, brunch dishes piled high on good bread from Tartine Bakery, virtually the only items that is not made from scratch in house part Garett Fitzgerald and Danielle Beattie who does all the baking are both past students of the Ballymaloe Cookery School. I loved the cannellini beans with tomato sauce and slow roasted pulled pork with a fried egg and a sprinkling of sumac on top but there were appreciative sounds coming from all directions of the table as we tasted our way through the menu.
At Palais des Thés in Wicklow Street Niall did a tutored tasting with us. We tasted a beautiful selection of exquisite teas including Thé du Hammam , Japanse Green Tea, Sencha Ariake.
A light lunch at Cornucopia the long established vegetarian restaurant in Wicklow Street was another enlightening experience.
On the way home they greatly enjoyed a visit to the Avoca shop where Butchers, Erine and Sharon explained the philosophy and skill behind the rearing and butchering and using every scrap of the animal from the nose to the tail.
Altogether a hugely enjoying and enlightening few days.

Cornucopia’s Chilled Carrot and Avocado soup

Makes 8 portions

This soup has become a very popular and everyday menu item in Cornucopia. At first people were often reluctant to try a chilled soup in our temperate climate, as a good warming bowl of soup is our traditional cure for the winter chills. However, as our customers warmed to the idea of a chilled carrot soup, news spread of the velvety smooth concoction and soon we sold out of it everyday.
The main flavours here are carrot, garlic and lemon. Using the carrot juice, avocado and olive oil as a base, try substituting fresh ginger or your fresh herb of choice instead of the garlic and lemon for variety and after a few attempts you may settle on your own personal favourite.

1.5 litre carrot juice (about 2.5 kg Carrots)
2 avocado’s, cut in half, stone removed and peeled (280g when prepped)
100ml lemon juice (about medium 4 lemons)
1 large clove of garlic, peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt
150mls extra virgin olive oil

Use a juicer to make the carrot juice. There are two ways to do this, using peeled or unpeeled carrots and it all depends on the freshness of the vegetables and how much precious time you want to spend peeling them! We have found that very fresh carrots, and taking the time to peel them ensures a brighter coloured soup. If you want to skip the peeling process then by all means do as it won’t affect the taste. To make 1.5 litres of juice, it takes approximately 2.5kgof carrots. Make sure to measure the juice from the carrots as the recipe needs 1.5 litres, if you produce more juice then drink it as a reward for all your hard work!
If you don’t have a juicer, bottled carrot juice can be substituted but as it is likely to have been pasteurized it may not taste as fresh and bright, but is a decent alternative.


Pour 750ml of the carrot juice into a large jug then add the prepared avocado, lemon juice garlic and sea salt. Pulse with a stick blender to puree then slowly pour in the olive oil and the remaining carrot juice until creamy and well combined. Pour the soup into a lidded container and place in the fridge to chill for at least two hours or more.
To serve, bring the soup to just under room, or desired temperature then stir well and pour into 8 medium bowls.


Brother Hubbard’s Middle Eastern Breakfast Plate

For our menu, I draw from our experiences of travelling around the Middle East – this is what I would have had most mornings before going off to visit the souks and the various ancient wonders.
As we head into summer, it feels like a wonderfully refreshing, light-yet-substantial, and healthy, brunch dish. It is amazingly simple to put together and to make in bigger quantities for entertaining – despite its name, I imagine it would work equally well with a glass of white wine for a refreshing and light summer supper. As with all recipes, the better the quality of your ingredients, the better the outcome!

Brother Hubbards Middle Eastern Breakfast Plate
Serves 4

1 cucumber
2 (or more) good quality tomatoes
1 block Feta Cheese (180-200g) (classic Greek Feta or similar style – white, crumbly, salty)
12 – 16 olives (we use Kalamata)
4 good sprigs of fresh mint
4 hard-boiled free-range and organic eggs (freshly cooked by boiling for 7 minutes, but cooled in cold water and then peeled)
1 quantity of Hummus (have fun with the recipe below, or a very good deli-bought variety)
Pitta Breads (1-2 per person)
170g (6oz) chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid, use tinned for easy entertaining
freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste
2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) tahini paste (available from health food shops and delicatessens)
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Optional: smoked salmon, cold meats, chorizo, fresh radish cut into chunks

Cut your cucumber in half lengthways and then each half cut diagonally into large bite-size chunks. Cut the ripe plum tomatoes into wedges and break the feta into larger chunks.
Place chunks of cucumber, tomato wedges, feta on large individual plates (or one giant platter to share), add a few big spoons of the hummus in a little bowl, the mint sprigs and 6-8 olives per person (see the end for a hummus recipe). Arrange so it looks like a lovely platter of freshness, colour and flavor. Serve with the egg on the plate.
We usually sprinkle some sumac over the hummus and a little za’atar over the feta – these are spices which we have gone to great trouble to source, but are often difficult to come by in Ireland. Replace with a little sprinkle of cumin or good paprika, a drizzle of lemon juice or just really great olive oil (or all of the above!).
Have this with some warmed pitta bread on the side – splash a little water on the pittas, shake off the excess and just heat under a grill or in a toaster.
If you fancy, you can serve slices of smoked salmon, cold cuts, or even some pan-fried chorizo on the side to make it more substantial.
Drain the chickpeas, save the cooking liquid. Whizz up the remainder in a food processor with the freshly squeezed lemon juice and a little cooking water if necessary. Add the crushed garlic, tahini paste, cumin and salt to taste. Blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour.
If you are making the hummus (which I highly recommend), have a go at this method – it is intentionally loose so that you can develop your own approach to hummus: Take some cooked chickpeas (3 large cupfuls, or 2 tin,s drained and rinsed) and put in a food processor/blitzer, with a few dessert spoons of hot water, a few glugs of the best olive oil you have, a dessert spoon of tahini, 1 clove of minced/crushed garlic, a few good pinches of ground cumin, and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Blitz until well pureed (or less so, if you like more texture). Taste and add some salt and pepper – the consistency should be a thick paste, not too runny. Adjust the flavor until it is the way you like it (we like it with a good strong lemon tang, a brave hint of garlic and cumin, and well seasoned) – just add more of any of the ingredients listed and blitz some more to distribute the flavours, until it tastes delicious to you – tweak as you go, this really is worth having fun with and should reflect the type of hummus you like.
When eating, mix and match the flavours and textures– have morsels of the bread, dipped in the hummus, with a little cucumber, mint, feta and the other ingredients. No two mouthfuls will taste the same!

Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream with Pedro Ximenza

Really good cream makes really good ice cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base with softly whipped cream. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips or muscatel raisins soaked in rum, finish the ice cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks
110g (4oz/1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Pedro Ximenza

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)
Add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.
This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.
Scoop the ice-cream into chilled bowls onto plates. Drizzle a little Pedro Ximenez over the ice-cream on the plate just before you tuck in.

Hot Tips
Sumac, Za’atar and other Middle Eastern ingredients available from Fallon and Byrne, Asian Shops and from Ottolenghi by mail order –

Slow Food
Wild Salmon is now in season for a few short weeks, Slow Food are organising a Celebration of Wild Salmon at Belleek Castle, Ballina on Sunday 22nd June at 1pm. – There will be a Casting Lesson on the Lawn – Wild Salmon Canapes – A Talk on Wild Salmon by Mairin Ui Chomain and A Cookery Demonstration hosted by Chef Stephen Lenahen – phone: Suzanne 087 9170422 –

Slow Food Four Rivers in the South East of Ireland have launched a brilliant initiative, a ‘Hens for Schools’ competition
For details and how to enter, see

Date for your diary
The Westport Festival of Music & Food is back in 2014 . It is a 2 day, multi stage outdoor festival which takes place at Westport House, Westport, Co Mayo, on Sat 28th & Sun 29th June 2014. Rachel & I will be doing cookery demonstrations on Saturday 28th at 4 – 6pm respectively – we’ve so looking forward to being in lovely Mayo once again.

Sage Restaurant – 12 Mile Ethos

For our May Slow Food East Cork event we returned to Sage Restaurant in Midleton to celebrate the local food of East Cork. Where better to choose than Kevin and Réidín Aherne’s restaurant which over just a few short years has become known for its 12 Mile Ethos..

Kevin has carefully created close links with local producers and their photographs take pride of place on the walls of the restaurant. The menu reflected their produce and 7 or 8 joined us for dinner and spoke about their enterprises.


Organic farmers Dan and Anne Aherne from Ballysimon who produce beef, chickens and eggs. James Stafford from Roche’s Point whose longhorn beef provided the main course for the Slow Food dinner. Local butcher Frank Murphy whom so many of us depend on to slaughter our heritage meat breeds.


Retired Derek Taylor, telephone – 087 232 9554 who grows organic vegetables and herbs in quite a small way also near Roches Point in East Cork.
Derek Hannon from Greenfield Farm who grows radishes and salad leaves.


Fish Smoker Bill Casey, telephone 086 6611468 who smokes organic salmon in his smokehouse in Shanagarry.
Beekeeper Charlie Terry and his wife Bridie from Cloyne who have produced raw honey for 25 years on their land near Midleton.
Farmhouse cheesemaker Jane Murphy who produces the beautiful range of Ardsallagh goat cheeses on the family farm near Carrigtwohill.
They all spoke beautifully about their life style choice and their product.


Pat Van de Bake from Slow Food Holland joined us and spoke about the vibrant Slow Food Youth Movement in the Netherlands and the growing interest in growing your own food and food issues.
Martin and Noreen Conroy who rear pure bred Saddleback pigs on their small farm near Leamlara and process it all themselves and sell to an increasingly appreciative public at Midleton and Douglas Farmers Markets. Martin and Noreen’s son has now come into the business with them after an apprenticeship with renowned Massimo Spigaroli near Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy – so watch that space.
Note: Tom & Jacinta Clancy, rear free-range chickens and turkeys in their farm overlooking the sea in Ballycotton – they too have a loyal following. Look out for them at Mahon Point on Thursdays and Douglas Farmers Market on Saturdays.


Kevin was recently awarded the Best Chef in Cork accolade from the Restaurant Association of Ireland.
Kevin’s mission statement “Our menu is based on our 12 mile ethos. We endeavour to create dishes showcasing what is produced, reared or grown within a 12 mile radius of the restaurant”

Slow Food Producer’s Dinner Menu
8th May, 2014
The menu included

12 Mile Sharing Board

Scottish Highland Plate Sirloin, Neck, Rib and Shin

Rhubarb, Jelly, Meringue & Jersey Cream Ice Cream

How fortunate is he to have so many excellent food producers close by and how fortunate are they to have this young talented chef to support them and champion their cause – others please follow.
The hedgerows are brimming with elderflower blossoms and the tart green gooseberries are ready to pick, a marriage made in heaven so here are a few suggestions to use the early summer bounty.

Elderflower Champagne

This magical recipe transforms perfectly ordinary ingredients into a delicious sparkling drink. The children make it religiously every year and then share the bubbly with their friends.

2 heads of elderflowers
560g (11/4lb) sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4.5L (8pints) water
1 lemon

Remove the peel from the lemon with a swivel top peeler. Pick the elderflowers in full bloom. Put into a bowl with the lemon peel, lemon juice, sugar, vinegar and cold water. Leave for 24 hours, then strain into strong screw top bottles. Lay them on their sides in a cool place. After 2 weeks it should be sparkling and ready to drink. Despite the sparkle this drink is non-alcoholic.
Top Tip:
The bottles need to be strong and well sealed, otherwise the Elderflower champagne will pop its cork.

Claire Ptak’s Elderflower Cupcakes

Makes 12

125g (4 1/2oz/generous 1 stick) butter, very soft
200g (7oz/scant 1 cup) caster sugar
3 organic, free-range eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
275g (9oz/generous 2 cups) self-raising flour
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) lemon zest
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) lemon juice
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) milk

190g (6 1/2oz/generous 1 3/4 sticks) soft butter
800-1.2kg (1lb 10oz – 2lb 12oz/5 – 9 cups) icing sugar
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) milk
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) elderflower cordial
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 muffin tray lined with 12 muffin cases.

