AuthorDarina Allen

Cooking from the Pantry

Four weeks on, we’re still self isolating….everyone is reacting differently, some are hating every moment, others are enjoying the excuse to slow down and the opportunity to spend more leisurely time in the kitchen or just pottering around the garden. How fortunate that the Covid 19 pandemic coincided with the onset of Spring so those of us who have been harbouring fantasies about starting a veg patch or a raised bed can indulge their dreams of snipping their own herbs and growing their own greens and crunchy radishes….even on the windowsill…

There’s been an unprecedented rise in requests for recipes. More of us than ever are baking for comfort, enjoyment and to engage the kids.

On a similar note, last week I had several requests for store cupboard recipes – now that we have more time on our hands we’ve been digging deeper, ransacking our cupboards and finding some long forgotten, weird and wonderful stuff…. What to do with those neglected packets, jars and aged spices?  

Not to speak of what we discover lurking in the depths of the freezer when we decide to tackle an inventory that has been on our ‘to do’ list for years.

I’ve had some hilarious conversations with people this week who are determined to make best use of the Covid 19 crisis – to straighten out their domestic arrangements and can’t we all associate with that…. “Brings out the 1950’s housewife in all of us” was a friends witty quip .How bizarre that history is at last repeating itself and skills are once again being passed from one generation to the next. Not just baking and gardening but also sewing, knitting and don’t we just love the way TikTok has engaged the youngsters.

Then there is the more recent dilemma of what to do with all the random stuff that we panic bought a few weeks ago. At least the cans and pulses will keep for some time while we sort out the bits and pieces of hitherto unfamiliar ingredients that we bought for an Ottolenghi recipe a couple of years ago. Many will be past their sell by date, so now is the time to start relearning the forgotten skill of judging whether something is safe to eat by using our senses, sight, smell, taste….Unless its fermenting, it shouldn’t be bubbling….

Most sell by dates are very conservative. Manufacturers like to err on the side of caution and cynics might say the less we use our common sense, the more we chuck out the better they like it….  Well time to take back control, consciously work towards Zero Waste and relearn the skill of reworking leftovers into the next meal. I’m a sardine aficionado, and have boxes of them piled up in my cupboard from various trips  – just to cheer you up I recently enjoyed a tin that was months over its sell by date and they were truly delicious – just open the can, smell and as ever a bulging can is never a good sign, don’t open, just discard.

Of course, beautiful fresh produce in season is wonderful, but tins and cans are not to be scoffed at, they are a terrific standby, canned pulses for example are the bases for soups, stews, salads and dips – you’ll have hummus in minutes from a can of chickpeas or white beans. Add some sausage or chorizo even to a can of baked beans in tomato sauce and hey presto you have a bean stew.

Finally in answer to another nostalgic request, a recipe for ox tongue which I too love but is not on the top of everyone’s wish list. However, there is a definite increase in requests for recipes for home cooked food from childhood. Order a pickled tongue ahead from your butcher. I love it with a warm potato salad or this avocado and hazelnut salsa.

Keep safe and continue to boost you immune systems with nourishing, wholesome food.

Check out www.fromballymaleowithlove.com where we post new recipes every day. Also, check out Rachel and Rory on their Instagram account for lots of recipe tips…

Hummus

Hummus has quickly become a staple in the last few years loved by children and adults alike, see how you can make your own in minutes….

Serves 4 – 6

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained (or 200g/7oz of dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked in fresh water till soft – reserve cooking liquid)

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ -1 teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin

2 good tablespoons of tahini paste

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning.  Thin to required consistency with chickpea cooking water.

Ox Tongue with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Put the pickled ox tongue into a deep saucepan. Cover it completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover the saucepan and simmer gently for 3–4 1/2 hours, or until the skin will easily peel off the tip of the tongue. Remove the tongue from the pot and set aside the liquid. As soon as the tongue is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Remove all the little bones at the neck end. Sometimes I use a skewer to prod the meat to ensure no bones are left behind. Curl the tongue and press it into a small, plastic bowl. Pour a little of the cooking liquid over, put a side plate or saucer on top and weigh down the tongue. Tongue will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Traditionally, cold tongue is thinly sliced horizontally into rounds. Use a very sharp knife with a long blade. Thinly slice the tongue and serve it with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa.

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of a good potato salad is to use freshly cooked potatoes and then season and toss in French dressing while they are still warm. This simple trick makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour of the finished salad. I’ve had delicious results with both waxy (Pink Fir Apple or Sharpe’s Express) and floury (Golden Wonders) potatoes, though waxy are definitely easier to handle.

Serves 4–6

1.6kg (31⁄2lb) raw potatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped chives or spring onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

150ml (1⁄4 pint) French Dressing

150ml (1⁄4 pint) homemade Mayonnaise, thinned with a little water

Boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large amount of well-salted water. Peel and dice the potatoes while they are still hot and put into a large, wide dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle immediately with the chives or spring onions and the parsley. Drizzle over the French dressing and mix well. Leave to cool and then add the mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning.

Hot Potato Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Gerkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Fold in 2 diced hard-boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons of chopped gherkins. Serve warm with pickled ox tongue, sausages, boiled bacon, warm terrine, hot spiced beef or Danish Pâté

One-Pot Pasta with Tomato and Chorizo (taken from One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Books)

For those of you who are conditioned to cook pasta in a huge pot of boiling salted water, the idea of cooking pasta in the sauce in just one pot may be quite a stretch to consider attempting, but do try it. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the pasta absorbs the flavours deliciously, it’s a revelation and you’ll have such fun experimenting. For some reason I still feel slightly guilty, but less washing up helps to salve my conscience. You’ll need considerably more liquid than in normal pasta sauce because the pasta will absorb much of the liquid.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2–1 red chilli, chopped

900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, in summer or 2 1/2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes in winter

zest of 1 organic lemon

1–2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, depending on the strength of flavour

225g (8oz) chorizo, peeled and diced

850ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

175ml (6fl oz) double cream

300–350g (10 – 12oz) fettuccine or spaghetti

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

30g (1 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a generous pinch of sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a 6-litre (10 pint) stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely
soft before the tomatoes are added.

Slice the fresh or tinned tomatoes and add to the onions with all the juices and the lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add the rosemary. Cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Add the chorizo, stock and cream. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta, stir gently to separate the strands and prevent sticking. Return to the boil, cover and simmer for 4 minutes and leave to sit in the tightly covered saucepan for a further 4–5 minutes, or until just al dente. When you add the dried pasta, it will seem too much but hold your nerve, it will soften within a minute or two and cook deliciously in the sauce.

Season to taste, sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Serve.

Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Taken from One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper. Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages

Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans (or 2 x 400g/14oz tins of cooked beans)

bouquet garni

1 carrot, peeled

1 onion, peeled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

450g (1lb) fennel and chilli pork sausages

175g (6oz) chopped onion

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

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

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

flat-leaf parsley or chervil, to serve

Soak the beans overnight in a large pan with plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and return them to the pan. Cover with fresh cold water and add the bouquet garni, carrot and onion. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes–1 hour until the beans are soft, but not mushy. Just before the end of cooking, season with salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables from the pan and discard. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Fry the sausages in a few drops of oil over a medium heat until nicely coloured and remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil over a lowish heat in the same saucepan and cook the chopped onion for 7–8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two before adding the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the cooked beans and the rosemary. Add the sausages and simmer for 5–6 minutes, adding some of the bean liquid if the sauce starts to dry out. Season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes or until the sausages are heated through. The mixture should be juicy, but not swimming in liquid – if it starts to dry out, add more of the bean liquid.

To serve, scatter with plenty of parsley and accompany with a salad of organic leaves or crusty bread, if you wish.

Variations

Cheesy Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Spoon the finished stew into a shallow ovenproof dish and scatter over 50g (2oz) breadcrumbs mixed with 25g (1oz) butter and 50g (2oz) grated Cheddar cheese. Flash under the grill until crisp and golden on top.

Chorizo, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary with Chorizo or ‘Nduja

Omit the sausages and add 125g (4 1/2oz) sliced chorizo or pieces of ‘nduja to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.

Easy Baking for All The Family

Just like so many other over 70’s, I’ve been ‘cocooned’ at home for the past couple of weeks and of course it absolutely must be done but I was surprised how challenging I found the transition…

Life as we knew it is certainly on hold. Everyone is grappling with the new reality and each group have their unique set of adjustments to make.

We are all having to dig deep to find our inner resilience and realize that so many others are in infinitely more difficult situations than ourselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in a township in Soweto or in an immigrant camp on the Turkish border where physical distancing would be impossible.

Many of the everyday things we were up to ‘high doh’ about a couple of weeks ago now seem embarrassingly unimportant. How Covid-19 has changed our priorities dramatically in a few short weeks…

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the kindness of people sharing and caring and racking their brains to think of ways to help others whilst keeping within the restrictions. Many families are already scarred by tragedy and many more will be…..

Unemployment, bereavement, home schooling and now there’s the spectre of a deep recession looming.  Carers, health workers, bus drivers, Garda and postmen and women…risking their own health every day for others and the everyday reality for so many of trying to keep children occupied often in a confined space while older children frantically study for exams.

Well certainly, from what I hear many families are also enjoying cooking together – especially baking – that is, when they can find flour…

My little contribution can be a few simple recipe suggestions every week – and do keep your requests coming in: darina@cookingisfun.ie

There can scarcely be a house in the country that hasn’t one or two recipes for cupcakes, but in response to Mary Jane’s request for a ‘fool proof’ recipe,  here is our ‘go to’ recipe for Penny’s cupcakes which all my grandchildren love to make. They have fun outdoing each other with lots of extra embellishments, sprinkles, meringue kisses, chocolate curls, sparkly sugar….

Here’s the recipe for coffee and walnut squares, an irresistible ‘tray bake’ from my latest One Pot Wonders book. It’s been getting a terrific response and I’m ashamed to say was responsible for someone breaking their Lenten fast a few weeks ago….

If you have a food processor, just put all the ingredients into the bowl together and whizz for a few seconds. Alternatively, cream the soft butter, add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy, then add one egg at a time and fold the flour in gently. Irel coffee essence has disappeared for some time now but Camp coffee is a brilliant substitute and lasts for years.

Cheddar Cheese Fondue is another gem, the kids can help to grate cheese on a simple box grater, a gadget no kitchen should be without. If you have haven’t got one, ask your Gran to leave it by the gate for you and take all the recommended precautions. Cheese fondue is so quick, easy, full of good protein and other nutrients and fun to eat….. Remember, if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on your right so choose your seat carefully!

