CategorySaturday Letter

World Restaurant Awards 2019

The original idea was simple: Try to do something different, something that celebrates the restaurant world in a new, more relevant and entertaining way…  Awards from the ground up but it took a whole decade to become a reality. These ground breaking awards celebrate the excellence, integrity and rich culture of the restaurant world.

So with much pomp and ceremony, the inaugural World Restaurant Awards were held at the Palais Brongniart in Paris on 18th February 2019. – 10 countries and 4 continents were represented. A glitzy, super chic event that celebrated not just the chefs that work their magic with foams, gels, skid marks on plates and liquid nitrogen, instead these awards celebrated many other aspects of the restaurant experience.

Over 100 judges from 37 countries made up a cosmopolitan, multicultural, globetrotting, gender balanced, panel of experts … chefs, restauranteurs, influential figures in old and new media, film makers, book publishers, food scientists, activists, campaigners. They chose from 18 different categories including ……

No reservations required – for places where it is possible to turn up without a booking. This award went to Mocoto,  Sao Paulo Brazil

House special , restaurants defined by one particular dish was won by Lido 84 on the edge of Lake Garda in Italy for their simple but iconic pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe en Vessie (cooked in a pigs bladder).

Multi starred Alain Ducasse won the Tattoo-free chef of the Year.

The Tweezer- free kitchen went to Bo.Lan in Bangkok.

The Pop Up Event of the Year was awarded to the Refugee Food Festivals.

New arrival of the Year went to Inua – in Tokyo.

Ethical Thinking, rewarding environmental and social responsibility to Refettorio – various locations. Food for Soul, an Italian not-for-profit organisation that addresses food waste, loneliness, and social isolation through community meals.

Instagram Account of the Year was won by another 3 star Michelin chef, Alain Passard of Arpege in Paris.

Off map destination was won by Wolfgart, a 20 seat restaurant in a 130 year old white washed fisherman’s cottage on the edge of the ocean in Paternoster on the Western Cape.

Wolfgart also won Restaurant of the Year. Chef owner Kobus Van der Merve said ‘by keeping it small, we keep it sustainable’.

Red-Wine serving Restaurant – for those who shun current fashion by championing the red grape. This category was won by a cult London wine bar called Noble Rot.

Ireland was nominated in two categories and won both….

Collaboration of the Year went to Cork’s own Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso and farmer Ultan Walsh from Gortnanain Farm in Nohoval who has been growing beautiful produce for Café Paradiso for over 18 years. Denis accepted his award in beautiful, fluent gaelic.

Much to our excitement, The Trolley of the Year Award went to Ballymaloe House.  JR Ryle, who is the passionate young pastry chef and I proudly accepted the award on behalf of Ballymaloe and dedicated it to the memory of Myrtle Allen whose idea it was to have a trolley groaning with delicious desserts for her guests to choose from. She and her husband Ivan opened their home as a restaurant in 1964.

Everything about the ‘Oscars of Food Awards’ was super exciting. Chefs from all over the world flew in to give us a taste of their special little dish. The finest pata negra was carved off the bone into paper thin wisps, hundreds of oysters were shucked, tender abalone, black pepper soft shelled crabs, tantilizing tacos, chilli crab beignets and delicious coconut madelines, warm from the oven made by Cheryl Koh from Singapore, who promised me the recipe.

But perhaps what impressed me most was the short film by shown at the beginning of the evening which reminded us cooks and chefs, what restaurants can do to combat climate change.

Chefs can help by sourcing from climate friendly farms and ranches.

Going carbon neutral with zero ‘foot print’.


By conserving energy and reducing consumption and waste.

Spreading the message that food can be a solution….

It’s sooo worth thinking about how we can all do our bit….

Meanwhile here are some perennial favourites from the world famous Ballymaloe House sweet trolley.

Orange Mousse with Dark Chocolate Wafers

This mousse sounds slightly ‘retro’ now, but everyone loves it when we serve it on the sweet trolley at Ballymaloe.

Serves 6-8

2 organic oranges (1 1/2 if very large)

4 eggs (preferably free-range)

21/2 ozs (70g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons water

1 organic lemon

8 fl ozs (225ml) whipped cream


Chocolate Wafers

2 ozs (50g) best quality dark chocolate



2 oranges

8 fl ozs (225ml) whipped cream

a pinch of castor sugar


Wash and dry the oranges; grate the rind on the finest part of a stainless steel grater.  Put into a bowl with 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks and the castor sugar.  Whisk to a thick mousse, preferably with an electric mixer.  Put 3 tablespoons (3 American tablespoons + 3 teaspoons) of water in a little bowl, measure the gelatine carefully and sprinkle over the water.  Leave to “sponge” for a few minutes until the gelatine has soaked up the water and feels spongy to the touch.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water and allow the gelatine to dissolve completely.  All the granules should be dissolved and it should look perfectly clear.

Meanwhile, squeeze the juice from the 2 oranges and 1 lemon, measure and if necessary bring up to 1/2 pint (300ml/1 cups) with water.  Stir a little of the juice into the gelatine and then mix well the remainder of the juice.  Gently stir this into the mousse; cool in the fridge, stirring regularly.  When the mousse is just beginning to set around the edges, fold in the softly whipped cream.  Whisk the 2 egg whites stiffly and fold in gently.   Pour into a glass bowl or into individual bowls.  Cover and allow to set for 3-4 hours in the fridge, or better still overnight.

Meanwhile make the chocolate wafers.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over barely simmering water.  Stir until quite smooth.  Spread on a Silpat mat or a heavy baking tray.  Put into a cold place until stiff enough to cut in square or diamond shapes.


While the chocolate is setting, make the orange-flavoured cream.  Grate the rind from half an orange, add into the whipped cream and add a pinch of castor sugar to taste.  Peel and segment the oranges.  Decorate the top of the mousse with orange segments and pope on some rosettes of orange-flavoured cream.  Peel the chocolate wafers off the card and use them to decorate the edges of the mousse.


Toasted Almond Meringue with Chocolate and Rum Cream

This mixture can of course be halved but you’ll need to use a hand held electric whisk rather than a food mixer to create the volume.

Serves 12


75g (3oz) almonds

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) icing sugar



50g (2oz) good quality dark chocolate (62%)

25g (1oz) unsweetened chocolate (85%)

2 tablespoons rum

2 tablespoons single cream

600ml (1 pint) softly whipped cream


5 toasted almonds or chocolate curls

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

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease. Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them coarsely – they should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty. Toast in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes until golden.

Reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Mark four 7 1/2 inch (19cm) circles or heart shapes on silicone paper or a prepared baking sheet. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks, 5 – 8 minutes. Fold in the almonds. Divide the mixture between the 2 circles or heart shapes and spread evenly with a palette knife. Bake immediately in the preheat oven for 45 minutes or until crisp, they should peel off the paper easily.  Turn off the oven and allow to cool.

To make the filling

Melt the chocolate with the rum and single cream very gently in a very cool oven, or over hot water. Cool and then fold the mixture into the softly whipped cream.

To Assemble

Sandwich the meringues together with most of the filling. Decorate with rosettes of the remaining chocolate and rum cream stuck with halved toasted almonds or chocolate curls.


Toasted Almond Meringue with Raspberries

Substitute 10fl oz (300ml) softly whipped cream and 12oz (350g) fresh Autumn raspberries for chocolate and rum cream in the recipe above and use to fill the meringue as above.


Ballymaloe Praline Ice-Cream with Praline Brittle

The praline can be made from almonds, hazelnuts, pecans or even salted peanuts. If this is too expensive in these credit-crunch times, make the brown bread ice cream below, which gives a similar texture for a much lower price.

Serves 6 – 8


110g (4oz) sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

4 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream



110g (4oz) unskinned almonds

110g (4oz) sugar


Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues).  Combine the sugar and water in a small heavy bottomed saucepan, stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, 106-113°C (223-236°F). It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads.  Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Add vanilla extract and continue to whisk until it becomes a thick creamy white mousse. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Meanwhile make the praline.  Put the unskinned almonds with the sugar into a heavy saucepan over a low heat until the sugar gradually melts and turn a caramel colour, DO NOT STIR, when this stage is reached and not before, carefully rotate the pan until the nuts are all covered with caramel.  When the nuts go ‘pop’, pour this mixture onto a lightly oiled Swiss roll tin or marble slab. Allow to get quite cold, when the praline is quite hard, crush in a food processor or with a rolling pin, the texture should be quite coarse and gritty.


After about 1 1/2 hours when the ice cream is just beginning to set, fold in the 4 tablespoons of praline powder and freeze again. If you fold in the praline too early it will sink to the bottom of the ice cream. To serve, scoop out into balls with an ice cream scoop. Serve in an ice bowl, sprinkle with the remainder of the praline powder.


Hazelnut Praline Ice-Cream

Substitute skinned hazelnuts for almonds in the above recipe and proceed as above.


Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

The ice bowl was Myrtle Allen’s brilliant solution to keeping the ice-cream cold during the evening  on the sweet trolley in the restaurant.   I quote from “The Ballymaloe Cookbook”.


“It took me twelve years to find the solution to keeping ice cream cold on the sweet trolley in my restaurant.   At first we used to unmould and decorate our ices on to a plate.  This was alright on a busy night when they got eaten before melting.  On quieter occasions the waitresses performed relay races from the dining-room to the deep freeze.  I dreamed about 19th Century ice boxes filled from ice houses, to my husband’s increasing scorn, and then I thought I had a solution.   A young Irish glass blower produced beautiful hand-blown glass cylinders which I filled with ice-cream and fitted into beautiful tulip shaped glass bowls.  These I filled with ice cubes.  Six months later, however, due to either the stress of the ice or the stress of the waitresses, my bowls were gone and so was my money.

In desperation I produced an ice bowl.  It turned out to be a stunning and practical presentation for a restaurant trolley or a party buffet”


To make a Ballymaloe Ice Bowl

Take two bowls, one about double the capacity of the other.   Half fill the big bowl with cold water.   Float the second bowl inside the first.   Weight it down with water or ice cubes until the rims are level.  Place a square of fabric on top and secure it with a strong rubber band or string under the rim of the lower bowl, as one would tie on a jam pot cover.   Adjust the small bowl to a central position.   The cloth holds it in place.   Put the bowls on a Swiss roll tin and place in a deep freeze, if necessary re-adjusting the position of the small bowl as you put it in.   After 24 hours or more take it out of the deep freeze.

Remove the cloth and leaves for 15-20 minutes, by which time the small bowl should lift out easily.   Then try to lift out the ice-bowl.  It should be starting to melt slightly from the outside bowl, in which case it will slip out easily.  If it isn’t, then just leave for 5 or 10 minutes more, don’t attempt to run it under the hot or even cold tap, or it may crack.  If you are in a great rush, the best solution is to wring out a tea-towel in hot water and wrap that around the large bowl for a few minutes.   Altogether the best course of action is to perform this operation early in the day and then fill the ice bowl with scoops of ice-cream, so that all you have to do when it comes to serving the ice-cream is to pick up the ice bowl from the freezer and place it on the serving dish.   Put a folded serviette under the ice bowl on the serving dish to catch any drips.

At Ballymaloe, Myrtle Allen surrounds the ice bowl with vine leaves in Summer, scarlet Virginia creeper in Autumn and red-berried holly at Christmas.  However, as you can see I’m a bit less restrained and I can’t resist surrounding it with flowers!

However you present it, ice-cream served in a bowl of ice like this usually draws gasps of admiration when you bring it to the table.

In the restaurant we make a new ice-bowl every night, but at home when the dessert would be on the table for barely half an hour, it should be possible to use the ice bowl several times.  As soon as you have finished serving, give the bowl a quick wash under the cold tap and get it back into the freezer again.  This way you can often get 2 or 3 turns from a single ice bowl.