Preheat the oven to 160°C325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Cream the very soft butter and sugar until almost white and fluffy. Add the eggs and salt and mix until fully incorporated. Add half the flour until just combined.
Add the zest, juice and milk and mix until combined. Finally add the remaining flour.
Scoop into paper lined muffin tins. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes.
Remove from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the icing.

To make the icing.
Cream the soft butter on a low speed in a Kenwood using a k beater, add some sugar and gradually add the milk, elderflower cordial and lemon juice. Then add the remaining sugar. The speed must be kept slow so as to not incorporate too much air into the buttercream.
Beat for about 3 minutes to get to the proper texture and to allow the sugar to dissolve. If necessary add more icing sugar if needed. This varies with the air temperature and the acidity of the juices, etc. Ice each cup cake and decorate with a few elderflower if available.

Note: omit the salt if using salted butter.


 Elderflower Fritters

These are very easy to make, very crispy and once you’ve tasted one, you won’t be able to stop! Serve them with the Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote, below. Serves 4

110g (4oz/1 cup) plain flour
pinch of salt
1 organic egg
150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) lukewarm water
8–12 elderflower heads
caster sugar
sunflower oil for frying

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Using a whisk, bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the water at the same time. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180°C/350°F. Hold the flowers by the stalks and dip into the batter (add a little more water or milk if the batter is too thick). Fry until golden brown in the hot oil. Drain on kitchen paper, toss in caster sugar and serve immediately with gooseberry and elderflower compote.


Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

When the elderflowers come into bloom, then I know it’s time to pick green gooseberries. They feel as hard as hailstones, but for cooking it’s the perfect time. Enlist the help of little ones to top and tail the elderflowers.

900g (2lb) green gooseberries
2 or 3 elderflower heads
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water
450g (1lb/2 cups) sugar

First, top and tail the gooseberries.

Tie the elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put the bag in a stainless-steel or enameled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the
boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold.

Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.



Hot Tips
Another exciting date for your diary. A once off opportunity to hear Craig Sams of Carbon Gold speak about the importance of biochar as a soil improver and its importance to the environment and the many opportunities it creates for farmers and food producers. Thursday June 19th at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. Tel: 021 4646785 or email . See the link and website


Take a break – Drop in to Afternoon Tea at Harvey Nichols in Dublin on Tuesday June 17th 3.30-5.30pm. Darina Allen will host Afternoon Tea at Itsa showcasing some of her delicious recipes from 30 years at Ballymaloe Cookery School followed by a book signing. Tickets €45 – please email to book tickets.


Just heard about a great little place to eat on the end of the Beara Peninsula. Rhonwen Lowes has opened a Bistro in Eyeries serving local artisan foods and freshly made breads. The rosemary bread and three hummous dips are a great success and the buffalo burger from the local buffalo herd is also a winner. Check it out – or tel: 027 74884.
Where do I get green gooseberries? The English Market in Cork or Rose Cottage Fruit Farm in Co Laois – they have a stall at the Midleton and Mahon Farmers Market. While you are there look out for beautiful fresh lobsters wrapped in seaweed from Michael Barrett 086 6000438, depending on the weather.

What you missed at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine


After months of build up and careful planning by Rory O’ Connell, Rebecca Cronin, Colm McCan and the Litfest team the 2nd event came and went in a whirlwind of exciting workshops, debates, lectures, tastings,demos …..  The fringe festival in The Big Shed was a throbbing melee of food stalls, craft beer makers, artisan producers, fresh coffee roasters and Ivan’s restaurant …

Camilla Houston who spreads magic everywhere she goes, had created a fantastic Family Corner decorated with huge paper mache fruit and vegetables and Happie the cow was there for the kids to climb on.
This year the festival was renamed the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine to acknowledge our title festival sponsors.
Camilla and her team of elves had back to back activities for the children all connected to food and growing. Rene Redzepi’s daughter Arwen loved learning how to make smoothies. GIY were also there encouraging and showing people how to grow some of their own food.
Philip Dennhardt and his team at Saturday Pizzas turned out bubbly pizzas from his woodburning oven. Laurent Catinot and daughters did crepes and chicken gizzard salad, while aficionados queued.
Next door in the Drinks Theatre, Colm Mc Can consultant sommelier at Ballymaloe House hosted one brilliant wine, drink, spirit, craft beer and cocktail event after another. The look was upscale retro, with 1 green bottle hanging on the wall beside 99 dark bottles. The great graffetti now called Street Art and rightly so was done by Dusto (Adam O’ Connor) and the installations were by Sam Gleeson, Barry Rodgers from Elemental Designs and Sharon Greene, Yvonne Woods and Aoife Banville. All were food and literature connected – after all this was a literary festival.
In the Grain store Rene Redzepi held forth on The Nordic Food Revolution. Joanna Blythman, Ella Mc Sweeney and John Mc Kenna debated on Good Fats, Bad Fats and much much more.
Myrtle Allen’s Cookery archive with Regina Sexton was another stand-out event as was the Butter Vikings.
A shuttle bus ferried people backwards and forwards to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry where a mind blowing list of iconic chefs and cooks from all over the world wowed their audience. People were utterly gob smacked by feisty Diana Kennedy, 91 going on 19 who insisted on being involved in the mis en place for all her dishes the day before. What is she on…. She has extraordinary energy and vitality and gave a fantastic performance of delicious food. There was also Maggie Beer from Australia who reintroduced us to verjuice and cooked beautiful simple food with our fresh ingredients. Standing room only for the Ottolenghi boys, Yotam and Sammi and sadly we had to turn people away.
RTE finest, with Martin Shanahan, Catherine Fulvio and Paul Flynn gave a splendid and hilarious performance. Ross Lewis with Rachel Allen by his side cooked some of the dishes from his beautiful book Chapter One and clearly illustrated why he is so successful. Much loved as ever our past students, Clodagh McKenna, Lily Higgins, and Jordan Bourke made us very proud and signed lots of books after their session.
Rory O Connell and Ariana Bundy shared the stage and cooked some of their favourite recipes from Master It and Pomegranates and Roses and there was so much more – altogether a great weekend. We’ve already begun to work on next year’s event 15th – 17th May. Pop those dates in your diary now. We’ve got a fantastic line up planned of which more anon.

