All posts by Darina Allen

National Bread Week

I’m a bit late for National Bread Week which was from the 9th -15th October but I certainly wanted to write a column on bread and our national loaf, a subject which continues to exercise me.

I’m totally in despair at the quality of our squishy sliced bread and deeply concerned about the effects on our health and waistline, many not least the Bakers Association of Ireland would disagree with me and I certainly hope they are right. I myself can’t seem to find out what exactly is in the bread, an enormously important staple for many people. Flour, yeast, salt, water, so far so good but what else to speed up the process and produce a loaf at this price.

The term ‘processing aids’ seems to cover a multitude of enzymes, improvers and preservatives which don’t have to be put on the labels as ‘processing aids’ are exempt, so much for transparency….

The good news however is that in pockets here and there around the country, artisan bakeries are bubbling up in response to the craving for real bread.

In Cork City, Declan Ryan came out of retirement in 1999 and started to bake real bread in his garage which morphed into a large bakery employing eight full time bakers in Mayfield.

Declan sells at Farmers Markets and specialist shops as far away as Dublin. He, like many others who were inspired by him can scarcely keep up with demand.

Also in the Cork area – ABC Breads in the English Market and Pavel Piatrousky from Pana Bread in Midleton have their loyal devotees.

Another of the pioneers, Sarah Richards who established Seagull Bakery in Tramore in 2013 was also inspired by Declan Ryan.

In January 2015, the Real Bread Ireland was started by a small group of craft bakers as a support network for those who wished to learn how to make real bread either professional or at home.

So what exactly is Real Bread? Well, in its purest form, it is bread without the use of processing aids or any other artificial additives. Real Bread is made without improvers, dough conditioners, preservatives, chemical leavening (baking powder or bicarbonate of soda) any other artificial additives or the use of pre mixed ingredients.

That pretty much rules out 90% of the bread on our supermarket shelves but the good news is there’s a quiet revolution going on at grass roots level, small craft bakers are popping up here and there around the country, the use of organic and heirloom flours is increasing significantly, the general public is becoming aware that something is amiss as the number of people with a gluten intolerance continues to sky rocket.

A growing body of disquieting research is emerging on the effects of the random use of glyphosate on wheat both as a herbicide and before harvesting on our health and the environment.

Making a long and slowly fermented sourdough is certainly a mission’ but a loaf of soda bread, the traditional breads of our country is literally mixed in minutes. A few scones will be out of the oven in 10 or 12 minutes while a crusty loaf will be ready in 35 or 40.

Few things we do, give so much pleasure and nourishment for so little effort. A truly nourishing, wholesome national loaf would do much to enhance the health of the nation. This was done in Norway in the 1970’s with remarkable results.

Here are several recipes for a variety of breads but for those who would like to get started on sourdough and believe me, once you do there’s no going back.

Check out the Real Bread website.

Many bakers including the Ballymaloe Cookery School will share some of their sourdough starter free with keen beginners. (Please telephone ahead).
Meanwhile, be careful, much of the bread that’s sold as ‘sourdough’ contains yeast which is not at all the same as a natural sourdough.

Shipton Mill Flour
John Lister was only 20 when he and a few friends chanced upon the ruined Shipton Mill in the Cotswolds. They restored both the building and the mill wheel and started to stonegrind organic flour in the 1980s. Shipton Mill quickly developed a cult following among the growing number who were anxious to source organic flour milled in the time honoured way. In recent years the demand for ancient grains has really gathered momentum, kamut, einkorn, spelt, durum, amaranth, buckwheat, chestnut, teff, sorghum, quinoa….now the next generation is happily and passionately involved – John’s daughter Tess recently wrote a Handful of Flour Recipes from Shipton Mill published by Headline which shares the knowledge and tells the story of the bread revolution.
Another ‘must have’ for ‘wannabe’ bread makers is Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters published by Fourth Estate.


A Pop Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. A Rediscovery of Forgotten Flavours and Foraged Foods hosted by the Autumn Certificate students on Saturday November 19th, 7pm. Booking Essential 021 4646785 or Tickets €45.00, proceeds raised go towards the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.

Decorating Celebration Cakes

Cake decorating is an art form – but one that can be learnt. Pam is a senior tutor at the Cookery School for many years now and on Saturday November 26th from 2-5pm, will wow you with her magic as she pipes, drizzles and adorns cakes into edible masterpieces. She will share piping tips and tricks and use all manner of icings from marzipan, to buttercreams, ganaches and glaces and show how to use edible flowers and fruits for the ultimate stylish presentation. From decorating simple birthday cakes to fancy celebration cakes, formal and informal, fun and quirky, she is full of innovative ideas. Whether you are a home baker, run a café or are a professional cook, this course is not to be missed. This is a demonstration course, but there will be an opportunity to taste some of the cakes.

Shipton Mill Burger Buns

These buns are perfect for a variety of barbecued meats, not just burgers. They taste great with pulled pork, or slow cooked beef with relish. You need a bun light enough not to be overly heavy once packed with its filling, but substantial enough to keep its shape and not fall to pieces in your hands.
If you want to add seeds to the top, lightly spray water on top of the buns just before they are about to go in the oven and sprinkle over onion, sesame or poppy seeds. The dough is subtly enriched, to make the bun more luxurious than a standard floury burger bap.

Makes 10 burger buns

190g water
70g Wheat Sourdough Starter for flavour, not for fermentation purposes (if you don’t want to use this you can add 35g more flour and 35g more water instead)
10g fresh yeast
500g strong white flour (ciabatta flour also works well)
1 small egg, beaten
60g rapeseed oil (or sunflower oil), plus a little extra for the bowl
30g sugar
10g salt
semolina, for dusting
Mix the water and starter together in a mixing bowl and add the yeast. Slowly stir until combined then add the flour.

Place the egg, rapeseed oil, sugar and salt in a separate bowl and combine by hand using a fork. Add this to the flour mix and slowly stir to create a dough, until the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Knead the dough (either by hand or using an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook) until it is elastic and smooth, with a lovely shine.Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth, and rest at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Place your semolina in a large wide plate. Divide your dough into ten 80–90g lumps.

Roll these by hand into round roll shapes, then roll them all over in the semolina, and place them on a baking tray. (If you want to sprinkle the tops with seeds, just roll the base in the semolina and keep the top clear.)

Keep them at least 8cm apart to allow them to rise. Cover, and leave them to prove at room temperature for a further 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Towards the end of this time preheat your oven to 180ºC/gas 4.

Place around 12 ice cubes in an ovenproof dish in the bottom of your oven to create steam. Remove the ice cubes just before you want to bake your buns.
Place your buns in the oven, and bake for 14–17 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
A Handful of Flour Recipes from Shipton Mill

Shipton Mill Courgette, Potato and Mint Tart

There is something rather delicious about potato and pastry, which is prevented from being stodgy here by very thinly slicing the potatoes, while the green and red of the courgettes and chilli will liven up any table with their bright colours. Ideal for a late summer or early autumn lunch, serve this with a glass of crisp white wine and a zingy salad.

Serves 4–6

1 quantity rough puff pastry
1 medium egg, beaten (to glaze) for the topping
200g (roughly 4) new potatoes cut into 1–2mm slices
4 teaspoons olive oil
100g herb cream cheese (you can buy brands such as Boursin, or make your own with a handful of finely chopped chives and a garlic clove mashed into a light cream cheese)
1 courgette, cut into 1–2mm slices
½ red chilli, finely chopped (adjust to personal taste and the strength of chilli)
2 mint sprigs, finely chopped
salt and black pepper

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.

On a lightly floured work surface roll out your pastry to a square roughly 30 x 30cm.

Score a line where you want the borders to be, around 1.5cm from the edges. Transfer your pastry on to the baking tray. Prick the base of your tart using a fork, and
brush the borders with a little beaten egg. Bake the pastry for 10–15 minutes, until you can see it has started to cook through.

While your pastry is baking, prepare the filling. In a large non-stick frying pan, fry the potatoes over a medium heat in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil for 2 minutes, until they turn translucent. Remove the pastry base from the oven.

If it has puffed up too much, gently push it down in the centre with the back of a fork – the weight of the filling will also push it back down. Crumble the cream cheese over it evenly, and then arrange the potatoes and courgettes on top. These will shrink slightly as they cook, so be generous.

Sprinkle the chilli over the top, drizzle with the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

Return the tart to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes or so, keeping an eye on it. Remove from the oven once the pastry has cooked through, and leave it to cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the mint over the top, and serve warm. A Handful of Flour Recipes from Shipton Mill

Shipton Mill Rock Salt and Rosemary Focaccia

timing note: there are a few resting periods in this recipe. This is to ensure you are working with a relaxed dough that is properly developed and able to retain the shape and texture required for an authentic focaccia. This Italian flatbread is thought to have originated from the Etruscans, and was a staple part of the diet in Ancient Rome.

Emmer was commonly used to make focaccia, but I’ve created a recipe using our ciabatta flour, which gives it a fantastic structure. If you can’t get hold of ciabatta flour, a strong white bread flour will also work well. Popular to this day, focaccia is delicious with all sorts of toppings – rosemary and rock salt are the classic but you can easily adapt this recipe to vary the flavours. In the spirit of being as authentic as possible, be generous with your olive oil when drizzling it on the top, as the bread will soak this up and it will add extra flavour and moisture. Whether you’re making this by hand or by machine, put some time and effort into the kneading at the beginning to get the gluten working. After this kneading, handle the dough as gently as possible to allow the bubbles to develop.

Makes 1 focaccia, around 800g

336ml water
12g olive oil, plus extra for brushing
5g fresh yeast
444g ciabatta flour
7g salt
semolina, for dusting for the toppings
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped from the stalk
rock salt
olive oil, for drizzling

Weigh your water into a large mixing bowl and mix in the olive oil and yeast. Add the flour and mix, then add the salt. The dough will be sticky and wet, as focaccia is relatively high hydration dough.

Once combined, transfer your dough to a mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, or knead by hand on a work surface very lightly oiled with olive oil.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Knock it back by drawing the sides up and then folding them into the centre, cover with a cloth, and leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Knock the dough back a second time. Don’t overwork it, however, as you want an open crumb that’s not too tight. Leave the dough to rest for another hour, and then repeat the knocking back. Be very gentle with the dough while doing this, to preserve the
bubbles that are developing. Leave it to rest for another hour.

Preheat your oven to 240ºC/gas 9. Generously brush a baking tray with olive oil. Turn the dough out on to the tray and prod it outwards into a round.

It will expand a bit when baking, so leave some room at the sides of the tray. Drizzle with oil, then add your toppings. Prod holes into the dough with your fingers.
You can make these deep, as even though this is a ‘flatbread’, it will rise a bit due to the yeast. If any bubbles form on the surface, poke them with a knife to prevent them developing crispy crusts.

Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes. Check it after 10 minutes, and if it is colouring too quickly turn the oven down to 220ºC/gas 7 for the remaining time.

Once baked, the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Drizzle more olive oil on top before serving (be generous!), and allow the focaccia to cool before slicing.

A Handful of Flour Recipes from Shipton Mill

Spotted Dog
Makes 1 loaf

450g (1lb/4 cups) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 level teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
75g (3oz) sultanas (or more if you’d like)
1 organic egg
about 350 – 425ml (12-14fl oz/1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cups) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

In a large mixing bowl, sieve in the flour and bicarbonate of soda; then add the salt, sugar and sultanas. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Break the egg into the base of a measuring jug and add the buttermilk to the 425ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cup) line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement). Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.
Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.

The trick with Spotted Dog like all soda breads, is not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. With floured fingers, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds –
just enough to tidy it up. Then pat the dough into a round about 6cm (2 1/2 inches) deep. Transfer to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Prick with knife at the four triangles. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 35-40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg browns faster at a higher heat.

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

Bandon Farmers Market

Recently, I spent a very pleasurable few hours at the Country  market in Bandon celebrates 40 years since its establishment in December 1976.

I’m altogether a great admirer of the Country Market Movement and the stalwart members who, week in week out, bake, bottle, grow and knit to sell to their local community.

There’s always a particularly admirable ‘dig for victory’ sort of ethic but these ladies and one brave gentleman were particularly spirited, committed and justifiably proud of their Country Market and I was duly impressed by the quality of the produce. Lots of fresh vegetables, floury Kerr’s Pink, roosters, freshly picked romanesco, new seasons parsnips and a variety of healthy looking plants, home grown onions….(I bought them all) and then there were the breads and cakes, I loved the purposeful way customers came in through the door scarcely looking to right or left, making a beeline for their favourite produce.

The Country Market organisation has a protocol and quality standards that all members sign up to. Each is identified by a number so customers don’t necessary know who produces the item but regulars have their favourites and keep an eye out for new products.

