Christmas Leftovers

It’s a very busy time in the kitchen now so don’t forget a big hug for the cook! By now most people will have planned their menu for the festive season. Let’s hope the lesson learned from the excesses of Celtic Tiger era will mean that fewer people will totter out of the supermarket with trolleys piled high as though the shops were never ever to open again. Despite all my good intentions I’m just as guilty as anyone else, I always seem to over estimate what I’ll need and despite the best laid plans, I succumb to spontaneous invitations which are too tempting to resist. The result of changing plans is that my fridge and pantry overflow with the ingredients from cancelled meals. Lots of friends seem to be in a similar situation and there are regular conversations and even outright arguments on the lines of “You are so kind but please please can you come over to our place instead and eat up the remains of the ….” There are unquestionably people in dire straits and actually hungry this Christmas so one can’t help feeling guilty if even a scrap of food is wasted. St Vincent de Paul, Simon, Quaker Penny Dinners…are all delighted to hear from anyone who has food, or clothes or a myriad of other essentials to share.

This Christmas instead of a ham I’ve decided to serve a piece of streaky bacon deliciously glazed with pineapple juice, brown sugar and cloves. I’m also going to make a piece of spiced beef using an inexpensive bit of flank – even more delicious than silverside. A piece of spiced beef keeps for several weeks and its totally delicious cut in thin slivers. Serve it with slices of avocado, Ballymaloe relish and a potato and scallion salad. This recipe has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family for generations and is the most delicious I know. The meat is not corned first as in some other recipes just rub the spice into the meat and leave for a couple of days before cooking.

Left over streaky bacon also keeps well but can of course be cut into cubes and added to a delicious Turkey and Ham pie or into a frittata or pasta sauce.

Mincemeat made with suet keeps for months so you needn’t be in too much of a hurry to use it up. It is delicious in bread and butter pudding (uses up stale bread also) or in the base of an open tart with a topping of apple of frangipane, I’ve also added it to muffins and used it to stuff Bramley apples with delicious results.

Left over Brussels sprouts make a delicious fresh tasting soup and even cooked ones provided they weren’t overcooked at the initial stage, make a bubbly gratin when covered with parsley sauce and some freshly grated cheese – a fine accompaniment to liven up some cold turkey or ham.

I love cold duck and goose just in a sandwich but if you have enough make a Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple Salad cut the duck or goose into thin slivers, don’t forget to include some of the crispy skin; it’s packed with flavour and a little won’t do you a bit of harm.

The turkey carcase makes the best stock of all so make sure to chop it up and let it bubble away in a pot for a few hours with a few carrots an onion and a stalk or two of celery, the resulting broth is good enough to eat on it’s own, so light and soothing after a series of rich meals. Alternatively use it for soups or stews and of course it freezes perfectly – here I suggest using it in the celery soup if you have a head or two left over after Christmas.

Left over plum pudding, cut into thick slices and cooked gently in a little sizzling butter on a heavy pan is irresistible. Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce keeps for months but you have already mixed it with whipped cream and aren’t planning to eat it minced pies or apple tart, simply freeze it – the result is an irresistible boozy ice cream.

Cranberry sauce will keep but is surprisingly good with chocolate mousse or in a meringue roulade. Finally left over roast potatoes make a tasty roast potato salad tossed with lots of spring onions, parsley and a few dollops of mayonnaise. Every morsel can be used up in a delicious way so enjoy. A very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all our readers.


Winter Celery Soup with Cashel Blue and Toasted Hazelnuts


This soup is delicious served on its own but a little crumbled blue cheese make a delicious addition if you have some to spare.

Serves 8-10

13 lbs (560g) celery, finely chopped

12 ozs (45g) butter

5 ozs (140g) onion, chopped

5 ozs (140g) potatoes, cut into 3 inch (5mm) dice

salt and freshly ground pepper

12 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock



2 pint (150-300ml) creamy milk


2 tablesp. hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped

2 tablesp. Cashel Blue or Crozier Cheese, crumbled

a few tablesp. whipped cream

sprigs of chervil or flat parsley

Use a potato peeler to remove the strings from the outside stalks of celery.

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion and celery; toss in the butter until evenly coated. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the saucepan lid and sweat over a gently heat for 10 minutes approx., until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the celery is fully cooked, 10-12 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup, add a little more stock or creamy milk to thin to the required consistency. Taste and correct the seasoning.

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

Red Cabbage with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Apple


Serves 6

A simple winter salad – so good with cold duck, goose, pork or ham.

450g (1lb) red cabbage

3 Cox’s Orange pippin apples

75g (3oz) dried cranberries

50g (2oz) fresh walnut halves

Small handful of flat parsley leaves

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar e.g. Forum

6 tablespoons walnut oil

1 small teaspoon honey

Salt and freshly ground pepper

First make the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, oil and honey together and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Dice the apple (unpeeled) and toss in a little of the dressing, add the dried cranberries. Quarter the red cabbage and slice across the grain. Put into a large serving bowl, add the diced apple, dried cranberries, flat parsley and some more dressing. Toss gently to coat evenly, add the walnut halves, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve on its own or as an accompaniment to cold duck, goose, pork or ham.


Ballymaloe Spiced Beef


There are lots of recipes for spiced beef, traditionally eaten at Christmas, and many of them corn or brine the beef first. This recipe, which has been handed down in Myrtle Allen’s family, is for dry-spiced beef. Initially, the recipe called for silverside, but I prefer to use flap (also known as flank) a less expensive cut. The recipe also includes saltpetre, which should only be used in moderation. If you can’t find it, just leave it out. The meat will be slightly greyer in colour rather than the rosy pink that comes from the saltpetre cure. The recipe below makes enough spice to cure five flanks of beef, about 1.8kg (4lb) each in size. Spiced beef keeps for immeasurably longer than ordinary cooked or roast beef. Store the spice mix in a screw-top jar. It will keep for months, so make the full quantity even if it is more than you need at a particular time. To serve, cut it into thin slices and serve in sandwiches or with freshly made salads and homemade chutneys.

Serves 12–16

1.8kg (4lb) lean flank of beef

Ballymaloe Spice for Beef

225g (8oz) Demerara sugar

350g (12oz) salt

10g (1⁄2 oz) saltpetre (potassium nitrate) optional

75g (3oz) whole black pepper

75g (3oz) whole allspice (pimento, Jamaica pepper)

75g (3oz) whole juniper berries

Grind all the spice ingredients (preferably in a food-processor) until fairly fine.

Remove the bones from the flank and trim away any unnecessary fat. Rub a little spice well over the surface of the beef and into every crevice. Put into an earthenware dish and leave in a fridge or cold larder for 3–7 days, turning occasionally. (This is a dry spice, but after a day or two some liquid will come out of the meat.) The longer the meat is left in the spice, the more spicy the flavour and the longer it will last.

Just before cooking, remove the spiced beef from the earthenware dish. The salt and sugar will have extracted some liquid. Discard this spice mixture. Roll and tie the joint neatly with cotton string into a compact shape. Put it into a deep saucepan, cover generously with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3–4 hours or until soft and fully cooked. If it is not to be eaten hot, then press the meat by putting it on a flat tin or into an appropriate sized bread tin and covering with a board and weight. Leave it for 12 hours in a fridge or cold larder. Spiced beef will keep for 3–4 weeks in a fridge.


Glazed Streaky Bacon with Cloves and Pineapple


Serves 12-15

4-5 lbs (1.8-2.25 kg) streaky bacon, either smoked or unsmoked

14 ozs (400g) 1 small tin of pineapple -use 3-4 tablespoons approx. of the juice

3/4 lb (340g) brown demerara sugar

whole cloves 20-30 approx.

Cover the bacon in cold water and bring slowly to the boil, if the bacon is very salty there will be a white froth on top of the water, in this case it is preferable to discard this water. It may be necessary to change the water several times depending on how salty the bacon is, finally cover with hot water and simmer until almost cooked, allow 15 minutes approx. to the lb. Remove the rind, cut the fat into a diamond pattern, and stud with cloves. Blend brown sugar to a thick paste with a little pineapple juice, 3-4 tablespoons approx., be careful not to make it too liquid. Spread this over the bacon. Bake in a fully preheated hot oven 250°C/475°F/regulo 9 for 20-30 minutes approx. or until the top has caramelized.

Turkey and Ham Pie


Try to keep some left-over turkey and ham for this delicious pie – it’s the most scrumptious way to use up left-overs and can be topped with fluffy mashed potatoes or a puff pastry lid.

Serves 12

2 lbs (900 g) cold turkey meat

1 lb (450 g) cold ham or bacon

1 oz (30 g) butter

1-2 teasp. grated fresh ginger (optional)

12 ozs (340 g) chopped onion

8 ozs (225 g) flat mushrooms or button if flats are not available

1 clove of garlic

30 fl oz (900 ml) well flavoured turkey stock or 20 fl oz (568 ml) stock and 10 fl oz (300 ml) turkey gravy

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

2 teaspoons fresh marjoram or tarragon if available

¼ pint (150 ml) cream

1 lb (450 g) puff or flaky pastry or 2 lbs (900 g) Duchesse Potato

2 x 2 pints (1.1 L) capacity pie dishes

Cut the turkey and ham into 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. pieces. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions and ginger if using, cover and sweat for about 10 minutes until they are soft but not coloured. Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. When the onions are soft, stir in the garlic and remove to a plate. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, a few at a time. Season with salt and freshly-ground pepper and add to the onions and garlic. Toss the cold turkey and ham in the hot saucepan, using a little extra butter if necessary; add to the mushrooms and onion. De-glaze the saucepan with the turkey stock. Add the cream and chopped herbs. Bring it to the boil, thicken with roux, add the meat, mushrooms and onions and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill into the pie dishes, and pipe rosettes of potato all over the top. Bake in a moderate oven, 190C/375F/regulo 5, for 15-20 minutes or until the potato is golden and the pie is bubbling.

Alternatively, if you would like to have a pastry crust, allow the filling to get quite cold. Roll out the pastry to about 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness, then cut a strip from around the edge the same width as the lip of the pie dish. Brush the edge of the dish with water and press the strip of pastry firmly down onto it; wet the top of the strip again. Cut the pastry into an oval just slightly larger than the pie dish. Press this down onto the wet border, flute the edges of the pastry with a knife and then scallop them at 1 inch (2.5 cm) approx. intervals. Roll out the trimmings and cut into leaves to decorate the top. Make a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated oven, 250C/475F/regulo 9, for 10 minutes; then turn the heat down to moderate, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked through and the pie is bubbling.

Serve with a good green salad.

Mincemeat Muffins


Makes 8


225g (8oz) white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 level tablespoon) baking powder

140g (5oz) caster sugar or caster sugar and soft dark brown sugar mixed

75g (3oz) butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

170ml (6floz) milk

110g (4oz) mincemeat

1 muffin tray lined with muffin papers

Preheat the oven at 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 4-5. Sieve the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Combine the beaten egg, vanilla extract and milk and add to the dry mixture. Combine with a fork to give a wet consistency. Fold in the mincemeat gently. Spoon into the muffin cases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until well-risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.

Countdown to Christmas

Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry Sauce is 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.

Brandy Butter


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.


Hot tips.

A gift token for a cookery class

make a great pressie, there are so many to choose from. Paul Flynn at the Tannery in Dungarvan, Co Waterford 353 (0)58 45420 . Carmel Somers of Good Things Café in Durrus Tel: 00 353 27 61426, as well as Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House in Co Wicklow or Linda Booth of Dublin Cookery School Tel: (01) 2100 555, (the latter are both past 12 Week Certificate Students) Ballymaloe Cookery School new seasons brochure is now available also with lots of temptations. The afternoon cookery demonstrations are open to the public. 021 4646785

Fans of Café Paradiso will be thrilled to know that the restaurant will be in full swing again from Sunday 20th December after extensive repairs following flood damage. Telephone 021 4277939 or

Urru in Bandon has also bounced back. Ruth Healy has many temptations for foodie friends 023 8854731 as has Claire Nash, the dynamo behind Nash 19, I particularly love their Confit of Fig 021 4270880.


Good Things with Carmel Somers

Carmel Somers, owner of the iconic Good Things café in Durrus developed her love and appreciation of good food in her childhood ‘while surrounded by lavish roast dinners, meticulous baking and too much butter’ In her late teens she was tossing around trying to decide which direction to follow so on a friend’s suggestion, she decided to flex her wings and head to Paris, the source of so many gastronomique delights. There she met and trained with John Desmond who now owns the Island Cottage Restaurant on Heir Island off Baltimore in West Cork. She soaked up all that Paris had to offer; bistros, brasseries, food markets, and worked her socks off at Lous Landes.

Stints in several of UK’s top kitchens followed; Whites, Markwich’s, Bibendum and Sally Clarke’s lovely restaurant in Kensington Street in London. In 2001Carmel decided it was time for a change so she packed up her possessions and moved to Ireland with her young daughters. Soon the Good Things Café whose name is taken from Jane Grigson’s beautifully written classic cook book ‘Good Things, published by Penguin.

