CategorySaturday Letter


Oatmeal is a wonderful food as far as I’m concerned. Almost every morning, in autumn and winter, a bowl of steaming porridge with soft brown sugar and creamy milk launches me into the day,  Tim brings me a breakfast tray in bed - am I not spoiled rotten?   This glorious arrangement also means that Tim can have a peaceful hour in the kitchen all to himself.   Macroom oatmeal from the last stone-grinding mill is my absolute favourite, but I also love pinhead oatmeal.  
Last year we grew a field of oats, we had a tremendous yield and sent it along to Donal Creedon at Macroom to be milled.  It was such a delight to have our own freshly ground oatmeal for breakfast. Years ago this would have been a common occurrence.  
Ireland’s soft damp climate is ideally suited to the cultivation of oats so oatmeal became a staple food of the Irish from pre-historic times.  Its popularity lasted right up to the 17th Century when it was superseded by the newly introduced potato.
Most farmers would have grown some oats and taken it to the local mill to be ground, it was then stored to be used in bread, black puddings and oatcakes. Oats have been valued for their nutritive value for a long time, with higher levels of zinc and manganese than in other cereals.  Oat bran is an important source of soluble fibre which appears to reduce blood cholesterol.
Flahavans are now doing an organic oatmeal which is well worth seeking out.  It also makes delicious porridge but if you are tiring of that comforting cereal, why not make some muesli or a home-made granola, full of nuts and dried fruit and toasted grains.  There are lots of oatmeal biscuits including flapjacks and Anzacs.    A little fist full of oatflakes added to a crumble or brown soda bread will be nutty and delicious.   Many people enjoy herrings dipped in oatmeal or croquettes with a crispy oatmeal crust.


-  Scrunchy Muesli with Bananas and Yoghurt
Serves 10 approx.
(150ml) Irish honey
(150ml) walnut oil
 (150ml) water
6 ozs (170g) oat flakes
2 ozs (55g) sesame seeds
2 ozs (55g) bran flakes
2 ozs (55g) desiccated coconut
6 ozs (170g) roughly chopped pecan nuts
3 ozs (85g) flaked almonds
3 ozs (85g) raisins
sliced bananas and thick natural yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.
Put the walnut oil, water and honey into a saucepan, warm over a gentle heat. Meanwhile mix the oats, sesame seeds, bran flakes, desiccated coconut, flaked almonds and roughly chopped pecans in a bowl. Pour the warm honey and oil mixture over the grains and mix well. Spread out onto a roasting tin, bake in the preheated oven until the grains are nicely toasted 20 minutes approx.
Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the raisins and allow to cool.
Serve with yoghurt and sliced bananas or milk.

Oatmeal and Apple Muesli with Hazelnuts

4 ozs (110g) grated dessert apple (preferably Cox's Orange Pippin or Worcester Permain)
3 heaped tablesp. rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)
6 tablesp.  water
1 teasp. approx. pure Irish honey
2 tablesp.  sliced hazelnuts, preferably toasted
Serves 8
Soak the oatmeal in the water for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the apple on the coarse part of a grater, mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually  enough but it depends on how sweet the apples are.
Add hazelnuts and serve with cream and soft brown sugar.
Blackberry and Apple Muesli
A few blackberries are delicious added to Apple muesli in Autumn.
Apple and Raisin Squares
 8 ozs (225 g) self raising flour
8 ozs (225 g) oatmeal
1 level teaspoon  bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
8 ozs (225 g)   butter
8 ozs (225 g) sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eating apples
4 ozs (110 g) raisins
Mix the flour, oats and bicarbonate of soda together.  Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together over a gentle heat and add.  Line a tin with greaseproof paper.  Press half the mixture into a lightly greased 92 inch square tin.  Peel, core and chop the apple finely, mix with the raisins and sprinkle over, then spread the remaining oat mixture on top. 
Bake for 30 minutes 180C/350F/regulo 4, leave to cool for 5 minutes, cut into squares and transfer to a wire rack.

Kibbled Wheat and Oatmeal Scones

We sometimes make these scones into little mini loaves about 5 x 4 inches (10 - 12.5cm) and then cut them into little slices rather than splitting them in half.
680g(1¼ lbs) brown wholemeal flour (preferably stone-ground)  or 450g(1 lb) brown wholemeal flour and 50g (2 ozs) Oatmeal and 50g (2 ozs) Kibbled wheat
450g (1 lb) white flour
30-55g (1-2 ozs) butter
10g/2 rounded teasp. salt
10g/2 rounded teasp. bread soda  (bicarbonate of soda), sieved
1 free range egg
750-950ml (1¼-1½ pints) buttermilk or sour milk
30g (1 oz) Kibbled wheat, optional
30g (1 oz) oatmeal
Serves 16-20
First preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.
Ina large wide bowl mix the dry ingredients well together, rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre, add the whisked egg, and most of the buttermilk or sour milk.
Working from the centre, mix with your hand and add more milk if necessary. The dough should be soft but not sticky. Turn out onto a floured board. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy lightly, just enough to shape into a square. Flatten slightly to about 1½ inches (4cm) approx. Mix the kibbled wheat and oatmeal together on a plate.
Brush with a little beaten egg and buttermilk. Cut with a knife into square scones, dip each scone into the kibbled wheat and oatmeal topping.
Transfer to a baking sheet. The mixture will make 16-20 scones depending on the size. Bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F/regulo 6 for approx. another 5-10 minutes depending on sound, they should sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Pinhead Oatmeal Porridge

Serves 4
52 ozs (155g) Macroom stoneground pinhead oatmeal
32 fl ozs (950ml) water
1 level teaspoon salt
Soak the oatmeal in 1 cup of cold water. Meanwhile bring 3 cups of water to the boil and add to the oatmeal. Put on a low heat and stir until the water comes to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the salt. Cover again and leave aside overnight, the oatmeal will absorb all the water. Reheat and serve with single cream or milk and soft brown sugar.

Tender Loving Care Biscuits

(known as TLC biscuits in our house)
Makes about 10 iced biscuits (depending on the size of the cutter used)
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar
1 dessertspoon  golden syrup
2 ozs (55g) flour
5 ozs (140g) oatmeal (porridge oats)
2 ozs (55g) dessicated coconut
A pinch of salt
A pinch of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
Coffee Filling
12 ozs (45g) butter
3 ozs (85g) icing sugar
Coffee essence - 1 teaspoon approx.
Coffee Icing
4 ozs (110g) icing sugar
1 tablespoon approx. boiling water
12 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 3 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.


Indulge your romantic side with Valentine’s Day

  1. Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue
  2. Roast Rack of Spring Lamb with Haricot Beans with tomato and rosemary, and Rustic Roast Potatoes.
  3. Serves 2 Ask your butcher to prepare the rack of lamb for you. 1 rack of local Irish lamb (6 cutlets) salt and freshly ground pepper Accompaniment Mint Chutney, Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary and Rustic Roast Potatoes Garnish Sprigs of mint Sprinkle the rack of lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper, place on a roasting tin. Roast fat side upwards for 25-30 minutes depending on the age of lamb and degree of doneness required. When cooked, remove lamb to a warm serving dish. Turn off the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re-distribute evenly through the meat. Carve the lamb and serve 2-3 cutlets per person depending on size. Serve with fresh Mint chutney, Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary and Rustic Roast Potatoes. Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary Serve as an accompaniment to the lamb or as a vegetarian dish. You can always use the extra to make a Gratin dish for another meal. Serves 4-6 1 cup dried haricot beans or flageolet beans or 2 x 14 oz (400g) cans of cooked beans Bouquet garni 1 onion 1 carrot 3 tablespoons olive oil 6 ozs (170g) chopped onion 4 large cloves garlic, crushed 1 x 14 oz (400g) tin tomatoes 1 large sprig rosemary chopped, approx 1 tablesp. Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy - anything from 30-60 minutes. Just before the end of cooking, add salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard. Meanwhile sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Note: The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid. Gratin of Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary Put the mixture in a shallow ovenproof dish. Scatter a mixture of buttered crumbs and grated cheese over the top and put into a hot oven or flash under a grill until crisp and golden on top. Rustic Roast Potatoes
  4. Fresh Mint Chutney
  5. Bananas and Passion Fruit in Lime Syrup
  6. A delicious fresh tasting fruity dessert that shouldn’t add inches to your waistlines.
  7. Chocolate Mousse
  8. 225g (½ lb) of best quality dark chocolate
  9. Chocolate Caraque
I've always been an incurable romantic, students tease me about the number of times I use a heart-shaped cutter to decorate pies and tarts.  I make heart-shaped biscuits, pretty little heart-shaped Coeur a la crème, and scatter heart-shaped croutons over soup, a teency bit obsessive, not to mention unsubtle, but fun and great for a giggle. 

