Chinese New Year

All over the world Chinese communities are ramping up to celebrate Chinese New Year which begins today – Saturday January 28th and lasts until February 15th 2018.

This is the Year of the Rooster – the date changes every year because it is connected to the lunisolar Chinese calendar.
Each New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese Zodiac. The latter is divided into 12 blocks or houses but each lasts a year rather than a month. People who are born in the year of the Rooster are said to be honest, energetic, intelligent, resourceful, flamboyant, flexible, diverse and confident, contagious, charming….

Huge colourful noisy parades with traditional lion dances, bell ringing, fireworks, music….. take place all over the world and the celebrations last for at least two full weeks.
Traditionally, it’s a very special time of the year for Chinese families.

On New Year’s Eve they gather together all over the world for a reunion dinner and ‘spring clean’ their houses to sweep away bad fortune for the coming years. Lots of presents, for everyone traditionally children would be given red envelopes stuffed with ‘lucky money’ and positive good wishes on New Year’s Day. You’ll be amused to hear that nowadays they are more likely to have a red envelope app so their relatives can transfer money digitally….

There are many superstitions and customs associated with New Year, several associated with food. An empty rice jar is considered to be a bad omen for the coming year. Porridge should not be eaten for breakfast on Chinese New Year Day – it’s considered to be the food of the poor and doesn’t bode well for the future either.

As with all celebrations, food is an integral part of Chinese New Year. There are many simple recipes that can be made at home some in minutes with easily available ingredients. But, I absolutely love to visit the Chinese shops and supermarkets in many of our cities. In Dublin one my favourites is the Asia Market in Drury Street which has recently had a makeover. I’m intrigued with the many ‘strange’ ingredients that I’m unfamiliar with and bombard the always busy staff with questions about what to do with’ this and that’ and always leave the shop with bags full of beautiful fresh vegetables, tropical fruit and lots of jars and bottles of exotic sounding ingredients to experiment with.

They’ve also got quite a range of Chinese porcelain, bamboo steamers, clay pots and cool utensils. In Cork there are several tempting Chinese shops that I also enjoy rummaging in, like Jia Jia Market on Cornmarket Street and Asian Foods on North Main Street.

If you were born in the Year of the Rooster your lucky numbers are 5, 7, 8, lucky colours brown, gold and yellow, lucky flowers gladiola and cockscomb and lucky direction south, southwest.
So now you know, let’s all celebrate together and Happy New Year of the Rooster. Here are some more of my favourite Chinese recipes.

Masterclass in Wild Fowl with Slow Food Galway
On Sunday February 5th 2017, at the Cáit Curran Síol Centre, Moycullen, Eoin Warner will give a short talk and slide show as well as bringing a selection of wild birds. There will be hands on experience in plucking and preparing the wild fowl, followed by lunch of game casserole and other dishes.
Phone Kate 087 931 2333 or for further information.

Top Favourite Utensils
Chinese Steamer – no house should be without a Chinese bamboo steamer. They have two or three tiers and cost tuppence halfpenny! Even if you never cook a dumpling, steam a fish or a boa bun in your life they are brilliant for steaming vegetables or even potatoes and look chic on the table to serve poppadums, bread or floury steamed potatoes.
Available in several sizes from Asian shops.

Pizza, Calzone, Panzerotti, Piadina…..
Sadly, this wonderful dish has had its reputation besmirched by fast and frozen food manufacturers. However, in the space of a single morning (including a pizza-orientated light lunch) you will learn how to prepare indescribably delicious, melt-in-the-mouth pizza! We shall cover everything from different sorts of pizza bases to innovative toppings, how to cook first class pizza in a domestic oven or a wood burning oven to the importance of using the right olive oil. Plus, we will look at all the other exciting things you can make with the same dough including a Calzone, Piadini, Sfinciuni, Foccacia with Maldon Sea Salt and Rosemary, Carta Musica as well as Dough balls with garlic butter. Friday February 17th, 2017

Stevie Parle’s Chinese Lettuce Cups

A past pupil of the Ballymaloe Cookery School who has recently opened his fifth restaurant Palatino in London

A great starter or canapé

Serves 4-6

50g/2oz of vermicelli noodles
Vegetable oil
½ red onion, chopped
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
½ small bunch of coriander, roots chopped and leaves separated
A thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
350g/12oz pork mince
½ teaspoon of crushed white pepper
2 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon soy
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 castelfranco or soft lettuce, separated into leaves
3 spring onions, shredded
2 handfuls of peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Bring a pan of water to the boil, pour over the vermicelli and leave to soak for five minutes. Pour into a sieve and rinse under cold water. Chop into small lengths and put to one side.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the onion, chilli, coriander roots, ginger and garlic and stir fry until softened. Remove from the pan, then add another small splash of oil to the pan and turn up the heat.

Lightly season the pork, then add to the hot pan and fry for a few minutes until cooked through. Return the ginger, etc, to the pan and add the noodles, white pepper, hoisin, soy, sugar, vinegar and sesame oil.
Cook for another minute, then take off the heat and stir in the coriander leaves. Check the seasoning and adjust to suit your tastes. Place a heaped tablespoonful into the centre of each lettuce leaf, then top with the spring onions and peanuts.

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Cold Chicken with a Spicy Sichuanese Sauce

Serves 2-4

About 3/4 lb (300–350g) cold, cooked chicken, without bones
3 spring onions
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

For the Sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinkiang (brown rice) vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon chicken stock
3–4 tablespoons chilli oil with 1/2 tablespoon of its sediment (or more, if you wish)
1/4–1/2 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Cut or tear the chicken as evenly as possible into bite-sized strips or slivers and place them in a deep bowl. Cut the spring onions at a steep angle into thin slices. Mix them and the salt with the chicken.
If using sesame seeds, toast them gently in a dry wok or frying pan for a few minutes, until they are fragrant and starting to turn golden, then tip out into a small dish.
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
When you are ready to eat, pour the sauce over the chicken, and mix well with chopsticks or salad servers. Arrange on a serving dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

Taken from Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking, by Fuchsia Dunlop

Kenneth Lo’s Egg Fried Rice

Simple as it is, this is a satisfying dish to eat even with only a very limited amount of accompaniments, such as some chopped pickles, or just a tablespoon or two of soy sauce.
Serves 2-3, with at least one other dish

1 onion
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 spring onions
3½ tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ bowls of cooked rice, cold
Slice and coarsely chop the onion. Break the eggs into a cup, add the salt and beat with a fork for 10 seconds. Clean and cut the spring onions into fine shavings.
Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot, add the chopped onions and stir fry in the hot oil for 45 seconds. Pour the salted beaten egg into one side of the pan or wok, and add the rice on the other side. When the eggs are about to set, scramble them, then bring them over and mix evenly with the rice which is being stir-fried in the same pan. Sprinkle the contents with half the spring onion shavings. Turn and stir the ingredients together.
Serve by transferring the contents into a large serving bowl or into individual bowls, and sprinkle the top of the fried rice with the remainder of the spring onion shavings.

From New Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Kenneth Lo

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Fish Fragrant Aubergines

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

600 g aubergines
cooking oil for deep-frying (400ml will do if you are using a round-bottomed wok)
1½ tablespoons Sichuanese chilli bean pastep, or Sichuan pickled chilli paste, or a mixture of the two
1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
150 ml stock
2 teaspoons caster sugar
¾ teaspoon potato flour, mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 tablespoons spring onion greens, finely sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into three thick slices, then cut these into evenly sized batons. Sprinkle them with salt, mix well and leave in a colander for at least 30 minutes to drain.
In a wok, heat the oil for deep-frying to 180C. Add the aubergines in batches and deep-fry for 3-4 minutes until slightly golden on the outside and soft and buttery within. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Drain off the deep-frying oil, rinse the wok if necessary, then return it to a medium flame. When the wok is hot again, add 3 tablespoons of oil. Add the chilli bean paste and stir fry until the oil is red and fragrant, then add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir fry until you can smell their aromas. Take care not to burn these seasonings; remove the wok from the heat for a few seconds if necessary to control the temperature (you want a gentle, coaxing sizzle, not a scorching heat).
Add the stock and sugar and mix well. Season with salt to taste if necessary. Add the fried aubergines to the sauce and let them simmer gently for a minute or so to absorb some of the flavours. Then stir the potato flour mixture, pour it over the aubergines and stir in gently to thicken the sauce. Add the vinegar and spring onions and stir a few times, then serve.

From Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop

Fuchsia Dunlop’s Beef with Cumin

You may use prime steak if you wish, but I usually make do with braising steak.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as part of a Chinese meal

340 g beefsteak, trimmed
400 ml groundnut oil, for frying
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, seeds and stalks discarded and finely chopped
2-4 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
For the marinade
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato flour
1 tablespoon water

Cut the beef across the grain into thin slices, ideally 4 x 3 cm. Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.
Heat the groundnut oil to about 140C. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, remove them from the oil and drain well; set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the oil. Over a high flame, add the ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, chilli flakes and cumin and stir fry briefly until fragrant. Return the beef to the wok and stir well, seasoning with salt to taste.
When all the ingredients are sizzlingly fragrant and delicious, add the spring onions and toss briefly. Remove from the heat, stir in the sesame oil and serve.

From Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

New Food Trends

What will we be eating in 2017?

Well for most of us it will probably be more of the same but my top tip for what it’s worth is – eat a wide variety of real food and no food products – real food are not the same as food products. We need lots of bio diversity to feed and nourish our gut biome – the health of our gut flora has a phenomenal impact on both our mental and physical health.
When I say real, I mean unprocessed, unpasteurised organic, chemical free, vegetables directly from our garden or from a real farmer or gardener in your local Farmers or Country Market. Today I want to give a glimpse into trends and the food scene for 2017.

There is a significant rise in the number of part time vegetarians – people who are reducing their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns. The rise and rise of vegan diets continues to confound the sceptics…..

Free from…..everything…..
Continues to gain market share even among those who do not have allergies or intolerances – the perception is its healthier – this epidemic of faddism is dangerous for our health, the more we removed from our diet the less diversity we have in our systems.

Sports Nutrition is moving main stream, energy balls, power drinks…. The virtuous triangle of great food, exercise and great sleep rings true. Bone Broths are huge. Turmeric, climbs and climbs, it contains, curcumin, a super healthy compound, you see it in health sports drinks as well as food. Flavoured waters are exploding. Watermelon water is set to take over from coconut water in 2017. Kombucha, water and milk kefir and raw organic jersey milk and cream are virtually mainstream but there are increasingly bizarre flavours, birch water, cactus water and then there are drinkable meals and regional cocktails.

Less Processed Food
Consumer demand for less processed foods is forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients and to reduce sugar and salt in their products. What was formerly alternative is moving towards main stream.

Rise and Rise of Online Shopping
Traffic chaos in towns and cities is fuelling the phenomenal increase in online shopping and home deliveries.

Organic, Antibiotic Free, Hormone Free, GM Free….
Demand is steadily rising as consumers become more aware and educated through the internet, media, films and Utube. Healthy Kids Meals is attracting a huge R & D budget as the obesity challenge deepens.

The Home Delivery Revolution – Meal Kits
Technology continues to play a greater role. Home delivery is well established in most major cities. The trend for ‘dining in’ instead of ‘dining out’ is beginning to cause concern to restaurateurs.
Meal Kits with all the ingredients prepped in a box complete with step by step instructions for how to finish the dish at home ticks all the boxes for busy commuters and parents who want the convenience and feel good factor without the hassle and waste. What’s not to like about that…. Drones may soon be delivering our meal kits and takeaway food….. Both Google and Virginia Tech are trialling this in the US.

Chefs getting more involved with farmers….
Either buying or renting land themselves or partnering with farmers so they can use what freshest and best in season and have the option to use all parts of the plant or animal. Artisan Butchery – house made charcuterie; chefs are using more unsung cuts of meat and experimenting with grass fed jerky, seafood jerky, pickles, artisan condiments Fermented foods will get even bigger.
Fine dining continues to lose out to casual neighbourhood places doing edgy reasonably priced food.

Clean labels
In response to growing consumer unease, food manufactures are scrambling to produce simpler products with fewer more natural sounding ingredients and greater transparency. The clean food frenzy is also running out of puff and credibility. Low fat, carbohydrates and sugar rich foods are the villains of 2016 and 2017.

Plant Proteins
Perhaps the strongest food trend of all, not just vegetables but also expect to see more and more fungi and algae. (low cal, high in nutrients). Yoghurt with vegetables of course
Brussel Sprouts are having their moment; move over kale, beets are all the rage – the flavour of 2017. Kaleina, a mini version of kale and swede turnip chips are already with us. Meat and fish substitutes abound. A veggie burger that bleeds launched in 2016 is only the beginning. The term ‘plant butcher’ has already been coined according to the sustainable food focused media.

Insect Protein
Bugs will be the next big thing in protein. I’ve seen this coming for a number of years now; I’ve eaten ants in Copenhagen. Grasshoppers in Mexico and Tarantulas in Loas but despite the convincing nutritional arguments I can’t see it coming ‘main stream’ in this decade.

The sous wide craze is waning at last (cooking food in a plastic bag in a temperature controlled water bath). Have to say, I was never convinced and am so delighted to see this particular practice slipping out of favour in favour of cooking over fire.

Cooking over Fire
We can’t get enough of charred, blackened, torched and smoked food not just fish but meat, vegetables, drinks, even cordials and cocktails……

Is the new juicing….did wonder about that craze, surprise, surprise! turns out that soup contains the fibre, seeds, rind and pulp that juicing often discards.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest……our appetite for heat continues, chillies and ever hotter sauces, Sri Racha is now virtually looked on as a sauce for wimps but we are also loving and having fun with Shichimi ogarashi from Japan. Sweet and spicy, Gochujang from Korea, Sambal Oelek from Indonesia, Harrissa from North Africa, Tsire, a spice mixture from West Africa, Zhoug a Yemeni green chilli sauce and spicy Berbere from Ethiopia….

Heirloom varieties beyond Tomatoes, Apples and Potatoes…
Ancient grains, chilies and pulses, Kamut, Einkorn, Teff from Ethopia, Amaranth the ancient grain of the Aztec, Sorghum is the new quinoa. Sorghum is an ancient cereal grain and is used for food, fodder and the production of alcoholic beverages. It is regarded as the fifth most important cereal crop grown in the world. Some of the health benefits of sorghum include its ability to prevent certain types of cancer, help control diabetes, improve digestive health. And who knew that porridge would become so cool, we’ll see porridge served at breakfast, lunch and any time in between with sweet and savoury toppings.

Food Trucks and Shacks
Street inspired foods – authentic ethnic both in cafés, restaurants and in food truck, pierogi, boa buns, multi ethnic dumplings, Japanese crepes – Okonomi yaki.
Sprouting Seeds (I remember that well) is predicted to be another strong food trend. Not just seeds but nuts, beans and grains. This hugely increases the nutritional value and creates enzymes that make plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches and vitamins more available to the body.

Bowl Food, another hot trend. We love serving food in bowls everything from ramen to noodles, pasta, curries, conghee, tagines, rendang….. Check out Bowls of Goodness by Nina Olsson published by Kyle Books

Build your own Pizza
Pizzerias are inviting customers to build their own pizza from a range of toppings laid out like a salad bar. Can certainly see the appeal of this….

Quest for less Familiar Flavours
Expect to see more Eastern European food, Georgian, Middle Eastern, African flavours particularly Ethiopian….Poke pronounced po-kay is sweeping across the US, cubed fish or shellfish often yellow fin tuna or octopus with soy sauce, cucumber, spring onions, sesame oil served over rice. The taco craze continues unabated for 2017.
So there you have it and a few of the hot trends for 2017 but there’s much much more….

Hot Tips
Ballymaloe Good Living Day and Ballymaloe Relish 5k Lucky Run
Join us for a day- long event devoted to wellness of mind, body and spirit. The objective of the Ballymaloe Good Living Day is for visitors to learn at least one new life enhancing ide or thought to carry through 2017 and beyond. Don’t miss many inspiring talks – Communicating the Sugar Message, Life Begins in the Garden, Mindfulness and Stress Management, Change your Food, Change your Life with myself at 11am….

Saturday Pizza Masterclass
Imagine, the perfect pizza. Its base is made from a delicious sourdough with a thin bottom and a crunchy crust. Its topping is homemade tomato sauce, the freshest buffalo mozzarella and a few leaves of basil or perhaps wild mushrooms, chorizo and homemade goat’s cheese, shrimps from Ballycotton, local smoked salmon or maybe even fresh broccoli from the garden. This three-hour masterclass will take you through all the basics (choosing ingredients, making dough, getting the best results from your oven) before explaining how to create both traditional and contemporary pizzas. We’re talking everything from the classics (Margherita, Pepperoni and Calzone) to modern gourmet masterpieces – think Shrimp with watercress and dill-mayo and Homemade Cottage Cheese with mint, caramelized red onion and salsa verde!
Friday February 10th 2017 from 2.30-5pm.