Carmel originally envisioned a small café cum deli but the business quickly developed into a much loved summer restaurant and cookery school. Carmel’s food is stylish and simple based on the beautiful fresh ingredients produced all around her in West Cork. The organic salad leaves come from Clovisse & Ferguson who has created a Garden of Eden at Gubeen near Schull. The fish comes from local fishermen, the meat from traditional butchers McCarthy’s in Bantry and O’Flynn’s in Cork. Butter is from Glenilen in Drimoleague and fresh berries from Shirley Hosford,

(last year she supplied 82 kilograms of gooseberries in just two of the summer months) West Cork has a myriad of wonderful farmhouse cheeses, the most local being Jaffa Gill’s washed rind Durrus. The latter is the star ingredient in one of Good Things most frequently ordered dishes Durrus Cheese, Spinach and Nutmeg pizza.

Well after eight hectic years Carmel has written her first book aptly named Eat Good Things Every Day. Fans will be thrilled to find that all 90 recipes are typical of the type of food served at the Good Things café and the food that Carmel has been feeding her own children over the years. Carmel is quite rightly passionate about the importance of feeding our children well for optimum health and energy. She invited one of her great heroes, Myrtle Allen to launch her cookbook—Myrtle 85, going on 18, recalled in her childhood (pre penicillin) all parents’ priority was to feed the children, like ‘fighting cocks’ so they would have a healthy immune system to resist disease, no bottles of vitamins or minerals in those days—your food had to be your medicine—a valuable lesson to absorb and still as vital and relevant today. Some of the recipes can be cooked in advance to have as a standby in your freezer.

To make it easier to cook food from readily available seasonal produce, there are four weeks of summer recipes and four weeks of winter recipes. All recipes are designed for the busy person who wants to eat well; week-day recipes are short and easy to prepare with lots of helpful tips and ideas to vary the dishes for another time. Each menu is balanced between meat, fish and vegetarian recipes and are also suitable for when you have friends around without spending too much time in the kitchen. Each week has a simple soup and a dessert, if you feel like a treat. This food which is fresh and light, using no flour and just a little dairy, with a hint of spice here and there to brighten up our good basic ingredients. Some of the dishes use those forgotten cuts of meat that are easier on the pocket but no less flavoursome.

Eat Good Things Everyday is published by Atrium – Cork University Press.

Here are some delicious recipes for you to try from the book…

Red Lentil Stew (Dhal)

I do find lentil stews heavy going and boring, but a Dhal I can eat every day, even cold from the fridge.

250g red lentils

Olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1tbsp coriander seeds, ground

1tsp cumin seeds, ground

1⁄2tsp fennel seeds, ground

1⁄2tsp chilli powder, or to your taste

1tsp turmeric

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

A strip of cinnamon

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1⁄2 bunch coriander leaves, if you can find some

Salt and pepper

2tbsp vinegar

Put the lentils in a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft, about 15–20 minutes. Drain. They will now look like thick porridge. While the lentils are cooking, warm a saucepan, add some olive oil and cook the onions first on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then lower the heat for a further five minutes. Add the spices, mix well and cook for another minute. Add the garlic, vinegar and the cooked lentils. Add the strip of cinnamon. Next add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, turn down to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if necessary and scatter coriander leaves on top.

Braised Green Peas

50ml (3tbsp) olive oil

750g frozen peas


Warm a heavy-based casserole (with a lid). Add the olive oil and tip in the peas. Toss well in the oil and season with salt. Turn the heat to low, place the lid on top and leave the peas to braise for about 15 minutes.

Durrus Cheese, Spinach and Nutmeg Pizza

This is our most popular lunch dish at Good Things and the idea came about when all I had was a bag of spinach and an old Durrus cheese. Makes two large pizzas, enough for four people.

1 recipe of pizza dough (if you manage to roll the dough very thin, you will have extra for another day)

4–5 large handfuls of roughly chopped spinach, stalks removed

salt, pepper and lots of freshly grated nutmeg

12 thin slices Durrus cheese (about 200g) with rind removed

Olive oil

Handful of fine brown flour for rolling

Heat the oven to its hottest temperature and heat two flat baking trays with no sides. This is essential for a crispy base. Divide the pizza dough in half and roll each piece very thinly, using the fine flour to dust the worktop. Place on the hot baking tray and top with the spinach. Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg. Arrange the slices of cheese on top. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in the hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes until the base is golden and crispy and the cheese has melted.


Instead of spinach you can use Swiss chard, beetroot tops or seabeet. If you cannot get Durrus cheese, use a strong semi-soft cheese, preferably unpasteurised, as the flavour is better for cooking.

Oxtail with Wholegrain Mustard

I had to include this recipe as it is so simple with amazing results. Don’t be put off by the tail; you are in for a real treat. This is another dish that improves when cooked at least a day in advance. Don’t forget to pick up the bones and have a good chew!

Olive oil

2 oxtails, chopped

Salt and pepper

2–3 large onions, sliced

3 bay leaves

200ml white wine

2tbsp wholegrain mustard

400ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 150Ëš/Gas 2.

Heat a shallow pan with a lid and in the meantime season the oxtail well with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, add a good splash of olive oil and start browning the oxtail. You will have to do this in about three batches, transferring the meat to a plate as you go. Add another drop of oil to the pan and soften the onions for a few minutes, as they clean the pan. Place the oxtail on top of the onions, add the bay leaves and pour in the wine. Bring to the boil and let simmer for a minute. Cover with a disc of greaseproof paper followed by the lid. Cook in the oven for at least two hours, maybe three, or until the meat is leaving the bone. Remove from the oven. Transfer the oxtail to a plate. Place the pot on a medium flame and add the mustard and cream. Mix well and let simmer for four or five minutes. Return the oxtail to the pan, coat well in the mustardy cream sauce and simmer for a further five minutes. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.


If making in advance – remove from the oven, cool down and keep in the fridge. When needed, bring the cream and mustard to the boil, add to the oxtail, simmer for 15 minutes on a low heat and serve.

Stolen Cuban Dish

Olive oil

2 very ripe bananas

4–8 eggs

500g cooked rice

400g homemade tomato sauce

Cook the rice and the tomato sauce or reheat if you have them already made. Heat a frying pan and add some olive oil, cut the bananas in four lengthways and fry quickly on both sides until nicely brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate over the rice or sauce. In the same frying pan add a little more olive oil and fry the eggs to your liking – nice runny eggs work well here. On a large serving plate layer the dish, starting first with the rice, followed by the tomato sauce and topped with the fried eggs. Finally arrange the bananas around the dish.


Every student should know about this dish before they leave home. You can use up the unwanted brown bananas at the bottom of the fruit bowl.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chilli and Lime Butter

4 large sweet potatoes

A medium-sized red chilli pepper or a dried chilli soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes

Juice of a lime

100g butter, very soft

A small handful of coriander leaves

Heat the oven to its hottest; this should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Sweet potatoes tend to leak a sugary juice when they are baked, so put a tray on the bottom of the oven to catch the juices and bake the potatoes on the oven rack for about an hour. Meanwhile, chop the chilli finely. Put the chopped chilli, lime juice and butter together in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Split the cooked potato in half, stuff with the chilli butter and eat while hot.


Try this with the lentil salad instead of a regular potato. If the chilli is too hot for you, remove the seeds.

Coconut Chicken with Spices and Herbs

1tsp cumin seeds

1tsp coriander seeds

4 cardamom pods (optional)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

Thumb size of grated ginger

4 cloves of garlic

2 limes – one for zest and juice, the other for serving

1 chilli, finely chopped, or use a dried chilli that has been soaked in boiling water

A big bunch of coriander (or parsley); separate the stalks from the leaves and chop the stalks finely

Salt and pepper

400ml tin of coconut milk

Coriander or parsley leaves, lightly chopped

400g (or as near as possible) chicken picked from the leftover roast chicken

1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped (optional)

500g cooked rice Wok, saucepan, or big frying pan

Heat the wok and toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom for a couple of minutes. Next add a little oil to the toasted spices and add the onions, celery, ginger, lime zest, chilli and herb stalks, season with salt and pepper and soften over a low heat for about five minutes. You might need a little more oil but make sure you do not brown the vegetables Add the coconut milk, bring to the boil and let it simmer for a few minutes. Finally add the chicken and let it warm through without letting it boil. Add the lime juice and sprinkle the top with the chopped coriander leaves and spring onions. Reheat the rice by heating a pan to very hot and adding a drop of oil to coat the bottom. Stirfry the rice until very hot. Serve with segments of lime.


This is a great way to use up bits of odd vegetables that are hanging around in your fridge. To bulk it out, add a bag of frozen spinach (defrosted) towards the end or serve spinach separately with a good squeeze of lemon juice.

If you get to shop at an Asian supermarket, you can buy lots of nice things to add to this dish. Lime leaves, lemon grass, Thai fish sauce, shrimp paste and big bunches of fresh herbs.

Continuing our Countdown to Christmas

A Gorgeous Christmas Cake Suitable for Coeliacs

A particularly moist and delicious cake which has the added bonus of being gluten free – it keeps brilliantly.

Serves 8 – 10

3 large or 4 smaller clementines, mandarins or Satsumas

225g (8 oz) butter at room temp

150g (5 oz) raisins

75g (3 oz) currants

110g (4 oz) real glace cherries

2 tablespoons whiskey or brandy

225g (8oz) soft dark brown sugar

3 organic eggs

1 teaspoon mixed spice

small pinch ground cloves

150g (5 oz) ground almonds

110g (4 oz) polenta or cornmeal

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder


225g (8oz) marzipan

12 oz gluten free icing sugar

2 tablespoons water

diamonds of candied peel

dried cranberries


toasted almonds

1 x 20cm

Put the citrus fruit into a stainless steel saucepan, cover with cold water bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender. Drain off the water and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F/ Mark 4/ moderate. Put the dried fruit and quartered cherries in a bowl. Cut the citrus fruit in half, discard the pips, whizz for a few seconds in a food processor or chop coarsely, add the whiskey or brandy, stir and pour over the dried fruit cream, the soft butter add the dark soft brown sugar and beat until soft and pale, add the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition, stir in the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder and spices. Finally add the fruit and fold in gently but thoroughly. Pour into the tin and smooth the top with a wet spoon.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes then reduce the heat to 140°C/ 275°F/ Mark 1 for a further 40 or 50 minutes or until fully cooked. You could loosely cover the top of the cake with a sheet of parchment for the final 20 minutes to prevent it from burning. Allow to cool before turning out of the tin.

Icing the cake

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, add the water and mix to a stiffish icing. Pour into the centre of the cake, it will spread to the edges and drip appetizingly down the sides, Decorate with diamonds of angelica, candied peel, dried cranberries and toasted almonds. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday 20th December 2009 on Grand Parade in the city centre from 12 noon until 8:00 pm. Local artisanal food and local crafts. When you are doing your Christmas shopping, stop in for some hot mulled apple juice and mince pies. You’ll find some interesting gift ideas with delicious handmade food. Contact JC Collery 0866055023


Christmas in Cork Market

The Crescent Farmers Market in Limerick

now has even more stalls for you to do your food shopping. Caroline Rigney sells her award winning Curraghchase pork products, try her excellent white pudding 087 2834754. Colette O’Farrell of Natures Bounty Preserves, makes jams, preserves and chutneys from home grown and foraged fruits 086 3936768. For more information about the Farmers Market contact Gareth Granville 0868069605.

An Cruibin and the Silk Purse restaurant

serve really good authentic locally produced food with a continental twist. Try their delicious tapas and the atmosphere is wonderful. Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 021 4310071

Congratulations to Midleton and Mahon Point Farmers Markets for details of the 26 markets around the country who have been awarded this special seal of approval

both of which have been awarded the Bord Bia Good Practice Standard initiated by Minister Trevor Sargent. Visit

Book Signing – December 5th

Darina will be signing copies of her new Book ‘Forgotten Skills of Cooking’ on Saturday December 5th from 1pm if you are in the area.  Darina’s new book has over 700 recipes using all the traditional methods and flavours.

Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking

A couple of weeks ago my daughter-in-law Rachel’s new book shot to the top of the best sellers list. Can you imagine Bertie’s reaction when he was knocked off the number one spot by a book on home cooking! This is Rachel’s sixth book in just six years. Can’t imagine how she manages to keep all the balls in the air with three little dotes to look after and regular stints on Market Kitchen as well. Up to recently little Scarlet Lily travelled backwards and forwards to London with Rachel and was a familiar to the Aer Lingus hostesses on the Cork route. Fortunately she was born smiling and continues to be placid and cheerful while Rachel literally fitted in her filming between feeds. This latest book is about the most important food of all, home cooking, the simple comforting food we prepare for family and friends and share around the kitchen table Rachel feels that “The value of cooking at home goes beyond having control over your ingredients (although this is profoundly important for health, wellbeing and your wallet, it’s also about gathering your loved ones together to share and enjoy the most fundamental part of life; it’s about teaching your children how to appreciate a home-cooked meal and showing them how much fun cooking can be; it’s about slowing down the busy pace of life when you can, but also knowing that when there isn’t much time you can still put a loving meal on the table make by you.

