ArchiveFebruary 2006

I love Shepherd’s Pie

I’ve just tucked into a delicious Shepherd’s Pie with garlic butter melting into the crispy potato on top. I hadn’t intended it to be quite so crispy but I put it into the Aga, poured myself a glass of wine and almost forgot about it. I love Shepherd’s Pie, it was so good.
We occasionally make it the day after we have a nice roast leg of lamb. Its best made with cooked lamb and left over gravy, it tastes quite different when its made with raw minced lamb or beef – the latter apparently should be called cottage pie.
Nonetheless, one doesn’t always have left over cooked lamb, so good fresh mince is the basis of so many heart-warming dishes and a myriad of other funky ones.
The secret of all mince is freshness – beef needs to be well hung and freshly minced. I am frightfully pernickety about mince and will only use it on the days its minced, not just for food safety reasons, but because it quickly sours even if it is carefully refrigerated. If you cannot cook it on the day, form the mince into a flat block and pop it in the freezer, of course it will keep for several months but its much better to use it up within a week or two.
Freshly minced pork makes the most delicious homemade sausages or patties. This recipe uses fresh herbs as a seasoning, but pork really benefits from spices, particularly coriander and chilli. Chubby little sausages are great dipped in a bowl of sweet chilli sauce, sharpened with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
A nice spicy mince mixture is a great standby in your repertoire – great with pasta, or wrapped in lettuce leaves or used as a filling for a wrap. With a topping of mashed potatoes it makes a deliciously comforting dish to tuck into on a chilling Winter’s evening. Buy your mince from your local butcher, he can mince it freshly as you wait and you can choose the cut you want. It should have a small proportion of fat for extra succulence. 

Shepherd’s Pie with Garlic and Parsley Butter
Serves 6
I adore Shepherd’s Pie, it is best made with leftover cooked roast lamb. Nowadays however people rarely cook large enough joints of meat to have much left over so minced raw lamb is frequently used - nothing like as delicious.

30g (1oz) butter
110g (4oz) chopped onion
30g (1 oz) flour
450ml (¾pint) stock and left over gravy
1 teaspoon tomato puree
1 dessertspoon Mushroom Ketchup 
1 dessertspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
450g (1lb) minced cooked lamb

900g (2lb) Mashed Potatoes 

Garlic and Parsley Butter

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the onion, cover with a round of greased paper and cook over a slow heat for 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook until brown. Add the stock and gravy, bring to the boil, skim if necessary. Add the tomato puree, mushroom ketchup, chopped parsley, thyme leaves, salt and pepper and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the minced meat to the sauce and bring to the boil. Taste and correct seasoning.
Put in a pie dish or dishes. Cover with the mashed potatoes and score with a fork. Reheat in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for about 30 minutes approx., depending on size. Serve with Garlic and Parsley Butter, melting in the centre.
Cottage Pie
Substitute minced cooked beef instead of lamb. 
Garlic and Parsley Butter

100g (4oz) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
5 cloves garlic, crushed

Cream the butter, stir in the parsley and a few drops of lemon juice at a time. Add the crushed garlic. Roll into butter pats or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper or tin foil, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.
Refrigerate to harden.

Serves 8-10
This South African recipe was given to us by Alicia Wilkinson from Silwood Kitchens in Capetown.

generous 30ml (1fl oz) oil
1½ teaspoons butter
450g (1lb) fresh minced lamb
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
110g (4oz) grated carrot
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2½ teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons finely chopped herbs
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
sugar to taste - 1 teaspoon approx.
a piece of red chilli
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
10g (½ oz) almonds, chopped
some lemon leaves or ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
generous 15ml (½ fl oz) wine vinegar
2 x 2.5cm (1inch) slices of sandwich loaf, soaked in water, drained and squeezed dry

250ml (9fl oz) buttermilk
2 large eggs, free-range and organic
salt and freshly ground pepper
2½ teaspoons turmeric 

Heat the butter and oil, add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add mince and stir well, add grated carrot, spices, chilli, seasoning, chopped almonds and lemon rind. Stir well and continue to cook until the flavours mingle. Stir in the soaked and squeezed bread, and the wine vinegar. Mix well, taste and correct seasoning.
Put the meat into a shallow rectangular baking dish and smooth over. 
Whisk all the ingredients together for the topping, check the seasoning and strain over the meat. Bake at once in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/gas 4 until custard is set and golden.


This flavour packed sauce is the basis for a delicious lasagne or simply toss it with freshly cooked tagliatelle. I have been making Marcella Hazan's version for many years from her Classic Italian Cookbook. It is the most delicious and concentrated one I know. Marcella says it should be cooked for several hours at the merest simmer but I find you get a very good result with 1-1 1/2 hours cooking on a diffuser mat. Ragu can be made ahead and freezes very well.
Serves 6

45g (1 1/2oz) butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons carrot, finely chopped
340g (12oz) minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck
300ml (10fl oz) dry white wine
120ml (4fl oz) milk
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 x 400g (14oz) tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice.

Small casserole

In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well. Heat the butter with the oil and saute the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy.) 
Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated. Turn the heat down to medium, add in the milk and the freshly grated nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring every now and then. Next add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down to the very lowest so that the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer - just an occasional bubble. I use a heat diffuser mat for this. 
Cook uncovered for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours (better still 2 or even 3), depending on how concentrated you like it, stirring occasionally. If it reduces too much add a little water and continue to cook. When it is finally cooked, taste and correct seasoning. Because of the length of time involved in cooking this, I feel it would be worthwhile to make at least twice the recipe.

Homemade Sausages with Bramley Apple Sauce

Makes 16 approx. - Serve 8
1 lb (450g) good fat streaky pork
2-4 teaspoons mixed fresh herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram and rosemary or sage
1 large clove garlic
1 egg, preferably free range
2½ ozs (70g) soft white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
A little oil

Bramley Apple Sauce (see Foolproof Food )

Mince the pork. Chop the herbs finely and mix through the crumbs. Crush the garlic to a paste with a little salt. Whisk the egg then mix all the ingredients together thoroughly. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fry off a little knob of the mixture to check the seasoning correct if necessary. Divide into 16 pieces and roll into lengths. Fry gently on a barely oiled pan until golden on all sides. They are particularly delicious served with Bramley Apple Sauce and Potato Cakes.

Note: For Breakfast you may want to omit the herbs and garlic.


