AuthorDarina Allen



‘Five star Michelin and no diarrhoea’ shouts the enthusiastic tout in Jemma al Fnad square in Marrakesh trying to out-yell his competitors to entice customers to eat in his stall. Its a crazy scene, everyone seems to be leaping around trying to sell somebody something….the square is relatively quiet during the day but by sunset it springs into a frenzy of activity, snake charmers  play their tunes and wrap snakes around the necks of hapless tourists. Women grab your hand in a vice like grip to entice you to have a henna tattoo painted on. Toy sellers stuff little drums into children’s hands as though it was a gift and then demand money when you try to prize it out of the confused child’s hands. NO is a word no one appears to understand or certainly ignores with a beaming smile.

On the left of the square, a row of colourful carts sell freshly squeezed orange juice for 4 dirhams a shot, but you need to be cautious, it can be diluted with tap water which can certainly result in the aforementioned affliction.

Belly dancers gyrate to a rhythmic beat, everyone is on the make and the energy level is off the scale. Row after row of stalls sell offal and sheep’s head soup.  Harira, the thick soup which Moroccans eat at sunset to break their fast during Ramadan is another popular offering. Snail sellers pass bowls of steaming molluscs in broth  to adventurous diners, I don’t love it, I prefer my sails smothered in garlic and parsley butter in the French tradition. We eventually relented and sat at one of the oilcloth covered tables to enter into the banter, lots of little dishes of mezze arrived, aubergine purée, harissa, fresh tomato purée, Moroccan salad and a basket of the flat bread. This was followed by Moroccan fish and chips, crispy little sole, squid and chunks of an eel like fish with lots of chips. It was all perfectly edible but not exactly a gastronomic experience. I also love the spicy merquez sausages stuffed into a roll and of course, Mechoi, the meltingly tender slow cooked, milk fed lamb that’s  served on a sheet of brown paper with salt and cumin. Seek out Meschoi Alley on the east side of the medina, Here, you can also order a tangia, a earthenware pot with a stew inside. This is a fascinating tradition, which has endured over many centuries, a poor person would own just one earthenware pot, shaped a bit like a jug without a handle or spout, they would walk around the market from stall to stall, getting a few bits of veg at one, small scraps of meat at another, a glut of olive oil , a few spices many a pinch of saffron, a bit of seasoning and then the pot would be covered with greaseproof and secured with string, this was buried in the embers at the Hamman and cooked slowly to melting tenderness.

The flavour is absolutely delicious. There are few really exciting restaurants in Marrakech perhaps with the exception of Al Fassia, a restaurant run entirely by women. The food is close to home cooking where unquestionably the best food in Morocca is to be found. Absolutely everything we ate there was delicious. We were a big family group so we had the opportunity to taste many dishes on their menu, in fact our lunch was so good that I returned for dinner. The mezze of 15 little salad dishes was superb and the pigeon bistylla in flakey, home made warka was worth travelling to Marrakech specially for. There was a choice of seven tagines, some sweet and others savoury. The chicken with lemon and green olives of course, another with shallots and almonds, We also tried two sweet ones, one with caramelised onions and raisins and another lamb tagine with tomato jam. Yet another with caramelized pumpkin. There were several others, I  particularly remember a lentil tagine and a wonderful vegetarian version.  Delicious date icecream for dessert and refreshing orange slices sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar were perfect after a rich tagine or cous cous. There were also Moroccan pastries of which there is a bewildering selection, but at Al Fassia they serve just one simple biscuit, delicious to dunk in mint tea.


Moroccan Harira Soup

In Morocco this soup is served as an important part of the festivities of Ramadan. It’s the traditional soup to break the fast.  My brother Rory O’Connell shared this particularly delicious version with us and everyone loves it.

Serves 6-8


110g (4oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained

110g (4oz) Puy lentils

450g (1lb) leg or shoulder of lamb, diced into 7mm (1/3 inch) cubes

175g (6oz) onion, chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each ground ginger, saffron strands and paprika

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz/1/2 stick) butter

110g (4oz) long grain rice

4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) chopped fresh coriander

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped flat leaf parsley

lemon quarters, to serve


Tip the chickpeas and lentils into a large saucepan. Add the lamb, onion, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, saffron strands and paprika, then pour in 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints/6 1/4 cups) water. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Bring to the boil, skimming all the froth from the surface as the water begins to bubble, then stir in half the butter. Turn down the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the chickpeas are tender, adding a little more water from time to time as necessary – it can take up to 900ml (1 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups ) more water or stock, it should be soupy in texture.

Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the rice. Bring 850ml (scant 1 1/2 pints/3 1/4 cups) water to the boil in a saucepan, sprinkle in the rice, the rest of the butter and salt to taste. Cook until the rice is tender. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the liquid.

To Finish

Cook the chopped tomato in the reserved rice cooking water, seasoning it with salt, pepper and sugar. It should take about 5 minutes or until the tomato is “melted”. Add this and the drained rice to the pot and simmer for a further 5 minutes to allow the flavours to mix. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper and perhaps a pinch of salt. Add the chopped herbs, stir once or twice and serve accompanied by lemon quarters.

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Tagine of Chicken with Green Olives and Preserved Lemon

Probably the best known and best loved of all Moroccan tagines


Serves 6


1 free range and organic chicken, jointed

2 onions chopped

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons coriander leaves

1 small cinnamon stick

½ preserved lemon, cut into dice (optional, depending on size, leave whole)

175g (6oz) green olives, rinsed and stoned

Juice of 1/2 lemon



2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of saffron strands

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, toasted and ground

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Coriander leaves

Cous cous

First prepare the marinade.  Mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, freshly ground pepper and the olive oil in a bowl.  Spread over the chicken, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, cover with clingfilm and leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.

Next day, transfer the chicken and the marinade to a casserole.  Add the onions, parsley, coriander and cinnamon stick and half cover with water.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces frequently in the liquid.  Add more water if it starts to reduce.  Cook for a further 15 minutes, partly covered, until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone.  Add half the preserved lemon and the olives and continue cooking for a further 5-6 minutes so the flavours combine.

Transfer the chicken pieces, lemon and olives to a serving dish and cover to keep warm.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.  Reduce the sauce uncovered until it is about 250ml (9fl oz).  Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander and cous cous.

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Orange Salad with Cinnamon and Orange Water Blossom

This is a classic dessert in Moroccan restaurants. The combination is a perfect palate cleanser after a rich tagine or cous cous. One could also add a few fat deglet noor dates.

Serves 6


6 large oranges

4 teaspoons orange blossom water

4-6 teaspoons caster sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

3-4 sprigs fresh mint


Peel the oranges and remove the pith with a sharp knife. Slice the oranges across the equator, flick out the pips and arrange the rounds, slightly overlapping on a circular plate.  Dot with cinnamon and caster sugar and drizzle with orange blossom water. Chill well before serving with shredded fresh mint or mint sprigs sprinkled over the top.

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Maronchinos – Claudia Roden’s Soft Almond Cookies

Makes about 30


400 g ground almonds

125-200g superfine sugar

2 or 3 drops of almond extract

2 tablespoons rose water

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Icing sugar to sprinkle on

Mix the almonds and sugar. Add the extract, rose water, and egg whites and work to a smooth paste with your hand. Role into walnut- sized balls, flatten them slightly, and place in little paper cases or on greaseproof or parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 oven for 25 minutes. Let them cool before dusting with icing sugar.


Cork Whiskey Festival

Don’t miss the first Cork Whiskey Festival. It runs from Thursday 14th – Sunday 17th April and  will take place  in various restaurants and pubs in Cork city. There will be lots of exciting whiskey tastings and talks.  Restaurants will offer whiskey and  food pairings on their menus. for the details


West Waterford Food Festival

Date for the diary:- once again the West Waterford Festival of Food is choc a bloc with walks, talks, demos, dinners, workshops and  masterclasses from 15th-17th April  –


Wild Garlic is in full season at present, both the broad leaved ramps or ramsons, (allium ursinum) and the allium triquetrum which grow along the edges of the roads and looks like white bluebells. The flowers are delicious scattered over salads and savoury plates. The wide leaves of ramps are also delicious in salads and wild garlic pesto but this woodland plant doesn’t flower until later and has a distinctive ‘pom pom’ flower – also edible of course. Make the most of both while in season.

Student Pop-Up Dinner

Pop Up (1 of 2)

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, we run 3 Three Month Certificate Courses every year for students who want to gain the skills to earn them a living from their cooking. They come from all over the world and knuckle down for 12 weeks to learn as much as they possibly can about how food is produced and where it comes from and how to cook it simply so there’s a ‘Wow’ factor on each plate.

Apart from all that, many are united with a passion to contribute to society in a meaningful way. A few weeks ago we met Suze Gibson who has volunteered for 6 months with Seva Mandir, an inspirational NGO based in Udaipur in India who work with tribals in remote villages in Rajasthan.

Others link with charities closer to home. Recently a group of Ballymaloe Cookery School students came together to do a Pop Up dinner here at the school to raise money for the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches local children in nine local schools how to grow and cook. It was a terrific event. The students liaised with several of our senior tutors. They choose the theme, designed the poster and the menu.

The starter was Ardsallagh goat cheese with beetroot and preserved lemon dressing. Everything was done from scratch so the student grew the pea shoots in seed trays, picked the wild garlic flowers and made the carrot jelly that decorated the plate from freshly juiced carrots. Others made the natural sourdough bread and ciabatta , a three day process. Not content with that, the Jersey butter was also  home made, shaped into candles and served along with little Ballymaloe match boxes full of sea salt.

The main course of Lamb breast with Gremolata stuffing was slowly braised.  The meat then shredded, seasoned and mixed with herbs and spices to make delicious little lamb rissole. This was served with a pearl barley, celeriac puree, purple sprouting broccoli and a gratin of potatoes. The students picked the little organic leaves for the green salad. The desert was new seasons’ rhubarb compote with cardamom and vanilla ricotta served with an almond and ginger tuile.

Some of the beautiful tender ricotta was homemade from the Jersey whey from our tiny herd, but most came from Macroom Cheese.

There was a competition for the petit fours at the end.  Tiny lavender cup cakes with a secret filling, chocolate truffles with a fresh raspberry inside and sugar coated choux puffs

How could one choose? Guests enjoyed those with a cup of coffee.

Oh, and I almost forgot the aperitifs, a rhubarb and strawberry cocktail to sip with anchovy straws, home grown radishes on a crostini with olive butter and last but not least, homemade cheese crackers with a few flakes of warm smoked cod with horseradish aioli.

They didn’t catch the fish but they did hot smoke it and made the  horseradish mayo and crisped the caper to sit on top.

The gardeners provided the music and another of the students played the guitar gently in the background. A wonderfully convivial and delicious evening. We were so proud of them all as the guests polished off their plates and showered them with richly deserved compliments.

They learned how to organise and pull off on an event down to the last detail including creating the recipes and sourcing the food. The theme was Masquerade so many of the guests arrived in masks and students who didn’t have a mask made their own from foraged leaves and feathers and decorated the dining room to the carnival theme.

If you wish you’d been there, contact us at and we’ll let you know the dates of the next event. Meanwhile here are some of the delicious dishes for you to create your own. ….


Hot Tips

Have you a block about making your own pastry?

Many, seem to have a ‘block’ about making our own pastry but it’s not difficult. On Monday April 18th 2016, for 2½ days, we will unlock the mystery and teach a few simple recipes. We will focus on the classic techniques of shortcrust pastry (both sweet and savoury), choux, hot water crust and the dreaded puff. We’ll even show you how to make a ‘break all the rules’ pastry, as well as the secret of Mrs. Allen’s featherlight Ballymaloe shortcrust pastry.  Think irresistible quiches,  a meat pie to melt-in-the-mouth,  chocolate, coffee and pistachio eclairs, featherlight feuillitees, vol-au-vents, tarte tatin…… for the details


Are spices a mystery –

Fresh spices add magic to your cooking. Cumin, coriander, cardamom, fenugreek, star anise, cinnamon, mustard seeds, turmeric, cloves…we adore them all. Learn how to combine spices to introduce the flavours of Thailand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Morocco…

Each spice has up to five distinctly different flavours, depending on how you use it, so we will illustrate how to choose the most fragrant spices, how to dry, roast, grind, store and flavour a tarka. Dishes will also include fresh ginger, a variety of chillies, lemongrass and fresh lime leaves, curry leaves and galangal – flavours which soon become addictive! This course will take the mystery out of spices and change your cooking forevermore.

