Lets Think Local for 2006

It’s that time again when I am full of resolve – another opportunity to make lots of New Year resolutions. I love making New Year resolutions, what’s more I am always completely convinced that I will stick to them despite my long track record of sliding back into old habits. 

For 2006 lets
Think Season  Think Local  Think Animal welfare
Think Food Miles Think Organic  Think Sustainability

The coolest words in food as we slide into 2006 are local, artisan and slow. Those with passion for real quality are seeking out fresh naturally produced local foods from artisan producers. Foods that are grown, reared and produced more slowly in the time honoured way so they have more flavour, better texture and frequently more nutrients.

Problem is, now that virtually everything is available year round it becomes more and more difficult, particularly for younger people, to know when particular foods are in season. Here is a list to guide you-

In season in January – 

Root vegetables – carrots, parsnips, celeriac, Jersualem artichokes, turnips.
Brussels Sprouts, Kales, Sprouting broccoli, cabbage, chicory


Fish – herrings, sprats, Pollock, cod, oysters

Citrus fruit

Food is at its freshest and most flavourful when it is in season. It makes no kind of sense to buy expensive ‘jet-lagged’ food that has traveled half way round the globe when we could be eating delicious local food in season. The foods that are in season contain the nutrients, minerals and trace elements our bodies need at that time of the year, eg citrus fruit in winter provides us vitamin C.

Kale and brassicas are a powerful source of antioxidants and help to boost our resistance during the cold Winter months when colds and flu are at their most prevalent. 

Now that there is an increasing network of Farmers Markets around the country – 130 at the last count, it becomes easier to source local food in season. It’s a whole other shopping experience, convivial, relaxed and in many cases less expensive. Fresh local food can sometimes be found in small independent local shops. Many of these shops are struggling to survive in the face of ever increasing competition from the ‘multiples’, as ‘cheap’ food continues to be the primary objective of most shoppers. However, we fool ourselves if we imagine that food will continue to be cheap after these shops have been closed down. We will be left with no choice and our towns and villages will have lost the charm and diversity that these family owned businesses bring.

We are out of our minds to risk this situation becoming a reality in Ireland, particularly as we can see clearly what has happened in Britain as a result of huge supermarkets being built on green field sites. These multi-faceted businesses sell everything from newspapers to insurance, hoover up all the business and as a result over 60% of villages in the UK have no village shop and no post office. Consequently there is no heart in the village and the community is fragmented. Think how this would change the face of Ireland.

The choice is ours, if we don’t support our local shops – the family butchers, the bakers, the hardware shops, we will lose them and watch as the prices rise and we will have lost our alternatives. 

The reality is that food shopping is an ‘agricultural act’, we can make a difference by the way we choose to spend our ‘food euro’.

When we shop in supermarkets, lets support the Irish enterprises, we can heighten awareness by asking questions about provenance. Ask how much local food do they stock? Think about animal welfare, food miles, sustainability and organic.

Local shops can help themselves by highlighting local food in season in their establishments, Johnny Dunne’s carrots, Peggy Hegarty’s barm brack, Anne Keating’s Baylough Cheese, Sally Barnes’ smoked fish………..

This enables those of us who are searching for local food in season to find it easily and helps to remind those of us who haven’t been thinking that way.

Conclusion – You may also want to think about adopting the Slow Food Philosophy for 2006 – visit  or 

Here is a seasonal menu-
Oysters with Murphys or Beamish
Turnip and Bacon Soup
George Gossip’s Pheasant and Chorizo
Leek Champ

Foolproof Roast Jerusalem Artichokes (available at Midleton Farmers Market)
Citrus Fruit Salad

Swede Turnip and Bacon Soup

Serves 6-8
340g (12oz) swede turnips, diced
1 tablespoons sunflower or arachide oil
140g (5oz) rindless streaky bacon cut in ½ inch (1cm) dice
110g (4oz) onions, chopped
140g (5oz) potatoes, diced
salt and freshly ground pepper
900ml (1½ pint) Homemade Chicken Stock
cream or creamy milk to taste

fried diced bacon
tiny croutons
chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the bacon fat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary. Serve with a mixture of crispy bacon, tiny croutons and chopped parsley.

Deep Fried Sprats with Aoili

In general January has a few highlights, apart from the arrival of the marmalade oranges in the shops - but when the Sprats arrive into Ballycotton the excitement is tangible. We feast on them for a few short weeks - deep fried, soused, pickled and smoked. Don’t even think of gutting them you may be shocked but we eat them insides and all - completely delicious!
Serves 6-8 

450g (1 lb) Sprats
Well seasoned flour
Lemon Segments


2 egg yolks, preferably free range
1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on size
3 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
Pinch of English mustard or 3 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar
230ml (8 fl oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - we use 180ml (6 fl oz) arachide oil and 50ml (2 fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Oyster Shells (optional) 

First make the Aoili. 

Using a mortar and pestle, work the garlic with a little salt and pepper until smooth; then work in the egg yolks, add the wine vinegar and the olive oil drop by drop, stirring constantly with the pestle. Once the sauce has started to thicken, the oil may be added more quickly. 

When half the oil has been added, one can add the oil a little faster. Stir in the chopped parsley.

Taste the Aioli and add a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some salt and pepper if necessary. 

Just before serving: Heat the oil in a deep fry to 200C/400F. Toss the sprats in well seasoned flour, cook until crisp and golden. Put an oyster shell on each plate to hold a generous spoonful of Aoili or Tartare Sauce. Serve immediately with segments of lemon.

Pheasant with Chorizo, Bacon and Tomatoes

– George Gossip
George Gossip who teaches the Game Coookery Course here at the school says that this recipe is an amalgamation of Elizabeth David’s Pheasant with Spiced Rice, a chicken dish of Penelope Casas’ and his own ideas – anyway its delicious.
Serves 6

1 Pheasant – cut into serving portions
1 or 2 chorizos sausages, sliced
6-8 oz good quality streaky bacon diced into ½ inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic,
two large onions, sliced
1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped (or one 14oz tin of chopped tomatoes)
salt and pepper
thyme and parsley
two teaspoons good-quality paprika – preferably sweet Hungarian

Pilaff Rice
Pheasant stock
Wash the rice in cold water and leave to soak. Bring game stock to the boil.

Fry the bacon in olive oil, add the pheasant pieces and cook lightly. Remove and keep warm. 

Add two-thirds of the sliced onion and all the garlic to the pan: cover and sweat gently. When these are cooked, remove the lid, add the chopped tomatoes and increase the heat. Add the chorizo slices and seasonings and cook rapidly to form a thick sauce.

Meanwhile, fry the remaining onion gently in oil, in a deep saucepan. Drain the rice, add it and fry at a slightly increased heat. Then add the stock - a ladle at a time - to make a rich pilaff.

Return the pheasant pieces to the tomato sauce and cook though. Add the wings and thigh pieces first, and the breast sections (which will require less cooking) at the end. Check the seasoning. If the stock has become too thick, add water. 

To serve
Serve the pheasant, surrounded by pieces of chorizo and bacon, on a bed of rice - accompanied by a green salad. This pheasant and tomato mixture reheats well.

Potato and Leek Champ

Serves 4-6
6-8 unpeeled 'old' potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
Cold water
4 medium sized leeks
40g (1½ozs) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon water if necessary
300-350ml (10-12 fl ozs) milk
1 tablespoon chopped chives
55g (2ozs) approx. butter

Scrub the potatoes, cover with cold water and boil them in their jackets. Half way through cooking, pour off half the water, cover and steam until fully cooked. 

Cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks (wash and add to the stock pot or use for making green leek soup). Slit the leeks about half way down the centre and wash well under cold running water. Slice into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams add the sliced leeks and toss gently to coat with butter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add 1 tablespoon water if necessary. Cover with a paper lid and a close fitting saucepan lid. Reduce the heat and cook very gently for 10-15 minutes approx., or until soft, tender and juicy. Check and stir every now and then during cooking. 

Bring the milk with the chives to the boil, simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and chives, add the drained leeks and beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. It should be soft and melting. 

Leek champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4. Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn't get a skin over the top.

Pangrilled Herrings with Grainy Mustard Butter

Serves 6 as a starter
6 fresh herrings, gutted, scaled and washed
Seasoned flour

Grainy Mustard Butter
1 teaspoon grainy mustard eg. Moutarde de Meaux
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
3 ozs (85g) melted butter
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

First make the Mustard Butter. Cream the butter in a bowl, add the mustards and the finely chopped parsley, a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Form into a roll in pure clingfilm or greaseproof paper and allow to harden or make into pats. Refrigerate until needed. 

Preheat a cast iron pangrill over a medium heat until quite hot. Slash the herrings at an angle in three places on each side. Coat with well seasoned flour, spread a little soft butter over one side of each herring. Lay the herrings butter side down, not touching on the hot pan, they should sizzle. Reduce the heat immediately and cook for approximately 3 minutes on that side before turning over. Continue to cook until golden on both sides. Serve immediately on hot plates with two slices of Grainy Mustard Butter per fish. Garnish with a sprig of flat parsley and a segment of freshly cut lemon.

Citrus fruit Salad

In the winter when many fruits have abysmal flavour the citrus fruit are at their best, this delicious fresh tasting salad uses a wide variety of that ever expanding family. Its particularly good with blood oranges which appear in the shops for only a few weeks, so make the most of them. Ugli fruit, Pomelo, Tangelos, Sweeties or any other members of the citrus family may be used in season.
Serves 6 approx.

½lb (225g) Kumquats
12 fl ozs (350ml) water
7 ozs (200g) sugar
1 lime
½ lb (225g) Clementines
¼-½ lb (110g-225g) Tangerines or Mandarins
2 blood oranges
1 pink grapefruit
lemon juice to taste if necessary

Slice the kumquats into ¼ inch (5mm) rounds, remove pips. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, add the sliced kumquats. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Remove the zest from the lime with a zester and add with the juice to the kumquats. Meanwhile peel the tangerines and clementines and remove as much of the white pith and strings as possible. Slice into rounds of ¼ inch (5mm) thickness, add to the syrup. Segment the pink grapefruit and blood oranges and add to the syrup also. Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary. Serve chilled.
Foolproof Food

Roast Jerusalem Artichokes

The winter vegetable is particularly good with goose, duck or pheasant.
Serves 4 to 6

1lb (450g) Jerusalem artichokes, well scrubbed.
2 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A few rosemary or thyme sprigs, optional

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/ gas mark 6. Leave the artichokes whole or cut in half lengthways, if large. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the oil. Season well with salt. Bake in a shallow gratin dish or roasting tin for 20 to 30 minutes. Test with the tip of a knife – they should be mostly tender but offer some resistance. Sprinkle with thyme or rosemary. Season with pepper and serve.

Hot Tips

Check out the Irish Food Market Traders Association website
Check this farmers and country market site to find new farmers, town and country food markets both old and new in Ireland. Use it to discover the vast array of organic and fresh local foods available directly from small food producers in a town near you!
Check out the farmers and produce markets of Ireland
Find out too about local country markets in a town near you, the smaller locally run markets

Oxfam Ireland has opened its 5th Fair Trade shop in Ireland on 18A Frenchchurch Street, Cork. Oxfam shops have the biggest selection of Fairtrade food products in Ireland - Food range includes coffee, tea, chocolate, honey, rice, sugar, biscuits, snack bars, dried fruits and much more. They are all excellent quality and taste great. Nice range of crafts and gifts also which changes regularly – so worth a visit.

Organic Beef – Available from Gortnamucklagh Organic Farm, Skibbereen, Co Cork, Tel 028-23742 – can be ordered in large or small quantities for the freezer, also available at Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday 10-1  

Foodwise Conference, at Drumalis Retreat Centre, 47 Glenarm Road, Larne,Co Antrim ,27-29 January 2006

Presentations on Food and Health, Food Poverty, Food Waste, Food Distribution and Fair Trade, Genetic Engineering and Biodiversity, Look to the future, Food Memory and many other food issues. For details  Tel 048 2827 2196 , Fax 048 2827 7999

A formal dinner party is the ultimate challenge

A formal dinner party is the ultimate challenge. It is by far the most stressful way of entertaining but with careful planning it can appear almost effortless! Salvation lies in learning the secrets of virtually effortless entertaining. Your guests will be dazzled and you will still be able to relax and enjoy your own party. 

Start with pen and paper and make lots of lists – the guest list, shopping list, wine list. Consider drawing up a schedule of work – this may sound a bit like a military operation, but it’s so worth it and will avoid any last minute panic attacks before your guests arrive – its all in the planning.

If you are entertaining single-handedly, I reckon six to eight people is the optimum number for a dinner party. Once the numbers go to twelve or fourteen, it is almost essential to have help with the serving and cleaning, otherwise the food will be cold and service too slow. Doesn’t necessarily have to be professional help – a local teenager may be thrilled to earn some pocket money and learn some extra skills. The size of your dining room and table will dictate the numbers you invite. If the numbers go above your seating capacity, decide to do a buffet or fork supper.

If you are entertaining with your partner or a friend, agree responsibilities ahead of time. Decide who will light the fire, take coats, offer drinks…. Knowing who is supposed to serve the coffee avoids glaring across the table or kicking under it! If you are entertaining single-handedly, ask a good friend if they would mind arriving early to help with the drinks. 

Choose the menu carefully so that as much as possible can be prepared ahead and gently reheated. If you shop carefully you can buy lots of delicious charcuterie, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese, crusty bread and crackers. A selection of these can provide the bulk of the meal. Don’t forget Pannetone, Panforte de Siena, Medjool dates, figgy pudding, membrillo…. All delectable storecupboard standbys for Christmas.

Once you have decided on the menu, its time to think about creating ambience. 

Flickery candles create a magical atmosphere in a way that no other lighting can. A tall candleabra on a long table looks elegant, but even cheap and cheerful tea lights arranged in a line, circle or diamond draw gasps of admiration. Resist the temptation to have scented candles – most are overpoweringly fragrant.

Strings of fairy lights now come in a range of shapes and colours – flowers, chillies, stars, bulbs – and you can drape them around tables, chairs, walls, trees and plants.

To me, flowers are the simplest way to add colour, scent and glamour to an evening. There is so much to choose from, and the right flower can instantly change the mood of a room. Be creative about what you use as vases. For a formal dinner party, silver, brass or even tin candelabra set the scene. Wind around fronds of ivy and tinsel and maybe some chillies or glittery baubles.

Do a table plan, you know your guests and can judge best who will enjoy each other.

Place names can be formal or fun and funky, depending on the mood of the evening.

Spend money on the aperitifs. Something bubbly always gets the evening going – Champagne, sparkling wine or Prosecco are divine. For a really special occasion, you might want to splash out and hire a portable bar, complete with bar tenders, to create a range of cocktails especially for you. Prepare a few delicious nibbles, passing around some finger food helps guests to relax and feel comfortable. If the nibbles are reasonably substantial they can double up as a first course.

