ArchiveNovember 2008

Christmas Cooking

Fionnuala Quinlan of the Weekend Examiner telephoned a few weeks ago with a challenge. Could we teach a busy hack how to cook a traditional Christmas dinner in just a few hours? Pól O’Conghaile had dabbled a bit in the kitchen but never cooked a turkey or made a pudding before. This year, he had promised his girlfriend who had recently been diagnosed as a Coeliac that he would produce the festive feast.

He wanted to be able to cook the bird and all the trimmings so we ordered a fine free range turkey – sourcing a really good turkey is crucial to produce a delicious roast turkey – so we ordered a fine bird from a local farmer Nora Ahern, who has been supplying Ballymaloe House with fine poultry reared on her farm in Edmonstown in Midleton, for the past 30 years.

Pól brought his own gluten free bread, so we showed him how to make bread crumbs in a matter of seconds in a food processor. Gluten free bread crumbs appear to be less absorbent than ordinary crumbs so reduce the butter by one ounce. Same in the plum pudding and bread sauce. We spent quite a bit of time showing Pól basic knife techniques which are so crucial to enjoying cooking in the kitchen. So many people don’t allow themselves the luxury of a couple of decent steel knives. Every chore is a struggle when the knife is blunt whereas when you master a couple of basic knife techniques, one can chop slice in a rhythmic way and suddenly it all becomes great fun. We showed Pól how to chop and slice and how to hold a knife for maximum flexibility.
Pól was surprised how simple it was to make the Cranberry sauce. We used organic Irish cranberries grown by Ciara Morris in Co Offaly. Pól always hated Brussels sprouts but wanted to learn how to cook them. The sprouts had been picked in the walled garden in Ballymaloe House just a few hours earlier. They were fine big sprouts so we cleaned them and cut them into quarters so they cooked quickly. We showed him how to blanch them in well salted boiling water and refresh them in ice cold water to stop the cooking and set the colour. This means they can be cooked ahead and heated up just minutes before they are to be served. However it was the crusty roast potatoes which he seemed to favour most. Delicious floury Golden Wonders, par cooked for just a few minutes and then tossed into smoking hot duck fat and roasted until they were crisp on the outside and soft in the centre.
Pól was also amazed how easy it was to make plum pudding, again to make a gluten free version. We used Myrtle Allen’s recipe as a base. The secret is to buy really plump delicious fruit and proper fresh suet. Make no mistake the best plum puds are made from beef suet but remember to serve the pudding on really hot plates. The boozy sauce base can be made weeks in advance again. Just add whipped cream to taste.
The proof in the pudding is in the eating so are looking forward to hearing how it all turns out on the day.
Traditional Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Classic Bread Sauce

Serves 10-12
This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.

(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic turkey with neck and giblets,

Fresh Herb Stuffing

175g (6ozs) butter
350g (12oz) chopped onions
400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM)
50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm
salt and freshly ground pepper

neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey
2 sliced carrots
2 sliced onions
1 stick celery
Bouquet garni
3 or 4 peppercorns

For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter
large square of muslin (optional)

Cranberry sauce (see recipe)
Classic Bread sauce (see recipe)

large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress

Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.
To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 

Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt 2 dessertspoons of butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 3-3 1/2 hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 

The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.

To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.  Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.   Cover loosely with greaseproof paper and roast in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4 for 1-1 1/2 hours.

The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.

To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.

If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast
potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.

Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Classic Bread Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry Sauce is also delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. We enjoy this simple Cranberry Sauce best.  It will keep in your fridge for several weeks.  It is also great with white chocolate mousse, as a filling for a meringue roulade.

Serves 6 approx.

170 g (6ozs) fresh or frozen cranberries
4 tablespoons (60 ml) water
85 g (3ozs) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water – don’t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins.  Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries pop and soften, about 7 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm or cold.

Note: Fresh cranberries keep for weeks on end but also freeze perfectly.
Classic Bread Sauce

I love Bread Sauce but if I hadn’t been reared on it I might never have tried it – the recipe sounds so dull!  Serve with roast chicken, turkey and guinea fowl.

Serves 6

600ml (1 pint) whole milk
85-100g (3 – 4 ozs) soft white breadcrumbs (use 6oz of gluten free bread crumbs and increase seasoning)
2 medium onions, each stuck with 6 cloves
35 – 55g (1 1/2 – 2 ozs) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper
75-100ml (3-4 fl ozs) thick cream
2 good pinches of ground cloves or quatre epices

Bring to the boil in a small, deep saucepan all the ingredients except the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and simmer gently on a very low heat (use a heat diffuser mat if possible) or cook in a low oven 160°C/325°F/regulo 3, for 30 minutes. Remove the onion and add the cream just before serving. Correct the seasoning and add a little more milk if the sauce is too thick. Serve hot.

Note: The bread sauce will keep in the fridge for several days – the remainder can be reheated gently – you may need to use a little more milk.

Quatre Epices is a French spice product made of equal amounts of ground white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
Creamed Celery

Serves 4 – 6

1 head of celery
salt and freshly ground pepper
roux (see recipe)
4-6 fl ozs (120-175ml) cream or creamy milk

chopped parsley

Pull the stalks off the head of celery. If the outer stalks seems a bit tough, peel the strings off with a swivel top peeler or else use these tougher stalks in the stockpot. Cut the stalks into 1/2 inch (1cm) chunks.

Bring 3 pint of water to the boil, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the chopped celery, cook for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally, until a knife will go through with ease. Remove celery to a serving dish with a slotted spoon. Thicken the remaining liquid with the roux; add the enough cream to make sufficient sauce to coat the celery. Allow to bubble for a few minutes, pour over celery, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note:  Can be reheated successfully

110 g (4 ozs) butter
110 g (4 ozs) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Gluten-free Roux

Roux is used as a thickener in flour-based sauces and occasionally in gravies.  Gluten-free Roux works just as effectively as regular flour based roux and it is great to have some in the fridge, where it will keep for up to a fortnight.  Make it in small or large quantities for future use or it can be made up on the spot if you prefer. 

110g (4oz) butter
50g (2oz) cornflour
50g (2oz) rice flour

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the cornflour and rice flour.  Combine the mixture with a wooden spoon and cook for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.


How to cook Brussels Sprouts

Not surprisingly many people hate Brussels sprouts because invariably they are over cooked.
The traditional way to cook sprouts was to cut a cross in the stalk so that they would, hopefully, cook more evenly. Fortunately I discovered quite by accident when I was in a mad rush one day, that if you cut the sprouts in half lengthways they cook much faster and taste infinitely more delicious so with this recipe I’ve managed to convert many ardent Brussels sprout haters!