During this two and a half day course, beginning on Wednesday April 20th 2016, you will learn an exciting repertoire of starters, main courses and delicious desserts, as well as a gorgeous spicy cake to share with friends and family. Lunch is included each day.

Paul and Georgie Keane’s Inishbeg Organic lamb is now available at Walsh Butchers on Bridge Street, Skibbereen in West Cork. Tel: 028 21201

Pop Up (2 of 2)

Lamb Breast with Gremolata, Celeriac Puree and Pearl Barley Risotto


Serves 8

2  lamb breasts

Salt and pepper


Gremolata Stuffing

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 lemon, zest and juice

Handful of parsley, finely chopped

Salt and pepper


Pearl Barley Risotto

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

240 g pearl barely

1 litre hot chicken stock

Handful of parsley, finely chopped


Wild Garlic Salsa Verde

50 g wild garlic leaves, chopped

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

15 g flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

Olive oil, to loosen

Salt and pepper



1 pint chicken stock

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard


Salt and pepper



Purple Sprouting Broccoli


Preheat the oven to 160°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Season lamb breasts generously on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lay skin side up on an oven tray. Roast for 20 minutes and reduce to 120°C/250°F/mark 2 for 1½ hours by which time lamb will be tender and much of the fat will have rendered out. Pour all the juices and fat into a pyrex bowl, save and chill. Meanwhile make the gremolata stuffing. Heat 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and sweat the diced onion and crushed garlic until soft but not coloured, 5-6 minutes.

Add the white breadcrumbs, chopped parsley lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cool, shape into two 1 inch rolls and wrap in cling film, twist the ends. Freeze.

When lamb is cooked remove the tough outer skin and bones or cartiledge. Shred the tender meat with the forks, chop finely on a timber board. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Lay a sheet of clingfilm on the worktop, spread the seasoned lamb evenly into a rectangle – a generous ½ inch thick.

Lay the rolls of frozen gremolata down the middle and then use the clingfilm to help wrap the lamb securely around the gremolata. Twist the ends tightly. Refrigerate overnight or even 2 days ahead.

On the day make the pearl barley risotto. In a hot frying pan, toast the pearl barley, tossing regularly over a high heat for 2-3 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add diced onion and carrot. Sweat for 4-5 minutes over a low heat. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add toasted pearl barley and toss to coat each grain, stirring all the time. Slowly add hot chicken stock a ladle fill at a time stirring regularly until it’s cooked – approximately 40 minutes. Taste, correct seasoning and stir in lots of chopped parsley.

Next make celeriac puree and wild garlic salsa verde.

To make the wild garlic salsa verde. Whizz all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. Add oil as if for pesto to loosen. Taste and correct seasoning.

Next make gravy. Lift off the layer of fat. Put the lamb juices into a saucepan, add 1 pint of chicken stock and ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Bring to a boil.  Whisk in a tiny bit of roux. Taste and correct seasoning.


Preheat oven to 160C. Remove lamb from fridge and unwrap. Cut the roll into 1 inch sheets. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until heated through. Spoon a little of the gravy over the top.

To Plate. Cook the purple sprouting broccoli in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Drain.

Put a dollop of celeriac puree onto each hot plate. Smear with a spoon, a generous portion of hot pearl barely risotto at a right angle. Pop two lamb breast rissoles down the side. Lay a few pieces of purple sprouting broccoli on top. Garnish with wild garlic flowers and put a few dots of salsa verde along the side.


Celeriac and Potato Puree


Serves 8-10


Great with game, turkey, chicken, duck or guinea fowl.


2 large celeriac, 700g (1½lb) approx.

225g (8oz) potatoes

110-170g (4-6oz) butter

2 fl oz (50 ml) cream

parsley, chervil,

salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon juice to taste


Quarter, peel and cut the celeriac into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes. Cook in boiling salted water for 15 minutes approx. or until tender, drain well,

Meanwhile, scrub and boil the potatoes. Peel and put into a food processor together with the celeriac. Add the butter, chopped herbs and cream. Season with salt and freshlly ground pepper. Taste and add a few drops of lemon juice if necessary.


Radish Crostini with Black Olive Butter

Makes 40 canapé


40 tiny crostini, cut from a skinny baguette

16-20 radishes, depending on size


Olive Butter

4 ozs (110 g) butter

3 ozs (75 g) (1 oz when stoned) Kalamata olives, stoned and finely chopped

Fresh ground pepper



Flaky sea salt


First make the olive butter. Cream the butter, add the finely chopped kalamata olives. Just before serving crisp the thinly sliced bread in the oven. Spread the olive butter over each. Top with two slices of crisp radish. Garnish each with a sprig of chervil and a flake of sea salt.


Diamond Crackers with Warm Smoked Cod and a Crispy Caper

Makes 70 approximately


Ballymaloe or Sheridan’s Crackers

Warm Smoked Cod (see recipe)

Horseradish Aioli (see recipe)



First make the crackers and stamp into 2cm (1 1/2 inch) diamonds (see recipe).

Heat 1cm (1/2 inch) of oil in a small frying pan. Drain and dry the capers. Toss a few at a time in the hot oil. The capers will open out like flowers, drain on kitchen paper.


To Assemble

Just before guests arrive, arrange the crackers on a platter. Put a couple of flakes of warm smoked fish on top of each one. Garnish with a tiny blob of Horseradish Aioli and a crispy caper – so delicious.


Mustard and Horseradish Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

2 teaspoons crushed garlic

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 dessertspoon (2 American teaspoons) white wine vinegar

8fl oz (225ml/1 cup) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 6fl oz (175ml/3/4 cup) sunflower oil and 2fl oz (50ml/1/4 cup) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

2 good teaspoon chopped parsley

2 good teaspoon chopped tarragon

2 tablespoons (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon sugar


Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the crushed garlic, mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Finally add the chopped herbs, sugar and grated horseradish, taste and season if necessary.



If the Mayonnaise curdles it will suddenly become quite thin, and if left sitting the oil will start to float to the top of the sauce. If this happens you can quite easily rectify the situation by putting another egg yolk or 1-2 tablespoons of boiling water into a clean bowl, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.


How to hot smoke fish

You don’t need any special equipment – even a biscuit tin will do.

Lay the fish fillets flesh side up on a tray, sprinkle the unskinned Pollock with salt as though you were seasoning generously.

Leave for at least an hour but not more than 3 hours. Dry the fillets with kitchen paper, place on a wire rack and allow to dry in a cool, airy place for 30 minutes approximately. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sawdust (we use apple wood) on the base of a rectangular biscuit tin or smoking box ( Put a wire rack into the tin and lay the fish, flesh side up on top. Put the box on a gas jet over a high heat for a minute or so until the sawdust starts to smoulder. Cover the box. Reduce the heat and smoke for 6-7 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to sit unopened for 5 minutes.

Remove from the box and serve as you like.


Beetroot in Preserved Lemon Dressing, Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Mousse and Pea Shoot with a Spiced Carrot Jelly


Serves 4

250 g fresh beetroot

100 g goat cheese

1 tablespoon cream

Fresh pea shoots


Preserved Lemon Dressing

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

A good pinch of salt

½ preserved lemon, seeds removed and rind finely chopped


Spiced Carrot Jelly, optional

4 sheets gelatine

Carrot juice

Wild garlic flowers


Day before – make the spiced carrot jelly.

Cover the beetroot in cold water and cook the beets until tender, depending on size, 40 minutes to 1½ hours. The beets are cooked when the skin rubs off easily.

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together. Add the diced preserved lemon.

Once tender, peel beetroots and cut into bite size wedges. Toss in dressing while still warm.

Whisk the goat cheese and cream together lightly.


To serve. Put 3 wedges of beetroot and 3 teaspoon-size quenelles of goat cheese on each plate. Top with a bunch of freshly harvested peashoots and add five,  ½ cm (¼ inch) of carrot jelly around the edge of the plate. Garnish with wild garlic flowers.



Irish Food Writers Guild Awards

Food Awards are ‘two a penny’ these days. Some carry more cachet that others, all thrill the winners and provide much appreciated exposure.

The Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards, now in their 22nd year celebrate indigenous artisan food and drinks businesses that create high quality products from our beautiful Irish raw materials.

These awards are unique. No one can enter themselves or their product into the awards and no company knows it has been nominated or shortlisted for an award. So it’s a fantastic surprise.

The Guild is the sole nominating and decision-making body.

This year was particularly noteworthy and exciting because it showcased the new energy that is emerging from the Midlands of Ireland. There were six winners including the first ever award for Irish stout. The award ceremony was hosted at Michelin starred restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Merrion Street, Dublin. Chef Guillaume Lebrun cooked a super delicious lunch using the prize winners produce.

Mossfield Organic Farm

Wild Irish Foragers

Silver Darlings

Riot Rye Bakehouse and Bread School

White Gypsy Imperial Stout

Highbank Organic Orchards

Mossfield Organic Milk, Co Offaly. Ralph Haslam has been an organic farmer, since 1999.  His Mossfield cheese is already well known but the award this year was for Mossfield organic milk – beautiful fresh milk straight from the family herd. Ralph has been reseeding his fields at the foot of the Slieve Bloom mountains with up to two dozen grasses and herbs. The biodiversity promotes both the health of the soil and animals and produces particularly rich milk (plus yoghurt and buttermilk). Unlike much of today’s commercially produced milk Ralph’s, Mossfield milk is not standardized, skimmed or homogenised to increase shelf life or to prevent the cream from separating, it is simply pasteurised and distributed nationwide in its fresh natural state…

Sharon and Gordon Greene of Wild Irish Foragers became entrepreneurs almost by accident. While they were walking on their fifth-generation midlands cattle farm just outside Birr, their daughter Emily pointed to a rosehip in the hedgerow and asked, ‘What’s that?’ Their journey to pass on and preserve almost forgotten knowledge and skills eventually led to the family creating a unique business as producers of artisan syrups, jellies, shrubs and sauces made from hand harvested wild ingredients based on traditional recipes discovered by ‘rooting around’ in rare old cookbooks.

They plan to renovate the old farmyard mill to facilitate foraging courses and events, thus creating sustainable employment opportunities for their family, neighbours and wider community.

Another of my favourites Silver Darling Herrings.

When Kirsti O’Kelly moved to Ireland from her native, Finland in 1999,  she craved the taste of Nordic pickled herring, so decided to start to produce her own according to family recipes passed down from her grandmother. Her friends loved them so was convinced that the Irish palate was ready for her traditional pickled herrings with a contemporary twist, so Silver Darlings was born.

With the help of BIM’s Seafood Development Centre in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, Silver Darlings was launched in March 2013 with six distinct flavours to its range – seek them out they are certainly one of the best new products to come on the market in several years. Available at many of the best  Farmers Markets, for other outlets contact

This is the first time an IFWG award has gone to an Irish beer – in fact a stout, White Gypsy’s Russian Imperial Stout is produced in a traditional style in Templemore, Co Tipperary by innovative brewer, Cuilan Loughnane. He brewed this beer with a non-traditional drinker in mind to be served in restaurants, as a local alternative to imported wine. Cuilan, described as the brewer’s, brewer, with 12 years of craft brewing under his belt, ages the stout in new oak barrels built and toasted to order by a French cooper. He has actively supported newcomers to the sector, has experimented with growing Irish hops for use in occasional brews and has worked closely with Kildare-based maltsters to develop a malt to craft beer specification.

The Special Contribution to Irish Food Award went to Joe Fitzmaurice of Riot Rye, Co. Tipperary, another worthy winner.

Joe Fitzmaurice is a man on a mission to teach everyone who would like to learn how to make bread without the use of industrial additives or chemicals – or ‘real bread’, as many devotees define it. You can contact Joe and his wife and business partner, Julie Lockett,  at their Riot Rye Bakehouse & Bread School in Cloughjordan.

