AuthorDarina Allen

End of Summer Glut

This week’s column is especially for you garden heroes who nurtured lots of your own beautiful produce during the Summer and are now faced with more than you can possibly enjoy. Lots of tips to preserve a glut of those tasty vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs. One doesn’t want to waste a single scrap of your precious crop.
Because of the rollercoaster weather pattern this Summer, tomatoes ripened late so like us you may well have a glut of super ripe tomatoes now. We’ve been making gallons of tomato purée to use as a basis for a tomato soup during the winter months. Tomato fondue and a spicy chilli version are also a brilliant freezer standby to use as a pasta sauce, a topping for pizza, filling for an omelette, sauce for chicken or fish or simply a vegetable side.  I’m never without this – it’s one of my great convertibles.
Beets are easily pickled. I did try cooking and freezing them, but somehow the texture changes, became sort of spongy so that wasn’t a great success for me. Pickled beets are great, keep for a year or more and don’t need to be refrigerated.
This beetroot soup is also super delicious and freezes perfectly for autumn and winter dinner parties. Float a little chive or dill cream on top for extra pizzazz.
We’ve also got a glut of courgettes, some monster ones and remember the bigger they grow, the less flavour so whip them off the plant and make a spiced courgette soup or a courgette chutney and how about this zucchini bread.
It may not be everybody’s problem but I’ve also got a glut of end of the season aubergines so I love to char them over a gas jet to make Turkish moutabal, it keeps very well, and Rory tells me that he has frozen aubergines successfully also.
Fresh herbs can be easily dried, of course it’s useful to have a dehydrator, but honestly many of them can be successfully dried on the shelf in a warm kitchen or on a wire rack on the windowsill.  We’ve been drying lots of lemon verbena for the herb teas during the winter. The last of your fresh mint can be chopped and frozen in little ice cubes. Mint syrup has also been a success for me. Fantastic for winter drinks or drizzles or to add a little pep and freshness to a winter fruit salad.

Spicy Tomato Fondue

Make a big batch or several of this delicious, spicy tomato – you can whip up a meal in minutes for pizza, omelette filling, sauce for a grilled chicken breast, lamb chop, or a spicy side – add a can of beans and it’s a bean stew…

Serves 6

For the Spicy Tomato Fondue

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

110g onions, sliced

1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin

1 garlic clove, crushed

900g very ripe tomatoes in summer, peeled (see note)

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a large stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole over a gentle heat. Add the sliced onions, chopped chillies, ground cumin and garlic, and stir well to coat everything in the oil. Cover the pan with a lid and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft, but not coloured. It is vital that the onions are completely soft before you add the tomatoes.

Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes and add to the pan with their juices (if you are using tinned tomatoes, you can tip them straight in). Season with salt, pepper and sugar; tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity. Cover and cook for a further 10-20 minutes until the tomato softens, uncovering for the last 5 minutes or so to reduce the sauce a little. Fresh tomatoes need a shorter cooking time than tinned ones to preserve their lively fresh flavour. Depending on how you plan to use your fondue, you might want to reduce it a bit further.

Cool and freeze.


To Peel Tomatoes

Scald the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds, then pour off the water and slip off the skins.

Tomato Purée

Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe summer tomatoes for Winter.  Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.

900g very ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp sugar

good pinch of salt 

a few twists of black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook, covered on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water is needed). Put through the fine blade of the mouli-legume or a nylon sieve.

Allow to get cold, refrigerate or freeze.

Beetroot Soup with Chive Cream

A deliciously silky soup with a rich, vibrant colour – it also freezes brilliantly. Make lots with the end of season beets to enjoy during Autumn and Winter.

Serves 8-10

900g beetroot

25g butter

225g onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres homemade chicken or vegetable stock approx.

125ml creamy milk

Chive Cream

125ml sour cream or crème fraiche

finely chopped chives

Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap. Don’t scrub, simply rub off the clay with your fingers. You won’t want to damage the skin or cut off the top or tails because it will ‘bleed’ in the cooking.  Put the beetroot into cold water, and simmer covered for anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and age.

Meanwhile chop the onions, sweat carefully and gently in the butter until they are cooked.   The beetroot is cooked when the skins will rub off easily.

Peel all the beetroot and remove the stalks.  Chop the beetroot and add to the onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put into a liquidiser with the hot chicken stock. Liquidise until quite smooth. *  Reheat, add some creamy milk, taste and adjust the seasoning, it may be necessary to add a little more stock or creamy milk. 

Serve garnished with little swirls of sour cream and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.

Watchpoint: careful not to damage the beetroot during preparation or they will bleed

Golden Beetroot Soup

Use the golden Chioggia beetroot variety in the recipe above.

Chilled Beetroot Soup

Proceed as in the master recipe above to *. Liquidise with just enough stock to cover. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold in some cream and yoghurt.

Serve well chilled in small bowls with little swirls of yoghurt and finely chopped chives.

Smoky Aubergine Dip – Moutabal

This smoky aubergine dip was served on virtually every menu when I visited Syria in 2009.  It was always different but always delicious.  I ate moutabal fourteen times in a row, all in the name of research…Charring the aubergines over a gas flame or charcoal grill gives the dip a distinctive smoky flavour.  Be careful not to overdo the tahini; you only need a little to bring out the flavour of the aubergines.

Serves 4

2 large aubergines (approx. 650g)

50g tahini paste

1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 tbsp pomegranate seeds (optional)

sea salt

pitta bread, to serve

Char the aubergines directly over a gas flame, using tongs, until the flesh is really soft and tender and the peel is black and charred.  Peel carefully and discard the skins.   Leave the aubergines to cool to room temperature.

Finely chop the aubergine flesh and place in a bowl.   Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste and mix well.  Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, if serving immediately.  Otherwise, put into a sterilised jar/jars, cover with a layer of extra virgin olive oil and the lid.  Refrigerate until needed.

Serve with pitta bread.  Eat alone or as part of a Middle Eastern mezze.

Rachel’s Zucchini and Walnut Bread

We’ve got several recipes for zucchini/courgette bread but Rachel says this version originally given to her by an American friend is the favourite. First published in Rachel Allen’s book ‘Bake’.

Serves 16-20 approx.

400g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

pinch of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 

¼ tsp ground cloves

75g walnuts, chopped

300g caster sugar

100g Demerara sugar

3 eggs, beaten

200ml sunflower oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

380g zucchini grated (with skin left on)

50g chopped walnuts for scattering on top of the breads

Line 2 loaf tins (13 x 23cm) with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. 

In a large bowl, sift in the flour, the bicarbonate of soda and the baking powder then mix in the salt, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ground cloves and the chopped walnuts. Add the caster sugar and the Demerara sugar and stir well to mix. 

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the oil and the vanilla extract. Grate the whole unpeeled zucchini then add into the eggs and oil and mix well until combined.

Divide the mixture between the two prepared loaf tins. Scatter the remaining 50g (2oz) walnuts over the top of each zucchini bread.

Bake in the oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for about 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve, sliced on its own or toasted and buttered.


Tightly wrapped in parchment paper, these loaves keep well for up to 10 days.

Honey & Co’s Courgette, Golden Raisin & Pistachio Cake

Taken from Honey & Co ‘The Baking Book’ published by Headline Home

I love this recipe and you will too.  Thank you Sarit and Itamar.

Makes 1 x 1kg (2lb) loaf

60g pistachios

175g self-raising flour

a pinch of table salt

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground star anise

200g light brown soft sugar

50g caster sugar

185ml olive oil

2 eggs

60g golden raisins

3 courgettes, unpeeled but trimmed, grated (200g)

zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 190°C (170°C fan)/Gas Mark 5.

Butter the loaf tin and line the base and long sides with a sheet of baking parchment, allowing a little overhang at the sides. Once the oven is hot, roast the pistachios for 8 minutes. Keep them whole and leave to cool a little. Mix the flour, salt, ginger and star anise

together and add the pistachios. Place the sugars and oil in a large mixing bowl (or you could use a machine with a whisk attachment if you are super-lazy) and whisk together until combined. Whisk the eggs in one at a time and keep whisking until you have a lovely, emulsified texture, a little like mayonnaise. Now add the rest

of the ingredients, get rid of the whisk and use a large spoon or spatula to fold and combine to an even mixture. Transfer the cake batter to your lined loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes. Turn the tin around so that it bakes evenly and leave for a further 15-20 minutes. The end result should have a lovely springy feel. Allow to cool in the tin before removing. This will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days and for up to a week if you store it in the fridge.

A Taste of Wexford

Recently, I had many delicious ‘tastes’ of Wexford. I just love the way one county after another around the country is beginning to proudly highlight and showcase its local artisan foods.
Recently the Irish Guild of Food Writers, of whom I am a member, visited Wexford for an action packed day of visits to artisan producers around the Gorey area.
We started at Wild About, a company who creates magic with wild and foraged foods. Fiona Falconer and her husband Malcolm showed us round their wild, permaculture gardens and tunnel where they purposely grow crops of young nettles, fennel and other wild plants to make an extensive range of sparkling drinks, syrups, jellies, and chutney, all delicious but I particularly want to mention just one – a Nettle syrup full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Customers come from far and wide to seek out this nettle syrup which they firmly believe helps to alleviate arthritis. No official health claims but people buy it by the case, there must be something in it!
We had a tasting of the range accompanied by velvety Meadow Field goat’s cheese, and Isle of Crackers also from the local area.
Just down the road. We were surprised to find ourselves in Jodi‘s donkey sanctuary, but we discovered that the donkeys whom she tenderly cares for,  love the leftover nettles – another riff on recycling waste products.
Lunch, created by Anthony O’ Toole, one of the dynamos behind the Taste Wexford initiative was at Salt Rock Dairy…love this concept also, Catherine Kinsella sells the milk from their herd of Holstein cross dairy cows directly to local people in recyclable glass bottles from her travelling vending machine.
Catherine has no wish to expand further. She simply wants to limit the food miles but plans to extend her range from fresh and flavoured milks to homemade yoghurt and butter.
Next, it was on to Tara Hill Honey, where Anne and Michael Wilde’s bees produce a range of honeys. We all dressed up in bee suits to visit the hives and hear a fascinating talk about beekeeping in the sunny southeast region from these multigenerational beekeepers.
I came home with several pots including a raw Heather honey and some beeswax candles.
Our ‘almost’ last stop of the afternoon was at Bean and Goose chocolates. Sisters, Karen and Natalie, work with Original Beans to source their fine couverture, a company, just as passionate as they are, about ethical and sustainable choices. They make a wide range of bars, inspired by the Irish landscape. Gorse, Toasted Soda Bread, Umami Seaweed, Smoky Sea Salt, Salty Almonds, Sour Cherry Orchard. They too have received many awards.
What a day – then back to the Ashdown Park Hotel in Gorey where MD, Paul Finegan was waiting with a taste of Jackford Irish Potato Gin with Poachers tonic and a taste of beautifully reared and matured beef from the Stafford’s home farm.
Feet up for a short interlude before dinner at Table Forty One where Chef Andrew Duncan once again did Wexford proud with a tasting menu of local foods. I particularly enjoyed the buffalo carpaccio with mount leinster raw milk cheddar, pickled baby carrots, basil aioli and hazelnuts – who knew…buffalo in Wexford.
The evening was further enhanced by many of the artisan producers who joined us for dinner as well as Lorraine O’Dwyer from Gallivanting Tours, our tour guide for the day and organiser extraordinaire, Anthony O’Toole. You too can have this experience because many of the producers arrange food tours which can be booked through

Chad Robertson’s Nettle Fritatine

Famous San Francisco baker Chad Robertson introduced us to this recipe when he taught a class here several years ago.  Look out for his book ‘Tartine Bread’ published by Chronicle Books

Serves 1-2

3 tbsp olive oil

225g approx. young nettle leaves

croutons (see recipe) made from 3 slices sourdough, crushed to make coarse breadcrumbs

1 large egg

350g homemade tomato sauce

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lemon wedge

Heat a heavy skillet over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the nettle leaves. Remove the pan from the heat and stir and toss the nettles for about 2 minutes as they continue cooking. When the nettles are completely wilted, remove them from the pan and chop roughly.

