ArchiveApril 2007

The irrepressible Antony-Worrall Thompson

We have just had the irrepressible Antony-Worrall Thompson here as our guest chef at the school. Antony has a loyal Irish following who came to see him demonstrate some of his latest recipes, including the secrets of GI food.
Well known from his many television programmes Antony is one of the few established chefs who ‘walk the walk’ as well
as ‘talking the talk’. Now owning five restaurants the Greyhound, the Lamb, Barnes Grill, Kew Grill and Notting Grill, he is also passionate about organic farming and rears his own middle white pigs at home in Henley-on-Thames and serves the pork in the restaurants. He also has an extensive vegetable garden producing a variety of fresh vegetables and herbs.

Antony presents six television programmes a week and had to rush back on Friday evening for his regular appearance on Saturday Kitchen in the morning which he has been presenting since 2003. He is the resident studio chef and main presenter for BBC2’s Food & Drink programme and also appears on the ever popular Ready Steady Cook. Earlier this year he was one of the favourite participants in the programme ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’.

Antony has written several cookbooks including the more recent Healthy Eating for Diabetes, and Well Fed, Well Bred, Well Hung – how to buy and cook real meat. The Saturday Kitchen Cookbook, Barbecues and Grilling with Jane Suthering, and top 100 Beef Recipes are all hugely popular. He is currently working on a children’s cookbook and is increasingly in demand by broadcasters to comment on and discuss serious food issues such as diabetes, obesity, nutrition and the eating habits of children.

Here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School we have a special ‘claim’ on Antony as his lovely wife Jay who hails from Dublin was a former pupil of ours who went to work for Antony in London on completion of the 12 week Certificate Course. They live with their two children and an assortment of animals in the countryside on the banks of the Thames. 

As well as his energetic professional lifestyle he manages to find time for his art, antiques, tennis and swimming (he swum the Channel when he was sixteen.) 

Have a look at  to join the awt club or visit the awt shop and catch up with this busy chef at the various events he is involved in.

Spiced Lentil Salad with Prawns and Mint Yogurt
Serves 4
200g (7ozs) puy lentils, cooked until just tender, drained and kept warm
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
20 raw prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact 
2 handfuls (about 50g/2ozs) baby spinach leaves
100g (3 ½ ozs) green beans, blanched
freshly ground black pepper

Mint Yogurt Dip
2 x 150g (6ozs) tubs low fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons fish sauce (nam pla)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons freshly chopped mint

In a bowl, mix the warm lentils, spring onions, vinegar, chilli, ground spices, coriander and 1 tablespoon oil. Add pepper and set aside.

Mix the remaining oil, turmeric and some pepper in another bowl and turn the prawns in the mixture to coat them. Preheat a non-stick frying pan. Cook the prawns for 3 minutes, turning once, until opaque. 

Mix the dip ingredients together.

Divide the spinach between four plates, top with the lentils, green beans and prawns and drizzle with the dip.

Almond and Apricot Pavlova Slice

Serves 8–10
3 tablespoons ground almonds
5 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
250g (9ozs) golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon natural almond extract
25g (1oz) amaretti biscuits, crushed
125g (4 ½ oz) ready-to-eat dried apricots, diced

300g (11ozs) low fat Greek yogurt
1 ripe peach, stoned and thinly sliced
1 medium mango, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large orange, segmented and all pith and membrane removed

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a shallow 35cm x 25cm baking tray with non-stick baking parchment to come at least 3cm up the sides.

In a dry non-stick frying pan, toast the ground almonds over a medium heat, stirring all the time until golden.

Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff then whisk in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, until you have one spoonful left. Mix the cornflour into that and whisk into the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Whisk in the vinegar and almond extract and finally fold in the toasted almonds, amaretti and apricots.

Spread the mixture into the prepared baking tray and level the surface. Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Cook for 25 minutes until pale golden and crisp on top. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and allow to cool.