Serves 4-6

1 lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, (cut lengthways top to bottom or cut into quarters)
1 pint (600ml) water 
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1-2 ozs (25-50g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Choose even medium sized sprouts. Trim the outer leaves if necessary and cut them in half lengthways. Salt the water and bring to a fast rolling boil. Toss in the sprouts, cover the saucepan just for a minute until the water returns to the boil, then uncover and remain for 5 or 6 minutes or until the sprouts are cooked through but still have a slight bite. Drain very well.

Melt a little butter in a saucepan; roll the sprouts gently in the butter, season with lots of freshly ground pepper and salt. Taste and serve immediately in a hot serving dish.

Note * If the sprouts are not to be served immediately, refresh them under cold water just as soon as they are cooked. Just before serving, drop them into boiling salted water for a few seconds to heat through. Drain and toss in the butter, season and serve. This way they will taste almost as good as if they were freshly cooked: certainly much more delicious than sprouts kept warm for half an hour in an oven or a hostess trolley.

Crusty Roast Potatoes

8 potatoes, unwashed Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

Choose medium to large potatoes of even size. Scrub and peel. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold salted water and bring to the boil. Drain thoroughly. Lightly scratch the surface with a fork and season with salt.
Put the potatoes into smoking hot fat or olive oil. Baste occasionally. Cook until soft in a hot oven 230C/450F/regulo 8 for 30-45 minutes depending on the size. Drain well on kitchen paper. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, put the potatoes into smoking hot fat in the same tin as the meat, 40-45 minutes before the meat is fully cooked and baste well. Cook until soft. (Baste the potatoes when you baste the meat and turn them over after 25 minutes). Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Myrtle Allen’s Plum Pudding with Brandy Butter

Serves 8-10

Making the Christmas Puddings (from The Ballymaloe Cook Book by Myrtle Allen)

The tradition that every member of the household could have a wish which was likely (note, never a firm promise) to come true, was, of course, a ruse to get all the children to help with heavy work of stirring the pudding.  I only discovered this after I was married and had to do job myself.  This recipe, multiplied many times, was made all at once.  In a machineless age, mixing all those expensive ingredients properly was a formidable task.  Our puddings were mixed in an enormous china crock which held the bread for the house hold for the rest of the year.  My mother, nanny and the cook took it in turns to stir, falling back with much panting and laughing after a few minutes’ work.  I don’t think I was really much help to them. 
Christmas puddings should be given at least 6 weeks to mature.  They will keep for a year.  They become richer and firmer with age, but one loses the lightness of the fruit flavour.  We always eat our last plum pudding at Easter.
If possible, prepare your own fresh beef suet – it is better than the pre-packed product. 

6ozs (175g) shredded beef suet
6 ozs (175g) sugar
7ozs (200g) soft breadcrumbs
8ozs (225g) currants
8 ozs (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) candied peel
1-2 teaspoons mixed spice
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons flour
2 fl ozs (50ml) flesh of a baked apple
3 eggs
2 fl ozs (50ml) Irish whiskey

1 x 3 pints (1.75 L) capacity pudding bowl

Mix the ingredients thoroughly.  Whisk the eggs and add them, with the apple and whiskey.  Stir very well indeed.  Fill into the greased pudding bowl.  Cover with a round of greaseproof paper or a butter-wrapped pressed down on top of the pudding.  Put a large round of greaseproof or brown paper over the top of the bowl, tying it firmly under the rim. 

Place in a saucepan one-third full of boiling water and simmer for 10 hours.  Do not allow the after to boil over the top and do not let it boil dry either.  Store in a cool place until needed.

Boil for 1 1/2 – 2 hours before serving.  Left-over pudding may be fried in butter.

Serve with Whiskey Cream or Brandy butter.
Brandy Butter
(Gluten free also)

3ozs (75g) butter
3ozs (75g) icing sugar
2-6 tablespoons brandy

Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter. Store covered in a glass jar.  It will keep for several weeks.
Thrifty Tip

Save slices of stale white bread to make bread crumbs. Simply trim off the crusts (or leave them on if you don’t mind the flecks of crust) and pop in a food processor or liquidiser, cover and whizz for few seconds until the bread has been reduced to crumbs.
Freeze and use as required for stuffings, crumbles, coatings or buttered crumbs.

Hot Tips

Slow Food Celebration of Winter

Dublin’s Slow Food convivium will be hosting the second of its Seasonal Celebrations – A Celebration of Winter – on December 14th at Temple Bar’s Meeting House Square.
Go along to celebrate the new season’s bounty with our city’s small producers, artisans and community gardens. There will be tasting stalls and music.
All proceeds will go to help encourage edible schoolyards in all Irish schools
01-677 2255
Truffles for Irish Gardeners
Johnstown GAarden Centre offers the unique opportunity to Irish gardeners of growing their own natural summer truffles. Johnstown have teamed up with global truffle expert Dr Paul Thomas to develop young hazel trees impregnated with the truffle fungus that should be ready to harvest up to four years after planting with an expected yield of about 1kg at maturity. This wet summer has been particularly good for truffle finds.
Cork on Ice
Bill Cremin has opened a 700 square meter ice rink under a marquee in Little Island Cork over the Christmas and New Year period. Alongside the marquee is an artisan food tent where you can buy Green Saffron curries, steaming mugs of hot chocolate from O’Conaill’s chocolates and sausages from the Gourmet Sausage Company.
The ice rink will be open until January.  086 2145525

