Sustainable Food

The word sustainable is quite the buzzword nowadays, endlessly bandied about in conversations about climate change, food security, the state of the oceans, farming and food but what exactly do we mean by sustainable food….and where can we source it?

Food is unquestionably the crucial issue of our time. Some forms of food production are a major contributor to climate change, responsible for 1/5 of all global carbon emissions.

It’s a key driver of resource depletion, species and bio diversity loss. Food production slurps up 70% of all fresh water.

At present, the priority in agribusiness is rarely to produce healthy wholesome food to nourish the nation, more often the primary focus is to produce the maximum amount of food at the minimum cost with maximum profit to the processor and retailer but rarely the primary producer.

Consequently, one in nine go hungry at a time in history when over 2 billion people are obese and half of all the food produced is wasted – an estimated 10 million tons….

Almost 2 million tons never even make it to the market as a result of the demands of supermarkets for uniformity and cheap food. That’s bad enough but it’s even more shocking to learn that 7 million tons are wasted in our homes. We appear to have far less regard or respect for food when it’s cheap. Easy come easy go in the rich world….whereas the poor count every grain of rice….

There are many reasons for these statistics, industrialisation has resulted in cheap food – ultra processed, convenient, time saving….but at considerable cost in health, socio economic and environmental terms.

The reality is that unless we are engaged in farming or food production, we have little understanding of the work that goes into growing or producing food. To many, it comes as quite a shock to realise that it takes at least three months to grow carrots, beets, or broccoli. Ask yourself, how can they possibly be sold for less than €1.00 a bunch? The answer is, it’s not possible to produce nourishing, wholesome, chemical free food for the price the farmers are being paid at present, We now imagine that cheap food is our right… a major problem, unrealistic and totally unsustainable yet everyone needs and deserves healthy wholesome food….

 Perhaps it’s wishful thinking but I really feel there’s a shift in consciousness.  Could it be that we are on the cusp of change ? Some millennials, at least seem more interested and prepared to spend a greater proportion of their income on healthy produce and are beginning to grow some of their own food….

But, how to create a sustainable food system….,it’s abundantly clear that business as usual is no longer an option….. Farmers are doing their best to respond and move to sustainable farming systems but a paradigm shift in thinking and methodology is required. They urgently need both financial support and knowledgeable advice…… Brussels and DAF urgently need to dramatically increase independent research into organic food production and regenerative farming methods which already tick all the boxes for both sustainable and healthy food production.

The current debate on what we should and should not eat and the trend towards veganism has further added to the confusion. Neither the FAO or Lancet Reports differentiated between organic, free range and intensively managed livestock and  poultry  which needs to be phased out. It is clear that we urgently need to replace farming systems that have destroyed the fertility of the soil since the post war period, rebuild biodiversity and create conditions to bring nature in the form of birds, wild life and pollinating insects back onto farms. We need to re-embrace mixed farming systems…..ruminants are the only animals that can turn cellulose into something we can eat and are essential for fertility building and a healthy diet.

Farmers, who want to move towards sustainable food production systems, will produce healthy, free range chicken, juicy and flavourful and free of chemical residues. These chickens will cost considerably more to produce  so inevitably chicken will become an occasional treat rather than the cheap commodity it is today…. Pork too will need to come from pigs that root outdoors and are fed on whey and antibiotic free food, delicious, tasty meat that we can, once again consume with a clear conscience, without worrying about animal welfare issues.

 In the UK, 50% of pigs are reared outdoors compared with 1% over here.

The reality is, if we don’t change our food production system we won’t have a planet that’s fit for our children and grandchildren to live on.

Education is a crucial part of the solution. Practical cooking must be a CORE subject in the national curriculum – it’s an essential life skill which no child should be allowed to leave school without being proficient in. At present our educational system is failing our young people in this area, it is not enabling our kids to make sense of the world they find themselves in or equipping them with the information – they need to know what to do about it. Education can change habits and attitude to food… It’s an uphill battle now but an urgent and essential consideration for the survival of the planet.

Everyone agrees we are in the midst of a crisis, so how can we be part of the solution? Each and every one of us can make a difference depending on how we decide to spend out food euros. Shop mindfully – seek out and buy food from farmers and food producers who are farming sustainably in a way that enriches rather than diminishes the fertility of the soil. Grow some of your own food and pass on your growing skills to your children and their friends.

Buy seasonal food directly from the producers at Farmers Markets. Join an organic vegetable box scheme.

Buy meat and poultry direct from the growing number of small farmers who are selling boxes of well hung, heritage breed beef, lamb and poultry. For contacts

 It doesn’t occur to most people to use the inexpensive humble cabbage for soup, yet of all the soups we make, the flavour of cabbage soup surprises many – it is unexpectedly delicious.  We use Greyhound or Hispi cabbage but crinkly Savoy cabbage works brilliantly later in the year.

Spring Cabbage Soup  

Serves 6

115g onions, chopped

130g potatoes, peeled and diced

250g spring cabbage leaves, shredded and chopped (stalks removed, grate stalks for coleslaw)

55g butter

Salt and freshly ground pepper

850ml light chicken stock

50-125ml cream or creamy milk

Chorizo crumbs or Gremolata (optional for serving)

First prepare all the vegetables, then melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a cartouche and the lid of the saucepan, sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes until soft but not coloured.. Add the hot stock and boil until the potatoes are tender.  Add the cabbage and cook uncovered until the cabbage is just cooked – a matter of 4 or 5 minutes. Keep the lid off to preserve the bright green colour. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both their fresh flavour and colour.

Puree the soup in a liquidiser or blender. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the cream or creamy milk before serving.  Serve alone or with sprinkling of chorizo crumbs or gremolata over the top (optionl).

If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling will spoil the colour and flavour.

Here again, one has the option of serving a chunky version of the Spring Cabbage Soup.


Freezes perfectly for 2-3 months, but use sooner rather than later.

 Wild Garlic Tortillitas à la Patata

Sam and Jeannie Chesterton of Finca Buenvino in Andalucia, introduced me to this little gem.  I keep wondering why it never occurred to me before, they are so easy to make and completely addictive – kids also love them and they make perfect little starter snack or bites to nibble with a drink. If you don’t have wild garlic, a mixture of chives and parsley is also delicious.

Makes 26 (Serves 5 – 6)

4 eggs, free range and organic

225g cooked potatoes in 5mm dice

3 tablespoons finely chopped wild garlic

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Aoili (see recipe)

Extra virgin olive oil for frying, you will need about 5mm in the frying pan.

Maldon Sea salt for sprinkling.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the potato dice, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the freshly chopped wild garlic.

Heat about 5mm extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.

Correct if necessary.  

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

Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and wild garlic flowers if you have them.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of Aioli.  

Wild Garlic Aoili

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

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

2 tablespoons of freshly chopped wild garlic leaves  Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, garlic salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil

Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis, London

Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis inLondonrolled into the town last week and gave a hilarious 1 day course here at the Ballymaloe Cooker School. Jeremy is tall, 6 ft. something with large horn rimmed glasses, a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous sense of humour.  His class was interspersed with scholarly  quips and the food was completely delicious.

Jeremy has an impressive pedigree, he cooked with Alastair Little, launched Euphorium in Islington and more recently spent 18 years as head chef at the much loved  Blueprint Café overlooking Tower Bridge – ‘Lifers get less’ he joked but he loved every second before he was head hunted by the Hart Brothers to head up their revamped Quo Vadis restaurant and club in Dean Street in Soho.

Jeremy, is a master of his craft. He doesn’t fiddle around with concepts or gimmicks. Not for him unnecessary ‘gewgaws’ on the plate, –  there’s neer a foam, gel or streak of reduced balsamic vinegar in sight. Rather his food has the comforting timeless quality of classic Anglo French cooking with shades of Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David. He sources his primary materials with care and discrimination and treats them with a rare respect.

His smoked eel and horseradish sandwich on grilled sourdough bread is now legendary, “sweet, a little smoky, sour and a concentrated horseradish cream that bit my nose off!”, wrote an appreciative customer.

Slow cooked Belly of Middlewhite pork served in various guises is another of Jeremy’s favourite and he shared one version with us.

People also rave about his puddings, his divine Chocolate St Emilion tart, dark chocolate mousse with crushed macaroons was inspired by an Elizabeth David classic of the 60’s French Provincial cooking. As we settle into Autumn there are lots of steamed puddings.

No sooner had he arrived at theBallymaloeCookerySchoolthan he was bouncing around the vegetable and herb garden with glee, chuckling with delight at the end of Summer produce in the greenhouses. He doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’. We wished he could have stayed for a week but his restaurant in London Theatreland beckoned and he had to get back to his own stove next day.

Jeremy’s menu changes every day and some dishes twice a day which generates excitement for both the chefs in the kitchen and the restaurant clientele. By the way Quo Vadis is the perfect place to have a pre theatre supper inLondonbut of course not to be missed for a more leisurely lunch or dinner either, you’ll need to look ahead.

Here are just a few of the dishes we enjoyed from his course




Salt Cod, Artichoke, Potato, Mint & Caper Salad

To feed 6 trenchermen.


800 g (1 lb 12 oz)  soft white salt cod, very well soaked, removed of much salt( I confess to only buying from Brindisa!!)

A small onion

A sprig of thyme

2 sticks of celery

6 small artichokes, cooked in white wine, olive oil & herbs

6 potatoes, cooked in their skins then peeled

A soupspoon of salted capers, very well washed and drained

A small handful of mint leaves

A small bunch of sturdy salad leaves

8 tablespoons of good olive oil

A lemon, juiced


Peel and chop the onion into large pieces along with the celery. Put these into a large pot along with the pieces of washed cod and the thyme. Pour in enough cold water until just covering the fish and vegetables. Place a disc of greaseproof paper over the surface. Bring this to a gentle simmer and let cook for 10 or so minutes until cooked, having a care not to over cook. Put the whole pan to one side and let cool.


Take a handsome great plate and on this lay the salad leaves. Take a wide bowl and sit alongside a chopping board. Slice the peeled potatoes and tip into the bowl. Likewise the artichokes and then the capers.


Lift the cooled cod from the pot and carefully remove all skin and bone from the flesh, keeping the flakes as large as possible. Place these in the bowl. Add in the mint leaves, spoon over the olive oil and lemon juice. Grind some pepper on top. Mix very gently, then heap upon the salad leaves.


Warm Salad of Pork Belly, Fennel and Herbs   


Serves 6-8


A pork belly, approx 2-3kg (4½ lb – 63/4 lbs) in weight

1 tablespoons of fennel seed

4 cloves of garlic

A half teaspoon of freshly milled pepper

3 heads of fennel

2 medium sized onions

A lemon

6 tablespoons of olive oil

6 tablespoons of white wine


A couple of handfuls of boiled, peeled potatoes

A few bunches of watercress or a lovely green leaf


Warm the oven to 240°C/450°F/gas mark 8.


Peel the onions and chop into large pieces along with the fennel and the lemon. Toss this with the garlic cloves and the chilli and lay in a roasting tray large enough to just hold the piece of pork belly.

Score the skin of the belly.

Pound the fennel seeds and pepper until ground. Rub this into the pork.

Sit the belly on the vegetables. Pour the wine over and then the olive oil.