Maggie’s Beers Oyster Shooters

One year, a great caterer and friend of mine, Cath Kerry, introduced a verjuice oyster shooter to as many of her customers as she possibly could. I thought it a great idea, then, given my love of jellies, took it a step further by adding gelatine. Having the oysters encased in a soft verjuice jelly, with the surprise of the thyme and vinegar on top, is both a taste and textural sensation – and it’s so simple to do. And oh what a difference it makes if you shuck your own oysters.
These shooters are best when the jelly is only just softly set so that the jelly-encased oyster slips easily out of its glass.

Makes 6 shooters
1/2 x 2g gelatine leaf
110ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) verjuice
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
6 oysters, freshly shucked
1/2 golden shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the gelatine leaf in cold water for a couple of minutes to soften. Heat the verjuice and sugar in a small saucepan over a high heat until sugar dissolves, then leave to cool a little. Squeeze the extra liquid out of the gelatine leaf and stir into the lukewarm verjuice until dissolved.

Divide one third of the verjuice mixture between 6 shot glasses then refrigerate until the jelly sets. Keep the remaining 2/3 in a warm place so that it doesn’t set while the mixture in the glasses is in the refrigerator. If it does set, gently reheat over a low heat. Place a freshly shucked oyster on top of each of the set jellies, then top with the remaining verjuice mixture and refrigerate until set.

Meanwhile mix shallot, sherry vinegar and thyme, then season to taste and leave for 20 minutes for flavours to infuse. Top each shot glass with a little of the shallot mixture, then serve each one with a teaspoon so that your guests can enjoy their oyster shooters in one bite.

Ottolenghi’s Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad

Serves 6

1 orange
50g (2oz) honey
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
about 300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) water
1kg (2 1/4lbs) skinless chicken breast
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
15g (1/2oz) picked coriander leaves
15g (1/2oz) picked basil leaves, torn
15 picked mint leaves, torn
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 red chilli thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and black pepper

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

Trim and discard 1cm (1/2 inch) off the top and tail of the orange and cut it into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove any pips. Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and just enough water to cover the oranges. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour. At the end you should be left with soft orange and about 3 tablespoons of thick syrup; add water during the cooking if needed. Use a food processor to blitz the orange and syrup into a smooth, runny paste; again, add a little water if needed.

Mix the chicken breast with half the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very (!) hot ridged griddle pan. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side to get clear char-mark all over. Transfer to a roasting tray and place in the oven 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked.

Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, break it with your hands into rough and quite large pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl, pour over half the orange paste and stir well. The other half you can keep in the fridge for a few days and would make a good addition for herb salsa to serve with oily fish such as mackerel or salmon.

Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, including the rest of the olive oil, and toss gently. Taste, add salt and pepper and, if needed, some more olive oil and lemon juice.

Ariana Bundys Cold Cucumber Soup with Plump Raisins, Walnuts, Mint and Spring Onions

Iranians eat a lot of cucumbers. They’re considered more of a fruit than a vegetable and eaten as such. The cucumbers in Iran are small, juicy and packed with flavour. When you bite into one, the smell fills the whole room. At parties, they’re piled high, with some rock salt on the side for sprinkling.

This yogurt and cucumber coup is an example of a perfectly balanced ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ dish. ‘Cold’ yogurt is mixed with ‘hot’ walnuts and raisins, with fresh herbs for easy digestion.

Here, I’ve used different types of yogurts to mimic the texture and slightly sour taste of yogurt made in the villages of Iran. You can also use natural full-fat or even fat-free yogurt, mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice. One of my best foodie friends, Maryam Samiy uses champagne grapes instead of raisins, which adds a whole new dimension to this dish.
1 large cucumber, semi peeled, seeded and diced or 6 small cucumbers, diced.
400g (14oz/1 1/2 cups) of low-fat Greek yogurt or crème-fraîche.
200g (7oz/3/4 cup) full-fat natural yogurt
200g (7oz/3/4 cup) soured cream
50g (2oz/1/2 cup) raisins
4 tablespoons roasted walnuts chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
3 tarragon sprigs finely chopped
2 spring onions finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
fresh pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon dried rose petals, to decorate.

Mix all the ingredients except the rose petals together in a large bowl. But if preparing in advance, add the cucumbers at the last minute so that they stay crunchy and don’t give out too much juice. You can also slice the cucumber first, sprinkle with salt, leave for an hour in a colander, run under the tap to remove the excess salt, dry the slices and then dice them. They’ll be extra crunchy and not go limp the next day in case you have any soup left over.

Sprinkle the soup with rose petals and serve in individual bowls. On a hot day, add a few ice-cubes.

Rory O Connells Yoghurt and Lemon Cake with Raisins and Sherry

This is a Middle Eastern recipe which I like very much and I serve it as a dessert cake. I sometimes serve it in the winter months with a seasonal Salad of Dates and Oranges rather than the sherried raisins. This cake rises in the cooking and then falls a little to present itself looking like a cross between a cake and a tart.

Thick Greek style yoghurt is best for this cake

Serves 6-8

4 large eggs
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g (2 1/2oz) plain white flour
400g (14oz) Greek style yoghurt
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

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

Prepare a 23cm (9 inch) spring form tin, by brushing the sides with melted butter. Line the base of the tin with a disc of parchment paper. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a clean bowl for whisking later. With an electric mixer or a hand held machine, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla to a thick pale cream.

Sieve the flour and fold it into the egg and sugar mixture with the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice and mix to a smooth consistency. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff but not dry peak and fold lightly but thoroughly into the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50 –60 minutes, until the top is browned and the cake looks set and firm. The cake will have risen and then fallen during the cooking.

Remove the tin from the oven and place on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, run a blunt table knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the edges. Now remove the sides of the tin and allow the cake to cool for a further 20 minutes.

Place a flat plate, serving side down over the top of the cake. Invert the cake on to the plate so that the base of the tin is now uppermost. Remove the base of the tin and the parchment. Get another plate, the one you want to serve the cake on, and again invert the cake so you now have restored the cake to its correct serving position.