For a New Year’s Eve Party you may want to wrap a tiny present for each guest, could be something silly and fun and don’t forget the crackers and sparklers and party hats, no its not too late and is a surefire way to create party atmosphere to ring in the New Year.

Happy Christmas and New Year to all our readers.

Celeriac and Hazelnut Soup

Celeriac, relatively new in our shops; is in fact a root celery which looks a bit like a muddy turnip. Peel it thickly and use for soups or in salads, or just as a vegetable.
A deliciously light soup for a dinner party. Serve in expresso cups for a drinks party.
Serves 6

15 ozs (425 g) celeriac, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
4 ozs (110 g) onions, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
5 ozs (140 g) potatoes, cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) dice
1½-2 ozs (45-55 g) butter
2 pints (1.1L) home made chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4-8 fl ozs (100-225 ml) creamy milk (optional)

2 tablespoons hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped
A few tablespoons whipped cream
Sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan; when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid, and sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Discard the paper lid. Add the celeriac and chicken stock and cook until the celeriac is soft, about 8-10 minutes. Liquidise the soup; add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.

To prepare the hazelnuts: Put the hazelnuts into an oven, 200C/400F/regulo 6, on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes or until the skins loosen. Remove the skins by rubbing the nuts in the corner of a tea towel. If they are not sufficiently toasted, return them to the oven until they become golden brown. Chop and keep aside to garnish.

Serve the soup piping hot with a little blob of whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts and a sprig of chervil or flat parsley.

Roast Rack of Lamb with Rosemary and Membrillo Aoili and Rustic Roast Potatoes

I love this recipe, my good friend the Australian cook, Maggie Beer from the Barossa Valley, made this Membrillo Aoili when she stayed at the Cookery School a few years ago.
Serves 8

4 racks lamb or 1 leg of spring lamb
3 sprigs rosemary and 1-2 cloves garlic – optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Rosemary and Membrillo Aoili
2 egg yolks, preferably free range and organic
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard
1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower, arachide or olive oil or a mixture) - We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7:1 sunflower oil to olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped
40-50g (1 1/2-2oz) Membrillo (quince paste) (available from delis and many good cheese shops)

Sprigs of rosemary

Rustic Roast Potatoes 

First make the Aoili, save 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Put the freshly chopped rosemary into a little saucepan with 3 tablespoons of oil, warm gently for 2 or 3 minutes, careful not to burn. Keep aside.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the mustard, salt and the white wine vinegar (save the egg whites to make meringues) add the crushed garlic. 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.

Chop the membrillo and warm gently in a little saucepan until it melts, cool and add to the mayonnaise with the rosemary and oil. Taste and correct seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Score the skin of the lamb, you may like to insert a few tiny sprigs of rosemary and slivers of garlic here and there on the skin side. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, depending on the age of the lamb and the degree of doneness required.

Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes. Carve, allow 2-3 cutlets per person, depending on size. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve with Rosemary and Membrillo Aioli and Rustic Roast Potatoes.

Guard of Honour

A Guard of Honour looks mightily impressive for a dinner party. It is made up simply of two enlinked racks of lamb. Tie in one or two places to secure while cooking. Add 5-10 minutes extra cooking time.
Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates

Serves 8

1 fresh pomegranate
4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese
8-12 fresh figs or plump dried figs (try to find the Turkish ones on a raffia string)
Enough rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of raddichio
32 fresh walnut halves

4 fl ozs (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ -1 teasp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith. Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, put the cut side down on the palm of your hand over a bowl and bash the skin side firmly with the back of a wooden spoon – this works really well but it tends to be a bit messy, so be sure to protect your clothes with an apron as pomegranate juice really stains.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves and radicchio in a deep bowl with a little dressing. Divide between eight large white plates. Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base. Press gently to open out. Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each, place a fig in the centre. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.
Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.

A dozen Oysters and a pint of Murphys or Guinness

If you come from Cork Murphys is the sacred drop – Guinness is not quite the same but we have to admit it makes a good substitute.
What could be easier or more delicious than a dozen freshly shucked oysters with Irish wheaten bread and a pint of gorgeous creamy stout.

Serves 1 but also great for numbers.

1 dozen native Irish oysters
600ml (1 pint) of Murphy or Guinness
seaweed or sea salt
Wheaten bread

It’s wise to protect your hand with a folded tea towel when opening oysters. Wrap the tea towel round your hand, then set the deep shell on it with the wide end on the inside. Grip the oyster firmly in your protected hand while you insert the tip of the knife into the hinge and twist to lever the two shells apart; you’ll need to exert quite a lot of pressure, so it’s foolhardy not to protect your hand well. Then slide the blade of the knife under the top shell to detach the oyster from the shell. Discard the top shell, then loosen the oyster from the deep shell, flip over to reveal the plump side, don’t lose the precious briny juice. 

Arrange on a plate on a bed of seaweed or sea salt. 

Serve with a segment of lemon, some wheaten bread and a pint of the black stuff!

Haddock with Dijon Mustard Sauce

Virtually any round fish may be used in this recipe eg. hake, ling, grey sea mullet, pollock etc.
Serves 6

55g (2oz)butter
225g (8oz) onions, chopped
900g (2lb) fresh haddock fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
600ml (1 pint) milk
50ml (2fl oz) cream
25g (1oz) flour
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
800g (1 3/4lb) mashed potato 

Melt the butter and sweat the onions in a covered saucepan until golden brown. Skin the haddock and cut into portions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put into a wide sauté pan, cover with milk and cream, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Remove the fish carefully to a serving dish. Add the flour to the onions, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the hot milk and bring back to the boil, then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the mustard and chopped parsley, taste and correct the seasoning, then pour over the fish and serve.

For a retro version mashed potato may be piped around the dish. Allow to cool, refrigerate and reheat later in a moderate oven, 180ºC/350F/gas mark 4, for 20 minutes approximately. 

Bumbles Ginger Roulade

I spent a fun-filled weekend at Strathgarry House in Scotland doing a cooking class with Bumble and her sisters. Bumble demonstrated this recipe which we’ve been delighting our guests with ever since.
Serves: 8-10

75g (3oz) butter
225g (8oz) golden syrup or treacle
50g (2oz) castor sugar (soft dark if you like)
Less 150ml (1/4 pint) hot water
110g (4oz) plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg, preferably free-range and organic
300ml (1/2) pint softly whipped cream
50g (2oz) chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Icing sugar

Large Swiss roll 25.5cm (10inch) x 38cm (15inch) tin lined with silicone paper

Preheat the oven to180C/350F/gas mark 4. Barely melt the butter, golden syrup or treacle and sugar with the water. Mix flour and baking powder and spice together in a bowl. When the liquids have melted and cooled, add the flour, spice and egg yolk. Lastly whisk the egg white until they reach a stiff peak and fold gently into the other ingredients. Pour into the lined Swiss roll tin and bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes (12 minutes works in our ovens). Remove from the oven, cover with a damp cloth and leave to cool. Turn out onto a sheet of silicone paper which has been dredged with icing sugar. Fill with softly whipped cream and crystallized ginger and roll up. Transfer to a serving plate, decorate with a few rosettes of whipped cream and crystallized ginger.

Bumbles Top Tip: Bumble discovered quite by accident that the ginger roulade freezes really well. You can pull it out when required and cut into thick slices and put into a gratin dish, sprinkle with Demerara sugar and heat through in a very hot oven for 8-10 minutes – apparently it’s delicious.
Foolproof Food

Ballycotton Prawns whole in their shells with Watercress and Dill Mayo

Not cheap, but always a wow. If you can buy them already cooked from your fishmonger – great, they are very simple to cook – homemade mayo is a must to embellish beautiful fresh prawns.
Serves 8

40-48 large very fresh prawns
3.6 litres (6 pints) water
3 tablespoons salt

4-8 tablespoons homemade Dill Mayo 
Large white plates

Wild watercress leaves
4 segments lemon

First cook the prawns
Bring the water to the boil and add the salt (may sound a lot, but this is the secret of real flavour when cooking prawns or shrimps). Put the prawns into the boiling salted water and as soon as the water returns to a rolling boil, test a prawn to see if it is cooked. It should be firm and white, not opaque or mushy. If cooked, remove prawns immediately. Very large ones may take 1/2 to 1 minute more. Allow to cool in a single layer on a tray. Uncurl the tails. 
Note: Do not be tempted to cook too many prawns together, otherwise they may overcook before the water even comes back to the boil, cook them in 2 or 3 batches.
Put 5 or 6 cooked whole prawns on each plate. Spoon a tablespoon or two of homemade Mayonnaise into a little bowl or oyster shell on the side of the plate. Pop a segment of lemon on the plate. Garnish with some fresh wild watercress. Serve with fresh crusty brown soda bread and Irish butter.

Dill Mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablespoons French mustard
1 tablespoon. white sugar
1/4 pint (150ml) ground nut or sunflower oil
1 tablespoon. white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon. dill, finely chopped
Salt and white pepper

Whisk the egg yolk with the mustard and sugar, drip in the oil drop by drop whisking all the time, then add the vinegar and fresh dill.

Hot Tips 

Showcasing Quality Irish Seafood in the UK Market

The Irish seafood sector received strong recognition at the 2005 Great Taste Awards, the UK’s most prestigious gourmet food awards, thirteen companies scored a total of 23 gold, silver and bronze awards. Under the BIM banner a group of Irish Seafood companies showcased a range of speciality products including mussels, smoked salmon, mackerel and other value added product, under their Quality Seafood (QS) symbol which was introduced to the UK market. . 

Irish Seedsavers Association Ltd.
Starting in February the association will be running courses and workshops right through the year on a wonderful variety of topics, from Creating an Orchard, Dry Stone Walling, Organic Gardening and much more – at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co Clare, for details tel. 061-921866, fax 061-921327    local accommodation available.

The Green Box is Ireland’s first ecotourism destination.
It is based in Leitrim and includes all of that country and Fermangh plus adjoining parts of Sligo, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, but does not include the large urban centres in the area. The Green Box has a network of members many of who are in the food industry – specialist food producers, restaurants, country markets, cookery schools, some of whom will benefit from a capital development programme supported by the EU’s Interreg IIIA Ireland/Northern Ireland Programme. Ecotourism can be defined as ‘travel that is small in scale, low impact, culturally sensitive, community and conservation orientated, primarily nature based, educational and capable of broadening peoples minds and enlivening their souls while providing a unique experience, firmly grounded in sustainable principles 

Slow Food Cork Festival 2005

Slow Food Ireland ran an Art Competition recently with the Cork schools to raise awareness of the Cork Edible School Gardens Project.

The children were asked to design menu covers featuring seasonal vegetables which were then used to decorate the tables at the Cork Slow Food dinner in the City Hall during the Slow Food Cork Festival 2005. Clodagh McKenna, leader of the Cork City Convivium and presenter of Winter Food on RTE 1Radio, dreamed up the idea and Norah Porter liaised with the schools. The response was phenomenal, over 1200 children responded from various schools around Cork City. Supervalu sponsored the competition with great enthusiasm and the teachers were thrilled to have an excuse to highlight the importance of the seasons to the students. The competition coincided with the Healthy Eating week so it helped to reinforce the message. The winners, their teachers and parents all came to Café Paradiso recently for the presentation of prizes by Cathal Deevy of Supervalu.

They tucked into Sandy Hyland’s biscuits, blackberry cordial and home-made vanilla icecream.

Emily Conway from Sunday’s Well Girls National School, Blarney Road, won in the 4-8 age group category. Her picture was the sweetest thing –a happy little girl carrying two baskets of seasonal fruit surrounded by a border of carrots and apples. Her teacher Marcella O’Sullivan and the principal Nori O’Sullivan both came along to celebrate with her. They can’t wait until Spring to get started on a vegetable garden at the school. They also have plans to re-establish a strawberry patch on Strawberry Hill, where strawberries were always traditionally grown.

Recently they bought pumpkins in the English Market and made roasted pumpkin soup with the students. They are totally into raising awareness of the importance of eating healthy food , and have already banned crisps, juices and chewing gum from school lunch boxes. The children can however, have a sweet treat once a week, usually on Friday. They have introduced a ‘Water is cool in school’ scheme and have already won the LM Prize two years ago.

Eight year old Suzanne O’Keeffe from St. Columba’s Girls National School in Douglas was also a winner. This was an outstanding class project. Her teacher Aideen Phipps brought in a huge variety of vegetables and asked her class to categorise them and use them for printing, with spectacular results. This school also has a healthy school lunch policy and has already developed a sensory garden. Plans are now underway to develop an edible school garden with the children to teach them growing skills, the principal Michelle Cashman told me.

Lorna McCarthy from Our Lady of Lourdes National School, Ballinlough won in the 9-12 category, her teacher Margot Murphy and principal Mary Twomey were delighted. Craig O’Shea from St.Anthony’s National School, Ballinlough won in the 9-12 year category. Craig’s picture included some broccoli trees and a banana moon.

These schools explored the food pyramid and Craig’s teacher Fiona McCarthy and principal Flor O’Sullivan are enthusiastic about the Green Schools project.

Finally, Andrew de Juan from St Peter’s Community College in Passage West showed me his winning entry, it was a lovely colourful drawing of fruit. His teacher Alison Burns and principal Denis Aherne were justifiably proud.

It was music to my ears to hear that so many schools are putting enormous efforts into creating an awareness of the importance of eating healthy food and having lots of fun in the process.

This week I’ve decided to include lots of fun recipes for children to cook for Christmas.

Sandy Hyland’s Slow Food Snails
Makes 24
1¾ lb (795g) unsalted butter
455g (1lb) castor sugar
1 tablesp. (15ml ) vanilla extract
5g salt (pinch)
1¾ lb (795g) plain flour
12oz (340g) walnuts, chopped

White Chocolate to decorate.

Cream butter, salt and sugar, add the flour and chopped walnuts.
Chill the mixture in the bowl.
To shape – roll the dough into a sausage shape, break off lengths and roll into snail shapes.
Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F/gas 4 for 20 minutes.
Cool on the tray.
You can make cute snail faces and horns with melted white chocolate.

Teeny Weeny Sticky Toffee Puds

Makes 12 approx.
8 ozs (225g) chopped dates
½ pint (300ml) tea
4 ozs (110g) butter
6 ozs (170g) castor sugar
3 free range eggs
8 ozs (225g) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bread soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee, preferably Expresso

Hot Toffee Sauce
4 ozs (100g) butter
6 ozs (170g) dark soft brown, Barbados sugar
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
10 ozs (285g) golden syrup
8 fl ozs (225ml) cream
½ teaspoon pure Vanilla essence
12 x 3inch (7.5cm) 5 fl oz moulds or large muffin tins or 

1x 8 inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base *

Set the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Brush the muffin tins or cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved breadsoda, Vanilla essence and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture. Divide between the ramekins and cook for 30 mins approx or until a skewer comes out clean.
*(an 8 inch tin (20.5cm) will take 1-1½ hrs to cook) 

To make the sauce: 
Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla essence. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

To Serve
Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put a warm sticky toffee pudding on a hot plate, pour some more sauce over the top. Repeat with all the others. Put the remainder of the sauce into a bowl, serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.