We do all kinds of twists on this recipe - for a change I recently substituted 2 tablespoons of fresh coriander for the mixed herbs in the sausage mixture and found it completely delicious. I also added a good pinch of sugar to enhance the sweetness in the oriental way. If you want to continue in that vein serve the sausages with Thai Dipping Sauce (see recipe) instead of the more traditional Scallion Champ and Bramley Apple Sauce.
Or omit the herbs, add finely chopped lemongrass, some chopped chilli and fish sauce for an Asian flavour. Wrap the sausages in rice paper wrappers and deep-fry to make crispy sausage rolls. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

Penne with Pork Sausage, Cream and Basil

Serves 8
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion 175g (6ozs approx.), finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
250g (9oz) Italian sausages or minced belly of pork, skinned and crumbled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
300ml (10fl.oz) double cream
500g (18oz) dried pasta
1 handful fresh basil, torn or watercress
salt and black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan to serve

Heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally over medium high heat, until just golden, - 5 minutes. Add minced pork and fennel seeds. Cook, stirring frequently to break up meat, until it browns, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the cream and simmer until just thickened – 1-2 minutes. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain reserving ½ cup pasta water. Add the pasta to the hot sauce. Add the torn basil leaves. Toss well to coat, adding reserved water as needed. Serve immediately with Parmesan.

900g (2lb) freshly minced beef
1 clove garlic
two teasps. Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablesp. olive oil
2 ozs (55g) chopped onion
1 tablesp. chopped parsley
Tomato fondue - see below

Sweat the onion in the olive oil until soft. Mix the mince with the crushed garlic and mustard, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the sweated onion and mix thoroughly. Fry the mixture on a very hot pan turning all the time. Add half or all the Tomato fondue, depending on taste. Simmer for a few minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve spooned over freshly cooked pasta and scatter with chopped parsley.

Tomato Fondue

Serves 4-6
4oz (110g) sliced onions
1 clove of garlic - crushed 
1 dessertspoon olive oil
450g (1lb) very ripe tomatoes -in winter use tinned
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
Pinch of sugar 
2-3 tablespoon of any or a selection of the following chopped, parsley or annual marjoram 

In a heavy based saucepan sweat the sliced onions and garlic in oil on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, sweat until soft but not browned. 

It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added. 

Put the tomatoes into a deep bowl and cover them with boiling water. Count to 10 and then pour off the water immediately; peel off the skins and slice.
Add the tomatoes to the onions. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar and add a generous sprinkling of chopped herbs 
Cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens. Add lots of chopped herbs just before serving.

Yuk Sum
Serves 4
Don't let the name put you off! When my brother Rory and I came across this extraordinary-sounding dish on a menu in a Chinese restaurant in Birmingham we couldn't resist the temptation. It proved to be a delicious pork dish, served on lettuce leaves which are used to make little parcels as you eat it. This is my interpretation which though not authentic Cantonese, wins lots of compliments.

2 tablesp. olive oil
1 teasp. ginger, freshly grated 
2 tablesp. spring onion
8 ozs (225g) minced streaky pork
2 ozs (55g) mushrooms, chopped
1 oz (30g) celery, finely chopped
1 tablesp. Oyster sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper

Iceberg lettuce leaves

?of a cucumber approx. cut into ¼ inch (5mm) thick julienne
8 spring onion 'sweeping brushes'

Heat a wok until very hot, add the olive oil, then add the grated ginger and spring onion, toss for a second or two, then add the pork, cook on a high heat until almost cooked, then push the pork up to the side of the wok, add the chopped mushrooms and toss until cooked. Add the celery, mix with the mushrooms and pork. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the oyster sauce. Toss for a minute or two more. Taste and correct seasoning.
Put some crisp iceberg lettuce onto a plate, spoon 1-2 tablespoons of the pork mixture into the centre of each. Garnish the plate with julienne of cucumber and a couple of spring onion 'sweeping brushes'. Eat immediately by wrapping the pork, cucumber and spring onion in the lettuce to make a parcel.

Foolproof Food

Bramley Apple Sauce

The trick with apple sauce is to cook it on a very low heat with only a tiny drop of water so it is nice and thick and not too watery, always worth having in the freezer in little tubs in case you feel like a juicy pork chop for supper.
1 lb (450g) cooking apples (Bramley Seeding or Grenadier)
1-2 dessertspoons water
2 ozs (55g) approx. sugar (depending on how tart the apples are)

Peel, quarter and core the apples; cut the pieces in two and put them in a stainless or cast-iron saucepan, with sugar and water. Cover and cook on a very low heat until the apples break down in a fluff. Stir and taste for sweetness.

Serve warm and cold.

Hot Tips

Burren Beef
Developing a unique brand of beef in the Burren region in Co Clare could save the future of farming in the area – livestock herds that have traditionally grazed the vegetation are dwindling, now a local EU-funded initiative aims to produce and market a high-quality brand of beef to conserve the natural habitat and make farming more viable. The BurrenLIFE Project was established last year to develop a new model for sustainable agriculture in the limestone region known for its rich diversity of plants and flowers. 

Irish Seafood Cookery – A Celebration of Contemporary Irish Seafood Cooking from one of Ireland’s leading chefs -
This new publication in the Irish Cookery Library series is written by Martin Shanahan internationally renowned chef-proprietor of Kinsale’s Fishy Fishy Café with Sally McKenna of the Bridgestone Guides to Irish food. Published with the assistance of IASC – the Irish Association of Seafood Companies – Irish Seafood Cookery celebrates the best of Irish seafood and also features a Shopping Guide, telling you where to buy the best seafood from IASC members throughout Ireland. Price €3.99 – publication end February. 

Singapore and Thailand Epicurean Adventure in April, trip to Ancient temples of Angkor in Cambodia in May, next New Year’s Eve in Myanmar/Burma. … and much much more - 
Log on to  

Recipes from an African Kitchen

I just got sent the loveliest book as a present from a sweet student Jane Oxborrow who did the September 2005 twelve week course – Recipes from an African Kitchen by Josie Stow and Ian Baldwin. Jane from London has been working in the Grumeti Game Reserves in Serengeti, Tanzania since 2004 . She, like so many others has totally fallen in love with Africa.
Food is really precious in Africa. It is also a labour of love, whether you are sowing seeds, rearing livestock, gathering wood to fuel the fire, or pumping water and carrying it back home. Food is more than just sustenance, it is a time for sharing. Meals are always communal and eaten with the hands. Touching the food and feeling it, adds to the enjoyment and contributes to the easy relaxed feeling. African cooking has always been wonderfully sociable. In most traditional African villages you can still see the women sitting under a tree, shelling nuts or singing, chanting and chatting as they rhythmically pound corn with a large, hand-carved pestle and mortar, called le hudu and le mose. It is a place for laughter and gossip, for building the close family bonds that are the envy of other cultures. Recipes are traditionally passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth and never rely on exact quantities. A handful, a calabash (a hollowed gourd) or a mug are the usual forms of measurement and cooks rely on feel, taste and memory.