Hope you got a chance to make that rhubarb pie from last week’s column. Our rhubarb is leaping out of the ground after that rain, so here’s another one of my favourites – Rhubarb Fool. Serve it with these shortbread biscuits which the children can make and shape with their favourite cookie cutters.

Freeze any leftover rhubarb fool in a lined loaf tin (sweeten it a little more because freezing dulls the sweetness) – Hey presto – rhubarb ice-cream – serve with a little sauce of pureed stewed rhubarb and decorate with a sprig of sweet cicely for extra posh. Meanwhile, check out the new From Ballymaloe Cookery School with Love website www.fromballymaloewithlove.com for lots of recipes, tips, thoughts and foraging suggestions and for wild and free food – updated daily. Keep your requests coming in to darina@cookingisfun.ie or 0214646785.

Stay safe – till next weekend…..

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

A fondue party is so retro, terrific fun.  Choose your seat carefully because if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on our right – this could be your big chance! Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. A huge favourite at Ballymaloe.  Even though it’s a meal in itself it can be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not totally essential.

Serves 2 – perfect for everything from kids tea to a romantic supper.

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 small cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney

2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley

175g grated mature Cheddar cheese

Crusty white bread

Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a fondue pot or small saucepan and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately.  Provide each guest with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.  They will also need a fondue fork and an ordinary fork.

Rhubarb Fool

Serves 6 approximately

450g red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml softly whipped cream

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

This recipe is a ‘keeper’ – loved by children and all ages.  Stick it up on the inside of your kitchen cupboard door for easy access.

Makes 25

175g white flour or Spelt

110g butter (room temperature)

40g 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 6cm cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.

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.

Penny’s Vanilla Cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe – they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion!  Use your favourite icing and embellish them as you fancy.

Makes 9-10 cupcakes or 16-18 ‘wee’ buns

150g soft butter (at room temperature)

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

Icing

225g icing sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cupcake tins lined with bun cases.

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

Put all ingredients except milk into a food processer, whizz until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, then add milk and whizz again.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest into a bowl.  Add enough lemon juice to mix to a spreadable consistency. 

Ice the cupcakes with lemon icing and garnish with a crystallised flower.  Alternatively, use chocolate icing and decorate with chocolate curls.

Dark Chocolate Icing

175g icing sugar

50g unsweetened cocoa powder

75g butter

4 tablespoons water

110g castor sugar

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

For the Chocolate Curls

Melt the 150g (5oz) of the chocolate in a pan over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread.  Allow to cool. Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating “curls” as you go.   Rest on parchment paper and use as required.

Sue’s Coffee and Walnut Squares

From One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

This is a super versatile recipe that comes from Sue Cullinane, one of our senior tutors at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I sometimes just scatter crunchy praline over the top for a quick, but delicious fix. Toasted hazelnuts or pecans are also a delectable combination, instead of the walnuts. 

Makes 20

225g softened butter, plus extra for greasing

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

300g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 organic, free-range eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon Camp coffee essence

For the coffee buttercream

100g softened butter

300g icing sugar, sifted

1 dessertspoon whole milk

2 teaspoons Camp coffee essence

20 walnut halves, toasted hazelnuts or whole pecans, to decorate

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

Grease a 30cm (length) x 20cm (width) x 5cm (depth) tin with a little butter and line with a sheet of parchment paper that comes up over each side.

Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor. Whizz just long enough to combine. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the lined tin and smooth the top with a palette knife. Bake for 20–25 minutes until well risen. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the tin.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter and beat in the icing sugar, followed by the milk and coffee extract.

As soon as the cake has cooled, use a palette knife to spread the coffee buttercream evenly over the top. Cut into squares and decorate each one with a half walnut, toasted hazelnut or whole pecan. Alternatively, pipe a rosette of coffee buttercream on top of each square and top with a toasted nut.

Julia’s Melted Nettles with Pomegranate Syrup

A ‘cocooned’ friend in the UK told me about this delicious flavour combination.

Serves 4

225g young Spring nettles

25g butter or 2-3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Using gloves, remove the leaves from the stalks. Wash the nettles well under cold water. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain well.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

To serve.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add the blanched nettles, season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, taste and correct seasoning.  Add a little more molasses if necessary. It’s difficult to say how much because different brands vary in intensity.

Note: Young nettles are mild, delicious and super nutritious, I like to blanch a few batches and then freeze for another time – loaded with iron and a brilliant blood cleanser.

Easter Sunday

The past few weeks have been tough on a whole variety of ways – each family has its own set of challenges.

On the food scene, it has been little short of astonishing to see the ingenuity and resourcefulness of farmers and local food producers who have come up with a myriad of solutions to get their perishable products to their local customers.  Many foods are already in short supply.  People are in desperation for flour.

Millers like Donal Creedon at Macroom Mills (026 41800) have been milling virtually around the clock.

Farmers continue to care for their animals, milk cows and sow and plant to ensure future harvests.

They are setting up farm gate sales contactless delivery and payment via Revolut.

Neighbourfood hubs (www.neighbourfood.ie) are springing up around the country much to the appreciation of both food producers and local community.  Just look at how creative we can be, what individuals and communities can organise when they are allowed to get on with it.  Up to 60 years ago, towns and villages were virtually self-sufficient – we could so easily work towards that again, in energy, waste disposal and food production services. 

We are having quite the wake-up call – food for thought – time to think outside the box and give thanks for so many blessings even in these terrifying times.  Let’s concentrate on finding the silver lining that we are told is behind every dark cloud.

Easter is the time of resurrection, take hope this too will pass but meanwhile, let’s have a little celebration tomorrow, Easter Sunday.  Go along to your valiant local butchers who are still supplying us with meat.  Buy a leg or shoulder of lamb, pop it in the oven with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, let it roast it slowly to delicious succulence.

While you are it, don’t forget to buy some fresh lamb liver, loaded with Vitamin A combined with Vitamin D that we need to boost our immune systems to help us resist disease and virus.  While you are there, ask for a big bag of bones to make a fine pot of broth.  Another brilliant food to keep us well, it also freezes brilliantly.

Cod liver oil was the only thing I bulk bought. A bottle for each of my children’s houses and several bottles to spoon into my hard working teachers, who are working flat out to make nourishing wholesome food for the Farm Shop and the heroic team on the farm and gardens who are also crazy busy, sowing, planting to ensure future harvests – reminds me of when I was a child, everyone took cod liver oil in Winter to protect them from colds and flu – it tasted disgusting then…..tastes better and quite appealing now but get an unrefined or fermented one if you can.

A great big roasting tin of Winter vegetables would be delicious with the lamb and of course lots of roast potatoes.

Tender fresh mint leaves are just leaping out of the ground in my herb patch – such joy…I’m making some apple and mint jelly and don’t forget Myrtle’s delicious simple mint sauce to accompany the Easter Sunday Lamb. 

I also have something else wonderful, not many of you will know.  It’s a perennial kale with several names Cut and Come, Hungry Gap and Cottiers Kale.  All those names give you a clue as to its attributes, a tender kale with the texture of spinach and the flavour of kale.  The more you pluck it, the more it grows and it fills the hungry gap between the end of the Winter crops and the beginning of the Summer bounty.  It’s propagated by root cutting rather than seeds so look out for plants – it really merits a space in your plot. Watch out for it at Neighbourfood for the next few weeks and we’ll also have some at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop in Shanagarry.

And then for pudding, our favourite rhubarb tart – I’ve given this recipe in my column several times but here we are again – it’s made with a ‘break all the rules’ pastry, that anyone can make.  Chill it well.  It’ll become your favourite pie pasty for all fruit tarts…gooseberry and elderflower, plums, stone fruit.

Stay resilient and continue to dig deep to find the inner strength you didn’t even know you had – look out for each other and continue the little acts of kindness.

Happy Easter to you and all your family.

Keep safe……

Easter Lamb with Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Young Spring Lamb is sweet and succulent and needs absolutely no embellishment apart from a dusting of salt and pepper and a little fresh Mint Sauce – made from the first tender sprigs of mint from the cold frame in the Kitchen garden.

For me this is the quintessential taste of Easter.

Serves 6-8

1 leg of spring lamb

salt and freshly ground pepper

Gravy

600ml (1 pint) lamb or chicken stock

a little roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

Sprigs of fresh mint and parsley

Mint Sauce (see recipe)

If possible ask your butcher to remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb so that it will be easier to carve later, then trim the knuckle end of the leg.  Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Put into a roasting tin.

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

Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approx. for rare, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size.  When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a carving dish.  Rest the lamb for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy.   Degrease the juices in the roasting tin, add stock.  Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux to thicken slightly.   Taste and allow to bubble up until the flavour is concentrated enough.  Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring onions and lots of crusty roast potatoes.

Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to Spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise.  That’s how it ought to be, try it.

Makes 175ml approx.

25g finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons sugar

110ml boiling water

25ml white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat.  Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice.  Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Roux

110g butter

110g flour

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

Lamb Stock for Gravy or Broth

You could make more if you have a large enough pot, strain – it will freeze perfectly.

3kg lamb bones (or less or more)

2 large carrots

2 large onions

2 stalks of celery

10 peppercorns

A bouquet garni made up of a sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, a small bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Put the bones into a roasting tin and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the bones are well browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery and return to the oven until the vegetables are also browned. Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stock pot with a metal spoon.  Add the bouquet garni and peppercorns.  De-grease the roasting pan and deglaze with some water, bring to the boil and pour over the bones and vegetables. Add the rest of the water and bring slowly to the boil. Top up the liquid from time to time with water.  Skim the stock and simmer gently, uncovered for 4-5 hours.  Strain the stock, allow it to get cold, and skim off all the fat before use.  This stock will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.  If you want to keep it for longer, boil it for 10 minutes, and then chill again. It can also be frozen.

Lamb Broth

Return the liquid with water to the pot and cook uncovered to reduce by quarter or half to concentrate the flavour.

Cottier’s Kale, Cut and Come or Hungry Gap

Serves 4

1.3kg cottier’s kale

3 teaspoons salt

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g butter

Remove the stalks from the sprigs of kale.  Wash and drain greens.  Cook with the lid off for about 5 minutes until tender.  Drain off all the water.  Chop well, add a big lump of butter, and plenty of freshly ground pepper and salt.