Festival of Flavour at Listowel

The Listowel Food Fair, now in its 14th year, is still buzzing.  Jimmy Deenihan and his team were one of the very first to organise a Food Fair to highlight local produce and to celebrate the food traditions of the area.  I arrived early on Friday morning; the Listowel Farmers Market was already underway.  It was an atrocious day; the wind buffeted both the stalls and the stallholders. I know exactly how they felt in that icy cold rain, yet each and everyone was cheery and upbeat. Frenchman Olivier Beaujoran had come from Castlegregory to sell his pates, terrines, Boudin noir, marinated organic salmon and his wife Maya Binder’s Dillisk and Kilcummin farmhouse cheese. I bought some of Olivier’s charcuterie and a cheese studded with black peppercorns.
Just beside his stall Lucy Trant, Owen Carthy and Joe Mannix were selling a selection of herbs, fruit trees and flowers grown by the Kerry Parents and Friends – a very worthwhile project which deserve tremendous support from the community.
Ella O’Sullivan from Listowel was just one of five or six home bakers with a delicious selection of bread, tarts and buns.  Steven Neiling’s Pióg pies with their delicious buttery pastry have also got people queuing and discussing which their favourite is – Beef and Guinness, Kerry Lamb pie, Seafood Pie, Vegetable Pie, Shepherds Pie… The meat all comes from Ashe’s, the local butcher, and the seafood from Paddy Malone in Dingle. That’s what we like to hear – a real taste of Kerry. Sean Daly’s stall was piled high with vegetables including some fine local spuds, carrots, turnips and cabbages.
Sebastian Ridoux, who hails from north of Paris sells crepes at the market.  He came to Kerry to learn English seven years ago and hasn’t been able to tear himself away from there since. It was a struggle to keep his stove alight on that blustery morning but he still managed to cook fresh crepes with a variety of tempting sweet and savoury fillings.
I bought half a dozen duck eggs from Phil Vevsey and was also tempted by the free range chicken wings for €2.00. Phil rears his own Cobb birds for the table and also has a few ducks.
Along the other side of the square in the shadow of St John’s beautiful church, Conor Breheny’s stall was piled high with gorgeous sounding soups, relish, pesto, salad dressings and home made stuffing. I needn’t have cooked for a week. I couldn’t resist a pot of Wild Beara honey, even though I had already bought three other types of local honey.
Stephen and Linda Baker also lost their hearts to Kerry and have lived in Ardfert for over 20 years. They specialise in gluten free produce. Their trifle, ginger cake, Moroccan orange cake all looked enticing.
Bob Summerhayes was out of action with a gammy leg but his stall was looked after by his friends in the generous spirit of the Farmers Market.
Olga Demery had yet more home baking and salads. Close to the perimeter was one of my heroes, pig farmer Caroline Rigney with a selection of products from her own free-range Tamworth pigs, delicious rashers with a decent bit of fat on them, bacon, ribs, white pudding, juicy sausages and beautiful white lard – the very best thing for cooking roast potatoes and adding shortness to pastry. The crubeens and pigs tails were sold out but she promised to get me some.

I met the enthusiastic gang from the Drumcollagher Organic Project with a variety of lovely vegetables and plants. The weather was so appalling that I just hope they managed to sell their produce.

Finally Kerry shellfish producers brought in a delicious selection of mussels, cockles and manila clams for my cookery demonstration.  Local dairy farmer Kate Carmody organised a terrific Slow Food dinner at Listowel Arms on Saturday night.  It was packed to capacity with people from as far away as Dublin coming to taste local food.  One of the big challenges is to get restaurants and hotels to incorporate local food into their menus.  It’s difficult for chefs to resist the temptation to buy everything from one or two catering suppliers – which is so easy and convenient but supporting local producers can make a significant difference to local farmers and fishermen’s livelihood and add extra interest to the menu.  Young chef Noel Keane of Tralee and his team rose to the occasion admirably and even incorporated his grandfather’s apples into the menu.

Eighty four year old Sue McKenna dropped off her bread at the Listowel Arms on Friday morning. She had been up since the crack of dawn, she was entering the Home Baker of the Year Award, and there were over 40 entries. This was just one of the four competitions at the Listowel Food Fair this year. The Irish Food Book of Year Award was won by vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia in Dublin, titled Cornucopia at Home.

Eddie O’Neill from Teagasc in Moorepark, Sara McSweeny technical advisor to the Farm House Cheese Industry, Sarah Bates and I tasted our way through 50 farm house cheeses.  We awarded some gold, silver and bronze medals but the overall winner was a gorgeous aged Coolea Gouda type cheese made by second generation farm house cheese maker Dicky Willems from Coolea near Macroom in West Cork.  HYPERLINK “
Slow Food is all about supporting local food producers, encouraging biodiversity and paying a fair price for the product.  There are 15 chapters in Ireland.  If you would like to know more HYPERLINK “  A gift of Slow Food membership makes a perfect Christmas present.

Clams and Mussels with Lemongrass and Coconut

Noel Keane the head chef at the Listowel Arms hotel shared this delicious recipe with me for my cookery demonstration on Friday night. So easy and tasty, he used local mussels, clams and cockles.

Serves four as a main course

2lbs (900g) mussels
1lb (450g) clams
2 lemon grass stalks, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 glass white wine
1 tin coconut milk
sea salt and cracked black pepper
chopped coriander

Melt 1oz of butter in a wide sauté pan add the shallots, garlic and lemongrass and sweat for 3 – minutes Add the wine and reduce.
Whisk in the coconut milk and lime juice, season with salt and pepper. Reduce by half.
Meanwhile check that the shellfish are tightly shut, wash well in several changes of cold water. Add the mussels and clams to the base with lots of coriander leaves.

Serve either as a starter or with some homemade bread or salad as a light main course.


Warm Salad of Rigneys Bacon with Poached Egg and Beal Farmhouse Cheese

Caroline Rigney rears free range Tamworth, Saddleback and Gloucester Old Spot pigs in Kilcornan, Co Limerick. Their bacon is sweet and delicious. The beautiful Beal Farmhouse organic cheese is made by Kate Carmody, the Chair Person of the Board of Directors for Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA)
Serves 4

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.

a mixture of organic salad leaves
175g (6oz) smoked Rigney’s streaky bacon, cut into ¼ inch lardons
4 eggs free-range organic
Caesar Salad dressing (see recipe)
25g (1oz) freshly grated Beal cheese

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 and organic
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (50g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1/2-1 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.

Pig’s Tails with Swede Turnips

Paddy McDonnell’s stall in the Cork market is just one of several which sells pigs tails, skirts and kidneys and bodices. He tells me that he still sells about 200 a week, but he is concerned because they are becoming more difficult to find nowadays. Most pigs reared in an intensive way have their tails docked.
Pigs tails are rather irreverently known in Cork as ‘slash farts’ or ‘pigs mud-guards’!
Only last year I inquired from a customer at one of the stalls what she was going to do with the bag of pigs tails she had just purchased, she replied without a trace of embarrassment or hesitation,  ‘I’ve got ten in family,  I’ll split them in half and boil them up with turnips and then they’ll go further! – the group of Americans I was showing around the market couldn’t believe their ears!

Serves 6

6 pigs tails
1 swede turnip, peeled and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover the pig’s tails with cold water, bring to the boil, and then discard the water. Cover with fresh water and bring to the boil again.
Add the turnip to the pot, cover and continue to cook until the pigs tails are soft and tender and the turnip fully cooked.
Remove the tails and keep aside. Mash the turnip with a generous lump of butter. Season. Put in a hot bowl and serve the pig’s tails on top.

Kerry Apple Cake with Cinnamon Sugar

2 large eggs preferably free range and organic
225g ( 8 ozs) castor sugar
110g ( 4 ozs )butter
150ml (¼ pint) creamy milk
185g (6½ ozs) plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
3-4 Bramley cooking apples
30g (1 oz) sugar

Cinnamon sugar
25g (1oz) castor sugar
¼ teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.
Grease and flour a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch) roasting tin or lasagne dish. Whisk the eggs and the castor sugar in a bowl until the mixture is really thick and fluffy. Bring the butter and milk to the boil in saucepan, and stir, still boiling, into the eggs and sugar. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and fold carefully into the batter so that there are no lumps of flour. Pour the mixture into the prepared roasting tin. Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices, arrange them overlapping on top of the batter. Sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for a further 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into slices. Serve with softly whipped cream

Fool Proof Food

Lemon Drizzle Squares

Makes 24

6 ozs (170g) soft butter
6 ozs (170g) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
6 ozs (170g) self-raising flour


freshly grated rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
freshly squeezed juice of 1-2 organic lemons
4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

10 x 7 inch (25.5 x 18 cm) Swiss roll tin, well greased

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4. Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen. Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the glaze. As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cool. Cut into squares.