Josie Stow’s love affair with Africa and life in the bush began back in 1992 when she accepted an offer to cook on a horseback safari in South Africa. For a young English girl from Suffolk this was a daunting task: the camp had no electricity and most of the cooking was done over an open wood fire or on a small gas burner.

She was soon having to deal with all kinds of exciting situations: buffalo in the camp, snakes in her larder and rhino grazing outside her tent at night. Her supplies had to be fetched from 150km away in a four-wheel drive vehicle. Despite this, she became fascinated by the African culture, especially the cooking techniques and ingredients. Her assistant Anna could speak not a word of English but they soon became firm friends and she began to show her the wonderful food culture that lay waiting to be discovered. It was there that she met her husband, Fred, who was a ranger at the camp. Their relationship started with cooking lessons; she couldn’t understand why it was taking him so long to master a simple quiche until it was too late!.

Since then, Josie and Fred have worked on a number of game reserves and lodges. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, she worked for Phinda Forest Lodge and found that the local people were incredibly diligent, growing their own corn, beans, pumpkins and Zulu truffles. In her time off she visited the chefs’ homes and gardens, a two-way process evolved. While she was teaching the African people to cook in a professional kitchen, she was learning about their food culture and soon realized what wonderful culinary talent lay dormant among these wonderfully resourceful people. She was amazed that most lodges and restaurants were serving European-style food. ‘South African’ food consisted primarily of butternut soup and Cape Brandy tart – it was too westernized.

From Phinda she went on to develop the kitchens at Makalali in the Northern Province, near the Kruger National Park. Her great friend Lori-Ann Newman came for a short visit and she convinced her to stay and help her. Lori was a natural cook and it was while working together at Makalali that many of these recipes were created and they would often discuss new dishes under the shade of an old lemon tree.

As they began exposing the guests to African food, they broke every convention they could think of , even the traditional breakfast, and what they couldn’t find in the local culture they borrowed from the rest of Africa. 

Recipes from an African Kitchen (Conran Octupus) is one of the most exciting and original books I have come across in a long time, yet the recipes are simple and accessible. Even though many are cooked over the open fire (I can’t wait for the summer to experiment), they can equally be cooked on a stove, under a grill or in the oven, depending on the recipe. Josie Stow is a cook with a ‘sure feel’ for food, her excitement and passion and love for Africa leap down from the text on each page, Ian Baldwin’s magical photos will make you want to book an African safari right away.

Spicy Fruit and Nuts

This dish could be cooked outdoors on the barbecue or prepared ahead and cooked on a picnic.
Serves 6-8

4 tablesp. Olive oil
120g (4½ oz) dried dates, pitted
60g (2½ oz) dried apricots
60g (2½ oz) almonds, whole, unblanched
60g (2½ oz) cashew nuts
60g (2½ oz) macadamia nuts, halved
60g (2½ oz) pecans, halved
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon or lime
2-3 tablesp. Coriander leaves
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
Salt and pepper

Equipment – large frying pan

Warm the oil in the frying pan over a medium heat. Add all the dried fruit and nuts and toss until the apricots and nuts begin to change colour. Remove from the heat and add the lemon or lime zest, coriander leaves and chilli,

Mix thoroughly, season to taste and serve straight from the pan.

Spiked Fruit with Star Anise

The syrup can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge until needed.
Serves 8

1.6kg (3½ lb) mixed fruit, such as blueberries, cherries, strawberries, papaya and pineapple

Lightly whipped cream to serve

For the Syrup:
400g (14oz) white granulated sugar
50g (2oz) star anise
750ml (1pint 6 fl.oz) water

To make the syrup – place the sugar, star anise and water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and boil for 7 to 10 minutes until syrupy. Leave the syrup to cool.

Cut the fruit into equal-sized pieces.

Strain the syrup to remove the star anise, then return the syrup to the saucepan and add the fruit.

Place over a moderate heat and poach the fruits in the syrup until warmed through.

Serve the fruit in bowls with lots of syrup and some whipped cream.

Algerian Spatchcock Baby Chicken

Serves 6
2 tablesp aniseed
Juice of 3 lemons
2 onions, grated
A bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
5cm (2in) fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teasp paprika
½ teasp cayenne pepper
A pinch of saffron threads
250ml (9fl.oz) olive oil
3 baby chickens
Salt and pepper

Toast the aniseed in a dry frying pan until fragrant, then crush it.

Combine the aniseed, lemon juice, onions, coriander, ginger, garlic, paprika, cayenne and saffron in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil.
Season the marinade mixture to taste, adding more cayenne and black pepper if necessary.
Use a large knife to spatchcock (see below) the baby chickens, then open them out and trim off any excess skin or surplus fat.

Place the chickens in a plastic bowl and rub them with the marinade.
Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 12 hours.
Bring the chickens to room temperature before cooking.

Cook on a grid over medium-hot coals or under a conventional grill, turning the chicken occasionally and basting with the remaining marinade – the chicken is done when the skin is crisp and the juices run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced with a skewr.
Note: Marinate the chicken for at least 12 hours, but preferably for a whole day.

To spatchcock a chicken - Insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using poultry shears cut along the entire length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible.

Open the bird out as much as possible. 
Makes 6-8
600g (1lb 5oz) self-raising flour
150g (5oz) wholemeal flour
1 teasp baking powder
2 teasp salt
About 500ml (18 fl.oz) soda water

Vegetable oil, for frying

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
Gradually beat in the soda water and 1 litre (1 pint 15 fl.oz) of plain water, until a smooth, thin batter is obtained.
Heat a crêpe pan until hot. Add a little oil and swirl it around the pan.
Pour in some batter, swirling it around to form a thin layer like a crêpe. Cook the bread until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip over and cook the other side for 2 or 3 minutes.
Place the cooked injera on a plate, cover with a tea towel to keep warm and continue until all the batter is used.


Serves 12
For the crust:
125g (4½ oz) butter
2 tablesp sugar
1 egg
185g (6½ oz) flour
1 teasp baking powder
½ teasp vanilla essence

For the filling:
35g (1½ oz) flour
3 tablesp cornflour
2 tablesp custard powder
1.2 litres (2 pints) milk
150g (5oz) white granulated sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split in half
2 teasp butter
1 teasp baking powder
2 teasp caster sugar
2 teasp ground cinnamon

28cm (11 inch) fluted tart tin
Baking beans

To make the crust, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
Add the egg, flour , baking powder and vanilla and mix until combined.
Press the pastry into the tart tin and chill for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.gas 4
Lay a sheet of greaseproof paper inside the pastry case so that the edges come over the rim and fill with the baking beans.
Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes or until the sides begin to colour.
Remove the baking beans and greaseproof paper and continue cooking the pastry case for 5 minutes to dry out the base.
To make the filling, mix together the flour, cornflour and custard powder, adding a little of the milk to form a smooth paste.
Place the remaining milk in a saucepan with the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla bean and the cornflour paste.
Bring to a boil, stirring continuously, and simmer for 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and baking powder and set aside. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Fold the whites into the custard mixture, then spoon into the pastry case, discarding the vanilla bean.
In a small bowl, stir together the caster sugar and cinnamon then sprinkle the mixture over the custard filling.
Place the tart in the refrigerator to set.