Chocolate Christmas Tree

We had the greatest fun testing this recipe; it was Fionnuala’s pride and joy and she was so proud of the result that she wouldn’t let us sample it for several weeks. It still tasted delicious then, so it could be make well in advance of Christmas. Children could make it with a little adult supervision.
9ozs (250g) of best quality chocolate 
4oz (110g) Rice Krispies.
3-4 ozs (85-110g) dark chocolate for assembling the tree 
3 teaspoons icing sugar


Christmas cake decorations, e.g. 
Santa, robin, holly etc. 

Prepare the trays to make the branches of the tree. Cover 3 baking trays or large Swiss roll tins with tin foil. Draw out crosses on the foil. Leave 2 or 3 inches (5 or 7.5 cm) between each cross. The measurements of the crosses are: 2 ¾ inches (7 cm), 3½ inches (9 cm), 4 ¼ inches (11 cm), 5 ¼ inches (13 cm), 5 ¾ inches (14 cm), 6 inches (15 cm), 62 inches (16 cm), 6 ¾ inches (17 cm), 7 inches (18cm).

Prepare a serving plate for the tree: it must be rigid, absolutely flat and strong enough to support the tree. Cover with tin foil. Mark one of the 7 inches (18 cm) crosses on this base. 

When all the preparation is done, melt the chocolate very carefully in a very low oven or in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir in the Rice Krispies, mix well. Using a teaspoon, drop small teaspoons of the chocolate mixture along the marked crosses (do the base board first and put in the fridge to set while you do the others, in order of size from the biggest to the smallest). When all the crosses have set absolutely firmly (30 minutes approx.), melt the remaining chocolate over a low heat. Put a teaspoon of melted chocolate onto the centre of the cross on the base board, and stick the next largest cross on top so that the points are in between the points of the previous cross. 

While that is setting (supported with a matchbox if necessary), drop another teaspoon of chocolate on top of the second cross to form a basis for the next layer. Refrigerate for a few minutes. Meanwhile stick the remaining 8 crosses together in pairs in the same way and allow to set. Add another teaspoon of melted chocolate and put the next largest pair of crosses on top, angling them so the branches are arranged alternately. Continue to assemble until the tree is finished, however do it gradually: it is essential that each section is completely set before topping with another layer. 

To serve: Decorate the board with Christmas decorations and dust the tree lightly with sieved icing sugar. 

Potato Wedges with Sweet Chilli Sauce and Sour Cream
Serves 4-6
6 large 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pinks
Olive oil or beef dripping (unless for Vegetarians)-duck or goose fat are also delicious
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/regulo 8. Scrub the potatoes well, cut into quarters lengthways or cut into thick rounds ¾ inch (2cm) approx. Put into a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and toss so they are barely coated with olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes depending on size. 

Drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
Serve immediately in a deep bowl with a little bowl of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream on each plate.
You could also use deep fried potatoes.

Home-Made Lemonades

We always keep some chilled 'stock syrup' in the fridge so its simplicity itself to make a variety of lemonades. They contain no preservatives so they should be served within a few hours of being made. Many different types of citrus fruit and flavoured syrups may be used.
Oranges and Lemons
Makes 2.7l (4 1/2 pints)

4 lemons
2 orange
500ml (16fl oz) approx. stock syrup 
1.5l (2 1/2 pint) approx. water

Sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm
Juice the fruit and mix with the stock syrup, add water to taste. Add ice, garnish with sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm and serve.

Makes 1.2l (2 pints)

5 limes
700ml (1 1/4 pint) water
300ml (1/2 pint) stock syrup

Sprigs of fresh mint or lemon balm
Make and serve as above. Taste and add more water if necessary.

Ruby Grapefruit Lemonade
Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
Freshly squeezed juice of 4 ruby grapefruit
450ml (16floz) stock syrup
Water or sparkling water to taste
Juice the fruit, add the syrup and add water or sparkling water to taste.
Serve chilled with mint ice cubes.

Honey and Wholegrain Mustard Bangers

Makes 32
1lb (450g) good quality cocktail sausages (about 32 sausages)
4 tablesp. Irish honey
1 tablesp. English mustard
3 tablesp. Irish grainy mustard (eg. Lakeshore mustard with honey)
1-2 tablesp. Chopped rosemary

Mix the honey with the mustard and chopped rosemary. Cook the sausages in a wide frying pan over a medium heat . Toss with the honey and mustard mixture.

Provide cocktails sticks and lots of napkins.

Lisa Bowskill’s Mini Muffins

Makes 12 muffins or up to 36 mini muffins
10oz (275g) plain flour
1 level tablespoon baking powder
3oz (75g) caster sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 medium eggs
8floz (225ml) milk
4oz (110g) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6

Place paper muffin cases in muffin tin. Hand whisk together sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Sieve flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into beaten mixture. It should look like lumpy batter. Add filling of your choice. 

Divide mixture between 12 cases or put just over 1 teaspoon per mini muffin case. Fill almost to the top. Bake at the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes for mini muffins

Add 4 tablespoons of cocoa with 6 oz (150g) mixed chocolate chips (white, milk and plain) 
Add 4 oz (110g) fresh blueberries, roughly chopped 
Add desired amount of chocolate chips 
Add 2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped with 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
Add 2-3oz (50-75g) dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, dates) with ½ teaspoon mixed spice (optional) 

Ice-Cubes with Mint, Herbs, Lemon Verbena, Flowers and Berries

Fill ice trays with 
1. Sugared Cranberries 
2. Redcurrants and Mint leaves 
3. Lemon Segments 
4. Pomegranate Seeds 
5. Star Anise

Summer Parties 
Fill ice trays with mint, lemon balm, sweet geranium or sweet cicely leaves into each one 
Raspberries and Mint 
Fraises du Bois 
Violas or violets, rose or marigold petals 
Use in drinks or homemade lemonade.
Fool Proof Food

Puffy Toasted Cheese

When my children were small this superior toasted cheese often saved the day if they were ravenously hungry. It is made from ingredients one would nearly always have to hand.
Serves 2

2 slices of white bread
1 egg, preferably free range
4 ozs (110g) grated Irish cheddar cheese
2-1 teaspoon English mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper

Butter the bread and place the buttered side down on a baking sheet. Whisk the egg in a bowl with a fork, add the grated cheese and the mustard and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread this mixture onto the slices of bread and bake in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 15 minutes approx. or until puffy and golden on top.

Note: a teaspoon of chopped chives or a tiny dice of crispy bacon is also delicious added to the above.

Hot Tips

Midleton Farmers’ Market –
The Market will be open on Friday December 23rd from 9.30-1 this year instead of Saturday 24th. The Market will reopen on Saturday January 14th 2006.
Douglas Farmers’ Market – last market before Christmas also on Friday 23rd December 
9-1.30 - Chickens, Cakes, Bread, Fish, Pickles, Sauces, Cheeses………

Some Cookbooks for Christmas -

Potato by Lyndsay and Patrick Mikanowski 
The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard 
Wagamama Cookbook and DVD – Hugo Arnold
The Delia Collection: Baking by Delia Smith
Eggs by Michel Roux Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver 
Best of Irish Festive Cooking by Biddy White Lennon 
Celebrity Chefs Dish of the Day – Petsavers
Serving a City – the story of Cork’s English Market - by Diarmuid O’Drisceoil and Donal O’Drisceoil
Second Helpings by Paul Flynn 
Kitchen Diary by Nigel Slater – A Year in the Kitchen 
Real Flavours – The Handbook of Gourmet and Deli Ingredients by Glynn Christian
Foodalicious – Second Helpings - from Marie McGuirk -can be ordered for €14 including post and packing from An Grianan, Termonfeckin, Co Louth by cheque or postal order payable to Marie McGuirk. 

Classes at An Grianán – not just cookery but a wide range of lifestyle and craft classes - www.angrianá  - gift vouchers available.

Pig Out Day Courses with Frank Krawczyk – showing how to use every single part of a pig to produce a huge range of pork delicacies - enquiries to Frank at Derreenatra, Schull, Co Cork. Tel 028-28579

Soup Kitchen by Tommi Miers and Annabel Buckingham

We’re very proud of so many of our past students - they pop up here and there, doing all sorts of interesting things. Many cook in restaurants, others open their own businesses . Some have opened their own cookery schools, food shops and cafes or restaurants.

Others travel and cook, sometimes in the most bizarre locations.

Several are food writers, some like Clodagh McKenna do radio, others like Rachel Allen are doing television series and have written cookbooks.

Yesterday, I got a present through the post of a gorgeous new cookbook , co-written by another former student, Tommi Miers who already had us bursting with pride earlier this year when she won Masterchef. 

Since then Tommi’s career is going into orbit, she is a rapidly rising star, constantly in demand to make guest appearances on TV, radio shows, openings and regular articles in all the trendy food magazines. In the midst of it all, Tommi has a strongly developed social conscience.

She and her co-author Annabel Buckingham met Noel Hennessy and chatted about doing a book to raise money for the homeless charities in London, neither had any experience of the publishing world and no funding for the project. They decided on Soup.

Undeterred by obstacles, (Annabel couldn’t cook and Tommi knew nothing about design, they got on the phone to talk to chefs about soup.

Friends rallied round to make encouraging noises and share invaluable pearls of wisdom. They advised them on everything from book clubs to corporate sponsorship and copyright law and never laughed at what Tommi describes as ‘their staggering ignorance’(as they toasted their first publishing offer, they suddenly realized that they weren’t totally sure what a royalty was.) Their parents lovingly refrained from telling them to get normal jobs. Outstanding professionals including a photographer, graphic designer, law firm, literary agent, accountancy firm and website design company offered to work with them and represent them for free. 

It was a trip. They found themselves in some amazing situations – from slick publishing houses and star-studded launches to incredible soup kitchens and blooming allotments. They’ve donned suits at Book Fairs, worn blue hairnets and white coats at the Maldon salt vats and spent many hours brainstorming over a latte at Carluccios.

Few foods rival the feel-good factor of soup – whether spooned from a bowl, sipped from a cup or slurped straight from the pot. From the thick tomato soup of childhood memory to a spicy, restorative broth on a chilly evening or a cooling gazpacho, soup and well-being go hand in hand.

The eventual collection brings together 100 soup recipes from today’s top chefs and food writers. From Delia Smith’s Cauliflower and Roquefort Soup to Jamie Oliver’s Chickpea Leek and Parmesan Soup, there are soups for every meal and every mood. As every culture embraces soup of some description, the book includes as well as the homely winter veg recipes, Ken Hom’s summery Tomato and Ginger Soup, Sam Clarke’s Chorizo and Chestnut Soup and Donna Hay’s Prawn, Lemongrass and Coconut Soup.

Soup is the ultimate seasonal food, welcoming with open arms whatever ingredients are cheap, abundant and in their prime at that time of year. The book is organized seasonally so that ingredients are easy to find and at their full-flavoured best.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who launched the book at a celebrity bash in London, says soup is ‘always among the most generous and friendly of dishes’. Created in the same spirit of generosity and enjoyment, Soup Kitchen brings together the finest chefs and food writers working today with their favourite soup recipes.

Over half the chefs took the time to create an original recipe for the book.

70% of all proceeds raised from Soup Kitchen and related promotions will be donated to homeless charities in the UK, including the Salvation Army and Centrepoint.

Soup Kitchen published by Collins –  with an Introduction by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, edited by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers, winner of Masterchef.
Order Soup Kitchen by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers from Amazon

Tortilla Soup

Serves 4
1.2 litres chicken stock
1 onion, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 x 400g can tomatoes or 4-6 fresh tomatoes, skinned and seeded
6 corn tortillas
5 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1-2 dried ancho chilli, stem and seeds removed (see note below)
200g buffalo mozzarella or barrel-aged feta, diced in ½cm pieces
1 large ripe avocado, diced as with the cheese
1 large lime, cut into wedges

Put the onion and garlic in a large, heavy frying pan on a fairly hot flame, and dry toast for 5-6 minutes until they start to take on a golden colour, stirring regularly. Put them in a food processor or blender with the tomatoes and whiz to a puree. Put the puree in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and reduce to a thick, tomato puree. Add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes. Season to taste, bearing in mind that feta is saltier than mozzarella. (This can be done the day before.)

Put the chilli in a dry frying pan and toast for 30 seconds – bee careful not to burn it or the chilli will taste bitter. Tear into strips.

Cut the tortillas in half and then cut each half into 2cm long strips. Heat the oil in a saucepan until shimmering (test with a tortilla strip to see if it sizzles which means the oil is hot enough.) Add half the strips and fry, stirring constantly until the pieces are golden brown and crispy. Take out and dry on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining strips, you can re-use the oil for another recipe.

When you are ready to eat divide the tortilla strips between 4 bowls. Add the tomato broth. On the table arrange the cheese, avocado and lime wedges so that each person can add liberally to their soup, squeezing on the lime juice. You may also like to chop some flat leaf parsley or coriander to garnish (the Mexicans use a herb called epazote if you can find it.)


If you can’t get hold of ancho chillies, add a little smoked paprika to your broth and a little fresh chilli or even some strips of sun-dried tomato for a slightly different twist.

Spiced Roasted Parsnip Soup

From Camilla Schneiderman, Divertimenti, Marleybone, London
Serves 4

4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1 medium or 2 small onions, cut roughly into 8 pieces
4 medium tomatoes, cut roughly into 8 pieces
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp powdered turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
750ml vegetable or chicken stock
juice of ½ lemon
a handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4

Place all the vegetables, including the garlic, in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, spices and seasoning and mix thoroughly.

Place all the vegetables, including the garlic, in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, spices and seasoning and mix thoroughly.

Transfer to a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.

When cooked, place the roasted vegetables in the bowl of a food processor and blend thoroughly, adding hot stock through the spout until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve the soup piping hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


From Terence Conran – Restaurateur
Borscht, one of Russia’s better known culinary exports, is the classic beetroot soup. Served hot in winter, it is equally good chilled as a summer soup.
Serves 4-6

50g butter
250g raw beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
1.5 litres Beef Stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon

To garnish:

Soured cream
A handful of chopped chives 

Melt the butter in a large pan, over a gentle heat and slowly sweat the beetroot, onion, carrot and garlic, turning the vegetables (which will become a lurid pink) over in the butter.

Add the sugar and stock to the pan, season with a few grinds of pepper, bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Using a blender, whiz the soup until it is entirely smooth, then add the lemon juice and salt to taste.

A swirl of soured cream and a scattering of chopped chives is the traditional garnish – delicious, and adding another dimension to the fabulous beetroot colour.

Bacon, Chestnut and Potato Soup with Rosemary

From Rowley Leigh, Kensington Place, Notting Hill, London
Serves 4

750g chestnuts
50g butter
250g bacon, cut into small cubes
1 onion
3 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 litre chicken stock
300g peeled potato
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. With a small sharp knife, cut a small incision in each chestnut and place them in an oven tray. Roast the chestnuts for 20 minutes or until the skins burst. Allow to cool before peeling, removing the inner skin at the same time.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the bacon, cooking it over a medium heat so that it slowly browns and renders its fat. Chop the onion, celery and garlic into small dice and add to the bacon, letting them stew gently together for 15 minutes.

