ArchiveJune 2003

Much depends on dinner

Much depends on dinner! Our health, vitality, ability to concentrate, all depend to a great extent on the food we eat, consequently its well worth putting as much effort as possible into sourcing good, fresh naturally produced food in season – after all as our much-loved GP, the late Dr Derry McCarthy was fond of saying ‘If you don’t put the petrol in the tank, the car won’t go’. Food is after all the fuel to nourish our bodies.

Nowadays many of us spend our time racing from one thing to the next, always in a mad hurry – in many ways its just a habit – easy to acquire but so difficult to kick. When life takes on this frenetic quality cooking or even stopping to eat meals properly is one of the first things to be sidelined. Easy to get into the mindset that there are more important things to do than stopping to cook or even to eat a meal properly. A great mistake- apart from the obvious importance of the food we eat, one misses out on the relaxation and satisfaction of doing something different and dare I say creative. Allow yourself the time to relax and have fun in the kitchen. One of the greatest pleasures in life and the one that so many memories are made of is sitting down together with family and friends around the kitchen table. When we share a meal a bond is formed, doesn’t have to be an elaborate feast, could just be a boiled egg and soldiers or a bowl of saucy pasta.

Its particularly important to keep the tradition of family meals, this takes tremendous effort nowadays when family members are involved in so many activities, sports, classes, work commitments, are all reasons why family meals have to be eaten at different times, often on the run, but its worth making an effort to have a family meal where everyone sits down together, at least couple of times a week – even if everyone just argues occasionally it keeps the lines of communication open and it may turn into a fun time. A quick message for those of you who are being cooked for – don’t forget to at least offer to help with the washing up and remember a big hug for the cook – it makes the world of difference!

A well stocked store cupboard is even more important than ever nowadays when so many people are trying to keep so many balls in the air simultaneously. If you have lots of pasta, beans, cheese, some salami, a few tins of tomatoes, maybe a piece of chorizo, then one can whip up a myriad of dishes in a few minutes. Combine it with a freezer containing a few judiciously frozen items and you’ll never be stuck. I would always have Tomato fondue, Piperonata and Mushroom a la crème in the freezer. Next week I will give lots of ideas for these three brilliant standbys, but this week I include some delicious and nutritious dishes that can be quickly assembled from your store cupboard.

Busy people who want to be able to whizz up meals in minutes will need to ensure that their store cupboard is always well stocked. The following are some suggestions for items that we find invaluable. Apart from the obvious basic dairy products, butter, milk and eggs (free-range if possible), and items like potatoes, carrots, onions and garlic, flour (plain, self-raising, strong brown, strong white, coarse brown) and oatmeal, you’ll find some or all of the following useful - 

Pasta/noodles/ spaghetti/macaroni/ shells/penne etc... Grains, Cous cous, Bulgar, Quinoa, 
Rice, Basmati, Arboria, Thai fragrant .... Sardines, Tuna fish, Anchovies, Tinned Sweetcorn, Tinned Tomatoes, Olives, Avocadoes.
Tinned beans, Chick Peas, Flagolets, Kidney beans, Black-eyed beans and baked beans in tomato sauce. 
Mature Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan cheese
Chicken stock/cube
Extra virgin olive oil, Ground nut and sunflower oil, Red and White wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar.
English mustard powder and Dijon mustard, Maldon Sea Salt
Harissa or Chilli sauce
Some whole spices eg. Coriander, Cardamon, Nutmeg, Cumin, Cloves, Chilli flakes
Good quality chocolate
Nuts, eg. hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds
Dried Fruit eg currants, sultanas, raisins and Apricots
Homemade jam, Irish Honey, Marmalade
Tortillas – freezer, Pitta Bread - freezer
Cream Cracker or Carrs Water Biscuits
Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, Jalapeno relish and a few chutnies
Soy Sauce - Kikkoman
Nam pla - Fish Sauce
Sweet Chilli Sauce, Oyster Sauce,Thai Curry Paste, Plum Sauce,
Chillies and Chilli flakes
Sesame Oil
Salami, Chorizo, and Kabanossi sausage
Good ice cream
Frozen fruit e.g. raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries etc, 

Cannellini Bean, Tomato and Chorizo Stew with Rosemary

Omit the chorizo for a delicious vegetarian meal

Serves 8-10
115g (4ozs) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed 
½ - 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2 tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
2 x 400g (14oz) tins haricot or cannellini beans
8-12ozs (225-350g) chorizo, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary

Heat the oil in a non reactive saucepan. Add the sliced onions and garlic and chilli flakes, toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Slice the fresh tomatoes or tinned and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add a generous sprinkling of rosemary. Cook covered for just 10 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, or until the tomato softens. (Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour). Add the beans and chorizo, continue to cook, add chopped fresh rosemary and serve. Alternatively, add lots of chopped parsley and coriander instead of the rosemary for a milder flavour.

Butterbean, Kabanossi and Cabbage Soup

Serves 6
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
6oz (170g) onion, chopped
6 oz (170g) kabanossi sausage, sliced
¼ Savoy cabbage
14oz (400g) tin of tomatoes
2 pints (1.15L) Home-made Chicken stock
1 x 14oz (400g) butter beans, haricot beans or black eyed beans
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
4 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a saute pan over a medium heat, add the onion, cover and sweat until soft but not coloured. Slice the kabanossi and toss for 2-3 minutes or until it begins to crisp slightly – the fat should run. Chop the tomatoes fairly finely in the tin and add with all the juice to the pan, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil and cook on a high heat for 5-6 minutes, add the boiling stock and butter beans. Bring back to the boil, thinly slice the cabbage and add. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, add the chopped parsley. Taste and correct the seasoning and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Risotto alla Parmigiana

Serves 6
Risotto is a brilliant standby, made in just 30 minutes, it can be basic with some freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino, and it can include peas, broad beans, rocket leaves, roast tomatoes, shrimps, courgettes, mushrooms, smoked salmon, and much more besides can be added to enhance or embellish the risotto.