Three times a week Joe fires up his wood fired oven and bakes 200 organic loaves for the local community in Cloughjordan Eco-Village and neighbouring towns and villages. The couple deliberately limit their production so they can also dedicate time to education. In 2015, he became one of the founding members of the Irish Real Bread network, which seeks to support professional craft bakers. Their enthusiasm is infectious, their bread delicious, check it out

The Environmental Award went to another of my favourite and certainly most entrepreneurial food producers, Rod and Julie Calder-Potts. In 2013, they won an IFWG Food Award for their Irish Orchard Syrup, pure concentrated essence of homegrown apples from their organic orchards at Highbank Farm in Co. Kilkenny. The orchards were originally planted by Rod and Julie in 1969 to complement the former hop gardens and converted to organic production in 1994. This began the process of returning the farm to a more environmentally inclusive husbandry. Over time, they have added two small lakes, woodlands and various wildlife habitats. No chemicals are sprayed on the apples, while herbicides, chemical fertilisers and manure from animals fed on GM food are strictly avoided.

The focus at Highbank is on maximising output as well as minimising input. A variety of apples are transformed into everything from organic apple juices and ciders to a range of apple-based spirits. Even the waste by-products from the distillery are put to good use, with the acetone going to Brooklodge Hotel in Co. Wicklow to be used as organic nail varnish remover. A shining and charismatic example of the energy in the Irish food scene at present.

Twitter: @foodguild  #IFWGfoodawards


Labneh with Radishes, Mint, Highbank Apple Syrup and Olive Oil

Serves 6


350g (12oz) labneh, (dripped natural yoghurt)

6 teaspoons Highbank Apple Syrup

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

12 radishes

12 mint leaves

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Allow 50g (2oz) of labneh per person and divide between 6 chilled plates.

Make a little indent with a teaspoon in each portion of labneh and pour in the apple syrup followed by the olive oil.  Place 2 radishes on each plate beside the labneh.  Break the mint leaves over the radishes.  Place two or 3 blue cheese Sheridan’s crackers on the plates and finish off with a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.



Riot Rye Sourdough Avocado Toasts with Lime and Coriander


Proper natural sourdough is a revelation in terms of flavour and texture not to mention nourishment. This simple recipe is much more than the sum of its parts!


Serves 4

2 ripe Hass avocados



2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) freshly squeezed lime juice

6 tablespoons (7 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

4 slices of sourdough, toasted or pan-grilled



Maldon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

a few pinches of chilli flakes

fresh coriander leaves


Whisk the lime juice and extra virgin olive oil together.


Just before serving.

Toast or grill the bread.

Stone and peel the avocado and slice into chunky segments.  Place the avocado on top of the toast – allow 1/2 per person.  Drizzle with the dressing.   Sprinkle with a few chilli flakes. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and a few flakes of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper.


Imperial Stout Irish Cake


The porter plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well. Serves about 20


225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) golden caster sugar

300ml (1⁄2 pint) Imperial stout

zest of 1 orange

225g (8oz) sultanas

225g (8oz) raisins

110g (4oz) mixed peel

450g (1lb) white flour

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons mixed spice

110g (4oz) cherries, halved

3 organic eggs


23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper


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

Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries). Bring the mixture to the boil for 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over the top.  Keep  for 2–3 days before cutting.




Serves 4


100g buckwheat groats

200g baby potatoes

200g natural yogurt, plus extra to garnish

chopped fresh chives

freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

1 shallot, finely sliced

200g Silver Darlings Irish Herring with Fennel and Tarragon

fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, to garnish


for the green leek purée:

knob of butter

2 leeks, green part only, finely sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 160°C. Scatter the buckwheat on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5 minutes.

To make the green leek purée, melt the butter in a small pan and sweat the leeks. Season with salt and pepper, then blend in a liquidiser until smooth. Chill in the fridge until required.

Boil the baby potatoes until they are cooked through and tender. Drain well and return briefly to the pan to dry them out, then transfer to a bowl and gently crush them. Fold in the yogurt, some chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice, but be careful not to overwork the potato salad.

To serve, arrange three small quenelles of the potato salad on a cold plate and add dots of the leek purée and yogurt. Place a sliver of shallot on top of each quenelle, then add a piece of herring. Garnish with a parsley leaf and the toasted buckwheat.


Recipe created by Guillaume Lebrun  for the Irish Food Writers’ Guild Food Awards


Hot Tips

Raw Milk

Many readers will know that I fought long and hard to save people’s freedom of choice to have access to raw (unpasteurised) milk should they so choose. The Department of Agriculture has recently registered a number of farms around the country to sell raw milk directly to the public. The list includes our own Ballymaloe Cookery School organic farm here in Shanagarry to which people drive 50 and 60 miles to access our very limited supply of raw milk. However the good news is Dan and Anne Ahern will now sell organic raw milk from their stall at Mahon Farmers Market on Thursday and from the Midleton Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Tel:  086 – 1659258. For other suppliers nationally, check out and (Elisabeth Ryan confirmed these two links)


Cooking for Baby: Natural and Wholesome Recipes

The last course was oversubscribed with many people asking when  the next half day course is scheduled….so on Wednesday April 6th Darina Allen will pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchilden totally without packets, cans or jars!

You’ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Not only will it save you a small fortune but also it will be infinitely better for your baby. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety you’ll ensure that as they grow up they don’t become fussy eaters. for more info.


Pickle in Dublin

Devotees of the multi award winning chef Sunil Ghai will be delighted to know that his much anticipated new restaurant has opened on Camden Street in Dublin. It’s called Pickle – definitely a name for your  Dublin dining list.

Easter Sunday Lunch

Well, Lent is almost over and if you are one of those virtuous souls who have been abstaining for the past seven weeks now is the time to feast and savour the rewards of your fasting. Years ago there would be a surplus of eggs particularly as this is the time the hens go into overdrive and start to lay with gay abandon. They too are super excited that the winter is almost over; Eileen has hatched out a batch of chicks in the incubator just in time to thrill our grandchildren and visiting friends of all ages. They are the most photographed fluffy little chicks. Even Julia is busy baking Easter biscuits and Pam’s making the Simnel cake, Emer has a batch of hot cross buns rising and Haulie is picking bundles of gorgeous pink Spring rhubarb.
Back to the kitchen for Easter Sunday lunch. I ordered a Spring lamb a few weeks ago; we butcher it ourselves and share it between the family. Spring lambs are born before Christmas and because they are milk fed the flesh is pale and sweet and particularly succulent. I’ve kept a couple of shoulders for family lunch on Easter Sunday. A roast leg is wonderful of course but I find the shoulder with just a little more fat even more delicious and juicy and it has the bonus of being a little less expensive than leg.
Spring lamb is so delicate that I am reluctant to add any extra flavours other than a generous sprinkling of flaky sea salt and some freshly cracked pepper. Cook it slowly at 160°C rather than 180°C; the skin will caramelise gently resulting in an unforgettable lunch. I’ll serve it with an old fashioned mint sauce made with the few sprigs of new season’s mint that I’ve managed to tease out of the ground by covering it with a cloche for this exceptionally early Easter. If however you’d rather do something more adventurous particularly if you have lamb rather than spring lamb score the skin and rub in a mixture of freshly roasted cumin and flaky sea salt for a Moroccan flavour. Alternatively, a spicy harissa would also do the trick, or a ‘Baharat’ spice rub from Green Saffron ( The gutsier herbs survived our atrocious Winter very well, so if you’d rather the taste of fresh herbs, tuck some little sprigs of rosemary or thyme into the skin at regular intervals and lay a sprig underneath to perfume the gravy and the joint as it roasts.
When Easter is late, we love to accompany Spring lamb with the first of the new potatoes and spring carrots but there’s no sign of either at present, so I’ll cook some purple sprouting broccoli and Rory O’ Connell’s chard gratin and we’ll have a feast and count our blessings. We’ve got an abundance of wild garlic at present so how about Wild Garlic soup, or if you’d like to use some of your freshly laid eggs how about delicate little wild garlic custards with fingers of toast. Both can be made ahead.
For pud, I’ll definitely bake a rhubarb tart. I particularly love the traditional tart my mother always made that has become known as Cullohill Rhubarb tart made with a pastry I’ve given you the recipe for several times (appeared in the Examiner 5th March 2013)
So to ring the changes, here is a rhubarb meringue tart recipe I ate at Shaun Hill’s restaurant The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, Wales in September 2015 last year.
Remember rhubarb is very tart so this is a time when you’ll need to be a little generous with the sugar but not too much because the meringue is also super sweet….
Happy Easter to you all.

Hot Tips
Broth is having its moment once again. It’s easy to make your own from bones and carcass. It’s a totally magical food, so full of nourishment and flavour and particularly important for those who have been laid low by a dose of flu or an interminable chesty cold. Meanwhile, seek out Rachel McCormack’s Sonny’s Broth at Mahon Point Farmers Market on Thursday from 10am-2.00pm and Douglas on Saturday mornings 10.00am-2pm. Tel: 086 821 2741
Properly delicious broths to enjoy right there or to bring home to sip by the fire. Try the Phŏ Bò, an aromatic beef bone broth with rice noodles and fresh Asian herbs or Phŏ Gà spiced chicken broth also with rice, noodles and fresh Asian herbs – soo good.

More Irresistible Cakes from Cakeface
Laura Mead and Rory Gannon met at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on a 12 week Certificate course in April 2010. They particularly love to bake and travelled together to France to work at Roger Vergé three Michelin star restaurant Moulin des Mougins in Cannes. From there it was on to the Savoy and Connaught hotels in London to hone their patisserie skills. Now they are back in Ireland and have started Cakeface Pastry in Piltown selling their super professional cakes and tarts that look as though they popped straight out of a French pastry shop window.
Tel: 086 601 7045


Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Cumin Seeds

Serves 8-10 approx.

A shoulder of lamb is much trickier to carve than a leg, but the flavour is so wonderfully sweet and juicy, it’s certainly worth the struggle particularly at home where perfect slices of meat are not obligatory. I sometimes put this into the low oven of the Aga in the morning. By 7.30 in the evening, it is beautifully cooked – how easy is that!

1 shoulder of lamb 3.3 – 3.6kg(7-8lb) on the bone
2 tablespoons approx. cumin seeds
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

600ml (1 pint) homemade lamb or chicken stock
1-2 teaspoon freshly roasted amdground cumin

Roux optional (see recipe)

Warm the cumin seeds slightly on a pan, crush them in a pestle and mortar. Score the skin of the meat in a diamond pattern with a sharp knife. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper and cumin and drizzle with olive oil, roast in a low oven 140C/275F/gas mark 1 in the usual way for 6 – 7 hours – this gives a delicious juicy succulent texture. Alternatively cook in a moderate oven 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3 for 3 – 3½ hours. The cumin seeds give a delicious flavour to the meat. Carve it into thick slices so that everybody gets some cumin. Serve with a light gravy to which a little freshly ground cumin has been added.

To make the gravy: Spoon the fat off the roasting tin. Add the stock into the remaining cooking juices. Boil for a few minutes, stirring and scraping the pan well, to dissolve the caramelised meat juices (I find a small whisk ideal for this). Add the freshly ground cumin. Allow to thicken with a very little roux if you like.
Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Strain and serve the gravy separately in a gravy boat.
Serve with crusty roast potatoes.

4 ozs (110 g/1 stick) butter
4 ozs (110 g/scant 1 cup) flour

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

Mint Sauce

Traditional mint sauce, made with tender young shoots of fresh mint, takes only minutes to make. For those who are expecting a bright green jelly, real mint sauce has a slightly dull colour and watery texture.

Makes about 175ml (6fl oz/3/4 cup)
Serves about 6

25g (1oz) fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) sugar
110ml (4fl oz1/2 cup) boiling water
25ml (1fl oz/1/8 cup) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

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

Gratin of Chard and Gruyére

Big and leafy, looking like an exceptionally healthy leaf of spinach and with several colourful varieties, Chard is great. The most well-known variety with its thick white stalk and glossy leaves is sometimes called Swiss chard. The colourful members of the family are the red stemmed Ruby chard and the variety known as Bright Lights or Rainbow chard which has a range of multi coloured stems varying from white, yellow and orange to pink, purple and red. Generally, unless the leaves are tiny, the stalk is removed from the leaf and cooked separately. The cooked leaves and stalks can be served together or as individual dishes. The flavour of the leaf is similar to spinach, but somewhat stronger and earthier in flavour, though the two greens are pretty much interchangeable in any recipe. I like to cut out the stalks or stems from the leaves with a sharp knife to achieve a neat finish. This is another vegetable that needs to be well cooked and there is no flavour or texture advantage to having to chew it when eating it cooked. The tiniest leaves, no more than 8cm long and including the stems, colourful or otherwise sometimes end up in the salad bowl.