I was hugely impressed by the variety not just of cakes, biscuits, quiches, tarts and meringues but also the range of jams, marmalades and autumn jellies but a range of cordials and syrups. I bought an elderberry, blackberry and brandy tonic as well as a carrageen Elixir with lots of ginger and a ginger and apple tonic for tickly coughs and chest ailments. I also pounced on Dukkah and Za’atar. You can sprinkle it on top of flat bread, on hummus and is great on fried or poached eggs, avocados or tomato salad. How about that for style and they were all completely delicious.

There was also cottage cheese preserved in oil and pinned on a trellis on the wall lots of beautiful hand knits, little jackets, cardigans, woolly hats and those old fashioned wavy tea cosies that I love.

I marvelled at the prices – incredibly good value. Another customer with a large basket had cleared the shelves of all the apple slices, she confided that she was doing the ‘After-Match’ catering in a sports club in the city and she could get nothing as delicious or as good value anywhere else in town. How right she was, I couldn’t get over reasonably priced everything was, most of the cakes and biscuits were made with butter and other fine ingredients. The pear and almond tartlets had Calvados in the frangipane. Six pieces of shortbread for €1.60, half a spelt fruit loaf studded with fat sultanas was just €2.60, six Welsh cheese cakes were €3.10, yes 0.52 cents each but think of the work, making pastry and homemade jam and madeira mixture and then glace icing for the top.

Another customer was scooping up several packets of brownies with chocolate icing on top of each one.
You must rush to the country market immediately and don’t leave the shop without hugging the cooks. They certainly deserve it for their public spirited efforts because I my opinion for what it’s worth (and it’s not my business), they can scarcely be factoring in their own time when deciding the selling price.

Maureen Wintersbottom, a stylish, sprightly 79 year old gets up at 6am every Friday to bake three dozen delicious gluten free scones, how about that for spirit? If you get there early, you might be in time to pick up a jar of the super delicious Ajvar relish made with roasted red pepper, smoked paprika and spices that we fought about in this house for several days, delicious with goats cheese, labne or on smoked chicken, pan grilled meat or fish or even a fried egg. So for those of you who think country markets are about ‘wee buns’ go and check them out, if you are fortunate enough to have one near you.

They would love new members so if you are a dab hand at sewing or growing or baking or pickling well go along and perhaps you can put your skills to good use to enhance the weekly income. Speaking of skills, how wonderful would it be to see these making, baking, rearing, growing knowledge passed on to a flourishing Youth Country Market. Watch this space……

Bandon Country Market, Weir Street, Bandon. Open Friday and Saturday, 9am-1pm

Home Butchery, Charcuterie and Sausage Making with Philip Dennhardt

This one day course will be of interest to anyone who likes pork in all its delicious forms! Philip Dennhardt comes from a long line of German butchers and he will demonstrate how to butcher a side of pork like a professional. He will then transform every scrap from nose to tail into a full range of yummy hams, succulent sausages and perfect charcuterie. Full instructions will be given for the making of air dried ham, brine cured hams, brawn, bacon and sausages, chorizos, salamis as well as some recipes for country pâtés and terrines. This is a perfect opportunity to pick up plenty of tips and hints on ways of cooking and preserving pork. The course starts at 9.30am on Saturday 19th November and finishes at 5.00pm. It includes a delicious light lunch. At the end of the day, guests will be able to taste a variety of mouth-watering pork products and all the dishes made during the day.
Booking Essential or 021 4646785

Good Food Ireland Conference
Check out the Food Tourism Culture Global Forum in Croke Park, Dublin on November 1st 2016, to discuss how food, travel and culture have become the leading hook in travel, followed by Gala Dinner and Good Food Ireland Best of the Decade awards.

Ruffles Chocolate Brownies

Makes 32 or more depending on size

375g (13ozs) chocolate (good quality 62% Valrhona or Callebaut)
375g (13ozs) butter
6 eggs
400g (14ozs) sugar
200g (7ozs) flour
150g (5ozs) chopped walnuts or hazelnuts or pecans

Tin – 35 x 24 x 6cm depth (14 x 9 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch depth)

180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a gentle heat. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until it’s a light mousse. Gradually add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mousse. Fold in the flour to this mixture. Finally add the chopped nuts. Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then turn down to 160°C/315°F/Gas Mar 2 1/2 for another 20 minutes until the centre is slightly wobbly, leave to sit in the tin to cool and set. Turn out carefully and cut into squares. Yummy!

Welsh Cheese Cakes

Makes 18

(8oz) shortcrust pastry
110 g (4oz) butter
110 g (4oz) castor sugar
175 g (6oz) flour
2 free-range organic eggs
approximately 1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

homemade jam, apple puree, marmalade, lemon curd, chocolate spread

2 round-bottomed bun trays

Roll the pastry thinly, between 1/8 and ¼ inch. Using a 3-inch cutter, stamp into rounds and pop neatly into the patty tins.
Grease the patty tins wit ha brush dipped in a little melted butter. Put a generous ½ teacup of chosen filling into each one.
Cream the butter in a bowl. Add the castor sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
Stir in the sieved flour and baking powder mixed together. Add a little milk if the mixture appears too stiff.
Divide between the tins. Bake as they are or decorate in the traditional way. Reroll the trimmings and cut into ¼ inch thick strips. Arrange a cross over the top of the cake mixture. Bake in the preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes approximately. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: alternatively, sprinkle a few flaked almonds over the top.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Caramel Bars

This is a wickedly sweet and chocolaty tray bake. The recipe makes lots, so freeze some of the bars for another time if you wish.

Makes 30 bars

Chocolate Base
200g (7oz/1 3/4 sticks) butter
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
300g (11oz/scant 1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
2 organic eggs, beaten
225g (8oz/2 cups) plain flour

Hazelnut Caramel Layer
125g (4 1/2oz/generous 1 stick) butter
1 x 397g (14oz/1 3/4 cups) tin of condensed milk
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) golden syrup
75g (3oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar
125g (4 1/2oz) toasted and halved hazelnuts

Chocolate Topping
200g (7oz) dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sunflower or vegetable oil

Swiss roll tin – 20×30 cm (8×12 inch)

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

Line or grease the base of the Swiss roll tin.

In a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter for the chocolate base, stir in the cocoa powder and then the sugar and mix until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs until mixed and then the plain flour. Spread the chocolate base over the prepared tin and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until firm on top. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the hazelnut caramel layer.

In a medium sized saucepan and over a medium heat, melt the butter and then add the condensed milk, golden syrup and sugar. Turn the heat to low and stir continuously for 12-15 minutes until the mixture is dark caramel in colour – do not let it burn. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts. Spread evenly over the chocolate base and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water (also known as a bain marie). When it is melted, stir in the oil and then pour over the caramel layer and smooth out, leaving to cool and set. Cut into squares. These will keep for a week in an airtight container.

Taken from Rachel’s Food for Living

Parsnip and Maple Syrup Cake

Serves 8

175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) butter, plus extra for greasing
110g (4oz/1/2 cup) Demerara sugar
100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) maple syrup
3 large organic eggs
250g (9oz/2 1/4 cups) self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
250g (9oz) parsnips, peeled and grated
1 medium eating apple, peeled, cored and grated
50g (2oz) pecans or hazelnuts, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 1 small orange

icing sugar, to serve

300g (10oz) cream cheese
2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) maple syrup

2 x 20cm (8 inches) deep sandwich tins

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

Grease the cake tins with a little butter and line the bases with parchment paper.

Melt the butter, sugar and maple syrup in a pan over a gentle heat, then cool slightly. Whisk the eggs into the mixture, then stir into the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Next add the grated parsnip, apple, chopped pecans, orange zest and freshly squeezed juice. Divide between the two tins and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until just starting to shrink from the sides of the tin.

Cool on a wire rack.

Just before serving, mix the cream cheese and maple syrup together. Spread over the base of one cake and top with the other.
Dust with icing sugar just before serving.


Wow, we’re really got the bit between our teeth about Halloween at last. We’re every bit as commercial as the US, I couldn’t believe the number of spooky festivals in Ireland this season. Some like the Spirits of Meath (where according to legend Halloween began) (Really…..) started on October 14th and continues until November 6th with a huge program of family oriented events. There’s a Halloween festival in Galway, a Halloween House in Kenmare, haunted woods around Birr Castle, Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin when Macnas will stage a twilight procession on October 26th but voted ‘best of all’ earlier this year is the evocatively named Pooka Spooka at Causey’s Farm and Farmaphobia in Co Meath. Check out and and there’s tons more.

Well in this column, we’ll remember the original spirit of Samhain, Halloween and indeed Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, where every family celebrates and honours their deceased members with joy and revelry and lots of special foods.

Each household creates an ofrenda in their home, a colourful alter or shrine decorated with photographs, objects and treasured possessions of the deceased. Bright orange Mexican marigolds (tagetes) and the favourite foods and drinks. Relatives, family and friends go together to tidy and decorate graves. This is a convivial rather than sombre affair. Later, they return in a candlelit procession, laden with baskets of foods to picnic around the tombs of their dearly beloved.

Food plays a very important part in the festivities. Special breads, Pan de Muerto are baked, vibrant sugar skulls are decorated with shiny foil, sequins and beads even feathers. Candied pumpkins and a variety of beverages, Such as atole, a drink made from fermented corn. Here in Ireland the barmbrack is our most traditional Halloween food – the yeasted fruit bread is further embellished over the holiday season. Bakers all around the country add charms to the rich bread, a ring to signify that marriage is imminent, a dried pea indicates poverty, a stick predicts that your partner will beat you, a bit of ‘a rag’ isn’t good news either. That means that the unlucky person who finds that in their slice of barmbrack is likely to fall on hard times, though I wonder whether the bakers would even be allowed to put in a piece of rag nowadays for Health and Safety reasons….

Colcannon made with curly kale was also linked with Halloween both here in Ireland and in Scotland and a ‘wee’ bowl was put out on a window sill to ward off evil spirits.

Halloween nowadays has come a long way from apple bobbing, ghost stories and the banshee keening on the gate pier combing her long grey hair.

Food too, has changed and become super creative. Magazine editors dream up all kinds of witches brews, spiderweb cupcakes, ghostly meringues, dragons eggs, zombie broths, shortbread tombstones, Dracula’s brains, dragon’s blood soup, spooky pucas, vampire tacos, spicy bones, squiggly fish with vampire butter, not to mention amazing cakes iced in horrid shades of green, orange, black and purple. Here are a few spooky treats to add to your repertoire.


Slow Food Dinner

Paula McIntyre of Slow Food Northern Ireland is hosting a Slow Food Dinner in the South West Regional College, Dungannon Campus on 16th November. Pre-dinner drink at 6.30pm, followed by a 5 course dinner at 7. Tickets are £12.50. Contact:

St George’s Market in Belfast
Congrats to St George’s Market for winning the OFM Awards, best Market in the UK.

Date for the Diary
East Cork Slow Food Event
A Tutored Chocolate Tasting with Nancy Gilchrist on Thursday November 24th 2016 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Tel: 021 4646785 or email

Irish Tea Barmbrack

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up (rather than boiled). This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the Halloween Barmbrack.

Even though it is very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas
110g (4oz) raisins
110g (4oz) currants
50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) hot tea
1 organic egg, whisked
175g (6oz/3/4 cup) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz/2 cups) self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon mixed spice
50g (2oz) homemade candied peel (see recipe on Examiner website)

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3in)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.
Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool on a wire rack. Slice and butter to serve.
Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Devilled Eggs

Makes 8

4 free range eggs
2-3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 sprigs of parsley or chervil
Wild watercress leaves

Lower the eggs gently into boiling salted water, bring the water back to the boil and hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways. Sieve the yolks, mix the sieved egg yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites. Garnish with a sprig of parsley or chervil and serve on a bed of wild watercress leaves.

Dragons Eggs

Makes 8

Pickled Beetroot Juice (see recipe on Examiner website)

8 eggs, hard boiled

Watercress sprigs

First cook the eggs. Bring a deep saucepan of water to the boil, lower the eggs carefully into the boiling water, ten minutes from the time the water returns to the boil will be adequate. Drop into a bowl of cold water and run under tap with completely cold water. Peel, fill into sterilized Kilner or preserving jars and cover with beetroot pickle juice (see below). Allow to macerate for 2-3 days before using.

Serve on a bed of watercress or include in a salad with smoked mackerel or eel.

Note: the beetroot pickle dyes the egg white a scary purple colour

Wizard’s Soup in a Pumpkin Shell

Serves 6

50g (2oz/1/2 stick) butter
150g (5oz/1 cup) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice
110g (4oz/1 cup) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice
300 g (10 oz/2 cups) beetroot, chopped
150 g (5 oz/1 cup) parsnip, chopped
1.2L (2 pints/5 cups) homemade chicken or vegetable stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) creamy milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper

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

Serve in a pumpkin shell.

Spider Web Cake

Serves 8

175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) soft butter
150g (5oz/generous 1/2 cup) castor sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
175g (6oz/1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour

Chocolate Icing

175g (6oz/1 1/3 cups) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa
75g (3oz/3/4 stick) butter
75ml (3fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) water
75g (3oz/scant 1/2 cup) caster sugar

Lemon Glacé Icing

110g (4oz/scant 1 cup) icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice

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.
Next make the chocolate icing. 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 lemon glace icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.

