Darina’s Saturday Letter

Latest stories

Use your local butcher….

We are so fortunate to still have over 400 family butchers in Ireland – many less than a number of decades ago but nonetheless we are the envy of many other countries, including the UK. Of those, 120 still have their own abattoirs which means they are in complete control of the whole process from choosing the animal in prime condition, to the humane slaughter, hanging and dry aging and the final skill of butchering. A few still have their own farms, so finish animals on their own land. In some family enterprises the skills have been passed down through the generations and it is heartening to see so many of the young people continuing the tradition.

However, they are facing a tidal wave of challenges in recent times not least the ‘below cost’ selling policies of several supermarket chains. I understand the supermarkets motive but I question the wisdom and the business ethics. Local butchers support family farms in a way that large corporations don’t, so are an essential part of the fabric of rural communities and an important element of food security.

The butchers challenge is to ‘up the bar’, and really tell the story of the breed, the feed, the provenance, the aging, the extra flavour and nutrients so customers understand and can taste the difference. Another unexpected challenge that is not about to go away any time soon, is the change in people’s eating habits for a variety of reasons.

The reality is that in the US, UK and many other countries an increasing number of people are eating less meat but better quality meat for health and environment reasons. Animal welfare and environmental concerns have contributed hugely to the increase in the number of people, particularly the millennials and teenagers, who are choosing to be vegetarians and vegans. All of these issues feed into the growing interest in a plant based diet.

For me, it’s enormously important to know where my food comes from and where it is produced so I urge people to develop a ‘relationship’ with their local butcher (not to be misunderstood)…. Ask questions about how to recognise superb meat and how to cook it.

There’s a huge increase in the sale of slow cookers, an immensely useful piece of kitchen kit that means one can make a wonderfully flavourful stew with less expensive cuts of meat.

Yet, another ongoing challenge is the expense of the growing regulatory burden some of which is out of proportion to the risk involved.

Look out for butchers who are making their own sausages and puddings and curing their own charcuterie.

Seek out black pudding made in the traditional way with fresh blood rather than imported dried blood from Belgium which produces an altogether different and less appealing product. The former is soft, succulent and slightly crumbly and a true gourmet product, part of our traditional food culture – delicious and super nutritious as well.

Many butchers are becoming more innovative, a development encouraged and highlighted by the Irish Craft Butchers Association Awards. See www.irishcraftbutchers.ie for details of award winners. Meanwhile lets seek out and actively support our local family butchers – as with everything else, “if we don’t use them we will lose them” and what a loss that would be.

Smoked Black Pudding, Charred Onions, Jerusalem Artichokes and Watercress

Serves 4

6 small onions

6 medium Jerusalem artichokes

18 pieces of smoked black pudding or traditional fresh black pudding

Bramley apple sauce (see recipe)

4flozs cream

1 tsp freshly grated horseradish (optional)

12 fresh watercress sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil

Forum Chardonnay vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 250C/450F. Slice the unpeeled onions lengthwise. Drizzle a little olive oil in a roasting tin. Lay the onions cut side down in a single layer in the tin, roast for 10-15mins until the onions are soft and the cut surface is charred.

Slice the well scrubbed Jerusalem artichokes into 3/4 cm rounds or lengthwise. Toss in extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and arrange in a single layer in another roasting tin, turn half way through and cook until tender and once again golden on each side.

Heat the Bramley apple sauce, stir in the cream bring to the boil and add the grated horseradish. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Cook the smoked black pudding gently in a little extra virgin olive oil or clarified butter on a frying pan over a medium heat.

To serve, toss the watercress springs in a little extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of Chardonnay vinegar.

Divide the watercress, hot roasted onions and Jerusalem artichokes between 4 plates. Lay 3 pieces of smoked black pudding and a generous drizzle of Bramley apple and horseradish sauce on top. Offer extra sauce as an accompaniment and serve immediately.

Bramley Apple Sauce

This recipe makes a generous quantity, save the remainder in your fridge to serve with roast duck, pork, sausages….


1 lb (450g) cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons water

2 ozs (50g) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples


Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast iron saucepan, with the sugar and water, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness.  Serve warm.



Beef and Oxtail Stew with Gremolata


Serves 6


In season: all year, but best in Autumn and Winter


Oxtail makes an extraordinary rich and flavoursome winter stew, considering how cheap it is. This is another humble dish, which has recently been resurrected by trendy chefs who are capitalizing on their customer’s nostalgic craving for their Gran’s cooking.


2 whole oxtails

450g(1lb) shin of beef or stewing beef (cut into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) cubes)

110g (4oz) streaky bacon
25g (1oz) beef dripping or 2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8oz) finely chopped onion
225g (8oz) carrots, cut into 2cm (3/4 inch/2cm) cubes
55g (2oz) chopped celery
1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and parsley stalks
salt and freshly ground pepper
150ml (1/4 pint) red wine
450ml (3/4 pint) homemade beef stock or  600ml (1 pint) all beef stock                                                                                        170g (6oz) mushrooms (sliced)                                                                                     15g (1/2oz) roux (see recipe)                                                                                            2 tablespoons chopped parsley


First cut the oxtail into pieces through the natural joints – the joints are made of cartilage so you won’t need a saw.  If this seems like too much of a challenge, ask your butcher to disjoint the oxtail for you.

Cut the bacon into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes

Heat the dripping or olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add the vegetables, cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer into a casserole. Add the beef and oxtail pieces to the pan, a few at a time and continue to cook until the meat is beginning to brown.  Add to the casserole. Add the wine and a 1/4 pint of stock to the pan.  Bring to the boil and use a whisk to dissolve the caramelised meat juices form the pan, bring to the boil.  Add to the casserole with the herbs, stock and tomato puree. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook either on top of the stove or in a preheated oven 160°C/325°F/regulo3 very gently for 2-3 hours, or until the oxtail and vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in a little butter for 2-3 minutes. Stir into the oxtail stew and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the beef and oxtail to a hot serving dish and keep warm. Remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks.

Bring the liquid back the boil, whisk in a little roux and cook until slightly thickened. Add back in the meat and chopped parsley.  Bring to the boil, taste and correct the seasoning.  Serve in the hot serving dish with lots of champ or colcannon.

Sprinkle a little gremolata (see recipe below) over each portion of oxtail stew and serve.


Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.


Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic, Rosemary and Flageolet Beans

Lamb shanks are still relatively inexpensive and full of flavour. Cook them slowly until they are meltingly tender – a wonderful meal for a chilly day.

Serves 6

6 lamb shanks, 1 kg approx.

12 small sprigs of rosemary

12 slivers garlic

8 anchovy fillets, halved

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Braising Ingredients

1oz (25g) goose fat or duck fat or olive oil

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 celery stalks, roughly chopped

1 leek, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

7fl oz (200ml) bottle good red wine

5fl oz (150ml) chicken or lamb stock

1 sprig of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 strips of dried orange peel



4 ozs (110g) streaky bacon, cut into lardons and blanched

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 carrot, finely diced

1/2 celery stalk, finely diced

1/2 onion, finely diced

6 cloves garlic

4 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced or 1/2 x 14 oz tin of tomatoes + juice

2 sprigs of thyme

leaves from 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

400g (1 x 14oz) tin flageolet beans, drained or 110-200G (4-7 ozs) dried flageolet beans, soaked overnight and then boiled rapidly for 20 minutes



sprigs of rosemary and garlic


Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2.


Remove most of the fat from each shank, then scrape the meat away from the bone to loosen it. Make 2 deep incisions in each joint and insert a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of garlic wrapped in half an anchovy fillet into each incision. Season the meat with salt and black pepper. Heat the goose fat in a heavy sauté pan or casserole and sauté the meat in it until well browned on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan. Add the carrots, celery, leeks, onion and garlic and cook over a high heat until well browned. Add the red wine to the pan and bring to the boil, stir for a minute or two. Add the chicken stock, herbs and orange peel to the pan, then place the lamb shanks on top. Cover and cook in the oven for 4 hours.


Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and brown the bacon in it. Then reduce the heat and add the carrot, celery, onion and garlic and cook for 8 minutes approx. or until the vegetables have softened. Add the chopped tinned tomatoes, herbs, flageolets and enough stock to half cover the beans. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour.


When the lamb has finished cooking, remove the thyme, bay leaves and orange peel. Taste and correct seasoning.


Serve the lamb shanks on a hot deep dish with the beans and vegetables poured over and around.  Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.


Braised Neck of Lamb with Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves


The image of neck of lamb is not helped by it’s colloquial name ‘scrag end’ but don’t let that put you off, it is possibly the sweetest cut on the lamb – all those bones give extra flavour and juiciness.


Serves 9-10


3 whole or 6 half neck of lamb (scrag ends) on the bone

extra virgin olive oil or trimmed lamb fat

4 medium onions, quartered

2 large carrots, cut in chunks

1/2 head celery, coarsely chopped

6 bay leaves

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes, chopped or 1lb (450g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled

4 sprigs of rosemary

500ml (18fl oz) lamb stock or water

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) white wine


chopped parsley


Trim the excess fat off the necks. Cut into cubes, render out the liquid fat in a large sauté pan over a medium heat.


Season the lamb necks with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the pieces of lamb fat and discard (alternatively you can use extra virgin olive oil).  On a high heat seal the meat for a couple of minutes on all sides turning until nicely browned.  Remove from the pan.  Add the coarsely chopped root vegetables, to the pan and toss and cook for 2 – 3 minutes.  Lay the lamb necks on top, add the herbs, white wine, chopped tomatoes, garlic and enough stock to come 2/3 of the way up the meat.


Bring to a simmer on top of the stove and then transfer into a preheated oven  250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10, to start with and when it’s simmering gently, cover the lamb loosely with the lid or parchment paper.  Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and cook until completely tender – 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat should be almost falling of the bones.


Cool and refrigerate until next day.


To Serve

Remove and discard the solidified fat and warm through uncovered in a hot oven. Taste and correct seasoning before serving.  Scatter with lots of chopped parsley.


Serve with Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves (see recipe).


Gratin of Potatoes with Rosemary and Bay Leaves


Serves 4


about 300ml (10fl oz) each of single cream and milk

2 sprigs rosemary and a couple crushed bay leaves

4 medium sized potatoes (approximately 900g//2lbs), peeled and fairly thinly sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

salt and freshly ground black pepper


a gratin dish

butter for greasing

parchment paper


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


Put the milk and cream into a heavy saucepan, add the scrunched bay leaves, finely chopped rosemary and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to the shivery stage on a medium heat, turn off the heat and allow to infuse.


Meanwhile peel and slice the potatoes into a generous 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices approximately.  Rinse the potato well to remove some starch, add to the herby infused liquid with the crushed garlic.  Bring to the boil on top of the stove (to take the rawness away).


Then pour into a buttered gratin dish, cover with parchment paper.


Bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes. Uncover and brown before serving in a hot oven or under the grill.


What’s in season this time of year?

Celeriac, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, swedes….

“It’s almost Winter now – what’s in season at this time of the year?” This question came from a busy young Mum who was panicking and at a loss to know what to cook for her family now that the Summer produce is finished – she was amazed when I rattled off all the root vegetables that are at their best at present. They’ll all be even better in a few weeks time when they have a few more nights of frost to sweeten them even further.