This recipe combines the vegetable with gruyere in a gratin and is finished with a crisp bread topping. This dish can be prepared ahead and reheated later. It will make a delicious vegetarian supper dish or to serve with a roast shoulder of lamb or a grilled lamb chop.

Serves 4-6

3 litres (5 1/4 pints/generous 6 cups) of water
3 teaspoons of salt
2 1/4lb (1kg) chard
30g (1 1/4oz/generous 1/4 stick) butter
30g (1 1/4oz/generous 1/4 cup) flour
300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) milk
100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) cream
160g (Gruyére cheese, coarsely grated
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) marjoram leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g (2 1/2oz) coarse bread sour dough crumbs
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) olive oil

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Bring the water to a boil and add the salt. Remove the stalks from the chard with a sharp knife. Cut the stalks against the grain in 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces. Add the stalks to the boiling water and cook at a simmer for about 6 minutes or until nearly tender. Add the leaves to the pot and cook for a further 3 minutes until the leaves and the stalks are both cooked. Strain off all of the water and allow the chard to sit in the strainer to drain off the rest of the water.

Toss the bread crumbs in the olive oil and spread out on to a baking tray and place in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until toasted and golden. The crumbs tend to cook unevenly, so you will need to move them around on the tray a couple of times during the cooking. When ready, remove from the oven and reserve for later.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and stir to mix. Cook on a gentle heat for about 3 minutes to cook the flour. You have just made a roux and this mixture will thicken the sauce. Add the milk and cream and bring the mixture to a boil while whisking constantly. The sauce will by now have thickened. Turn the heat down low and allow the sauce to simmer for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and season the sauce with salt and pepper. Add the drained chard to the sauce with 110g (4oz) of the grated gruyére and the chopped marjoram and mix gently but thoroughly. Taste again and correct seasoning.

Place the mixture in an ovenproof gratin dish and sprinkle on the remaining gruyere and finally the roasted bread crumbs.

The gratin can be put aside for later or reheated now in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for about 15 to 20 minutes until bubbling and golden. If you are reheating it from cold it will need 30 minutes.

Wild Garlic Soup with Pesto and Flowers

We use the broad leaves of ramps or ramsons for this delicious spring soup.

11/2 ozs (45g/generous 1/4 stick) butter
5 ozs (140g/1 cup) peeled and chopped potatoes
4 ozs (110g/1 cup) peeled and chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pint (900ml/3 3/4 cups) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 pint (300ml/1 1/4 cups) creamy milk
5 ozs (150g/3 cups) chopped wild garlic leaves

Garnish: Wild garlic flowers – use the flowers of which flourish along the roadside.

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the wild garlic leaves. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 3-4 minutes approx. until the wild garlic is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.


Rhubarb Meringue Tart

A lovely seasonal recipe from Shaun Hill who now has a restaurant called The Walnut Tree in Monmouthshire, Wales.

Serves 4

300g (11 oz) sweet shortcrust pastry

1 kg (2¼ lb) rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths
3 egg yolks
120g (4 oz) sugar
2 tbsp. plain flour
3 egg whites
3 generous tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6

Line a 26cm pastry case – preferably with a pop up base – with sweet pastry and bake blind.
The rhubarb goes in next. Then mix together the egg yolks, sugar and flour and spread this over the rhubarb.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes; this will start the rhubarb cooking.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until stiff. As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar.
Take the tart from the oven and spread the meringue on top.
Reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and return the tart to the oven. Bake for a further 25 minutes.

Note: The egg whites must be completely free of imperfections – including yolk – if they are to be successfully whisked. The bowl used must be dry and clean also. Don’t add sugar too early; the whites should already form peaks before you start.


Tamil Nadu in South India particularly the Chettinad area is a ‘road much less travelled’ than many of the trendier tourist destinations like Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala but intriguing, particularly for those who have a penchant for temples, architecture and of course food. I’m interested in all three but I have to say one can easily get ‘templed out’ in many parts of India.  Chettinad is particularly fascinating from the architecture perspective.

In the 1990’s,  pioneering lady Meenakshi Meyyappan from one of the most prominent Chettinar family was the first person to open one of her houses as a delightful heritage hotel. Just 4 simple rooms at first and a welcome as though one was a guest of the family. She served the fresh food of the Chettinad homes where everything was not just prepared and cooked ‘from scratch’ but grown in the gardens or produced on the family farm.

Since my last visit in 2011 the Bangala has expanded to 21 rooms, there’s a swimming pool and a cookery school where Meenaskshi chefs can pass on the secrets of the much requested Bangala recipes.  Freshly squeezed juices, watermelon or pineapple or dosa or breakfast with idli and sambar, rice…if that all seems too challenging there were of course masala omelettes and pancakes but for me lunch was the most exacting meal of the day, a wide variety of dishes served on a  banana leaf in the traditional way. Rice of course, then both a fish and meat dish, several vegetarian curry and stews fritters, a raita, several chutneys and a poppadums. The selection was different every day, cutlery is provided but one is encouraged to eat with one’s hands in the elegant Indian way. Dinner is a multi-ethnic affair with a mixture of Asian and Anglo Indian dishes but I don’t go to India for bread and butter pudding or crème caramel, no matter how delicious…..

The Bangala is heart of Karaikudi so one can comfortably wander around the colourful vegetable and fruit market and bazaar and the antique area, best in the early morning or evening when the temperature has dropped to the mid-twenties. The hardware and household utensil shops are also intriguing and I love the simple little tea shops where people congregate in the evenings to have a glass of a chai and a snack. I had some delicious plantain fritters  cooked in a lentil batter with a fresh coconut chutney served a square of banana leaf – for just 50 rupees.

Not everyone’s idea of ‘chilling out’ but I love to attend cooking classes when I’m on holidays to vamp up on the local food culture and ingredients and learn a few new dishes to pass on to my readers and students.

Here’s some of what I learned from Karuppiali, Chef at The Bangala, the ingredients are easy to find and techniques familiar to those who have already discovered the magic of spices.


Hot Tips

Green Saffron Pops Up in Paris

Arun Kapil from Green Saffron in Midleton is hosting a three week Green Saffron Pop UP in Paris from April 26th to May 14th 2016 in Alcazar restaurant in St Germain des Près.. Arun has created a spicy menu to entice the French people to enjoy spicier food and drinks.

Tel:  021 463 7960 or


Don’t forget to place an order for Spring Lamb from your butcher for Easter Sunday lunch – it’s a special treat so not available everywhere


Check out the Examiner website for the Ballymaloe Hot Cross Bun recipe


Date for the Diary

Pop-Ups Everywhere!

Michelle Darmody from The Cake Café in Dublin is hosting a Pop Up Café in The Projects Arts Centre in Temple Bar in Dublin in an effort to highlight the fact that asylum seekers living in direct provision are not able to cook for themselves. Don’t miss the two day Pop Up restaurant, on 5th and 6th April 2016 from 12pm-3pm where the menu will be devised and cooked by those in direct provision. Proceeds will go to the Refugee Council of Ireland

Tickets €15.00. Booking Essential. Phone Michelle Darmody 087 938 4455 for more details.

Good Things Cafe

Carmel Somers’s many fans will be delighted to hear that Good Things at Dillon’s Corner in Skibbereen is now up and running. Carmel is a beautiful cook who uses fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients to create delicious food for her growing number of devotees. For reservations Tel: 028 51948 or



Potato Karuvattu Poriyal

Don’t let this unprouncable title or long list of ingredients put you off trying this recipe – it was totally delicious.

Serves 4


Wet Paste

1½ teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 fresh green chillies

⅓ cup grated coconut

400 g (14 oz) potatoes, peeled, cut into wedges like potato chips

2 teaspoons salt

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon urad dal, hulled split

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

50g (4 oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ heaping teaspoon ginger paste

10 curry leaves

1½ teaspoons red chilli powder, mild

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped


Grind cumin seeds, fennel seeds, green chillies and coconut in a blender with some water to make a wet paste. Set aside.

Pour enough water into a saucepan to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Slide in the potatoes and 2 teaspoons of salt. Let them boil, covered, till fork tender, 7-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add oil to a wok over a medium –high heat. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, slide in the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to crackle, add the urad dal and stir. Add the fennel seeds and onion, and sauté for 1 minute.

Add garlic and ginger followed by curry leaves, chilli powder and turmeric. Stir before adding the reserved wet paste. Continue to stir constantly.

When the oil has separated from the masala and the mixtures looks cooked, sprinkle with salt and then add the drained pototaes, mixing well. Sauté for 2-4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the carmaelized bits of masala. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves.


From The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Meyyappan with Jill Donenfeld


Brussel Sprouts Masala Poriyal

Most of our international guests at The Bangala enjoy this masala poriyal. They are familiar with Brussel sprouts and like the masala presentation.


250 g (9 oz) brussel sprouts, cut in quarters if large

½ teaspoon salt

50 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) vegetable oil

100g (3½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

½ teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon garlic paste

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder, mild preferably made from goondu milagai

½ cup fresh tomato puree

½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped


Pour 2 cups of water into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Slide in the brussel sprouts and ½ teaspoon salt and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, till tender. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add oil to a large wok over a high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, slide in the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Follow by adding the ginger and garlic paste, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir once and add tomato puree and ½ teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, reducing the heat to low, stirring and scraping to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.

When the oil separates from the masala, add the drained Brussel sprouts to incorporate. Stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the wok. Remove from the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.


The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Neyyappan with Jill Donenfeld


Raisin and Cashew Nut Pulao

An aromatic pulao with flavours of whole spices, dry fruit and coconut milk. This is serves as‘main rice’ for dinner at The Bangala. Cooking the rice in coconut milk instead of just water adds depth and a lovely, flavourful creaminess to this dish.

Serves 4


300 g (11 oz/1½ cups) basmati rice

125 ml (4 fl oz/ ½ cup) vegetable oil

3 green cardamom pods

Once 3- inch piece cinnamon, broken in half

13 cloves

3 fresh green chillies slit at the base

60 g (2½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

10 unsalted cashew nuts, broken

1½ tablespoons raisins

1½ teaspoons sea salt or to taste

350 ml (12 fl oz/1½ cups) thin coconut milk

¾ cup thick coconut milk


Place rice in a bowl and wash under running water, gently stirring and mixing the rice with your hands, draining each time the bowl fills up. Do this 2 or 3 times, till the water runs clear; then let soak in fresh water, covered for at least 30 minutes. Drain.

Pour oil into a large saucepan over high heat. When hot, add cardamom and cinnamon. Once the cardamoms have plumped up nicely, about 30 seconds add cloves and green chillies and stir. Next, slide onion into the pan and sauté till translucent, about 1 minute, before adding the cashew nuts and raisins.

Pour in 1½ cups water, salt and the thin coconut milk, mix to incorporate and cover to let simmer for 2 minutes before turning the heat to high. Add rice, stir and wait for it to come to the boil before reducing the heat. Let it cook, covered for about 10 minutes before adding the thick coconut milk. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Grains should be separate and not too soft. Check seasoning. serve hot.


The Bangala Table Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad, Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Neyyappan with Jill Donenfeld

St. Patrick’s Day

IMG Farmette Cookbook_p69_boxty_Roost Books


As the whole world (it seems) gears up to celebrate St Patrick’s Day – have a good root through your cupboards and pick out your very best ‘greenery’ to don on Thursday next. Let’s all have fun and get into the emerald vibe. The Irish diaspora from New York to Shanghai are in high spirits, Tourism Ireland recently announced this year’s additions to the Global Greening initiative where famous sites and monuments throughout the world are illuminated in green to mark our National Holiday. It’s a totally brilliant initiative to focus the whole world’s attention on Ireland.

This year the 7 World Trade Centre at Ground Zero in New York, the famous Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde in Paris, the City Hall in Tel Aviv and Munich’s Hofbräuhaus and the Amazon Theatre Opera House in the midst of the Amazon Rain Forest are among the newest sites to join the Sydney Opera House, the Colosseum in Rome, the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen, the Empire State Building in New York and Auckland’s Sky Tower……Here in Dublin, disability rights campaigner Joanne O Riordan from Millstreet has been chosen as Grand Marshall of the St Patrick’s Day Parade, at 19 years old, she’ll be the youngest ever to lead the celebrations.