Home cooking is also about the joy of learning old skills and kitchen crafts such as making home-made sweets. It’s about feeling proud as a parent when making by hand your child’s very first foods. It’s about the wonderful kitchen smells and sounds and flavours that you just can’t get any other way.

You’ll not only find recipes for many occasions from breakfasts to dinners, you’ll also find trusted kitchen tips, such as home freezing, which not only saves time, but money too. I hope you and your loved ones enjoy every meal together, that you eat well, that you take a moment to appreciate one another’s company around the table, and above all, have fun cooking together.”

Either way the book has lots of irresistible breakfast, lunch and supper dishes, a section or a whole chapter on baby purees and desserts, snacks, treats and sweets. The baby purees are brilliant for the growing number of mothers who want to have control over their baby food – carrot, butternut squash and red lentil puree, avocado and banana mash or apricot, prune and raisin compote all sound delicious but for this article I thought I’d concentrate on sweeties, toffee, lollipops, fudge and Turkish delight. These are such fun to make and are terrific Christmas pressies for adults and children alike.

Rachel was recently awarded the Tatler Woman of the Year Entertainment award.

Rachel Allen – Home Cooking is published by Harper Collins

Rachel Allen’s Liquorice Toffees

Makes about 1.1kg (2lb 6oz) or 128 pieces.

These are up there as one of my favourite sweets. Ground aniseed is not easily available in supermarkets but you will find it in health-food stores or specialist food shops.

450g (1lb) caster sugar

350g (12oz) glucose syrup (available from a chemist)

1 x 395g tin of condensed milk

100g (3 1/2oz) butter

4 tbsp ground aniseed

Black food colouring

23cm (9in) square cake tin

Line the cake tin with parchment paper. Place the sugar, glucose syrup, condensed milk, butter and ground aniseed in a saucepan and cook on a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts. Bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 35–40 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until a sugar thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 115°C (240°F). Alternatively, check that the soft-ball stage has been reached (see the chart on page 299). The mixture will be reduced and thickened and rich golden brown in colour. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in enough food colouring (adding bit by bit) to give a strong black colour. Working quickly, carefully pour the mixture into the prepared tin, swirling the tin around to spread the mixture evenly. Leave in a cool place for a couple of hours or until cool and set (the toffee will become even harder after this time, so it’s best to score out the pieces at this stage).

Remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Cut the slab of toffee into 64 pieces (eight cuts down and eight cuts across) with a sharp knife and then cut each piece in half again to give 128 pieces in total. Layer the liquorice toffees spaced apart between sheets of parchment paper to prevent them sticking together or wrap each toffee individually in a small piece of parchment paper and store in an airtight container.

Rachel Allen’s Fruity Lollipops

Makes about 30 – 35 lollipops.


Not the kind of thing you give your children every day, but when making your own sweets you at least know there are no preservatives in them. Lollipop sticks can be bought in any good craft or cookware shop. It is worth investing in a sugar thermometer if you’re planning on making sweets because a specific temperature is often called for.


450g (1lb) caster sugar

1/3 tsp cream of tartar

4 tbsp undiluted fruit cordial, such as blackcurrant, orange or lime


Arrange 30–35 lollipop sticks (or wooden skewers which have been cut down to size) spaced apart on several large, non-stick baking sheets. Place the sugar, cream of tartar and 150ml (5fl oz) water in a heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat and bring to a gentle boil while stirring all the time. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20–25 minutes without stirring, until the temperature on a sugar thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 143°C (290°F). Alternatively, check whether the soft-crack stage has been reached Stir in the cordial just before the syrup reaches this temperature (after 15–20 minutes). The mixture will bubble up, so be careful as it is very hot. Once the correct temperature has been reached, remove the pan from the heat and, working quickly, spoon small pools of the syrup onto one end of each lollipop stick and allow to set for about 5 minutes, until hardened. If you wish, wrap the lollipops in cellophane and tie with string as soon as they have cooled and hardened, to prevent them from absorbing moisture. Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a week.


Rachel Allen’s Turkish Delight


Makes about 1.1kg (2lb 6oz) or 48 pieces

This recipe is the smooth rosewater version, but if you like Turkish delight with pistachios, feel free to chop up a handful and stir into the mixture. It keeps for ages and makes a particularly lovely gift – one batch will fill quite a few boxes.

850g (1lb 14oz) caster sugar

3 x 7g sachets gelatine powder

125g (4Hoz) corn flour

1 tsp cream of tartar

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 tsp rosewater

Few drops of red food colouring

75g (3oz) icing sugar

20cm (8in) square non-stick cake tin

Place the sugar and 500ml (18fl oz) water in a large, heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes without stirring, until a sugar thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 125°C (257°F). Alternatively, check that the hard-ball stage has been reached. In the meantime, stir the gelatine, corn flour and cream of tartar together in another large pan. Measure out a further 500ml (18fl oz) water and gradually whisk it into the mixture, beating well after each addition, to form a smooth paste. Be sure to break up any lumps as the gelatine may cause the mixture to stick together a little. Place the pan on a medium heat and simmer, whisking all the time, for 3–5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Stir the lemon juice into the sugar syrup as soon as it reaches the correct temperature (standing back as it will sizzle up a little). Working carefully, gradually pour the sugar syrup into the gelatine and corn flour mixture, whisking constantly.

Place the pan on a low heat and simmer the mixture gently for about 1 hour until it reaches 110°C (230°F) in temperature or the thread stage. Stir frequently to prevent the mixture sticking to the pan, particularly towards the end of cooking. Grease the cake tin with the sunflower oil. As soon as the mixture reaches the correct temperature (it should be a deep golden colour), add the rosewater and food colouring and stir until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading out evenly. Set aside to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight until firm. Spoon the icing sugar into a fine sieve and dust half of it onto a clean work surface. Turn the Turkish delight out of the tin and use

a lightly oiled knife to cut it into about 48 pieces. Dust with the remaining icing sugar and toss the pieces about to coat generously. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.


Rachel Allen’s White Chocolate Fudge

Makes about 900g (2lb) or 36 squares.

I find it hard to resist anything that contains white chocolate – and when combined with fudge … well! The white chocolate chips give texture to the traditional fudge mixture. Presented in a decorative box, it makes a wonderful present.

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 x 397g tin of condensed milk

100g (3Hoz) butter

450g (1lb) caster or soft light brown sugar

50g (2oz) white chocolate chips

18cm (7in) square cake tin with 2.5cm (1in) sides


Grease the cake tin with a little of the sunflower oil, line with parchment paper and grease again. Place the condensed milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat, stir together and bring to the boil, stirring frequently t prevent the sugar from sticking and burning on the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring regularly, until a sugar thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 113°C (235°F). Alternatively, check whether the soft-ball stage has been reached. The fudge will also have darkened in colour to a rich golden brown. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and sit the bottom of the saucepan in a bowl of cold water that comes a few centimetres up the sides of the pan. Whisk the mixture vigorously for 7–10 minutes until it cools down and goes from being smooth, shiny and toffeeish to matt, thick and grainy in appearance (as well as becoming quite thick and difficult to stir). Whisking the mixture like this is important for ensuring that the fudge has a good crumbly texture. Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin. Scatter with the white chocolate chips and then pour over the remaining mixture, spreading evenly. (A palette knife or spatula that has been dipped in boiling water is perfect for this.) Allow to cool and then place in the fridge for 2–3 hours or overnight to set before cutting into about 36 squares.


Rachel Allen’s Toffee Brittle

Makes 400g (14oz)

This is divine as it is or covered in chocolate.

225g (8oz) butter, diced

225g (8oz) caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt


Place the butter, sugar, salt and 50ml (2fl oz) water in a heavy based saucepan, place on a medium heat and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20–25 minutes without stirring until a sugar thermometer dipped into the mixture reads 150°C (302°F). Below this temperature and the toffee will not set; above and the toffees will taste burnt. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, check that the hard-crack stage has been reached. Immediately (and taking great care as it is very hot), pour the syrup onto a large, non-stick baking tray (or one lined with parchment paper) and swirl the tray around to spread evenly. It will begin to set almost straight away, so you do need to work quickly. Once completely hardened, after 5–10 minutes, slam the baking tray on the counter to break into small pieces. Place the toffee pieces in an airtight container and store somewhere cool and dry.


Continuing our countdown to Christmas…

Another delicious Christmas treat, a German cake to make ahead and share with your friends… Mary Jo’s Stollen


Makes 2 700g (1 1/2lb) cakes

Brandied Fruit:

150g (5oz) mixed sultanas and currants

75g (3oz) diced candied cherries and citrus peel

1 1/2 tablespoons brandy

20g (3/4oz) fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dry yeast)

150ml (5fl oz) lukewarm milk

175g (6oz) strong white flour

75g (3oz) castor sugar

Grated rind 1/2 lemon

110g (4oz) softened butter

2 eggs

1 level teaspoon salt

275g (10oz) strong white flour


75g (3oz) ground almonds

60g (2 1/2oz) castor sugar

1 tablespoon egg white

Drop of almond essence

Melted butter

Icing sugar


Mix fruits, stir in brandy, cover with cling film and macerate overnight.

To mix yeast sponge, crumble fresh yeast into warm milk in a pyrex bowl. Allow yeast to soften. Mix in 175g (6oz) flour and beat well with a wooden spoon. Cover with Clingfilm and allow to rest for 30-45 minutes.

Place 75g (3oz) castor sugar in a mixer bowl, grate in lemon rind and rub into sugar with your fingertips. Add butter and beat until creamy. Add eggs one at a time; add the salt and scrape down the bowl to make a soft creamed mixture.

When sponge is light and well risen, add to creamed mixture along with 275g (10oz) flour. Scrape off beater and replace with dough hook. Knead on moderate speed for 10 minutes until is silky and soft. The dough should not stick to your fingers.

Remove hook, cover bowl with Clingfilm and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.

Knock back dough and scrape out onto a flour-dusted clean surface. Flatten to 1cm (1/2 inch) and sprinkle brandied fruit on top. Roll up like a Swiss roll and knead fruit through dough. The dough may grow sticky, but avoid adding more flour. Scrape fruited dough into a bowl, cover with Clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the marzipan by mixing sugar, ground almonds and egg white. Flavour with almond essence if desired. Knead to a lump, divide in half and roll each half into a log.

Next day, remove dough from the fridge. Scrape out of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half. Shape each half into an oval and roll out to 2cm (3/4 inch) thickness. Make an indentation lengthways along the centre and place in long sausage shape piece of marzipan. Fold the oval in half with long sides meeting. Press together and place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place until light.

Bake at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes or until deeply golden and tests done.

While still hot, brush with melted butter and sift icing sugar thickly over the top.

Cool well before slicing. Will keep wrapped for 4-5 days and may be frozen.





Hot Tips

Great news from Teagasc

for those who would like to keep a few hens in their garden. Nuala King at Teagasc in Athenry is doing two on-line courses, one on How to Rear Poultry for Meat Production and another on How to Keep Free Range Poultry for Egg Production. Contact Nuala King on 091845228 for more details. Order some seed catalogues

so you can plan your vegetable plot for next year while you sit around the fire. Meanwhile buy a bulb of garlic, separate the cloves and plant them pointed end up, two inches deep on the 21st December – the shortest day of the year – they will be ready to harvest on 21st June 2010.

Slow Food Christmas Cooking Night Class

East Cork Slow Food

celebrate international Terra Madre day at Ballymaloe House on Sunday 6th December at 7:00pm. Join us for a dinner of local foods; meet the artisan producers, farmers, fishermen, cheese makers, bakers, charcuterie makers, chocolatiers… plus music by The Gardeners and lots of fun. Slow Food members €50.00 and non-Slow Food members €60.00. Booking essential, contact Emer – 021 464 6785 – at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday 2nd December – 7:00pm to 9:00pm, Slow Food Members €50.00 non-members €60.00 per person. Contact 021 4646785 to book.

Jim Tynan’s Kitchen

Last week I hopped off the train in Portlaoise on my way to Cork especially to make ‘an appearance’ at a book launch—not something I would do on a regular basis. I’d got an invitation a few days earlier from Jim Tynan to attend the launch of his new cookery book ‘Jim’s Kitchen’. I’d already had, what even for me, was a busy couple of days; Slow Food dinner in Belfast at Nick’s Warehouse, Master class in Food Tourism in Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh, Dinner at The Shelbourne Hotel to celebrate 75 years of the Social & Personal Magazine in Ireland, a cookery class at Donnybrook Fair to support a past student, the lovely Monique McQuaid, and a visit to the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Hugh Lane Gallery….I was very tempted to stay on the nice warm train but really wanted to support Jim. I don’t know Jim well at all but admire what he has achieved over 27 years in his deli and Country Kitchen restaurant but more especially I wanted to be there because of his quiet kindness to myself and several of my brothers and sisters while my mother was ill in hospital last year. For over a week we took turns to be with her round the clock. Around noon we’d pop down to Jim for a comforting lunch; bacon, cabbage and parsley sauce or roast beef or chicken and maybe some apple crumble. Just what I needed as I struggled to come to terms with the inevitability of what lay ahead. We sometimes don’t realize how much a few kind words can mean to someone at fragile moments in their life.

