Darina’s Saturday Letter

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National Herb Week

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…..It’s so good to have something to distract us from the Covid 19 Pandemic, so this week prompted by National Herb Week now in its 6th year, which celebrates herbs and herbal medicine I’m going to focus on the culinary attributes of fresh herbs.

Fresh herbs add magic to our dishes and have always been a big part of my cooking. Each and every one has a unique aroma and have been part of the flavor of our food for as long as I can remember. But it wasn’t until I came to Ballymaloe in 1968 that I really discovered the enormous variety of fresh herbs.

At home in Cullohill, we always had lots of curly parsley in the garden for the Parsley sauce we loved, I seem to remember chives as well and some thyme. In Cathal Brugha Street hotel school in Dublin, I discovered sage and bay. Sage went into a traditional sage and onion stuffing for duck or goose and I seem to remember that bay leaves went into beef stock and could be dried…

However, it wasn’t until I came to Ballymaloe House in 1988 that I really discovered the magic of herbs. Inside the walled garden and in the greenhouse row after row of fresh herbs. At first, I couldn’t even identify many of them but soon I learned not only what they were but how to pick them at peak of perfection and how the flavor and often the shape changed at different stages and enhanced a dish.

French Tarragon perfumes a classic Béarnaise sauce to serve with a steak or a succulent roast beef. Gutsy rosemary to flavour blackcurrant jam, a slow roast shoulder of lamb or a robust stew. When it flowers in May we love to use the purply / blue blossoms as a garnish. Dill to make a sweet mustard mayo to accompany gravlax or smoked mackerel. The dill flowers provide little bursts of aniseed to fish soup and green salads.

In the early 1980’s, on my first trip to Italy for the first time I discovered basil. I didn’t love it at first but Italians seemed to find it indispensable. Famous Italian chef Marcella Hazan showed me how to make pesto and soon, I too was hooked, I brought home a packet of basil seeds and planted them in the greenhouse. Basil is an annual, native to the Mediterranean, it needs and loves the sun and is a heavy feeder. If you buy a plant, transplant it immediately into a big pot.  Keep it in a greenhouse or on your sunniest window sill and pinch off any flowers to encourage more growth. Nowadays, one can get most types of herbs in the supermarket, but they are a poor substitute for a little herb patch close to your kitchen door where you pop out at a moment’s notice and snip a little bunch to add to or scatter over your dishes. If you don’t already have a herb garden, why not start with a few perennials, once planted they will reemerge every year. Some, like sage, rosemary, thyme and bay are hardy and can be used year round. Others like fennel, chives, sweet cicely and lovage die down every winter but pop up again in Spring.

Annual marjoram, possibly my favourite herb of all time is just that, an annual, seeds must be sown every year, dill also plus coriander and chervil. Indispensable parsley will last for two years, it’s what gardeners refer to as a biannual. Each herb has its own medical as well as culinary flavour. Herb flowers too are edible, delicious and look beautiful scattered over salads or as a garnish.

Mint can be a thug, once planted it romps around your gardens but I can never have too much I throw fistfuls of it into all kinds of things, homemade lemonades, fruit salads and apple jelly.

Fresh coriander always provokes a strong reaction, it’s an acquired taste, few people like it initially but then become hooked. It’s an essential flavor in the food of the East, Middle East and South America so if you still feel you dislike it – keep trying otherwise you’ll miss out on all those delicious flavours.

Salad Caprese

This salad is only worth doing if you have access to gorgeous ripe tomatoes, good buffalo mozzarella, fresh summer basil and super extra virgin olive oil.  The first Irish tomatoes are now in season.

Serves 4

2 balls buffalo mozzarella (we’ve two options in Ireland – Toonsbridge Dairy Buffalo Mozzarella (www.toonsbridgedairy.com) and Macroom Buffalo Mozzarella (www.macroombuffalocheese.com)

4 very ripe beef tomatoes or large tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Slice the buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes into rounds.  Arrange in overlapping slices on a white plate.  Tuck some basil leaves in between the slices.  Drizzle with really good extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper to season – a simple feast when the ingredients are at the peak of perfection.

Potato, Onion and Lovage Soup

Taken from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

Lucy Madden from Hilton Park in Co. Monaghan, one of Ireland’s most charming country house hotels, made this delicious soup for me from the organically grown vegetables in her garden.

Serves 6

10–25g (1/2–1oz) butter

225g (8oz) onions, very thinly sliced

350g (12oz) potatoes, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres (2 pints) good homemade chicken or vegetable stock

a large handful of lovage leaves

Garnish

lovage and parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on a low heat, add the onions and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sweat until soft but not coloured. Add the stock and boil for 5 minutes. Snip the lovage leaves into thin strips with scissors. Put 3 tablespoons into the soup and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with a sprinkling of snipped lovage and a little chopped fresh parsley.

Tabouleh

Fresh parsley is an excellent source of vitamin C to boost our immune system. Mint calms the stomach and aids digestion – just what’s needed at present.

This refreshing and highly nutritious Middle Eastern Salad can either be served as a starter or as a main dish. We serve lots of well-seasoned cucumber and tomato dice with the salad. I also love the addition of pomegranate seeds and a touch of chilli. Taste and add a little honey if it needs it.

Serves 6-12 served as a starter or a main course

110g (4oz) bulgar – cracked wheat

25-50g (1-2oz) freshly chopped parsley

25-50g (1-2oz) freshly chopped mint

freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons or more if you need it

75ml (3fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

110 – 175t (4-6oz) spring onion, green and white parts, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

6 very ripe firm new seasons Irish tomatoes/ a selection of red and yellow, pear shaped etc., would be great, diced and sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and sugar

1 firm crisp cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

small crisp lettuce leaves e.g. cos or iceberg

rocket leaves

black olives – optional

Soak the bulgar in cold water for about 30 minutes, drain and squeeze well to remove any excess water liquid. Stir in the olive oil and some of the freshly squeezed lemon juice, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, leave it aside to absorb the dressing while you chop the parsley, mint and spring onions.  Just before serving, mix the herbs with the bulgar, taste and add more lemon juice if necessary. It should taste fresh and lively.

To Serve

Arrange on a serving plate surrounded by rocket and salad leaves and little mounds of well-seasoned tomato and cucumber dice. Garnish with sprigs of flat parsley, a few black olives wouldn’t go a miss either if you enjoy them.

Baked Brill with Herb Butter and New Seasons Zucchini

This is a very simple ‘master recipe’ which can be used for any flat fish plaice, sole, brill, turbot, dabs, flounder and lemon sole or a noble turbot.   Depending on the size of the fish, it can a starter or a main course.  Because it is cooked with the skin on, it retains maximum flavour. Peel the skin off carefully before serving and anoint the fish with the fresh herb butter – simple but succulent.

Serves 4

1 – 2 Brill

Herb Butter

110g (4oz) butter

4 teaspoons mixed finely-chopped fresh parsley, chives, fennel, chervil and thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

Melted courgettes (see recipe)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.

Turn the fish on its side and remove the head.  Wash the fish and clean the slit close to the head very thoroughly.  With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh.  Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin.   Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish.  The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked.  Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs.  Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut).  Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them.  Serve immediately with melted courgettes.

Melted Courgettes

Serves 4

1 lb (450g) courgettes, no larger than 5 inches (12.5cm)  in length

1 oz (30g) butter

A dash of olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Freshly chopped parsley, basil or marjoram

Top and tail the courgettes and cut them into 3 inch (5mm) slices. Melt the butter and add a dash of oil, toss in the courgettes and coat in the butter and oil. Cook until tender, 4-5 minutes approx. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn into a hot serving dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Baked Cod, Haddock, Hake or Pollock with Cream and Bay Leaves

This recipe transforms even the dullest white fish into a feast. Be generous with the bay leaves, their perfume should distinctly permeate the sauce. Pollock is a good alternative fish. The fishing community need our support – make sure you are buying fresh Irish fish.

Serves 4–6 as a starter or main course

25g (1oz) butter

1 small onion, finely chopped

6 thick pieces of fresh round fish (allow approx. 110–175g (4–6oz) filleted fish per person)

salt and freshly ground pepper

4–5 fresh bay leaves

light cream (enough to cover the fish)

15g (1/2oz) roux approx.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan, just wide enough to take the fish in a single layer. Fry the onion gently for a few minutes until soft but not coloured. Put the fish in the pan and cook on both sides for 1 minute. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add bay leaves. Cover with light cream and simmer with the lid on for 3–5 minutes, until the fish is cooked. Remove the fish to a serving dish. Bring the cooking liquid to the boil and lightly thicken with roux. Taste and correct the seasoning. Coat the fish with sauce and serve immediately. For a whole meal in one dish, pipe a ruff of fluffy mashed potato around the edge.

Note: This dish can be prepared ahead and reheated, and it also freezes well. Reheat in a moderate oven, 180ºC / 350ºF / Gas Mark 4, for anything from 10–30 minutes, depending on the size of the container.

Chocolate and Rosemary Mousse

Taken from Grow, Cook, Nourish by Darina Allen published by Kyle Books

Lovely Jane Grigson, the legendary British country writer, gave me this recipe, and from memory I think she got it from Franco Taruschio at the Walnut Tree restaurant in South Wales.  It sounds odd, but it is strangely addictive. 

Serves 8

225g (8oz) castor sugar

225ml (8fl oz) dry white wine

freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon

600ml (1 pint) double cream

1 long branch of fresh rosemary, plus extra sprigs, to garnish

175g (6oz) dark chocolate (we use Valrhona or Lindt – 52% cocoa solids is fine), chopped

pouring cream, to serve

Mix the sugar, wine and lemon juice in a stainless steel saucepan and stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Add the cream, bring to the boil – the mixture will thicken somewhat.  Add the rosemary and chocolate.  Stir, return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer very gently for 20 minutes.  It should be the consistency of thick cream.  Leave to cool, tasting occasionally to see if the rosemary flavour is intense enough. 

Pour through a sieve into eight ramekins or little shot glasses.  Cool, cover and chill until needed.

We serve it with Jersey pouring cream and a sprig of flowering rosemary.

WILD FOOD OF THE WEEK

Rose Petals (taken from Grow Cook Nourish p 616)

All roses are edible, but the ones I like to use best are the deliciously perfumed old roses and china roses. As with all edible flowers, avoid blossoms that have been sprayed. The flavour and fragrance depends on the variety, colour and soil conditions. The fragrance seems to be more pronounced in the darker varieties. Pure rosewater is the distilled essence of roses so it is not easy to make at home. Apart from providing aesthetic appeal, rose petals contribute to our overall wellbeing. Rose petals have been used in Chinese medicine since as far back as 3,000 BC. Adding some raw petals to your salad can help fight heart disease and cancer, and boiling them in water makes an effective remedy for sore throats. 

Camilla’s Strawberry and Rose Petal Jam

When my friend Camilla Plum comes to stay she wanders through the farm and gardens and greenhouse, picking and collecting fresh ingredients and cooks non-stop. Last summer, she filled her apron with rose petals from the old scented roses – she tossed them into a saucepan with some fresh strawberries and made this exquisite jam. We also made rose petal syrup and crystallised the petals to decorate desserts and cake. Use organic ingredients where possible

Makes 2–3 x 370G jars

450g (1lb) granulated sugar

1kg (2 1/4lb) strawberries

1 litre rose petals

freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 110°C/225°F/Gas Mark 1/4.

Scatter the sugar over a baking tray and warm in the oven.

Put the strawberries in a wide stainless-steel saucepan and cook over a brisk heat

until the juices run and the fruit breaks down. Add the rose petals and hot sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring back to the boil and continue to cook for 5–8 minutes until it reaches a set. Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. When at setting point, add the lemon juice and remove from the heat immediately. Pour into sterilised jars and store in a cool place for 3–4 months but enjoy sooner rather than later.

Foods to sustain us…

Covid-19 has galvanised our minds in so many areas.  Being forced to press the ‘Pause Button’ gave many of us the opportunity to re-evaluate our ‘Grab, Gobble and Go’ lifestyle. Comforting food and sitting down together around the kitchen table has taken on a whole new importance… 

The ‘penny’ seems to have really dropped about the value of investing time and energy in sourcing and cooking yummy nourishing meals to boost our immune systems.  During ‘lockdown’, meal times at home are eagerly looked forward to, punctuating the day with delicious comforting food to cheer us up and lift our spirits.

I’m loving the explosion of activity and interest in cooking and baking.  So many parents have not only discovered the joy of cooking a meal themselves but also the excitement and entertainment value of cooking with the kids – boys and girls of virtually every age are making and baking and growing and sowing….

There are many delicious stories of people dropping little gift packages of soups, stews, crusty loaves and all kinds of sweet treats to the gates of neighbours and friends to cheer them up and to the homeless and the front line workers.  Nothing like a ‘care package’ to remind someone that they are remembered and loved and don’t you too feel the joy of sharing?.