Don’t leave a serving spoon resting against the side of the bowl or it will melt a notch in the rim.


Alison’s Chocolate Tart

This tart is best made the night before if possible.


Sweet Pastry (line 1 x 9 1/2 tin)

175g (6ozs) plain flour

75g (3ozs) butter, cold and cubed

25g (1oz) castor sugar

15g (1/2 oz) icing sugar

2 – 3 tablespoons egg, beaten


In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar and flour to give coarse, ‘flat’ breadcrumb texture.   Add egg and pulse again until the pastry comes together.  Tip onto a sheet of cling film, form into a roll and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


To line tin

Roll the pastry between 2 sheets of clingfilm.  Invert into the tin and mould into ring.  Cover with cling film and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes or freeze until needed.


To blind bake, preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, remove cling film, line the pastry case with baking parchment and beans and bake for 20-25 mins approx. Remove from the oven and brush with egg wash. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes further to dry off. The tart base should be fully cooked.  Let case cool, patch any cracks.



200g (7ozs) dark chocolate (we use Callebaut, 52%)

150g (5ozs) butter

3 organic, free-range egg yolks

2 organic, free-range eggs

40g (1 1/2 ozs) castor sugar


Melt chocolate and butter together – either over a bain marie or carefully in a heat proof bowl in the oven.  With electric beaters, beat the eggs, yolks and sugar until pale and thick – about 5 minutes.  Fold in chocolate and beat briefly to amalgamate.  Pour into blind baked case and bake at 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 for 6 minutes. It should still be slightly molten.  Cool completely and serve.


Rhubarb Fool

Serves 6 approximately


450g (1lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g (6oz) sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml softly whipped cream


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


 Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

Makes 25


6oz (175g) white flour or Spelt

4oz (110g) butter

1 1/2oz (40g) castor sugar


Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 1/4 inch (7mm) thick.  Cut into rounds with a 2 1/2 inch (6cm) cutter or into heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 to pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack.


Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

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

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




Ballymaloe Alumni

The Ballymaloe Cookery School was founded in September 1983 and since then thousands of students from all over the world have ‘kick started’ their careers by doing a 12 Week Certificate Course, a full-on immersive experience, of hands-on cooking classes, breadmaking, preserving, pickling, butchery, sausage and charcuterie making,  fermenting, foraging, cheese making, sowing and growing..…

By now they are scattered all over the world, using the skills they learned in a myriad of ways….in restaurants, catering businesses, cooking schools, private cooking classes, food writers, magazine editors, food businesses, personal chefs, grand prix catering, TV cooking shows, ski chalets, on yachts and liners, in multinational food companies, upmarket supermarkets, independent delis, artisan bakeries, gastro pubs, on and on it goes.

I’m always intrigued by the extraordinary variety of ways they use their knowledge and cooking skills around the globe. So when I’m travelling I often shoot off an email to past students with my itinerary and invite them to contact me for a convivial catch up if they are in the area, could be London, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Paris, Romania, Mumbai or any one of the 78 countries our students have come from.

It’s so fun to catch up and hear about their adventures…On a recent trip to London, we heard from several students, ate a delicious lunch at Clipstone where Daniel Morganthau and his partner Will Lander and their team do some of the best food in London.

Thomasina Miers started Wahaca serving Mexican street food in 2007 and now there are over 25 all over the UK, plus she writes a weekly column for the Saturday Guardian magazine and to cap it all off was recently honoured with an OBE for services to business – now there you are!

Stevie Parle’s first restaurant, Dock Kitchen was launched in 2009 now he’s added Rotorino, Craft London, Palatino and Pastaio to his list.

James Ramsden was awarded a Michelin Star at Pidgin in 2017.

Clare de Boer and Jess Shadbolt’s restaurant King in Manhattan is the toast of the town and recently praised by the New York Times. In Delhi, Rachel Goenka’s restaurant The Sassy Spoon has kept the flag flying in India as has Zhang Li at the Flying Fox in Shanghai.

In Dublin and Cork, readers will be familiar with Bunsen, Tom Gleeson’s much loved burger joints, Garrett Fitzgerald and James Boland who run Brother Hubbard North and South both did a 12 Week Course here at the school.

Reg White at PI on South Great George’s Street in Dublin is turning out pizzas that have punters queuing around the corner while Eoin Cluskey at Bread 41 on Pearse Street has caused a sensation for his artisan breads.

Down in Tramore, Co Waterford, Sarah Richardson has changed people’s perceptions of bread at her Seagull Bakery. Carol-Anne Rushe’s Sweet Beet in Sligo is well ahead of the curve with vegetarian and vegan food and David Dunne’s Knox is doing brilliantly on the main street.

Food Game in Dublin, run by Ross Staunton, is turning out breakfast and brunch to die for and on and on it goes…..

We are super proud of our Ballymaloe Cookery School cooks and chefs who continue to spread their wings. If you can cook you can get a job anywhere in the world, so the way to everyone’s heart is still through their tummy. The next 12 Week Course starts on April 29th and runs until July 20th 2019.


Serves 4 people

2 heads of hispi, pointed or sweetheart cabbage

4 Cox apples

1 tabelspoon of demerera sugar

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

5 fresh chestnuts

250ml good quality apple juice

1 tablespoon of double cream

180g cold, cubed unsalted butter

Fresh horseradish


Cut the cabbages in half. Lightly cover the base of a frying pan with vegetable oil and heat until the oil has just started smoking. Sear the cut side of each cabbage in the oil one after another until they are nice and golden brown, veering on burnt. Set the cabbages aside.
Peel and core the apples. Pop them in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water, the sugar and cinnamon. Cook them down until the apples are soft and then blitz them in a food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Take a knife and pierce the brown skin of the raw chestnuts all the way the around their circumference. Either blow torch or put them under the grill or in a very hot oven until the shells crack and they are easy to peel. Peel the shells and the underlying skin off the chestnuts and then set aside.
Then reduce the apple juice in a saucepan to 1/5 of its original volume. Add the double cream and then whisk in the cubed butter, keeping it over a low heat, not letting the liquid bubble or boil. Then add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of salt.
Line your serving dish with the warm, spiced apple puree. Finely chop the grilled cabbage, warm it in the oven and then dress it with olive oil, a pinch of salt and some lemon juice and arrange it on top of the apple puree. Dress the cabbage with the apple and butter sauce and then grate the chestnuts and some fresh horseradish over the top.



For the sweet pastry

250g plain flour

138g butter, softened

120g caster sugar

1 egg

Pinch of salt

For the frangipan

250g butter, softened

250g caster sugar

3 eggs

25g plain flour

250g ground almonds

A splash of Disaronno almond liqueur (optional)

1 jar raspberry jam (we make our own, but a good shop bought jam will work perfectly)

25g (1oz) flaked almonds for sprinkling


To make the sweet pastry

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Fold in the flour and salt, and mix gently to form a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

To make the frangipan

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour, ground almonds and the Disaronno (if using) and mix gently to combine. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the tart

Set the oven to 170 degrees C

You will need to lightly grease a loose bottomed 28 cm tart case.

Roll the sweet pastry to the thickness of a €1 coin, and then ease it into the tin, making sure to push it into all the sides. Trim off any excess with a knife, then prick the base of the case all over with a fork ‘blind bake’ the tart case until it is uniformly golden brown

Remove from the oven and spread a generous layer of raspberry jam around the base of the tart shell.  Cover this with a thick layer of frangipan.  It should come almost to the top of the tin, but leave a little room as it will expand when you cook it, sprinkle evenly with flaked almonds.

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, until the frangipan has lost its wobble, cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, sprinkle lightly with icing sugar before serving and serve with good ice cream, cream or crème fraiche.


Pidgin’s ‘Brown Butter Butter’
125g unsalted butter, room temperature

125g unsalted butter

2.5g milk powder

pinch of salt

handful of fresh yeast


Put the room temperature butter in a bowl and bring to room temperature.

Heat the remaining butter over a medium heat until it browns – you’re aiming for 170°C.

Meanwhile, once the butter is melted, add the milk powder

Cook to 170°C, whisking regularly.

When it has reached 170°C remove from heat.


Pass through muslin and hold in a warm place.

Place the room temperature butter in the kitchen aid with the salt and the paddle and splatter guard.

Paddle at low-medium speed and slowly emulsify in the brown butter. Wrap and store in a cool place.
For the yeast crumble, put a small handful of fresh yeast onto a baking tray and bake in a hot oven until the kitchen smells like a bakery. Pulse in a blender until it forms a rough powder.
Serve the brown butter with the crumbled roasted yeast on top. Slather on warm sourdough. Repeat.


Sweet Beat’s Smoky Beans

A staple on the Sweet Beat menu, in the beginning this was only a breakfast option but it became so popular that we had to start serving it all day. I love to make it at home at the weekends for a big family brunch. So delicious with crusty sourdough and avocado. Double it and make a big batch to freeze.

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 tins of cannellini beans

1 tin of crushed tomatoes

Heat a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat, add in the sunflower oil, once the oil is hot, add in the onion and garlic and sweat until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add in the tomato paste, smoked paprika, thyme and cook for 3 minutes.

Once the spices have cooked out, add in the maple syrup and vinegar, cook for 5 minutes. Add in 100ml water and the crushed tomatoes.

Cook until rich and the sauce has thickened, about 15-20 minutes and blend until smooth.

Taste and check for seasoning, add the 2 tins of cannellini beans.

Cook for 5 minutes until beans are coated in sauce.

Serve over toasted and buttered sourdough with lashings of kale pesto, toasted seeds and organic greens.

Marmalade Season

The last few weeks have been a frenzy of marmalade making, Julia, and her team in the Farmers Market kitchen here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, have been slicing and juicing surrounded by preserving pans of bubbling citrus peel.

The Seville and Malaga orange season is a short one – running from mid-December to the end of February so there’s still time to whizz off to the shops or Farmers Market to stock up with the bitter sweet, vitamin packed citrus before they disappear off the shelves until next year.

If your budget will stretch to it, buy more than you can – they will freeze perfectly. All you need to do is throw them into the freezer in a bag or box in the quantity you need for a batch of your favourite marmalade.

Seville Orange Marmalade is the real deal, bitter sweet, the ‘classic’, made famous by Paddington Bear. It’s stronger, sourer and tangier than preserves made from other citrus. Having said that, grapefruit, both ruby and tart, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, mandarins, bergamots, kumquats, alone or in combination make delicious marmalades.

How do you like yours? Marmalade is an intensely personal taste. Some, like me, enjoy it dark and bitter, others prefer it fresh and fruity, some love lots of peel, others prefer less chewy bits and more wobbly jelly.

Seville and Malaga oranges are so called, because they are indigenous to Southern Spain and grow in towns and villages along the roadside. On my first trip to Spain I was intrigued by how law-abiding the Spaniards appeared to be. They didn’t seem to pull the ripe oranges off the trees…but I soon realised that these were bitter oranges so were less appealing to eat fresh and you may be surprised to learn that Spaniards consider our passion for marmalade a bit bizarre!

Seville oranges tend to be unwaxed, so the skin will be softer and not as smooth as other citrus. Discard any that show signs of decay and seek out organic fruit. Make your marmalade in small batches – say 2- 3 kilos of fruit at a time. Make yourself a cup of coffee, find a high stool, grab a sharp knife, turn on the radio and hand slice the peel. It will be altogether better than the sludgy result one gets from the food processor or mincer, I find it therapeutic, but not everyone does. A batch a day is certainly manageable – even better if you can entice someone else to get involved in the slicing – Maybe for a ‘bit of gas’ organise a Marmalade Party with a few friends and give them a present of a pot for their input.

