ArchiveOctober 2001

Irish Apples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Chocolate Apple Betty


Serves 4, with cream or vanilla ice-cream

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

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

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

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


 Irish Apple Cake


Serves 6 approx.

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

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


Dutch Apple Cake


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

Serves 10-12 approx.

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

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

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

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




Kangaroo Island

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

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

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

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

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


Eggs Benedict 

Serves 4

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

4 free range eggs, preferably organic

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

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

Hollandaise sauce- see recipe below.

First make the Hollandaise sauce.


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

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


Hollandaise Sauce


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

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

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

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

110g (4oz) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

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

It is important to remember that if you are making hollandaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce. Another good tip if you are making hollandaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if becomes too hot.


Yoghurt with Honey and Toasted Hazelnuts


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

Best quality natural greek style yoghurt

Strongly flavoured local Irish honey

Toasted almonds or hazelnuts, sliced

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


Apple and Blackberry or Mulberry Muesli


Serves 4

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

3 heaped tablesp.rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)

6 tablespoons water

teasp approx. honey

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


Bridge Creek Ginger Muffins


Makes 10 approx.

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

170g (6 oz) castor sugar

zest of 2 lemons

110g (4 oz) butter

2 eggs, preferably free range

250ml (8 fl oz) buttermilk

285g (10 oz) white flour

½ teasp. Salt

½ teasp. bread soda

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

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

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



The Ballymaloe Bread Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

£12.99 Click here to order


Teeny, Weenie, Spicy Cheese and Onion Scones


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

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

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

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

to have some frozen around Christmas time for those unexpected guest

that arrive on your doorstep calling in for Christmas cheer.

Makes approximately 50 small scones

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, very finely chopped

450g 1lb plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 rounded teaspoon English mustard powder

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

50g 2 oz butter

40g 1½ oz Parmesan cheese

40g 1½oz mature cheddar cheese

225 ml 8 floz milk

1 large egg


Egg wash

30g 1oz Parmesan cheese


2 Lightly greased baking sheets

Fully preheat the oven to 200ºC 400ºF regulo 6

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

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

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

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

plate and leave to cool.

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

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

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

the onions. Combine all these ingredients really well together.

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

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

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

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

if necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

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

to tidy the dough.

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

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

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

about 2.5cm 1 inch square.

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

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



Coffee & Walnut Scones


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

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

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

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

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

Makes 16

450g 1lb plain white flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

pinch salt

30g 1oz castor sugar

85g 3oz butter, chilled

70g 2½oz walnuts – coarsely chopped

2 medium eggs

6 – 7 floz fresh milk

1-2 tablespoons coffee essence

Coffee Icing

225g 7½oz icing sugar

1 tablespoon coffee essence

2 tablespoons boiling water

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

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

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

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

walnuts. Make a well in the centre.

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

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

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


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

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

necessary. Bring gently together into a soft dough.

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

to bring together.

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

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

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

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

preheated oven for 5 minutes then turn down the heat to

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

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

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

whisk in the boiling water a tablespoon at a time.

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

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

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



Stripy Cat


Makes one loaf

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

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

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

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

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

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

they declared in unison. So Stripy Cat was born.

450g 1lb plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda, (finely sieved)

1 dessertspoon sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

your finished bread.

Now make a well in the centre of the flour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thus keeping it light and airy.

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

surface. Wash and dry your hands.

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

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

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

Folklore this is to let the fairies out!

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

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

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

will sound hollow.

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




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