ArchiveOctober 2005

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. 

Second helpings from Paul Flynn

Second helpings from Paul Flynn has just hit the bookshops, a great name for another dollop of tempting food from the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. Paul says “this book, to me, represents all my ‘uncheffy’ ambitions, with relatively simple food that’s ‘do-able’ at home and hopefully you will have a laugh as well. It features me in all my self-deprecating glory.”

Paul wanted to write and formulate recipes in the same way the way he does every week in the kitchen. Devising the dishes according to what’s in season and available. “I let this and the weather dictate how I structure a dish: cream and root vegetables in the depth of winter; olive oil and tomatoes for the summer months.” Cooking is all about mood and feeling. This time round the book is divided into 12 monthly chapters highlighting the foods which are in season at that particular time. Advice on how to cook these for starters, main courses and desserts is outlined in easy-to-follow format. There are tips for filling the coolbox and picnic basket in July, and for seasonal comfort food in November and December. The emphasis is on ease of preparation for the keen home cook.

Paul has put considerable effort into simplifying his food over the years, emphasising the importance of sourcing really good fresh naturally produced local food in season. He delights in each new discovery and by his own admission is an obsessive collector of cookery books. Occasionally he manages to escape from the stove so the reader who tucks into Second Helpings is treated to hilarious accounts of his adventures in his deliciously self-deprecating style.

So even if you never venture into the kitchen this book will make the armchair cooks and wannabee gourmets among us lick our lips and laugh out loud at Paul’s anecdotes and ‘business insights’. Ken Buggy’s quirky cartoons add a brilliant extra dimension to Second Helpings. Ken, himself a chef and restaurateur, owner of Buggy’s Glencairn Inn in West Waterford, also shares Paul’s delightfully eccentric view of life. Paul himself took the photographs for the book.

Paul spent nine years at the famous Chez Nico restaurant in London, the last five years as sous chef, the youngest in Britain at only 23. In 1993 he became head chef in La Stampa, Dublin, which became Egon Ronay restaurant of the year after two years. In 1997 he opened the Tannery in his home town of Dungarvan, County Waterford. It has received many accolades including Best Restaurant in Munster by Food and Wine Magazine and Jameson Restaurant of the Year 2004. Paul has appeared on RTE television, the Food Channel and BBC and wrote a widely-read food column for The Irish Times Magazine. He is currently working on a new food series for television. His first book ‘An Irish Adventure with Food’ was published in 2003.

Second Helpings – Further Irish Adventures with Food by Paul Flynn published by the Collins Press, price €30.

Here are some recipes from Second Helpings

Cream of Onion Soup with Apple Juice and Thyme

You must try this soup. In the restaurant it’s our fall back soup. If we have nothing else we always have onions. It’s an all-year-round soup, with a texture of a creamy broth. The long, slow cooking of the onions is essential. This brings out the sweetness and concentrates the flavour. The trick is not to colour the onions at all so you need the lowest heat and a lid on top of the lot to trap the steam and keep the moisture inside.
Serves 4-6 as a starter or light lunch

Good knob butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1.5 litres/2½ pints chicken stock (from a cube will do)
100ml/3½ fl.oz cream
glass apple juice (good quality)
pinch English powder or 1 teaspoon prepared English mustard
pinch chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
garlic croutons and grated Cheddar, to serve

Melt the butter in a large heavy-based pan with a tight-fitting lid and once it is foaming, add the onions and bay leaf, stirring to coat. Reduce the heat right down, cover with the lid and cook for 30-40 minutes until the onions are golden brown and caramelised, stirring once or twice.

Pour the stock into the onion mixture and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for another 10 minutes. Add the cream, apple juice, mustard, thyme and season to taste. Allow to just warm through and for all of the flavours to infuse. Ladle into warmed serving bowls and scatter over some garlic croutons and Cheddar to serve.