Bake the pork in the oven for ten minutes or so until it darkens and the crackle begins to form. Cover the tray with tin foil, securely and lower the heat to about 120°C/230°F/gas mark ¼ and let cook gently. This can be overnight in an even gentler oven or for a minimum of 8 hours.

Come the time to serve, place the pork on a board and cut into coarse pieces. Decant the vegetables onto a handsome dish from the roasting tray. Strew the leaves around and then the potatoes then tumble the pork over this, then any crackling that may still be on the board. Spoon over any residual juices.


Ps………a thought, there is a happy moment that you may add lovely things that may suggest themselves from the garden such as herbs and any rogue vegetables such as beetroots, carrots beans, mint and or parsley.



A Warm Salad of Clams, Mussels and Squid


So simple and lovely a dish, clams appearing in our fish merchants with heartening regularity and requiring little more than washing well to rid them of grit, their cooking being little, not unlike mussels.


To serve 4


6 razor clams

6 handfuls of surf clams and/or palourdes

6 handfuls of mussels

400g (14 oz) squid, cleaned by an obliging fishmonger

50cl of white wine

2 small onions

50g (2 oz) unsalted butter

A clove of garlic, peeled and chopped very fine

A handful of flat leaf parsley

A lemon



In a pot, melt the butter gently. Peel and finely chop the onions and add to the pot and let cook gently until softened without colour, say 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile, beard the mussels, pulling away the little black tuft to be found where the shells are clamped tightly shut. The shells that remain open should be discarded. Set the mussels in a vessel under cold running water for at least 20 minutes. Place the clams in a bowl and do likewise.

Slit the squids lengthwise and rinse under the tap to wash away any grit therein. Use a sharp little knife to score the squid all over and then cut into little strips about 3 cms long.


Drain all the shellfish from their waterfall. Tip the mussels into the pot along  with the white wine, up the heat to a boil and cover with a lid. When the mussels have steamed open after about 4-5 minutes, remove from the pan and tip in the clams. They will cook in 3-4 minutes then need removing also, to be replaced by the razor clams, these requiring but 3-4 minutes also to steam open. Remove the razor clams to a chopping aboard. Pull the clams from the shells and cut away the dark grey that is the stomach roughly in the middle of the length of the clam. Lightly wash the clams free of any grit. Chop the razor clams into quite thin slices. Cut the lemon in two then squeeze into the pot with the remaining cooking liquor. Chop the parsley fine and likewise add to the pot. Add several grinds of the pepper mill and stir well.


Heat a frying pan. Dress the squid in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a small handful of squid to the hot pan and fry for a minute or two only. Tip into the pot. Wipe the pan then repeat the process until all the squid is cooked. Lay all the clams and mussels on a handsome dish, strew the razor clams over shellfish then spoon over the squid and the dressing from the pan. A few spoonfuls of good olive oil spooned over is a lovely addition at this point.


Walnut Pie



250g (9 oz) plain flour

150g(5 oz) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 large egg

1 dessertspoon cold water


250g (9 oz) dark muscavado sugar

250g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened

6 eggs

Juice & rind of 2 lemons

100g (3½ oz) golden syrup

80g (3½ oz) maple syrup

500g (18 oz) best walnuts, coarsely chopped+


Tart Tin 30 cm (12 inch)


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


Make the pastry in the time honoured tradition and let rest at least 2 hours or overnight which is always best.


Line a 30cm deep tart case, with a removable bottom, with the pastry. Rest in the fridge for half an hour then blind bake for 20 minutes or so until set and quite dried but not well coloured.

Beat the butter with the sugar until creamy. Crack the eggs into a jug and beat well. Pour the eggs slowly into the eggs and sugar, very slowly. Warm the syrup slightly and then pour gently onto the eggs, butter & sugar. Fold in the walnuts with the lemon zest and juice. Tip the batter into the tart case and bake for 45 minutes until bronzed and lightly cracked at the edges.



There’s a frenzy of baking going on around the country – the revival of interest has been further whipped up by the ICA, TV series ‘The Great British Bake Off’, and Rachel’s Allen’s ‘Cake’ programme which really takes the mystery out of baking.  Millions tuned into watch the ‘The Great British Bake Off’ – it’s become a national phenomenon.  Baking equipment is flying off the shelves in kitchen shops as people in both islands rediscover the joy of home baking.

People who have never whipped up a bun or cupcake in their entire lives are rapidly gaining the confidence to produce gorgeous cakes and tortes.

Baking is all about confidence and accurate recipes.  As ever one needs to start with good quality ingredients.  Use good Irish butter rather than margarine or any of those other spreads.  Butter is a shortcut to flavour, pure natural and better for us.  If one puts time and effort into making something it might as well be delicious.  It’s also worth remembering that baking is an exact science so it’s really important to have an accurate scales and to measure each ingredient carefully. Chucking in fists of this and that may accidently produce a brilliant confection but more often than not the result is more likely to disappoint.

If you’ve never baked a thing in your life, start with something easy like a tray bake that merely needs to be stirred and baked, like flapjacks.

ICA members have been perfecting and sharing recipes since 1910 when the association was founded to improve the standard of life in rural Ireland through education and co-operation effort.  They feel very strongly as I do that ‘in today’s busy modern lives, the importance of a family meal cannot be overstated.   It is around the family table that we learn so much about our values, where we right the wrongs of the day and discuss our problems and hopes for the future’.


Cake is Rachel’s ninth book, her fail-safe easy to follow recipes thoughtful tips and down to earth advice have won her a myriad of fans over a few short years.  Her new book ‘Cake’ had me really licking my lips – there really are cakes for every occasion, plus cake pops, beetroot brownies, white chocolate anniversary cake and banoffee blondies.


There are a ton of new baking books but here I include recipes from Rachel Allen’s ‘Cake’ published by Harper Collins and Aoife Carrigy’s ‘The Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cookbook’ published by Gill & Macmillan both of which are carefully tested and will produce pleasing presents.





Madeleines are the quintessential delicate treat. The airy batter is baked in the traditional shell- shaped moulds to make a cake that is just crisp on the outside and elegantly light in the middle. This recipe is quick and easy to make, but there are many twists you can give to this recipe which are all delicious variations on a classic theme which are available in Rachel’s ‘Cake’ book.


Makes 12 madeleines


1 egg

50g (2oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

50g (2oz) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract icing sugar, for dusting

12-hole madeleine tray


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


Brush a little melted butter over the madeleine moulds (making sure to coat every ridge) and dust a little flour into each one, tapping out any excess.

Place the egg and sugar in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Using a hand-held electric beater or the food mixer with its whisk attachment, whisk on a high speed for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale, thick and mousse-like and has grown almost three times in volume.


Sift the flour and baking powder into the whisked egg and sugar and carefully fold in, then fold in the melted butter and vanilla extract, taking care not to over-mix. Either pouring the batter directly from the bowl or using a tablespoon to spoon it in, divide the batter between the madeleine moulds, filling each almost to the top.


Bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden and lightly springy to the touch. (Try not to overcook them or they will be dry.) Remove from the oven and carefully remove each madeleine from its mould using a palette knife, then place on a wire rack to cool, if you must, as there are few things more delicious than warm madeleines served straight from the oven with nothing more than a light dusting of icing sugar.


Taken from Cake by Rachel Allen published by Harper Collins

Hazelnut Praline Triple-Layered Cake


A triple-layered praline cake makes a fabulous birthday treat. The three layers of sponge are lightened with a good amount of whisked egg whites. For the filling, praline crumbs are mixed into a divinely rich custard cream. The cake is topped in a thick, snowy-white American frosting, crisp on the outside and fluffy and marshmallow-like beneath. As it’s covered in icing, the cake will keep for 3–4 days in an airtight container. If you don’t have an airtight box big enough, you can use a large mixing bowl upturned over the cake.




375g (13oz) plain flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

225g (8oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

675g (1⁄1 2 lb) caster sugar

325ml (11⁄1 2 fl oz) milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

9 egg whites (about 250ml/9fl oz)


For the praline

100g (3⁄1 2oz) caster sugar

100g (3⁄1 2oz) hazelnuts (skin still on)


For the custard cream

25g (1oz) caster sugar

3 egg yolks

175ml (6fl oz) milk

15g (1⁄2oz) cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

100ml (3⁄1 2fl oz) double or regular cream


For the frosting

4 large egg whites

250g (9oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt


3 x 20cm (8 inch) diameter cake tins


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, then butter the sides of the cake tins and line the bases with a disc of baking parchment.


First make the sponge.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add 450g (1lb) of the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add about a third of the sifted flour along with about a third of the milk and continue to mix gently, in thirds, until all of the flour and milk is well mixed in, then stir in the vanilla extract.


In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the egg whites until foamy, then add the remaining sugar and whisk until the meringue holds stiff glossy peaks. Mix in a quarter of the meringue to the cake mixture, then carefully fold in the rest until fully incorporated.


Tip the mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides
of each tin with a small, sharp knife and carefully remove the cakes from the tins before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. (The sponge can be made up to a day in advance and kept in an airtight container.)


To make the praline, first line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside. Place the sugar in a frying pan and scatter the hazelnuts over the sugar. Place the pan over a medium heat to allow the sugar to caramelise, swirling the pan every so often to ensure it caramelises evenly. Cook until the sugar has completely melted and is a deep golden colour and the hazelnuts are coated evenly.


Transfer the coated nuts to the prepared baking tray. Before the caramel has a chance to harden, set apart about 10 hazelnut clusters (with 4–5 hazelnuts in each cluster) for decorating. Using two forks, spread apart the remaining hazelnuts and leave the praline to cool completely. Once cool break up the praline using your hands, then place the pieces (but not the reserved clusters) in a food processor and whiz until it resembles slightly coarse breadcrumbs.


To make the custard cream, place the sugar in a saucepan with the egg yolks, milk, cornflour and vanilla extract and whisking all the time bring just to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Then cook, continuing to whisk, until thickened. Immediately remove from the heat before transferring to a bowl to cool completely. In a separate bowl, whip the cream just until it holds stiff peaks. Add the praline to the cooled custard and mix in, then carefully fold in the whipped cream. Cover the praline custard cream and place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.


You can now assemble the cake. Place one of the cakes on a cake stand or plate. Spread with half of the praline custard, then cover with a second cake. Spread the other half of the custard cream over the cake, then top with the third cake. Use a pastry brush to brush off any excess crumbs from the cake.


Next make the frosting. First place a palette knife in a jug or bowl and put the kettle on. It makes it really easy to frost this cake if you can use a palette knife that has been dipped in hot water. Place all the frosting ingredients in a heatproof bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cold water and set over a saucepan of simmering water. (The bowl should sit snugly over the pan, with its base high enough above the water that it does not come into contact with it.)


Whisk slowly by hand until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Continue to heat and whisk until the mixture reaches 60°C (140°F) when measured with a sugar thermometer – this will take about 4 minutes.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can gauge whether the mixture is ready by how it feels and looks: it should be hot to the touch, glossy white in appearance and starting to thicken.


Quickly remove the bowl from the pan and pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Alternatively, whisk in the original bowl using a hand-held electric beater. Whisk on a high speed for about 3–5 minutes or until the frosting is very thick, glossy and has cooled.


Pour boiling water into the jug or bowl holding the palette knife. Before the frosting has a chance to cool and therefore set, spread it with the hot, wet palette knife over the top and all around the sides of the cake, covering it as evenly as possible. You can go for a smooth appearance or a slightly peaked look by tapping the flat side of the palette knife over the frosting. As you pull it up, it should create little peaks. Do this all over the cake.