1-1.3L (1¾ - 2¼ pints) broth or or light chicken stock 
30g (1oz) butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14oz) Arboria or Carnaroli rice
30g (1oz) butter
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)
sea salt

First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused). Cook for a minute or so and then add 150ml (¼pint) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 150ml (¼pint) broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if its too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside. If its too slow, the rice will be gluey. Its difficult to know which is worse so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook. 

When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly 'al dente'. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve immediately.
Risotto does not benefit from hanging around.

Darina’s back to basics–

Pan grilled chicken breast
Pan Grilled Chicken breasts with Sweet Chilli Sauce 
Seek out free-range and organic poultry whenever possible.
Use skinless chicken breasts.

Separate the fillet from the underneath side of the meat, cook separately or slice thinly at an angle and quickly stir-fry. The chicken breast cooks more evenly when the fillet is removed.

Serves 4
4 Chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
Sweet Chilli Sauce

Just before serving cook the chicken breasts. 
Heat a cast iron grill pan until quite hot. Brush each chicken breast with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the chicken breasts on the hot grill for about a minute, then reverse the angle to mark attractively, cook until golden brown on both sides. The grill pan may be transferred to a moderate oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Be careful not to overcook the chicken breasts, they will take approx. 15 minutes in total.
Serve with Sweet Chilli Sauce.

Darina's Hot tips

2nd National Food Forum and Food Fair will take place at Brook Lodge, Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow on Sunday 6th July, entitled ‘Diversity- the future of Food Production’ – organised by Euro-Toques Ireland – contact Brid Banville at 01-6779996,  

Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso in Cork has recently published his second cookbook -‘Paradiso Seasons’ (Cork University Press) focussing on his favourite vegetables at their prime moment and creating sumptuous recipes from them – currently book of the month at Waterstones – more on this later.

Ballybrado Ltd of Cahir, Co Tipperary have just launched their new bacon rashers – not only organic, but cured without nitrates – certified by the Organic Trust. Available from Tesco nationwide. 

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School –
A Taste of California - 30th June
A Day in Tuscany – 1st July
Jams and Preserves – 2 July (½ day)
Introductory Courses Parts 1 & 2 - 7-11 July, 14-18 July.
Course Schedule 2003  Tel 021-4646785

Buttery scrumptious scones

Scones are now available in practically ever forecourt in the country, cheap, cheerful and extraordinarily good value - still there’s nothing quite like a tender buttery scone, fresh from the oven with homemade jam and cream. 

In the US, scones, or biscuits as they are called over there, can often be much more exciting and innovative than over here. The Americans are not content just to have a plain or fruit scone, they add lots of extra bits, craisins, dried cherries, chopped nuts, chocolate chips, crystallised ginger, or whatever the fancy takes.

Scones are flavoured with cocoa, coffee, orange, lemon, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger… 

Scones are often iced for extra excitement and may be served with maple syrup or honey or fruit butters. A big favourite, particularly in summer, is strawberry shortcake, which is made not with shortbread as we know it, but with a fresh buttery scone.

Simply split in half and fill, serve oozing with softly whipped cream and sliced sugared strawberries. 

I’ve been experimenting with a few variations on this theme, try chocolate shortcake with strawberry and cream or better still, sliced bananas, Nutella and cream – wow! You’ll never look back!

Fool Proof Food Recipe -

Mummy’s Sweet White Scones and variations

Makes 18-20 scones using a 72 cm (3inch) cutter
900g (2lb) plain white flour
170g (6oz) butter
3 free range eggs
pinch of salt
55g (2oz) castor sugar
3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
450ml (15floz) approx. milk to mix
For glaze:
egg wash (see below)
granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the scones

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 9.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk the eggs with the milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to about 22cm (1inch) thick and cut or stamp into scones. Put onto a baking sheet – no need to grease. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with home made jam and a blob of whipped cream or just butter and jam.
Back to top
Egg wash:
Whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt. This is brushed over the scones and pastry to help them to brown in the oven.

Fruit Scones
Add 110g (4oz) plump sultanas to the above mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Lexia Raisin Scones
Add 110g (4oz) lexia raisins to the basic recipe and continue. 

Cherry Scones
Add 110g (4oz) of quartered glace cherries to the basic mixture when the butter has been rubbed in. Continue as above.

Craisin Scones or Dried Cherry Scones
Substitute 110g (4oz) of craisins or dried cherries. Continue as in master recipe.

Cinnamon Scones
Add 2-3 teaspoons of freshly ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients.

Crystallized Ginger Scones
Add 110g (4oz) chopped crystallized or drained ginger in syrup to the dry ingredients and continue as above. 

Candied Citrus Peel Scones
110g best quality candied orange and lemon peel to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, coat the citrus peel well in the flour before adding the liquid.

Cinnamon Scones
Add 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon to the dry ingredients in the basic mixture.
Mix 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 55g granulated sugar. Dip the top of the scones in the sugar mixed with the cinnamon.. Bake as above.