Remove the biscuits from the tin if keeping for a few days unless the tin is coated with Teflon.
Hot Tips

O’Connell’s of Ballsbridge
Devoted fans of Tom O’Connell, whose restaurant O’Connell’s in Bewleys of Ballsbridge, (now Morans Hotel) had a national following will be glad to hear that O’Connell’s is now back in operation in the Ballsbridge Court Hotel in Pembroke Road, Dublin 4 Tel:
01 665 5940.

Belvelly Smoke House Shop
Caroline Hederman has opened a tiny shop by the Belvelly Smoke House near Cobh Co Cork, crammed with delicious artisan goodies. You will find the Belvelly Smoke House range of smoked salmon, mackerel, mussels, and baked salmon as well as a variety of hand made relishes, chutneys, mayonnaise and a tempting range of homemade sweets, fudge and peanut brittle… 086 8213984

The Nautilis Restaurant
There’s a little gem of a restaurant called Nautilus overlooking the harbour and lighthouse in Ballycotton called The Nautilis, French chef Lionel Babin is doing delicious food at very fair prices.  Don’t miss his Fondue Savoyarde.  Sunday lunch is unmissable.  After you’ve tucked in, enjoy a walk along the beautiful East Cork coastline all the way to Ballytrasna.
021 4646 768.

Thrifty Tip:
Left over citrus peel make brilliant firelighters when dried.  We just throw them into the cool oven of the Aga and allow them to dry out – a day or two.  Alternatively, dry on top of a radiator or in some warm dry spot – they smell delicious as they burn.

Terra Madre – Italy

Terra Madre – Mother Earth

I’m just back from the Terra Madre conference in Italy. This Slow Food event, held in Italy every two years is quite simply a life changing experience. There is nothing else like it in the world. This year over 7000 people participated in the Terra Madre from 153 countries, over a three day period from 23rd – 27th October. 4073 farmers, breeders, fishermen and artisan producers, 727 cooks, 299 university professors and food scientists and researchers, over 1000 students and 213 musicians gathered together.
It runs in conjunction with Salone del Gusto the biggest artisan and specialist food fair in the world.
There was over 80 delegates representing Ireland, including our Minister for Food and Horticulture Trevor Sergent and Aidan Cotter the CEO of Bord Bia. The Irish Ambassador to Italy Sean O hUiginn came from Rome to attend the Terra Madre (meaning Mother Earth) events. 

This year the Slow Food network was greatly enhanced by the involvement of over 1200 young people from the Slow Food Youth Movement. I was blown away by these young food activists from all over the world who are involved in hundreds of inspirational projects in their own communities. From Slow Food on Campus programs to seed saving, School Gardens Networks to healthy canteens. In Germany they have a Slow Food Mobile which travels from school to school teaching children the important life skills of how to cook and grow vegetables.

Improving the quality of food in schools, hospitals and company canteens was a key issue at both Terra Madre and Salon del Gusto meetings this year.
The importance of healing with food was highlighted in examples provided by the Alice Hospital in Darmstadt in Germany and the Asti Hospital in Italy.
Canadian High School teacher Paul Finkelstein told us about the unique project at his school which now has two canteens. Students work with Paul to prepare up to 300 meals a day based on fresh seasonal locally sourced ingredients.
“This is a generational tool of change, by students learning to cook, we hope their parents will also be connected with good food and that grandparents will be motivated to bring back tradition.”

The Slow Presedia products from around the world were a revelation.  These traditional and artisan products from countries all over the globe were endangered for a variety of reasons, some economic, others relate to stringent hygiene regulations that fail to appreciate the value of traditional production systems where food has been produced in a time honoured way for centuries.

In an era of increasing homogenisation these foods are doubly welcome. Old varieties of seeds, nuts, berries, rare breeds of animal and fowl… Siwa dates from western Egyptian desert. Speckled black and white Chaam chickens with huge red cock’s combs from Northern France and Germany, exquisite hand-picked Jiloca saffron from the Teruel Province in Spain. People queued to taste de Branza de Burduf – pink bark wrapped sheep cheese from Transylvania. Cheese in a sheepskin sack from Herzegovina also drew a crowd; it was tangy, crumbly and delicious.

The farmers of Napo Province in Ecuador brought their cocoa beans and told us their story as did the indigenous tribe who grow Brazil nuts on their Tando Plateau in Bolivia. I spoke to one friendly smiling farmer and fisherman after the other, so grateful to Slow Food and Terra Madre for highlighting their product and creating the Terra Madre network where they can meet and share and learn how to overcome challenges and find new markets. There was much much more it was truly a life changing experience.
Taglierini al Profumo di Limone
Fresh Noodles with Lemon

Serves 6

This recipe was given to me by Mimmo Baldi, the chef owner of Il Vescovino in Panzano. His restaurant overlooking many of the best vine-yards in Chianti serves some of the most inspired food I have tasted in Italy – certainly worth the detour.

7ozs (200g) fresh or dried taglierini (thin noodles)
5fl ozs (150ml) very fresh cream
2 fresh lemons
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
a knob of butter

Scrub the lemons gently to remove any wax, then grate the lemon zest on the finest part of the stainless steel grater, add it to the cream, cover the bowl and leave to infuse in the fridge for 5 – 6 hours.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente, drain well and put into a hot pasta dish, adding the cream and lemon mixture. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add a knob of butter and toss well. Serve instantly. This sauce should not be thick.

Risotto with Marcella Hazan’s Ragu

Serves 6

1.1 litre (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

25g (1oz) butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot or little onion finely chopped
400g (14oz) Arborio, Carnaroli or Vilano Nano rice
200ml (7fl oz) dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper
100g (3 1/2oz) butter cut in cubes
50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiana Reggiano plus more for sprinkling at table

First make the Ragu (see recipe below)

First bring the stock to the boil, then keep at a gentle simmer on the side of the stove or on a medium heat.  Meanwhile melt 25g (1oz) butter in a sauté pan with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, add the finely chopped shallot or onion, stir and sweat for 3-4 minutes.  In another saucepan, bring the chicken stock to the boil and then adjust the heat so it stays at a gentle simmer.  Add the rice to the onions, stir for a minute or two, then add the dry white wine and continue to cook until the wine is almost fully absorbed.  Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. 
Then begin to add ladlefuls of simmering stock, stirring all the time and making sure that the last addition has been almost absorbed before adding the next. 
After about 12 minutes when the rice is beginning to soften, add any desired additions and cook for a few minutes more.  See below for Good Things to Add to a Risotto.  When you are happy that it is just right, soft and wavy, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan.  Taste – it should be exquisite.  Correct the seasoning if necessary.  Serve immediately in warm bowls with a dollop of ragu on top an extra sprinkling of Parmesan.