We’ve been getting endless recipe requests and lots of queries about foods to boost the immune system during these challenging times.  There’s no quick fix, genetics, age and exercise also play their part as does our interaction with our environment, other people and animals.  Social distancing, although essential in a crisis, to create a more sterile environment can weaken our immune system, a growing concern for many microbiologists at present.

So what foods? 

Invest your money in chemical free organic food and focus on sourcing real food not ‘edible food like substances’.  Garlic has remarkably good antibacterial properties. Vitamin C rich foods like red peppers, you may be surprised to hear have three times more Vitamin C than citrus as well as being a brilliant source of beta carotene (11 times more than green peppers).

Leafy green vegetables have been in short supply over the past few weeks but the new season’s spinach is just ready to pick.  Thanks to Popeye, we all know about iron but spinach is also rich in Vitamin C and E plus flavonoids and carotenoids and is believed to not only boost the immune system but fight cancers too.

Kefir, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are powerhouses of goodness.  Here’s a delicious quick spring onion kimchi, I’ve been loving making it with the new seasons spring onions from the greenhouses. 

In my article a couple of weeks ago, I was telling you about the many good things about young beets, a three in one vegetable but I want to tell you something else, I’ve just learned that the fresh juicy beet leaves are even more nutritious than the beets themselves so don’t waste a scrap.  Here’s a beet leaf salad we’ve been enjoying. 

I also wanted to share a couple of my favourite recipes.  Risotto is a perennial standby in my kitchen, made with organic chicken stock and a vehicle for all kinds of delicious seasonal additions.  Wild garlic is almost over now but young nettle or spinach leaves and sorrel all add extra oomph.  It would be difficult to think of a more comforting versatile and universally loved recipe – definitely one for your repertoire of favourite standbys. 

This recipes for Country  Rhubarb Cake ranks high among my favourite recipes for this time of the year.  This recipe is exactly the one taught to me by my mother more years ago than I like to remember, I haven’t changed any details and every time I make them, I’m transported back to our kitchen in the little village of Cullohill in Co. Laois and I can see Mum in one of her handmade flowery aprons taking the cake out of the oven to delight us when we rushed in from school wondering what would be todays treat – once again a special recipe triggering happy memories. 

And a final thought.  Twelve weeks ago, concerns about food security seemed a million miles away, something that just, might happen in other countries but not in the least relevant to us.  However, for those who queued and trawled the supermarket shelves for flour, fresh yeast, bread soda and baking powder in recent weeks, it now feels like a very relevant issue…

Being ‘locked down’ for several months has given us new insights and more empathy and compassion for others.  We’ve got a taste of how it must feel to be a refugee or asylum seeker, confined and restricted, not being able to work and often not being able to cook or properly socialise with their families.

Issues like climate change, ‘zero waste’ and single-use plastic have become more urgent.  We had become a heedless just ‘Chuck It’ society.  When I was little, not long after the end of the war, one of the biggest crimes one could commit was to waste food. It’s still deep in my DNA, I often get teased because I’m so reluctant to throw away any food.  I’m a ‘lover of leftovers’ and am surprised when people who love food don’t see any problem throwing out tasty morsels that can be the base of another delicious meal.  The Covid-19 experience has forced a rethink in many areas of our lives and it’s no bad thing.  Lockdown has been difficult for everyone and tragic for many, so let’s look for crumbs of comfort and cook together and count our blessings.   

David Tanis’s Quick Scallion Kimchee

Serves 2-4

We’ve got lots and lots of beautiful spring onions at present so I’ve been loving this recipe.  ‘’Although the classic long-fermented cabbage-based kimchee is fairly easy to make, it does take time. This version with scallions is ridiculously simple and ready in a day or two. I learned how to make it from my friend Russell, a Los Angeles–born cook whose Korean mother made it throughout his childhood. Russell serves it to accompany perfectly steamed rice and simple grilled fish, a lovely combination. I like it chopped and stirred into a bowl of brothy ramen-style noodles, or tucked into a ham sandwich’’. 

4 bunches scallions

2 teaspoons salt

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3/4 tablespoon raw sugar or dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon grated ginger

23g Korean red pepper flakes

3/4 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3/4 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

3/4 tablespoon fish sauce

3/4 tablespoon rice vinegar

Trim the scallions and cut into 7.5cm (3 inch) lengths. Put them in a glass or ceramic bowl, sprinkle with the salt, and let stand for 10 minutes.

Mix together the garlic, sugar, ginger, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, sesame seeds, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. Add to the scallions and toss well to coat.

Lay a plate over the bowl and leave in a warm place (at least 21°C/70°F) for 24 hours. Or, for a stronger-tasting kimchee, let ripen for up to 72 hours. It will keep for a month, refrigerated.

Beet Green Salad with Carrot, Apple and Candied Walnuts

If you don’t have beet greens, this salad is also delicious with the new seasons spinach.

Serves 6

225g (8oz) fresh young beet greens

225g (8oz) coarsely grated carrot

300g (10oz) coarsely grated dessert apple, e.g. Cox’s Orange Pippin if available

flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

18 walnuts halves

Caramel

200g (7oz) sugar

110ml (4fl oz) water

Dressing

2 good teaspoons pure Irish honey

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Garnish

Marigold petals and chive flowers if you have some

First candy the walnuts.

Put the sugar and water into a heavy saucepan.  Stir to dissolve the sugar then cook uncovered without stirring until the syrup caramelised to a chestnut colour.  If sugar crystals form during cooking, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet brush, but do not stir.   Coat the walnuts in hot caramel.  Allow to harden on an oiled Swiss roll tin, in a dry place.  Careful they don’t stick together.

Dissolve the honey in the wine vinegar.  Slice the beet greens and put into a wide bowl.  Add the coarsely grated carrot and apple, mix together and toss in the sweet and sour dressing.  Taste and add a bit more honey or vinegar as required, depending on the sweetness of the apples.

Divide the salad between six plates or bowls, scatter with candied walnuts.  I’ve been sprinkling the salad with a few Marigold petals and chive flowers if available.

Nettle and Sorrel Risotto inspired by a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

Sorrel is a wonderfully sharp, lemony leaf that complements the earthiness of nettles beautifully. You can buy it in some greengrocers, but it’s very easy to grow, and of course you can forage for it. We have both field sorrel and Butler Leaf Sorrel here on our farm in East Cork but Lamb’s Tongue Sorrel grows abundantly in West Cork.  There’s no need to be too precise about the amount, use what you can get.

Serves 2

25 young nettle tops
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable (or chicken) stock, well-flavoured
30g butter, plus extra to dot on top
175g (6oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped
175g (6oz) risotto rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli, Vilano Nano
sorrel leaves – up to half the quantity of nettles – finely shredded
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g (2oz) finely Parmesan or Coolea or other strong hard cheese, plus extra to serve

Rinse the nettles in the cold water, discard the tough stalks. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a boil. Blanch and refresh for a couple of minutes, then drain. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the nettles to extract as much water as possible and chop finely.

Bring the stock to the boil and keep warm over a low heat. Melt the butter over a medium heat in a heavy saucepan.  Add the chopped onion and sweat for 6 to 8 minutes, until soft and translucent but not coloured. Add the rice, stir to coat all the grains, add a third of the hot stock and bring to a gentle simmer stirring all the time until the stock has been absorbed.  Then add the chopped nettles, keep adding stock a ladleful at a time.  Continue to cook and stir until the rice is al dente (you may not need all the stock) – about 20 minutes in all.  It should be a creamy texture. Stir in the sorrel, and season to taste. Add a little butter to the risotto and sprinkle on the cheese.  Serve straight away, with more grated cheese on the table.

Country Rhubarb Cake 

This traditional rhubarb cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over Ireland and is a treasured memory from my childhood. It would have originally been baked in the bastible or ‘baker’ over the open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons – first rhubarb, then gooseberries, later in the autumn, apples and plums.

Serves 8

350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

50g (2oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

75g (3oz) butter

1 organic, free-range egg, if possible

165ml (5 1/2fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk

680g (1 1/2lb) rhubarb, finely chopped

170–225g (6–8oz) granulated sugar

beaten organic, free-range egg, to glaze

softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar, to serve

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

25cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex pie plate

Sieve the flour, salt, bread soda and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the milk, buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough, add the remaining liquid if necessary.

Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface. Turn out the soft dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces: one should be slightly larger than the other; keep the larger one for the lid.

Dip your fingers in flour. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to fit the enamel or Pyrex pie plate. Scatter the rhubarb all over the base and sprinkle with the granulated sugar. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press the edges gently to seal them. Don’t worry if you have to patch the soft dough.  Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape. Brush again with beaten egg and sprinkle with a very small amount of caster sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15–20 minutes before serving so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve still warm, with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist, brown sugar.

Wild Food of the Week

Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

When to pick: flowers in profusion in early Summer but you’ll find some blooms almost all year round. As the old saying goes ‘When the gorse is out of bloom, kissing’s out of fashion!’ The ubiquity of gorse – or furze as it is called in Ireland – around the Irish landscape, meant that is was once widely used as fuel, as fodder, hurleys and walking sticks, for harrowing, for cleaning chimneys, to fuel bakers’ ovens and limekilns. We love a few blossoms added to salad, steeped in boiling water for tea or dropped into a whiskey glass for a fragrant tipple. Look for the spiky bushes growing near the sea, with yellow flowers that stay in bloom nearly all year. Wear gloves to harvest the flowers, as the thorns can be very sharp.

Roger Philip’s Gorse Wine

We love this recipe – it makes a fragrant, slightly effervescent, very refreshing summer drink. It comes from Roger Philip’s Wild Food – a book no serious forager should be without.  

Makes about 4.8 litres (8 pints)

2 litres (3 ½ pints) gorse flowers

About 1 teaspoon general purpose non-GM yeast

1 kg (2.2lbs) granulated sugar

Juice and zest of 2 organic lemons

Juice and zest of 2 organic oranges

Pick nice fresh flowers that have come out fully. Activate the yeast by stirring into a little tepid water. Simmer the flowers in 4.5 litres (1 gallon) water for 15 minutes then dissolve the sugar, pour into a bucket and add citrus juice and zest. Allow to cool to blood heat, add the yeast and let it stand with a cloth over it. After 3 days, strain off the solids and pour into a fermentation jar, fit an airlock and allow it to ferment until it is finished. Rack off into a clean jar, making it up to the full amount with cold boiled water. Leave for a month and then filter, or leave until completely clear then bottle in sterlised bottles.

Sustainability

The focus of this weekend’s Examiner supplement is Sustainability – What could be more timely? But for many of us the word sustainability is confusing and has many interpretations. A loose definition of Sustainable Agriculture might be – farming in sustainable ways which meet societies present food requirements without damaging the environment or compromising the ability for current or future generations to meet their needs.

The past few weeks have amongst many other things, given us a badly needed opportunity to press the Pause Button in our busy lives. I suppose it must be my imagination that Spring and early Summer 2020 was the most beautiful ever. The birds are singing their little hearts out to cheer us up….everything on the farm and in the gardens is green, vibrant and blossoming. Mother Nature seems to be compensating for our misery and despair and reminding us that, given half a chance, she will provide abundance for us. Even in this short time, changes in human behaviour have benefitted the planet – Quieter skies, clearer water, cleaner air, healthier nature, bird and insect populations increasing….

We can’t stay in ‘lockdown’ forever but we now know that we can make massive, rapid changes when we adapt the ways we work and live. When this terrible pandemic is over, we have a chance to change our behavior to offer a secure future, and survivable temperatures to our children and grandchildren, and we MUST. For years now we have heard and largely ignored the scientists and climatologists predictions. We could scarcely comprehend the scale of the threat to the planet and future generations….even if we could absorb the seriousness of the situation, many felt helpless –  It was virtually impossible to believe that Governments and vested interests would ‘step up to the plate’ to implement the changes that needed to be made. Nothing but the Covid 19 enforced change could have achieved so much in such a short time. The pandemic should not have come as such a surprise, something of this magnitude was predicted over and over again, not least by Nostradamus, in Aboriginal Lore and by scientists, yet many Governments failed to listen and prepare.

As the planet became more and more polluted, causing almost irreversible climate change, extreme weather conditions – floods, tornados, cyclones, hurricanes…. We were too distracted and growth obsessed at any price to notice. Food became increasingly less nourishing, compromising our health and immune systems so we are less and less able to survive the increasing number of viruses that are challenging our systems.

I know I’m like a broken record but surely it must now be beyond obvious that there is an urgent need to re-imbed practical cooking and other life skills, including growing food into the national and secondary school curriculum.  No Irish child, boy or girl, must ever again be awarded a Leaving Certificate without being able to prove they can cook for themselves. Otherwise, we are undeniably, failing in our duty of care to our young people, as many helpless 20, 30 and 40 year olds have realised to their cost in the past couple of months.