This is a spicy cheese pureé that can be served as a dip or a spread. Try it with Shraak or with raw vegetables such as carrot sticks.
Serves 10-12

300g (10½ oz) feta cheese
300ml (11fl.oz) plain yogurt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teasp paprika, plus extra to garnish
½ teasp cayenne
1 tablesp olive oil
Kalmata olives to garnish
Salt and pepper

Place the feta cheese and yogurt in a bowl and, using a fork, mash them together to form a paste.
Add the garlic, paprika, cayenne and a little salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into a serving bowl.
Drizzle the goreme with olive oil and garnish with some Kalamata olives and paprika before serving.


Shraak is a thin, crisp unleavened bread that is great to serve with cheese and pickles.
Makes 16

500g (1lb 2oz) plain flour
½ teasp salt

Rolling pin

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir in 250ml (9 fl.oz) lukewarm water or just enough to form a firm dough.
Knead the dough until smooth.
Cover and rest for 30 minutes to make the dough more pliable.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
Working on a floured surface, divide the dough into 16 equal pieces and roll them out into thin rounds.
Place the rounds on a floured baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until they puff up and lightly colour.

Lamb in Mechoui

Josie gives a description in the book of how to do a poacher’s roast by the light of the silvery moon – hanging the meat with a piece of rope from a branch overhanging your camp fire – find your location the day before and make sure you have help. Check the weather forecast too she says!
It would also make a delicious roast in your own kitchen.
Serves 8

3kg (6lb 11oz) leg of lamb with knuckle

For the mechoui:
20g (¾ oz) mint leaves, chopped
4 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablesp. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablesp. ground coriander
2 teasp. ground cumin
2 teasp. paprika
1 teasp. cayenne pepper

Prepare the mechoui by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Rub the marinade over the leg of lamb.
Place the meat in a plastic container and leave to marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator or other very cool place.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and roast for 15-17 minutes per 500g (1lb)

Foolproof Food

Coconut and Lime Cookies

Makes 24
100g (3½ oz) butter
100g (3½ oz) white sugar
55g (2oz) desiccated coconut
1 teasp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teasp finely grated lime zest
1 egg, beaten
175g (6oz) plain flour
1 teasp cream of tartar
½ teasp bicarbonate of soda
¼ teasp salt

Baking sheet, greased
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the desiccated coconut, lime juice and zest and mix well.
Beat in the egg.
Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt and fold them into the butter mixture until a dough forms.
Place the dough on a sheet of greaseproof paper and roll into a cylinder about 5cm/2in in diameter, twisting the ends of the paper together. Place in the freezer until the dough is firm.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
Peel the greaseproof paper away from the cylinder and cut the dough into 5mm/¼in round slices.
Place the cookies on a greased baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Hot Tips

Euro-Toques Ireland Small Food Initiative – Log onto  to keep up to date with details of the good food on your doorstep.

Learn to cook Good Things –
Carmel Somers has an exciting range of cooking classes on offer in 2006 – small classes – morning, evening, day, weekend and week long courses in Good Things Café, Durrus, nr Bantry, West Cork. Tel 027-61426 www.thegoodthingscafé.com  info@thegoodthingscafé.com

Cardiff has changed

Cardiff has changed beyond all recognition in the last ten years. My last visit about 25 years ago was when we were exporting a large quantity of mushrooms from Imokilly Orchards in Shanagarry to Wales every week. Cardiff was singularly uninspiring and there didn’t seem to be any carrot to entice one to return. All that’s changed and how?

Billions of EU and developers’ money has been poured into a variety of projects to revitalize the city. The Millennium stadium in the heart of the city is already familiar to the many Irish rugby fans who pour into town to cheer on the lads in the Six Nations tournament. That, plus the waterside development on Cardiff Bay, with its bars, restaurants, shops, galleries and beautiful theatre, has transformed the Welsh capital from industrial city into a lively modern metropolis with a deep sense of its own identity. 

Most bizarre, and best fun of all, Cardiff seems to be the stretch limo capital of Wales, we counted eight limos in the space of five minutes, plus a converted pink fire engine with the driver dressed up in full fireman regalia. They are hugely popular for parties in the evenings and come with built in cocktail bars and some tasty eats. According to our taxi driver one limo even has a built in open-air hot tub– Some seat 16 people, a mere snip from £200 a night!

On a recent visit to the Soil Association Conference I attended a Slow Food dinner in the Coal Exchange, Gareth Johns chef of the Wynnstay Hotel in Machynlleth, Lavinia Vaughan of Porth Farm, and a group of Welsh Slow Food volunteers, cooked a meal for 450 delegates which celebrated the organic produce from farmers and artisan producers all over Wales.

For the very first time I tasted the sweet little tiny cockles of Penclawdd, and the famous laverbread, a seaweed that grows on the rocks along the shoreline. Other canapés included Welsh Rarebit, Pickled leeks, Lady Llanover’s Salt Duck, Welsh mountain mutton, Ham with Anglesey Cream Cheese, Maldwyn cure air dried Welsh Black Beef from Powys and Halen Mon, the Sea Salt from Anglesey.

For main course each guest was served a thick slice of superb Welsh Black Beef with a delicious red wine sauce and a mixture of Winter vegetables and organic greens from local growers. The beef was truly superb and it was a delight to see the Welsh farmers and chefs’ appreciation of this traditional breed. That was followed by a selection of delicious Welsh cheese, a crumbly Wensleydale, a Cothi Valley goat cheese called Caws Valley with homemade crackers. There were three desserts, a delicious rice pudding, a tangy lemon posset, and an apple and cinnamon tartlet which rounded off this celebration meal of slow and organic food in a most delicious way.

For the past three years at the Soil Association Annual Conference, Slow Food has collaborated with the Soil Association to produce Slow Food lunches which have been a showcase for organic artisan producers in different parts of the UK.

At the conference lunch I had some other tastes of Wales – Glamorgan sausages, Leek Pie, Welsh Onion Cake, Welsh Cakes, Cawl and Monmouth Tart – so in just a few days I had the opportunity to taste many of the traditional dishes from Welsh miners cottages, farmhouses and mansions. Tables were decorated with daffodils, a traditional outdoor variety from the Vale of Glamorgan, and after dinner there was Welsh story-telling.