Well, back to the kitchen, to plan a feast. For me, St Patrick’s Day is all about Bacon and Cabbage and Parsley Sauce with a big bowl of champ and a generous lump of Irish butter melting into the centre – the ultimate comfort food. Despite the atrocious weather we’ve been having our rhubarb is growing enthusiastically, so it’ll be a juicy rhubarb tart for pud with lots of soft brown sugar and Jersey cream. But if you’d rather ring the changes how about St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with soy dipping sauce.

This is just one of the tempting recipes in Imen McDonnell new book Farmette Cookbook which documents her recipes and adventures on an Irish farm.

Imen will be very familiar to the Irish Farmers Journal readers for whom she’s written a food and lifestyle column for many years. She’s also a contributing editor to Condé Nast Traveller and Irish Country Magazine. In a former life, she spent her days working in Los Angeles, happily going about her business in a successful broadcast media career. Then fate intervened, she met a dashing Irish farmer in Minneapolis and fell instantly in love. In short order, Imen found herself leaving behind her career, her country, her family and friends, to start a life from scratch on a centuries-old family dairy farm in County Limerick. When she’s not cooking, writing, weeding or photographing, you’ll find her in the farmyard with her husband and son, milking cows, feeding calves and chickens, or loving up their two donkeys and amusing Airedale terrier, Teddy. Imen highlights farmhouse skills such as butter and cheese making and the use of local, wholesome ingredients. Here are a few of Imen’s modern Irish recipes for you to enjoy from The Farmette Cookbook published by Roost Books.

Hot Tips

Organic Horticulture: Vegetable Garden Preparation

The Ballymaloe Cookery School Head Gardner Susan Turner will teach a day long course and provide you with the necessary skills to how to grow your own delicious and nutritious vegetables. Susan will cover site layout and design, soil preparation, compost making and crop rotations, dealing with weeds & pests in organic horticulture, raised beds, year round sowing plan and sowing methods, polytunnel and glasshouse crops….coffee on arrival and a delicious light lunch included. Monday March 14th 9.30am-5pm for more information

Slow Food Galway

are planning an exciting breadmaking demo with Jeremy Zanni from Les Petites Douceurs in Galway. It will be held on Cait Curran’s organic farm in Moycullen, near Spiddal on Sunday March 13th at 11.30am. Tickets €5.00. Contact Kate O’Malley for further details and directions 087 9312333


Imen McDonnell’s St Patrick’s Day Bacon and Cabbage Pot Stickers with Soy Dipping Sauce

Makes 20 medium-size dumplings


For the wrappers

2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

½ cup (120 ml) boiling water

½ cup (120 ml) cold water


For the filling

3/4 cup (300 g) cabbage, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon grated fresh gingerroot

3 tablespoons finely chopped kale

⅓ lb (150 g) shredded boiled ham (or Irish bacon)

⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)

½ tablespoon soy sauce

½ tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)

1 teaspoon sesame oil


For the slurry

1 tablespoon cornstarch

½ cup (120 ml) water

Sunflower oil, for frying


For the dipping sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

½ cup (115 g) scallions, chopped

¼ cup (60 ml) brown rice vinegar

¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce


First make the wrappers. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Gradually stir in the boiling water until the mixture is mealy. Gradually add the cold water, and stir until  the mixture comes together into a dough.

Knead the dough on a floured surface, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough  becomes smooth.

Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rest while you make the filling.

Next make the filling. Put the cabbage in a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Pulse the ginger, kale, ham, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil in a food processor to mix well. Set aside.

Squeeze the water out of the cabbage and into the sink. Place the dry cabbage in a dry bowl and add the ham mixture. Fold together with your hands.

To make the dumplings. Roll out the dumpling dough into a circle and cut out wrappers  with 2-inch round cookie cutters. Set aside.

Mix together the cornstarch and water for the slurry in a small bowl. Take one dumpling wrapper, and spoon about 1 tablespoon of the ham mixture into the middle.

Dip one finger into the slurry, and paint the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Fold the bottom side of the wrapper over the filling and press into a half-moon shape.

Place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and repeat with the rest of dumplings. Make sure the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

When all the dumplings are assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic  wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Gently slide in one-third of the dumplings. When the water returns to a boil, turn the heat down and simmer gently for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon, and repeat with remaining dumplings.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with the sunflower oil and place over medium heat until hot. Fry dumplings until they are golden on each side.


Make the dipping sauce:

Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan until it smokes. Add the  scallions, then the brown rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Mix well, then take off the heat and pour into a bowl for dipping.

Scullery Notes: Salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being waterlogged and soggy


Imen McDonnell’s Boxty

Serves 4


6 medium potatoes

¼ cup (38 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon butter (or sunflower oil)

Fresh herbs, chopped, for garnish


Peel the potatoes. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place over a large mixing bowl. Using a box grater, grate the potatoes into the colander. Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and squeeze the liquid from the potatoes into the bowl. Put the dry grated potato in another bowl and discard the liquid.

Add the flour and salt to the grated potato and mix gently. Melt the butter in a heavy iron pan, and pour in the potato mixture to make an even layer, about ¾ to 1 inch thick. Cook over medium heat until nicely brown on one side, about 15 minutes; flip the whole boxty cake and cook on the other side  for another 15 minutes, or until brown. It’s much better to cook the boxty slowly than too fast. It should be crisp and golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

Remove from the heat, cut into quarters, garnish with herbs  and serve with crème fraîche, apple sauce, or just on its own.

IMG Farmette Cookbook_p300_carawaycake_Roost Books (1)

Imen McDonnell’s Sweet Caraway Seed Cake

Serves about 8


¾ cup (175 g) butter, softened

1½ cups (175 g) superfine or granulated sugar

3 large eggs

About 1 tablespoon milk or water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups (225 g) all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon fresh caraway seeds


Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the base of a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper; set aside.

Cream the butter in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs, milk or water, and vanilla together, and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar.

Fold in the flour in batches; mix the baking powder in with the last addition of the flour.

Gently mix in the caraway seeds. Pour into the prepared cake pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Remove it from the oven, and let cool in the pan on a wire rack.

Cool completely before slicing.


Imen McDonnell’s Farmer’s Sunday Cake

Makes 2 loaves


¾ cup (170 g) butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan

6¼ cups (800 g) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar

1 cup (150 g) golden raisins

1 cup (150 g) dried currants

2 tablespoons glacé cherries

½ cup walnuts

2 tablespoons candied citrus peel, finely chopped

Grated zest of ½ lemon

2 eggs, beaten

2½ to 3 cups (600 to 720 ml) buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Lightly grease two 9-inch loaf pans; set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and sugar in a large bowl, and mix well. Rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add the raisins, currants, cherries, walnuts, candied citrus peel,  and lemon zest. Mix well.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the eggs and 2½ cups (600 ml) of the buttermilk. Stir into the flour mixture, working in a spiral motion from the middle toward the sides of the bowl, and adding a bit more buttermilk if necessary to make a moist but cohesive batter. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 15 minutes

Reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out and cover with tea towels until ready to serve.

This cake will keep for up to a week in an airtight container or bread box.


London, just a little hop from any of our airports in Ireland has been one of the hottest food destinations in the world for over a decade now.

There are many multi starred establishments but also lots of small and teeny weeny restaurants run by passionate young chefs and cooks who are creating links with farmers and food producers and turning out edgy modern British as well as multi ethnic food.

I get regular requests from readers for my ‘London List’ so here are some of my current favourites.

Bao started in a little timber shack at Netil Market in Hackney from 12 O’ clock on Saturday mornings.  They serve a Chinese steamed bun with pulled pork and the veggie bao, filled with a fried daikon cake not dissimilar from a hash brown.  Chicken bits, crispybreaded morsels of juicy chicken with a hot sauce. An eager queue starts to form by 11.30; Bao are still in the market but have now moved into ‘bricks and mortar’. Like many cool London restaurants, they don’t take bookings so once again there’s a queue across the road from the restaurant – Bao is hot and deservedly so, the steamed buns are like fluffy tender pillows stuffed with the tastiest pork.

Raw Duck in Richmond Road is another of my favourites, lots of concrete and metal windows there, long wooden communal tables with random pots of herbs and flowers down along the middle, a tempting list of natural wines, drinking vinegars and shrubs.

The menu is made up of lots of little plates of carefully chosen combinations, I had brunch there recently and loved the coconut porridge with a blob of persimmon jam in the centre and chopped cashew nuts sprinkled on top. That was so good as was the avocado, poached eggs, bacon, coriander and chilli on sourdough toast. Lots of little plates of ferments and pickles, kefir, brownies….

The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street, in the midst of the ‘guitar district’ does barbequed wood ember food with strong Thai influences. I loved the scallop roasted in their shells over charcoal with chilli, coriander and lime and the barbeque smoked lamb ribs with nahm jiim jaew and the cornish mullet with pomelo salad. Rare breed meats and day boat fish from small production farmers and fishermen. They’re not big on puds and they don’t serve coffee….

Cooking over fire, a strong trend at present, Kitty Fishers’ Wood Grill  in Shepherd Market is also worth checking out . A widely travelled friend loved the escalop beef from an 11 year old Galician dairy cow, how about that for a rarity.

Lyles the tea building in High Street Shoreditch – where it’s all happening is a must for your London list, you’ll definitely need to book ahead for dinner but it’s slightly easier to get in for lunch, more clean and simple lines a semi open kitchen and a cool cocktail bar. James Lowe and John Ogner offer a beautiful selection of small plates; I particularly loved the smoked eel, beetroot and horseradish.

The beets were sweet and earthy still warm from the oven, the smoked eel also gently heated, horseradish cream cold and a seemingly simple combo made magical by superb ingredients and contrasting temperatures. Don’t miss the pumpkin ice cream with whey caramel and meringue.

The Portland is my top tip for a Michelin starred experience. It’s pulling in lots of plaudits for simple accomplished food, great ingredients and superb service.

Finally if you haven’t already had the Honey & Co experience – you will make lots of new friends, now this is quite a squash. Everyone is super excited to have bagged a table in this darling little restaurant owned and run by Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer where the Middle Eastern food is instantly appealing and the cakes and puddings are the stuff of dreams.

Finally Violet Cakes in East London is another of my favourites, a tiny café and cake shop on Wilton Way, here are some recipes to make at home. Just one more hot tip, it’s worth going to the airport early to grab something to eat at Leon in Terminal 2….well done Allegra McEvedy who said one couldn’t get decent food in an airport!


Avocado, House Smoked Bacon, Poached egg, Coriander and Chilli on Sourdough

Serves 1 for lunch


2 organic eggs

2 slices smoked streaky bacon

1 slice of natural sourdough bread

extra virgin olive oil

1 ripe avocado

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 to ¼ fresh red chilli, sliced

3 coriander sprigs

First poach the eggs. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set and the yolk is still soft and runny.

Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain.

Meanwhile fry the bacon on a hot pan until golden and slightly crisp.

Heat an iron pan grill, chargrill the sourdough on both sides.


To serve.

Put the chargrilled sourdough on a warm plate, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Peel, stone and quarter a ripe avocado. Chop two quarters in half, (three quarters is usually enough for one portion). Lay on the chargrilled sourdough.

Top with two freshly poached eggs and season with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Add a crisscross of two pieces of hot bacon. Sprinkle with thin slices of red chilli to taste.

Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh coriander and serve immediately.


Top Tip:

You can poach the eggs ahead of time and then reheat them briefly in boiling water. Just cook them for a minute less than usual, and then slip them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further.

To reheat the poached eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, draw off the heat and slip the egg back into the water for a minute or two until hot through.


Coconut Milk Porridge with Quince or Persimmon Jam and Raw Cashew Nuts


Serves 2-4


35 g (1½ oz) oatflakes

400 ml (1 can) coconut milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

25 g (1 oz) sugar


Quince Jam

Apple and Rose Geranium Jelly

Cashew nuts, roughly chopped


Put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Serve in a warm bowl with a generous dollop of quince jam or apple jelly and a scattering of roughly chopped cashew nuts over the top


Violet Coconut Macaroons


There is a sublime crispy gooiness to these biscuits that makes them like nothing else on earth. Warning: they are very addictive. Violet is the name of Claire’s bakery and shop on Wilton Way and her stall at Broadway Market, both in Hackney, London


Makes 12

3 free range egg whites

150 g (5 oz) caster sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons honey

150 g (5 oz) desiccated coconut

½ teaspoon vanilla extract, optional



Heat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Combine the egg whites, sugar, salt, honey and coconut in a large pan over a medium heat.