Pour the chocolate icing over the cake and allow to drip down over the side. Meanwhile, fill a paper piping bag with a fluid glace icing, fold over the top, snip off the point to make a writing pipe.
Quickly, pipe a continuous circle from the centre to the outside. Then use a cocktail stick to draw the icing inwards and outwards to create a spider’s web.

Decorate with spiders and pucas if available.

Serve on a Halloween plate or cake stand.

Spooky Pucas

Easy and fun to make, they can be eaten just as they are with softly whipped cream or used to decorate a spooky cake.

Makes 30 approximately

2 egg whites
110g (4oz/1/2 cup) caster sugar

For Eyes
50g (2oz) chocolate

Preheat the oven to 110°C/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

Whip the egg whites with the caster sugar until they form stiff peaks.
Place in a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

Line a tray with parchment or bakewell paper. Carefully squeeze a small circle of meringue out of the bag pulling upwards as you do to make a ghost shape.
Repeat until the mixture is used up.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours until crisp – the meringues should lift off the parchment/bakewell paper easily. Cool.

Melt the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over simmering water, place in paper piping bag. Pipe spooky eyes and noses on meringues. Leave to set.


Every now and then one comes across a natural leader, a person with an impossible vision who has the tenacity and charisma to make their vision a reality against all the odds. Michael Kelly, founder of GIY Ireland is certainly such a person and it can be a tiny incident that sparks an idea – this whole movement which supports the growing efforts of 150,000 people and 6,000 food communities both in Ireland and the UK, all started with garlic.

Michael was busily doing the food shopping one dark evening, not his favourite task, he picked up a bulb of garlic – 50 cents, he was outraged to discover that it had come ‘all the way from China’.

It set him thinking surely to goodness we could grow garlic in this country.

Out of this outrage was born, what is now one of the most important social grass roots movements in the country GIY – Grow It Yourself. Michael shared his discovery with some of his friends; they decided to arrange a meeting to ‘test the waters’. Did others feel the same? Was there any interest in this topic? Was there a hunger for knowledge? Over 100 people turned up to the initial meeting in the Waterford Library one September evening in 2008, standing room only – obviously there was an appetite to learn what for some was a ‘forgotten skill’ for others a longed for skill to learn how to sow a seed and grow even a little of their own food.

Michael had inadvertently stumbled upon a longing, among a significant number of people to discover the magic of sowing a seed and having the satisfaction of watching it grow into something they could eat and feed to their families in the secure knowledge that it was nourishing, wholesome and free of chemicals. Since that small beginning in 2008, Michael and his messianic team many of whom have soldered by his side voluntarily since the very beginning has travelled up and down the country starting branches, organised eight

GIY Gathering Conferences in Waterford, supported over 6,000 local champions, inspired and encouraged and continued to dream.
Michael was invited to deliver a DO lecture in Wales in 2012, during that event he became even more aware that the movement needed a headquarters, a centre where people could visit, see edible gardens bursting with vegetables, herbs and fruit, learn how to grow, eat and gather together to share the fresh seasonal food from the garden.
On the ferry boat back, he scribbled a ‘note to self’ on his pad – ‘must do, GIY HQ’ and stepped off the boat at Rosslare with an enhanced mission.

He shared his vision, it resonated with many people.

A vision is one thing, but raising €1.4 million to realise that vision is quite another – a massive fund raising campaign ensued over 4 years and on 8th October, GIY HQ was opened to a joyous reception from hundreds of supporters, well-wishers and local businesses and the passionate GIY team. It’s rare enough to find a work force so totally committed to an ideal as the group of twenty six super charged individuals who are overjoyed to be part of this project.
Michael thanked the myriad of people who had helped and supported his vision along the way but reserved extra special mention for Waterford County Council who had unanimously voted to donate the 3 acre site at Farronshoneen on Dunmore Road opposite the University Waterford Hospital and the Solas Centre to GIY.

The sustainable building on was designed by Soulearth Architecture and encompasses class room, café and cooking school –and now the work really begins. Check it out on

The Shop stocks a variety of gardening tools including copper hand trowel and fork, copper spade, Chillington hoes, tools to last a lifetime… the Grow and Cook book published in 2014.
Back to garlic, for those of you have not yet grown your own, buy a few garlic bulbs preferably varieties that suit the Irish climate. Bryn Perrin from West Cork Garlic recommends a good ‘softneck’ variety called Iberian. It can also be harvested as green garlic and has an exceptional flavour. Pink Marble Czech ‘hardneck’ variety is great tasting garlic with hot spicy flavours. Mild Elephant garlic with its huge cloves is particularly popular and delicious for roasting and also great for smoking. If you don’t feel like smoking your own, check out Frank Hederman’s stall at the English Market or the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday for beautiful smoked garlic to serve with chicken or to flavour smoked garlic aioli.

But if you like to grow your own, buy a couple of bulbs of suitable varieties. Divide into cloves; plant each one root end down in the ground about 1 inch (2.5cm) deep and 4 inches (10 cm) apart towards the end of November. Used to be that one would plant on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day but with global warming one can certainly plant earlier.

It’s such a joy to be able to buy Irish grown, chemical free garlic, so seek out West Cork Garlic grown by Bryn Perrin and is available at several retailers or by mail order
From the cooks point of view what would be do without garlic as an ingredient in our kitchen not to mention its numerous nutrition medicinal qualities.

Hot Tip
Lost and Found – a rediscovery of forgotten flavours and foraged foods. A Pop Up Dinner hosted by our Autumn 12 Week Certificate students on Saturday November 19th 2016. Booking Essential 021 4646785 or

Teagasc Training Course
There is an Innovative/New Product Development Workshop on October 25th 2016 at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark in Fermoy and Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown in Dublin on November 25th – see

A Slow Food Autumn Foraging Walk
Join Slow Food Dublin on a foraging walk at Whole Hoggs Farm, Slane Co Meath tomorrow at 3pm. Peter Whelan and Teresa Storey will forage along the hedgerows and farmland, there will be a short demonstration using the foraged ingredients. Tickets are €15 for Slow Food Members, €20 for non-Slow Food Members.

Pumpkins and Apples
Lots of home-grown organic pumpkins and heirloom apple varieties to choose from at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop in Shanagarry, open Monday to Saturday, 11am-5.30pm, don’t miss Saturday Pizzas from 12.30pm-4pm

GIY Courses
Check out upcoming courses at GIY HQ for October and November.

Save-Your-Life Garlic Soup

Serves 4

This strictly bare-cupboard Provençal soup is insanely good. The ingredients are nothing more than a lot of garlic, some sage leaves, water, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It takes only 10 to 15 minutes to cook, but when you taste it, you’ll swear it is long-simmered chicken broth.

Like chicken broth, garlic soup is said to have all sorts of medicinal properties. It apparently can both prevent and cure hangovers, and even aid digestion. It also makes a perfect light lunch or supper on a hot summer day when you don’t much feel like cooking. Many versions—including this one—add a poached egg, which makes it more of a meal. And some cooks whisk a beaten egg into the broth to make it creamy.

2 heads garlic, preferably new-crop, separated into cloves (about 16 medium cloves) and peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves
salt and pepper
1.4 litres (6 cups) water
4 eggs
4 slices bread, lightly toasted
chopped parsley, scallions, or chives

Slice or roughly chop the garlic cloves. Warm the oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and let sizzle a bit without browning, about 2 minutes. Season with about 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pep-per. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a brisk simmer. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle about an inch of the soup into a skillet and bring to a brisk simmer over medium heat. Carefully crack the eggs into the pan and poach for about 3 minutes.

To serve, place a slice of toast in each soup bowl and top with a poached egg. Ladle the soup over the eggs and sprinkle with a little parsley.

Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Marjoram

When you butterfly a leg of lamb, you can leave it completely plain or flavour it with lots of fresh herbs or one or a mixture of spices, giving it the flavour of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or the British Isles.

Serves 10–15

6 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
6 tablespoons marjoram or oregano
125ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
leg of lamb, 3kg (61⁄2 lb), boned and butterflied
freshly cracked pepper
sea salt

A few hours before cooking, scatter half the slivered garlic and half the chopped marjoram or oregano over the base of a large, non-reactive dish. Drizzle with some olive oil. Slash the skin side of the meat here and there and lay it on top of the garlic and herbs. Sprinkle the remaining herbs, garlic and olive oil over the top. Season with lots of freshly cracked pepper. Cover and allow to marinade for a minimum of 2–3 hours or, better still, overnight.

Remove the meat from the marinade, season with sea salt and cook on a preheated barbecue. Grill for 30–40 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time for medium rare. Let rest for 10 minutes and then carve into thin slices. Serve at once.

Alternatively, roast in a preheated hot oven 230ºC/450ºF/ gas mark 8 for 30–40 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Serve with lots of crusty roast potatoes, and perhaps some apple and marjoram jelly.

Lahsooni Patta

Baby spinach tossed with tomatoes, garlic and fennel.

Serves 4

2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon freshly ground fennel powder
salt to taste
400g (14ozs) baby spinach or destalked spinach leaves
1 teaspoon butter

Heat the oil in the wok over a medium heat. Add the chopped garlic, sauté for 1 minute, add the tomato halves, then freshly ground fennel, butter and salt. Add the baby spinach leaves and toss quickly for a minute or two – just until they wilt. Serve hot.

Gill Meller’s Blackberry and Apple Meringue with Walnuts and Elder

Serves 8-12

A dash of sunflower or walnut oil
2 small medium dessert apples, quartered, cored then each quarter cut into 2 or 3 wedges
1-2 teaspoons golden caster sugar (optional)
300 ml (10½ fl oz) double cream
½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped
2 handfuls of blackberries
1 or 2 sprays ripe elderberries, berries picked
35 g (1¼ oz) shelled walnuts or hazelnuts, roughly broken

For the Meringue
4 egg whites
200 g (7 oz) golden caster sugar

Heat the oven to 120°C/235°F/gas mark 1. First make the meringue. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl. Whisk with a hand held electric whisk until they form and hold soft peaks. (You can do this in a food mixer with a whisk attachment, if you prefer). Keeping the whisk running, add 1 large spoonful of sugar at a time until all the sugar is incorporated. Continue to whisk for a further 6-8 minutes until the meringue is thick, pale, smooth and glossy.

Lightly grease a sheet of baking parchment and lay it on a large (at least 30cm x 30cm/12 inch x 12 inch) flat baking tray. Spoon the meringue onto the parchment, trying to make a large round with slightly peaked edges – it doesn’t have to be perfect. Bake the meringue in the oven for 25-30minutes and then turn down the heat to 90°C/185°F/gas mark ½ and bake for a further 2 hours until the meringue has formed a crisp shell. (If you are not using the meringue straight away, store it in an airtight container).

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over a medium heat, then add the apple. If the apples are a little tart, add the caster sugar and stir. Cook the apples for 4-5 minutes, turning over occasionally until they have taken on a little colour and are beginning to soften. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

In a clean bowl, whisk the double cream with the vanilla seeds until t hick and pillowy. Spoon the cream over the meringue base spreading it roughly out towards the edges. Arrange the cooked apple pieces over the cream. Scatter the blackberries over the top.

Finally sprinkle over the broken up walnuts or hazelnuts and the elderberries, to serve.

Gather by Gill Meller, published by Quadrille Publishing

The Brother Hubbard Cookbook

Just last week one of the most keenly anticipated cookbooks of the year landed on my desk and it was certainly worth waiting for – it’s The Brother Hubbard Cookbook – however I have to declare a special interest in the author. Garrett Fitzgerald is a past student and he has an exciting story to tell.

In 2012, in the depths of the recession he and his partner James had a ‘rush of blood’ to the head and decided to open a little restaurant on Dublin’s Capel Street, literally on a ‘wing and a prayer’. Well the fledgling café called Brother Hubbard more or less took off from day one and is now much more with a team dedicated to bringing the best of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and baking to its evergrowing community of customers. Sister Sadie opened in September 2014 to start her own culinary journey.

The customers eagerly embraced the fresh, exciting new flavours of Garrett and his partner James’ interpretation of Middle Eastern and Southern Mediterranean food.
The adventure began several years earlier in the heady Celtic Tiger era, Garrett and James enjoyed their jobs but often found themselves, day-dreaming about doing something else. It takes mega courage to chuck in a secure job but on a bleak January morning in 2007 after a few sunny weeks in Argentina and a baking course which helped Garrett to recognise his real passion, they decided to take the plunge.

By then, having turned 30, they were acutely aware that ‘life isn’t a dress rehearsal’. An article in The Guardian about the psychology of regret really resonated.
It spelled out loud and clear, a fundamental message – “better to have a go even if it fails rather than live one’s life pondering, What if”…
It was a eureka moment. Within a few weeks Garrett had reserved a place on the Ballymaloe Cookery School Certificate course and together “myself and James jumped off the cliff, (so to speak), packed in our jobs and hit out for adventure.