There’s magic in Marmalade making, not sure what it is but there’s a terrific ‘feel good’ factor when you can admire a line of glistening jars like ‘good deeds’ on your kitchen shelf. A stocked pantry to see you  through the year….

Apart from marmalade recipes there’s many good things that benefit from a few spoons of marmalade or a little bitter orange zest e.g. panna cotta, muffins or scones. Slather it over a loin of boiled bacon (remove the rind first) and pop it under the grill to make a super quick and delicious glaze.

Massage it over a chicken breast or wings with some grated ginger and a little orange juice and then there’s Marmalade steamed pudding, my father-in-law, Ivan’s favourite steamed pudding.



Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade


Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-5 weeks.

Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2lbs (900g) of Seville oranges, organic if possible

4 pints (2.3L/10 cups) water

1 organic lemon

3 1/4lbs (1.45kg/6 1/2 cups) granulated sugar (warmed)

(Note on warming sugar: The faster jam/marmalade is made the better. If you add cold sugar it will take longer to return to the boil and will taste less fresh. Heat your sugar in a stainless steel bowl in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes. Do not leave it in too long or it will start to melt).

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin. Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.

Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx. Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.


Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating.  Pot into hot sterilized jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.

N.B. The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.


 Kumquat Marmalade

Kumquats are expensive and fiddly to slice, but this is so worth making. I was given this recipe by an Australian friend called Kate Engel.

Kumquats can vary in sweetness so you may want to increase the sugar slightly depending on the tartness of the fruit.


Makes 3 x 370g (13oz) pots


1kg (2 1⁄4lb) kumquats

1.3kg (3lbs) sugar, warmed



Slice the kumquats thinly crossways. Put the seeds into a small bowl with 225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) of water and leave overnight. Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with 1.5 litres (2.5 pints/6 1/4 cups) of water, cover and also leave overnight. Next day, strain the seeds and reserve the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam). Discard the seeds. Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender.  Remove the lid and reduce to between a 1/3 and 1/2 of the original volume.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until it is fully dissolved. Bring the mixture back to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat while testing for a set by putting a teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer (it should barely wrinkle when pressed with a finger).

Pour into sterilized jars. Cover, seal and store in a cool, dry place.


Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade

Yield 10-10 1/2 lbs (4.5 kg)


3 – 4 ruby grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether

4 lemons

6 pints (3.4 L) water

3 1/2lbs (1.6kg) sugar, warmed


Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice.  Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways.  Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.

Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl.  Leave overnight.  The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1 1/2-2 hours until the peel is really soft.  (Cover for the first hour).  The liquid should be reduced to about 1/3 of the original volume.

Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes.  Pour into sterilized jars and cover while hot.

Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it.


Rory O’Connell’s Marmalade Tart

Serves 10-12



6oz (175g) flour

4oz (110g) unsalted butter

1oz (25g/) castor sugar

2 egg yolks


Almond Filling

9oz (250g) soft butter, unsalted

8oz (225g) castor sugar

9oz (250g) whole almonds (If you are feeling lazy use ground almonds but it won’t taste so good.)

3 eggs

1 dessertspoon Grand Marnier

1/2 – 3/4 pot (8-12fl ozs) of homemade Seville Orange Marmalade (see recipe)

Plus 3 – 4 tablespoons marmalade

1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin with ‘pop up’ base.

Crème fraiche


First make the pastry.

Put the flour and butter into the food processor.  Whizz for a few seconds then add sugar and egg yolks, turn off the machine just as the pastry starts to form a ball.    Chill for 1/2-1 hour.  Line the flan ring with pastry, fill with paper and baking beans, chill for 15 minutes in a refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Bake blind for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the almond filling.   Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.

Whisk the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy, add the ground almonds, eggs and Grand Marnier if available.   Spread the marmalade over the base of the tart.  Spread the almond filling over the top.

Reduce the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3, and bake for approx. 40 minutes.   Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Glaze the top of the tart with 3 or 4 tablespoons of Seville orange marmalade.

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

Clodagh McKenna

Clodagh McKenna and I go back a very long way. In, 2000, Clodagh enrolled in a 12 Week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, she was always bubbling with excitement and threw herself enthusiastically into learning how to cook delicious food. I remember how she was always ready to try out new ideas and delighted to get involved in any new project. After the course she went to Ballymaloe House and loved to work side by side with Mrs Allen, as we all called Myrtle.

The pioneering generation of artisan producers, particularly Giana and Tom Ferguson, Sally Barnes and of course with late Veronica Steele were also sources of inspiration. Clodagh’s enthusiasm was, and still is infectious.

The Midleton Farmers Market, started in June 2000 and was quickly oversubscribed. Even at that stage Clodagh was a budding entrepreneur, so when she couldn’t get a stall of her own I made a space on the side of the Ballymaloe Cookery School stall so she could sell her delicious homemade chicken liver pâté. From those beginnings she went on to do a TV program on The Farmers Markets with RTE and published her first book to accompany the series, The Irish Farmers Market Cookbook in 2009, and ‘the rest they say is history’…

She’s gone on with boundless energy to open several restaurants, do innumerable TV appearances both here and in the US and the UK including Rachel Ray, The Today Show and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch.

Her latest book Clodagh’s Suppers exudes the essence of Clodagh, who loves laying a beautiful table almost as much as cooking delicious food – lots of super tips. Here she concentrates on menus for informal suppers rather than dinner and there is much to whet our appetites. Flowers, lighting and music are all part of the ambience.

Clodagh’s handwritten menus are built primarily around the seasons and there’s a page of supper suggestions for every new season but of course she encourages us to mix and match as we fancy, how about a Spring Gathering Supper, a Wild Garden Forest Supper, a West Cork Foraged Supper, a Summer Garden Supper or maybe an Edible Flower Supper…….?

Clodagh continues to create and test recipes every week for her U Tube channel and for her Evening Standard column.

Clodagh’s Suppers published by Kyle Books has already become a favourite….



Salmon Fishcakes with Horseradish Cream





400g floury potatoes, boiled and mashed

400g skinless salmon fillet, poached and flaked

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons capers

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

50g butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper



100ml crème fraîche

1 tablespoon peeled and grated

fresh horseradish root

grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 lemon, cut into wedges, plus a

bunch of watercress (optional), to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.


Place all the ingredients for the fishcakes except the butter in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Divide the fishcake mixture into four balls and shape each into a patty.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the fishcakes and brown on both sides. Transfer the fishcakes to a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.


While the fishcakes are baking, mix all the ingredients for the horseradish cream together in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place each fishcake on a warmed plate with a spoonful of the horseradish cream and a wedge of lemon, plus a handful of watercress, if you wish.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books


Chicken Liver Pâté


Clodagh started making this pâté about 16 years ago when she first had her stall at the Midleton Farmers Market. It is one of her classic recipes.




450g butter, softened

675g chicken livers, cleaned

3 tablespoons brandy

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

sea salt and freshly ground black



Cucumber pickle

thinly sliced sourdough


Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a knob of the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the chicken livers and cook for about 15 minutes or until thoroughly cooked with no trace of red remaining, stirring occasionally and breaking up the livers with a wooden spoon. Transfer the cooked livers to a blender or food-processor.

Add the brandy, garlic and thyme to the frying pan and deglaze the pan by scraping up all the tiny pieces of meat and juices from the livers with a whisk – the base of the pan is where the real flavour is! Add the brandy mixture to the blender or food-processor and process until well blended. Leave to cool.

Gradually add the remaining butter to the cooled chicken liver mixture and blend until all the butter has been incorporated and you have a silky, smooth consistency.

Transfer the chicken liver pâté to a large dish, cover with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours until set.

Serve the pâté with pickles and thinly sliced sourdough toast.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books


Butternut Squash & Harissa Hummus

Clodagh has created a delicious twist on the traditional hummus.



400g butternut squash, peeled,

deseeded and cut into chunks

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

100ml water

3 tablespoons tahini paste

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus

extra for drizzling

1 tablespoon harissa, plus extra for drizzling

400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

sea salt and freshly ground black



2 wedges of lemon

1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.


Place the butternut squash chunks and whole garlic cloves in a roasting tray, season well with salt and pepper and add the water. Cover the tray with foil and bake for about 45 minutes until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Squeeze the roasted garlic from their skins into a blender or food-processor along with the squash and any juices from the roasting tray. Add all the remaining ingredients, season with salt and blend to a paste.

Scrape the hummus into a bowl. Drizzle with extra harissa, olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Serve with a couple of lemon wedges on the side.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books


Coconut & Lemon Cloud Cake



A beautifully light, fluffy cake scented with the exotic flavour of coconut and fresh, citrusy lemon, this is the perfect finale for a pungent wild garlic supper to cleanse the palate, although it works equally well as an afternoon or celebration cake. You can use coconut butter instead of dairy butter and/or coconut flour in place of the plain wheat flour. And for convenience, you can make and bake the cake layers a couple of days ahead and then prepare the frosting and assemble the cake on the day you are planning to serve it.



300g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

300g caster sugar

300g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

250ml coconut milk

2 eggs

juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


200g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon coconut oil

200g raw coconut flakes, to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4, and lightly grease two 20cm loose-based sandwich tins.

For the cake, sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix in the sugar. In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, coconut milk, eggs, lemon juice, coconut oil and vanilla extract and whisk together thoroughly. Then add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and beat together until well combined.

Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared tins and level the surface with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake for about 25 minutes or until well risen and golden.

Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes. Then remove them from the tins and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place all the ingredients in a bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and use an electric hand mixer or the paddle attachment on the stand mixer to beat on a high speed until light and fluffy.

To assemble, place one of the cakes, top facing downwards, on a cake plate or stand and spread with about one-third of the frosting to cover it. Add the other cake, top facing upwards, and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle raw coconut flakes all over the cake to decorate.

From Clodagh’s Suppers by Clodagh McKenna. Published by Kyle Books

Happy Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Are you ready for yet another celebration? These festivities go on for almost a month and red is the magic colour.

This is the ‘Year of the Pig’ which symbolises wealth. In China, every year has a zodiac animal, the cycle repeats every 12 years, making it easy to figure out whether it’s your year or not. Just check your age in multiples of 12.

For the Chinese, the Spring Festival is the most important celebration of the entire year, similar to Christmas for us westerners. It marks the coming of Spring and all the excitement and joy of new beginnings. Unlike Christmas in this part of the world, Chinese New Year is a movable feast, predicated by the Lunar rather than the Gregorian calendar. Technically it’s the longest Chinese holiday, celebrated by over 20% of the world’s population – how amazing is that!

The most significant element of the holiday is the family reunion which triggers the largest human migration in the entire world. Millions of diligent hard working people, young and old, who now live in cities, travel home to rural areas to get together with their elderly parents.

Apparently, desperate singles often resort to hiring a fake boy or girlfriend to take home to allay their parents’ concerns – continuing the family name is one of the most important elements of Chinese culture, a reason why the Chinese have such a huge population…

Lively music and dance plus copious quantities of delicious food are important elements of the festivities. There are spectacular parades in Chinatowns all over the world – traditional lion and unicorn dances, dragon parades, bell ringing and lots of fun and fireworks. Children receive gifts of red envelopes stuffed with lucky money.

The feasting and excitement will continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year – the first new moon of the Lunar year so you’ll see lots of red lanterns in all shapes and sizes, widely available in Asian shops, if you want to have fun and enter into the spirit….

A myriad of superstitions are attached to the New Year…People ‘spring clean’ the house on the day before Chinese New Year to sweep away bad luck and make way for good vibes.

Showering is taboo on New Year’s Day, as is throwing out rubbish. Hair cutting too is out, so hair salons are closed…

There will be celebrations in Dublin, Cork, and Belfast so check it out. Cork which has been twinned with Shanghai since 2005, hosted its first Chinese New Year Festival on February 4th. Many iconic buildings around the world, including the Mansion House in Dublin and City Hall in Cork will be illuminated in red to mark the beginning of Chinese New Year.