If you find yourself in Cardiff for the weekend don’t miss the terrific Riverside Real Food Market on Sunday morning, on the Fitzgammon embankment opposite the Millennium Stadium. Look out for the FreshFishWales stall which sells cockles, laverbread, and the Bake my Cake stall which sells the yummiest pies and cardamom, lemon and polenta buns. Young gardener Tom Bean sold little pots of snowdrops and daffodils and a rare Arugula called Friarielli which I’ve never before seen outside Italy.

Great place to buy local food and a delicious picnic for the plane. 

Welsh Onion Cake 
- Teisen Nionod (from British Food by Jane Grigson)
A dish that resembles certain French gratins. It can be cooked and served on its own or with roast lamb and laver sauce. 
Serves 6

1kg (2lb) firm potatoes
500g (1lb) onion, chopped
125-150g (4-5oz) butter
Pepper, salt

Peel or scrape the potatoes, as appropriate. Slice them paper-thin or close to it, using a mandolin or a processor. Swish the slices about in cold water to get rid of the starchy juice, then dry them.

If you want to turn the cake out, use a cake tin: grease it with a butter paper, then line it with greaseproof or Bakewell paper to make the turning out easier. If you want to serve it as a gratin, use a shallow ovenproof dish, and butter it well with some of the butter in the ingredients list.

Put in a layer of potatoes, then bits of butter, seasoning and a layer of onions. Repeat, finishing with potato. According to whether or not you intend to turn it out, take great care arranging the bottom or the top layer. Do not worry if the potato mounds up above the dish: it will cook down.

Bake for an hour at gas 6, 200C (400F), covered with foil. For the last 10 or 15 minutes, remove the foil so the potatoes can brown. This works well if you are serving it with a rack of lamb or a guard of honour. If you are cooking a more solid piece of lamb, at a lower temperature, the cake will have to cook for a longer time. If it is ready before the lamb, remove it and keep it warm.

Note: A little liquid does not come amiss – say 150ml (¼ pt) beef stock or the same quantity of single cream, plus 6 tablespoons of water.

Macaroon Lemon Posset

From The Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Cookery Book, published by Frances Lincoln
Serves 6

For the macaroons (makes about 20)

60g (2½oz) ground almonds
125g (4½oz) caster sugar
1 tablespoon ground rice (fine)
2 egg whites
A few drops of vanilla essence
Almond flakes for decoration

For the Posset:
425ml/¾ pint double cream
Juice and grated zest of 1½ unwaxed lemons
125g/4½oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon rum

Start by making the macaroons. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with silicone paper.

To make the macaroons, combine the dry ingredients and stir in the egg whites and vanilla essence. Using a 1cm/½in plain nozzle, pipe the mixture onto the trays in small mounds of about 2.5cm/1in in diameter, leaving a space between each one because they will spread. Place a few almond flakes on each and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes. The macaroons harden as they cool down, so using a palette knife, transfer them to a cooling rack as soon as you take them out of the oven.

To make the posset, combine the cream, grated lemon zest and caster sugar in a pan and bring to the boil for a minute. Take off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and rum Strain the mixture into a jug to remove the lemon zest.

Place a macaroon in each of six 100ml/4fl.oz ramekins, and pour over the posset mixture, filling each ramekin to the top. Cool and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to set and chill.

Bara Brith

Helen Holton a student on our current 3 month Certificate Course is from Caernarvon in Wales and she kindly shared this recipe with us.
10oz (275g) self-raising flour
5oz (150g) mixed fruit
5oz (150g) castor sugar
2oz (50g) butter, melted
1 egg (beaten) and enough milk to make up 6 fl.oz (180ml) liquid

Sieve the flour, add the sugar and mixed fruit and combine.
Add milk and egg mix.
Finally add the melted butter.
Put the mixture into a lined loaf tin.
Bake in a slow oven 300F/150C/gas 2 , on the middle shelf for 1 hour approx.
When cool slice thinly and spread with butter.


This traditional Welsh soup is another of Helen’s recipes. Some recipes use also use smoked ham or gammon instead of lamb. According to Jane Grigson in her book ‘English Food’ “this kind of dish has no ‘correct’ version or original recipe. It varies from region to region, according to the local resources, and from house to house within the same village, even from day to day in the same house”. “For most people it was a case of putting into the big iron pot water, and as much else as they could find to flavour it and give it substance.”
Scrag end lamb
Beef Brisket 
Potatoes – not floury type – eg King Edward or Desiree

Bring meat and onion(s) depending on size to boil – skim.
Add carrots and stock. Season and slow cook (if using an Aga its on for hours or overnight).

Add potatoes and when they are nearly cooked, add the leeks.

Sprinkle with lots of chopped parsley at the end.

It can be served as whole soup or traditionally the meat and vegetables are taken out and served as a separate dish.

Serve with good bread and Caerphilly cheese.

Welsh Cakes

– from Sue Lawrence on Baking, published by Kyle Cathie
Welsh cakes are traditionally cooked on a bakestone. This was originally a large slab of stone, heated up on a peat fire or a log. Today, however, bakestones are usually made of iron or some other heavy metal. The cakes are no longer placed on the fire but on a gas or electric hotplate. A large heavy frying pan will do instead, although it is less easy to maintain an even temperature.
There are many variations of this recipe, using different combinations of spices and fruit.
Makes about 12.

227g (8oz) self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon ground mace
57g (2oz) butter, cut into cubes
57g (2oz) white vegetable fat, in cubes
85g (3oz) caster sugar
85g (3oz) dried fruit
1 egg, beaten
Approx. 1 tablespoon milk
Caster sugar to sprinkle (optional) 

Sift the flour, salt and spices together into a mixing bowl.
Rub in the fats until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and dried fruit.

Add the beaten egg and just enough milk to form a soft dough. The result should be firmer than a scone dough. Roll this out on a floured board to a thickness of about 5mm/¼in. Using an 8cm/3in pastry cutter, cut into rounds.

Lightly grease a bakestone or griddle and heat to medium-hot. Cook the Welsh cakes (in 2 batches) for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown on both sides, but still soft in the middle. For a crunch exterior, sprinkle with caster sugar. Eat warm.

Welsh Rarebit

Welsh rarebit makes a delicious snack and also can be a lunch or supper dish or served with a salad.
Serves 4

2 oz (15g) butter
1 teasp. plain white flour
1 fl.oz (25ml) milk
1 tablesp. Dijon mustard
8 ozs (225g) mature Cheddar cheese, grated
2 fl.ozs (50ml) Murphy or Guinness or beer
freshly ground black pepper
1 teasp. Worcestershire sauce
1 egg, free range if possible
4 slices of white bread

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour and cook over a low heat for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook until it thickens. Add the mustard, cheese, stout or beer. Season with freshly ground pepper. Stir with a wooden spoon over a low heat, bring the mixture to the boil, take off the heat. Add the Worcestershire sauce and beaten egg. Allow this mixture to cool.