In a bowl, combine the nettles, coarse crumbs and egg. Stir well to coat the crumbs and nettles with the egg.

Heat a 15cm skillet over a medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the nettle mixture and distribute evenly in the pan. Cook until the edges appear crisp, about 2 minutes. Fold the omelette in half and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate.

Pour the tomato sauce into a skillet and heat over high heat. Carefully place the omelette in the sauce and simmer for about 30 seconds. Serve with a squeeze of lemon.


3 slices day-old sourdough bread, each 2.5cm thick torn into 4cm chunks

2 tbsp olive oil


Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Midway through the baking time, redistribute the croutons if they are colouring unevenly.

Breadcrumbs – use your hands or a rolling pin to crush the croutons to the desired consistency. For a superfine texture, sift the crumbs through a sieve.

Courgette Flower, Meadow Field Goat’s Cheese and Local Honey

A delicious little starter combining good cheese, local honey and the last of the courgette flowers.

Serves 2

4 courgette flowers

250g Meadow Field goat’s cheese (or other good quality goat’s/sheep cheese)

2 tsp local honey

Tempura Batter

200g rice flour

20g corn flour

1 tsp baking powder

cold sparkling water

First make the tempura batter.

Mix the dry ingredients with a little water, it should be a thickish consistency (can be used immediately).

Dip the courgette flowers in boiling water for a couple of seconds to soften – dry on a tea towel.  Crumble the cheese and half fill each courgette flower.  Seal the ends.  Place the courgette flowers into seasoned flour, then dip into the tempura batter.  Deep-fry at 190°C for 1 minute.  Drizzle with honey and serve.

Andrew Duncan’s Macamore Buffalo Carpaccio, Mount Leinster Raw Milk Cheddar, Pickled Baby Carrots, Basil Aioli, Hazelnuts

Special thanks to Andrew Duncan from Table Forty One Restaurant, Main Street in Gorey who shared this recipe –  

Serves 6  

Buffalo Carpaccio

300g centre cut of buffalo fillet, from

5g fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

5g fennel seeds

5g ground ginger

5g ground nutmeg

5g ground cloves

10g ground white pepper

5g ground coriander

5g ground cinnamon
20g caster sugar
10g Achill Island sea salt

Mix all the dry cure ingredients; this should be a dry, sandy texture.

Rub the dry cure onto the buffalo fillet, making sure to coat it evenly.

Place on a tray, cover in clingfilm, and leave in the fridge for 6 hours; turn once and leave for another 6 hours.

Remove the fillet from the tray and place on some kitchen paper. There should be some liquid in the bottom of the tray. This is normal as the sugar and salt draw moisture from the fillet.

With some kitchen paper or a clean towel, dry off any excess moisture from the fillet.

Place a double layer of clingfilm onto your counter and place the fillet in the middle.

Roll as tightly as possible in clingfilm and twist both ends of the film to make a cylinder shape. Return to the fridge for 2 hours, allowing the fillet to rest and be easier to slice. 

Slice as thinly as possible using a very sharp knife. A handy tip to aid slicing is to place your fillet in the freezer for 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Pickled Baby Carrots 

10 baby carrots, peeled, leaving the green top on them
100ml white wine vinegar
100ml water
100ml granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt 
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 shallot, peeled and sliced

1 sprig of fresh thyme 

Slice the carrots in half lengthways and place them into a medium-sized bowl.

Bring the rest of the ingredients to the boil in a medium-sized saucepan, making sure to dissolve all the sugar.

Pour the hot pickling liquid over the carrots and allow them to cool.

Basil Aioli 
¼ clove of garlic, finely chopped into a paste

2 egg yolks, organic or free-range eggs are best
1 tsp Dijon mustard
300ml Irish extra-virgin rapeseed oil. I use a local brand called Wild About.

50g fresh basil leaves
½ unwaxed lemon, zest only

pinch of Achill Island sea salt

Place the garlic paste, egg yolk and mustard into a blender. Turn the blender on a low setting and slowly dribble in the oil.

Once blended in a quarter of the oil and you see the mixture is thick and emulsified, you can increase the speed and add the rest in larger amounts.

Blend in the fresh basil leaves and lemon zest.

Season to taste with sea salt.

To Serve

Place five slices of thin Buffalo onto the centre of the plate, making a petal shape by layering one over the other at the edges.

Dot the aioli randomly over the Buffalo. Place five pieces of baby carrots on top.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave your Mount Leinster cheddar over the plate, 6-7 slices approx.

Scatter over some chopped hazelnuts.

The plate should look rustic and flat on the plate. I like to garnish this dish with some micro cress and a bit of smoked Achill Island sea salt for a special touch.

Andrew Duncan’s Lemon Posset, Green’s Berry Farm Raspberries, Buttery Shortbread Biscuit
From Table Forty One in Gorey, Co. Wexford.

Lemon Posset

Makes 6 small glasses or ramekins

450ml cream
65g caster sugar
juice of 2 unwaxed lemons, strained

Slowly heat your cream and sugar in a medium-sized pot.

Add the strained lemon juice once it starts to simmer (little bubbles will appear on top).

Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure not to boil.

Pour mixture into glasses or ramekins and set in the fridge to chill for at least 3-4 hours. It’s best to make it the night before.

Shortbread Biscuit

Makes 12 biscuits

125g salted butter, soft
1 vanilla pod, seeds removed – you can use one teaspoon of vanilla extract/paste instead.

50g icing sugar

20g egg white
155g plain flour

pinch of salt

Whisk your soft butter, vanilla seeds and icing sugar together in a food mixer until white and fluffy.

Add the egg white and mix thoroughly. Then, slowly add your flour and salt until all ingredients are mixed well.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a medium-sized star nozzle and pipe onto a tray with greaseproof paper to your desired biscuit size. 

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3 and bake until light golden, approx. 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with fresh raspberries. I buy them from a local grower near me, Green’s Berry Farm in Gorey.

Back to School

Can’t bear it, I’ve suddenly realised that the Summer is almost over and like many of you, I have scarcely seen it… 

It’s just somehow passed me by in a blurry maze and now it’s back to school. A time of mixed feelings, although if the truth be told, many children were really looking forward to meeting with their friends again and getting back into a comforting routine after so many disappointments, false starts and abandoned plans whilst fleeing from yet another downpour.

And now, the tyranny of school lunches!

Mums and Dads are racking their brains for some new ideas. Don’t forget the ‘forever favourites’ like simple Cheddar cheese and ham sandwiches with good bread and lots of butter. The latter is essential for brain development despite impressions to the contrary.

If you can get your kids to tuck into a really good breakfast, that’s half the battle.

A grand big bowl of organic porridge with any drizzle they fancy, runny honey, peanut butter, a blob of runny jam or stewed fruit… inexpensive and super nutritious.

Homemade granolas and muesli are easy to make in bulk, ready to shake into a bowl with a good blob of yoghurt, sliced banana, some berries or grated apple.

Apples are in season now; this is a great way to use up your windfalls or a present from a neighbour.

Pancakes or waffles with a few slices of crisp bacon always get a positive response.

Here’s a recipe made with cornmeal that’s absolutely irresistible for all ages.

Eggs in some form, a brilliant protein, filling, and satisfying. ‘Go to work (school) on an egg’ as the slogan goes.

The children’s energy, vitality and ability to concentrate during the morning, will depend to a great extent on the fuel they’ve got in the tank to keep the system going…

Simple hard-boiled eggs are great for a lunchbox with a little pot of flavoured mayo, or maybe Aleppo pepper and flaky sea salt to sprinkle over. Sounds very posh but nowadays many children love spicy food and a little chilli, Aleppo pepper is deliciously perky but not very hot and can be tucked into a lunchbox in a little pot.

Hummus is a definite favourite with several of my grandchildren, sometimes for weeks on end…then it’s something else, best to keep your ear to the ground and lean into the current favourite. Nothing more dispiriting than to discover half eaten sandwiches or worse still not even touched food in the lunchbox.

Add a few dippers of fresh carrots and cucumber sticks. Cherry tomatoes are also brilliant.

Get the children involved in making their school lunch. They’re much more likely to eat every morsel when they themselves have made the choices. 

If you have an apple tree, there should be lots of ripe apples for the next few weeks, fresh apple juice is a revelation. You need a centrifuge – a bit of an investment, but it’ll last for years and it’s brilliant for carrot and beetroot juice too. In fact, all kinds of vegetables even leftover bits from the bottom of the fridge can be juiced, add some fresh ginger to perk up both the flavour and nutrients.

Soups in a flask is another comforting ‘must have’ particularly on a chilly wet, dark day.  Sweet treats are always just that, so many options but in response to a request for my timeless flapjack recipe, here it is. 

A few ideas to add to your lunchbox offerings.

Savoury Muffins

Have a look in your fridge, this basic recipe can be embellished with all kinds of tasty little leftover morsels…

Makes 12-14

225g plain white flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

10g caster sugar

pinch of cayenne (optional)

1 tbsp chives

2 organic eggs

225ml milk, buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream

75ml sunflower oil

100g grated cheese (a mixture is good e.g., Gruyére, Cheddar event a little leftover camembert or blue cheese) – hold back a little to sprinkle over the top

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. 

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cayenne and chives in a bowl.  In another bowl whisk the eggs with the buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream and sunflower oil.  Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir to barely combine (don’t overmix or the muffin will be heavy and tough).  Gently fold in the tasty bits.  Spoon into muffin cases, scatter the remaining cheese over the top and bake for 20 minutes or until pale golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  Best served warm.


·      Swap the grated cheese in the above recipe for the same quantity of any of the following (or create your own!).

·      Chopped spring onions and crispy bacon

·      Chopped chorizo, Kabanos sausage, cooked ham or streaky bacon lardons

·      Roasted peppers, basil, a little goat’s cheese and marjoram

·      Chopped rosemary and raisin


Most people don’t realise how easy it is to make your own hummus, For the least expensive and most delicious version, start with fresh chickpeas, soak them overnight and cook them in fresh water next day with a good pinch of bicarbonate of soda or just use a tin of ready cooked, preferably, organic, chickpeas, a bit it more expensive, but very convenient. 

Great as a dip with a few mini pita breads or veggie dippers, also delicious with kebabs or meatballs… 

Serves 4-8 (depending on how it is served)

175g chickpeas, cooked, save the cooking liquid

freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 lemons, or to taste

2-3 large or small cloves garlic, crushed

150ml Lebanese tahini (we use Al Nakhil)

1 tsp, dry roasted and freshly ground cumin


62ml iced water


pitta bread or any crusty white bread

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, cumin and salt to taste. Add the iced water and blend to a soft creamy paste. Taste and continue to add lemon juice and salt until you are happy with the flavour; it should be soft and silky.  Enjoy or keep covered and refrigerated and use within 3 days. 

Spicy Roast Chickpeas

These chickpeas are seriously addictive, kids love them too – I’ve used freshly ground cumin and coriander here but garam masala, smoked paprika, chilli powder, chopped rosemary or thyme leaves are also delicious.   The chickpeas get crispier as they cool.  Perfect as a lunch box nibble or sprinkle over sprinkle over a salad. 

Enough for 4-6 as a nibble or add to salads.

Makes 100g roasted weight

400g can chickpeas

1-2 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds, toasted and ground

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.


Drain the chickpeas, rinse under cold water and drain again. Lay on kitchen paper, shake and pat gently until dry. Spread the chickpeas out in a single layer on a small baking tray, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and the cumin and coriander seeds (if using). Shake to coat. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool, taste, add more salt and spices if necessary. Store in an airtight jar.

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple Syrup

These pancakes inspired by Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, New York, are the most delicious I’ve ever tasted, so I wanted to share them with you. This recipe uses coarse polenta, also known as polenta bramata, really good and nourishing.