Remove from the tray, trim the edges and cut across the shorter side to make 3 equal pieces. Spread each piece with yogurt and layer on the fruit. Sandwich together, press down gently, then cut in slices to serve.

Spicy Pork Ribs

Serves 4
1.5kg (3lbs 5ozs) trimmed pork spare rib chops
chicken stock to cover 
5 x 10p coin sized slices of fresh ginger
2 chillies sliced in half 
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 spring onions, sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce 
180ml (6 ½fl ozs) ketchup manis
1 egg, beaten lightly
35g (1 ¼ozs) plain flour 
2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
125ml (4 fl ozs) rice wine 
115g (4 ozs) packed brown sugar 
50g (2 ozs) yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons loosely packed chopped fresh coriander 
3 cloves garlic, crushed 
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger 
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes 
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika pepper 

Place the ribs in a large saucepan with the ginger, chillies, garlic, spring onions and soy sauce. Cover with chicken stock and simmer for 1 and half hours or until the ribs are tender. Allow to cool in the stock. Drain and pat dry with kitchen towel. 

Blend 3 fl oz of the ketchup manis with the egg and flour in a large bowl. Add ribs; stir to coat in soy mixture. 
Heat oil in wok or large frying pan; stir fry the ribs in batches until browned all over. Remove and set aside. 

Cook remaining soy sauce and remaining ingredients in wok; stirring until sugar dissolves. Return ribs to wok; stir fry till heated though. 

Serve with steamed rice.

Mackerel or Seabass Flaked with Vegetables and Scrambled Egg

Serves 4
4 very fresh mackerel fillets, pin bones removed
2 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
4 dried Shitake mushrooms, soaked in warm water, sliced
2.5cm (1 inch) ginger, peeled and grated 
1 clove garlic, grated 
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped 
2 tablespoons sake 
2 tablespoons caster sugar 
2 tablespoons mirin
5 tablespoons soy sauce 
4 free range eggs, beaten 
55g (2 ozs) mangetout blanched 
55g (2 ozs) extra fine beans, blanched 

Scrape the mackerel flesh from the skin with a spoon and chop roughly, set aside.

Heat three quarters of the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and carrot and cook without colour for 5 minutes. Add the shitake, ginger, garlic and chilli and cook for a further 2 minutes.

Add the mackerel and cook for one minute until it turns opaque. Add half the sake, three quarters of the sugar, the mirin and soy sauce and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. 

Meanwhile beat the eggs with the remainder of the sake and the sugar, season. Heat a little oil in a wok until very hot, then pour in the eggs and cook very fast until set like scrambled eggs, add the beans and the mangetout. 

Place on a dish and top with the mackerel. Serve with rice if required. 

Asian Chicken and Lettuce Rolls

Serves 4
400g (14ozs) chicken mince 
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced 
2 spring onions, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1 teaspoon grated ginger 
1 teaspoon sesame oil 
25g (1oz) water chestnuts or beansprouts, chopped 
2 tablespoons chopped coriander 
2 tablespoons chopped cashew nuts 
1 carrot, finely diced
2 tablespoons oyster sauce 
2 teaspoons clear honey 
16–20 romaine or cos lettuce leaves 
200g (7ozs) brown basmati rice, cooked, to serve
lime wedges, to serve 

Mix the chicken mince with the chilli, spring onions, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and cook the mince mixture for about 5 minutes, breaking the meat up with the back of a fork until golden brown. 

Add the water chestnuts, coriander, cashews, carrot, oyster sauce and honey, stir to combine and continue to heat until the chicken is cooked through. 
Serve the mince with the lettuce leaves, cooked rice and lime wedges to squeeze. 