After the full-on Ballymaloe Cookery School experience they headed off for two years to see the world. After a year of wandering like nomads around the markets and stalls all across India, Nepal and South East Asia, they arrived in Melbourne, famous for its casual dining and coffee scene. Garrett found himself working with two amazing women in two amazing small owner owned businesses, a café and a little artisan bakery. Both businesses were committed to quality, creativity and doing their best for their customers. What an important experience that turned out to be.

At the end of Garrett’s time in Melbourne, he had firmly made up his mind that Middle Eastern cuisine was the type of food he loved and felt particularly passionate, about vivid, fresh, vegetarian-friendly, healthy food.

Four months, to discover the authentic flavours and histories of the food in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine followed then back to find a devastated Ireland quite different to the one they had left during the Celtic Tiger era. What to do?

They looked around, people were still eating out but certainly seeking a more value driven experience, altogether now more careful with the €5 notes than they had been with their €50’s a few years earlier – diners wanted casual, affordable, delicious fresh tasting eclectic healthy food. The rest is history.

Can’t imagine where Garrett and James found time to write a cookbook but I’m so glad he did because here at last we now find the recipes for the favourite food from the much loved Brother Hubbard restaurant, the dishes that they get asked for over and over again, like Turkish Eggs Menemen, Moroccan Harira Soup, Middle Eastern Slaw, Harissa baked aubergine with roasted cashews and apriocts and tons more.

The book is written in a style that will inspire even the most reluctant cook to have fun and create a dish you’ll be super proud of and want to share with family and friends.
Here are just a few to whet your appetite but you may find yourself buying several copies to give to friends for Christmas – not all that far away now…

Hot Tips

Urban Co-Op, Limerick
Limerick’s first co-operative community grocery store has moved to new premises at Tait House, Roxboro Road Limerick. The Urban Co-Op supports sustainable, cooperative and social business principles. The Co-Op proudly supports local producers and currently stocks a range of organic fruit, vegetables, breads and tasty treats…. or Tel: 061 314707

Date for the Diary
Free from Ireland Intolerances Allergies & Wellbeing in Dublin October 15th & 16th and in Cork November 5th & 6th. Family oriented event with information and advice for those suffering with intolerances and allergies. Seminars, cookery demonstrations, talks, advice……

‘Saturday Pizza Masterclass’

Imagine,the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton……
In this three-hour masterclass, Philip Dennhardt of Saturday Pizzas will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven and so forth) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas. We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces – think shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and homemade cottage cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
As Philip will, in essence, be cooking pizzas for the duration of the class, there will be lots to sample

Date for your Diary
Wild and Slow, November 12th & 13th 2016. The 5th Wild and Slow at Brooklodge, Macreddin Village in Co. Wicklow promises to be action packed with walks, talks, foraging, hunting, wild food dinner…watch the website for full details.

Apple Day at Borough Market
If you are in London on the weekend of 23rd October, go along to Borough Market to celebrate the huge varieties of apple, take part in the apple peeling competition and try your hand at apple pressing.

Brother Hubbard’s Yogurt, Tahini, Honey and Nuts

Ingredients per person
3–4 heaped tablespoons thick Greek yogurt
½ banana per person, chopped (or equivalent of other fruit, such as apple or melon)
½ tablespoon tahini
½ tablespoon honey
small handful of nuts, toasted and chopped
½ handful pomegranate seeds (optional)
a few fresh mint leaves

Place generous spoonfuls of the yogurt into an individual wide-bottomed bowl and add the chopped banana. Drizzle the tahini over the yogurt in a circular motion. Follow by drizzling over the honey, loosely tracing the path of the tahini. To finish, scatter the chopped nuts over the dish, then the pomegranate
seeds, if using. Finally, tear some fresh mint over it and serve.

Turkish Eggs Menemen

A vibrant, beautiful dish, this is ideal as a brunch or supper.
Serves 2 hungry people

Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce (see recipe)

4 eggs
50ml cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
4 slices of good bread
knob of butter, softened
2 small handfuls of baby spinach leaves
6–8 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)

Onion Chilli Herb Mix
½ small or medium red onion
1 medium red chilli
20g fresh mint
20g fresh parsley
10g fresh dill or coriander

Feta Yoghurt
50g feta cheese
100g plain yogurt

First make the tomato and roast red pepper sauce, see recipe. Then remove the
sauce from the heat and set aside – it’s best added to the dish when it’s
quite warm but not boiling. While the sauce is simmering away, cut the red onion into the finest dice you can manage – ideally about the size of the head of a match! Cut the top off the chilli, remove the seeds with a teaspoon and then
dice the chilli very finely too, similar in size to the onion. Finely chop the stems of the herbs (except the mint), then give the leafy bits a medium chop. Mix the onion, chilli and herbs together and set aside.
Make the feta yogurt by crumbling the feta into the yogurt and adding
some black pepper (you don’t need salt because the feta is already
quite salty).
Now you’re ready for the final steps. Crack the eggs into a bowl with the
cream. Whisk well and add a little salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat. When it’s good and hot, add a dash of olive oil. You should be warming your plates and toasting your bread at this point too. Pour in the eggs and let them sit for about 20 seconds before stirring to scramble them. This dish is to be cooked very quickly, so keep scrambling. When they are nearly fully cooked but the egg is still glistening, add the tomato and pepper sauce, mixing well, and scramble further for another 20–30 seconds.
To serve, spread the toast with some butter or a drizzle of olive oil and put on each warm plate with a small handful of baby spinach leaves on top. Divide the scrambled eggs between each plate. Top with a dessertspoon of the feta yogurt, scatter over the sliced olives, if using, and finish with a few spoons of the onion chilli herb mix.

Brother Hubbard’s Beef Koftas

As with a lot of our dishes, these are full of herbs and flavour – please don’t be shy with the fresh herbs, as they make such a meaningful difference. The sauce packs a welcome punch to make these a wonderful lunch, dinner or supper. This recipe bulks up incredibly well if cooking for a larger group. It will take a bit more effort to hand-roll more koftas, but honestly, it’s worth it. In fact, this is one of my go-to recipes for entertaining at larger gatherings.

Serves 4
750g lean minced beef (rib mince is good)
150g feta cheese, crumbled
50g fresh parsley, chopped
50g fresh mint, chopped
5 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed (2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons dried mint
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
Tomato and Roast Red Pepper Sauce
olive oil
2 red peppers, diced into 1cm cubes
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced or chopped
50ml apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon ground star anise or fennel seeds
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
150ml water
2 tablespoon tomato purée
pinch of caster sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To Serve

To make the sauce, heat a little oil in a medium-sized pot. Sweat the
red peppers, red onion and garlic together, covered, until softened for 10–15 minutes on a low-medium heat should do it. You want them to be well softened without falling apart too much. Next add the cider vinegar and the ground star anise or fennel seeds (if you can’t get ground star anise, use two whole ones) and simmer for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure the dish doesn’t dry out. Add the chopped tomatoes, water, tomato purée, sugar and seasoning. Reduce to a quite thick sauce, like pasta sauce, stirring regularly to
prevent it from sticking. When the sauce has reached your desired consistency, remove from the heat and taste, adjusting the sauce with sugar, vinegar or seasoning as you see fit – you want a really fragrant sauce that’s full of flavour. If you’ve used whole star anise, take them out at this stage. Put to one side.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 6.
To make the koftas, put all the kofta ingredients in a large bowl, reserving a quarter of the feta and a quarter of each of the fresh herbs to use later (don’t add salt, as the feta will bring saltiness to it all). Mix well with your hands until everything comes together as one, but don’t over mix or it will turn into a fine paste! When well combined, test the mix by frying a little bit in a pan with a little oil. Leave to cool for a moment and taste. This step is critical: decide if you need to add more pepper, garlic or spices if you
feel it’s needed. You can also add a little salt if you feel it’s necessary.
Adjust and repeat the tasting step if necessary until it’s just right. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out small 50g balls of the mixture – or just do one like this to get an approximate idea of how much you need, then shape the others to that size (about the size of a walnut in its shell). Form the balls into slightly oval shapes and place on a baking tray. If you’re not cooking these right away, they can be covered with cling film and refrigerated for cooking later.
To cook the koftas, we char them on a preheated griddle pan (at maximum heat) for 1–2 minutes on each side, making sure they are well browned on a few sides. A frying pan would be fine here, though you won’t get the char marks. This step sears the meat and adds additional flavour from caramelising (browning) the outside of the kofta, but see the tips and tricks for advice if you want to skip this step.
Transfer to a baking dish and pour the warm sauce over. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes. If you have a thermometer probe, they should hit 71°C – if you’ve minced the meat yourself and are confident as to the quality, you may prefer them to be a little rarer. Bring the koftas to the table in the baking dish, with the remaining feta and herbs sprinkled over, for serving alongside any accompaniments (the wedding couscous, flatbread and perhaps some salad).

Otherwise, plate up the individual portions, sprinkle with the feta and herbs and
serve with the accompaniments.

Brother Hubbard’s Flourless Citrus and Coconut Cake

This is based on a recipe in one of my favourite books, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. This is an amazing but simple cake, lovely, soft and moist. It also just so happens to be gluten-free and dairy-free (though if you make the ganache topping, make sure your white chocolate is gluten-free). We make these as individual cupcakes.
Makes 12 individual cakes
2 oranges
1 lemon
360g caster sugar
130g coconut flour (or desiccated coconut blitzed to a fine powder)
100g fine polenta
85g ground almonds
50g desiccated coconut
5 eggs, whisked well
2 teaspoons orange blossom water (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten-free if you want the recipe to be gluten-free)
Sunflower oil, for greasing
Greek yogurt or crème fraîche, to serve

White Chocolate and Coconut Ganache
200ml coconut milk
200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
toasted coconut flakes, to decorate

First boil the oranges and lemon. Put the fruit in a pot, cover with water and pop a lid on. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40–60 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure they remain just covered with water. Once they are completely soft, drain off the water and leave to cool.
Once they are cool enough to handle, cut the tips off each piece of fruit, then cut in half and remove the seeds. They should be a soft, pulpy mess inside. Place the fruit pulp and skins in a bowl and purée in a food processor or using a stick blender. You should have a fairly smooth purée. If doing by hand, put into a saucepan and go hell for leather with a potato masher – don’t worry if it isn’t a perfectly smooth purée, as a little chunkiness is no harm.
Next preheat your oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 6.
Put the purée in a big mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add all of the other ingredients and mix until everything is fully combined.
If using a silicone cupcake mould, brush each individual cup with a little sunflower oil. If using a metal tin, do the same or use paper cases. Spoon the batter into each cup until it’s just shy of the top by about 5mm. Pop in the oven, then immediately turn it down to 170°C and bake for 40 minutes. The cupcakes are done when you stick a clean skewer, cocktail stick or knife in the centre and it comes out clean, without any batter stuck to it. If they’re not yet at that point, pop them back into the oven and check again after 5–8 minutes. Leave to cool.
While the cakes are baking, you can make the white chocolate and coconut ganache. Heat the coconut milk in a small saucepan. When it’s near the boiling point, remove the pan from the heat and add the roughly chopped white chocolate. Stir well until the chocolate is fully melted, then leave to cool.
Spoon the cooled ganache over the top of the cooled cupcakes, decorate with toasted coconut flakes and serve with a little Greek yogurt or crème fraîche.
Stored at room temperature in an airtight container or tin, these will remain absolutely perfect for 4–5 days. In fact, the flavours come out even better after a day.

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto

Just on my way home from the Slow Food Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin. It’s a biennial event that kicks off on Friday and finishes on Monday evening.
This year the President of Italy launched the event in the beautiful Carignano Theater. There were ministers and mayors and dignitaries galore but most of the guests needed to be reminded of the President’s name, Sergio Matarella, who doesn’t appear to have reached the notoriety of his predecessor, consequently his name was unknown to many of the 7,000 delegates who had come from 143 countries worldwide.

It’s the world’s biggest food event, over 900 exhibitors and 400 events and the majority of the stalls are small to medium sized artisan producers.
For the first time this year it was held out in the open across Turin’s beautiful parks, squares, markets, museums and along the banks of the River Po.
Carlo Petrini, the messianic President of Slow Food International gave an impassioned talk on respecting farmers all over the world who labor to produce the food that nourishes us. Slow Food launched an appeal on behalf of the inhabitants of Amatrice, the area just hours east of Rome recently devastated by earthquake. Amatrice is considered by many to be the birthplace of the best cooks in Italy.

Afterwards the colourful Terra Madre parade of farmers and food producers marched through Turin in their national dress proudly carrying their national flags. The theme of this year’s event was Loving the Earth.