Decorate around the top edge of the iced cake with the reserved hazelnut praline clusters.


Taken from Cake by Rachel Allen published by Harper Collins

Cake in a Mug


I’m not a microwave girl myself but I though this sounded intriguing.


Muriel Kerr, Leitrim: fun-loving granny


This quick-fix treat is a big hit with children, allowing you whip up an individual chocolate cake in three minutes. It’s a delicious dessert for somebody who lives alone and fancies a little bit of chocolate heaven. I make it in a one-pint Pyrex jug but a large mug does the trick.


Serves 1


4 dessertspoons flour

4 dessertspoons sugar

2 dessertspoons cocoa

1 small egg, beaten

3 dessertspoons milk

3 dessertspoons light oil

2–3 drops vanilla extract

1 handful chocolate chips



large mug or 600ml (1 pint) Pyrex jug



Combine flour, sugar and cocoa in a mug. Stir in the egg, milk and oil, then add vanilla drops and chocolate chips.


Cook uncovered in the microwave on high (1,000W) for three minutes.


Allow to cool, tip out on to a plate and tuck in.


Taken from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cooking by Aoife Carrigy published by Gill & MacMillan


Parsnip Cake with Walnuts and Raisins


Anne Gabbett, Limerick: dairy farmer’s wife and home economics teacher.


This cake came about from a seasonal surplus of parsnips from the garden. I decided to try baking them into a cake much along the lines of a carrot cake. It turned out delicious and is now a family favourite.


Makes 2 x 900g (2lb) loaves


300g (10 1/2oz) parsnips, peeled

250g (9oz) soft butter or margarine

125g (4 1/2oz) soft brown sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

3–4 drops vanilla extract

350g (12oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

4 eggs, beaten

200g (7oz) golden sultanas

125g (4 1/2oz) walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


Topping (optional)

125g (4 1/2oz) cream cheese

50g (2oz) butter

250g (9oz) icing sugar, sieved

125g (4 1/2oz) walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons apricot jam

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon



2 x 900g (2lb) cake tins


Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.


Grease two loaf tins or line with baking parchment.


Finely grate the parsnips and set aside. Cream butter or margarine with both sugars and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.

Mix about a quarter of the beaten eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, and then fold in some of the flour mix. Continue, alternating egg and flour mix, until all combined. Fold in grated parsnip, sultanas, walnuts and nutmeg, mix well and pour into prepped loaf tins.


Place in centre of preheated oven and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the centre springs back when touched or an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to rest in tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire tray to cool.


To make the topping, beat cream cheese, butter and sieved icing sugar until light and spreadable. Mix in chopped walnuts. Once the cakes have cooled completely, spread with apricot jam and then with cream cheese mixture. Finish with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon.


This mix also makes be delicious muffins, which will bake in about 20 minutes.


Taken from the Irish Countrywomen’s Association Cooking by Aoife Carrigy published by Gill & MacMillan




Trish Deseine

Trish Deseine has taken France by storm.  In just six years she has scaled the heights of culinary endeavour in France with a series of lavishly illustrated books that have captured the imagination of food fans and critics alike.    She has been described as a “phénomène editorial” by French Elle and “the new queen of French cookery book publishing” by L’Express.
In France, the ultimate chauvinistic country, it is highly unusual for a woman to have such a dramatic effect on domestic cooking especially when not even French.  Trish is Irish – in other words, an outsider has taken on the most sophisticated, competitive and macho field, and won over a nation with a simple no-nonsense approach to everyone’s most basic need.
The appeal of Trish’s cooking is that it is like real life – she admits to shifting from triumph to disaster all the time.  She knows that not everyone owns a Magi-mix, few have the time or inclination to make stock from scratch, and fewer still have a garden bursting with herbs.  It’s these ‘limitations’ that Trish works around.  No one suffers from cooking crises of confidence while reading Trish Deseine.  But everyone swoons as she describes the joys of cooking with huge pats of butter and full cream.
Trish Deseine was born in Belfast in 1964 and went on to read French and Linguistics at Edinburgh University.  Trish moved to Paris in 1987 where she worked with the fashion retailer French Connection.  She married in 1990 and worked for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board as Southern European Marketing and Press Executive for eight years.
In 2000, she set up Au Comptoir des Chefs, a business to sell her favourite product – chocolate.  So successful was this venture, that publishers Marabout commissioned her to write a book, the result, Petits plats entre amis (2000) won the prestigious Ladurée and Seb prizes, sold over 100,000 copies and has since been translated into five languages.
Her second book Je veux du chocolat (2002) now translated into 7 languages, won a World Gourmand Award and sold over 300,000 copies.  Subsequent books including Fêtes Maison (2003) about ultra-modern party food themed by colour; J’en veux encore (2004) on food for children; and Du caramel plein la bouche (2005) a celebration of all things caramel, have all been best sellers.   Her small format books – Trifles, Best of Chocolate – and Bonbons Forever have become hip that they sell alongside clothes by Nicholas Ghesquière and Alexander McQueen in Paris’ most fashionable boutique – Colette.
Her latest book has instructive chapters such as ‘Shops Wisely’, ‘Knows her Classics’, ‘Steals from chefs’ and ‘Rises to the Occasion’, this book will both charm and inform.  Trish teaches us how we can take a feuille out of the archetypal French woman’s livre  from the classic dinner party recipes to the latest trends as well as how to tackle difficult ingredients such as truffles and lobster.   An affectionate but unsentimental, irreverent but non-patronising cookbook – a fresh new talent who deserves to be better known in her home country , now that I’ve found one of her books I’m desperate to find the others.
Coincidentally Trish called in to the school recently and I’ve managed to persuade her to come and teach a course here in September.   Here are some recipes I’ve enjoyed.

Lamb Spare Ribs with Méchoui flavours – Travers d’agneau façon méchoui


Le méchoui, or kharouf machwi in Arabic, is a traditional North African way of slowly roasting a small animal (goat, sheep or lamb), flavoured with spices and basted constantly, over a wood fire on an open spit.   It is a popular way of feeding the multitudes at large French summer gatherings.  This is my quick-fix version.

For 4-5

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Pinch of saffron strands, optional

Harissa Paste, to taste


I kg of lamb ribs

Grind together all the ingredients except for the lamb ribs, using a pestle and mortar or in a mini food-processor.  Smear the paste all over the lamb and leave it to absorb the flavours for an hour or so.

Heat the grill of your oven to hot or set up your barbecue, and cook the meat for 20-30 minutes, turning it regularly.

Serve with fresh salad vegetables or taboulé

Baby Leek and Reblochon pie – Tarte au poireaux et reblochon


This also works well with baby red onions or spring onions

For 4

About 20 baby leeks

4 squares of ready-rolled puff pastry – about 15 x 15 cm each

1 ‘ ripe’ reblochon cheese (or you could use camembert, or saint nectaire or anything creamy or pungent

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Blanch the leeks in boiling water for about 5 minutes.  Drain and cool.

With the tip of a sharp knife, but without cutting through the pastry completely, score a square about 2cm in from the edge of the pastry for each piece.  This will make the sides puff up more when cooking.

Slice the cheese finely and set the slices in the centre of each pastry square.  Spread the crème fraîche over the cheese and then set the leeks on the cream, lining them up evenly – cut off their tops if they are untidily reaching over the edge of the pastry.  Season with salt and pepper and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the cheese bubbling into the cream.

Serve with a crisp salad.

Pigs cheeks braised in cider – Joues de porc braises au cidre


For 6-8



2 tablesp olive oil, plus extra for frying

50g butter

1 kg pig’s cheeks

4-5 shallots

750ml dry cider

200g button mushrooms

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy-based casserole with a lid.  Brown the meat with the shallots for a few minutes, then pour over the cider and scrap the bottom of the pan to deglaze, bring to the boil and cover.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour 30 minutes.

Some 20 minutes before serving, fry up the mushrooms in a little olive oil and add them to the casserole.

Serve with fresh ribbon pasta.



Nougat and honey ice cream – Nougat glace au mile


For 6


50g whole blanched almonds

30g whole hazelnuts or walnuts

30g pine nuts

50g candied fruit, such as cherries, orange and lemon peel, and angelica, plus extra for decoration

3 egg whites

2 tablespoons runny honey, preferably a flavoured one such as lavender, rosemary or thyme

300ml very chilled whipping cream or whippable double cream

For the coulis:

300g fresh or frozen raspberries

75g sugar

Roughly chop the nuts and the candied fruits.  Try to vary the size of the pieces, and leave some whole.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Heat the honey in a saucepan until it caramelises slightly.  Pour it hot onto the egg whites then whisk for a further 2 minutes.

Whip the cream until it is stiff, add the nuts and fruit and fold the mixture gently into the beaten egg whites.

Pour the whole lot into a small loaf tin or a silicone mould and freeze for at least 12 hours.

Cook the raspberries with the sugar to a jam-like consistency.  Cool completely before serving with the nougat.

Exotic Fruit Crumble – Crumble aux fruits exotiques


For  8-10



1 pineapple

40g butter, cold and cut into cubes

3 bananas

2 mangoes (frozen and peeled)

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons rum

For the crumble:

125g plain flour

125g cold butter

125g brown sugar

80g dessicated coconut


Peel the pineapple, take out the hard middle part and cut it into chunks.   In a saucepan, melt the butter and cook the pineapple for about 10 minutes.   Add the bananas and mangoes, cut into thick slices.  Add the vanilla seeds,the sugar and a little water if the fruit looks a bit dry.  Generally the moisture from the mangoes is enough.

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

Put the flour, butter, brown sugar and coconut in the bowl of your food-processor.  Mix until the crumble forms.  It should look like coarse breadcrumbs.  Keep an eye on it in case it becomes lumpy.  Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Mix the rum into the fruits.

Butter a gratin dish and sprinkle some sugar into it.  Put the cooked fruit in and cover with the crumble.   Cook for about 30 minutes until the crumble is golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Pizza – Pizza au Chocolat

For 6



1 ready-made round pizza base

Dark chocolate spread, or Nutella

Dried and sugared fruit (candied orange peel, dates, candied pineapple…..)

Fresh fruit (clementines, pineapple, apple……)

Pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Unroll the pizza base onto a baking tray and cook it for about 5 minutes until it starts to crisp up.

Remove from the oven and spread with chocolate.   Dot the candied and fresh fruit over the pizza.   Sprinkle with pine nuts and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes until the chocolate and fruit are hot.   Serve the pizza straight from the oven.

Hot Tips

Trish Deseine will be Guest Chef at Ballymaloe Cookery School for a 1 day Course on Monday 15th September – Tel 021-4646785



As part of Fairtrade Fortnight and to highlight Midleton’s move to become a Fairtrade town, two cocoa bean farmers from Ghana will visit Midleton today – the growers are members of a cooperative whose cocoa beans end up in the Divine chocolate range. The Fairtrade producers will be at the entrance to Hurley’s Super Valu from 10.30-12.00 today Sat 8th March.   Sample some of the best chocolate with a clear conscience and enjoy the festival atmosphere with attractions for children and ‘real’ bananas walking through the Farmer’s Market. 


 Patrick’s Day Dinner at La Fromagerie in London

Thursday 13th March 2008 at 7.30pm Moxon St.