Marcella Hazan’s Ragu

I’ve been told that if you want to make your way to an Italian man’s heart it is essential to be able to make a good ragu.
It is a wonderfully versatile sauce – the classic bolognese sauce for Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, indispensable for lasagne, and also delicious with polenta and gnocchi.  I have been making Marcella Hazan’s version for many years from her Classic Italian Cookbook (a book you would do well to seek out).  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

1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons finely chopped carrot
12 ozs minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck
1/2 pint (300ml) dry white wine
4 fl ozs (120ml) milk
one-eight teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 x 14 oz (400g) 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 sauté 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.

Tuscan Plum Tart

Serves 10 – 12
We ate this gorgeous tart in a little restaurant, near Castellini in Chianti. I managed to extract the recipe by a mixture of much sincere flattery and gentle persuasion, a wow for an autumn party and so easy to make.

225g (8oz) sugar
150ml (5fl ozs) water

450g (1lb) plums

5 1/2oz (150g) soft butter
6oz (175g) sugar
3 eggs, free-range and organic
7oz (200g) self-raising flour

1 x 25.5cm (10 inch) sauté pan or a cast iron frying pan

Preheat oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Put the sugar and water into the pan.  Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until the sugar caramelises to a rich golden brown.

Meanwhile halve and stone the plums, arrange cut side down in a single layer over the caramel.

Put the butter, sugar and flour into the bowl of a food processor.   Whizz for a second or two, add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together.   Spoon over the plums and spread gently in as even a layer as possible.

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately one hour.   The centre should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan.   Allow to rest in the pan for 4-5 minutes before turning out.   Serve with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream.
Fool Proof Food

The area of Piedmont and Turin in Italy is famous for its chocolate and hazelnuts. I always look forward to having a Bicerim when I arrive but this year I discovered Coffee Sabaudo a new treat at Gertosio one of the legendary cafes in Via Lagrange.

Spread some chocolate around the inside of a tall wide glass; add a shot of double espresso. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle generously with chopped toasted hazelnuts. So divine, you can’t imagine – worth flying to Turin especially to taste despite what it did to my waistline!

Thrifty Tip

June Bennett gave me this tip for saving left over lemon segments or slices. Just pop them into a plastic bag or chill box.
Freeze and use to both chill and flavour gin and tonic or other aperitifs.

Hot Tips

County Choice Fruit Clinic

Every Saturday during November there is a ‘Fruit Clinic’ from 11.00am to 4.00pm at the Country Choice Shop on where you can go and discuss anything under the sun about raisins, sultanas and currants. For people baking their first Christmas cake take your list for the best guidance and advice about exact quantities of fruit to make the perfect cake. Country choice has the widest selection of dried and glace fruits in Ireland.

Irish Food Company Scoops International Award

Innovative Irish food company, Cully & Sully, has become the first Irish company ever to win the overall award at the prestigious Sial d’Or world finals in Paris.

Cully & Sully not only won the chilled non-dairy category for their soup range at these finals, and are the first Irish company to do this, but in addition they were presented with the overall global Sial D’Or award, beating off competition from over 30 countries around the world. 


Minister Sargent To Officially Open Howth Castle Cookery School

The Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School is opening to the public on November 22, 2008. The cookery school is situated in the recently renovated Georgian kitchen in Howth Castle, the family home of the St. Lawrence family for over eight hundred years. Christine and Edwina St Lawrence, co-founders of the school, both hold a lifelong passion for food. Edwina St Lawrence gained her formal food training at the famous Le Cordon Bleu School in London.

Christmas Baking

Christmas Baking

The recent snap of cold air has jerked me out of my complacency and reminded me how close we are to Christmas, time to get started on Christmas baking and store cupboard goodies for edible presents.
Despite the uncertain times many people welcome the fact that the festive season is less likely to be as flamboyant and excessive as it has become in recent years. In just a few short weeks frugality has become cool – it’s all about competitive thrift. People are vying with each other to come up with ideas and schemes to save energy, money and food. My friends in California are all into bartering with food and services – “I’ll babysit for you in exchange for some of your surplus heirloom apples or whatever”
Back to Christmas baking – it’s all about getting really good quality dried fruit, fat Lexia raisins, plump golden sultanas and moist crinkly currants.
The quality of the candied peel really matters too. It may seem like a step too far to suggest making homemade candied peel but you might want to give it a little consideration because it is so worth it terms of flavour and texture. Plus there’s also the feel good factor – instead of chucking them into the bin – you put your citrus peel to good use rather than paying the corporation to take them to land fill
When I was a child growing up in a tiny village in Co Laois, our family ‘owned’ the local post office, I remember the excitement when eagerly anticipated parcels arrived from the yanks in America for local families; they often contained the makings of the cake! For many, at that time, dried fruit was a luxury. Baking the Christmas cake was a very serious business. How the cake turned out was the subject of much discussion after Mass on Sundays. Much was at stake, the precious expensive ingredients mustn’t be wasted yet one only got one chance in the year to practice and it was another whole year before one could correct a mistake. Lastly everyone in the neighbourhood would know how your cake turned out!
The Ballymaloe mincemeat recipe is gluten free so is suitable for coeliacs and those on a wheat free diet also. This recipe makes juicy and delicious mincemeat which keeps for over a year. Pot it up in pretty jars with labels and then you’ll have a handy source of Christmas pressies.
Limóncello is also worth making, when chilled it makes a deliciously refreshing aperitif and a much sought after pressie. (Fool Proof Food). Have fun.

Darina Allen’s Christmas Cake with Toasted Almond Paste

This makes a moist cake which keeps very well.  I have a passion for almond icing so I ‘ice’ the cake with almond icing and decorate it with heart shapes made from the Almond Paste.  Then I brush it with beaten egg yolk and toast it in the oven – simply delicious!