So how do we practice sustainability in our everyday lives? Once we start to think that way there are a myriad of opportunities. We can make a huge contribution in the way we choose to spend our food euro. Think about each and every item we put into our shopping baskets – really focus on supporting local producers and small businesses as much as possible. Let’s ask ourselves a few basic questions –  Is it in season, does it’s production damage the environment, is it properly nourishing, are the producers being paid a fair price, how about animal welfare,  packaging….After all that am I buying more than I need? Let’s work towards zero waste in every aspect of our lives?

Start to grow some of our own food, even if it’s just a few salad leaves on a windowsill – you can’t imagine the joy and satisfaction…Realize that it’s worth paying a little more for chemical free food – after all it’s surely better to be proactive and invest in our food as medicine rather than paying for meds and food supplements – let’s be proactive. Make your own bread, few things, give more satisfaction. Here’s another super simple recipe that you and your family will enjoy making and eating together.

Basic Shanagarry Brown Soda Bread

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well-greased tin.  This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves (see below for tin sizes)

400g (14ozs) stone ground wholemeal flour

75g (3ozs) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon sunflower oil, unscented

1 teaspoon honey or treacle

425ml (15fl ozs) buttermilk or sourmilk approx.

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Loaf tin 23×12.5x5cm (9x5x2in) OR 3 small loaf tins 5.75 inches (14.6cm) x 3 inches (7.62cm)

Preheat oven to 200ºC / 400ºF / Gas Mark 6.

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey and buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins – using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. Sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top. Bake for 60 minutes approximately (45-50 minutes for small loaf tins), or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Note

The quantity of buttermilk can vary depending on thickness.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of cream to low-fat buttermilk (optional).

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry

We love Sri Lankan vegetable curries and their clever use of spices and delicious flavours. Serve as an accompaniment as part of a curry feast or as a dish alone with a salad.

Serves 4

2–3 tablespoons sunflower oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

50g (2oz) red onion, chopped

5 curry leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

8cm (3 1/4 inch) piece of cinnamon stick

500g (18oz) beetroot, peeled and cut into 4cm

cubes

10 fenugreek seeds

5 green chillies

225ml (8fl oz) coconut milk, whisked

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Little New Potatoes with Lovage Mayonnaise

Loveage is a perennial herb with a distinct celery flavor, look out for it in the garden centers when they open it’s a really good thing to have in your garden. We use it in lots of different ways but its particularly delicious added to potato soup or as a flavouring for mayo.

Serves 4-8 depending on whether to be served as a snack, canapé or starter

20 freshly dug tiny new potatoes or larger ones, halved

Flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Lovage Mayonnaise

Makes 300ml (1⁄2 pint)

2 organic egg yolks

pinch of English mustard or 1⁄4 teaspoon French mustard

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

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

1 dessertspoon chopped lovage

Flaky sea salt

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

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

Next scrub the potatoes well.  Cook  the potatoes in boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes depending on size. Drain.

Serve warm with a little dollop of mayonnaise on top of each or of each half. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Elderflower Cake with Green Gooseberry Compote

When I’m driving through country lanes in late May or early June, suddenly I spy the elderflower coming into bloom.  Then I know its time to go and search on gooseberry bushes for the hard, green fruit, far too under-ripe at that stage to eat raw, but wonderful cooked in tarts or fools or in this delicious Compote.

Elderflowers have an extraordinary affinity with green gooseberries and by a happy arrangement of nature they are both in season at the same time.

350g (12 oz) soft butter

350g (12oz) caster sugar

4 eggs, preferably free range

350g (12oz) self-raising flour

Elderflower Syrup

2 heads of elderflower

50g (2oz) caster sugar

150ml (5fl oz) water

zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon

We used a round tin with slightly sloping sides –  4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep, bottom diameter 21.5cm (8 1/2 inch), 24cm (9 1/2 inch) across top,  well greased, but a regular 23cm (9 inch) round cake tin will be fine.

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

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile make the syrup.  Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, add the elderflowers, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Leave aside to cool.  Strain.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pour all the syrup over the top, leave to cool. (see note at end of recipe)

Remove the cake from the tin and serve with Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote and softly whipped cream for dessert.  

A slice of the cake on its own with a cup of tea is also delicious.

Note: If you are serving the cake on its own, only pour half the syrup over it.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote

Serves 6-8

900g (2lb) green gooseberries

2 or 3 elderflower heads

600ml (1 pint) cold water

450g (1lb) sugar

First top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.

Wild and Free

Elderflower – Sambucus nigra – perennial

Joy of joys – elderflowers are back in season. Those of us who live in the Countryside often have elder trees in abundance but this plant grows everywhere and anywhere, in towns, villages, parks, and even a little twig stuck in the ground will root with relative ease. From late Spring to early Summer it produces white fluffy blossoms which turn into elder berries in the Autumn. The leaves, stalks and roots are toxic but although the elder flowers have a musty sort of scent their flavour is magically transformed during cooking to a haunting muscat flavour. We use them in a myriad of different ways in the kitchen. Ederflowers  have a particular affinity with green gooseberries which are in season at the same time.

Good for you – Elder flower is a diuretic, laxative, antiseptic and also has antiviral properties. The flowers are known for their high antioxidant content and vitamin C – important for boosting your immune system.

The Hungry Gap

The Hungry Gap is almost over, that’s the name gardeners traditionally gave to the 3 or 4 weeks between the end of the Winter vegetables – roots, kale and leeks and the beginning of the Summer bounty when there is little or no fresh produce available in gardens and virtually no greens on the supermarket shelves. Well, here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, our Farm shop has been super busy for the past seven weeks since isolating regulations were introduced. People all over the country are discovering the seasonal treasures in their own parishes, local honey producers, farmhouse cheese makers, fish smokers, poultry and egg producers, charcuterie makers and artisans of all shapes and sizes.

We’re so fortunate to be in the midst of a 100 acre organic farm in East Cork with hens, pigs, cows, a micro diary which yields Jersey milk, home-made butter, buttermilk, yoghurt and thick rich cream everyday. A Bread Shed in a converted mega trailer and a Fermentation Palace in another repurposed trailer, but best of all from the food point of view is an acre block of greenhouses (a relic of a horticultural enterprise which operated right into the 1970’s ) which we now use as a protected garden. Although it’s not heated, the crops mature 2 or 3 weeks earlier than outdoor vegetables and herbs.

I feel elated when the first of the beetroot is ready to harvest. Three super delicious vegetables in one, the beets, stalks and leaves. Most people just think of pickled beetroot but the young beets are unbelievably delicious served as a hot vegetable particularly with a roast duck or a fish gratin. I pickle the stalks too. They cook in a minute or two, drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil and add a little shredded fresh mint for a feast. We add them to stews, fish dishes, on and on.. but certainly don’t waste a scrap.

We also have the first bunches of Spring onions and the new seasons Sturon onions are bigger than a golf ball by now with lots and lots of green leaf. I’ve been melting the sliced bulbs in extra virgin olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes on a gentle heat, then adding every scrap of the sliced greens, some thyme leaves… A gorgeous accompaniment to a main dish or add a good dollop of cream to make an unctuous sauce to accompany a steak. The green spears of asparagus continue to pop up in beds in the garden so do try this asparagus and spring onion tart sometime during the few short weeks when Irish asparagus is in season.   

The pea pods are already forming lots of pea shoots and flowers so we’ll have those in a couple of weeks but guess what – we’ll have some new potatoes ready to harvest and sell this coming week. There’s something especially exciting about the first of the new potatoes, every year when we sit down to enjoy the first of the crop, we make a wish and I remember my parents annual refrain, “Please God, hope we’ll all be as well this time next year”, all the more poignant in the midst of this Covid 19 Pandemic.

We’ve also had the very first globe artichokes this week. Simply cooked, in boiling well salted water with a dash of vinegar. Then served with a little bowl of lemon butter to dip the base of each leaf in and to enjoy the heart in chunks.

We’ve had lots of rhubarb for weeks now,  I eat it in some shape or form almost every day in a sweet or savoury recipe and as a compote for breakfast. A little stewed rhubarb makes a change from apple sauce and cuts the richness of pork deliciously.

We’ve got masses of rhubarb recipes, here’s another one that you might like to try.

Beetroot – Three delicious vegetables in one.

The new seasons beets are just ready to harvest.  The beets are swelling everyday but one can eat them from when they are the size of a table tennis ball.  We love them served hot as a vegetable when they are young and sweet but we use the stalks and leaves too.  The leaves are delicious served fresh in a salad or wilted down like spinach.  The stalks and leaves can be served together as in the Beetroot Tops recipe or the stalks can be blanched, refreshed and drained, then  tossed in a little extra virgin olive oil and some freshly snipped herbs and serve warm or cold.

How to cook Beetroot

Leave 5cm (2 inch) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 15-20 minutes (in May/June when they are young) depending on size (they can take 1-2 hours in late Autumn and Winter when they are tough). Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.  Use in chosen recipe.

Hot Beetroot with Cream and Parsley

Serves 4-6

675g (1 1/2 lbs) beetroot, cooked

15g (1/2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

a sprinkling of sugar

150-175ml (5-6fl ozs) cream

2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped parsley

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

Beetroot Tops (Stalks and Leaves)

Young beetroot tops are full of flavour and are often unnecessarily discarded; but if you grow your own beetroots, remember to cook the stalks as well. When the leaves are tiny they make a really worthwhile addition to the salad bowl, both in terms of nutrition and flavour. This isn’t worth doing unless you have lovely young leaves. When they become old and slightly wilted, feed them to the hens or add them to the compost.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) fresh beetroot tops

salt and freshly ground pepper

butter or olive oil

Keeping them separate, cut the beetroot stalks and leaves into rough 5cm (2in) pieces. First cook the stalks in boiling salted water (1.8 litres/3 pints water to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt) for 2-4 minutes or until tender. Then add the leaves and cook for a further 2–3 minutes. Drain, season and toss in a little butter or olive oil. Serve immediately.

Beet Stalks with Olive Oil and Mint

Prepare and cook the beet stalks as above, drain well. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with freshly chopped spearmint. A simple but truly delicious combination.

Beet Leaves

Serves 4-6

In season: May-early June

Here are three different basic methods of cooking beet greens.

900g (2lb) fresh beetroot leaves, with stalks removed (cook stalks separately)

salt, freshly ground pepper and a little freshly grated nutmeg

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

For preparation

Method 1 (Wilted Method)

Wash the prepared beetroot leaves and drain. Melt a scrap of butter in a wide frying pan, toss in as many beetroot leaves as will fit easily, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  As soon as it wilts and becomes tender, strain off all the liquid, increase the heat and add some butter and freshly grated nutmeg.  Serve immediately.

Method 2 (Buttered Beet Greens)

Wash the prepared beetroot leaves and drain.  Put into a heavy saucepan on a very low heat, season and cover tightly. After a few minutes, stir and replace the lid. As soon as the leaves are cooked, about 5-8 minutes approx., strain off the copious amount of liquid that beetroot releases and press between two plates until almost dry. Chop or puree in a food processor if you like a smooth texture. Increase the heat, add butter, correct the seasoning and add a little freshly grated nutmeg to taste.

Method 3 (Buttered Beet Greens)

Cook the beet greens uncovered in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until soft, 4-5 minutes approx.  Drain and press out all the water. Continue as in method 2.  Method 3 produces fresher coloured leaves.

Beet Greens with Cream

Cook the beet greens by method 2 or 3, drain very well.  Add 225-340ml (8-12fl oz) cream to the beetroot and bring to the boil, stir well and thicken with a little roux if desired, otherwise stir over the heat until the beetroot has absorbed most of the cream.  Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste.  Creamed beet greens may be cooked ahead of time and reheated.

Poached Eggs with Beet Greens

A classic dish and one of the most delicious combinations.

Serve freshly poached free-range organic eggs on top of creamed beet greens – one of our favourite lunch or supper dishes.

Globe Artichokes with Melted Butter

Serves 6

Whole Globe artichokes are quite fiddly to eat. First you pull off each leaf separately and dip in the sauce. Eventually you are rewarded for your patience when you come to the heart! Don’t forget to scrape off the tickly ‘choke’; then cut the heart into manageable pieces, sprinkle with a little sea salt before you dip it into the remainder of your sauce.  Simply Delicious!

6 globe artichokes

1.1 litres (2pints) water

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons approx. white wine vinegar

Melted Butter

175g (6oz) butter

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Some restaurants do very complicated preparation but I merely trim the base just before cooking so the artichokes will sit steadily on the plate, rub the cut end with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it from discolouring. 