Citrus fruit are also at their most diverse from now on – everything from kumquats to pomelo and all the tangerines, mandarins, clementines, ugli fruit, bergamot… All packed with Vitamin C….Nature’s way to boost our resistance to Winter colds and flu.

We’ve still got lots of squash and pumpkins too. They last throughout the Winter as do the beautiful fluffy Bramley apples. Then there are all the kales, Raggedy Jack, Red Russian and Ethiopian Kale, Cavalo Nero and the humble Curly Kale, not to mention crunchy Savoy cabbage, floury Golden Wonders and Kerr’s Pink potatoes and tons of game.

By now her eyes were big as saucers so I started to tantalize her with some good things to cook with all that tempting produce…

Caramelized Carrot, Beetroot and Apple Salad with toasted sesame seeds

Serve as a salad not as an accompaniment.  A couple of bocconcini make this salad into a more substantial lunch.

Serves 6

600g young carrots, with a little green top

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

Extra Virgin olive oil


Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

450g beetroot, cooked and peeled

1-2 dessert apples, unpeeled and coarsely grated or julienned

25g pumpkin or sesame seeds

Watercress, purslane and chickweed or a mixture of interesting leaves and ‘weeds’



2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 teaspoons honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 230C/mark 8

Scrub the carrots, dry, split in half lengthwise, if too big.   Put into a large bowl, add the thyme leaves, drizzle with the olive oil and honey, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, toss gently to coat.

Spread out in a roasting tin.   As soon as you put the trays into the oven reduce the heat to 200C/mark 6.

Roast for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the carrots are almost tender and caramelized at the ends and edges.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Just before serving, toast the pumpkin or sesame seeds on a dry pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, you’ll need to keep tossing them or they’ll burn on one side and become acrid and bitter.

Cut the cooked beetroot into wedges or chunks depending on size.

Make the dressing – Whisk the lemon juice, oils and honey together, add the thyme leaves, keep half the dressing aside.

Grate the apple on the coarse side of a box grater, directly into the rest of the dressing. Toss, taste and correct seasoning.

To serve:

Arrange a few sprigs of watercress, chickweed, and purslane on each plate.  Whisk the dressing.

Sprinkle over the carrot and beets.  Taste, it should be nice and perky.  Divide them between the plates.  Spoon some grated apple here and there, sprinkle with toasted seeds and serve with crusty bread.


Charred Cabbage with Katuobushi

Charred cabbage is a revelation…..who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift a humble inexpensive vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination.  Katuobushi are shaved bonita flakes. Bonita is a type of tuna. Buy some – you’ll soon be addicted and find lots of ways to use them.


Serves 6

1 medium cabbage

1 tablespoon light olive oil or a neutral oil

50-110g (2–4ozs) butter

15-30g  (½ – 1ozs) Katuobushi flakes

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons for coarsely chopped fresh parsley


Trim the cabbage. Cut into quarters or sixths depending on the size.

Preheat the oven to 230°C /450°F/Gas Mark 4. Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat until well seared on both cut surfaces. Add butter to the pan, when the butter melts and turns golden, spoon the ‘noisette’ butter over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, cover, transfer to the oven and continue to cook, basting regularly for about 10 minutes.

Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure its tender all the way through.

Add some Katuobushi flakes to the butter, baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle some more Katuobushi flakes and a little coarsely chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately.


Golden Wonder and Scallion Champ

Serves 4-6


Golden Wonders are delicious floury potatoes, now in season. Check out your local Farmers Market and buy a bag. They keep excellently, remember to exclude the light when storing.

Champ is one of Ireland’s best loved traditional potato dishes.  A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions and a blob of butter melting in the centre is ‘comfort’ food at its best.


1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem)

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz) whole milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper


Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets in well-salted water.


Meanwhile chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.

Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while still hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, beat in the butter

Serve in 1 large or 4-6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with a lid or wet parchment paper while it reheats, so that it doesn’t get a skin.


Kale Crisps

Kale is still the coolest thing, it’s all over the place, on restaurant menus, in Farmers Markets, even on supermarket shelves – kale crisps are the snack of the moment. I’m not complaining I love kale and it’s super nutritious, we grow four varieties here at the school – Red Russian, Asparagus Kale, Curly Kale and Raggedy Jack.  I find curly kale best for this recipe.


Makes lots

250g (9oz) curly kale

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

salt, a little sugar


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


Strip the leaves off the kale, tear in large bite sized bits, approximately 5 x 5cm (2 x 2 inch) and put in a bowl.  Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, a little salt and sugar, toss and spread out in a single layer on two baking trays.


Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or so until crisp.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp further.  Enjoy.



Black Bean, Pumpkin and Chick Pea Stew

One of the very best one pot dishes, what’s not to like about black beans, chick peas and pumpkin with lots of spices.

Serves 8


225g dried black beans

225g dried chick peas

225g fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick

150g onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

450-700g pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed 2cm

400g fresh or tinned tomatoes, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

pinch of sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 good teaspoon salt (it needs it, so don’t cut down)

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander (fresh parsley may be substituted though the flavour is not at all the same)


Mint Yoghurt

300ml natural yoghurt

2 tablespoon fresh mint leaves


25cm round casserole dish


Soak the beans and chick peas separately, in plenty of cold water overnight.  Next day cover each with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 – 45 minutes approx or until just cooked. Reserve 150mls of the cooking liquid for later in the recipe.


Cut the mushrooms into 3 mm thick slices.  Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high flame.  When hot, put in the whole cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick.  Let them sizzle for 5-6 seconds.  Now put in the onions and garlic.  Stir and fry until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edge.  Put in the mushrooms.  Stir and fry until the mushrooms wilt.  Now put in the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, pinch of sugar and cayenne.  Stir and cook for a minute.  Cover, and let this mixture cook on a gentle heat in its own juices for 10 minutes.  Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.  Drain the beans and chick peas, reserving the cooking liquid.  Add to the mushroom base mixture, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, 2 tablespoons of the fresh coriander and 150ml of bean cooking liquid OR 150ml chick pea liquid.

Bring the beans and chick peas back to the boil again.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until the beans and chick peas and pumpkin or squash are tender.  Stir occasionally.  Remove the cinnamon stick before serving.  Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of fresh coriander and mint.

Serve with mint yoghurt, steamed rice and a good green salad.


Scary Green Juice

I’m addicted to this ‘scary green juice’, super nutritious and insanely delicious.

Makes 450ml (15fl oz/scant 2 cups)


40g (1 1/2oz) curly kale, weigh after stalks are removed

10g (1/2oz) coriander leaves

10g (1/2oz) flat parsley

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon +1 teaspoon) honey

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) apple juice


Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor or Nutribullet. Serve over ice in a tall glass.

Kylie Magner’s Free Range Eggs

Kylie Magner grew up on a mixed farm in South East Australia where she developed her love of the land and animals. There were always chores to do through challenging times and good times.

At a recent Slow Food event here at the Cookery School, Kylie recounted the story of her arrival in Ireland where she immediately felt at home. She met her husband Billy at Coolmore Stud where she worked her way up to Media Director. The couple now have four children and live on Magners Farm in Moyglass near Fethard. Kylie wanted to pass on the love of the land and farming that she inherited from her parents in New South Wales to her children …..

Kylie racked her brains to find a way to earn a living on their small farm in Tipperary. Free range egg production seemed a good solution, after all eggs are a fantastically versatile and nourishing food, enjoyed by most people. Below is a selection of some simple and delicious recipes to whip up should you have a few eggs in your pantry.

For Kylie, chickens seemed relatively inexpensive to get started with, they would generate fast cash flow and have the environmental advantage of a lighter foot print on the land than cattle.

Magner’s hens are truly free range and are moved to fresh, green pasture every week, sometimes every day. Kylie believes that chickens should be allowed the freedom to act naturally.

When a hen is fed on a diet closer to their natural omnivorous state, the nutrition of the egg improves significantly. This results in a flavourful, nutrient dense product and the manure they produce enhances the fertility of the soil.

Eggs from hens raised on pasture can contain: 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A,  2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene and 4-6 times more vitamin D.

This is because they consume a more natural diet including seeds, worms, insects & green plants plus a lot of sunshine.

The colour, flavour and texture of pasture raised eggs is distinctive. They contain Vitamins A, D, E, K2, B-12, folate, riboflavin, zinc, calcium, beta carotene, choline, and tons of omega 3 fatty acids, including DHA, EPA, ALA, and AA.

A pasture-raised egg is a true ‘superfood’. Second only to the lactalbumin, protein in human mother’s milk, eggs have the highest quality protein of any food.

A little over one year later, Magners Farm now have over 600 laying hens, but yet they can scarcely keep up with the demand for their eggs.

Last Winter they had a 96% laying rate so pasture reared hens are clearly happy…..

Magners Eggs sell at local Farmers’ Markets at €5.00 per dozen

Last Summer, they produced 250 free range chickens for the table, using the same high welfare principles.

Kylie has now started another project making chicken bone broth, available in glass jars €5.50 see www.magnersfarm.com

Plans for the future ……This is a sustainable model of farming, Kylie would love to see more pasture raised chickens around the country, generating income for farmers and improving the land at the same time. The country needs more people like Kylie, with a commitment to sustainability and to producing nourishing wholesome food.


Freshly Boiled Eggs and Soldiers

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’.


2 fresh free range organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.


Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately when the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the ‘dippies’ on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.


Boiled Eggs with Marmite

Spread the hot buttered toast with Marmite and cut, dip and enjoy.



Stir-fried Eggs with Garlic Chives and Shrimps

I’ve been to China several times recently, this is a favourite Cantonese family recipe.

If Chinese garlic chives are not available use common chives but less. I use the deliciously sweet pink shrimp from Ballycotton on the South coast of Ireland.

Wild garlic or ramps are of course wonderful to use while they are in season in spring.


Serves 2-4

40-50g Chinese chives (garlic chives – allium tuberosum)

4 organic eggs

1 tablespoon milk

110g cooked, little Ballycotton shrimps, peeled

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon peeled ginger, freshly grated


Garlic chive flowers



Soy sauce

Slice the Chinese chives into 2cm lengths.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok until almost smoking.

Add the shrimps, toss for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to toss for a further minute or so. Add the garlic chives, toss once or twice and turn out onto a plate.

Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok, allow to heat again. Add the beaten egg and cook, stirring with a straight ended wooden spoon until the egg starts to scramble and form soft folds. Add the shrimp mixture, stir for a minute or two. Taste and correct the seasoning. Turn out onto a serving plate, scatter with a few fresh garlic chive flowers if in season and share while still warm.

Serve with soy sauce



Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4

4.5 litres (8 pints) water to 1-2 tablespoons salt

450g (1lb) spaghetti


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

200g (7oz) thick sliced smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, cut into strips 1 cm (1/2 inch) wide

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3-4 free range eggs, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley

90g (3 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)

1-2 tablespoons flat parsley, freshly chopped to serve


Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the spaghetti until ‘al dente’.  Drain well.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over a medium heat.  Add the smokey bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring frequently for 5-6 minutes, until coloured and slightly crispy.  Add the black pepper and cook for another minute.  Add the spaghetti and toss with the smokey bacon or pancetta and oil until warmed through.