Well, with Valentine’s Day coming up we can legitimately indulge our romantic side and go seriously over the top.      Let’s start at the beginning, get out the coloured pens and paper and make a heart-shaped invitation.  Keep it light-hearted and fun – mustn’t pretend you are too serious, might scare him away even before you get him to the table.  Yes, the invite is for dinner – remember the way to every chap’s heart and all that – its worth a try anyway!

If you can’t quite manage a three course meal how about whipping up some little fairy cakes, ice them with bright pink and white icing and decorate them with those adorable little candles which spell out  I LOVE YOU – in fact they would make a pretty edible centrepiece for your dinner table – set the scene with scented candles, dark red roses, love hearts in a glass bowl and pretty napkins.  Champagne or bubbly of some kind is a must – drink it not just as an aperitif, but sip it all the way through to heighten the feeling of fun and excitement.

So what to eat?  Its difficult to choose – should it be comfort food or OTT luxury?   Crunchy cruditees with a bowl of garlic mayonnaise would be delicious and fun, but perhaps the garlic might not be a good idea later.  You may want to choose some aphrodisiac food  - a couple of dozen oysters, some lobster, caviar, or wild mushrooms.

If you are really trying to bring on a proposal though, beware of seeming too extravagant – he may conclude that you would be far too expensive to keep!
So how about cheese fondue with lots of crusty white bread for dunking (in fact this could be served as a starter or a main dish.)
A rack of lamb with a gutsy bean stew would make a delicious main course served with a few rustic roast potatoes.     Looks impressive but it is very easy to cook and there will be lots of time for soulful chat while the meat and potatoes are roasting.

For dessert there’s lots of sweet nonsense, pretty little heartshaped Coeur a la crème are adorable, serve with poached apricots.
The dark intensity of chocolate mousse is perfect to linger over with a cup of freshly ground expresso, or you may want to finish on something fruity like this Banana and Passion Fruit in lime syrup.
If you can’t cook – don’t despair - little notes with secret messages tucked into wallets beside credit cards, or behind the sun shade in the car, or even into a shoe, will give most people an oops in their tummy, or at least a giggle.   Happy Valentine’s Day.

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. It's a great favourite at Ballymaloe and even though it's a meal in itself it may be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not essential.

Serves 2
2 tablesp. white wine
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teasp. Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney
2 teasp. freshly chopped parsley
6 ozs (170g) grated mature Cheddar cheese
Crusty white bread
Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a small saucepan or fondue pot and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.


Roast Rack of Spring Lamb with Haricot Beans with tomato and rosemary, and Rustic Roast Potatoes.

Serves 2
Ask your butcher to prepare the rack of lamb for you.
1 rack of local Irish lamb (6 cutlets)
salt and freshly ground pepper
Mint Chutney, Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary and Rustic Roast Potatoes
Sprigs of mint
Sprinkle the rack of lamb with salt and freshly ground pepper, place on a roasting tin. Roast fat side upwards for 25-30 minutes depending on the age of lamb and degree of doneness required.  When cooked, remove lamb to a warm serving dish. Turn off the oven and allow the lamb to rest for 5-10 minutes before carving to allow the juices to re-distribute evenly through the meat.  Carve the lamb and serve 2-3 cutlets per person depending on size. Serve with fresh Mint chutney, Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary and Rustic Roast Potatoes.
Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary
Serve as an accompaniment to the lamb or as a vegetarian dish.
You can always use the extra to make a Gratin dish for another meal.

Serves 4-6
1 cup dried haricot beans or flageolet beans or 2 x 14 oz (400g) cans of cooked beans
Bouquet garni
1 onion
1 carrot
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 ozs (170g) chopped onion
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 14 oz (400g) tin tomatoes
1 large sprig rosemary chopped, approx 1 tablesp.
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans and cover with fresh cold water, add a bouquet garni, carrot and onion, cover and simmer until the beans are soft but not mushy - anything from 30-60 minutes. Just before the end of cooking, add salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables and discard.

Meanwhile sweat the chopped onion gently in olive oil in a wide saucepan until soft but not coloured, approx. 7-8 minutes add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, add the chopped tomato and their juice, add the cooked beans, and chopped rosemary. Simmer for 10-15 minutes add some of the bean liquid if necessary and season well with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.

Note: The mixture should be juicy but not swimming in liquid.
Gratin of Haricot Beans with Tomato and Rosemary
Put the mixture in a shallow ovenproof dish.  Scatter a mixture of buttered crumbs and grated cheese over the top and put into a hot oven or flash under a grill until crisp and golden on top.

Rustic Roast Potatoes

Serves 2-3
These are my children's favourite kind of roast spuds. They particularly love all the crusty skin.
3 large 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8.   Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx.   Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil.   Roast in a preheated oven for 15-20 minutes depending on size.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.

Fresh Mint Chutney

This fresh chutney is often served in India with curries. It can also be eaten with grilled fish or roast lamb instead of mint sauce.  Surprisingly, even though it is uncooked, this chutney will keep for several days in a covered jar or plastic container in the refrigerator.
1 large cooking apple (we use Grenadier or Bramley Seedling), peeled and cored
a large handful of fresh mint leaves, Spearmint of Bowles mint
55g (2oz) onions
30-55g (1-2oz) castor sugar (depending on tartness of apple)
Whizz all the ingredients in a food processor, season with salt and a little cayenne pepper.

Tip: Serve mint chutney as a really yummy dip with poppodums before dinner or as a simple starter.

Bananas and Passion Fruit in Lime Syrup

A delicious fresh tasting fruity dessert that shouldn’t add inches to your waistlines.

Serves 2 generously
4 ozs (110 g) sugar
4 fl ozs (125ml) water
1 lime
2 bananas
1 passion fruit
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes, allow to cool.

Meanwhile,  remove the zest from the lime either with a zester or a fine stainless steel grater and add to the syrup with the juice of the lime, add the sliced bananas mix well.
over with cold syrup.  Cut the passion fruit in half, scoop out the seeds and add to the bowl.  Stir well.  Leave to macerate for at least an hour.  Serve chilled with heart-shaped biscuits and softly whipped cream.
Jane's Biscuits - Shortbread Biscuits
Makes 25 – you will have lots to share!

6 ozs (170g) white flour
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) 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 ¼ inch (7mm) thick.  Cut into rounds with a 2½ inch (6cm) cutter or heart shapes.  Bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 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 colour - darker will be more bitter.
Chocolate Hearts filled with Silky Chocolate Mousse
 Serves 10
10 heart-shaped Chocolate Cases

Chocolate Mousse

225g (½ lb) of best quality dark chocolate

150ml (5 fl ozs) water
15g (½oz) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon  Jamaica Rum
6 small or 4 large free range eggs

Chocolate Caraque

115g (4ozs) dark chocolate or a packet of chocolate decorations
Whipped cream
Chocolate Caraque
Unsweetened cocoa
Make the mousse. 

Break chocolate into small pieces and put to melt in a bowl with the unsalted butter and water over a low heat.  Stir gently until melted and completely smooth.  Remove, cool, whisk in the rum if using and the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites and fold them in.  Beat for 5-6 minutes, this makes the mousse smooth and silky even though it sounds like a contradiction.   The mousse thickens as it is beaten at the end.  Fill each chocolate case with the mousse.  Allow to set for 5 or 6 hours or overnight.

Then make the Caraque. 

Melt the chocolate and spread it thinly with a palette knife onto a marble slab.  Allow it to set almost completely and then with a sharp knife or a paint scraper shave off long, thin scrolls.  Use a slightly sawing movement and keep your hand upright.  This is fun to do but there’s quite a lot of skill involved - you’ll get good at it with practice and you can always eat the rejects!   Alternatively buy a packet of those little chocolate decorations. 

To serve
Pipe a rosette of softly whipped cream onto each mousse.  Top with a few pieces of caraque. Sieve a little unsweetened cocoa over the top and serve chilled.  Sprinkle with rose petals if you want to go over the top.