225g (8 ozs) butter
225 g (8 ozs) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden castor sugar
6 organic free-range eggs
285g  (10 ozs) flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
65 ml (2 1/2 fl ozs) Irish whiskey
340 g (12 ozs) best-quality sultanas
340 g (12 ozs) best- quality currants
340 g (12 ozs) best-quality raisins
110 g (4ozs) real glacé cherries
110 g (4ozs) homemade candied peel
55 g (2 ozs) ground almonds
55 g (2 ozs) whole almonds
rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange
1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated

Line the base and sides of a 9 inch (23 cm) round, or an 8 inch (20.5 cm) square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.
Wash the cherries and dry them out.  Cut in two or four as desired.  Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely.  Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind.  Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4 and cover with a sheet of brown paper.
 Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.  Mix the spice with the flour and a pinch of salt and stir in gently.  Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).
Put the mixture into the prepared cake tin.  Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Lay a sheet of brown paper over the top. Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160C/325F/regulo 3 after 1 hour.  Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean, 3-3½ hours in total.  Pour the rest of the whiskey over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.
Next day remove from the tin.  Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required. Almond paste or ice closer to Christmas.

Almond Paste
450 g ground almonds
450 g castor sugar
2 small organic free range eggs
A drop of pure almond essence
50 ml Irish whiskey

Sieve the castor sugar and mix with the ground almonds.  Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond essence, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg).  Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.

To Brush on the Cake
1 egg white, lightly beaten

2 egg yolks

 Remove the paper from the cake.  To make life easier for you, put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto the worktop; dust with some icing sugar.  Take about half the almond paste and roll it out on the paper: it should be a little less than 2 inch (1 cm) thick.  Paint the top of the cake with the lightly-beaten egg white and put the cake, sticky side down, onto the almond paste. Give the cake a ‘thump’ to make sure it sticks and then cut around the edge.  If the cake is a little ‘round shouldered’, cut the almond paste a little larger; pull away the extra bits and keep for later to make hearts or holly leaves.   With a palette knife press the extra almond paste in against the top of the cake to fill any gaps.  Then slide a knife underneath the cake or, better still, underneath the paper and turn the cake right way up.  Peel off the greaseproof paper.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/regulo 7.
Next, measure the circumference of the cake with a piece of string.  Roll out 2 long strips of almond paste: trim both edges to the height of the cake with a palette knife.  Paint both the cake and the almond paste lightly with egg white.  Press the strip against the sides of the cake: do not overlap or there will be a bulge.  Use a straight-sided water glass to even the edges and smooth the join.  Rub the cake well with your hand to ensure a nice flat surface.  Roll out the remainder of the almond paste approx. 3 inch (5 mm) thick.  Cut out the heart shapes, paint the whole surface of the cake with some beaten egg yolk, and stick the heart shapes at intervals around the sides of the cake and on the top.  Brush these with egg yolk also.
Carefully lift the cake onto a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until just slightly toasted.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then transfer onto a cake board.
Note: As I’m an incurable romantic, my Christmas cake is always decorated with hearts, but you may feel that holly leaves and berries made of almond paste would be more appropriate for Christmas!  Basically, you can of course decorate it any way that takes your fancy.

Mummy’s Plum Pudding with Boozy Christmas Sauce

It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   As children we could hardly contain ourselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seemed all the more delicious because it was our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding was usually made about mid-November and everyone in the family had to stir so we could make a wish – I now know that it helped to mix it properly.
Its fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.
This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8.

12 ozs (340g) raisins
12 ozs (340g) sultanas
12 ozs (340g) currants
12 ozs (340g) brown sugar
12 ozs (340g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)
12 ozs (340g) finely-chopped suet
4 ozs (110g) candied peel (preferably home-made)
2 cooking apples, diced or grated
rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
3 pounded cloves (2 teaspoon)
a pinch of salt
6 organic free range eggs
2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica Rum
4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine,  making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.
Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 6 hours, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.
On Christmas day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with Brandy Butter.
You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; however take care, because the last time I did that I provided much merriment by setting the holly and my fringe on fire – as well as the pudding!

Boozy Christmas Sauce

This recipe is so delicious that people ask to have more Plum Pudding just so that they can have an excuse to eat lots of sauce.  This makes a large quantity but the base will keep for several weeks in the fridge, so you can use a little at a time, adding whipped cream to taste.

8 ozs (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)
2 ½ fl ozs (62ml) port
2 ½ fl ozs (62ml) medium sherry
2 ¼-2 ½ pints lightly whipped cream
4 ozs (110g) butter
1 organic free range egg

Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Refrigerate.
When needed, add the lightly whipped cream to taste.
This sauce is also very good with mince pies and other tarts.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat – Gluten Free

Makes 3.2 kilos approx.

2 Bramley apples
2 organic or organic unwaxed lemons
450g (1lb) beef suet minced (see Thrifty Tip)
pinch of salt
110g (4oz) homemade candied peel (see recipe)
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
225g (8oz) currants
450g (1lb) sultanas
900g (2lbs) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)
62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey

Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 45 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into jars, cover with jam covers and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.

Homemade Candied Peel

Fruit should be organic if possible, otherwise scrub the peel well.

5 organic unwaxed oranges
5 organic unwaxed lemons
5 organic unwaxed grapefruit   (or all of one fruit)
1 teasp. salt
3 lbs (1.35kg) sugar

Cut the fruit in half and squeeze out the juice. Reserve the juice for another use, perhaps homemade lemonade. Put the peel into a large bowl (not aluminium), add salt and cover with cold water. Leave to soak for 24 hours. Next day throw away the soaking water, put the peel in a saucepan and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to the boil cover and simmer very gently until the peel is soft, 3 hours approx. Remove the peel and discard the water. Scrape out any remaining flesh and membranes from inside the cut fruit, leaving the white pith and rind intact. (You could do the next step next day if that was more convenient).
Slice the peel into nice long strips.

Dissolve the sugar in 1 1/2 pints (900ml/3 3/4 cups) water, bring it to the boil, add the peel and simmer gently until it looks translucent, 30 – 60 minutes and the syrup forms a thread when the last drop falls off a metal spoon. Remove the peel with a slotted spoon, fill the candied peel into sterilised glass jars and pour the syrup over, cover and store in a cold place or in a fridge. It should keep for 6-8 weeks or longer under refrigeration.

Alternatively spread on a baking tray or trays and allow to sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour to cool. Toss in castor sugar and store in covered glass jars until needed.
Fool Proof Food


Makes about 3 ½ pints (2 litres)

25 organic lemons, washed and dried
1 ¾ pints (1 litre) of vodka
1 ½ lb (700g) sugar
1 ½ pints (850ml) water

Use a swivel top peeler to pare the rind off the lemons in strips, just remove the zest not the pith.  (Use the lemon juice for homemade lemonade or freeze it in ice cube trays for another use.)

Put the zest into a sterilized glass jar, cover with vodka, the zest should be submerged, cover the jar tightly, (we use a Kilner jar), and put into a cool dark cupboard for 48 hours.

Meanwhile, put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a high heat.   Stir to dissolve the sugar, bring to the boil for two minutes to stabilize.  Cool and store.  Two days later strain the zest from the spirit through a fine nylon sieve.  Combine with the syrup and stir well.