Combine the eggs, crème fraîche and parsley and add to the pan.  Remove from the heat and stir constantly for 1 minute to allow the heat from the oil and spaghetti to cook the eggs.  Stir in three-quarters of the freshly grated Parmesan.

Transfer the hot pasta to a large shallow bowl and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and freshly chopped parsley.


Spinach, Feta and Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Frittata

The basic frittata recipe here can be used as a basis for many herbs and vegetables in season, we love this autumn version.
We use blobs of Ardsallagh goat cheese in this recipe if we don’t have feta.

Serves 8


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) sweet potato or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm dice


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons marjoram, chopped

2 tablespoons curly parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

150g (5oz) fresh spinach, shredded into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice (weight 380g (13 1/4oz) before de-stalking)

75g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated


200g (7oz) feta or fresh goats’ cheese

25g (1oz) butter


To serve:

Rocket leaves

30g (1 1/4oz) toasted Italian pine kernels or cashew nuts

extra virgin olive oil


Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (8 1/2 inch) frying pan


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

Put the sweet potato or pumpkin dice onto a small oven tray, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with half teaspoon flaky sea salt (the feta cheese will be salty so don’t overdo the salt), and lots of freshly cracked pepper, stir and cook in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cooked and tender. Remove from the oven.


Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, shredded spinach and grated cheese into the eggs.  Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.  Sprinkle the roast pumpkin evenly over the surface, dot with feta or goat cheese, press in gently.  Cook for 3-4 minutes over a low heat.

Transfer to the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.  Flash under the grill for a couple of minutes if colour is needed.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.


To Serve

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and scatter with toasted pine kernels or coarsely chopped cashews, and a few flakes of sea salt.


Breakfast Quiche

Serves 6


1 x quantity Shortcrust Pastry (see recipe)


1 tablespoon olive oil

175g 6oz) streaky bacon cut into 1cm (1/2in) lardons

100g (4oz) chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

1 scant tablespoon chopped parsley

1 scant tablespoon chopped chives

110g (4oz) Gruyère cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper


23cm (9 inch) diameter baking tin


Basic Shortcrust Pastry


6 ozs (175g) white flour, spelt or sieved wholemeal flour

3 ozs (75g) butter

pinch of salt

beaten egg or water (to bind)


Sieve the flour with the salt, 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. Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. 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 it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather 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 crispier shorter crust.

Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

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

Line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’ for about 25 minutes. The base should be almost fully cooked.  Remove the parchment paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the bacon over a medium heat until crisp. Remove to a plate and cool. Add the chopped onions to the pan and sweat gently on a low heat in the same oil for a further 10 minutes – covered.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheese and cool bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning. Taste or otherwise, heat a frying pan, cook a teaspoon of the mixture on a gentle heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it coagulates – taste and if necessary correct the seasoning.

Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has just set. Serve warm with a green salad and relish.


Classic Omelette with Chanterelle Mushrooms

Serves 1

An omelette is the ultimate instant food but many a travesty is served in its name. The whole secret is to have the pan hot enough and to use clarified butter if at all possible. Ordinary butter will burn if your pan is as hot as it ought to be. The omelette should be made in half the time it takes to read this introduction, your first, may not be a joy to behold but persevere, practice makes perfect!


2 eggs, preferably free range and organic

1 dessertspoon water or milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 dessertspoon clarified butter or olive oil


omelette pan, preferably non stick, 9 inch (23cm) diameter


First make the mushroom a la crème below, the recipe makes plenty but will keep in your fridge for 4-5 days.

To make the omelette, warm a plate in the oven.  Heat the omelette pan over a high heat.  Meanwhile whisk the eggs with the water or milk in a bowl, until thoroughly mixed but not too fluffy. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the warm plate beside the cooker.


Add the clarified butter to the pan, as soon as it sizzles, pour in the egg mixture. It will start to cook immediately so quickly pull the edges of the omelette towards the centre with a metal or plastic slice, tilting the pan so that the uncooked egg runs to the sides. Continue until most of the egg is set and will not run any more, the omelette may need to cook for a further 5 seconds to brown the bottom.  The centre should still be soft and moist.  If you are using a filling, spoon the hot mixture in a line along the centre at this point.


Wild Mushroom a la Crème

(use Autumn Chanterelle this time of year)

Mushroom à la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you’ve got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms.

Serves 8


50g (2oz) butter

175g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

450g (1lb) wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles or the common field mushroom), sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

good squeeze of lemon juice

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)


Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat over 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 the remaining butter, 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 the chopped herbs.

To fold the omelette: Add a generous spoonful of your mushroom a la crème. Flip the edge just below the handle of the pan into the centre, then hold the pan almost perpendicular over the plate so that the omelette will flip over again, then half roll half slide the omelette onto the plate so that it lands folded into three. (It should not take more than 30 seconds in all to make the omelette, perhaps 45 if you are adding a filling). Serve immediately.

Our Eating Habits Are Changing….

Our eating habits have changed drastically in the last few decades. One in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan according to a recent report on food shopping. A further 21% claim to be flexitarian eating a predominantly ‘plant based’ diet, occasionally supplemented with a little meat or fish. That amounts to a staggering one third of UK consumers that have reduced or removed meat entirely from their diet. This rapid and dramatic change is being fuelled by the perception that farm animals are one of the major contributors to CO2 emissions… However it is important to realise that those statistics were based on ‘feed lot’ systems rather than grass fed or pasture raised cattle.

Animal welfare issues are high on the list of concerns that have swayed the 18-34 year olds. This age group particularly are becoming much more curious and concerned about how their food is being produced.

Many have lost trust in multinational food companies, supermarkets, governments and the health service. They are confused by food labelling and are becoming more and more desperate as food allergies and intolerances grow exponentially. Consumers are demonstrating increasing concern about the impact of our food choices and behaviour on the environment.

The focus on the effect of plastic on our oceans (see BBC’s, Blue Planet 2) and the fact that up to 9 different types of plastics were found in human stools in a recent study conducted by the Environment Agency Austria, has shocked people into action.

We want our governments to legislate for less plastic packaging and we want our supermarkets to be proactive about reducing plastic.

For the first time this year The Good Food Guide highlighted restaurants with vegan menus. The UK supermarket group Waitrose, have created vegan sections in 134 of their stores and launched a range of more than 40 vegan and vegetarian meals. This is not going to change anytime soon. My gut feeling is that a plant based diet with lots of fresh organic vegetables, fresh herbs and grains, organic eggs, dairy and some meat and fish is the best for humans, animals and the planet.

In the sage words of Michael Pollan, “Eat food, mostly plants and not too much”.

Virtually every week in this column I include vegetarian and vegan dishes without necessarily highlighting the fact but from now on I will – but do go out of your way to find chemical free food and if you’ve decided to follow a vegan diet you’ll need to source even more nutrient dense foods and supplement with B12 which cannot be sourced from plants.

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

You’ll love this curry, even ardent curry haters can’t get enough of this deliciously spiced dish.  It’s also an excellent base for lots of beans and pulses.

Serves 4 -6


2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 – 2 chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

zest of 1 organic lemon or 2 limes

110g coriander leaves and stalks (coarsely chopped)

60g cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 ½ tablespoon grated ginger

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 teaspoons roasted and ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk

400ml homemade vegetable stock

500g pumpkin or sweet potato, diced 2cm approx

225g firm tofu, diced 2cm approx

225g French beans, green or a mixture of green and yellow

1 small cauliflower, approx. 350g in small florets


lots of coarsely chopped coriander

lemon or lime wedges


Whizz the garlic, chilli, citrus zest, roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks, cashew nuts, ginger, turmeric, cumin and salt to a puree in a food processor.


Heat 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the pureé, stir and cook for 3 – 4 minutes.


Add the whisked coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes. Add the chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin or a mixture, return to the boil cover and simmer for 10 minutes.


Add the beans, cauliflower florets and tofu chunks, bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, add the vegetables and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are cooked through.

Add a little lemon or lime juice if possible.

Taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary. Sprinkle with lots of coarsely chopped coriander and serve with lime or lemon wedges.

Curried Lentils with Rice

Another comforting pot, a sort of cross between a dahl and a stew – one of my favourite supper dishes.  Omit the yoghurt for a vegan version.


Serves 6


200g Lentils du Puy or brown lentils

600ml water

Dry Spice Masala

1 teaspoon cardamom pods

6 cloves

3 teaspoons cumin seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

2 bay leaves

1/2 cinnamon stick about 4cm


Wet Masala

30g fresh ginger, peeled

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 chillies, destalked, seeded and chopped coarsely

1 onion (175 – 225g), peeled and chopped coarsely

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped


4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

lots of fresh coriander



sprigs of coriander

Plain Boiled Rice


Put the lentils into a saucepan, cover with 1.2 litres cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until just tender.


Meanwhile, make the dry spice masala.

Remove the seeds from the cardamom and discard the pods.  Put onto a frying pan with the cloves and cumin seeds.  Toast over a medium heat for 30 seconds to a minute, shaking the pan so they don’t scorch.  Transfer to a spice grinder and whizz to a coarse powder.  Transfer to a bowl, add the turmeric, bay leaves and cinnamon stick.


Next make the wet masala.

Put the ginger, garlic, chilli, onion and salt into a food processor.  Whizz to a smooth paste.  Heat the sauté pan, add the olive oil, when hot, add the wet masala, cook stirring over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the dry masala and chopped tomatoes, season generously with sugar.  Continue to cook, stirring regularly for 3-5 minutes or until the oil rises to the top.


Add the drained lentils (reserve the cooking water).  Stir and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes to meld the flavour.  Add some of the lentil water to loosen if necessary.


To Serve

Stir in the yoghurt (if using) and lots of coriander, taste and correct the seasoning.

Garnish with some coriander sprigs.  Serve with basmati rice and enjoy.


Burmese Pennywort Salad

Serves 4

175g pennywort

2-3 shallots, sliced and soaked in ice cold water

2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced


Shallot oil

1 tablespoon crushed peanuts

1 large or 2 small tomatoes, halved and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons fermented bean paste

3 tablespoons fried shallots

Fish sauce or salt


Wash and dry the pennywort leaves.

Slice the garlic paper thin and allow it to dry on kitchen paper.

Heat some peanut oil in a frying pan and cook on a medium heat until crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.

Put the pennywort onto a plate.  Sprinkle the garlic and shallot oil over the top, then the freshly squeezed lime juice, fermented bean paste, fish sauce, thinly sliced tomato and sesame seeds.

Toss and mix with your clean fingers as the Burmese do.  Add most of the fried shallots and half the peanuts.   Toss again.  Taste, correct seasoning.

Divide between 4 plates, sprinkle with the remainder of the fried shallots and peanuts.

Serve immediately, each salad is made to order.


Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry

Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

50g (1¾oz) red onion, chopped

5 Curry leaves

8cm (3inch) piece of cinnamon stick

500g (1lb 2oz) beetroot, peeled and cut into 4cm (1½in) cubes

1½ teaspoon untoasted curry powder

10 fenugreek seeds

5 green chillies

225ml (8fl.oz) coconut milk, whisked

Salt and freshly ground pepper


Put oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat, add the chopped garlic, onion, curry leaves, curry powder and cinnamon to the pan, stir and cook for 2 minutes.   Then add the beetroot, stir and add the fenugreek seeds,  chillies and some salt.   Bring to the boil, add the coconut milk, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes or until the beetroot is tender.  Season to taste.


Myrtle Allen’s Poached Pears

A super simple recipe that transforms the flavour of even nondescript pears. Another inspired recipe from Myrle Allen’s The Ballymaloe Cookbook, published in 1977. Maybe double the recipe, they will keep for weeks in a Kilner jar in your fridge.


6 Pears

1 Lemon

4 ozs (110g/2 cup) sugar


Peel the pears thinly and core carefully.  Keep whole or cut in half if you choose, keeping a good shape.  Put them in a pan which will just fit them nicely.  Add the sugar, a few thin strips of lemon rind and the juice of the lemon.  Cover with a well fitting lid and cook gently until soft.  Cool and serve.  Dessert apples may be cooked like pears.

Note: Pears may also be poached in a light syrup of 2 parts water to 1 part vanilla sugar with a couple strips of lemon peel.

(Use 1 pint of water to 2 lb sugar)




Jerusalem Artichokes

Ted Dinan, Professor of Psychiatry at UCC and I shared a platform at the Science Foundation of Ireland and IIBN event at the River Lee Hotel recently.

Professor Dinan spoke about the ground breaking research he and his colleagues in UCC have done on the link between our physical and mental health and our gut biome. Given the conclusions of this research project and the indisputable link between the health of our gut biome and several autoimmune diseases including depression, there were many questions from the floor on how to enhance our gut flora…

Was there not a quick fix, a magic pill or supplement to fast track a solution? Professor Dinan stressed that very few of the nutritional and health claims on supplements could actually be substantiated.

Our food can and should be our medicine – we need a biodiverse diet to feed the approximately1.5 kilos of beneficial bacteria in our gut (equivalent to the weight of our brain).

Having observed students from all over the world responding positively to a diet of fresh naturally produced seasonal food over more than four decades, Ted’s scientific research confirms my ‘gut feeling’…pardon the pun!

It’s clear, we need to ditch fake food and eat lots of real food, not ‘edible food like substances’.

There are several hugely beneficial foods that we can consume to enhance our gut flora, but we both agree that Jerusalem Artichokes (sunchokes in the USA), top the list…. They have the highest inulin content of any vegetable, which promotes beneficial bacteria in the gut biome. By coincidence, Jerusalem artichokes are coming into season right now and will continue to be available until late February or early March.

The freshly dug Jerusalem artichokes I brought with me to show the audience were eagerly snapped up. Many people had never heard of them before and really wanted to know how to cook them. I explained that they are a prolific winter root vegetable, super easy to grow. In fact given half the chance they spread like crazy…Where you plant just one tuber in Spring, there will be at least ten for you to harvest next year.

Meanwhile seek them out at Farmers Markets from now on. They look like knobbly potatoes but when they are freshly dug there is no need to peel. Jerusalem artichokes are nutty, sweet and crunchy and are also an excellent source of iron.

They are super versatile and can be cooked in a myriad of ways just like potatoes and parsnips, they make delicious winter soups and gorgeous gratins. Add them to stews, or sliver them to cook as artichoke crisps. They roast deliciously whole or in slices and are hugely appealing added to salads. I love them gently stewed or tucked around a casserole roast chicken or pheasant so they absorb all the delicious juices.

Despite what the name implies, they are not in any way related to the globe artichoke although the flavour resembles the fleshy heart.

Jerusalem artichokes are actually from the sunflower family, the name may well have been derived from the Italian word ‘girasole’. Our children love them, their knobbly appearance provides lots of fun identifying little monsters.

Some modern varieties are less knobbly and thus easier to peel but in my experience have an inferior flavour. By the way, the cheery yellow flowers are edible too.


Good to know…

Jerusalem Artichokes, like Globe Artichoke hearts, oxidise within minutes if exposed to the air, so they need to be dropped into a bowl or acidulated water as soon as they are peeled. They also earn their nick name ‘fartichokes’ but that is just proof that they are doing a good job for your gut biome…

They store for weeks in a cold dark place – forgot to mention that Jerusalem Artichokes contain more protein than most root vegetables, a big plus for vegetarians and vegans.



Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Chorizo Crumbs and Artichoke Crisps

Serves 8-10

50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) creamy milk approx.


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx.  Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.


Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with Chorizo Crumbs and Artichoke Crisps.


This soup may need more stock depending on thickness required.

Chorizo Crumbs

Makes 175g (6oz)


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

125g (4 1/2oz) chorizo, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

100g (3 1/2oz) coarse breadcrumbs


Put the oil into a cool pan, add the diced chorizo.  Toss on a low heat until the oil starts to run and the chorizo begins to crisp.  Careful it’s easy to burn the chorizo, drain through a metal sieve, save the oil and return to the pan.


Increase the heat, add coarse breadcrumbs and toss in the chorizo oil until crisp and golden.  Drain and add to the chorizo.


Artichoke Crisps

Serves 6 – 8

3-4 Jerusalem artichokes

sunflower or arachide oil



Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150C.

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes well, slice in wafer thin rounds. Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly.  Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.


Venison and Jerusalem Artichoke Stew

Shoulder of lamb also works excellently in this recipe.

Serves 6

900g (2lbs) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

250g (9oz) onions, sliced or roughly chopped

250g (9oz) leeks, sliced

3 cloves garlic

500g (18oz) artichokes, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

500g (18oz) carrots, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

1 teaspoon salt

900g (2lbs) venison or lamb shoulder cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) venison, lamb or chicken stock

1 sprig of thyme

To Serve

Gremolata (see recipe)

Season 900g (2lbs) potato cubes well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and crushed garlic, toss and add the carrots and Jerusalem artichokes.  Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until just beginning to colour at the edges.  Transfer to a casserole.  Add the venison or lamb and toss in batches over a high heat.  Add to the casserole with the stock and the sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for 15-30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are cooked (lamb cooks faster than venison). Remove the thyme and parsley.  Taste and correct the seasoning and sprinkle with gremolata or just chopped parsley.



Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!


4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped


Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.


Casserole Roast Pheasant with Jerusalem Artichokes

Pheasant adore Jerusalem artichokes, most of the large estates plant a patch specially as a treat for them.  It seemed logical to cook them together, and indeed it turns out to be a very good marriage of flavours.  Casserole roasting, the cooking method used here is a particularly good way to cook pheasant especially if it’s not in the first flush of youth.

Chicken or guinea fowl may also be cooked in this manner.


1 plump pheasant

25g (1oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

900g (2lb) Jerusalem artichokes



chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs


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


Smear a little butter on the breast of the pheasant and brown it in the casserole over a gentle heat.  Meanwhile, peel and slice the artichokes into 1cm/½ inch pieces, remove the pheasant.  Add a little butter to the casserole toss the Jerusalem artichoke slices in the butter.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle maybe a tablespoon of water over the top.  Then replace the pheasant tucking it right down into the sliced artichokes so they come up around the sides of the pheasant.  Cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan.

Cook for a further 1-1¼ hours.

Remove the pheasant as soon as it is cooked, strain and de-grease the cooking liquid if there is need but usually there’s virtually no fat on it.  The juices of the pheasant will have flavoured the artichokes deliciously.  Arrange the artichokes on a hot serving dish, carve the pheasant into 4 portions and arrange on top.


The artichokes always break up a little – that is their nature.  Spoon some juices over the pheasant and artichokes and serve scattered with chopped parsley or flat parsley sprigs.

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (Slices)

This is a totally brilliant way to cook Jerusalem artichokes, great as a vegetable accompaniment of course, but also super delicious in warm salads or starters.

Serves 4 to 6


450g (1 lb) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional


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


Slice the well scrubbed artichokes into 7mm (1/3 inch) rounds. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the extra virgin olive oil.  Season well with salt.  Arrange in a single layer on silicone paper on a roasting tin.  Roast for 10 minutes or until golden on one side then flip over and cook on the other side.   Test with the tip of a knife – they should be tender.  One could sprinkle with a little thyme or rosemary but they are perfectly delicious without any further embellishment. Season with freshly ground pepper and serve.

Food Scene in Rural Ireland

Super excited to have three new Michelin Star restaurants in County Cork, The Mews in Baltimore, West Cork under Chef Ahmet Dede, Ichigo Ichie in Cork City owned by Chef Takashi Miyazaki and Chestnut in Ballydehob with Chef Rob Krawczyk (a Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni). It focuses attention on the culinary scene outside the capital and hugely boosts the confidence of the many young chefs who are working tirelessly to raise standards in a time of tiny profit margins on food.

In the midst of all the euphoria came the budget and the reintroduction of the 13.5% VAT rate on restaurants, a whopping 4.5% increase from the 9% rate that enabled many, but not all to survive the recession. The hotel and restaurant scene in the capital is booming and profitable overall. The food scene in most of rural Ireland is quite a different scenario, the tourist season can be as short as 10 – 12 weeks. Many restaurants are just beginning to recover, from the crippling recession, starting to reinvest and were hoping to start a ‘rainy day fund’ to prepare for the inevitable next downturn which may not be too far away….

It’s all very disheartening….. To maintain standards, continue to pay staff and local food producers, prices will have to increase significantly to enable restaurants to even stand still – a 2% increase was anticipated – 4.5% has totally knocked the ‘wind out of the sails’ of an industry that does so much to create employment, put Ireland on the global food map and boost tourism. I’m truly saddened and apprehensive – this can only result in dumbing down of standards, loss of jobs and closures – I so hope I’m wrong…

Back to our home kitchens and let’s cook up some comforting food to cheer us up and ‘warm the cockles of our hearts’ as Autumn settles in. What better than a delicious pot of stew. Here are two of my current favourites. Lamb with a pearl barley risotto and gremolata and the other a veggie feast, spicy pumpkin or squash and coconut curry.

Must give a shout out to the recently published Currabinny Cookbook by super enthusiastic young foodies James Kavanagh and William Murray (ex Ballymaloe Cookery School). The book exudes a love of food and their mission to encourage other cool young people like themselves (they have a huge fan base on social media), to discover the joy and larks to be had around the kitchen stove, doing pop-ups, selling at Farmers Markets and sharing the yummy food they’ve cooked with friends.

Lots of good things to explore inside the covers of the Currabinny Cookbook (love the graphics too). I’ve chosen Parsnip and Fennel Soup with Macroom Brown Soda Bread, Ruby Chard Korma, and Lemon and Lavender Cake to tempt you to whizz out to buy the book published by Penguin Ireland.

Lamb Stew with Pearl Barley Pilaff and Fresh Herb Gremolata 


Serves 4-6

For the Stew

1.8kg (4lb) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

350g (12oz) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sautéing

450g (1lb) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

30g (12oz) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

750ml (1 3/4 pints) approx. lamb or chicken stock

sprig of thyme

roux – optional, mushroom a la crème (optional)

For the Pilaff

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

450g (1lb) pearl barley

3 pints lamb stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

350g (12oz) mushrooms, finely diced

450g (1lb) shallots, peeled and quartered


Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped herbs, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!