Lots of foods are associated with Chinese New Year, particularly dumplings. Spring rolls are universally loved, easy to make and when fried resemble gold bars. Each food is symbolic in some way, long noodles symbolise longevity…Citrus are also considered to be lucky.

Several festive desserts are also much loved, Tangyuan a type of rice ball, sounds like reunion in Chinese so they are favourites. As is Nian Gao, a type of rice cake which symbolises success. Fa gao – is a hybrid of a muffin and a sponge cake, the name means ‘get rich’ so everyone wants some of those too. Some of these desserts can be an acquired taste for non-Chinese but if you get an opportunity, do taste them.

I’ve been to China several times, so I’m even more excited about Chinese New Year and am planning a little Chinese feast to celebrate.

Those who are born in the Year of the Pig, may want to check out the Chinese zodiac. Your lucky numbers are 2, 5 and 8, Lucky colours are yellow, grey, brown and gold and lucky directions are southeast and northeast…how about that….

Seek out your local Chinese restaurant, better still invite a few friends around to enjoy a home cooked Chinese meal, and don’t forget to wish our Chinese friends ‘In Nian Kuai le’ – ‘Happy New Year’.

Enjoy and Happy New Year of the – Pig the symbol of wealth.

Chinese Dumplings

Deh-ta Hsiung, one of my heroes, was the first Chinese chef to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. This is one of his many dumpling recipes, they can be served poached in broth or transformed into pot stickers.

Makes 80-90 dumplings

For the dough:

450g (1lb) plain white flour

About 425ml (3/4 pint) water

Flour for dusting

For the filling:

675g (1 1/2 lbs) Chinese leaf

450g (1lb) minced heritage pork

2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Sieve the flour into a bowl, slowly pour in the water and mix to a firm dough. Knead until soft and smooth. Cover with a damp cloth and let stand for 25-30 minutes.

Separate the Chinese leaves and blanch in a pan of boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes or until soft. Drain well, finely chop, cool and mix with the rest of the ingredients to make the filling.

Lightly dust a work surface with dry flour. Knead the dough, roll into a long sausage about 2.5cm (1in) in diameter. Cut into 80 -90 small pieces. Flatten each piece with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a thin circle about 6cm(2 ½ in) in diameter.

Put about 1 ½ tablespoons of the filling in the centre of each circle. Fold into a semi-circle, and pinch the edges firmly so that the dumpling is tightly sealed. Place the dumplings on a floured tray and cover with a damp cloth until ready for cooking. (Any uncooked dumplings should be frozen immediately rather than refrigerated).

Bring 1 litre (1 ¾ pints) water to a fast rolling boil. Drop about 20 dumplings, one by one into the water. Stir gently with chopsticks or a wooden spoon to prevent them sticking together. Cover and bring back to the boil. Uncover and add about 50ml  (2 floz) cold water, then bring back to the boil once more (uncovered). Repeat this process twice more. Remove and drain the dumplings, and serve hot with a dipping sauce. Any leftovers should be re-heated, not by poaching, but by shallow frying them, then they become pot stickers..

Chinese Chive Omelette

Super tasty and easy to make, scatter with garlic chive flowers which are just coming into season.

Serves 2

5 organic eggs

40-50g Chinese or garlic chives or wild garlic

¼ teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon fish sauce

½ – 1 teaspoon oyster sauce

Generous tablespoon peanut oil



Soy sauce, optional

Slice the chives into 5mm pieces. Whisk the eggs together in a bowl with the other ingredients. Add the chopped chives and salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Heat a wok or a 25cm frying pan over a high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the base. Drop in a teaspoon full of the mixture to test the seasoning. Taste and tweak if necessary.

Pour the egg mixture into the hot wok or pan, swirl to coat the base evenly.

Cook for a couple of minutes to brown the base lightly. Flip over to cook the other side. When almost set, – 2-3 minutes slide out onto a hot serving plate. Divide into quarters sprinkle with garlic chive flowers and serve with soy sauce.

Alternatively make 2 smaller omelettes.


Chinese Noodle Salad

Serves 6-8

8 ozs (225g) Chinese egg noodles

6 ozs (170g) sugar peas (mangetout)

4 spring onions

3 ozs (85g) roasted peanuts, skinned and coarsely chopped

1-2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander

8-12 ozs (225-340g) cooked peeled shrimps

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Spicy Dressing

Generous teaspoon freshly grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 green chillies, seeded and finely diced

2 teaspoons sugar

4 fl ozs (100ml) soy sauce

3 tablespoons  rice wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

12 tablespoons sesame seed oil


Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.

Meanwhile make the dressing, put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix well.

Add salt to the fast boiling water, pop in the noodles. Stir to separate and cook until al dente – 4-6 minutes approx.

Drain, rinse with hot water and drain well again.

Transfer the noodles to a large bowl, add the dressing and toss well. Leave aside to marinade for an hour or more.

Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients. String the sugar peas and cook in boiling salted water until al dente, 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water, spread out on a baking tray in a single layer. Cut each mangetout into 2 or 3 pieces.

To assemble

Add the sugar peas, shrimps, spring onions, half the coriander and most of the peanuts to the marinated noodles, toss well. Taste and correct seasoning.

Turn into a shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining peanuts and freshly chopped coriander and serve.


Sticky Chinese Chicken Thighs

Serves 4


8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

4 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

thumb-sized knob of ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated

bunch spring onions, chopped

50g (2oz) cashew nuts, toasted


To Serve

plain boiled rice (to serve)


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

Arrange the chicken thighs in a large roasting tin and slash the skin 2-3 times on each thigh.

Mix together the hoisin sauce, sesame oil, honey, five-spice powder, ginger, garlic and some salt and pepper.  Pour over the chicken and toss to coat – allow to marinate for 2 hours, or overnight if you have time.

Roast in the preheated oven, skin-side up for 35 minutes, basting as least once during cooking.  Sprinkle with toasted cashew nuts and spring onions.  Serve with rice.


Chinese Pork sausages

2 lb (900g) streaky pork, minced

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon 5 spice powder

12 tabespoon soy sauce

5 fl ozs (150ml) red wine or brandy

10 ft sausage strings (if using)


Marinate the minced pork with the salt, sugar, spice, soy sauce and wine for at least eight hours or overnight. Mix well, fry off a little knob to taste, correct seasoning if necessary.

Feed into sausage skins or roll into skinless sausages.  Fry immediately until golden on all sides or hang up the sausages to dry for three to four days.  When dry – store the sausages in a fridge, they will keep for several weeks, or in a freezer for four months.

The Future of Irish Meat….response to the EAT Lancet Report

I love a good steak from time to time, not a huge one, but a juicy piece of thick sirloin with crisp yellow fat, cooked medium rare for perfection….I love it when each mouthful tastes really beefy and memorable so I feel like repeating over and over again “this is such a delicious steak”…

Irish farmers and family butchers have been reeling for the past few weeks from a ‘triple whammy’ of challenges.  The continuing uncertainty around Brexit, the increasingly vocal and visible vegan movement and last but certainly not least, the dramatic findings and recommendations of the EAT Lancet Report.

We’re in the midst of a climate change crisis…… Business as usual is no longer an option….

The landmark Lancet Report concludes that “a great food transformation” is urgently needed by 2050 when the world’s population is expected to have grown to 10 billion…..

Professor Tim Lang of the City University in London, one of the 36 researchers involved, stressed that without radical change in our eating habits, current trends will lead to further loss of biodiversity, increased pollution, deforestation and irreversible climate change….

Professor Johan Rockstrom from Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany who co-led the commission said “nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution is needed to deliver healthy diets for a growing and wealthier world population”

Our current diet is causing an epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes….

So to save the planet for future generations, production and consumption of red meat, dairy, eggs and sugar must half over the next three decades. Instead, we are encouraged to eat twice as many vegetables, grains, pulses, fruit and nuts…..

Sometimes nothing quite hits the spot like a really good piece of beef and really good it needs to be….and certainly can be, but sadly not always is…

Ireland, favoured by nature, can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world so the quality of our beef, lamb and dairy products is exceptional.

We boast about our ‘grass fed’, pasture raised beef but what exactly is the definition of grass fed….?

A growing number of sceptics are quick to point out that much of our beef is finished indoors on genetically modified grain imported from South America. Even more surprising are the increasing number of intensive units where animals are confined indoors for virtually all their lives in situations similar to the American feed lots.  Critics emphasise that intensive food production systems contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and significant animal welfare issues.

There would appear to be an urgent need for clarity around the term ‘grass fed’.

Farmers who produce exceptional beef cattle on small family farms ought to be identified and paid more for their produce.

Beleaguered farmers may be reluctant to accept that for a variety of health and environmental reasons, significant numbers are already choosing to eat less meat.

When they do decide to treat themselves, they are searching for the ‘wow’ factor.  Meat from heritage breeds, humanely reared, well hung and nutrient dense.  It’s a fast growing movement that’s not going away any time soon.  Neither is the rise and intensity of veganism and concerned though I am on health grounds, at a time when so much of our mass produced food is nutritionally deficient, its difficult to argue with some of the reasoning in terms of animal welfare and climate change.

Now that there has been time to mull over the EAT Lancet Report, a number of imminent scientists are urging caution before making widespread dietary recommendations. Remember the scientific advice we were given on low fat and eggs which four decades later turned out to be completely erroneous….

Meat and dairy products are an important source of nutrients and animals are a very important part of many farming systems.

Less is fine but “let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater” or bash Leo Varadkar for “admitting” that he is a flexitarian.  We are all flexitarians now and in my book it’s a brilliantly healthy way to eat, provided it’s REAL FOOD – not the ultra-processed edible food like substances that 46.9% of Irish people are eating at present according to a study in the Journal of Public Health Nutrition.

Politicians too, realise that public opinion is shifting rapidly, a grassroots revolution is underway, we want to see change – more sustainable food production systems where humans can co-exist with nature without causing potentially catastrophic damage to our planet.

The farming community too realise that the advice they’ve been given to maximise yields at all costs no longer stands up to scrutiny and is ‘costing the earth’ They are eager to play their part but need sage guidance and financial support to transition to climate friendly farming.

So this week, some of my favourite beef recipes to enjoy occasionally.


Kheema …..Indian Mince

This is a riff on Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe in An Introduction to Indian Cooking. According to Madhur this is the first Indian dish all Indian students abroad learn to make. It can be cooked plain or with potatoes, peas or mushrooms and is super tasty.

Seves 6


1lb onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 stick cinnamon, about 2 inches long

4 whole cloves

6 black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

1-2 hot red peppers to taste (optional)

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1x 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes or 4-5 fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2lbs finely minced lamb or minced beef

¼ pint plus 4 tablespoons beef stock

2 teaspoons salt

Lemon juice


Place chopped onions, garlic, and ginger in blender with 3 tbsps water and blend to a really smooth paste (this will take about a minute). Set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-12 inch frying-pan over medium heat. When hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, black peppercorns, bay leaf, and then the chilli peppers.

In about 10 seconds, when the peppers turn dark, add the paste from the blender, careful it may splutter. Fry for about 10 minutes, adding a sprinkling of beef stock or water (3-4 tablespoons) if it begins to stick.

Add the dry roasted and ground coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and fry another 2-3 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, increase the heat and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the minced meat and the salt. Fry on high heat about 5 minutes. Breaking up any lumps in the mince, and brown it as much as you can. Add ¼ pint beef stock and a squeeze of lemon juice to taste. Bring to the boil and let it simmer gently for approximately an hour.

To serve: Degrease if necessary. Serve the Kheema with rice or Indian flat bread like chapatis, or parathas, and any vegetables you fancy.