Have a large saucepan of boiling water ready, add 2 teaspoons of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt to every 2 pints of water, pop in the artichokes and bring the water back to the boil. Simmer steadily for about 25 minutes. After about 20 minutes you could try testing to see if they are done.  I do this by tugging off one of the larger leaves at the base, it should come away easily, if it doesn’t continue to cook for another 5 – 10 minutes. Remove and drain upside down on a plate.

While they are cooking simply melt the butter and add lemon juice to taste.

To Serve

Put each warm artichoke onto a hot serving plate, serve the sauce or melted butter in a little bowl beside it.  Artichokes are eaten with your fingers, so you might like to provide a finger bowl. A spare plate to collect all the nibbled leaves will also be useful.

Melted Green Onions with Thyme Leaves

We so look forward to cooking the new season’s onions this way.  They are sweet, mild and melting, delicious with all sorts of things, but particularly good with a well-hung sirloin or chump steak or a duck breast.

Serves 6-8

900g (2lbs) young green onions

3 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel and trim young green onions, leaving the root intact. Slice the white and green parts of the onions into rounds.   Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and toss the onions in it.  Add the thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until soft.  Season to taste and serve in a hot vegetable dish.

Asparagus and Spring Onion Tart

Serves 6

Shortcrust Pastry

110g (4ozs) white flour

50g (2oz) butter

1 egg, preferably free-range

Filling

150g (5ozs) asparagus, trimmed and with ends peeled

15g (1/2oz) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

250g (9ozs) onion, finely chopped (we use about half spring onion complete with green tops and half ordinary onion)

110g (4ozs) Irish Cheddar cheese, grated

3 eggs, preferably free-range

110ml (4fl ozs) cream

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 x 18cm (7 inch) quiche tin or 1 x 18cm (7 inch) flan ring

First make the shortcrust pastry. 

Sieve the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Mix in the egg to bind the pastry.  Add a little water if necessary, but don’t make the pastry too sticky.  Chill for 15 minutes. Then roll out the pastry to line the quiche tin or flan ring to a thickness of 3mm (1/8 inch) approx.  Line with greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried beans and bake blind for approximately 20 minutes in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Remove the beans, egg wash the base and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes. This seals the pastry and helps to avoid a ‘soggy bottom’.

Next make the filling. 

Melt the butter, add the olive oil and onions; sweat the onions with a good pinch of salt until soft but not coloured. 

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain.  When it is cool enough to handle, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the cream, almost all the cheese, onion and the cooked asparagus.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour into the pastry case, sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top and bake in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 40-45 minutes.

Rhubarb and Custard Meringue Tart

Serves 8-10

300g (10oz) sweet shortcrust pastry, chilled made from:

200g (7oz) white flour

100g (3 1/2oz) butter

pinch of salt

1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

2-3 tablespoons cold water approx.

Filling

1 kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb, cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) lengths

3 egg yolks

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons plain flour

Meringue

3 egg whites

175g (6oz) caster sugar

1 x 26cm (10 1/2 inch) tin, preferably with a pop-up base

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

First make the pastry.

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

Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more

accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

Cover with cling film and chill for half an hour if possible, this will make it less elastic and easier to roll out.  Roll out the pastry and line the tin.  Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans.  Bake ‘blind’ for 20 minutes approx. until the pastry is three-quarters cooked, remove from the oven. Remove the baking beans, brush the base with beaten egg wash and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Slice the rhubarb and spread over the pastry base. 

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and flour and spread over the rhubarb.  Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, this will start the rhubarb cooking.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until fluffy.  As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar and continue to whisk until stiff.

Remove the tart from the oven and pipe or spread the meringue on top.

Reduce the heat to 180ºC/350°F/Gas Mark 4, return to the oven.    Bake for a further 25 minutes. 

Cool on a wire rack and serve with softly whipped cream.

Wild and Free

Sweet Cicely

Myrrhis odorata perennial

Sweet Cicely is also known as myrrh. I’ve had this old cottage-garden perennial ever since we designed and planted the formal herb garden in 1986. It’s a little treasure that re-emerges in spring with fern-like leaves and fluffy white flowers. The leaves have a slightly sweet, aniseed and slightly liquorice flavour and help to cut the acidity in fruit tarts. It is known as a ‘sugar saver’.

This is a trouble-free plant that certainly deserves to be better known.

The delicate lacy leaves are particularly pretty as a garnish for sweet dishes and are especially pretty when frosted with egg white and caster sugar.

In the kitchen

All parts of sweet cicely are edible, although we find the leaves the most

appealing. It’s one of the few herbs that can be used for garnishing sweet and some savoury dishes – both the flowers and the herbs can be used. Because the leaves have a sweet aniseedy flavour, one can add them to any poached fruit in quite large quantities to reduce the sugar needed. Jekka McVicar suggests combining with lemon balm to add a haunting flavour. We also love to crystallise the leaves to decorate cakes and desserts. Leaves can be snipped into salads, scrambled eggs and omelettes with a mixture of herbs. I’ve also tried rubbing the leaves on furniture as a polish, particularly for oak, but there are easier ways to polish your furniture. The fluffy white flowers are pretty scattered over summer fruit and salads. The stalks of sweet cicely can be used in ice cream to give an aniseedy flavour, similar to Pernod.

Sweet Cicely Custard

This basic sauce is usually flavoured with a vanilla pod but can be made with any number of other ingredients such as lemon or orange rind or mint.  We love to infuse this custard with sweet cicely.

Serves 6

Makes  1 pint (600ml)  approx.

1 pint (600ml) milk

1oz (25g) sweet cicely leaves and flower heads, crushed slightly

6 organic egg yolks

2ozs (50g) castor sugar

Put the sweet cicely into a saucepan with the  milk.  Bring almost to the boil.

Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and light. Whisk in half the warm milk and then whisk the mixture back into the remaining milk. Cook over a very low heat,  stirring constantly with a straight-ended wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly.  Your finger should leave a clear trail when drawn across the back of the spoon.

Remove from the heat at once and strain into a cold bowl.  Cool, cover and chill in a bowl of iced water.  The custard can be kept for up to 2 days in the fridge.

Serve with poached rhubarb or rhubarb tart.

I’ve just seen the most hilarious little video….

I’ve just seen the most hilarious little video on the internet, a tearful ‘Glamour girl’ in despair is talking straight to camera.  She’s suddenly realised that ‘Men are no longer going to be interested in the women with the fake nails because we don’t have them anymore, the eye lash extensions – we can’t get them, I’m gonna run out of make-up soon…Men are going to want a woman who can catch a chicken and take the feathers off of it, or gut a fish or churn some butter or bake a loaf of bread…Can’t do any of it….

2020 is your year Farm Girls, 2020 is for you – Don’t know what I’m going to do…’end of quote.

I’m not sure if it’s ‘for real’ or a clever ‘send-up’ – it certainly has a ring of truth to it. 

Hasn’t this Covid-19 pandemic been quite the leveller, doesn’t matter how rich you are or how many houses you own in the Caribbean, your private jet is grounded, your house maid and cook can’t come to work.  You’ve got to figure out how to work the Hoover yourself and somehow produce 21 meals a week, a nightmare for many….

Academic skills alone aren’t much use in this situation and have left many of us woefully ill equipped to cope during this unexpected crisis which let’s face it was bound to come sooner or later – unfortunately this is unlikely to be a once off… 

So let’s not waste the lessons we’ve learned from this crisis, vitally important to look at how we educate our young people.  Hopefully we’ll see practical cooking embedded in the national curriculum, when we reach the ‘new’ normal.

Meanwhile, it’s a question of survival.  The penny has certainly dropped with many people that nourishing ourselves and our families must be a priority to boost our immune system and help to keep us strong and healthy.  How fortunate that this hugely challenging pandemic is happening in Spring when some at least can get out into the fresh air, sunlight and start to sow seeds to grow some of our own organic food.

A few tips…

Start the day with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (preferably organic, OK it’s more expensive but so are meds), it only takes a minute to make and is loaded with Vitamin C.

Porridge is unquestionably the best breakfast cereal, no need to buy any of those sugary cereals, here are a couple of simple recipes for you to make big jars of your own breakfast cereal.  Everyone seems to go on about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day but apparently that ‘fact’ was dreamed up by Kellogg’s when they first launched cornflakes in 1906. 

Many of us only feel like a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, particularly if one eats supper late in the evening.

Unless we are working physically, we seem to need far less food when we are on ‘lockdown’.  If at all possible, it’s good to eat early so one can get a little walk in before bed and hopefully sleep well.  Comforting, one-pot dishes served family-style are easy to make and save on the washing up – often a contentious issue….Good to eliminate as many potential squabble points as possible.

Meanwhile, a couple of little thoughts that have a feel-good factor during Covid-19.

Get out of the house for a 30-minute walk, it’s a mood changer.

Dress your bed.

Put flowers on your kitchen table and beside your bed.

Count your blessings…

Light a candle…

It’s not the same lockdown for everyone…!

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 6 – 8

The new seasons Irish strawberries have just become available. This is a huge favourite with all our family and friends – its such a good recipe to know about because its made in minutes and so good. We vary the fruit through the seasons – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries, blueberries and grated Cox’s Orange Pippin apples or Ergemont Russet in the Autumn. The nutrients are more bio available to the body if the oats are soaked overnight.

6 tablespoons rolled oatmeal

8 tablespoons water

250g (8oz) fresh strawberries

2-4 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes or better still on the previous evening.  Meanwhile, mash the strawberries roughly with a fork and mix with the oatmeal.  Sweeten to taste with honey, a couple of teaspoons are usually enough but it depends on how sweet the strawberries are.

Serve with pouring cream and soft brown sugar.

Granola

Granola is a toasted breakfast cereal, it’s super easy to make in a large batch and will keep fresh for several weeks in a Kilner jar. You can add all types of dried fruit and nuts to the basic recipe and top it with all manner of good things to make it even more nutritious and energy boosting. Try to use organic, chemical free grains, dried fruit and nuts.

Serves 20

12oz (350g) honey or golden syrup

8fl oz (225g) oil e.g. sunflower

1lb 1oz (470g) oat flakes

7oz (200g) barley flakes

7oz (200g) wheat flakes

3 1/2oz (100g) rye flakes

5oz (150g) seedless raisins or sultanas

5oz (150g) peanuts/hazelnuts, or cashew nuts split and roasted

2 3/4oz (70g/1 cup) wheatgerm and /or millet flakes

2oz (50g) chopped apricots, 1/2 cup chopped dates etc. are nice too

toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds are also delicious

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

Mix oil and honey together in a saucepan, heat just enough to melt the honey.  Mix well into the mixed flakes. Spread thinly on two baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently, making sure the edges don’t burn. It should be just golden and toasted, not roasted!

Allow to get cold.  Mix in the raisins or sultanas, roasted nuts, toasted seeds, chopped dates, apricots and wheatgerm.  Store in a screw top jar or a plastic box, keeps for 1-2 weeks.

Serve with sliced banana, milk or yoghurt.

Cod, Hake or Haddock with Dill and Pangrattato – From One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Publishing

A brilliantly useful master recipe which we use for almost any round fish, such as cod, Pollock, ling, haddock or grey mullet.  This perfect one-pot dish can be cooked ahead and reheated – just make sure there’s lots of cheese sauce, otherwise it’ll be dry and uninteresting instead of juicy and unctuous. Mussels, shrimps, periwinkles or prawns can be added to make for a more elaborate and expensive version. Buttered leeks, piperonata, sautéed mushrooms or tomato fondue are other options – simply put a tablespoon or two either on top of the fish or underneath it in the dish.

Serves 6 – 8

1.1Kg cod, hake, haddock or grey mullet fillets

2 bay leaves

15g butter

600ml whole milk

Approx. 50g roux (made by blending 25g softened butter with 25g plain flour in a small bowl)

¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard

150 – 175g grated Cheddar cheese or 75g grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Pangrattato

50 – 75ml extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

50g soft white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas  mark 4

To make the pangrattato, combine all the ingredients in a little bowl and set aside.

Skin the fish and cut it into 6 or 8 portions. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the bay leaves in a lightly buttered sauté pan or gratin dish and lay the pieces of fish on top. Cover with the milk and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 4 – 5 minutes or until the fish changes from translucent to opaque. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon to a plate and set aside.

Bring the milk back to the boil and whisk in the roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency. Stir in the mustard and two-thirds of the grated cheese, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the dill, if using.

Return the fish to the pan and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, followed by the pangrattato.

Cook in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until the fish is heated through and the top is golden brown and crisp. Serve with a salad of organic leaves.

Coconut Curry Chicken and Rice

A quickie that can be put together in a few minutes using your favourite curry powder. For the purpose of this one-pot book, we experimented by adding the rice to the curry close the end of cooking. It works brilliantly and is super delicious.