Season well with pepper – no salt for the moment – then add the herbs and the stock and bring gently to the boil.

Chop the potato into neat small dice and add to the soup. Chop the chestnuts quite small also and simmer them all together in the pot for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as required and serve, again with a spoonful of good extra virgin olive oil poured on top if desired.

Classic Fish Soup with Rouille and Croûtons 
This recipe comes from Rick Stein of the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow in Cornwall
Serves 4

900g fish (such as gurnard, conger eel, dogfish, pouting, cod and grey mullet)
1.2 litres water
75ml olive oil
75g each roughly chopped onion, celery, leek and fennel
3 garlic cloves, sliced
juice of ½ orange, plus 1 piece pared orange zest
1 x 200g can chopped tomatoes
1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
a pinch of saffron
100g unpeeled North Atlantic prawns
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1 mini French baguette
1 garlic cove, peeled
olive oil for frying
25g Parmesan, finely grated
2 tbsp. Rouille (can be found in jars)

Fillet the fish and use the bones with the water (and extra flavourings if you like) to make the fish stock.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped vegetables and garlic and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the orange zest, tomatoes, red pepper, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, prawns and fish fillets. Cook briskly for 2-3 minutes, then add the stock and orange juice, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the croutons, thinly slice the mini baguette and rub with garlic, and fry in the olive until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Liquidise the soup, then pass it through a conical sieve, pressing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a ladle.

Return the soup to the heat and season to taste with the cayenne, salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into a warmed tureen and put the croutons, Parmesan and rouille into separate dishes. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and leave each person to spread some rouille on to the croutons, float them on their soup and sprinkle it with some of the cheese.

Sweetcorn and Smoked Bacon Soup

From Tom Aikens, Chelsea, London
Serves 4-6

50g unsalted butter
500g fresh sweetcorn kernels, cut from the cob
80g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
15g caster sugar
4g sea salt
4g fresh thyme
1.2 litres chicken stock
150ml double cream

Warm a pan on a low heat and melt the butter. Add the sweetcorn kernels, bacon, sugar, salt and thyme, and cook slowly on a low heat with the lid on the pan for 5 minutes. Stir now and again so the mix does not colour but sweats in the steam.

Add the stock and cream, then turn the heat up, bring to a slow boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Blend the soup to a fine puree.
Reheat and serve.

Foolproof Food

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This recipe is from Jill Dupleix – Cookery Editor, The Times
Serves 4

1kg orange-fleshed sweet potato
1.2 litres of boiling water or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
400g canned white beans
1 tsp good curry powder or more
2 tbsp fresh parsley or coriander leaves

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small cubes. Put in a pan, add the boiling water or stock, salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft.

Drain the beans and rinse. Add half the beans and the curry powder to the soup, stirring well, then whiz in a food processor in batches, being careful not to overflow the bowl.

Return to the pan, add the remaining whole beans, and gently heat. If too thick, add extra boiling water.

Taste for salt, pepper and curry powder, and scatter with parsley or coriander.

Hot Tips

Take action on Trade to help Make Poverty History –
See how you can help Trocaire Campaigns by contacting Lara Kelly on  Tel 01-629 3333 or go to , Policy and Advocacy Unit.

Looking for an old or out of print cookbook – contact Cooking the Books for their catalogue –  Tel/fas:0044 1633 400150 or write to Cooking the Books, The Glen, St. Brides Netherwent, Caldicot, NP26 3AT, UK.

Garden Allotments to rent
Would you like to enjoy your own freshly grown produce? Grow beautiful fruit and vegetables on your own plot in a peaceful rural setting, just 5 minutes from Garryvoe Beach. Various plot sizes available and advice from Carewswood Garden Centre, Castlemartyr. For further details call 086-3003810

Cobh Waterside Farmers Market now one year in business - meeets every Friday morning - New location for winter months is Keen House yard – more sheltered than the promenade for the winter and room to facilitate all the traders, including some new stalls.

Rudd’s are back in business –
Rudd’s Fine Foods is back in business under the new ownership of Bill O’Brien of the Brady Family Ham company and new jobs are being created at the production facilities in Birr, Co Offaly, making a new range of dry-cure thick cut rashers, pork sausages and black and white puddings.

Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen

A sneak preview today of my new book which is just about to hit the shops this week – this one called Easy Entertaining is for the growing number of people who love to have a few friends around for brunch, lunch, coffee, afternoon tea, supper, a nibble around the fire or even a formal dinner party. The latter is by far the most stressful way of entertaining but can of course appear virtually effortless if one puts a little bit of time into a ‘plan of campaign’. 

Ever since my first television series, my mantra has always been, keep it simple, really, really simple. It doesn’t have to be a four course meal. 

I so love the effortless way so many of the young people I know entertain – for them its no big deal to have a few friends around, they just love to cook together. My children and their friends don’t worry about having mismatched cutlery and crockery, the chairs are often a motley collection picked up from junk shops, the table covered with anything from calico to a flowery print, oil cloth to tissue paper. The look is always stylish and fun, much use is made of coloured lights, candles and sparklers. “How about an omelette and a glass of wine, a ‘spontaneous’ pasta or a sushi party where everyone rolls their own. Let’s all cook together.”

The exciting thing is that nowadays everyone is entertaining, the smoking ban certainly added impetus. Those who wanted to be able to smoke chose to buy a few bottles and have a few friends around for a take away or a simple supper, rather than shiver outside in the cold while they got their fix. They discovered how easy it can be but its even more fun to cook together or have an interactive dinner party. 

In easy entertaining I have included suggestions for an omelette party, fajitas, tacos, pancakes, sushi…

Get everyone involved, even those who consider they can’t boil water and as they say ‘the crack is mighty’!

Picnics, in any season are another super way to entertain – at this time of the year hot soup in flasks, a stew in a haybox, steaming hot chocolate or something stronger, make for a terrific experience. Could be after a walk in the woods or a point-to-point.

There are lots of little tricks to make it easier for everyone concerned.

In Easy Entertaining, I have included suggestions for everything from tapas to three-course dinners and from canapés to casseroles in this bible of entertaining. I include chapters on Brunch, Prepare-ahead Meals, Picnics, Romantic Dinners, Finger Food, Formal Dinners, Festive Meals and many more as well as providing extensive menu planners and practical advice on wine and other drinks to complement your food. Style tips and ideas for table settings, flowers, lighting and even party games will hopefully ensure your soirée looks as sensational as it tastes. There are also options for vegetarian and vegan guests throughout the book and masses of tips for quick and easy meals.

Have fun!

Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen – published by Kyle Cathie, €25
Buy "Easy Entertaining" By Darina Allen from Amazon

Bacon and Cabbage Soup

Bacon and cabbage is a quintessential Irish meal, a favourite flavour combination. Cabbage soup is also delicious on its own. Spinach or watercress, chard, kale or even nettles can be substituted for cabbage.
Serves 6 

55g (2 oz) butter
140g (5 oz) peeled and chopped potatoes, one third inch dice
100g (4 oz) peeled diced onions, 1/3 inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock or vegetable stock
255g (9oz) chopped Savoy cabbage leaves (stalks removed)
50-100ml (2-4 fl oz) cream or creamy milk
225g (½ lb) boiled streaky bacon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, and turn them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and boil until the potatoes are soft, then add the cabbage and cook with the lid off until the cabbage is cooked. Keep the lid off to preserve the green colour. Add the creamy milk. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both the fresh flavour and colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or blender, taste and adjust seasoning. 

Just before serving cut the bacon into lardons. Toss quickly in a very little oil in a frying pan to heat through and get a little crispy. Add to the soup. Sprinkle with some parsley.

Tip: If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups.


Cabbage and Caraway Soup

Add 1 –2 teaspoons of freshly crushed caraway seeds to the potato and onion base.
Shermin’s Lamajun (Lamaçun – Turkish Lamb Pizza)
Given to me by Shermin Mustafa whose food I love. This is a little gem of a recipe, fantastic for an informal kitchen party or for a family supper.
Makes about 8-10

275g (10oz) plain white flour
225ml (8fl oz) natural yoghurt

For the topping

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
225g (8oz) freshly minced lamb
4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Wedges of lemon,
Lots of sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Heavy iron frying pan

Sweat the onion in a little butter or oil and allow to cool completely. Mix all the ingredients for the topping together and season well with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour with the yoghurt to form a soft dough. Heat a heavy iron frying pan and preheat the grill. Take about 50g (2oz) of the dough, roll until it’s as thin as possible using lots of flour. Spread a few dessertspoons of the mince mixture on the base with the back of a tablespoon, as thinly as possible. Fold in half, then in quarters, slide your hand underneath, then transfer to the pan and open out gently. Put onto the hot pan (no oil needed) and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Remove from the pan and slide on a hot baking sheet under the hot grill and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the meat is cooked.

Serve on a hot plate with 3 or 4 lemon wedges and whole sprigs of flat leaf parsley for each helping.

To eat
Squeeze lots of lemon juice over the surface of the lamajun. Pluck about 4 or 5 leaves of parsley and sprinkle over the top. Either eat flat like a pizza or roll up like a tortilla.

Pork with Rosemary and Tomatoes

Serves 6
900g (2lb) of trimmed pork fillet, chicken breast may also be used
450g (1lb) very ripe firm tomatoes - peeled and sliced into 2 inch (1cm) slices
2 shallots finely chopped
30g (1 1/4oz) butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
225ml (8fl oz) cream
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Cut the trimmed fillet of pork into slices about 2cm (3/4inch) thick. 

Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, when it foams add the finely chopped shallots, cover with a butter wrapper and sweat gently for 5 minutes. Remove the butter wrapper, increase the heat slightly, add the tomatoes in a single layer, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. After 2 minutes turn the tomatoes and season on the other side. Then add the cream and rosemary. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Check seasoning. The sauce may now be prepared ahead to this point and reheated later.

The sauce should not be too thick - just a light coating consistency.

To cook the pork – Melt 5g (1/4oz) butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over a high heat, when it is quite hot, add the seasoned pork in a single layer. Allow them to turn a rich golden brown before turning over. Turn down the temperature and finish cooking on the other side. It should feel slightly firm to the touch. Be careful not to overcook the pork or it will be dry and tasteless. 

Reheat the sauce gently while the pork is cooking, correct the seasoning, spoon some of the sauce onto one large serving dish or divide between individual plates. Arrange the pork slices on top of the sauce, garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and serve immediately with Orzo or rice to mop up the herby sauce.

Orzo with Fresh Herbs

Orzo looks like fat grains of rice but is in fact made from semolina. It is sometimes sold under the name of 'Misko'.
Serves 4

200g (7 oz) orzo
2.3 L (4 pints) water
11/2 teaspoons salt
15-30g (1/2 - 1oz ) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Bring the water to a fast rolling boil and add the salt. Sprinkle in the orzo, cook for 8-10 minutes* or until just cooked. Drain, rinse under hot water, toss with a little butter. Season with freshly ground pepper and garnish with some chopped parsley.

*Time depends on the type of Orzo.

Orzo with peas
275g (10oz) of Orzo and 200g (7oz) peas

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates
Serves 8

1 fresh pomegranate
4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese
8-12 fresh figs or 
8-12 plump dried figs

Enough rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of raddichio
32 fresh walnut halves


4 fl.ozs (125ml/ ½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teasp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves in a deep bowl with a little dressing. Divide between eight large white plates. Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base. Press gently to open out. Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each, place a fig in the centre. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.

Adorable Baby Banoffees

Have a few tins of toffee ready in your larder – then this yummy pud is made in minutes.
Makes 8-12

1 x 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
8-12 Gold grain biscuits
3 bananas
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream
Chocolate curls made from about 175g (6oz) chocolate
Toasted flaked almonds
8-12 individual glasses or bowls

To make the toffee, put the can of condensed milk into a saucepan and cover with hot water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for three hours. By which time the condensed milk will have turned into a thick unctuous toffee.

Break a biscuit into each glass or bowl. Peel and slice the bananas and toss in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Top with a little toffee. Put a blob of softly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and decorate with a few chocolate curls.

Foolproof Food

Melted Cooleeney Cheese in a box
A slightly under ripe Cooleeney Brie or Camembert or any farmhouse cheese in a timber box
Serves 6-8

Crusty white bread or home made potato crisps

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

Remove the labels from the box and the wrapper from the cheese. Replace the cheese in the box and pop into the preheated oven for about 20 minutes by which time it should be soft and molten in the centre.

Cut a cross in the centre and serve immediately with crusty white bread croutes or potato crisps. 

Note: check that the box is stapled otherwise it may fall apart in the oven.

Potato Crisps

2 very large potatoes
Scrub the potatoes and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible to attain long thin slices preferably with a mandolin. Deep fry them to attain crisps. These can be made ahead and kept in a warm place. You will need 3-4 crisps per portion.

Hot Tips

Irish Poultry Club National Show at Gurteen Agricultural College near Birr – today 19th November – open to the public from 1pm – after judging – well worth a visit.

Today is also the 3rd anniversary of the Farmers Market at the Nano Nagle Centre near Kilavullen – why not pay a visit.

La Violette in Skibbereen – is full of irresistibly tempting bits to liven up your kitchen and add sparkle and glitz to your dining table.

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Thursday 24th November, 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork - The Story of Cork’s English Market - Diarmuid O’Drisceoil, co-author with his brother Donal of ‘Serving a City’ will speak on the fascinating history of the food in this great exporting city and its hinterland. Admission €12, including wine and some market specialities.

Weekend Wine Course with Mary Dowey at Ballymaloe House 3-5 March 2006.
An entertaining and educational weekend, full of good wines and good food in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses, hosted by well-known Irish wine writer and lecturer , Mary Dowey (see ) Weekend packages available – ideal gift for the wine lover. Tel 021-4652531,  or book on line

Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends

‘Staying in is the new going out’ – whether it’s a gossipy night in, afternoon tea or a spicy curry night, its fun and cool to cook. Rachel Allen’s new series Favourite Food for Friends is now showing on RTE. Since her first series last year she has built up a fan club of all ages, from toddlers to granddads. Her easy style and terrific dress sense have won her viewers who wouldn’t normally be seen dead watching a cookery programme.

This time she’s got masses of new ideas – Want to have a romantic dinner for two? Need to impress your mother-in-law or your boss? It’s your turn to host the family Christmas dinner? Asked friends around for a barbecue and its going to rain? It’s midweek, you’ve been working all day, but you’ve got people coming to dinner?

Rachel has lots of easy tasty recipes to munch on while you gossip. She also includes some great cocktails – including the naughtily named fruity Flirtini, Grenadine Goddess or a delicious Rosé cocktail. 

Rachel’s many fans will be delighted with her plethora of new recipes which emphasise her simple stress-free outlook on cooking and entertaining.

Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends by Rachel Allen, 
published by Gill & Macmillan, €19.99

Buy "Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends" By Rachel Allen from Amazon

Steamed Mussels with Basil Cream

This recipe is inspired by a dish I adore eating at the fabulous Fishy Fishy Café in Kinsale.
Serves 6

2-5kg (4½ -11 lb) mussels (about 100 mussels)
150ml (5¼ fl oz) cream
50ml (1¾ fl oz/3 very generous tablesp.) basil pesto

Scrub the mussels very well and discard any that are not open and do not close when tapped. Place the cream and the pesto in a large saucepan on the heat and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and place on a medium heat. Cook the mussels in the pesto cream for about 5-8 minutes, or until all the mussels are completely open. Pour, with all the lovely creamy juice, into a big bowl, or 6 individual bowls, and serve. Place another bowl on the table for empty shells, and some finger bowls and plenty of napkins! Serve with some crusty white bread on the side.

Note: Pull out and discard any mussels that do not open during cooking.

Potato Soup with Dill and Smoked Salmon

This is a basic potato and onion soup with the addition of dill and smoked salmon, so if you want to try changing it, just leave out the smoked salmon and change the herb to marjoram, tarragon, sage, chives or rosemary for example. This is so easy for a dinner party – the soup can be made earlier in the day, or even the day before, and just heated up to serve, then sprinkled with the smoked salmon, which just about cooks in the heat of the soup as it goes to the table – divine!
Serves 6

50g (2oz) butter
400g (14oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
100g (3½ oz) onions, chopped
a good pinch of salt, and pepper
800ml (1½ pt) chicken or vegetable stock
125ml (4½ fl oz) creamy milk (half milk, half cream, or just all milk if you prefer)
2 tbsp chopped dill
100g (3½ oz) sliced smoked salmon, cut into little slices, about 2cm x ½ cm (¾ x ¼in)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and stir. Cover with a lid, sweat on a low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often, so that the potatoes don’t stick and burn. Turn up the heat and add the stock, and boil for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are completely soft. Pureé the soup in a liquidiser, or with a hand whizzer, and add the creamy milk. Thin with more stock, or milk if you like. Season to taste, and set aside. When you are ready to eat, heat up the soup, add the chopped dill, and ladle into bowls, then sprinkle with the little slices of smoked salmon, and serve.

Beef with Lemongrass and Chilli

Serves 8
2 tsp chopped ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
½ - 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove of chopped garlic
1 tablesp toasted sesame oil
1 tablesp lime juice
2 tablesp Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
1 kg (2¼ lb) lean sirloin of beef, fat trimmed off and sliced about ½ cm (¼ in) thick
2 tablesp coriander leaves, scattered on at end

In a food processor, whiz up the ginger, lemongrass, chilli and garlic until you have a rough paste. Then add the sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce. (If you don’t have a food processor, just chop everything finely.) Place the beef in a dish and add the paste. Stir it around to make sure that all the beef is coated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour if possible. This will improve the flavour and allow the meat to tenderise. Cook the slices of meat on a hot barbecue or on a hot grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Scatter the coriander leaves on top and serve with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Note: You probably won’t need to add any salt to this as the fish sauce can be salty.

Note: To prepare the lemongrass, remove and discard the tough outer leaves and the base of the stalk, and chop the rest. You can put the tough outer leaves into a teapot with the trimmings from the ginger and top up with boiling water to make a lovely nourishing tea –let it stand for 3 minutes first.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

This could not be faster to make – slightly cheating with the peanut butter, but it works for me.
Makes 250ml

3 rounded tablesp peanut butter
½ deseeded chopped red chilli
2 cloves of crushed or grated garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 rounded tablesp honey
2 tablesp soy sauce
1 tablesp lemon juice
4 tablesp (50ml/1¾ fl oz) water

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whiz until smooth.

Note: This will keep perfectly in the fridge for 4-5 days.


This cocktail is fab – the name even does it for me! You will definitely be flirting after one of these.
Serves 2

6 strawberries or 12 raspberries
25ml (1 fl oz) Cointreau
50ml (1¾ fl oz) vodka
juice of ½ lime
50ml (1¾ fl oz) pineapple juice, chilled
125ml (4¼ fl oz) sparkling wine or champagne, chilled

To serve:

A strawberry or raspberry for garnish
Mash the strawberries or raspberries or put into two champagne or martini glasses. Mix the Cointreau, vodka, lime juice and pineapple juice. Add to the glass and top up with the sparkling wine.

Grenadine Goddess

Serves 2, if in a highball glass, or 4 in a martini glass
A great non-alcoholic cocktail that looks so pretty too

50ml (2 fl oz) grenadine (a sweet syrup made mainly from pomegranates)
25ml (1 fl oz) lime juice (the juice of about ½ lime)
250ml (8¾ fl oz) slightly crushed ice (bashed up in a bag with a rolling pin)
350ml (12¼ fl oz) soda water, or sparkling water
2 lime wedges, to decorate

Mix the grenadine and lime juice, and divide into glasses. Add the ice, top with soda water, and stir. Place a wedge of lime on the side of each glass and serve.

Note: To make this cocktail with alcohol, add 25-50ml (1-2 fl.oz) vodka to each glass.

Banana and Maple Toffee Cake

This is seriously sweet and divine, fabulous comfort food. It is very quick to make and looks so impressive. You may want to have a dollop of whipped cream on the side!
1 x 24 cm (9¾ in) frying pan, non-stick or not

for the toffee:

50g (2oz) butter
25g (1oz) brown sugar
50ml (1¾ fl oz) maple syrup
1 tablesp lemon juice
3 bananas, peeled

for the cake mix:

100g (3½ oz) butter, softened
50ml (1¾ fl oz) maple syrup
100g (3½ oz) brown sugar
1 banana, mashed
3 eggs, beaten
175g (6oz) self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. To make the toffee, place a 25cm (9¾ in) frying pan on a medium heat, with the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook, stirring every now and then for 4 minutes, until the toffee has thickened a little. Set aside and sprinkle with lemon juice. To make the cake, cream the butter, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, still beating. Add the mashed banana and eggs, bit by bit, then stir in the flour. Or you can just throw everything into the food processor and whiz briefly until it comes together. Slice the bananas in half horizontally, then in half widthways, and arrange in the pan in a fan shape. Spread the cake mixture over the bananas and place the pan in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the cake feels set in the centre. Take it out when cooked, and let it set for just 5 minutes. Slide a knife around the sides of the pan and turn the cake out onto a plate (it must still be warm to turn out). 

Note: I find sometimes that when I turn this out, quite a bit of toffee remains in the pan. If this happens, place it on the heat, add 1 tablesp water and whisk until it all dissolves, then pour it over the bananas.

Little Pots of Passion

This is a mango and passion fruit fool basically, except that the title wouldn’t exactly evoke many romantic thoughts! This recipe would be great for a summer dinner party too.
Serves 2

½ mango, peeled and chopped
1 passion fruit, halved and scooped
up to 1 tablesp lime or lemon juice
up to 1 tablesp. caster sugar
75ml (3 fl oz) cream

Puree the mango and passion fruit (including the seeds) with the lime or lemon juice and sugar. Use a food processor for this (if you use a liquidiser, you will need to add the passion fruit after, as it breaks up the seeds). Place in the fridge while you whip the cream softly. Then fold the mango and passion fruit purée in gently, leaving it a little marbled. Leave in the fridge until you want to serve it. This is also delicious with little shortbread biscuits.

Foolproof Food

Apple Pudding

This is wonderful comfort food – great with a little whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream on the side. I like to serve this slightly warm, so warm it up if it has not just come out of the oven.
Serves 6-8

450g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled, core removed, and chopped roughly, weighed afterwards
125g (4½ oz) sugar
1 tablesp water
125g (4½ oz) soft butter
125g (4½ oz) caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g (4½ oz) self-raising flour
25g (1oz) caster sugar, for sprinkling

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

Place the apples, sugar and water in a small saucepan on a low heat. With the lid on, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the apples are soft. Pour into a 1 –litre (1¾ pint) shallow pie dish, or into 8 individual ramekins.

In a bowl, beat the butter. Add the sugar and beat again, then add the eggs and the vanilla, gradually, still beating, then fold in the flour to combine. Spread this over the apple, sprinkle with sugar and cook in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until the centre of the sponge feels firm, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Note: This is also lovely with a handful of fresh or frozen blackberries added to the apples in the saucepan.

Hot Tips

Dunbrody Abbey Visitor Centre, Campile, New Ross, Co Wexford.
Christmas Fairs on 10 & 11th and 17 & 18th December. Stall holders who might be interested should contact Pierce McAuliffe at 051-388933 or 087-9723033  

Rare Breed Pork from Gloucester Old Spots – reared on a strict vegetarian diet on a small holding in the Portroe area just outside Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and allowed to mature slowly over a long period to develop a fuller flavour. Contact Tom and Sharyn Shore, Tel 067-23761

Lamb Direct – ‘A taste of the countryside direct to your door’ – full lamb or half lamb – from Michael Seymour, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary – Tel 086-4000680

Major Cross Border Producer Showcase Event was held recently in Loughry College, Cookstown, Co Tyrone – chefs and students discovered the good food on their doorstep as part of the Euro-Toques Small Food Initiative –
The event was attended by many small producers from the region displaying a wide range of foods, including farmhouse cheeses, fruits, vegetables and herbs, pastas, dressings, rare breed meats and smoked foods. Full details on the project website  

Wicklow Fine Foods have just launched their range of luxury chocolates – ‘The Chocolate Garden of Ireland’ 
Chocolates are being added to their successful fine food and gift items – waffles, biscuits and luxury chocolate spreads – to see the product range visit  – available in good speciality food shops nationwide, including Avoca Handweavers and Wrights of Howth in Dublin Airport.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall at Ballymaloe

Within hours of posting Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s course on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website last year, the phone started to ring and email bookings flooded in. The course was enticingly called ‘Cutting up a Pig in a Day’ 

Within a couple of weeks the course was totally booked out with a lengthy waiting list, such is the appeal of this irrepressible chap who gave up his frenetic city life to live in a small holding in Dorset. Hugh and his friends had been spending weekends at River Cottage for a number of years and eventually he and his wife decided to take the plunge and move out of London. With masses of energy and the enthusiasm of one who has no concept of the obstacles that lie ahead, he set out on his new adventure with a TV crew in tow – week by week the viewers could share his triumphs and frustrations as he embarked on the steep learning curve of attempting to be self sufficient. So many city gents longed for the courage to fling off the suit and don a pair of wellies, and those who resisted the call of the wild enjoyed watching as he laboriously cleared the ground, sowed the seeds and coped with the reality of slugs and squirrels. Next came the pigs, followed by hens, sheep, cattle. When the free ranging pigs grew fat he and his pals brought them along to the butcher, then they had a pig party to cut and deal with the pig in a day, sometimes two, using everything but the squeal. They made hams, salami, pickled pork, brawn, chorizo, devilled kidneys, crispy pig ears…

Hugh says that total self-sufficiency was not a real ambition of his. There are simply too many things, from oranges and bananas to chocolate and good claret, that he will always need to dip into his wallet to acquire. But true happiness and contentment around food and in the kitchen is a personal goal. He plans, before long to move full time to the country to help achieve this. Hugh says “I make my living not as a ‘real’ smallholder, genuinely dependent on my acres, but as a writer and television presenter. I can afford a few luxuries. But since I moved to River Cottage my idea of what true luxury is has changed: picking blackberries in the hedgerow in high summer, and trampling the wild garlic in early spring; buying a huge cod from Jack’s boat in West Bay for just a few quid; netting eels in the River Brit; committing infanticide on my own baby broad beans; picking elderflowers; bartering eggs for cider; these are my new luxuries. They are luxuries that just about anyone can afford.”

Hugh and his butcher Ray bounced into the school the other day ready for action. We had one of our own free-range pigs ready to be butchered and transformed into a variety of delicious cured meat. The 6 month old organic pig was a mixture of rare breeds - Saddleback Black Berkshire/Red Duroc cross, with a nice covering of juicy fat – essential for sausages and salami. 

As soon as the students arrived, Hugh and Ray tucked up their sleeves and amidst an air of anticipation embarked on a mission to use every scrap of the pig from the nose to the tail in the time-honoured tradition that so many of us remember since childhood. 

Ray and Hugh met while they were filming the River Cottage series. Hugh told us that he had become addicted to Ray’s help. Ray who has been a butcher since he was thirteen set about cutting up the pig with the ease of an expert, making it all look so easy and logical. 

The head was salted and cut into quarters and put into a large pot with a couple of the trotters and the tongue. Some spices, herbs and onions were added to make a fine brawn. While that all simmered gently, the carcase was carefully trimmed, Ray meticulously saved all the little scraps of fat, as he reminded us that the profit is in the trimmings. 

The shoulder was minced for salami and chorizo, a proportion of finely diced back fat was added with salt and spices. All this was filled into well-washed natural casings which we learned how to expertly seal and tie with cotton string.

The skin on the loin was scored with a Stanley knife for crispy crackling. Lots of sea salt and coriander rubbed were rubbed into the cuts and then it went into the oven to roast for lunch. Meanwhile we learned how to make bacon from the belly and a terrine from the liver and trimmings. Ray saved some of the terrine mixture to stuff the pork fillet. The kidneys were used to make the most delectable mustardy devilled kidneys which were polished off in minutes as they were passed around the class.

After a delectable lunch of roast pork with crackling and lots of Bramley apple sauce we settled down again. We learned about dry and wet cures. The streaky belly of pork was rubbed with salt, pepper, sugar and coriander and left to cure. We opted to put one ham into a brine to have ready for Christmas, the other was packed in sea salt in an old timber wine box to start the curing of what will eventually be a dry cured ham ready to eat in 12-18 months.

Ray added dried breadcrumbs, salt, freshly ground pepper, mace, sage, thyme, and sugar to the minced pork to make a huge batch of juicy sausages. He gilded the lily by adding his favourite spicing – a garam masala,(you could use ground cumin or coriander if you prefer), the meat was filled into natural sausage casings and then expertly knotted in butchers’ links. Hugh rolled some into a coil of Cumberland sausage, which we ate also for lunch. Along the way, the class tasted brains and tucked into crispy pigs’ ears with gusto.

It was amazing and thrilling to see the extraordinary level of interest in learning new skills. This is the third of these classes we have offered this year, Fingal Ferguson and Frank Krawczyk from Schull in West Cork each taught classes earlier this year in their own inimitable style to an audience of enthusiastic amateurs who are anxious to relearn forgotten skills. The response has been so positive we have decided so to offer a whole series of ‘Forgotten Skills’ courses next year to build on the very successful ‘How to keep a few hens in your Garden’ earlier this year. See Course Index  

Here are a few of Hugh’s recipes, for more look out for his River Cottage Cookbooks

- A Cook on the Wild Side, The River Cottage Year, The River Cottage Cookbook, The River Cottage Meat Coobook, or link into his website  


1 pig’s head, quartered
1 or 2 pig’s trotters
1 knuckle, tongue and tail
2 onions, peeled and quartered
A large bundle of fresh herbs – parsley, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram
A muslin bag of spices (about 1 dessertspoon each allspice berries, coriander and mixed peppercorns)
A handful of chopped parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the quartered head, trotter, onions, bundle of herbs and bag of spices in a large stockpot. Cover with water and bring slowly to a gentle simmer. For the first 30 minutes of cooking, skim off any bubbly scum that rises to the surface. Cook, uncovered, at a very gentle simmer for about 4 hours altogether, until all the meat is completely tender and coming away from the bones. Top up the pan occasionally as the water level drops.