4 mixture of flat parsley, chervil and mint, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

flaky salt to taste

First make the stew.

Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.

Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.

When the casserole is just cooked, remove the thyme sprig, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some mushroom a la crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot, sprinkled with chopped parsley and the pearl barley pilaff.

Meanwhile, make the pilaff.

Melt the butter in a deep saucepan, add the pearl barley, toss the grains in the butter.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and continue to cook until the pearl barley is fully cooked – 45-60 minutes approximately.

Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms, both stalks and caps.  Heat a little butter or oil in a frying pan, add all of the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cook over a medium heat stirring occasionally.  The mushrooms will exude liquid at first but continue to cook until all the liquid has been reabsorbed and the mushrooms have developed a deeper flavour.  Keep aside.

Peel the shallots, quarter, toss in 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and cook in a saucepan over a medium heat until soft and caramelised.  Alternatively, roast in the oven at 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 until soft and caramelised.

Fold both the mushrooms and the shallots into the pilaff.  Keep aside.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

While the stew and pilaff are being reheated, make the Gremolata.  Chop the herbs and garlic together, add the lemon zest, season to taste with a little flaky salt.

To Serve 

If necessary, reheat the stew and pilaff.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Spoon a serving of both stew and pilaff into a deep wide serving bowl, serve immediately.  Sprinkle some fresh herb gremolata over the top.


Spicy Butternut Squash or Pumpkin and Coconut Curry


A chunky stew with Asian flavours.  Squashes are brilliant vegetables to soak up Asian flavours and bulk up curries.


Serves 8


2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 large onion, finely chopped, 185g (6 1/4oz)

3 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves removed and finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

5 spring onions, chopped

grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 limes

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded (use dried if fresh are unavailable)

2 teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted and ground

2 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted and ground

4cm (1 1/2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1-3 small red chillies, deseeded and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn

1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh coriander

1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter

1 x 400g (14oz) can coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2kg (4 1/2lbs) squash or pumpkin, deseeded, peeled and cut into 4cm chunks (1.5kg/3lb 5oz) flesh after peeling and deseeding)


To Serve

2 tablespoons toasted cashew nuts

fresh coriander leaves

Jasmine Rice

Mango Chutney or Mango Sambal (see recipe)


Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.


Heat a sauté pan over a medium heat and add the oil.  Stir-fry the onion for 1-2 minutes before adding the lemongrass and garlic. Add all the remaining ingredients.   Stir gently. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the lid for 5 minutes before the end of cooking time.


The coconut milk may separate but this won’t affect the flavour.  Taste and add more fish sauce if necessary.  Pour into a warm serving dish.

Garnish with the toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander leaves and serve with jasmine rice and mango chutney.

Mango Sambal


Serves 6 – 8


1 mango, diced finely (1 x 1 cm)

2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons Nam pla – fish sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1 – 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary

salt and freshly ground pepper


Gently mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Season and taste.  Allow the flavours to blend for at least 15 minutes before serving



Five Spice Powder contains ground star anise/cloves/cinnamon/Sichuan pepper and fennel seeds.


Currabinny Cookbook Parsnip and Fennel Soup

In this soup the natural sweetness of parsnip combines beautifully with the delicate aniseed flavour of fennel. The result is smooth, velvety and very elegant.


Serves 4–6

1 medium-sized onion

4 medium-sized parsnips

2 large fennel bulbs, stalks removed

1 stick of celery

15g fresh flat-leaf parsley

70g butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ litres vegetable stock

200ml milk


To serve:

fresh cream

fresh fennel fronds


Peel the onion and parsnips. Chop finely, together with the fennel bulbs and celery, to roughly the same size dice. Roughly chop the parsley leaves.

Melt the butter in a large pot or casserole dish. Add the onion, parsnips, fennel and celery, and season well with salt and pepper. Stir so that everything in the pot is well coated in the butter.

Construct a cartouche by cutting a circle of greaseproof paper which perfectly covers the inside of your pot. Press this down on the vegetables, sealing them in to cook. Put the lid on the pot and cook for around 10 minutes on a gentle heat. Check and stir at least once to make sure nothing is catching on the bottom.

Meanwhile, in another pot, heat up your vegetable stock until it comes to the boil. This will shorten the cooking time considerably.

When it’s boiling, remove the cartouche from the other pot and pour your hot stock over the vegetables, stirring the contents to make sure nothing is stuck to the bottom.

Simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes until the vegetables are completely soft and tender.

Add the milk and parsley, and blend with a stick blender until completely smooth and creamy.

Check the seasoning and serve with a swirl of cream and some fennel fronds sprinkled on top of each bowl.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.


Currabinny Cookbook Macroom Brown Soda Bread

Could there be anything more Irish and down-to-earth than a classic soda bread made with wholewheat flour from the legendary Walton’s Mill in Macroom, Co. Cork, Ireland’s only surviving stone mill? We don’t think so!



Makes 8–10 slices

Butter, for greasing

180g cream flour

340g Macroom Stoneground Wholewheat Flour (extra coarse)

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

70g Macroom Oatmeal

1 medium organic egg

575ml buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 180ºC fan/gas 6. Butter a 450g loaf tin.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flours, bicarbonate of soda, salt and oatmeal to combine, then make a well in the centre.

Whisk together the egg and buttermilk in a jug, and pour into the dry mix. Using your hand as a claw, mix the ingredients together in a circular motion until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. When you remove the loaf from the tin, make sure to tap the bottom too, listening for that hollow sound just to be sure. Cool on a wire rack.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.


Currabinny Cookbook Ruby Chard Korma

William suggests keeping the stalks for another dish but we loved them finely shredded and added them as we were pouring in the water.

Serves 4–6

3 onions

3 cloves of garlic

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger

700g chestnut mushrooms

a large knob of butter

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seeds from 10 cardamom pods, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

a few pinches of ground cinnamon

a few pinches of chilli powder

3 bay leaves

200ml water

350g ruby chard

200g natural yoghurt

150g crème fraîche


To serve:

toasted flaked almonds

pomegranate seeds

basmati rice


Peel the onions, garlic and ginger. Slice the onions and mushrooms, grate the ginger and crush the garlic with some salt. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions, garlic and ginger with some salt and pepper.

When the onions have softened a bit, add the cardamom, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, chilli powder and bay leaves. Now add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the water, stir, and simmer for 15 minutes, then check the seasoning.

Meanwhile, remove the stalks from the chard* and add the leaves in batches to the pot until it is all wilted. Turn the heat to low and gently stir in the yoghurt and crème fraîche.

Serve with rice and top with the almonds and pomegranate seeds.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.


Currabinny Cookbook Lemon and Lavender Cake

Combining lavender with lemon and yoghurt makes this cake sticky, subtle and utterly delicious.


Makes 8–10 slices

butter, for greasing

1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers

250g caster sugar

175g cream flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

a pinch of sea salt

2 medium organic eggs

250g Greek yoghurt

125ml rapeseed oil

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

dried lavender sprigs, to decorate


For the icing:

200g icing sugar

juice of 1 lemon

1 medium egg white


Preheat the oven to 160ºC fan/gas 4. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin and line with baking parchment.

Crush the lavender in a pestle and mortar. Put the caster sugar into a large bowl and mix the lavender through. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, and stir to combine.

In another bowl, mix the eggs with the yoghurt and rapeseed oil and pour this into the dry ingredients, stirring well. Add the lemon zest and juice.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for around 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for a minute, then turn the cake out to cool fully on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, whisking until smooth. Add the egg white gradually to loosen the mixture until it is quite runny and pourable. The icing should be extremely sharp and lemony. Spoon this icing over the top of the cake until it covers the top and starts to drip down the sides.

Arrange some dried lavender sprigs on the top as decoration.

From the Currabinny Cookbook, by James Kavanagh & William Murray. Published by Penguin Ireland.

All set for Halloween

We’re all set for Halloween, squash, pumpkins and gourds of every size, shape and colour are piled precariously on the cookery school table tops, window ledges, in baskets and boxes, they look so beautiful. It has become a bit of a tradition now for children from the local schools to come to the farm to harvest the squash and pumpkin every Autumn. They have the best fun and are intrigued by the names, Hubbard,  Turks Turban, Little Gem, Delicata, Hokkaido, Crown Prince, Kobocha,  Cocozelle, Jack be Little, Red Kuri… Some are the size of a child’s fist, others so enormous that is takes two sturdy lads to carry them.

Everyone loves carving the pumpkins into scary faces for Halloween, the festival that apparently originated in Ireland over three thousand years ago when the pagan festival of Samhain  marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new year, the natural transition from lighter Summer to the darker Winter. At this time of the year it was believed that the division between this world and the other world was at its most fragile, allowing spirits to pass though. So as in the Mexican tradition of the ‘Day of the Dead ‘the spirits of the ancestors were invited back home and evil spirits were warded off. Bonfires, food, costumes and masks were all part of the festivities.

After the famine, the Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America where it is now one of the major holidays of the year. Similarly, here in Ireland where it is fast becoming as big as Christmas.  For several weeks now children have been whipped into a lather of excitement by all the Halloween temptations on TV and in the shops and the anticipation of dressing up as ghouls and witches to do the rounds of their neighbourhood for the annual ‘trick or treat’.

You may be amused to hear that we were inadvertently removed from the ‘must visit’ list a number of years ago when word spread among the ‘trick or treaters’ that Ballymaloe Cookery School was no good because you only got fruit and nuts.

The fact that they were home-grown apples and fresh hazelnuts, cobnuts and walnuts from the nut garden did not remotely impress the scary little dotes who were hoping for proper sugar laden treats. So I think we’ve been black-listed!!
The spider web cup-cakes did actually impress as did the ‘spooky puca’ meringues but they were scarcely worth the effort of schlepping up the long avenue for.

Here are a few more scary Halloween treats for you to have fun making with your children and their friends. YouTube  (I checked the spelling) is a brilliant source of ideas….



Devilled Spider Eggs

Serves 8

4 free-range eggs

3-4 tablespoons Homemade Mayonnaise (see below)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

black olives, sliced or nigella seeds, enough for 16 or more scary eyes

long fresh chives

shredded lettuce or baby spinach leaves


For the egg mayonnaise, hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water. (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways and sieve the yolks, mix the sieved yolk with mayonnaise, season with salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites.


To assemble

Bend the chives for spider legs, four on each side. Use nigella seeds or slices of black olives for scary eyes.

Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or baby spinach.



makes 250ml (9fl oz) approx.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil


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



Halloween Chocolate Pops

makes 25-30

225g (8oz) dark chocolate (we use Valrhona 52%), chopped

whole hazelnuts and almonds, toasted

whole pistachio nuts

yellow raisins

plump sultanas

freeze-dried raspberry



Chocolate Pop moulds

Put the chocolate into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water (the base of the bowl should not touch the water). When the water comes to the boil, turn off the heat and leave until the chocolate melts.

Spoon into the moulds.  Insert a lollipop stick into each one.

Tap the work top to smooth over the top.