We thought we would start the celebrations a few days early in preparation for the St Patrick’s Days parade The evening begins at 7.30pm with aperitifs including Black Velvets, followed by a dinner of fine Irish fare including Irish smoked salmon with Potato Pancake & Ryefield fresh goats cheese, followed by Irish Spring Lamb Stew with Colcannon. For dessert we will be making Irish whiskey soaked Portercake Icecream. Finishing with a tutored tasting of Irish cheeses with Patricia. If you still have space after all that, maybe an Irish coffee to finish? Tickets to this four course supper incl. wines £70.00 pp.
Please telephone the shop to make a reservation: 0207 9350341 or download a booking form

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award

Darina wins Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Award, seen here with her mother Elizabeth O'ConnellLast week brought an unexpected announcement, Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards honoured my “outstanding contribution to the Irish Culinary Sector”.
The citation read – “Darina Allen’s award was given in recognition of her exceptional work in providing an outstanding level of culinary education at Ballymaloe Cookery School, for her involvement in the Slowfood movement and her activities as a lobbyist for the artisan food industry, and for her commitment and passion in protecting and promoting traditional Irish and local food. Her contribution has been invaluable in creating the high standard of artisan food production and culinary expertise which exists in Ireland today.”

Was that not a lovely surprise on a Monday morning.

As a friend wryly remarked in her congratulatory note – great to get a pat on the back while you’re still alive, they (not Euro-toques) usually wait till you’re pushing up the daisies.

Euro-toques – The European Community of Cooks, was established in 1986 in Brussels as a guardian of European culinary heritage and as a lobby group addressing the concerns of Europe’s top chefs and cooks about food quality and the future of food.

Every year they honour artisans and food producers who produce real quality. Speaking on behalf of Euro-toques, Founder member Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House commented “We cannot do our job as cooks without top-quality ingredients and recognizing and promoting the people who provide these is central to what Euro-toques is all about. We are delighted to have here today, a group of people who have championed traditional and local products and production methods and have carried on and developed their businesses in the face of great challenges.

One of our grave concerns in recent years has been the shutting down of small abattoirs right across the country, so we are delighted to recognize a butcher who has continued to raise, slaughter and sell his own animals on his own premises – this is the true meaning of traceability. We also see the depletion of native fish stocks as one of the major food threats currently and are therefore awarding a fisherman who has taken a special interest in conservation. All these people contribute in a small, but vital way, to ensuring a viable and diverse food supply into the future.”

This year, a butcher, a baker, a fisherman, a miller and a dairy farmer were amongst those commended by top Irish chefs for their contribution to Irish food.

The annual event is sponsored by the Cavan Crystal Hotel and this year’s awards were presented by Cavan Euro-toques chef, cookbook author and TV personality Neven Maguire.

Awards were presented to five outstanding food producers/suppliers:

  • Glenilen Dairy, Drimoleague, West Cork
    Recognised for diversifying a traditional dairy farm into production of quality dairy-based products including traditional country butter, clotted cream and yoghurt, as well as a range of cheesecakes, mousses and desserts.
  • Michael McGrath Butcher, Lismore, Co Waterford
    A fourth generation butcher recognized for maintaining traditional methods, above all for retaining their on-premises abattoir and slaughtering their own cattle, as well as providing a slaughtering service for local farmers.
  • Flahavan Mills, Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford
    The well-known producer of Flahavan’s Oats, recognized for maintaining high production standards in keeping with traditional methods and environmental concerns.
  • Terry Butterly, Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth
    A fisherman for 35 years, Terry Butterly now processes seafoods for supply to some of the top restaurants on the east coast. He was recognized for his special interest in conservation and the service he provides in informing chefs about the seasonality and availability of fish.
  • Ditty’s Home Bakery, Castledawson, Northern Ireland.
    A third generation bakery producing traditional Ulster breads, using ingredients from local artisan suppliers. Recognised for promoting regional diversity and developing new artisan products.

These awards are unique in that nominations are made by the Euro-toque members, and winners are then carefully selected by the Euro-toques Food Committee, made up of chefs from all over the country. Therefore, these awards give producers recognition from the top industry chefs and cooks in the country.

Each award winner was presented with a specially commissioned engraved piece by Cavan Crystal Design.

Glenilen Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream with Pomegranate Seeds perfumed with Rose Blossom Water
Serves 8-10

425ml (15 fl ozs) Glenilen natural yoghurt
230ml (8 fl ozs) milk
200ml (7 fl ozs) cream
175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size
3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

Pomegranate Seeds with Rose Blossom Water
1-2 pomegranates depending on size
a little lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons castor sugar
Rose blossom water to taste

Garnish: Sweet geranium or mint leaves
Euro-toque Cavan Crystal Awards
Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine.

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest. Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Meanwhile, cut the pomegranates in half around the Equator! Carefully separate the seeds from the membrane. Put the seeds into a bowl, sprinkle with just a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, add castor sugar and rose blossom water to taste. Chill.

If the cardamom cream has been set in a ring mould, turn out onto a chilled white plate. Fill the centre with chilled rose-scented pomegranate seeds. Garnish with sweet geranium or mint leaves or even prettier, garnish with crystallized rose petals. I’ve got a wonderful Irish rose called ‘Souvenir de St Anne’s” in Lydia’s garden. This rose has a bloom even in the depths of winter so I steal a few petals and crystallize to decorate this and other desserts.

Irish Stew made with Michael McGrath’s Lamb
Serves 4-6

2½ – 3 lbs (1.35kg) lamb chops (gigot or rack chops) not less than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick
8 medium or 12 baby carrots
8 medium or 12 baby onions
8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like
salt and freshly ground pepper
1½-1¾ pints stock (lamb stock if possible) or water
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablesp. roux, optional – see recipe

1 tablesp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tablesp. freshly chopped chives

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

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

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

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. De-glaze the pan with lamb stock and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1-1½ hours approx, depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget.

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

4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

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

Irish Stew with Pearl Barley

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables.
Increase the stock to 2 pints (1.2L) as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

Flahavan’s Oatmeal Biscuits
These nutritious biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

1 lb (450g) Flahavan’s rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
12 ozs (340g) butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar

Swiss roll tin, 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla essence, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, until golden and slightly caramelised – about 30 minutes. Cut into 24-32 squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 9 inch (23cm) x 13 inch (33cm) Swiss roll thin is used.

Gratin of Haddock with Imokilly Cheddar and Mustard with Piquant Beetroot
This is one of the simplest and most delicious fish dishes we know. If haddock is unavailable, cod, hake or grey sea mullet are also great. We use Imokilly mature Cheddar from our local creamery at Mogeely.

Serves 6 as a main course

175g (6 x 6oz) pieces of haddock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
225g (8ozs) Irish mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoon cream

Piquant Beetroot

1½ lbs (675 g) beetroot cooked
½ oz (15 g) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
A sprinkling of sugar (if necessary)
5-6 fl ozs (140-175ml) cream
1-2 tsp finely chopped chives.

Peel the beetroot, use rubber gloves for this operation if you are vain!. Chop the beetroot flesh into cubes. Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the beetroot toss, add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and cream, allow to bubble for a few minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sugar. Taste and add a little more lemon juice if necessary. Serve immediately.

Ovenproof dish 8½ x 10 inches (21.5 x 25.5cm)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Season the fish with salt and freshly ground pepper. Arrange the fillets in a single layer in an ovenproof dish (it should be posh enough to bring to the table.) Mix the grated cheese with the mustard and cream and spread carefully over the fish. It can be prepared ahead and refrigerated at this point. Cook in a preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and the top is golden and bubbly. Flash under the grill if necessary. Serve with hot Piquant Beetroot.

Irish Farmhouse Cheese with Ditty’s Oatcakes or Gubbeen Cheese Oatcakes

Choose a piece of perfect Irish farmhouse cheese made from cow, goat or ewe’s milk – Milleens, Gubbeen, Durrus, Cashel Blue, Baylough, Desmond, Croghan, Ardsallagh, Knockalara, Kerry, Cooleeney, Coolea, Abbey Blue, Killorglin, Chetwynd, Ardrahan, Lavistown, Ring, Boilie … there are over 80 to choose from and serve with Ditty’s Oatcakes.

Hot Tips
The winners

Glenilen Farm Artisan Foods
Coastguard Seafoods, Annagassan, Co Louth – Tel 042-9372527
Michael McGrath Butcher, Main St. Lismore, Co Waterford –
Tel 058-54350

Ditty’s Home Bakery,

Ummera Smoked Products are now available in London at
Tom’s Deli, 226 Westbourne Grove, W11 2RH – Smoked Dry Cured Bacon/Rashers, Organic Salmon and if you’re lucky some Organic Gravlax – Call Sophie Taylor at Tom’s Deli – 0207 221 8818 to reserve a little taste of Ummera if you have a longing for a taste of West Cork.

One of the most popular Primary school campaigns, organised by Le Crunch French Apples, is back!

Schools around the country will focus on a healthy approach to eating and lifestyle when they return from the mid-term break as the students paint, draw, photograph or otherwise create posters depicting how they and their classmates get active and become health heroes.