The Limoncello can be used immediately or can be bottled and stored lightly sealed in a cool place.  For optimum flavour use within 2-3 months.  Serve chilled.
Hot Tips

Local Free Range Pork

Noreen and Martin Conroy from Woodside Farm, have a small free range herd of pure bred Saddle Back and Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs – both rare breeds – on their family farm in East Cork.
They produce a delicious range of pork products, joints of pork and bacon, sausages, including gluten free varieties, rashers including dry cure. And one of their best sellers, pork and apple burgers
Noreen and Martin have a stall at Douglas Farmers Market every Saturday morning.
087- 2767206

Outdoor Oven Workshop Nohoval

German born Ovencraftsman, Hendrik Lepel, is running a two day workshop at his home in Nohoval near Kinsale on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of November, 2008. Learn how to build your own low cost earth oven and develop a good understanding on to apply your knowledge to any natural building project

Cost of the course is €150.00, this includes lunch and course book by Kiko Denzer, Build an Earth Oven.
086- 883 8400

Slow Food Christmas Cooking Demonstation

Slow Food East Cork is holding a Christmas Cooking Demonstration. Darina and Rachel Allen will be cooking some traditional Christmas favourites on Thursday 20th November 2008 at 7:30pm at Ballymaloe Cookery School, Shanagarry, Co Cork (021) 4646785.
€60.00 for non-members and €45.00 for Slow Food members. Proceeds raised from this event will go to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Fund, which links with schools to educate children about how their food is produced and where it comes from.
Thrifty Tip.

Ask your local butcher and ask for some beef suet to use for plum puds and mincemeat. It will cost very little or may even come free. Trim the meat of all the bloody bits. It will break apart naturally, remove the membrane and either chop finely, mince or whizz in a food processor. Fresh suet makes the best plum pudding and mincemeat.

Setting out our Stall – Good Food Ireland

Ireland is fast gaining a reputation as a food tourism destination and not before time. Up to relatively recently visitors to this country came to Ireland with high expectations of everything except the weather and the food. All this is changing and the enhanced image of Irish food is due in no small measure to growth of the artisan food production sector whose products are making waves on the global food scene, not for their scale but for their quality. Small is definitely beautiful and craft, handmade and traditional are all attributes that food lovers and food and travel writers seek out.

At last the butchers, bakers and shopkeepers who have stayed true to their craft are being valued and recognised for their skills.

Ireland has several admirable food guides but most with the exception of John and Sally McKenna’s Bridgestone Guide, focus solely on restaurants which is, after all only part of the food picture

Those of us who cook and are in the food business are acutely aware that we are only as good as our raw materials and that in the past one rarely heard the names of the fishermen, farmers or food producers.

Good Food Ireland, a relatively new organisation is determined to remedy this lamentable situation. This not-for-profit marketing organisation brings together a cross section of establishments from hotels, restaurants, food shops, artisan producers, butchers, and bakers to fish smokers and farmer’s markets that are committed to using local Irish artisan produce. The vision of Good Food Ireland is to grow Ireland as a food tourism destination by providing visitors who want a real taste of Ireland with a one stop shop so they can find local food wherever they go.


Good Food Ireland also showcases its members regularly at tourism events. Earlier this year they provided the food at the Showcase Event for Darley Irish Oaks at The Curragh Racecourse. The response was overwhelmingly positive as it was at Taste of Cork and Taste of Dublin. More recently the managing director of Good Food Ireland, Margaret Jeffares and her group were invited – in conjunction with Tourism Ireland – to showcase its members produce to 150 international media at the start of Volvo Ocean Race in Alicante. Good Food Ireland flew out all the food produce from member food producers and Maurice Keller from Arlington Lodge and Peter Ward from Country Choice presented an all Irish buffet. Good Food Ireland is now preparing to travel to the second stop of the Volvo Ocean Race in Cape Town, South Africa. Just a few weeks ago 26 members including myself travelled to London to provide a Taste of Ireland at Tourism Ireland’s Flavour of Ireland event. 26 chefs, farmers, fishermen, bread makers, shopkeepers, artisan producers and fishmongers, from the whole of Ireland set up their stall in the beautiful dining room of the Café Royal in London. The audience of high end travel agents were mightily impressed and piled their plates high, there was so much to choose from. Black and white puddings with Bramley apple and grainy mustard sauce from Kelly’s Butchers of Newport to dry cured bacon from Jack McCarthy Valencia Island squid with homemade chilli jam. Isobel Sheridan of On the Pigs Back in the English Market in Cork brought two delicious terrines, pork & plum and chicken & lemon. There was roast fillet of James Whelan’s Hereford beef, traditional Irish Connemara Lamb slow cooked under reeds. Donegal Crab, St Tola organic goat cheese soufflé and much more besides.

Such a feast! It didn’t end there. A whole array of desserts and Irish Farmhouse cheese and chocolates tempted the guests. The response was overwhelming. Everyone loved the extra dimension of meeting the splendid people behind the production of the delicious food they tasted and needless to say we enjoyed the response and were truly proud of our delicious Irish food and our tourism product.

Black and White Pudding with Grainy Mustard and Bramley Apple Sauce
Kelly’s Butchers of Newport, Co Mayo were inundated with requests for a taste of their black and white pudding.

Serves 12 for canapés, 4-6 as a starter

Butter or extra virgin olive oil

6 slices best quality black pudding approx. 1cm (1/2 inch) thick and 6 slices of white pudding

Bramley Apple Sauce:

1 lb (450g) cooking apples, e.g. Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

1-2 dessertsp. water

2 ozs (55g) sugar, depending on how tart the apples are
Grainy Mustard Sauce

8 fl. oz (250ml) cream

1 dessertsp. Dijon mustard

1 dessertsp. Grainy mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Flat parsley or watercress
First make the apple sauce – Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut the pieces in half and put into a stainless steel or cast iron saucepan with sugar and water. Cover and cook over a low heat, until the apple breaks down into a fluff. Beat into a puree, stir and taste for sweetness.
Next make the mustard sauce – Put the cream and both mustards in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally. Taste and season if necessary.

Melt a very little butter in a frying pan and fry the pudding on both sides on a medium heat until cooked through. Remove the skin from the pudding.

Make a bed of Bramley apple sauce on the serving plate or plates. Lay the pieces of hot pudding on top of the apple. Spoon a little Mustard Sauce carefully over the top.

Garnish with flat parsley and serve immediately.
Ballymaloe House Pumpkin Soup with Roasted Hazelnuts and Parsley Pesto

Serves 6 – 8

350g sliced onion

1 ½ lb (700g) chopped pumpkin (skin removed)

50g to 75g butter

1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable stock

110ml (4fl ozs) cream

salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a covered saucepan, add the onions and the pumpkin and sweat on a low heat until soft but not coloured 10 – 15 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the hot vegetable or homemade chicken stock and simmer until tender. Add the cream and liquidise. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Roast the hazelnuts for 5-10 minutes. Place the hazelnuts in a tea-towel and rub off the skins, roughly chop.