Decorate each chocolate pop with freeze-dried raspberries, nuts, dried fruit or pipe white chocolate on to the set chocolate to make scary faces.


Allow to set.  Unmould.




Dracula’s Fangs

Makes about 9 x 50g cookies


110g (4ozs) butter

50g (2oz) brown sugar

60g (2½ oz) castor sugar

1 eggs preferably free range

½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

175g (6oz) plain white flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

60g (2½ oz) chocolate chips

50g (2oz) chopped nuts – hazelnuts – optional


To decorate

Bloody butter cream:

60g (2½ oz) soft butter

150g (5oz) icing sugar

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

6-8 drops natural red colouring

white mini marshmallows


For the fangs:

3 – 4 almonds, peeled and slivered lengthways


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


Cream the butter add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla extract.  Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in.  Lastly, add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts.


Divide into 50g (2oz) pieces onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks.

Meanwhile cream the soft butter and the sieved icing sugar, a few drops of natural vanilla extract and enough red colouring to make a blood red butter cream.


To assemble:

Cut the chocolate chip cookies in half, spread each semi- circle with a layer of blood red butter cream.

Arrange a layer of mini white marshmallows on one half. Top with the other, then insert the almond fangs on both sides allowing 4 mini marshmallows in the centre between the fangs. Fun for the Halloween Feast…..




Scary Strawberry Ghosts

Another super simple recipe to make with the kids for their Halloween altar.

makes 20

20 large strawberries

100g white chocolate

100g dark chocolate


Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a tray.

Put the white chocolate into a small pyrex bowl over a saucepan of cold water. Bring to the boil and turn off the heat immediately (the water should not touch the base of the bowl) Allow to sit until the chocolate melts.

Catch each strawberry by the calyx and dip in the melted chocolate until the fruit is almost fully submerged. Allow to develop a drip at the base, then lay each on its side on the parchment paper.

Meanwhile melt some dark chocolate also. Fill into a parchment piping bag and decorate each strawberry with eyes and a smile or a frown – Can be a happy, sad, or scary face, all part of the fun…..

Good to know, a toothpick dipped in the dark chocolate also works well.


Stephanie Alexander’s Spiced Pumpkin Cake

This pumpkin cake has a special place in my heart. The teachers and students at Collingwood College in Melbourne baked the cake from pumpkins they grew in the school gardens as a special treat for me, all part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation   www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au


Decorate with spooky spiders and ghouls


Serves 20 approximately


350 g (12 oz) pumpkin (skinned and de seeded)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-2 tablespoons olive oil


Pumpkin Cake

180 g (6¼ oz) light soft brown sugar or dark soft brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150 ml (5 fl oz) olive oil

250 g (9 oz) self raising flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg


Lemon Glaze

250 g (9 oz) icing sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

Fresh thyme sprigs, (to serve)


2 x 1lb tin


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


Chop the pumpkin into 2 cm pieces. Place in a bowl with olive oil and cinnamon; give a good toss making sure all pieces are coated. Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz with a food stick blender or in a magimix.


Line the loaf pan with baking paper.


In a large bowl, whisk the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla until  thick and combined. Pour in the olive oil and combine. Stir through the pureed pumpkin. Sieve over the flour and spices, stir together until all incorporated.


Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.


Meanwhile make the icing. Sieve the icing sugar into a medium bowl, gradually add the lemon juice until you have a thick runny consistency. Pour over the cake and decorate with fresh thyme sprigs.


Ballymaloe Halloween Barmbrack

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up.  Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.


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


110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) currants

50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered

300ml (10fl oz) hot tea

1 organic egg, whisked

175g (6oz) soft brown sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel


ring, stick, pea, piece of cloth, all wrapped up in greaseproof paper


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



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


Next day, line the loaf tin with parchment paper.


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


Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin. Tuck the various charms into the loaf.

Cook in for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Brush with a little ‘bun wash’


Keeps very well in an airtight tin.


Bun Wash

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon sugar

Heat the water and sugar in a tiny saucepan, boil for two minutes, allow to cool.

Terra Madre


Just back from Slow Food Terra Madre Salone Del Gusto 2018, the biggest international event, anywhere in the world, dedicated to food, 1.2 million people attended in 2016. Every two years a most intriguing mix of people from all over the world, farmers, fishermen, artisan food producers, transhumant shepherds, food scientists, chefs, food writers, activists, university professors, seeds savers, migrants and indigenous people descend on Turin, a beautiful small city in Piedmont. They come from all four corners of the earth to attend a massive 5 day artisan food fair and a variety of seminars on how to change our current fractured food system.

Carlo Petrini, the messianic president of Slow Food International,  who was named “one of the 50 people who could save the planet” by The Guardian, gave an impassioned speech about Food For Change – a global campaign aimed at educating all of us on the effect of our food choices have on climate change. Slow Food is committed to a food system that not only provides Good, Clean and Fair food for all but is also sustainable and positive for the planet, www.slowfood.com.

Each and every one of us can and must make a difference by choosing food that doesn’t harm the environment though its production, its transportation or its disposal.

It comes as quite a shock to realise that we could reverse climate change by changing our diet. I attended a variety of intriguing sessions; one on natural ferments, the panel included one of my food heroes Sandor Katz, the king of Fermentation, and Venetia Villani, director of Cucina Naturale.


In another session on pesticides entitled The Poison in The Pot Miryam Kurganoff de Gorban from Argentina showed a heart rending video on the effect of glyphosate on farm workers in Argentina.

On a more positive note Earth markets are changing communities from Krakow to San Diego, Uganda to Turkey.

A  session on soil, ‘the Future is Under Our Feet’ included Arwyn Jones a soil scientist from the EU Soil Research Centre in Milan – he and his fellow speakers painted a grim picture of the effect of intensive chemical farming on the soil that feeds us and suggested many ways to rebuild the diminishing fertility.

I learned from chef Yuriy Pryiemskyi from Kiev that there are 76 different types of Bortsch. Imagine that, I thought there was just one.


Ireland was represented by the Raw Milk cheese producers – Italians were intrigued to taste Young Buck Mike Thompson. Long-time Slow Food member Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery in West Cork gave an engaging session to a packed audience on Ireland’s smokehouses and also demonstrated kedgeree and ceviche.


Feeding thousands of people every day is quite the mission but there are many options. The ‘street food’ area offered many intriguing dishes as did the ‘smoke food over fire’ and several others including Terra Madre Kitchen.


The Slow Food Youth area was buzzing with passionate young people from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo www.unisg.it determined to make a difference. Slow Seeds, Slow Fish, Slow Insects, Slow Meat, and Slow Cheese all offered back to back sessions.

Slow Chickens were determined to put an end to caged birds.


Slow Food Terra Madre is quite simply a life changing event, thousands of inspirational people all helping to change, or wanting to change the fast food culture that has enveloped our lives and make a difference to the planet with how they spend their food euro.


Just by coincidence Joe Trivelli of the River Cafe in London’s new book The Modern Italian Cook has just arrived…. now this is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Joe is the much loved co head chef at River Cafe and has worked there since 2001 but this book is packed with recipes for the food Joe likes to cook at home for his lovely wife and two children and his fortunate friends…..just the sort of comforting food I too love….

Here are a few recipes to tempt you – could be a delicious Christmas present for a food loving friend.








Focaccia di Recco

One of the stalls in the Slow Food Street Food area served thin crackly paper thin focaccia, oozing with Stracchino, one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and lo and behold I have a recipe in Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cookbook.


Joe Trivelli’s Focaccia from Recco Focaccia Di Recco

Recco is a town on the Ligurian coast between Genova and Portofino. If you go there you can eat this on the street or at a focacceria, where it is treated more like a pizza. If you’d like to make a large one, it’s easier to do it with another pair of hands, stretching the dough very gently between you. The stretching of this dough requires a lightness of touch and a minimum of pulling.


If you’ve never had this before I think you should opt for the plain version, but you can also ‘pizzerise’ with a tomato and herb topping and a little oil before baking, if you like.


Serves 2


250g (9oz) organic ‘oo’ flour

125m1 (4fl oz) whole milk

200g (7oz) stracchino or crescenza cheese

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil.



Mix the flour and milk together until you have a dough, then transfer to a clean work surface for kneading. Lightly flour the bench if the dough is tacky. Knead it constantly, rotating it all the while, and flouring the worktop where necessary, for about 4 minutes or longer if your batch is bigger. It quickly feels very smooth on the outside and will bounce back when pressed with your fingertip.


When smooth to the touch, cover well and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 220°C/400°F/Mark 6 and oil a light, large non-stick baking tray.


Cut the dough into two roughly equal amounts, but make one slightly bigger than the other. Use the bigger one for the base. Roll it out into a rectangle as thinly as possible, to about 2mm. Keep the tray you are going to use beside you to help you gauge the size and begin to work with your hands.  The aim is to make something thinner than regular pasta, almost as thin as filo. The under sheet can be slightly thicker than the top but make sure that it doesn’t have any holes in it. The second will have holes made in it, so it’s not as much of a problem.


Work with your hands together as if you were praying but with the dough sheet draped over. Carefully move your hands apart, but do this very gently, almost as though trying not to stretch the dough. It will, however, do so. Hop the dough on your hands so that it turns around by 45 degrees at first and repeat. Pay particular attention to the edges of the dough, not the centre, which will naturally be pulled by the weight of the dough. Stretch the parts that are thicker and avoid those that look too thin.


When large enough to fit, place on the baking tray and dot with pieces of stracchino cheese. Stretch out a second piece of dough, ideally slightly thinner. Place on top of the cheese and cut around the edges with a knife. Crimp the border together and tear a few holes in the top. Lightly sprinkle with olive oil and salt before baking.


Bake for 8 minutes until golden and slightly bubbling through the holes. Eat immediately and make another straight away.



Joe Trivelli’s Tomato Frittata Ruthie Rogers Frittata Al Pomodoro Ruthie Rogers

This is straight from the boss, something she makes at home rather than serves in the restaurant. It’s evocative for me as we ate this all summer in between shooting her Classic Italian Cookbook in southern Tuscany with Rose Gray. It’s a dish without a time. Quick to prepare; quick to enjoy; fine to eat standing up but also great to linger over with a glass of wine.


I have tried hard not to be too specific with ingredients but here I must insist that this is made with only the very ripest and tastiest tomatoes at the height of summer and spanking-fresh eggs. This is because it’s what Ruthie would insist on when making it for us. It would be less than half the dish otherwise.


Add some cheese if that’s your thing but it’s not really necessary.


Serves 1


2 eggs

½ ripe oxheart tomato or 1 plum tomato, cut into 2cm slices

2 small basil sprigs

sea salt, black pepper

extra virgin olive oil



Break the eggs into a bowl, season and lightly mix with a fork,


Heat a 25cm trusty pan to smoking hot with oil just covering the bottom. Add the tomato and turn over with a spatula as soon as it is hot, i.e. quite quickly. You don’t really want to cook it, just heat up and scorch it a bit.


Add the basil and pour over the eggs, moving them a little after 20 seconds when the middle has started to cook so that that cooked egg is distributed throughout the pan. Position everything to look pretty, if you care about this sort of thing. Cook for minute.


Flip and cook for 1 minute more.