The Parisian Food Scene

A romantic weekend in Paris is the perfect antidote to chase away the dreary January blues. Pick up any newspaper, flick through the pages to the travel section, there will be a myriad of tempting weekend breaks, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Prague…. If you are a ‘whizz’ on the internet you can pick up even better bargains. We made a spur of the moment decision to jump on a 5.40am flight to Paris on Saturday last. As well as strolling hand in hand under the bridges of Paris, there are many other attractions in this beautiful city – Paris, despite its staid frumpy image on the global gastronomic food scene, is till a serious food town.

There’s lots of choice but unless you want to hit the three star Michelin luminaries, probably your best bet is to head for some of the legendary but still reasonably priced bistros and brasseries. Many have been around forever and offer the same classic dishes, year in year out – no fusion food here but delicious comforting winter dishes like soupe a l’oignon, oeufs en gelee, marinated herrings, choux croute, traditional roast chicken or daube of beef.


We particularly enjoyed the bright and brassy Brasserie Balzar, a much loved stalwart close to the Sorbonne which seems to have survived the take over by the Flo group a few years ago.

There are innumerable restaurants, bistros, cafes, wine bars, but unless you do a little homework before you leave, you can quite easily pass the whole weekend without getting a decent bite to eat. In fact, I was particularly saddened recently when an Irish friend who travels a lot and is really passionate about food, told me that he feels France is losing its food tradition faster than any other country in Europe – scary. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to see that after many years of little innovation, things are beginning to happen on the Parisian food scene.

So where is the excitement? – The fashion restaurant where ‘the scene’ counts for everything is back in full swing in Paris again – Spoon and 59 Poincare, Alain Ducasse’s World Food Restaurants, attract media types, movie stars and models. The food is not great, but the menu is fun, divided into categories like ‘vegetables’ and ‘lamb’ which the diner can combine in any way they choose, not always a success! The Costes brothers whom many credit with livening up the stagnant Paris restaurant scene, are responsible for L’Esplanade, Hotel Costes, and Georges at the top of the Pompidou Centre. Count on amazing, sometimes sumptuous décor, a glamorous clientele and service with attitude. The food is rarely brilliant though we had a delicious lunch at Georges last year. Korora with its 70’s décor, named after the bar in ‘A Clockwork Orange’, draws the Prada and Gucci set, there’s an enticing menu but don’t be tempted by the Chicken in Coca Cola Sauce! Le Tanjia is the spot to head for if you want to nibble on tagines and b’stillas with models and actresses. Colette on Rue St Honoré is the hip shop with a Water bar downstairs to revive you when you’ve shopped for Ireland. When you get tired of the scene perhaps you’ll want to browse in some of the city’s temples of food. Fauchon in Place de la Madeleine, or Hediard just around the corner are a must. I defy even the most disinterested to come out of the shop without having succumbed to temptation, even if its only a little box of truffles. Less expensive but just as impressive because of its variety and scale is La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a deluxe grocery just beside the huge Bon Marche store.

The woman chef everyone is talking about at present is Helen Darroze







We tried to book a table at Restaurant Helene Darroze on Rue d’Assas but it was choc a bloc, so we had to content ourselves with reading the menu which offers delicious sounding dishes like Champignons des bois et ravioli de Romans, Foie gras de canard des landes grille au feu de bois, Filets de rouge de roche cuits en croute d’épices royals, Fruits de saison rotis……

Instead we managed by the skin of our teeth to get a table at on Sunday night at the other happening spot – Market on Rue Matignon. This new restaurant was opened by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten who has been the toast of New York for decades now with his restaurants Jean Georges, Vong and the Mercier Kitchen. His new venture in Paris has had very mixed reviews at both sides of the Atlantic, nonetheless it is packed with the rich and famous. The food was good, but in my opinion not as good as his restaurant in the Big Apple. Don’t miss another of my favourite haunts in Paris, Angelina a salon du thé, across the street from the Jardin des Tuileries, on Rue de Rivoli. The elegant and sumptuous interior embellished with murals and gilded antique mirrors is utterly beautiful and the hot chocolate, thick and unctuous, is quite simply divine. It is served with a huge blob of whipped cream and a glass of water to aid digestion.


A weekend is a pretty short time and if you are to check out some of the places I’ve mentioned you’ll need lots of exercise. Paris is a wonderful city to walk through with splendid art galleries, hidden museums, a myriad of specialist shops run by passionate eccentrics and so many beautiful buildings and breath-taking vistas. I love the wonderfully flamboyant Roue de Paris in the Place de la Concorde. At present Parisians are divided over whether the splendid 60 metre ferris wheel should be retained. It was erected for the Millennium and should now be dismantled, however it is the subject of a bitter court case at present and a big row is brewing. We signed the petition to keep it and queued for half an hour, it was worth every second to soar over the rooftops of the Louvre and have unparalleled views over Paris at night – the fairytale domes of Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower and the glittering lights of the Champs Elysées in the distance.


French Onion Soup with Gruyere Toasts


Serves 6

French onion soup is probably the best known and loved of all French soups. It was a favourite for breakfast in the cafes beside the old markets at Les Halles in Paris and is still a favourite on bistro menus at Rungis market. In France this soup is served in special white porcelain tureens.

Serve with a glass of gutsy French vin de table.

3lb (1.35kg) onions

2oz (55g) butter

3 pints (1.8 litres) good homemade beef or chicken stock or vegetable stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

To Finish

6 slices of baguette (French bread), 2 inch (1cm) thick toasted

3oz (85g) grated Gruyére cheese

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook on a low heat for about 40-60 minutes with the lid off, stirring frequently – the onions should be dark and well caramelised but not burnt.

Add the stock, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, bring to the boil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Ladle into deep soup bowls, put a piece of toasted baguette covered with grated cheese on top of each one. Pop under the grill until the cheese melts and turns golden. Serve immediately but beware – it will be very hot. Bon appetit!

Useful tip: Hold your nerve: – The onions must be very well caramelized otherwise the soup will be too weak and sweet.


Ballymaloe Quiche Lorraine



Serves 6


4 ozs (110g) white flour

Pinch of salt

2-3 ozs (55-85g) butter

1 egg, preferably free range or 4-5 tablesp. cold water or a mixture of egg and water


1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil

4 ozs (110g) chopped onion

4-6 ozs (110-170g) rindless streaky rashers (green or slightly smoked)

2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, preferably free range

2 pint (300ml) cream or half milk, half cream

3 ozs (85g) freshly grated Cheddar cheese or 2 ozs (55g) finely grated Gruyére cheese

¼ – ½ oz (15g) Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

1 teaspoon chopped parsley

2 teaspoon chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flan ring or deep quiche tin, 72 inch (19cm) diameter x 13 inch (3mm) high.

First make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs stop.

Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Line the flan ring or quiche tin and bake blind in a moderate oven 1801C/3501F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes.

Cut the bacon and cut into 2 inch lardons, blanch and refresh if necessary. Dry on kitchen paper. Heat the oil and crisp off the bacon, remove and sweat the onions gently in the oil and bacon fat for about 10 minutes. Cool.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, add the cream (or cream and milk), herbs, cheese, bacon and onions and cool. Season and taste.

Pour the filling into the par baked pastry shell and bake in a moderate oven 1801C/3501F/regulo 4,* for 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is just set and the top golden (don’t over cook or the filling will be slightly scrambled).

Serve warm with a green salad.

a conventional oven gives the best result


Tarte Tatin



The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century. They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph – soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath. It is unquestionably my favourite French tart!

Serves 6-8

2¾ lbs (1.24 kg) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples

6 ozs (170 g) puff pastry or rich sweet shortcrust pastry

4 ozs (110 g) unsalted butter

8 ozs (225 g) castor sugar

Heavy 8 inch (20.5 cm) copper or stainless steel saucepan with low sides

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/regulo 7 for puff pastry. For shortcrust -180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Peel, halve and core the apples. Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour. Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side. Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan. Prick it all over with a fork. Cover the apples with the pastry and nick in the edges. Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft-25-30 minutes approx.

Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like. Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate. (Watch out – this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out!). Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.