Nina Olsson’s Bowl of Miso Happy Soup

Miso soup with ginger, tofu, soba noodles and shiitake mushrooms

This easy-to-make soup is the perfect, light comfort food all year around. Miso is a big deal in Japan where it’s a staple of daily life. The uses for it are endless and its rich flavour makes it a great addition to any kitchen. Miso paste is made from fermented soya beans and is available in different varieties – lighter miso is milder in taste and has been fermented for less time than the darker variety.
Miso soup is popular for fasting and weight loss as it contains very few calories. It’s also a perfect restorative soup when you want to recharge with something light. This recipe delivers the lightness of miso soup while adding a little extra texture and flavour.

Serves 4

Dashi (Makes 1 litre)
1 strip of kombu seaweed
1 litre water

Miso Soup
250g soba noodles
drizzle of rapeseed oil
75g shiitake mushrooms
150g firm tofu, cut into small cubes
few pinches of shichimi togarashi or chilli flakes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons shoyu
75g broccolini or broccoli florets
75g miso paste (I use white or yellow)
1 tablespoon lime juice
drizzle of sesame oil

Toppings (Optional)
cucumber, cut in thin sticks
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
handful of sesame seeds
handful of fresh herbs (chives or coriander fit perfectly)

To make the dashi, soak the kombu in the water overnight in the fridge, or for a minimum of 1 hour. Transfer to a large saucepan, bring to a simmer then remove the kombu. Strain the liquid through a sieve and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Cook the soba noodles according to the packet instructions. Rinse in cold water and drain.

Heat a frying pan over a medium–high heat and add a drizzle of rapeseed oil. Stir-fry the shiitake mushrooms over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes then remove from the pan. Clean the pan and add another drizzle of rapeseed oil, then stir-fry the tofu cubes until golden and sprinkle with salt and a little shichimi togarashi. Remove from the heat.

Bring the dashi to the boil in a soup pot, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Add the ginger, shoyu, mushrooms and broccolini and simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Separate 200ml of the dashi broth and dissolve the miso in it. Pour the concentrated miso dashi back into the pot with the rest of the dashi and add the lime juice and sesame oil. Taste and adjust the flavour with additional miso paste, if needed.

Pour the miso soup into four bowls then add the tofu cubes and soba noodles. Top with cucumber, spring onions and sesame seeds, chives
or coriander.

Taken from Nina Olsson’s Bowls of Goodness

Butchine’s Buttermilk Chicken Bun

Serves 6

350 ml buttermilk
500 g chicken thighs, boneless (6 pieces)
Oil for frying or beef dripping
100 g plain white flour
1 teaspoon oregano or marjoram
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix the buttermilk and chicken in a bowl. Cover and allow to marinade for at least 2 hours, better still overnight.
When ready to cook:- heat the oil in a deep fry to 175C. mix the flour, oregano, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, sea salt, freshly ground pepper in a shallow dish. Remove the chicken pieces one at a time, shake off excess buttermilk. Quickly coat in seasoned flour. Fry in the oil until fully cooked through and golden brown 10-12 minutes.
Meanwhile, split a bun, spread a good dollop of guacamole and a leaf of lettuce on the side and some chipotle mayonnaise on the other, some shredded lettuce plus a crisp streaky rasher on the other.
When the chicken is cooked through, drain on kitchen paper. Lay on top of the bacon and top with the other bun. Press together and enjoy right away.

Mackerel Poke

Pronounced poh-kay – this is a Hawaiian version of sashimi or ceviche. It would be made with really fresh raw tuna, raw mackerel is also delicious.

Serves 8

Sushi Rice

450g (1lb) sushi rice ‘No 1 Extra Fancy’
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

Vinegar Water
50ml (2fl oz/1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 1/2 American tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
juice of 2 limes

4 super fresh mackerel – 8 fillets or 800g (1 3/4lbs) tuna cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
1 small cucumber, diced
2 avocados, roughly cubed

8 spring onions, sliced at an angle
toasted sesame seeds, black and white
4 sheets of nori seaweed, snipped into strips
fresh coriander leaves

First cook the sushi rice. Rinse the rice for 10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint/2 1/2 cups) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes. In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off. Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Next make the vinegar water. Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved. Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden). While the rice is still hot pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon. Don’t stir. You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan. This is much easier if you have a helper. Allow to cool on the plate and cover with kitchen paper or a tea towel. (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Scoop out into a timber or flat plate. Sprinkle with rice vinegar, toss and allow to cool.

Whisk the sesame oil, mirin, soy sauce, lime juice in a bowl. Add the diced mackerel or tuna. Toss in the dressing. Add the diced cucumber and cubed avocado. Toss gently.

Divide the rice between shallow bowls (or boxes for street food). Fill with the mackerel mixture. Sprinkle with spring onions, sesame seeds, some nori seaweed shards and garnish with coriander leaves. Drizzle any remaining dressing over the top and serve right away.

Agnes’ Pierogi and Uszka

Pierogi and Uszka are plump little Russian dumplings with delicious fillings. Pierogi are larger than Uszka. Serve with some cream.

Serves 5 approx. Makes approx 25 pierogi or 30-35 uszka.

300g strong white flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon oil
Approx.300ml water

First make the dough: Sieve the flour into a bowl, add salt. Boil the water. Let it cool down a little. Mix egg yolk into the flour. Add oil to the hot water and pour into the flour. Mix to a dough. Cover and leave to rest for 15mins. Meanwhile make the filling of your choice.
Potato and cheese filling:

50g grated onion
50g butter
450g cold mashed potatoes (750g whole potatoes)
225g cream cheese or more
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes in salted water, peel and mash, add salt, freshly ground pepper and 25g butter.
Cook the onion in the remaining 25g butter until pale golden for 8-10 minutes. Combine with the potatoes and cheese. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Meat filling (left over roast meat is ideal)

250g chicken, lamb or pork, chopped
225g onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

To make the meat filling: Cook the meat until tender. Chop the onion and garlic finely. Cook uncovered in olive oil until just coloured. Whizz the meat in a food processor, add the onion, season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, mix well.

Mushroom and Cabbage stuffing
1 x 500g jar sauerkraut, one can also use fresh white cabbage, thinly shredded
50g dried mushroom (use porcini or shiitake mushrooms), chopped
225g onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Next make the dried mushroom filling: Soak the mushrooms in cold water for a few hours before cooking. Chop the cabbage finely. Rinse and cook in until almost tender. Cook the mushroom in one tablespoon olive oil until tender. Chop the onion and sweat in olive oil until golden. Drain the mushroom and chop finely. Mix mushroom, cabbage and onion together, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Caramelized Onions
450g onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

First start the caramelized onions because they take a long time to cook, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, toss in the onions and cook over a low heat for whatever length of time it takes for the onions to soften and caramelize to a golden brown, 30-45 minutes.

To make the pierogi: Roll dough to a thickness of 5mm, stamp out circles with a glass or scone cutter (6 cm). Use a smaller cutter for uszka. Put a teaspoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle and seal the edges to make crescents or half moon shapes.

To cook the pierogi: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, cook the pierogi or uszka for few minutes till tender. (They will rise to the top of the saucepan when cooked through – 7 mins.) Melt some butter in a pan and fry pierogi until golden on the both sides.

Serve with a blob of crème fraiche and caramelized onion rings on top.

Trine Hahnemann’s Winter Apple Layer Cake

Danes have a special love for layer cakes, especially homemade ones; there are a lot of family recipes! These crisp layers are a classic Danish way to make the layer cake at home, and I always make this in winter. The cream for this is partly inspired by my favourite Danish author Karen Blixen – she has described the cake as part of her dinner party repertoire.


For the apple sauce
600g/1lb 5oz Bramley apples
40g/¼ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
For the layers
175g/¾ cup minus 1 tsp soft butter
175g/¾ cup caster (granulated) sugar
1 egg
175g/1⅓ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
For the cream
100g/3½oz hazelnuts
400ml/generous 1½ cups double (heavy) cream
100ml/scant ½ cup single (light) cream
2 tsp icing (confectioners’) sugar

Peel and dice the apples and put them into a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Let them simmer for 15–20 minutes until you have a smooth sauce. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Draw a 20-cm/8-in circle using a pencil on 7 sheets of baking parchment. Turn these over and arrange on as many baking sheets as necessary to fit (you may have to bake these in batches).
Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Mix the flour and spices together and fold into the creamed mixture. Using a spatula, spread the mixture as evenly as possible inside each visible circle on the pieces of baking parchment.
Bake in the oven, in batches if necessary, for 6–8 minutes or until the edges start to take on some colour. Set aside to cool on the sheets of baking parchment on a wire rack.
While the layers are cooling, roast the hazelnuts. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, then wrap them in a clean tea towel and give them a good rub, so the skins come off. Roughly chop them.
Whip both creams together with the icing (confectioners’) sugar and stir in two-thirds of the chopped hazelnuts.
Assemble the cake just before serving, and no sooner as it goes soft very quickly. Place a crisp layer on a serving plate and add some apple sauce, then add another crisp layer, then some cream. Repeat this layer pattern twice, then add the last crisp layer and some apple sauce on top. Sprinkle the remaining chopped hazelnuts on top and serve right away.
Taken from Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann (Quadrille, £25)
Photography by Columbus Leth

Watermelon Lemonade

4 ozs (110 g/½ cup) sugar
4 fl oz (110 ml/½ cup) water
600 g (20 ozs/4 cups) cubed watermelon
675 ml (24 fl ozs/3 cups) cold water
110 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) fresh lemon juice

Place the watermelon into a blender. Cover and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Next bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cold water and lemon juice. Put lots of ice cubes into 12 glasses, scoop 2 or 3 tablespoons of watermelon puree over the ice, then top with the lemonade. Gently stir before serving.

Tribute to Veronica Steele

This week’s column was to be about Food Trends for 2017 but as I penned the first few paragraphs the sad news of the passing of Veronica Steele’s, the matriarch of the Irish cheesemakers, passing came through and stopped me in my tracks. So instead, I want to write a little tribute to an extraordinary woman who has touched so many of our lives and whose legacy will continue to remind us of this, bright, beautiful, charismatic, self-deprecating character who unwittingly started the artisan food movement in Ireland.
I can’t begin to improve on this wonderfully description of how it all began in Veronica’s own words on the Milleens website (
“The origin of the initial concept is fading in the mists of time. Hunger and shame. There was nothing to eat: nothing interesting. The old shop in Castletownbere with its saucepans and shovels and Goulding’s Manures clock wagging away the time, and smoked hams hanging from hooks in the ceiling and huge truckles of cheddar on the wooden counter with their mouldy bandages the crumbs of the cheese strewn around, scrumptious, tempting, melt-in-the-mouth crumbs which you could nibble at as you queued to be served, with your message list. And then she would cut a fine big chunk, golden or white and what I missed the most is the way it crumbled. So they closed it and gutted it and extended it and re-opened it. Enter the trolley. Spotless, sterile, pre-packed portions sweating in their plastic. Tidy piles. Electronic scales. Keep moving. Don’t block the aisles. No idle chatter. Big brother is watching you. Don’t ask for credit. Oh Boy!
And then one day in a different shop that jolly French pair of geriatrics asking for the local cheese and being given Calvita.
And then we bought a farm and a cow. Her name was Brisket and she only had one horn. She lost the other one gadding down a hill. tail-waving, full of the joys of Spring. Her brakes must have failed. We had to put Stockholm tar on the hole right through the hot Summer. And all the milk she had. At least three gallons a day. Wonder of wonders and what to do with it all. And then remembering those marvelous cheddars. So for two years I made cheddars. They were never as good as the ones in Castletownbere had been but they were infinitely better than the sweaty vac-packed bits.
Very little control at first but each failed batch spurred me on to achieve, I was hooked. Once I had four little cheddars on a sunny windowsill outside, airing themselves and Prince, the dog, stole them and buried them in the garden. They were nasty and sour and over salted anyway. Those were the days.
So one day Norman said, ‘Why don;t you try making a soft cheese for a change’. So I did. It was a quare hawk alright. Wild, weird, and wonderful. Never to be repeated. You can never step twice into the same stream. Now while this was all going on we had a mighty vegetable garden full of fresh spinach and courgette’s and french beans, and little peas, and all the sorts of things you couldn’t buy in a shop for love or money. And we would sell the superfluity to a friend who was a chef in a restaurant and took great pains with her ingredients. She would badger the fishermen for the pick of their catch and come on a Monday morning with her sacks to root through our treasure house of a garden for the freshest and the bestest. Now I was no mean cook myself and would have ready each Monday for her batches of yogurt, plain and choc-nut, quiches, game pies (Made with hare and cream – beautiful), pork pies, all adorned with pastry leaves and rosettes as light and delicious as you can imagine, and fish pies, and, my specialty, gateau St Honore – those were the days.
So there was this soft cheese beginning to run. We wrapped up about twelve ounces of it and away it went with the vegetables and the pies and all the other good things to Sneem and the Blue Bull restaurant where it made its debut. Not just any old debut, because, as luck would have it, guess who was having dinner there that very same night? Attracted no doubt by Annie’s growing reputation and being a pal of the manager’s, Declan Ryan of the Arbutus Lodge Hotel in Cork had ventured forth to sample the delights of Sneem and the greatest delight of them all just happened to be our humble cheese . The first, the one and only, Irish Farmhouse Cheese. At last, the real thing after so long. Rumor has it that there was a full eclipse of the Sun and earth tremors when the first Milleens was presented on an Irish cheese board.
The product had now been tested and launched. Its performance, post launch left nothing to be desired. The very next night Ms Myrtle Allen, accompanied no doubt by other family members, of Ballymaloe House, similarly engaged in testing the waters of Sneem, polished off the last sliver of the wonderful new cheese and was impressed by its greatness. And then began the second phase of research and development. Improvement.
For eight years, this was written in 1986, now we have devoted our energies to the continued improvement and development of Milleens cheese, and show no intention of stopping. The changes in the product have been gradual and subtle and in line with increases in production which are always kept in line with the growth in demand.
As the product developed so too has the packaging which is both simple and highly sophisticated. As Milleens must travel by both post and refrigerated transport a package had to be strong enough for the rigors of the postal system yet with sufficient ventilation to avail of the benefits of refrigeration where available. Our strong wooden boxes met these requirements. It was also thought necessary that the box serve as an attractive display for the cheese ensuring that the name Milleens was displayed prominently, and differentiating it from other products. It has been most successful in this area too and customers invariably display the cheese in the box. Very clever altogether. The boxes are made and stenciled here in our workshop by ourselves and members of the staff. Apart from growing and felling the timber all the phases of their manufacture take place at Milleens. They compare most favorably in price with any box on the market.
When Milleens was first made we knew enough about cheese making to write a slim volume, vast quantities of knowledge have since been ingested form all available sources form Scientific American to the Journals of Dairy Science and pamphlets from New Zealand on Bacteriophage. Grist to the mill. Making Milleens is no longer a slap-happy matter but has become a carefully controlled scientific process. thermometers have replaced elbows. Acidometers play their part now. But most of all milk quality is carefully monitored. Starters have long been recognized to have a most important influence on cheese flavor and quality, and are as well looked after as the crown jewels and to better effect.”

Oh, to be able to write so evocatively – I too remember when Annie Goulding at the Blue Bull in Sneem gave me a taste of her ‘friend over the hills’ cheese in the early 1980’s. At the time, as Veronica said we were a nation of Calvita eaters and one can but imagine the excitement when we discovered this feisty flavourful cheese that tasted of that place and tasted of Ireland. A new cheese was born – the beginning of a new era that has totally changed the image of Irish food both at home and abroad and has us bursting with pride.
Veronica had a vision for Ireland – farmhouse cheesemakers in parishes all over the country making cheese from their rich milk of their pasture fed cows. As she continued to experiment herself, she generously shared her knowledge, and encouraged so many others to get started. Jeffa Gill of Durrus, Giana Ferguson of Gubbeen, Mary Burns of Ardrahan and a whole host of others lovingly acknowledge Veronica’s influence. We visited Milleens many times and brought students and dignatories from all over the world to meet Veronica and her equally charismatic husband Norman. Always an open door, always a warm welcome. Nowadays their son Quinlan, the next generation, continues to make Milleens and build on his parents work.
And here at Ballymaloe House and Ballymaloe Cookery School we still serve Milleens cheese proudly and give thanks for the life of Veronica, the matriarch of all the Irish farmhouse cheese makers.