Serves 6 – 8

900g organic, free range chicken breast or thigh meat, cut into 1cm cubes

25g your favourite curry powder

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

150g onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

600ml coconut milk

1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes, diced and their juice

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

300g basmati rice, soaked for 15 – 30 minutes in cold water and drained

Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

1 lime cut into wedges

Chopped coriander, to serve

4 – 6 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal to garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the curry powder and oil in a small bowl. Heat a large saucepan, approx. 25cm in diameter and 10cm deep, over a medium heat, add the curry oil mixture and stir for a  minute or two. Add the onions and garlic and cook gently for 3 minutes until they start to colour.

Add the chicken chunks and toss lightly to coat them with the curry oil mixture. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the coconut milk, add the diced tomatoes and their juice and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring, and then cover the pan with a lid and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked. Chicken breast should take 5 – 6 minutes; thigh meat will take a little longer, about 10 – 15 minutes. Sprinkle in the rice 6 – 8 minutes before the end of cooking. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 7 minutes, tightly covered with the lid, to allow the rice to swell.

To serve, squeeze over some lime juice to taste and sprinkle with fresh coriander and lots of spring onion. Accompany with a bowl of organic salad leaves.

Myrtle’s Compote of Pears

This is a superb recipe – a one pot compote with an intense flavour – which keeps brilliantly in a fridge for a week or more.

Serves 6

6 ripe pears

1 lemon

110g sugar

Halve, peel thinly and core carefully, keeping a good shape.  Put them in a pan which will just fit them nicely.  Add the sugar, a few thin strips of lemon rind and the juice of the lemon.  Cover with a well-fitting lid and cook gently until soft 20-30 minutes.  Cool and serve alone or with softly whipped cream.

Foraged Food – Wild and Free

Rock Samphire (Crithmum maritimum)

Rock samphire grows in little cracks between the rocks by the sea. Years ago, it was much sought after and gathered annually on the higher cliffs, along with gulls’ eggs. We pick it at several local beaches from April to June, before it flowers, after which the flavour becomes petrol-like, bitter and nasty. Never uproot the plants, snip off little fronds with a scissors … 

Rock Samphire with Melted Butter

Serve alone on toast or with fish dishes.

Serves 8 as an accompaniment

225g (8oz) samphire

freshly ground pepper

25–50g (1–2oz) butter

Put the samphire into a saucepan of boiling water, bring back to the boil and simmer for about 3–4 minutes or until tender. Drain off the water (refresh in cold water if serving later), season with freshly ground pepper and toss in butter – no salt because samphire has a natural salty tang.

New Cookbooks I’m Enjoying…

There are some people who can rattle off a book in a few weeks.  For most of us, it takes months, often years to write a cookbook and in some cases the end result is the culmination of a lifetime’s experience and experimentation.

There’s a delicious, Phew moment when you send the manuscript in to your publisher and then there is the anticipation of the publishing date, the subsequent launch, media coverage and book signings but what if the important launch date coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-down.

Well, that’s been the experience of several well-known food writers plus others who have written their very first tome.  I’m particularly thinking of Ryan Riley, whose first book ‘Life Kitchen’ was published on the 5th March 2020 and is dedicated to the memory of his mother Krista who died in 2013 from lung cancer.  Ryan was just 18 years old, his life changed immeasurably as he watched her bravely battle through the final months of her illness.  Among the many heart-breaking challenges his mother had to cope with,  he noticed that the ongoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy adversely affected her sense of taste.  Many foods tasted different, Kirsta lost her ability to enjoy food which she had always loved at a time when she most needed the nourishment and comfort.  Ryan’s subsequent story is a fascinating journey from winning £28,000 from an initial £20 in a ‘once off’ foray into a casino with a friend, to setting up a Food Stall in Camden, a spell in publishing and eventually cookery writing and food styling.  He was determined to honour his mother’s memory in some way and became fascinated by the foods that appealed to cancer patient’s tastebuds.  He joined up with Professor Barry Smith, founder of the Centre for Study of the Senses at the University of London.  He was also greatly encouraged by Nigella Lawson and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who encouraged him to do his first ever class at River Cottage.  Several years and several hundred free Pop-Up classes later, Ryan has established his cooking school in Mowbray Lodge in Sunderland, his home city.

‘Life Kitchen’ is full of recipes, layered with umami flavours that have appealed to the many cancer survivors with whom he works.

Maura O’Connell Foley is another first-time author and her beautifully produced and self-published book, My ‘Wild Atlantic Kitchen’ is the culmination of Maura’s life in food.  She comes from a long line of spirited and entrepreneurial women, known to be ‘great cooks’.  Her mother was a professional cake maker in Frasers Tea and Cake Shop on Haverstock Hill in Hampstead and opened a Tea Shop in Kenmare on her return to Ireland in 1950.  Later Maura cooked alongside her mother in the Purple Heather Tea and Cake Shop, opened the Lime Tree in 1963 and later Pakies on Henry Street.  More recently she bought Shelburne Lodge – which was lovingly restored to a registered guest house.  Maura was also an early member of Euro-toques, and travelled widely to add to her knowledge.  She kept her finger on the pulse of the global food scene. ‘Stáges’ in top restaurants and insights from the many international visitors for whom her multi-award winning restaurant and guest-house are a ‘must visit’ on a trip to Kenmare.

The introduction in ‘My Wild Atlantic Kitchen’ is intriguing, worth the price of the book alone – but the collection of classic recipes are also gems.  Beautiful stylish, delicious and the kind of food that one returns for over and over again.  Maura is much loved and respected as a hugely influential presence on the Irish food scene with her own quintessential style. This comes from a life in food and a love of the beautiful Irish produce from the local farmers, fishermen and artisan producers whom she has supported and showcased on her menu for decades before it became fashionable.  This book is a ‘keeper’ that you’ll return to over and over again. 

Both are available online but try to order from your local bookshop who also need your support more than ever.

Shelburne Lodge Omelette with Gubbeen Chorizo

(From My Wild Atlantic Kitchen, self-published by Maura Foley. Book Design by Eamonn O’Sullivan. Photography by Maria Bell & Lynda Kenny)

I have been serving omelettes since the 1960s and know a good omelette pan is crucial; if you can get a heavy iron omelette pan, they are the best. Fresh organic farm eggs at room temperature seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper are another essential. The eggs must not be overmixed, just lightly beaten, and although cream has not been used in my omelettes in the past, I definitely do so now.

For this omelette we use Gubbeen chorizo, which has a distinct and refined flavour. The chorizo is locally produced by Fingal Ferguson in Schull of the Ferguson family famed for their Gubbeen Cheese.

Makes 1 omelette

Generous knob of butter, for cooking

1 tbsp Gubbeen chorizo or good quality chorizo, cut thickly and diced

Few leaves of wild garlic (when in season), plus an extra leaf and the flower to garnish or 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped

1 small cooked potato, diced

1 tsp snipped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to garnish

3 eggs, seasoned and lightly beaten with a fork

2 tbsp cream

In a heavy-based omelette pan or medium frying pan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the chorizo, potato, garlic leaves or garlic and half the thyme leaves and sauté gently for a few minutes until the chorizo starts to crisp. Gently mix the cream into the lightly beaten eggs. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and allow to set and start to coagulate. With a wooden spoon, gently move the cooked outer parts of the omelette into the centre; continue doing this until all the egg is cooked, being careful not to stir too much (the gentler you are, the lighter the finished omelette will be). Sprinkle the remaining thyme leaves over the centre and gently fold the omelette in half in the pan.


Serve immediately, garnishing with garlic leaves and flowers if available or a few fresh thyme leaves.

Prawn & Spinach Pastry with Mousseline Sauce

(From My Wild Atlantic Kitchen, self-published by Maura Foley. Book Design by Eamonn O’Sullivan. Photography by Maria Bell & Lynda Kenny)

The North Atlantic prawns (also known as langoustines or Dublin Bay prawns) are deliciously succulent and the beauty of these prawns is their sweetness. These pastries could never go off my menu! The succulent prawns are the essential ingredient. Aim for the best quality ingredients, it truly makes all the difference. If you can’t source these prawns, you can use mussels instead, and if doing so, add garlic to your wilted spinach. The mousseline sauce is a hollandaise sauce with whipped cream folded in and makes the hollandaise sauce less dense. I use a swift method for my hollandaise, which I learned in the early 1980s from Sonia Stevenson, the first female chef to be awarded a Michelin Star in Britain in 1974. The butter must be hot and foaming, initially added slowly to the food processor.

Makes 8 pastries if using Theo’s Filo Pastry . Number will vary depending on size of sheets.

Prawn and Spinach Filling

285ml of cold water with just a pinch of sea salt

500g fresh or freshly frozen Atlantic Prawns (langoustines), already shelled

500g fresh spinach

55g butter, melted


Noilly Prat Sauce Filling

Prawn poaching liquid

60g butter

30g plain white flour

140ml cream

4 tbsp Noilly Prat

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

8 sheets filo pastry

200g clarified butter, melted and cooled

Mousseline Sauce:

225g butter

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp cold water

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp fresh whipped cream

Serving suggestions: A few sprigs of fennel, to garnish

Preheat the oven to fan 200°C / fan 400°F/ gas mark 7 with a baking tray inside.

To make the prawn and spinach filling, bring the water to the boil with a pinch of salt in a wide saucepan. Add the prawns and turn off the heat immediately, leaving them to rest in the poaching liquid for 2 minutes or until just cooked. Transfer the prawns to a plate, cover and allow to cool. Reserve the poaching liquid for the Noilly Prat Sauce.
Bring another saucepan of water with a pinch of salt to the boil, plunge in the spinach and stir for 30 seconds or until bright green. Drain and refresh in ice-cold water. Once cold, squeeze out the liquid

from the spinach and toss in the melted butter with sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

To make the Noilly Prat Sauce filling, return the prawn poaching liquid to the heat and reduce by two-thirds. In another saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat, then stir in the flour for 3-4 minutes to make a roux. Gradually stir in the reduced poaching liquid, cream and Noilly Prat to a smooth sauce. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
To prepare the pastries, have the melted butter and filo pastry at hand, keeping the pastry well covered in clingfilm. Further cover with a damp tea towel to prevent it from crumbling, but do not allow the tea

towel to touch the pastry directly.
Lay out one sheet of filo and brush with butter, ensuring the sheet is entirely coated with butter right out to the edges.

Lay a second sheet carefully on top for a double layer and brush with butter. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry lengthways down the centre and then again across to quarter the pastry, which will give you two good sized parcels. Take a heaped spoonful of spinach and place in the centre of the pastry, with a heaped teaspoon of the Noilly Prat sauce on top. Add 3-4 prawns followed by another teaspoon of the Noilly Prat sauce. Fold the long part first from the bottom over the filling.
Brush with butter again, then fold down from the top part. Butter, then fold under the outer sides and butter. Repeat with the remaining filo and filling to make eight parcels in total.

Place the folded filo parcels on the preheated oven tray and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden all over.
Baking time will depend on your oven.


To make the mousseline sauce, make the hollandaise egg base by melting the butter in a small saucepan until it starts to boil then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, place the water and yolks in a food processor and blend until pale and fluffy. Very gradually start to pour the hot foaming butter via the funnel into the processor, keeping the motor running, until it starts to emulsify. You can then add the

remaining butter more swiftly while still hot. Add the lemon juice via the funnel and blend. Transfer the mixture into the saucepan

used to melt the butter and fold in the freshly whipped cream.

Serve the pastries with the mousseline sauce and a sprig of fennel to garnish.

Rum & Walnut Tart with Rum Butterscotch Sauce


The recipe has been adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks, Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffmann. The butterscotch is a very versatile sauce and is delicious with the addition of sea salt. Use calvados or brandy instead of the dark rum if serving with apple-based desserts.

Serves 8

Pâté Sucrée:

125g plain white flour

55g butter, softened

55g icing sugar

Pinch of sea salt

1 egg

Rum Butterscotch Sauce:

30g butter

70g light brown sugar

70g golden syrup

90ml cream

45ml dark Jamaican rum

Walnut Filling:

300g walnuts, roughly chopped

150g caster sugar

120g butter, melted

150g honey

5 egg yolks

100ml cream

50ml dark Jamaican rum

Equipment: 23cm / 9in flan tin

For the pâté sucrée, add the flour, butter, sugar and salt to a food processor and blend to a fine crumb. Use a fork to lightly beat the egg and then add to the food processor and pulse to bring the pastry together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.

To  make the butterscotch sauce, place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Continue to cook to a smooth and shiny syrup. Carefully add the cream (as it will splutter) and stir to combine. Bring to a gentle bubble then simmer for 3 minutes. Add the rum and remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to fan 160°C / fan 325°F / gas mark 4.