Note: Cut and Come kale, like spinach, reduces a lot during cooking, so you need to start off with a large potful.

Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

Keep the pieces nice and chunky.

About equal volumes of:

parsnips, peeled

swede turnips, peeled

celeriac, peeled

carrot, peeled

onions, quartered

pumpkin, optional

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper, whole

a few whole cloves of garlic, optional

2-3 tablespoons herbs (thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley), freshly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Peel the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces – 2cm cubes are a good size. Put all the vegetables into a large bowl.   Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Spread them in a single layer on one or several roasting tins.  Roast, uncovered, stirring occasionally until they are fully cooked and just beginning to caramelize. Be careful, a little colour makes them sweeter, but there is a narrow line between caramelizing and burning.  If they become too dark they will be bitter.

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs, e.g. thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley.

Note

Some freshly roasted and ground cumin or coriander is also a delicious addition just before the end of cooking.

Cullohill Rhubarb Pie

This is a gem of a recipe – a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

Pastry

225g soft butter

50g castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g  white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

900g sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick)

370g sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

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

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Recipes in a Crisis

It is at times like this, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind the black cloud…..

Sean O’Rourke asked me to come on his RTE show recently. Ever since, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing with requests for simple homely comforting dishes to cook with the kids. I was intrigued by the variety of simple fool proof recipes that people were longing for.

I shared my phone number after a conversation with a highly achieving young mother who found herself quarantined with her children and totally unable to cook. She was in desperation and felt helpless, although in her ‘other life’ she could virtually run the country. It is at times like this that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind this black cloud.

Supermarkets have now put a limit on the number of items people can buy to curb panic buying all kinds of random food. Pasta, tortillas and rice were top of many people’s lists and now some shops are in short supply but don’t forget about potatoes – super easy to cook, incredibly versatile and far more nutritious. Furthermore we are supporting Irish potato growers who like all farmers and food producers of perishable food desperately need our support. Never was it more important to buy locally. Many Farmers Markets are temporarily closed but food producers are scrambling to find other ways to get fresh produce to their customers with whom they have built up warm relationships over the years.

Many are now selling from the farm gate and taking orders by phone and doing contactless, deliveries straight to the boot of your car.

Let’s concentrate on food that helps to strengthen our immune system. We need lots of Vitamin A and D. Liver from lamb, beef, pork and poultry are all rich sources of both Vitamin A and D which work together to boost our resistance. Cod liver oil, neat or in capsule form, is also a brilliant source. As children in the 1950’s we were given it daily to protect us from Winter colds and flu but it’s popularity waned when antibiotics became more widely available.

Bone broth too – full of collagen, eggs particularly the wonderfully nourishing yolks from hens that are out on the grass. Butter, lard and other good fats. Fatty fish too, I love liver but know it’s certainly not everyone’s favourite, even those who have never tasted it tell me they don’t like it!

There are lots of delicious ways to serve liver rather than serving it unadorned, it can be minced and added to burgers or other delicious dishes. Try it diced in this delicious tomato, fegato and bacon fondue, serve with lots of mashed potato or indeed pasta.

Cook up a nice big pot of stew, cover the whole top with potatoes so you have a whole meal in one pot. Use every single scrap, don’t waste a morsel of anything. If you are unsure of how to use up some leftovers email or telephone me, 021 4646785 darina@cookingisfun.ie

 I’ll do my best to help with suggestions. See Ballymaloe Irish Stew in my recent St Patrick’s Day Article, are  https://letters.cookingisfun.ie/#Ballymaloe+Irish+Stew

but here’s another delicious beef stew and easy chicken casserole that all the family will love.

One of my most requested recipes was for scones, so here they are, my Mum’s recipe, the very best I know.

I also spoke about this delicious little recipe for tortillitas, little fritters, a perfect way to use up leftover boiled potatoes, make them with your kids, they’ll love making these tortillitas.

This is the perfect time to have fun in the kitchen with your kids, teaching them nifty skills – how to use a swivel top peeler, a kitchen knife, how to use the dishwasher, washing machine, dress the beds, hoover, lay the table…. Better still, how about sitting down together to compile a Jobs List, pin it up on the wall – a given when I was a child. There were nine of us so it was essential that everyone realised the importance of playing their part. We learned so many practical skills and a brilliant work ethic.

Please continue to send in your requests. I’ll do my best to include them in my weekly column and in my weekly Saturday Letter on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website.

Keep Safe!

Ballymaloe Beef Stew

A good gutsy stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly. Cover the top of the stew with large peeled potatoes if you would like a full meal in a pot.

Serves 8 – 10

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

4 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

2 parsnips cut in ¾ dice

285g (10 ozs) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine (or use all beef stock)

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions carrots and parsnips on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 1/2-3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Note: Cover the surface of the stew with 8 – 10 whole peeled potatoes laid on top and cooked for about an hour before the end of the cooking. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover with a lid

A very simple chicken casserole

This casserole takes 10 minutes to prepare.

So simple and so nourishing.

Serves 6-8

1 whole organic chicken or 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 breasts

700ml (1 1/4 pints) homemade chicken stock or water

olive oil for frying

4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into thick chunks 

2 onions, peeled and quartered

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roux (optional)

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

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces or use chicken pieces, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Pour the chicken stock or water into a large casserole dish and heat on the hob.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and begin to fry the pieces of chicken until golden brown.

As they brown pop them into the casserole dish, at this stage you can also add in the chopped carrots and quartered onions. Add another pinch of salt and twist of freshly ground black pepper.

When the liquid comes to the boil, put the lid on, transfer to the preheated oven for 1- 1 1/2 hours.

The chicken will come easily off the bone when cooked and the carrots will be tender.

Pour off the liquid and let the fat rise to the top – spoon this off. (If the chicken is organic, save to sauté cooked potatoes).

Now you can either thicken the liquid with a little Roux if desired or leave the juice as is.

Note

Lots of other ingredients may be added to enhance the flavour – a sprig of thyme, lots of chopped parsley, haricot beans, spices, but this basic version works brilliantly to be shared with little ones.

Tortillitas à la Patata

This is totally brilliant way to use up leftover boiled potatoes.  The tortillitas are made in minutes and can be served as part of every meal from breakfast to supper. 

Makes 26

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) cooked potatoes, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and chives

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Maldon sea salt, to serve

Garlic Mayo (see recipe)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the herbs.

Heat about 5mm (1/4 inch) of oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.  Correct if necessary.  

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture for each. Cook on one side for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of garlic mayo (see recipe below).

Garlic Mayo

10 floz mayo

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 – 2 cloves of crushed garlic

Stir the crushed garlic and parsley into the mayonnaise, taste and put into a bowl.

Gary’s Fegato, Bacon and Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 – 10

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or 2lbs of fresh tomatoes, peeled

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

2 tablespoons of any combination of the following:

Freshly chopped parsley, thyme, marjoram

350g (¾ lb) nice fat streaky bacon

225g – 450g (½ lb – 1lb) fresh lambs (or chicken) liver (cut into ¾” cubes)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until tomatoes soften.

Meanwhile cut the cooked streaky into ¾” dice. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry until slightly crisp at the edges. Add to the tomato base. Toss the diced liver in the bacon fat and add to the pot. 

Bring back to a simmer, taste, correct the seasoning.

To serve, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately with pasta, orzo or mashed potato.

Note: Cook the piece of bacon in simmering water for 30-45 minutes or until the rind will peel off easily.

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

My mother gave me this recipe for her scones which delighted and comforted me as a child, I have evocative memories of a big baking tray of golden scones coming out of the Aga, as we raced in from school.   My brothers and I argued over the sugary tops – nothing’s changed – they’re still my favourite.

Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (7½ cm) cutter

900g plain white flour

170g Kerrygold butter

Pinch of salt

55g castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

425ml approx. full cream milk to mix

For glaze

Egg wash (see below)

For crunchy tops

55g crunchy demerara sugar for top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF. regulo 9

Sieve the flour into a big wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, 3 heaped teaspoons of baking powder and the castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.   Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre. With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made. 

Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.   Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  

Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a round about 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.   Stamp into scones with a cutter or a knife.  Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in granulated sugar.   Put onto a baking sheet.    Gently gather the extra pieces of dough together, flatten and repeat as above.  

Bake in a preheated hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Cool on a wire rack.

Serve, split in half with home-made Raspberry jam and a blob of whipped cream.

Scones are best served freshly baked.

Egg Wash: Whisk 1 egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them to brown in the oven.

Practical Tip

Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead – even the day before.  Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before baking. Scones freeze very well.

Response to Covid-19

How our lives and perspective have changed in the past few weeks, as Covid-19 continues to barrel around the globe. Everything has been turned upside down. Suddenly we realize how vulnerable we are, day to day life as we know it can no longer be taken for granted. For many, the realisation of how deskilled we have allowed ourselves to become is a wake-up call – we take for granted that others will provide for our basic needs.

Limiting our social interaction and staying at home can be boring for sure but is probably the surest way to delay and beat this virus and speed up the journey to ‘normal life’ again. Meanwhile, let’s just use this time to catch up on lots of projects that we haven’t been able to reach in our busy lives. As far as possible self-isolate at home, you might want to binge watch all those films and TV shows or cook some of those new dishes you’ve been wanting to try… Let’s not fight the containment measures, there is no point in whinging. Let’s just keep calm, stay safe, follow the advice from reputable sources and avoid public places, especially crowded indoor venues.  

When one finds oneself in voluntary isolation, who will fix the heating, a burst pipe, the washing machine or dryer, the cooker….

Many of us are no longer ‘handy’, here’s where DIY skills really come in to their own. If you haven’t already put contingency plans into operation, time for a Plan B and where better than the kitchen.

A slow cooker is a brilliant bit of equipment. A separate electric or gas hob depending on what you already have is another fantastic standby at any time, even during power cuts or breakdowns.

Don’t forget the barbeque, another fantastically versatile bit of equipment that will see you through. I can turn out irresistible pizzas and flat breads on my covered Barbeque as well as succulent roasts and grills.

In the current situation, those who can’t cook are feeling extra vulnerable. If Deliveroo stops delivering and the ready meals are scarce or unavailable, what then?

It’s back to basic ingredients and what to do. If you haven’t already done so, stock up your cupboard or larder with nourishing wholesome non-perishable ingredients (see suggested list).