Lemon Roast Chicken with Ginger and Parsnips

This is an adaptation of lemon roast chicken from Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club Cookbook. Its deliciously easy, especially if you use a ready jointed chicken. Serve with some buttered sprouts and mash.
Serves 4

1.75kg/4lb chicken (preferably organic or free range)
pinch ground ginger
120ml/4fl.oz olive oil
1kg/2¼ lb parsnips, cut into 2cm/¾ in dice
1 bunch fresh oregano
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 lemons, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
buttered leeks and mashed potatoes, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/gas 7. To joint the chicken, place the chicken breast side down and with the tip of a knife cut round the two portions of oyster meat (which lie against the backbone). Turn the bird over and cut through the skin where the thigh joins the body. Cut right down between the ball and the socket joint, being careful to keep the oyster meat attached to the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

Separate the thighs from the drumsticks but cutting through at the joints. Trim off the bone end from the drumsticks. Turn the chicken over again, breast side down, and using a poultry shears, cut down firmly through the back into the body cavity between the backbone and one shoulder blade, leaving the wing attached to the breast.

Turn the breast with the wings still attached, skin side up. Remove the wing portions by cutting through at a slight diagonal so that some of the breast is still attached to the wing, then cut each one in half again. You should now have eight portions in total – if all this seems like too much hard work simply buy a packet of chicken joints!

Heat a large frying pan. Season the chicken joints lightly and sprinkle over the ground ginger. Add a little of the oil to the heated pan and use to brown the chicken joints all over.

Meanwhile, place the parsnips in a large roasting tin and add the herbs and half the oil. Season to taste and mix well to combine. Arrange the browned leg joints on top and scatter over the lemon slices. Roast for 15 minutes, then add the rest of the chicken joints and drizzle the remaining oil on top. Roast for another 20 minutes or until cooked through and tender – check by piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. If the juices run clear the chicken is cooked. Serve straight to the table with separate bowls of buttered sprouts and mashed potatoes and allow everyone to help themselves.

Roast Belly of Pork, Beetroot Tzatziki and Rocket

Serves 4
1 large onion, sliced into rings
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh sage, chopped
300ml/½ pint chicken stock
1.5kg/3lb pork belly, rind removed
150ml/¼ pint dry cider
8 whole cloves
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground cinnamon
75g/3oz Demerara sugar
2 handfuls rocket
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Beetroot Tzatziki

3 cooked beetroot, peeled and grated
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated
200ml/7fl.oz Greek yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 freshly grated horseradish or 1 teaspoon creamed horseradish
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper
Roast potatoes, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Place the onion rings in a single layer in the bottom of a roasting tin. Sprinkle over the garlic and half of the sage, then pour in the stock. Sit the pork belly on top, then splash over the cider. Sprinkle over the remaining sage with the cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Season to taste and cover with foil. Bake for 3 hours until the pork is completely tender and very soft, basting occasionally. Remove the foil and sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top. Increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/gas 6 and return the pork to the oven for 20 minutes or until glazed and golden. Remove the pork to a warm plate and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes.

To make the tsatziki place the beetroot in a bowl with the apple, Greek yoghurt, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and horseradish. Mix well to combine, then cover with cling film and chill until needed. This will keep for up to 24 hours.

To serve, place the rocket in a bowl and season to taste, then dress with the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix lightly to combine. Carve the rested pork into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with some of the roasted onion rings. Add the beetroot tzatziki to each one with mounds of the rocket salad and some onions from the tray. Serve with a large bowl of roasted potatoes, if required.

Bouillabaisse of Monkfish and Mussels with Chorizo and Parsnips

Paul adores seafood stews. Once you have the base sauce made all you have to do is poach your fish in it. All the flavours intermingle and sparkle. He would serve this with plain boiled rice.
Serves 6-8

Good splash olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g/7oz chorizo, cut into 1cm/½ in dice
250ml/9fl.oz white wine
500ml/16fl.oz chicken stock (a cube will do)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 large parsnip, cut into 1cm/½ in dice
300ml/½ pint cream
600g/1lb5oz monkfish fillet, trimmed and cut at an angle into 3cm/1¼ in slices
2 handfuls mussels, cleaned
400g/14oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8 piquillo peppers, drained and diced (from a jar – optional)
½ lemon, pips removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
plain boiled rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Add the onion and garlic and sweat for 3-4 minutes until softened and golden. Add the chorizo and turn the heat up a little to render the oil from it. Watch that the onion mixture doesn’t burn though.