Pan Grilled Steak with Chipotle Butter

Sirloin is more textural than fillet, with lots of flavour, but you can use either here.

We find a heavy-ridged cast-iron grill pan best for cooking steaks when you don’t need to make a sauce in the pan. If the weight of these steaks sounds small by your standards, the portion size can be increased and the cooking times adjusted accordingly.

Serves 8

8 Sirloin or fillet steaks

1 clove of garlic

freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil


Chipotle Butter

75g (3ozs) butter

2 tablespoons chipotle chilli in adobo

8 x 8oz (225g) sirloin or fillet steaks

1 clove of garlic

a little olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

fresh watercress or rocket leaves



Chopped parsley

First make the Chipotle Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, beat in the chipotle and chopped parsley, roll into a ball in greaseproof paper, twist the ends like a Christmas cracker and refrigerate.

Prepare the steaks about 1 hour before cooking.  Cut a clove of garlic in half, rub both sides of each steak with the cut clove, grind some black pepper over the steaks and sprinkle on a few drops of olive oil. Turn the steaks in the oil and leave aside.  If using sirloin steaks, score the fat at 2.5cm (1 inch) intervals.

Heat the grill pan, season the steaks with a little salt and put them down onto the pan.

The approximate cooking times for each side of the steaks are:


Sirloin                  Fillet

Rare                                                  2 minutes            5 minutes

Medium rare                                   3 minutes            6 minutes

Medium                                           4 minutes            7 minutes

Well done                                        5 minutes            8-9 minutes

If using sirloin steak turn it over onto the fat and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the fat becomes crisp.  Put the steaks onto a plate and leave them rest for a few minutes in a warm place. Serve the steaks on individual serving plates with a slice of Chipotle butter melting on top and some rocket leaves on the side. Sprinkle over some chopped parsley.

French Fried Onions

A delicious accompaniment to your pan grilled steak.

1 egg white

300ml (10fl oz) milk

2 large onions, peeled

225g (8oz) seasoned flour

good-quality oil or beef dripping for deep-frying


Whisk the egg white lightly and add it to the milk. Slice the onion into 5mm (1/4 inch) rings around the middle.

Separate the rings and cover with the milk mixture until needed. (The leftover milk may be boiled up, thickened with roux and used for a white or parsley sauce).


Just before serving, heat the oil or beef dripping to 180°C (350°F).

Toss the rings a few at a time in well-seasoned flour. Deep-fry for 2–3 minutes or until golden in the hot oil.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with your pan grilled steak.


Roast Fillet of Beef with Three Sauces

A fillet of beef is always a special treat.  It can be served hot or cold, but either way it’s easy to carve and serve.  Don’t refrigerate or you will spoil the texture and flavour of the meat.

Serves 8 – 10


1 whole fillet of well hung dried aged beef 2.6kg (6lb) approximately

a few cloves garlic

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Thyme leaves

Béarnaise Sauce (see recipe)

Horseradish Sauce (see recipe)

Aoili (see recipe)

Trim away the chain if it is still attached, use the meat for Beef Stroganoff.  Double over the meat at the tapered end and tie the fillet securely with fine butcher’s cotton twine.  Alternatively ask your butcher to do the ‘butchering’ for you.

Rub the fillet all over with a cut clove of garlic, season well with lots of freshly cracked pepper.  Season well with sea salt.

Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. This will baste the meat while cooking.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Heat a cast iron pan grill to very hot.  Sear the beef until nicely browned on all sides.  Transfer it to a roasting tin and tuck a couple of sprigs of thyme underneath.

Roast for 20-25 minutes.  If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should read 118°C/235°F. The meat should feel springy to the touch and   the juice should be a pale pink when the meat is pierced with a skewer.  Remove from the oven to a carving dish.  Cover and allow to rest in a plate warming oven for 15-20 minutes by which time the juices will have redistributed themselves and the beef will be uniformly medium rare.

Serve cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) slices and serve with Béarnaise sauce, Horseradish Sauce and Aoili.


Béarnaise Sauce

The consistency of Béarnaise sauce should be considerably thicker than that of Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc, both of which ought to be a light coating consistency.

4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

4 tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots

A pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves

2 egg yolks (preferably free-range)

115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with


If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon.

Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned.  Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately.  Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time.  As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly ‘scrambling’, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water.  Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made.  Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning.


If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low.  Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency.  It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage.  If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it.


Horseradish Sauce

This is a fairly mild sauce.  If you want to really clear the sinuses, increase the amount of horseradish!  Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.


Serves 8 – 10


3 – 6 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon mustard

1/4 teaspoon salt

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

225ml (8 fl ozs) softly whipped cream


Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.  Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not over mix or it will curdle.  The sauce keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days, covered, so that it doesn’t pick up other flavours.


Aioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)


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

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

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped parsley (optional)


Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.


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 into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.


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


David Tanis’s Vietnamese Pot Roast Beef Stew (Bo kho)

Bo kho is a delicious Vietnamese pot-roasted beef stew. It is not so different from a traditional French pot-au-feu, but it is spiced in a traditional Vietnamese manner, fragrant with lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon. When the meat is fork tender, carrots are added to complete the dish. If you wish, include turnips or daikon radish or potatoes. Serve it with rice, rice noodles or a freshly baked baguette.



2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, such as Red Boat

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons Chinese 5-spice powder

½ teaspoon black pepper

For the braise

1.4Kg (3lbs) beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

6 large shallots or 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

130g (4.5oz) chopped tomato, fresh or canned

2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger (from a 2-inch piece)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass, tender centre only

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon annatto powder (optional)

4 star anise pods

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick, or substitute cassia bark

1 or 2 Serrano or Thai chillies, stem on, split lengthwise

680g (1.5lbs) pounds medium carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch chunks

4-6 thinly sliced scallions

coriander sprigs, for garnish

mint leaves, for garnish

basil leaves, preferably Thai, for garnish


First make the marinade. Stir together fish sauce, sugar, ginger, 5-spice powder and pepper.

Place the beef in a large bowl, add the marinade and massage into the meat. Let the meat sit in the marinade for at least 15 minutes, or longer if time permits (may be wrapped and refrigerated overnight if desired).

Put the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot enough, fry the beef cubes in small batches, taking care not to crowd them, until nicely browned. When all the beef is browned, return it all to the pot.

Add the shallots, stir to combine and continue cooking for 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add the tomato, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, salt and annatto, if using, and stir well to coat, then add the star anise, cinnamon and chilli. Cover with 4 cups water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, cover with lid ajar and cook for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Add carrots to the pot and cook 15 minutes more. Skim any fat from surface of broth as necessary (or refrigerate overnight and remove congealed fat before reheating).

To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with scallions, coriander, mint and basil.


Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps

Serves 6


If you want to perk the lettuce leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate repositories for later, leave them in a sinkful of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on their plate.


1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped

375g (12ozs) beef mince

scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce

4 spring onions, dark green bits removed, finely chopped

zest and juice of 1 lime

3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

1-2 iceberg lettuces

Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and when warm add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally.   It’s wiser not to leave the pan, as you don’t want them to burn.   Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the mince with wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes till no trace of pink remains.   Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid’s evaporated.   Take the pan off the heat, stir in the spring onions, zest and juice of the lime and most of the coriander.  Turn into a bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining coriander just before serving.

Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate – they should sit one on top of another easily enough- and let people indulge in a little DIY at the table, filling cold crisp leaves with spoonfuls of sharp, spicy, hot, crumbled meat.

Taken from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson published by Chatto & Windus


Carpaccio of Beef with Horseradish, Lambs Tongue Sorrel

Serves 6

450g (1lb) well hung fillet of beef, chilled

6 tablespoons of Caesar dressing

Lambs Tongue Sorrel

horseradish, freshly grated

flaky sea salt

organic lemon


Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

50g (1x2oz) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175mls (6flozs) sunflower oil

50mls (2flozs) extra virgin olive oil

50mils (2flozs) cold water


To make the dressing.

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Chill the plates. Just before serving, spread a slick of thin Caesar dressing over the base of each plate.

With a very sharp knife, slice the beef really thinly and lay some paper thin pieces of the raw beef over the sauce.  Season with a little flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Put 5 or 6 Lamb’s tongue sorrel leaves on top, add a generous grating of fresh horseradish, a little freshly grated lemon zest and a few more flakes of sea salt.


Marmalade Suet Pudding 

For almost a week during the cold January days the whole house smells of marmalade. My father-in-law always looked forward to the final day when the last of the oranges had been turned into marmalade, because by tradition on that day there is marmalade pudding for lunch. This recipe makes use of beef suet, the fat that protects the beef kidney. Your butcher will probably give you the suet for free because there is so little demand.


Makes 2 puddings


450g (1lb) plain white flour

450g (1lb) minced beef suet

450g (1lb) breadcrumbs

450g (1lb) sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

4 eggs, free-range if possible

8 tablespoons homemade marmalade

milk, if needed




4 tablespoons water

450g (1lb) marmalade

juice of 1 lemon

sugar, to taste


2 lightly greased 18cm (7in) pudding bowls


Mix the flour, suet, breadcrumbs, sugar and baking powder together. Add the beaten eggs, marmalade and a little milk to moisten if necessary (the mixture should have the consistency of plum pudding). Spoon into your greased pudding bowls and cover with a double sheet of greaseproof paper with a pleat in the centre. Tie the paper firmly with string under the lip of the bowl. Place each bowl in a saucepan of boiling water. Cover and cook for 2–3 hours, topping up the water in the pan from time to time to make sure that it does not boil dry.

To make the sauce, put the water and marmalade into a saucepan. Warm them together for 15 minutes and then bring slowly to the boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and sweeten with a little sugar to taste. When the pudding is cooked, turn it out on to a warm serving dish and pour the sauce around it.

St Brigid’s Day

My year is punctuated by little highlights, occasions to look forward to and celebrate. I particularly love St Brigid’s Day, it’s now just around the corner, on February 1st, so I’m all set to celebrate and to share the story of this feisty woman with my students from all over the world and everyone else around me. This is a quintessentially Irish celebration, St Brigid’s Day or Lá Féile Bríde also marks the beginning of Spring, the season of hope and new life and comes about half way between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, when days begin to lengthen. In Pagan times it was referred to as Imbolc or Imbolg which in old Neolithic language translates literally to ‘in the belly’. Imbolc is one of the four major fire festivals referred to in Irish mythology, the others are Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

Brigid, an icon for women was born near Faughart just north of Dundalk in the 5th Century. She is the goddess of fertility in Celtic mythology, patron saint of dairy and founded the first monastery in Ireland in Kildare.

Many legends are associated with Brigid who by all accounts was an extraordinary woman – a force to be reckoned with, a feminine role model, well before her time. So I’m overjoyed that at last there is a movement to elevate St Brigid to here rightful place beside St Patrick as our female patron saint.

Last year, and once again this year, there will be a celebration of Lá Féile Bríde at the Irish Embassy in London, a gathering to celebrate not just St Brigid but the achievements of Irish women around the globe.

Just as the shamrock is associated with St Patrick, the little woven cross, made of rushes is associated with St Brigid and was chosen as the RTE logo when the station launched in 1961, and it was used until 1995. Let’s bring it back and display it proudly as a beautiful symbol of our culture.

Last year, St Brigid’s cross maker extraordinaire, Patricia O’Flaherty, came over from Ireland clutching a bag of freshly cut rushes to demonstrate how to make the traditional St Brigid’s cross at the Irish Embassy in London She makes many versions and I was intrigued to learn from her that originally all counties in Ireland had different patterns which sometimes even varied from parish to parish.

To invoke Saint Brigid’s blessing we have a little cross made of local rushes hanging over the door in our micro dairy to protect our small Jersey herd which produces the most delicious rich milk.