Prawns in Chilli Sauce

Serves 4
12 raw jumbo prawns, shell off, tail on 
4 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sesame oil 
2 tablespoons groundnut oil 
4 spring onions, half chopped, half shredded
1 chilli, seeded and cut in fine julienne 
1 tablespoon grated ginger
½ tablespoon grated garlic
1 tablespoon chilli jam or paste 
2 tablespoons coriander leaves
2 tablespoons cornflour, mixed with a little water

For the sauce 
200ml (â…“ pint) boiling chicken stock
4 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 

Toss the prawns with the mirin, seasame oil, salt and pepper, marinate for 20 minutes. 
Combine the sauce ingredients. Place the shredded spring onions and the chilli in ice water. 

Heat a wok then add the groundnut oil, add the chopped spring onions the ginger and garlic and fry stirring continuously for 2 minutes to release the aromas. Add the chilli jam or paste and continue to combine. 

Now add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes, remove the prawns and keep warm. Add the sauce and bring to the boil add the coriander and cornflour paste and cook to thicken. Return the prawns to the pan and heat through. 

Serve immediately.

Spicy Sardines with Chickpea and Avocado Salad

Serves 4
For the Chickpea and Avocado Salad
yolk of 1 hard-boiled egg, sieved
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon small capers, drained and rinsed 
1 x 400g (14 ozs) tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped into chunky dice
salt and ground black pepper

For the Sardines
25g (1 oz) unsalted butter
1 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
1 fresh red chilli, diced
2 shallots, diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + a little extra for drizzling
8 sardines, cleaned, flattened out and backbone removed and washed thoroughly
juice of 1 lemon

To make the salad place the egg yolk in a bowl, beat in the oil and vinegar and stir in the onion, garlic, parsley, capers, chickpeas and avocado. Season to taste.

To cook the sardines heat the butter in a small pan, add the chilli and shallots and cook until softened but not coloured. Fold in parsley, coriander, garlic, chilli, shallots, season with salt and ground black pepper, sprinkle with olive oil and spread over the flesh side of the fish.

Roll up the sardines and secure with wooden cocktail sticks, (ensure that you have soaked the cocktail sticks in water first, to stop them from burning).Place in a pre-heated oven 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4 and cook for 5-8 minutes. Place the sardines on to a plate and drizzle with oil and lemon juice. 
To serve, place a pile of avocado salad onto each serving plate and place two sardine rolls on top.

Foolproof Food

Baked Apples with Fruit and Nuts

Serves 4
4 large Bramley cooking apples
115g (4ozs) soft dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons sweet mincemeat
55g (2ozs) flaked almonds or chopped pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
25g (1oz) unsalted butter
apple juice for basting

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Remove the centre core from the apples, leaving 5mm (¼ inch) uncut at the bottom. Run the tip of a sharp knife round the circumference of the apple, just to pierce the skin. This stops the apples bursting in the oven.

Combine the remaining ingredients except the butter and juice, and spoon it into the cavities of the apples, place any excess in the bottom of a buttered baking dish. Place the apples on the fruit in the dish, dot the top with butter and pop in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. Every 10 minutes add two tablespoons of apple juice to the bottom of the dish and spoon the juices over the apples. 
Serve piping hot with double or clotted cream.

Hot Tips

Four Rivers Slow Food Convivium
Sunday Slow Food Lunch at Dunbrody, Campile, Co Wexford on 20th May
Wine reception at noon followed by relaxing lunch of local produce. Meet with local growers, farmers, meat producers and chefs from local restaurants. Children welcome. Booking essential. Contact Donal Lehane – Tel 087-6780014, 051-396288

The Ballymaloe Shop at Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry, Co Cork
Has just celebrated 35 years in business – visit the shop for a terrific range of kitchen utensils, pottery, knitwear….. have coffee and cake or a tasty snack in The Café at the Back of the Shop – Tel 021-4652032

The Café at the Stephen Pearce Gallery– Tel 021-4646807
Another place for a treat in Shanagarry – morning coffee, delicious light lunches, afternoon tea – this busy little café is run by Maura Walsh and is highly popular with locals dropping in as well as pottery shoppers.