Midleton Farmers Market
It’s all about a healthy gut flora these days so if you want to boost your gut biome seek out Jerusalem Artichokes the wonder root that is higher in inulin than any other vegetable. Check out the BCS stall at Midleton Farmers Market which reopens today, 9.00am-1.30pm
Native Irish Oysters are at their very best at present. The only accompaniment they need is a squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a slice of soda bread. Kelly Oysters, Dungarvan Oysters, Sherkin Oysters 087 2029898 or enjoy a dozen in the English Market

It’s marmalade time again. Seville and Malaga oranges are in the shops, snap them up because the season is short. If you can’t get round to making marmalade at present, pop them into the freezer and make whole orange marmalade in a few weeks.

Struggling with Gluten Free Cooking?
As anyone who is coeliac, or who cooks for someone who has a gluten intolerance, will testify it can be challenging to produce really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand – on Saturday January 28th, this intensive half day course is ideal for those on a gluten free diet who face the dilemma of longing to taste ‘real’ food. You’ll learn about a whole range of tasty and easy-to-prepare dishes including gluten-free sweet and savoury pastry, crackling salmon with coriander pesto and gluten free raspberry muffins. Advice on alternative ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking.

Bernadette O’ Shea’s Milleens Pizza – from Pizza Defined

This is one step up from a pizza baked blind. It doesn’t have a sauce, it doesn’t have Mozzarella, it doesn’t have any of the traditional things you associate with a pizza.
When Milleens is cooked and melts, it has a buttery, slightly nutty sharp taste and the perfect pairing for that is sun-dried tomatoes, and a glut of soft herbs on top, always soft herbs: yellow marjoram, sweet marjoram, basil and oregano. These suit the herbaceousness of one the great West Cork cheeses.

140g (5oz) basic pizza dough
Basil oil or sun-dried tomato oil
85g (3oz) sundried tomatoes, excess oil squeezed out, shredded into strips
85g (3oz) cream cheese
85g (3oz) Milleens cheese, very finely sliced
Fresh herbs (marjoram, oregano, basil, yellow marjoram, lemon thyme etc.)
Rosemary oil or sun-dried tomato oil

Place Pizza Tile on floor of the oven and preheat to maximum for one hour.
Assembling the pizza –
Stretch the dough into a 20cm (8 inch) circle
Brush the surface with basil oil, or sun-dried tomato oil
Scatter the sundried tomatoes on top of the base
Dot with cream cheese to prevent from burning
Cover with Milleens
Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 10 mins.
After cooking brush the outer edge of the pizza with either rosemary oil or olive oil from the sun-dried tomatoes and scatter over a generous amount of the fresh herbs.

Tagliatelle with Milleens

Not sure who gave me this recipe but it’s truly delicious

Serves 4

225g/8oz grated Milleens or other rind-washed cheese
300ml/½ pint cream
a handful of fresh sage leaves
350g/12oz tagliatelle
8 pints water
2 tablespoons salt

Place the sage leaves in a saucepan and pour in the cream. Warm the cream, but be careful not to overheat. Allow to sit in a warm place until the cream has absorbed the flavour of the sage and then strain. Add the Milleens and, if necessary, warm gently and stir until the cheese has completely melted. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil (8 pints water to 2 tablespoons salt) Cook the tagliatelle until al dente. Drain. Pour the creamy sauce over the tagliatelle, taste and correct the seasoning. Mix and serve.
This dish stands alone, but can be made more substantial by the addition of ham, which has been cut into strips the same width as the pasta or alternatively some white or smoked fish or chopped cooked spinach, or some lightly cooked fennel.

Watercress, Blood Orange and New Season Macroom Mozzarella Salad

The new seasons blood oranges from Italy are in the shops, here we pair them with Macroom Mozzarella winner of World Cheese Awards 2016-2017 to the astonishment and chagrin of the Italian Cheesemakers.

The rich West Cork pasture that the buffalos feed on give the cheese its quintessentially Irish taste.

A few beautiful fresh ingredients put together simply make an irresistible starter.

Serves 4

2-3 balls of fresh Macroom Mozzarella
2 blood oranges
a bunch of fresh watercress
2-3 tablespoons Irish honey
a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
some coarsely ground black pepper
50g (2oz) unskinned almonds, toasted and sliced

Toast the almonds in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool and then slice each almond lengthwise into 2-3 pieces.

Just before serving, scatter a few watercress leaves over the base of each plate, slice or tear some mozzarella over the top. With a sharp knife remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices, tuck a few here and there in between the watercress and mozzarella. Drizzle with honey and really good extra virgin olive oil. Scatter with toasted almonds. Finally add a little coarsely ground fresh black pepper and serve.

Bitter Orange Marmalade

This is a dark marmalade, made with whole Seville or Malaga oranges for those who, like me enjoy a more bitter-tasting preserve.

Makes 4.5kg (10lb)

1.3kg (3lb) Seville oranges (organic if possible)
juice of 2 lemons
2kg (41⁄2lb) white sugar, warmed
225g (8oz) soft brown sugar, warmed

Scrub the oranges and put them into a large preserving pan. Put a plate on top to weigh them down and add enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, cover and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon, reserve the cooking liquid and when the fruit is cool enough to handle, cut it in half. Put the pips and fibrous bits from the centre aside. Cut the peel into 5mm (1⁄4in) strips. Put the pips and fibrous bits into a small pan with some of the reserved cooking liquid and boil for 10 minutes.
Strain the cooking liquid back into the preserving pan into the preserving pan. You should have about 1.6 litres (23⁄4 pints) of cooking liquid; add more water if necessary. Add the sliced orange peel and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Bring to boiling point. Add warmed white and brown sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring, and cook rapidly until setting point is reached, about 20 minutes. Skim and leave to cool for a further 20 minutes. Pot into hot, sterilised jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place.

Ballymaloe Cookery School ‘Pop Up’ Dinner

A student ‘Pop Up’ dinner has become an established tradition on the three month course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School. The students who come from all over the world (11 nationalities this time) get together with two of our senior tutors Pam Black and Tracie Daly to plan every single detail of the meal from the theme to designing the menus, décor, table laying……They do all the graphics, cooking, collect the produce…..

Everything is done from ‘scratch’. The theme this Autumn was Wild and Slow – Forgotten Flavours and Foraged Food. The chosen menu which was arrived at after much conjucating, the starter was Roast and parmesan crusted Jerusalem artichokes on Ballymaloe pumpkin puree. Pan seared breast of pheasant and confit of leg. Most of the food came from the farm and garden and local area.

The Jerusalem artichokes were dug from the vegetable field at the greenhouses by several students who on their own admission would scarcely have recognised a digging fork not to speak of knobbly Jerusalem artichokes just a few months ago.

They chose Kuri pumpkins from the selection of 8 or 10 that we grow and magiced these ingredients into a properly impressive cheffy starter.

While the chefs were prepping in the kitchen others were baking a variety of gluten free sourdough and yeast breads. Meanwhile, their friends were busy making handmade butter from the Jersey cream.

Others opted to collect barrel loads of autumn leaves to make into garlands and scatter on the conservatory floor and over the table tops.

The menu design was done by Hermione Hill and Keiko Ebisu from Japan did artwork on the night.

It’s the game season so lots of pheasant for main course. The birds were jointed, the breasts were marinated and the legs made into a light confit with flaky sea salt and fresh herbs.

This was served on a bed of chestnut and caramelised onion stuffing with scallion champ and organic Brussels sprouts which had also been picked in the freezing cold – now they all have the greater appreciation of the farmers who grow sprouts.

Something was needed to compliment the plate so several others went foraging in the orchard and made a Bramley apple, medlar and quince jelly from the autumn bounty.

Next a salad of organic leaves and foraged greens to aid digestion and make room for dessert.

For pudding, Ballyandreen meets Italy…….a carrageen panna cotta light and super delicious served in little glasses with a wild blackberry and lemon verbena compote.

Alongside was coconut macaroon with lime zest and a chunk of almond brittle.

The event was totally oversubscribed and the guests seemed to really relish the experience and convivial atmosphere. So typical of Slow Food events.

Guests were invited to go ‘foraging’ for the petit fours. The garden room had been transformed into‘woodland’ where the petit fours were hidden among the branches. Homemade fudge, chocolate and orange marshmallow, rose geranium jellies, praline dust, chocolate soil, crystallised rose petals and chocolate bark and chunks of homemade honeycomb.

Lots to nibble with freshly brewed coffee and lemon verbena tisane.

There was a resounding round of applause for the entire team before they headed back into the kitchen to tackle the washing up and leave everything ship shape for the next day. All part of the learning curve, but they loved the experience and as the 70+ guests left many asked to be put on the mailing list for the next event.

The event is sponsored by the Ballymaloe Cookery School and the proceeds of the ‘Pop Up’ dinner were donated to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project which teaches children in 8 local primary schools how to cook and grow some of their own food.

Roasted and Parmesan Crusted Jerusalem Artichokes with Pumpkin Puree

Lucas Ruault came up with this delicious combination to use the Jerusalem artichokes in season at the moment.

Serves 6-8

16 Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed
150 g parmesan, finely grated
75 g plain flour, well seasoned
2-3 free range eggs, lightly whisked
Olive oil

500 g pumpkin, peeled and roughly diced
175 onions, sliced
5-6 garlic cloves, minced or roughly crushed
125 g salted butter
1 scant tablespoon thyme leaves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Splash of cognac and or chardonnay, optional
1 lemon wedge


Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.

First melt 25 g of butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, when it begins to foam, add the sliced onions and garlic. Cook stirring often until the onions are deeply caramelised. This will take some time.

Meanwhile, roast the pumpkin; toss the pumpkin in a little olive oil with a small amount of salt and pepper, arrange on a baking tray and put into the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until tender and soft.

When the onions are caramelised and the pumpkin is tender, transfer to a food processor. Deglaze the saucepan with a little cognac or chardonnay if available. Add to the pumpkin, caramelised onions, with fresh thyme leaves and freshly grated nutmeg and puree.

Allow the mixture to rest until it’s just pleasantly warm and then add the remaining 100 g of butter and puree until smooth and glossy. Taste and season.

The puree can be made one or two days before using, allowing the flavours to meld and mature overnight in the fridge. However it can be used immediately.

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes under cold water with a brush, dry and cut half of them into 1-2 bite sized wedges. Toss in olive oil, season with salt and pepper (and a little chopped rosemary or sage if available). Arrange on a baking tray and roast in a 220°C oven until tender and golden brown.

Peel the rest of the artichokes and cut them into wedges slightly larger than the roasted ones. Blanch them in heavily salted boiling water for 2 minutes or so, or until just cooked through.

Once the boiled artichokes are cooked, plunge them immediately into iced water. Dry them and prepare the oil for frying. Set your deep fryer to 190°C.

Put the seasoned flour, eggs and grated parmesan into 3 separate bowls. Dredge the dried artichokes in flour, dip into the eggs until coated and roll them in the parmesan. Fry them until golden brown, cut in half and sprinkle with sea salt.

Reheat the pumpkin puree in a saucepan, spread onto a plate and arrange an assortment of artichokes on top. Place watercress around, top with left over parmesan and olive oil. Squeeze of lemon.

Andre Longardi’s Pheasant Breast with Red Wine Jus

Serves 8

8 pheasant breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

Season the pheasant with salt and freshly ground pepper, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Preheat a cast iron pan, sear the breasts and place them in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 8-10 minutes.

Remove the pheasant and keep warm.

Pheasant Jus

1 bottle of red wine, we use organic wine, La Marouette
½ litre of pheasant or chicken stock, made with the carcass and giblets (not liver)
Cooking juices

Put the wine into a wide stainless steel saucepan over a high heat. Reduce the wine by 2/3, add the stock and reduce by half. Deglaze the cast iron pan with some stock to dissolve the pheasant juices and add it to the wine reduction. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pheasant Leg Confit
This dish was covered tightly and cooked on top of the stove but one could cook it in the oven at 80°C or until tender and almost melting.

Serves 8

8 pheasant legs
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
½ tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
3½ tablespoon fresh rosemary chopped
Enough olive oil to completely submerge the legs

Marinade the legs for at least two hours in the herb and spice mix. Arrange the marinated legs in a large saucepan and cover with enough olive oil to completely submerge the legs. Simmer on the lowest heat possible for about 5 hours. The oil must never bubble up.

Chestnut and Caramelised Onion Stuffing

Serves 8

250 g onions, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
125 cooked chestnuts
2 cloves garlic
100 g streaky bacon, fine lardons
1 tablespoon cognac
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the bacon lardons and cook until the fat runs and the bacon is crisp. Remove to a plate, add the onions and garlic to the pan and continue to cook stirring regularly until the onions are caramelised. Add the brandy and allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the chestnuts, add back in the bacon and the chestnuts, continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

To Serve: put a generous tablespoon of chestnut and caramelised onion stuffing on a plate, put a piece of pheasant breast and leg on top. Garnish with a sprig of watercress.

Debbie and Sheila’s Gluten-Free Focaccia with Roast Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic Slivers

20g (3/4oz) fresh yeast (or 10g fast-acting yeast, I use McDougall’s)
2 teaspoons of honey
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of warm water

550g (20oz) of “Bob’s Red Mill” All Purpose gluten-free flour (this is the best brand for this recipe, however you can also use Dove’s Farm plain flour or bread flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons of xanthan gum
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
2 beaten free range, organic eggs
3 tablespoons of natural, probiotic yoghurt (natural soya yoghurt for dairy-free option)
300mls (10fl oz/) of lukewarm cow’s/goat’s milk (rice milk or soya milk for dairy-free option)
extra virgin olive oil
8-10 cherry tomatoes, roasted
Maldon sea salt for sprinkling
1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic slivers

First, roast the cherry tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 250°C/400°F/Mark 6.

Lay the cherry tomatoes on the vine on a baking tray. Drizzle with extra virgin oil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and roast for 8 – 10 minutes until the tomatoes just burst.
Squash the tomatoes to get rid of excess juice.

Put the yeast, honey and warm water in a small bowl in a warm place for 10-15 minutes.

Sift the flour and xanthan gum into a large bowl and add the salt, vinegar, beaten eggs, yoghurt, milk and yeast mixture, and mix well. Place the dough in a 33 x 23cm (13x 19 inch) brownie tin oiled well with olive oil. Wet your fingers with cold water and make dimples in the dough. Place the roasted cherry tomatoes and garlic slivers in some of the dimples, drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil. Place a clean, damp cloth over the tin and put the tin in a warm place to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours until double in size. The rising depends on how hot the day is and how strong the fresh yeast is, as every batch is different. Sprinkle the top of dough with a little Maldon sea salt and place in the oven gently, not to let the air out. Bake in a preheated oven at 190°C/375 °F/Gas Mark 5 for 35 minutes, until it sounds hollow and light.

Rachel Allen’s Carrageen Panna Cotta

A little seaweed that grows all around our coast, we harvest and dry it on local strands including Ballyandreen.

Serves 4–6

8g (1/3oz) carrageen (this fills my semi-closed fist)
400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cups) double or regular cream
200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) milk
50g (2oz) caster or granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod, slightly split

Put a small plate in your freezer.

Put the dry carrageen into a bowl, cover with tepid water and soak for 10 minutes.
Drain, then put the reconstituted carrageen in a saucepan with the cream, milk, sugar and vanilla pod (if using). Don’t add the extract yet. Stir on a medium heat and bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat. Take the plate out of the freezer and place a small spoonful of the carrageen mixture on it, then pop it back in the freezer for 1 minute. Take out and run your finger through it – it should be set. If it is still runny, place the mixture back on the heat and cook for a further minute before testing again.

Pour the mixture through a sieve (you can wash the vanilla pod and use it again another time) but don’t push the seaweed through the sieve, just the liquid that is clinging to it. Scrape the mixture from under the sieve and, using a whisk, mix it with the drained cream mixture and the vanilla extract (if using). Pour into four or six small bowls or glasses and place in the fridge to set.

Serve with Wild Blackberry Compote

Nancy Lair’s Coconut Macaroons

Nancy’s delicious little coconut macaroons are’ easy peasy’ to make. I’ve reduced the sugar from 2/3 cup to ½ cup and still find them delectable.
Makes 3 dozen approximately

400 g (14oz) flaked coconut
110 g (4 oz/1/2 cup) granulated sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 egg whites
½-1 teaspoon almond extract (to taste)
zest of 2 limes

Mix coconut, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in egg whites (not whisked) and almond extract until well blended. Drop by tablespoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 325°F/160°C for 20 minutes or until edges of cookies are golden brown. Immediately remove from baking tray to wire racks. Cool completely. Before serving, zest 2 limes over the top of the cookies. Makes about 3 dozen.

Nancy Lair’s Almond Brittle

This almond brittle is like the best toffee – one could also add some pistachio or hazelnuts but it was greatly enjoyed by everyone as it is.