Ireland was represented by the Irish Slow Food Raw Milk Presidium. They were inundated with people queuing 3-4 deep wanting to buy tasting plates of Irish raw cheeses. Maria Roeleveld represented the Slow Food Raw Milk Presidium. Other Irish delegates were Aidan Dunwoody from Comeragh Mountain Lamb, Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye Bakehouse and Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery. Molly Garvey came from Slow Food Irish Youth, Aisling Stone from Slow Food North West, Pat Warner from The Harmony Farm.

We found many wonderful foods – white plums from Monreale in Sicily, Saffron from Jiloca, cured herrings from Norway, wild figs from Macedonia, Mangalica sausage from Macedonia, wild pepper from Madagascar, Argan oil and dates from Morocco, Ilo coffee from Mozambique, Bitta orange flower from Sardinia, beautiful hazelnuts from Piedmont….

There is a universal realisation that we can no longer go on treating the earth that feeds us in the cavalier way we have been. Farmers are increasingly concerned about the diminishing fertility of the soil as a direct result of the intensive farming method encouraged since the 1950’s. Even in Ireland over 50% of our land is phosphorous deficient and 10% of soils are selenium deficient. These are elements essential for life.

There are 12 Slow Food chapters here in Ireland and a huge network worldwide. The philosophy can be summed up in just three words – Good, Clean and Fair.

  • Good – food should be wholesome, nourishing, delicious and good for us as well as the environment.
  • Clean – safe to eat and produced in a clean environment.
  • Fair – the farmers, fishermen, food producers and farm workers should be paid a fair price.

Hot Tips
Get Blogging
Join pro-blogger, Lucy Pearce, on a whistle-stop tour of the blogging world and discover the ingredients for a successful blog. You’ll see just how diverse blogging is, and how to find your own niche. In just three hours you will be fired up and ready to take the online world by storm with your own blog! Lucy will compare the different blogging platforms, highlighting their pros and cons so that you can select the best one for your blog. Then the fun begins as she gives you a guided tour behind the scenes on a blog and shows you the most useful gadgets and gizmos to use. You’ll learn the basics of blog design, how to customise basic blogging templates, the secrets behind writing popular posts, how to spread the word about your blog, how to find and keep readers. You will leave with a comprehensive set of notes to refer back to as you establish your blog, confident to build, design and grow your blog. Saturday 15th October,

The Ballinspittle Beef, Bacon, Beer and Barbecue Battle

Ballinspittle, close to Kinsale will host a Barbecue Battle on October 22nd, 2016. There are three categories Low and Slow, Thrill of the Grill and Ethnic. Amateur and Professional entries welcome. Entry forms from Diva Café in Ballinspittle, closing date 10th October. Tel: 087 233 9434 or Tim on 087 975 0557

Taste of Cork Week, 10th-16th October
As part of Taste of Cork Week, Urru is hosting a Pop Up lunch on October 15th at No 7 Bridge Street in Barry’s Tea first premises. A long table lunch hosted by West Cork artisan producers.
For more details phone Ruth Healy at Urru on 023 885 4731 or

Spice Pop UP
Another pop up to celebrate Taste Cork Week, this time Arun Kapil from Green Saffron and Canice Sharkey, chef patron of Isaacs Restaurant in MacCurtain Street, Cork will host Spice Pop Up 5 course menu on Tuesday October 11th, 8pm. Tickets are €35 including aperitif on arrival. Booking or 021 450 3805


Hazelnuts are in season at present, go for a foraging walk on the hillsides around the country, delicious eaten fresh from the shells.

Roast Piedmont Peppers with Anchovies, Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Flaky Sea Salt

Roasting large red or yellow peppers intensifies the sweetness and makes them far easier to peel. Choose fat fleshly organic peppers.

There are three ways to roast peppers
1. Preheat the grill or better still use a charcoal grill or barbecue. Grill the peppers on all sides, turning them when necessary – they can be quite charred, but check the flesh is also soft.
2. Preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas mark 9. Put the peppers on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes until the skin blisters and the flesh is soft.
3. Put a wire rack over a mild gas jet, roast the pepper on all sides. When the skin is charred and the flesh is soft, remove from the heat.

When roasted by whichever method you choose, put peppers into a bowl, cover the top tightly with cling film for a few minutes, this will make them much easier to peel. Pull the skin off the peppers, remove the stalks and seeds and discard – put in the hens bucket or the compost bin. Do not wash or you will loose the precious sweet juices. Divide each pepper into 2 or 3 pieces along the natural division. Put 1-3 pieces on a plate. Lay 2 beautiful anchovies on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt. Serve with freshly grilled sour dough bread. Simple but divine.

Barny Haughton’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

The sauce for this deeply delicious and simple dish has four basic ingredients: tomatoes, shallots, chilli and bacon. But there are some rules about the ingredients:
You really need to get the right bacon; the deep flavour of a good Amatriciana comes from the rendered-down fat. The best bacon cut is guanciale (pork cheek) but a good fatty unsmoked pancetta will do fine as well. Bucatini, (like thick spaghetti) is best for the pasta but rigatoni or penne will also do well – but don’t use fresh pasta.
And finally: use pecorino not parmesan. The difference may not seem a big deal but what you get from pecorino (made from sheep’s milk) is a sharpness which works brilliantly with the rich Amatriciana sauce. Parmesan (made from cow’s milk) is sweeter and less defined in its flavour

Serves 4 people

400g guanciale or a piece of fatty pancetta
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
3 shallots very finely sliced
600g ripe tomatoes – or a 380g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
80grms aged pecorino, grated
400g bucatini
olive oil

First make passata out of the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350/gas mark 4, place the tomatoes on a roasting tray, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and bake them for about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pass through a mouli or sieve, leaving behind only the dry skin and seeds. If you have lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, for example 5 kilos, you could do as above, then reheat the passata to simmering and transfer to sterilised jars, screw the lids on tight and keep in a cool place for up to three months until needed.

Slice the guanciale into thickish rashers and then into lardons about 1cm wide. Put a splash of olive oil in the bottom of a deep solid bottomed sauté or frying pan, bring to a medium heat and put the lardon in the pan. Once they have started to fry, turn the heat down and continue to fry gently. As the fat renders down, pour it off into a bowl. Continue doing this until the lardons become crispy. Drain the remaining fat off into the bowl; put the lardons to one side. In the same pan, fry the sliced shallots until soft but not brown. Add the chilli flakes, fry a little longer, and then add the passata, bay leaves and a few twists of black pepper. Simmer gently for 25 minutes and keep warm

Cook the pasta in the normal way but make sure you cook it to just before it’s al dente. This is because you are going to finish it in the sauce for a further 30 seconds or so. Drain, toss in olive oil and put to one side.

Meanwhile, add the rendered fat to the tomato sauce and have the crispy lardons ready in a warm place. Next, add the pasta and lardons to the sauce in the frying pan, simmer for 30 seconds and serve immediately with lots of grated pecorino

Crostini di Fegatini

Serves 10-20

Crostini simply means croutons, in Italy they are served with various toppings. Chicken liver crostini are the best loved in Tuscany. I particularly love this version which was given to me by Mimmo Baldi and is served at his restaurant Il Vescovino in Panzano in the Chianti. I like to drizzle a little Vin Santo over each each crostini just as soon as it is fried in olive oil. Serve immediately – you always know when they have been served to a table because conversation stops and all one can hear is mmm, mmm!

225g (9oz) fresh chicken livers – preferably organic

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
20g (¾oz) capers
20g (¾oz) gherkins
3 stalks of flat parsley
100ml (4floz) port or marsala or Vin Santo
100ml (4floz) good home-made chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
25-50g(1-2oz) freshly grated Parmesan

Vin Santo

15-20 slices of French bread 7 cm (2¾inch) approx. chargrilled, toasted or fried in olive oil until golden brown on each side.

Season the chicken livers with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sauté the chicken livers in a little olive oil in a small sauté pan over a medium heat until they are just firm, remove from the pan and drain in a sieve or colander for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the dice of carrot, onion and celery cover and cook until soft – about 5-6 minutes. Add the chicken livers and cook for about 10 minutes more, then let this mixture cool for 30 minutes.
Add the anchovies, capers, gherkins and parsley to the livers chop roughly, taste and correct the seasoning.
Reheat this mixture, add the port, marsala or Vin Santo and reduce until all the liquid has been absorbed, then add the chicken stock. The mixture should have a moist creamy consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.
Just as soon as the croutons are fried or toasted drizzle with Vin Santo, spread with a generous amount of the fegatini mixture and serve immediately.

Serving suggestion
To make a more substantial plate, add a few ruffles of freshly sliced Parma ham and some rocket leaves – one of my favourite starters.

Tira Misu

The name means pick-me-up and not surprising either considering the amount of booze! This is a fairly recent Italian pudding which seems to have originated in Venice but which is now served in restaurants all over Italy, and it always tastes different. We’ve had rave reviews for this version which is very easily put together. Mascarpone cheese, which is an essential ingredient, is now becoming more widely available.

Serves 8

38-40 Boudoir biscuits
12 fl oz (350 ml/1 1/2 cups) strong espresso coffee (if your freshly) made coffee is not strong enough, add 1 teaspoon of instant coffee)
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) brandy
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) Jamaica rum
3 ozs (75g) dark chocolate
3 eggs, separated, preferably free range
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) castor sugar
9 ozs (255g/1 generous cup) Mascarpone cheese

Unsweetened Cocoa (Dutch process)

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

Mix the coffee with the brandy and rum. Roughly grate the chocolate (we do it in the food processor with the pulse button). Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until it reaches the ‘ribbon’ stage and is light and fluffy, then fold in the Mascarpone a tablespoon at a time.

Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the cheese mixture. Now you are ready to assemble the Tira Misu.

Dip each side of the boudoir biscuits one at a time into the coffee mixture and arrange side by side in the dish or tin. Spread half the Mascarpone mixture gently over the biscuits, sprinkle half the grated chocolate over the top, then another layer of soaked biscuits and finally the rest of the Mascarpone. Cover the whole bowl or loaf tin carefully with cling film or better still slide it into a plastic bag and twist the end. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours – I usually make it the day before I use it.

Just before serving scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top and dredge with unsweetened cocoa.

Note: Tiramisu will keep for several days in a fridge, but make sure it is covered so that it doesn’t pick up ‘fridgie’ tastes.

*Mascarpone, a delicious rich creamy cheese which originated in Lodi in Lombardy is made by curdling cream with citric acid. It is often used instead of cream with fruit and pastries.

Fritto di Bosco Italian Fruit Salad

Serves 4-6

This recipe made in seconds makes a delicious fresh fruit salad. Use the best fruit you can find – the combination can vary. Marcella Hazan made it for me with wild berries from the woods and it was quite exquisite. She dressed it at the table just before we ate it.

4 ozs (110g/1 cup) blackberries
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) blueberries
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) wild strawberries (fraises du bois) or small strawberries
4 ozs (110g/ 1 cup) raspberries
1 or 2 peaches or nectarines
2-4 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 5 American tablespoons) golden caster sugar
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
lots of fresh mint leaves

Combine the berries and the sliced peaches or nectarines in a bowl. Sprinkle the sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice over the fruit, toss gently. Tear lots of fresh mint leaves into the fruit, stir gently, taste and add sugar or juice if necessary.
Serve immediately.

Sospiri di Monaca
Nuns’ Sighs

Makes 40

These delicious little hazelnut meringues are made all over Sicily. The myth of nuns being trapped inside the convent walls fantasizing about what they may be missing is popular in many parts of Italy and lots of confections are made, supposedly to cheer up the good sisters!

7 ozs (200g/scant 1½ cups) hazelnuts
4 egg whites, preferably free range
10 ozs (285g/2½ cups) icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.
Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and put into the preheated oven for 15 minutes approx. or until the skins loosen. Rub off the skins in a tea towel and chop the nuts as finely as possible.
Put the egg whites and the sieved icing sugar into a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until the mixture reaches stiff peaks. Gently fold in the chopped hazelnuts and lemon zest. Spoon out the meringue in generous blobs with a teaspoon on to baking sheets lined with silicone paper or oiled tin foil. Tease the little blobs into tear shapes. Bake at 150C/300F/regulo 2 for 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
Serve with a cup of coffee. They are also wonderful with a few raspberries or a perfect peach and a blob of cream.
Note: Like all meringues Nuns’ Sighs will keep for ages in an airtight tin.

Taste of West Cork Festival

Just spent what I like to think are the last few days of summer in West Cork but of course in reality it’s most definitely Autumn no matter how hard I try to kid myself. My ‘last hurrah’ before I throw myself into the Autumn term co-incided with the Taste of West Cork festival, an extraordinary fortnight of random events dreamed up by a small committee of super charged individuals who are determined to celebrate and highlight what is unique about West Cork and lengthen the tourist season for as many people as possible in the greater area.