Clodagh McKenna, and the rise and rise of the Farmers Market

You all know how delighted I am by the rise and rise of the Farmers Market movement, not only in Ireland but all over the world – UK, US, Australia, New Zealand…… Everywhere there seems to be the same craving for fresh local food in season.

Ordinary food retail is static while the demand for artisan and specialist foods continues to escalate. There’s a growing awareness of food miles, animal welfare issues and the impact of our carbon footprint on the environment. There is substantial growth in the demand for organic produce and local is the sexiest word in food, from California to Auckland. 

The Country Market movement has been producing this kind of food for their many devotees for years, safeguarding the old food traditions of our country. In recent years the farmers markets have increased the number of options and added to the long established markets in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, and of course the much-loved English Market in Cork City.

It’s now almost twelve years since I first visited the farmers market in a parking lot in San Francisco. I was so inspired, it seemed the perfect solution for local people desperate to source local food. The farmers and food producers can get the full price for their products which enables them to earn a sustainable living on the land when selling directly to their customers.

Inspired by Sybille Krauss’s San Francisco Market, my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen and Caroline Robinson (now chairman of the Irish Food Markets Traders Association), Frank Hederman of Belvelly Smokehouse, and a few other members of the Cork Free Choice Consumer Group, started Ireland’s first ‘new age’ farmers market on the Coal Quay in Cork in 1996. It was great fun and necessitated an early start, leaving Shanagarry at 6.30am in the morning. Caroline Robinson still trades there and has an ever-increasing band of loyal customers on Saturday morning for her beautiful produce. There are now over 115 farmers markets in Ireland. The Midleton Farmers Market which is celebrating its seventh birthday at the Whit Weekend, has now moved across the road into the Fair Green, a serviced paved area provided by the Town Council. 

Clodagh McKenna, acclaimed cook, presenter and food writer, did a 12 week Certificate Cookery course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in January 2000. She worked alongside Myrtle Allen at Ballymaloe House and became more and more passionate about good food and the Slow Food Movement. Her regular columns on food and her radio programmes, reflect her commitment. Over the past year Clodagh has travelled the length and breadth of the country, visiting farmers markets with David Hare’s ‘Inproduction’ television crew, meeting stallholders, producers and customers and generally recording the buzz and excitement that characterizes the farmers’ market scene. Fresh from the Farmers Market, the 8-part series sponsored by Bord Bia will start on Wednesday 25th April at 7.30pm on RTE 1, The Irish Farmers’ Market Cookbook by Clodagh McKenna, published by Collins to accompany the series, is already in the shops. The series was launched in Dublin recently by Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan who was fulsome in her praise and support for the Farmers Market initiative. 

Speaking at the event, Angela Kennedy, Chairman, Bord Bia, commented “The farmers market system benefits small food producers and farmers, providing unique direct access to consumers for their produce. The farmers market system also has strong potential to benefit a growing number of farmers who choose to sell direct to consumers and to retain profit within the farm gate.”

This new television series will give a great boost to the markets movement and here are some delicious recipes from Clodagh’s book.

Roast Asparagus, Knocklara and Mint Salad

Roasting the asparagus really intensifies and sweetens the flavour as it removes the natural moisture. Knocklara is a beautiful goat’s cheese, similar to feta, made by Wolfgang and Agnes Schliebitz in County Waterford.
Serves 4

850g (30 oz) asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
75g (2½ oz) hazelnuts, chopped
6 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Juice of 1lemon
Mixed salad leaves, (eg. rocket, cos, frisee or oak’s lettuce)
250g (9 oz) Knocklara (or feta), crumbled

Toss the asparagus and chopped hazelnuts in 2 tbsp olive oil. Salt lightly and place on a baking tray. Cook in a preheated oven at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 12-15 minutes. Remove and cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine the lemon juice, pepper and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the green leaves together with the cooled asparagus and toss gently together. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle the cheese over the top and serve.