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with sherried raisins spooned over the cake. Pass yoghurt or softly whipped cream separately.

Raisin and Sherry Sauce
75g (3oz) raisins
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) Oloroso Sherry or Pedro Ximinez

Place the raisins and sherry in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and immediately remove from the heat. Allow to macerate for at least 1 hour.
Hot Tips
Green Saffron keep storming on – Arun and Olive have recently introduced some new spicy blends including one for Rogan Josh and Bombay Aloo – don’t miss their Vintage Basmati Rice – it’s a whole different experience – you’ll think you’ve never tasted rice before.

Date for your diary
What a joy to be able to snip your own fresh herbs outside the kitchen door – want to learn how and what to grow. Susan Turner consultant head gardener at Ballymaloe Cookery School is doing a half day course – Designing a Herb Garden on Monday 16th June, 9am – 2pm. Booking essential – phone – 021 4646785

Beef, Bulls, Butchers and Biodiversity
Maybe not everyone’s scene but the Agricultural History Society of Ireland have a fascinating Summer conference on Cattle in Ireland:, on 14th & 15th June in County Arms Hotel, Birr, Co Offaly. Lecture programme available on


We’ve gone crazy for seaweed in recent times; I’ve woken up to phenomenal variety of sea vegetables around our coast. We were always big fans (and still are) of carrageen moss and dilisk but that was pretty much the limit of my knowledge up to relatively recently. Dr Prannie Rhatigan whetted my appetite when she wrote Irish Seaweed Kitchen in 2009. Occasionally, I would meet Oliver Beaujoran on his market stall in Kenmare or at Food Festivals around the country – Oliver from France had an innate knowledge of seaweed and was permanently perplexed as to why we Irish didn’t seem to be particularly excited or knowledgeable about the wealth of free and delicious food along our coast lines. Since 1999 he has been selling seaweed tapenade, sea spaghetti at farmers markets to his devotees and chefs.
More recently several companies including Algaran Seaweed Products, Co Donegal and Wild Irish Sea Veg. Co Clare have developed very successful seaweed processing companies and there’s lots more in the pipeline.
The big break through for me was when Sally McKenna who wrote the excellent book Extreme Greens: Understanding Seaweeds explained that all seaweeds are edible, some may not be particularly palatable to nibble but none are poisonous and they are all immensely nutritious. Ever since I’ve been prowling along the coastline and seashore snipping and nibbling and having so much fun.
We’re making seaweed salads, adding seaweed to bread, sauces, stews and drinks, sometimes fresh, sometimes dried always with interesting and mostly delicious results. Recently I met Kate Burns whose family have lived and fished sustainably on Rathlin Island off the coast of Antrim for four generations. Kate with a ton of letters after her name has been involved in rural and marine development not just in Ireland and the UK but also Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania….for decades.
She introduced me to Rathlin Island kelp which is being harvested sustainably by Benji McFaul in the same time honoured way as it was by his father, grandfather and great grandfather before him. The cold waters are clean and pure due to the mix of Irish sea and Atlantic currents. It comes ready to use in packets, shredded like fettuccini and I love it. The environment creates ideal conditions for growing kelp. The McFaul family are well known for their commitment to the caring for the environment. Benji’s father Jim and brother Fergus won Northern Ireland organic farmers of the year in 2010 and their fishing and seafood business is earned out to responsible harvesting principals.
Kelp is amazing stuff, it has more calcium, iron and roughage than any other vegetable, a kind of a wonder food, I know I advise people against buying anything that makes a health claim but this time I really believe it.
There are three types of kelp – alaria, digitata and laminaria saacharina – you can get it fresh or frozen, noodle cut salad cut and wraps.
Kelp is just one of the myriad of seaweeds around our coast. We also love pepper dilisk, sea lettuce, sea spaghetti, kombu. We’re no longer surprised to find stinging nettles, elderflowers or dandelion leaves on restaurant or country pub menus so watch that space because many chefs have discovered the magic of seaweeds and are having lots of fun. Meanwhile you too can experiment.

Kelp Seafood Wrap
Serves 4

4 large pieces of Rathlin Island Kelp
150g fresh cooked crab meat
2 ripe avocados, thinly slices
1 chopped tomato
Extra virgin Olive oil to drizzle

Lay out the kelp flat on a cutting board or plate. Add crab, avocado and tomato down the centre of the kelp and drizzle with olive oil. Taste and season if necessary. Wrap the ingredients with the kelp, chill and enjoy.

Kelp Noodle Salad
Mix kelp noodles with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds and serve.

Dilisk Bread

White Soda Bread (see recipe below)
15-25g (1/2-1oz) dilisk

Chop the dilisk and add to the dry ingredients of the soda bread.


White Soda Bread and Scones

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses. It’s also great with olives, sun dried tomatoes or caramelized onions added, so the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.

450g (1lb/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) salt
1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) breadsoda
sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400ml (12-14 fl ozs/1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) approx.

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients. 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 worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Dilisk Scones
Gently roll out the dough, cut into scones and bake as normal.


Taken from Chapter One an Irish Food Story – Ross Lewis

We know summer is here when the best crab starts to arrive, matched by sweettasting seasonal peas. We get a wonderful crop of seaweed from Manus
McGonagle in Donegal. We pickle it and combine it with cucumber jelly, so this dish is fresh, summery and salty, with a sweetness from the crab. There is a deep umami flavour from the seaweed with the sweet-popping peas and the cucumber jelly makes it a real summer favourite at the restaurant for the crab.

2 litres water
40 g salt
1 kg crab claws
splash of spirit vinegar
40 g mayonnaise (Ross uses an egg white mayo (see hot tips for details of Chapter One book)
1 spring onion, very finely sliced
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
4 drops Tabasco sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked sweet paprika
for the cucumber jelly
1.5 gold leaf gelatine leaves
2 cucumbers
2 tsp mirin
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 g salt
for the marinated cucumber
1 cucumber
1 tbsp mirin
for the fresh peas
50 g shelled fresh peas
to serve
125 g pickled red dulse and sea spaghetti
(page 282)
about 2 tsp coriander oil (page 281), in a small
squeezy bottle
400 ml crab juice

Serves 8

Put the water in a large pan with the salt and vinegar, and bring to the boil. Blanch the crab claws. For medium claws, cook for 5 minutes; if they are larger or smaller, add or subtract a minute. Lift out and transfer into iced water.
When cool use the back of a heavy knife to gently crack the shells and remove the meat, picking out any bits of shell. (This amount of crab claws should yield at least 200 g of meat.) In a bowl, combine the crab with the mayonnaise, spring onion and chives. Season with the Tabasco, lemon juice, cayenne pepper or paprika and a pinch of salt.