Pour the wine into the pan with the stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any sediment. Bring to the boil and add the rosemary and parsnip. Reduce by a quarter over a gentle heat, then add the cream and drop in the monkfish and mussels, followed by the kidney beans and piquillo peppers, if you are using them. Bring the mixture back to a gentle roll and cook for 5-6 minutes. Season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. To serve, divide amongst warmed serving bowls and serve with a separate large bowl of the rice.

Daffodil Slice aka Lemon Sunburst

Makes about 8-10
150g/5oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz plain flour
325g/11½ oz icing sugar
250g/9oz butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs
325g/11½oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
120ml/4fl.oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Line a 30cm/12in x 20cm/8in baking tin with non-stick parchment paper, leaving a 2cm/¾in lip at the top of the tin.

Place the self-raising flour in a food processor with 150g/5oz of the plain flour, a quarter of the icing sugar and the butter. Whiz until well combined and then spread into the bottom of the prepared tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm and set but not coloured.

Place the remaining 25g/1oz of plain flour in a bowl with the eggs, caster sugar, lemon rind and half the lemon juice. Whisk until well combined and then pour over the set biscuit base. Return to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes until risen well and golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

Whisk the rest of the icing sugar and juice in a small bowl until smooth. Remove the tray bake from the tin and carefully remove the baking parchment. Spread the lemon icing over the top, allowing it to drizzle down the sides and leave to set, then cut into slices and serve.

Foolproof Food

Brussels Sprouts with Cidona

You might think this is a bit mad Paul says, but try it, he says the sweetness of the drink balances the bitterness of the sprout, thereby making it child friendly. It’s a regular fixture in the Flynn household at Christmas.
Serves 8

675g/1½lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
50g/2oz butter
300ml/½ pint bottle Cidona (carbonated apple drink)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling salted water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cling film until needed – this can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

Heat a sauté pan and add the butter. Once foaming, tip in the blanched Brussels sprouts and sauté on a medium heat, turning every now and again until they start to lightly brown. Pour in the Cidona, increase the heat and simmer until all the liquid has absorbed into the sprouts, shaking the pan a couple of times. Season to taste and tip into a warmed serving bowl to serve.

Tip – if you can’t find Cidona use 7-Up!

Hot Tips

Let’s Eat out! Your Passport to Living Gluten and Allergy Free – this recently published book is dedicated to eating outside the home while managing ten food allergies including: corn, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat. The mission of GlutenFree Passport is to empower individuals with food allergies and special diets to safely dine outside the home, travel and explore the world.  27 N. Wacker Drive Suite 258, Chicago Il 60606-2800 Tel 001 312 952 4900 Fax 001 312 372 2770

Crozier Dairy Products who make the delicious Crozier Blue Sheep’s Milk Cheese have just launched a new product – Crozier Sheep’s Yoghurt – 100% sheep’s milk produced on their farm in Cashel, probiotic culture, very mild but distinct slightly sweet flavour which comes naturally from the sheep’s milk, rich silky texture that goes well with fresh fruits with shelf life of 5 weeks.

Heading to County Mayo - Look up JK Gannons in Ballinrobe –
family owned hotel with pub and restaurant recently restored to provide luxury accommodation and facilities – in the centre of the town with views across Lough Mask (a favourite with anglers) to the Tourmakeady Mountains – run by Jay and Nikki Gannon (one of our past pupils) – 3rd generation of the family. Tel 094-9541008 –  - 40 minutes from Galway, Westport, Knock, Castlebar 25 minutes.

Comforting Winter Food

Lots of cookbooks have been written extolling the glories of Spring and Summer foods – of the first rhubarb, the first spears of asparagus, sweet green peas and summer berries. The produce of Autumn and Winter is seldom welcomed with such enthusiasm yet Jill Norman has just written a wonderful book called Winter Food to remind us that there is much to get excited about. Gardens, orchards and fields may be dormant but there are still lots of winter vegetables, fruit and nuts and the food that warms and nourishes during the winter months.