175g plain flour

175g coarse polenta (cornmeal)

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 organic, free-range egg, plus 1 egg yolk

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tbsp baking powder

2 tbsp melted butter

300ml whole milk

225g clarified butter (see recipe)

butter and maple syrup, to serve

Put the flour, polenta and sugar into a bowl. Whisk the egg and egg yolk together and add the salt and baking powder. Stir into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon, along with the melted butter. Don’t beat the mixture – it can still be slightly lumpy.

Heat a heavy cast-iron pan over a medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes. Pour in a generous 3mm of clarified butter and allow to heat through. Pour about 60ml batter into the pan for each pancake and allow some space between each one. Cook for 3-4 minutes until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp. Flip over carefully and continue to cook on the other side for about 2-3 minutes until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges. You will probably get about two pancakes in the pan at a time, so you will need to cook them in batches until you have used all of the batter.

Serve immediately on warm plates allowing two pancakes per person. Slather some butter on each one and drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. Quite simply sublime!

Clarified Butter

Melt 225g butter gently in a saucepan on the hob or in a Pyrex jug in the oven at 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Leave it to stand for a few minutes, then with a spoon, scrape the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a bechamel sauce. Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in the fridge for several weeks.

Homemade Potato Crisps

Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips but mind your fingers! 

Serves 4

450g large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying


Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180°C.

Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.

Darina’s Flapjacks

Here it is, these super nutritious biscuits keep really well in an airtight tin.  Kids of all ages love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

450g rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

350g butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

175g caster sugar

Swiss roll tin, 25.5cm x 38cm lined with a strip of parchment with overhang at each end

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla extract, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven (on low shelf), 180°C/Gas Mark 4, until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.


Note: Make half the recipe if a 23cm x 33cm Swiss roll tin is used.

Chocolate Briskies

Cut the oatmeal biscuits into squares.  When cool, dip diagonally into melted chocolate.

Coconut and Oatmeal Biscuits

Substitute 20g of unsweetened desiccated coconut for 25g of oatmeal in the above recipe

Common Knowledge Centre

Have you heard of Common Knowledge, it’s a really interesting not-for-profit social enterprise, based near Kilfenora in North Co Clare.

Harrison Gardner, a young Australian designer and eco-builder had a craving to restore a stone cottage. He found what he was looking for outside Ennistymon, Co Clare. Then met a charming Irish colleen called Erin and the rest is, as they say, history.

But the extra dimension to the story is that Harrison decided to share and pass on his skills to others who were eager to learn how to build, mend, recycle and grow. Build School was created to empower, upskill and give individuals and communities confidence to do it themselves.

In 2022, Common Knowledge was established as a sustainable living project in the midst of 50 acres in the Burren.

Nowadays, during this cost of living crisis, many young people can’t afford to buy a house. Hence every Hands On Common Knowledge course, teaching the skills to build your own house is over subscribed with an eclectic mix of men and women and LGBGT, eager to learn basic building skills.

Check out the web site for info on the wide range of courses on offer…

More recently, as part of National Heritage week, Harrison and his co founder and CEO, Fionn Kidney organised The School of Lost Skills Festival. I was invited to participate in a panel and decided to show everyone how to make a loaf of our traditional Irish soda bread and a little block of homemade butter. Most certainly, an almost forgotten skill from many.

Soda bread or ‘a cake of bread’ as it was traditionally known is made in minutes. Next time you are out of bread, instead of hunting for your car keys to go to the supermarket, turn on the oven, take out your scales and weigh 450g of flour, add a level teaspoon of salt and the same of bicarbonate of soda, stir in 350-400 mls buttermilk. Shape it into a loaf or cut into scones, then straight into the oven.

The scones will be baked in 10 to 12 minutes, a loaf will need 35 to 40 minutes.

It’s crazy to say “I don’t have enough time to bake”, You wouldn’t have found your car keys and be back from the shops by the time the bread is baked… And ooh, the aroma of freshly baked bread and the satisfaction of taking a loaf of crusty bread out of the oven.

such joy. Don’t forget to pass on the skills and urge them to pass this basic life skill on to their friends, a gift for life…

I also made butter in a twinkling. Now, I can hear you saying, where does she think I’ll get time to make butter – Well once again, it’s made in no time. Remember all you have to do is over whip cream, either intentionally or accidentally and hey presto, you have butter. Just wash it well in several changes of cold water, add 2% salt, chill and enjoy. Pure magic and you can either drink the buttermilk or save it to make soda bread, a day or two later.

I also encouraged people to get a few hens and to learn how to forage for food in the wild, another really important, almost forgotten skill. Here are a few tried and tested recipes to have fun and experiment with.

Traditional Irish White Soda Bread and Scones

Soda bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 30 – 40 minutes to bake, scones will be ready in just 10 minutes.

 It is certainly another of my ‘great convertibles’. We have had the greatest fun experimenting with different additions and uses. The possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread. This bread which was originally baked in a pot oven called a bastible over the open fire can also be cooked in a casserole in the oven, to produce a similar result.

Makes 1 loaf

450g plain white flour

1 level tsp salt

1 level tsp bread soda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix, 350-400ml approx.

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

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using just one hand to mix with your fingers stiff and outstretched, like a claw, mix in a full, circular movement from the centre to the outside 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 work surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.

Then with floured hands, tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm deep and cut a cross on it (the traditional blessing), then prick in the four corners to let the fairies out of the bread, otherwise they will jinx it!

Transfer to a baking tray.

Bake in a hot oven, 230ºC/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6 for 30 minutes or until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

A few variations…

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 2.5cm deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 10-15 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above), depending on size.

Cheddar Cheese Scones or Herb and Cheese Scones

110g grated mature Cheddar cheese

egg wash

Make the White Soda bread or herb dough. Stamp into scones, brush the top of each one with egg wash and then dip into grated cheddar cheese, bake as for soda scones, or use to cover the top of a casserole or stew.

Basic Brown Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves

400g stone ground wholemeal flour

75g white flour, preferably unbleached

1 tsp salt

1 level tsp bread soda, sieved

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tbsp sunflower oil, unscented

1 tsp honey or treacle

425ml buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm OR 3 small loaf tins 14.6cmx7.62cm

Preheat oven to 200ºC/Gas Mark 6.

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins – using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Important Note

The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness. Add 1-2 tbsp of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).

Spotted Dog

During my childhood, many people in the country were poor, and their daily staple would have been wholemeal bread. White flour was more expensive than brown so white soda bread was considered to be more luxurious – a treat for special occasions. At times of the year when work was harder, such as at harvest or threshing, or maybe on a Sunday when visitors were expected, the woman of the house would add a bit of sugar and a fistful of dried fruit and an egg to the white bread to make it a bit more special. Nowadays, this does not seem such a big deal but back then any money that the woman of the house got from selling her eggs was considered to be her ‘pin money,’ used for little luxuries such as hatpins. Putting an egg into the bread was one egg less that she could sell, so it actually represented much more than it would for us today. This bread was called Spotted Dog, and when it was still warm, she’d wrap it in a tea towel and bring it out to the fields with hot sweetened tea in whiskey bottles wrapped in newspaper or cloth to insulate them. The farm workers would put down their tools and sit with their backs to the haystacks. She’d cut the bread into thick slices and slather on yellow country butter. My memories of sitting down with them are still really vivid. We sometimes make ‘spotted puppies’ which are the same bread, shaped into 6 rolls and baked for 20minutes.

Makes 1 traditional loaf

450g plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 level tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

75g sultanas (or more if you’d like)

1 organic egg

about 350 – 425ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour and bicarbonate of soda; then add the salt, sugar and sultanas. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break the egg into the base of a measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 425ml line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement). Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.

Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.

The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads, is not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured worked surface. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll around gently with floury hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip over and flatten slightly to about 5cm approx. Transfer to a baking tray lightly dusted with flour. Cut the surface with a deep cross and prick in each corner to let the fairies out of the bread. Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 35-40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg browns faster at a higher heat.

Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with Cheddar cheese.


American Emigrant’s Soda Bread

Caraway seeds and sultanas were added to soda bread in Ireland long ago, but the tradition went by the wayside. Not so in America, where soda bread often has caraway seeds and sultanas in it. Usually when I go to the US, I take Irish recipes there, but I was delighted to bring this one back to Ireland! Simply add 1 – 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the Spotted Dog recipe and proceed as above (the amount of caraway will depend on the freshness of the caraway seeds).

Soda Bread Pizza with Delicious Toppings

Far from traditional, this is a riff on a deep pan pizza. I can’t tell you how many times this soda bread pizza base has come to the rescue when I needed to whip up a dish of something filling and delicious in no time at all. It can be as simple as a topping of grated mature Cheddar cheese or halved, well-seasoned cherry tomatoes or you can go the full percorino or quatre formaggio.  

Serves 6-8

450g plain white flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 level tsp sea salt

375–400ml buttermilk

extra virgin olive oil, for brushing

1/2 – 1 tbsp chopped rosemary

50g chorizo, sliced

350g Tomato Fondue or chopped fresh or tinned tomatoes mixed with seasoning/spices

8 bocconcini, halved

15g Parmesan cheese, grated

lots of snipped flat-leaf parsley

Fully preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in 375ml of the buttermilk and, using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Mix to a softish, not too wet and sticky consistency, adding more buttermilk if necessary. When it all comes together, turn out the dough onto a floured board, knead lightly for a few seconds, tidy it up and flip it over.

Brush a roasting tin, approx. 31 x 23 x 5cm, with olive oil. Roll out the dough lightly to fit the tin and sprinkle with rosemary. Scatter the sliced chorizo evenly over the surface. Spread a layer of tomato fondue over the chorizo and arrange some halved bocconcini on top. Sprinkle over the Parmesan.

Transfer the tray to the fully preheated oven on a low rack and bake for an initial 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 20–25 minutes or until the dough is cooked and it’s golden and bubbly on top.

Sprinkle with the parsley and serve with a good green salad.

Other tasty toppings

’Nduja and Bocconcini

Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and replace the chorizo with 125g ’nduja. Sprinkle with lots of fresh marjoram to serve.

Pesto and Parmesan

Follow the main recipe, omitting the rosemary and chorizo and replacing the tomato fondue with 3 tbsp of loose basil or wild garlic pesto. Top with 110–150g grated mozzarella or 110–150g soft goat’s cheese and 15g grated Parmesan.

Cheddar Cheese and Spring Onion

Follow the main recipe, omitting the chorizo and replacing the rosemary with 4 tablespoons of sliced spring onions and the Parmesan with 100g grated mature Cheddar cheese.  

Homemade Butter

You don’t absolutely need timber butter bats to make butter, but they do make it much easier to shape the butter into blocks. They’re more widely available than you might think, considering butter making is certainly an alternative enterprise. Keep an eye out in antique shops and if you find some, snap them up. A good pair will bring you ‘butter luck’. Unsalted butter should be eaten within a few days, but the addition of salt will preserve it for two to three weeks. Also, you can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount used in the recipe below will keep you going for a week or so and give you enough to share with friends (though not in my house!). Remember, sunlight taints butter (and milk) in a short time, so if you are serving butter outdoors, keep it covered.

Butter (Salted)

Makes about 1kg butter and 1 litre buttermilk

This recipe may be halved for a small quantity.

2.4 litres unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature

2 tsps dairy salt (optional)

pair of butter bats or hands  

Soak the wooden butter bats or hands in iced water for about 30 minutes so they do not stick to the butter.

Pour the double cream into a cold, sterilized mixing bowl. If it’s homogenised, it will still whip, but not as well. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, where the temperature is about 8°C (46°F), for up to 48 hours.

Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped. Continue until the whipped cream collapses and separates into butterfat globules. The buttermilk will separate from the butter and slosh around the bowl. Turn the mixture into a cold, spotlessly clean sieve and drain well. The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl. The buttermilk can be used to make soda bread or as a thirst-quenching drink (it will not taste sour). Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before. Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water. Use the butter bats or your clean hands to knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. This is important, as any buttermilk left in the butter will sour and the butter will go off quickly. If you handle the butter too much with warm hands, it will liquefy.

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear.

Weigh the butter into 110g, 225g or 450g slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes  before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.


Salted Butter

If you wish to add salt, you will need ¼ teaspoon of plain dairy salt for every 110g of butter. Before shaping the butter, spread it out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with dairy salt. Mix thoroughly using the butter pats, then weigh into slabs as before.

Spreadable Butter

I much prefer unadulterated butter, rather than butter with additives that change the texture. So, if you want to be able to spread butter easily, simply leave it out of the fridge for a few hours in a covered container.

Traditional Country Butter

Irish country butter was made from cream that was ripened for several days in a dairy at about 8°C /46°F, so the flavour was more rich and complex.

My Grandchildren’s Favourites

Guess what, I celebrated my 75th birthday recently, I’m ancient by many young people’s standards, but they don’t seem to realise that I only feel about 20-something. 
Florrie made me a gorgeous Praline birthday cake; my favourite and I got lots of cute little handwritten and hand-painted birthday cards from my grandchildren plus two flasks to remind me to go on more picnics. 
Scarlet‘s pressie was a little bag of homemade cookies called Brookies, a new one on me. They came all wrapped up in little parchment parcels with a sweet little blue ribbon tied into a bow on each. They were super delicious, a brown butter biscuit base topped off with a gooey brownie on top. Scarlett sweetly shared the recipe with me and the extra secret of the deep rich flavour. I’ve renamed them Scarlett Lily’s Cookies. 
So, this week, I thought I’d share some of my grandchildren’s ‘specialities’ with you. 
Zaiah, aged 12, is the Muffin Queen, and her favourite star turn is this recipe which originally came from my Grow, Cook, Nourish Book for Myrtleberry muffins, but she often makes them with frozen raspberries instead. Jasper, aged 13, loves rustling up curries and stir fries so here is his Teriyaki Chicken. 
Thus far, Jago who is 7, much prefers mathematical puzzles than cooking, but he is very partial to shortbread 2.4.6’s which he likes to stamp out into rude shapes much to the hilarity of all his six-year-old friends. 
Ottie whizzes up super smoothies several times a day and she also loves making crispy deep-fried balloons in lots of crazy shapes. A favourite recipe from her great grandmother’s children’s teas in Ballymaloe House. Betsy aged 9 tells me that scrambled eggs are her ‘masterpiece,’ Amelia aged 15 also loves to bake, and rustles up brownies at the drop of a hat. I have 11 grandchildren, all of whom love to eat and many of whom love to experiment in the kitchen. I don’t have space to share all of their recipes this week, but watch this space. 

Scarlett Lily’s Cookies

Makes 25

For the cookie base:

215g butter

170g caster sugar

150g brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 free range eggs

250g plain flour

125g milk or dark chocolate chips

For the brownie layer:

175g butter

150g dark chocolate

40g milk chocolate

2 free range eggs

225g caster sugar

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

95g plain flour

125 white chocolate chips

dusting of icing sugar, to serve

20cm square cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)

Line the base and sides of the tin with parchment paper.

First make the cookie base.

Dice the butter, put into a heavy saucepan over medium to high heat and cook until the butter has brown specks appearing in the base of the saucepan.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Put the caster, brown sugar and vanilla extract into a bowl, whisk the browned butter into the sugar, add the two eggs, and mix well until combined. Add the flour and stir in the chocolate chips. Press the cookie dough evenly into the lined tin.

Next prepare the brownie layer.

Put the butter and dark and milk chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of warm water. Bring to almost boiling point, turn off the heat and leave the bowl sitting over the hot water until the chocolate and butter melt gently.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, caster sugar, salt and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. When the chocolate is melted, pour gently into the mousse, and whisk it all together then add the flour and whisk for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken, then mix in the chocolate chips. Pour into the lined tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the mixture is no longer wobbly, but still slightly gooey in the centre with a few cracks on top. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then place in the fridge for 2 hours until firm. Dust with icing sugar and cut into squares to serve.

Jasper’s Teriyaki Chicken

Serves 4

1 tbsp sesame or sunflower oil

500g chicken breast or thigh, thinly sliced. 

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2½ cm of ginger, finely grated

25g runny honey 

15ml light soy sauce 

½ – 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar

50ml water 

To Serve

1 spring onion, thinly sliced at an angle. 

toasted sesame seeds, about 2 tbsp

plain boiled rice

Heat the oil and cook the chicken until browned, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the honey, soy sauce, vinegar and water and stir. Simmer gently for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is coated in the sticky thick sauce and cooked through. 

Scatter spring onion and sesame seeds on top and serve with rice.

Ottie’s Smoothie

Use the same size glass or mug to measure each ingredient.

Makes 1

1 banana 

1 cup natural yogurt 

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup frozen raspberries 

1 tsp honey or more if needed… 

110ml milk

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender. Add a little more milk if you don’t like it too thick and a little more honey if needed. 

Zaiah’s Muffins

Zaiah loves to make this super easy muffin recipe with all kinds of berries, and even chocolate chips occasionally.

Makes 8

225g white flour

½ tsp salt

1 level tbsp baking powder

150g caster sugar

75g butter

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla extract

175ml milk

110g myrtle berries, blueberries or raspberries or blackcurrants

1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Sieve the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla extract and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the myrtle berries. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.


We used frozen blackcurrants in the above recipe with delicious results!

Amelia’s Chocolate Brownies

Amelia found this recipe in BBC Good Food with a very good and thorough method.


185g unsalted butter

185g best dark chocolate

85g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

50g white chocolate

50g milk chocolate

3 large eggs

275g golden caster sugar

Cut the unsalted butter into small cubes and tip into a medium bowl. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces and drop into the bowl.

Fill a small saucepan about a quarter full with hot water, then sit the bowl on top so it rests on the rim of the pan, not touching the water. Put over a low heat until the butter and chocolate have melted, stirring occasionally to mix them.

Remove the bowl from the pan. Alternatively, cover the bowl loosely with cling film and put in the microwave for 2 minutes on High. Leave the melted mixture to cool to room temperature.

While you wait for the chocolate to cool, position a shelf in the middle of your oven and turn the oven on to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Using a shallow 20cm square tin, cut out a square of kitchen foil (or non-stick baking parchment) to line the base. Tip the plain flour and cocoa powder into a sieve held over a medium bowl. Tap and shake the sieve so they run through together and you get rid of any lumps.

Chop the white chocolate and milk chocolate into chunks on a board.

Break 3 large eggs into a large bowl and tip in golden caster sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar. They will look thick and creamy, like a milkshake. This can take 3-8 minutes, depending on how powerful your mixer is. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume. Another check is to turn off the mixer, lift out the beaters and wiggle them from side to side. If the mixture that runs off the beaters leaves a trail on the surface of the mixture in the bowl for a second or two, you’re there.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Plunge the spatula in at one side, take it underneath and bring it up the opposite side and in again at the middle. Continue going under and over in a figure of eight, moving the bowl round after each folding so you can get at it from all sides, until the two mixtures are one and the colour is a mottled dark brown. The idea is to marry them without knocking out the air, so be as gentle and slow as you like.

Hold the sieve over the bowl of eggy chocolate mixture and resift the cocoa and flour mixture, shaking the sieve from side to side, to cover the top evenly.

Gently fold in this powder using the same figure of eight action as before. The mixture will look dry and dusty at first, and a bit unpromising, but if you keep going very gently and patiently, it will end up looking gungy and fudgy. Stop just before you feel you should, as you don’t want to overdo this mixing.

Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks until they’re dotted throughout.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping every bit out of the bowl with the spatula. Gently ease the mixture into the corners of the tin and paddle the spatula from side to side across the top to level it.

Put in the oven and set your timer for 25 mins. When the buzzer goes, open the oven, pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it’s not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust and the sides are just beginning to come away from the tin. Take out of the oven.

Leave the whole thing in the tin until completely cold, then, if you’re using the brownie tin, lift up the protruding rim slightly and slide the uncut brownie out on its base. If you’re using a normal tin, lift out the brownie with the foil (or parchment). Cut into quarters, then cut each quarter into four squares and finally into triangles.

They’ll keep in an airtight container for a good two weeks and in the freezer for up to a month.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

This recipe was originally in imperial measurements, to get best results, weigh in oz.

Makes 25

6oz (175g) plain flour or spelt

4oz (110g) butter

2oz (50g) castor sugar

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm thick.  Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.

Delicious biscuits to nibble but we also serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content, they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.

However, if they are too pale they will be undercooked and doughy.  Cool on a wire rack.

Gluten Free: Swap the flour for Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Baking Flour for a delicious gluten free alternative

Demerara Shortbread

Proceed as in master recipe.  When rolling the biscuits, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and continue as above.

Ballymaloe Balloons – Cheats Doughnuts

My mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, made these for her children, and then passed on the recipe to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’ve also been a favourite of guest children at Children’s Tea in Ballymaloe House for over 40 years. They cook into funny little shapes, uneven in texture, which is a lot of fun – use your imagination to decide what they look like!

Makes about 10 balloons

150g white flour

2 tsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 level tsp baking powder

200ml or more full-cream milk

extra caster sugar or cinnamon sugar (granulated sugar mixed with a little ground cinnamon) to coat.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix to a thick batter (dropping consistency) with milk.

Preheat a deep-fryer to 190°C

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture and push it gently off with your finger so that it drops in a round ball into the fat. Fry until puffed and golden. Remove and drain. Repeat the process until you have used up all the batter.

Roll the balloons in caster sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve at once.

Also delicious with sweet apple sauce flavoured with a little cinnamon and a bowl of pastry cream for dipping.

Note: No deep fat fryer… Heat 4cm light olive or vegetable oil in a deep pan. Cook as above.

Bold Beans Cookbook

Whoever would have imagined that we’d be back into tights and woolly jumpers in early August…

This week I’m zoning in on beans and pulses. Apparently, there are literally thousands of varieties, I’ve been thinking a lot about beans, I’m a big bean fan, they’re one of my essential year-round store cupboard ingredients, just as brilliant for summer salads as they are for gutsy winter stews. I’ve tasted and cooked possibly 10 to 12 types so that leaves thousands more to go!

Beans are a totally brilliant food, definitely a super food, a very inexpensive source of protein, plus they are also the farmers friend because they fix nitrogen naturally in the soil though the nodules on their roots.

Beans contain lots of fibre and are a very valuable source of essential vitamins and minerals. They help to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels, contribute to a healthy gut biome and are of course vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. 

At a time when the world we live in is facing a myriad of problems, not least fragile food systems, food insecurity and the now very evident climate issues…CO2 and methane levels are the highest for over 2 million years. 

We’re in a proper mess and there’s certainly no single way to solve the complex climate challenges but beans can certainly be a small part of a sustainable nutritious climate positive solution. 

They can grow anywhere from sea level to 3000 metres, in harsh conditions and poor soil. Super nourishing and an especially important gift during this cost of living crisis. People survived on beans when meat was hard to come by. 

I recently added a new cookbook entitled Bold Beans to my library, a collection of super exciting bean recipes collected by Amelia Christie-Miller (published by Kyle Books) so I’m having fun trying out new recipes.

A few basic bean facts:

  1. Source the very best quality beans you can, many on general sale are of very poor quality…
  2. Brexit has complicated supply, but if you’re in London, do go along to Brindisa in Borough Market where they have an outstanding variety of beautiful quality pulses or buy online –
  3. It’s essential to soak beans before cooking. 
  4. Toss them into a spacious bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and allow to soak at least overnight or better still for 12 hours plus until they more than double in size.
  5. In warm weather, refrigerate the beans while soaking otherwise they may begin to ferment.
  6. Drain and cover amply with freshwater.
  7. I love to cook beans in a terracotta pot, I somehow feel, it gives them an extra, je ne sais quoi…
  8. Cover and cook gently until tender. The cooking time will depend on the age of the beans and how gently the beans are simmered, a heat diffuser mat can be a help to keep the heat even. 
  9. Don’t add salt until the end of cooking, salt will toughen the skins. 
  10. A piece of streaky bacon or salt pork added to the beans while cooking enhances the nutrient level even further.