My research into St Brigid, mentioned not only dairy but also honey and the tradition of eating a big plate of floury boiled potatoes slathered in rich homemade butter on St Brigid’s Day or St Brigid’s Eve.

So here’s a recipe for how to make your own home churned butter… It’s super easy. We use our own cream, but one can of course make butter with any good rich cream. Just pop it into a bowl, whisk until it becomes stiff, continue until the butter globules separate from from the buttermilk. Strain, wash well, salt generously, and pat into little slabs or butter balls – easy-peasy. Impressive and delicious, even for chefs, to slather over potatoes or a thick slice of warm soda bread or spotted dog.  Pancakes were also mentioned in several articles as was cheese and honey so that gives me lots of scope.

I’ve also included the recipe for our favourite St Brigid’s Day cake which was requested many times since last year, it’s become a real favourite with many of our readers.

So let’s all make or buy a little St Brigid’s cross and make St Brigid’s Day into a real celebration, sharing a traditional meal around the kitchen table with family and friends.

How to make Homemade Butter

Everyone should be able to make butter. Let’s face it, most of us have over whipped cream from time to time, don’t dream of throwing it out, whisk for a minute or two more and you’ll have your very own butter. If there are butter bats in the house it makes it easier to shape the butter into blocks or balls but they are absolutely not essential. They’re more widely available than you might think, in kitchen shops, but also keep an eye in antique shops and if you find some, snap them up. A good pair will bring you butter luck!

Unsalted butter should be eaten within a few days, but the addition of salt will preserve it for two to three weeks. Also, you can make butter with any quantity of cream but the amount used in the recipe below will keep you going for a week or so and give you enough to share with friends (though not in my house!). Remember, sunlight taints butter (and milk) in a short time, so if you are serving butter outdoors, keep it covered.

Butter (Salted)

Makes about 1kg (2 1/4lb) butter and 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) buttermilk


2.4 litres (4 pints/10 cups) unpasteurised or pasteurised double cream at room temperature

2 teaspoons dairy salt (optional)

pair of butter bats or hands (optional)

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

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

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

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear. Weigh the butter into 110g (4oz), 225g (8oz) or 450g (1lb) slabs. Pat into shape with the wet butter hands or bats. Make sure the butter hands or bats have been soaked in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes before using to stop the butter sticking to the ridges. Wrap in greaseproof or waxed paper and keep chilled in a fridge. The butter also freezes well.


Salted Butter

If you wish to add salt, you will need 1/4 teaspoon of plain dairy salt for every 110g (4oz/1 stick) of butter. Before shaping the butter, spread it out in a thin layer and sprinkle evenly with dairy salt. Mix thoroughly using the butter pats, then weigh into slabs as before.


Spreadable Butter

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


St Brigid’s Griddle Scones and Honey

Makes 12


110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

110ml (4fl ozs) whole milk

Clarified butter, for greasing

Honey to serve

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a griddle or frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 individual tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)

St Brigid’s Day Cake

We love this super delicious cake which we created especially for St Brigid’s day, green white and gold – how naff is that…..

Serves 8

175g (6oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) castor sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

175g (6oz) self-raising flour


To decorate:

Tart lemon icing, see below

8 pieces of kumquat compote – drained

8 wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves


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


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


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

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

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

Decorate with the candied kumquats and wood sorrel or lemon balm leaves.

Serve on a pretty plate.

Serves 8 to 10

Tart Lemon Icing

160g (6oz) icing sugar

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon

2-3tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

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


A little White Soda Bread Loaf

You can make it in the round traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches

1 lb (450g/4 cups) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon/1/2 American teaspoon breadsoda

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

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)


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


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

White Soda Scones

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

Zero Food Waste

Zero Food Waste: even for those of us who are super committed, it’s quite the challenge, so in 2019, lets redouble our efforts to do what we can to reduce food waste, right here in our own homes.

We know the stark statistics – The numbers continue to grow daily. At a time when 1/3 to 1/2 of all food produced in the world (depending on who you read) is being binned, a billion people are starving and over a billion are suffering from obesity.

Countless factors, from the field to the market place contribute to the accumulation of food waste. However, the media focus on the topic is helping to raise awareness and force change.

Consequently, both in the UK and over here, many of the supermarket chains have brought forward initiatives in response to severe and growing criticisms from their customers not only about food waste but also about excess packaging.

Supermarket policy could be a game-changer but there are several easy steps we could take in our homes to reduce food waste. High on the list is to have a clear understanding of the difference between ‘sell by dates’ and ‘use by dates’ which is still super confusing to an alarming number of us. In a recent (unscientific) straw poll here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, I discovered that in excess of 90% of us are still ‘woozy’ about the difference between one and the other and whether they refer to food quality or food safety.

So lesson number one, treat ‘use by dates’ with scepticism, they are always conservative. Supermarkets are understandably terrified of poisoning their customers, they have calculated the dates for the worst possible scenario – food being left in hot cars for hours on end and/or stored in dodgy fridges. So let’s relearn to trust our senses in the time honoured way – observe, smell, taste, if you can hear it bubbling, it’s time to throw it out unless it’s fermenting…

Ironically, the whole cheap food policy has contributed hugely to the waste problem. Research has clearly shown that we find it much easier to bin without guilt when an item doesn’t cost much.

‘Buy one, get one free’ has also been counter-productive plus, many customers are still unaware that is not the supermarket out of the goodness of their hearts who provide the free item but the producer who is ‘encouraged’ to donate, and rarely if ever gets the credit and we are tempted to buy more food than we need.

However, once we decide to take up the zero waste challenge at home it can quickly become a fun obsession. Regard it as an opportunity to be creative, instead of seeing waste, see it as a chance to create a yummy snack or dinner…

A change in mind set quickly results in savings which can be reinvested in sourcing more nutrient dense organic and chemical free food.

Chefs too are increasingly concerned about the levels of waste in their kitchens, Michelin starred establishments, where it’s often just the choicest morsels that are served, are by their own admission, guiltiest in this regard but many are resolved to review the situation. Dan Barber from Blue Hill at Stone Barns located north of New York city kick-started the discussion when he brought his thought provoking food waste Pop Up – WastED to Selfridges in London in 2017.

At Ballymaloe House Myrtle Allen, who came, as I did from a generation for whom waste was not an option imbued us with a ‘zero waste’ culture long before the term was coined.

So as we settle into 2019, let’s resolve to take on the challenge of reducing our food and packaging waste to as close to zero as possible. Happy New Year!


Let’s think of food groups one by one – start with bread. Buy less but better quality. Family members with gluten intolerances will find they can eat every scrap of natural sourdough (but beware of ‘faux sourdough’, there is lots of it around).

Better still bake your own bread as often as possible, you’ll be much less likely to throw even a crumb of your crusty loaf in to the bin. The end of a pot of yoghurt can be added to a soda bread mix for extra deliciousness.

One way or another, there are a myriad of ways to use up left over bread, make bread crumbs, use fresh or freeze for stuffing, gratins, French toast, Eggy bread, Tunisian orange cake, bread and butter puddings…Freeze ripe bananas for banana bread.

French Toast with Ripe Bananas and Maple Syrup

French toast is so good that you forget how economical it is. The French don’t call it French toast. They call it pain perdu or “lost bread”, because it is a way to use up leftover bread you would otherwise lose. This recipe also uses up ripe bananas simply and deliciously.

Serves 1

1 egg, free range if possible

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon of sugar, (maybe use Rapadura or Barbados)

1 ripe banana

2 slices white bread

A little clarified butter


1 banana

Best quality yoghurt chilled

1 tablespoon chopped walnuts

Maple syrup or honey

Whisk the egg in a bowl with the milk. Add the sugar.

Mash the banana well with a fork and add to the mixture. Alternatively whizz the whole lot together in a liquidiser or food processor. Pour onto a plate and dip both sides of the bread in it. Melt a little clarified butter in the pan, fry the bread on a medium heat, when golden on one side turn over onto the other. Put on a hot plate, top with the sliced banana and a blob of chilled yoghurt, drizzle with maple syrup or honey and scatter with a few chopped walnuts. Serve immediately.



Preheat the oven to 150C (300F/gas mark 2)

Slice staleish baguette diagonally into the thinnest slices possible.  Dry in a low oven until crisp and dry, about 15-20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container. Serve with pâtés, cheese or just as a snack slathered with something delicious, or with soup


Root to Shoot

Get on the totally trendy ‘root to shoot’ mindset, and use every scrap of every vegetable, all parts are super nutritious. At present, we throw out more food than would feed whole nations….

Broccoli stalks (grate for coleslaw), cauliflower leaves (roast or use in a soup or cauliflower cheese), green leek leaves (great in a soup), turnip tops (delicious melted and slathered in extra virgin olive oil. Add leftover roast vegetables are great added to frittatas or a pasta bake. How about this cool way to use up potato peelings….

Potato Peel Crisps

Scrub the potatoes well. Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer or in a pan with at least 3cms of oil. Dry the peelings as best you can.

Drop one into the hot oil to check the temperature, it should sizzle and rise to the surface.

Cook the remainder of the peelings in batches until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen paper, or a towel.

Sprinkle with pure salt and maybe a little chilli powder or dry roasted cumin powder for extra fizz.

Roast Cauliflower with many toppings and flavours

Roast cauliflower is a brilliant vehicle for a myriad of flavours.  For minimum effort just scatter the hot roasted cauliflower with chopped parsley.  Sprinkle on a generous dusting of freshly grated Parmesan or frozen blue cheese.  A fresh herb laced butter or olive oil is also super delicious but try this version and have fun with the variations and then create your own. Don’t be afraid to use the leaves too.

Serves 4-6

1 fresh medium cauliflower, 1.4kg approx.

75-100g butter and 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary



1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g piquillo pepper, chopped (or ripe cherry tomatoes, chopped)

15g anchovies, chopped

4-6 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

20g toasted flaked almonds


1 x round  22cm x 10cm high casserole.


Remove the outer leaves and trim the base.  Chop the leaves and stalk into 4cm pieces.  Cut a deep cross in the base of the cauliflower.  Pour 2cm of water into the casserole.  Bring to the boil, salt generously.  Add the leaves and stalks and pop the cauliflower on top, cover, return to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 230˚C/Gas Mark 8.

Remove the lid from the casserole for the last couple of minutes so all the water evaporates.   Remove the cauliflower and leaves to a plate.

Melt the butter in the casserole and allow to become beurre noisette, add the thyme leaves.   Add back in the leaves and cauliflower.  Baste the head with the thyme butter and pop into the preheated oven uncovered for 15-20 minutes.  Regular basting, though not essential, makes it even more delicious.  Pierce the base with a skewer to test for doneness.

Mix the topping ingredients together, add the olive oil and stir.  Spoon the topping over the roast cauliflower stalks and leaves.  Sprinkle with flaked almonds and serve with crusty bread.

Stocks and Broths – Make stocks and broths from bones and vegetable trimmings. It’s the nourishing and delicious basis for soups, stews, casseroles not to speak of a comforting drink to warn off cold and flu and top up your calcium levels.

Chicken Stock 

Chicken Stock is really indispensable. For soup making, sauces and gravies it really has no substitute. There are a couple of important rules to remember when making

chicken broth and they apply to all stock making. Choose a saucepan that the ingredients fit snugly into. If your saucepan is too big, you will have too much water and as a result will end up with a watery stock that is lacking in flavour. Always pour cold water over the ingredients as the cold water will draw the flavour out of the bones and vegetables as it comes up to the boil. A rich and well flavoured chicken stock can be achieved in two hours and I find that cooking the stock for hours on end makes it too strong and the sweet chicken flavour becomes too strong and some of the delicacy is lost. The stock will keep in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen.