Mini Pavlovas with Sweet Geranium-Infused Rhubarb

Makes 4 small or 1 large
3 egg whites
175g (6oz) caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Whipped cream

For the rhubarb:
150g (5oz) rhubarb, cut into 5cm (2in) sections
50g (2oz) caster sugar
2 sweet geranium leaves (see tip)
70ml (2½ fl.oz) water

Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until stiff, and then whisk in the sugar gradually until the egg whites have a glossy shine. Fold in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract.

Divide the meringue mixture into 4 heaps on the baking paper and, with a spoon, shape and swirl each one into a circle, leaving a dip in the centre.

(Alternatively, you can make 1 pavlova by spooning the meringue onto the baking paper in one heap.) Cook in a preheated oven at 150C,300F. Gas Mark 2 for 40 minutes until the meringue is pale brown and dry on the outside but soft in the inside.

Meanwhile, stew the rhubarb gently with the sugar, sweet geranium leaves and water in a covered pan, until the rhubarb is cooked but not mushy. Leave to cool.

Arrange the individual pavlovas on 4 serving plates. Place a big dollop of whipped cream in the centre of each one and then arrange the rhubarb on top. Serve with the sweet stewing liquid.

Tip: If you don’t have any sweet geranium leaves you can use lemon balm leaves instead, but it’s well worth hunting them out or growing your own. Use any spare leaves as a decorative garnish.

Courgette and Lemon Salad

Every year there is a glut of courgettes at the market. This is a very simple but really delicious way to use them up. I particularly love eating this salad with roast chicken.
Serves 4

3 medium courgettes
Juice of 1 lemon
50ml (2 fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the courgettes very thinly, using a mandolin if you have one. Place a saucepan of water over a high heat, and when the water comes to the boil, drop in the courgettes and cook for about 1 minute (just to blanch them). Drain in a colander and wrap them in a clean tea towel to dry them off.

Arrange them on a serving dish, pour over a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes before serving.

Cashel Blue, Caramelised Onion and Thyme Pizza

Once you’ve got over the scary thought of making your own pizza base, you’re free to experiment with all different types of toppings, such as classic fresh tomatoes with cheese or spicy chorizo and Parmesan. However, my favourite topping is this combination.
Makes 1 pizza, serves 2

6g (â…“ oz) fresh yeast
200ml (7 fl.oz) tepid water
100g (3½ oz) plain white flour
20g (¾ oz) butter
2 medium onions, peeled, quartered and sliced thinly
50ml (2 fl.oz) olive oil
150g (5oz) Cashel Blue cheese, or other strong blue cheese
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the fresh yeast into a small bowl and cover with 100ml of the water and leave to dissolve for 5 minutes. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre and pour the dissolved yeast into the centre. Then add a pinch of salt and mix in the flour from the sides. Add approximately 100ml of water and mix into a dough. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough by pushing the dough away from the back of your hand until you reach a light consistency. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and place in a warm place for approximately 3 hours to allow the dough to rise.

While the dough is rising you can get your toppings ready. Place a saucepan over a medium heat and add in the butter, when the butter has melted add in the onions, cover and leave to sweat for about 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, turn up the heat and stir the onions until they become lovely and brown. Tip the onions into a bowl and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. When the dough has risen tip out onto a floured board and roll out to make a circular pizza shape, I like my pizzas thin so I roll it to about 5mm (¼ in) thick. Then brush the pizza base with some olive oil, spread the onions out all over the base, crumble the blue cheese on top, and sprinkle over the finely chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper, then place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Mairead’s Sticky Toffee Pudding with Hazelnut Toffee Sauce

Clodagh’s sister Mairead gave her this recipe as she thought it would be a great seller at the market, and it was!
Serves 6

350g (12oz) fresh dates, stoned (use dried dates if you can’t find fresh)
300ml (10 fl.oz) boiling water
100g (3½ oz) butter
300g (10oz) dark brown sugar
3 medium eggs
400g (14oz) self-raising flour, sieved
½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda

For the hazelnut toffee sauce:
600ml (1 pint) double cream
250g (9oz) dark brown sugar
100g (3½ oz) butter
30g (1oz) hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Place the dates in a saucepan with the boiling water, and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes or until the dates are soft. Drain and then whiz the dates in a blender until they have a smooth consistency.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until creamy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the blended dates, then fold in the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix well.