Poppy Seed Scones
Add 4 tablespoons of poppy seeds to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, proceed as in basic recipe. 
Serve with freshly crushed strawberries and cream

Chocolate Chip Scones
Chop 110g best quality sweet chocolate, add to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in and proceed as above.

Craisin Scones
Add 110g dried cranberries (Craisins) to the dry ingredients after the butter has been rubbed in, proceed as above.

Scones with Orange Butter
Serve the freshly baked scones with orange butter.
Orange butter
3 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
170g (6oz) butter
200g (7oz) icing sugar

Cream the butter with the finely grated orange rind. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat until fluffy. 

Lemon Scones
Substitute lemon for orange in the above recipe.

Useful 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.

American Strawberry Shortcake

Makes 18 scones
1 basic scone recipe (see recipe)
8oz (225g) Irish strawberries
2 teaspoons caster sugar
8½ fl.oz (284ml) carton double cream
2 teaspoons icing sugar

6-8 whole strawberries
fresh mint or strawberry leaves
icing sugar
Prepare the scones according to the recipe. While they are baking, prepare the strawberries by washing, hulling and cutting into quarters. Toss with the caster sugar and set aside.

Shortly before serving, whip the cream with the icing sugar. Split the cooled scones and top the bottom half with a blob of sweetened cream and a few sugared strawberries. Add the tops, sieve a little icing sugar over and decorate with whole or halved strawberries and fresh mint or strawberry leaves.

Chocolate Scones or Chocolate Shortcake with Bananas

Makes 12-14 scones
450g (1lb) plain white flour
75g (3oz) butter
55g (2oz) castor sugar
25g (1oz) cocoa
2 free range eggs
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
200ml (7floz) approx. milk to mix

Green and Black chocolate spread or Nutella
Softly whipped cream
Sliced bananas or raspberries

First preheat the oven to 250C/475F/gas 9.
Make the scones in the usual way. Bake in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes until well-risen and golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

To serve
Split each scone in half.
Smear generously with Green and Black Chocolate spread or Nutella. Top with a blob of cream and some sliced bananas or fresh raspberries. Enjoy! 
The secret of success:

Use a large wide bowl. 

Sieve the flour at least once. Use butter, it makes all the difference to the flavour. Rub the butter in coarsely. If the shortening is rubbed in too finely the scones will be dense and heavy. Resist the temptation to use a food processor, even though its fast - the scones will be close and leaden. 

Add all the liquid at once and mix quickly in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl, in ever increasing concentric circles. When you get to the outside of the bowl (a matter of seconds), the scone dough is made. 

Handle gently, don’t knead, just tidy and roll or pat into a round or square, stamp out as many scones as possible first time, re-rolled dough always results in tougher scones. 

Roll or pat to one inch thick, this really matters. If the dough is too thick, the scones will be cooked on top and underneath but still doughy in the centre, or they may topple over while baking.

If the dough is rolled too thinly, the proportion will be wrong - too much crust and not enough crumb. Put immediately into a fully preheated oven and bake.

Cool the scones on a wire rack as soon as they are baked. Freshly baked scones are best.

Top Tips –
Choose precooked bread carefully. It is frequently undercooked and consequently indigestible.
Richard Leigh-Graham sells delicious sublime buttery brioche at the Clonakilty Farmers Market every Thursday – cut into slices and freeze, so you can toast a piece for breakfast at a moment’s notice, also great with chicken liver pate.
Organico in Bantry is also famous for its range of organic breads – White, Granary, Wholemeal, Spelt, Rye Sourdough as well as scones, cakes, muffins, flapjacks…….
Barrons in Cappoquin for traditional bread baked in their traditional stone ovens – Esther and Joe Barron also run a lovely tea shop on the premises.
Collins Bakery in Youghal make lovely bread which they sell from their shop on North Main Street- loaves, grinders, rolls, wholemeal loaves and fruity bracks

Bagels, Tortillas and Pitta Bread are now widely available, pop some into your freezer - a brilliant standby when you want to make delicious sandwiches and wraps.
Blaas – the delicious Waterford speciality are available in shops and supermarkets all over the city.

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Barbecue Courses Part 1 & 2 - 26 & 27th June
A Taste of California – 30th June
A Day in Tuscany – 1st July
Jams & Preserves made Simple - ½ day 2nd July
Course Schedule 2003

A Fondue Party to Feed Friends

A fondue party – sounds very sixties, but it’s a terrific way to entertain – so easy to prepare, interactive and lots of fun. A melting Cheddar Cheese fondue is comforting and irresistible. The classic is made with a mixture of Gruyere and Emmental, with some dry white wine, Kirsch and potato flour – easier to achieve in Austria or Switzerland than over here. 

However, one can make a delicious Cheddar cheese fondue in minutes. Place yourself strategically at the table, because if you accidentally drop your bread into the pot, you must kiss the person on your left.

A fondue set is not completely essential but its much easier and more glam if one has a set complete with burner, fondue pot and long handled forks. It will last for years and can be whipped out at moment’s notice when you want to feed lots of hungry friends with the minimum of fuss and bother.

The process is simple, just grate the cheese, crush garlic, chop some nice fresh parsley, have a pot of Ballymaloe country relish or a homemade tomato chutney and drop of dry white wine at the ready.

A Fondue Bourgignon is a different process, the meat, succulent cubes of beefsteak are cooked at the table and then dipped in a variety of sauces – garlic mayonnaise, horseradish sauce, béarnaise sauce would all be delicious.