Basic Store Cupboard:

  • Porridge
  • Potatoes, onions, garlic
  • White and brown flour
  • Rice
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Bread soda
  • Eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil / butter
  • Honey
  • Cannellini beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Haricot beans
  • Tuna
  • Salami, chorizo
  • Cheddar Cheese. ..

Next find a cook book with clearly written basic recipes and if you haven’t already got it, buy some basic kitchen kit . . .see Hot Tips.

Don’t care if you’ve never cooked a thing in your life. Everyone CAN make this simple loaf of bread, just measure, mix, pour into a greased tin and bake in a preheated oven – enjoy!

A little White Soda Bread Loaf

We bake this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches, but one can shape it into the traditional round loaf if that is your preference.

1 lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/ salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)

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

Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface.  Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. Place in the hot oven immediately turning down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and return the bread to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.  If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

White Soda Scones

Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).

 

Multi-seed Brown Soda Bread

Everyone loves this bread, the amaranth seeds give it an additional crunch.

A 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

350g wholemeal flour of your choice

50g white flour, preferably unbleached

25g amaranth seeds

25g pumpkin seeds

10g sesame seeds

10g sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

425ml buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

Amaranth and pumpkin seeds for sprinkling on top (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm. Small tin 15x7cm (6x3inches).

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. Sprinkle some amaranth or pumpkin seeds on the top if using.

Bake for 60 minutes approximately, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Note

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

Put the mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish.  Scatter a mixture of buttered crumbs and grated cheese over the top and put into a hot oven or flash under a grill until crisp and golden on top.

Spicy Tomato Fondue with many good things

This is one of my ‘go-to’ recipes to feed a group of hungry friends. You can replace the chicken with chorizo, cooked sausages, leftover lamb, game, cooked fish or shellfish if you wish – monkfish works particularly well. Just think of the tomato fondue as a base for many good things.

For a bean stew add a can or two of cannellini or haricot beans and a couple of tablespoons of chopped rosemary.

Serves 6

For the Spicy Tomato Fondue

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) onions, sliced

1–2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 garlic clove, crushed

900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes in summer, peeled (see note), or 2 x 400g (14oz) tins of chopped tomatoes in winter

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

Spicy Tomato Fondue with Chicken and Potato

700–900g (1 1/2 – 2lb) cooked chicken, cut into approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) dice

6 cooked potatoes, cut into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

lots of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander

First make the tomato fondue. 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.

Add the cooked chicken and potatoes, bring to the boil and bubble away for 4–5 minutes. Season to taste and scatter with parsley or coriander.

Serve with a salad of organic green leaves.

Note

To Peel Fresh Tomatoes

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

Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Fish and Chervil

Serves 2

Scrambled eggs are my go to recipe for a breakfast or supper, made in minutes and embellished with lots of tasty morsels from the fridge. Use the best quality eggs you can get, ideally really fresh and free range. I love the combination of softly scrambled eggs with smoked fish but even grated cheddar cheese and chives.

Neagh smoked eel and softly scrambled eggs, but smoked mackerel or wild smoked salmon also work beautifully.

4 organic, free-range eggs

2 tablespoons creamy milk or single cream

a knob of butter

225g Irish smoked salmon, mackerel or eel, cut into 2cm dice

1 tablespoon chopped chervil, plus a few extra sprigs to garnish

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Break the eggs into a bowl, add the milk or cream and season with salt and pepper. Whisk thoroughly until the whites and yolks are well mixed.

Put a blob of butter into a cold 22cm (9cm) low-sided, heavy-based saucepan, pour in the egg mixture and stir continuously over a low heat, preferably with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon, until the eggs have scrambled into soft creamy curds. Carefully fold in the smoked fish and chopped chervil.

Serve immediately on warm plates with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and a few sprigs of fresh chervil on top. Accompany with lots of hot buttered sourdough toast or fresh soda bread.

(Note: If the plates are too hot, the scrambled egg can actually overcook between the hob and the table.)

Delicious morsels to add to scrambled eggs

Fines Herbes

Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with 1 tablespoon of mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, basil, chervil, coriander, dill or tansy.

Chilli or harissa

Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with ½–1 teaspoon of diced or sliced red chilli, or harissa and a herb of your choice.

Spices

Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with ½–1 teaspoon of ground cumin and ½–1 teaspoon of ground coriander. Add or omit the sprinkling of Parmesan as you wish.

Cheese

Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with 2–4 tablespoons of grated cheese, such as Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gruyère, Parmesan or Pecorino.

‘nduja, Chorizo or Bacon

Cut 50g bacon or chorizo into 5mm dice and fry gently until the oil begins to release. Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish with the ‘nduja, fried bacon or chorizo (the ‘nduja doesn’t need to be cooked). Add or omit the Parmesan as you wish.

Spring Onions or Chives

Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with 2 tablespoons of chopped spring onions or chives.

Sorrel, Spinach or Kale

Blanch 225g sorrel, spinach or kale in boiling water for 2–3 minutes, refresh under cold running water, drain thoroughly and finely chop. Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with the sorrel, spinach or kale.

Foraged Greens

Follow the recipe above, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with 225g chopped wild garlic, sorrel, dandelion or watercress, or
a mixture.

Chanterelles or Yellow Leg Mushrooms

Fry 110g mushrooms in 1/2–1 tablespoon of butter and season well. Follow the main recipe, replacing the smoked fish and chervil with the mushrooms.

Masala Scrambled Egg

Heat the butter over a medium heat. Add 50g finely diced onion and ½ teaspoon of grated fresh ginger and sauté until the onion is soft. Add ½–1 diced red chilli, 2 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander,  1/8 teaspoon of ground turmeric and stir for a few seconds. Reduce the heat right down, add the whisked eggs and scramble as before. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh coriander.

Chargrilled Pizza Margherita – on the Barbeque

Serves 6 – 8

150g (5oz) pizza dough (see recipe)

175g (6oz) grated Mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil

10floz tomato fondue (see recipe)

2 tablespoons freshly chopped annual marjoram

1 tablespoon parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best), freshly grated.

6ozs thinly sliced pepperoni (optional)

Sprinkle the grated Mozzarella with extra virgin olive oil. This hugely enhances the flavour of ordinary mozzarella.

Heat a Weber style Barbeque to medium hot.

Roll the pizza dough into a 30cm (12-16  inch) rectangle, about 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.

Lay the rectangle of dough on the hot rack. Cover and cook for 4 – 5 mins until nicely cooked and marked on the underside. FLIP OVER. Spread an even layer of warm tomato fondue (see recipe) on the cooked surface. Sprinkle with chopped annual marjoram and a few slices of pepperoni (optional). Sprinkle generously with a mix of grated mozzarella and Parmesan. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and some cracked pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Cover the barbeque and continue to cook for 5 – 6 minutes or until the topping is bubbling and the pizza base is fully cooked.

Transfer to a chopping board, sprinkle with fresh basil leaves, drizzle with a little more olive oil, cut into squares and serve immediately.

 

Garden Café 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 sauce is bubbling in the oven your pizza base will be ready for its topping! 

Makes 8 x 25cm 10inch pizzas

680g (1 1/2lbs) strong white flour or 600g (1 1/4lb) strong white flour and 110g (4oz) rye flour

50g (2oz) butter

1 packet fast acting yeast

2 level teaspoons salt

15g (1/2oz) sugar

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

450 – 500ml (16-18 floz) 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 luke warm water.  Mix to a loose dough.  You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough on to a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about five 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 (5oz).  Lightly brush the balls of dough with olive oil.

If you have time, put the oiled balls of dough into a plastic 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 in to about 25cm (10inch) 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!

This dough also makes delicious white yeast bread which we shape into rolls, loaves and plaits.

An Irresistible Rice Pudding with Soft Brown Sugar and Cream

A creamy rice pudding is super easy to make, comforting and delicious. You’ll need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. This is definitely a forgotten pudding but everybody loves it. If your oven doesn’t work just cook it in a pot.

 Serves 6–8

100g (31⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

50g (2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

1. 2 litres (2 pints) milk

Accompaniment: Soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish (it’s important to have the correct size dish)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1–1 1⁄2 hours. The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk, but still be soft and creamy. Time it so that it’s ready just in time for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

Mothers Day

If ever a celebration was warranted, it’s Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis from Virginia in the US originally initiated the special day to honour her own mother who lost nine of her thirteen children before they reached adulthood. Later, she was deeply saddened and totally disenchanted that the day she intended to devote to mothers became a means of ‘profiteering’ and a ‘Hallmark holiday’, after the company who first released Mother’s Day cards in 1920.

Mother’s Day evokes so many memories chatting to some friends, we agreed that most of us were total pests at some stage during our teens. In later years one looks back with regret for the torment and annoyance we caused our long suffering parents and hopefully we have found the courage and humility and the right moment to tell them how sorry we are for the hoops we put them through.  Invariably we don’t remember just how abominable and unreasonable we were until our children are going through the same phase.

Mother’s Day gives us all, young and old, the opportunity to let actions speak louder than words. 

If cooking isn’t your forte, you could treat your Mum to a slap up meal in anything from a ritzy restaurant to the local cafe depending on the finances.  If you are broke as well as culinarily challenged, then it’s time to get creative and offer your services.   How about a practical ‘gift token’ to wash and valet the car or clean out the fridge.

If you have green fingers, a pledge to weed the flower bed or dig the vegetable patch will be greeted enthusiastically.  You might even manage to buy a few fresh herbs to plant into a tub or hanging baskets.  An offer to do the washing up every evening for a week, or even once would win you serious brownie points. Most Mums loathe ironing with a passion, so that’s definitely another way to show your devotion, if you hate ironing then grit your teeth and cheer yourself up that you are developing life skills – that’s the sort of Mumsie remark that my daughters hate!  I am one of the rare people who love ironing but rarely do it.

If you have the cash, newspapers, magazines and the internet are bursting with ideas for special Mother’s day gifts over and above the usual cards and flowers – a voucher for a Spa treatment . . . a ticket to her favourite retro gig, a Louis Vuitton bag. . . .

And NO I don’t want an expensive tub of anti-aging cream. I’m totally happy with my wrinkles – honourable scars built up over the years. If I could make a wish it would be that all mothers could be released from the beauty industry’s insistance that we must look ‘forever young’. So let go of ‘aging anxiety’ and embrace your natural beauty.

Flamboyant gifts are all very fine but this is a cooking column so some of my late Mother’s delicious recipes. How fortunate were we that she loved to cook, this is what memories are made of. 

 Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

Tender and delicious scones with crunchy sugary tops – one bite transports me back to the kitchen of my childhood

Makes 18-20 scones using a 7 1/2 cm (3inch) cutter

900g (2lb) plain white flour

175g (6oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

A good pinch of salt

50g (2oz) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

450ml (15floz) approx. rich milk to mix

Glaze

Egg Wash (see below)

Crunchy Demerara sugar or coarse granulated sugar for coating the top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.  Don’t knead but shape just enough to make a round.  Roll out to about 2 1/2cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones.* Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease.  Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in crunchy Demerara or coarse granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with homemade jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

* Top Tip – Stamp them out with as little waste as possible, the first scones will be lighter than the second rolling.

Fruit Scones

Add 110g (4oz) plump sultanas to the above mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Cullohill Rhubarb Pie

My mother’s break-all-the-rules pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter – it makes a gorgeous tart, use whatever seasonal fruit is best

Serves 8-12

Pastry

8 ozs (225g) butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

12 ozs (300g) white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

2lbs (900g) sliced red rhubarb (about 1/2 inch thick)

13 ozs (370g) -14ozs (400g) sugar.

2-3 cloves

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 7 inches (18cm) x 12 inches (30.5cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) deep

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

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

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Scalloped Potatoes

This was the dish we all asked mummy to make when we came home from college at weekends. We all love beef kidney but if you are not a fan use all beef but it won’t be quite as delicious.

This filling and economical dish was one of our favourites for a cold winter’s evening.

Serves 4-6

3.3lbs (1.46 kg) ‘old’ potatoes, eg Golden Wonder, or Kerrs Pinks

1 lb (450g) stewing beef

1 beef kidney

1 lb (450 g) chopped onions

2-3 ozs (60 -75 g) butter

13-15 fl ozs (375-450ml) stock or water

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned flour

1 oval cast-iron casserole (4 pint/2.3 l) capacity

Wash the beef kidney, remove the core and cut into 2 inch (1 cm) cubes, sprinkle with salt and cover with cold water.

Cut the stewing beef into ½ inch (1 cm) cubes.

Peel the potatoes and cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices, put a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the casserole.  Drain the kidney pieces and dry with kitchen paper, toss the beef and kidney in seasoned flour and scatter some over the potatoes with approx. one-third of the chopped onions and a few knobs of butter, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add another layer of potatoes, then meat, onions, and so on up to the top of the casserole, putting some knobs of butter between each layer and ending with a neat layer of overlapping slices of potato.  Season each layer carefully otherwise it may taste bland.  Top with a few knobs of butter, pour in the boiling stock, cover and cook in a low oven, 150C/Gas mark 2 for 2 ½ hours approx.   Serve on hot plates.

This reheats very well.

Farmhouse Chicken

Serves 8

A whole meal in a dish, this was and still is, a favourite family supper in our house.  We used to serve it in a big black roasting tin.

1 x 31/2lb (1.575kg) free-range organic chicken

white flour, well-seasoned with salt & pepper

11/4lb (560g) streaky bacon in one piece

2 tablespoon sunflower or arachide oil

14oz (400g approx.) onion, finely sliced or chopped

12oz (340g) carrots, thinly sliced

5lb (2.3kg) large ‘old’ potatoes approx.

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 pint (1.1L) chicken stock, made from the giblets and carcass

Garnish:

1 tablespoon or more coarsely chopped fresh parsley

Deep roasting tin (15 inch/38cm) square approx..

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

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces; separate the wing joints so they will cook evenly.  Cut the rind off the bacon; cut (8oz/225g) into lardons and the remainder into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices.  If salty, blanch, refresh and dry on kitchen paper.  Heat the oil in a wide frying pan and cook the lardons until the fat begins to run and they are pale golden; transfer to a plate.  Toss the chicken joints in seasoned flour, sauté in the bacon fat and oil until golden on both sides, remove from the pan and put with the bacon.   Finally toss the onions and carrots in bacon fat for 1-2 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice a little less than half into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds.  Bring the stock to the boil Arrange a layer of potato slices on the bottom of the deep roasting tin.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Top with a layer of seasoned chicken joints. Cut the remaining potatoes into thick slices lengthways, 11/2 inch (4cm) approx., and arrange cut side up on top of the chicken (the whole top of the dish should be covered with potato slices). Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour the boiling stock into the roasting tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx.  After 30 minutes put the strips of bacon on top so they get deliciously crisp with the potatoes.  Test after 1 hour – it may take a little longer. If it is getting too brown near the end of cooking, cover loosely with parchment paper. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

St Patrick’s Day

This year I’ll be in Ireland instead of New York for St Patricks Day, 17th March and I’m all set to celebrate, right here in Shanagarry. Remember St Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland so we’ll have our annual snake hunt around the garden!

We’ve got students from all over the world here at present and they too are all determined to enter into the spirit. They’re planning to rummage around in their wardrobes and cases to bedeck themselves in forty shades of green.

To celebrate Lá Fhéile Padraig, both Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School will be illuminated in green as they have been for the past four years to participate in Tourism Irelands Global Greening Project, a brilliant initiative where iconic buildings around the world are lit up in green to focus attention on Ireland on St Patricks day, which in turn promotes tourism and raises awareness of Ireland and all things Irish.

This year the Liffey will be dyed green to celebrate our National day. Take the family along, the St Patrick’s Day parades get more exciting and exotic every year.

Then have a feast of our traditional Irish dishes. Last year, it was Parsley sauce with Bacon and Cabbage but this time I’m looking forward to a big pot of Irish Stew. It’s a wonderfully comforting meal in a pot, beloved by all the family. I often serve it when friends come round for supper and they just love to tuck into a big bowl of stew and have a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  

Songs have been sung and poems have been written about champ and colcannon…

In the US its corned beef and cabbage for everyone and soda bread with raisins and caraway seeds, really an emigrants version but so good.

We’d hoped to have the first rhubarb tart of the year on St Patrick’s Day but I was over optimistic, our rhubarb is barely above the ground and it feels like cheating to use the pale pink forced rhubarb from the Yorkshire triangle in the UK where one can literally hear the rhubarb leaves unfurling in the forcing tunnels. Instead, we’ll make our special St Patricks Day cake, decorated with orange kumquats and tart green wood sorrel leaves (oxalis) which resemble shamrock but are edible. It’s a super cake, really fast to make and fun to share with friends on St Patricks Day. Alternatively how about a bowl of fluffy carrageen moss pudding with softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar – check out last week’s examiner column for the recipe.

Irish Colcannon Soup

Serves 6

Colcannon is one of Irelands best loved traditional potato dishes.  Fluffy mashed potato flecked with cooked cabbage or kale.  This soup uses identical ingredients to make a delicious soup

50g (2oz) butter

425g (15oz) peeled diced potatoes

110g (4oz) diced onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litre (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

450g (1lb) Savoy cabbage

25g (1oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

110ml (4 fl oz) creamy milk

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until well coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 6-10 minutes.   Add the stock, increase the heat, and cook until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

Meanwhile cook the cabbage

Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage.  Divide into four, cut out the stalks and then cut into fine shreds across the grain.  Put 2-3 tablespoons of water into a wide saucepan with the butter and a pinch of salt.  Bring to the boil, add the cabbage and toss constantly over a high heat, then cover for a few minutes.  Toss again and add some more salt, freshly ground pepper and a knob of butter.

Purée in a blender or food processor, add the cabbage to the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning. Thin with creamy milk to the required consistency.

Note: Cabbage may be pureed with the soup if you would rather a smoother texture.

Ballymaloe Irish Stew

Serves 6- 8

Another traditional classic, a one-pot dish – the recipe varies from region to region – in Cork, carrots are a quintessential addition, not so in parts of Ulster.   Pearl barley is a favourite addition, originally added to bulk up the stew.

2 1/2 – 3lbs (1.1 – 1.35kg) lamb chops (gigot from the shoulder of lamb) not less than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick

8 medium or 12 baby carrots

8 medium or 12 baby onions

8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2-1 3/4 pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon roux, optional (see recipe)

Garnish

2 tablespoon coarsely snipped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

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

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

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

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. Degrease the pan with lamb stock, bring to the boil and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1- 1 1/2 hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

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

Roux

4oz (110g) butter

4oz (110g) flour

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

Spotted Dog with Caraway Seeds

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 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the Spotted Dog recipe and proceed as above.

Makes 1 loaf

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1–2 tablespoons  sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda), sieved

2 teaspoons of caraway seeds

75–110g (3–4oz) sultanas, raisins or currants

300ml (10fl oz) sour milk or buttermilk

1 egg, free-range if possible (optional – you may not need all the milk if you use the egg)

Preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl, add the caraway seeds and dried fruit, mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour most of the milk in at once with the egg. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out on to a floured board and knead it lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and cut a deep cross on it. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and continue to cook for approximately 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: if it is cooked, it will sound hollow.

Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and generously slathered with butter. Simply delicious!

St Patrick’s Day Cake

This cake is very special, it’s super easy to make and is decorated with a lemony icing, kumquats and wood sorrel leaves – green, white and gold, to celebrate our national day……!

Serves 8

175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

Lemon Glacé Icing

110g (4oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

1-2 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Decorations

8 pieces of kumquat compote – drained

8 wood sorrel leaves

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) sandwich tin, buttered and floured.  Line the base of the tin with parchment paper.

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

Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate and turn into the prepared tin – make a dip in the centre so it rises evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Cool in the tin for a few minutes, remove and cool on a wire rack.

Make the Lemon Glacé Icing.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.   Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.

Once the cake is cool, pour the icing over the cake and spread gently over the sides with a palette knife.

To decorate:

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley Pop-Up

At a glitzy event at Palais Brongniart in Paris in February 2019, Ballymaloe House won Trolley of the Year Award at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards for its iconic ‘Sweet trolley’ as it’s affectionately known. Over 100 chefs from 37 countries made up the panel of judges for 8 different categories of the restaurant experience… Ballymaloe House had first, been long listed, then short listed, the tension was nail-biting and then at last the announcement. The iconic dessert trolley that Myrtle Allen had introduced at Ballymaloe House when she opened her own dining room as a restaurant in 1965 had won the top award… super exciting… 

The original timber trolley was made by the late Ballymaloe farm carpenter, Danny Power who was well known for his ‘tasty woodwork’

Every evening, Myrtle piled it high with an ever changing selection of her favourite seasonal desserts. Always a homemade ice-cream made from the rich Jersey cream of the farm’s pedigree herd. This was, as it still is, served in a bowl of ice that Myrtle created to keep the ice cream chilled throughout the evening. A meringue gateau of some kind, a compote of fresh seasonal fruit from the walled garden. Rhubarb perhaps, or green gooseberry and elderflower followed by currants and berries in Summer and Autumn. Perhaps an orange or silky chocolate mousse, creme brûlée or her favourite carrageen moss pudding with soft brown sugar and cream or Irish Coffee sauce.