I’ve watched this festival develop gradually over the past 6 years, ebbing and flowing but this year there were 188 events taking place in 32 towns and villages and on eight islands, an inspired mix of themed dinners, cookery demonstrations, storytelling, foraging, cocktail making, Ilen River cruises with afternoon tea….You could roam with the buffalo on Johnny Lynch’s Farm near Macroom and taste the tender mozzarella, good enough to rival anything coming out of Italy. Learn how to smoke fish in Ummera or Union Hall smokehouse who scooped the top awards at the West Cork Artisan Food Awards. I learned how to save seeds with the seed saving hero Madeline McKeever of Brown Envelope Seeds.

Over 400 people turned up to St Patrick’s National School in Skibbereen to hear Mary Clear, the dynamic founder of the Incredible Edible project in Todmorden. I went along to visit and met Alan Foley and Brian Granaghan, the people behind the schools impressive and award winning garden.
There’s a Geodome, willow tunnel, amphitheatre, wormery, composting area, insect hotel, raised beds….

John Desmond of Island Cottage gave a demonstration of how to make a classic chocolate mousse on the pier on Heir Island.
The artisan food producers flung open their doors and travelled to share their stories and their produce with their many fans. There were cycles and walks on the wild side, golf events, kayaking and sailing all connected to food and the beautiful seafood of West Cork.

In the midst of it all the prestigious West Cork Artisan Food Awards winners included Gubbeen Farmhouse and Woodcock Smokery were joint overall winner of the Awards. Union Hall Smoked Fish took the top award, West Cork Pies were also award winners, Newcomer Award was West Cork Eggs, Mella’s Fudge, O’ Neill’s Allihies Sea Salt, Claire’s Hummus, Thornhill Organics, Tess and the Glebers at Glebe Gardens, John and Sarah Devoy, Rosscarbery….see for the full list.

Susan Holland and Ian Parr late of the Custom House in West Cork came back from France to cook a dinner at the Boat House at Inish Beg – a ‘sell out’ of course and a nostalgic trip down memory lane for their many fans. Glebe Café hosted Danni Barry from EIPIC in Belfast, loved the meal she cooked as a celebration of the food from Glebe Gardens and superb beef from Walsh’s butcher shop in Skibbereen.

Visitors flocked into the West Cork area. Many events were totally sold out, over 400 people turned up to a tour of the West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen. ‘An Afternoon of Michael Collins’ included a demonstration of griddle baking over the open fire. Visits to farms – Glen Ilen and Devoys organic farm, fermentation and pickling workshops, beekeeping including an inspirational workshop at Gurranes with Trevor Dannann, a certified natural beekeeper at the age of 16 and owner of 12 hives.

Numerous cookery demonstrations and several food forums including attendees described as ‘life changing’. Our Farms, Our Food, Our Future organized by Majella O’ Neill. Among the speakers were Professor Ted Dinan of UCC who spoke about the connection between our gut flora and the brain.

Dr Don Huber award winning international scientist and Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, Indiana, USA, leading GM expert in the world who shared his research into the effects of glyphosate and GM on public health, all presentations were recorded and will be available.

So many brilliant events to choose from, impossible to get to more than 2 or 3 into a day. Every town from Clonakilty to Bantry, Rosscarbery to Sherkin Island, Castletownshend to Bandon and everywhere in between was ‘rocking’.

Skibbereen is on a roll, one can feel the energy and optimism. There was something happening in every parish, every pub, restaurant, café, farm and dairy. West Cork was bursting with pride and justifiably celebrating what is unique and magical about this extraordinary part of Ireland. There are food fairs, festivals and carnivals all over the country nowadays so it’s really tough to have a USP to attract an almost jaded public but the Taste of West Cork is certainly a model worth looking at. Congrats to each and everyone involved.

Hot Tips

Gluten Free Cooking
Can you imagine really delicious breads, cakes, pastries…
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has gluten intolerance, will testify it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand – on Saturday October 8th this intensive half day course is ideal for those on a gluten-free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten-free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Suddenly, cooking for coeliacs will become a pleasure not a chore. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking.

Sunday Roasts
Is there anything more comforting than the perfect Sunday roast? The very words conjure up evocative images of family and friends gathered together around the kitchen or dining-room table with delicious aromas of roasties and gravy permeating the house. Every good cook takes pride in being able to produce a delicious roast dinner with all the trimmings, and it’s no mean feat!
On Friday 14th October, we will show you how to choose and turn the best cuts of beef, lamb, chicken and pork into the most impressive roast dishes; plus whip up gravies and sauces bursting with flavour; and hone your carving skills as well.
After the cooking session, we will all sit down together to enjoy the Sunday roasts with all the trimmings.

The Taste Magazine
Food lovers who want to keep on top of the Irish food scene check out The Taste which has won best digital food magazine at the Gourmand Awards 2016 and best online magazine at the Irish bloggers association awards 2016.

Danni Barry’s Beetroot Baked in Salt and Rye with Goat’s Curd and Toasted Seeds

Danni cooked a deliciously simple meal at Glebe Gardens during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival

Serves 4

2 large red beetroot
2 large golden beetroot
200g Leggygowan Farm goat’s curd

For the salt and rye crust
300g strong flour
200g rye flour
200g coarse sea salt
6 juniper berries
1 orange zest
200-250ml cold water

For the beetroot and raspberry dressing
120ml Broighter Gold rapeseed oil
30ml raspberry vinegar
50g red beetroot trim
Rainbow chard

For the toasted seeds
60g sunflower seeds
50g brown linseeds/flaxseed

Heat the oven to 200˚C.

For the salt dough, crush the juniper seeds and add to the flours, salt and orange zest. Make a hole in the middle and add the water in three stages, mixing until a dough forms. Wrap in cling film and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Wash the beetroots and dry them thoroughly. Roll out the dough and wrap around each beetroot individually, place on a baking tray and put straight into the hot oven. (It is important not to leave the dough wrapped beetroots sitting for too long before baking, as the salt will start to draw out moisture from the beetroot and the dough will breakdown.)

After eight minutes, turn down the oven to 180˚C and continue to cook for 40 minutes.

When ready, crack open the crust and peel the beetroots while still warm. Cut into five-inch discs and place 50g of the excess in a saucepan with the raspberry vinegar.

Warm gently for ten minutes and pass through a sieve. Mix with the rapeseed oil while warm to make the dressing.

Toast the seeds on a tray in the oven and season.

To assemble the plate, layer the beetroots and goats curd, and dress generously.

Wilt some rainbow chard in a hot pan with a little oil and dress with the raspberry vinegar. Place on top of the beetroots, then spoon over the toasted seeds.

Danni Barry from EIPIC Restaurant in Belfast


No Knead Bread

Susan has been making this bread, created by Jim Lahey from Sullivan St Bakery in New York, successfully for many years
The bread must be made the day before you need it.

430g of strong bread flour
345mls of water, Susan use’s spring water as tap water often has additives that inhibit the rise.
1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
extra flour or bran or semolina for dusting table top.
In a large mixing bowl add and mix all dry ingredients.

Add water and incorporate by hand or a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Once it forms a ball cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise at room temperature (warmish) for 12 to 15 hours.
The very slow rise gives the bread its sour dough aspect, i.e., large holes, and it’s the slow rise that makes it not necessary to knead.

Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. This should be done with a scraper on the work surface as the dough is very wet. Shape into a ball. Leave the dough to rest about 30 minutes.
Next preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Place an oven proof pot with lid in the oven to preheat. Susan uses a Le Creuset cast iron or Pyrex with lid (pot should have a capacity of 7 litres.)

Susan explains the reason for baking in a cast iron pot with lid, is that the covered pot traps humidity and forms the crust.

Once the dough has doubled in size (about 30 minutes) remove the pot from the oven and place dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake 15 to 30 minutes uncovered until the loaf is nicely brown.
Susan slips the loaf onto a strip of parchment paper and put it into the pot on the paper. It makes it easier to handle.

Susan Holland’s Ceviche

This ceviche was one of the courses that Susan ‘cooked’ and served at Inish Beg during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.

For a starter

100gs per person of VERY fresh lemon sole or brill, filleted and skinned and cut into thin strips.

Cover completely with fresh lime juice and leave in fridge for about 3 hours until the fish is “cooked”” i.e. opaque

Drain the fish, and assemble the plate.

Start with thin slices of avocado, then the fish, then very thin slices of celery for crunch, then strips of cucumber. Dress with good extra virgin olive oil and pinch of Maldon sea salt or equivalent.

Susan also likes to use fennel pollen when in season, in September. Or pink peppercorns or toasted sesame seeds.

Susan uses a mandolin for slicing the vegetables and a peeler for the cucumber.


Takashi Miyazaki’s Pan Fried Mackerel with Teriyaki Ginger Sauce

We greatly enjoyed Takashi’s simple Japanese cooking at the Riverside Café during the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
Serve 1
Teriyaki Sauce
10ml mirin
10ml sake
30g brown sugar
50ml Kikkoman dark soy sauce
1 whole mackerel (fillet)
10ml oil
3g ginger (finely chopped)
50ml teriyaki sauce
1 pinch white sesame

Place mirin, sake, brown sugar and soy sauce into sauce pan and turn heat on until boiled.
Turn off the heat when the sauce boil and place sauce into container.
Heat the pan over medium high heat and pour oil on the pan.
Put mackerel fillet (skin side down) onto the pan and fry until skin gets crispy.
Flip mackerel over and turn heat down until cooked.
When mackerel cooked, pour teriyaki sauce over on mackerel and toss chopped ginger.
Cook as low heat until sauce gets thick.
Place mackerel on the plate and pour sauce over the mackerel, garnish with white sesame.

Takashi Miyazaki’s Miso soup

Serve 4
750ml water
5g Irish sugar kelp (dried)
100g miso paste
50g silken tofu (diced)
20g Atlantic dillisk
5g fresh chives, chopped

Place water and sugar kelp into the pot and bring to a boil.
Turn heat down to low when it reaches a boil, take sugar kelp out from pot (sugar kelp stock)
Add miso into sugar kelp dashi stock and mix with whisk until miso dissolved.
Add tofu and dillisk.
Pour miso soup into soup bowl and sprinkle freshly chopped chives on top.

Takashi Miyazaki’s Japanese Steamed Rice

Serve 3-4
2 cups Japanese rice
2¼ cups water
1 pinch black sesame
How to wash Japanese rice properly — it needs three steps!!
Rinsing: Place rice in a bowl; pour water quickly into bowl until it covers the rice completely. To wash the rice, use one hand to mix the rice around with brisk, light movements. Pour out all the water. Repeat this rinsing 3 times.

Polishing: With fingers curled as though holding a ball, insert your hand into the rice and, using a constant rhythm and pace, rub the grains of rice around several times.

Final Rinsing: add plenty of fresh water; mix again lightly and quickly drain it off. Repeat steps 4-5 until the water runs nearly clear.

Drain rice into sieve and leave for 30 minutes. Place rice and water into a heavy pot.

Cover the pot with lid and set over a high heat. When the water starts to boil to blow, turn heat down to low and cook about 12 minutes.

Turn off the heat and leave the pot in warm place, leave 10 minutes.

Turn over the rice thoroughly with a flat rice paddle or wooden spoon. Put the lid back on and 8 minutes.

Place rice into rice bowl and sprinkle black sesame on the top.

John Desmond’s Classic Chocolate Mousse

125 g dark chocolate
125 g milk chocolate
50 g unsalted butter
5 eggs yolks
8 egg whites
50 g sugar
1 espresso cup of strong coffee
Cleaning of Copper bowl
5 g salt
10 ml red wine vinegar

Break up 125 g dark chocolate and 125 g milk chocolate, put into large bowl with 50 g of unsalted butter, place over a larger bowl of boiling water. Separate 8 eggs, keeping 5 yolks and 8 whites for the mousse.
If using a copper bowl, thoroughly clean it with salt and vinegar, rinse and dry. Put 8 egg whites into whatever you are using and whisk until stiff, add 50 g sugar, keep whisking until sugar has dissolved.
Add espresso coffee and 5 egg yolks to chocolate mixture, gentle whisk until incorporated, then add a quarter of the beaten egg white mixture, whisk thoroughly, gently fold in the remaining egg white mixture. Put into a flat bottom container and refrigerate overnight. It can also be put into individual bowls. It will keep refrigerated for a few days.

Cheese Glorious Cheese

I’ve got a lovely friend in Dallas who also wears red glasses and makes amazing cheeses. She started the Mozzarella Company in 1982 and has been creating and producing award winning artisan chesses ever since for top restaurants, speciality cheese shops, delis and gourmet outlets all over America.

She also teaches cooking classes across the country and in Italy and France and in recent years has fallen in love with Ireland. She and Rob Kendall have been bringing groups of friends to Lismore Castle for a week long exploration of West Waterford and East Cork for several years now. They come here to the Cookery School for a private demonstration and then have fun cooking their dinner with food from the farm and gardens. Many are doctors, dentists, accountants, oil barons, philanthropists who have never cooked before but they love the experience – a change from their day job. They are as excited as kids in a candy shop when they take their first loaf of bread out of the oven and discover they can actually cook 7 or 8 dishes after one session in the kitchen.