2-3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both

giblets from the chicken, i.e. neck, heart, gizzard (Save the liver for another dish)

3.4 litres (6 pints) cold water, approx

1 sliced onion

1 leek, split in two

1 outside stick of celery or 1 lovage leaf

1 sliced carrot

few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

6 peppercorns

Chop or break up the carcasses as much as possible.  Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring slowly up to the boil and skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon.  Simmer very gently for 3-5 hours, uncovered.  Strain and remove any remaining fat.  If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-third or one-half the volume.  Do not add salt.

Leftovers – Learn how to use up left overs creatively, some of our most iconic dishes were repurposed from leftovers, Shepherds pie, rissoles, croquettes….

Shepherd’s Pie

Everyone’s favourite way to use up leftover cooked lamb from a roast dinner.

Serves 6

1oz (25g) butter

4oz (110g) chopped onion

1oz (25g) flour

15fl oz (450ml) stock and left over gravy

1 teaspoon tomato purée

1 dessertspoons mushroom ketchup (optional)

1 dessertspoon chopped parsley

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1lb (450g) minced cooked lamb

2lb (900g) cooked mashed potatoes


Melt the butter, add the onion, cover with a round of greased paper and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes.  Add the flour and cook until brown.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, skim.  Add the tomato puree, mushroom ketchup, chopped parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.


Add the meat to the sauce and bring to the boil.  Put in a pie dish, cover with the mashed potatoes and score with a fork.  Reheat in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for about 30 minutes.  Garnish with parsley.


Ballymaloe Cheddar Cheese Croquettes

Makes 25 – 30, depending on size

This is a brilliant recipe, our ‘go to’ for using little scraps of grated cheese, delicious!

We get into big trouble if these crispy cheese croquettes are not on the Ballymaloe lunch buffet every Sunday.  They are loved by children and grown-ups, and are a particular favourite with vegetarians.  They are not suitable for vegans. Make tiny ones for canapés and provide cocktail sticks to eat them and Ballymaloe country relish as an accompaniment.


450ml (15fl oz) milk

few slices of carrot and onion

1 small bay leaf

sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

200g (7oz) roux (see recipe)

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

225g (8oz) grated mature Irish Cheddar cheese

a pinch of cayenne

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)

salt and freshly ground pepper

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

beaten egg

fine dried white breadcrumbs

Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion and herbs, bring slowly to the boil, simmer for 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes if you have enough time.  Strain the flavourings, rinse them and add to a stock if you have one on the go.  Bring the milk back to the boil, whisk in the roux bit by bit; it will get very thick but persevere.  (The roux always seems like a lot too much but you need it all so don’t decide to use less).


Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook for 1-2 minutes on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat, stir in the egg yolks, cheese, pinch of cayenne, mustard and optional chives.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Spread out on a wide plate to cool.


When the mixture is cold or at least cool enough to handle, shape into balls about the size of a golf ball or 25g (1oz) approx.  Roll first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and then in fine breadcrumbs.  Chill until firm but bring back to room temperature before cooking otherwise they may burst.  Just before serving, heat a deep fryer to 150°C/300°F and cook the Cheese Croquettes until crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with a green salad and perhaps some Ballymaloe Country Relish.

Note: Cooked Cheese Croquettes can be kept warm in an oven for up to 30 minutes. They can also be frozen and reheated in an oven.

Food Trends for 2019

I’m always excited about the start of a brand New Year, new resolutions, new opportunities, new challenges, lots of fun. So what might be coming down the line in 2019, what do we think is hot and what’s not?….

Food trends are notoriously volatile but in any business, it’s super important to keep an eye on the indications relevant to your area, analyse them but beware of following them slavishly.

In my business, keeping an eye on what’s happening on the food, farming and beverage scene is essential to staying on the cutting edge and attracting both customers and students from all around the world to Ballymaloe and Ireland. I travel quite a bit, this past year I’ve travelled to China and the US…New York, Florida, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Paris, Turin, London…. Food is my subject and so I consider travel to be a vital element in my research. Everywhere I go, I meet artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheesemakers, visit Farmer Markets, seek out Food Trucks, taste Street Food and eat in a wide variety of cafes, neighbourhood restaurants, and fine dining establishments. I keep my eyes and ears open, ask lots of questions, take lots of photos and lots of notes.

So, here are some of my predictions for food trends in 2019 based on my observations over the past year…

The number of people choosing a plant based or vegan diet continues to grow exponentially. Countless others are becoming flexitarians and are choosing to eat less meat and are actively seeking meat and poultry that has been ethically and humanely reared. Believe me this ‘meat-free movement’, now linked to climate change, is no ‘flash in the pan’. Pasture-raised is the buzz word here, rotating animals through lush grasslands can dramatically improve their health, the health of the soil. Trap CO2 in the soil where it belongs, help with water reduction and reduce erosion – good news for Ireland.

Expect to see more shopper support and shopping brands committed to good animal welfare practices and environmental stewardships. Businesses and farms that support programs to relieve poverty throughout the world are also influencing consumers and has become a definite global trend. Mindful choices, ‘waste not want not’, is a growing preoccupation, consequently some supermarkets are now selling ugly and misshapen but perfectly delicious and nutritious fruit and vegetables at a lower price point.

There’s a growing annoyance among consumers about the excess packaging they are forced to accept. There is a definite awareness of the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans and planet and that it is gradually leaching into our food. We will see an increase in more eco conscious packaging, single use plastic is being replaced by multi-use and compostable. We are all addicted to plastic so it will be a difficult habit to break.

B.Y.O.V.B (bring your own vegetable bag) and coffee cup are becoming the norm. Waxed canvas or silicone alternatives for sandwiches and snacks is a significant growth area for manufacturers.

A growing body of research confirms that all disease starts in the gut… The realisation that both our physical and mental wellbeing depend on the health of our gut biome has prompted a huge increase in the number of probiotic foods that contain gut friendly bacteria to improve the immune system. Even granola bars, nut butters and soups are fortified but my advice is to eat real food, seek out raw milk, raw butter, good natural yoghurt, original cheeses, organic vegetables….and ditch ultra-processed food altogether.

Gut awareness continues to drive the interest in fermentation. Cool restaurants and hotels are serving house made kefirs, kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods.

Nootropics – brain food is coming to the fore, Crickets and other insects, (a ‘new’ inexpensive source of protein) are being added to processed foods.

In the US dietitians are becoming celebrities as the health crisis deepens and the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmune disease continue to increase at an alarming rate. We are moving towards more personalised food experience. Once again lets eat real food, chemical free food rather than ‘edible food like substances’ that are unquestionably fuelling the health crisis.

In the world of medicine, young doctors are calling for training in nutrition to equip them with the necessary knowledge to advise their patients on diet.

Whether we like it or not, increased automation is coming our way- and fast. Robots are already making pizza in France and coffee in San Francisco. They are taking orders and delivering room service. Hotel employees are becoming increasingly concerned about their new rivals – certainly not good news for the job market.

We are edging ever closer to lab grown meats becoming main stream. Jaw dropping amounts of money have been invested in ‘motherless meat’ in the past couple of decades. The Impossible Burger is now a reality, it can even bleed like a real burger if carefully cooked, however the jury is still out on the flavour. I’ve tasted three different versions of what are described as ‘insanely delicious’ plant based burgers and I’m here to tell you that ‘insanely delicious’ it is not despite the considerable hype to the contrary. Look out for sushi grade ‘not tuna’- made from tomatoes….It’ll be interesting to watch this space, a phenomenal investment has already been sunk into this plant based burger….

Meanwhile meat-free days are on the increase and multiple restaurants are now offering an optional Meat Free Monday menu.

In the US, UK and several other countries, more people are eating at  home, the millennials are cooking again. How cool is that, if you’re not convinced, pay a trip to a Farmers Market here in  Ireland, London, New York or the Flea Market in Dublin and watch the action.

Farm to Table and Root to Shoot eating continues to gather momentum and drive purchases. Urban vertical indoor farming in cities is exploding, reducing expensive and environmental impact.

Bill Gates has bought 25,000 acres to develop a new ‘smart city’ from the ground up.

At last some good news for farmers and food producers, new routes to market have been developed where consumers / members order their food on-line, not from the supermarket, but directly from the farmer or food producer who gets 80% of the retail price as opposed to 25-35% through the current retail system. Farmdrop in the UK  is a brilliant example as is NeigbourFood launched in Cork city in late November. It’s already increasing  membership and producers week by week – a very welcome development, check it out on

The ‘clean eating fad’ it seems, is waning but has been partly subsumed into the vegan food movement.

On the global restaurant scene, molecular gastronomy appears to have peaked, top chefs are moving away from using spheres and extreme molecular elements and are putting down their paint brushes and tweezers and chucking out their palette knives – I’m told smears on plates and skid marks are out….

Seems like growing numbers are annoyed by the favouritism shown by restaurant critics to avant-garde molecular food. More diners would like to see restaurants concentrating on flavour and not overly complicating dishes, just to make them look pretty. Apparently we’re also over frilly foliage and limp pea shoots but lots of edible flower petals are still in evidence. Small plates are a definite trend.

Amazon’s takeover of Wholefoods in the US is having a profound impact on retail. There are greenhouses on supermarket rooftops in Japan, talk of being able to pick your own tomatoes straight from the vine when shopping….

Smart fridges that will automatically replenish when you are out of the branded products you can’t live without, is already a reality.

Every conceivable type of meal kit and ready meal….Home delivery of restaurant meals, soon by drone rather than bike, it’s a brave new world out there….

Hot Ingredients

  1. Chefs and home cooks are becoming more adventurous with chilli pepper flakes, Aleppo Pepper or Pul Biber, Piment d’Espelette, Timut pepper from Nepal and Korean Gochugaru.
  2. Bitter greens of all kinds are on the best menus, Radichios, Chicory, Sorrell, Tardivo Dandelion leaves…. Amaranth is the new Kale…
  3. Marine Munchies –Seaweed and sea vegetables, all more nutritious than anything on land and intriguingly delicious – dried seaweed sprinkles, kelp noodles, samphire, dillisk soda bread… Dillisk has three times the nutritional value of kale.
  1. More unusual herbs, Lovage, Claytonia, Hyssop, Shiso. Wild and foraged, Pennywort, Purslane, Winter Cress, Tagetes, Ground Elder, Chickweed….
  1. Artisan Bakeries – Real natural sourdough fermented for at least 24 hours, better still 48 hours, made with flour from heritage grains.
  2. Specialist Teas – Tea bars are springing up serving exquisite (and super expensive) teas like we can’t imagine, Pu-erh tea has changed my life. Check out a little Taiwanese tea bar in New York called Té on 10th There are even tea cocktails now.
  3. Good fats are back, not just butter but ghee from grass-fed cows, organic pork lard, goose and duck fat…
  4. Argan oil and MCT oil
  5. Organic raw milk and raw butter ($19.99 a pound in San Francisco) much more nutrient dense and delicious
  6. Puffed and popped snacks – Organic popcorn with many flavours, sweet and savoury
  7. Faux meat snacks, a big trend. …. Yuk!
  8. Alcohol free spirits, booze-free cocktails, flavoured whiskeys, artisan gins, beers and ciders…
  9. Natural wines and organic wines are a particularly welcome trend for those who can no longer drink the chemical laden cheap wines.
  10. Hemp derived products are exploding…
  11. Doughnuts are still huge in every sense of the word, remember the excitement when Krispy Kreme opened in Dublin…
  12. We’ll see more African flavours, in particular Ethiopian food
  13. Flavours of the Pacific Rim (Asia, Oceanica and the Western coasts of North and South America) are also a strong trend so stock up on fish sauce, wasabi, lemongrass, star anise, pandan leaves, black sesame, soy sauce….
  14. Mushrooms, particularly the wild varieties are naturally rich in umami flavours so are being used in ever more creative ways to create ‘a meaty bite’
  15. Pulses (peas, beans and lentils) are really having their moment, an important and inexpensive source of protein, there’s a growing choice of pulse based snacks.
  16. Dried, pickled and smoked foods are ever more evident, smoked butter, salt, chill flakes, garlic, potatoes, carrots, black pudding – even porridge…
  17. Riced and diced as a carb substitute…cauliflower, Romanesco, broccoli…
  18. Stracciatella is everywhere, where can we get it here? – .
  19. Cold Brew Coffee – nitro coffee…

I’m running out of space but there’s so much more, meanwhile here’s what I’ll be enjoying this week….