Grease a 20cm (8in ) spring form tin and line it with greaseproof paper. Pour in the mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 170C/325F/gas mark 3 for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Pour half of the cream into a saucepan and stir in the brown sugar and butter. Bring to the boil, stirring frequently. When the sauce looks golden, stir in the remaining cream and half of the hazelnuts.

Turn out the cooked sponge onto a serving dish. Pour over the hazelnut toffee sauce and sprinkle the remaining hazelnuts on top. Delicious served with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Roasted Aubergine Dip

Creamy and spicy, this aubergine dip is similar to the Middle Eastern dish baba ghanoush. It is fantastic served with toasted pitta bread.
Makes approx. 150ml (5 fl.oz)

1 large aubergine
50ml (2 fl.oz) olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, peeled
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 black olives, pitted
Salt and freshly grated black pepper

Place the aubergine in a roasting pan and drizzle some olive oil on top. Use your hands to coat it in the oil. Cook in a preheated oven at 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes, then remove and set aside to cool. Chop into large chunks.

In a frying pan, dry-roast the cumin for 2 minutes or until you can smell the aroma from the spice. Place the aubergine, garlic, grated Parmesan, olives, cumin seeds and a splash of olive oil in a blender, and blend to a smooth consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

ny market you visit in Ireland will have this for sale. Its really easy to make, keeps well and, most importantly, tastes great with a cuppa.
Makes 9-12 depending on how big you cut your squares

175g (6oz) butter
2 tbsp. golden syrup
250g (9oz) dark chocolate (55-79% cocoa solids), cut into pieces
280g (10oz) rich tea biscuits
85g (3oz) raisins
85g (3oz) chopped roasted hazelnuts

Lightly grease a 23cm (9in) cake tin.

Melt the butter, golden syrup and chocolate in a bowl in the microwave or in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a very low heat, then stir until smooth.

Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin, but leave some slightly larger chunks, and tip into the melted chocolate mixture with the raisins and hazelnuts. Stir well.

Spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin, pressing it down well to get a smooth, even surface. When cool, chill in the fridge, then serve cut into squares.

Hot Tips

For further information on country markets and farmers markets near you visit  

Biodiversity Day at Irish Seedsavers, Scariff, Co Clare on 20th May 12-5
will be a celebration of the work at the ISSA, preserving native varieties of heritage fruit trees, grains and seeds.
Workshops will be running throughout the day on Native fruit varieties, 
vegetable seed processing, rare Irish grains, planting organic garden, 
bee keeping, rare poultry, horse ploughing, cob building, children's 
activities including nature walks, wildlife drawing and a puppet show. 
There will be live music and a full organic cafe and coffee shop open all day. This event will be advertised locally as well as nationally.
Shuttle buses from Scariff to the centre.  

Easter Chickens Hatch in the Office

Such excitement, we’ve just been watching the first three little chicks slowly emerging from their shells – it takes them several hours to struggle free. At first they seem wet and bewildered but soon dry out and fluff up in the warmth of the incubator. I invested in this far from essential piece of equipment a few years ago as part of my ongoing campaign to educate the cookery school students on the 12-week Certificate Course (prospective cooks and chefs) about how food is produced and where it comes from. We also use it on the ‘How to keep a few chicken in your garden’ course as an option for those in urban areas who would like to keep a few hens but daren’t let nature take its course for fear of being dubbed the neighbour from hell when the cock wakes the neighbours at 4.30am in the morning. 