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A visit to Montreal

Its about ten years since I’d last visited Montreal, my experience was clouded by my memories of a segregated city where two communities were divided by culture and the language they spoke. The French-Canadians resolutely refused to speak English and seemed not even to suffer inarticulate visitors gladly. The Anglophones seemed equally entrenched – it is unlikely to have been so polarized but that was certainly my impression on a brief visit.
Last January I received an invitation from Dr. Michael Kenneally of Concordia University in Montreal, to give the second annual St Patrick Society Lecture in Canadian Irish Studies this fall. This lecture was inaugurated in September 2006 by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald and aims to bring speakers to talk on topics of interest to both the university and wider communities. The Centre for Canadian Irish Studies offers study programmes that focus on the history and culture of Ireland and the experiences of the Irish in Canada. My topic was the History of Irish Food and I also covered the current food scene in Ireland, the emergence of Farmers Markets and the artisan food sector. Michael Kenneally himself originally hails from Youghal where his brother Tom is a vet. I was delighted to accept the invitation and was promised a tour of some of the culinary delights of Montreal including the markets, at their best at this time of year.
On my return visit I was thrilled to discover that the city had completely transformed itself. Montreal is possibly the most bilingual city in the world. The majority of citizens seem equally at home in French or English so many of the barriers seem to have melted away, allowing the inhabitants to come together and embrace each other’s culture – the result is an absolutely extraordinary city which is ‘food mad’. It seems that all the best aspects of the French, English, Italian, West Indian , Greek and Jewish traditions have contributed to make an intriguing melting pot – no wonder the markets are so rich and multi-cultural and the restaurants and cafes so deliciously varied. 
There are two fantastic markets in Montreal, Marché Jean Talon and Marché Atwater.
On my first morning I woke early and took a cab to Marché Atwater the smaller of the two main markets. By 7.30am row upon row of vegetable and fruit stalls were already piled high. Locals were filling their bags and I spotted a couple of local chefs doing their rounds, I was particularly intrigued by the delicious homemade pickles, ketchups and chutneys made by Serge Bourcier. Quebec with its long cold winters has a strong living tradition of preserving summer bounty and the season was in full swing. Everywhere people were carrying huge crates of red peppers and tomatoes to make purees and pickles for their Winter store-cupboard. I also wandered into several of the shops around the periphery of the market. William J Walters freshly made sausages and bacon are legendary among locals and visitors alike, La Fromagerie du Deuxième with its impressive cheese selection is definitely worth a visit also.
Having done my rounds I popped into a Première Moisson for a double expresso and an almond croissant. This small chain of câfe bakeries, the brainchild of the Colpron-Fiset family, is well above average chain quality and having found them I breakfasted in one every morning. Every city should have a Premier-Moisson.
Later I went to the St Denis area to the chic Arthur Quentin (No 3960) kitchen shop – another magnet for the cook is Quincaillerie Dante a hardware shop that sells kitchen gadgets at one side and guns at the other, if you are lucky you may catch one of the owners Elena Faita-Venditelli’s Italian cooking classes. The charming shop and tea room called Au Festin de Babette and offbeat La Witcha which sells fairy dust and herbal tea potions are also worth popping into. I then headed off to Laurier Ave E. to check out an artisan bakery, La Fromentier. They make the best bread in Montreal in a large open bakery with wood burning oven, which shares a space with a charcuterie and cheese shop. (Cheese buffs will also want to visit Yannick Fromagerie d’Exception, 1218 Bernard Street W. to taste cow and goat milk cheeses.)
I also loved two cafes nearby, Byblos and Café des Entretiens, but there’s lots more for foodies on this cool street.
Visitors to Montreal shouldn’t miss Schwartz, a humble café opened as a steakhouse by Romanian immigrant Reuben Schwartz in 1928. You can either eat at one of the communal tables or at the counter. You may have to queue a long time for a famous smoked beef brisket sandwich with mustard on old style rye bread, but both the flavour and atmosphere will be worth it. Don’t ask for lean, it will be too dry, medium is okay, but a toppling sandwich of fat brisket is deliciously, insanely juicy and succulent. Another ‘must not miss’ experience is a Montreal bagel, quite a different animal from the standard bagel. Opinions vary as to which are best but the Fairmont and St Viateur 24 hour neighbouring bakeries are both institutions. The hoops of dough are first boiled, then baked in a wood-fired oven which adds a smoky note to the flavour of the dough – don’t miss the Fairmont onion bagel.
As ever I ran out of mealtimes but greatly enjoyed Alexandre Loiseau’s food at Cocagne on St-Denis Street. He served one of Montreal’s landmark puddings Pouding Chomeur (unemployed man’s pudding) with spice ice-cream and was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Toque! on the edge of Vieux Montreal is a tonier spot where charming Normand Laprise and his team weave their magic with local ingredients in season. I also enjoyed the marginally chaotic Au Pied de Cochon, which was packed and bustling by 6pm. Plum tomatoes were piled high along the counter.
No toques here, the team of young chefs cooked in jeans and baseball hats. Owner Martin Picard is by all accounts a charismatic passionate foodie who has built up an enviable network of local Quebec artisan producers who supply the restaurant with superb meat, vegetables and fruit. The food is robust and gutsy with strong flavours and huge portions. Picard does all his own preserving and pickling and customers can take home either the preserves or the equipment to do it themselves. 
Last but not least you mustn’t leave Montreal without ordering Poutine, a mound of greasy chips sprinkled with cheddar curds doused in thick gravy – doesn’t sound very appetizing but you can’t imagine how good it can taste. It is served in cafes all over town but we were recommended to go to a hip little spot called La Banquise in the Plateau Montreal neighbourhood. I sat at the formica topped tables surrounded by groovy students with dreadlocks, tattoos and many piercings tucking in to the classic poutine. I couldn’t believe I was eating this bizarre concotion, forkful after forkful – I couldn’t resist, it was sooooo good and so cheap, and though its still on my hips three weeks later I don’t regret a single bite!

Tomato Tart

- from “Au Pied du Cochon – The Album”
Serves 6

Pie Dough
225g (8oz) cold butter
275g (10oz/1â…” cups) all-purpose (plain) flour
70ml (â…“ cup) cold water
1 pinch fine salt

6 fresh ripe tomatoes
300ml (1¼ cups) béchamel sauce
300g (11oz) Gruyere cheese (grated)
5 sprigs fresh thyme (chopped)
Dijon mustard
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper

First make the pastry. Cut the butter into 2cm (1 inch) cubes. Mix the flour, salt and butter together by hand or with a food processor.
Some small pieces of butter, about 3mm (â…›in), should remain in the flour mixture. They will help the pastry cook to perfection.
Add water and form a dough roll without working the pastry too much. Leave to rest in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx. 3mm (â…› in), Cut out 6 rounds of 15cm (6in) in diameter.
Spread 50ml (¼ cup) of cold béchamel sauce onto each pastry round, along with a few dashes of Dijon mustard. Then add 50g (approx. 2oz) of Gruyere cheese.
Cover the tarts with 6 or 7 thin slices of tomato about 3mm (â…› in) thick. Top with some fresh thyme. Sprinkle with salt.
Cook the tarts in the oven at 200C (400F) for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, drizzle olive oil over the top and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bechamel Sauce

1L (1¾ pint/4 cups) cold milk
70g (2¾ oz) butter
70g (2¾ oz) flour
1 pinch nutmeg (grated)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Mix in the flour. Cook over a low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden.
Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the nutmeg and season to taste. Slowly bring to a boil and cook over low heat for approximately 1 minute. 


from Alexandre Loiseau of Cocagne Restaurant
This recipe was written in American measurements which we have converted
1 egg
2¼ tablesp.(3 American tablesp) maple syrup 
10g/½ oz (1 American tablesp) butter, melted
4oz (110g/1 cup) plain flour
Pinch salt
1 heaped dessertspoon (1 American tablesp.) baking powder
1 pinch nutmeg
4fl.oz (125ml/½ cup) milk
7oz (200g/1 cup) maple sugar (you could also use brown sugar here)
12fl.oz (350ml/1½ cups) heavy or whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375ËšF. 

Lightly grease a porcelain baking dish (a lasagne type dish would be fine) 30x10x7cm or a square 24x24cm dish., approximately 

Beat together the egg and maple syrup, then blend in the butter. 
In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg, then mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternatively with the milk until you have a smooth batter. Spread evenly into the prepared the baking dish. Whisk together the maple sugar (or brown sugar) and cream, then pour over the batter. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm and golden, and the syrup is thick and bubbly.

Off-to-Bed Butter Cookies

(from Gourmet Magazine)
Crumbly, delicate and glistening with golden sugar, these easy slice-and-bake cookies will quickly become one of your favourite standbys.

Makes about 4 dozen

6oz (175g/1½ cups) plain flour
¼ teasp. salt 
150g (5oz/¾ cup) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3½oz) granulated sugar 
2 teaspoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar

2 large baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Stir together the flour and sugar in a bowl. Beat together butter and granulated sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing, and continue to mix until batter just comes together in clumps. Gather clumps to form a dough, then press dough with lightly floured hands into a smooth 1¼ in (3cm) thick log on a very lightly floured work surface. 
Chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, for at least 1 hour.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350F/180C/gas mark 5.
Cut chilled log crosswise into ¼ inch (5mm) thick slices and arrange slices about ½ inch (1cm) apart on baking sheets. Brush tops of cookies lightly with cream, then sprinkle generously with Demerara sugar.

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are pale golden, 12-15 minutes in total.
Cool on sheets on racks.

Note: Dough log can be chilled, wrapped well in plastic wrap, up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic and foil, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
Cookies will keep for 4days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Hot Tips 

BIM Seafood Circle – from Tide to Table 
This initiative recognizes and rewards the many shops, supermarkets, pubs and restaurants that push the limits to deliver excellent seafood and service to their customers. When buying fish or eating out look for the Seafood Circle symbol – 

Q82 Restaurant, Dungarvan, Co Waterford
Celebrate their local producers with a Slow Food Dinner Menu designed around their spectacular produce on Wednesday October 17th at 6.30pm for 7pm
Enjoy the feast and meet the producers themselves. 
Booking essential – places limited – Tel Q82 on 058-244555 (quote Slow Food when booking) €55 for 6 courses (excluding wine) €48 for Slow Food members and students.

Cork City becomes a GM-free zone
Minister for Food and Horticulture backs move
Top chefs and restaurants welcome recipe to protect food quality and traditions
The City of Cork is now a GMO-free zone, following a recent motion by Cork City Council which declares the area off-limits to the release of genetically modified seeds and crops. The decision follows similar motions adopted by Bantry and Clonakilty last year.
The Minister of State for Food and Horticulture, Trevor Sargent, said the move will help to protect the economic interest of Ireland’s food and farming future as a clean green GM-free food island.

Claudia Roden Teaches at Ballymaloe

One of the great joys of owning a cookery school is that I have an excuse to indulge myself occasionally and invite some of my heroes to teach a guest chef class. Throughout the years there have been many, among them the late Jane Grigson, Marcella Hazan, Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers of the River Café, Diana Kennedy, Madhur Jaffrey, Frances Bissell, Sophie Grigson, Rick Stein, Rick Bayless, Nina Simonds, Peter Gordon, Ursula Ferrigno, Sam Clark, Antony Worrall Thompson, Deh-ta-Hsiung, Skye Gyngell, Alicia Rios, Alastair Little, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Maggie Beer, …. looking back, the long list reads like a who’s who of the culinary world.
Recently, Claudia Roden thrilled us with a glimpse into a world of food that I knew far too little about. Claudia has accepted an invitation to the school twice before but on this occasion on the suggestion of Rabbi Julia Neuberger she cooked not the Middle Eastern food for which she is perhaps best known, but Jewish food. We had a wonderful day where Claudia combined history and recipes with stories and personal anecdotes gleaned from the years of research that went into her Book of Jewish Food, published in 1997.
This marathon achievement told the history of the diaspora through its cuisine. The book’s recipes reflect the many cultures and regions of world, from the Jewish quarter of Cairo where Claudia spent her childhood to the kitchens of Asia, Europe and the Americas. To those of us less familiar with Judaism, she explained the dietary laws and intriguing culture of the Ashkenaz and Sephardi Jews. 
The Ashkenazim are the Jews whose origin lies in Western and Eastern Europe and Russia. Their culture developed in a Christian world. The Sephardi world stretched from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. With the exception of Christian Italy and Spain and parts of India, almost all the lands where the Sephardim lived before the seventeenth century were under Islamic rule. 
Food takes on enormous importance in Jewish households, it defines the identity of the family and is part of every ritual, festival and celebration. Many dishes are imbued with symbolism and tradition and for Orthodox Jews the food must be strictly Kosher.
Claudia hasn’t confined herself to Jewish or Middle Eastern food, Jane Kramer aptly described her in the New Yorker (September 3rd 2007), as “the youngest of a triumvirate of hungry, highly literate and ethnographically indefatigable women who helped transform how the British cooked”.
Beautiful and gentle, at 70 Claudia is still an indefatigable researcher and one of the most revered cookery writers of our time. At present she is finishing her long awaited 11th book on the Food of Spain to be published by Penguin/Michael Joseph.
During her day at the school she cooked a variety of mostly Sephardic dishes from many parts of the world, the flavours were delicious and intriguing. Each dish had a story, I’ve chosen a few recipes to whet your appetites – for almost 800 more you will have to seek out Claudia’s wonderful Book of Jewish Food (published by Alfred A. Knopf –New York 1997), which was awarded the Glenfiddich Cookbook of the Year, The Andre Simon Memorial Fund Food book, and the Jewish Quarterly/Wingate Book prize for non-fiction.