Makes 10-12 medium sized shards

110 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking soda (Bread Soda)
3 teaspoons salt
125g (4½ oz) butter
550 g (20 oz/2 cups) sugar
180 ml (6 fl oz/) liquid glucose
330 g (12 oz/3 cups) chopped almonds

Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Combine sugar, liquid glucose, and water in a large sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until mixture reaches 300°F/149°F on a sugar thermometer. Stir in butter and cook until syrup is golden in color, then add the chopped almonds. Remove from heat and add baking soda, salt, and vanilla to mixture. Quickly pour the mixture onto the baking tray and tap the sheet on the counter (on a tea towel to dampen the noise!). Spread the mixture as much as possible. Allow to set, break into pieces and store in an air tight container.

Anna Tingey’s Ballymaloe Sweet Geranium Pastilles

These sweet geranium flavoured ‘jellies’ were served as a petit four. Anna called them Ballymaloe Delight – they’re all set to become a perennial favourite.

Makes 96 squares

500 g granulated sugar
8 gelatine leaves
1 tablespoon corn flour
300 ml water
Sweet Geranium Syrup – 7 tablespoons

Sweet Geranium Syrup
Makes 825ml (28fl ozs/3 1/2 cups)

350g (12oz/1 1/2 cups) sugar
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) water

Dissolve the sugar in the cold water and bring to the boil. Add 150 g sweet geranium leaves to the sugar syrup and leave to infuse for 20 minutes on a low simmer. Store in the fridge until needed. Strain through a fine sieve.

Next make the Ballymaloe delight. Put the gelatine into a heavy based saucepan and add 300 ml water, leave to ‘sponge’. The gelatine will soak up all the water and become spongy in texture.

Add the granulated sugar and dissolve on a medium heat.

Leave to simmer gently for 20 minutes. Pour into a lined swiss roll tin (12 x 8 inch), lined with parchment paper and put in a fridge to set, 3 or 4 hours minimum.

Once set, cut into 96 even squares and roll each square in corn flour.

Anna Tingey’s Chocolate and Orange Marshmallows

These also disappeared within minutes.
Makes approximately 100

455g (1lb/2 cups) granulated or caster sugar
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) liquid glucose
9 gelatine leaves or 5 1/2 rounded teaspoons of powdered gelatine
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) orange essence
red food colour paste
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) icing sugar and 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) cornflour sieved together
Zest of 2 oranges

Line the bottom of a 30 x 20cm (11 x 8 inch) baking tray with parchment paper. Dust with sieved icing sugar and cornflour.

Place sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all of the sugar is wet. Using a pastry brush dipped water, remove any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling do not stir, simply tilt the pot from side to side to ensure the solution heats evenly until it reaches 127°C/260°F. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature using a sugar thermometer.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the gelatine in 140ml (4 3/4fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water.

When the boiling syrup reaches 110°C/230°F start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Add the rehydrated gelatine and water into the syrup when it reaches 127°C/260°F and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will foam slightly, this is normal. Pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites and whip on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the marshmallow thickens and the bowl of the mixer is warm to the touch. Turn the speed of the mixer to low and whisk in the rosewater and enough food colour paste to turn the marshmallow baby pink.

Spoon the thick marshmallow mix onto the lined baking tray and smooth with a palette knife. Allow to set (usually takes 2 hours).

Dust the top of the marshmallow with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Turn out onto a work surface, peel off the paper and cut into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in cocoa powder.

So what to do with all those Christmas Book Tokens….

So what to do with all those Christmas book tokens, there may even be some since last year tucked behind the candlesticks on your mantelpiece. Of course there are hundreds of tempting volumes like
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben but this is a food column so here’s a list of my pick of the 2016 cookbooks.

This year there’s been a whole slew of books from the Middle East with wonderfully evocative titles like Samarkand. This volume by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford is a love letter to Central Asia and the Caucasus, an intriguing book. Not just recipes, there are travel essays, beautiful photography, stories and dishes that are little known in the West that have been expertly adapted for the home cook. For hundreds of years, various ethnic groups have passed through Samarkand sharing and influencing each others cuisine and leaving behind their culinary legacy. A melange of Uzbek, Tajik, Russian, Turkish, Jewish, Afghan – how evocative is that.

The Saffron Tales, Recipes from Persia by Yasmin Khan was also chosen by BBC Radio 4 Food Programme as one of their books of the year. Once again this is much more that a compilation of recipes, Yasmin is a British Iranian cook. She crisscrossed Iran with little more than a fistful of childhood memories and a notebook. Her adventure took her from the snowy mountains of Tabriz to the cosmopolitan cafes of Teheran and the pomegranate orchards of Isfahan. She was warmly welcomed into the homes and kitchens of ordinary Iranians, farmers, teachers, artists, electricians….who shares their family recipes from fesenjoon to kofte berenji (lamb meat balls with prunes and barberries) and delicious dessert with evocative names like rose and almond cake.

Naomi Duguid whose book on Burma also entranced me in 2016 has written a Taste of Persia – a cooks travels through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan. Naomi’s book has been named as best cookbook of the year by Food and Wine, The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal.

Mesmerizing tales and exceptional recipes for beguiling dishes from the rich soupy stews called ash to intriguingly spiced grilled kebabs, barbari breads and alluring sweets like rosewater pudding and date halva.

If you don’t already have the Honey and Co cookbook, Food from the Middle East, check it out . This was one of the best loved and again multi awarded winning book of 2015, our copy is already dog eared. Itamar and Sarit generously share the favourite recipes from their jam packed café, keeping nothing back, leaving nothing out. There’s also Honey and Co The Baking Book, check that out too.

Well I mustn’t get stuck in the Middle East and the Caucasus’s enchanting as it is.

I’ve long been a fan of José Pizzaro, whose restaurants José and Pizzaro are two of my favourite haunts in London. José comes from Extremadura and like many Spanish natives is fiercely proud of his heritage, language and of course the food and drink. He has a particular love and admiration for the food of the Basque country, in particular its major city, San Sebastian, known for its rich food traditions and its obsession with the perfect tapa (pintxos) and for more Michelin starred restaurants per head than anywhere in the world. You’ll love José’s latest book Basque, Spanish recipes from San Sebastian and beyond – beautiful simple tapas recipes for the home cook to enjoy with friends and a glass of fino.

Salt is Essential (and other things I learned from 50 years on the stove) is the arresting title of Shaun Hill’s new book. Shaun is a hugely respected ‘elder statesman’ in the world of food. I have long been an admirer of his pragmatic approach and his food at The Walnut Tree in South Wales “all chefs, however proficient, need to remember that food must taste good, not just look good. The level of seasoning with salt and spice is crucial to the eventual success of the dish”.

This book is packed with well judged, carefully tested recipe that I love to cook.

Another book simply entitled Knife by Tim Hayward has also caused quite a stir, brilliantly researched and not just for knife nerds.
I’m running out of space but for lovers of Chinese food there are two treasures, Land of Fish and Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop, a gifted scholar and researcher and a beautiful cook and writer. You may also want to seek out, China – the cookbook by Kei Lum Chan another awesome work, a huge hard back with gold edge pages. I’m just started to try recipes and love it so far.

For cooks who love to grow some of your own food, two books in particular caught my eye this Christmas. The Complete Book of Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit by Bob Flowerdew, Jekka McVicar and Matthew Biggs is pretty much the standard work on the subject, I usually avoid ‘complete books’ of anything but this hardback which by the way you’ll need a wheelbarrow to carry into the garden is mightily impressive, possibly the only book on the subject you’ll ever need – huge praise from me.

Another gem, but this time a light paperback from the king of ‘No Dig’. Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden diary could change lives – a perfect present for the cook/gardener in your life.
Finally the Scandi cook Trina Hahnemann is one to watch I have several of her books but am particularly looking forward to getting the latest, Scandinavian Comfort Food, another dose of Hygge to launch me into 2017. There are others like Palomar cookbook that I love but these are just a few titles to tempt you to rush to your local bookshop to exchange those book tokens for a good read and lots of fun in the kitchen.

Blue Cheese and Sesame Biscuits

Makes 20 small biscuits

These simple biscuits have been my favourite snack with drinks for years, so apologies if I have mentioned them before. I have made them slightly larger on occasion and squirted beetroot and horseradish purée on top so they look a little more posh and interesting. I’ve also served them alongside gravadlax and prosciutto for grand canapé situations. I’m sure you’re not silly enough to cater for this sort of event but will enjoy them as they are. I try to use Roquefort or Stilton, but any blue cheese that isn’t too soft – a mountain Gorgonzola or Bresse Bleu perhaps – will be just fine. A perfect use of leftover blue cheese in fact, better than the overpowering dressings you may have tried to use it for previously. The biscuits are crumbly, so vacuuming of carpet will be a factor next day. Serve them bite sized and warm.

100g unsalted butter – cut into cubes
100g self-raising flour
100g blue cheese – crumbled
50g sesame seeds

Use a food processor to blend the butter and flour to the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the cheese and process for a further few seconds, on the pulse setting. You don’t want a blue purée.

Turn out and knead the mixture a couple of times to evenly distribute all the ingredients, then refrigerate until needed. Chill briefly before cooking if you have time.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4.

Scoop or pinch out small pieces of the dough and roll these into balls about 2.5cm across. Toss these in the sesame seeds.

Space the balls out on a baking tray and then bake for about 10 minutes or until firm and golden.

Taken from Salt Is Essential by Shaun Hill. Published by Kyle Books. Photography: Tamin Jones


A traditional dish for Tunisian Jews, this is usually made by cooking the potatoes and onions in a pot of oil, then pouring the eggs in and placing the whole dish in the oven with a tray underneath to catch the oil overflow. We offer this lighter (but no less gorgeous) version.

Enough for breakfast for 4 hungry or 6 modest guests

Fills an 18-20 cm (7-8 inch) frying pan

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice (about 300 g)
½ teaspoon salt + ½ teaspoon table salt
50 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, peeled and sliced (about 200 g)
8 eggs
100 ml double cream
2 teaspoons ras el hanut spice mix
2 tablespoons capers
1 small bunch of parsley, leaves picked and chopped
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Place the potatoes in a pan containing 500 ml of water seasoned with the first half teaspoon of salt. Boil for 5 minutes, then drain.

Melt the butter and oil together in a good non stick frying pan. Add the onions and fry on a medium heat until they soften entirely (this will take about 8-10 minutes) now add the cooked diced potatoes and continue frying for a further 6-8 minutes. In the meantime, whisk all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl.

Increase the heat to high and pour in the egg mixture. Allow 1 minute for the eggs to start cooking around the rim, then use a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon to push the mixture from the sides into the centre, all around the pan. Leave to cook for another minute, then repeat.

Now smooth the top and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 minutes, then use the lid and pan combined to flip the maakouda. Carefully slide it back into the pan to finish cooking on a low heat for 5 minutes before transferring to a plate to serve.

You can eat this hot but it also keeps well for a packed lunch or picnic and is just as delicious cold as it is hot.

Taken from Honey and Co, The Baking Book by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich

Chicken with Cashew Nuts

Serves 4

5 boneless chicken legs cut into ¾ inch (2cm) cubes
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
1½ teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus extra for deep frying
¾ cup (3½ oz/100 g) cashew nuts
6 shallots, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
2 spring onions, stems only, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) lengths
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Coriander leaves for garnish, roughly chopped
Steamed rice, to serve

Combine the chicken, garlic, salt, wine and 1 teaspoon of cornflour in a large bowl, then add the oil and marinate for 10 minutes.

Put the cashew nuts into a wok or large frying pan and add enough oil to cover them completely. Heat the oil to 285°F/140°C or until a cube of bread turns golden in 2 minutes. Deep fry the nuts for 2-3 minutes or until crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the nuts from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Pour out most of the oil leaving 1 tablespoon in the wok and heat over a medium heat. Add the shallots and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Put in the chicken, increase the heat to high and toss rapidly for 2 minutes until browned.

Add the bell pepper and soy sauce and stir fry for another minute or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the spring onions.

Mix the remaining ½ teaspoon cornflour with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl and stir this mixture into the wok. Bring to a boil stirring for about 30 seconds to thicken the sauce. Add the sesame oil and garnish with coriander, if using. Serve with steamed rice.

Taken from CHINA THE COOKBOOK by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan

Samarkand Plov

The quintessential dish of Uzbekistan, with as many variants as there are people who cook it. This Samarkand version is a little lighter than most traditional Uzbek plovs, where pools of lamb tail fat provide the dominant flavour. It can be made with lamb or beef and is distinctive for being cooked and served in layers. Plov should be eaten from one large dish placed on the table to share, each diner digging in their fork. It is said people form mutual love from a communal plate and the joy of eating plov.

You’ll need a good, heavy-bottomed pan with a close-fitting lid to make plov. In Uzbekistan, a cast-iron kazan is used; a large cast-iron casserole makes the perfect substitute.

Serves 6

450g basmati rice, rinsed
600g blade stewing steak, diced
150ml clarified butter or
sunflower oil
4 onions, cut into wedges
2 bay leaves
4 yellow and 2 orange carrots
(or use 6 orange), cut into
thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
12 hard-boiled quail’s eggs, peeled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the rinsed rice into a large bowl of cold water to soak while you start the recipe. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the clarified butter in the pan until hot and foaming. Brown the beef over a medium-high heat, in batches if necessary, then remove from the pan with a slotted spoon leaving the butter behind. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden. Return the beef to the pan with any collected juices, the bay leaves and a small
cupful of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down very low, cover the pan and gently simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
Spread over the carrot matchsticks, but don’t stir as you want to keep the layers separate. Scatter over the spices, and cover and cook for a further 10 minutes.
Drain the rice and layer it on top of the carrots. Poke the whole garlic cloves into the rice and flatten the top with the back of a spoon. Season very generously with salt and slowly pour over enough boiling water to just cover the top of the rice. Increase
the heat and leave the pan uncovered so that the water starts to boil away.
When the liquid has cooked off, make six holes in the rice using the handle of a wooden spoon to help the steam escape. Cover the pan and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat without removing the lid and leave the dish to steam undisturbed for a further 10 minutes. If the rice isn’t cooked, add a splash
more boiling water and cover again. Serve the layers in reverse, first spooning the rice onto the platter, then the carrots and finally the tender chunks of meat on
the top. Circle the hard-boiled quail’s eggs around the edge. A juicy tomato salad is the perfect accompaniment.

Taken from: Samarkand by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, published by Kyle Books, priced £25. Photography by Laura Edwards.

Christmas Left Overs

Phew, well that’s Christmas over for another year – hopefully you enjoyed the festivities and had lots of cheerful help and support both in the kitchen and dining room. Now, for the best bit – using up the left overs in lots of delicious ways. I love to buy a whopping big turkey so we’ll hopefully have some leftovers after turkey sandwiches to make some of my favourite dishes of the whole year.
We’ll start with the turkey……

First strip off every scrap of meat and crispy skin from the turkey. Chop up the carcass as best you can. Make a fine pot of turkey stock by adding the giblets, neck, heart and gizzard but not the liver, that would make the stock bitter plus be a waste of a superb ingredient – it will make a rich and smooth, unctuous pot of turkey liver pâté.

One can make many, flavoursome turkey soups from Asian Pho to a nourishing Scandi broth. I’ve chosen Mexican flavours inspired by a trip to Oaxaca. If you still have some cold turkey or even leftover roast chicken or pork – you simply must try (how bossy am I….) turkey tonnata, a twist on the Italian veal tonnata served with a properly tasty mayo based sauce laced with tuna, anchovies and capers, which by the way makes a fantastic present to include in a hamper of sauces. If roast goose or duck was your Christmas day feast, there’s probably not much on the carcass but save all those little morsels to make a duck or goose broth include…..

Try this spicy Indian Brussels sprout recipe, delicious just served as an accompaniment but also a perfect base to add some diced cooked turkey or ham.

Left over cranberries keep well in the fridge or can be frozen but you can never have too many because they are delicious added to scones, muffins, pancakes and make a tasty plus a quick and easy apple and cranberry sauce or chutney, another handy edible gift.

If you have a surplus of tangerines or mandarins they are of course delicious in a fresh tasting salad or make them into marmalade. You probably won’t have time do that today but this could be therapeutic after Christmas exercise. I could go on and on but I’m running out of space. Some mincemeat make these utterly delicious scones and serve warm from the oven with left over brandy butter. Sublime.

Thank you to our readers. We wish you a Happy, Joyful and Peaceful Christmas and many blessings and lots of new exciting food adventures in 2017.

Turkey Liver Pâté with Sourdough Toasts and Red Onion Marmalade

Duck or goose can also be used in this boozy recipe

Serves 10-12 depending on how it is served.