Fast forward to now. JR Ryle, the young pastry chef who came to work with Myrtle in 2004 accepted the prestigious award on behalf of Ballymaloe. He continues to work his magic with his equally passionate team in the Ballymaloe pastry kitchens but now he’s also in demand to do Sweet Trolley Pop Ups…. 

He’s just been to New York to do the first US Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley ‘Pop Up’. King on King Street in Manhattan was the venue; it was a roaring success, totally oversubscribed….

I spoke to co-owner of King, Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Claire De Boer who with her friend Jess Shadbolt opened King on King St in September 2016.

“Something magical happened, it felt like a house party, everyone was chatting to the next table and having fun”

The pastry chef at King also trained at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and the River Café. Brian McGin of Netflix flew in from Australia on his way to L.A and Claire Ptak of Violet Cakes came from London, Food Journalist, Christine Muhlke  of Bon Appetit, a big fan of King came to the rescue when JR was having difficulty sourcing a Trolley in New York.

David Tanis was there from the New York Times, four people from the prestigious Prior Travel Club. Clare De Boer told me that full capacity for Sunday lunch is 40 guests but due to the overwhelming demand they decided to do two sittings and stopped the bookings at 80 plus.

Special Silverwood tartlet tins had been flown out to New York two weeks earlier.  Jerpoint glass in Kilkenny was commissioned to make the hand blown glass bowls for the compote and pannacotta….. they arrived just two days before the event… nail biting stuff… Stable, that shop in Westbury Mall in Dublin provided the beautiful linen for the trolley but sadly the hand thrown Fermoyle Pottery didn’t arrive from Ballinskelligs until after the event – next time!

Watch this space for news of future Ballymaloe Sweet Trolley Pop Ups…..meanwhile here are some of the the desserts that wowed the New Yorkers…. 

 February Citrus fruit Salad

Myrtle always included a compote of seasonal fruits or berries but in Winter, many fruits have abysmal flavour, however citrus are at their best. This delicious fresh tasting salad uses a wide variety of the ever expanding citrus family.   It’s particularly delicious when a few blood oranges are included.   Ugli fruit, pomelo, tangelos, sweeties, all add excitement and extra zing. This salad will keep for 3 or 4 days in your fridge.

Serves 10 approx.

225g (2lb) Kumquats

350ml (12 floz) water

200g (7oz) sugar

1 lime – may need more

225g (2 lb) clementines

115-225g (1-3 lb) Tangerines or Mandarins

2 blood oranges

1 ruby grapefruit

lemon juice to taste if necessary

Slice the kumquats into 3 inch (5mm) rounds, remove pips. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, add the sliced kumquats. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Remove the zest from the lime with a zester and add with the juice to the kumquats.  Meanwhile peel the tangerines and clementines and remove as much of the white pith and strings as possible. Slice into rounds of 3 inch (5mm) thickness, add to the syrup. Segment the pink grapefruit and blood oranges and add to the syrup also. Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary. Serve chilled. 

Note: If the juice is too intense simply dilute with a little cold water to taste.

Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly

JR Ryle’sdelicious variation on a classic Panna Cotta. He likes to serve it with wafer thin Langue de Chat biscuits for a special treat – it was a huge hit at the ‘Ballymaloe Pop-Up’ in New York. The espresso jelly cuts the richness of the panna cotta deliciously.


Serves 6-8 people

600ml (1 pint) double (heavy) cream
50g (2oz/) castor sugar
1 vanilla pods, split lengthways
2 gelatine leaves (or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatine)
cold water for soaking gelatine leaves (or 3 tablespoons water if using powdered Gelatine)

1 x espresso jelly recipe (see below)

1 pedestal glass bowl

Panna cotta
Put the cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the split vanilla pod and castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage. Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Squeeze excess water from the leaves, add to the hot cream mixture and stir to dissolve. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the vanilla pod (rinse the vanilla pod in warm water, allow to dry and save for later). Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before pouring into the pedestal bowl. To save time the hot cream mixture can be stirred over an ice bath to cool it faster. Place in the fridge and allow to set. Carefully spoon over the cooled, but not yet set, coffee jelly. Return to the fridge and allow to set.

If using powdered gelatine: Sponge the gelatine in 3 tablespoons water. Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Remove the vanilla pod and continue as above.

Espresso Jelly

very strong hot coffee
45g (1 1/2oz/) castor sugar
1 1/4 gelatine leaves

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for a few minutes until soft. Meanwhile, place sugar in a measuring jug and add enough coffee until there is 200ml (7fl oz) in total, stir to dissolve. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine leaves, add to the hot coffee and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool to room temperature before using.

Note: Allowing the Panna cotta mixture to cool before decanting into the glass serving dish will prevent vanilla seeds from pooling in the bottom of the bowl. Instead, they stay in suspension and look much prettier.

Variation: To make a more special version of this dessert the panna cotta can be layered in a glass bowl with the jelly. For a good result make 3 x espresso jelly recipe and set the panna cotta in 3 layers, each separated with a layer of the jelly. Each layer must be allowed to set completely before the next layer is poured over. The resulting dessert is both eye catching and delicious, a huge hit in New York.

Myrtle Allen’s Carrageen Moss Pudding

Myrtle taught all of us how to harvest Carrageen Moss, a seaweed which can be gathered off the south and west coasts of Ireland. It is rich in iodine and trace elements and is full of natural gelatine. Carageen means ‘little rock’ in Gaelic. She spent ages working on this recipe and I believe it’s her most delicious of all the carrageen recipes.

Serves 4-6

1 semi-closed fistful (1/4 oz /8g) cleaned, well dried Carrageen Moss

1 1/2 pints (900ml) milk

1 tablespoon castor sugar

1 egg, preferably free range

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or a vanilla pod

Soak the carrageen in tepid water for 10 minutes. Strain off the water and put the carrageen into a saucepan with milk and vanilla pod if used. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently with the lid on for 20 minutes. At that point and not before separate the egg, put the yolk into a bowl, add the sugar and vanilla essence and whisk together for a few seconds, then pour the milk and carrageen moss through a strainer onto the egg yolk mixture whisking all the time. The carrageen will now be swollen and exuding jelly. Rub all this jelly through the strainer and whisk this also into the milk with the sugar, egg yolk and vanilla essence if used. Test for a set in a saucer as one would with gelatine. Whisk the egg white stiffly and fold or fluff it in gently. It will rise to make a fluffy top. Serve chilled with soft brown sugar and cream and or with a fruit compote e.g. poached rhubarb.

Langues de Chat

These thin biscuits are so called as they are supposed to resemble the shape of cat’s tongues. JR likes to shape these into long and skinny biscuits so perhaps more like a lizards tongue, but that name would not really sell them very well. Regardless of the length, they should be quite thin and delicate.

Serves 8

Ingredients

125g soft butter

125g caster sugar

175g plain flour

4 egg whites

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons finely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180c / 350f / gas 4

Line a flat baking tray with parchment paper

Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat vigorously until pale and fluffy.

Add the sifted flour, vanilla extract and egg whites and fold gently with a spatula until the mixture is combined. It will look like a thick batter.

Transfer the mixture into a piping bag with 1cm nozzle or use a “disposable” plastic piping bag and just snip off the top with a scissors to give exactly the size needed. I wash and dry the plastic bag and keep it for the next time.

Pipe onto to the lined baking tray in long thin rows 1cm thick and 10cm long. Leave a 3cm gap between the biscuits to allow them to spread a little when cooking. If using the pistachio nuts, sprinkle them on to the uncooked biscuits now.

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes by which time they will have coloured generously around the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool still on the parchment lined baking tray. When cool remove to wire rack and store in an airtight box lined with kitchen paper.

JR’s Rhubarb Tartlets

Makes 36 tartlets approximately

JR’s Rhubarb Tartlets are truly delicious, best served warm for afternoon tea or pudding. 

cold Cream Pastry (see recipe)

450g (1lb) thinly sliced pink rhubarb

Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge – it must be well chilled. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle.

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

Arrange thin slices of rhubarb on each disc of pastry . Spread a rounded teaspoon of Demerara sugar on top of the fruit in each tartlet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the sugar begins to caramelise and the pastry is a golden brown colour. Use a palette knife to remove the tartlets from the bun tray while still hot. Place on baking parchment which has been sprinkled with caster sugar.

Cream Pastry

This pastry is super delicious and really easy to make, even for those who are convinced they have hot hands.

Best made on the day before so it’s well chilled and easier to roll out.

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

150g (5oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

150g (5oz) fridge cold salted butter

150ml (5fl oz) cold cream


Sift the flour into the bowl of an electric food mixer. Cut the butter into 5mm (1/4 inch) small cubes and rub into the flour using the paddle attachment until the mixture forms a coarse texture (slow speed and then a little faster).  (DO NOT overmix, if you do the mixture will form a shortbread-like ball! Pour the cream into the coarse mixture (it will resemble a sloppy mess) and mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms – it will come away from the sides of the bowl.

Wrap the pastry sprinkled with flour in parchment paper and chill overnight.

Latest Food Trends

Gosh February is almost over, the weeks have whizzed past while I’ve been researching the latest food trends – what’s hot and what’s not!

It’s never a good idea to follow trends slavishly, but certainly it’s good to know what’s causing excitement and particularly important for those of us in the food business.

Let’s start with movements:

Climate change concerns are fuelling the vegan and plant based craze. Many young people are switching to a plant based diet believing it to be better for the planet and for animals. The global farming community have done themselves no favours, with intensive poultry and pig farming, raising many legitimate animal welfare issues.

Huge sums of research money continue to be invested in the faux meat and faux cheese industry. The fast food industry has also been quick to react. Sales of alternative meat products are growing in double digits.

The Impossible Whopper is now available in 7,000 Burger King locations. More recently, several variations on blended and fusion burgers have been developed with 25% mushrooms to respond to the growing numbers of flexitarians who are opting to eat less meat.

This trend is not going away anytime soon, and the products and recipes are getting better….