Cubes of lamb also work well, served with an onion sauce and perhaps an apple and mint jelly. You’ll need lots of ventilation for fondue bourgignon and be careful to transfer the meat onto your plate, rather than eat off the fondue fork which can be blisteringly hot. 
Another of my favourite suppers, but not exactly similar is Raclette. For this you will definitely need a Raclette set to melt the slices of special Raclette cheese to scrape over your cooked potatoes, an accompanying green salad and perhaps a few pickles are all that are needed.

Chocolate fondue is rich and decadent, you’ll need lots of fruit and how about some squishy marshmallows to dunk in the last of the chocolate – sublime and so easy.

Ballymaloe Cheese Fondue

Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. It's a great favourite at Ballymaloe and even though it's a meal in itself it may be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not essential.
Serves 2
2 tablesp. white wine
2 small cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teasp. Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney
2 teasp. freshly chopped parsley
6 ozs (170g) grated mature Cheddar cheese 
Crusty white bread
Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a small saucepan or fondue pot and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.

Fondue Bourgignon

Serves 4
This meat fondue is fun for a small dinner party.
900g (2lb) trimmed fillet or sirloin of beef cut into 2.5cm (1inch) cubes (just before service)
Garlic mayonnaise 
Horseradish sauce 
Bearnaise sauce 
a selection of freshly cooked vegetables and a green salad

A Fondue set

Half fill the fondue pot with olive oil. Divide the cubes of meat between 4 bowls. Place the fondue lamp on the table, light it and put the saucepan of hot olive oil on top. Provide each guest with a bowl of meat cubes and a plate and 1 or preferably 2 fondue forks in addition to their other cutlery. Each guest spears one cube of meat at a time on their fondue fork and cooks it to their taste - rare - medium, or well done.

Serve the sauces, vegetables and salad separately

Bearnaise Sauce

A classic sauce – also great with a steak or roast beef
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
4 tablespoons dry white wine 
2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots 
A pinch of freshly ground pepper 
1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves
2 egg yolks (preferably free-range) 
115-175g (4-6 oz) butter approx., salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with

If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped tarragon. 

Boil the first four ingredients together in a low heavy bottomed stainless steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly ‘scrambling’, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning. 

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

Keep the sauce warm in a pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it. 

Horseradish Sauce

Horseradish grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can=t find it near you, plant some in your garden. It is very prolific and the root which you grate can be dug up at any time of the year.
Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel.
Serves 8 - 10
2 -3 heaped tablesp. grated horseradish
2 teaspoons wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 teaspoon Dijon or English mustard
3 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
8 fl ozs (250 ml/1 cup) softly whipped cream

Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Fold in the softly whipped cream but do not overmix or the sauce will curdle. It keeps for 2-3 days: cover so that it doesn=t pick up flavours in the fridge.

This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really Aclear the sinuses@, increase the amount of horseradish!

Chocolate Fondue

Serves 6 approx.
8 fl ozs (250ml) best quality cream
8 ozs (225g) milk or dark chocolate or a mixture, chopped roughly
A selection of fresh fruit – bananas, strawberries, raspberries, kumquats, pineapple, mango…..
A fondue set
Bring the cream to boiling point in a fondue pot. Add the chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until it has completely melted. Set the pot on the fondue stove. Serve a selection of fresh fruit in season. Dip the whole, quartered, or sliced fruit into the melted chocolate and enjoy.

Raclette cheese – allow about 6ozs per person
freshly boiled potatoes -3 – 4 per person
Lettuce - 3 – 4 leaves per person
Pickles, optional - 3 – 4 per person
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Raclette Stove
Put the Raclette stove in the centre of the table and turn on the heat. Cut the cheese into scant 3 inch (5mm) thick slices and put a slice onto each little pan.

Meanwhile serve freshly boiled potatoes and crisp lettuce on hot plates to each person. Just as soon as the cheese melts, each person spoons it over their potatoes and put another piece on to melt. Raclette is great fun for a dinner party.

Darina Allen’s back to basics recipe

Home made Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is what we call a 'mother sauce' in culinary jargon. In fact it is the 'mother' of all the cold emulsion sauces, so once you can make a Mayonnaise you can make any of the daughter sauces by just adding some extra ingredients.

I know it is very tempting to reach for the jar of 'well known brand' but most people don't seem to be aware that Mayonnaise can be made even with a hand whisk, in under five minutes, and if you use a food processor the technique is still the same but it is made in just a couple of minutes. The great secret is to have all your ingredients at room temperature and to drip the oil very slowly into the egg yolks at the beginning. The quality of your Mayonnaise will depend totally on the quality of your egg yolks, oil and vinegar and it's perfectly possible to make a bland Mayonnaise if you use poor quality ingredients.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or ¼ teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
8 fl ozs (250ml) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 6 fl ozs (175ml) arachide oil and 2 fl ozs (50ml) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.
Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time. Within a minute you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens you can add the oil a little faster, but don't get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

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, then whisk in the curdled Mayonnaise, a half teaspoon at a time until it emulsifies again.

Aoili or Garlic Mayonnaise and variations

ingredients as above
1-4 clove of garlic, depending on size
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the Mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.

Note: Here is a tip for crushing garlic. Put the whole clove of garlic on a board, preferably one that is reserved for garlic and onions. Tap the clove with a flat blade of a chopping knife, to break the skin. Remove the skin and discard. Then sprinkle a few grains of salt onto the clove. Again using the flat blade of the knife, keep pressing the tip of the knife down onto the garlic to form a paste. The salt provides friction and ensures the clove won't shoot off the board!