225g (8oz) fresh organic turkey livers
2 tablespoons brandy
200-300g (8-12oz) butter (depending on how strong the livers are)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 large clove garlic, crushed
225g (8oz) butter, cubed
freshly ground pepper

clarified butter, to seal the top

Accompaniment: Crusty brown bread, sourdough toasts or croutes
Red Onion Marmalade

Wash the livers in cold water and remove any membrane or green tinged bits. Dry on kitchen paper.
Melt a little butter in a frying pan; when the butter foams add in the livers and cook over a gentle heat. Be careful not to overcook them or the outsides will get crusty; all trace of pink should be gone. Add the crushed garlic and thyme leaves to the pan, stir and then de-glaze the pan with brandy, allow to flame or reduce for 2-3 minutes. Scrape everything with a spatula into a food processor. Purée for a few seconds. Allow to cool.

Add the butter. Purée until smooth. Season carefully, taste and add more butter.

This pâté should taste fairly mild and be quite smooth in texture. Put into pots or into one large terrine. Tap on the worktop to knock out any air bubbles.

Spoon a little clarified butter over the top of the pâté to seal.
Serve with crusty brown bread, sourdough toasts or croutes. This pate will keep for 4 or 5 days in a refrigerator.

Watchpoint: It is essential to cover chicken liver pate with a layer of clarified or even just melted butter, otherwise the pâté will oxidize and taste bitter and turn grey in colour.

Duck or Goose Liver Pâté with Melba Toast

Substitute duck livers for chicken livers in the above recipe. You may need to increase the amount of butter used depending on the strength of the livers.

Sherry may be substituted for brandy and its really good.

To Serve
Fill the kilner jar with a handful of mixed salad leaves and fresh herbs. Serve with two slivers of toasted focaccia.

Chicken Liver Pâté with Pedro Ximenez Jelly
Soak 1 sheet of gelatine in cold water for 10 minutes, when soft discard the water. Warm 150ml (5fl oz) of Pedro Ximenez gently in a saucepan, add the gelatine and allow to melt. Cool, then spoon over the top of each ramekin of pâté.

Red Onion Marmalade

Makes 450ml (16fl.oz)

Red Onion Marmalade will keep for months and is especially delicious with pâtés and terrines of meat, game and poultry. Ordinary onions may also be used.

700g (1½ lb) white or red onions
110g (4oz) butter
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
155g (5½oz) castor sugar
7 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons cassis
250ml (scant ½pint) full bodied red wine

Peel and slice the onions thinly. Heat the butter in a sauté pan until it becomes a rich nut brown (beurre noisette) – this will give the onions a delicious flavour but be careful not to let it burn. Toss in the onions and sugar, add the salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes over a gentle heat, keeping an eye on the onions and stirring from time to time with a wooden spatula. Add the sherry vinegar, red wine and cassis. Cook for a further 30 minutes uncovered, stirring regularly. This onion jam must cook very gently (but don’t let it reduce too much). When it is cold, skim off any butter which rises to the top and discard.
Pour into sterilized jars as for jam.

Turkey Stock

Keep your turkey carcass to make a stock, which may be used as the basis of a delicious soup or in St. Stephen’s Day Pie.

1 turkey carcass
Turkey giblets, ie. heart, gizzard, neck
8-10 pints (4.5-5.6 L) approx. water
2 onions, cut in quarters
2 leeks, split in two
2 sticks celery, cut in half
2 carrots, cut in half
A few parsley stalks
6 peppercorns
No salt

Break up the carcass as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum or fat. Simmer for 4-5 hours, then strain and remove any remaining fat. If you need a stronger flavour, boil down the liquid in an open pan to reduce by one-half the volume. Do not add salt.
Note: Stock will keep for several days in the fridge. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5-6 minutes, allow it to get cold and refrigerate again or freeze.
If you have a ham bone, it could also be used in the stock for extra flavour.

Turkey, Orzo, Pea and Spring Onion Broth

This broth can be the basis of a flavoursome light soup to use up delicious morsels of cooked poultry.

Serves 6

1 litre (1 ¾ pints) well-flavoured turkey, chicken or pheasant stock
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
50g (2oz) orzo pasta
2 tender stalks celery, finely sliced at an angle
150 – 175g (5 – 6 oz) shredded cooked turkey, chicken or pheasant
110g (4oz) frozen peas
4 – 6 spring onions, sliced at an angle
lots of fresh coriander and/or fresh mint

Bring the stock to the boil; add the orzo, celery and chilli flakes. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the pasta is just cooked, add the peas and shredded turkey. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, correct the seasoning. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with lots of spring onion and fresh coriander and/or mint.

Brussel Sprout Masala

It was quite a surprise to discover Brussel sprouts in South India. Somehow I associated them with these islands. This masala version which I learned at the Bangala converts even those who refuse to even taste Brussel sprouts.

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) Brussel sprouts, cut in quarters if large
1.2L (2 pints) water
3 teaspoons salt

50 ml (2 fl oz) vegetable oil
100g (3½ oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon red chilli powder, mild (Kashmiri if available)
125ml (4fl.oz) fresh tomato puree
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Bring 1.2L (2 pints) water with 3 teaspoons salt to a boil in a saucepan.
Add the brussel sprouts and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander and refresh in cold water.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, slide in the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir and add the fresh tomato puree. Reduce the heat to low, continue to cook, stir and scrape to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom.
Continue to cook until the oil separates around the edge, add the drained sprouts to the masala. Stir, and cook for a minute or two. Taste and correct seasoning.

Garnish with lots of fresh coriander leaves and serve.

Turkey ‘Tonnata’

A super tasty way to enjoy leftover turkey, add a little grated raw Brussels sprout to the salad for extra deliciousness.

Serves 8

The sauce may be used for cooked chicken, veal and pickled ox tongue also.

2 lbs (900 g) cooked turkey

Tonnata sauce

4 rounded tablespoons home-made mayonnaise
85g (3oz) canned tuna in oil and 2 tablespoons of the oil
2 anchovies
1 rounded tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon lemon juice
green salad
sprigs of flat parsley

16 – 24 black olives
16 anchovies
24 capers
salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the sauce. Put the mayonnaise into a food processor with the tuna, oil, anchovies, capers, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper, whizz until smooth and then put into a bowl.
Drain the capers on kitchen paper. Deep fry in hot oil for a few seconds. They will split and open out into crispy flowers. Spread on kitchen paper. Slice the turkey as thinly as possible then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put a little green salad on each plate. Arrange a few slices of turkey on top of the leaves. Drizzle generously with the tonnata sauce, garnish with anchovies, a few olives, crispy capers and sprigs of flat parsley.

Cranberry Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding is a most irresistible way of using up both leftover white bread and cranberries at Christmas. This is a particularly delicious recipe which can also be cooked and served in cappuccino cups.

Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed
2 ozs (55g) butter, preferably unsalted
½ teaspoon freshly-grated cinnamon or nutmeg
7 ozs (200g) cranberries or a mixture of cranberries and sultanas
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
6 ozs (170g) sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the nutmeg and half the cranberries, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the cranberries, and sprinkle the remaining spice and cranberries on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, buttered side down.
In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.
Bake in a bain-marie – the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This Bread and Butter Pudding reheats perfectly.

Tangerine Salad with Cinnamon and Orange Water Blossom

This is a classic dessert usually made with oranges in Moroccan restaurants. The combination is a perfect palate cleanser after a rich tagine or cous cous but also a welcome after a Christmas feasting.

Serves 6

10 tangerines, clementines or madarins
4 teaspoons orange blossom water
4-6 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
3-4 sprigs fresh mint

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

Christmas Mincemeat Swirls with Brandy Butter

Just love these mincemeat swirls – a super way to use up leftover mincemeat and brandy butter. Most delicious served warm.

Makes 18-20 scones

900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour
175g (6oz) butter
3 free-range eggs
pinch of salt
50g (2 oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
400-450 g (14 oz-16 oz) Ballymaloe mincemeat or vegetarian and gluten free mincemeat

Egg Wash (see below)

110 g (4 oz) flaked almonds
110 g (4 oz) demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

Brandy Butter, see recipe

1-2 baking trays lined with parchment

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but roll gently into a rectangle about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Spread the mincemeat over the surface to within a half inch of the edge. Roll from the long side. Cut into 1½ inch (3cm) pieces. Arrange on a baking tray, allowing a little space for the swirls to spread. Brush the cut side with egg wash. Sprinkle each one with flaked almonds and dip in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with a dollop of homemade brandy butter on top.

Egg Wash
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Christmas Edible Presents

Christmas is edging ever closer, the excitement and craziness mounts and we’re having lots of fun making edible presents. It’s become a tradition and let’s face it, something delicious to eat will be genuinely welcomed rather than yet another glittering bauble or scented candle destined for the re-gifting drawer.

This week I’m keeping my blurb to the minimum to allow for maximum space for recipes. There is no shortage of ideas for yummy edible presents. Of course sweet, cute little macaroons, marshmallows, mini muffins, chocolate truffles are fine and delicious but I’ve had even more delighted responses to less evocative but gleefully received cartons of homemade soups, pasta sauces, stews, tagines….add a tinsel bow and a sprig of holly or rosemary to give them a festive air.

Another busy young Mum with four little ones keeps dropping hints about a couple of dozen simple fish cakes and chicken pie with no yucky mushrooms or green flecky bits in the potato topping, to make the kids go ‘yuck’ (parsley). Deliver them fresh or frozen. They are super handy to have in a freezer as a standby at any time not to speak of over the crazy Christmas period – easy comforting food.

We make the pies in little enamel dishes with either a puff pastry lid or fluffy mashed potato. The dishes are useful for the rest of the year, so it doesn’t have to be an ‘all singing all dancing present’. Tubs of homemade soup are always received with delight, also great for older friends or those living alone not to speak of those in special need in our communities.

You’ll find all those recipes in my previous columns and books as well as a whole range of condiments. Buy lots of ribbon and luggage labels to add a festive look to your edible presents.

Here are some delicious frivolous recipes that we’ve been enjoying making.

Still racking your brain for a suitable present – a little hamper of some artisan foods will be joyously received:-
Mella’s Fudge, now in seven flavours including Salted Caramel,

A basket of Irish oysters, flat or gigas, the ultimate briny treat for a Christmas Day starter.

A hamper of Gubbeen cured meats – salami, chorizo, chistora, smoked rashers….
A Fingal Ferguson handmade knife – the ultimate treasured kitchen utensil for cool chefs. www.gubbeencom.

A basket of Arbutus Artisan Breads, check out medieval sourdough, rye/spelt sourdough with carrot, Irish craft beer…..

A juicy, fruity Christmas puddings from Country Choice in Nenagh.

Shana Wilkies, handmade choccie bars –she’s got a gorgeous festive Christmas cracker with chocolate bars, luxurious chocolates and bean to cup chocolate powder.

Check out the Chocolate Shop in the English Market, maybe the best selection of superb chocolate in Ireland.

Give a gift token for your local Farmers Market

A few pots of Nourishing Broth from Sonny’s Merchants of Broth at Mahon Farmers Market.

Some of my favourite smoked fish comes from Bill Casey’s Shanagarry Smoke House, tel: 021 4646955, artisan smoker Frank Hederman of Belvelly smoke house, Sally Barnes of Woodcock smoker and Burren smokehouse
Anthony Cresswell of Ummera also does superb smoked chicken and duck as well as nitrate free rashers.

How about some Irish snails from The Irish Snail Farm in County Carlow.

A few pouches of award winning Irish Mozzarella from Macroom Dairy or Toonsbridge Dairy are also making a range of pecorino vincenzo and cacio cavallos

A basket of Green Saffron Spices and a packet of aged Basmati rice with flavour like you’ve never tasted before.

A couple of litres of raw milk from Dan Ahern of Ballysimon, Midleton, 086 1659258 or couple of pints of Glen Ilen pasteurized milk straight from the farm to the farmers market.

A bag of Golden Wonders from John Kennefick, Churchtown South, 086 2246102.

A gift token for a cooking class at Good Things Cafe in Skibbereen or of course the Ballymaloe Cookery School and the Dublin Cookery School.

Don’t forget the beverages. Those of you who can no longer drink wine without suffering adverse consequences, not just headaches but exaggerated reactions – rashes and nausea, contact Colm McCan and Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau wines in Kilkenny for a selection of natural wines. This present could and will change your life..

If you feel like making a pilgrimage out to East Cork there are of course many temptations in Midleton and Youghal but venture a little further to Shanagarry and you’ll find a cluster of good things.
Stephen Pearce Pottery, Kilkenny Design Centre, both in Shanagarry and Ballymaloe Shop…..All the above also have café where you can relax and enjoy lunch or revive with just a cup of tea or Golden Bean coffee.

Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop, just ¼ a mile up the road from the Shanagarry village has a range of frivolous and practical gifts plus freshly picked organic produce from the farm and garden, thick unctuous Jersey yoghurt and rich homemade butter, totally natural sourdough bread and of course raw milk from our tiny herd of seven Jersey cows. Telephone 021 4646785 before you come to reserve) and then have relaxing walk along Shanagarry strand before you return to the fray.

A hamper from Woodside Farm, beautiful free range pork and bacon products, rashers, sausages, hocks, bacon…all the hams are gone but there may still be delicious loin or streaky or collar bacon, hocks, pigs tails… or 087 276 7206

NASH 19 Christmas Bespoke Hampers
for your foodie friend stocked with lots of delicious artisan produce…Spiced Beef, Mince Pies, Gluten Free Plum Puddings….. Pop into NASH 19 Food Shop to create your own hamper, packaged and wrapped in store. Deliveries nationwide too. Tel 021 427 0880

Ardmore Pottery Christmas Craft Fair
runs daily from 26th November to 24th December. Beautiful willow baskets, jewellery, knitwear, pottery plus Lismore Biscuits, Mella’s Fudge, Crinnaughtan Apple juice, jams and preserves…….
Contact Mary Lincoln at 024 94152 or

Best Ever Tomato Sauce

A good tomato sauce is invaluable to have in the fridge or freezer as a standby, another marvellous accompaniment to all sorts of dishes. Use it on pizza or of course you can have a pasta sauce in seconds. Add a pinch of chilli flakes if your friends would like some extra oomph!

Makes 16 fl ozs (475ml)

1 oz (25g) butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-4 cloves garlic, depending on taste, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 lbs (900g) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 2 x 14 oz (400g) tins Italian tomatoes, chopped
salt, freshly ground pepper and a little honey to taste
a pinch of chilli flakes, optional

Melt the butter, add the olive oil and toss in the chopped garlic and optional pinch of chilli flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until pale golden, then add the onion, cook for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, then season with salt, pepper and a little honey to taste. Cook fast for 15-20 minutes if you want a fresh tasting sauce, or more slowly – for up to 1 hour – if you prefer it more concentrated. Purée through a mouli legumes. Taste and correct seasoning. Pour into sterilized glass kilner or little jam jars. Cover, label and decorate.

Black or Green Olive Tapenade

The strong gutsy flavour of Tapenade can be an acquired taste but soon becomes addictive – and has become a”new basic”.

Serve with Cruditées, Bruschetta, Crostini with Lamb, Pasta, Goat cheese…..

2 ozs (50g) anchovy fillets
3 1/2 ozs (100g) stoned black or green or a mixture of olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
freshly ground pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Whizz up the anchovy fillets (preferably in a food processor) with the stoned black olives, capers, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper.

Alternatively, use a pestle and mortar. Add the olive oil as you whisk and process to a coarse or smooth puree as you prefer.

Tapenade Oil

Add lots of Extra virgin olive oil and store in a sterilized jam – jar use to drizzle over goat cheese etc.

Banana and Date Chutney

This unusual chutney is quite a departure from the ordinary but your friends will love it to serve with cold meats and the cheese board during the Christmas season.

Makes 6 x 200g (7oz) jars

250g (9oz) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and roughly chopped
200g (7oz) onions, peeled and roughly chopped
225ml (8fl oz) malt vinegar
8 ripe bananas (approximately 750g/1 10oz) peeled and roughly chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) rounds
100g (3 1/2oz) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
200g (7oz) soft dark brown sugar
250g (9oz) stoned dates, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

Spice Bag
4 allspice berries
1 small (5cm/2 inch) cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 pieces of orange peel

Put the apples and onions into a large, heavy based saucepan, pour in the vinegar and cook over a low heat until soft, approximately 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to a simmer and bubble away gently for 45 minutes approximately or until the chutney thickens and reduces by about 1/3 – 1/2. Spoon into warm, sterilised jars and cover and store in a cool, dark place for up 6 months. Once opened, keep in the fridge and try to use up within a month.

Note: The onion can be omitted if desired.

JR’s Handmade Rose Water Marshmallows

Once you taste handmade marshmallow you will never go back to the mass produced version. JR Ryall, the Pastry Chef at Ballymaloe House, makes these delicately flavoured and lighter than air marshmallow that are best enjoyed within a few days of making.

Makes approximately 100

455g (1lb) granulated or caster sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
9 gelatine leaves or 5 1/2 rounded teaspoons of powdered gelatine
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon good quality rose water
red food colour paste
4 tablespoons icing sugar and 4 tablespoons corn flour sieved together

For Raspberry Marshmallow – fresh raspberries and pistachio nuts (optional).