Barny Haughton’s Bucatini all’ Amatriciana

The sauce for this deeply delicious and simple dish has four basic ingredients: tomatoes, shallots, chilli and bacon. But there are some rules about the ingredients:

You really need to get the right bacon; the deep flavour of a good Amatriciana comes from the rendered-down fat. The best bacon cut is guanciale (pork cheek) but a good fatty unsmoked pancetta will do fine as well.

Bucatini, (like thick spaghetti) is best for the pasta but rigatoni or penne will also do well – but don’t use fresh pasta.

And finally: use pecorino not parmesan. The difference may not seem a big deal but what you get from pecorino (made from sheeps milk) is a sharpness which works brilliantly with the rich Amatriciana sauce. Parmesan (made from cows milk) is sweeter and less defined in its flavour


Serves 4 people


400g (14oz) guanciale or a piece of fatty pancetta

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

3 shallots very finely sliced

600g (1¼lb) ripe tomatoes – or a 380g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

salt and pepper

80g (3¼ oz) aged pecorino, grated

400g (14oz) bucatini

olive oil


You are going to make a passata out of the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Place the tomatoes on a roasting tray, toss them in a little olive oil and salt and bake them for about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then pass through a mouli or sieve, leaving behind only the dry skin and seeds. You should end up with about Note: if you have lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, say, five kilos, you could do as above, then reheat the passata to simmering and transfer to sterilised jars, screw the lids on tight and keep in a cool place for up to three months until needed.


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


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


Meanwhile, add the rendered fat to the tomato sauce and have the crispy lardons ready in a warm place.


Now add the pasta and lardons to the sauce in the frying pan, simmer for 30 seconds and serve immediately with lots of grated pecorino.



Our fig trees in the glasshouse are giving us a second flush of fruit at present. The first plump fruit ripened in May but there’s an extra bonus in the Autumn so I was thrilled to find this recipe. Fingal Ferguson’s Gubbeen guanciale and pancetta are worth seeking out.


Joe Trivelli’s Rigatoni with Figs Al Fichi

This sounds like an unusual pairing but actually the faintly spicy figs with the rich cured meat is a delicious combination.


Serves 4


400g (14oz) rigatoni

150g (5oz) guanciale or pancetta, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

6 fresh figs, washed and sliced into three

100g (3½oz) grated mature pecorino, plus extra to serve

sea salt and  black pepper

extra virgin olive oil


Put a large pan of salted water on to heat. You can start cooking the pasta as soon as it boils as the sauce is that quick to make.


Fry the guanciale or pancetta in a large pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. When it is nice and crispy, and most of the fat has melted, acid the thyme and figs and toss quickly.


Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the other pan and toss everything together, adding the cheese and using the cooking water to emulsify the sauce as necessary. Add a good grind of pepper and salt to taste.


Serve with more cheese for grating at the table.



Joe Trivelli’s Ricotta Ice Cream Gelato Alla Ricotta

Super-easy, super-creamy, with figs, hazelnuts and chocolate, I’ve thrown all the good stuff at this.


Serves 6


100g (3½oz) dried figs

juice of  1 lemon

140g (4¼ oz) caster sugar

500g (18oz) ricotta

6 egg yolks

300g (10½oz) double cream

200ml (7fl oz) whole milk

70g (3oz) roasted hazelnuts, chopped into small pieces

80g (3¼ oz) dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces



Take the tips off the figs and cut into pieces. Put the lemon juice in a pan with log of the sugar and the figs. Bring to the boil then turn off the heat and leave to soften.


Pass the ricotta through a sieve and then do it again to make it creamy. Whisk the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar until pale then add the cream, milk and ricotta.


Churn in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Towards the end, stir through the nuts, chocolate and figs. Best eaten as soon as it’s scoopable, after about 3 hours in the freezer, but this ice cream will keep for a week.


Remove from the freezer well ahead of serving to soften once frozen solid.

The Humble Spud

This week’s column is a celebration of the potato – the super versatile, super nutritious and super cool tuber often referred to as the ‘humble spud’.

Somehow, despite its many virtues, the potato has managed to acquire a frumpy image. Several recent surveys indicate that potatoes sales are down whilst sales of rice pasta and noodles have risen significantly.

Millennials particularly are opting for microwavable options and see potatoes as a bit of a ‘faff to cook’. Many, it seems, prefer microwavable rice (although far more expensive) – I didn’t even know such a thing existed but apparently the market is now worth millions.

Well call me old fashioned but the potato is still my number one vegetable, it’s certainly not just ‘a bit on the side’. I’m still a dedicated aficionado for more reasons than I can mention, not least its nutrient density and flavour plus it’s naturally gluten free.

Recent research has also shown conclusively that potatoes contain blood pressure lowering compounds called kukoamines and a range of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.

They are a rich source of vitamin B6, C and B1, both types of fibre and have more potassium than bananas – good for the brain, no fat, a brilliant source of energy, a slow release food and on and on it goes….

From the cooks point of view they are a blank canvas for all kinds of flavours. But there are spuds and spuds and variety really matters so try to find some of the old or what are now called heritage varieties in farmers markets and local greengrocers. I snap up local, organically grown potatoes whenever I can find them. At present we are enjoying (varieties on the off ask Eileen) and pink fir apple (a waxy fingerling type).

My favourite Winter varieties are Golden Wonders and Kerr’s Pinks which grow brilliantly in the soils around the Ballycotton area but also in pockets around the country so seek them out…..


Now I’m back in to the kitchen with bag of floury and a few waxy spuds. So what to do? There are so many delicious way to cook potatoes, they soak up a myriad of flavours, fresh herbs, spices…

The flavour of the East, Far East, Mexico, South America from whence they came. They are estimated to be well of over 4,000 native varieties still growing ‘in Peru. You can’t imagine how beautiful and diverse they are, every colour, shape, texture…like jewels.


Here in Ireland the most traditional way to cook potatoes is to boil them and I am rarely without a few left over boiled spuds in my fridge. They’re a brilliant standby and the basis of so many tasty filling supper dishes.

But a word about boiling potatoes, they can be bland and virtually tasteless or full of flavour depending on the variety and the way they are cooked…they need plenty of SALT in the water and cook them in their jackets. I add a tablespoon to 2 pints, better still use sea water….. If you happen to be near the coast or are out for a Sunday drive. Go for a paddle and bring back for a container of sea water with contains a host of other minerals and trace elements as well as salt.

As you stroll across the beach maybe pick up some kelp, add a piece to the pot for extra flavour and nutrients and bring a bag of mixed seaweed home to add to the soil in your garden. So here are some of my favourite ways to use up left over boiled potatoes.


Traditional Irish Jacket Potatoes


Here is the best way to cook old varieties, so they don’t dissolve into a mush before they are fully cooked. It’s not at all traditional, but a Chinese steamer over a wok, (with well-salted water underneath) works really well and the potatoes remain intact. Many people now peel potatoes before they boil them, however, it’s worth remembering that they have considerably more flavour if cook them in their jackets. Plus, there’s less waste, and most of the nutrients are just underneath the skin.


Serves 4


900g (2lb) ‘old’ potatoes such as Golden Wonders, Kerr’s Pink or Red Duke of York



3 teaspoons of salt to every

1.2 litres (2 pints) water


Put the potatoes in a deep saucepan, cover with fresh, cold water and add salt. Cover and bring to the boil and continue to cook over a medium heat about 15 minutes, until half-cooked. Pour off most of the water, leaving about 2.5cm (1 inch) liquid in the saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover and leave the potatoes to steam for the remainder of the cooking time, at least a further 15 minutes, until a skewer goes through the centre easily.


Put into a hot serving dish and serve with lots of good butter or a terrific olive oil (rather than on top) and some flaky sea salt.


Potatoes with Cumin and Ginger

Love the way the cayenne and spices can add oomph to leftover potatoes in this recipe. Enjoy them on their own or as a ‘ side’ with a couple of lamb chop


Serves 6


1kg (2¼lbs) potatoes, cooked in jackets in well salted water

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons ground cumin, freshly roasted

3 teaspoons freshly ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

a generous pinch of cayenne

3 tablespoons freshly ground coriander


Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes.  Heat a wide frying pan.  Pour in the oil, and add the freshly ground cumin, ginger, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Stir and add the potatoes, toss gently and cook until the potatoes are hot and crusted with the spices.  Sprinkle with chopped coriander.  Taste. Correct seasoning.



Potato and Pecorino Frittata

I love the flavour of Pecorino with the eggs and new potatoes it gives the dish real depth of flavour.  However, Parmesan would be a good alternative.  The fritatta is great for a picnic or cut into neat squares and serve as a pre-dinner nibble or canapé.

Serves 4


450g/1lb new potatoes or left over potatoes

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 small onion, finely sliced

6 free-range eggs

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

140g/5oz Pecorino finely grated,

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife.  Allow to cool slightly, then cut into chunky slices.

Heat a heavy-based non-stick frying pan big enough to take all the ingredients.  Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.


Meanwhile whisk together the eggs and chives.  Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper then add the cheese and whisk again.

Heat the grill to moderately hot.

Add the potato slices to the onions and then pour over the egg mixture.  Cook over a low heat until the edges are beginning to firm up and the frittata is lightly set.  This may take up to ten minutes.

Finally place under the grill.  Don’t place the pan too close to the heat or it will burn on top before the centre is cooked.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the eggs are set and the top is a lovely golden colour.

Serve hot or cold.  This would be delicious with a mixed leaf and tomato salad.


Note: Alternatively cook in a pre-heated at 160C for 10 to 12 minutes


Elizabeth’s Cheesy Potatoes

Serves 2-3

This was one of my sister Elizabeth’s favourite recipes when she was a penniless student but it continues to be one of our favourite recipes, loved by all the family of every age.


1lb (450g) left over boiled potatoes, peeled and dice into 1 inch (2cm) dice

1/3 pints (150ml) whole milk

4ozs (110g) Irish Cheddar cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground pepper


greased pie dish – 1 pint (600ml) – capacity


Put the diced potatoes into a saucepan, add the cold milk, season with freshly ground pepper and salt. Stir over a low heat until the potatoes have absorbed the milk, then add 3ozs (85g) grated cheese and stir gently, then turn into a pie dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1oz (30g) grated cheese over the top. Cook in a preheated oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, until nicely brown on top, approx. 20 minutes.

Note: Some potatoes will absorb more milk than others, if the mixture looks a little dry, add a little more milk. Delicious served with fish.


This recipe can be varied a little by adding some chopped cooked smoked ham or rasher, or a little sautéed onion.


Rustic Roast Potatoes with Sweet Chilli Sauce & Sour Cream

All the rage in Oz.


Serves 4


1½lbs (680g) rustic roast potatoes (see recipe)

Sweet Chilli Sauce *

Sour cream


To Serve

When the rustic roast potatoes are crisp and golden.  Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.  Season with salt.

Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.


Note: Deep-fried cooked potato may be used instead.

Rustic Roast Potatoes

Serves 4-6


These are my children’s favourite kind of roast spuds. They particularly love all the crusty skin.


6 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 30-45 minutes depending on size.  Sprinkle with sea salt and serve in a hot terracotta dish.