Stir the mixture constantly until everything is dissolved and it just begins to scorch on the bottom.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Let the mixture cool completely, then use an ice cream scoop to scoop out 12 even sized macaroons, and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden and set. Let the macaroons cool completely before peeling off the paper.


Tip: The key to getting these macaroons just right is to stir the ingredients in the pan until they begin to dry out.


LEON Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleb



Claire’s Healthy Granola

You will not believe how good this tastes. It is light and clustery.


Makes 1.5 kg


500g buckwheat flakes

125g (4 1/2oz) whole almonds, skins on

50g (2oz) ground flax seeds

50g (2oz) sesame seeds

50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds

50g (2oz) amaranth

250ml (9fl oz) agave syrup

50ml (2fl oz) olive oil (not extra virgin)

100g (3 1/2oz) coconut oil

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

a grating of fresh nutmeg

a pinch of sea salt

100 g (4 oz) sultanas

50 g (2 oz) desiccated coconut



Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Line two baking trays or roasting tins with parchment paper.

Combine the buckwheat flakes, whole almonds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and amaranth in a large bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the agave syrup, olive oil, coconut oil and water.  Place over a medium heat and whisk constantly to melt it all together.

Remove the syrup mixture from the heat and stir in the vanilla, spices and sea salt.  Pour the syrup over the dry ingredients and stir well to completely coat all the nuts and seeds.

Spread the mixture out on the lined baking trays or roasting tins and bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour.  Remove from the oven, toss well with a metal spatula and return to the oven.  Lower the temperature to 140°C/275°F/Gas Mark 1 and bake for another 35-40 minutes, until the mixture is golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before stirring in the sultanas and desiccated coconut. Store in an airtight container.

Serve with fresh dates and natural yoghurt for a naturally sweet treat.


LEON  Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby


Leon Pecan Pie

A simple, rich, gluten free pecan tart that has become a firm favourite.


Serves 8-10


For the sweet pastry

150 g (5 oz) butter

100 g (3½ oz) caster sugar

1 free range egg, plus 1 yolk

270 g (9¾ oz) gluten free plain flour


For the filling

50 g (2 oz) butter

225 g (8 oz) golden syrup

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1 teaspoon cornflour

2 large free range eggs

200 g (7 oz) pecan nut halves


Cream together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or in a free standing electric mixture until smooth.

Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated. Add the flour and quickly bring it together in a ball. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Butter a 23-25 cm (9-10 inch) fluted flan tin. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to about 3-5 mm thick and line your tart case with it. Trim the edges and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill it with baking beans to stop it shrinking while it’s being baked. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes. The pastry should be a nice blond colour. Set aside to cool.

Put the butter and golden syrup into a medium saucepan over a low heat. When it becomes runny, take it off the heat and whisk in the sugar.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornflour and eggs until smooth then add to the saucepan.

Fill the baked pastry with the pecan halves. Pour the golden syrup mixture on top and fill it up to just below the edge of the case. Put into the oven, taking great care not to spill any liquid over the sides, as this might make it difficult to remove from the tin once it is baked.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tart is a dark golden colour and has slightly risen in the middle. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Serve cold for tea or warm with vanilla ice cream


LEON Baking and Puddings by Claire Ptak and Henry Dimbleby


Hot Tips

Saturday Pizza Masterclass

Philip Dennhardt will teach an exciting half day Pizza Masterclass on Friday 11th March 2016 from 2.30-5.00pm. Philip will take you through all the basics from choosing the right ingredients, making pizza dough, getting the best results from your oven, creating traditional and contemporary toppings….. 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!

Decorating Celebration Cakes

Pamela Black has been a senior tutor at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for many years now and her ultimate culinary passion is cake decoration. On Saturday March 12th Pam will wow you with her culinary magic as she pipes, drizzles and adorns cakes into edible masterpieces. All manner of icings will be covered marzipan, buttercreams, ganaches, glaces…….

From decorating simple birthday cakes to fancy celebration cakes, formal and informal, fun and quirky, Pam is full of innovative ideas.  There will be an opportunity to taste some of the cakes.


Pop Up Dinner

Our Winter 12 Week Certificate students are cooking a Pop-Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Sunday March 13th at 6.30pm for the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.  An aperitif, delicious nibbles and three course dinner. The theme is masquerade/carnival, places are limited.

Tickets €50.00

Booking essential 021 4646785 or



Camilla Plum


At long last I’ve discovered the secret of how to give a totally stress free dinner party. Invite house guests who love to cook and want to cook for you and lots of your friends as a thank you for their stay. Bliss!
My friend Camilla Plum from Copenhagen and her lovely daughter Asta stayed with us recently, Camilla is both a gardener and a cook, in fact a very well-known one and the author of very many successful cook books. She also presents TV programme and cooking shows both on growing and cooking food, a subject on which she is deeply knowledgeable. They live on a small farm about 35 acres called Fuglebjerggaard about an hour north of Copenhagen. It’s an oasis of chic and cool, but more importantly it is a glowing example of the variety and biodiversity that can be produced on a small acerage, with about 200 food crops, orchards, many heirloom varieties of barley for homemade beer and wheat to dry and grind for sourdough bread which is then baked in the woodburning oven.
Camilla also has about 200 sheep; she saves the wool and cures the skins to make the sheepskin rugs we remember. Sadly, nowadays sheep’s wool is worth virtually nothing in this era of synthetic fibres that can be thrown into washing machine without ill effect but Camilla sometimes uses the wool as mulch for her vegetable crops. I’m really looking forward to trying that in the garden this year. She also saves seeds of a wide variety of heirloom vegetables, over 100 types of chilli alone and keen gardeners from far and wide seek her out to find rare and super flavourful food.
Back to the dinner party, Camilla and Asta raided the pantry and winter garden and spent the afternoon chopping and snipping and marinating….when I arrived in from the school, tantalizing smells pervaded the house, the fire was lighting, the table was laid, the candles were lit and there was a veritable feast for all of us to enjoy…can you imagine
Blood Orange and Scallion Salad, Salmon with Chermoula, Date and Green Raisin Chutney, Neck of lamb with Fennel and Yoghurt, Roast Potato wedges with lots of bayleaves, Cherry Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Salad and a big bowl of green salad, Basmati Rice with Almonds and lots of Dill, followed by Apricots with Ginger, Avocado Cream with Dried Rose Petals, Prunes with Tea and Vanilla, Danish Red Berry Compote with Jersey Cream….
The food looked fresh and beautiful and tasted so summery in the midst of our depressing winter weather. Try some of these recipes for yourself.

Hot Tips
Creating a Soft Fruit Garden with Susan Turner
On Monday March 7th 2016, Susan Turner will teach an intensive half day course covering topics such as selecting fruit varieties, designing the fruit garden layout, looking at aspect spacing and plant training structures, creating fans, cordons and bushes with gooseberries, red currants, white currants……and much more. Coffee on arrival and light lunch included.

Wine Tasting in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe
California Wines Tasting in The Grainstore at Ballymaloe House on Wednesday March 9th at 7pm. Tickets for the event are €10 and in-cludes talk, wine tasting and canapés.
Tel 021 4652531 or email

Camilla’s Lamb with Fennel and Yoghurt

We use homemade Jersey yoghurt

Serves 8

7 lamb necks, each cut into 3 ‘chops’ – 3.2 kg
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
1 whole head of garlic, split in half horizontally
1½ tablespoon cumin seeds, slightly crushed
1½ tablespoons coriander seeds, slightly crushed
800 ml (27 fl oz) pots of homemade natural yoghurt
7 fennel bulbs, quartered
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Zest of 3 lemons

Fresh spinach or chard
Toasted whole almonds
100 g (3½ oz) fennel fronds
Lots of fresh mint

In two roasting tins, mix the lamb chops with the chopped onion, garlic and spices. Marinate the lamb necks in the spices, lemon zest and enough olive oil to coat the meat. Sprinkle with two teaspoons of salt and cook uncovered in the preheated oven at 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8. Turn regularly to make sure the spices don’t burn. When the lamb necks are browned, approximately 30 minutes, dollop on half the yoghurt and add the quartered fennel bulbs. Mix it around until everything is coated with the yoghurt. The lamb necks can now fit into one deep roasting tin.
Put about 300 ml/10 fl oz of water in the bottom of a deep roasting tin, add the lamb and fennel. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
When the meat is cooked, about 2½ to 3 hours, remove the lamb and fennel to a serving dish and keep warm. Transfer all of the remaining juices into a pan, degrease and reduce a little if necessary. The sauce should be thickish. Taste and correct seasoning. . Bit by bit, stir in the rest of the yoghurt, pour over the lamb.
Garnish the dish with toasted whole almonds, lots of fennel fronds, fresh mint and serve with fresh chard or spinach.


Chermoula is a wonderfully versatile fresh herb and spicy sauce from Morocco and Tunisia. There are many versions, some include saffron but we love this one which Asta and Camilla Plum cooked for us recently. It’s fantastically versatile, we also slather it over a sptachcock chicken, a shoulder of lamb or even chicken breasts. It uses both the stalks and leaves of coriander.

Makes 1¼ pints

Serves 8-10

One medium fish (2 kg/4½ lb), preferably salmon

280 g (10 oz) bunches of fresh coriander with stalks, chopped
200 ml (7 fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
2 red chillies, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon paprika
Zest of three organic lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
Whole bulb of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

Arrange the fish in a roasting tin, cut deep slashes on each side of the fish.
Whiz the ingredients for the chermoula to a fine paste in a food processor with 200 ml olive oil. Smother the fish in the mixture.
Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3 for about 1 hour 20 to 1 hour 30 minutes or until just cooked.
Serve warm or at room temperature with green salad.

Note: The spices are toasted separately, then ground in mortar and pestle or spice grinder together

Asta’s Compote of Dried Apricots, Ginger and Cardamom

Also gorgeous with chocolate cake or ice cream.

Serves 8 – as a main dessert. If served with something else like cake, the compote will go further

350 g (12 oz) apricots
100 g (4 oz) ginger, finely sliced with peel
Thinly sliced peel of 1 lemon
110 g (4 oz) granulated sugar
275 ml (11 fl oz) sweet white wine (we use Jurançou)
5 cardamom pods
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
Juice of 1 lemon
300 ml (½ pint) water
1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water, depending on strength of orange blossom

1 mild red chilli, sliced, optional

Put the apricots in a saucepan, cover with cold water and leave to soak overnight. Next day, strain the apricots and put in a saucepan with the ginger, lemon peel, sugar, wine, cardamom and enough water to cover. Simmer gently with the saucepan lid on for at least an hour. Remove the lid and gently simmer until the liquid is reduced to a thick syrup, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and orange blossom water. Make sure you don’t break up the apricots while stirring. Garnish with sliced red chilli, if using.
Eat with chocolate cake, ice cream or just whipped cream.

Rødgrød Med Fløde, Red Berry Compote with Cream

A much loved Danish summer classic – this version is super delicious even though we made it with frozen berries.

Serves 8

375 g (13 oz) black currants
250 g (9 oz) white currants
250 g (9 oz) raspberries
375 g (13 oz) red currants
1 teaspoon cornflour
375g – 400 g (13 – 14 oz) white sugar

200 g (7 oz) whole almonds, blanched

The amount of sugar will vary between a ¼ or ½ of the weight of the berries depending on the sourness.

Put all the berries except the raspberries in a heavy bottomed saucepan with 2 cm (1 inch/30 ml) of water, on a high heat, for 3 minutes. Just before they burst, put two tablespoons of the compote into a little bowl, mix with the cornflour until there is a smooth paste. Whisk the paste back into the berries; continue to cook until the mixture thickens slightly, 1-2 minutes. When the berries burst take them off the heat and stir in the sugar and fresh raspberries.
Serve the compote warm in individual glasses or at room temperature with some Jersey cream and a scattering of whole blanched almonds.