Here are some recipes from the Bold Beans cookbook to enjoy…

Black Bean, Coconut and Lemongrass Broth

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Making a homemade curry paste fresh is far easier than you might think, and it makes a world of difference in this recipe. We learned this trick from the veg queen, Anna Jones. Sometimes curries can be heavy and rich, but the blitzing of the fresh herbs really brings a lightness to this broth. (Of course, you can cheat and use a Thai green curry paste for something similar). The balance of creamy coconut, fresh lime, sweet vegetables and earthy black beans makes this a super satisfying, take on a Thai green. 

Serves 3-4

For the curry paste

4 tbsp neutral oil (sunflower)

thumb-sized piece of ginger (50g), peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 heaped tsp ground turmeric

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

1-2 small green chillies

small bunch of coriander (15g)

4-5 mint sprigs, leaves picked 

For the broth

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk

1 veggie stock cube, crumbled

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1 lemongrass stalk

700g jar black beans with their bean stock or 2 x 400g cans black beans, drained (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

2 red or romano peppers, cut into 2.5cm strips

200g mangetout, sliced into bite-sized pieces (or fine green beans or sliced courgettes)

300g quick-cook noodles

juice of 2 limes

maple syrup, to taste, if needed

shop-bought crispy onions, to serve (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients for the curry paste in a food processor and blitz to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a large, heavy-based casserole dish or a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and warm through, stirring for a minute. Add the coconut milk, stock cube (we used 300ml of bean cooking liquid) and soy or tamari. Bash the lemongrass stalk using a rolling pin or jar of beans and add that to the pan as well.

Add the beans, along with 1 tablespoon of their stock (or water, if using canned) and the red pepper. Let this bubble away for 8-10 minutes until the pepper is tender. Finally, add the mangetout and bubble away for about 4 minutes until cooked, adding the quick-cook noodles for the last minute. Finish by adding lime juice to taste. You can add a squeeze of maple syrup at this point if the curry needs some sweetness, or some more soy if it needs more salt.

Serve in big bowls and top with crispy onions, if using.

Note from Darina

If you wish to make your own crispy onions or shallots.

Slice the peeled onions or shallots thinly.  Spread out on kitchen paper and allow to dry out. Cook until golden and crisp in hot oil, moving them with a metal spoon as they cook.  Drain on kitchen paper.

White Bean Soup with Hazelnut Rosemary Pesto

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

For best results, the parsnips, pears and onion should all be chopped into similar 2cm chunks.  When roasted in their skins, the garlic cloves deliver a sweet but rounded depth that we LOVE, and the nutty rosemary pesto makes it even more flavoursome. If you don’t have time to make pesto, use shop-bought and stir through 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary just before serving.

Serves 3

3 medium or 2 large parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

2 pears, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

3-4 fat garlic cloves, skin on

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

700g jar white beans with their bean stock, or 2 x 400g can white beans with 200ml veg or chicken stock (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

about 450ml vegetable or chicken stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto

small bunch of parsley (about 15g), roughly chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves (or sage fried in olive oil until crispy)

50g blanched and toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts or pine nuts)

50g vegetarian hard cheese or Parmesan, or Pecorino, grated

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6 and line a roasting tray with parchment.

Tumble the chopped parsnips, pears, onion and whole garlic cloves (skin on) onto the roasting tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with the cumin, salt and pepper and give it a good mix.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and have started to caramelise. 

While the veg is roasting, make the hazelnut and rosemary pesto. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a blender and blitz until a chunky paste is formed. Alternatively, grind the ingredients in a pestle and mortar for an even chunkier texture. Season to taste. Add more olive oil to loosen if necessary (we added an additional 7 tbsp olive oil to loosen the mixture to our liking).

Remove the roasting tray from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and tip the contents of the try into a large, deep pan. Add the beans with their bean stock (we added 500ml), along with the additional stock, and blitz until smooth using a handheld blender. How much additional stock you add will depend on the consistency you like your soup. Heat the soup through until hot.

To serve, pour the soup into warm bowls. Top each one with a spoonful of the pesto. This soup can happily be made in advance (it will keep for up to 3 days) and can be reheated in a saucepan to serve. It will also freeze well; cook straight from frozen until piping hot.

Oaxacan Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado and Lime Vinaigrette

I love this perky Mexican salad and make it throughout the year with either fresh or canned sweetcorn.

Serves 6-8

2 x 400g cans black beans, rinsed and drained

or 450g black beans, soaked overnight and cooked for 30 minutes

175-225g cooked fresh sweetcorn or corn niblets

2 red bell peppers, deseeded and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

125g chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish

2 ripe but firm avocados, diced (preferably Hass)

corn tortilla chips, to serve


9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp lime zest

6 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Put the black beans, sweetcorn, red peppers, garlic and shallots into a bowl.  Sprinkle over the salt, cayenne and chopped coriander.  Toss gently to combine. 

Mix the extra virgin olive oil with the lime zest and juice.   Add the sugar and whisk to emulsify.  Pour over the salad and toss.  Season to taste and add a little more sugar if necessary to balance the lime.

Just before serving, add the avocados and mix gently.  Garnish with coriander and serve at room with lots of tortilla chips on the side.

Roast Fig, Butter Bean and Pecorino Salad

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Crisp and golden butter beans, sweet jammy figs, sharp and salty Pecorino and a zingy, creamy pistachio dressing – this little salad ticks all the boxes.  Perfect during late summer/early autumn when figs are at their best.  I love adding beans to so many things, salads especially, to instantly bulk them up and add some substance.

Serves 2

100g shelled pistachios

½ x 700g jar butter beans, drained (we used 200g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

3 large, ripe figs, quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

small bunch of thyme (about 15g), leaves picked

25g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative, shaved

sea salt

lamb’s lettuce or rocket, to serve

For the dressing

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

20ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

½ garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp honey

juice of 1 lemon

10g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative   

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with parchment.

Tip the pistachios on to a separate baking tray and roast for around 12-15 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool and increase the oven temperature to 220°C (200°C fan)/Gas Mark 7.

Rinse the drained beans and pat them dry with a paper towel. Tip into a bowl, then add the figs, olive oil, thyme and a pinch of salt. Toss well and transfer to the prepared baking tray. Spread out evenly so that the ingredients aren’t piled on top of each other, then roast for 20-25 minutes, until the figs are jammy, and the beans are crisp.

To make the dressing, transfer 60g of the cooled pistachios to a small blender, along with the dressing ingredients. Add a pinch of salt and blitz to emulsify. You may need to loosen with a tablespoon or two of cold water to reach a drizzly consistency. It should look like a runny pesto. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Set aside.

When everything’s ready, assemble the salad. Toss a few good handfuls of lamb’s lettuce or rocket with some extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Divide between 3 plates and top with the figs and beans, drizzling over any juice from the pan. Scatter over the Pecorino or Parmesan shavings, then drizzle with the dressing. Finish by roughly chopping the remaining pistachios and scattering on top. Serve immediately. 

Wales Trip

We recently went on an expedition to West Wales to celebrate a special farm anniversary. Our friend Patrick Holden, a pioneer of the modern, sustainable food movement has been managing his Bwlchwernen Fawr Farm close to Lampeter organically for over 50 years. Patrick, formerly head of the Soil Association and most recently founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust is one of the great renaissance men. He and his lovely wife Becky now make a multi award-winning organic Cheddar cheese with a cult following, named HAFOD (pronounced HAVOD) from the rich milk of their herd of Ayrshire cows.

The farm is an example of what, in an ideal world all farms could be, rich mixed pastures, abundant hedgerows filled with birdsong and wildlife, a pond teaming with fish and pollinating insects. A striking example of farming with nature. 

We found ourselves in an incredible gathering of inspirational people all of whom were passionate about food and farming. The weekend was spent discussing soil health, sustainable landscapes biodiversity, and the future of farming and the planet, interspersed with dancing and feasting and wonderful music….

Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist, who when asked if it was too late to save the planet at a Soil Association conference a number of years ago, famously and sagely replied, ‘The planet will be fine without us’.

Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall was also at the gathering and wondered why destroying life in the soil, poisoning the water and the air for future generations, is not looked on as treason.

Organic farming ticks all the boxes, producing nutrient dense sustainable food that nourishes and healthy biodiverse landscapes and environments. It can lock up carbon from the atmosphere and thus we fervently hope, stave off the climate change which is currently creating record temperatures across Europe, US, Africa and China.

Here in Ireland, less than 2% of land is farmed organically with a government target of 7.5% by 2027. The recent EU incentives coupled by the rising cost of fertiliser, pesticide and herbicides are encouraging others to join the ranks, attracted by the rate of payment in the new Organic Farming Scheme. The hope is that that figure will have risen to 4% by 2030 still way off the Eu target of 25% by 2050. 

Wales is so easy to reach by ferry and so beautiful. We stayed on for a few extra days to meander through the narrow Welsh lanes edged with Queen Anne’s lace, lots of willow herb, loosestrife and Himalayan balsam and stayed in the Harbourmaster Hotel in the little fishing village of Aberaeron, home to a second branch of one of my favourite food shops, Watson and Pratt. Put that name on your ‘must do’ Welsh list. There is also a branch of this superb organic grocery in Lampeter rather incongruously tucked into an industrial estate.

Wright’s Food Emporium, a former Georgian pub in the village of Llanarthney in Carmarthen is also worth a detour, a magnet for good food lovers. Another independent food shop and café, stuffed to the ceiling with delicious food, natural wines and other good things…

There we found my favourite bitter Seville Orange Marmalade Coedcanlas No 3 made by Nick and Annette Tonkin in the remote Daugleddau estuary in West Wales. The marmalade is made with bitter Sicilian oranges, the hand cut peel is gently cooked in large copper pans sweetened with honey from their own bees and is exceptionally delicious. That’s coming from someone who makes hundreds of pots of marmalade of her own every year.

Lots of other temptations on the shelves at Wright’s, superb, canned fish – anchovies, sardines and Arroyabe tuna.

On our way back to the ferry, we also swung by Caws Teifi organic farm in Ceredigion to catch up with Rob Savage who attended a natural cheese making course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School a few weeks ago. He and his family make a whole range of multi-award winning cheeses from raw milk on their farm. Another brother established the Dà Mhìle distillery in other farm buildings across the farmyard, producing organic gin and whiskey…such an innovative family.

We stocked up with their artisan cheese plus a bottle of whisky and made our way to Newport to a food truck they had recommended called Pasta A Mano. You need to know about this – it’s quite a find, parked close to the water’s edge with stunning views over the little bay. This tiny trailer has a cult following for its freshly made pasta and some of the best cannoli this side of Sicily, not much more than two hours from Fishguard.

Hafod Cheddar Cheese Soufflé with Chives

Many people are convinced that making a soufflé is far beyond them, not a bit of it. If you can master a white sauce, whisk egg whites stiffly into a fluffy mass and fold them gently, then you can make a soufflé that will draw gasps of admiration from your family and friends. Cheddar cheese soufflé doesn’t rise to quite the heights of a Gruyére and Parmesan soufflé, but it is nonetheless a very tasty supper dish or a delicious starter.

Serves 6-8

25g butter

2 tbsp flour

300ml milk

3 egg yolks, preferably free-range

4 egg whites, preferably free-range

1 level teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

175g Hafod Cheddar cheese

2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs

600ml soufflé dish or 6-8 individual soufflé dishes

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, when it has stopped foaming add the flour and stir well. Cook gently for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the milk slowly, return to the heat and cook until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat once more and beat in the egg yolks one by one. Then add the salt, mustard, chives and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese (reserved to sprinkle over the top). * Whisk the egg whites until they reach a stiff peak. Stir about one third of the whites into the cheese mixture and fold in the remainder very carefully. Put into a buttered and crumbed soufflé dish or dishes.