Roll out the pastry to 2-3mm / 0.1in thick and use to line a 23cm / 9in flan tin. Chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

To make the walnut filling, gently mix together the walnuts, sugar, butter, honey, egg yolks, cream and rum in a large bowl. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry and bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and set with a slight wobble.

Allow to set for at least 1 hour before serving with the butterscotch sauce and if desired some vanilla ice-cream.

Carbonara with Mint and Peas

Life Kitchen by Ryan Riley (Bloomsbury Publishing, £20). Photography by Clare Winfield.

We’ve been teaching this recipe at Life Kitchen since our very first class. Pancetta, parmesan and peas bring that sought-after umami hit, while mint leaves and chilli wake up the senses. And, of course, tagliatelle offers comfort that is so inherent in every bowl of lovely pasta. If you don’t eat meat, crab (another provider of umami) is a worthy substitute.

Serves 4

1 large onion, very roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves

1 red or green chilli, roughly chopped

vegetable or rapeseed oil

200g (7oz) smoked bacon lardons

100g (3 1/2oz) parmesan, grated, plus extra to serve

2 teaspoons salt, plus extra to season

4 eggs

400g (14oz) dried tagliatelle

a large handful of frozen peas

a small handful of mint leaves, torn if large

freshly ground black pepper

Pulse the onion, garlic and chilli in a food processor to finely chop. (Or, finely chop by hand.)

Place a frying pan on a medium–low heat and add a glug of oil. When hot, add the chopped mixture and the lardons and season with salt. Cover with a lid (or use foil) and sweat on a low heat for 20–30 minutes, removing the lid to stir occasionally, until the onions have melted to a golden paste.

Meanwhile, beat together the grated parmesan and the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add the 2 teaspoons of salt and cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions. Two minutes before the end of the cooking time, take 2 ladlefuls of the cooking water and stir it in to the parmesan and egg mixture.

Then, add the frozen peas to the pan with the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, drain it with the peas and tip everything back into the pan.

Add the parmesan and egg mixture and the onion and bacon mixture to the pasta and peas and stir – the sauce will take 2–3 minutes to heat through; just keep stirring and it will turn glossy and coat the pasta. Transfer to a serving dish and scatter over the mint leaves and extra parmesan.

Taste and Flavour Fact

Carbonara is a classic pasta dish, involving several sources of umami and many different textures. The addition of cooling mint, a trigeminal stimulant, offers piquancy, making this version of carbonara especially good for those with a diminished sense of smell.

Paddington Pudding

Life Kitchen by Ryan Riley (Bloomsbury Publishing, £20).

The Life Kitchen classes have touch me so much about my guests’ favourite things to eat when living with cancer.  Something that comes up a lot is marmalade.  This is my marmalade-y take on a bread-and-butter pudding.

Serves 6

6 croissants, halved lengthways

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 tablespoons orange marmalade

250g (9oz) vanilla custard

10 cardamom pods, cracked

4 tablespoons caster sugar

1 lemon, zest and juice

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

Open the halved croissants and butter the bottom halves, then slather on the marmalade.  Replace the tops and tuck the croissants into an ovenproof dish so that they fit snugly. 

Place a saucepan on a medium heat, add the custard and cracked cardamom pods and bring to a gentle boil to help the flavour to infuse.  Remove the pan from the heat and leave the custard to cool slightly, then pour it through a sieve over the croissants, discarding the cardamom pods.

Bake the pudding on the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes, until the top is browned.

Mix together the sugar and the lemon zest and juice and sprinkle the mixture over the pudding.  Return the pudding to the oven for 5 minutes to glaze, then serve.

 Wild Food of the Week

Ground-elder (Aegopodium Podagraria)

This pernicious ‘weed’ grows with vigour and enthusiasm in damp, shady places throughout the British Isles. The good news for all of us, including me, is you can eat it and enjoy it all the more because it is such a pest in so many gardens. Ground-elder is best harvested in Spring before it flowers: the young leaves can be added to the green salad bowl and are also delicious cooked like spinach and tossed in butter or extra virgin olive oil. We also make a delicious Forager’s soup with it (see recipe). Herbalists like John Evelyn and Nicholas Culpeper Wrote of its ability to cure gout and sciatica, hence one of its popular names, ‘goutweed’, or ‘bishop’s goutweed’.

Foragers Soup

 Throughout the seasons one can gather wild greens on a walk in the countryside – foraging soon becomes addictive.  Many greens are edible and some are immensely nutritious.  Arm yourself with a good well-illustrated guide and be sure to identify carefully and if in doubt – don’t risk it until you are quite confident.  Don’t overdo the very bitter herbs like dandelion. 

Serves 6

50g (2ozs) butter

110g (4ozs) diced onion

150g (5 ozs) diced potatoes

250g (9ozs) chopped greens – alexanders, nettles, wild sorrel, a few young dandelions, wild garlic, borage leaves, wild rocket, ground elder, beech leaves, chickweed, watercress

600ml (1 pint) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk

75g (3ozs) chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon

extra virgin olive oil

wild garlic flowers if available

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the hot stock and boiling milk.  Bring back to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the greens and boil with the lid off for 2-3 minutes approx. until the greens are just cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser. Taste and correct seasoning.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan.  Add the diced chorizo or lardons of streaky bacon, cook over a medium heat until the fat starts to run and the bacon is crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Sprinkle over the soup as you serve.  Use the chorizo oil to drizzle over the soup also and scatter a few wild garlic flowers over the top if available.

See https://www.fromballymaloewithlove.com/ for daily updates and recipes.

Cooking from the Pantry

Four weeks on, we’re still self isolating….everyone is reacting differently, some are hating every moment, others are enjoying the excuse to slow down and the opportunity to spend more leisurely time in the kitchen or just pottering around the garden. How fortunate that the Covid 19 pandemic coincided with the onset of Spring so those of us who have been harbouring fantasies about starting a veg patch or a raised bed can indulge their dreams of snipping their own herbs and growing their own greens and crunchy radishes….even on the windowsill…

There’s been an unprecedented rise in requests for recipes. More of us than ever are baking for comfort, enjoyment and to engage the kids.

On a similar note, last week I had several requests for store cupboard recipes – now that we have more time on our hands we’ve been digging deeper, ransacking our cupboards and finding some long forgotten, weird and wonderful stuff…. What to do with those neglected packets, jars and aged spices?  

Not to speak of what we discover lurking in the depths of the freezer when we decide to tackle an inventory that has been on our ‘to do’ list for years.

I’ve had some hilarious conversations with people this week who are determined to make best use of the Covid 19 crisis – to straighten out their domestic arrangements and can’t we all associate with that…. “Brings out the 1950’s housewife in all of us” was a friends witty quip .How bizarre that history is at last repeating itself and skills are once again being passed from one generation to the next. Not just baking and gardening but also sewing, knitting and don’t we just love the way TikTok has engaged the youngsters.

Then there is the more recent dilemma of what to do with all the random stuff that we panic bought a few weeks ago. At least the cans and pulses will keep for some time while we sort out the bits and pieces of hitherto unfamiliar ingredients that we bought for an Ottolenghi recipe a couple of years ago. Many will be past their sell by date, so now is the time to start relearning the forgotten skill of judging whether something is safe to eat by using our senses, sight, smell, taste….Unless its fermenting, it shouldn’t be bubbling….

Most sell by dates are very conservative. Manufacturers like to err on the side of caution and cynics might say the less we use our common sense, the more we chuck out the better they like it….  Well time to take back control, consciously work towards Zero Waste and relearn the skill of reworking leftovers into the next meal. I’m a sardine aficionado, and have boxes of them piled up in my cupboard from various trips  – just to cheer you up I recently enjoyed a tin that was months over its sell by date and they were truly delicious – just open the can, smell and as ever a bulging can is never a good sign, don’t open, just discard.

Of course, beautiful fresh produce in season is wonderful, but tins and cans are not to be scoffed at, they are a terrific standby, canned pulses for example are the bases for soups, stews, salads and dips – you’ll have hummus in minutes from a can of chickpeas or white beans. Add some sausage or chorizo even to a can of baked beans in tomato sauce and hey presto you have a bean stew.

Finally in answer to another nostalgic request, a recipe for ox tongue which I too love but is not on the top of everyone’s wish list. However, there is a definite increase in requests for recipes for home cooked food from childhood. Order a pickled tongue ahead from your butcher. I love it with a warm potato salad or this avocado and hazelnut salsa.

Keep safe and continue to boost you immune systems with nourishing, wholesome food.

Check out www.fromballymaleowithlove.com where we post new recipes every day. Also, check out Rachel and Rory on their Instagram account for lots of recipe tips…

Hummus

Hummus has quickly become a staple in the last few years loved by children and adults alike, see how you can make your own in minutes….

Serves 4 – 6

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained (or 200g/7oz of dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, then cooked in fresh water till soft – reserve cooking liquid)

juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

2 cloves garlic, crushed

½ -1 teaspoon of freshly roasted and ground cumin

2 good tablespoons of tahini paste

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Check for seasoning.  Thin to required consistency with chickpea cooking water.

Ox Tongue with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

Put the pickled ox tongue into a deep saucepan. Cover it completely with cold water. Bring to the boil, cover the saucepan and simmer gently for 3–4 1/2 hours, or until the skin will easily peel off the tip of the tongue. Remove the tongue from the pot and set aside the liquid. As soon as the tongue is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and discard. Remove all the little bones at the neck end. Sometimes I use a skewer to prod the meat to ensure no bones are left behind. Curl the tongue and press it into a small, plastic bowl. Pour a little of the cooking liquid over, put a side plate or saucer on top and weigh down the tongue. Tongue will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Traditionally, cold tongue is thinly sliced horizontally into rounds. Use a very sharp knife with a long blade. Thinly slice the tongue and serve it with Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa.

Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa

1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.

Potato and Spring Onion Salad

The secret of a good potato salad is to use freshly cooked potatoes and then season and toss in French dressing while they are still warm. This simple trick makes a phenomenal difference to the flavour of the finished salad. I’ve had delicious results with both waxy (Pink Fir Apple or Sharpe’s Express) and floury (Golden Wonders) potatoes, though waxy are definitely easier to handle.

Serves 4–6

1.6kg (31⁄2lb) raw potatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped chives or spring onions

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

150ml (1⁄4 pint) French Dressing

150ml (1⁄4 pint) homemade Mayonnaise, thinned with a little water

Boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large amount of well-salted water. Peel and dice the potatoes while they are still hot and put into a large, wide dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle immediately with the chives or spring onions and the parsley. Drizzle over the French dressing and mix well. Leave to cool and then add the mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning.

Hot Potato Salad with Hard Boiled Egg and Gerkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Fold in 2 diced hard-boiled eggs and 2 tablespoons of chopped gherkins. Serve warm with pickled ox tongue, sausages, boiled bacon, warm terrine, hot spiced beef or Danish Pâté

One-Pot Pasta with Tomato and Chorizo (taken from One Pot Feeds All published by Kyle Books)

For those of you who are conditioned to cook pasta in a huge pot of boiling salted water, the idea of cooking pasta in the sauce in just one pot may be quite a stretch to consider attempting, but do try it. The starch from the pasta thickens the sauce and the pasta absorbs the flavours deliciously, it’s a revelation and you’ll have such fun experimenting. For some reason I still feel slightly guilty, but less washing up helps to salve my conscience. You’ll need considerably more liquid than in normal pasta sauce because the pasta will absorb much of the liquid.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2–1 red chilli, chopped

900g (2lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, in summer or 2 1/2 x 400g (14oz) tins of tomatoes in winter

zest of 1 organic lemon

1–2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, depending on the strength of flavour

225g (8oz) chorizo, peeled and diced

850ml (1 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

175ml (6fl oz) double cream

300–350g (10 – 12oz) fettuccine or spaghetti

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

30g (1 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a generous pinch of sugar, to taste

Heat the oil in a 6-litre (10 pint) stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely
soft before the tomatoes are added.

Slice the fresh or tinned tomatoes and add to the onions with all the juices and the lemon zest. Season with salt, pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add the rosemary. Cook, uncovered, for a further 10 minutes, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

Add the chorizo, stock and cream. Bring back to the boil, add the pasta, stir gently to separate the strands and prevent sticking. Return to the boil, cover and simmer for 4 minutes and leave to sit in the tightly covered saucepan for a further 4–5 minutes, or until just al dente. When you add the dried pasta, it will seem too much but hold your nerve, it will soften within a minute or two and cook deliciously in the sauce.

Season to taste, sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan. Serve.

Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Taken from One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

A gorgeous pot of bean stew, so warm and comforting for an autumn or winter supper. Use your favourite juicy heritage pork sausages

Serves 4-6

225g (8oz) dried haricot, cannellini or flageolet beans (or 2 x 400g/14oz tins of cooked beans)

bouquet garni

1 carrot, peeled

1 onion, peeled

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for frying

450g (1lb) fennel and chilli pork sausages

175g (6oz) chopped onion

4 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of plum tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

flaky sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

flat-leaf parsley or chervil, to serve

Soak the beans overnight in a large pan with plenty of cold water. Next day, strain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and return them to the pan. Cover with fresh cold water and add the bouquet garni, carrot and onion. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes–1 hour until the beans are soft, but not mushy. Just before the end of cooking, season with salt. Remove the bouquet garni and vegetables from the pan and discard. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.

Fry the sausages in a few drops of oil over a medium heat until nicely coloured and remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil over a lowish heat in the same saucepan and cook the chopped onion for 7–8 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute or two before adding the chopped tomatoes and their juice, the cooked beans and the rosemary. Add the sausages and simmer for 5–6 minutes, adding some of the bean liquid if the sauce starts to dry out. Season well with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes or until the sausages are heated through. The mixture should be juicy, but not swimming in liquid – if it starts to dry out, add more of the bean liquid.

To serve, scatter with plenty of parsley and accompany with a salad of organic leaves or crusty bread, if you wish.

Variations

Cheesy Sausage, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary

Spoon the finished stew into a shallow ovenproof dish and scatter over 50g (2oz) breadcrumbs mixed with 25g (1oz) butter and 50g (2oz) grated Cheddar cheese. Flash under the grill until crisp and golden on top.

Chorizo, Haricot or Flageolet Beans with Tomato and Rosemary with Chorizo or ‘Nduja

Omit the sausages and add 125g (4 1/2oz) sliced chorizo or pieces of ‘nduja to the tomato base with the beans and rosemary.

Easy Baking for All The Family

Just like so many other over 70’s, I’ve been ‘cocooned’ at home for the past couple of weeks and of course it absolutely must be done but I was surprised how challenging I found the transition…

Life as we knew it is certainly on hold. Everyone is grappling with the new reality and each group have their unique set of adjustments to make.

We are all having to dig deep to find our inner resilience and realize that so many others are in infinitely more difficult situations than ourselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to be in a township in Soweto or in an immigrant camp on the Turkish border where physical distancing would be impossible.

Many of the everyday things we were up to ‘high doh’ about a couple of weeks ago now seem embarrassingly unimportant. How Covid-19 has changed our priorities dramatically in a few short weeks…

I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the kindness of people sharing and caring and racking their brains to think of ways to help others whilst keeping within the restrictions. Many families are already scarred by tragedy and many more will be…..

Unemployment, bereavement, home schooling and now there’s the spectre of a deep recession looming.  Carers, health workers, bus drivers, Garda and postmen and women…risking their own health every day for others and the everyday reality for so many of trying to keep children occupied often in a confined space while older children frantically study for exams.

Well certainly, from what I hear many families are also enjoying cooking together – especially baking – that is, when they can find flour…

My little contribution can be a few simple recipe suggestions every week – and do keep your requests coming in: darina@cookingisfun.ie

There can scarcely be a house in the country that hasn’t one or two recipes for cupcakes, but in response to Mary Jane’s request for a ‘fool proof’ recipe,  here is our ‘go to’ recipe for Penny’s cupcakes which all my grandchildren love to make. They have fun outdoing each other with lots of extra embellishments, sprinkles, meringue kisses, chocolate curls, sparkly sugar….

Here’s the recipe for coffee and walnut squares, an irresistible ‘tray bake’ from my latest One Pot Wonders book. It’s been getting a terrific response and I’m ashamed to say was responsible for someone breaking their Lenten fast a few weeks ago….

If you have a food processor, just put all the ingredients into the bowl together and whizz for a few seconds. Alternatively, cream the soft butter, add the castor sugar, beat until light and fluffy, then add one egg at a time and fold the flour in gently. Irel coffee essence has disappeared for some time now but Camp coffee is a brilliant substitute and lasts for years.

Cheddar Cheese Fondue is another gem, the kids can help to grate cheese on a simple box grater, a gadget no kitchen should be without. If you have haven’t got one, ask your Gran to leave it by the gate for you and take all the recommended precautions. Cheese fondue is so quick, easy, full of good protein and other nutrients and fun to eat….. Remember, if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on your right so choose your seat carefully!

Hope you got a chance to make that rhubarb pie from last week’s column. Our rhubarb is leaping out of the ground after that rain, so here’s another one of my favourites – Rhubarb Fool. Serve it with these shortbread biscuits which the children can make and shape with their favourite cookie cutters.

Freeze any leftover rhubarb fool in a lined loaf tin (sweeten it a little more because freezing dulls the sweetness) – Hey presto – rhubarb ice-cream – serve with a little sauce of pureed stewed rhubarb and decorate with a sprig of sweet cicely for extra posh. Meanwhile, check out the new From Ballymaloe Cookery School with Love website www.fromballymaloewithlove.com for lots of recipes, tips, thoughts and foraging suggestions and for wild and free food – updated daily. Keep your requests coming in to darina@cookingisfun.ie or 0214646785.

Stay safe – till next weekend…..

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

A fondue party is so retro, terrific fun.  Choose your seat carefully because if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on our right – this could be your big chance! Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. A huge favourite at Ballymaloe.  Even though it’s a meal in itself it can be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not totally essential.

Serves 2 – perfect for everything from kids tea to a romantic supper.

2 tablespoons dry white wine

2 small cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney

2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley

175g grated mature Cheddar cheese

Crusty white bread

Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a fondue pot or small saucepan and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately.  Provide each guest with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.  They will also need a fondue fork and an ordinary fork.

Rhubarb Fool

Serves 6 approximately

450g red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml softly whipped cream

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

Jane’s Biscuits – Shortbread Biscuits

This recipe is a ‘keeper’ – loved by children and all ages.  Stick it up on the inside of your kitchen cupboard door for easy access.

Makes 25

175g white flour or Spelt

110g butter (room temperature)

40g castor sugar

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

Serve with fruit fools, compotes and ice creams.

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

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

Penny’s Vanilla Cupcakes

This is our favourite cupcake recipe – they can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion!  Use your favourite icing and embellish them as you fancy.

Makes 9-10 cupcakes or 16-18 ‘wee’ buns

150g soft butter (at room temperature)

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

Icing

225g icing sugar

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cupcake tins lined with bun cases.

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

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

Divide mixture evenly between cases in muffin tin. 

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile make the icing.

Put the sieved icing sugar and lemon zest into a bowl.  Add enough lemon juice to mix to a spreadable consistency. 

Ice the cupcakes with lemon icing and garnish with a crystallised flower.  Alternatively, use chocolate icing and decorate with chocolate curls.

Dark Chocolate Icing

175g icing sugar

50g unsweetened cocoa powder

75g butter

4 tablespoons water

110g castor sugar

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

For the Chocolate Curls

Melt the 150g (5oz) of the chocolate in a pan over hot water and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread.  Allow to cool. Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating “curls” as you go.   Rest on parchment paper and use as required.

Sue’s Coffee and Walnut Squares

From One Pot Feeds All by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Books

This is a super versatile recipe that comes from Sue Cullinane, one of our senior tutors at Ballymaloe Cookery School. I sometimes just scatter crunchy praline over the top for a quick, but delicious fix. Toasted hazelnuts or pecans are also a delectable combination, instead of the walnuts. 

Makes 20

225g softened butter, plus extra for greasing

100g caster sugar

80g soft brown sugar

300g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 organic, free-range eggs

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 tablespoon Camp coffee essence

For the coffee buttercream

100g softened butter

300g icing sugar, sifted

1 dessertspoon whole milk

2 teaspoons Camp coffee essence

20 walnut halves, toasted hazelnuts or whole pecans, to decorate

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

Grease a 30cm (length) x 20cm (width) x 5cm (depth) tin with a little butter and line with a sheet of parchment paper that comes up over each side.

Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor. Whizz just long enough to combine. Spread the cake mixture evenly over the lined tin and smooth the top with a palette knife. Bake for 20–25 minutes until well risen. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely in the tin.

To make the buttercream, cream the butter and beat in the icing sugar, followed by the milk and coffee extract.

As soon as the cake has cooled, use a palette knife to spread the coffee buttercream evenly over the top. Cut into squares and decorate each one with a half walnut, toasted hazelnut or whole pecan. Alternatively, pipe a rosette of coffee buttercream on top of each square and top with a toasted nut.

Julia’s Melted Nettles with Pomegranate Syrup

A ‘cocooned’ friend in the UK told me about this delicious flavour combination.

Serves 4

225g young Spring nettles

25g butter or 2-3tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Using gloves, remove the leaves from the stalks. Wash the nettles well under cold water. Plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain well.  When cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

To serve.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter or extra virgin olive oil in a pan, add the blanched nettles, season well with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses, taste and correct seasoning.  Add a little more molasses if necessary. It’s difficult to say how much because different brands vary in intensity.

Note: Young nettles are mild, delicious and super nutritious, I like to blanch a few batches and then freeze for another time – loaded with iron and a brilliant blood cleanser.

Easter Sunday

The past few weeks have been tough on a whole variety of ways – each family has its own set of challenges.

On the food scene, it has been little short of astonishing to see the ingenuity and resourcefulness of farmers and local food producers who have come up with a myriad of solutions to get their perishable products to their local customers.  Many foods are already in short supply.  People are in desperation for flour.

Millers like Donal Creedon at Macroom Mills (026 41800) have been milling virtually around the clock.

Farmers continue to care for their animals, milk cows and sow and plant to ensure future harvests.

They are setting up farm gate sales contactless delivery and payment via Revolut.

Neighbourfood hubs (www.neighbourfood.ie) are springing up around the country much to the appreciation of both food producers and local community.  Just look at how creative we can be, what individuals and communities can organise when they are allowed to get on with it.  Up to 60 years ago, towns and villages were virtually self-sufficient – we could so easily work towards that again, in energy, waste disposal and food production services. 

We are having quite the wake-up call – food for thought – time to think outside the box and give thanks for so many blessings even in these terrifying times.  Let’s concentrate on finding the silver lining that we are told is behind every dark cloud.

Easter is the time of resurrection, take hope this too will pass but meanwhile, let’s have a little celebration tomorrow, Easter Sunday.  Go along to your valiant local butchers who are still supplying us with meat.  Buy a leg or shoulder of lamb, pop it in the oven with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, let it roast it slowly to delicious succulence.

While you are it, don’t forget to buy some fresh lamb liver, loaded with Vitamin A combined with Vitamin D that we need to boost our immune systems to help us resist disease and virus.  While you are there, ask for a big bag of bones to make a fine pot of broth.  Another brilliant food to keep us well, it also freezes brilliantly.

Cod liver oil was the only thing I bulk bought. A bottle for each of my children’s houses and several bottles to spoon into my hard working teachers, who are working flat out to make nourishing wholesome food for the Farm Shop and the heroic team on the farm and gardens who are also crazy busy, sowing, planting to ensure future harvests – reminds me of when I was a child, everyone took cod liver oil in Winter to protect them from colds and flu – it tasted disgusting then…..tastes better and quite appealing now but get an unrefined or fermented one if you can.

A great big roasting tin of Winter vegetables would be delicious with the lamb and of course lots of roast potatoes.

Tender fresh mint leaves are just leaping out of the ground in my herb patch – such joy…I’m making some apple and mint jelly and don’t forget Myrtle’s delicious simple mint sauce to accompany the Easter Sunday Lamb. 

I also have something else wonderful, not many of you will know.  It’s a perennial kale with several names Cut and Come, Hungry Gap and Cottiers Kale.  All those names give you a clue as to its attributes, a tender kale with the texture of spinach and the flavour of kale.  The more you pluck it, the more it grows and it fills the hungry gap between the end of the Winter crops and the beginning of the Summer bounty.  It’s propagated by root cutting rather than seeds so look out for plants – it really merits a space in your plot. Watch out for it at Neighbourfood for the next few weeks and we’ll also have some at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop in Shanagarry.

And then for pudding, our favourite rhubarb tart – I’ve given this recipe in my column several times but here we are again – it’s made with a ‘break all the rules’ pastry, that anyone can make.  Chill it well.  It’ll become your favourite pie pasty for all fruit tarts…gooseberry and elderflower, plums, stone fruit.

Stay resilient and continue to dig deep to find the inner strength you didn’t even know you had – look out for each other and continue the little acts of kindness.

Happy Easter to you and all your family.

Keep safe……

Easter Lamb with Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Young Spring Lamb is sweet and succulent and needs absolutely no embellishment apart from a dusting of salt and pepper and a little fresh Mint Sauce – made from the first tender sprigs of mint from the cold frame in the Kitchen garden.

For me this is the quintessential taste of Easter.