Prunes in Tea and Vanilla

Another delicious winter dessert, a terrific stand by to keep in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Serves 8

250 g (9 oz) Agen prunes
1 litre (1¾ pints) of very strong black tea
1 vanilla pod, chopped
Zest of 2 lemons
150g -200 g (5-7 oz) palm sugar, grated

Cover the prunes with tea and allow to soak for several hours or better still overnight. Next day put everything into a saucepan and simmer uncovered for an hour or so. Make sure that the prunes are soft and tender and the liquid is reduced to thick syrup.
Serve smothered in cream.

Leftovers can be mixed with softly whipped cream to make an exquisite fool.


Camilla Plum’s Blood Orange Salad with Scallions and Pomegranate Seeds

Serves 10

10 blood oranges
3 spring onions or scallions
½ pomegranate
fresh fennel tops of 3 bulbs
lots of fresh mint leaves, some whole, some shredded
1 fennel bulb, diced

This makes ¼ pint/5 fl oz of dressing. We used 2 fl oz.

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons orange blossom water, depending on the strength
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Remove the peel and pith of the oranges, slice 6 or 7 oranges thinly and seg-ment from the remainder.

To make the dressing
Mix the olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper, orange blossom water and cider vinegar in a bowl.

Arrange the orange slices and segments in a big plate and drizzle the dressing over.

Cut the spring onions into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices at an angle diagonally. Sprinkle over the salad with the pomegranate seeds, fresh fennel and mint leaves and diced fennel bulb. Toss gently.

Olives, toasted almonds or coarsely chopped pistachio nuts would be a delicious addition.

Mary Jo McMillin

Lovely Mary Jo McMillin from Chicago came to the Ballymaloe Cookery School again recently – Mary Jo has been coming to Ireland for over 30 years.  Her idea of a holiday from her restaurant in Oxford, Ohio was to come into the busy kitchen at Ballymaloe House for a couple of weeks each summer. We all had fun cooking together and learned lots and lots of good things from each other.

In 2008, Mary Jo moved from Ohio to set up a new life near her children and grandchildren in Chicago. It was back to home-cooking and the challenge of making a whole new set of friends in her retirement. What to do? Her children’s friends were all sweet but much younger so Mary Jo joined a church choir brought along some delicious food plus tempting cakes and cookies which blew them all away – had she really cooked all these delicious things herself? Immediately, they’re were requests for big gratin dishes of lasagne, stews, casseroles, apple tarts and praline cakes so within a short time Mary Jo had a new bunch of friends and a thriving catering business. Her plans for retirement were cheerfully put on hold.  Soon she was giving cooking classes in the local kitchen ware shop and that led to invitations to do private cooking classes in people’s houses. So many of the local community, no longer had cooking skills and were overjoyed to be able to learn gorgeous comforting family dishes in an informal environment. In many ways this is fast becoming a similar reality over here.

So at her recent cooking class on a frosty winter’s day here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School she charmed the audience with a range of delicious comforting dishes and a long list of cooking tips gleaned over many years.

Here are some of the favourites

Hot Tips

Cooking for Baby: Natural and Wholesome Food

Everyone wants to feed their babies nourishing and wholesome food but many young mothers are completely confused and bamboozled by endless conflicting advice.  How and when do I start to offer solids….. Many of us lack the understanding to make our own baby food but as a mother of four and grandmother of ten, Darina Allen is happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grandchildren totally without packets, cans or jars!

On Friday 26th February 2016, we will cover everything – choosing the ingredients, recipes, preparation tips, menus, storage, health and nutrition ….  Not only will it save you a small fortune but it will be infinitely better for your baby.

You’ll soon discover that making your own, nourishing baby food is quick, easy and surprisingly good fun. Also, by giving your baby lots of variety you’ll ensure that as they grow up they don’t become fussy eaters.

If you need to bring a child minder with you they are very welcome to take a walk around our gardens free of charge while you are attending the course.

This course is subsidised by the Ballymaloe Cookery School to make it more attractive to young mothers as we feel very strongly that we should all be giving our children the best start in life.


Street Food Revolution

Richard Johnson’s Street Food Revolution provides a fascinating and important read on what’s going on with British food today. Inspired by his travels and his love of street food, Richard tells the story of street vendors across the UK, serving up fresh seasonal edgy food to the locals. Published by Kyle Books


Cooking for a Farmers Market

With the rise of the farmer’s market in Ireland, more and more young entrepreneurs have the chance to make their mark on the food industry without having the considerable start-up costs of a ‘bricks & mortar’ premises. With this in mind, we’ve introduced an exciting two and a half day course to our calendar this year – Cooking for a Farmer’s Market Stall, 6th-8th April 2016. We will cover a range of easy-to-replicate recipes from zingy chutneys and pickles to rich, buttery pâtés, and decadent sweet treats, guaranteed to tempt the most discerning artisan shoppers! or follow the blog


Mary Jo’s Brunch Strata

This is an absolute gem of a recipe, a savoury bread and butter pudding which can utilise all kinds of tasty bits and pieces from your fridge in a totally delicious way. Mary Jo serves it for brunch but it would also make a delicious lunch or light supper dish with a salad  of organic leaves.

Serves 8-10

350g (12oz) good French, Italian or sourdough bread

1 jumbo onion (350g/12oz) peeled and cut in small dice

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) butter

300g (10oz) fresh spinach wilted, drained and chopped

225-350g (8-12oz) fresh mushrooms sliced and sautéed in butter

3 red peppers roasted, peeled and cut in large dice

350-450g (12-16oz) sausage, cooked and diced or crumbled

good handful of fresh parsley, chopped

fresh or dried thyme

350g (12oz/3 cups) grated cheese (Gruyère Cheddar)

6 eggs

450ml (16fl oz/2 cups) whole milk

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) heavy cream

salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg, pinch of cayenne


Cut the bread into large dice, about ½ inch (1 cm). Include crusts unless scorched. (Measures about 9 cups.)

Melt the butter in a small heavy, sauté pan and sweat onion over a low heat. Add the chopped garlic to the top of the onion and cover with butter wrappers or a parchment circle. The onion and garlic should not brown but will lightly colour, melt into softness and reduce by half. Allow 20-30 minutes to cook the onion.

Combine the cooked onion, garlic, drained, squeezed and chopped spinach, sautéed mushrooms, cooked sausage, parsley and thyme. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. The vegetable/sausage mixture should weigh at least 1.1kg (2 1/2 lbs).

Beat the eggs in a large bowl; add the cream, milk and season well with salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of cayenne.

Generously butter a 39 cm x 27 cm x 6 cm oval baking dish or two 21cm x 21cm x 6cm square baking dishes.

Pour half of the egg milk mixture over the diced bread.  Spread half of the moistened bread with a slotted spoon and spread it over the bottom of the baking dish. Distribute 2/3 of the vegetable mix over the bread and top with 2/3 of the grated cheese. Add the second half of the moistened bread over the vegetables and sausage.  Pat everything firmly in place with your clean hands. Pour the remaining milk and egg mixture evenly over the casserole and sprinkle over the remaining cheese. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking if possible. Bake the Strata in a 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 oven for 45-50 minutes or until puffed and golden. Allow to rest at room temperature 15 minutes before cutting.



Chicken Masala

Serves 6


1.6kg (3 1/2 lbs) whole chicken, cut-up, or 1.1kg (2 1/2 lbs) chicken legs and thighs

3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) vegetable oil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons/2 American tablespoons butter plus oil)

1 x 7.5cm (3 inch) coiled stick Ceylon cinnamon or 1 regular cinnamon stick

5 whole cloves

3 whole green cardamoms

2 large onions (1 1/4 lbs.) thinly sliced (4-5 cups)

50g (2oz) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (1/2 cup)

25g (1oz) garlic, peeled and sliced (6-8 cloves, 1/4 cup)​​

2 green chilies (cayenne or Serrano), seeds intact, 1 sliced, 2 whole generous

teaspoon salt

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (see recipe)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) curry powder (optional)

1 x 425g (14 1/2oz) tin good quality canned tomatoes or 450g (1lb) fresh tomatoes in season, peeled, seeded and chopped

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) tomato paste (optional)

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) water

fresh lime juice and coriander (cilantro)


Pull off as much skin as possible from the chicken, trim any excess fat, pat dry with paper towels, and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight or leave 1/2 hour at room temperature.

Heat 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) oil (or 1 1/2 tablespoons/2 American tablespoons each butter and oil) in an enamelled casserole or heavy stewing pot; add the whole spices and sliced onion. Sauté gently for 30-40 minutes or until the onions have reduced to a deep golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the crushed “green spices” and measure all the dry spices into a small cup.

Plan to grind 1 chilli with the ginger and garlic; cook the other chilli whole in the curry and remove when the sauce reaches desired point of heat.

To grind the green spices in a mortar, begin with one sliced chilli and a pinch of salt. When the chilli is mashed to a paste, add 1/2 the ginger and another pinch of salt. Continue with the remaining ginger, and finally add the garlic. Crush thoroughly, pounding and grinding against the stone to produce 75g (3oz/1/2 cup) ginger mash.

To grind the green spices in a blender, place chopped ginger, garlic and chilli in a blender jar; add 50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) of water and pulse to a smooth puree.

When the onions have reduced and browned, add the ginger mash and continue to sauté, stirring constantly, until seasonings smell cooked and any water has evaporated. Sprinkle in the mixed dry spices and continue stirring until the mixture is delightfully fragrant. At this point the seasoning base will have reduced to a dark lump smaller than a baseball. Gradually blend in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Add 1 whole chilli if desired. Simmer the sauce, covered for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, lightly brown the chicken pieces in 3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) oil and add to the sauce in the casserole. Pour the fat off from the frying pan, deglaze with water and add to the curry. Take care to place dark meat on the bottom and breast pieces on top, since white meat will cook faster and will need to be removed before the dark meat is ready. (This step is optional. Many cooks add raw chicken to the prepared curry sauce for cooking; however, the effort of browning will add depth of flavour to the finished dish.)  Cover and bake in moderate oven, or simmer on the stovetop. Breast meat will be ready in 20-30 minutes; dark meat will take 45-50 minutes.

When the chicken is tender, skim excess fat if necessary and taste sauce for seasoning, adding fresh lemon or lime juice and a generous amount of chopped coriander (cilantro).

Note: For a typical variation, simmer 1 large peeled, diced potato along with chicken, and just before serving, sprinkle in 130g (4 3/4oz/1 cup) frozen peas.


Garam Masala

Store in an airtight jar and use within a couple of weeks.


Makes scant 25g (1oz)

1 small nutmeg, broken with side of chef’s knife

1 tablespoon (1 1/2 American tablespoons) whole green cardamom, including husk

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) crumbled Ceylon cinnamon or 1 broken cinnamon stick

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) whole cloves

1/4 tablespoon (1/2 American tablespoon) black peppercorns


Roast the spices in a dry iron skillet until fragrant. Cool slightly and grind to a powder in a spice grinder, sift and store in a small jar with a tight fitting lid.

Top Tip:  To clean a spice grinder, add a handful of white rice, grind and discard the rice. Do not try to wash a spice grinder. An electric coffee mill makes an excellent spice grinder.


Cucumber Raita

Delicious with chicken masala or lentil and rice pilaff


1 cucumber (at least 300-350g/10-12oz) or 1/2 large seedless cucumber

1/2 teaspoon salt

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) plain whole milk yogurt, preferably homemade

1 clove garlic mashed with a little salt

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) chopped green onion

1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) chopped cilantro or fresh mint, dill and parsley

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped green chilli, seeds intact (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

sprinkle of ground cumin

diced fresh tomato in season (optional)


Peel the cucumber, scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. (Leave the centre intact if using seedless cucumber.) Cut into small dice. Place the diced cucumber in a bowl; toss with salt and allow to stand 20-30 minutes. Rinse lightly under water; shake dry in a sieve, then place drained cucumber in a tea towel and twist to squeeze out most of water. Squeezed cucumber will be crisp, transparent and half its original volume.

Mix the garlic, onion, herbs and optional chilli into the yogurt. Fold in the cucumber. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in a serving bowl and dust the top with ground cumin. Garnish with more coriander (cilantro) and optional tomato.


Mary Jo’s Rice and Lentil Pilaf

This recipe was also a revelation; the rice is cooked in water rather than stock and had a rich and complex flavour because of all the additions. Mary Jo serves it as an accompaniment to  the chicken masala but I would also enjoy it as a vegetarian dish on its own with a nice dollop of raita.