Toast the bread lightly on both sides. Spread the mixture thickly on top and pop under a hot grill until bubbly and golden.

Foolproof food

American buttermilk pancakes

– you could even try them out for Sunday brunch this weekend!
American Buttermilk Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup

Seves 4-6 depending on the size or helping

Makes 14 – 3” pancakes

250ml (8 flozs) buttermilk
1 free-range egg, preferably organic
15g (½ oz) butter, melted
75g (3oz) plain white flour
Good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon bread soda

To serve:
12-18 pieces 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 to a round about 17.5cm (3in) across. Cook until the bubbles rise and break on the top of the pancake (about a minute). 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.

Hot Tips

Cardiff Restaurant Scene - is also on the ascent.

Le Gallois in Romilly Crescent, Canton, 029 2034 1264 probably serves the most interesting food and is certainly an ‘offaleaters’ dream. I enjoyed lambs’ tongues with salsa verde and beef cheek with roast winter vegetables.

Brazz in the Millenium Centre on Cardiff Bay 029 2045 9000 and Le Monde on St Mary’s Street, 029 2038 7376 are also worth a visit.

Laguna Restaurant in the glitzy sounding Crown Park Plaza Hotel served a delicious risotto with Jerusalem artichokes and Welsh Rarebit with Branston Pickle toasts.

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority
Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058  Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766

Special delights for Valentine’s Night

How about some special delights for Valentine’s Night – how delighted will your partner be to receive a cute little invite to a romantic supper on Tuesday next.

Of course one could just book a table in a favourite restaurant but is it not tempting to get away from the hustle and bustle?. How lovely to plan a delicious little dinner, away from all those other canoodling couples. Choose the food carefully, something really special that can be prepared ahead to serve easily, so the whole event seems relaxed and effortless. 

The first course could be a plate of mezze or an anti-pasta, a collection of delicious bites to nibble with a glass of bubbly. Light the fire - Set the table beautifully, pretty glasses and crockery. Lots of candles and twinkling night lights, arranged in a circle or diamond on the table look great. Little posies of snowdrops, violets and crocuses are full of the promise of a new season, but its hard to beat some blowsy red roses for Valentine’s Day. If you’d rather not be predictable and arrange them in a vase, why not scatter the petals over the table and the remainder in the bath!.

Main course needs to be trouble-free so how about Pork with Rosemary and Tomatoes. If you’d rather have chicken it can be substituted for pork in this recipe. Rice, noodles or a big bowl of fluffy mash could be served alongside. A good green salad with a dressing of balsamic vinegar or verjuice and olive oil would help you both to feel less full and then it’s on to pudding.

For a chap, how about a tart with the new season’s rhubarb, or a comforting bread and butter pudding with a heart-shaped sparkler on top. An oozing chocolate fondant is naughty but oh so nice.

Alternatively you could make a little fruit fool and serve it with a few boudoir biscuits specially for dunking.

If you haven’t had a chocolate pudding a few handmade chocolates would be delicious or pick up a heart-shaped Tête-de-Moine cheese.

Don’t forget to whip up a little loaf of bread so the aromas are wafting through the house when your ‘heart’s desire’ arrives!

All those heart shapes are seriously over the top but its certainly good for a giggle!


Middle Eastern Mezze with Chilli and Coriander Flat Bread

You might be able to buy quite a few of the elements, the plate might include
Serves 10

Aubergine puree (see recipe)
Hummus bi tahini 
Feta with walnut and mint
Parma or Serrano ham
Spicy carrot puree (see recipe)
Roast peppers and chick peas (see recipe)
Salad leaves and fresh herbs, tossed with a little vinaigrette
Roast red and yellow peppers or Piquillo pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
Toasted pine kernels
10 flour tortillas brushed with olive oil and chopped chilli
2 tablespoons olives
1 teaspoon paprika
Flat parsley
A few whole chickpeas
Tiny olives
Fresh coriander

Make all the components. Taste and correct seasoning.

To serve
Put a dollop of aubergine puree, hummus bi tahini and feta with walnut and mint and Tunisian carrot salad on a white plate. Put a salad of little leaves and herbs in the centre.

Put a strip or two of roast red pepper on top of the aubergine. Sprinkle with toasted pine kernels. Mix a little paprika with some olive oil and drizzle over the top of the hummus. Sprinkle with flat parsley and a few whole chickpeas.

Top the feta with walnut and mint with a sprig of mint. Scatter a few tiny olives on the plate and serve crisp tortillas, pitta crisps or with triangles of flat bread which has been crisped in a moderate oven for a few minutes.

Chilli and coriander flat bread.

Brush the tortillas with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with chopped chilli and Maldon sea salt. Crisp for a few minutes in a hot oven. Sprinkle with chopped coriander.

Aubergine Purée with Olive Oil and Lemon

This is one of my absolute favourite ways to eat aubergine. It is served all through the southern Mediterranean; there are many delicious variations.
Serves 6 approximately 

4 large aubergines
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, optional

Roast or grill the aubergines depending on the flavour you like, (see page 00).

Allow to cool. Peel the aubergines thinly, careful to get every little morsel of flesh. Discard the skin and drain the flesh in a sieve or colander. Transfer to a bowl, mash the puree with a fork or chop with a knife depending on the texture you like. Add extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.


1. Freshly crushed garlic may also be added.

2. In Turkey some thick Greek yogurt is often added, about 5-6 tablespoons for this quantity of aubergine puree, reduce the olive oil by half. 

Mixed with ricotta and freshly chopped herbs eg. marjoram this makes a delicious 'sauce' for pasta.

3. A spicier version from Morocco includes 1 teaspoon harissa (see page 00), 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin and 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped coriander leaves,

4. Add some pomegranate molasses - our new flavour of the month as they do in Syria - about 3-4 tablespoons instead of the freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Spicy Carrot Puree

When Claudia Roden taught here some years ago she showed us how to make this Spicy Carrot Puree and also the Roast Peppers and Chick Peas.

A peppery Tunisian salad called Omi Houriya.

Serves 6
1½lb(750g) carrots
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed,
1 teaspoon harissa or to taste or 1 teaspoon paprika and a good pinch of chilli pepper
1½ teaspoons ground cumin or caraway seeds

Peel the carrots and cut into large pieces. Boil them in salted water until tender, then drain and mash them with a fork or chop them, and add the rest of the ingredients. Serve cold.

Optional Garnishes

6 black olives.
4 oz (100g) fetta cheese cut into small cubes.