Serves 6-8

1 leg of spring lamb

salt and freshly ground pepper

Gravy

600ml (1 pint) lamb or chicken stock

a little roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish

Sprigs of fresh mint and parsley

Mint Sauce (see recipe)

If possible ask your butcher to remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb so that it will be easier to carve later, then trim the knuckle end of the leg.  Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Put into a roasting tin.

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

Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approx. for rare, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size.  When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a carving dish.  Rest the lamb for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy.   Degrease the juices in the roasting tin, add stock.  Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux to thicken slightly.   Taste and allow to bubble up until the flavour is concentrated enough.  Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring onions and lots of crusty roast potatoes.

Myrtle Allen’s Mint Sauce

Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to Spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise.  That’s how it ought to be, try it.

Makes 175ml approx.

25g finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons sugar

110ml boiling water

25ml white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat.  Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice.  Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Roux

110g butter

110g flour

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

Lamb Stock for Gravy or Broth

You could make more if you have a large enough pot, strain – it will freeze perfectly.

3kg lamb bones (or less or more)

2 large carrots

2 large onions

2 stalks of celery

10 peppercorns

A bouquet garni made up of a sprig of thyme, parsley stalks, a small bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Put the bones into a roasting tin and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the bones are well browned. Add the onions, carrots and celery and return to the oven until the vegetables are also browned. Transfer the bones and vegetables to the stock pot with a metal spoon.  Add the bouquet garni and peppercorns.  De-grease the roasting pan and deglaze with some water, bring to the boil and pour over the bones and vegetables. Add the rest of the water and bring slowly to the boil. Top up the liquid from time to time with water.  Skim the stock and simmer gently, uncovered for 4-5 hours.  Strain the stock, allow it to get cold, and skim off all the fat before use.  This stock will keep for 2-3 days in the refrigerator.  If you want to keep it for longer, boil it for 10 minutes, and then chill again. It can also be frozen.

Lamb Broth

Return the liquid with water to the pot and cook uncovered to reduce by quarter or half to concentrate the flavour.

Cottier’s Kale, Cut and Come or Hungry Gap

Serves 4

1.3kg cottier’s kale

3 teaspoons salt

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g butter

Remove the stalks from the sprigs of kale.  Wash and drain greens.  Cook with the lid off for about 5 minutes until tender.  Drain off all the water.  Chop well, add a big lump of butter, and plenty of freshly ground pepper and salt.

Note: Cut and Come kale, like spinach, reduces a lot during cooking, so you need to start off with a large potful.

Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables

Keep the pieces nice and chunky.

About equal volumes of:

parsnips, peeled

swede turnips, peeled

celeriac, peeled

carrot, peeled

onions, quartered

pumpkin, optional

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper, whole

a few whole cloves of garlic, optional

2-3 tablespoons herbs (thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley), freshly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Peel the vegetables and cut into similar sized pieces – 2cm cubes are a good size. Put all the vegetables into a large bowl.   Drizzle generously with olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Spread them in a single layer on one or several roasting tins.  Roast, uncovered, stirring occasionally until they are fully cooked and just beginning to caramelize. Be careful, a little colour makes them sweeter, but there is a narrow line between caramelizing and burning.  If they become too dark they will be bitter.

Serve sprinkled with freshly chopped herbs, e.g. thyme, rosemary, chives and parsley.

Note

Some freshly roasted and ground cumin or coriander is also a delicious addition just before the end of cooking.

Cullohill Rhubarb Pie

This is a gem of a recipe – a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter.

Serves 8-12

Pastry

225g soft butter

50g castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g  white flour, preferably unbleached

Filling

900g sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick)

370g sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

castor sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick approx., and use about 2/3 of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with castor sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Recipes in a Crisis

It is at times like this, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind the black cloud…..

Sean O’Rourke asked me to come on his RTE show recently. Ever since, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing with requests for simple homely comforting dishes to cook with the kids. I was intrigued by the variety of simple fool proof recipes that people were longing for.

I shared my phone number after a conversation with a highly achieving young mother who found herself quarantined with her children and totally unable to cook. She was in desperation and felt helpless, although in her ‘other life’ she could virtually run the country. It is at times like this that we need to concentrate on searching for the silver lining behind this black cloud.

Supermarkets have now put a limit on the number of items people can buy to curb panic buying all kinds of random food. Pasta, tortillas and rice were top of many people’s lists and now some shops are in short supply but don’t forget about potatoes – super easy to cook, incredibly versatile and far more nutritious. Furthermore we are supporting Irish potato growers who like all farmers and food producers of perishable food desperately need our support. Never was it more important to buy locally. Many Farmers Markets are temporarily closed but food producers are scrambling to find other ways to get fresh produce to their customers with whom they have built up warm relationships over the years.

Many are now selling from the farm gate and taking orders by phone and doing contactless, deliveries straight to the boot of your car.

Let’s concentrate on food that helps to strengthen our immune system. We need lots of Vitamin A and D. Liver from lamb, beef, pork and poultry are all rich sources of both Vitamin A and D which work together to boost our resistance. Cod liver oil, neat or in capsule form, is also a brilliant source. As children in the 1950’s we were given it daily to protect us from Winter colds and flu but it’s popularity waned when antibiotics became more widely available.

Bone broth too – full of collagen, eggs particularly the wonderfully nourishing yolks from hens that are out on the grass. Butter, lard and other good fats. Fatty fish too, I love liver but know it’s certainly not everyone’s favourite, even those who have never tasted it tell me they don’t like it!

There are lots of delicious ways to serve liver rather than serving it unadorned, it can be minced and added to burgers or other delicious dishes. Try it diced in this delicious tomato, fegato and bacon fondue, serve with lots of mashed potato or indeed pasta.

Cook up a nice big pot of stew, cover the whole top with potatoes so you have a whole meal in one pot. Use every single scrap, don’t waste a morsel of anything. If you are unsure of how to use up some leftovers email or telephone me, 021 4646785 darina@cookingisfun.ie

 I’ll do my best to help with suggestions. See Ballymaloe Irish Stew in my recent St Patrick’s Day Article, are  https://letters.cookingisfun.ie/#Ballymaloe+Irish+Stew

but here’s another delicious beef stew and easy chicken casserole that all the family will love.

One of my most requested recipes was for scones, so here they are, my Mum’s recipe, the very best I know.

I also spoke about this delicious little recipe for tortillitas, little fritters, a perfect way to use up leftover boiled potatoes, make them with your kids, they’ll love making these tortillitas.

This is the perfect time to have fun in the kitchen with your kids, teaching them nifty skills – how to use a swivel top peeler, a kitchen knife, how to use the dishwasher, washing machine, dress the beds, hoover, lay the table…. Better still, how about sitting down together to compile a Jobs List, pin it up on the wall – a given when I was a child. There were nine of us so it was essential that everyone realised the importance of playing their part. We learned so many practical skills and a brilliant work ethic.

Please continue to send in your requests. I’ll do my best to include them in my weekly column and in my weekly Saturday Letter on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website.

Keep Safe!

Ballymaloe Beef Stew

A good gutsy stew which can be made in large quantities – it reheats and freezes brilliantly. Cover the top of the stew with large peeled potatoes if you would like a full meal in a pot.

Serves 8 – 10

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.35kg (3 lb) well hung stewing beef or lean flank

4 large carrots cut into 1/2 inch (1cm) slices

2 parsnips cut in ¾ dice

285g (10 ozs) sliced onions

1 heaped tablespoon flour

150ml (5fl oz) red wine (or use all beef stock)

150ml (5fl oz) brown beef stock

250ml (8fl oz) homemade Tomato Purée, otherwise use best quality tinned tomato -pureed and sieved

175g (6 oz) sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the meat of any excess fat, then prepare the vegetables. Cut the meat into 4cm

(1 1/2 inch) cubes. Heat the olive oil in a casserole; sweat the sliced onions carrots and parsnips on a gentle heat with a lid on for 10 minutes. Heat a little more olive oil in a frying pan until almost smoking.  Sear the pieces of meat on all sides, reduce the heat, stir in flour, cook for 1 minutes, mix the wine, stock and tomato puree together and add gradually to the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook gently. Cook gently for 2 1/2-3 hours in a low oven, depending on the cut of meat, 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3. Meanwhile sauté the mushrooms and add with the parsley to the casserole, 30 minutes approx. before the end of cooking.  Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles and a good green salad.

Note: Cover the surface of the stew with 8 – 10 whole peeled potatoes laid on top and cooked for about an hour before the end of the cooking. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover with a lid

A very simple chicken casserole

This casserole takes 10 minutes to prepare.

So simple and so nourishing.

Serves 6-8

1 whole organic chicken or 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks and 2 breasts

700ml (1 1/4 pints) homemade chicken stock or water

olive oil for frying

4-5 carrots, peeled and cut into thick chunks 

2 onions, peeled and quartered

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roux (optional)

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

Joint the chicken into 8 pieces or use chicken pieces, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Pour the chicken stock or water into a large casserole dish and heat on the hob.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and begin to fry the pieces of chicken until golden brown.

As they brown pop them into the casserole dish, at this stage you can also add in the chopped carrots and quartered onions. Add another pinch of salt and twist of freshly ground black pepper.

When the liquid comes to the boil, put the lid on, transfer to the preheated oven for 1- 1 1/2 hours.

The chicken will come easily off the bone when cooked and the carrots will be tender.

Pour off the liquid and let the fat rise to the top – spoon this off. (If the chicken is organic, save to sauté cooked potatoes).

Now you can either thicken the liquid with a little Roux if desired or leave the juice as is.

Note

Lots of other ingredients may be added to enhance the flavour – a sprig of thyme, lots of chopped parsley, haricot beans, spices, but this basic version works brilliantly to be shared with little ones.

Tortillitas à la Patata

This is totally brilliant way to use up leftover boiled potatoes.  The tortillitas are made in minutes and can be served as part of every meal from breakfast to supper. 

Makes 26

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) cooked potatoes, cut into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and chives

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

Maldon sea salt, to serve

Garlic Mayo (see recipe)

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add the herbs.

Heat about 5mm (1/4 inch) of oil in a frying pan on a high heat, cook a teaspoonful of mixture and taste for seasoning.  Correct if necessary.  

Continue to cook the mini tortillas as needed, using a scant dessertspoon of the mixture for each. Cook on one side for about 1-2 minutes, flip over and continue to cook on the other side for a similar length of time, or until slightly golden.

Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve hot, or at room temperature with a blob of garlic mayo (see recipe below).

Garlic Mayo

10 floz mayo

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 – 2 cloves of crushed garlic

Stir the crushed garlic and parsley into the mayonnaise, taste and put into a bowl.

Gary’s Fegato, Bacon and Tomato Fondue

Serves 6 – 10

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) onions, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes or 2lbs of fresh tomatoes, peeled

Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

2 tablespoons of any combination of the following:

Freshly chopped parsley, thyme, marjoram

350g (¾ lb) nice fat streaky bacon

225g – 450g (½ lb – 1lb) fresh lambs (or chicken) liver (cut into ¾” cubes)

Heat the oil in a casserole or stainless-steel saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and toss until coated. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat until the onions and garlic are soft but not coloured. Slice the tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook, uncovered, for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until tomatoes soften.

Meanwhile cut the cooked streaky into ¾” dice. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry until slightly crisp at the edges. Add to the tomato base. Toss the diced liver in the bacon fat and add to the pot. 

Bring back to a simmer, taste, correct the seasoning.

To serve, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley over the top and serve immediately with pasta, orzo or mashed potato.

Note: Cook the piece of bacon in simmering water for 30-45 minutes or until the rind will peel off easily.

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones

My mother gave me this recipe for her scones which delighted and comforted me as a child, I have evocative memories of a big baking tray of golden scones coming out of the Aga, as we raced in from school.   My brothers and I argued over the sugary tops – nothing’s changed – they’re still my favourite.

Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (7½ cm) cutter

900g plain white flour

170g Kerrygold butter

Pinch of salt

55g castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

425ml approx. full cream milk to mix

For glaze

Egg wash (see below)

For crunchy tops

55g crunchy demerara sugar for top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250ºC/475ºF. regulo 9

Sieve the flour into a big wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, 3 heaped teaspoons of baking powder and the castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.   Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre. With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made. 

Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.   Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  

Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a round about 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.   Stamp into scones with a cutter or a knife.  Brush the tops with egg wash (see below) and dip the tops only in granulated sugar.   Put onto a baking sheet.    Gently gather the extra pieces of dough together, flatten and repeat as above.  

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

Serve, split in half with home-made Raspberry jam and a blob of whipped cream.

Scones are best served freshly baked.

Egg Wash: Whisk 1 egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  This is brushed over the scones to help them to brown in the oven.

Practical Tip

Scone mixture may be weighed up ahead – even the day before.  Butter may be rubbed in but do not add raising agent and liquid until just before baking. Scones freeze very well.

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