Even if forests and moorlands are in the grip of cold, game is still hunted to provide pheasant, wild duck, venison and hare. Geese are reared for the autumn and winter feast days. Citrus fruits are at their best, as are many fish and shellfish. Winter Food focuses on making the best use of the season’s foods, providing a rich variety of dishes for eating well with family and friends.

Jill Norman is one of the most highly respected cookery authors in the UK. She was the first editor of the Penguin cookery list, where she edited Elizabeth David among others, and she is now the literary trustee of Elizabeth David’s estate. As a publisher, she has been awarded two special Glenfiddich awards, as well as winning the Glenfiddich, the André Simon and countless other awards for her own books.

Jill’s book draws on the winter traditions of different cultures and offers recipes from all quarters of the globe. From the high Andes and the northern states of America, the plateaux of Turkey and Spain and the mountain villages of Italy, as well as from China, Russia, Scandinavia and Britain, there are rich, warming dishes to counter winter’s chill.

I myself adore Autumn and Winter food, the cold weather gives me the excuse to make lots of comforting casseroles. We linger longer over meals in the cold season.

Winter Food – seasonal recipes for the colder months – by Jill Norman, published by Kyle Cathie, £19.99stg –  

Here are some delicious recipes from the book .

Brussels Sprout Soup

Serves 6
500g (18oz) small Brussels sprouts
30g (1¼oz) butter
1tablespoon plain flour
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1.25 litres(2pints) hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 egg yolk
120ml (3¾fl.oz) double cream or crème fraiche
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
croûtons to serve

Blanch the sprouts in boiling water for 3 minutes and drain. Heat the butter in a large pan, add the sprouts and shake and toss them in the butter. Sprinkle over the flour and garlic, mix well and pour over the hot stock, stirring continually. Simmer until the sprouts are soft, about 20 minutes. Blend the soup until smooth.

Beat the egg yolk with the cream, pour a ladleful of soup into the mixture, then stir this mixture into the soup over a very low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and continue to stir for 1 minute. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and serve at once with croûtons.

Garlic Chicken

A classic slow-cooked French dish in which the garlic suffuses the chicken with its rich flavour and provides a mellow purée to spread on the accompanying toast or baked potatoes.
Serves 4

4 chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs
salt and freshly ground pepper
3-4 heads garlic
130ml (4fl.oz) olive oil
1 bouquet garni of thyme, parsley, rosemary, bay leaf and sage

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Season the chicken and put it into an earthenware casserole. Separate the garlic cloves, discarding the outer skin, but don’t peel the cloves. Add them to the casserole, trickle over the oil and turn everything with your hands to ensure that the garlic and chicken are well coated. Tuck the bouquet garni into the centre. Cover with foil and a well-fitting lid and bake low down in the oven for 1½ hours.

The chicken will be very tender, the garlic will separate easily from its skin and the aromas will be heady. Serve straight from the casserole, either with lightly toasted country bread on which to spread the garlic purée, or with potatoes that have been baked in the oven at the same time.

Avocado, pomegranate and wild rocket salad

The deep red pomegranate seeds give this salad a bright note on a wintry day and their sweet juiciness contrasts well with the peppery rocket, the smoothness of the avocado and the crunchy cucumber.
Serves 4

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 shallot, finely chopped
½ cucumber
1 pomegranate
1 large avocado
squeeze of lemon juice
2-3 large handfuls wild rocket

Make a dressing with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and add the shallot when you are ready to prepare the salad. Cut the cucumber in 4 lengthways, remove the seeds and cut each quarter into 2 strips. Cut the strips into dice, put them in a colander and sprinkle with salt.

Cut the top from the pomegranate and pull it apart gently. Pick out the seeds and discard all the pith. Put the seeds and any juice into a bowl. Dice the avocado and sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent the flesh discolouring. Rinse the cucumber and dry on a clean tea towel.