Line the bottom of a 30 x 20cm (11 x 8 inch) baking tray with parchment paper. Dust with sieved icing sugar and cornflour.

Place sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all of the sugar is wet. Using a pastry brush dipped water, remove any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling do not stir, simply tilt the pot from side to side to ensure the solution heats evenly until it reaches 127°C/260°F. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature using a sugar thermometer.

Meanwhile, rehydrate the gelatine in 140ml (4 3/4fl oz/generous 1/2 cup) water.

When the boiling syrup reaches 110°C/230°F start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.

Add the rehydrated gelatine and water into the syrup when it reaches 127°C/260°F and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will foam slightly, this is normal. Pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites and whip on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the marshmallow thickens and the bowl of the mixer is warm to the touch. Turn the speed of the mixer to low and whisk in the rosewater and enough food colour paste to turn the marshmallow baby pink.

Spoon the thick marshmallow mix onto the lined baking tray and smooth with a palette knife. Allow to set (usually takes 2 hours).

Dust the top of the marshmallow with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Turn out onto a work surface, peel off the paper and cut into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in the cornflour and icing sugar mix to finish.

Raspberry Marshmallow

JR also makes divine fresh raspberry marshmallows. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin, sprinkle the surface with fresh raspberries. I love to add some pistachio nuts as well. Pour the remainder on top, allow to set, proceed and serve as above.

Agen Chocolate Prunes

Delicious and super quick to make and a real surprise guaranteed to convert even the most ardent prune hater.

Makes 22

225g (8oz) best quality dark chocolate
32 Agen prunes, stoned

Melt the chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl over barely simmering water. Turn off the heat just as soon as the water comes to the boil, the chocolate will gradually melt in the hot bowl.

Dip the prunes one at a time into the chocolate. Shake off excess chocolate and allow to set on a baking tray covered with silicone paper.

Serve as a petit four. Pop into pretty gold paper cases arrange in a pretty box and decorate.

Rachel’s Salted Caramel Sauce

I’ll be forever grateful to the French genius who first put salt in caramel. The ultimate expression of salty and sweet. This sauce works brilliantly with chocolate mousse or of course on crepes or ice cream.

225g (8oz) sugar, caster or granulated
75ml (3fl oz) water
110g (4oz) butter
175ml (6fl oz) regular or double cream
a good pinch of salt (I love to use salt flakes such as Maldon or Atlantic sea salt)

Place the sugar and the water in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir as it heats up to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved stir in the butter, turn the heat up to high and cook for about 10 minutes until it turns a toffee colour. Do not stir the pan though you might need to swirl the pan occasionally if you see it turning golden on one side of the pan before the other. Once it is a rich golden toffee colour tale it off the heat for a moment and stir in half the cream. When the bubbles die down, stir in the rest of the cream and the salt to taste (it will depend on the type of salt used and of course your taste how much you’ll need. Serve with the chocolate mousse and shortbread biscuits.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread

You’ll never go back to the well-known brand…..

Makes 2 small jars

250 g (9 oz) best quality hazelnuts
150 g (5 oz) icing sugar
45 g (1.5 oz) cocoa powder (we use Valrhona)
4 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Salt, between 1/8 and ¼ teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes or until the skin start to loosen and the nuts are golden and evenly roasted. Rub the skins off the hazelnuts and discard.

Cool and transfer to a food processor. Whizz the hazelnuts for 2-5 minutes or until the oil begins to separate from the soft paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder, hazelnut oil, vanilla extract and salt to taste. Keep whizzing until the spread is loose, glossy and a spreadable texture. Taste, it may need another pinch of salt or another tablespoon of hazelnut oil.
Spoon into little jars, cover and use within a month but usually it doesn’t last that long!

Christmas Mincemeat Swirls with Brandy Butter

Just love these mincemeat swirls – a super way to use up leftover mincemeat and brandy butter. Most delicious served warm.

Makes 18-20 scones

900g (2lb/8 cups) plain white flour
175g (6oz) butter
3 free-range eggs
pinch of salt
50g (2 oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
400-450 g (14 oz-16 oz) Ballymaloe mincemeat or vegetarian and gluten free mincemeat

Egg Wash (see below)

110 g (4 oz) flaked almonds
110 g (4 oz) demerara sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

Brandy Butter, see recipe

1-2 baking trays lined with parchment

First preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Don’t knead but roll gently into a rectangle about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick. Spread the mincemeat over the surface to within a half inch of the edge. Roll from the long side. Cut into 1½ inch (3cm) pieces. Arrange on a baking tray, allowing a little space for the swirls to spread. Brush the cut side with egg wash. Sprinkle each one with flaked almonds and dip in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with a dollop of homemade brandy butter on top.

Egg Wash

Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Brandy Butter

3ozs (75g) butter
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
2-6 tablespoons brandy

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again. Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop. If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.

A Brandy Mincemeat, vegetarian and gluten free

Makes approximately 7 x 375g (13oz) jars

125g (4 1/2oz) almonds
500g (18oz) candied citrus peel (see recipe)
4 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
60g (2 1/2oz) real glacé cherries
375g (12oz) seedless raisins
500g (18oz) sultanas
500g (18oz) currants
450g (16oz/2 cups) soft dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
grated zest of juice of one lemon
grated zest of one orange
110ml (4fl oz) Brandy or Armagnac
125g (4 1/2oz) melted butter

Blanch, peel and chop the almonds. Put in a bowl with the chopped candied peel, apple and glacé cherries. Add the raisins, sultanas and currants. Stir in the brown sugar, mixed spice, freshly grated nutmeg, lemon and orange zest, lemon juice, brandy and butter. Mix well.

Fill into sterilised jars, cover and store in a cool, dry place. This mincemeat will keep for up to 6 months if kept in a cool larder.

Kumquat and Irish Whiskey Marmalade

Kumquat Marmalade – my special breakfast treat, not as tart as Seville Orange Marmalade, rather more bitter-sweet – just gorgeous. A present that your friends will really treasure and you ‘ll find that they’ll be dropping hints, hoping for another pot. It’ll also sell like hot cakes at a Christmas Bring and Buy or Farmers’ Market.

Makes 6 approx. little pots (200ml/7fl.oz)

1 kg (2¼lb) kumquats
1 3/4 litres (2½ pints) water
1 3/4 kgs (3 1/2 lbs) sugar
2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Slice kumquats thinly crossways. Collect the seeds, put in a small bowl with 250ml
(8 fl oz) of the water, allow to stand overnight. Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with the remaining water, cover and allow to stand overnight.

Next day, strain the seeds, save the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam); discard the seeds.

Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender, Remove the lid and boil fast to reduce the liquid to less than original volume.

Warm the sugar in a moderate oven for about 8-10 minutes. Add the sugar. Stir until fully dissolved (the mixture should not be more than 5 cm /2 inch deep). Bring to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes or until a teaspoon of mixture will wrinkle when tested on a cold saucer – remove the pan from the heat while testing. Stir in the whiskey.

Pot in hot sterilised jars. Seal and store in a cool dry place.

Homemade Crackers with Irish Farmhouse Cheese

Include a beautiful Irish Farmhouse cheese in perfect condition. This recipe makes a huge number of light biscuits, which taste delicious with butter alone, or with butter and a soft cheese.

Makes 45-50 biscuits

1/2 lb (225g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) butter
pinch of salt
5-6 fl ozs (150-175ml) hot milk

Preheat the oven to 220°C\425°F\regulo 7

Rub the first three ingredients together. Then mix to a dough with hot milk, it should be firm but soft. Knead it well. Roll out small bits of the dough to paper thinness, it will look and feel like a piece of cloth. Prick with a fork….

Cut into approx. 3 inch (7.5cm) rounds with a plain or fluted scone cutter and bake in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until they are slightly browned and puffed up. Cool and store in an air-tight box.

The Christmas Frenzy……

The Christmas frenzy is well under way. Fairy lights twinkle, Christmas decorations festoon the shops and high streets. Just yesterday a lovely lady stopped me in the street and asked where could she find my Christmas book, apparently she’d lent it to a friend years ago who’d lent it to another friend and the net result was she never got it back. I hear this a lot.

The original Simply Delicious Christmas published in 1989 has been out of print since 2011 but as a result of these kind of requests my Christmas book A Simply Delicious Christmas have reprinted in hardback by Gill and Macmillan with all the original recipes and 100 new ones so no need to panic. It could make a handy Christmas present plus give you an excuse to ask for the original dog eared paperback copy. Many more requests this year for the traditional recipes, I’ve included the roast turkey with all the trimmings but since I wrote the original Christmas book, I’ve realised the value of brining the turkey before cooking.

I can’t tell you how much it enhances the flavour of even mediocre poultry. Simply submerge the bird in a brine solution of 6 litres water to 600g salt overnight. Next day drain, dry, stuff and cook.

Here’s another dilemma and another question that I’m regularly asked – To stuff or not to stuff the bird! Well it’s a resounding YES from me. Doesn’t matter how good your stuffing is, it won’t’ be up to much if it’s just cooked in a pie dish or tin foil. The juices of the turkey enhance it immeasurably but don’t pack the cavity too tightly – the heat needs to be able to penetrate fully into the centre of the stuffing during cooking. Stuff the neck end also and tuck the flap underneath, secure it with the wing tips and so you have lots extra for all the stuffing lovers in the family.

Hopefully, you’ve ordered your turkey by now, personally I favour a bronze turkey and like to get it ‘New York’ dressed, so I can hang it for 3 or 4 weeks, no butcher will do that for you but for me it hugely enhances the flavour.

A ham is just a brilliant standby particularly at Christmas, order that well ahead also but if you can’t find a nice fat succulent ham; my top tip is to choose a fine piece of loin of bacon. If anything, streaky bacon with its stripes of fat and lean is even more juicy and delicious and deliciously inexpensive. It’s also an excellent ‘store cupboard’ ingredient to keep in your fridge to add to chunky soups, stews, frittatas, pasta sauces….now a few words for the cook about surviving Christmas. If you’ve got a big crowd for Christmas dinner, ask for help, I certainly do and you know what, it makes it all more fun for everyone plus we can pass on the skills to the younger generation, both boys and girls.

Making a plum pudding, mincemeat, cranberry sauce, brandy butter, bread sauce, making stuffing, preparing Brussels sprouts and celery is not exactly rocket science but it all takes time and it makes all the difference to the enjoyment of the meal if as much as possible can be prepared ahead.

Don’t know about you but I have to make lists – so as soon as you can, make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit down, relax and make a week’s planner. Christmas is not just one day, it now lasts for 5-7 days. Insert the basic meals for each day and then start on the list of jobs and allocate a certain number of tasks to ensure that everyone has a share in the fun and the work, a sense of humour is vital and somehow lightens the load for everyone. Don’t forget a hug for the cook.

Stock up your Pantry
A well-stocked store cupboard of dry goods makes it so easy to rustle up meals in moments by adding a few fresh ingredients or even leftovers.
Apart from the obvious dry goods – flour, onion and potatoes, pasta, rice, spices…..
For Christmas – pannetone, Panforte di siena, clementines, mandarins, streaky bacon, chorizo, salami…..a block of cheddar and a variety of farmhouse cheese, pickled herrings, spiced beef, tortillas, pitta bread, good quality chocolate, nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, sardines, tuna, anchovies, tinned tomatoes, tinned beans – chickpeas, flageolets, black eyed beans, extra virgin olive oil…….

NASH 19 Christmas Bespoke Hampers
for your foodie friend stocked with lots of delicious artisan produce…Spiced Beef, Mince Pies, Gluten Free Plum Puddings….. Pop into NASH 19 Food Shop to create your own hamper, packaged and wrapped in store. Deliveries nationwide too. Tel 021 427 0880

Ardmore Pottery Christmas Craft Fair
Runs daily from 26th November to 24th December. Beautiful baskets, jewellery, knitwear, pottery plus Lismore Biscuits, Mella’s Fudge, Crinnaughtan Apple juice, jams and preserves…….
Contact Mary Lincoln at 024 94152 or

East Cork Christmas Market
is on tomorrow from 11.30am-4.30pm at the Garryvoe Hotel. Local producers of food and crafts, delicious Christmas treats, handmade crafts. Order your Christmas poultry, baking and locally grown vegetables. Admission by voluntary donation. Proceeds to East Cork Rapid Response. I’ll be signing my Simply Delicious Christmas from 11am to 12. Rory O’ Connell will sign copies of Master It from 12pm-1. Looking forward to seeing you!
Contact Mary Griffin

How to Brine a Turkey

6 litres (10 1/2 pints/26 1/4 cups) water
600g (1 1/4lb) salt

Brining the turkey overnight is not essential but it hugely enhances the flavour and makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.

*Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Put the turkey into a clean stainless steel saucepan, plastic bucket or tin. Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours. Drain and dry well. This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.

Old-fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

Serves 10-12

This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices. Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets

Fresh Herb Stuffing
175g (6oz/3/4 stick) butter
350g (12oz) chopped onions
400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4oz of gluten-free breadcrumbs)
50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm
salt and freshly ground pepper

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey
2 sliced carrots
2 sliced onions
1 stick celery
Bouquet garni
3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey
225g (8ozs/2 sticks) butter
large square of muslin (optional)

Cranberry Sauce (see recipe)
Bread Sauce (see recipe)

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate). Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.

To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Allow it to get quite cold. If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing. Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end.

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours. There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin. The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil. However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word.

The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.

To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy. .

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De-glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.
If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast
potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.
Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce

Bread Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull! I serve it, not just with roast turkey and chicken, but also with pheasant and guinea fowl. Make the breadcrumbs yourself from stalish white bread.

Serves 10-12

450ml (16 fl.oz) whole milk
110g (4 ozs) soft white breadcrumbs – see recipe
2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves
35 – 50g (1 1/2 – 2 ozs) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
50ml (2fl.oz) thick cream
2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season, with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice product made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

How to Make Bread Crumbs

I’ve just been to the shops and seen breadcrumbs for sale for more than the price of a loaf of bread for a 250g (9oz) bag, so let me share the secret of how to make your own.

There are three options.

Fist save all left over white bread, for white bread crumbs, cut off the crusts (save for dried crumbs) (see below).

Tear each slice into 3 or 4 pieces, drop into a liquidiser or food processor, whizz for 30 seconds to a minute, hey presto – bread crumbs. Use immediately or freeze in convenient size bags for use another time.

If you use crumbs include the crusts. The breadcrumbs will be flecked with lots of crust but these are fine for stuffing and any other dish where the crumbs do not need to be white.

Uses for bread crumbs stuffing, coating fish, meat, croquettes etc. Use for bread sauce and buttered crumbs for gratins.

Before the days of liquidisers and food processors, we made bread crumbs by grating squares of stale bread or the coarsest part of a box grater. The breadcrumbs were not as uniform as those made in a whizzer but will be absolutely fine.

Dried Bread Crumbs.
Put the crusts off the bread slices, spread out on a baking tray. Bake in a low oven (100°C/220°F/Gas Mark 1/4) for 2 – 3 hours. Cool, liquidise the dry crusts a few at a time into fine bread crumbs. Sieve and store in a screw top jar or a plastic box as until needed. No need to freeze, they keep for months. Use for coating cheese or fish croquettes.

Ways To Use Up Stale Bread

Breadcrumbs (soft or dried).
Coating fish, meat or croquetts.
Buttered Crumbs.
Bread Sauce.
Melba Toast.
Apple Charlotte.
Eggy Bread – French Toast.
Parmesan Toasts.

Irish Cranberry Sauce

Beautiful cranberries are now grown on the Bog of Allen – how cool is that.
Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best. It will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days. Also great with white chocolate mousse.

Serves 6 approx.

175g (6 ozs) fresh cranberries (look out for the Irish grown cranberries)
60ml (4 tablespoons) water
75 g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins. Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Serve warm or cold.

Other good things to add to Cranberry Sauce –

Cranberry and Orange – use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of water and add the rind of half an unwaxed orange.

Cranberry and Apple – Mix Cranberry Sauce made as above with half quantity of Bramley Apple Sauce, so good.

Crusty Roast Potatoes

Crusty roast potatoes are just the thing to surround the Christmas roast. A big roasting tin of crusty potatoes always invokes a positive response. Everyone loves them. They are easy to achieve but I still get asked over and over for the secret of crunchy golden roasties. So here are my top tips:

• Grow or seek out good-quality dry, floury potatoes such as Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks. New potatoes do not produce good roast potatoes.
• For best results, peel the potatoes just before roasting. Resist the temptation to soak them in water, or understandably they will be soggy, due to the water they absorb. This has become common practice when people want to prepare
ahead, not just for roasting, but also before boiling.
• After peeling, dry the potatoes meticulously with a tea-towel or kitchen paper. Otherwise, even when tossed in fat or oil, they will stick to the roasting tin. Consequently, when you turn them over as you will need to do halfway through the cooking, the crispy bit underneath will stick to the tin.
• If you wish to prepare potatoes ahead, there are two options. Peel and dry each potato carefully, toss in extra virgin olive oil or fat of your choice, put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Alternatively, put into a plastic bag, twist the end, and refrigerate until needed. They will keep for 5 or 6 hours or overnight without discolouring.