When cooked, lift out the meat and leave until cool enough to handle. Pick all the meat, skin and fat off the head bones (it should fall off quite easily). Remove any bristly hairs with tweezers. Peel the coarse skin off the tongue and discard. Roughly chop all the bits of meat, including the fat and skin and the tongue, and toss together with the chopped parsley and the lemon juice. (Everything except the bone and bristles can go into a brawn, but if you want to make it less fatty, just discard some of the really fatty pieces at this stage.) Season to taste with a little salt and pepper.

Remove the herbs, onions and spices from the cooking liquor and strain it through a fine sieve or, better still, muslin. Boil until reduced by about two-thirds. Stir a few tablespoons of this gelatine-rich liquid into the chopped meat – it will help the brawn set as it cools. Pile the mixture into terrine dishes (one large or 2 or 3 small ones) or a pudding basin. Place a weighted plate or board on top and put in the refrigerator to set.

A brawn can be turned out of its mould on to a plate before serving. Serve cold, in slices, with pickles and gherkins. Or make a delicious salade de tête: cut the brawn into 2cm dice and toss with cold cooked Puy lentils and a mustardy vinaigrette. The finished brawn will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It also freezes well.

Devilled Kidneys

4 lamb’s kidneys, cut into quarters
A little fat or oil
1 small glass of sherry
1 tbs white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
A few good shakes of Worcestershire sauce
A good pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbs English mustard
1 tbs double cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little chopped parsley to garnish

Heat a little fat or oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and sizzle for just a minute to brown them, tossing them occasionally in the pan. Then add a generous slosh of sherry, let it bubble for a moment, and follow up with a more modest splash of wine or cider vinegar. Add the redcurrant jelly and stir to dissolve. Then add the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, mustard and plenty of black pepper. Season with a pinch of salt, take the edge off the fire with an enriching spoon of double cream and bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally, until the sauce is reduced and nicely glossy. Taste for piquancy, and add more cayenne and black pepper if you like.

Serve with fried bread to give a bit of crunch and mop up the sauce. Alternatively, to make a more substantial supper dish, serve with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


5 kilo coarse minced pork

100g rusk or dried breadcrumbs
50g salt
15g ground white pepper
10g ground mace
10g fresh chopped sage
5g fresh chopped thyme
500ml cold water
2 tsp sugar

Your personal choice of herbs and spices. This could include some of the following:

Garam masala

Ground cumin
Ground coriander

Making fresh sausages (as opposed to salami) is one of the central activities of a River Cottage ‘pig weekend’, and one of the most sociable, as everybody gets to have a go. The results offer instant gratification, as sample batches of the various seasoning combinations are fried up and their various merits hotly debated.

To make my sausages, I use the same old-fashioned crank-handle machine that I use to make salami, but with a smaller nozzle attachment. Less cumbersome modern alternatives are available from good cookshops, including electric-powered machines that will also mince your pork for you.

I don’t usually bother with chipolatas, so I choose the larger size of natural sausage casings, called ‘hog casings’ that makes good old butcher’s bangers (as opposed to the extra large ox-runners, which I use for salami). These casings come packed in salt and need to be soaked, rinsed, and flushed through with fresh water before use. See the 

Sausage meat
Before you can make any sausages, you have to make sausage meat. If you are using home-reared pork and you have employed a butcher to sort out the carcass for you, you may want him to make up your sausage meat as well: his big industrial mincing machines will make light work of it. You will need to specify which parts of the pig you want your sausage meat made from. My preference is for a 50:50 combination of belly and leaner meat, usually taken from the boned-out shoulder. Any trimmings arising from the general cutting up of the beast can also be added.

Another important decision is how finely you want your meat minced. Most modern butchers’ sausage meat is minced on the finest setting. I find the resulting sausages too fine and pâté-like in consistency, so I prefer the next setting up. This gives a more old-fashioned ‘butcher’s banger’ consistency.

Of course you don’t have to keep your own pigs to make your own sausages. But if you want really good home-made sausages, don’t just buy the standard ready-made sausage meat. Choose fresh, quality belly and lean shoulder and either mince it yourself or ask your butcher to do it according to your requirements.

You can make good sausages from 100 per cent minced pork, plus your chosen seasonings, but there is no shame in adding a little cereal to the mix. This tradition is not merely a matter of bulking out the mixture with a cheap additive. A little ‘rusk’, as it is called, improves the texture, as it helps to retain a little more fat in the sausage. I like to add about 5 per cent by weight – so 50g per kilo of sausage meat. You can use various cereal-based products for rusk, including rice flour, fine oatmeal or fine white breadcrumbs. I actually use a multigrain organic baby cereal from the Baby Organix range, with excellent results.

When planning a sausage-making session, bear in mind that 1kg of sausage meat will give you about 15–20 large sausages, depending on their length and how tightly you stuff them.

There are unlimited ways to season your sausages, and inventing new and original spice and/or herb combinations is all part of the fun. The best way to try out new ideas is to take a small amount of sausage meat, add your experimental seasonings and mix well. Then fry up a bit of the mixture in a little patty and taste the result. When you get something you like, make up a big quantity and do another taste test and a final seasoning adjustment before you commit to the casings.

One thing that all your sausages will need is salt. About 5–10g (1–2 teaspoons) per kilo of meat is a good rough guide but you can make any final adjustments after your taste test.

Making the sausages
For a beginner, the only real difficulty in making sausages is getting to grips with the sausage-making machine and avoiding too many air pockets. This is largely a matter of trial and error. Electric sausage-making machines will come with their own set of instructions. A crank-handled machine like mine can be a bit temperamental, and it is sometimes easier to have two people operating it – one turning the handle, the other controlling the casing as it fills.

The basic idea is to fill a long length of casing – as long as you like, really – then twist it into individual sausages of your chosen length. It is important not to overfill the sausages or they will burst when you twist them. There are various clever twisting techniques devised by butchers over the years, where the sausages are twisted together to make long strings of twos and threes. These techniques are impossible to describe in words.

If wrapped or boxed immediately after being made, sausages will leach a considerable amount of liquid. To avoid this, the finished sausages should be hung in a cool place for a few hours or overnight. They can then be wrapped in greaseproof paper or clingfilm, or placed in Tupperware boxes, and stored in a refrigerator. Freshly made sausages kept in the fridge should be used within five days. If you want to keep them longer either vac-pack them or bag them up in freezer bags, in small batches. Defrost completely at room temperature before cooking.

Foolproof Food

Bramley Apple Sauce

An essential accompaniment to roast pork and homemade sausages.
The trick with Apple Sauce is to cook it covered on a low heat with very little water.
Serves 10 approx.

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier
1-2 dessertsp. water
2 ozs (55g) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are

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

Note: Apple Sauce freezes perfectly, so make more than you need and freeze in tiny, plastic cartons. It is also a good way to use up windfalls
Hot Tips

Java Republic Roasting Company is launching a new range of super-premium, authentic, hand-roasted coffees into the UK and Irish market, available at retail for the first time. These all contain either fairtrade co-op or farm direct speciality coffees.  

Country Choice, Kenyon St. Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Tel 067-32596 
Have a wonderful stock of dried and glace fruits, Lexia raisins, Golden raisins, Agen prunes, Malaga muscatels, whole French walnuts, whole candied peel, Amarena cherries ……..some Italian delicacies and many other temptations –  

Soup Kitchen – the finest soup recipes from the top chefs of today –Rick Stein, Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, Giorgio Locatelli, Gordon Ramsay, and supported by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall – a collection of 100 recipes – 70% of the royalties will go to homelessness charities. Published by Harper Collins.  

Cocktails for pre-Christmas entertaining - The Art of the Vodka Jelly: Bespoke Cocktails for a New Generation by Tom Tuke-Hastings. Published by CBN Books.

One such is Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons’

I dread ‘hotel breakfast’, as a general rule they are all froth with no flavour! - elaborate buffets of poor quality ingredients, not a single item of real honest food. Of course there are exceptions, where everything is fresh, home made, and as far as possible local.
One such is Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons in Great Milton outside Oxford. I woke up on a glorious Autumn morning full of the energy one feels on a bright sunny day, I am not a jogger but I so wanted to walk through the gardens before breakfast. The gardens were so beautiful in the dusky haze of the early morning, I particularly wanted to see Raymond Blanc’s kitchen garden. It was a splendid sight, rows and rows of organic vegetables and herbs and a new Asian vegetable garden. 
Raymond in pristine whites was already out there, gesticulating excitedly as he explained some new ideas to a high-powered looking chap in a suit – I later discovered he was Tom Lewis, the general manager of Le Manoir – a country house hotel with nineteen luxurious rooms and renowned for its food.
Raymond is passionate about the quality of the ingredients he uses. Several gardeners were already snipping and harvesting vegetables, herbs and micro greens for the day’s cooking – Raymond practises what he preaches – he is single-minded in his search for the best varieties, not the highest yielding but the most intensively flavoured, we exchanged ideas. I got so carried away I almost missed breakfast – what mistake that would have been.
The breakfast buffet had all the usual breakfast foods, except the quality of each item was superb – crusty sourdough and pain de campagne, flaky croissants, pain au chocolat, and sticky Danish pastries all made in the bakery. Thick sheep milk yoghurt and a diced fruit salad made with ripe seasonal fruit. Half ruby grapefruit, ready to eat with an Autumn raspberry perched on top, Bircher apple and oatmeal muesli with plump yellow sultanas.
The choice was unbearable, would I have the poached plums or the quince, or perhaps some blueberries. Would I scrape the seeds out of those perfumed passion fruit onto the thick sheep milk yoghurt or would I drizzle it with one of several honeys, or three or four types of Fair Trade sugar. Around the other side of this lavish buffet there was a basket of ripe fruit and some plump dried fruit arranged in symmetrical rows, Turkish figs, Moroccan apricots and my favourite Medjool dates – what a feast – so glad I did a few ‘rounds of the garden’ before I came to dine. Would I have coffee and hot milk without the froth, hot chocolate, tea or maybe a lemon verbena tisane and some orange juice. It was of course freshly squeezed in the true sense of the word - a rare thing nowadays when freshly squeezed usually comes out of a litre plastic container or a tetra pack! 
I rarely eat a cooked breakfast on a ‘working day’ but couldn’t resist trying the ‘Le petit déjeuner Anglais traditionnel’, all in the way of research. Again it was real, great dry cured Oxfordshire bacon, fresh free range eggs, a huge Oxfordshire sausage and a sweet juicy Sicilian tomato. Also on the menu were Scrambled free range eggs with tomato and smoked salmon from the Isle of Orkney, also Oeufs Florentine – poached with sautéed spinach and Mornay sauce and Oeufs Bénédicte – poached with some of the delicious Oxfordshire bacon served on an English muffin with Hollandaise Sauce and garden herbs. Grilled Scottish Loch Fyne kippers and Smoked Scottish haddock also featured and traditional French black pudding with apple puree and a selection of French and English farmhouse cheeses…..
This quality doesn’t come cheap but its so refreshing to be able to find a place where they actually deliver what they promise.

Here are some of Le Manoir breakfast recipes

Banana & Honey Smoothie

Serves 2
1 ripe banana, peeled and roughly chopped
200ml Soya milk
2 tbsp honey

In a blender, puree the banana, Soya milk and honey for 30 seconds. Pour into glasses and serve.

Mango, Pineapple & Orange Smoothie

Serves 2
120g 1 ripe mango, peeled, stone removed, roughly chopped
120g pineapple, skin & core removed, roughly chopped
100 ml orange juice
150 ml water
10g fructose

In a blender, puree the mango, pineapple, orange juice, water and fructose for 30 seconds. 
Pour into glasses and serve.

Smoked Salmon Omelette

Serves 1
1 dash of olive oil
10g butter
3 medium organic/free range, fresh eggs
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g smoked salmon, roughly chopped

In a mixing bowl gently beat the eggs together with a pinch of salt and pepper. In an omelette pan heat olive oil and butter till it begins to foam. Pour in the mixture and cook for a few seconds, with a fork stir the omelette repeat the process until the eggs are cooked to your liking (rare, medium rare and well done) Add the pieces of salmon in the middle of the omelette. Roll the omelette and turn on to a plate. With kitchen paper give form to the omelette. Brush the omelette with olive oil and serve. 

Ballymaloe Strawberry Muesli

Serves 8
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 Egremont Russet in the Autumn. 
At Le Manoir they add pistachio and brazil nuts and a variety of seeds like linseed, amaranth, alfalfa, and raisins and dried blueberries and some natural yogurt – all organic.

6 heaped tablespoons rolled oatmeal (Quaker Oats)
8 tablespoons water
110g (8ozs) fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons honey

Soak the oatmeal in the water for 8-10 minutes. 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.

Winter Breakfast Fruit Salad

Serves 8
Breakfast cereals that can be made ahead and kept in the fridge are a terrific standby, 
we love this one and often eat it as a Winter dessert with a few pistachio nuts or toasted almonds added.

185g (6 1/2 oz) prunes
170g (6oz) dried apricots
1 handful of raisins
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons pure Irish honey
225ml (8 fl oz) freshly squeezed orange juice
3-4 bananas

Soak the prunes and apricots in lots of cold water overnight. Next day, put the prunes, apricots, raisins and freshly grated lemon rind into a casserole. Mix the honey with 110ml (4fl oz) warm water and enough of the fruit soaking water to cover the prunes and apricots. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes approximately. Allow to cool and keep in the refrigerator. Just before serving, add a little freshly squeezed orange juice and some sliced bananas to each bowl. Serve with pouring cream or natural yoghurt.
Keeps for 1-2 weeks in a kilner jar in the fridge.

Top Tip: Wash the lemon well before grating unless they are unwaxed lemons.

Proper Breakfast Kippers

Raymond Blanc serves Scottish Loch Fyne kippers, but at Ballymaloe House we serve kippers from Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery and Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse near Cobh who smoke the best kippers I have ever tasted. I like them best cooked for breakfast by what I call the jug method.
Serves 2

2 undyed Kippers
Maitre d'hotel butter (see below)

2 segments of lemon
2 sprigs of parsley

Put the kippers head downwards into a deep jug. Cover them with boiling water right up to their tails as though you were making tea. Leave for 2-3 minutes to heat through. Lift them out carefully by the tail and serve immediately on hot plates with a pat of Maitre d'hotel butter melting on top. Garnish each with a segment of lemon and a sprig of parsley.
Maitre d'hotel Butter
4 ozs (110g) butter
4 teasp. parsley, finely chopped
a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tinfoil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker. Refrigerate to harden.