We have hatched out several batches of chicks by now – it takes about 21 days from start to finish and delights everyone from my grandchildren to the grannies. 

Easter has always been about eggs, which have, since ancient times been a symbol of fertility, rebirth and resurrection. During Lent people fasted rigorously, the hens went on laying and so the eggs piled up. They were preserved in a variety of ways. I certainly remember buckets of eggs submerged in Waterglass. These were used for cakes. The simpler buttered eggs didn’t last so long but had a delicious curdy texture and are certainly worth doing if you have access to fresh free range eggs. Ideally they should be warm from the nest. Really fresh free-range organic eggs are a wonderful whole food but for many people a forgotten flavour. Now at last they are starring in their own right on menus from coast to coast in the US. But not just any old egg, really fresh eggs from now rare breeds. Some are names familiar to many of us, for example Rhode Island Reds, Leghorn, Marrans, Light Sussex, others are less well known – Buff Orpington, Plymouth Rock Bantams, Frizzlies, Cochins, or the little Aracuna whose blue shells continue to delight. 

Fortnum and Mason, a mecca for gourmets in London, sell the eggs of these fancy fowl individually for those who want to present their dinner party host or hostess with a unique edible gift – much more fun and delicious than a dodgy bottle of wine. Here are some of my favourite recipes …………………….. 

Chorizo and Parsley Scrambled Eggs

This is so good for breakfast but also makes a delicious tapa.
Serves 4

6oz (175g) chorizo, finely chopped
6 free range eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablesp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the chorizo. When the fat starts to ooze out add the beaten eggs and stir gently over a low heat until just set. Add lots of freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley. 
Serve in an earthenware dish with some crusty bread.

Warm Salad of Gubbeen Bacon with Poached Egg and Gabriel Cheese

A gorgeous little salad which totally depends on good ingredients. Make it with battery produced eggs and indifferent bacon and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

Gubbeen bacon is cured and smoked by a brilliant young artisanal producer called Fingal Ferguson, son of Tom and Giana Ferguson who make the famous Gubbeen farmhouse cheese on their farm in West Cork. If you can’t lay your hands on this, look out for the best quality smoked bacon you can find.
Gabriel cheese is a hard cheese made by their near neighbour Bill Hogan. A good nutty Parmesan may be used instead.
Serves 4

a mixture of organic salad leaves
170g (6oz) smoked Gubbeen bacon lardons
4 eggs free-range organic 
Caesar Salad dressing 
25g (1oz) freshly grated Gabriel cheese, alternatively use Parmigiano Reggiano
freshly chopped parsley

First make the Caesar dressing.- you will have more than you need for this recipe but it keeps for several weeks so save it in the refrigerator for another time.

Fill a small saucepan with cold water, add a little salt. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat, crack the egg and allow it to drop gently into the water. Cook in the barely simmering water for 4 to 5 minutes or until the white is set and the yolk is still soft. You may cook the eggs separately or together depending on the size of your saucepan.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan, add a little olive or sunflower oil. Cook the lardons of bacon until crispy and golden.

To assemble the salad. 

Put a little caesar dressing on the plate. Quickly arrange a selection of lettuce and salad leaves on top. We also add a little freshly cooked asparagus or chicory in season or some chard or beet greens. Sprinkle the hot sizzling bacon over the salad, top with a poached egg. Drizzle some caesar dressing over the poached egg and salad leaves. 

Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese (use a microplane or a fine grater) and a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (55g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
2 teaspoon salt
½-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
½-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
50ml (2fl oz) cold water

We make this dressing in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Ham and Egg Pie

This lovely old-fashioned picnic pie comes from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home by Rachel Allen, published by Collins.
Serves 6-8

200g (7oz) Shortcrust Pastry, made with –
125g (4¼ oz) flour
75g (3oz) butter
Pinch of salt
½-1 egg

15g (½ oz) butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 eggs
75ml (2¾ fl.oz) double cream
150g (5oz) cooked ham or cooked bacon rashers, sliced into 1 x 2cm (½ x ¾ in) pieces
1 tablesp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4.