Winter Warmers

Hot bubbly stews and casseroles, the sort of comforting food that we love to come home to on these wet or frosty January evenings – what a choice there is.
I’ve just been thinking about the word casserole – not easy to define, because there is such a diverse variety of dishes.   Basically it could be described as something cooked in a casserole, fish, meat or vegetables.   The casserole itself could be made of clay or cast iron. Depending on the part of the world – it could be a tagine, sandpot, hotpot, stew or daube, ragout, fricassee, curry or cassoulet.   Once you start to do a global cook’s tour one realises that one cook’s tagine is another cook’s gumbo, one cook’s braise is another’s curry.
In America a casserole is often interpreted as an assembly of par-cooked or cooked food baked in an open dish topped with crumbs and so the confusion continues, but here in Ireland a casserole conjures up an image of a bubbling Le Creuset pot of juicy meat and vegetables with lots of flavourful savoury liquid to soak into rice or fluffy mashed potato.
Here are some of my favourite warming winter stews and casseroles .

Spiced Lamb with Aubergines

Serves 6
2 lb (900g) shoulder of lamb
2 aubergines
1 large onion
2 tablesp. (28ml) olive oil
3 teasp. chopped mint
3 teasp. chopped marjoram
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ozs (225g) very ripe tomatoes, or 1 tin of tomatoes
1 large clove of garlic
1 heaped teasp. crushed cumin seed

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4
Cut the meat into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes.  Cut the aubergines into cubes about the same size as the lamb.  Sprinkle the aubergine cubes with salt and put in a colander to drain with a plate on top to weigh them down.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and sweat the sliced onion.  Add the meat and allow it to colour, sprinkle with mint and marjoram and season.  Transfer the meat and onions to a casserole.

Wash off the aubergines and drain them with kitchen paper; toss them in olive oil in the pan, season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and cook for 10 minutes.   Add to the meat and cover.  Skin the tomatoes, chop them up and put them into the casserole with the meat mixture.  Add crushed garlic.   Heat the cumin for a few minutes, either in a bowl in the oven or in a frying pan, crush in a mortar and add to the casserole.  Cook on a gentle heat or in a moderate oven for 1½ hours approx.  Taste, correct the seasoning and de-grease the cooking liquid if necessary.  Serve with rice.

Daube of Beef Provencale

This gutsy Winter stew has a rich robust flavour. It reheats perfectly and can also be made ahead and frozen.
Serves 8
3 lbs (1.35kg) lean stewing beef - topside or chuck
2 tablesp.  olive oil
10 fl ozs (300ml) dry white or red wine
1 teasp. salt
¼ teasp. pepper
½ teasp. thyme, sage or annual marjoram
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 lb (450g) streaky bacon cut into ½ inch (1cm) lardons
1 tin tomatoes, chopped
6 ozs (170g) sliced mushrooms
10 anchovy fillets
2 tablesp.  capers
3 tablesp. wine vinegar
2 tablesp.  chopped parsley
2 cloves mashed garlic
Roux, optional
Chopped parsley
Cut the beef into large chunks, 3 inches (7.5cm) approx. Mix the marinade ingredients  in a bowl or large casserole. Add the meat, cover and marinade in a fridge or cool larder overnight. Remove the meat to a plate. Strain the marinade, reserve the vegetables and the marinade.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, cook the bacon lardons until crisp, add to the casserole. Dry the meat with kitchen paper. Seal the meat on the hot pan, and add to the bacon with the marinated vegetables and tinned tomato.

Degrease the pan and deglaze with the marinade and ¼ pint (150ml) good beef stock, add to the casserole. Bring to the boil and either simmer very gently on top of the stove or transfer to a preheated oven 160C/325F/regulo 3 for 1½-2 hours approx.

Meanwhile saute the sliced mushroom on a hot pan and keep aside.
When the meat is soft and tender liquidise the anchovies with the capers, chopped parsley, wine vinegar and garlic. Add to the casserole with the mushrooms. Simmer gently for 8-10 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning. Degrease and if necessary thicken the boiling liquid by whisking in a little roux (see below). 

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with fluffy mashed potatoes.

Shanagarry Chicken Casserole

A good chicken casserole even though it may sound 'old hat' always gets a hearty welcome from my family and friends, sometimes I make an entire meal in a pot by covering the top with whole peeled potatoes just before it goes into the oven.  Pheasant or rabbit could also be used.
Serves 4-6
1 x 3½ lbs (1.57kg) chicken (free range if possible)
A little butter or oil for sauteeing
12 ozs (340g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)
12 ozs (340g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced (if the carrots are small, leave whole.  If large cut in chunks)
1 lb (450g) onions, (baby onions are nicest)
Sprig of thyme
Homemade chicken stock - 1¼ pints (750ml) approx.
Roux - optional (see below)
Mushroom a la créme (see recipe)
1 tablesp. parsley, freshly chopped
 Cut the rind off the bacon and cut into approx. ½ inch (1 cm) cubes, (blanch if salty). Dry in kitchen paper. Joint the chicken into 8 pieces. Season the chicken pieces well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp, remove and transfer to the casserole. Add chicken pieces a few at a time to the pan and sauté until golden, add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn't burn yet it must be hot enough to saute the chicken. If it is too cool, the chicken pieces will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then toss the onion and carrot in the pan adding a little butter if necessary, add to the casserole. Degrease the pan and deglaze with stock, bring to the boil and pour over the chicken etc. Season well, add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, then put into the oven for 30-45 minutes, 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Cooking time depends on how long the chicken pieces were sauteed for.
When the chicken is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease, return the degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary (see below). Add the meat, carrots and onions back into the casserole and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning.  The casserole is very good served at this point, but it's even more delicious if some mushroom a la creme is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley and bubbling hot.

4 ozs (110g) butter
4 ozs (110g) flour
Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Use as required. Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred. It will keep for at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.
Mushroom a la Creme

Serves 4

½-1 oz (15-30 g) butter
3 ozs (85 g) onion, finely chopped
½ lb (225g) mushrooms, sliced
4 fl ozs (100ml) cream
Freshly chopped parsley
½ tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)
A squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams.  Add the chopped onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes or until quite soft but not coloured; remove the onions to a bowl.  Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in batches if necessary.  Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice .  Add the mushrooms to the onions in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning, and add parsley and chives if used.

Women’s Christmas

Well now that Christmas and New Year are over, I think us girls deserve a special night in the time-honoured way. Little Christmas on the 6th of January has been the traditional Women’s Christmas, the day when the long-suffering Mná na hEireann go out to relax and celebrate together. According to Brid Mahon in ‘Land of Milk and Honey’ (The Story of Traditional Irish Food), " Nollaig na mBan was the day when all the dainties that women were said to enjoy were produced for high tea: thinly cut sandwiches, scones, gingerbread, apple cakes, sponge cakes decorated with swirls of icing, plum cake, brown bread, soda bread, baker’s bread, pats of freshly made butter, bowls of cream, dishes of jams and preserves and the best-quality tea. Men had eaten their fill of meats and had often drunk to excess during the festive season, but this was the women’s feast." Nowadays, many people choose to go out to dinner, but if you decide to just meet for tea instead, here are a few dainties you might like to try.

Rum and Raisin Cake

Our favourite cake – keeps for ages to have with coffee.
6oz (170g) raisins
6 tablespoons rum
10oz (285g) butter
6oz (170g)) castor sugar
4 eggs, free-range and organic
2fl oz (50ml) milk
1½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10oz (285g) white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 oz (50g) walnuts, shelled
23cm (9inch) round tin with a pop up base, buttered and floured
1½ tablespoons sugar
Soak the raisins in the rum for 30 minutes. Drain and save the rum.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Cream the butter, add the castor sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Separate the eggs, save the whites, add the egg yolks, one by one. Beat well between each addition, add the rum, milk and vanilla extract. Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold in to the base mixture bit by bit. Whisk the egg white in a spotlessly clean bowl until stiff
and fluffy. Fold into the cake mixture one third at a time, add the fruit and chopped nuts with the last addition of egg white. Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkled with soft brown sugar and cook in the preheated oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until the top is golden
and the centre set and firm. Allow the cake to cool in the tin, invert, remove from the tin, invert again and cool on a wire rack.

Butterfly Buns

Makes 24
I've never bothered to make buns by hand since Pearl McGillycuddy gave me this recipe, its most depressing because even though they only take seconds to make they are actually better than the ones I make laboriously make by hand. These buns are made by the all - in – one method in a food processor.
8 ozs (225g) butter, chopped
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
10 ozs (285g) white flour, preferably unbleached
4 eggs, preferably free range
½ teasp. baking powder
¼ teasp. pure vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/regulo 7. Chop the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, approx. 30 seconds. Put into greased bun trays or paper cases. Reduce
the temperature to 190C/375F/regulo 5 as soon as they begin to rise. Bake for 20 minutes approx. in total. Cool on a wire rack.
Cut the top off the buns, cut this piece in half and keep aside. Meanwhile, put a little homemade raspberry jam and a blob of cream onto the bottom part of the bun. Replace the two little pieces, arranging them like wings. Dredge with icing sugar and serve immediately. These buns may be iced with dark chocolate icing or coffee icing or they
are also delicious painted with raspberry jam or red currant jelly and dipped in coconut.