Normally at a book launch the author and publishers would be well pleased if maybe thirty, forty, maybe fifty people turned up, well I have to tell you that literally hundreds of people turned up to wish Jim well and buy his book , I just about glimpsed him across the room, looking somewhat bewildered and overwhelmed by the huge response. I reckon he must have sold a fine percentage of the first print run right there and then on the first night.

The goodwill in the room for Jim and his family was palpable—obviously Jim’s Country Kitchen has touched many people’s lives. I was delighted to be there even though my presence certainly wasn’t needed to swell the numbers. Jim’s book, which is full of his customers’ favourite recipes, was launched by Margaret Jeffares, the dynamic powerhouse behind Good Food Ireland. Jim is a worthy member having preached the local food message for a long time now.

Here are a few of the favourite recipes from the Jim’s Country Kitchen, Kealew Business Park, Portlaoise.
‘Jims Kitchen’ is published by Jim Tynan 057 8662061.

Jim Tynan’s Sweet Sticky Chicken

Serves 4 – 6

Broccoli is full of Vitamin C which is very important for our skin and general immune system.  It is one of the few vegetable to contain Vitamin K which is good for your blood.

Most of the time broccoli is served over cooked, boiled until it is too soft.  One of the ways I like to cook it is to roast it in the oven with some spices like cumin and coriander seeds and maybe some chilli.  I like to do the same with cauliflower; I find it makes it more interesting.

8 pieces chicken, thighs are good for this

1tbsp honey
or brown sugar
4tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp vinegar
twist of black pepper
1tbsp sesame oil

Remove the skin from the chicken, mix all the other ingredients together and toss the chicken around in the sauce.  Transfer to a baking tray, drizzle any remaining sauce over the chicken, place in a hot oven at 200°C and cook for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

Serve with mashed potato and broccoli or pasta.  This also makes for a nice cold lunch to bring into college or work and can be served with some noodle salad.

Jim Tynan’s Potato & Turnip Gratin

Serves 4 – 6

1lb/450g potatoes, peeled & thinly sliced
8oz/225g turnip, peeled & thinly sliced
4oz/112g butter
5fl oz/140ml cream
2oz/56g grated Gruyere cheese or Cheddar
2tbsp Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Peel and thinly slice the turnip & potatoes, wash and pat dry in a cloth.  Butter a shallow flameproof casserole or a deep gratin dish. Place a layer of sliced potato and turnip in overlapping rows on the
bottom of the dish.

Pour over 1/4 of the cream, sprinkle with a mixture of cheese (gruyere & parmesan), dot with butter and season with salt and pepper.  Continue this process until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of cheese.  Dot with butter and cook in a preheated oven at 170°C for about 1 – 11/4 hours or until cooked through.

If the top browns too much too quick cover with tinfoil.  Serve very hot. Great with a roast joint, steak, chicken or grilled liver & bacon.

Jim Tynan’s Mars Krispies Squares

Serves 4 – 6

4 Mars Bars, cut into small pieces
4oz/112g butter
4oz/112g Rice Krispies
marshmallows (small)
8oz/225g milk chocolate

Place the butter & Mars Bars in a saucepan and let them melt over a gentle heat, taking care not to let them burn. Remove from the heat and stir in the Rice Krispies and mix well. Place in a lined Swiss roll tin and press down, we use a rolling pin to push them down. Allow to set.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of hot water. Sprinkle the small marshmallows over the Krispies and cover with chocolate. Cut into squares.

Jim Tynan’s Spiced Apple Crumble

Serves 4 – 6

2lb/900g bramley apples, peeled & sliced
4oz/112g sultanas
1/2 tspn ground cloves
4oz/112g sugar
3tbspn water

Crumble Topping

8oz/225g plain flour
4oz/112g butter
4 oz/112g sugar

Place the flour in a large bowl and add the butter, using your fingertips rub in the butter until it looks like fine bread crumbs, then add in the sugar.

For a variation you can use brown sugar if you wish.  Place the sliced apples in a greased pie dish, sprinkle on the sultanas and the sugar, the ground cloves and just mix around a little bit.  You can add about 3 tbspn of cold water at this stage; it will just help the apples to juice up.

Sprinkle on the crumble topping and press down.  Place in a hot oven, about 180°C and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Jim Tynan’s Lemon Drizzle Cake

Serves 4 – 6

4oz/112g butter
6oz/168g caster sugar
2 eggs
rind of 1 lemon
6oz/168g self raising flour
4tbsp milk

1 lb loaf tin

Cream the butter & sugar together until light & fluffy, add the eggs and lemon rind then fold in the flour with a metal spoon and then add the milk.  Spoon into a pre-lined cake tin (7”/18cm round or 1lb/450g loaf tin), place in a pre-heated oven 170°C until cooked and risen in the centre, but it will fall a little when you cool the cake.

While the cake is cooking you can make the lemon syrup by placing 4oz/112g Icing Sugar and Juice of 1 Lemon in a saucepan and heating until the sugar has dissolved.  When the cake comes out of the oven make some holes in the top of it with a skewer and pour the lemon syrup all over it, leave the cake in the tin until it is completely cooled.

This is very nice served with some soft whipped cream and you could serve some red berries of your choice with it. A chilled glass of Limoncello (Italian liqueur) goes well with this cake.

Jim Tynan’s Brandy Butter Christmas Cake

Serves 4 – 6

8oz/225g butter, chopped
10oz/280g dark Muscovado sugar
10oz/280g plain flour
2lb/900g luxury mixed dried fruit
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
4oz/112g whole blanched almonds
4oz/112g ground almonds
4fl oz/125ml brandy or sherry
1 lemon, finely grated rind & juice
1 orange, finely grated rind & juice
1/2  tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2  tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 140°C.

Put the butter, sugar, dried fruit, citrus rinds and juices and brandy in a large pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter has melted, then reduce the heat and let it bubble gently for 10minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

Toast the whole almonds in a dry frying pan, tossing them until they are evenly browned (this helps to bring out the flavour).  When cool enough to handle, chop them roughly.  Stir the eggs and chopped and ground almonds into the cooled fruit mixture and mix well.

Set a sieve over the pan and sift the flour, baking powder and spices into the pan.  Stir in gently but thoroughly until there are no traces of flour left.  Spoon the mixture into a lined tin (8” square or 9” round) and press well into the corners.  Dip a large metal spoon into boiling water, and then smooth over the cake mixture to level.  Bake for 3 -3 1/2  hours until the cake is dark golden and firm to touch.  Cover the top with foil if it starts to darken too much.  Leave to cool for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Continuing our Countdown to Christmas

Don’t forget to order your Christmas turkey, goose and ham. See the Cork Free Choice website. for a list of local producers.

Cumberland Sauce

Serves 8-12 approx.

Serve with cold ham, turkey, chicken, guinea fowl, game or rough pâtés.

1 orange
1 lemon
225g (8oz) red currant jelly
3-4 tablespoons port
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of ground ginger

With a swivel-top peeler, remove the peel very thinly from the orange and half of the lemon (make sure there is no white pith). Shred into thin julienne strips, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Strain off the water and discard it, then refresh the peel under cold water. Strain and keep it aside.

Squeeze the juice from the fruit and put it into a stainless steel saucepan with the jelly and spices; allow it to melt down. Then add the peel and port to the sauce. Boil it rapidly for 5-10 minutes.

Test like jam by putting a little blob on a cold saucer. When it cools it should wrinkle slightly.

Cumberland Sauce may be served in a bowl right away or it may be potted up and kept until needed, like jam.


Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – ‘Great Meals from Inexpensive Meat Cuts’ Darina Allen will explain how to buy and prepare nutritious meals from cheap cuts of meat on Thursday 26th November at 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Cafe. Entrance €6.

Festive Vegetarian Cookery class
– learn how to make a delicious meat free Christmas dinner with Karen Austin in Fionnuisce, Heron’s Court, Bandon on Saturday 12th December 10am – 3 pm. to book, telephone: +353 23 8846251 Email:

There are still some places on the Christmas Entertaining one day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School, to book telephone 021 4646785 or online

The Coolest Christmas Hampers
– Gubbeen Farmhouse is offering free delivery of their Christmas Hampers to the following Farmers’ Markets: Schull, Bantry, Skibbereen and Mahon Point. The hampers -packed in hand painted wooden trays – contain a mouthwatering selection: Gubbeen Oak Smoked Cheese, Fingal’s famous salamis, Gubbeen Cheese oatcakes, Gubbeen Greens chutney… Contact Giana Ferguson on 028 28231 to order or text 086 3809809.

Few people have the courage to open a restaurant in these crazy times but that’s exactly what Justin and Jenny Greene did in Lismore in Co Waterford. O’Brien Chop House serves delicious, simple food based on local produce: well hung meat from traditional butcher McGrath, and fresh fish from Kilmore Quay and home grown vegetables from the walled garden at Ballyvolane House. The word is out, it’s even difficult to get a table for Sunday lunch but try a week night or lunch – would be a terrific place for a Christmas party,  telephone 058 53810


In recent years I have become increasingly fascinated by the Muslim culture and am eager to learn more about the way of life and of course the food. I have enjoyed delicious Syrian and Lebanese food in several London restaurants, most notably Le Mignon in Delancey Street and Yalla Yalla Restaurant just off Brewer Street in Soho.
Syria is an intriguing country located between Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Almost 90 per cent of the population are Muslim and about 10 percent Christian yet Syria is a secular state with no official religion. Tolerance of religious minorities is actively encouraged.
Agriculture accounts for 60 percent Syria’s (GNP) Gross National Product and is the mainstay of the economy. Sixty five percent of the country is not considered arable, yet the country is self sufficient in food with lots of lovely fresh vegetables grown on its rich productive steppe land. An enviable situation and a not insignificant consideration in a country where sanctions are a perennial possibility.
Wheat, sugar beet, olives, lentils, cotton, tobacco, tomatoes, oranges and grapes are all grown organically. The main meats come from sheep, goats, chicken, and cattle, but I came across several camel butchers in the Souk in Damascus. Camel meat is supposed to increase men’s virility, and one butcher who seemed to be proof of the pudding proudly showed me photos of his two wives and 16 children!
In Damascus the arcaded souks line either sides of the cobbled streets and alleyways. Stalls selling the same products tend to be grouped together so to find a whole street of spice merchants so head for souk al-Bezuriife. I was particularly interested in the different types of za’atar and sumac and other unfamiliar ingredients like dried limes, dried rosebuds, okra and aubergines.
The chef at Four Seasons Hotel had kindly lent me a young English speaking chef called Roget to escort us around and answer my zillion questions. We found fresh pistachios still in their soft pink shells, slim Syrian pine nuts and a myriad of walnuts. Young men press fresh pomegranate and mulberry juice at every corner, another sells handbag shaped bread. Even if you have no intention of purchasing the souks are intriguing to wander through and linger in to catch a glimpse of Damascus life (acres of bright glittery clothes, carpets and sexy underwear.
Meat is freshly butchered and virtually still warm when sold, they seem to be particularly fond of the unmentionable bits, particularly the testicles and of course not a scrap is wasted.  Many butchers have a little open fireplace in their stalls where a variety of kebabs are cooked to order. Little bakeries are dotted here and there cooking bread to order as people wait.
There is a long tradition of street food in Syria. Lots of falafel stalls – chick pea balls stuffed into pita bread with salad and tahina or rolled in a wrap sandwich. Others specialise in shawarma, thinly sliced lamb or chicken from a revolving spit like the Turkish doner kebab stuffed into Arab bread. All are freshly cooked and inexpensive. Restaurants many of which are converted palaces or khans vary but we ate very well and cheaply over all.
Every meal starts with mezze, a selection of starters to be shared, some hot, some cold. A typical selection  might include some houmous, tabouleh, baba ghanoosh, moutabal, klibbeh, moussaka and a thyme salad.
For main course there seem to be a myriad of kebabs mostly chicken and lamb made with cubes of meat, others with mince either in balls or shaped around the skewer, sometimes chunks of vegetables were interspersed between the meat. In Aleppo we had a particularly delicious aubergine and lamb kebab and a cherry kebab – specialities of that city. Fattoush, consisting of stale Arab bread, tahina and chickpeas or meat was comfort food at its best. Dessert was either gorgeous ripe seasonal fruit, figs, kaki and pomegranates were in season or sticky sweet pastries similar to baklava stuffed with gorgeous fresh pistachio and dates and of course the ubiquitous crème caramel.

There is a rich baking tradition and many third and fourth generation patissiers are still turning out a dazzling array of beautiful biscuits. This article is about food but to most people the food is secondary to the monuments; don’t miss the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus, the awe inspiring ruins of Palmyra, the Roman Theatre in Bosra, the Krak des Chevaliers near the city of Homs and close to the border of Lebanon and the Citadel of Aleppo.