American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Seves 4-6 depending on the size or helping
Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

We love to cook American pancakes on the Aga for Sunday brunch – it’s so difficult to know when to stop!

250ml (8 flozs) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (½ oz) butter, melted
85g (3ozs) plain white flour
Good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda
Crispy bacon
Maple syrup or Irish honey

Mix the buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a large bowl, until smooth and blended. Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together, stir into the buttermilk until the ingredients are barely combined, don’t worry about the lumps. Do not over mix or the pancakes will be heavy.

Heat a heavy iron or non-stick pan until medium hot. Grease with a little clarified butter. Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of batter onto the pan, spread slightly with the back of the spoon. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake. Flip over gently. Cook until pale golden on the other side. Spread each with butter.

Serve a stack of three with crispy streaky bacon and maple syrup.

Glebe House Eggs Benedict on a bed of Creamed Spinach on toast

Serves 4
8 freshly laid free-range organic eggs
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Creamed Spinach – see recipe below
4 thickish slices of homemade white yeast loaf

Creamed Spinach
900g (2lb) fresh spinach
salt, freshly ground pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

Put the leaves in a heavy saucepan on a very low heat and cover tightly. After a few minutes, stir and replace the lid. When the spinach is cooked after 5-8 minutes strain off the copious amount of liquid that has been released and press between two plates until almost dry. Chop roughly and return to the pan.
Add 225-350ml (8-12fl oz) cream to the spinach and bring to the boil, stir well and thicken with a little roux if desired, otherwise stir over the heat until the spinach has absorbed most of the cream. Season with salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. 

Poach the eggs. 
Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add a little salt, reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg and slip gently into the whirlpool in the centre. For perfection the water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the white is set and the yolk still soft and runny. Lift out gently on a slotted spoon and drain thoroughly. 

Meanwhile toast the bread.
Heat 4 plates.
Butter the hot toast.
Spread 2 large spoonfuls of Creamed Spinach over each slice of the toast. Top with two plump poached eggs.
Serve with freshly ground pepper and Maldon sea salt – divine.

Hot Potato Cakes with Creme Fraiche and Smoked Salmon

Serves 8
900g (2 lb) unpeeled 'old' potatoes eg. Golden Wonders or Kerrs Pinks
30g – 55g (1-2 oz) butter
55g (2 oz) flour 
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, chives and lemon thyme, mixed, (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
creamy milk
seasoned flour
bacon fat, clarified butter or olive oil for frying
crème fraiche
8 generous slices of smoked salmon or smoked trout
chopped chives

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the peel and mash right away, add the flour and herbs. Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Mix well. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into potato cakes 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and then cut into rounds. Dip in seasoned flour.
Fry the potato cakes in clarified butter until golden on one side, then flip over and cook on the other side, 4-5 minutes approx. they should be crusty and golden. Serve on very hot plates.
Put a blob of creme fraiche or Jockey on top of each potato cake. Top with slivers of smoked salmon and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

Alternative serving suggestions
1. Smoked mackerel or trout instead of smoked salmon.
2. Serve hot crispy bacon instead of smoked salmon.
3. Serve chorizo sausage instead of smoked salmon.

Tobys Hot Chocolate

This is the recipe for Hot Chocolate that my son Toby makes. It’s wickedly rich and absolutely scrumptious: the flavour of ‘proper’ hot chocolate is a revelation if you’ve never tried it before.
Serves 4

3½-4 ozs (100-110 g) best quality dark chocolate
2½ fl ozs (62 ml) water
1 pint (568 ml) milk
1-2 teasp. Sugar
4 large teasp. whipped cream
grated chocolate

Put the chocolate and water into a heavy saucepan and melt on a very low heat. Meanwhile, bring the milk almost to the boil (what we call the 'shivery' stage) in a separate saucepan. When the chocolate has melted, pour on the milk, whisking all the time; it should be smooth and frothy. Taste and add some sugar. Pour it into warmed cups, spoon a blob of whipped cream on top and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate. 

Foolproof Food

Orange, Mint and Grapefruit Cocktail

Serves 4
2 grapefruit
2 oranges
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
1 tablespoon sugar approx.

4 sprigs of fresh mint

Peel and carefully segment the oranges and grapefruit into a bowl. Add the sugar and chopped mint; taste and add more sugar if necessary. Chill. Serve in pretty bowls or, alternatively, arrange the segments of orange and grapefruit alternatively on the plate in a circle: pour a little juice over the fruit. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Hot Tips

Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD, UK
Tel 0044 1844 278881 email and website:  

Blackwater Valley Farmers Market which is the umbrella group for Kilavullen, Fermoy and Lismore Farmers Markets will launch their market in Fermoy on Saturday 29th October at 11.00am on the Quay in Fermoy, and on Sunday 6th November in Lismore from 11.-3.30 in the GAA and Community Centre – enquiries about these markets to Michael Walsh at 086-8377590

Serving a City – The Story of Cork’s English Market by Diarmuid and Donal O’Drisceoil – published by Collins Press – a wonderful read – put on the Christmas list – essential reading for any Cork person.

Winter Food on RTE 1 on Saturdays at 7.30-pm starting today 29th October. 
This is a new food series which focuses on the foods which are available to us seasonally. The programme will be presented by food writer and presenter Clodagh McKenna and produced by Aoife Nic Cormaic.

Leader Food Village Highlights Emerging Rural Economy

In Autumn 2004 I donned my wellies and visited the Ploughing Championships for the very first time. I was greatly impressed by the sheer scale and organisation of the event but completely baffled by the absence of a Food Pavilion to show case Irish Food. Where could visitors to the biggest farming event in Europe buy the produce of Irish farms?
The big food manufacturers were there in force with large and impressive stands but there was no sign of the farmhouse cheese makers, the artisan producers, the home bakers, jam makers .…. Eamon Ó Cuív The Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs pledged his support for the artisan food producers and recognised the importance of this sector in rural development; he also acknowledged the role of artisan producers in attracting positive publicity for hand crafted foods and for preserving our traditional food culture. He emphasized the potential of this sector to tap into the deep craving for real foods and to attract the burgeoning food tourism success. After the launch plans were hatched to create a Food village that would showcase the best of the Irish Food at the 2005 Ploughing Championships. Isobel Fletcher, Co-ordinator of the Leader small business food Initiative and her team organised the Leader food village. It was officially launched by Minister Ó Cuív and there were 28 food stands showcasing and selling the produce of 50 artisan producers and farmers markets from 18 counties. 

The wide range of produce at the stands included: Handmade Chocolates, Farmhouse Cheeses, Cakes and Breads, Organic Produce, Meats including Charcuteries and Wild Game, Fish, Chutneys, Jams, Preserves, and Ice Cream. The produce on display was developed by a variety of micro businesses and small enterprises with the support of LEADER. According to Isobel Fletcher the contribution of small food producers to the rural economy is hugely significant. “In many cases small food enterprises are helping to sustain family farms. By providing employment they are resulting in growth and regeneration in rural communities, the small food industry keeps the euros local.”
The phenomenal increase in Farmers Markets is an indication of the growing awareness among consumers of the importance of local food - in terms of reduced food miles, freshness, taste, and traceability.
The food village was a huge hit with the public and confounded those who were adamant that people don’t come to the Ploughing Championships to buy food. On the opening day, stalls at the Food village were practically sold out. Many had to send for extra supplies early in the day and by evening there was a dash back to locations all over the country to draft in extra supplies for the remainder of the Ploughing event. 

Ann Rudden of Aine’s Chocolates of Oldcastle, Co. Meath was rushed off her feet, “I sold more on the opening day that I did over the entire three days of the ploughing last year. It’s great.” Aine started her chocolate business five years ago with support from Meath LEADER. 

Joyce and Paddy O’Keeffe of Tipperary Organic ice cream ran out completely on the first day and had to send home to Clonmel for a full load on Tuesday night. “We cleaned out all our fridges,” declared an exhausted Paddy, “We’ll have to start from scratch when we get home on Friday.” Paddy and Joyce started their organic ice cream business in Clonmel in 2000 with much help from the Tipperary LEADER Group.
Farmers markets from Midleton, Duhallow and Cobh were extraordinarily busy; Claire O’Keeffe of Duhallow said that the custom at the Ploughing was fantastic. “It’s like six months business packed into one day.”
I was thrilled by the success of this year’s enterprise and look forward to seeing the Food village gathering momentum in coming years. People’s prediction that people didn’t go to The Ploughing Championships to buy food were certainly proved wrong in the experience of stall holders this year.

Crab Apple or Bramley Apple Jelly

An excellent recipe to up all windfalls and crab apples – have fun with the variations
Makes 2.7-3kg (6-7 lb)

2.7kg (6 lb) crab apples or wind fall cooking apples
2.7L (43pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons

Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 2 hour.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted - usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 450g (1lb) sugar to each 600ml (1pint) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven.
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately.
Flavour with sweet geranium, mint or cloves as required (see below). 

Apple and Sweet Geranium Jelly
Add 6-8 large leaves of sweet geranium while the apples are stewing and put a fresh leaf into each jar as you pot the jelly.

Apple and Clove Jelly
Add 3-6 cloves to the apples as they stew and put a clove in each pot. Serve on bread or scones.

Apple and Mint Jelly
Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh mint to the apples while they are stewing and add 4-8 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint to the jelly just before it is potted. Serve with lamb.

Apple and Rosemary Jelly
Add 2 sprigs of rosemary to the apples as they stew and put a tiny sprig into each pot. Serve with lamb.

Apple and Elderberry Jelly
Add a fist or two of elderberries to the apple and continue as above. Up to half volume of elderberries can be used. A sprig or two of mint or sweet geranium or a cinnamon stick enhances the flavour further.

Apple and Sloe Jelly
Substitute 2-3 cups of sloes for elderberries in the above recipe.

Apple and Marjoram Jelly
Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh marjoram to the apples while they are stewing and add 3-4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh marjoram to the jelly just before it is potted.

Apple and Chilli Jelly (quantity of chilli may change)
Add 2 tablespoons of chilli flakes to the apples and proceed as above.

Apple and Cranberry Jelly (quantity of cranberries may change)
Add 450-900g (1-2lb) cranberries to the apples and proceed as above.

Coffee Cake with Chocolate Coffee Beans

Another splendid cake - brilliant to offer at and farmers market, keeps well also
Serves 8-10

8 ozs (225g/2 sticks) butter
8 ozs (225g/1 cup) castor sugar
8 ozs (225g/1¾ cups) white flour, preferably unbleached
1 teasp. baking powder
4 eggs, preferably free range
scant 2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) coffee essence (Irel or Camp)

2" x 8" (5 x 20.5 cm) sandwich tins 

Coffee Butter Cream (see recipe)
Coffee Icing (see recipe)

Hazelnuts or Chocolate Coffee Beans

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.
Line the bottom of sandwich tins, with greaseproof paper, brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust with flour.
Cream the butter until soft, add the castor sugar and beat until pale and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, beating well between each addition.
Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture, finally add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared sandwich tins and bake for 30 minutes approx. in a moderate oven. When the cakes are cooked. The centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tin. Rest in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto the wire rack, remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then reinvert so the top of the cakes don’t get marked by the wire rack. Cool the cakes on the wire rack. When cold sandwich the cakes together with Coffee Butter Cream and ice the top with Coffee Glace Icing .Decorate with Hazelnuts or Chocolate Coffee Beans

Coffee Butter Cream Filling
2 ozs (55g\¼ stick) butter
4 ozs (110g\1 cup) icing sugar (sieved)
1-2 teasp. Irel Coffee essence

Whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar, add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.

If you would prefer to ice the cake with Coffee Butter Cream use
8 ozs ( 225g 2 sticks) butter
1lb ( 450g 3½ ) icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons of Irel Coffee

Coffee Icing
16 ozs (450g/4 cups) icing sugar
scant 2 tablesp.(2 american tablesp. + 2 teasp.) Irel coffee essence
4 tablesp. (5 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) boiling water approx.

Sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of thick cream.

Traditional Roast Partridge

Partridge is a rare and meat and has a delicate flavour and a pale flesh. Check that the bird has been hung for three or four days. Larger birds may be tougher and need to be cooked slowly. Smaller birds are best roasted.
Serves 1

1 small partridge
¼ oz (5-10g) butter,
salt and freshly ground pepper
A thin strip pork fat or 3-4 streaky rashers

Preheat oven 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7

Pop a knob of butter in to the cavity of the bird, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Truss the bird and tie pork fat or streaky bacon rather than bacon over the breast. 

Cook in the preheated hot oven, basting frequently with melted butter, for about 30 minutes. Towards the end, remove fat to allow breast to brown. Partridge is particularly good served with lentils or red cabbage.

Pennys Buns with Crystallised Primroses, Violets or Lavender

If you have just one oven you may need to make the cupcakes in three separate batches. Depending on how the cup cakes are decorated, this can be any occasion, a wedding cake, christening, anniversary, children’s party, sports day celebration ….
Makes 36

450g (1lb)butter (at room temperature)
450g (1lb) caster sugar
450g (1lb) self-raising flour
6 large eggs preferably free-range and organic
6 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract.

Icing sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 muffin trays lined with 12 muffin cases each.

Preheat oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5.
Put all ingredients except milk into a food processor and whizz until smooth. Scrape down sides, then add milk and whizz again.
Divide mixture between the cases in the muffin tins.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 –20 minutes or until risen and golden. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Icing (see recipe)
Chocolate Icing (see recipe)
Coffee Icing (see recipe)

Dolly mix
Crystallized flowers
Chocolate buttons
Fondant hearts or stars

To serve: Make one or several icings and decorate the cupcakes with flowers, smarties, streamers, tiny crackers, sparklers…..etc.
Arrange in a pyramid on 2 or 3 cup cake stands or on a perspex cake stand.

Lemon Icing: (makes enough for 12 cupcakes)

110g (4oz) icing sugar
Finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon rind and enough lemon juice to make a softish icing.

Chocolate Icing (makes enough for 12 cupcakes)

Dark Chocolate Icing
170g (6oz) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
75g (3oz) butter
75ml (3fl ozs) water
110g (4oz) 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.

Coffee Icing (makes enough for 12 cupcakes) 

225g (8 ozs) icing sugar
Scant 1 tablespoon coffee essence
2 tablespoon boiling water approx.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make icing the consistency of thick cream.

Ballymaloe Fudge

Makes 96 approx.
2 lb (225g) butter
2 lbs (900g) light brown sugar or castor sugar
1 can evaporated milk
7 fl ozs (200ml) water
3 teasp. pure vanilla essence

Swiss roll tin 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33cm)

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a low heat. Add the milk, water, sugar and vanilla essence and stir with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat to simmer, stir constantly until it reaches the soft ball stage. To test, put some of the fudge in a bowl of cold water pull off the heat and stir until it thickens and reaches the required consistency with the saucepan over cold water. Pour into a swiss roll tin and smooth out with a spatula.
Allow to cool and then cut before completely cold.