Pecan Puffs

Makes about 35
These delicious biscuits keep for ages in a tin, but they are so irresistible that they are seldom around for very long!
4oz (110g) butter
2 tablespoons castor sugar
3 teaspoon. pure vanilla essence
5 oz (140g) pecans
5oz (140g) plain white flour, sifted
icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 300F/150C/regulo 2.
Cream the butter, add the castor sugar and beat until soft and light. Grind the nuts finely in a food processor, mix with the butter and sugar, add the flour and vanilla essence. Pinch off teaspoonsful of the mixture and roll into balls. Place well apart on greased baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes or until pale and golden. Remove from the oven and roll quickly in icing sugar. Handle the pecan puffs very carefully as they will be fragile, brittle and and extremely hot! Return to the oven and bake for 1 minute, to set the sugar. Cool on a wire rack. Store in a airtight tin. Dust each layer with icing
sugar. Separate each layer with greaseproof paper.
Walnut Cake with American Frosting
Even though it is very laboursome, we quite often crack open the walnuts for this cake, to really ensure that they are fresh and sweet. Shelled walnuts turn rancid easily so taste one to be sure they are still good.
Serves 8
7ozs (200g) plain white flour
2½ level teaspoons baking powder
A pinch of salt
3ozs (85g) butter
½ level teaspoon pure vanilla essence
8ozs (225g) castor sugar
3ozs (85g) very fresh walnuts
4 fl ozs (100ml) milk
2 eggs
2ozs (55g) butter
4ozs (110g) icing sugar
A few drops of pure Vanilla essence
American Frosting
1 egg white
8ozs (225g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons water
5 or 6 walnut halves
3 x 7 inch (7.5 x 18cm) round sandwich tins
Brush the cake tins with melted butter, and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper, brush the paper with melted butter also and dust the base and edges with flour.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/regulo 5.
Sieve the flour with a pinch of salt and the baking powder. Chop the walnuts roughly. Cream the butter, gradually add the castor sugar and the vanilla essence. Separate the eggs, add in the yolks and keep the whites aside until later. Add the chopped walnuts to the creamed mixture. Fold in the flour and milk alternately into the mixture. Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff. Stir a little into the cake mixture and then fold the rest in gently. Divide between the 3 tins and smooth over the tops.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes approx. or until firm to the touch. Turn out of the tins onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper and allow to get completely cold.
Meanwhile make the filling
Cream the butter and add the sieved icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence. When the cake is cold, sandwich the three layers together with butter cream.
Next make the frosting: This delicious icing is just a little tricky to make, so follow the instructions exactly. Quick and accurate decisions are necessary in judging when the icing is ready and then it must be used immediately. Bring a saucepan of water large enough to hold a pyrex mixing bowl to the boil. Whisk the egg white until very stiff in
a pyrex or pottery bowl. Dissolve the sugar carefully in water and boil for 1 ½ minutes approx. until the syrup reaches the ‘thread stage’, 106º-113ºC/223º-236ºF. It will look thick and syrupy when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form a thin thread. Pour this boiling syrup over the stiffly-beaten egg white, whisking all the time. Sit the bowl in the saucepan of simmering water. Continue to whisk over the water until the icing is snow white and very thick (this can take up to 10 minutes). Spread quickly over the cake with a palette knife. It sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential. Decorate with 5 or 6 walnut halves.

The Global Kitchen

Last week a unique cookbook was launched in Cork called The Global Kitchen. This ‘little gem’, published by Omah Printing celebrates the wealth and diversity of recipes and cooking ideas brought to our shores by refugees and asylum seekers. The launch, at the Vision Centre, North Main Street, was a wonderfully colourful affair. Several of the refugees wore their traditional costumes. Rebecca and Sarah Kasule from Uganda did a traditional dance of welcome to the irresistible beat of the African drumming group.

During the past few years several hundred refugees have arrived in Ireland. When one learns of the extraordinary lengths that many asylum-seekers go to, to reach our shores, one is filled with awe. Would any of us have the courage to endure the danger and deprivation that they have suffered? Desperate situations call for desperate measures and for some at least there is absolutely no alternative but to head off into the unknown and hope for the best. Imagine what it must be like having suffered months or sometimes years of terror to eventually reach safety and then be treated with hostility.


In 2000 NASC was set up in Cork as an Irish immigrant support centre. There the refugees can find a safe welcoming haven where they can meet, celebrate their own culture, learn about Ireland, share experiences and develop the language skills needed to communicate. When we’re away from our native country, few things are more comforting than the food ‘that our Mammy used to make’.. Many of our happiest childhood memories are connected to food and the meals we shared around the kitchen table with family and friends. The refugees who arrived in Cork spent many hours reminiscing about the food of their homeland, searching for familiar ingredients. They were thrilled to find The Russian Shop, Iago and Mr. Bell’s stall in the Cork Market. Sometimes all they could do was look. Ego’s Intercontinental Store in Barrack Street and All in One Ventures in Shandon Street were also a source of longed-for flavours to enable them to reproduce the authentic dishes of their native countries. Sometimes they pooled their resources to buy some produce and familiar spices and cooked together and then shared their meals with their Irish friends who loved the new exciting flavours.


Gradually the idea of a cookbook was born I was delighted when I heard about this project, a brilliant way for asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants to share their culinary knowledge, cooking together and testing recipes with Irish ingredients. The Global Kitchen, the result of several months of experimentation, is a little gem, an exciting and eclectic collection of favourite recipes, some honed and perfected from

taste memory, others reproduced with the help of loved ones at home, a perfect present for foodie friends.  Because of our turbulent history, many people in Ireland have real empathy with asylum-seekers and refugees. We remember with gratitude the welcome and opportunities offered to numerous Irish people in the past by other nations, particularly America. It is the test of a mature and civilised nation that it can react with generosity to those less fortunate. Irish society needs to be able to respond to the possibilities and challenges that an intercultural society poses.


This exciting little cookbook with recipes from more than 18 countries gives us the opportunity to learn and to share and to taste. Food transcends all boundaries, unites all colours and creeds. Once we share a meal together a bond is formed. The refugees who contributed to this book have had fun working on this endeavour. Shops selling ethnic ingredients in Cork have enabled them to reproduce the authentic flavour of their homeland many thousands of miles away from home. All the money raised from this project will go to support NASC, to enable them to provide extra services, free legal service, internet access, language classes, music groups, friendship….. Seek out The Global Kitchen in bookshops, (£9.50) or contact NASC, St. Mary’s of the Isle, Sharman Crawford Street. Tel. 021 431 7411, Fax 021 431 7402,

e-mail:  Website:  Here are just a few of the many tempting recipes in the book.



This recipe came from Silly Ashu from Cameroon now living in Cork.

450g (1lb) self-raising flour

50g (2oz) butter

100g (3½oz) castor sugar

½ teasp. grated nutmeg

3 eggs

groundnut oil to deep fry.

Rub the butter into the flour.

Beat the eggs, sugar and nutmeg together. Stir in the flour, turn out and knead the dough on a floured board. Roll it out thinly and cut it into ribbons. Slice the ribbons across so that you are left with strips of pastry that are about the length of your finger. Cut a small opening in the middle of each ribbon and pull one end through it so that it is bow-shaped. You needn’t be too fussy about this; the important thing is

to make the chin-chin into interesting shapes. Deep-fry them in small batches until golden brown and leave to cool. They will keep fresh for 2-3 weeks if stored in an airtight container.


Khorchani Sahbi, a Tunisian chef living in Cork shared some of his favourite recipes.

Brick – Egg in filo pastry

1 sheet of filo pastry, oiled

1 egg

salt and pepper

3-4 capers

½ teasp. harissa

Heat plenty of olive oil in a heavy-based pan Fold the sheet of pastry in two to make a rectangle. Working quickly, break an egg into the middle and season it well, add capers and harissa if you want more punch to your egg. Fold the pastry over the egg making a parcel and pinch the edges to seal.