Basil Mayonnaise 
Pour boiling water over ¾ oz (20g) of basil leaves, count to 3, drain immediately and refresh in cold water. Chop and add to the egg yolks and continue to make the Mayonnaise in the usual way.

Tomato and Basil Mayonnaise 
Add 1-2 tablespoons of aromatic tomato pureé to the Basil Mayonnaise.

Chilli Basil Mayonnaise 
Add a good pinch of chilli powder to the egg yolks when making Garlic Mayonnaise, omit the parsley and add the basil instead. Great with salads and sandwiches.

Spicy Mayonnaise
Add 1-2 teaspoons Ballymaloe tomato relish to the basic mayonnaise. Add ½-1 teaspoon chilli sauce to taste.

Wasabi Mayonnaise 
Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of Wasabi paste to the eggs instead of mustard.

Roast Red Pepper Mayonnaise 
Add 1-2 roast red peppers, seeded and peeled (do not wash)
Purée the red pepper flesh, add purée and juices to the Mayonnaise. Taste and correct seasoning. 

Wholegrain Mustard Mayonnaise
Add 1-2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard to the basic mayonnaise.

Lemon Mayonnaise
Use lemon juice instead of vinegar in the basic mayonnaise.

Fennel Mayonnaise
Rick Stein introduced us to this delicious sauce. Add 3 teaspoons Pernod and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fennel bulb to the basic mayonnaise recipe.

Dill Mayonnaise
Served with salmon, prawns….. Add 3-4 tablesp. freshly chopped dill to the mayonnaise.

Darina Allen’s Top Tips

New seasons Goat cheese
We’ve been enjoying the new season’s goat cheese for the past few weeks. Just yesterday Tom Biggane and his son William delivered me two wheels of Clonmore cheese. This semi-hard cheese is made from the milk of their own free-range goat herd, hand-milked by his wife Lena on their farm near Charleville.

This cheese has a delicious mild, goaty aroma, with a wonderful rich depth of flavour – we ate slice after slice Available from Sheridans in Dublin and Galway and IAGO in Cork’s English Market. Tel. 063-70490 for details of a stockist near you.

Our Irish farmhouse cheese makers have done much to change the image of Irish food and brought honour to Ireland for the past 20 years – there are now around 100 in virtually very county in Ireland. They are represented by CAIS, the Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers Guild, whose Chairperson is Mary Burns of Ardrahan, (029-78099). Big congratulations are due to Mary for recently getting the award of Irish Farmhouse Cheesmaker of the Year at the IFEX Exhibition at the RDS.

In Kenmare look out for JAMS Café –
This busy cheerful café just off the main square serves a wide range of snacks all day – salads, hot dishes, juicy sandwiches, an array of tempting cakes, pies and desserts and a choice of coffees.
Leitrim Food Fare 2003, 19th June 2003 12pm – 6pm Bush Hotel, Carrick on Shannon 
Sample and savour the extensive range of wholesome and delicious food produced in Co Leitrim. Cookery Demonstrations by celebrity chef Neven McGuire. 

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School
Course Schedule 2003 
Ballymaloe Buffet Course 15-18 June 
Barbecue Course Parts 1 & 2 – 26 & 27 June
A Taste of California 30 June
A Day in Tuscany 1 July


There were two big food bashs in London this weekend and enough excitement to entice me to give up my weekend in the countryside to head for the bright lights of the metropolis.

On Sunday evening Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers threw a terrific party to celebrate the launch of their newest cookbook –River Café Easy. Hundreds of friends, River Café fans, food and wine writers and devotees turned up. They celebrated enthusiastically with the two ‘belladonnas’, sipped lots of bubbly prosecco and nibbled a selection of gorgeous bruschetta on chargrilled sourdough bread. One was more delicious than the next, Tomato and black olive with rocket, Broad bean pecorino with fresh mint leaves, Sweet oven roasted cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, garlic and lemon, Crushed fava beans, mozzarella and black olives, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Stephen Parle, past student of the school who has been cooking at the River Café for over a year, was part of the busy kitchen brigade who were busy turning out bruschetta as fast as they were gobbled, and gobbled they were with indecent haste by the great and the good of the London food scene. Madhur Jaffrey was over from New York, Claudia Roden, Roly Leigh, Terry Durack, Monty Don…….

But so too was the chap who supplies the veg to the River Café, some of the farmhouse cheesemakers, wine suppliers – it was a wonderfully relaxed affair, lots of people brought their children who bebopped to the music of Pierre La Rue’s band and queued up with the rest of us for homemade ice-cream cornets.

The second bash - The Glenfiddich Food and Wine Awards, held this year in Vinopolis close to the Borough Market, have turned into the Oscars of the UK food scene. This was my first taste of this event which has been running for 33 years (I was nominated for an award in the Magazine Cookery Writer category for a series I wrote for Waitrose Food Illustrated Magazine, called ‘Pass it on’). 

Here the Glenfiddich whiskey flowed and leading style bar mixologists Alessandro Palzzi, Colin Appiah and Daniel Warner, dispensed cocktails from behind a counter made of ice- Glenfiddich Aurora, Glenfiddich Fifteen and Glenfiddich Zander - again the celebs were out in force. Antony Worrall Thompson, fresh from his stint on ‘I’m a Celebrity – get me out of here’ regaled us with stories. I hugely admire him for participating – such a gamble but they raised one million and seventy three thousand pounds for charity. 