Roll out the pastry and line a 25cm (10in) ovenproof plate. Trim the pastry so that it is a bit bigger than the plate, then fold up the edges slightly so that you have a slight lip all the way around. This will prevent the cream from running off the plate when you put it in the oven. Place the pastry on its plate in the fridge while you prepare the filling ingredients.

For the filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the onions and cook over a gentle heat until soft. Whisk two of the eggs in a bowl, add the cream, the cooked onions, chopped ham and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour this into the pastry case. Carefully break the remaining eggs onto the tart, trying to keep the egg yolks intact.

Bake for 25-35 minutes in the preheated oven until the custard is set in the centre and the eggs on top are just cooked. Serve warm or allow to cool and pack for a picnic. Cut slices of the tart straight from the plate.

Foolproof Food

Boiled Eggs with Soldiers and Asparagus

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have some space to keep a few free range hens are blessed indeed. The eggs laid by my happy, lazy hens are completely perfect - white curdy albumen and rich yellow yolks. When you have access to eggs of this quality, treat yourself to a boiled egg - absolute perfection but sadly a forgotten flavour for so many people. Little fingers of toast called dippies or soldiers are the usual accessory but during the asparagus season in May a few spears of fresh green asparagus make a deliciously decadent dip.
Serves 2

6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus
2 fresh free range eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few pats of butter
1 slice of fresh white pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut into fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups on large side plates. Put the cooked asparagus (see below) and soldiers on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

To cook asparagus
Trim the stalks of the asparagus, cook in boiling salted water for 7-8 minutes or until a knife will pierce the root end easily. Drain and keep hot. 

Wild Garlic Frittata

A frittata is an Italian omelette. Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. This basic recipe, is flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy. In Spring we often add Wild Garlic to the basic frittata for a delicious variation.
Serves 6-8

10 large eggs, preferably free range organic
1 teasp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
85g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
4oz (110g) wild garlic leaves chopped
30g (1oz) butter

Wild Garlic flowers for garnish

Non stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, chopped wild garlic (keep back a little for sprinkling on top after) and grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.

Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface. 

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. Sprinkle with a little chopped wild garlic and the wild garlic flowers.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad.

Besançon Rhubarb Tart

Serves 10-12
8 ozs (225g) plain flour
6 ozs (170g) butter
Pinch of salt
1 dessertsp. icing sugar
A little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

1lb (450g) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces
6-8 tablesp. Castor sugar
½ pint (300m) cream
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablesp. castor sugar 
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence 

1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way (see recipe) and leave to relax in a fridge for 1 hour. Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes. Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly inside the tart shell. Sprinkle with 6-8 tablespoons castor sugar. 

Whisk the eggs well, with the 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla essence, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the apples are fully cooked. Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Buttered Eggs are available from Moynihan’s Poultry Stall at the Princes Street side of the English Market in Cork – Tel 021- 4272614

Cork City Slow Food Convivium – Chocolate and Coffee Evening
Next event will be Tuesday, April 24th at 8pm in the Aga Show Room, behind the Clarion Hotel. Chocolate will be supplied by Emily and Sarah Hehir of Cocoa Bean, Limerick, Coffee will be supplied by John Gowan of Cork Coffee Roasters. Members €10, Non €15. Bookings Phone 021 4505819 Email:  or  

Slow Food Clare
Sunday 6th May – Kilrush Community Garden, Shorthorn Beef Barbecue Contact -Michael Gleeson 

Four Rivers Slow Food Convivium
Wednesday 9th May Visit to Flahavans Mill in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford at 7.30pm – see the manufacturing process, learn about the history of cereal production in the area, experience the success story of a small local food manufacturer.  Contact Donal Lehane to book –  Tel 087-6780014, 051-396288


Past Letters