Slide the parcel into the oil from the plate or board you are working on. Baste the top of the brick with oil as you cook, to set the top. You can deep-fry it if you like but you must use olive oil. Cook until the pastry is crisp but the egg yolk is still runny. Eat it in your hands and keep your head over a plate the first few times that you make it, as it is hard to eat it with dignity! Keep lots of French style bread for mopping up.


Slata Tunis – Traditional Tunisian Salad

2 red peppers

2 green peppers

1 red onion

1 cucumber

1 green apple

handful of black or green olives

small tin of tuna in brine, drained

1 hardboiled egg

slices of lemon to garnish

plenty of chopped fresh parsley

Chop everything into small dice about the size of your smallest fingernail and mix well together.

Dress with the juice of a lemon and 30-40 mls of the best olive oil you have, mix well again until everything is coated in oil and glistening. Arrange the salad in a shallow bowl and dress it with flaked tuna and parsley. Alternate slices of tuna and egg around the edges.

Chef of the Year

The tragic events of September 11th have had a myriad of repercussions across the globe. Economies previously riding on the crest of a wave are now going into a tail spin with a domino effect across society.  Thousands and thousands of people are being made redundant, many more than we realize, because only the dramatic cases are being reported. A friend from the UK, whose son has just graduated from a top business school is pessimistic about this son’s chances of getting a job. Just a few months ago, graduates had a huge choice of jobs starting at minimum £35,000 per year straight out of college. Last week there were 300 applicants for a job with a salary of £17,000, even though he was at the top of his class he wasn’t even granted an interview.

The gradual realization that life may never be the same again has resulted in a re-adjustment of peoples’ priorities. Newspapers report a dramatic increase in the number of people looking at self-sufficiency and a 20% increase in church attendance. Materialism, conspicuous consumption, ostentation, suddenly feel even more inappropriate. Spirituality is in, living in the moment, life coaching and reskilling, alternative therapies, personal growth, valuing family time, have all become a major pre-occupation.


Last week my sisters organized a wonderful family get-together to celebrate the joys and achievements of the past year, over thirty gathered. Each family was asked to bring enough food for fifteen for a specific course, so it wasn’t too much trouble for any one person. Blathnaid and Elizabeth had spent many happy hours during the previous week composing a hilarious script for the ceremony. All kinds of achievements were rewarded with witty prizes – from fridge magnets to a hula hoop for Timmy who was awarded the Golden Halo award for the most patient husband of the millennium! Prowess on the golf course, the classroom, sports pitch, the garden, the party circuit, and the farm, were awarded, as well as on the business front. My 76 year old mother who went back to school last year got a huge cheer for her four distinctions in her Art, Craft and Design Course and was awarded our‘Student of the Year’.


We gave my brother Rory ‘Chef of the Year’, not knowing that he would officially receive this award from Georgina Campbell’s Jameson Food Guide this week. Another brother Tom featured in these awards also when O’Connells restaurant at Bewleys Hotel in Dublin received the Feile Bia Award. We are thrilled for them both. It was all the best fun and a delightful way to highlight the events of the year and to gather the whole family together, so cousins who are scattered all over the country could get to know each other a little more. The shared family feast was eclectic and delicious. Here are two simple recipes cooked by some of the children.


Georgina Campbell’s Jameson Guide 2002. ‘Ireland’s finest places to eat, drink and stay’.


Alan’s chocolate cake


My rugby mad nephew Alan’s yummy chocolate cake which he whizzes up in

between scrums!

6 oz (175g) plain flour

6 oz (175g) castor sugar

6 oz (175g) butter

3 eggs

1 ½ level teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ ozs (35g) cocoa

2 ½ tablespoons natural yoghurt

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sandwich tins, greased and floured.

Mix all cake ingredients together in Magimix till just blended together.

Divide between the two tins.

Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4 for 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Icing and filling:

2 bars Bourneville chocolate

1 bar dairy milk chocolate

2 small or 1 large egg

Melt chocolate in a bowl over hot water, and whisk in eggs. Fill and ice cake with this mixture. Decorate as desired. Eat and tuck in!


Alison’s Apple Cake


Serves 8

5 oz (150g) flour

5 oz (150g) castor sugar

5 oz (150g) butter

2 eggs

1 small teaspoon baking powder

4 floz (125ml) buttermilk or yoghurt

1 tablespoon Amaretto

2 Bramley cooking apples, peeled and diced.

9 inch (23cm) cake tin, buttered

Put everything except the apple and Amaretto into a magimix. Whizz bang for a few seconds.. Toss in Amaretto. Fold the diced apples into the cake mixture. Pour into the tin. Bake 180ºC/ 350/ regulo 4, for 20 minutes approx. Sprinkle with castor sugar.

Serve with softly whipped cream.

Irish Apples

This has been a fantastic year for apples, the annual crop depends on many things.  It would certainly appear to be cyclical.  The weather is a primary factor.  A mild, frost free Spring is crucial.  When the apple blossom lasts for 2-3 weeks the bees have the opportunity to work, the result is good pollination and a heavy set of apples.

Years ago we had 65 acres of apples here in Shanagarry with about 10 different varieties cropping from mid-August to early November.

Varieties like Beauty of Bath, Miller Seedling, George Cave, Norfolk Royal, Coxs Orange Pippin, Worcester Pearmain, Laxton Fortune, Laxton Superb, James Grieve, Lady Sudley

Gradually we were told that the consumer only wanted Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and one or two others.  Supermarkets were not interested in apples with a shortlife or uneven size – everything had to be perfect and uniform, didn’t much matter about the taste.

Eventually, we pulled out our lovely old apple trees but Timmy couldn’t bear to lose them all even if they were commercially unviable, so we still have a small orchard of Worcester Pearmain, a few Cox’s Orange Pippin and Bramley Seedling for cooking.

In recent years I’ve bought several treasures from the Irish Seedsavers who have managed to rescue many old Irish varieties from the brink of extinction.  Those of you who are interested can contact Anita Hayes at Irish Seedsavers, Capparoe, Scarrif, Co Clare, tel. 061-921866.

Meanwhile, the good news is that Musgrave-Supervalu-Centra recently announced that they will actively support and promote the Irish apple industry by selling Ireland’s first branded Irish apples throughout its 500 independent stores nationwide.

Úlla is the brand name to look out for, much of these apples are grown by David Keane at Cappoquin Fruit and Vogelaar Fruit Farm in Wexford.

The Irish apple industry has been struggling under pressure of competition from imported fruit, much of which has less flavour than our slowly ripened fruit.  This new initiative is designed to support Irish growers so that we will at least be able to buy some Irish apples in Ireland – great to see supermarkets linking up with growers to promote local Irish produce – hope this will be the beginning of a whole new era.


 Chocolate Apple Betty


Serves 4, with cream or vanilla ice-cream

2¼ lb (1kg) Bramley apples, peeled and cored
1½ oz approx. (30g) butter

For the crumb layer:
4½ oz (125g) soft white breadcrumbs
3½ oz (100g) light soft brown sugar
3½ oz (100g) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2½ oz (75g) butter, melted
3 heaped tablespoons golden syrup

Cut the apples into large chunks, put them in a pan and toss with the butter and a couple of tablespoons of water over a moderate heat.  When the apples start to soften but are still keeping their shape, tip them into a 1.5 litre baking dish.

Mix the crumbs, sugar and chocolate and cover the apples loosely with the mixture.  Melt the butter with the golden syrup in a small saucepan, then pour it over the crumbs, making certain to soak them all.  Bake in an oven preheated to 190°C/375F/Gas 5 for thirty-five minutes, till the apple is soft and the crumbs are golden and crisp.


 Irish Apple Cake


Serves 6 approx.

8 ozs (225g) flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ozs (110g) butter
4½ ozs (125g) castor sugar
1 egg, preferably free-range
2-4 fl. ozs (50-120ml) milk, approx.
1-2 cooking apples – we use Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
2-3 cloves (optional)
Egg wash

Ovenproof plate
Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl.  Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it resembles the texture of breadcrumbs, add 3 ozs (85g) castor sugar, make a well in the centre and mix to a soft dough with the beaten egg and enough milk to form a soft dough. Divide in two.  Put one half onto a greased ovenproof plate and pat out to cover.   Peel, core and chop up the apples, place them on the dough and add 1½ ozs (45g) sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples.  Roll out the remaining pastry and fit on top, this is easier said than done as this ‘pastry’ is more like scone dough and as a result is very soft.  Press the sides together, cut a slit through the lid, egg wash and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx. or until cooked through and nicely browned. Dredge with castor sugar and serve warm with Barbados sugar and softly whipped cream.