Sprinkle grated cheese on top and bake in a preheated oven 200°C/Gas Mark 6, for 9-10 minutes for individual soufflés or 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 25-30 minutes for a large soufflé. They should be well risen and golden on top yet slightly soft in the centre.

Serve immediately on hot plates.

* Can be prepared ahead to this stage but the base mixture must be warmed gently before egg whites are folded in.

NOTE Egg whites must not be whisked until you are about to cook the soufflé, otherwise they will lose volume.

Hafod Smoky Bacon, Flat Mushroom and Chive Quiche

If you are a beginner, perhaps you may want to use 175g flour to 75g butter to allow a little more pastry to work with.

Serves 6 approximately

Shortcrust Pastry

110g plain white flour

pinch of salt

50g butter

1 egg, preferably free-range and a few drops of water to bind, 2-3 tablespoons of liquid approx.


110g rindless streaky rashers (slightly smoked if available)

1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

110g chopped onion

1 tbsp olive oil

110g sliced mushrooms

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, preferably free-range

300ml cream or 175ml cream and 110ml milk

1 tbsp chopped chives

75g freshly grated Hafod or other aged Cheddar cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper

flan ring or deep quiche tin, 19cm diameter x 3cm high

First make the shortcrust pastry.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the 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 and add the water. Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly 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. Cover and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line a flan ring or quiche tin with the pastry and bake blind in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4, for 20-25 minutes.

Cut the bacon into 1cm lardons. Place in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil, drain and dry on kitchen paper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and crisp off the bacon, remove to a plate.  Reduce the heat and sweat the onions gently in the oil and bacon fat, cover and cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan, add the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until tender.

Whisk the eggs, add the cream (or cream and milk), chives, grated cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and onions. Season, fry off a little on a pan to taste. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes or until the centre is just set and the top golden.

Serve warm with a green salad.

April Bloomfield’s Roast Pork Sandwich with Tuna Mayonnaise

A really tasty combo – each of the components can be used separately to delicious effect.

Serves 6

For the brine and the pork

5 litres water

546g salt

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs of rosemary

3 sprigs of thyme

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

½ bunch flat leaf parsley

1 boneless pork loin (900g – 1.3kg) tied with kitchen twine – season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

450ml white wine

Tuna Mayonnaise

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 egg yolks

225ml olive oil

1 ½ tbsp capers, drained, rinsed and finely chopped

1 ½ tsp crushed red chilli flakes

1 ½ tbsp finely chopped drained anchovy fillets in oil

150g tin of tuna in oil, drained and flaked into small pieces

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Sandwich

50ml red wine vinegar

50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 crusty rolls

110g rocket leaves

To brine the pork.

In a large saucepan, bring the water, salt, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and parsley to a boil over a high heat, stir until the salt dissolves.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Add the pork and cover the saucepan.  Refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the pork from the brine and dry with kitchen paper.  Place in a shallow roasting tin, generously season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the wine.  Place the tin in the preheated oven and roast the pork until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140°C for medium or 150°C for medium/well done, 40-50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise.

Whisk together the vinegar and egg yolks in a large bowl.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified and thick, then add the capers, chilli flakes and anchovies.  Add the tuna and mix gently to combine.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and refrigerate.

To assemble the sandwich.

Reduce the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3.

Combine the vinegar, oil, onion, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl, allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Slice the rolls, put back together and place on a baking sheet in the oven and toast for 5 minutes.  Remove the buns from the oven and spread the mayonnaise mixture on all halves.  Thinly slice the pork and place 3-4 slices on the bottom buns.  Drain the onions, reserving the liquid and place on top of the pork.  Lightly toss the rocket with some of the onion marinade and place on top of the onions.  Cover with the top buns and enjoy. 

David Tanis’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe

This delicious version of Cacio e Pepe, one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes comes from one of my all-time favourite cooks David Tanis

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic. You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish. The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter, and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Serves 2

225g linguine

2 tbsp butter

½ tsp coarsely crushed black pepper

110ml pasta water


170g Pecorino, grated

Cook the linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with 110ml of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add the grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Enjoy immediately.

Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate Tartlets with Whiskey Drunken Prunes

This is not just a delicious recipe, it’s an introduction to a brilliant technique for making tartlets – check out paragraph 3…

Make 12 tartlets


12 “mit-cuit” prunes, stones removed

2 tbsp Irish whiskey


150g plain flour

25g caster sugar

10g icing sugar

80g cold butter, finely diced

2 tbsp beaten egg, approx.

Chocolate Ganache

100g chocolate, 60% cocoa solids

50ml cream

1 tbsp honey

You will need 12 individual tartlet tins or a tray of the same number, each measuring 6.5cm wide, 2cm deep or as close to that as is possible.

To serve

6 tbsp softly whipped cream

unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the prunes in a small bowl with the whiskey, cover and allow to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. The prunes will drink up most or all of the whiskey.

To make the pastry, place the flour, sugars and butter in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until the butter resembles a fine crumb. Add in the egg and again using the pulse button, just process the mixture until it is just starting to come together. Now, pour the mixture into a bowl and finish bringing the pastry together by hand. Knead briefly to achieve a smooth dough. Flatten the dough into a neat disc, approx. 2cm thick and wrap in parchment paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and place on a flour dusted counter. Leave it for 5 minutes before rolling it out to about 3mm thick. Using an 8cm cutter, stamp out 12 pieces out of the dough. Lay the pastry pieces over the upturned tartlet tray, making sure that they are neatly centred on the bases of the tray. There is no need to firm the pastry into place.

Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Place the tray of chilled tartlets in the oven and cook for approximately 12 minutes or until starting to look a pale hazelnut colour and completely cooked.

Place the tray on a cooling rack and allow to cool. As soon as the cases feel firm to the touch, remove from the trays and place on the cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl and place over a saucepan of cold water. The bottom of the Pyrex bowl should not be touching the water in the saucepan. Place the saucepan on the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and the chocolate will gradually finish melting in the heat remaining in the saucepan. When the chocolate is fully melted, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Place the cream and honey in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Add the cream to the chocolate in 3 separate increments using a small flexible rubber spatula. Each time you add the cream, stir vigorously with the tip of the spatula working from the centre of the bowl to the edge.

Divide the whiskey soaked prunes between the tartlets. Use the back of a teaspoon to smooth the prunes into place. Spoon the ganache over the prunes filling the shells to as close to the top as you dare.

Place the tartlets in a cool place or the fridge to allow the ganache to set.

When ready to serve, drape a dessertspoon of softly whipped cream over each tartlet and dust generously with cocoa powder.

Euro-Toques Food Awards 2023

The Euro-Toques Food Awards are back after an absence of three years (2020 was a virtual event due to Covid). The original awards were established in 1996 by my lovely mother-in-law Myrtle Allen, one of the great pioneers of local food to recognise and celebrate the very best food that Ireland produces. She would undoubtedly be thrilled to see how the movement has gathered momentum since the early days.

The Euro-Toques Food Awards continue to be a unique opportunity for chefs to acknowledge the work of small artisan producers whose produce they rely on to create their unique food.
This year, six awards were presented under the categories of WATER, LAND, FARM, DAIRY, ARTISAN PRODUCE and CRAFT
Two Cork producers were among the six prestigious award winners.  The ARTISAN PRODUCE award went to Killahora Orchards and Rare Apple Ice Wine. Innovative cousins David Watson and Barry Walsh’s orchards date back to 1837. Their range also includes an apple port, a pét-nat and a light sparkling perry made from their pears.
The Skeaghanore Ducks from West Cork, beloved by so many chefs, won the FARM Awards. Helena Hickey believes that the salty air wafting in from Roaring Water Bay imparts a unique taste, acting as a pre-salting agent enhancing the flavour of their hand reared Pekin ducks.
KELLY’S Mussels scooped the award in the WATER category. Their sustainably farmed, native mussels grow on mussel rafts along the Galway coastline. Plump, nutrient dense, and absolutely delicious.
At a time when there is so much faux honey on sale, it was brilliant to see so many superb Irish honeys nominated. Olly’s Farm honey from Dublin, Hive Mind from Cork, Brookfield Farm honey from Tipperary but the winner in the LAND category went to Noel and Heather Leahy for their raw native Irish bee honey collected from traditional hives on the slopes of Sliabh Aughty Mountains near Loughrea in East Galway. Keep an eye out also for their Hot Honey flavoured with chilli flakes and poitín. Delicious, drizzled over a pizza or a rasher sandwich.
In the DAIRY section, Aisling and Michael Flanagan’s unctuous Velvet Cloud, sheep’s milk yoghurt from Claremorris in Co. Mayo won the award. Lacaune and Friesland sheep produce the milk for their range of products. I also loved their deeply flavourful semi-hard, Rockfield cheese and creamy sheep’s milk labneh already prized by the chefs and a must have ingredient for many.
Last, but certainly not least, another intriguing product, Wildwood Balsamic made by artist turned artisan vinegar maker, Fionnan Gogarty. He makes his vinegars from foraged ingredients from the mountains, hedgerows, seashore and gardens of Co. Mayo. Transforming them slowly into vinegars of rare flavour and beauty. Just a few drops of these precious potions enhance the flavour of a myriad of dishes.
The awards were hosted by Kevin and Catherine Dundon at Dunbrody House in Co. Wexford were attended by many of the producers and Euro-Toques chefs who are committed to sourcing and supporting the very best Irish artisan produce. A brilliant, convivial and inspiring event!

Kelly’s Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass and Coconut

Serve either as a starter or with some homemade bread and salad as a light main course.

Serves 4 as a main course

900g Kelly’s mussels

450g Kelly’s clams

25g butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, pureed

2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped

1 glass white wine

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

2-4 tbsp lime juice

sea salt and cracked black pepper

chopped coriander

Sauté the shallots, garlic and lemongrass in butter, add the wine and reduce by half. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and season, boil and reduce by half.

Add the mussels and clams, season and add chopped coriander.

Skeaghanore Duck Breast with Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

Beetroot and blackcurrant are a surprisingly good Summer combination.  Who knew you could enjoy the flowers of your dahlias in your salad.

Serves 4-6

4 Skeaghanore duck breasts

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad (see recipe)

flat parsley

First make the Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad.

15 minutes or more before cooking, score the fat on the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern.  Season on both sides and allow to sit on a wire rack.

When ready to cook, dry the duck breasts with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

Put fat side down on a cold pan-grill, turn on the heat to low and cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the duck skin is crisp and golden.

Flip over and cook for a couple of minutes, or transfer to a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/Gas Mark 4, until cooked to medium rare or medium, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the duck breasts.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes or more. 

Put a portion of beetroot and blackcurrant salad on each plate. Thinly slice or dice the duck breasts into 8mm and arrange or scatter on top of the salad.  Sprinkle with sprigs of flat parsley and dahlia petals and marigold leaves if using. Add a few flakes of sea salt and serve.

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

Such an obvious combination but one I hadn’t tried until I tasted it in Sweden. We already love the marriage of raspberries and beetroot. This recipe can be served as a starter or an accompanying salad.

Serves 8

450g pickled beetroot 

200g sugar

450ml water

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced

225ml white wine vinegar

110–225g blackcurrants

wine coloured dahlias and maybe a few marigold petals.

Roast or boil the beetroot.

Meanwhile, make the pickle.

Dissolve the sugar in water, bringing it to the boil. Add the sliced onion and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced (diced or cut into wedges) beet and leave to cool.

Add the blackcurrants to the pickle, bring back to the boil and then turn off the heat.

If serving the salad as an accompaniment.

Surround the serving plate with blackcurrant leaves.  Pile the salad into the centre, decorate with flowers and serve.