To assemble, put the rocket into a salad bowl, scatter over the cucumber and avocado and finally the pomegranate seeds. Add pomegranate juice to the dressing if you wish. Whisk the dressing and pour it over the salad.

Omit the shallot from the dressing and replace the cucumber with 60g (2½oz) of toasted and skinned hazelnuts or toasted pine nuts.

Venison Chilli

Chilli may not be a sophisticated dish, but it is certainly popular and flavourful. Venison responds well to the rich spicy sauce, although chilli is traditionally made with pork or beef. This is not a very hot chilli; I prefer to use chillies such as anchos or guajillos which add flavour as much as heat. These Mexican dried chillies are now being sold in some supermarkets or are available from Mexican suppliers and spice merchants. If you can’t get them, use 1½-2 tablespoons of good-quality ground chilli instead.
Serves 6

4 ancho or guajillo chillies, stalks and seeds removed
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
750g (1lb10oz) venison, diced (use shoulder, breast or meat sold as stewing venison)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato purée
400g (14oz) tinned chopped tomatoes
500ml (18oz) beef stock
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
800g (1lb12oz) tinned red kidney beans

Heat a heavy dry frying pan or griddle and toast the chillies over a moderate heat, turning them with tongs, until they have softened. It will take 10-15 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl and cover with boiling water. Put a small plate on top to keep the chillies submerged and soak for 30 minutes. Remove them from the water and put them into a blender with about 250ml (9fl.oz) of the soaking liquid and puree them.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and fry the onions. When they start to brown, add the venison and brown on all sides. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, the chilli purée, tomato purée and tomatoes. Stir well and pour over the stock. Cover the pan tightly and simmer over a very low heat fro 2 hours, or put the casserole into a preheated oven at 170C/325F/gas mark 3.

Check the venison is done, then stir in the vinegar and beans. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Serve at once, or leave overnight and reheat slowly, the flavours will improve.

Roast rack of Lamb with Dukka
Dukka is an Egyptian nut and spice blend that varies from family to family. It can be sprinkled over rice or soup, and on pieces of warm pita dunked in olive oil it is one of the best nibbles to serve with drinks. It also makes an excellent crust for lamb. Some spice merchants now sell ready-made dukka, but I have also given a recipe below because it is easy to make at home, and keeps well.
Serves 2

To make the dukka, dry roast all the nuts and seeds separately until the hazelnuts lose their skins, the sesame seeds are golden, and the coriander and cumin darken and give off their aroma. Remove the loose skins from the hazelnuts by rubbing them in a tea towel. Put the hazelnuts, sesame seeds, coriander and cumin into a food processor with a little salt and grind to a coarse powder. Don’t overwork it or the oil from the nuts and sesame will be released and turn it into a paste. It can now be stored in an airtight container.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Rub the lamb with olive oil and press 2-3 tablespoons of dukka into the fat side. Roast for 20 minutes if you like your lamb rare, or a few minutes longer for medium rare.

Serve with Provencal Lentils and Roast Fennel and Onions.

Roast Fennel and Onions

The flavours of fennel and onions complement each other and both caramelise nicely when roasted. This is a good dish to make for a large gathering, because it looks after itself. It goes well with lamb, pork and poultry, or as one of a number of dishes for a vegetarian feast.

Serves 8

6 bulbs of fennel (about 1.5kg/3lb5oz)
3 large onions, quartered
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
shavings of Parmesan (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Remove the outer layer and the tops of the fennel and cut the bulbs into quarters. Put the fennel and onions into a baking dish, spoon over the oil, add a little salt and mix the vegetables in the oil carefully in order not to break the pieces. It is best to do this with your hands. Roast the vegetables for 40-50 minutes, turning them 2 or 3 times. To serve, put the vegetables into a warmed dish, give a good grinding of pepper and top with shaved Parmesan, if you wish.

Provencal Lentils
Lentils are available in several varieties; the ones with the best texture and flavour come from Puy in France and from Castellucio in Italy. Decidedly comfort food, they respond well to a variety of flavourings: herbs, spices, cream or yogurt, as well as the traditional garlic and tomato of Provence.