Fruit and Nut Clusters

Makes 24
5 ozs (140g) best quality dark chocolate
3 heaped tablesp. hazelnuts shelled and toasted
3 heaped tablesp. raisins

Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl very gently over simmering water or in a very low oven. Stir in the toasted hazelnuts and raisins. Drop clusters onto a baking sheet with a teaspoon. Allow to set in a cool place. Put into dark brown sweet papers and serve as a petit four.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

The shops and farmers markets are piled high with squash and pumpkins at present -this is our new favourite pumpkin soup recipe.
Serves 6

1oz butter
5oz (1cup) chopped onion
1lb 2oz (4 cups) diced pumpkin (1inch /2cm cubes)
2pt (5 cups) chicken stock
1 heaped tsp cumin seed (toasted and ground)
1 heaped tsp coriander seed (toasted and ground)
salt and pepper to season

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add onions and turn them until well coated and softened then add the pumpkin and spices turn until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and stock. Boil until soft, liquidise, sieve or put through a mouli. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Adjust seasoning.

Darina's Fool Proof Recipe

Janie’s Green Tomato Jam

A brilliant recipe to use up the end of the tomato crop, enjoy with goat cheese cold meats or simply on toast or crusty bread.
Makes 2 small jars

Delicious with cold meats and pâte 

500g green tomatoes
450ml water
300g granulated sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon 

Wash and slice the tomatoes (no need to peel), and place in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 50-60 minutes until tender. Add remaining ingredients and dissolve sugar over gentle heat, stirring occasionally.
Boil rapidly for 10 –12 minutes or until setting point is reached.

Hot Tips 

Neuadd Lwyd is a wonderful country house in North Wales with magnificent views of Snowdonia and Anglesey – originally a Victorian Rectory and now owned by one of our past pupils Susannah Wood – serving award-winning quality food with the finest local seasonal ingredients – just 25 minutes from Holyhead ferry and 5 minutes from the Menai Bridges – within easy reach of the coastlines and the beauty of Snowdonia.  Tel 00 44 1248 715005

Finnebrogue Oisin Venison is reared on the Finnebrogue estate in the rolling hills of Co Down, near Downpatrick. The venison is exclusively produced from the largest red deer herd in Ireland and UK, from deer under 21 months of age and is used by top chefs.  Tel 0044 (0) 28 44617525 

Clifden on Ice and Clifden Station House Courtyard Christmas Market
On the original site of the Clifden Railway Station, the Courtyard of the Clifden Station House will be transformed into an outdoor Ice Rink and Christmas Market from December 2nd 2005 – January 7th 2006. The market will be open for the weekends in December and a range of stalls are required selling a quality and luxury Arts & Crafts, Food Produce and Christmas novelties – for further information contact Kate Dempsey at Clifden Station House – 091-788272 or 087-9254175  

Tipperary Slow Food Event
A new Slow Food Conivium has been launched in Nenagh under the direction of Peter Ward of Country Choice fame. To celebrate the launch, they have planned a Halloween Slow Food Event on the 29, 30, and 31st October. Temptations include a woodland mushroom hunt, – Kill or cure - an interactive workshop on the traditional aspects of pig husbandry and rearing. Keeping the spirits, up an introduction to home brewing. Guest chef Hugo Arnold will cook a Slow food banquet on Saturday night with will using local seasonal food. There’s much more – for details see  or Telephone 057 32596

Irish Oyster Cuisine

Native Irish Oysters (Ostrea edulis) are at their very best when there is an r in the month. During the warm summer months the flesh becomes soft and milky and even though edible the flavour and texture are undesirable. They are at their plumpest and most gorgeous right now and will still be delicious until the end of April.

Máirín Uí Chomáin, author of Irish Oyster Cuisine, has had a love affair with oysters for many years. Living within an ‘oars length of the sea’ in Co. Galway she’s well placed to explore the rugged sea shore and to forage for shellfish and seaweed along the coastline. Since childhood ‘the sea has coaxed her’, she’s always had a deep yearning to learn more about our maritime heritage and an urge to write a book about oysters and carrageen. 

As a fledgling home economist, her first assignment was to teach young Aran Island fishermen how to cook well for themselves during their long voyages at sea. Her career path took her away from her native Connemara to Dublin and the US where she saw at first hand how different ethnic groups treasured their food culture and traditions. Like many an Irish emigrant, separation gave her a more acute appreciation of the quality of Irish life and produce.

The native Irish oyster is prized by gourmands the world over, no other oyster, except perhaps the tiny Olympian oyster from the North Atlantic has that fresh briny mineraly tang. Oysters are highly nutritious, low in calories, high in calcium, Vitamins A & D, selenium and zinc. They have a well-deserved reputation as an aphrodisiac and a reputation for enhancing fertility. Máirín also tells me that because oysters produce serotonin they help to regulate sleep and fight infection.

Two types of oyster are now cultivated in Ireland. The Pacific or rock oyster, Crassotrea gigas, was introduced in the 1970’s to provide for all year round production and supplement the native Irish oyster production. Irish water temperatures are too cool for gigas to spawn but they can be very successfully cultivated in ponds, a system perfected by David Hugh-Jones of Rossmore oysters.

Sadly, this enterprise which was the largest of its kind in Europe has had to cease production because the water quality in Cork Harbour has deteriorated so badly.

The gigas oysters are good eaten raw, but because they tend to be plumper than the native oyster, they are also perfect for cooking.

The native Irish oyster is so special and precious that I feel its best eaten fresh with a glass of stout, dry white wine or champagne and some good Irish soda bread.

The native variety takes up to five years to grow and mature (you can count the rings on the back of the shell like the bark of a tree) to harvestable size, while the Pacific oyster reaches that stage in 18 -28 months. They are grown on low frames at low tide mark and can also be cultivated at far higher density than the native oyster.

In her charming book Irish Oyster Cuisine, Máirín Uí Chomáin gives us a variety of delicious cooked oyster recipes plus suggestions for using seaweeds like carrageen, dulse, kombu – here are few examples but there are lots more in her book which recently won the international Gourmand Award for the Best Seafood Book.

Irish Oyster Cuisine by Máirín uí Chomáin published by A.&A. Farmar €14.99

Buy  Irish Oyster Cuisine, from Amazon

Thoor Ballylee Oysters (Oysters with cognac dressing)

– from Irish Oyster Cuisine
Among those who often visited the Gregory home was W.B. Yeats. While Yeats is associated very much with Sligo where he is buried, he bought a derelict tower house near Coole at Ballylee. This he restored ‘with old mill boards and sea-green slates, and smith work from the Gort forge’, then renamed it Thoor Ballylee – ‘thoor’ being the Irish word for tower. When you have finished studying the Yeats memorabilia, you can have an expansive view of the south Galway countryside from the tower rooftop.
Serves 4

24 flat oysters in half shells
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons cognac
salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil


Crushed ice
Lettuce leaves

Mix together the lemon juice, cognac, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the olive oil very slowly, stirring continuously until the dressing is well combined.

To serve:

Cover a large platter with crushed ice and arrange the lettuce leaves on top. Carefully arrange the oysters on top of the lettuce. Spoon the dressing over the oysters and serve.

Oyster Soup

Serves 6
18-24 oysters, shells removed, juices strained and reserved
2 large potatoes
110g/4oz pork belly, finely diced
600ml/20 fl.oz milk
bouquet garni
salt, freshly ground pepper
40g/1½ oz butter, cubed

Fry the pork belly until crisp and set aside. Boil, peel and mash the potatoes. Heat the milk and add it to the mashed potatoes. Add the bouquet garni, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Add the pork, oysters and juices and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and mix gently. Check the seasoning and serve hot. 

Note: you can use less milk if you prefer a thicker soup.

Renvyle Oysters (Oysters in hot cream)

Serves 4
16-24 oysters in half shells
6-8 tablespoons cream
freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons Cheddar or farmhouse cheese, grated
25g/1oz butter, melted

Preheat the grill to high. Loosen the oysters in their shells and carefully place them on the grill pan. Spoon a little cream over each one and sprinkle with pepper. Sprinkle some cheese on top and dribble the melted butter over each oyster. Grill until golden (2-3 minutes).

Kevin’s Oyster Pie

Oysters have an affinity with many Irish ingredients, Irish beef being one of them.
Serves 4

12 oysters, shells removed, juices strained and reserved
2 tablespoons plain flour
salt, freshly ground black pepper
700g/1½lb rib beef, cubed
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1-2 onions, finely chopped
225g/8oz mushrooms, chopped
425ml/15fl.oz Guinness
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
200g/7oz ready made puff pastry

Green salad or baked potatoes

Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add the beef to the pan a little at a time and seal. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as this will only create a stewing process.) Remove the beef from the pan.

Fry the onions and mushrooms until soft and then return the meat to the pan. Add the Guinness, Worcestershire sauce and oyster juices and season with salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and simmer until the meat is tender (about 1½ hours). Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. Add the oysters.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Grease a deep pie dish. Pour the mixture into the pie dish. Cover with the pastry, leaving a slight overhang around the edge of the dish. Crimp the edges firmly and cut an air vent in the centre of the pastry.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 18C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes until the meat is heated through.
Serve hot with a green salad or baked potatoes.
Note: You could also make four individual pies rather than one large one.

Dooras House oysters (Oyster salad)

Serves 4
12-16 oysters, shells removed (4 shell halves retained)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil


1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1 tablespoon fine breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
freshly ground black pepper


1 small red onion, finely grated
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
selection of lettuce leaves

Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.

Mix the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, parsley and pepper together in a bowl. Toss the oysters in the crumb mixture and chill for half an hour to allow the oysters to firm up and the coating to settle. Pour the oil into a frying pan and, when hot, fry the oysters until golden all over.
Mix together the red onion and red wine vinegar.

To serve:

In a large bowl, toss the lettuce leaves in the dressing. Arrange the oysters on top. Spoon the red onion mixture into the oyster shells and serve alongside the salad.

Quick Dulse Brown Bread

Dulse (dilisc/creathnach) is a sea vegetable
450g /1lb ready made Irish brown bread mix
25g/1 oz wheat germ
25g/1 oz oat bran
2 tablespoons dulse, finely chopped or ground
1 tablespoon pinhead oatmeal
425ml/15fl.oz fresh or sour milk
3 tablespoons sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/fas mark 6. Grease a 23 x 11cm/9 x 4½ inch loaf tin. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the milk and oil together in a jug. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, pour in the liquid and mix from the centre out with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are combined and the consistency is quite wet. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 40-50 minutes until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Mummy’s Brown Soda Bread

Makes 1 loaf
225g (1/2lb) white flour
225g (1/2lb) wholemeal flour (Howard’s-one-way)
Barely rounded teaspoon bread soda
Level teaspoon salt
450ml (16fl oz) buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºf/gas mark 6.

Mix the flour in a large wide bowl, add the salt and sieved bread soda. Lift the flour up with your fingers to distribute the salt and bread soda.

Make a well in the centre and pour in all the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and outstretched, stir in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing concentric circles. When you reach the outside of the bowl seconds later the dough should be made.

Sprinkle a little flour on the worktop.

Turn the dough out onto the flour. WASH and dry your hands. (Fill the bowl with cold water so it will be easy to wash later.)

Sprinkle a little flour on your hands. Gently tidy the dough around the edges and flip onto the flour. Tuck the edges underneath with the inner edge of your hands, gently pat the dough with your fingers into a loaf about 4cm (1 ½ in) thick.

Cut a deep cross into the bread (this is called ‘Blessing the bread’ and then prick it in the centre of the four sections to let the fairies out of the bread).
Transfer to a floured baking tray.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. Turn the bread upside down after approximately 30 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
Foolproof Food

Hot Buttered Oysters on Toast

These wonderfully curvaceous oyster shells tend to topple over maddeningly on the plate so that the delicious juices escape. In the kitchen at Ballymaloe they solve this problem by piping a little blob of mashed Duchesse potato on the plate to anchor each shell.
12 Pacific (Gigas) oysters
1 oz (30 g) butter
½ teaspoon parsley, finely chopped

To Serve

4 segments of lemon
4 ovals of hot buttered toast (optional)

Open the oysters and detach completely from their shells. Discard the top shell but keep the deep shell and reserve the liquid. Put the shells into a low oven to heat through. Melt half the butter in a pan until it foams. Toss the oysters in the butter until hot through - 1 minute perhaps. 

Put a hot oyster into each of the warm shells. Pour the reserved oyster liquid into the pan and boil up, whisking in the remaining butter and the parsley. Spoon the hot juices over the oysters and serve immediately on hot plates with a wedge of lemon. 

Alternatively discard the shells and just serve the oysters on the hot buttered toast. The toast will soak up the juice - Simply Delicious!
A dozen Oysters and a pint of Murphys or Guinness 

If you come from Cork Murphys is the sacred drop – Guinness is not quite the same but we have to admit it makes a good substitute.
What could be easier or more delicious than a dozen freshly shucked oysters with Irish wheaten bread and a pint of gorgeous creamy stout.

Serves 1 but also great for numbers.

1 dozen native Irish oysters
600ml (1 pint) of Murphy or Guinness

It’s wise to protect your hand with a folded tea towel when opening oysters. Set the deep shell on the folded tea towel which has already been wrapped around your hand.

The wide end of the oyster should be on the inside. Grip the oysters firmly in your protected hand while you insert the tip of the knife into the hinge. Twist to lever the two shells apart, you’ll need to exert quite a lot of pressure, so it’s foolhardy not to protect your hand well. Then slide the blade of the knife under the top shell to detach the oyster from the shell. Discard the top shell, then loosen the oyster from the deep shell, flip over to reveal the plump side, don’t lose the precious briny juice. 

Arrange on a plate on a bed of seaweed or sea salt. 
Serve with a segment of lemon and a pint of the black stuff!

Hot Tips

Mushroom Hunt at Longueville House Hotel, Mallow, Co Cork, Sunday October 16th – Don your wellies, bring your waterproofs, and hike around the estate in search of mushrooms with the guidance of a mushroom expert – mulled wine reception and afterwards Chef William O’Callaghan and his team will prepare a banquet of autumn mushrooms from the day’s harvest. Advance booking and payment essential as numbers limited – Tel 022 47156 or  Special weekend packages available.

Growing Awareness – Hands on Composting Workshop Sunday 16th October at Madeline McKeever’s Ardagh, Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co Cork, 10.45am -4.30pm
Tips and tricks for making the best things to give to your soil – lovely compost.
Tel Tom or Ruth at 028-23889 or email  Cost €25 – bring a packed lunch. 

Baileys/Euro-Toques Young Chef 2005 sponsored by R & A Bailey- the makers of Baileys Irish Cream
Baileys/Euro-Toques Young Chef is the most prestigious competition in the country for up and coming young chefs. Candidates must be nominated by a Euro-Toques Chef – full details from  Tel 01-677 99 77   Closing date 20th October. 


Past Letters