They bring it all into the dining room and sit down together with a nice glass of wine to relish the fruits of their labours.
Paula and Rob bring them to visit the English Market where they enjoy a plate of mussels at Pat O’ Connell’s fish stall, washed down with a glass of Murphy’s before heading for St Finbarr’s Cathedral and Joseph Walsh’s furniture studio in Riverstick. They also visit many of the beautiful West Waterford houses that overlook the Blackwater River before coming back to Lismore Castle to enjoy Beth Anne Smith’s delicious food.

Paula fell in love with fresh mozzarella in Italy and decided to bring the art of cheese making home to Texas. Since 1982, her tiny downtown factory in Dallas has made award winning cheeses the old fashioned way. Even though, the Mozzarella Company now produces over 250,000 pounds and a variety of cheeses each year every cheese is still made completely by hand.

Not sure just how she managed it with Paula has also written a book, not surprisingly called “Cheese Glorious Cheese” with some of the most tempting recipes I’ve ever come across for cheese. It’s published by Mozzarella Company; here are a few of the recipes I really enjoyed. Here in Ireland we can use the fresh Irish Mozzarella from Toons Bridge Dairy and Macroom Mozzarella both from Macroom.

2016 is Northern Ireland Year of Food and to celebrate Belfast on a Plate, a beautiful new book with contributions from 20 Belfast chefs has just been launched. It is described as “A flavour of the city in recipes and stories” and it’s guaranteed to whet your appetite to make a foodie trip to Belfast, certainly on my list after I recently enjoyed Danni Barry’s food at Glebe Gardens during the Taste of West Cork.

Autumn Foraging
Join me for a one day foraging course in search of wild and foraged foods. You’ll be amazed at what can be found even within walking distance. In just one day, you’ll learn how to identify and use over forty wild food plants, flowers, seaweeds and shellfish in season: rosehips, blackberries, watercress, sloes, carrigeen, mussels, sweet chestnuts… and maybe a few edible mushrooms, depending on the weather. Depending on what we’ve gathered, we might make several delicious soups; tasty salads from autumn greens; jellies and jams from berries and fruit; not to mention rosehip syrup, carrigeen moss pudding, fritters and even sloe gin. You will have the opportunity to taste all the dishes prepared during the course. A walk in the countryside will never be the same again. Where you previously saw weeds, you’ll now see dinner! There are two dates – Friday 30th September or Saturday 1st October.

Hands on Lamb Butchery with Philip Dennhardt
Learn how easy it is to butcher your own lamb……In this afternoon class Philip, our resident butcher, will take a whole lamb and demonstrate how to butcher it into your favourite pieces of meat ready for the oven and the freezer. The course includes a 1/2 Lamb which you butcher and then take home to put in your freezer, so make sure there is room…..
You’ll also get a pack of 8 delicious recipes. Friday 30th September,

Paula Lambert’s Mozzarella Toasts with Anchovy Sauce

Makes ½ cup anchovy sauce

Serves 12 – 20 (makes 40 toasts)

Anchovy Sauce
1 x 2 oz tin anchovies, packed in olive oil
2 fl oz (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons drained capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fried Capers
2 tablespoons drained capers
4 fl oz (½ cup) vegetable oil

1 baguette
1 x 8 oz ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
Zest of one lemon

First make the anchovy sauce. Combine the anchovies with their oil, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and capers in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Fried Capers. Pat the capers dry and set aside on paper towels. Pour the oil into a small skillet and place over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the capers and fry until they burst open and are slightly browned and crisp. Be careful when adding the capers to the oil, because the splatter at first. Remove the capers with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Position an oven rack 23 inches below the heat source. Preheat the broiler on high.

Using a serrated knife, slice the baguette diagonally at an angle into ¼ inch thick slices. Place the bread on a baking sheet and toast until top of bread is lightly browned; turn the bread over and toasts the other side.

Remove the toasts from the oven but leave them on the baking sheet. Divide the fresh mozzarella among the toasts and return them to the oven. Heat only long enough for the cheese to soften and just begin to melt, about 2 – 3minutes. Remove from the oven and using a spoon drizzle the anchovy sauce over the cheese. Sprinkle the toasts with the fried capers, parsley and lemon zest.

Serve immediately while still warm.
Paula Lambert’s Cheese Glorious Cheese

Paula Lambert’s Gouda Bread Pudding

Serves 8

4 eggs
2 cups milk
4 ozs (110 g/½ cup) crème fraiche or sour cream
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 baguette
2 tablespoons butter
8 ozs (225 g/2 cups) Gouda

Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the milk, crème fraîche or sour cream, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined.

Cut the baguette in half, and then cut it into quarters and finally into 1 inch cubes. Add the bread to the egg mixture and toss to combine. Leave to soak up the liquid for at least 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Generously butter an 8 -10 inch (20.5-25.5 cm) casserole or soufflé dish.

Transfer 1-3 of the soaked bread to the casserole and then sprinkle ¼ of the cheese on top. Repeat layering the bread and cheese until the casserole is filled. You should have 3 or 4 layers of bread and cheese. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread. Finish by sprinkling the remaining cheese in a thick layer on top.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the bread pudding has puffed up in the centre and the top is crusty and golden brown. Serve hot.

Paula Lambert’s Crab-Avocado Tostadas with Queso Blanco

Serves 8

Salsa Verde
4 small tomatillos
½ avocado
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
½ clove garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded
2 tablespoons fresh coriander
2 teaspoons lime juice
½ teaspoon salt

Pico de Gallo
½ ripe tomato, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 oz (25 g/¼ cup) onion, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

8 corn tortillas
1 cup corn oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 ozs (175 g) fresh crabmeat
1 oz (25 g/¼ cup) minced onion
1 oz (25 g/¼ cup) minced jicama
½ cup Salsa Verde
2 teaspoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ozs (3/4 cup) queso blanco, crumbled
Paprika to taste
½ tomato, diced, for garnish
8 sprigs fresh coriander, for garnish

First make the salsa verde. Remove the papery husks from the tomatillos and wash the tomatillos with cold water. Using a spoon, scoop out the pulp of the avocado skin. Place the tomatillos, avocado, onion, garlic, jalapeno, coriander and lime juice in a blender and process until completely smooth. Add salt to taste. Stir and adjust seasonings if necessary.

For the Pico de Gallo, combine the tomato, jalapeno, onion, coriander, lime juice and salt in a small bowl.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and fry the whole tortillas, turning as necessary until crisp and golden brown. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle them with sea salt.

Mix the crabmeat, onion, jimaca and salsa verde together in a small bowl. Add the lime juice and salt. Stir and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Preheat the broiler to high.

Place the tortillas on a baking sheet, then divide and mound the cheese on top. Transfer to the broiler and place about 3 inches beneath the heat source. Broil until the cheese melts, taking care not to let the tostadas get too brown. Remove from the oven and immediately mound the crabmeat mixture on the cheese.

To serve, garnish each tostada with a dollop of salsa verde and a spoonful of pico de gallo. Place the remaining salsa verde and pico de gallo in small bowls to pass at the table.

Serve the tostadas accompanied by Mexican rice and refried beans.

Paula Lambert’s Gingery Pear Cheesecake

Serves 12

1½ cups crushed gingersnap cookies
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 pears, peeled, cored, cut into quarters
2 cups (16 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup (4 oz) crème fraîche or sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon Poire William or pear eau de vie brandy, optional

¾ cup (4 oz) candied ginger slices

Lightly butter the sides of a 10 inch by 3 inch (25.5 cm by 8 cm) spring form pan.

For the crust, combine the gingersnap crumbs and the butter in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until the gingersnaps resemble cornmeal in texture. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press evenly onto the bottom of the pan, about ¼ inch thick, and as far up the sides as possible. Refrigerate the crust for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.

For the filling:- cut the pears into large chunks, place in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process to chop finely. Add the cream cheese and crème fraîche or sour cream. Process for about 1 minute until fluffy. While the processor is running, gradually pour in the vanilla and sugar through the tube feed. Add the eggs through the tube one at a time, beating all the while. Add the ginger and finally the Poire William. Turn off the processor and pour the batter into the springform pan on the chilled gingersnap crust. Tap the pan gently on a flat surface to remove any air bubbles.

Place the springform pan on the baking sheet, transfer the baking sheet with the pan on top to the oven and bake for 1 hour to 11/4 hours. The cheesecake should be slightly risen and still have a little liquid in the centre. Turn off the oven and prop the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon to allow the heat to escape. Leave the cake undisturbed in the oven for about 1 hour. It will finish cooking in the turned off oven. Don’t worry if it cracks.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cake rack to cool for one hour. Once the cake has cooled cut ¼ of the candied ginger into very thin slices to garnish the top of the cake.

Chop the remaining candied ginger into small pieces. Slide the cake onto a serving plate and spread the chopped ginger on the outer sides of the cake, allowing the excess to fall onto the serving plate around the base of the cake. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.

To serve, slice the cheesecake with a sharp thin knife dipped in water and dried before each slice.

Serve chilled

Edible Flowers and Fresh Herbs

Edible flowers and of course fresh herbs are an integral part of our simple cooking style. I hadn’t realised what a wide variety we use until recently when I started to compile a list in response to several requests. What started a couple of decades ago with just a few nasturtium flowers scattered over a potato salad has now grown into a long list that keeps being added to.
Scattering gaily coloured flowers over our food to garnish and enhance the flavour may seem like a thoroughly modern trend but in fact using flowers in the kitchen can be traced back to the Roman era and was also part of Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian cultures.

In Victorian times, flower petals were considered particularly cutting edge. In recent years many innovative chefs and home cooks have been having fun adding extra colour and a touch of elegance to their dishes. It’s not just about appearance though; many flowers have considerable nutritional and medicinal value. As well as the nasturtiums, which are high in antioxidants, marigold petals (calendula), cornflowers, thyme, chives, wild garlic, society garlic and all the herb flowers are edible. We particularly love dill and fennel flowers with their liquorice and aniseed flavour are especially good for fish dishes. They add a delicious extra burst of excitement to a salad and make a pretty garnish.

Lavender, is not just for lavender bags and pot pourri. We love the buds in ice creams, syrups and even added to scones. Squash, pumpkin and zucchini are irresistible dipped in a tempura batter and fried until crisp just as they are or stuffed with some tasty morsels.

There are lots of ways to have fun with flowers apart from just scattering them into salads. Add one or several to butters, alone or in combination with fresh herbs to serve with vegetables, meat or fish. Use to flavour teas, punches or vinegars. Infuse in oils and syrups. Sprinkle over pasta or pancakes, add to soups and sandwiches. Candy or crystallise as in violets, rose petals, violas…. Use to decorate cakes and even buns and of course larger flowers can be stuffed and eaten raw or cooked.

Fragrant rose petals impart a wonderful scent to a cake when used to line the tin and of course it’s fun to pop edible flowers into the ice cubes to perk up lemonade and punches – just use your imagination and a measure of restraint….and of course flower petals are wonderful used as an alternative to confetti at weddings.

Before I whip up any more enthusiasm, a few cautionary words. Not all flowers are edible although I keep discovering new ones to add to my list so don‘t take risks until you are absolutely sure.
Avoid flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.

Few, if any florists flowers are organic so harvest from your own flower bed or window sill.

Avoid flowers picked along the edge of a busy road where exhaust fumes and residues collect on plants.

Don’t OTT on flowers, an overdose could cause digestive problems. Here is a list of 60 edible flowers – many you may not have realised are edible. Alyssum flowers, Angelica, Anise hyssop, Apple blossom
Begonias, Borage, Calendula, California Poppies, Camomile,
Carnations, Cauliflower blooms, Chives, Chrysanthemums,
Clary sage, Clover, both white and red blossoms, Cornflowers
Cowslips, Daisy, Dandelions, Daisies, Day Lilies, Dianthus,Dill flowers, Elderflowers, Evening primrose, Fennel, Forget-me-nots
Freezias, Fuschia, Gladolia, Golden rod, Hibiscus, Hollyhock
Honeysuckle, Hyssop impatiens, Jasmine, Johnny jump ups, Lemon flowers, Lilac, Meadowsweet, Orange flowers, Pea flowers not sweet pea, Pansy, Peony, Poppy (corn or Flanders Poppy), Phlox, Primroses
Roses, Snap Dragons, Sunflower, Sweet Woodruff, Scented Geraniums, Scarlet runner bean, Sweet Cecily, Thyme flowers
Tulip flower, not bulbs, Violets, Violas, Yarrow, Zucchini.