This refreshing and highly nutritious Middle Eastern Salad may be served as a starter or as a main dish. It should be predominantly green, just flecked with grains of bulgar. I like to serve lots of well seasoned cucumber and tomato dice with the salad and Arab or pita bread.

Serves 6-12 served as a starter or a main course

4 ozs (110g) bulgar – cracked wheat
1-2 ozs (25-50g) freshly chopped parsley
1-2 ozs (25-50g) freshly chopped mint
freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons or more if you need it
3 fl ozs (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
4-6 ozs (110-175g) spring onion, green and white parts, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

6 very ripe firm tomatoes a selection of red and yellow, pear shaped etc., would be great, diced and sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and sugar
1 firm crisp cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice
small crisp lettuce leaves eg. cos or iceberg
rocket leaves
black olives – optional

Soak the bulgar in cold water for about 30 minutes, drain and squeeze well to remove any excess water liquid. Stir in the olive oil and some of the freshly squeezed lemon juice, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, leave it aside to absorb the dressing while you chop the parsley, mint and spring onions.  Just before serving, mix the herbs with the bulgar, taste and add more lemon juice if necessary. It should taste fresh and lively.


Serves 6

There have always been delicious ways of using up bread, particularly in the Asian, South American, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Sumac flakes give this Syrian bread salad a characteristic slightly sour taste. If you can’t get Sumac, the salad will still taste delicious but not so authentic.

2 stale pita bread or 2-3 thick slices of stale sour dough or good country bread
a little bunch of rocket or purslane
2-3 teaspoons Sumac if available
1 mild sweet red pepper, optional
½ cucumber, coarsely chopped
4 ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into ¼’s and then into ½’s crosswise
3 spring onions, sliced at an angle
2-3 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
2-3 tablespoons fresh mint

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
salt and freshly ground pepper, maybe even a pinch of sugar or a dash of Balsamic vinegar

If the bread isn’t stale toast the bread until crisp. Cut into uneven sized pieces. Chop the rocket or purslane coarsely. Cut the sweet red pepper into or rounds or dice. Put both into a salad bowl with the tomato, cucumbers and spring onions, herbs and bread. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Spoon over the salad, toss gently, taste.
Allow the salad to sit for at least 30 minutes, better still an hour before serving, so the bread soaks up lots of yummy dressing and juice.


Makes 6

7 ozs/200g chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 ozs/110g onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat parsley, roughly chopped
¾ tsp freshly roasted and ground cumin
½ tsp freshly roasted and ground coriander
½ tsp salt
lots of freshly ground pepper
good pinch of cayenne
¼ tsp baking soda
oil for frying

Day Before
Cover the chickpeas in lots of cold water and allow to soak overnight.
Next day, discard the water. Drain well.  Put the chickpeas into a food processor with the other ingredients. Purée until as smooth as possible.
Cook a little blob in hot oil to check seasoning.  Correct if necessary. Shape mixture into 2” rounds. Heat a 1” of oil in a frying pan (or use a deep fry).  Cook 3 or 4 falafel at a time, turning occasionally until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Falafel Sandwich
Serves 4
4 Arab bread or flour tortillas
16 freshly cooked falafel
4 ripe tomatoes sliced
pickled cucumber
shredded lettuce

fresh mint leaves
very finely sliced fresh lemon, cut into tiny triangles
tahina mixed with natural yoghurt

Lay the Arab bread on the work top. Squish three freshly cooked falafel in a line over the top side of the bread. Lay a line of thinly sliced tomatoes on top, then some pickled cucumber; fresh mint leaves, sliced onions and fresh lemon including rind drizzle with tahina mixed with natural yoghurt. Roll into a Swiss roll; tuck in the ends to eat on the spot. Roll in grease proof paper and eat like a wrap. If you would like to serve as a starter, cut in half and arrange on a plate with one piece propped against the other with extra tahina sauce and a little tomato salad.

Thyme Salad

Serves 4

This salad was featured on virtually every menu in Damascus but I was intrigued to find that it was made not with thyme as we know it but with fresh summer savoury. This salad was quite a find, because even though I grow lots of savoury every summer I’ve only ever used to enhance the flavour of broad beans.

110g (4oz) fresh summer savoury
4 medium tomatoes diced
110g (4oz) halumi cheese diced 1/3 inch cubes
thinly sliced onions
freshly squeezed lemon juice
extra virgin olive

Chop the savoury, including the soft stalk into roughly one inch in length. Drizzle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil toss to coat. Transfer to a plate, garnish with the alternating diced tomato and cubes of cheese, lay three of each. Sprinkle with sumac and serve.

Syrian Laymoun bi-na na
Fresh Lemon Juice with Min
Serves 2

Freshly squeezed juices were widely available, lots of orange of course, but we particularly enjoyed this refreshing lemon and mint drink.

Serves 6

juice of six lemons
300ml/10fl oz/ (½ pint) stock syrup
300ml/10fl oz/ (½ pint) cold water
2 fistfuls of fresh mint leaves

Squeeze the lemons juice, pour the juice into a liquidiser, add syrup, fresh mint leaves and iced water leaves. Whizz until mint is fine and the drink is frothy. Pour into a tall glass, drink through a straw while still fresh.

Stock Syrup

Makes 28 fl ozs (825 ml)

1 lb (450 g) sugar
1 pint (600 ml) water

To make the stock syrup: Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Store in the fridge until needed.

Pistachio Biscuits – Graybeh

Fresh pistachios were in season when we were in Syria in late October. These little biscuits can be shaped in several different ways, little 5cm or 2 inch rounds, 2 inch diamonds with a pistachio nut in the centre or in little rings as described below.

Makes 35 approximately

100g (3 ½ oz) butter preferably unsalted
125g (4 ½ ox) icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons orange blossom water
1 ½ tablespoons rose blossom water
250g (9oz) fine semolina
50g (2oz) pistachios

Preheat the oven to 170ºC/ 350ºF /Reg 3.
Cream the butter, add the icing sugar and beat until soft and creamy. Add the flour and blossom waters and stir until well mixed. Knead until smooth. Pinch off walnut sized pieces roll each into a 4 inch rope about 1.5 cm thick. Pinch the ends together and press a little pistachio nut or even two into each where they join. Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or until pale golden. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Continuing our countdown to Christmas
A Gorgeous Gluten-free Christmas Pudding

A delicious pudding suitable for everyone including coeliacs and those who would rather not eat suet.

Serves 10-12

200g (7oz) sultanas
125g (4 1/2oz) raisins
125g (4 1/2oz) currants
50g (2oz) homemade candied peel
50g (2oz) cherries
50g (2oz) almonds, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons brandy
110ml (4fl oz) dark Jamaica Rum

125g (4 1/2oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
2 organic eggs
110g (4oz) ground almonds
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon preferably organic
1 Bramley seedling apple, peeled and grated

1 x 1.2 litre (2 pint) delph or plastic bowl

Put the dried fruit, glace peel, cherries, almonds, brandy and rum into a stainless steel saucepan.  Warm gently, turn off the heat and allow the fruit to plump up in the boozy liquid.

Meanwhile cream the butter in a bowl, add the sugar and heat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one by one beating well between each addition, add the ground almonds, spices and baking powder, grated orange and lemon zest and Bramley apple, then add the plump dried fruit and the booze.  Stir well, better still, get all the family to stir and make a wish.

Put a little circle of greaseproof paper on the base of the bowl.  Fill with the mixture, smooth off the top, cover the bowl with a double thickness of greaseproof paper, tie securely with string or clip on the lid if you are using a plastic bowl.

Put into a deep saucepan, cover with boiling water, it should come two thirds of the way up the bowl.  Bring to the boil and cover, simmer for 4 1/2 hours.  Keep an eye on the water level and top up every now and then as necessary.  This pudding is succulent and delicious eaten on the day, but can be stored on the day.

Turn out onto a hot plate and serve on individual hot plates with rum flavoured cream or brandy butter.  Alternatively allow to cool, re-cover with silicone paper and store in a cool dry cupboard until Christmas.  Re-boil for 1 hour and serve as before.


If you plan a trip to Syria be aware that Syrian airlines cancel and change the time of flights on a regular basis, without prior notice – no refunds – but you can use your ticket any where within Syria over a 12 month period if you are back!

Noreen and Martin Conroy of Woodside Farm in East Cork – who produce delicious sausages and bacon from their free range pigs – have a new website, visit them at

O’Doherty’s in Enniskillen produces the most delicious Black Bacon that follows an ancient style of curing, a process that can take up to three months or more by combining two methods. It was voted best Irish Food Product by the Ballygowan Irish Food Writers.  Visit their website

Georgina Campbell Awards 2009

Awards are two a penny these times, so much so that they often come and go with minimum publicity.

However the recent 2010 Georgina Campbell Ireland Awards caused a significant stir not only because of the calibre of the winners but also because Georgina Campbell issued a dire warning about the consequences of incessant haggling in restaurants and hotels to the point where it has become totally uneconomic for many establishments to operate.

“Many fine establishments have cut costs to the bone and businesses are now literally hanging by a thread,” Georgina Campbell said. “Prices have often been reduced to an unsustainable level and yet there is constant pressure from the public to make even further cuts.”

Receptionists around the country have a litany of stories of being harangued and abused on the phone by prospective guests who have been encouraged by the media to continue to bargain, doesn’t matter what price is quoted.

The lengths that some people will go to knows no bounds.

Recently four ladies arrived in a local câfé. They settled themselves in and ordered four cups of boiling water, the slightly baffled but polite waitress served them and asked if they would like something else, they replied that they were fine thank you, whereupon the took a tea bag each out of their bags, added it to their cups, added sugar and milk from the table. They chatted away happily for half an hour and left without comment – an absolutely true story.

Georgina Campbell complimented this years award winners for showing. “A determination to keep standards up while prices fall” This is far from easy. If prices are cut too much it becomes impossible to deliver top quality service so when guests arrive they are disappointed when the experience does not live up to the expectation.

A lack of Government action means that fixed costs remain too high for many businesses and cannot be negotiated.

One hotelier who slashed his prices in an effort to maintain business finds he has attracted a totally different clientele and has lost his original loyal following. He now wonders how he can raise prices again in these recessionary times.

Back to the awards – Georgina Campbell’s Hotel of the Year Award 2010 went to the Brooklodge and Wells Spa, Macreddin, Co Wicklow owned by Evan Doyle. “Brook Lodge has earned national recognition for its strong position on organic food – and their organic food markets are legendary. ” Georgina Campbell said.

Campagne in Kilkenny, described as a “bling free zone” won Restaurant of the Year for “its exceptional dining experience. No fancy large plates, no extravagant flowers, nothing at all showy, just exceptional attention to detail, well judged flavour combinations and perfect French inspired modern cooking.” Doesn’t that description make you want to whizz to Kilkenny right away. Owner Chef Gareth Byrne shared his recipe for Deep Fried Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg, Spring Onion Hollandaise

Chef of the Year Award was presented to a chef I have admired for some time, Eamon O’Reilly of One Pico in Dublin. Next time you are in the city seek out his delicious food in Molesworth Place in the city centre.

There were a whole raft of other awards, four of which also came to Co. Cork. The Quality Hotel in Clonakilty, Co. Cork, owned by two local businessmen won the Family Friendly Hotel of the Year. According to Georgina “many happy families vote with their feet by heading back to this hotel, every year.”

The Natural Food Award went to Carmel Somers of Good Things Café in Durrus for “using the very best of fresh, seasonal and mainly local foods – and preparing them simply and with style, to showcase their natural goodness and the quality produce of the locality. There was also great excitement in Shanagarry – the Wine Award of the Year went to Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry much to the delight of Sommelier Colm McCan and wine consultant Sascha Whelan who have gone to extraordinary lengths to source special gems for the wine list. Many are exceptional value; some are unique to the list.

Another family business, Aherne’s Seafood Restaurant in Youghal, won the Seafood Circle Restaurant of the Year.

“Perfectly cooked fish and classic saucing are the hallmarks – but servings are impressively generous too, a point which won’t go unnoticed in these budget-conscious times. For the entire list of 2010 award winners see

So hats off to Georgina Campbell for flagging up this issue. Her advice to all of us is “to think twice before pushing restaurants and hotels beyond their limit” if for no other reason than enlightened self interest. After all we will no longer be able to enjoy our favourite places if they go out business – consumers need to think long and hard before pressing for even better bargains”

So how about a well deserved night out – support your favourite local restaurant otherwise they may have shut their doors next time you call.

One Pico Guinness Bread  

250g strong flour

250g pinhead oatmeal

200g wheat bran

125g wheat germ

½ can of treacle

1 can of Guinness or stout

3/4 tblesp bread soda

120ml milk

Mix all dry ingredients then slowly add in wet while continuing to mix place in two pre greased tins and bake at 160oc for 1 1/2 hours checking all the time please note fan assisted ovens vary times (*please watch accordingly) serve with crab salads or toasted with smoked salmon or simply toasted for breakfast.