Roast Peppers and Chickpeas with Fresh Goat’s Cheese

A mild and soft fresh goat’s cheese, jban, is one of the rare cheeses produced in Morocco. If you are not keen on raw garlic, you can leave that out.
Serves 4-6

4 fleshy red bell peppers
1 x 14oz (400g) tin of chickpeas 
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and black pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed 
3 sprigs of oregano, chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried
11oz (300g) fresh goat’s cheese 

Place the peppers on a sheet of foil on an oven tray under a pre-heated grill, 6-9cm from the grill. Turn them until their skins are black and blistered all over. Alternatively - and more easily - roast them in the hottest oven for about 30 minutes or until they are soft and their skins blistered and blackened, turning them once after 15 minutes.

To loosen the skins further, put them in a plastic frozen food bag, twist it shut and leave for 10-15 minutes. Another old way that has the same effect is to put them in a pan with a tight-fitting lid for the same length of time. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove the stems and seeds. Now cut them into thin ribbons through the stem end. 

Drain the chickpeas. Dress them with a mixture of 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, salt and pepper, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and about one-third of the oregano; mix well, then gently mix with the peppers. 

Mash the goat’s cheese with the remaining garlic clove, the last tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining oregano, and shape it into a mound on a serving plate. Arrange the peppers and chickpeas in a ring around it.

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.

Molten Chocolate Puds

These are the most delectable little puds, a cinch to make provided you find the right mould, then timing is everything. The mixture can be made ahead, refrigerated overnight or frozen.
Makes 6-8

110g (4oz) unsalted butter + extra to butter moulds
110g (4oz) bittersweet chocolate - Valrhona or some equally good chocolate 
2 eggs + 2 yolks (not cold)
50g (2oz) caster sugar + extra for moulds
2 teaspoons cocoa powder + extra for moulds

Icing sugar
Softly whipped cream or crème fraîche

6-8 moulds – we used tin foil moulds 8.5cm (3 1/4inch) across at the top and 5.5cm (2 1/4inch) deep, 150ml (5fl oz) capacity and filled them about 2/3 full.

Moulds should be well buttered and floured. Tap the moulds on the worktop to get rid of the excess flour. Pour in the chocolate mix. 

Put the chopped chocolate with the butter in a pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Bring to the boil, turn off the heat and allow to sit until the chocolate is melted. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and pale, at least 5 minutes with hand held electric whisk. Add the chocolate while still warm, and mix gently but thoroughly. Sieve the cocoa powder over the mousse and mix in with spatula until just combined. Fill the well buttered moulds about 2/3 full. 

They may be baked now or kept at room temperature and baked later, or can be refrigerated overnight. They must be at room temperature or cool from refrigerator before baking, cover lightly with cling film if they have to sit around for a while.

Preheat a conventional oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8. Heat a baking sheet and then set the moulds on it. Bake for 6-7 minutes. When they come out of the oven, invert on dessert places, leave for 10 seconds, and lift off moulds. Dust them with icing sugar and serve with a blob of whipped cream or crème fraîche. Also great with an unctuous homemade vanilla ice-cream.

Bread and Butter Pudding

Bread and Butter Pudding is an irresistible ‘must have’ pudding for anyone’s easy entertaining repertoire.
Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed 
50g (2oz) butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg*
200g (7oz) plump raisins or sultanas
475ml (16fl oz) cream
225ml (8fl oz) milk
4 large organic eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence
175g (6oz) sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream

1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish 

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the nutmeg and half the raisins, arrange another layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, covered loosely, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This Bread and Butter Pudding reheats perfectly.

* One may also use cinnamon or mixed spice.

Foolproof Food

Break his Heart Rhubarb Tart

Serves 8-12
This is such a terrific pastry. If I’m in a mad rush I make it in a food processor – it’s a little more difficult to handle if you use it right away but works fine even if you have to patch it a bit. It’s fun to do a few hearts to decorate with.

225g (8 oz) butter
55g (2 oz) caster sugar
2 eggs free-range and organic if possible
350g (12 oz) flour

450g (1 lb) red rhubarb
175g (6oz) sugar

Egg Wash
1 beaten free-range organic egg with a little milk, to glaze
1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin with 4cm (1 ½ inch) sides

First make the pastry. Cream the butter and sugar together in a food mixer, add the eggs and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and add in the flour, little by little, to form a stiff dough. Flatten into a round, cover with cling film and chill for at least 1 hour, this makes the pastry much easier to handle. Otherwise just put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until just combined.

Roll out half the pastry to about 3mm (â…› inch) thick and line a round tin measuring 20.5 x 30.5cm (8 x 11.5 inches).

Slice the rhubarb into 1 cm (2.5 inch) rounds, fill the tart and sprinkle with the sugar.

Roll the remaining pastry, cover the rhubarb and seal the edges. Decorate with pastry hearts or leaves. Paint with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 until the tart is golden and the rhubarb is soft (45 minutes to 1 hour). When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

Note: This tart can also be filled with Bramley apples, gooseberries and elderflower, Worcesterberries, damsons, plums, blackberry and apples, peaches and raspberries, rhubarb and strawberries.

Hot Tips

Chocolate- Heart shaped chocolates, lollipops etc are available from many of the producers of handmade chocolate – O’Conaills at Midleton Farmers Market and in the English Market in Cork, The Chocolate Crust in Kenmare, Gwen’s Chocolate Shop in Schull, Cocoa Bean Artisan Chocolates in Limerick and many others around the country.
Marks and Spencers have chocolate lollipops with invitations to Hug Me, Kiss Me .. and bags of little chocolate hearts.

Look out for heart-shaped biscuit cutters and cake tins at, The Stock Pot in Midleton, The Ballymaloe Shop at Ballymaloe House, Delia’s Kitchen Shop in Carey’s Lane Cork, Kitchen Complements in Chatham Street Dublin. La Violette in Skibbereen have little heart-shaped pans.

Irish Society of Poultry Fanciers National Show
Has been rescheduled and will be held on Saturday 18th February at Gurteen Agricultural College, Ballingarry, Roscrea, Co Tipperary – it will be open to the public at 2.00pm

The Spaniards prefer jam or honey for breakfast

This is the season for marmalade oranges, they’ll be in the shops for just a few short weeks and then they’ll disappear until next year, so if you want to make some ‘real’ marmalade now is your chance. The bitter oranges grow in abundance in Southern Spain, hence the name Seville or Malaga oranges. The streets of every village and town are lined with glossy leaved orange trees, in Spring the heady scent of orange blossom perfumes the air and at this time of the year the trees are laden with bitter oranges.

The Spaniards use the bitter orange to add a citrus note to some of their dishes as we might use lemon. Marmalade is a peculiarly British and Irish addiction – the Spaniards prefer jam or honey for breakfast. There are various theories about marmalade, originally marmalades were made with quinces: the word is derived from the Portuguese marmelada, quinces cooked with sugar or honey to make a quince paste. This luxury good was imported into Britain by the late 15th Century to be used as a medicine or sweetmeat. Recipes were developed from this and the orange jam we know today is attributed to a manufacturer from Dundee in Scotland about 1790. 