Roast potatoes may be cooked in extra virgin olive oil, top-quality sunflower oil, duck fat, goose fat, pork fat (lard) or beef dripping. Each gives a delicious but different flavour. Depending on the flavour and texture you like, choose from the following cooking methods:

1 Toss the potatoes in the chosen fat and cook.

2 If you prefer a crunchier crust, put the peeled potatoes into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2–4 minutes only and drain. Dry each blanched potato and score the surface of each one with a fork. Then toss in the chosen oil or fat, season with salt and cook in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan in a preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

3 Drain the blanched potatoes, then put the saucepan with the potatoes inside over a medium heat, and shake the pot to dry the potatoes and fluff the blanched surface. Toss in your chosen oil or fat, season with salt and roast as above.

Note: some cooks, to create an even crunchier crust, like to toss the potatoes in a little flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper and maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika.

Duck or Goose Fat Roasties

Everybody loves roast potatoes, yet people ask over and over again for the secret to making them golden and crispy. The type of fat really matters: duck or goose fat adds delicious flavour. Good-quality pork fat or lard from free-range pigs is also worth saving for roast or sauté potatoes. All will keep for months in a cold larder or fridge.

Glazed Ham

A glazed ham is one of my favourite Christmas meals and also a brilliant standby for salads and sandwiches for the festive season. We do lots of glazes but of all the ones this is the one that I keep coming back to. You could just use marmalade. You’ll know when the ham is cooked when the rind peels off the fat easily.

Serves 12-15

1 x 4.5kg (10lb) fresh or lightly smoked ham (ensure it has a nice layer of fat)
30 or more whole cloves, depending on the size of the diamonds
350g (12oz) brown Demerara sugar
a couple of tablespoons of pineapple juice from a small tin of pineapple

If the ham is salty, soak it in cold water overnight and discard the water the next day. Cover the ham with fresh, cold water and bring it slowly to the boil. If the meat is still salty, there will be a white froth on top of the water. In this case it is preferable to discard this water, cover the ham with fresh cold water again and repeat the process. Finally, cover the ham with hot water, put the lid on the saucepan and simmer until it is almost cooked. Allow 25-30 minutes approx. to the lb of cooking time for every 450g (1lb) of ham (usually about 4 hours, but depends on the size of the ham). When the ham is fully cooked the rind will peel off easily and the small bone at the base of the leg will feel loose.

To glaze the ham: preheat the oven to 250ºC/ 500ºF/gas mark 9.

While still warm, peel the rind from the cooked ham, cut the fat into a diamond pattern and stud each diamond with a whole clove. Blend the brown sugar to a paste with a little pineapple juice. Be careful not to make it too liquid. Transfer the ham to a roasting tin just large enough to take the joint.

Spread the thick glaze over the entire surface of the ham, but not underneath. Bake it in a very hot oven for 20 minutes or until it has caramelised. While it is glazing, baste the ham regularly with the syrup and juices.

Serve hot or cold with Cumberland sauce.

Kumquat Compôte

A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham. Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt. I usually double the quantity, it keeps for weeks in the fridge and has perked up so many dishes. Try it with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate wafers for an easy dessert.

Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served

235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats
200ml (7fl oz) water
110g (4oz) sugar

Slice the kumquats into four or five rounds depending on size, remove the seeds. Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: This compote keeps for weeks in the fridge and everyone loves it.

Creamed Celery

Serves 4 – 6

How retro does this sound, but it’s so good with roast turkey and can be rustled up the day before. I sometimes add extra milk make this into a celery sauce – so delicious with a poached turkey or chicken.

1 head of celery
salt and freshly ground pepper
roux (see recipe)
120-175ml (4-6 fl.oz) cream or creamy milk

chopped parsley

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks.

Bring 150ml (1/4 pint) of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux, add the enough whole milk or cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note: Can be reheated successfully

Best Brussels Sprouts Ever

Not surprisingly many people loathe Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.
The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways, or better still quarters, they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent brussels sprout haters!

Serves 4-6

450g (1lb) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom)
600ml (1 pint) water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
25-50g (1-2oz) butter or extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half or quarters lengthways – cut into quarters if they are very large. Salt the water (its really important to add enough salt) and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and continue for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Drain very well.

Melt a little butter or extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.

Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, drain and refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.

Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Almonds
Cook the sprouts in the usual way. Meanwhile melt 25-50g (- oz) butter in a frying pan, toss in about 25g (1oz) nibbed or flaked almonds and cook for a few minutes or until golden. As soon as the sprouts are cooked, drain and toss with the buttered almonds. Serve immediately in a hot dish.

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnuts and Crispy Bacon or Chorizo
Add 2-4oz (50-110g) of crispy bacon lardons or chorizo and 50g (2oz) of toasted and chopped hazelnuts to the above recipe and serve immediately.

Pixie’s Yummy Brussels
Cook the brussels sprouts as above, drain while still al dente.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a high heat, add 1/2 oz butter, add 50g (20oz) slivered almonds, toss for a minute or two, add the sprouts, 1 teaspoon of garam masala and add 150ml (5fl.oz) of cream. Season with freshly ground pepper, allow to bubble. Taste and serve immediately

Crown Roast of Turkey with Harissa, Pomegranate and Cucumber Rita and Moroccan Tomato Jam

I’m a big brown meat fan if all your family prefer white meat you might like to try this delicious combo. Banana and Cardamom Raita, Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, and Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad are also delicious served with this turkey dish.

Serves 10-12

3.6-4.4kg (8-10lb) organic turkey crown

6 litres (10 1/2 pints) water
600g (1 1/4lb) salt

4 tablespoons Harissa – see recipe
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander

To Serve
Couscous (see recipe)
Moroccan Tomato Jam (see recipe)
Pomegranate and Cucumber Raita (see recipe)

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

Brine the turkey overnight, (*see below) not essential but it makes for moist, tender and flavourful meat.
*Add the salt to the water and stir to dissolve. Put the turkey crown into a clean stainless steel saucepan, plastic bucket or tin. Cover with the brine and a lid and chill for 24 hours. Drain and dry well. This is of course optional, but it hugely enhances the flavour of the turkey.

Mix the harissa, olive oil and coriander together in a little bowl.
Spread all over the skin of the turkey crown, smearing some underneath the skin if possible. Cover and allow to marinade in a fridge for an hour or two.

Put the turkey into a deep roasting tin and cover with tin foil.

Roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the tin foil and cook uncovered for a further 15-30 minutes approximately.
To test if the turkey is cooked, prick the thickest part of the flesh with the point of a knife, examine the juices, they should run clear.
Remove to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.
Serve with Couscous, Moroccan Tomato Jam and Pomegranate and Coriander Raita (x 2 recipe). Enjoy with an Irish craft beer or dry cider.

Herbed Couscous

350g (12oz) medium couscous
juice of 2 lemons
6 tablespoons (7 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) chicken stock (see recipe)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and mint
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek style yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Place the couscous in a large bowl and add four tablespoons of the oil and the lemon juice. Mix well ensuring that all the grains are completely coated. Heat the stock in a small pan and season generously. Pour over the couscous and allow to sit in a warm place for 6-8 minutes until all the liquid has absorbed, stirring occasionally.

To serve, stir in the remaining oil and the herbs into the couscous and arrange on plates with the tagine. Finally garnish with a dollop of the Greek yoghurt and coriander leaves.


Makes 100g (3 1/2oz)

10 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
5 fresh red chillies
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

Deseed and roughly chop the dried and fresh chillies. Put in a food processor with the garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and olive oil. Whizz until smooth.

Store in a jar with a layer of olive oil over the top. It will keep for 3 months.

Moroccan Tomato Jam

A high percentage of cinnamon is in fact cassia, so seek out cinnamon from Sri Lanka or Ceylon. I first came across this delicious jam when I visited a Berber family in the Atlas Mountains in the 1980’s – delicious with cold meats, cheese, crostini……

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) jars

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
110g (4oz) chopped onion
salt and freshly ground pepper
2.2kg (5lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1-2 teaspoons Sri Lankan cinnamon (careful might be too much)
4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) chopped coriander
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) tomato purée
4-6 (5 – 7 1/2 American tablespoons) tablespoons honey

Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan or sauté pan, add the chopped onion. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and cook on a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, while you peel and chop the tomatoes. Add the tomato purée to the onions with the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of the freshly chopped coriander. Cook uncovered until the tomato is thick and concentrated, approx. 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, otherwise it will catch on the bottom.

It will be thick and jam like, stir in another teaspoon of cinnamon, the remaining coriander and the honey. This is meant to be sweet, but reduce honey if you rather it less intense.

Cook, taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.

Pomegranate and Cucumber Raita

This raita makes a moreish dip with poppadums or naan bread. It will taste especially good if you use your own yogurt.

Makes 225ml (8fl oz)

1 pomegranate
1⁄4 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped mint leaves
200ml (7fl oz) natural yogurt

Split the pomegranate in half around the equator. Place the cut side down on the palm of your hand. Hold over a container and tap vigorously with the bowl of a wooden spoon; the seeds will dislodge and fall into the bowl you’ve put below. Add the cucumber, coriander and mint to the bowl. Stir in the yogurt, season with salt and serve.

Cookbooks for Christmas

I’ve been inundated with a whole new crop of cookbooks published just in time for the Christmas market, something to tempt aspiring, experimental and accomplished cooks.

Every time I think I’ve reached ‘peak’ cookbook along come some new temptations. So what has peaked my fancy….

Jamie has done it again – Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook is full of gorgeous photos of tempting foods and delicious recipes for edible gifts, party foods and new ways to love leftovers.  Loved his smoked salmon toasts and Boxing Day Quesadillas.

Do you know what Hygge means?  I had  no idea what the word meant until relatively recently when I noticed that it seemed to be  popping up all over the place.  Well apparently it means in essence – ‘living cosily’ – enjoying life’s simple pleasures with friends and family, creating a warm atmosphere, fire and candlelight….. It’s a Danish and Norwegian word that’s difficult to translate, it seems to be a feeling of comfortable well-being – savouring the moment….several cookbooks have been published with Hygge in the title including a young Norweigan cook, Signe Johansen who sent me her book How to Hygge: the secrets of Nordic living, Nigel Slater described it as “uplifting heart-warming, life enriching. I wish I could have read this book years ago”.

Signe is a woman after my own heart, in a recent interview in the Guardian, she told Dale Berning Sawa “everything tastes better with butter. It is generally my fat of choice when cooking. I make my own but I also buy some too – both salted and unsalted. I go through so much of it”.

Admirers of Michelin starred chefs may be delighted to get a copy of The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire who was voted Best Chef in the World by his peers in 2016 and whose restaurants worldwide boast two or three Michelin stars each.

The recipes are surprisingly easy to reproduce, try this cream of pumpkin soup with coconut milk, easy and super delicious. Use a Red Kuri or pumpkin butternut squash.

Gather by Gill Meller is a beautiful book that will excite your hunter gather friends – you may not be familiar with Gill’s name partly because he stayed behind the scenes at River Cottage with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for years but is now Head Chef has been for some time and is definitely a name to note – I love Gill’s simple food based on superb ingredients from seashore to woodland, orchard to garden, field to farm, moorland to harbour, the very best kind of honest cooking and gorgeous flavours. I’ve chosen fried pheasant with quince and bay for you to try, beautiful food photographs also.

The British Table by Colman Andrews is also quite a production – a  new book of the traditional cooking of England, Scotland and Wales. The photos in this book are by two of my most admired food photographers, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton.

Many of the recipes from all four corners of the UK have been shared by some of my favourite chefs Jeremy Lee, Mark Hix, Sally Clarke, Fergus Henderson, meticulously researched and beautifully written published by Abrams.

So many tempting recipes but try this cockle popcorn which Mark Hix freely admits he stole from his local fish merchants Samways who originally served them at a local festival. Check out the English Market in Cork for a terrific selection of fish and shellfish but we also get a fantastic selection from Michael Kelly (, Carlingford Oyster Company ( and Quinlans (

Closer to home Rachel Allen has just published yet another gorgeous book, this time it’s called Recipes from my Mother published by Harper Collins and is full of recipes from both her mum and grandmother with a few of my mum’s favourites as well – you’ll love this and here’s to try…


Hot Tips

Midleton Country Market is also celebrating 40 years in business. Each Friday the Midleton Country Market set up at Market Green from 9am-2pm, order your Christmas Cake, Puddings and Mince Pies. Contact Siobhan Murphy at


Slow Food Mayo

Celebrate Terra Madre Day on Thursday 8th December at 7pm at Belleek Castle, Ballina, Co Mayo.  Mulled wine, canapés and three course dinner. Tickets are €35. Tel: Suzanne on 087 9170422


Mella’s Fudge

Mella’s Fudge from Clonakilty has just launched two new flavours Salted Caramel and Dark Chocolate Fudge. Both are delicious as is the many other varieties – Irish Cream Liqueur, Christmas Spice with Orange, Rum and Raisin, Vanilla……a delightful Christmas gift in beautiful packaging.  Tel: Mella McAuley 086 159 5949 or

Pre-Loved Kitchen Cupboard Sale

at Urru Culinary Store in Bandon on Thursday 8th December from 4-8pm. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure or Christmas present…..Donate a couple of unused or unwanted kitchen items in perfect condition and working order. Proceeds from the sale will support 10 Bandon and West Cork Charity and Community Groups. Organiser Ola Fudali can be contacted on 023 885 4731


In Season  Quince

Look out for quince; they are in season at present. You’ll find them in good greengrocers and at some Farmers Markets. A bright canary yellow fruit that resemble a slightly knobbly pear. They are deliciously perfumed and can have a downy fur on the outside. The fruit is always hard even when fully ripe. Use to make homemade membrillo – quince cheese or quince jam, delicious for Christmas presents or adds cubes of quince to pork or lamb stews or tagines. Alternatively give a quince tree to a foodie gardening friend, (cydonia oblonga)  – a gift for life.


Pierre Gagnaire’s Cream of Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Milk


Serves 6 as a starter


700 g pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks

700 ml fresh milk

400 g coconut milk

½ kaffir lime leaf

120 g lightly salted whipped cream

40 g shredded coconut

Fine salt


Cook the pumpkin from cold in lightly salted milk. Once boiling, add the coconut milk and kaffir lime leaf, then continue simmering for a further 15-20 minutes. Remove the kaffir lime leaf and process the mixture in a blender to a perfectly smooth, creamy soup.


For the whipped cream:- carefully fold the whipped cream into the grated coconut. Serve the pumpkin soup in soup bowls. Each guest can serve their own coconut cream on top of the hot soup.

The Five Seasons Kitchen by Pierre Gagnaire


Gill Meller’s Fried Pheasant with Quince and Bay


This rustic dish has an air of autumn about it. I like to think it’s got all the colour and patina of a hedgerow as its greens turn to soft, mottled yellows and light, earthy browns. The first pheasant of the season usually coincides nicely with the quince harvest. You can prepare the quince well in advance – once cooled, it keeps beautifully in the fridge  in its cooking syrup. If you’re not having pheasant, you can just as easily serve the quince alongside some good cheese and cold ham, or enjoy it sweet – with vanilla icecream.


Serves 2


Pared zest of ½ lemon

8 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

2 thyme sprigs

75 g (2½ oz) sugar

2 tablespoons runny honey

2 quinces, peeled, quartered and cored

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

75 g (2½ oz) unsmoked bacon lardons

2 pheasant or guinea fowl breasts (about 150 g/2½ oz) each)

1 knob of butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


First, make the fragrant syrup. Place the lemon zest, peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds (if using), thyme sprigs, sugar, honey and 300 ml/10½ fl oz of water in a medium pan. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring up to a gentle simmer.


Cut each quince quarter into 2 or 3 more evenly sized wedges. Place the wedges into the simmering syrup and cook very gently for 25-45 minutes, until the wedges are tender. (The cooking time can vary from quince to quince). When the quince are ready, remove from the heat, then use a slotted spoon to take them out of the pan and set aside.


Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the lardons and fry, stirring regularly, for 4-6 minutes or until the lardons are beginning to colour a little. Season the pheasant or guinea fowl breasts with salt and pepper and add them to the pan together with the cooked quince. Cook the breasts for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked to your liking, and until the quince wedges are lightly caramelised. Remove the pan from the heat, then remove the breasts from the pan and set aside to rest.