Serves 4

250g (9oz) Puy lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Pick over the lentils and wash them. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion until softened and translucent but not browned. Add the garlic, stir it in the oil for a moment, then put in the lentils, bay leaf, peppercorns and tomato puree. Pour in 750ml (good 1¾ pints) of water, stir to mix the tomato puree and cook, partly covered, until the lentils are tender, this should take 20-25 minutes. Check the pan from time to time and add a little more water, if needed, to keep the lentils covered.

Add a little salt in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Drain the lentils well, discard the bay leaf and stir in the herbs and a little olive oil, if you wish.

Serves with the Roast Rack of Lamb with Dukka or makes a good vegetarian dish.

Dried Fruit Compote
This fragrant compote can be made just with apricots and raisins but we like to include other fruit – peaches, pears, prunes or figs. The dish must be macerated for 48 hours, and will keep longer. We often eat it for breakfast if there is any left over from dessert.

Serves 6-8

300g(11oz) dried apricots 
120g(4oz) sultanas
120g(4oz) raisins
150g(5½oz) dried peaches
150g(5½oz) dried figs
caster sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons rose or orange flower water
100g(3½oz) pistachio nuts, or blanched flaked almonds

Put all the dried fruit in a large bowl and cover with water. Taste and add sugar if you like very sweet things. Add the rose or orange flower water, cover and put the bowl in the refrigerator for at least 48 hours. Just before serving add in the nuts.

To flavour the compote, use the grated rind of an unwaxed orange and a small stick of cinnamon instead of flower water.

Foolproof Food

Sloe Gin

Sloes are very tart little berries that resemble tiny purple plums in appearance, they grow on prickly bushes on top of stone walls and are in season in September and October.

Its great fun to organize a few pals to pick sloes and have a sloe gin making party.
Sloes make a terrific beverage ready for Christmas presents.

675g (11/2 lbs) sloes
340g (3/4lb) white sugar
1.2L (2 pints) gin 

one or several darning needles and clean sterilized kilner jars and bottles

Wash and dry the sloes, prick in several places, we use a clean darning needle. Put them into a sterilized glass kilner jar and cover with sugar and gin. Cover and seal tightly, shake every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 3 or 4 months, by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months. Delicious damson gin can be made in exactly the same way.

Hot Tips

Youghal Through the Ages this weekend
Elizabethan Market at Barry’s Lane today 10.00-3.00 with street entertainment.
An Elizabethan Banquet – tonight at Walter Raleigh Hotel, as part of the Youghal Through the Ages programme – Tel 024-92011 to book
Mulled wine reception, 5 course Elizabethan style banquet, music and dancing.  or  


to Denis Cotter of Café Paradiso on winning Chef of the Year in Ireland 2005 – awarded by Food and Wine Magazine and 

to Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe House on winning the Hall of Fame Award also from Food and Wine Magazine.

Midleton Farmers Market – today Saturday 1st October, Gene Cunningham who sharpens knives will attend – so bring along your kitchen knives if they need sharpening.

Good Things Café and Cookery School, Durrus, West Cork 
Autumn programme just launched includes 1 week and weekend courses – which take place in her restaurant with Carmel Somers, with opportunities to go out with fishermen, see cheese being made and so on – contact Carmel Somers on 027-61426 or visit  

Association of Craft Butchers of Ireland (ACBI) – recognises the benefits of continued training for craft butchers and this emphasis on providing members with opportunities to develop and improve skills is reflected in a dedicated training programme by the association. A recent introduction is an E-learning course in Customer Service Skills – an 8 hour course delivered on-line which can be done at home. A new FETAC accredited Certificate in Butchering will be launched in its pilot phase this autumn.  Tel 01-2961400

Congratulations to Brady Family for winning Gold Award at 2005 Great Taste Awards in London’s Olympia recently – for their Traditional Baked and Glazed Irish Ham prepared by the company in Timahoe, Donadea, Co Kildare.


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