The multinational food products corporation Danone, famous for it’s dairy products has invested 60 million in developing dairy free products.

The Rise in Health Conscious and Socially Conscious Consumers Is driving the zero waste and reduced packaging movement.

193 member states of the United Nations have agreed to halve per capita global food waste, at the retail and consumer level, along production and supply chains by 2030”.

Scotland’s aim is even more ambitious, a  35% reduction by 2025.

Intermittent fasting is starting to gain more traction stateside.

Chefs too, are eager for us to know that they are into ‘zero waste’ …. lots of catchphrases around this topic like ‘too good to go’.

In a bid to use up leftovers deliciously, Skye Gyngell introduced the now famous Scratch Menu at Spring in London in Autumn 2017 – Brilliant value, superb food, pop it on your’ London List’.

Wonky Veg is becoming super cool… Driven by consumer demand, some supermarkets are embracing the idea at last. Socially conscious consumers are taking the local food pledge to spend 50% of their food budget on local food. Lots of new routes to market like Neighbourfood (www.neighbourfoods.ie) and Farmdrop (www.farmdrop.commaking this task easier.

 The demand for organic produce continues to grow in the US – particularly where consumers are becoming more knowledgeable about the effects of glysophate and other pesticides and herbicides on their health.

Apparently, better quality gas station food is a big trend in the US and UK particularly. Can’t say I’ve noticed, but it would be a welcome development at this point in history when so many people buy their food from the same source as the fuel for their cars.

The word sustainable, with its many confusing interpretations continues to be bandied around. However, the term Regenerative Farming – farmers determined to work with nature to rebuild the fertility of the soil and the eco-system, is now cooler and more meaningful.

Agroforestry and Synthropic Agroforestry are buzz words in farming circles. 

The campaign to ban single use plastic continues to gain traction however the global recycling system appears to be in chaos as more and more countries follow China’s lead and adopt a ‘return to sender’ policy.

The Fermented Food Movement:

The fermented food movement continues to grow…..Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, kvass are all main stream products now.

Food to feed the gut biome is well understood and now more conversation about Food to feed the brain which is in essence the same.

In the US where they are even further down the road of desperation there appears to be a realisation that real food is what is needed.

People are desperately seeking REAL food to boost their health… Alleluiah…..!

Google searches on bone broth and collagen reached an all-time high in 2019. This liquid boosts the immune system, strengthens bones and promotes healthy hair and skin.

The Sourdough Bread Revolution continues unabated.

Artisan bakeries are popping up all over the country from Abbeyleix to Tramore with people like you and I queuing around the corner for a decent loaf of slowly fermented sourdough bread that doesn’t cause one to feel bloated or unwell…

Beware, there’s a lot of ‘faux sourdough’ around. If a loaf doesn’t cost at least €4.50, it’s unlikely to be a natural sourdough which takes at least 12 hours to ferment and should only contain flour (preferably organic), salt, water and a natural sourdough starter – no bakers’ yeast or other additives. The 48 – 72 hour feremented natural sourdough from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Bread Shed has a growing fan base. 

There’s a revolution in the drinks world…

According to Neilsen data, 66% of millennials are making an effort to reduce alcohol intake hence the demand for non-alcoholic drinks is so skyrocketing. All manner of mocktails and floral infused drinks.

Whole Foods are shifting from alcoholic cocktails to mocktails and reporting a 377% rise in Kombucha sales. Look out for Makgeolli, a Korean rice liquer. Baijiu also known as Shaojiu, is a distilled Chinese drink made from grain. It too is becoming cool, even in non-Asian countries. Mescal is cooler than Tequila…. 

Look out for Seedlip, one of the first distilled non-alcoholic spirits to the market. Kin Euphorics ‘all bliss no  booze’ and Curious Elixirs ‘booze free cocktails’. Watch out for more trendy alcohol free bars like The Virgin Mary in Dublin’s Capel Street.

Cold brews and nitro coffee sales have soared, now 50% of Starbucks orders. I’m also loving all the exciting new bitters, artisan beers and ciders.

The success of the natural wine movement continues to baffle as the demand for clean, chemical and pesticide free, biodynamic and natural wines skyrockets. Fans tell us they love the added bonus of no hangover. Organic wines are gaining devotees of whom I’m one. For suppliers, check out Le Caveau Wine Merchants in Kilkenny, leaders in the field (www.lecaveau.ie)

The ‘free from’ market gains more shelf space in supermarkets and retail outlets and as ultra-processed food becomes less and less nutritious, the supplement market grows exponentially.

A direct consequence of agricultural policy since the 1950’s encouraging farmers to produce maximum food at minimum costs – a disaster in health and socio economic terms.

All manner of dairy free milks – oat milk, cashew milk, almond milk, soya milk, directly fuelled by the diminishing quality of cows milk. What’s going on?

CBD infused ‘everything’ is big business, snacks, coffee, drinks, even pet food…and growing.

Huge investment into developing healthy snacks with less sugar. Cadburys Dairy Milk now has a 30% less sugar than before chocolate bar….

Home Meal Kits:

Home meal kits and food delivery business is off the scale, used to be just in US and UK cities but delivery bikes and Uber Eats are a familiar sight to all of us now. Interestingly Uber Eats, who have their finger on the pulse, report that customers are turning to healthier plant based options in droves.

Onto the rest of the world…. more chefs are engaging in sustainable practices. Although many more establishments are still ‘talking the talk’ rather than ‘walking the walk’.

Michelin is coming under increasing pressure to factor sustainability and kitchen culture issues into its evaluation system for awarding stars. Chefs continue to spice up food to allay consumer boredom, hyper regional food is a big trend in the US. And of course the food on the plate needs to be Instagrammable, keeps the name out there…

There are signs that the general public are tiring of ‘cheffy wizardry’, more often than not it’s an occasional or ‘once and once only’ experience, fun to tick off the ‘bucket list’ but not the type of food that people want to eat every week or month… a dilemma…

Experiential Dining is one of the hottest new restaurant trends as is more adventurous kids menus with global flavours. It’s no longer enough to offer vegetarian and gluten free options, we now need dairy free, plant based, vegan and keto options too….

Ingredients…

·       We’ll be hearing more about Reishi mushrooms, which supposedly boost the immune system – fast becoming another superfood.

·       Mushroom coffee – Chaga

·       Foodies are loving the brassica family – roast Brussel sprouts roast cabbage, broccoli…cauliflower in its many delicious incarnations.

·       Peptides, nutritional yeast, food containing gut healthy probiotics.

·       Lotus seeds, add addictive crunchiness.

·       Harissa, the North African chilli spice paste is the new Sriracha.

·       Jerusalem Artichokes – sun-chokes in the US

·       Lard, beef dripping, duck and goose fat are all super cool..

·       Seaweeds are still trending…

·       Squid ink is also having a moment, added to pasta and mayo…

·       Plant based diets are fuelling an interest in lesser known grains, farro, millet, teff, freekah, sorghum, amaranth even pearl barley….The success of the Hodmedod’s enterprise in the UK, who grow a wide range of dried pulses and grains… is a clear indication of the revival of interest in ancient grains and pulses – increasingly being regarded as super foods.

·       The acreage of heirloom wheat, oats and grains is increasing every year as more artisan bakers, mill fresh batches of flour for their sourdough breads, adding extra flavour and nutrients.

·       Pho and Banh mi sandwiches

  • Rapadura sugar
  • Winter tomatoes

·       Yuzu – a tart fruity citrus about the size of a tangerine that originated in China, we’re all loving the bright flavour.

·       Ube – a vivid, purple yam used to create violet coloured ice creams, brownies, macaron, cakes….

·       Pinsa – a Roman version of pizza, a flat bread made with a combination of spelt, rice and wheat flour.

·       Pizzetta’s – a finger food sized pizza, what’s not to love?

·       Air dried meats, like Biltong and Jerky and more fermented salami and saussicons.

·       Nashville hot chicken is huge in US.

·       Japanese fluffy soufflé pancakes are all the rage.

·       Savoury porridge with numerous toppings.

·       Dessert hummus…with added chocolate, peanut butter, cookie dough…

·       Non dairy spreads – almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, gluten free products, psyllium, buckwheat – no palm oil and less sugar.

Winter Tomato Salad

Flavourful tomatoes in Winter sound like an oxymoron a complete contradiction in-terms but Winter tomatoes are different, These are special varieties that only reach their full flavour potential during Winter when night time temperatures drop below 5 centigrade in Sicily, Sardinia and Spain. They are still quite difficult to source over here but look out for Marinda from Sicily, Camone from Sardinia and Black Iberico and RAF from Spain. They have a crisp , slightly tart flavour and are best eaten raw in salads during the season from December to end of April. Check out Natoora for stockists…. natoora.co.uk

Serves 4-6

6 Winter tomatoes, use several varieties if available..

Flakey sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

A sprinkling of rapadura sugar or pale soft brown sugar.

3-4 ozs Goat curd or fresh goat cheese… St Tola or Ardsallagh…

A couple of fistfulls of leaves…..Pennyworth and/or wood sorrel leaves and a few small rocket leaves.

Coarsely chopped unskinned almonds and pistachio nuts.

Just before serving …

Cut the tomatoes in different shapes and slices for contrast of colour and flavour on a flat plate, Sprinkle evenly with salt, freshly cracked pepper and a little sprinkling of sugar. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and drizzle about half over the tomatoes and the remainder over the leaves, toss gently to coat.. Divide the fresh and foraged leaves evenly between 4-6 wide bowls, top with a mixture of the nicely seasoned tomatoes… Pop a few blobs of goat curd or soft cheese on top and sprinkle with coarsely chopped nuts..

Prawns in their Shells with Watercress and Yuzu Mayonnaise

Yuzu is a deliciously fragrant citrus fruit mainly cultivated in Japan, Korea and China, it’s about the size of a tangerine, if you can’t find it fresh in Asian stores, use the bottled juice which is also very good..

Prawns are not cheap, but always a special treat. You can of course buy them pre-cooked but they are very simple to cook at home in well salted water. Add some fresh or bottled yuzu juice to a homemade mayonnaise to embellish beautiful fresh prawns. Make sure to open their heads and scoop out the soft tomalley, provide a prawn cracker to crack the claws so you can extract every last sweet morsel, then save the shells for a prawn bisque, chefs often make more money from the bisque than they do from the prawns.