Divide the lardons and quince wedges equally between two warmed plates. Then place the frying pan over a high heat and add 100 ml (3½ fl oz) of the fragrant syrup (save the rest to use a fruit syrup). Reduce this by half; take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter until melted; season to taste. Cut each breast into thick slices and divide it equally between the two plates, arranging it next to the quince. Spoon over the syrup and serve straight away.

Gather by Gill Meller


 Signe Johansen’s Winter Nordic Salad

Kale is about as zeitgeisty as a winter green can be, but I’m actually not a huge fan and this is the only way I’ll eat it as find raw kale hard to chew. The secret is to really massage kale leaves so they start to soften and wilt. Roast squash or sweet potato make pretty much any salad better and pomegranate adds a little razzmatazz to this otherwise super simple dish.


Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main


1 butternut squash or 2 sweet potatoes

Olive oil

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

1 bunch of variegated or plain kale, washed and finely chopped

Zest and juice of 1 large unwaxed lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°Fgas mark 6.


Chop the squash or sweet potatoes into bite sized chunks,  put them on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes until tender. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.


Place the pomegranate seeds in a bowl. Massage the kale with the lemon zest and juice and some olive oil so that the leaves soften, then add to the bowl with the pomegranate seeds. Toss together, cover and set aside until ready to serve.


Mix the salad with the roasted butternut squash and serve with some roast fish, chicken or meat of your choice.


This salad also works a treat with diced feta, avocado and mixed seeds if you would rather keep it vegetarian.

How to Hygge The Secrets of Nordic Living, Signe Johansen



Signe Johansen’s Salmon Burgers


The Nordic region is famous for salmon, and I have to confess that as a kid, really hated the taste of cooked salmon. I was fine with smoked salmon, salmon sashimi and pretty much any other cooked fish variety but my poor mother had to suffer years of me turning up my nose at her delicious baked salmon. If only she had mad salmon burgers like these I might have been converted sooner.


Serves 6


800 g salmon, cut into bit sized chunks

1 tablespoon mustard

1 tablespoon horseradish sauce

2 anchovies

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

Handful of breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons chopped spring onion

1 teaspoon capers

1 teaspoon wasabi powder

1 teaspoon chilli flakes or 1 small green chilli, sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Oil for greasing


To Serve

500 ml Greek yoghurt

1 bunch of dill, finely chopped

1 bunch of chives, finely chopped

½ cucumber, deseeded and shredded

Pita breads

Pickled radish, fennel and cucumber


In a blender process a quarter of the salmon along with the mustard, horseradish, anchovies and lemon zest until you have a very smooth paste. This forms the glue for the remainder of the burger mixture. Add the rest of the salmon, along with the breadcrumbs, spring onion, capers, wasabi powder and chilli. Season to taste. Pulse everything together until the mixture is even, but be careful not to overmix the salmon – the fish should still be about 5mm in size.

Shape into burger patties and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 3-4 hours before grilling.

To cook, we panfry them in a little clarified butter.


To serve, simply mix the Greek yoghurt with the herbs and cucumber and serve with the pita breads and pickles.

How to Hygge The Secrets of Nordic Living, Signe Johansen


 Mark Hix’s Cockle Popcorn


“I must admit”, confesses Mark Hix, “that I stole this dish from one of our local fish merchants, Samways, who served these at a local food festival”.


Serves 4



Vegetable oil or corn oil, for deep frying

2/3 cup (70 g) self-raising gluten free or all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cayenne


7 ozs (200 ml) whole milk

6 ozs (175 g) raw fresh cockle meat or frozen cooked cockle meat, thawed

Good quality malt vinegar, for serving


Heat 3 or 4 inches (7½-10 cm) of oil in an electric deep fryer or large, heavy bottomed saucepan to a temperature of 350°F (175°C).


Put the flour into a shallow medium bowl and stir in the cayenne and salt to taste. Put the milk in another shallow medium bowl and put out a third (empty) shallow medium bowl.

Toss the cockles in the flour, then shake off the excess and put them in the milk. Pass them back through the flour, then put them in the empty bowl as they’re ready.

Deep fry the cockles in batches, stirring them continuously with a slotted spoon for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown, then transfer them with the slotted spoon to  paper towels to drain.

Serve immediately, accompanied by a good quality malt vinegar.

Taken from The British Table, Colman Andrews


 Rachel Allen’s Custard Creams

These are what they say on the tin, but they are a really good buttery, crumbly version of those you get in a packet.


Makes about 24 biscuits


200 g (7 oz) soft butter

150 g (7 oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla sugar

200 g (7 oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

100 g ( 3½ oz) custard powder


For the Butter Icing

125 g (4½ oz) soft butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250 g (9 oz) icing sugar


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


Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with baking parchment.


Place the butter in a bowl or in the bowl of an electric food mixer and cream well. Add the sugar and the vanilla and beat again until soft and light. Sift in the flour and the custard powder and mix well until the dough comes together.


When the dough has come together, roll it out on a floured worktop with some flour dusted on top, to stop it sticking, until it is 5 mm (¼ inch) thick.


You’ll probably need to regularly slide a palette knife under the dough with some flour to stop it sticking. Cut into shapes, squares or rectangles (making sure you have doubles of each shape so they can be sandwiched together) and carefully lift onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced a little apart as the will spread ever so slightly when baking.


Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until just feeling dry around the edges and light golden in colour. Take out of the oven and leave to stand on the baking sheet for a few minutes before lifting off to cool on a wire rack.


While the biscuits are cooking or cooling, make the butter icing. Cream the butter and the vanilla extract in a bowl with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and mix in the icing sugar until it comes together.


When the biscuits are cooked and cooled, spread some butter icing onto a biscuit

Recipes from my Mother, Rachel Allen


Whisky Soaked Raisin and Orange Marmalade  Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 6-8


145 g (1 cup) sultanas (golden raisins)

60 ml (½ cup) good quality Scotch whisky, plus more if needed

300 ml (1¼ cups) whole milk

300 ml (1¼ cups) heavy cream

Pinch of salt

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

5 large eggs

50 g (4 tablespoons) sugar

90 g (½ cup) mixed candied citrus peel

1 large brioche loaf bread or challah, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) slices

285 g (1¼ cups/2½ sticks) butter, softened

480 ml (2 cups) orange marmalade

Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional


Put the sultanas in a small bowl and cover them with the whisky (add a little more if necessary to completely cover them). Soak for at least 2 hours, then drain them and set aside (reserve the whisky for cocktails).

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

Combine the milk, cream, salt and vanilla beans in a medium pot. Bring the liquid to a boil, then take the pot off the heat and set aside to infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a medium bowl, then strain the milk mixture into the eggs and stir well.

Mix the sultanas and the citrus peel together, then spread them evenly over the bottom of a 4.5 litre baking dish.

Butter each slice of brioche or challah on one side, then cut each one at an angle into two triangles each. Arrange the slices, overlapping on top of the citrus and peel. Pour the custard mixture evenly over the bread, then bake the pudding, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Just before the pudding has finished baking, put the marmalade into a small saucepan and heat it over a low heat, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pudding from the oven and spread the heated marmalade over the top. Bake for 10 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature, with vanilla ice cream if you like.

Taken from the British Table, Colman Andrews


Eat Less Meat

Mary Robinson really put the ‘cat among the pigeons’ recently when she called on people from developed nations to consider eating “less meat or no meat at all”, due to the toll its production takes on the environment.  Her address to 1,300 current and future young world leaders from 196 nations at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa caused quite a stir around the world but particularly here in Ireland.

The remarks drew a tirade of condemnation from several farming organisations and rural TD’s who seemed to assume this statement was aimed directly at them.

Irish beef farmers are understandably particularly sensitive having been directly affected by the fall in the value of sterling as a result of Brexit.

Because of the quantity of methane and slurry produced by animals,   livestock rearing is seen as a major contribution to greenhouse gases. However, here in Ireland our dairy and beef animals are primarily, though not completely, grass fed so consequently they produce much less gas than grain fed animals reared in intensive feed lot systems.    A fact that needs to be repeated loud and clear… We are not comparing like with like, it’s simply not the same thing.

Ireland can grow grass like virtually nowhere else in the world so surely it makes sense for our farmers to produce good beef for export to areas that are not so favoured by nature. The quality of Irish beef is highly esteemed, was recently served at the Breeder’s Cup in California on the invitation of the organisers. Good Food Ireland was partnered by Dawn Meats and Bord Bia to showcase Irish beef at this super high profile event considered to be the ‘richest two days in sport’

However, back to Mary Robinson, we must be careful not to ‘shoot the messenger’. There’s no doubt that many people nowadays eat far more meat than is beneficial for their health.

Much of that meat is produced in extremely intensive units which raise animal welfare and chemical input concerns.

Although I eat mostly plants, copious amounts of vegetables, fresh herbs and wild foods, I’m certainly not a vegetarian. I love good meat but increasingly find myself eating less meat but better quality totally free range and organic. I am happy to pay more to those who are rearing animals and poultry in a more extensive way.

We urgently need a system where food producers can be identified and rewarded for producing a superior product. We also need to create a new paradigm where the contribution of organic and chemical free farmers to the environment is acknowledged in tax breaks.

So Mary Robinson would like us to consider a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle for the sake of the planet and future generations.  Scientists have confirmed that a widespread change in our eating habits would cut food related emissions by two thirds. Nonetheless many are reluctant to forego meat altogether.

Nonetheless, we can’t ignore the validity of the arguments so why not seek out an organic chicken. It will cost you €18-€22 as opposed to €3.50 –Ouch……. and that’s if you can even find one.  That is the real price of rearing and feeding a chicken with organic GM free feed for approximately three times the length of the bargain chicken without antibiotics, hormones, growth promoters or anti-depressants. Organic always means free range but free range certainly does not mean organic. Free range is a very ‘elastic term’, so ask some questions…..

So back to the days when chicken was a ‘once a week’ or even once a month treat and every single scrap was used, liver for pâté, giblets, carcass and feet for a fine pot of stock soup or broth – there’s nothing more nourishing or restorative particularly if you are feeling slightly poorly – it’s not called ‘Jewish penicillin’ for nothing.

Pork, too needs careful sourcing to find organic or chemical free.  Close to us here in East Cork, we have Woodside Farm where Martin and Noreen Conroy and their family work hard to provide us with beautiful heritage breed Saddleback pork and bacon, only problem they simply can’t keep up with demand – catch up with them at Midleton and Douglas on Saturday, Mahon on Thursday and Wilton Farmers Markets on Tuesday.

In Curraghchase in County Limerick Caroline Rigney and her husband Joe also do the same.

Mary’s right in many ways. We have to change; we simply cannot go on with ‘business as usual’. For the sake of our children, great grandchildren and the planet, we all need to commit to the Paris Agreement. Each and every one of us needs to think about our carbon footprint – we can each make a vital difference.

So here are some recipes, tasty, delicious and super nutritious that use just a little less meat.

Hot Tips

Sustainable Food Trust Conference with a focus on Sustainable Food and Health at Bristol University, November 23rd 2016.

Guest Speaker Joel Salatin will speak about The Role of Livestock in Future Farming Systems. Contact for further information.

Sushi made Simple

Scared to tackle sushi yourself?

On Wednesday November 30th we will take the mystery out of making sushi. We will start by explaining the ingredients, basic equipment and techniques required, giving you the confidence to serve it to guests at home or in a restaurant. We will use fresh fish straight from the boats in  Ballycotton Bay to create sublime sushi and sashimi. Sushi gets the ‘thumbs up’ from cardiologists and nutritionists – not least because it is based mainly on fresh fish, seaweed, vegetables and rice, but it is also low in saturated fat, high in vital omega 3s and rich in vitamins and minerals. Students will have the opportunity to taste all the dishes prepared during the demonstration.

Scalloped Potatoes with Beef and Kidney

Tons of flavour, for just a little beef. Season well and serve with some good butter.

Serves 6

2 1/2-3 lbs (1.1-1.35kg) potatoes

1 lb (450g) well hung stewing beef

1 beef kidney

3/4 lb (350g) onions, chopped

2 – 2 1/2 ozs (50-70g/2 – 2 1/2 sticks) butter

water or stock

salt and freshly ground pepper


chopped parsley

A presentable oval casserole

Remove the skin and white core from the kidney and discard, cut the flesh into 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes, put into a bowl, cover with cold water and sprinkle with a good pinch of salt. Cut the beef into 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes also. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) thick slices, put a layer of potato slices on the base of the casserole. Drain the kidney and mix with the beef, scatter some of the meat and chopped onion over the layer of potato. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper, dot with butter, add another layer of potato, more meat, onions and seasoning and continue right up to the top of the casserole, finish with an overlapping layer of potato. Fill with stock it will take approx. 13 fl ozs (375ml/1 1/2 cups). Bring to the boil, cover and cook in a preheated slow oven 150ºC/300°F/regulo 2, for 2 – 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is cooked. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve from the casserole with lots of butter.

Chicken Broth with Julienne of Vegetables

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints/6 1/4 cups) of well-flavoured homemade chicken stock (see recipe)


50g (2oz) carrots

50g (2oz) celery

50g (2oz) white turnip

50g (2oz) leeks

flat parsley

4 spring onions, cut at an angle

First julienne the vegetables.

Peel and cut the carrot, celery, turnip and leek into very thin julienne strips

Heat the broth, add the julienne, bring back to the boil and simmer gently until the vegetables are just cooked, 5-6 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and scatter with lots of flat leaf parsley and spring onion.

Baby Beef Scallopini with Lemon

We do not serve intensively reared veal either at Ballymaloe House or at the Cookery School but once or twice a year we have naturally reared milk fed calf from our own Jersey or Kerry bull calves.  The meat is not so pale as conventional veal but is wonderfully sweet and delicious.

Serves 6

675g (1½ lb) Lean Baby Beef from the top round

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour, well-seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

Beaten egg

Fresh white breadcrumbs

Clarified butter

Lemon segments

With a very sharp knife cut the top round into ¼ thick slices across the grain.  Trim off any fat or sinews.  Put between 2 sheets of cling film and flatten a little more with a meat pounder or rolling pin.

Dip each piece in well seasoned flour, beaten egg and soft white breadcrumbs.  Pat off the excess.

Melt 3 or 4 tablespoons of clarified butter in a wide frying pan.  Fry the scallopini, a few at a time until crisp and golden on one side then flip over onto the other.  Drain briefly on kitchen paper.  Serve hot with segments of lemon.

Lamb Stew with Bacon, Onions and Garden Herbs

Serves 6

The word stew is often associated in these islands with not very exciting mid week dinners. People tend to say almost apologetically, oh its only stew, no matter how delicious it is.

Well, let me tell you they smack their lips in France at the mere mention of a great big bubbling stew and now these gutsy, comforting pots are appearing on many of the smartest restaurant menus.

3 lb (1.3kg) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

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

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sauteeing

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

1 lb (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

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

12 ‘old’ potatoes (optional)

sprig of thyme

roux – optional

Mushroom a la Crème (optional)


Lots of freshly chopped parsley

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 12 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.

Cover the top of the stew with peeled potatoes (if using) and season well. 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, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.

When the casserole is just cooked, 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 enrichment. Serve bubbling hot sprinkled with lots of chopped parsley.


Lamb Stew with Haricot Beans

Add 8oz (225g) of precooked haricot beans to the stew about two-thirds of the way through cooking, omit the potatoes. This will add even more nourishment.

Substitute half the Tomato Fondue recipe for the Mushroom a la Crème recipe and you will have quite a different but equally delicious stew.

Add 1 teaspoon each of freshly roasted cumin and coriander seeds in with the carrots and onions and proceed as in master recipe.

Chicken Stock

This recipe is just a guideline. If you have just one carcass and can’t be bothered to make a small quantity of stock, why not freeze the carcass and save it up until you have six or seven carcasses and giblets, then you can make a really good-sized pot of stock and get best value for your fuel.

Stock will keep for several days in the refrigerator. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5–6 minutes every couple of days; allow it to get cold and refrigerate again. Stock also freezes perfectly. For cheap containers, use large yogurt cartons or plastic milk bottles, then you can cut them away from the frozen stock without a conscience if you need to defrost it in a hurry!

I’ve recently come across some very good Silkie chickens reared by Sean Ring from Castlecomer in Co Kilkenny. We can get them with their feet and heads on which adds immeasurably to the flavour and nourishment of the broth…not for everyone I know….

Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints/15 cups)

2–3 raw or cooked chicken carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the chicken (neck,  heart, gizzard – save the liver for a different dish)

1 onion, sliced

1 leek, split in two

2 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

1 carrot, cut into chunks

a few parsley stalks

sprig of thyme

6 peppercorns

Chop up the carcasses as much as possible. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints/17 1/2 cups) cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt.

Ballymaloe Cookery School