Rustic Roast Potatoes with Garlic Cloves

18 garlic cloves


Proceed as above, add the garlic after the potatoes have been cooking for 10 – 15 minutes. Toss in the oil.  Keep an eye on the garlic cloves, they will probably be cooked before the potatoes, if so remove and keep warm in a serving dish.

Press the soft sweet garlic out of the skins and eat with the crispy potatoes




Sauté Potatoes with Rosemary



Sounds so easy but it is surprisingly difficult to do perfect sauté potatoes – the secret is to allow to brown well on one side before turning over


900g (2lbs) potatoes

extra virgin olive oil

fresh rosemary sprigs

pepper and salt


Boil the potatoes in their jackets until just cooked. Peel and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) slices. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, scatter in some fresh rosemary. Cook the slices of potato over a medium heat until golden on one side, then turn over and cook until golden on the other side. Drain on kitchen paper and season with a little salt and freshly ground pepper before serving. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary.


Sauté Potatoes with Sage Leaves

Substitute sage leaves for rosemary in the above recipe.


For garnish

Heat 2.5cm (1 inch) olive oil in a frying pan, deep fry sage leaves for a few seconds until crisp and frizzy, drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle over the sauté potatoes as garnish.


Potato Spring Onion Salad

Serves 4-6


900g (2lbs) freshly cooked potatoes – diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

lots of nasturtium leaves and red, orange and yellow nasturtium flowers (75-110g/3 – 4oz)


The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.


Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.



Hot Potato Salad


Serves 4-6


Serve with sausages, boiled bacon, hot terrine, hot spiced beef or pate. Can be accompanied by red cabbage.


Ingredients as for potato salad above plus the following:

2 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons chopped gherkins


Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Add the eggs cut in 5mm (1/4 inch) dice, gherkins and capers if used.



Piped Potato Salad


1 generous litre freshly mashed potato


Add French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives and mayonnaise to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish starter salad or hors d’oevures.


Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad


Serves 6 approximately


Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice


110ml (4fl oz) fruity extra virgin olive oil

2-4 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available

sea salt and pepper to taste


Coat potatoes in a good extra virgin oil while still warm. Season to taste. Sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves.  Garnish with lots of purple and mauve thyme flowers.

Twice Cooked Roasted Potatoes with Shallots and Thyme leaves

Serves 8-10

I love to cook potatoes and shallots (or baby onions) in the roasting tin after I’ve roasted a duck.  The fat and juices soak into the potato and shallots and give them a sublime flavour.


8-10 large potatoes cooked in their jackets in boiling salted water

24-30 shallots

Duck or goose fat or extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons thyme leaves



Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8.  If the potatoes are new season, there’s no need to peel them, otherwise remove the skin.  Cut into approximately 2cm (3/4 inches) thick slices.  Peel the shallots and cut in half if large.  Heat 3 or 4 tablespoons of duck or goose fat in 1 or 2 roasting tins.  (Alternatively use extra virgin olive oil.)  Put in the potato slices and shallots.  Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and thyme leaves.  Toss gently to coat in the duck or goose fat.  Roast for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven, turning regularly until the outsides are all crisp and golden.

Wild Foods

Wild foods have never been so much in vogue, they are all over restaurant menus and we love it…..

Foraging has virtually become a national sport, young and old are scurrying about in woodlands and along the hedgerows in search of nuts, berries and wild mushrooms. It’s been a fantastic year for fungi,  we got baskets and baskets of wild mushrooms, not just field mushrooms, but porcini, yellow legs, chanterelles and even a huge cauliflower mushroom proudly delivered by a particularly knowledgeable local forager. I’d never cooked one before so that was super exciting.

We used field mushrooms in every conceivable way, mushroom soup, mushrooms on toast, mushroom a la crème, mushroom risotto and we made mushroom ketchup for the first time in over a decade. Our farm around the Cookery School has been managed organically for over 20 years now and this year Mother Nature rewarded us with a bounty of field mushrooms. We couldn’t collect them fast enough, several of the fields were literally white with mushrooms.  we had such fun showing our grandchildren how to recognise and gather field mushrooms. For the first time in almost a decade the conditions were perfect – warm moist weather and chemical free fields.

There’s also a bumper crop of blackberries, not sure I’ve ever seen so many eager foragers scrabbling around in the brambles. Local children have been collecting the plump berries and we’re thrilled to buy them both for the Cookery School and the restaurant. There are a million delicious ways to use them. We all know that blackberry and Bramley apple is a winning combination on their own but add a few leaves of rose geranium and you have something sublime.

Earlier this year, 15 year old Simon Meehan from Ballincollig was declared Young Scientist of the Year for his discovery that blackberries contain a non-toxic, organic, original antibiotic which is effective in killing Staphylococcus aureus, a bug that infects humans and is increasingly resistant to antibiotic treatment especially when it comes in the form of the common hospital acquired infection MRSA. So gorge yourself on blackberries while they last, they also contain loads of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, magnesium and calcium.

My youngest grandchild Jago, (2 years old), can’t get enough of them, he’s like a kid in a candy shop gobbling them up like smarties off the blackberry bushes, ignoring the prickles in an effort to reach every last one.

Maria Walsh’s Blackberry Tincture

Blackberries are a rich source of antioxidants. Tinctures are easy and convenient to use.


recycle an old jam jar – 290ml

Three quarter fill the jar with  wild blackberries, picked on a dry day.

Cover the berries with alcohol – vodka or brandy. For a non-alcoholic version use apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar.

Place the tincture in a dark cupboard.  Shake the jar once a day and leave for 6-8 weeks.

When ready, one could take a teaspoon every day or add to water, jazz up cocktails or add to water kefir.


Wild Mushroom a la Crème on toast

Mushroom à la crème is a fantastic all-purpose recipe, and if you’ve got a surplus of wild mushrooms, use those instead of cultivated ones. You can even use dried mushrooms. Mushroom à la crème keeps well in the fridge for 4–5 days and freezes perfectly.



Serves 8


50g (2oz) butter

175g (6oz) onion, finely chopped

450g (1lb) wild mushrooms (chanterelles, morels, ceps, false chanterelles or the common field mushroom), sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

good squeeze of lemon juice

225ml (8fl oz) cream

freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives (optional)



Melt half the butter in a heavy saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat over 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 the remaining butter, 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 the chopped herbs.


Toast or pan-grill the bread and pile the hot creamy mushroom mixture on top.

Enjoy immediately.



Grandpoppy’s Mushroom Ketchup


It only makes sense to make mushroom ketchup on the rare years when there’s a glut of wild mushrooms in the fields. This is becoming less and less common because of the level of pesticides used in conventional farming. Occasionally, though, when the weather at the end of the summer is warm and humid as it was this year, we get a flush of mushrooms, and we can’t bear to waste any of them. make a supply of mushroom ketchup, which keeps for years. You can dash it into game, beef, lamb and chicken stews and casseroles, shepherd’s pie, or just use it as you would soy sauce.


as many wild field mushrooms as you can gather



For each 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup, use:

10g (1⁄2oz) whole peppercorns

7g (1⁄2oz) whole ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon mace

50ml (2fl oz) whiskey or, if you prefer, omit the whiskey and add 1 tablespoon of best brandy to each bottle before sealing


Put the mushrooms into a large basin. Sprinkle salt between each layer to extract juice. Steep for 24 hours, occasionally stirring and breaking the mushrooms. Allow to stand for a further 12 hours to settle the sediment.


Pour into another vessel, leaving behind the sediment. Measure, strain and to every 1.2 litres (2 pints) of ketchup add the above ingredients. Bottle and seal.


Mushroom ketchup keeps for years: I have some that is over 5 years old and is still perfect. The steeped mushrooms themselves can be composted or fed to the hens.



Wild Mushroom and Thyme Leaf Tart


Serves 6


A really flavoursome tart, one of the few that tastes super warm or cold. Use cream! Both the flavour and texture are quite different if you substitute milk. Flat cultivated mushrooms also work well when field mushrooms are not available


Rich Shortcrust Pastry

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50-75g (2-3oz) butter

water to bind or a mixture of water and beaten egg


225g (8oz) wild mushrooms, flats if possible

15g (½ oz) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

225ml (8fl oz) cream

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, free range if possible

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese or preferably Parmigiano Reggiano

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

a good pinch of cayenne


1 x 7 inch (18cm) flan ring or tin with pop up base (low sided)


Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way.


Sieve the flour, 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. Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. 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 it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather 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 crispier shorter crust.


Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.


Allow to rest, line the flan ring and bake blind for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile chop the mushrooms finely, melt the butter, add the oil and fry the mushrooms on a very high heat. Add thyme leaves and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until all the juice has evaporated and then allow to cool.


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.


Whisk the cream in a bowl with the eggs and the extra egg yolk, stir in the cool mushrooms and the Parmesan cheese. Taste, add the pinch of cayenne and more seasoning if necessary. Pour into the pre-baked pastry case.


Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set and the top delicately brown.


Serve with a good green salad


Note: Tiny mushroom quiches may be served straight from the oven as appetisers before dinner or for a drinks party.




Apple, Sloe and Sweet Geranium Jelly


This apple jelly recipe is the most brilliant mother recipe to add all sorts of flavours. If you have lots of sloes increase the quantity to half apples and sloes. Serve on scones, with game, pork, duck or guinea fowl.


Makes 6-7 pots


2.2kg crab apples or Bramley Seedlings

450g sloes

2.7 litres water

6-8 large sweet geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens)

plus extra as needed.

2 lemons, unwaxed organic



Wash the apples and cut into quarters, no need to peel or core.  Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts.   Put the apples in a large saucepan with the sloes and geranium leaves, the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until the apples and sloes dissolve into a ‘mush’, approx. 2 hours.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight.  Measure the juice into a preserving pan, allow 450g sugar to each 600ml of juice.   Heat the sugar in a moderate oven 180C/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan, add a few more geranium leaves if the flavour is still very mild.   Bring to the boil and add the sugar.   Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.   Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.  Remove the geranium leaves.   Skim, test and then pour the jelly into sterilized jars, put a sweet geranium leaf in each jar.  Cover and seal immediately.




Blackberry and Lime Scones


For lime scones, just roll out the dough to 1 inch (2.5cm) thick and stamp or cut into scones and dip the egg – washed tops in lime sugar.


Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (71/2 cm) cutter


2lb (900g) plain white flour

6oz (175g) butter

pinch of salt

2oz (50g) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

15fl oz (450ml/) approx. full cream milk to mix (not low fat milk)


egg wash


Lime Sugar

2oz (50g) granulated or Demerara sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon lime zest for the top of scones


Lime Butter

150g (5oz) butter

250g (9oz) pale brown sugar

2 teaspoons lime zest


Preheat the oven 250ºC/475ºF/Gas Mark 9.


First make the Lime Butter.

Cream the butter, sugar and lime zest together and beat until light and fluffy.


Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.


Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre.  With the fingers of your ‘best

hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.  Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a rectangle about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick.


Spread the soft lime butter over the surface. Roll up lengthwise and cut into pieces about 2 inches (5cm) thick.


Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in lime sugar.  Put onto a baking sheet fairly close together.


Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.


Egg Wash

Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them brown in the oven.




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

Past Letters