Bitter Endive, Escarole, Dandelion or Puntarelle Salad with Anchovy Dressing and Pangrattato

Bitter greens are enormously nutritious, we need more in our diet.

Serves 8

8 handfuls of salad leaves, cut or torn into generous bite sized bits (use a selection of bitter greens endive, escarole, dandelion, pursulane, winter cress….)

Caesar dressing (see recipe)

1 -2 fistfuls of freshly grated Parmesan

Pangrattato (see below) OR

40 croutons, approximately 2cm square, cooked in extra virgin olive oil

16 anchovies (Ortiz)


Choose a bowl, large enough to hold the salad comfortably, make the caesar dressing as below, sprinkle with enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly. Add a fistful of finely grated Parmesan. Toss gently and add the warm croutons (if using.) Toss again. Divide between eight cold plates. Top each salad with a couple of anchovies and serve.

If using pangrattato instead of croutons, scatter over each of the salads and serve immediately.


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

150g white breadcrumbs

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Heat the extra virgin olive in a frying pan; add the garlic cloves and sauté until golden brown. Remove the garlic cloves and keep aside. Add half the breadcrumbs and stir over a medium heat until they turn golden. Spread out on a baking sheet, repeat with the remainder of the breadcrumbs. Grate the garlic cloves over the bread crumbs. Finely grate the lemon zest over the crumbs also. Toss, season with salt and taste.


Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 50g tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

175ml sunflower oil

50ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml cold water

I make it in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together.  As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water to make a spreadable consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.


Té Dates

Té Company is a tiny secret Taiwanese tea shop on 163 West 10th Street in Manhattan, superb teas, add it to your New York list…

12 Medjool Dates

12 Strips of homemade candied orange peel

12 Fresh walnuts

A few drops of balsamic vinegar

Assemble all the ingredients.

Split the dates down one side, prise open and remove stones.


Carefully pour a drop of balsamic vinegar into each date. Tuck a strip of candied peel and half a fresh walnut into each. Press and seal.


Enjoy with a cup of special tea.

Nollaig Na mBan

Nollaig Na mBan…

That’s the enchanting Irish name given to Women’s, Little Christmas on the 6th of January– the feast of the Epiphany.

It’s the traditional end of the Christmas season, the day we take down the Christmas tree and pack the baubles and tinsel into the attic for another year. But most importantly, it’s the day when the women of Ireland get to have time off from household chores after all the festive cooking.

A special day to get together with friends, sisters, mothers and aunts…The men, cheerfully take over the household for the day so the women can gather together to party and have a glass of fizz.

I was surprised to discover that many other countries have a similar tradition although the date sometimes varies. The Nordic countries have many customs, as have Ukraine, Slovenia, Galicia and closer to home there are high jinks and ceilis in the Scottish highlands it’s called, Là Féill nan Rìgh, The Feast of the Kings in Gaelic. La Fête des Rois is also celebrated in France with the delicious Galette des Rois as the centre piece of the table. Every boulangére offers their version of the flaky pastry galette, with a little trinket known as a ‘fève’ hidden deep inside the marzipan filling. Each comes with a golden paper crown which the lucky person who finds the fève in their slice will wear when they are crowned king for the day.

Here in Ireland the custom had almost disappeared, apart from in the counties of Cork and Kerry but there has been an enthusiastic revival of Women’s Little Christmas in recent years. Many restaurants and hotels are offering jolly Nollaig na bMan celebrations with exciting entertainment, dancing and music as well as afternoon tea or dinner so the womenfolk can enjoy a night out.

Just found this funny poem on social media penned by Nuala Woulfe @NWoulfeWriter – a few lines to whet your appetite.

Mammys on the Dance Floor

Mammys on the dance floor, let out for the night,

Dancing round their handbags, whopping with delight,

Mammys on the dance floor, kicking up the dust

Checking out the six packs, overcome with lust!

Mammys on the dance floor, one more round of beer,

Eyeing up the bouncers, giving them the leer…..

So off you go ladies, let the hair down, but if you’d like a delectable afternoon tea and a gossip around the fire, instead here are some of my favourite sweet treats for those who love to bake…


Ballymaloe Sausage Rolls with Caraway Seeds

Makes 8 – 16 depending on size


450g (1lb) best quality Sausages

450g (1lb) Puff Pastry (see recipe)

Egg Wash: 1 egg and a drop of milk

50g (2ozs) Caraway seeds or sesame seeds


Form the sausage meat into rolls, either regular or jumbo size to fit the pastry.


Roll the pastry into a rectangle about 4mm (1/6 inch) thick.  Lay the sausage meat along the wider side 5cm (2 inch) from the edge.  Brush with egg wash or water.   Fold over the excess pastry, press to seal and cut along the edge.  Flake the edge with a knife or seal with a fork. Brush the top of pastry with egg wash and prick the surface with a fork at 1” (2cm) intervals.  Cover and chill.  Repeat with the remainder.


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

Before cooking cut into 8’s or 16’s . Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with optional caraway seeds. Cook for 20-25 minutes depending on size. 


Galette des Rois

In France on the Festival of the Kings on 6th January, over 50 million flaky galette des rois are eaten. Tucked into the soft frangipane filling is a little surprise for the lucky person who chooses that slice. There is a wonderful ritual played out every year, where everyone sits around the dining table but the youngest child climbs underneath. As the galette is served, slice by slice, Madame points at the portion and asks ‘Who is that slice for ?’ The child calls out each person’s name, the lucky person who finds the feve in their slice is the king and the golden crown is placed on their head. As the king raises a glass everyone choruses, ‘The king drinks, the king drinks!’


Serves 8


450g all butter puff pastry chilled



110g (4oz) ground almonds

110g (4 ozs) castor sugar

40g (1½ ozs) melted butter

2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic

2 tablespoons double cream

1 dessertspoon rum (optional)

Egg wash made with 1 beaten egg and a tiny pinch of salt


Icing sugar

To Serve

Softly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8

Divide the pastry in half, roll out just less than 5mm (¼ inch thick), cut into 2 circles approx. 10 inch (25.5cm) in diameter.  Put one onto a damp baking sheet, Keep both pieces chilled in the fridge while you make the filling (the second piece could be on a sheet of parchment paper on a plate in the fridge).

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together (except the egg wash) in a bowl until smooth. Put the filling onto the pastry base, leaving a rim of about 1 inch (2.5mm) free around the edge.  Brush the rim with beaten egg or water and put on the lid of puff pastry, press it down well around the edges. Flute the edges with a knife.

Make a small hole in the centre brush with egg wash and leave for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. With the back of a knife, nick the edge of the pastry 12 times at regular intervals to form a scalloped edge with a rose petal effect. Mark long curving lines from the central hole outwards to designate formal petals. Be careful not to cut through the pastry just score it.*

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, then lower the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 and bake for 30 minutes approx. until well risen and golden. While still hot dredge heavily with icing sugar and return to a very hot oven or pop under a grill (Do Not Leave the Grill) – the sugar will melt and caramelize to a dark brown glaze. Serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

*Note: Galette des Rois is best eaten warm, but it also keeps well and may be reheated


Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes


Makes 24



225g (8oz) butter (at room temperature)

225g (8oz) caster sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons


Lemon Curd

2 ozs (50g) butter

4 ozs (110g) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)


Lemon Curd Cream

110ml (4floz) mascarpone

4 tablespoons lemon curd (see recipe)

2 tablespoons sieved icing sugar


Meringue Kisses (see recipe)



sprig of Lemon Balm or Lemon Verbena


2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases.


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


First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processer, whizz until smooth.


Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.


Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.


Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.



2 egg whites

4½ ozs (117g/1 cup approx.) icing sugar


To make the meringue


Line a baking sheet with silicone paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Drop little ‘blobs’ of the mixture on to the baking sheet and flatten slightly with a teaspoon.   Bake immediately in a low oven 150°C/300°F/regulo 2 for 10-15 minutes or until set crisp.


To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the mascarpone and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.


Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the top of the cupcake.  Top with a little more lemon curd and pop a meringue kiss on top, garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.


Tender Loving Care Biscuits (known as TLC’s in our house)

These little oatmeal and coffee sandwich biscuit are super delicious.


Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)


110g (4 ozs) butter

50g (2 ozs) castor sugar

1 dessertspoon golden syrup

55g (2 ozs) flour

150g (5 ozs) oatmeal (porridge oats)

55g (2 ozs) dessicated coconut

A pinch of salt

A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)


Coffee Filling

50g (2 ozs) butter

75g (3 ozs) icing sugar

Coffee essence – 1 teaspoon approx.


Coffee Icing

110g (4 ozs) icing sugar

1 tablespoon approx. boiling water

1 teaspoons approx. coffee essence



10 – 12 walnuts


Use a 12 inch (4cm) cutter


Cream the butter and sugar and add in the golden syrup, gradually stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Roll out on to a floured board to about  inch (5mm) thickness – the mixture will be slightly sticky and will be a little difficult to handle.  Stamp out into rounds with a cutter and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 until golden. They will take approx.12-15 minutes.

Remove to a wire rack and allow to become quite cold.  Meanwhile make the filling and icings.


Coffee Filling:

Cream the butter and add in the sieved icing sugar, beat until light and fluffy and then add the coffee essence. Spread a little on each biscuit and sandwich two biscuits together.

Coffee Icing:

Sieve the icing sugar, add the coffee essence and enough boiling water to mix to a spreading consistency, very little does, so be careful not to add too much.  Spread a little blob of icing on top of each biscuit and decorate with a walnut half.


Little Choccie Mousses

Serve in little glasses, chocolate mousse is very rich – so don’t serve too large helpings.


Serves 8-10


225g (8ozs) plain chocolate (we use 52% Callebaut)

1 tablespoon of Jamaican rum

4 free range eggs, separated
crème fraiche or softly whipped cream to serve


Break chocolate into small pieces and put into a Pyrex bowl, melt over a saucepan of hot water. As soon as the water comes to the boil turn off the heat and allow to soften. Stir until melted and smooth. Remove, cool, whisk in the rum and egg yolks one by one. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold gently into the melted chocolate. Fill into small bowls or glasses. Allow to set in a fridge.
To Serve
Serve with a blob of crème fraiche.

These little pots are very rich so extra crème fraîche may be welcome.


Darina’s Coconut and Jelly Cakes


Makes 18 – 20

150g (5ozs) butter (at room temperature)

150g (5ozs) caster sugar

150g (5ozs) self raising flour

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Redcurrant jelly or redcurrant jelly mixed with raspberry jam

110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

300ml (10floz) cream

2 teaspoons icing sugar


2 muffin tins lined with 18 muffin cases.


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


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

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin.  Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden. Allow to cool on a wire cake rack.

Whip the cream with the sieved icing sugar and spoon into a piping bag.

Dip or brush each bun with the jelly, roll in desiccated coconut. Cut the top third of each cake almost all the way through and pipe in a large rosette of cream.

Serve immediately. Unfilled cakes can be kept in an airtight tin for a day or two.


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