Serves 15-20


50g (2oz/1/2 stick) butter

2 1/2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) olive or vegetable oil

large cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

350g (12oz) onion diced

3 carrots diced small

1 1/2 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons) chopped julienned ginger

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

21oz (3 cups) Basmati rice, washed and drained

100g (3½oz) cooked Puy or brown lentils, cooked and drained (optional)

25oz (3 cups) water


In a 5 litre heavy saucepan with a tight fitting lid, heat the cinnamon and coriander in butter and oil until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté covered with butter wrappers or parchment until tender. Add the carrots, spices and sauté until fragrant. Stir in the rice and salt to coat with the spiced base. Add water and cooked lentils.  Stir, cover and cook for about 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Allow to stand for 15 minutes before fluffing with a fork.

This pilaf reheats well in a covered casserole or Pyrex baking dish


Mary Jo’s French Apple Tart

Mary Jo showed us such a brilliant technique to make a stunningly professional looking French Apple Tart – there’s no sugar in the pastry because the tart will be cooked at a high temperature.


Serves 8


250g (9oz) shortcrust pastry (see recipe)

800-900g (1 3/4 – 2lbs) tart cooking Bramley apples

sprinkling of flour

60g (2 1/2oz/1/3 cup) sugar

3/4 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon) butter

3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) apricot glaze

Tart Tin – 1 x 23 cm (9 inch) tart tin


Pie Crust

The pastry quantity below is enough to make three tarts. Left over pastry can be frozen for another time.

450g (llb/3 1/2 cups) plain flour

l 1/4 teaspoon salt (1 teaspoon if using salted butter)

250g (9oz/2 1/4 sticks) cold butter or 225g (8oz/2 sticks) butter plus 25g (1oz/1/4 stick) lard

150ml (5fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) ice water

To make pastry in food processor: place the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the cold butter and lard and cut in 1/2-inch cubes or slices. Pulse 3 times to break up the butter into flakes. With the processor running, pour in the ice water in a slow stream through the feed tube. Stop the processor as soon as the pastry rolls into a ball. Remove the ball of dough from the bowl; shape into 15cm (6 inch) log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate (makes scant 2lbs/30oz pie crust).

To roll a shell: shape 300g (10oz) chilled pastry (one-third of batch) into a 10cm (4 inch) disk. Dust with flour and roll on a smooth, clean surface, giving the dough a quarter turn with each rolling to maintain a circle. Roll to a generous 33cm (12 inch) circle; brush off any excess flour. Fold in quarters; unfold onto the inside of the quiche tin. Press the pastry firmly into bottom edge of the tin. Use a scissors to trim the dough to an even 1cm (1/2 inch) overhang. Tuck the overhang inside the pastry edge, pressing firmly. Crimp or flute the top edge. Chill the pastry shell for at least 30 minutes before baking. Chilling relaxes the gluten in the flour and prevents shrinkage and cracking. In haste, the tart shell may be chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes. Next prepare the apples.

Peel the apples, swivel out the stem and blossom the ends with a paring knife, cut in half, and remove the cores with a teaspoon or melon baller.  Place the apple halves cut-side down on  wooden board. Cut a thin slice from both the stem and blossom ends. Coarsely chop cut-off the slices and set aside. Hold each apple half between the thumb and first finger; cut halves into 8 – 9 x 5mm (1/4 inch) slices. Cut through but keep the slices together.

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

Dust the chilled pastry shell bottom with flour. Sprinkle over the chopped apple bits. Place the sliced apple halves snugly around the tart shell and in the center. Cut any leftover slices in half and tuck into any spaces.  Sprinkle the apples with sugar and dot with butter. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until the pastry is richly colored and the apples are brown-tinged and tender. Remove the tart from the oven and use the back of a spoon to carefully fan the cooked apple slices into a circle. Brush or spoon over the warm apricot glaze while tart is hot (see recipe below). Cool on wire rack.

Note: To prepare apricot glaze, simmer the apricot jam until it has consistency of melted jelly. If jam has chunks of fruit, it will need to be strained. If jam is too sweet, sharpen with lemon juice.

Valentine’s Day

Not sure how many Valentine’s Day articles I’ve written but I’m an incurable romantic so here we go again. While the teenagers and 20 something’s are all testosterone charged and a dither, each and everyone of us need to keep romance alive in our everyday lives and it’s so worth the little effort it takes, yes little….it could be – your last Rolo or some teenie treat that our dear one loves. A little tiny unexpected surprise can make your heart skip because it’s meant to.

I don’t know any ‘lady’ of any age who isn’t charmed by a bunch of flowers or even a little cyclamen or polyanthus, particularly when it comes out of the blue. Of course Valentine’s Day is associated with roses but how predictable is that and there are another 364 days in the year when you may well get an even more delighted reaction and set their heart a flutter. Remember it doesn’t have to be a special occasion to come up with a little surprise which says “hey- thought you’d love them so I picked it up specially for you”.

If you are hell bent on bringing on a proposal then you might want to take to the kitchen – the way to everyone’s heart and all that.

Nothing quite like gorgeous cooking smells for someone to visualise their life stretching out ahead of them and how enticing it would be come home to those aromas every evening!!

Well now if are moved to rattle the pots and pans – one could of course cook an entire supper or a candlelit dinner but here are recipes for a few thoroughly unsubtle heart shaped creations.


Hot Tips

Coeur de Neuschatel

On the Pigs Back in the English Market, Cork have a beautiful heart shaped, camembert style cheese from Normandy now in stock. Tel: 021 427 0232

Ballymaloe Cookery School Alumni

Check out Jack Kirwan’s Sprout Kitchen the ‘go to’ juice and smoothie bar at 63 Dawson Street, Dublin.  There’s also his Pop Up juice bar at the Avoca shops in Kilmacanogue , Bray and Suffolk Street in Dublin.  A delicious range of fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and health shots …..

Small Plate Ideas

The hottest food trend at present also happens to be my favourite way to eat.  I often find myself ordering a selection of starters instead of an entrée or main course. This enduring trend coincides with our love affair with snacking and allows the diner to mix and match as they please. An appetiser can be a starter; a trio of little plates can make up a meal and provide the opportunity to try lots of dishes on the menu, something new and tempting, or even something scary that one may not have ordered before.  Small plates are also perfect for those who may have a concern about the price point without the potential of a wallet busting experience.

On Friday 19th February 2016 at the Ballymaloe Cookery School you will be inspired by a whole range of multi ethnic dishes and lots of hot new ideas for small plates meant for sharing.

Traditional Roast Stuffed Organic Chicken with Fresh Herb Stuffing and Gravy

Serves 6

4 1/2- 5 lbs (1.5 – 2.3kg) free range chicken, preferably organic


Giblet Stock

Giblets (keep the liver for a chicken liver pate), and wish bone

1 thickly sliced carrot

1 thickly sliced onion

1 stick celery, sliced

a few parsley stalks and a sprig of thyme



1 1/2oz (45g/1/3 stick) butter

3oz (75g) chopped onion

3-3 1/2oz (75-100g/1 1/2-1 3/4 cups) soft white breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) finely chopped fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives and annual marjoram

salt and freshly ground pepper

a little soft butter



1 – 1 1/2 pints (600-900ml/2 1/2 – 3 3/4 cups) of stock from giblets or chicken stock



sprigs of flat parsley


First remove the wish bone from the neck end of the chicken, this is easily done by lifting back the loose neck, skin and cutting around the wish bone with a small knife – tug to remove, this isn’t at all essential but it does make carving much easier later on. Tuck the wing tips underneath the chicken to make a neat shape. Put the wish bone, giblets, carrot, onions, celery and herbs into a saucepan. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, skin and simmer gently while the chicken is roasting.  This is the basis of the gravy.

Next make the stuffing, sweat the onions gently in the butter in a covered saucepan until soft, 10 minutes approx. then stir in the white bread crumbs, the freshly chopped herbs, a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold unless you are going to cook the chicken immediately. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half fill with stuffing. Season the breast and legs, smear with a little soft butter.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Weight the chicken and allow about 20 minutes to the lb and 20 minutes over – put on middle shelf in oven. Baste a couple of times during the cooking with the buttery juices. The chicken is done when the juices are running clear.

To test prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh, hold a spoon underneath to collect the liquid, examine the juices – they should be clear.

Remove the chicken to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy, tilt the roasting tin to one corner and spoon off the surplus fat from the juices and return the roasting pan to the stove. De-glaze the pan juices with the fat free stock from the giblets and bones (you will need 1-1 1/2 pints depending on the size of the chicken). Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelized meat juices in the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like (the gravy should not be thick). Taste and correct seasoning, serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible serve the chicken on a nice carving dish surrounded by crispy roast potatoes and some sprigs of flat parsley then arm yourself with a sharp knife and bring it to the table. Carve as best you can and ignore rude remarks if you are still practicing but do try to organise it so that each person gets some brown and some white meat. Serve with gravy and bread sauce.

Use the cooked carcass for stock.


Roasted Potatoes

There are two kinds of roast potatoes – those cooked on their own and those cooked around the joint of meat. The latter cook more slowly, don’t look quite so perfect but have a delicious soggy bottom rich with the flavour of the roast meat juices.

Old potatoes eg. Golden Wonder, Kerrs Pinks or Skerry Champions



Peel the potatoes, if they are enormous cut in half or quarters, – don’t attempt to wash or worse still soak them in water or they will be wet and soapy when cooked. If you must prepare them ahead then put them into a bowl lined with damp kitchen paper. Cover the top with more wet paper and store in the fridge, they will keep perfectly well this way for several hours. Dry well otherwise they will stick to the tin and you’ll loose the lovely crusty bit on the base.

Tuck the potatoes around the roast in the roasting tin, toss them in the rendered fat, sprinkle with salt, baste and turn occasionally as they cook – they will take about an hour depending on the size. Cook lots and serve very hot.


Chocolate Fudge Pudding

Chocolate puddings run neck and neck with apple tarts as people’s favourite dessert.  This one is wickedly rich with a melting texture. It should be moist in the centre, so don’t overcook or it or it will be dull. It is also good cold.

Serves 6-8

5oz (150g) best quality chocolate  (we use 52%)

5oz (150g/1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

5fl oz (150ml/generous 1/2 cup) warm water

3 1/2ozs (100g/scant 1/2 cup) castor sugar

4 eggs, preferably free range

1oz (25g/scant 1/4 cup) self-raising flour

pinch of cream of tartar – Bextarter


To Serve

softly whipped cream  or crème fraiche

Pie dish, 2 pint (1.1L/5 cup) capacity, well greased with a little butter, or 7 individual 3- inch (7.5cm) ramekins

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Cut up the chocolate into small pieces and melt with the butter in a very low oven or in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water.  As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat and add the pure vanilla extract, then stir in the warm water and the castor sugar. Continue to mix until the mixture is smooth. Separate the eggs, whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the sieved flour making sure there are no lumps. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl with a pinch of cream of tartar until it reaches stiff peaks; fold gently into the chocolate mixture and pour into the greased pie dish.

Put the pie dish into a bain-marie of hot water and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 160°C\325°F\Gas Mark 3 for a further 15-20 minutes.* It

should be firm on top but still soft and fudgy underneath. Cool a little and dredge with icing sugar.  Serve warm or cold with softly whipped cream or crème fraiche.

*Individual dishes take 8-12 minutes (depending on the size of the ramekins) approx. at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.



Chocolate fudge pudding is also delicious cooked in a Kilner Jar (7.5cm/3 inches diameter) – cook in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 12 minutes.


Best Ever Valentine’s Day Apple Pie

Everyone’s favourite pudding – the pastry is made by the creaming method, so people who suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8–12



225g (8oz) butter

55g (2oz) caster sugar

2 eggs, free-range if possible

340g (12oz) plain flour, preferably unbleached



675g (1½lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

140g (5oz) sugar

2–3 cloves

egg wash

caster sugar, for sprinkling


To serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

30 x 18cm (12 x 7in) roasting tin

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

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer. Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart, first roll out the pastry to about 3mm (1/8in) thick and use about two-thirds of it to line your tin. Peel, quarter and slice the apples into the tart. Sprinkle with sugar and add the cloves. Cover with a lid of the remaining pastry, seal the edges and decorate with pastry leaves. Brush with egg wash and bake in the oven until the apples are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.



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