Put the gelatine into a bowl of cold water and set aside. Juice the cucumbers, skin on, and pass the juice through a double layer of muslin. Measure out 200 ml of juice and add the mirin, soy sauce and salt, mixing well and checking the seasoning. Heat 100 ml of the mixture in a small pan until hot but not boiling and then take it off the heat. Gently squeeze the gelatine to remove excess water
and whisk it into the hot cucumber juice. When dissolved combine with the rest of the mixture and whisk together. Pour into a bowl and place in the fridge to set.
Square off the cucumber and use a mandolin to cut it into ribbons – you’ll need 3 per portion. Lay the cucumber ribbons on a tray and sprinkle over a teaspoon of salt and the mirin. Leave for an hour and then freeze, covered with clingfilm. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving, then drain, reserving the liquid.

Bring a small pan of water to the boil and prepare a bowl of iced water. Blanch the peas until just cooked and refresh in the iced water, then drain.
Spoon an eighth (about 30 g) of the crab mayonnaise mixture into the centre of each shallow serving bowl. Put 3 pieces of the marinated cucumber on top of this and then add 2–3 pieces of the pickled red dulse on the crab and 2 pieces of the sea spaghetti around the plate. Use a teaspoon to put small spoonfuls of cucumber jelly around the plate and add a few of the peas. Finish with a little of
the reserved cucumber liquid, 4–5 spoonfuls of crab juice and some dots of coriander oil around the crab.

Makes 150 g
150 g red dulse or sea spaghetti
600 ml rice vinegar
4 g salt
40 g sugar
3 g lemon zest
Wash the red dulse or sea spaghetti and carefully sort through it, discarding any damaged pieces. Put the rice vinegar in a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, and add the salt, sugar and lemon zest. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and add the red dulse or sea spagetti. Return to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes until tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before serving.
Makes about 400 ml
500 g fresh herb leaves (dill, chive, basil, coriander or
400 ml light olive oil or any neutral oil like rapeseed

Blanch the herb sprigs in boiling unsalted water, lift out using a spider and refresh in a bowl of iced water. Drain and squeeze really tightly in a cloth, draining off as much of the water as you can. This will give you approximately150g of blanched herb. Combine this with 400 ml of oil in a Pacojet container and freeze overnight.
The next day, blend 2–3 times and hang in a muslin. The result is a deep green and strong herb-flavoured oil. If you haven’t got a Pacojet, half the quantities, so use 250 g of fresh herb sprigs and 200 ml light olive oil or any neutral oil like rapeseed. Blend together on a high speed for 3–4 minutes and hang in a muslin. Using a funnel, put into a squeezy bottle. These will keep for up to 1 week.

Add a little thickener, a pinch at a time, to a crab stock until slightly thickened. Use as required.

Hot Tips
Ross Lewis’s Chapter One, an Irish Food Story has the most beautiful photos of his artisan producers by Barry McCall as well as Ross’s exquisite food published by Gill and MacMillan

Joe’s Farm Crisps
I love the creativity that’s bubbling up in start-up business an interesting number of farmers are adding value to their produce and coming up with yummy products. Look out for Joe’s Farm Crisps grown and handcooked on their farm in Killeagh, Co Cork – Phone: 087 6329334.

Colm Falvey at the Goal Post in Shanagarry – Devotees of chef Colm Falvey of whom I am one, will be delighted to hear that he is cooking at the Goalpost in Shanagarry, yummy fresh seasonable bar food,–fresh fish from Ballycotton Habour, homemade breads….. Cheap and cheerful & family orientated – well worth a visit. Open 4pm – 8pm Wednesday – Saturday and all day Sunday
– phone: 021 4646492

Rathlin Island Kelp – telephone: Tel: 028 2076 5082

Slow Food Dinner in Northern Ireland

If you’ve never taken the train from Dublin to Belfast, put it on your ‘must do’ list immediately, it’s certainly one of the loveliest train journeys I have ever experienced, all along the North Dublin coast into Dundalk. The countryside was looking particularly beautiful – with the fresh green growth of early summer and the whin (gorse) in full bloom.

I was on my way to Portaferry to attend a Slow Food dinner at The Narrows, a destination which has been saved from an advanced state of dereliction by a feisty girl called Celia Spouncer. To celebrate the awakening of The Narrows, Celia who is leader of Slow Food Northern Ireland organised a feast to highlight the extraordinary richness of local produce available on the Ards Peninsula and around Strangford Lough. It was a truly memorable evening and a taste of what’s happening on the Northern Ireland food scene. For many years our Northern Ireland friends looked on enviously at the range of farmhouse cheese and artisan foods available ‘in the South’. The climate in the North was not conducive to this kind of enterprise until relatively recently but now there is a virtual explosion of new food enterprises and a renewed confidence in the future. Young entrepreneurs have responded and the results are very exciting indeed.

On our way to Portaferry we called in to see St George’s Market, recently short listed for the BBC Food and Farming awards, the buzz and energy is palpable, Saturday is the big day for food stalls. Then we swung by to see Mike Thompson’s dairy in Newtownards where he makes a raw milk blue cheese called Young Buck. The dairy is tiny with a series of curing rooms full of enticing looking mouldy cheese, Mike a self-professed ‘dairy nerd’, learned his craft in Welbeck School of Artisan Food and was of course inspired by Jo Schneider who makes the beautiful Stichelton cheese also on the estate.
At the Slow Food dinner later, Celia proudly presented a cheeseboard of Northern Ireland Farmhouse cheese for the very first time, it also included a delicious Kearney blue made by Paul McClean and a mild and creamy Leggygowan goat cheese made by Adam and Jason Kelly.