Roast Chicken with Onion Sauce and Couscous Stuffing

Most “Jewish” dishes are Sabbath (Saturday) dishes because the Sabbath was the only time during the week Jews prepared special dishes. They could be local dishes that they glamourised for the Sabbath. Stuffing a dish made it grand and there was always more stuffing on the side. Birds were often pot roasted because most people in Morocco did not have ovens. The onion sauce takes time because a large quantity of onions take about an hour to cook down.
Serves 6

1 large chicken
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Sauce
1kg (2 lb) onions, sliced 
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of saffron (powder or pistils)
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey

For the Couscous Stuffing
250g (9ozs) packet couscous
400ml (14fl ozs) chicken stock (you can use 1 stock cube)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons sunflower oil
100g (4ozs) blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
50g (2ozs) pistachios, coarsely chopped
50g (2ozs) pine nuts, toasted
50g (2ozs) raisins soaked in water for 30 minutes 

In a wide baking dish rub the chicken with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put it breast-side down so that the fat runs down and prevents the breasts from drying out, and pour into the dish about a small teacup of water. 

Cook in an oven pre-heated to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 for 40 minutes per kilo. Turn the chicken breast-side up after about 50 minutes. Test to see that it is ready by cutting into a thigh with a pointed knife. The juices should run clear, not pink. 

For the onion sauce, put the onions in a wide pan with 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil, and cook, covered, over very low heat for 30 – 45 minutes until they are very soft, adding salt and pepper and stirring occasionally. They will stew in their own juice. Remove the lid and continue to stir occasionally until the onions are melting soft and golden. Add cinnamon, saffron, ginger and honey and cook for a few more minutes. In all it should take about 1 hour.
Put the couscous in a bowl. Warm the stock, adding a little salt (take into account the saltiness of the stock) and the cinnamon. Pour 300ml (10fl ozs) of the stock - the same measured volume as the couscous - over the couscous, mix very well and leave for 20 minutes until the couscous has absorbed the stock. Then stir in the oil and break up any lumps with a fork. Rub the grain between your hands, to air it and make it light and fluffy. Stir in the chopped almonds and pistachios (you can chop them in the food processor), the pine nuts and raisins, and mix well. Cover the dish with foil. All you will need is to heat it through for 20 minutes in a 200ºC/400°F/Gas Mark 6 oven before serving. Pour the remaining stock on top.

Cut the chicken into 6 serving pieces, remove the carcass arrange them in a wide serving dish and pour the onion sauce on top and let it mix with the gravy. Heat through at the same time as the couscous stuffing. 

Serve the two separately or the chicken and sauce on top of the couscous stuffing. 

Creamy Cheese Flan with Filo – Boghatcha

Few people know about this dish. The name means “drunkard” in Judeo – Spanish – perhaps because the pastry is soaked in milk. It is a curious and wonderful pie – a version of the Turkish sutlu borek. The filo pastry with a sharp cheese filling, baked in a light creamy custard, becomes soft, like sheets of ever-so-thin pasta.
250g (½ lb) filo – 7 sheets about 46cm x 32cm (18 by 12 ½ inches)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
500g (1lb) feta, mashed
350g (¾ lb) Gruyère cheese, grated
75g (3 ozs) grated Kashkaval or Parmesan 
6 eggs
1 pint (600ml) milk

For the filling, mix the feta, Gruyère, and about ¾ of the Kashkaval or Parmesan with 2 of the eggs.

Open out the sheets of filo, leaving them in a pile. Brush the top one with melted butter and put a line of filling about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) thick along one long side. Roll up, making a long thin roll, folding in the ends about halfway to stop the filling from oozing out. Crease the roll like an accordion by pushing the ends towards the centre with both hands. Place it in the middle of a round baking dish about 12 inches (30cm) in diameter, curving it like a snail. Do the same with the other sheets and place the rolls end to end to form a long coil like a snake. Lightly beat the remaining 4 eggs with the milk and pour over the cheese-filled coil (you do not need to add salt, because the feta cheese is very salty).

Sprinkle with the remaining Kashkaval or Parmesan and bake at 180°C (350°F/Gas Mark 4) for about 1 hour, or until the cream is absorbed and set and the top of the pastry is brown. Serve hot or cold, cut into wedges.

Burghul Pilav
Bulgar Wheat with Almonds, Raisins and Pine Nuts.
In many communities in the Arab and Ottoman worlds, cracked wheat is served as an alternative to rice and as a filling or accompaniment to poultry such as pigeons, chickens, and turkey. The raisins and nuts turn the grain into a festive dish. This way of preparing it is quick and easy. Serve with chicken or lamb.
1 litre (1¾ pints) stock or water
500g (18oz) coarse burghul (cracked wheat) 
About 1¼ teaspoons salt
100g (3½ oz) blanched almonds
5 tablespoons sunflower or light vegetable oil
75g (3oz) pine nuts
50g (2oz) cup raisins, soaked in water for ½ hour

Bring the water or stock to the boil in a pan. Add the cracked wheat, salt and pepper and stir, then cook, covered on a very low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes or until the grain is tender. 

Fry the almonds in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring and turning them until beginning to colour. Add the pine nuts and stir until golden. Stir the nuts, the drained raisins and the remaining oil into the cracked wheat in the pan and heat through. 

Foolproof Food

Almond and Chocolate Cupcakes – Mustacchioni

These little Almond and Chocolate Cupcakes from Trieste were particularly delicious and have the added bonus of being gluten free.
They are extremely easy to make, with no melting of chocolate or separating of eggs. You just blend everything together in a food processor.

200g (7oz) dark, bittersweet chocolate broken into pieces
200g (7oz)) lightly roasted blanched almonds
3 eggs
(90g (3¼oz) sugar
2 tablespoons rum (optional)

Put everything into the food processor and blend to a soft, creamy paste. Drop into little paper cups by the heaping teaspoonful. Bake in a preheated 3500F (1800C) oven for 25 minutes, or until slightly firm. They are meant to be soft and moist.


For a version from Padua, use only 50g (2oz) of chocolate and add 50g (2oz) of chopped candied citrus peel.

Hot Tips

Pig Out Day Courses with Frank Krawczyk
Frank, one of Ireland’s best known salami and sausage makers, will share the secrets of his art during a one-day action packed demonstration – he will use every single part of a pig to produce a huge range of pork delicacies – brawn, pate, sausages, bacon, salamis, speck, smoked ham and much, much more. Dates – October 19th and December 7th this year. Enquiries to Frank at Derreenatra, Schull, Co Cork, tel 028 28579 email-  

Arun Kapil’s Green Saffron Spicy Granola is the newest and most sought after breakfast munch –  Available at Green Saffron outlet at Stephen Pearce Gallery, Shanagarry and Mahon Point Farmers Market.

Blueberries are definitely the ‘new black’

Blueberries are definitely the ‘new black’ – seems like every magazine and cookery article I picked up for the last few weeks has an article extolling the virtues of this plump little berry – In season from May to October, we’re told they are packed with Vitamins C and E, manganese, dietary fibre, low in calories and virtually fat free. Research has shown that they come out tops in their capacity to destroy free radicals and are credited with helping to strengthen eyesight because of the substance called anthocyanin which they contain, they improve the support structures in the veins and entire vascular system and may help reduce cholesterol and provide protection against ovarian cancer. They also help prevent urinary tract infections. The US Department of Agriculture has claimed that they contain 50% more antioxidants than strawberries, 100% more than oranges and 400% more than broccoli and spinach.
Truly remarkable, even though I greatly enjoy blueberries I have to say that I am getting increasingly cynical about each new wonder food and while I love the juicy cultivated Irish berries, I still hanker for the tiny intensely flavoured wild bilberries which we call herts or fraughans (they are known as blaeberries in Scotland) . They are in season for a short time around the beginning of August and can be picked from the low growing bilberry bushes on hilltops and mountain ranges around the country. Because of their size they take ages to pick enough for a decent plateful, but the flavour is bittersweet and intense. You’ll need to wear thorn proof clothing to protect you from the scratchy bushes.
I wouldn’t dream of cooking fraughans. I’m convinced they taste best when lightly crushed with a sprinkling of sugar and then eaten with some rich pouring cream. Try to find the Glenilen traditional cream – divine – a forgotten flavour, like cream used to taste before the bottom line became more important than the flavour.
Ireland now grows about 20 tons of blueberries annually . A renowned Irish horticulturist Dr. Lamb established a 10-acre blueberry farm in near Portarlington, Co Offaly in 1965 after he recognized the commercial potential of growing American varieties in Irish bog-land. They love acid soil. A colleague John Seager became involved with the pioneering work in 1977 and took over the plantations in 1995, 20 acres of blueberries at Derryvilla now produce 70% of Irish blueberries. John still owns the plantation and is very involved and Nuala O’Donogue runs the operation on a day to day basis in Derryvilla. Nuala would like to let people know that they can come and pick their own blueberries on the farm every day, they hope to have blueberries up to mid-September. They also have some excellent quality early season frozen blueberries for sale. Our nearest source is Sunnyside Farm in Rathcormac, Co Cork where John Howard added sulphur to 2½ acres of his land to get rid of the lime and create the correct PH for blueberries to thrive. This year he produced about 3½ tons and will have frozen blueberries (as well as other berries) available from his shop every Saturday from 2-5 during the off-season.
This year the blueberries seem larger and plumper than ever before probably because of the abundance of rain throughout the summer months. The flavour seems less zingy but nonetheless delicious. I’ve been eating them in every possible way for the past few weeks but being passionate about local and seasonal I was shocked and distressed to find that the blueberries in the local Supervalu store in West Cork were from Poland, others come from Italy, at almost twice the price of the Irish ones in the middle of the season. Where’s our patriotic streak, its high time we made our voices heard and voiced our support for shops and supermarkets who sell local food in recognition of the local customers who support them and condemn those who sell imported produce in the midst of the Irish season. We need more cooperation between producers and retailers – a bond of trust and a fair price.
Even if you are vigilant its so easy to fall into the trap – I am passionate about buying Irish and local whenever possible but I was conned by O’Driscoll’s fresh raspberries in mid-season. With a name like that one would assume that they must come from West Cork or Ireland at least, but on closer examination of the small print I discovered the raspberries came from the US. How about that for carbon footprint and airmiles!
Could readers write or email me ( the names of local shops or supermarkets which highlight local foods and I will be happy to publish them for other readers.

Emer Fitzgerald’s Blueberry Scones

Makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter
900g (2lb) plain white flour
170g (6oz) butter
110g (4oz) blueberries
3 free range eggs
pinch of salt
55g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
For glaze:
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Add the blueberries. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve split in half with butter.
Egg wash:
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Warm duck breast salad with pine kernels and blueberries

Serves 4
a selection of lettuces and salad leaves eg. lollo rosso, frisse, butterhead and rocket
1 large duck 
Walnut dressing
3 tablesp. walnut oil
1 tablesp. wine vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 pine kernels
4 tablesp. blueberries

Wash the salad leaves and dry well. Make the dressing and set aside. Score the skin of the duck breast, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook skin side down on a heavy pan for 10-15 minutes depending on size, turn over and continue to cook until cooked but still slightly pink in the centre.
Toast the pine kernels until golden, keep warm
To serve
Toss the lettuces and salad leaves in just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten, add the pine kernels and toss again. Divide between the four plates, slice the duck breast thinly, arrange 3 or 4 slices on top of the mound of salad. Scatter a tablespoon of blueberries over each plate. Serve immediately.