Serves 8

40-48 large very fresh Irish prawns

3.6 litres (6 pints) water

3 generous tablespoons salt

Accompaniment

4-8 tablespoons Yuzu mayonnaise  

Large white plates

Garnish

watercress sprigs

4 segments lemon

First cook the prawns

Bring the water to the boil and add the salt (it may sound a lot, but this is the secret of real flavour when cooking prawns or shrimps).  Cook the prawns a few at a time in the boiling salted water. As soon as the water returns to a rolling boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked.  It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy.  If cooked, remove prawns immediately.  Very large ones may take 1/2 to 1 minute more.  Allow to cool in a single layer on a tray.  Uncurl the tails.  

Note: Do not be tempted to cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil, cook them in 2 or 3 batches.

To serve

Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate.  Spoon a tablespoon or two of Yuzu Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate.  Pop a segment of lemon on the plate.  Garnish with some fresh wild watercress.  Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Shrimps are cooked in the same way but take a minute or two longer, check that there is no trace of black at the back of the head.

Homemade Yuzu Mayonnaise

I know it is very tempting to reach for a jar of the well-known brand, but homemade mayonnaise is made in 5 minutes, even by hand. If you decide to use a food processor it’s even faster and sooo worth the effort. 

As ever the quality of the eggs really matters. Use the best free-range and better still organic eggs you can find and really good quality sunflower and olive oil and wine vinegar if using.

2 egg yolks, free range or organic

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard or pinch of English mustard

1 dessertspoon Yuzu juice or white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) olive oil (or a mixture of olive and sunflower  6:2 or 5:3)

Put the egg yolks into a medium-sized Pyrex bowl with the mustard, salt and the Yuzu juice. Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil into the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too confident or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and yuzu juice if necessary. 

Shrove Tuesday

“Myrtle, your hair is on fire”…an alarmed guest exclaimed as Myrtle’s fringe went up in flames while she was enthusiastically flambéing crêpes beside their table. The guest jumped out of his chair and damped out the flames with napkin and the water jug – drama in the dining room….

For many years, in the Ballymaloe House dining room, it was a ritual to serve Crêpe Suzette on Shrove Tuesday. Many regular customers from earlier years will remember that Myrtle would wheel the famous Ballymaloe House Sweet Trolley into the dining room with her copper chaffing dish, a pile of crêpes, the spirit stove, and a bottle of Cointreau and Grand Marnier. The delicious crêpe suzette were made to order and she shared the recipe in the Ballymaloe Cookbook, first published in 1977 and still in print to this day. If you are fortunate to still have copy of the first addition in hardback, treasure it, it’s a collectors’ item now.

Well, Shrove Tuesday is just around the corner, so I’ll my favourite recipe for pancake batter. I love, love, love pancakes, but doesn’t everyone? Super quick to make and such a brilliant standby, whisked together in minutes with ingredients that pretty much everyone has to hand, eggs, milk, flour, butter, castor sugar and a lemon for traditionalists. But why stop there, the possibilities for fillings are endless….

Pancake batter is magical, it’s definitely one of my ‘great convertibles’. One can make a million variations by just changing the proportion of egg and flour to liquid. White flour can be substituted by buckwheat, chickpea, tapioca, spelt, rice flour….or a mixture. The liquid too can be varied coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, buttermilk, even oat milk. Sparkling water or soda water gives an even crisper batter. One can create dairy free, gluten free and vegan versions. Half milk half and water result in a lacier crepe. Use less liquid to make a thicker pancake. …buttermilk will produce a stack of fluffier American style pancakes for breakfast or brunch.

Pikelets and crumpets are all variations on the theme as are Dutch babies and Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire pudding and popovers.

Basic pancakes, as we always called the thin lacy crepes, were my “go to” recipe when the kids were little. The recipe was written inside the door of the kitchen cupboard and could be whizzed up in seconds while a pan was heating up on the Aga and a little butter softened on the side of the stove. The kids would line up to eat them in turns, hot off the pan slathered with butter, sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We were conservative then but now so much more adventurous, chocolate spread and lots of roasted nuts, peanut butter and honey, homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, honey butter and of course savoury pancakes too. We made some delicious ones yesterday with kale pesto, goats cheese and a little tomato and ginger relish. The possibilities are endless.

So why not plan a Shrove Tuesday pancake party and try some of these recipes.

Crêpes with Orange Butter

 

This crêpe recipe is very nearly as good as those Crêpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crêpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.

Serves 6 – makes 12 approximately

Pancake Batter

6oz (175g) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon castor sugar

2 large eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

scant 15fl oz (450ml) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons melted butter

Orange Butter

6oz (175g) butter

3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind

6oz (175g) icing sugar

freshly squeezed juice of 5-6 oranges

8 inch (20.5cm) non-stick crêpe pan

First make the batter.

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of castor sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the crêpes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons (6-8 American tablespoons) melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Next make the orange butter.

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Then add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy.

Make the crêpes in the usual way.

Heat the pan until quite hot.  Grease the pan lightly with butter and pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

* A small ladle can also be very useful for this, loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.  The greasing of the pan is only necessary for the first two or three pancakes.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

Note: If you have several pans it is perfectly possible to keep 3 or 4 pans going in rotation. Only necessary if you need to feed the multitudes.

To Serve

Melt a blob of the orange butter in the pan, add some freshly squeezed orange juice and toss the crêpes in the foaming butter. Fold in half and then in quarters (fan shapes). Serve 2 or 3 per person on warm plates.  Spoon the buttery orange juices over the top. Repeat until all the crêpes and butter have been used.

Note: A tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of orange liqueur eg. Grand Marnier or Orange Curacao is very good added to the orange butter if you are feeling very extravagant!

Myrtle Allen’s Crêpes Suzette from the Ballymaloe Cookery School

Serves 4

50g (2oz) flour

1 tablespoon oil

1 organic egg

1 organic egg yolk

2 teaspoons orange curaçao

150ml (5fl oz) milk

Orange Butter

225g (8oz) large ripe oranges

75g (3oz) softened butter

75g (3oz) castor sugar

To Finish

castor sugar

brandy

curaçao

Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre.  Pour in the oil, egg, egg yolk and curaçao.  With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, stir in the egg mixture and gradually bring in the flour. Beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Leave aside for 30 minutes. 

Next make the orange butter. 

Grate the rind of the oranges very carefully so as not to penetrate the white.  Add to the butter and sugar.  Cream vigorously until smooth.

Put a frying pan on a high heat.  Melt about 15g (1/2oz) orange butter in the pan.  When the butter is bubbling, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly, swirling the batter around to get it even.  Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side.  Fold into a fan shape and slide onto a hot plate. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Sprinkle them with castor sugar.  Return the pancakes to the pan, pour over a little brandy and curaçao.  Set alight, keeping your face away from the flames.  Tilt the pan and spoon the juices over the pancakes until the flame subsides.  Serve immediately on hot plates.

Dutch Pancakes

Love this version of the famous Dutch baby which I enjoyed at Reynard restaurant in the Wyeth Hotel in Brooklyn.

Makes 4 

3 free range eggs

175ml (6fl ozs) milk

75oz (3oz) all-purpose flour

salt to taste

3/4 tablespoons clarified butter

Topping

4 slices cooked ham or 8 slices of crispy bacon

75-110g (3-4ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

maple syrup (optional)

2 teaspoon thyme leaves

freshly ground pepper


We use a 25.5cm (10 inch) cast iron pan for ours.

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

Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour 1/4 of the batter into the hot pan.  Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up.   Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham or slices crispy bacon and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6

Buckwheat Batter

1 oz (25g) butter

2 1/2 ozs (65g) buckwheat flour

2 ozs (50g) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

6 fl ozs (175ml) milk

4 fl ozs (110ml) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

To Serve

best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread

toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Maldon sea salt (optional)

First make the batter.

Melt the butter on a low heat – cool.  Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside.  Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15- 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat.  Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan.  Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds.  Slide onto a hot plate.

Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre.  Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre.  Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt. 

Bill Granger’s Ricotta Hotcakes with Honeycomb Butter

Serves 6-8

150g (5oz) ricotta

175mls (6fl oz) milk

4 eggs, separated

110g (4oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

50g (2oz) butter

To Serve

banana

honeycomb butter, sliced (below)

icing (confectioners) sugar for dusting

Garnish

extra honeycomb, if available

Place the ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mix to combine. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until combined.

Place the egg whites in a clean dry bowl and beat until still peaks form. Fold egg whites through batter in two batches, with a large metal spoon.

Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small portion of the butter and drop 2 tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan (don’t cook more than 3 per batch).

Cook over low to medium heat for 2 minutes, or until hotcakes have golden undersides. Turn hotcakes and cook on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and quickly assemble with other ingredients.

Slice one banana lengthways onto a plate, stack 3 hotcakes on top with a slice of honey comb butter. Dust with icing sugar.

A few chunks of honeycomb are a delicious extra treat.

Note: hotcake batter can be stored for up to 24 hours, covered with a plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

Honeycomb Butter

225g (8oz) butter, softened

100g (3 1/2oz) honeycomb

2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Shape into a log on a plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in a refrigerator for 2 hours. Store leftover honeycomb butter in the freezer – it’s great on toast.

Best Ever Cornmeal Pancakes with Butter and Maple syrup

Inspired by pancakes enjoyed at Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, NY

Makes 8 pancakes

170g (6oz) White flour

170g (6oz) Bramata Polenta meal

2 tablespoon Castor sugar

1 egg and egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ tablespoon baking powder

10 fl ozs milk

8 fl ozs of clarified butter

To serve

Butter & Maple syrup

Put the flour, cornmeal and castor sugar into a bowl

Whisk the eggs together; add the salt and baking powder

Stir the wet ingredients plus 2 tablespoons of melted butter, with a wooden spoon

Don’t beat the mixture; it can still be slightly lumpy

Heat a heavy cast iron pan over a med – high heat for 4 – 5 minutes

Pour in a generous 1/8 inch of clarified butter, allow to heat through

Pour about 2 ½ fl oz of batter into the pan for each pancake

Allow some space between each one, cook for two or three minutes on that side or until bubbles rise and burst and the edges start to crisp

Flip over carefully & continue to cook on the other side until both sides are nicely brown and crisp at the edges

Serve immediately on warm plates – 2 per person with a pat of butter on each and a little maple syrup drizzled over the top.

Top Tips – Pancakes

  • Have your pan hot enough.
  • Add a few tablespoons of melted butter to the batter.
  • No need to grease the pan between crepes
  • Use half milk, half water for lacier pancakes

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