The canapés included local smoked salmon, sweet Strangford Lough crabs and Portavogie prawns from Something Fishy whose mobile fish shop we had passed on the roadside by Portavogie village earlier.
The Slow Food Northern Ireland supper also reflected the wild and foraged food of this beautiful area, Ardkeen Nettle and and Wild Garlic soup, Strangford Lough mussels and Rathlin Island kelp, I met Jane Somerville whose family live, fish sustainably and harvest the kelp on Rathlin Island the same time honoured way as their ancestors, it’s a beautiful product which I also used in my cookery demonstration on St George’s Market next day. The beef came from Arthur’s local butchers and veg from the country garden grocer in Portaferry.

Paula McIntyre the much loved chef and broadcaster, created a delicious pannacotta from Abernethy’s buttermilk and paired it with new seasons rhubarb, shortbread and Glastry ice-cream. Guests practically licked their plates! Even the wine came from Winemark in Portaferry. The homemade breads which included local dillisk were made by David Semple and slathered with the beautiful Abernethy’s hand made butter – another contender for the BBC Food and Farming awards. It was a wonderfully convivial event where there was real excitement about the renaissance on the Northern Ireland artisan food scene. The word is spreading. In fact, the Radio 4 Food progamme did a 30 minute segment on ‘Food in Northern Ireland: A Golden Era’ a few weeks ago, the word is out, watch this space.

Ardkeen Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup

Serves 4

2oz butter
1 onion
1 leek
4 sticks table celery
3 carrots
2 potatoes
2 pt chicken stock or veg stock cubes and water
20 – 30 nettle tips
A small handful wild garlic leaves
Double cream to garnish

Sweat chopped onions in butter in a heavy based saucepan over low heat till soft and transparent.

Add sliced leek, celery, carrots and potatoes and close lid on pan. When hot add hot stock or cubes and boiling water. Simmer till cooked through.

Add nettle tips and wild garlic leaves.

Blend until fairly smooth with a hand blender or liquidiser and serve hot with a swirl of double cream.

Slow Food Northern Ireland Supper



Seabeet Salad

Seabeet or sea spinach as its sometimes called grows grows wild along the sea shore – its particularly fresh and lush at present. The texture is less tender than ordinary spinach so slice very thinly.
Seabeet leaves and stalks
French dressing

Wash seabeet leaves and stalks then slice in 1cm ribbons. Toss together with french dressing to make the leaves glisten, just before eating.
French Dressing

4oz olive oil
1oz balsamic vinegar
1oz white wine vinegar
1oz brown sugar
1tsp Dijon and 1tsp whole grain mustard
salt and black pepper
Add vinegars to dry ingredients and mix well.
Slowly add olive oil whisking briskly till all combined.

12/5/2014 (17089) Slow Food Northern Ireland Supper




 Kelp and Smoked Seafood Salad

My nephew Ivan Whelan used to serve this lovely salad at his restaurant, Grapefruit Moon, in Ballycotton. If you can’t find kelp then try wakame, a Japanese seaweed that can be found in health-food shops. Serves 6–8

50g dried kelp or wakame
150g (5oz) Cold-smoked Salmon
150g (5oz) smoked eel, weighed after skinning and boning
50g (2oz) pickled ginger (gari)
60g (21⁄2oz) pine nuts
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
11⁄2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander
30 Smoked Mussels

Soak the seaweed in cold water for about 30 minutes to reconstitute. Drain very well in a colander and press out all the excess water. Put into a large mixing bowl.
Cut the smoked salmon and eel into small pieces and chop the ginger. Add these to the seaweed, along with the pine nuts, soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, coriander and salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently to avoid breaking up the fish. Serve stacked on a plate with smoked mussels dotted around.

02/09/2010 (CS) Forgotten Skills Book (14244)

Paula McIntyre’s Shortbread made with Abernethy’s Handmade Butter

Makes 34 – 36 biscuits

100 g (3½ ozs) Abernethy’s hand made butter
50 g (2 ozs) icing sugar
50 g (2 ozs) cornflour
100 g (3½ ozs) plain white flour
1 teaspoon lavender (optional)

Cream the butter well, add the icing sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the cornflour and flour and bring together into a ball. Cover with cling film and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes minimum.
Just before baking preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Roll the dough to a thickness of ¼ inch (5 mm) stamp out the cookies. Paula used a 2 inch (5 cm) round cutter but it can be whatever size or shape you need.
Spread on a parchment lined baking tray. Cook for 10- 12 minutes approximately or until they are a very pale gold colour. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Serve dusted with icing sugar – Paula sandwiched them together with raspberry jelly from Castlerock on the North Coast but they are delicious served just as they are.

Slow Food Northern Ireland Supper
Hot Tips
A recent trip to Deelish Garden centre outside Skibbereen, yielded a couple of angelica and kaffir lime leaf plants. They also had cardoons (the hottest ‘new’ veg), lots of citrus, banana trees, a huge variety of herbs, watercress and a range of scented sweet geraniums as well as lots of choice plants, shrubs and trees for your non edible garden.
Deelish telephone 028 213 74 or
While you’re down there pop into Glebe Gardens (telephone: 028 20232) and get inspired by their edible garden, then treat yourself in the chic café closeby.
Recently I picked up a super little book – A beginners guide to Ireland seashore. It’s a Sherkin Island Marine Station publication, lots of photos of seaweeds but no emphasis on the culinary aspects of the seashore finds – none the less invaluable for foragers.
The Grow your Own Food Movement (at least some of) is really catching on all round the world, in towns, cities, on roof tops, window sills, balconies, apartment blocks so hope you’ve all caught the bug and got planting even if it’s just a packet of radish seeds or a few salad leaves. At least you’ll know they haven’t been sprayed or boosted with lots of artificial fertilisers plus you’ll taste fresh once again and that’s a revelation in itself. For advice and tips see



Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine

After months of exciting plotting and planning the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest got underway at the Grain Store in Ballymaloe last night. Cooks and chefs, winemakers, craft brewers, distillers, cidermakers, food writers, bloggers, food and drink lovers and bon viveurs converged on Ballymaloe from all over the world to meet and mingle.
Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest 2, promises to be even more exciting, stimulating and fun-filled than last year’s festival. The Litfest team have planned another weekend packed with cookery demos, wine tastings, readings, workshops, debates, literary lunches and dinners. We are thrilled and delighted to have yet another star studded list this year – a mixture of international guest speakers and a strong Irish presence in both food and wine. There are 60 speakers and more than 100 events to choose from. Check out
The winners of the Ballymaloe Cookery School Moth International Poetry Prize were announced last night. First prize went to Ann Gray from Cornwall for her evocative poem My Blue Hen.
Children from local schools involved in the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project wrote about their favourite farmers, fishermen and food producers, the results were enchanting and winners will be announced on Saturday at 6pm in the Grainstore.
The Fringe Festival will be held in the Big Shed (virtually the size of an airplane hangar) once again . It was the throbbing heart of the event last year. Here you will find a host of free activities – the fringe programme will be jam-packed with child friendly activities, crafts, art, music, food, conversation and fun. Camilla Houstoun who creates magic everywhere she goes has so many exciting events and projects planned for the Children’s Area. Anyone who has purchased tickets to any event has free entry. Gardeners, foragers, bakers, brewers, artisans, bloggers and fans will eat, drink, boogy and be very merry.
What’s unique about the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Litfest is the opportunity to rub shoulders with your favourite food writers and chefs.
So head for Shanagarry this weekend, there’s literally something for everyone, it’s an all weather event held in the Grain Store, the Big Shed at Ballymaloe House and the Ballymaloe Cookery School – and there’s a shuttle bus between the two for ease of transport.

Lilly’s Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Pomegranate

Taken from Lilly Higgins – Dream Deli – don’t miss her discussion in Ballymaloe House on Saturday at 11.30am

You can use any sprouted seeds or peppery rocket or watercress instead of the brocco shoots

650g butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
200g quinoa
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sumac
450ml stock or water
120g pistachios, shelled, toasted and chopped
50g brocco shoots (a mixture of alfalfa, broccoli, clover and radish sprouts)
20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 pomegranates, seeds only

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to 200C
Toss the cubed butternut squash in the olive oil and place in a roasting tin. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden around the edges. Stir halfway through the cooking time to ensure an even colour.
Place the quinoa in a medium pan and dry fry with no oil over a high heat for a minute or so. Add the spices and stir to coat evenly, then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to stand for a further 30 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and gently mix through the pistachios, brocco shoots, parsley and butternut squash cubes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter the pomegranate seeds over the top before serving.

Donal’s Beef Carpaccio with Beetroot and Fennel

Taken from Donal Skehan Homecooked – don’t miss his Food Photography in Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday at 3pm.

Serves 6-8

2 tbsp oil, for frying
900g beef fillet, trimmed
4 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
50g Parmesan cheese shavings, to garnish

For the beetroot and fennel
675g raw baby beetroots
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and ground black pepper
1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
50g watercress, well picked over
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon

For the horseradish dressing
4 tbsp grated or creamed horseradish
100g crème fraiche
75ml single cream
2 tbsp snipped chives

Preheat the oven to 220C (425F), gas mark 7. Remove the beef from the fridge 30 minutes before you intend to use it to allow it to come back to room temperature.
Scrub the beetroots, then trim off the tops. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Place in a roasting tin and drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper, then cover with foil and roast for 20-30 minutes until tender. They are done when you can pierce them easily with a sharp knife. Leave to cool, then cut each beetroot in half and toss back into the cooking juices to keep them moist.
Smash the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar until roughly ground and then sprinkle on to a board with the rosemary and half a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix together and then roll the beef all over it, pressing onto the meat to encrust it.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat until it is smoking hot. Add the meat to the pan and sear for about 6 minutes until well browned all over and slightly crisp, turning regularly. Remove from the heat and leave to rest on a board, uncovered for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the horseradish dressing. Place the horseradish, crème fraiche, cream and chives in a bowl and mix well to combine, then season to taste. Add a few tablespoons of water to loosen the sauce, if needed.
When the beef has rested, slice it as thinly as you can (see the freezing suggestion in the recipe introduction) and arrange in an overlapping layer on large plates. Scatter over the roasted beetroots and drizzle some of the beetroot cooking juices on top, then dribble over the dressing.
Dress the fennel and watercress with the extra virgin olive oil. Squeeze over lemon juice and then scatter the salad over the finished plates. Garnish with the Parmesan shavings, a good dollop of crème fraiche and add a grinding of black pepper to serve.

Raspberry Macaroon Tart

Taken from Lilly Higgins – Make Bake Love

Serves 8-10

This is a lovely light tropical tart. The lime zest in the coconut topping is fresh and summery. It’s so easy to make and is a great recipe for kids to help with. You can leave out the lime zest and jam if you like and drizzle the top with melted chocolate instead.

For the base
75 g caster sugar
50 g butter, softened
1 egg yolk
90 g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
200 g raspberry jam

For the topping
2 eggs
60 g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lime
160 g desiccated coconut
20 g flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour a 28 cm loose-bottomed tart tin.

Cream the sugar, butter and egg yolk together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the bowl and stir until the mixture clumps together and resembles breadcrumbs. Press into the base of the tin with floured fingers. Spread the base with the jam.

To make the topping, lightly beat the eggs and sugar together to combine. Fold in the lime zest and coconut. Spread the topping over the jam. Sprinkle with the almond flakes and press down gently.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until slightly browning and golden. Cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a serving plate.

Hot Tips
Ballycotton is buzzing with excitement. The Mary Standford Lifeboat has returned to Ballycotton for restoration after 78 years. Cor Cois Farraige Choral Group are holding a fundraising concert in Garryvoe Hotel on Sunday 25th May, to raise money so the renovation work can begin – Tickets for sale on the night.

A date to keep free for your diary;
Sheridans Irish Food Festival continues to gather momentum every year. This year’s event is on Sunday 25th May in Pottlereagh, close to Kells, Co Meath. Meet many of the real Irish producers in a beautiful rural setting with a fun and informal ambiance – not to be missed.
For a full schedule of events


Past Letters