(portion into 1/4 and freezes really well)

Brooklodge’s Grilled Organic Kerry Black Rib Eye Beef, Roast Portobello Mushrooms, Roquefort Cheese Crust – Red Wine Jus.

Due to the stalwart dedication of Raymonde Hilliard and others in protecting The Kerry Black Cow down through the years, we now have a sizeable herd in Ireland. And there are now regular occasions in the kitchen of The Strawberry Tree where we have the honour of serving this to our guests, here is one of our recipes. We use organic ingredients at Brooklodge.


4 x 200g Kerry black rib eye beef

4 x Portobello mushrooms

80g Roquefort cheese

1 onion

100g bread crumbs

80g butter

A few sprigs thyme, parsley and bay leaves

1 clove garlic

¼ bottle of red wine

½ litre of beef stock

salt and black pepper

Cheese Crust:

Soften the butter in a mixing bowl, add the cheese and whisk together, add bread crumbs, chopped garlic, parsley, thyme and ½ one onion add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Red wine Jus:

Slice the remaining ½ onion and cook in pan till caramelised, add red wine and bay leaf and reduce heat till a syrup, then add beef stock and reduce till sauce consistency, add salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the Portobello Mushrooms in the oven with a little butter, thyme salt & pepper. Grill the rib eyes in a grillette pan to your liking, add the cheese crust and then grill till crusty. Serve with the mushrooms and sauce.


Ahern’s Poached Turbot & Prawns with a Chablis Cream Sauce

200g fillet of turbot

5 cooked peeled fresh prawns

75 ml white wine

1 lemon

1 onion

75 ml cream

4 oz butter

Herbs: chives, coriander, parsley

Poach the fillet of turbot in wine, water, lemon wedges & herbs. When Turbot is cooked (opaque in colour), remove from liquid & reduce liquid to ½ of its volume, add a little cream and whisk in 4oz of butter. Replace the fillet of turbot in the sauce Add chopped herbs then serve with fresh parsley & lemon wedge …

Monkfish could be substituted for Turbot.


Campagne’s Deep Fried Smoked Haddock, Poached Egg, Spring Onion Hollandaise

4 portions


4 x 100 g portions natural smoked haddock

50 g flour

50 g egg white

100 g panko breadcrumbs

4 egg yolks

2 tbsp lemon juice

200 g clarified butter

½ bunch spring onion, very finely sliced

4 organic or free range eggs

mashed potato

For the haddock

Remove skin and any small bones from the fish dust lightly with the flour, remove the excess and then dip into the egg white, drain and dip into the breadcrumbs, coat evenly and place in fridge while preparing the poached eggs and sauce

Bring a pan of water to the boil add a dash of vinegar and poach the eggs to your liking, remove and keep warm

Place the butter in a pan and heat until melted and slightly warm

Whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together over a very low heat until a sabayon forms and the egg yolks are thick but not scrambled, slowly add the melted butter a little at a time until it is all incorporated, season with salt and add the spring onion to serve. Warm the mashed potato and pipe onto warm plates. Deep fry the haddock at 180°C until golden brown, remove from fryer and season. Gently reheat the eggs and place on top of the mashed potato, placing the haddock beside it. Put a good tablespoon of sauce over the egg and serve immediately

One Pico Vanilla Cheese Cake Mousse with Berry Compote


serves 4

150g Philadelphia cream cheese

50g double cream

30g castor sugar

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

Squeeze of juice from 1/4  lemon (1 teaspoon)


For the topping

6 plain hobnob biscuits

25g sugar


Berry Compote

100gr frozen mixed berries

50gr castor sugar

 First make the berry compote by reducing berries and sugar to a thick compote by placing in a pan for 10 minutes set aside and cool. Now make the biscuit base.

Crush the biscuits to a rough crumble texture. Place the biscuit mix into a large pan, sprinkle with sugar and caramelise quickly for 5 minutes. Cool & set aside. Now make the cheese filling. Place the cream cheese, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod into a mixing bowl. Whisk on a low setting until it is mixed well. Now add the cream, a little at a time making sure there are no lumps. Then add the juice from ½ a lemon and whisk until the mixture starts to thicken. As soon as the mixture becomes thick turn the machine off. Place in a piping bag ready to pipe.

Firstly place compote in martini glass, then pipe in cheesecake mousse then top with caramelised biscuit

Brooklodge’s Marmalade Pudding

6 Portions

This is a recipe given to The Strawberry Tree by the wonderful Shirley Spear. Shirley runs the acclaimed Three Chimneys Restaurant on a remote corner of The Isle of Skye off Scotland. A fabulous Winter Pudding to warm you whether in Ireland or The Isles!

150g brown bread crumbs

120g light brown sugar

25g self raising wholemeal flour

120g butter

360g coarse cut marmalade

3 eggs

1tsp bicarbonate soda

1tsp boiling water

– Melt the butter and marmalade in a saucepan over a gentle heat.

– Mix the flour, bread crumbs and sugar and add to marmalade and butter.

– Whisk eggs till fluffy and gently beat into the marmalade mixture.

– Dissolve Bicarbonate with water and add to mixture.

– Pour into a 2lb pudding bowl, wrap tightly, put into saucepan of water and cover, bring to the boil & simmer for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.


Continuing our countdown to Christmas…


This week why not make a few homemade a few jams and chutneys to use as condiments over Christmas – they also make delicious edible gifts to give to your friends and will solve some of your Christmas present problems.

Apple and Tomato Chutney

Makes 10 x 1 lb (450 g) pots

7-8 lbs (3.2-3.4 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1 lb (450 g) onions, chopped

1 lb (450 g) eating apples, peeled and chopped

3 lbs (1.35 kg) sugar

1 1/2 pints (900 ml) white malt vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons ground black pepper

3 teaspoons all spice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

8-12 oz (225-340 g) sultanas

Prepare all the ingredients. Put into a large wide stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer steadily until reduce and slightly thick – 1 hour, approx. Pot in sterilized jars.

Beetroot Chutney

Delicious with cold meats and cheese, allow to mature for a couple of weeks before tucking in.

Makes 6 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

900g (2 lbs) raw beetroot, peeled

450g (1 lb) onion, diced

450g (1 lb) cooking apples, peeled and diced

25g (1oz) grated ginger

1 teaspoon salt

600ml (1 pint) cider vinegar

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

Chop the beetroot finely. Put into a stainless steel saucepan with the diced onion and apples. Add the grated ginger, salt and vinegar.

Cover and simmer until the beetroot is soft and the apples have cooked to a fluff, approximately 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

Add the sugar and cook until thick, 15 to 20 minutes.

Pot into sterilized jars and cover with non reactive lids. Store in a dark airy place.




Great cookery classes at Brennans.

Ballymaloe Cookery School graduate Lucy Hyland and Chef Gary Masterson will teach a series of cookery classes that focus on super foods to help you feel great on the 23rd and 26th November, and at Thompson’s Farmshop, Carrigaline on the 17th November 2009. Cost per session is €55. See or contact Lucy on 086 8179964.Sage Café Deli

in Main Street, Youghal, where you can find delicious freshly baked brown bread, scones, cakes and good coffee from Cork Coffee Roasters (087) 7766322. Contact Joan Collins at Sage (024) 85844.Don’t miss the Listowel Food Fair

from the 5th to the 8th of November 2009. For details of the exciting programme of events go to


Halloween creates almost as much excitement as Christmas nowadays, for weeks shop windows have been packed with witches, broomsticks, pumpkins and scary masks to tantalise the kids. Our grandchildren and their friends can’t wait to dress up in witches attire and ghoulish rig outs to frighten the life out of their neighbours and extract a ‘trick or treat’.

Even though it’s all becoming very commercial, kids still love the old fashioned games as well as apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. Another favourite game was to arrange five saucers on the table, put some clay in one, water in another, a wedding ring in another, a rag in the fourth and a coin in the fifth. One after another we were blindfolded, and the plates were switched about before we reached out tentatively, to inevitable giggles – the water meant that you were going “on a journey”, the coin meant untold riches were coming your way, the rag signified hard times ahead, the soil was also bad news, it meant you’d be six feet under before long but the ring meant that wedding bells would soon ring, even if you were only six!

You can always lure the little witches and goblins into the kitchen to cook. They love to make popcorn and spooky sounding soups like ‘Dragons blood’ (aka tomato soup) or spicy bones (spare ribs) can keep them interested and nibbling. Spiders web buns are also a great favourite and involve icing which is always a great hit with both boys and girls – don’t worry about the mess!

Buy a couple of pumpkins and you’ll have several hours of peace, but keep an eye out while they carve and make sure to save the pulp to make a pumpkin soup.

Dragon’s Blood

Tomato Soup with Pesto Crostini

Serves 5

The soup is a scary red colour hence the name, especially for Halloween.

We worked for a long time to try and make this soup reasonably foolproof. Good quality tinned tomatoes (another must for your store cupboard), give a really good result. Homemade tomato puree although delicious can give a more variable result depending on the quality of the tomatoes.


2 x 14 oz (400g) tins of tomatoes, liquidised and sieved

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 oz (15g) butter

8 fl ozs (250ml) Bechamel sauce (see recipe)

8 fl ozs (250ml) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

4 fl ozs (120ml) cream

Pesto – see below

6 crostini made from 1/3 inch (5mm) thick slices of thin French bread cooked in olive oil until crisp and pale golden

Sweat the onion in the butter on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the chopped tinned tomatoes plus juice, white sauce and homemade chicken stock. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.

Liquidise, taste, dilute further if necessary. Bring back to the boil, correct seasoning add a little cream if necessary.

Put a little blob of Pesto on 6 freshly cooked crostini and drop one into each serving.

Note: This soup needs to be tasted carefully as the final result depends on the quality of the tomato puree, stock etc.

Béchamel Sauce

1 pint (300 ml) milk

Few slices of carrot

Few slices of onion

3 peppercorns

Small sprig of thyme

Small sprig of parsley

1½ozs (45 g) roux

Salt and freshly ground pepper

This is a wonderfully quick way of making Béchamel Sauce if you have roux already made. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with the carrot, onion, peppercorns, thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken to a light coating consistency by whisking in roux. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct seasoning if necessary.

Halloween Pumpkin Soup with Rosemary Oil

Serves 6

50g (2oz) butter

150g (5oz) chopped potatoes, one-third inch dice

110g (4oz) peeled diced onions, one-third inch dice

350g (12oz) chopped pumpkin, one-third inch dice

1.2L (2pints) homemade chicken stock or 1L (1 3/4 pints) stock and 150ml (1/4 pint) creamy milk

3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

Rosemary Oil

4fl ozs (100ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the rosemary oil:

Heat the chopped rosemary with the oil until hot but not smoking. Cool and strain.

Add the vegetables and stock to the saucepan with the potatoes and onions. Boil until soft, do not overcook or the vegetables will lose their flavour. Liquidise with the chopped rosemary. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To Serve

Drizzle a little rosemary oil over each bowl of soup before serving.

Spicy Bones

Adapted from “Barbeque, Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavour” by Eric Treuille & Birgit Erath”

Serves 8

1.8kg (4lbs) meaty preferably organic pork spare ribs

2 tablespoons sunflower

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 teaspoons of ginger, grated

175g (6ozs) finely chopped onion

125ml (4floz) pineapple juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce, Nam Pla

3 tablespoons tomato purée

4 tablespoons lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

6 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce

Ask the butcher to cut the ribs across horizontally into two strips. Divide each piece into individual short ribs.

Put the ribs into a deep saucepan and cover with cold water, add salt and bring to the boil. Skim and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Drain, rinse under cold water and drain again, allow to cool.

Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan and add the crushed garlic, grated ginger and chopped onion, cover and cook on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Add the pineapple juice, fish sauce, tomato purée, lime or lemon juice, honey and 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the mixture thickens, then put into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add in the ribs and toss until completely coated (hands are best for this).

Place under a hot grill for 10 – 15 minutes, basting and turning frequently until golden, transfer to a serving dish. Drizzle with a little more sweet chilli sauce and serve the sweet and sticky ribs. You’ll need lots of paper napkins!



Halloween Barnbrack – Gluten Free

A simple and totally delicious barnbrack – suitable for Coeliacs or those with a wheat intolerance. This loaf keeps very well and is delicious cut into slices spread with butter. Hide a ring, pea, stick or a coin in the mixture for extra excitement at Halloween.

Makes 1 loaf

75g (3oz) sultanas

75g (3oz) raisins

75g (3oz) currants

40g (1½oz) cherries, halved

40g (1½oz) candied peel, chopped (preferably homemade)

200ml (7fl oz) tea

1 egg, lightly beaten, preferably free-range

150g (5oz) soft brown sugar

175g (6oz) rice flour

50g (2oz) cornflour

1½teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1 level teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon mixed spice

3 tablespoons milk

3-4 tablespoons Stock Syrup – boil 2 tablespoons sugar with 2 tablespoons water

1 x 1kg (2lb) loaf tin, lined with parchment paper

Soak the fruit in cold tea overnight


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

Next day, add the lightly beaten egg and sugar to the fruit and tea and stir together well. Sift the rice flour, cornflour, gluten-free baking powder, xanthan gum and mixed spice together. Add to the fruit mixture and stir well.