Classic Roast Stuffed Skeaghanore Duck with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Bramley Apple Sauce and Gravy

What’s not to love about a crispy roast duck with all the trimmings…

Serves 4

1 free range Skeaghanoreduck, 1.8kg approx.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

45g butter

75g onion, finely chopped

100g soft white breadcrumbs

1 tbsp fresh sage, freshly chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper


neck and giblets from duck

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion

bouquet garni

2-3 peppercorns

Bramley Apple Sauce

450g cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

50g sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

1-2 dsp water

To make the stock, put the neck, gizzard, heart and any other trimmings into a saucepan with 1 medium carrot cut in slices and the onion cut in quarters.  Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme.  Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 2-3 hours.  This will make a delicious stock which will be the basis of the gravy. 

Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.

To make the stuffing, melt the butter and sweat the onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the breadcrumbs and sage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Unless you plan to cook the duck immediately allow the stuffing to get cold.

When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and spoon in the stuffing.  Truss the duck loosely.

Roast in a moderate oven 180˚C/Gas Mark 4 for 1 ½ hours approx. 

To make the bramley apple sauce.

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

When the duck is cooked, remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or sauté potatoes).  Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary.   Strain gravy into a sauceboat. Serve warm with the duck and bramley apple sauce.

Goat Rendang

A wonderful slow cooked dish from Malaysia, Indonesia and Sumatra usually served for feasts and celebrations.  It should be chunky and dry, yet succulent – lamb or beef may be substituted if goat is unavailable.

Serves 8

1 ½ kg goat meat

5 shallots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3cm root ginger, roughly chopped

4 red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped, or 2 teaspoons chilli powder

1 bay leaf

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, bruised

1 teaspoon turmeric

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 x 400g cans of coconut milk

mint leaves

lime segments

Cut the meat into 4cm cubes. Purée the shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies in a food processor. Put all these ingredients in a wide sauté pan or a wok, add the bay leaf, lemongrass, turmeric, salt and meat and cover with coconut milk. Stir and bring to the boil on a medium heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 1 ½ hours, stirring from time to time. By this time the coconut milk should be quite thick.

Continue to cook stirring frequently until the coconut milk starts to get oily.  Keep stirring until the oil is reabsorbed by the meat.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Serve hot with a bowl of fluffy rice.  We like to serve some fresh mint leaves and segments of lime with the rendang.


Rendang keeps well in the fridge and reheats perfectly.

Honey Mousse with Lavender Jelly

Taken from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall, published by Phaidon

The honey mousse in this dish was adapted from a recipe in Lindsey Shere’s wonderful book, Chez Panisse Desserts. In her recipe, Lyndsay suggests to serve the mousse with figs, raspberries or peaches, or to garnish it simply with lightly toasted sliced almonds. The delicate honey mousse alone contains no refined sugar, just honey, and it pairs so nicely with virtually all Summer fruits. It also pairs beautifully with lavender, and for a short while every year in June, before lavender comes into full bloom, I like to set a layer of lavender flavoured jelly over the top of the mousse.

I always use fresh lavender when preparing the jelly for this dish – the flavour of dried lavender is not the same – and when the small blue buds are added to the hot syrup they release their fragrant oil, and for a fleeting moment the herbs volatile aroma fills the kitchen in the most pleasing way.

Serves 6

For the honey mousse

350ml cream

2 gelatine leaves

2 tbsp water

60ml best quality local honey

1 tbsp Grand Marnier

1 large egg

For the lavender jelly

110g caster sugar

250ml water

14 fresh lavender heads, to infuse

2 gelatine leaves

12 fresh lavender heads (to decorate)

Have a pretty 1.2 litre serving bowl to hand. 

For the honey mousse: Whip the cream to soft peaks and hold in the fridge until needed. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Warm 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan, add the softened gelatine leaves and stir to dissolve completely. Then add the honey and Grand Marnier and mix until everything is combined. Now whisk the whole egg until light and quadrupled in volume, this takes approximately 5 minutes using an electric mixer on high speed. Fold the whisked egg into the whipped cream. 

Add one third of the cream into the honey mixture and mix to combine, it will take a minute of mixing for the two to blend – the sweet liquid is much denser than the fluffy cream. Finally, fold in the remaining two thirds of the cream. Pour the honey mousse into a serving bowl and place in the fridge until set, approximately 4 hours.

For the lavender jelly: Put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Once the syrup has boiled, remove from the heat and add the lavender heads. Take time to enjoy the wonderful lavender perfume as the syrup cools to room temperature. Pass the syrup through a fine sieve to remove the lavender heads. Next, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Warm a little of the lavender syrup, add the softened gelatine leaves and stir to dissolve. Add the remaining lavender syrup into the dissolved gelatine and mix well. Arrange 12 fresh lavender heads on top of the honey mousse. When the lavender mixture has cooled to room temperature once more, carefully spoon it over the surface of the mousse to cover the lavender flowers. Place in the fridge until the jelly is set.

Strawberries and Wildwood Balsamic Vinegar with Softly Whipped Cream

Many years ago, Marcella Hazan showed me how balsamic vinegar hugely enhances the flavour of strawberries.  Use one of the Wildwood balsamic vinegars for this recipe.

900g ripe, strawberries, stalks and hulls removed

1-2 tbsp Wildwood aged Balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp caster sugar

Put the hulled strawberries into a bowl, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and sugar, leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream.

Summer Barbeque

Nothing beats the tantalising aroma of a piece of good beef, a lamb chop or a whole fish sizzling on an outdoor grill or barbecue. 

I’m daydreaming as the rain pours down in torrents, but the sun WILL shine again, and I’ll be out like a flash to grill up a storm. 

I really love to cook over fire, I can make magic in a little circle of stones on the strand. Even sausages take on a new dimension of flavour when eating outdoors but during these crazy uncertain weather patterns you can’t beat the Weber covered barbecue. It’s brilliant for a barbecued pizza, a super easy way to feed lots of family, friends, hungry kids and teenagers. 

Just make a batch of pizza dough. Sounds like a lot of bother but honestly it isn’t, just mix the few ingredients, knead for a couple of minutes, cover the bowl and let it rise until soft and pillowy while you get some toppings together.

Everyone can have fun shaping, topping and cooking the pizzas and all you need is a big bowl of fresh greens and maybe a gorgeous summer tomato salad with lots of fresh basil.

For a more sophisticated barbecue, how about a butterflied shoulder of lamb marinated with lots of spices. This Madhur Jaffrey version is definitely one of my favourites, have a bowl of banana raita, some Ballymaloe relish, a few poppadums and you have a feast.

Here too are a few riffs on sausages, my favourite is simply a slick of Colman’s mustard, not the ready mix but the powder which really packs a punch. I just add a little water to make it into a soft paste, it does wonders for even a nondescript sausage and really clears the sinuses.

Its peak summer fruit at present, lots of currants and berries, which of course you can serve just as they are, piled up in a bowl with lots of cream and a good sprinkling of castor sugar and maybe a scattering of shredded mint leaves. Hope you loved the summer fruit salad flavoured with the haunting lemony aroma of sweet geranium leaves from a couple of weeks ago.  It’s fresh and gorgeous and actually keeps in the fridge for up to a week. We love it for breakfast too with a dollop of yoghurt. This sweet geranium plant which as you all know is one of my signature flavours is a must to have on your windowsill. You’ll find it in many Garden Centres… the Latin name is Pelargonium graveolens. Look out for it, you’ll find so many ways to use it – If you don’t already have it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it…

But this week, let’s make delicious use of the apricots that we’ll have for just a few more weeks.

Chargrilled Pizza

Pizza Margherita is possibly the most traditional and universally popular pizza in Italy.  You’ll need a Weber style barbecue with a lid for chargrilled pizza.  Vary the toppings as you fancy.

Makes 1 – serves lots

150g quick and easy pizza dough (see recipe)

175g Mozzarella cheese, grated

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

4 tbsp tomato fondue or tomato sauce

1 tbsp Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best), freshly grated

1 dsp freshly chopped basil or annual marjoram

Slice mozzarella and sprinkle with the olive oil.  Season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. 

Heat the barbeque to medium temperature.

Roll out pizza dough to a 30cm rectangle or circle, about 5mm thick.  Brush one side with olive oil.

Gently place the oiled side of the dough on the grid in the centre of the barbecue, directly over the heat.  Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom of the crust is well marked and browned.  Flip it over.

Sprinkle the grated Mozzarella over the cooked side of the crust, within 2.5cm of the edge. Spread the drained, well-seasoned tomato fondue over the top. Sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan.   Season very well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Close the lid and cook until the bottom is well browned, toppings are warm, and cheese is bubbly, about 5-8 minutes.

Sprinkle lots of freshly chopped basil or marjoram on top, cut into pieces and serve immediately.

Quick and Easy Pizza Dough

The beauty of this recipe is that it is so quick and easy, using this fast acting yeast does away with the first rising.  By the time your tomato fonduesauce is bubbling, your pizza base will be ready for its topping! This dough also makes delicious white yeast bread which we shape into rolls, loaves and plaits.

Makes 8 x 25cm pizzas

680g strong white flour or 600g strong white flour and 110g rye flour

2 level teaspoons salt

15g sugar

50g butter

1 packet fast acting yeast

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

450 – 500ml lukewarm water – more if needed

In a large wide mixing bowl, sieve the flour and add in the salt, sugar, rub in the butter and fast acting yeast, mix all the ingredients thoroughly.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the lukewarm water.  Mix to a loose dough.  You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about 5 minutes. 

Then knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and springy (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).

Leave the dough to relax again for about ten minutes.  Shape and measure into 8 equal balls of dough each weighing approximately 150g.  Lightly brush the balls of dough with olive oil.

If you have time, put the oiled balls of dough into an oiled bowl and cover or reusable Ziploc bag and chill.  The dough will be easier to handle when cold, but it can be used immediately. 

On a well-floured work surface roll each ball into about a 25cm disk.  I find it convenient to pop a few rolled out uncooked pizza bases into the freezer.  You can take one out, put the topping on and slide it straight into the oven.  What could be easier!

Tomato Fondue

Tomato fondue is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6 approximately

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

110g sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g very ripe tomatoes in Summer or 2 tins (x 400g) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

1 tbsp of any of the following:

freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil

Heat the oil in a stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole.  Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.  Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add all the juice to the onions.  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).  Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little.  Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the fondue as a vegetable, sauce or filling.

Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Butterflied Leg of Lamb

Ask your local butcher to butterfly the leg of lamb for you – it’ll take a bit of time to make the marinade, a labour of love but so worth it.  Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, it’s only a matter of adding all the spices to the mix.

Serves 10 – 12

1 leg of lamb, butterflied (3.4-4kg)

1 medium sized onion, coarsely chopped

1 piece of fresh ginger 7.5cm x 2.5cm long, peeled and coarsely chopped

7 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

175ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp Garam Masala (see recipe)

1 tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp ground mace

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

225g olive oil

2-2 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


Spring onion and radishes

Ballymaloe Relish (optional)

Whizz the onion, ginger, garlic and 4 tablespoons of lemon juice in a food processor or liquidise for about a minute.  Put this paste into a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Cut off all the fat and tissue from the meat and make lots of holes in it with the point of a knife, rub the paste well into the meat and make sure it goes into the holes.

Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Turn it over several times during that period. Light the barbecue 15 minutes ahead if you are using natural charcoal otherwise 45 minutes or better still an hour before you start to cook. Lift the meat out of the marinade and drain for a few minutes. Sear on both sides first then raise the rack to the uppermost notch and cook for 20 minutes on each side. Brush frequently with the marinade until it’s all used up. The meat needs to cook for about 50 minutes in total and should be very dark on the outside but still pinkish inside.

To Serve

Slice into thin slices with a sharp knife. Serve immediately on a hot serving dish garnished with spring onions, radishes and flat parsley.  Add a bowl of yoghurt and fresh mint or a raita.  Ballymaloe Relish is a particularly delicious accompaniment.