Next make the pesto.
Parsley Pesto

25g (1oz) parsley, leaves only (no stalks)

1_2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

40g (1½oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

25g (1oz) pine nuts

75ml (3 fl oz) Extra virgin olive oil

salt (don’t forget, essential to bring up the flavour)
Put all the ingredients except the oil into the food processor. Whizz for a second or two, add the oil and a little salt. Taste and correct seasoning.

Drizzle parsley pesto over the top of the soup and garnish with roasted hazelnuts.
Lemon Polenta Cake with Lemon Curd and Crème Frâiche

Janet Pilfold and Olive Brennan of Blue Geranium Café at the Hosford Garden Centre near Bandon in West Cork made this cake for the Flavours of Ireland Event in London, certainly one of the highlights.

Serves 8-10

225g (8oz) butter, softened

225g (8oz) castor sugar

225g (8oz) ground almonds

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 eggs, preferable free-range, lightly beaten

grated zest of 2 unwaxed and washed lemons

juice of 1 lemon

110g (4oz) fine cornmeal (polenta)

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

pinch of salt

Lemon Curd (see recipe Fool Proof Food)

To Serve

softly whipped cream or crème frâiche

1 x 23cm (9in) spring form cake tin

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Brush the cake tin with a little melted butter and flour the tin with rice flour. Cut out a round of parchment paper for the base of the tin.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter until pale and soft. Add the castor sugar and beat until light and creamy. Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla extract. Add the eggs, a little at a time beating thoroughly before adding the next bit.

Fold in the lemon zest and lemon juice, polenta, gluten-free baking powder and salt.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes or until deep golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the lemon curd (see recipe Fool Proof Food)
Spread the Lemon Curd over the top of the cake.
Serve cut into slices with a blob of softly whipped cream or crème frâiche. .

Glazed Ham

Peter Ward of Country Choice hand carved a glazed ham dry cured by his local butcher TJ Crowe of Dundrum, Co Tipperary.

Serves 12-15

1 x 10-12 lbs (4.5-5.4 kg) fresh or lightly smoked ham (make sure it has a nice layer of fat)

1 small tin of pineapple (use about 3-4 fl ozs/60-100 ml) of the juice

12 ozs-1 lb (340-450 g) brown demerara sugar

60-80 whole cloves, depending on the size of the diamonds

If the ham is salty, soak it in cold water overnight; next day discard the water. Cover the ham with fresh cold water and bring it slowly to the boil. If the meat is still salty there will be a white froth on top of the water. In this case it is preferable to discard this water, cover the ham with fresh cold water again and repeat the process. Finally, cover the ham with hot water and simmer until it is almost cooked. Allow 20 minutes to 1 lb (450 g) approx. for ham, 15 minutes for a loin of bacon.

Peel off the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern and stud each diamond with a whole clove. Blend the brown sugar to a paste with a little pineapple juice. Be careful not to make it too liquid. Spread this over the ham. Bake it in a hot oven, 250ºC/500ºF/regulo 9, for 20 minutes or until the top has caramelised. While it is glazing, baste regularly with the syrup and juices.
Roast Fillet of Beef with Béarnaise Sauce

Serves 8 – 10

1 whole fillet of well hung dried aged beef 2.6kg (6lb) approximately

a few cloves garlic

pork caul fat (if available)

sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Extra virgin olive oil


Trim away the chain if it is still attached; use the meat for Beef Stroganoff. Double over the meat at the tapered end and tie the fillet securely with fine butcher’s cotton twine. Alternatively ask your butcher to do the ‘butchering’ for you.

Rub the fillet all over with a cut clove of garlic, season well with lots of freshly ground pepper and wrap loosely in caul fat if available. Season well with sea salt.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.

Alternatively, rub the fillet all over with the cut clove of garlic as before, season well on all sides with salt and freshly cracked pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Heat a cast iron pan grill to very hot. Sear the beef until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer it to a roasting tin and tuck a couple of sprigs of thyme underneath.

Roast for 25-30 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, the internal temperature should read 118°C/235°F. Alternatively the meat should feel springy to the touch and the juice should be a pale pink when the meat is pierced with a skewer. Remove from the oven to a carving dish. Cover and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes by which time the juices will have redistributed themselves and the beef will be uniformly medium rare.

Serve cut in 5mm (1/4 inch) and serve with Béarnaise sauce. (see recipe Fool Proof Food)


Fool Proof Food

Lemon Curd

110g (4oz) castor sugar

50g (2oz) butter

finely grated rind and juice of 2 good lemons, preferably unwaxed organic

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

On a very low heat melt the butter, add castor sugar, lemon juice and rind and then stir in well beaten eggs. Stir carefully over a gentle heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Draw off the heat and pour into a bowl (it will thicken as it cools.)
Béarnaise Sauce

Serves 6-8

4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

4 tablespoons dry white wine

2 teaspoons finely chopped shallots

a pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves

2 egg yolks free-range and organic if possible

115-175g (4-6 oz) butter, salted or unsalted depending on what it is being served with

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

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

If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise Sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

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


Hot Tips


The interest and demand for allotments is growing apace. Many are over-subscribed but some farmers on the edge of larger towns are beginning to offer allotments to rent. People in the Cobh, Carrigtwohill and Midleton area should contact Siobhan Barry

021 4883034 or 086 8238187.

Skelligs Chocolates

Skelligs Chocolates are offering a couple of new temptations for the Festive Season. Dark chocolate Christmas tree bars for Christmas and plump rum soaked figs dipped in dark chocolate are worth seeking out.

Exciting Kitchen Toys

Rachel Allen’s has launched a whole range of kitchen items. They have been really carefully chosen and tested. Some of my favourites are a juicer which we’re using around the clock at the moment. I also love the slow cooker for making gorgeous succulent stews and the bread machine has at last converted me to the benefits of this appliance.


Isaac’s at Mahon Point Famers Market

When Arbutus Lodge Restaurant closed its doors in Cork it was sadly missed by its many admirers of which I was certainly one. Everyone had a favourite dish, Chicken with Whiskey sauce, Crubeens and Pheasant Torte; I loved all these and many more besides. One of my favourite treats was Chocolat St Emilion, a divinely rich chocolate mousse with a brandy soaked almond macaroon at the base, the stuff that nostalgic dreams are made of. Despite my best efforts I could never faithfully reproduce it. Can you imagine my delight when I discovered it at Isaac’s stall at the Mahon Point Farmers Market in Cork. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I found it and it tastes as irresistible as ever, this could become the new cult pud.


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