Wrap the charms individually in greaseproof paper and hide in the mixture.

Gently mix in the 3 tablespoons of milk and pour into the prepared loaf tin. Cook in the preheated oven for 11/4 hours approximately until a skewer comes out of the loaf clean. Brush with stock syrup (if using) so the top and sides are sticky and delicious. Cool on a wire rack. Serve out in slices with a little butter.


Chocolate Spider Web Buns


Makes 24


225g (8 oz) butter, chopped

225g (8oz) castor sugar

225g (2oz) cocoa powder or drinking chocolate

285g (10oz) white flour

4 eggs, free range and organic

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon vanilla extract


Dark Chocolate Icing


170g (6oz) icing sugar

55g (2oz) cocoa powder

85g (3oz) butter

70ml (3fl oz) water

110g (4 oz) castor sugar

110g (4oz) white chocolate


2 bun trays


Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 30 seconds approximately. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise. Bake for 20 minutes in total approximately. Cool on a wire rack and decorate as desired.


Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl. Measure the butter, water and sugar into a saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the butter is melted. Bring just to the boil, then draw off the heat and pour at once into the sifted ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and glossy. It will thicken as it cools.

Melt the white chocolate gently in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water. Ice the top of each bun with chocolate icing. Pipe a circle of white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate icing, then pull the icing up and down with the tip of a cocktail stick so the pattern resembles a spiders web.



Witches’ Toffee Popcorn


3 tablespoons sunflower oil

75g (3oz) popcorn

25g (1oz) butter

25g (1oz) brown sugar

1 generous tablespoon golden syrup

pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the popcorn and swirl the pan to coat the popcorn in oil. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and the corn should start to pop in a couple of minutes. Make the toffee coating by melting 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan. Then add 25g (1oz) brown sugar and 1 generous tablespoon golden syrup and stir over a high heat for ½ to 1 minute until thick. As soon as the popcorn starts popping (after 5 – 7 minutes) take the saucepan off the heat. Pour the toffee over the popcorn, put the lid on the pan and shake to mix. Pour out into little bowls and cool before serving.


Thrifty Tip

Keep the scooped out pulp from carving Halloween pumpkins to make soup.

Continuing Our Countdown to Christmas.

Last week I used my mother’s Christmas cake recipe, this week I will use my mother-in-law Myrtle Allen’s recipe. Closer to the big day I will give you a recipe for a lighter Christmas cake that can be made a few days before.

Myrtle Allen’s Christmas Cake

Approximately 20 slices

The first Christmas cake is rich and moist, it keeps until Easter anyway, I can tell you that, but there my experiment ended!


1 cup/225g (8oz) butter softened

1 cup/225g (8oz) brown sugar

1 ¾ cup/225g (8oz) flour

4 eggs preferably organic free-range

½ cup / 55g (2oz) almonds

¼ cup / 60ml rum or brandy

1 ½ cups / 225g (8oz) currants

1 ½ cups / 225g (8oz) sultanas

¾ cup /100g (3 ½ oz) raisins

¾ cup / 100g (3 ½ oz) glace raisins

¾ cup / 100g (3 ½ oz) chopped candied peel

1 lemon

1 orange


Blanch, peel and chop almonds. Grate orange and lemon rinds very finely without any white pith. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and white. Add the sifted flour and eggs alternately, beating well then add fruit and other ingredients. Put into a greased and lined tin. Bake for ½ an hour in a moderate oven 170°/325°F/Mark 3. Then reduce to 150°C/300°F/Mark 2 and bake for a further 3 hours approximately watching carefully towards the end. Keep in a tight tin in a larder or unheated room until about 12 days before Christmas when you can ice the cake.





Hot Tips

Pumpkins galore

– if you want to find a pumpkin David and Siobhan Barry, Ballintubber Farm have a terrific selection at the Midleton Farmers Market today. Contact 086 8238187.The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore

, Co Waterford is hosting a wine tasting dinner with Rocca delle Macie from Tuscany, Italy on Friday 6th November 2009 to book a wine tasting dinner, bed and breakfast package or just the dinner phone 024 87800 or visit

A new Farmers Market has opened in Limerick

contact Gareth Granville 0868069605

www.thecrescentfarmersmarket.comHow about an early Christmas presie

– learn how to choose, serve and get the most from your wine at a one Day ‘Wine Course for the Festive Season’ with John McDonnell & Colm McCan on Saturday 5th December at Ballymaloe House, Shanagarry – to book 021 4652531 at the Crescent Shopping Centre -every Wednesday from 9:30am to 2:30pm. Over 20 exciting stalls to choose from.


This year we have had our best crop of aubergines ever in the greenhouse. Our Black Pearl and Falcon plants from Vitalis Organic Seeds have produced with a vengeance. Aubergine plants grow to a height of about 2ft and have beautiful grey, g

reen leaves, and pretty purple flowers.
Aubergines are not a vegetable that appeal to everyone at first but after a few encounters the earthy flavour can become addictive. There are many more varieties besides the dark purple we are familiar with. They may be cream, wine or green striped. We have also grown a pale lavender variety called Asian Bride which is very beautiful. Anyone who has seen the white egg shaped variety will know why they are also called eggplants.
I find the slimmer varieties have the most flavour and are favoured by many cooks. As in all of nature there are male and female plants, and you can tell the difference by appearance. The male is more rounded at the end, the female more pointed. The female aubergine tends to have more seeds. Slight bitterness is one of the characteristics of aubergines – the males are less bitter than the females – a flavour some find off-putting at first but soon grow to love. Aubergines are enormously versatile, they can be grilled, barbequed, roasted, stuffed, sautéed or steamed as in Madhur Jaffrey’s Steamed Aubergines with a Peanut Dressing where the texture becomes meltingly tender. When I char them over a gas flame until the skins are blackened the interior flesh takes on an irresistible smoky flavour. Aubergines are a favourite ingredient in the Middle East, Indian and Mediterranean repertoire of recipes. They make delicious fritters and marry well with the gutsy flavours of the Mediterranean anchovies, olives, garlic and of course roast peppers and tomatoes and herbs like oregano and basil. The grape aubergines which look like a bunch of grapes are also delicious in Thai curries, but if you can’t find those just dice one of the larger ones.  If the aubergines are large, one can draw out the moisture and bitterness by salting first. To prepare aubergines, cut or slice the aubergines into slices or cubes, sprinkle with dairy salt or sea salt, toss and drain the slices by standing upright in an oven rack on a roasting tin. The cubes should be put into a colander and allowed to drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove, dry each piece well and continue with the recipe. Vitalis Seeds  

Aubergine Fritters

These are delicious as a snack or served with roast lamb – courgettes work very well also.

1 – 2 aubergines cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices


125g (good 4oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg preferably free range organic
1 tablespoon olive oil
about 150ml (1/4 pt) water

First salt the aubergine slices for 15 minutes, drain and dry well. Meanwhile make the batter.
Whisk the ingredients together, adding extra water if necessary. Dip the slices of aubergines into the batter and fry them in 1cm (1/2 in) of extra virgin olive oil. This may sound expensive but fritters cooked in olive oil have an extra good flavour and crispness. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

Rose Gray’s and Ruth Rogers’ Caponata

Taken from the new River Café Classic Italian Cookbook published by Penguin Books.

There are as many ways to make caponata as there are cooks in Sicily. The basis of caponata is the popular aubergine, and the dish evolves according to what other vegetables you wish to include. All caponatas have wine vinegar as part of the seasoning and most include capers, olives and pine nuts. This recipe has celery as its other strong flavour, which makes a light, refreshing version.

For 6

1 large round, pale aubergine, about 12cm in diameter, or 2 medium round, pale aubergines
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 whole heads of celery, with leaves
1 large red onion, peeled
2 ripe plum tomatoes or 3 drained from a tin
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced
2 dried red chillies, crumbled
3 tablespoons black Ligurian olives, stoned and kept whole
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed, then soaked in 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mint leaves, washed
6 slices of sourdough bread

Cut the aubergine into 1.5cm cubes and place in a colander. Sprinkle with sea salt and drain for 30 minutes. Wash off the salt and pat dry.
Cut the tender white part of the celery into 2cm lengths. Put them into a pan, cover with water, add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 3 minutes, then drain. Cut the onion into fine slices and peel and core the tomatoes, then chop them into 1cm pieces. Heat 3–4 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan, and add the aubergine pieces in batches so that they just cover the bottom of the pan. Fry over a medium high heat for about 5 minutes, turning the pieces over until brown on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat this process; you may need to use extra olive oil if it has all been absorbed in the first batch. Wipe the pan clean and return it to the heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the onion. Reduce
the heat and gently soften the onion until it becomes golden; this will take 10 minutes. Add the garlic and celery, and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, to combine the flavours. Season with pepper and crumble in the chillies. Add the tomato pieces and just let them warm up in the mixture, but not really cook, then stir in the aubergines. Cook all the vegetables together briefly for 5 minutes. Test for seasoning and stir in the olives, pine nuts and the capers including the vinegar they have been soaking in. Finally, chop the mint and stir it into the mixture with a drizzle of sweet
extra virgin olive oil. Toast the bread on both sides to make bruschetta, and serve with the caponata.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Steamed Aubergines with a Peanut Dressing

Serves 4-6

Madhur Jaffrey introduced us to this delectable aubergine recipe from Northern China. It can be served as a starter or as an accompanying vegetable or as a salad. It goes particularly well with cold meats. Madhur urged us to seek out long slim variety of aubergines rather than the larger seedy ones.  She has lots of delicious recipes for this versatile vegetable in her cookbooks.

560g (1¼ lb) aubergines
50g (2oz) raw peanuts, roasted and ground to a paste in a clean coffee-grinder or 3 tablespoons freshly made peanut butter from a health food shop
50 ml (2fl oz) Chinese light soy sauce
25 ml (1fl oz) Chinese red vinegar (use red wine vinegar as a substitute
15 ml (1fl oz) sugar (use a bit more, if needed)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine
15 ml (1fl oz) sesame oil
15 ml (1fl oz) garlic, peeled and very finely chopped
15 ml (1fl oz) fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tablespoons green coriander, very finely chopped, both leaves and stems, plus a few extra green coriander sprigs for garnishing

If the aubergines are the long, slim variety, quarter them lengthways, and then cut them into 7.5cm (3inch) long fingers.  If using the more common, fat aubergine, cut it into fingers that are 7.5 x 2.5cm (3inch x 1inch).  Steam over a high heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Meanwhile, combine all the remaining ingredients except the green coriander in a bowl and mix well.  This is the sauce.
When the aubergine pieces are tender, lift them out carefully and arrange them neatly in a single layer in a large platter.  Stir the sauce.  Add the green coriander to it and mix again.  Pour the sauce evenly over the aubergines.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.  This dish may be prepared ahead of time, covered and refrigerated.  Garnish with the green coriander sprigs just before serving.

Rick Stein’s Aubergine Curry with Tomatoes, Ginger and Fennel Seeds

If you can get them, use ‘finger’ aubergines for this. They are shaped rather like small courgettes and hold their shape well during cooking. This is a simple curry, but interesting as it uses a lot of fennel seeds, a common flavour in Bangladeshi food. Incidentally, they call them aniseed there, but they are not because I wondered into a kitchen in Sylhet and tried them.
As through India, as indeed in some Indian restaurants in the UK, sugar-coated fennel seeds are offered at the end of a meal as a breath freshener and digestive.

This recipe is from Rick Stein’s great new book ‘Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey’ published by BBC books.

600g aubergines, ideally Asian finger aubergines
150ml vegetable oil
40 g fresh root ginger, roughly chopped
40g garlic, roughly chopped
2 green cayenne chillies, finely chopped
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp freshly ground coriander seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
400g chopped tomatoes, fresh or from a can
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and mint

Top and tail the aubergines and cut in half lengthways. If using larger Mediterranean-style aubergines, cut each one across in half and then each piece lengthways into 6 – 8 wedges. Toss them with ½ tsp salt and set aside in a colander for 10 minutes. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Pour the oil into a shallow dish. Brush the aubergine pieces, a few at a time, with oil, put them in the frying pan and cook for 3 – 4 minutes on each side until richly browned. Cooking the aubergines in this way helps prevent them from absorbing too much oil, which would make the finished dish greasy. Set aside in a bowl and repeat with the remaining aubergines. Put the ginger, garlic and chilli into a mini food processor with 2 – 3 tbsp water and whizz to a smooth paste. Put 2 tbsp of the remaining of the remaining oil into the frying pan and add the fennel and cumin seeds. Leave them to sizzle for a few seconds, then add the ginger and garlic paste and leave this to fry for a further 2 -3  minutes. Add the coriander and turmeric, fry for 1 minute, and then add the tomatoes, black pepper, 3 tbsp water and ½ tbsp salt. Cover and leave to simmer for 8 – 10 minutes until reduced and thickened slightly. Return the fried aubergine slices to the pan and stir well to coat in the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the fresh coriander and mint and serve.