Jamie Oliver won the Television award, narrowly pipping Rick Stein at the post. The programme ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’ was praised for its entertaining, inspiring and utterly compulsive viewing, covering the subject of food from a broad range of angles, and extending the appeal of the programme to non-foodies through its soap opera style. The programme enhanced Oliver’s credibility with the general public, a point reflected by the fact that he was also awarded the GQ/Glenfiddich Food and Drink Personality of the Year 2003.

The coveted Glenfiddich Trophy was awarded to drink writer and broadcaster Andrew Jefford, a veteran in the food and drink arena, who consistently produce incredible, intelligent, thought-provoking observation pieces, which challenge the readers’ and listeners’ perception. Jefford was also awarded the Drink Writer and Wine Writer Awards for 2003.

This year’s Glenfiddich Independent Spirit Award awarded in recognition of a piece of work or progressive individual or campaign that is thought to have made an outstanding contribution towards widening the understanding of food and drink in Britain was picked up by James Pavitt of the National Association of Farmers Markets, for his role in the establishment and launch of a farmers’ market certification scheme, which aims to preserve and protect the ethic of true farmers’ markets by identifying those markets that are local producers exclusively selling their own produce directly to the public. The Certification scheme was launched in June 2002.

The food there was wittily catered for by The Moving Venue Company, based in Deptford South East London. 

A series of canapés and mini meals, first in cornets – Peking Duck, Salmon Cornets, Tandoori Lamb and Guacamole Pinto Tacos, then in bowls – Caesar Salad, Sausage & Mash with caramelized onion gravy, and Roasted Pimento & Courgette Risotto, on plates – Seared Tuna Loin with Sauce Vierge, Smoked Haddock Fish Cake, Steak & Chip with Bearnaise Sauce, and finally in shot glasses a choice of a boozy Glenfiddich trifle (Tipsy Laird) or a delicious Chocolate mousse with Spiced pear compote (Tartan Dream).
River Cookbook Easy by Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers, published by Ebury Press.

Asparagus and Anchovy Antipasta

800g/1 ¾ lbs asparagus
6 anchovy fillets
150g/5ozs unsalted butter
½ lemon
extra virgin olive oil
50g/2ozs parmesan

Soften the butter. Rinse, dry and roughly chop the anchovies. In a bowl mix the anchovies with lemon juice and black pepper, then with a fork mix with the butter.
Boil the asparagus in salted water until tender. Drain and season and drizzle with olive oil. Place the asparagus on warm plates. Spoon over the anchovy butter, and scatter with parmesan shavings.

Choose asparagus with tightly closed tips and firm stalks. Asparagus steamers are designed to protect the fragile tips as they cook standing upright. Alternatively, lay the asparagus flat in a large frying pan and cover with boiling salted water.

Beef Fillet with Thyme

500g/18ozs beef fillet
30g/1 ¼ oz black peppercorns
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
extra virgin olive oil
3 lemons
100g/3 ½ ozs parmesan
100g/3 ½ ozs wild rocket leaves

Grind the peppercorns and mix with ½ a tablespoon of salt and the thyme. Rub the fillet lightly with olive oil, then rub the pepper mixture into the beef. Heat a ridged griddle pan to very hot, and sear the beef on all sides. Cool.
Use a long, sharp-bladed knife to slice the beef as thinly as possible. Place the slices on a board and press with the flat blade of the knife to extend each slice.
Cover a cold plate with the beef. Season, and drizzle over the juice of ½ a lemon.
Shave the parmesan. Toss the rocket with olive oil and a little more lemon juice.
Scatter the leaves over the beef, then put the parmesan shavings on top. Drizzle over more olive oil, and serve with lemon.

Plum and Orange Cake

500g/18ozs ripe plums
1 orange
50g/2ozs caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
150g/5ozs unsalted butter
150g/5ozs caster sugar
2 organic, free range eggs
85g/3 ½ ozs self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
100g/3 ½ ozs blanched almonds
1 orange
30g/ 1 ¼ oz unsalted butter
25g/1 oz muscovado sugar
50g/2oz flaked almonds

Finely grate the rind and squeeze the juice of the orange. Grind the almonds in a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC/Gas Mark 4.
Halve and stone the plums and put in an ovenproof dish with the sugar, the orange juice and rind. Add the split vanilla pod and bake for 20 minutes. Cool. Scrape in the vanilla seeds.

Grease a 25cm round spring-form tin, lined with parchment paper, with extra butter.
Soften the butter and beat with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.
Pour into the tin and push the plums and their juices into and over the cake. Bake in the oven for ½ hour.

For the topping, finely grate the orange rind. Melt the butter and stir in the sugar, zest and flaked almonds. Spread this over the half-baked cake, lower the heat to 320ºF/160ºC/Gas Mark 3 and bake for a further 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the tin.

Darina Allen’s back to basics -

I adore compotes and virtually always have a bowl of poached fruit in the fridge. It changes with and within each season, starting in January with the tongue twister, a Compote of Kumquats – which gives way in Spring to Poached Rhubarb. Just as soon as the tender young shoots of rhubarb appear in the forcing pots. Poaching rhubarb is a tricky business it can so easily dissolve into a mush, the secret is to put the rhubarb pieces with cold syrup, bring them gently to the boil, simmer for just 1 minute then turn off the heat and allow the rhubarb to continue to cook in the covered saucepan.