Dutch Apple Cake


Another good apple pudding which we cook in a roasting tin.  The recipe can be adapted for other fruit eg. apricots, peaches or plums.

Serves 10-12 approx.

2 large eggs, preferably free range
8 ozs (225g) castor sugar
4 ozs (110g) butter
¼ pint (150ml) creamy milk
6½ ozs (185g) plain white flour, preferably unbleached
3 teasp. baking powder
3-4 Bramley Seedling  cooking apples
1 oz (30g) sugar

Roasting tin 8 x 12 inch (20.5 x 30.5cm)
or 10½ x 6½ inch (26.5 cm x 15 cm) Lasagne dish

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/regulo 6.
Grease and flour the roasting tin. Whisk the eggs and the castor sugar together until the mixture is thick and fluffy and the whisk leaves a figure of 8. Put the butter and milk into a saucepan,  bring to the boil and whisk at once into the eggs and sugar. Sieve the flour and baking powder together and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin.

Peel and core the apples, cut into thin slices and arrange them over the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/regulo 4, for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Cool in the tin, then cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream.




Kangaroo Island

Last week, food and wine and travel writers from all over the world descended on Adelaide in varying degrees of bleary-eyed jet lag. We were happily lured there to attend a week long celebration of Australian food called Tasting Australia. We flew with Quantas from London on Wednesday night, touched down in Singapore and eventually arrived in Adelaide at 5.00am on Friday morning, amazingly, I was as ‘fresh as a daisy’, because somehow Quantas seem to have managed to design a seat which can be adjusted so you can get a reasonable night’s sleep. A friend had packed me a fantastic picnic from a little Lebanese restaurant in Camden Town called Le Mignon, so I interspersed that with the Neil Perry Quantas airline food.

Even though I didn’t manage to eat it all there was no way I could bring it into Australia. Here is a country that fully understands the importance of strict quarantine laws. They are not about to sacrifice their disease-free status for any reason. There are dire warnings about bringing in, not only food or plants, but also seeds or seed ornaments, eg necklaces or articles stuffed with seeds. Plant produce doesn’t just mean living things – straw packaging, wooden articles, handcrafts, eg wreaths and dried flower arrangements, shells, feather boas, stuffed animals, hides, furs, unprocessed wool and yarns. ……Animal grooming or veterinary equipment, saddles, bridles and birdcages, hiking equipment must all be declared and checked. Bee products are strictly forbidden. Specially trained beagles wait in the luggage claim area to sniff your baggage and there are on-the-spot fines and confiscation for anyone caught flaunting the quarantine laws. By being strict and unwavering on this issue, the Australian government has managed to keep out exotic pests and diseases that could affect plant, animal and human health and the environment.

Kangaroo Island, the third largest island off Adelaide, a 45 minute plane ride from Adelaide, produces some amazing produce and has even stricter quarantine laws. The island, 46% of which has never been cleared of natural vegetation, was discovered in 1802. In the early part of the last century 12 hives of Ligurian bees were brought from Italy – the Italians have since lost this strain through disease, so now the Kangaroo Island is the only pure strain left in the world. There are no foxes or rabbits on the island, consequently there is a thriving free range chicken and egg business on the island, and honey of course. More recently a young couple have started to grow olives and make a fantastic olive oil. The island is still unspoilt despite the fact that tourism is the main industry.

Agriculture was developed after the second world war in 1948, merino sheep were introduced for wool and a vibrant seed potato industry operated. The island is very beautiful and visitors come because it is still underdeveloped. Long avenues of Eucalyptus, Angus and Hereford cattle grazing in the fields, koala bears gorging themselves on the leaves of the gum trees. In Seal Bay one can see the sea lions luxuriating on the beach after a three day fishing trip at sea. At the other end of the island there are fur seals and the breathtaking beautiful rock formation called the Admiral’s Arch and Remarkable Rocks.  We had flown over from Adelaide to visit the small food producers of Kangaroo Island which is known for its clean green environment. An Englishman John Melbourne has started a marran (similar to crayfish)

farm with 65 ponds. Tuna and scallops are also farmed quite successfully and there are several cheesemakers, including Island Sheep Cheese just beside the Airport, who make three different types of sheeps’ milk cheese, Haloumi, Kefolateri, Manchego and a thick unctuous yoghurt. We had a delicious breakfast at a local B & B called Stranrear, run by the Wheaten family. Anne Wheaten did the best Eggs Benedict I ever ate, the eggs were from their own chickens, the spinach which tastes reminiscent of the sea, was from their garden and the locally cured bacon was delivered by a neighbour that morning. After breakfast an Apple and Mulberry Crunch and lots of lovely preserves, as well as their own eucalyptus honey. We even saw some kangaroos.


Eggs Benedict 

Serves 4

Rich and gorgeous, often eaten for breakfast but best for brunch – again the quality of all the components can lift this from the mundane to the extraordinary.

4 free range eggs, preferably organic

4 English muffins or 4 rounds of toast made from good bread preferably

not sliced pan 4 slices cooked ham or 4-8 slices of bacon

Hollandaise sauce- see recipe below.

First make the Hollandaise sauce.


If using bacon heat a very little sunflower oil in a hot frying pan. Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the toast or split the muffins. Spread the hot toast or

toasted muffins with butter. Top with a slice of ham or 2 slices of crispy bacon. Gently place the poached egg on top and coat with Hollandaise sauce. Serve extra hot toast and sauce separately.


Hollandaise Sauce


Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces . The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish. Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 350C/180F or the sauce will curdle. A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan over hot but not simmering water.

Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need. If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or beat into mashed potato or use it to pick up a fish pie.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

110g (4oz) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat, or in a bowl over hot water. Add water and whisk thoroughly. Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece. The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add the lemon juice to taste. 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 the sauce thickens to coating consistency.

It is important to remember that if you are making hollandaise 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 hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.


Yoghurt with Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts


In Australia we tasted delicious Eucalyptus honey with toasted almonds from the Barossa Valey, but seek out some good local Irish honey for this recipe.  Delicious for breakfast or dessert

Best quality natural greek style yoghurt

Strongly flavoured local Irish honey

Toasted almonds or hazelnuts, sliced

Serve a portion of chilled natural yoghurt per person. Just before serving drizzle generously with really good honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts.


Apple and Blackberry or Mulberry Muesli


Serves 4

4 ozs (110g) fresh blackberries, mulberries or grated dessert apple (preferably Worcester Permain or Cox’s Orange Pippin)

3 heaped tablesp.rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

6 tablespoons water

teasp approx. honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 10 or 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the blackberries or mulberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal. Sweeten to taste with honey, a scant teaspoon is usually enough but it depends on how sweet the berries are. Serve with cream and soft brown sugar.


Bridge Creek Ginger Muffins


Makes 10 approx.

110g (4 oz) unpeeled ginger root cut into chunks

170g (6 oz) castor sugar

zest of 2 lemons

110g (4 oz) butter

2 eggs, preferably free range

250ml (8 fl oz) buttermilk

285g (10 oz) white flour

½ teasp. Salt

½ teasp. bread soda

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

Grease 1 tray of muffin tins or line with non – stick muffin cases.

Whizz up the ginger in a food processor then put it into a saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of sugar over a medium heat until the sugar melts. Allow to cool. Cream the butter, add the remainder of the sugar and the finely grated lemon zest, add the eggs one by one and beat well between each addition. Next add the buttermilk and ginger mixture, blend well. Finally stir in the flour, salt and bread soda, until just mixed. Fill the greased muffins tins with the batter, bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, serve warm. (Adapted from The Breakfast Book By Marion Cunningham)



The Ballymaloe Bread Book

Last week we had a special celebration in O’Connell’s Restaurant in Dublin for the launch of two new cookbooks – my latest tome entitled the Darina Allen Ballymaloe Cookery Course and the Ballymaloe Bread Book written by my husband Tim. For Michael Gill of Gill & Macmillan who published the books in Ireland, it was the first time a husband and wife had launched their work on the same day. In fact it was very much a family affair. My mother-in-law Myrtle Allen who started it all was there to celebrate with us. My brother Tom O’Connell and his wife Annette manage O’Connell’s Restaurant where we hosted the event. Another brother Rory O’Connell, chef at Ballymaloe House cooked the lunch.