Spicy Lamb Kebabs

Serves 10 – 12

The meat can be cut into 2.5cm cubes and marinated as above. Thread 5 or 6 on a skewer, grill for 8-10 minutes on a rack over hot coals.  Serve with a green salad.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Garam Masala

A brilliant spice, mix to use on lamb, beef, pork, chicken…  Commercial garam masala loses its aromatic flavour very quickly, so it’s far better to make your own kind.  Grind it in small quantities so that it is always fresh and used up quickly.  Brilliant to use as a rub also.

Makes about 3 tablespoons

1 tbsp green cardamom seeds

1 x 5cm piece of cinnamon stick

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp whole cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

½ whole nutmeg

Put all the ingredients into a clean electric coffee grinder and whizz for about 30 seconds or until all the spices are finely ground.  Store in a dark place in a tiny screw top jar and use up quickly.  Don’t forget to clean out the coffee grinder really well or your coffee will certainly perk you up!  Better still, if you use spices regularly, keep a grinder specially for that purpose.

Banana and Cardamom Raita

One of my favourite raitas, you’ll want to eat it by the spoonful and also dollop on granola for breakfast too…!

Serves 6 approximately

25g approx. raisins or sultanas

15g blanched slivered almonds

90ml natural yoghurt

40ml cream

40ml sour cream

1 dsp pure Irish honey

2-4 firm ripe bananas depending on size

pinch of salt

3-4 green cardamom pods

Pour boiling water over the raisins or sultanas, leave for 10 minutes.

Toast the almonds (watch them, they burn really easily).

Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.  Mix the yoghurt with the creams and cardamom, add the honey, taste and add more if needed. Add the raisins. Slice the bananas, season with a pinch of salt and add to the yoghurt base. Turn into a serving bowl and scatter with toasted almonds, chill for an hour if possible.

Serve with curries and spicy dishes.

Sausages with Honey and Grainy Mustard and variations

Super easy and delicious.  Everyone including children love these honey and mustard sausages, even if there’s lots of other fancy food.  They are brilliant to nibble with drinks while waiting for the remainder of the food to be ready.

Makes about 30

450g good-quality sausages

2 tbsp Irish honey

2 tbsp Irish grainy mustard (such as Lakeshore wholegrain mustard with honey)

Prick the sausages and cook on the grill, turning occasionally until cooked and golden. 

Mix the honey with the mustard. Toss the sausages in the honey and mustard mixture and serve hot or warm. 


Sesame and Honey Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of sesame seeds to the above recipe and omit the mustard.

Honey and Rosemary Sausages

Add 2 tbsp of freshly chopped rosemary to 4 tbsp of honey.

Sweet Chilli and Lime

Use 4 tbsp of sweet chilli sauce and the juice of ½ – 1 lime, depending on size.

Poached Apricots with Sweet Geranium Leaves

A gorgeous combination – another way to use the leaves of your sweet geranium plant.

Serves 4-6

4-6 large lemon scented geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

175g sugar

225ml cold water

450g fresh apricots, left whole or cut in half and stoned

To Serve

Jersey pouring cream or Sweet Geranium Cream (see recipe)

Put the sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan with the sugar and water and bring slowly to the boil. Meanwhile, add the apricots whole or if you prefer, slice the apricots in half and remove the stones.  Cover the saucepan and simmer until the apricots are soft (5-10 minutes depending on ripeness and whether they are stoned or not).  Turn into a bowl, serve chilled with Jersey pouring cream.


Poached Apricots with Lemon Verbena

Substitute 6 lemon verbena leaves for sweet geranium in the master recipe and proceed as above

Sweet Geranium Cream

600ml cream

3–4 sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

Put the cold cream into a saucepan with the geranium leaves.  Bring slowly to the shivery stage over a low heat.  Allow to cool. Whip softly and serve.

Cherries, Watermelon and Raspberries

This week, I thought I would pick just three glorious summer fruits and share some of my favourite recipes.

I love cherries, but mostly I love to eat them fresh, rather than cooked.  That’s unless of course one can find morello cherries which make the most delicious pies.  They are smaller and far more tart but cook deliciously with a bittersweet flavour.

I hate cheesecake with a passion but try this irresistible version with a crunchy kataifi base and a tumble of stoned cherries scattered over the creamy mascarpone topping with lots of fresh mint and coarsely chopped Iranian pistachios.

Cheesecake will never be the same again.  I’m indebted to Sarit and Itamar from Honey and Co for introducing me to this concept, one can vary the fruit on top.

How about tossing some stoned cherries into a ‘green’ salad, cherries also add a delicious pop of sweetness to savoury dishes.

I like to keep a beautiful organic watermelon as a standby in the fridge all summer long, what could be more versatile – a cool, super refreshing dessert in a twinkling or a juicy addition to both sweet and savoury salads. We also love watermelon lemonade or a crystally granita. This combination of watermelon with tomatoes and radishes, a little red onion and lots of fresh herbs is also super delicious and a few added cherries wouldn’t hurt. 

All these fruits are standby desserts during the high summer days.  What’s not to love about a big bowl of cherries – no need for any further embellishment.

And how about ripe raspberries piled high with a little bowl of caster sugar and a jug of rich, yellow Jersey cream. 

As ever, I urge you to think about planting some of your own fruit and can you imagine the joy of picking cherries from your very own cherry tree. 

We are super fortunate to have lots of grandchildren living close by, one of my greatest summer joys is to watch and sometimes join them when they are deliriously picking berries straight off the bushes, what wonderful childhood memories they will have…

It’s worth planting some raspberry canes or fruit trees just for the sheer joy of watching their delight, not to mention learning where their food comes from – direct from Mother Nature rather than just a supermarket shelf…

Beetroot, Raspberry, Honey and Mint Salad

This is a surprising but delicious combination of raspberries and beetroot that I first came across in a restaurant in London. Now we use this bizarre sounding duo in several salads and in ice cream to rave reviews. My brother Rory likes to add a few teaspoons of thick yogurt or labneh when serving.

Serves 4

2 cooked beetroots, peeled and very thinly

sliced on a mandolin

24 raspberries

mixed flower honey

freshly squeezed lemon juice

extra virgin olive oil

16 small mint leaves

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Divide the sliced beetroot among 4 white plates.

Cut some of the raspberries in half lengthways and some in cross section slices, and scatter over the beets. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Dress the salads with a drizzle of honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle on the mint leaves and serve.

How to cook beetroot

Leave 5cm leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise, the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 15-20 minutes (in May/June when they are young) depending on size (they can take 1-2 hours in late Autumn and Winter when they are tough). Beetroot is usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Morello Cherry and Pistachio Slice

A gorgeous slice that makes a yummy pud as well as an irresistible treat to nibble with a cup of tea or coffee. I like to leave the stalks on some of the cherries, but you may need to warm your guests to look out for stones. The combination of pistachio and cherries is a very happy one.

Makes 24

175g butter, softened

150g caster sugar

2 organic eggs

150g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

450g fresh morello cherries, stoned

50g pistachios, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Line a 25.5 x 18cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment, leaving an overhanging piece at each end.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and ground almonds into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the prepared tin.  

Sprinkle the cherries over the top, allowing a little space between the fruit.  I like to leave some whole with their strings on, but one could stone them all.   Sprinkle some pistachios between the cherries.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and well risen. Cut into squares.

Top tip for removing cherry stones.

Find a paper clip, insert into the stalk end of the cherry, rotate and lift out the pip.  You can also do this by pushing up with a straw from the base.  If you do it over the top of a bottle, the pips will fall into the bottle. The latter is a little more wasteful but also works well.

A Crunchy Cheesecake with Cherries and Lemon Verbena

This version will win over even the most virulent cheesecake haters.

Kataifi is an amazing and fun pastry – it is made out of tiny thin shreds of filo that you bake with butter and sugar.  You’ll find it in a Middle Eastern grocery store. Brilliant for stress-free entertaining. 

If you can’t source kadaifi, just use a base of sweet shortcrust pastry.  It’ll still be delicious.  For extra oomph, sprinkle a few tiny pink rose petals over the top of each one.

Makes a generous 4 portions

Kataifi Base

50g melted butter

110g kataifi pastry (or shredded filo)

1 tbsp caster sugar 

Cheesecake Cream
80g full fat cream cheese
50ml extra thick double cream
12g icing sugar
25g local runny honey, raw honey if available

25g smooth, creamy feta
seeds from ¼ vanilla pod (or ½ tsp vanilla extract)


a few fresh mint and marjoram leaves

25g pistachios, roughly chopped 

12-20 fresh cherries, halved and stoned (3-5 halves per cheesecake depending on size)

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 (160°C fan). 

Put the pastry and sugar into a bowl.  Drizzle with melted butter.  Fluff the pastry by pulling it and loosening the shreds with your hands until it’s evenly coated with the sugar and butter.  Divide into 4 equal amounts, pulling each clump of pastry out of the mass like a little ball of wool.  Lay on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  They should resemble ‘birds’ nests, each about the size of a drink’s coaster.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container until ready to serve. The pastry nests will keep for 2-3 days, so you can prepare them well in advance.

Put all the cheesecake cream ingredients into a large bowl, mix gently with a spatula or a large spoon, using circular folding motions until the mixture thickens and starts to hold the swirls.  Don’t use a whisk. Check that it is sufficiently thick by scooping some onto a spoon and turning it upside-down: it should stay where it is.  If it is still too soft, mix it some more. You can prepare the cheesecake cream in advance (up to 48 hours before serving) and keep it covered in the fridge until it is time to assemble the dessert.

When you come to assemble the dessert, place a pastry nest on each plate and top with a generous scoop of the cheesecake mix.  Sprinkle over the chopped nuts, add a generous scattering of fresh stoned cherries.  If you want to be super-luxurious, drizzle with some raw honey as well.  Decorate with shredded lemon verbena, if unavailable, use mint leaves and maybe a few pale, pink rose petals.

Pan-grilled Chicken Breast with Watermelon Salsa

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, free-range and organic (fillets removed – skin on unless you’d prefer otherwise)

1-2 tbsp olive oil

Watermelon Salsa

225g (8oz) watermelon, seeded and diced

2 tbsp red onion, chopped

2-3 tbsp coriander leaves, freshly chopped

1 tbsp jalapeno pepper, diced

½ tsp salt

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed

First make the salsa.

Put all the ingredients into a stainless steel bowl. Taste and allow to stand while you cook the chicken breast.

Heat a cast iron grill pan until quite hot. Brush each chicken breast with oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill-pan skin side down and allow to become golden brown on both sides. The grill pan may now be transferred to a preheated moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4. If you are not putting it in the oven – be careful not to burn it. The chicken can take up to 15 minutes to cook depending on size.

Serve on hot plates with watermelon salsa.

Salad of Watermelon, Radish, Tomato and Summer Herbs

A delicious starter or summer lunch.

Serves 6

a thick slice of good bread, sourdough or pan loaf, 150g approx.

a large chunk of watermelon, about 750g with rind (¼ melon approx.)

8 ripe tomatoes (850g)

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

6 radishes (100g)

4-6 spring onions (50g)

1 fistful fresh mint, coarsely chopped

1 fistful flat parsley sprigs


6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp chardonnay vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tsp runny honey

flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat a grill.

Tear the bread into uneven chunks, 2cm approx.  Toast the bread under the grill, toss and continue until crispy all over.

Remove the rind from the watermelon, cut into uneven chunks and put into a bowl.  Cut the tomatoes into biggish chunks, season with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Halve or quarter the radishes and add.  Trim and slice both the white and green parts of the spring onions at an angle and sprinkle over the other ingredients.  Add the radish leaves if fresh.

To make the dressing.

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, honey and seasoning in a bowl. 

To Assemble

Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss, add the crusty bread.  Sprinkle on the freshly chopped mint and parsley sprigs.  Toss again.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Pile up on a serving dish.  Scatter with a few more sprigs of mint and serve as soon as possible.


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