At the end of May we scan the hedgerows for the first of the elderflowers, just as soon as it blossoms, we know its time to search under the prickly branches of the gooseberry bushes. the fruit will be hard and green, but perfect for poaching. The elderflowers imbue the gooseberries with a wonderfully haunting muscat flavour. Unlike rhubarb, gooseberries must be allowed to burst in the cooking so the syrup can penetrate.

Most fruit compotes keep for several days in the fridge and in some cases even for even longer. They also freeze well. Making a fruit compote is a simple but very useful technique.

Strawberry & Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb and strawberries are a wonderful combination and now that strawberries have a longer season we can enjoy them together.

Serves 4

1 lb (450g) red rhubarb, e.g. Timperely Early
16 fl ozs (scant 450ml) stock syrup (see below)
½ - 1 lb (225 - 450g) fresh strawberries, Cambridge Favourite, Elsanta or Rapella
To Serve
Pouring cream
Light biscuits 

Cut the rhubarb into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless steel saucepan add the rhubarb, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 1 minute, then turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the covered saucepan until just cold. Hull the strawberries, slice lengthways and add to the rhubarb compote. Chill and serve with a little pouring cream and a light biscuit.

Stock Syrup
1 lb (450g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool. Store in the fridge until needed.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower 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.
Serves 6-8
2 lbs (900g) green gooseberries
2 or 3 elderflower heads
1 pint (600ml) cold water
1 lb (450g) 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.

Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Fool

Liquidise the compote, mix with softly whipped cream to taste - about 2 volume of whipped cream to fruit puree. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Top Tips

Focus on Fruit – 

This is the name of a joint promotion just launched by the Health Promotion Unit and Bord Glas – the object is to try to instil the message of the importance of eating ‘Four or More’ fruit and vegetable a day, with an emphasis on the convenience, versatility and great taste of fruit.

BIM are currently producing a series of recipe cards with quick and delicious ideas to promote fish in our everyday diets – what about Seafood Wraps – using soft tortillas filled with salmon or prawns or other tasty fish - look out for these cards on the fish counter or at your fishmonger. 

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland recently announced a public consultation process on proposed changes in food safety legislation now available through its website. This new ‘consultations’ section of the website is seen by the FSAI as a valuable tool in giving people an arena to have their say on upcoming legislation and for the Authority to gauge both consumer and industry views on key food issues. Views are currently being sought on Flavourings and Food Ingredients with Flavouring Properties for use in and on Food – so make your opinions known. 

Coming up soon at Ballymaloe Cookery School –

Australian Guest Chef Maggie Beer – 9-11 June
Ballymaloe Buffet Course – 15-18 June
Barbecue Course Part 1 - 26th June. Part 2 – 27th June
For details of these and other courses tel 021-4646785

Three great convertibles

Some readers of my books will already be familiar with our three great convertibles – Tomato Fondue, Piperonata and Mushroom a la Crème. These three incredibly versatile recipes appear in virtually all of my 12 cookery books despite the fact that each has a different theme and I am careful to have as little repetition as possible. They earn their place in every single volume because they not only star as a vegetable in their own right but also form the basis of many delectable dishes.
Lets start with Tomato Fondue. This juicy melted tomato stew can be flavoured with just one herb – say basil, mint or marjoram, or it can be embellished with a mixture of fresh herbs in season. It can be made ahead and frozen as indeed can Piperonata and Mushroom a la crème.
Its delicious served as a vegetable with fish, chicken, guinea fowl, pork, particularly if the recipe includes a creamy sauce. 
Serve it as a sauce with chicken breast or with a piece of pan-grilled wild Irish salmon – one can easily imagine that it makes a perfect sauce for pasta, either on its own or with chorizo or kabanossi sausage and lots of freshly grated Desmond, Coolea or Baylough farmhouse cheese. Slather it across the centre of an omelette with a little knob of pesto for extra excitement or use it as a base to add beans or chick peas for a delicious bean stew. You can add it to your favourite recipe for mince to make it even more tasty.

If you’d rather make a fish stew, add a mixture of fish and shellfish, some chilli to add a little extra zing and lots of fresh dill or maybe coriander, a little grated ginger is terrific too, as is a can of coconut milk and so on.
All one needs is a pot of Tomato fondue and a sprinkling of imagination – in the Caribbean they add spinach and lots of freshly chopped dill and serve it with fish – truly delicious.

Piperonata - the Italian Pepper and Tomato stew can also be used in a myriad of ways. It too is delicious with fish, and when paired with poached eggs it becomes the classic piperade. 
The sweetness of the peppers is particularly delicious with swordfish, tuna or monkfish. Piperonata, unlike the tomato fondue and mushroom a la crème can be eaten cold and is delicious with goat cheese or mozzarella. Drizzle with a little tapenade or pesto.

Deliciously rich and creamy, mushroom a la crème is irresistible with a succulent steak or juicy hamburger. Its also good with chicken breast and makes a perfect filling for a vol au vent or omelette. It makes the best mushrooms on toast and acts as a basis to use up little morsels of cooked chicken and ham. Add some cooked salmon and a few mussels or other shellfish, some chopped herbs, and hey presto you have a filling for pancakes or a pie which can be topped with pastry or potato. This mixture is also delicious as a filling for filo parcels.

Ring the changes by adding some freshly grated ginger and some toasted chopped almonds. We also spread a basic mushroom a la crème over a pizza base with lots of marjoram to make one of the most delectable of all pizzas.
Mushroom a la crème can also be made with wild mushrooms or a mixture of cultivated and wild.