Making good marmalade is a labour of love. One could just bung the peel into a food processor or liquidizer, but for real marmalade aficionados the haphazard shape of the roughly chopped peel is ‘not the thing at all’. If you want a pot of perfect marmalade there is no substitute for cutting the peel yourself. Relax, enjoy it, grab a chair or a high stool, put on some soothing music, arm yourself with a good sharp knife and juice the fruit (a little mechanical juicer is a real boon here). Cut the peels in quarters and then cut it rhythmically into slivers with a good sharp chopping knife.

Even if you need to make a huge quantity of marmalade, decide to do just one batch a day so its never too much of a chore. The oranges will keep in a cool place for several weeks. Alternatively, put some into good strong plastic bags and freeze. This works brilliantly – use the whole orange marmalade recipe. The resulting marmalade is dark and slightly bitter, a favourite in Ballymaloe. If you prefer a more fruity marmalade make the Seville orange marmalade or you could try this brilliant recipe for no-cook marmalade given to me by a student a few years ago. It’s a brilliant ‘cheat’ recipe for instant marmalade and has a wonderful fresh citrus flavour. Store in the fridge.

If you miss the boat with the marmalade oranges you can still make marmalade throughout the year using the Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit marmalade recipe – also delicious.

Finally, seek out organic marmalade oranges, they cook quite differently and the peel softens faster. However, as they don’t have preservative on they won’t keep as long as the other oranges. Use them within a week or else freeze them. If you cannot find organic fruit, scrub the other oranges and lemons well in warm water before using to remove the pesticides and waxes from the peel. 

Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-5 weeks.
Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2 lbs (900g) Seville Oranges (preferably organic)
4 pints (2.3L) water
1 lemon
4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips, tie them in a piece of muslin and soak for 2 hour in cold water. Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.

Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.

Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx. Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it's done.

Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating. Pot into hot sterilized jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.

N.B. The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.

Whiskey Marmalade

Add 6 tablesp of whiskey to the cooked marmalade just before potting.
Seville Orange Marmalade 
(made with whole oranges)
Makes 13-15lbs approx.

You'll find Seville and Malaga oranges in the shops for just a few short weeks after Christmas. Buy what you need and make the marmalade while the oranges are fresh if possible. If not just pop them into the freezer, this recipe works brilliantly for frozen oranges, its not even necessary to defrost them.

Some recipes sliced the peel first but the majority boil the whole oranges first and then slice the peel.

2.2kg (4½ lb) Seville or Malaga oranges (organic if possible)
5.1L (9pint) water
4kg (9 lb) sugar

Wash the oranges. Put them in a stainless steel saucepan with the water. Put a plate on top to keep them under the surface of the water. Cover with the lid of the saucepan, simmer gently until soft, 2 hours approx. cool and drain, reserving the water. (If more convenient, leave overnight and continue next day.) Put your chopping board onto a large baking tray with sides so you won't lose any juice. Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the soft centre. Slice the peel finely. Put the pips into a muslin bag. 

Put the escaped juice, sliced oranges and the muslin bag of pips in a large wide stainless steel saucepan with the reserved marmalade liquid. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar, stir over a brisk heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Boil fast until setting point is reached. Pot in sterilized jars and cover at once. Store in a dark airy cupboard.

With any marmalade its vital that the original liquid has reduced by half or better still two-thirds before the sugar is added otherwise it takes ages to reach a set and both the flavour and colour will be spoiled. A wide low-sided stainless steel saucepan is best for this recipe, say, 35.5 - 40.5cm (14-16inch) wide. If you don't have one around that size, cook the marmalade in two batches.

No Cook Marmalade

5 Oranges
1 Lemon
1 Grapefruit
Same weight of sugar, minus 110g (4oz)

Put all the ingredients together into a liquidizer and whizz. 

Will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks approx.

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade

Home-made marmalade is always a welcome present. Seville oranges don’t arrive into the shops until the end of January, so make this tangy 3-fruit marmalade at any time of the year - it is made from orange, lemon and grapefruit.
Yield 10-10½ lbs (4.5 kg)

2 sweet oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether
4 lemons
6 pints (3.4 L) water
5 lbs (2.2 kg) sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways. Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.

Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl. Leave overnight. The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1½-2 hours until the peel is really soft. (Cover for the first hour). The liquid should be reduced to about ⅓ of the original volume. 

Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars and cover while hot. 

Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it. 

Ginger Marmalade

Add 6-8 ozs (170-225 g) peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger to once the recipe.
You may like to substitute Demerara sugar for a fuller flavour and darker colour.

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding. If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.
Serves 6-8

12 slices of good –quality white bread, crusts removed
50g (1¾ oz) soft butter
3 tbsp marmalade
450ml (16fl.oz) cream
225ml (8fl.oz) milk
4 eggs
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice. Arrange the bread in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to). I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.

Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil. While its heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the sugars, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Place in a bain marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The top should be golden and the centre should be just set. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread. 

Rory O’Connell’s Marmalade Tart

Serves 8
Pastry ;
8ozs (225g) plain flour
pinch salt
5ozs (140g) butter
2 teasps. castor sugar
1 egg yolk

4ozs (110g) butter
4ozs (110g) castor sugar
2ozs (55g) ground almonds
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablesp. marmalade

Set the oven to 200C (400F/regulo 6) 

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, beat the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of cold water. Use to bind the pastry, adding a little more water if necessary to form a soft but not sticky dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line an 8 inch (20.5cm) loose bottomed, fluted flan ring. Prick the base lightly with a fork, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the paper and beans.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then beat in the ground almonds and egg. Warm and then sieve the marmalade. Reserve the liquid, stir rind into mixture and beat well until thoroughly mixed. 

Turn the prepared filling into the pastry case. Smooth over the top. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C (350F/regulo 4) and bake the flan for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Glaze with reserved marmalade. This tart is delicious hot or cold. 

Serve with softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Marmalade Popovers

Makes 14 approx.
225g (4 oz) plain flour
213ml (7½ fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
oil or lard for baking tins
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter or oil
8 teaspoons home made Orange marmalade
Icing sugar

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk and the lightly beaten eggs. Mix to a smooth batter. Stir in grated orange rind and whisk really hard with an egg whisk until the surface is covered with air bubbles. If possible leave to stand in a cold place for about an hour, then stir in the melted butter and beat again. Grease deep patty tins really well. Put them in the oven until they are hot. Pour in the batter, filling each tins half to two thirds full, put straight into a hot oven, 220C/425F/gas mark 7, for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the popovers are well risen, crisp and golden brown. Put a small spoon of marmalade into each one. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

Hot Tips

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