Fumbally Fun, just love all the energetic young people at the Fumbally, all super passionate about food and determined to share their knowledge, skills and discoveries. Check out the Autumn series of lectures and works shop at
Music Brunch at Glebe Gardens, Baltimore
Treat yourself to brunch tomorrow with delicious pastries and bread produced in the Glebe bakery while you relax in the tranquility of Glebe Gardens. Booking Essential Tel: 028 0579

The Kitchen Miracle at Good Things Café, Skibbereen
From Sunday September 18th – Friday 23rd September Carmel Somers will teach a five and a half day demonstration and practical course. You will learn a whole repertoire of starters, main courses and puddings. Not to mention all those little extras that impress people; things like delicious home baked bread, home-made mayonnaise and great cakes, all in five and a half days. The class covers basic techniques that can then be readily adapted. For instance, how to sweat, sauté, pan fry, sear, make a basic soup and tart – skills which are applicable in a wide range of recipes. Essentially, you’ll come away from this course proficient and confident. Tel: 028 519 48

Snails in Carlow
The Irish Snail Farm in Co Carlow provides Irish grown snails and caviar for both restaurants and people who love Escargots. Snails are high in protein, low in fat and full of flavour. Eat them with lots of garlic butter.


Pangrilled Mackerel with Nasturtium Butter

Serves 4

8 fillets of very fresh mackerel (allow 170g fish for main course, 85g for a starter)
Seasoned flour
Small knob of butter

Nasturtium Butter
55g butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
Nasturtium leaves and lots of nasturtium flowers
Juice of ½ small lemon

Nasturtium flowers and little leaves
Segment of lime

First make the Nasturtium Butter. Cream the butter, stir in the parsley, roughly chopped nasturtium flowers and leaves, and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.
Heat the grill pan. Dip the fish fillets in flour which has been seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Shake off the excess flour and then spread a little butter with a knife on the flesh side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly. When the grill is quite hot but not smoking, place the fish fillets butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Turn down the heat slightly and let them cook for 4 or 5 minutes on that side before you turn them over. Continue to cook on the other side until crisp and golden. Serve on a hot plate with some slices of Nasturtium Butter and a segment of lime.
The butter may be served directly on the fish, or if you have a pretty shell, place it at the side of the plate as a container for the butter. Garnish with nasturtium flowers and tiny leaves, and a segment of lime.

Willowzina’s Super Quick Cake with Rose Petals and Pistachios

Serves 8

175g (6oz/1 1/2 sticks) soft butter
150g (5oz/generous 1/2 cup) castor sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
175g (6oz/1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour

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.

Lemon Glacé Icing with Pistachio and Rose Petals
110g (4oz/scant 1 cup) icing sugar
finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ozs (50 g) pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon dried or crystallised rose petals

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.
Decorate the cake while the icing is soft and wet. Garnish with chopped pistachios and rose petals.
Crystallized Rose Petals
rose petals (use the petals from fragrant ‘old roses’)
caster sugar
egg white
The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes.
Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

Lavender Syrup

Delicious over ice-cream or labneh, or as a base for a sparkly aperitif, also good in cakes or over sliced peaches or nectarines in Summer.

Makes 800ml

Lavender flowers gathered just before they open – use 2 heaped tablespoons
600ml water
400- 450g sugar
Very thin strips lemon peel from 1 unwaxed lemon

Put the cold water, sugar and lavender flowers into a saucepan, add a couple of very thin strips of lemon peel. Warm slowly on a medium heat, when the sugar is dissolved, bring to the boil for 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to infuse for about 30 minutes.
Strain through a fine sieve. Pour into sterilized bottles, cover and store in a cool dry place or in the fridge if you have space.
Keeps for 3 months.

Marigold Biscuits

The marigold petals flavour and colour in shortbread in a most appealing way.

Makes 25

175g white flour or Spelt
110g butter
40g castor sugar
2 tablespoons of marigold (calendula) petals

Put the flour, sugar and marigold petals into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 7mm thick. Cut into rounds with a 6cm cutter or into heart shapes. Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/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 and sprinkle fresh marigold petals over the top.

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.

Lavender Shortbread

For some reason it has become a tradition in Kinoith to always have shortbread in the Aga! Many years ago when I was attempting to hide the shortbread from the children who seemed to devour it as fast as it was made, I discovered quite by accident that it keeps beautifully for days in the coolest oven of our four door Aga. Now not only the children but all our friends know where to look!

Makes 24-32 depending on size

350g plain white flour
300g butter
110g castor sugar
75g ground rice
good pinch of salt
good pinch of baking powder
2-3 tablespoons dried lavender (unopened lavender flowers)

vanilla or castor sugar for sprinkling

Swiss roll tin 25 x 38cm

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the dried lavender. Cut the butter into cubes and rub in until the whole mixture comes together. (alternatively whizz everything together in the food processor) Spread evenly into the tin, roll flat.

Bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours in a low oven, 140-150°C/Gas Mark 1-) or bake for 20-30 minutes in a moderate oven 180°C/Gas mark 4. It should be pale golden but fully cooked through. Cut into squares or fingers while still hot. Sprinkle with castor or vanilla sugar and allow to cool in the tin.

Blackberry Picking

I’m wandering along a narrow hilly boreen close to Lough Ine in West Cork. I’m making very slow progress because the tangled brambles in the hedgerows and along the stone walls are covered with blackberries, so tempting – looks like we’re going to have a bumper crop this year. There are also tons of rosehips and the promise of an abundant elderberry crop in a few weeks’ time.

Blackbirds and thrushes are eating so many blackberries at the moment that as I’ve just discovered, their droppings can actually stain clothes on a laundry line…a small price to pay for so much delicious free fruit, packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and dietary fibres that are essential for optimum health. Blackberries are particularly rich in Vitamin C with adequate amounts of A, E and K and some B complex vitamins and for those who are concerned about these matters it’s good to know that they are low cal and considered by many to be a super food.

Altogether, enough good things to warrant arranging a blackberry picking expedition. Given half a chance they grow everywhere and anywhere in both urban and rural areas, from city parks and back gardens to country lane and mountain tops.

The sweet succulent berries are super versatile. Don’t just think jam and pies, use them in salads and sauces, autumn puddings, muffins, scones and cobblers, trifles, ice-creams, sorbets, scatter over breakfast cereals, add them to fools, crumbles and crisps. Make some wine, ratafias and cordials. Few fruits offer so many options. Blackberries also freeze brilliantly, if you have time and space, tray freeze first, spread them out on a tray in a single layer, when frozen solid toss into a plastic box or stout bag, cover and freeze immediately in usable quantities – just enough of a batch of jam, a pie, etc…when they are frozen and loose, it’s easy to take out a fistful at a time for a breakfast smoothie.

Cultivated blackberries also are big business with large quantities being flown in daily from North America and other temperate regions. They tend to be larger than the wild ones and unquestionably taste very good but I have to say it makes no kind of sense to me to pile your supermarket trolley high with imported blackberries during the Irish season.

Ironically, I overhead an extraordinary conversation in a supermarket queue just a few days ago. Although there are Irish commercial blackberries available, some customers were bemoaning the price of food and there in one of their trollies were two punnets of blackberries from North America, plus several other items that I seriously would be questioning the need for – none of my business and you’ll be glad to hear that I kept my thoughts severely to myself…..

Hot Tips
Celebrate the Autumn Harvest
Brooklodge and Macreddin Village are celebrating the Autumn Harvest. A delicious 9-course Autumn Harvest Tasting Menu in Ireland’s first certified Organic Restaurant – The Strawberry Tree in Brooklodge., Tel: 0402 36444

Taste of West Cork Food Festival Event
Dianne Curtin will host the round table ‘show and tell’ The Rare Cookery Books Workshop with a particular focus on Keith Floyd as part of the Taste of West Cork Food Festival.
Saturday 10th September at 4.30pm at Urru Culinary Store, Bandon. Booking is advised. €6 including light refreshment.
Phone: 023 885 4731

Sweet Woodruff
Also called wild baby’s breath can be found lying flat on the ground with strongly scented white petals. The scent increases on wilting and then persists on drying, and the dried plant is used in pot-pourri and as a moth deterrent. It is used mainly to flavour May wine (called “Maibowle” or “Maitrank” in German), sweet juice punch, syrup for beer, jam, ice cream, and herbal tea. Also very popular are flavoured jellies, with and without alcohol.

Not to be confused with dropwort, meadowsweet has a heavy fragrance and can be found along marshes, woods and meadows. The plant can be used to flavour wine, beer, and many vinegars. The flowers can be added to stewed fruit and jams, giving them a subtle almond flavor.

Blackberry Ice Cubes
Pop a fat juicy blackberry into each section of an ice cube tray, add a tiny sweet geranium or mint leaf if you have them to hand. Fill with cold water – freeze. Pop into a glass of dry white wine, homemade lemonade or champagne.

Blackberry or Raspberry and Sweet Geranium Sugar Squares

Another delicious way to use sweet geranium

Makes 24

175g soft butter
150g castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
175g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons freshly chopped sweet or rose geranium
225g blackberries or raspberries

50g castor sugar
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped rose geranium

25.5 x 18 cm Swiss roll tin, well-greased

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour and chopped sweet geranium into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well-buttered tin. Sprinkle the blackberries or raspberries as evenly as possible over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with caster sugar whizzed with leaves of rose geranium. Serve in squares.

Crème de Mure (Blackberry Liquer)

Makes 2 litres (4 1/2 pints)

This recipe can also be made using blackcurrants in which case the name would change to ‘Crème de Cassis’.

Drink within 6 weeks.

1 1/2kg (3lb 5oz) ripe blackberries
2 litres (3 1/2 pints/8 3/4 cups) red wine
800g (1 3/4lbs/3 1/4 cups) granulated sugar, possibly more to taste
70cl (700ml/1 1/4 pints/generous 3 cups) brandy or vodka (unflavoured)

Pick over the blackberries, carefully removing bits of leaf or twig. Put into a stainless steel bowl.

Crush the fruit well with a potato masher. Pour on the red wine and stir well. Cover and leave to macerate for 48 hours, stirring from time to time.

Strain through a muslin bag into a stainless steel preserving pan. Squeeze the bag well to get the last of the liquid out.

Add the sugar and heat up gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is almost boiling. Simmer uncovered for about an hour until the liquid thickens and turns slightly syrupy. Stir occasionally.

Taste, and add a little more sugar if necessary. Allow to cool.

Add the spirit, stir well and pour into sterilised bottles. Seal and store in a cool place.

Serve well chilled in small glasses or with sparkling water and lots of ice.


Myrtle Allen’s Blackberry and Kirsch Soufflé Omelette

Ballymaloe guests loved this soufflé omelette which Myrtle put on the menu just a few times each year, during the blackberry season.

Serves 4

4 egg yolks
450g-680g caster sugar
Vanilla extract
6 egg whites
½ teaspoon butter
170 g soft fruit, blackberries
½ tablespoon kirsch
120 ml whipped cream
23cm non-stick pan

Whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff and fold into the yolks (although I find it easier to fold the yolks into the whites). Heat the butter in a very clean non-stick pan. Pour in the egg mixture and cook over a low heat for 3 minutes. Do not stir. Finish cooking by putting the pan in a hot oven, 200°C/gas mark 6, for a further 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the fruit and 225 g sugar in a saucepan until just boiling. Remove from the heat and add the kirsch. Turn the omelette out onto parchment paper generously sprinkled with caster sugar. Spread with warm fruit and whipped cream. Quickly fold in two and slide onto a warm dish. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Rush to the table, it can deflate somewhat within a couple of minutes but still tastes wonderful.

Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
When to Pick: late summer
All over the countryside every year, blackberries rot on the hedgerows. Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made – so full of vitamin C! This year, why not organise a blackberry-picking expedition and take a picnic. You’ll find it’s the greatest fun, and when you come home, one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam. The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting homemade jam labels, with personal messages like ‘Amelia Peggy’s Jam – keep off!’, or ‘Grandma’s Blackberry Jam’. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea.

Make sure you check the berries before you pop them into your mouth – if the core is discoloured rather than pale and unblemished, it usually means that the little crawly beasties have got there first, so it’s best to discard those. If you have the time and space, it’s really worth ‘tray freezing’ some of your harvest – that way all those little berries stay separate. A few small cartons close to the top of the freezer will come in handy to add to a sauce or gravy to partner a pheasant or a grouse later in the year.

Wild Blackberry, Apple and Rose Geranium Jam

Blackberries are famously low in pectin, so the tart apples help it to set and add extra flavour. Go foraging for blackberries in the early autumn before they’re over-ripe. Cultivated blackberries tend to be sweeter so you may need to reduce the sugar.

Makes about 10 x 450g (1lb) jars

900g (2lb) cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season) or crab apples
2.25kg (5lb) blackberries
1.8kg (4lb/8 cups) granulated sugar – since Ireland has gone over to cane sugar which appears to be more intensely sweet we reduced the sugar to 1.6kg/3 1/2lb. The intensity of sugar varies in different countries.
8 or more rose geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

Wash, peel, core and slice the apples. Stew them until soft in 225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) of water in a stainless-steel saucepan, then beat to a pulp.

Pick over the blackberries and put into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan or preserving pan and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop the geranium leaves and add. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring to the boil and cook steadily for about 15 minutes. Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm, spotlessly clean jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place.