Blueberry and Apple Pie

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from 'hot hands' don't have to worry about rubbing in the butter.
Serves 8-12

8 ozs (225g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
12 ozs (340g) white flour, preferably unbleached

18oz (500g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples
6oz (175g) blueberries
5 ozs (140g) sugar
egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk
Castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve
Softly whipped cream
Barbados sugar

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

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

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle. 
To make the tart
Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch (3mm) thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Peel, quarter and dice the apples into the tart, add the blueberries and sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and barbados sugar. 

Mango, Blueberry, Pomegranate and Kiwi Salad

Serves 4
Great for breakfast or dessert.

2 mangoes
1 pomegranate
2 kiwis 
1/2 punnet of blueberries
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

Peel and chop the mango into cubes, deseed the pomegranate and add to the mango in a bowl. Peel and dice the kiwi and add with the blueberries to the mango and pomegranate in the bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons of sugar and the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime. Toss gently and taste.

Banana and Blueberry Smoothie

Play around with whatever ingredients you have to hand
Serves 1-2

225ml (8fl oz) natural yogurt
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
110g (4oz) blueberries

Peel the banana, chop coarsely, add the blueberries and blend with other ingredients in a liquidizer until smooth.
Pour into glasses and serve immediately.
Note: if you prefer you can leave out the banana and just use blueberries.

Blueberry and Lemon Passion

- from Mary Berry One Step Ahead
This luxurious dessert, which can be made with raspberries or blackberries instead of blueberries if you prefer, is very quick and easy to make, requiring only a few ingredients.

Serves 4-6

150g (5oz) fresh blueberries
200ml (7fl.oz) tub of half-fat crème fraîche
150ml (¼ pint) thick Greek-style yoghurt
3 good tablespoons luxury lemon curd
Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½
Icing sugar

You will need 4 wine glasses or shot glasses

Reserving 3 blueberries for the top of each glass, sprinkle the remaining blueberries in the bottom of each glass.
Stir the crème fraîche, yoghurt and lemon curd together, adding the lemon zest and juice. Taste the cream and, if you think it needs to be a little sharper, add more lemon juice.
Spoon the lemon mixture over the blueberries and smooth the tops. Chill for at least an hour or overnight.

• This can be made completely up to 48 hours ahead, then just top with the reserved blueberries and dust with icing sugar before serving. It is not suitable for freezing.

Decorate each glass with 3 blueberries and dust with icing sugar.

Ballymaloe Blueberry Muesli

Serves 8
This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries, and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Egremont Russet in the Autumn.

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
8 tablespoons water
250g (8oz) fresh blueberries
2-4 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the blueberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the blueberries are.
Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

The Cake Café

When I was in Dublin recently for a meeting I found another adorable little gem called The Cake Café.   Its tucked in behind the Daintree Paper Shop in Camden street (which is tempting enough in itself – a range of fine and hard paper and stationery).   The indoor and outdoor space was designed by Solearth Architects - there’s lots of steel and thick bamboo and cute little tables covered in check, flowery and spotted oil cloth, under the awning of the bicycle shed.

The crockery is charmingly mismatched and everything is simple and stylish.   The café itself is tiny – inside another 7 or 8 tables and a tall counter piled high with goodies with evocative names like hugs and kisses, and iced cookies, a few cake stands laden with cup cakes and crumbly scones.  There’s a tiny kitchen from which a team of passionate young people produce great bread and a variety of good things to eat.   There’s bunting hanging from the ceiling and there’s a little blackboard on the wall where the day’s specials are chalked up.

Always a soup, savoury tart, salad and terrine of the day and a cup cake of the day which of course I had to have – it came with scary blue icing and both looked and tasted divine.  I also had to have Portuguese sardines on toast which came with a little rocket, roasted red pepper and sunblush tomato salad.  I adore sardines but often forget about them for months on end, these were really good.  I wanted to taste just about everything on the short menu.   ‘Our very own Beans on Toast’, made from scratch with best cannelli beans, sausage and tomato, sounded irresistible, as did ‘Tasty Irish tapas with a twist’.

Must go back but I did order one of their sandwiches for the train.  It came bulging with organic leaves, Gubbeen salami, chilli jam and Cáis na Rí cheese.  When that was safely tucked in my briefcase I ordered a pot of tea and three tiny macaroons .  What joy, this sophisticated little café offers 20 beautiful handpicked teas, some from single estates like Darjeeling Castleton.  I love tea with a passion, not just Barry’s classic leaves, but the myriad of other teas like Gunpowder Temple of Heaven from the province of Zheijang, each single leaf is rolled into a shiny green pearl, reminiscent of gunpowder.   There was also a Moroccan Mint Tea, Indian Chai, Japan Gen Mia, Pai Mu Tan White Tea, Orange Rooibush Eucalyptus …. an unbearable choice.

I have to go back very soon, maybe for breakfast, to have Eggs and Soldiers, Toast and Brown Sugar Marmalade, a bowl of homemade Granola with seasonal fruit compote and Killowen natural yoghurt and a cup of  Ariosa coffee made from freshly roasted beans in Ashbourne, Co Meath

I rushed off to catch my train clutching an egg box full of tiny iced cup cakes and some melting macaroons.  

What a treat to find a café where the owner Michelle Darmody and her team are steeped in the Slow Food ethos, and are truly committed to using the ‘best quality possible ingredients supporting small Irish producers’.

Sadly, far too many chefs and cooks talk the talk but don’t actually deliver – hopefully the team at The Cake Café will continue to adhere to standards which have enchanted their customers thus far.

The Daintree Building, Pleasants Place, Dublin 2 – behind Camden St, off Grantham St. (opposite O’Sullivan’s Graphics)  Monday to Friday 8am-5pm  Saturday 10am-6pm

Tel 01-4789394     - evening opening coming soon.


1.5 kg porridge oats
500g shredded coconut

Mix until dissolved
150 ml honey
100 ml sunflower oil
300 ml water
2 tsp vanilla essence 

Add liquid mixture to mixed oats and coconut
Spread on to baking trays and leave to dry in a warm oven. It will take a few hours to dry out. Stir and break up larger chunks. 

Once dry stir through sultanas, chopped apricots, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.

Store in an air tight container.


500g butter
500g sugar
500g self raising flour
10 tbl sp milk
8 eggs
2 tsp vanilla or other flavour

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix milk, eggs and vanilla and add to butter n sugar. Add in flour.

Bake at 170 for 15 mins

We top the cup cakes with chocolate ganach which is made with 200g good quality chocolate melted and stirred into 200g cream.


 Serves 4
 1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons oil

400g tomatoes

1 orange

75g chickpeas (soaked overnight and then simmered for 30-60 mins, or pre-cooked tinned)

300ml stock

 To serve:

Crème fraiche

Freshly chopped mint

 Chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Fry on a gentle heat for 10 mins, until the onions have softened, but not coloured. Add the garlic to the onion. Finely grate the rind from the orange. Peel the orange and chop into small pieces. Add the orange rind and orange to the onions. Add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, and then simmer gently for 20 mins until cooked through. After this time, add the chickpeas and simmer for a further 10 mins. Liquidise the soup.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprinkle of freshly chopped mint.

 Cooks Book

James Martin’s Desserts published by Quadrille.

Desserts is the eagerly-awaited book on sweet treats and puddings from one of the nation’s favourite chefs James Martin, and is the accompanying book to his BBC TV series Sweet Baby James, in which he travels Britain cooking up some truly irresistible dishes and looks at all aspects of sweet tasting treats, from the best puddings, to chocolate heaven and perfect melt in the mouth pastries, pies and tarts – Tarte Tatin, Pavlova and Chocolate Mousse, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Spicy Plum Crumble …..

Gooseberry crème fraiche tart

– from James Martin’s Desserts
 Try this with new season’s gooseberries.

 Serves 6-8

 Butter for greasing

200g sweet shortcrust pastry – see recipe below

Flour for rolling out


200ml crème fraiche

4 large egg yolks

1 whole egg

100g caster sugar

450g gooseberries, topped and tailed

 Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.  Lightly grease a 23cm,2.5cm deep, loose-bottomed tart tin.

Heat a baking tray in the oven while you roll out the pastry.  Roll the pastry on a floured surface so that it is larger than the diameter of the tin.   Line the tin with the pastry and prick the base all over with a fork.   Brush the base and sides with some of the egg white leftover from the eggs for the filling.  Place the pastry-lined tin on the hot baking tray (this will make the base cook.)

Bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is just beginning to turn golden brown.   Then remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.  

To make the filling, whisk the crème fraiche, yolks, whole egg and sugar together.

Carefully arrange the gooseberries in the pastry case, pour the crème fraiche mixture over the top and return the tart to the oven for 40-50 minutes or until it’s a light golden brown.  Allow to cool before serving.

Rich Shortcrust Pastry

 James says the best way to make shortcrust with that crumble-in-the-mouth texture is to do it by hand rather than by machine, as a blender will overwork the gluten in the flour and cause the pastry to be springy and shrink when cooked.   In addition, resting the pastry in the fridge is important, as the high proportion of butter to flour makes it difficult to roll out when warm.  Any unused pastry can be frozen (freeze it rolled into a tin, rather than in a ball.)
 Makes 300g

 200g plain flour

¼ tsp salt

2 tbsp icing sugar (if making sweet pastry)

100g cold unsalted butter, cubed

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp iced water

 Mix together the flour, salt and sugar (if making sweet pastry).  Add half the cubed butter to the flour.  Gently and swiftly rub the fat into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add the rest of the butter and mix until it’s the size of small peas.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water and gradually pour into the well, a little at a time, rubbing it through your fingers, until it forms a  stiff dough (you may not need all the liquid.) Turn out onto a floured board and knead lightly until smooth. Shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  

To line a tin or mould, roll the chilled pastry onto the rolling pin, then unroll over the tin, draping the pastry into the tin or mould.   Gently press it in place using your fingers.

 Foolproof Food

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake

 A real taste of Summer – make the most of fresh Irish strawberries
 Serves 6 – 8


6 ozs (170g) flour

4 ozs (110g) butter

2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

 ½ lb (225g) strawberries

8 fl ozs (250ml) Chantilly cream - whipped sweetened cream

1 teaspoon icing sugar

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish: 6 - 8 whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves

 Rub the butter into the flour and castor sugar as for shortcrust pastry.  Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Rest the dough for a few minutes if you have time.

  Roll out into 2 circles 7 inches (17.5cm) in diameter, ¼ inch (7mm) thick.  Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, 15 minutes approx or until pale golden.  Remove and cool on a rack.  One circle may be marked with a knife into wedges while still warm, to facilitate cutting later.

Shortly before serving sandwich with Chantilly cream and halved sugared strawberries. Sieve icing sugar over the top and decorate with rosettes of cream, whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves.

 Note: Individual strawberry shortcakes may be made with 3 inch (7.5cm) discs of shortbread.  Cut the strawberries lengthways and brush with red currant jelly if available.

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Delicious with good vanilla ice-cream
 400g (14 ozs) strawberries

55g (2 ozs) icing sugar

Lemon juice


Fresh mint leaves

  To make the strawberry sauce, clean and hull the strawberries, add to the blender with sugar and blend. Strain, taste and add lemon juice if necessary.   Serve with ice-cream or meringues with some fresh strawberries.