So now you’ll understand why we virtually always have Tomato Fondue, Piperonata and Mushroom a la Crème in a fridge and also in the freezer – here are the recipes and I’m sure you will find even more exciting ways to use these great convertibles.


Serves 8-10
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers
2 green peppers
6 large tomatoes (dark red and very ripe)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
A clove of garlic, crushed
A few leaves of fresh basil
Heat the olive oil in a casserole, add the garlic and cook for a few seconds, then add the sliced onion, toss in the oil and allow to soften over a gentle heat in a covered casserole while the peppers are being prepared. Halve the peppers, remove the seeds carefully, cut into quarters and then into strips across rather that lengthways. Add to the onion and toss in the oil; replace the lid and continue to cook.

Meanwhile peel the tomatoes (scald in boiling water for 10 seconds, pour off the water and peel immediately). Slice the tomatoes and add to the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper, sugar and a few leaves of fresh basil if available. Cook until the vegetables are just soft, 30 minutes approx. 

Mushroom a la Creme

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

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

Note: Mushroom a la creme may be served as a vegetable, or as a filling for vol au vents, bouchees or pancakes or as a sauce for pasta. It may be used as an enrichment for casseroles and stews or, by adding a little more cream or stock, may be served as a sauce with beef, lamb, chicken or veal. A crushed clove of garlic may be added while the onions are sweating.
Mushroom a la Creme keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms with Goats Cheese, Pesto and Tomato Fondue

In the Summer we grow zucchini (courgettes) in both the Kitchen garden and the Green House, they produce hundreds of canary yellow blossoms. The female flowers produce the fruit but we use the male flowers in our salads, as a container for sauces and in soups. They are also utterly delicious stuffed with a few melting morsels, then dipped in a light batter and deep fried until crisp and golden. 

Serves 6-8 
Batter (excellent for fish fillets also) 
140g (5ozs) plain flour 
12 tablespoons olive oil 
1-12 egg whites
Sea salt 
Sunflower oil for deep frying 
12 - 16 courgette flowers (or less) 
175g - 225g (6 - 8ozs) fresh Irish goat=s cheese (I use St Tola, Croghan or Ardsallagh, each wonderful but different) 
3-4 teaspoons Pesto 
3-4 tablespoons Tomato fondue – see recipe
Tomato sauce or tomato fondue

First make the batter. Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre, pour in the olive oil, stir and add enough water to make a batter about the consistency of thick cream. Allow to stand for at least 1 hour if you can. 
Just before cooking, whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak and fold into the batter. Add salt to taste.
Heat the oil in the deep fryer until very hot. Remove the >thorns= from the base of the zucchini flowers and the stamens from the center. Hold a zucchini flower upright, open slightly and carefully. Put about 15g (2oz) goat=s cheese, 2 teaspoon pesto and 1 teaspoon of Tomato fondue into each. Twist the tip of the petals to seal. Dip in batter and drop into the hot oil. Fry on one side for about 2 minutes and then turn over. They=ll take about 4 minutes in total to become crisp and golden. 
Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately - just as they are or with hot Tomato Sauce or a little extra Tomato fondue. 

Crunchy Chicken and Mushroom Filo Pies 
Serves 6 as a main course – but these pastries can be made in different sizes and used as a canapé or starter also. 
1 packet filo pastry - use what you need and carefully freeze the remainder
Clarified Butter or melted butter
Mushroom a la Crème (see recipe)
340g (12oz) cooked chicken, diced 
225g (8oz) cooked ham or bacon, diced 
egg wash 
First make the Mushroom a la Crème. Add some coarsely chopped cooked ham or bacon and cooked chicken to the mushrooom a la creme. Taste and correct seasoning.
Defrost the filo pastry if necessary and unfold.
For Filo Parcels.
Brush the top sheet with melted butter. Put 1-2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the sheet in about 6.5cm (2½inch) from the narrow end. Fold the pastry over the filling twice and then fold in one of the edges, roll over and then fold in the other side so there is even thickness of pastry at both sides. Continue to roll over to enclose the filling. 
Brush with egg wash and melted butter.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F/regulo 4 for 15-20 minutes depending on size.
For filo triangles
Cut each sheet in 4 lengthwise, brush each strip with melted butter, put a heaped teaspoon of filling near the end of the strip. Fold over and over from side to side to form a triangle. Brush with melted butter and egg wash. 
Serve with a good green salad and some spicy greens. 

Darina’s back to basics  

Tomato Fondue
Serves 6 approximately
115g (4ozs) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic, crushed 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2½ tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste
1 tablespoon of any of the following;
freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram or torn basil
Heat the oil in a non reactive saucepan. Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. Slice the fresh tomatoes or tinned and add with all the juice to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity). Add a generous sprinkling of herbs. Cook uncovered for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens. Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the fondue as a vegetable, sauce or filling. Note: A few drops of Balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Tomato Fondue with Chilli
Add 1 - 2 chopped fresh chilli to the onions when sweating.

Hot Tips
Bord Bia have just brought out new beef and lamb recipe cards- ‘Great beef for the Grill or Barbecue’ and ‘Its so Easy’ Lamb recipes. Look out for the cards in the supermarket and at the butchers shop – all recipes are available on line at
Cork’s English Market has been listed among Europe’s top ten food markets in the current issue of the Observer Food Monthly, in the company of Borough Market in London, Les Halles de Lyons, The Pescheria in Venice and others.


Past Letters