Continuing our Count Down to Christmas…
My Favourite Christmas Cake

This makes a moist cake which keeps very well. It can either be made months ahead or, if you are frenetically busy then it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know!. If you make it this week it will mature beautifully between now and Christmas. I will give instructions and suggestions on how to ice closer to Christmas.

Serves about 40

110g (4oz) real glacé cherries
50g (2oz) whole almonds
350g (12oz) best-quality sultanas
350g (12oz) best-quality currants
350g (12oz) best-quality raisins
110g (4oz) homemade candied peel
50g (2oz) ground almonds
zest of 1 organic unwaxed lemon
zest of 1 organic unwaxed orange
60ml (21⁄2 fl oz) Irish whiskey
225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden caster sugar
6 organic eggs
275g (10oz) flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 large or 2 small Bramley seedling apples, grated

Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) round, or 20cm (8 inch) square tin with a double thickness of silicone paper. Then tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin. Have a sheet of brown or silicone paper to lay on top of the tin during cooking.

Wash the cherries and dry them gently. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1–2 minutes, then rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon zest. Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

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

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 mixed spice with the flour and stir gently into the butter mixture. Add the grated cooking apple to the plumped up fruit and stir into the butter mixture 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.

Now lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat. Bake for 1 hour. Then reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 21⁄2 hours, until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the remainder of the whiskey over the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.

Next day, remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap the cake in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.

Store in a cool, dry place; the longer the cake is stored the more mature it will be.

Everyone at O’Connell’s Restaurant in Ballsbridge in Dublin was celebrating last week; they have just been awarded The “Just Ask!” Georgina Campbell Restaurant of the Month Award for October 2009. This brilliant concept is a public awareness campaign that aims to encourage consumers when eating out to look for information on where the food (particularly meat) on their plate comes from and to encourage chefs to provide this information on their menus. O’Connells Restaurant, Ballsbridge – telephone 01 665 5940.
Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Learn ‘How To Make Sourdough Bread’ A step by step demonstration and explanation by Declan Ryan of Arbutus Breads at the Crawford Art Gallery Cafe at 7.30pm on Thursday 29th October Admission €6.00 including tea, coffee and tastings. For further information contact Caroline Robinson on 021-7330178.

Good Things Café and Cookery School in Durrus. Carmel Somers’ new season schedule has just been published and includes lots of tempting cookery courses. Everyone loves the informative and convivial atmosphere. Telephone 027 61426 –

Pizza Workshop at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday 30th October 2:00 to 5:00pm. Philip Dennhardt has built up a cult following for his pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. Learn how to make the dough, shape the pizza and make a variety of sauces and toppings €85.00. Tel 021 4646785

Holden’s Organic Farm Wales

I haven’t been to Wales for so long; I’d forgotten how easy it is to get there. Just throw a few things into the car, pack a picnic and head for Rosslare. The ferry to Fishguard takes three and a half hours, and even

though it’s quite a short time it’s worth considering taking a cabin for €39.00 (sleeps two) so you arrive fresh as a daisy. We were on our way to Holden’s Organic farm near Lampeter to do a cheese making course. First we detoured 20 minutes south of Fishguard to Porthgain in search of a little seafood restaurant called The Shed. We found it on the harbours edge and had delicious fish, spanking fresh crab, mussels, and grey sea mullet. It was a pity about the squidgy bread and bought mayonnaise. The pretty waitress was a mine of information! She appeared to have no idea about the village, the story of the restaurant or where the local cheese came from. The cheese I discovered later was Caerphilly, Wales’ most famous cheese!
After lunch, we made our way up hills and down dales through forest and woodland and village after village with unpronounceable names, eventually arrived at Bwlchwernen Fawr Organic Dairy Farm. The Ayrshire cows that provide milk for the cheese were grazing contentedly in the fields. Up to four years ago Sam and Rachel Holden were immersed in the corporate world in London; Rachel was a press officer for Sainsbury’s and Sam was account manager for a small graphic design company. Through a series of events they decided to return to the family farm in Wales to oversee the renovation of the farmhouse. As luck would have it Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy brought a group of UK farmhouse cheese-makers to see the dairy herd. Sam’s father Patrick Holden director of the Soil Association had harboured an aspiration to add value to their beautiful milk by making a cheese but didn’t quite know quite how to go about it. After the cheese-makers visit, he asked Sam whether he might consider taking on the project, after initial discussion with his wife Rachel they decided to take the plunge. They borrowed a ton of money and spent four months learning and visiting cheese-makers. A new fully equipped dairy was built and on August 26th 2007 Sam and Rachel made their first batch of cheddar. They continued to make cheese twice a week through out the year without even having tasted the fruit of their labours – it was a year later before they could sample the mature cheese. What a leap of faith and extraordinary courage. To their immense relief the cheese was really good and well received. They decided to call it ‘Hafod’ (pronounced Havod) which means Summer pasture in Welsh. Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, the iconic cheese shop in London tasted, approved and decided to stock it alongside the legendary English cheddars, Montgomery, Keens, Westcombe and Isle of Mull.
On 25th June 2008 Prince Charles came to officially open the dairy as a beacon of local enterprise. Now they are beginning to offer cheese making courses to pass on their skills to others who have an interest in this.
It takes two days milk to fill the vat so the cheese is made from a mixture of morning and evening milk. In comparison to most other cheese, cheddar making is immensely laboursome in the initial stage but once it is made, moulded and pressed there is little store work in the way of handling and turning. It just slumbers away on timber shelves in the cheese ‘cave’ at 10°C for a year to 18 months under the watchful eye of Sam and Rachel who turn it every five weeks. We were also shown how to make a simple soft cheese and a Jarlesberg (a mild cow’s milk Norwegian cheese)
The day cheese making course, including a delicious lunch of Welsh cawl, Hafod Cheddar and salad followed by homemade cakes and tea and coffee costs just £70.00
Soil association members get the discounted price of £57.50.
Quite incredible value for money. Sam and Rachel were enormously generous with their information and were passionate about passing on their knowledge and skills. They also had a very experienced French cheese-making student called Marie Decherf working with them who is presently on a tour of farmhouse cheese-makers in UK and Ireland. She was on her way to spend two months working with and learning from Jaffa Gill who makes the award winning Durrus Cheese on her farm outside the village of the same name in West Cork.
The following day we visited the Brecon Beacons Food Fair and bought several Welsh cheeses, Welsh cakes, pickled samphire and cob nuts.
The local Welsh Male Choir was in full voice at the end of market hall.
There was lots of salt marsh lamb and Welsh mutton from Elan Valley for sale and some quite spectacular bread made by young artisan baker Alex Gooch – his family made three deliveries of bread to the festival and sold it as fast as they could bake it.
We also visited Penpont self catering cottages beside Penpont House, cottages and farm shop, in the middle of an organic estate, a really special place to stay, close to Brecon.
Also in that area is another of my favourite pubs with comfy rooms and a menu of delicious local foods – The Felin Fach Griffin Inn.

To book a cheese making course at Bwlchwernen Fawr Organic Dairy Farm telephone Sam and Rachel Holden on
00 44 1570 493283 or email  or visit their website Hafod Cheese Neals Yard Dairy Felin Fach Griffin Inn Durrus Farmhouse Cheese Alex Gooch Organics  Penpont House and Self Catering Cottages

Welsh Cawl

A comforting meal in itself, you’ll want to tuck into several bowlfuls on chilly Autumn days or after a long walk in the countryside. Both collar of bacon and neck of lamb are inexpensive and delicious.

Serves 10

750g (1 ½ lb) collar of bacon
750g (1 ½ lb) neck of lamb
3 stalks celery sliced
3 – 4 carrots peeled and sliced
1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 cloves
3 white turnips peeled and quartered
A bouquet garni of parsley stalks, thyme and a bay leaf
3 – 4 litres (6 ½ pints) water
2 leeks
450g (1lb) baby carrots if available, other wise peel, quarter and cut into chunks
700g (1 ½ lbs) small new potatoes or ¼ larger ones
350 g (12 oz) green cabbage cut in ¾ inch strips
lots of chopped parsley

Put the bacon, lamb, celery stalks, carrots, onion, peppercorns, cloves, white turnips, the green part of leeks and bouquet garni into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Skim and continue to simmer for one and half hours, skimming regularly. Slice the white part of the leeks and add to the pot with remainder of the vegetables, except the cabbage, cook for a further 15 minutes. Add the cabbage and cook for a further 5 minutes or until both the meat and vegetables are fully cooked. Remove the bacon and lamb and cut into rough chunks, return to the pot, taste and correct the seasoning. Ladle into wide, deep soup bowls. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and enjoy.

Cyrus Todiwala’s Mutton Coriander Gosht

(Executive chef, Café Spice Namaste) – taken from Renaissance Mutton booklet

Mutton is used in many Indian style dishes commonly served in the UK. This simple dish can form part of an Indian feast or serve on its own with steamed rice or naan bread.
Serves 4
550g (1/4 lb) diced leg of mutton
3 onions, roughly chopped
15ml (1 tablespoon) ginger, finely chopped
30ml (2 tablespoons) coriander seeds
15ml (1 tablespoon) cumin seeds
1 whole dried red chilli, cut into 3 pieces
Cinnamon stick, 5cm (2inch) piece
4 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped or I can of chopped tomatoes
600ml (1 pint) hot, good lamb stock
60ml (4 teaspoons) fresh coriander, chopped
75ml (5 tablespoon) vegetable or corn oil

In a frying pan, roast the whole chilli and cinnamon stick over a low heat until light brown. Set aside to cool. Repeat with the cumin and coriander seeds then crush with the cinnamon and chilli in a pestle and mortar until you get a crushed peppercorn consistency. Heat the oil in heavy-based pan on a high heat. Add the mutton and seal well. Maintaining the heat, add the red chillies and cinnamon and stir-fry for one minute. Add the onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes on a medium heat and add enough stock to just cover the mutton. Keep the pan covered, add the salt and simmer the mutton for 1 hour. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further hour or until the mutton is tender and the gravy is thick. If there is too much liquid after the first hour, remove the lid for the final stage of cooking. Before serving check the seasoning then stir in the fresh coriander.

Welsh Cakes

I bought a bag of bag of delicious Welsh cakes from a cheery lady on a stall at the Brecon Beacons Food Fair. This is a delicious recipe – Welsh cakes are best made with a mixture of lard and butter but use all butter if good lard is unavailable.

Makes 24

450g (1 lb) white flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mace
110g (4oz) butter
110g (4oz) lard
175g (6oz) castor sugar
¼ lb currants, sultanas or raisins
2 eggs preferably free range organic
caster sugar for dipping

Put the flour, salt, baking powder, and mace into a bowl, rub in the butter and lard add the sugar and dried fruit and mix well, whisk the eggs and add just enough milk to bind.
Roll out thinly and stamp into ¼ inch rounds with a 2 ½ inch cutter.
Heat a heavy frying pan or griddle. Grease with a little butter and cook the Welsh cakes for 2 to 3 minutes each side. Remove and dip in sugar. Best eaten warm.

Continuing our countdown to Christmas

This week I share the recipe for my mother’s plum pudding with you. It was always the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it was made.   The grandchildren could hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that first plum pudding seemed the most delicious, it was our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helped to stir so we could all make a wish.

It’s fun to put silver plum pudding charms in the pudding destined to be eaten on Christmas Day.  Wrap them individually in silicone paper so they are bulky and clearly visible.

Mummy’s Plum Pudding

This recipe makes 2 large or 3 medium puddings.  The large size will serve 10-12 people, the medium 6-8 but I also like to make teeny weeny ones.

12 ozs (350g) raisins
12 ozs (350g) sultanas
12 ozs (350g) currants
12 ozs (350g) brown sugar
12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)
12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet (preferably home-made)
4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)
2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated
4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds
rind of 1 lemon
3 pounded cloves (½ teaspoon)
a pinch of salt
6 eggs
2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica Rum

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 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, 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.

Hot Tips

Savour Kilkenny Festival kicks off on Friday 23rd October and runs until Monday 26th October with a list of exciting events to attend. To see the programme, visit

Glebe Gardens course schedule is available for winter 2009 / 2010 and includes ‘Composting and mulching – putting the garden to bed for the winter’ on Sunday 18th October and ‘Salads all Year Round’ Sunday 1st November, both courses cost €60.00 including lunch. To book and for information about further courses, phone: 028 20232 or email

A Pizza Heaven – Ballymaloe Cookery School. Learn how to make the perfect pizza with lots of unusual and delicious toppings with Philip Dennhardt. Hendrik Lepel will also give a talk about how to build and maintain your own pizza oven in your back garden. Friday 30th October 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Booking essential 021 4646785 or


Past Letters