 Hot Tips

Panem Cafe

Another little gem in Dublin, Panem is a tiny café overlooking the river on the Lower Ormond Quay, across from Millenium Bridge.   They serve a limited menu sing really fine quality ingredients and bake cakes, brioches, breads and biscuits through the day in their tiny open kitchen.

I had a delicious chocolate chip brioche with an excellent double expresso followed by a glass of orange juice, freshly squeezed as I waited.   Why oh why can’t other people do this.   There were lots of other tempting things to try but I didn’t have time or space, but Panem could well become a regular haunt on trips to Dublin from now on – Simple and Delicious .   Panem, 21 Lr Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. Tel 01-8728510

Glebe Brethan farmhouse cheese wins Gold Medal

David and Mairead are intrigued by the cheesemaking process and to see the potential of Glebe Brethan named after Baothan or Brethan, founder of the fifth century monastery in what was known as Lannleire, now Dunleer.

David and Mairead Tiernan won several major awards for their Glebe Brethan farmhouse cheese, last year. In June they won a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards. They were thrilled and just recovering from the excitement when they scooped another gold medal for the Best New Cheese at the prestigious British Cheese Awards in August, the 2006 Eurotoques Cavan Crystal Award and the 2006 Bridgestone Guides Megabytes Award followed – not bad for a chap who would scarcely let a bit of cheese pass his lips 2 years earlier – it’s a great story. 
David and Mairead are fourth generation dairy farmers. They farm 100 acres near Dunleer in Co Louth. Originally they had Holstein/Friesian cows but in 1995 they became interested in the Montbeliarde breed from the Jura region in Eastern France, so they headed off to Besançon to visit a third level dairy college Ecole Nationale d’Industrie Laitiereet des Biotechnologies de Besançon, which teaches cheesemaking, butter making etc. They visited a local dairy farm and were welcomed into the farmhouse to share a family meal around the kitchen table with the Rognon family. Their hosts were warm and hospitable, the meal was followed by a cheese course - David hated cheese but rather than appear ungracious he nibbled a piece of the local Compté cheese, just one of the mountain cheeses made in that area. 
To his amazement he really enjoyed the experience. His hosts told him that the cheese was made in the time-honoured way by their son Cristel from the milk of the Montbeliarde cows which are looked after by his twin brother, and aged in the local caves on pine boards at exactly 12º. 

The farmers in that area move their cows up to the higher pastures in the Summer to feed on the wild herbs and grasses at the higher altitude. The cows were often milked in the fields and the cheese made on the spot. This type of cheese was traditionally made in big wheels. The milk is heated to 55º which produces a thermophilic cheese which ages beautifully to a rich sometimes nutty buttery flavour. David became fascinated. He was convinced that if he enjoyed this cheese so would 80% or more of the Irish people who, he believes, like himself enjoy plain food.

He and his wife Mairead chatted and the germ of an idea grew. Why not add extra value to his milk by making a farmhouse cheese – great idea but he hadn’t the first idea how to go about it. He contacted the Rognons in France again who put them in touch with a dairy student Julien, a friend of their son Cristel, he was looking for work on a farm making cheese, he helped them get started. Julien spent most of the summer on the farm, he helped them source secondhand equipment and moulds, not only was this cheaper but it was also impregnated with the exact bacteria needed for a Comté cheese. They made their first cheese in July 2004 and waited anxiously until the following Christmas to taste the results.

It takes 1,000 gallons of milk to produce two 50 kilo cheeses. Each day’s production is different, depending on the season, the pasture, the mood of the cows. David decided to make the cheese only from the Summer milk when the cows are grazing on lush grass, cheese made from cows fed on silage is nothing like so interesting or nutritionally complex. David has been greatly encouraged by the reaction to his cheese. He sells it to selected cheese shops, and has been sending some to Myrtle Allen for the cheeseboard in Ballymaloe House for since last Spring.

His biggest problem is to keep up with the demand. When he and Mairead came down to the Cookery School recently at my invitation to tell the story about their cheese, we tasted the very last piece of his mature cheese. We must now wait for another few weeks for some more.
David has noticed that he has two distinct markets for his cheese. One group loves the milder flavour of the younger cheese, others drool over the nutty flavour of the mature cheese. Both cheeses retail for €26 a kilo at the Farmers Markets.
David and Mairead are intrigued by the cheesemaking process and to see the potential of Glebe Brethan named after Baothan or Brethan, founder of the fifth century monastery in what was known as Lannleire, now Dunleer.

Cheese Souffle Tart with Summer Herbs

Serves 6-8
6oz (175g) approx. Shortcrust or flaky pastry 
1 oz (25g) butter
½ oz (15g) flour
5 fl.oz (150ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
1-2 teasp. freshly chopped herbs eg. chervil, thyme and parsley

3 ozs (85g) grated cheese, eg. 2 ozs (55g) gruyere and 1 oz (30g) parmesan or 3 ozs (85g) cheddar
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 egg whites

7 inch (18cm) flan ring

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Line the flan ring with pastry. Bake blind for 20-25 minutes in a moderate oven until almost fully cooked.
Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Whisk in the milk and bring to the boil. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne and the herbs. Cook gently for 4-5 minutes. Then stir in the grated cheese and beaten egg yolks. Allow the mixture to cool and then fold in 2 stiffly whipped egg whites, pour this mixture into the pastry case and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and brown on top.
Serve immediately with a nice green salad or a tomato salad.

Coolea Cheese and Leek Fritters

Makes 25 approx. depending on size.
400g (14oz) leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
25g (1oz) butter
200g (7oz) flour
2 eggs, free-range and organic
250ml (scant 8 fl ozs) milk
200g (7oz) mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground pepper
chilli pepper
freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter, add the thinly sliced leeks, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, 5 minutes approx. Cool.
Put the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, add in the eggs, break up with a whisk. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl. Add the cooled leeks and the grated cheese. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, chilli pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Heat a frying pan, preferably non-stick, on a medium heat. Drop a small spoonful of the batter onto the pan, allow to cook until golden on one side, flip over onto the other and cook for a minute or two more. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. 
Cook the remainder in the same way. Serve hot on their own or with a little Tomato and Chilli Sauce or Tomato Fondue.

Macaroni Cheese

Serves 6
Macaroni cheese is one of my grandchildren's favourite supper dishes. We often add some cubes of cooked bacon or ham to the sauce with the cooked macaroni.

8 ozs (225g) macaroni
6 pints (3.4L) water
2 teaspoons salt

2 ozs (55g) butter
2 ozs (55g) white flour, preferably unbleached
1½ pints (850ml) boiling milk
 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley, (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ozs (145g) grated mature Cheddar 

1 x 2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the salt. Sprinkle in the macaroni and stir to make sure it doesn't stick together. Cook until just soft, 10-15 minutes approx. drain well. 
Meanwhile melt the butter, add in the flour and cook on a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the milk gradually; bring back to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, parsley if using and cheese, season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cooked macaroni, bring back to the boil, taste, correct seasoning and serve immediately. 
Macaroni cheese reheats very successfully provided the pasta is not overcooked in the first place, it is very good served with cold meat particularly ham.

Top Tip: Macaroni soaks up an enormous amount of sauce. Add more sauce if making ahead to reheat later.

Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Salmon
Add 4 ozs (110 g) of smoked salmon pieces to the macaroni cheese.

Macaroni Cheese with Mushrooms and Courgettes
Add 8 ozs (225 g) sliced sautéed mushrooms and 8 ozs (225 g) sliced courgettes cooked in olive oil with a little garlic and marjoram or basil and add to the Macaroni cheese. Toss gently, turn into a hot serving dish and scatter with grated cheese – delish.

Cooks Book
The Hairy Bikers Ride Again – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Dave Myers and Si King are back, carving up the roads of the world on their motorbikes in search of adventurous food and foodie adventures. As usual, they take with them their unique blend of natural charm, northern humour and infectious enthusiasm for new countries, people and experiences and they cause much confusion and amusement wherever they go. This, their second book is full of their travelling tales, bizarre anecdotes and, of course, their wonderful laid back food. This is one of the recipes they came across in Belgium.
Buy this Book from

Cheese Croquettes

Makes 12 croquettes and serves 6
These are very similar to shrimp croquettes and sometimes at Belgian restaurants you can have one shrimp and one cheese instead of two of the same. The mixture has to sit in the fridge overnight so give yourself plenty of time. Great for vegetarians.

For the croquettes
75g unsalted butter
100g plain flour
350ml milk
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
100g Emmental, grated
100g Gruyere, grated
3 egg yolks 
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of cayenne pepper

For the coating
3 egg whites
100g plain flour
100g dried white breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Lettuce leaves, to serve
Deep-fried curly parsley, to serve

Melt the the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, add the flour and mix like Fatboy Slim in the zone for a couple of minutes, keeping the mixture moving around the base of the pan. Whisk in the milk slowly and carry on whisking for 3 minutes until smooth and thick. Add the cheeses and stir continuously until it has become a great heavy cheese sauce.
Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Stir in the egg yolks, one at a time, and then add the white pepper, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Taste before adding some salt, because, as we have observed before, cheese can be a salty beast.
Line a 23cm square cake tin with clingfilm and pour in the mixture, spreading it evenly. Refrigerate overnight to set.
Next day, cut out sausage-sized rectangles of the mixture and roll into cylinders. Lightly beat the egg whites until frothy in one bowl. Put the flour in another bowl and the breadcrumbs in another.
Heat the oil in a pan or deep-fat fryer to around 200C.
Dip the cylinders in the flour, then dip into the egg whites. Shake off the excess. Dredge in the breadcrumbs and deep-fry in batches for about 2-3 minutes till golden brown and crisp. Keep the croquettes warm in the oven while you do the rest.
Serve the croquettes on a bed of lettuce leaves with a heap of deep-fried curly parsley. (To deep fry the parsley, plunge it into the oil for 1-2 minutes, remove and drain on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. It will be dark green, crispy and sort of delicious – it’s a Belgian thing!)

Foolproof Food

Cheese Sauce

1 pint (600ml) milk with a dash of cream

a slice of onion
3-4 slices of carrot
6 peppercorns
thyme or parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ozs (110g) grated cheese, eg. Cheddar or a mixture of Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar
½ teasp. English or Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the cheese sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a slice of onion, 3-4 slices of carrot, 6 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme or parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a light coating consistency. Add 4 ozs (110g) grated cheese and a little mustard. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary 


4ozs (110 g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour

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

Hot Tips

Glebe Brethan Cheese is available at The Pigs Back in Cork English Market, URRU in Bandon and Mallow, in Dublin at Cavistons of Glathule, Listons of Camden St., Fallon & Byrne in Exchequer St., Fothergills in Rathmines, Thomas Murphys in Foxrock, Olive in Skerries – at Farmleigh Market, Sonairte in Laytown, Castlewellan in Co Down – other outlets listed on 

Leitrim Organic Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd – Mobile Organic Butcher, now at Donnybrook Farmers’ Market, St Mary’s Church, Anglesea Road, Dublin 4
Every Thursday 10-4 selling full range of Irish Organic Meat – lamb, beef, poultry, organic pork to order – advance orders 071-9640868 
For great barbecue recipes and other foodie news


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