We ate Potato Soup with Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen chorizo sausage, Roast organic saddleback pork with crackling (from our farm here in Shanagarry), Tomato and coriander fondue, Buttered runner beans, a Salad of Autumn leaves, Rustic roast potatoes, Ballymaloe praline ice-cream with blueberries followed by Irish farmhouse cheese.

For a number of years now Tim has become more and more passionate about bread. Here at the cookery school he has fired up a whole generation of young chefs and cooks with his infectious enthusiasm. “My awareness of bread-making goes right back to when I was a tiny child…. I remember being able to just peer over the top of the work counter in the kitchen…. I could see the tea-towels draped mysteriously over the dome of the bread tin. No mystery now – of course, this was the brown yeast bread rising by the warmth of the Aga.” Nonetheless Tim came to bread-making fairly late in life. He always says that his interest in bread-making was kindled almost by accident. One day (circa 1974) when I had gone off on a skite, he found himself without a car and with no bread in the bin, (such neglect!). Instead of nipping down to the village to buy a sliced pan, he decided to attempt to make a loaf himself. He knew almost instinctively how to make bread, having watched his mother mixing the dough on a daily basis as a child. He had often been asked to keep an eye on the bread as it rose in the tins and to alert somebody when it was ready for baking. That was second nature but he didn’t know the exact quantities, so he rang his Mum. Armed with the recipe, he made his first loaf of Ballymaloe Brown Yeast bread, popped it into the Aga and waited with bated breath – the loaf was crusty and delicious, he was hooked.

He eagerly progressed from one bread to another, soda breads, yeast breads, sour dough breads, flat breads, ethnic breads. … He hugely enjoyed passing on his knowledge and passion for bread-making to friends, and of course to the students here at the school. He delights in their pleasure as they take their first loaf of bread out of the oven. “The look on their faces and the joy and amazement that lights up their eyes”, gives him huge satisfaction. Past pupils have been sending their good wishes and thanking him for kindling their interest in bread-making ‘More often than not I find myself at home, in the middle of the country with my babies, my Aga, flour and baking soda for company. I bake bread every day thanks to your instruction, encouragement and inspiration’ writes one of our girls who has since married and has three small daughters.

He’s been experimenting with a wide variety of breads and is determined to take the mystery out of bread-making and to encourage as many busy people as possible to have a go and to realize that a loaf of soda bread or a few scones can literally be made in minutes. Even yeast breads and sourdough breads which take longer to make – “take time but not your time”. While the bread is rising one can simply get on with other things. Tim’s Ballymaloe Bread Book has more than 100 delicious recipes for all kinds of breads including pizza, focaccia and some exotic ethnic breads. I just think it’s a terrific book, and that’s not just because I’m biased or because he dedicated it to me!

The final chapter is specially devoted to the author’s essential bread companions like raspberry jam, garlic butter, chocolate butter and roasted tomato sauce – irresistible!

The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen, published by Gill and Macmillan,

£12.99 Click here to order


Teeny, Weenie, Spicy Cheese and Onion Scones


These scones are made with cayenne pepper to give them a real kick. Try

eating them with a soft creamy goats cheese, they are ideal for serving

as a canapé with drinks. The scones freeze very well and will defrost

within about half an hour so they are a great stand by. Especially good

to have some frozen around Christmas time for those unexpected guest

that arrive on your doorstep calling in for Christmas cheer.

Makes approximately 50 small scones

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, very finely chopped

450g 1lb plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 rounded teaspoon English mustard powder

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g 2 oz butter

40g 1½ oz Parmesan cheese

40g 1½oz mature cheddar cheese

225 ml 8 floz milk

1 large egg


Egg wash

30g 1oz Parmesan cheese


2 Lightly greased baking sheets

Fully preheat the oven to 200ºC 400ºF regulo 6

In a large heavy based frying pan heat the olive oil, add the finely

chopped onions. Cook on a high heat for about ten minutes, stirring

frequently. The onions need to be just beginning to turn a golden

colour and have started to caramelise around the edges. Turn out onto a

plate and leave to cool.

While the onions are cooling sieve the flour, salt, mustard and cayenne

pepper into a large wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly ground black

pepper and rub in the butter. Stir in the freshly grated cheeses and

the onions. Combine all these ingredients really well together.

Beat the egg in a bowl and add it to the milk. Make a well in the

centre of the flour, cheese and onion mixture and pour in almost all the

liquid. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full

circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk

if necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough

to tidy the dough.

Gently press the scone dough into a rectangle about 2.5cm 1inch high.

Paint the dough with egg wash and scatter with the grated parmesan

cheese. With a metal dough scraper cut the dough into teeny scones,

about 2.5cm 1 inch square.

Place the scones on to a lightly oiled and floured baking sheet cheese

side up. Put in to your preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool on a wire



Coffee & Walnut Scones


Theses are a really quick and easy scone to serve with afternoon tea.

Instead of baking a cake these scones can be ready from start to finish

in under half an hour. As everyone is getting busier all the time these

days it is great to have a few staple recipes that can be made with very

little effort and even less time. So no excuse for not baking!

Makes 16

450g 1lb plain white flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

30g 1oz castor sugar

85g 3oz butter, chilled

70g 2½oz walnuts – coarsely chopped

2 medium eggs

6 – 7 floz fresh milk

1-2 tablespoons coffee essence

Coffee Icing

225g 7½oz icing sugar

1 tablespoon coffee essence

2 tablespoons boiling water

Fully preheated the oven 250°c/475°f/regulo 9

In a large wide plastic mixing bowl sieve the flour baking powder and

salt together. Add in the castor sugar. Cut the chilled butter in to

cubes. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Mix in the chopped

walnuts. Make a well in the centre.

In a measuring jug break the eggs and whisk lightly, add the coffee

essence and the milk bringing the liquid measurement up to the 285ml

10floz mark. Pour nearly all of the milk and egg mixture into the


Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle

drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if

necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat lightly, just enough

to bring together.

Gently roll the scone dough into a rectangle about 2cm ¾ inch high.

With a metal dough cutter lightly dusted with flour cut the scone dough

into about 16 scones 4cm x 4cm 1½ x 1½ inches.

Place the scones on to a lightly floured baking sheet. Put in to your

preheated oven for 5 minutes then turn down the heat to

230°c/450°f/regulo 8 for a further 5 – 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

While the scones are cooling make the coffee icing, sieve the icing

sugar into a medium size mixing bowl. Add in the coffee essence and

whisk in the boiling water a tablespoon at a time.

How thick a consistency you want the icing to be is very much down to

personal preference, but if is generally best if not too runny. When

the scones have cooled spread the top of each scone generously with the



Stripy Cat


Makes one loaf

When Paul and Jeannie Rankin taught at the school some years ago their

two eldest children were in the kitchen with me while I was making

spotted dog. They asked me if I ever used chocolate instead of raisin

in my spotted dog. Always happy to try anything once I set about

creating this bread. Once it was out of the oven and by all accounts a

success I asked the girls what should I call it, “Stripy Cat of course”

they declared in unison. So Stripy Cat was born.

450g 1lb plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, (finely sieved)

1 dessertspoon sugar

85-110g 3-4oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

350-425 ml 12-14fl oz approximately butter milk

1 free-range egg (your egg is part of your liquid measurement)

First fully preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/regulo 7.

In a large mixing bowl sieve in the flour and breadsoda. Add the salt,

sugar and chocolate. Mix well by lifting the flour and chocolate up in

to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your

fingers. This adds more air and therefore hopefully more lightness to

your finished bread.

Now make a well in the centre of the flour.

Break the egg into the bottom of your measuring jug add the buttermilk

to the 425ml 14floz line (your egg is part of your liquid measurement).

Pour most of this milk and egg into the flour. Using one hand with the

fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from

the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should

be softish, not too wet and sticky. The trick with all soda breads is

not to over mix the dough. Mix it as quickly and as gently as possible

thus keeping it light and airy.

When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured work

surface. Wash and dry your hands.

Place the dough on to a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. With a

sharp knife cut a deep cross on it, let the cuts go over the sides of

the bread. Prick with knife at the four triangles as according to Irish

Folklore this is to let the fairies out!

Put in to the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to

200°C/400°F/regulo 6, for 35 minutes or until cooked. If you are in

doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom: if it is cooked it

will sound hollow.

Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter.




Back to List
Latest Letter
All Recipes
Back to Website
All Darinas Letters are published each week in The Examiner

Past Letters