ArchiveSeptember 2010

Duchess of Devonshire – Chatsworth House

I’ve never met the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, yet she has been a hero of mine for many years. Debo, as she is known to her friends, now a feisty 90 year old was the youngest Mitford sister. He recently published autobiography called ‘Wait for Me’, immediately conjures up images of a determined little girl desperately trying to keep up with her five sisters. I recently took a couple of days off to visit her family home, Chatsworth House and Gardens in Derbyshire. Members of the Cavendish family have lived at Chatsworth since 1550. It’s a huge stately house in the midst of a 100 acre garden in the centre of the 1,000 acre Chatsworth Park, surrounded by the Peak district national park. It takes serious initiative, a ton of creativity and buckets of hard work to keep the roof on a stately home of this size.

Her Grace also loves chickens as I do and once complained that when John F Kennedy and his brothers came by helicopter to visit their sister-in-law Kathleen’s grave, her neighbours chickens were blown away by the force of the helicopter blades and were never seen again! Kathleen Kennedy died in a plane crash in 1948 and is now buried in the Cavendish family plot at St Peter’s Church near Chatsworth. Chatsworth attracts in excess of 600,000 visitors from March to Christmas every year. People come from all over the world to see the house, extensive gardens, parkland, sculptures and a farmyard full of happy farm animals. Visitors can see the cows being milked; under-fives can have fun on the pedal tractors or learn how to sow seeds. There’s several fantastic farm shops the most recent has just won the ‘Best Farm Shop’ in Britain award. It’s stuffed with local produce. Six butchers work full time in full view of the customers to prepare joints from meat much of which is reared by tenant farmers on the estate.

There are several restaurants, cottages to rent and a couple of pubs with rooms including two called the Devonshire Arms one in Beeley the other at Pilsley. I loved the yummy lamb and mint faggots in gravy they served there. When I inquired about how they were made they told me they were for sale in the Chatsworth Farm Shop with many other tempting things.

If you are in the area Hardwick House originally owned by Bess of Hardwick is a ‘must see’ not only for the utterly beautiful collection of tapestries and handmade rush floor covering but also for the original kitchens (now a restaurant) with dressers full of polished copper and kitchen utensils.

Just down the road is Stainsby Mill a stone mill which still grinds flour once or twice a week. Sadly they weren’t milling flour on the day we visited but none the less it was intriguing.

Derbyshire has several food specialities. I loved the oatcakes. It was quite difficult to get a recipe, their slightly spongy texture resembled South Indian flatbreads. Nowadays most people buy them but I found this recipe at We tested the oatcakes and found them delicious but not quite as light as the ones I bought, perhaps one could reduce the oatmeal by an ounce and replace it with an equivalent amount of white flour. You may also need to add a little bit more water if the batter is standing for more than half an hour.

The Derbyshire Fruit Loaf is reminiscent of any Irish tea brack but I loved the addition of a few spoons of marmalade. Like a tea brack it keeps for ages and is delicious served buttered or unbuttered.

We stayed in Fischer’s Baslow Hall in Baslow, where Max Fischer and his Chef Rupert Rowley get huge ratings in the Good Food Guide for his innovative food, lots of foams and little bits to nibble. Max keeps a half acre kitchen garden packed with fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit. We had a delicious compote of plums with lemon verbena for breakfast and I couldn’t resist the home made passion fruit marshmallows, one of several tempting petit fours made by the young kitchen team. Max and Rupert also co-own Rowleys Restaurant and Bar in Baslow. We particularly remember a sweet potato soup with chilli oil – here’s a delicious recipe from Neven Maguire’s book ‘Neven’s Real Food for Real Families’

Neven’s Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger and Coconut

Choose firm sweet potatoes with orange flesh for their vibrant colour.

Serves 4 – 6

450g (1 lb) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 leek, finely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly grated root ginger

½ red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, trimmed and halved

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon tomato purée

250ml (9fl ozs) coconut milk

2 tablespoons torn fresh basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Place the sweet potatoes in a baking tin, drizzle over half the sunflower oil, tossing to coat evenly, and roast for 20 – 30 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a pan. Add the onion, leek, ginger, chilli and lemon grass and sweat for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the reserved roasted sweet potatoes with the stock and tomato purée, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has slightly reduced and all of the vegetables are completely tender, stirring occasionally.

Pour the coconut milk into the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season to taste. Remove the lemon grass and then blend with a hand blender until smooth.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and scatter over the basil.

Passion Fruit Marshmallows

180g (6 ¼ oz) passion fruit juice

20g (¾ oz) powdered gelatine

500g (18oz) caster sugar

240g (9oz) water

60g (2 ½ oz) egg white

Boil the sugar and water to 125°C. Mix the passion fruit juice and gelatine and whisk until it thickens. Add the passion fruit juice and mix into the syrup. Pour the mixture over semi-whipped egg whites. Continue to whisk the mixture to stiff peaks. Pour into a lined 15cm (6 inch) square container, the mixture should be 2cm (1 ¾ inch) deep, leave to cool. Cut into bite size pieces and roll in icing sugar before serving

Derbyshire Oatcakes

Makes 15 approximately

450 g (1 lb) fine oatmeal (we used Macroom Oatmeal)
450g (1 lb) plain white flour
25g (1 oz) fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ litres (2½ pint) warm water

Mix the oatmeal, flour and salt in a warm bowl. Cream the yeast with the sugar and add ½ pint of the warm water. Pour the yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and add the rest of the water, mix slowly to a thin batter. Cover and set aside in a warm place until well risen, about 30 minutes.

Grease a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat; add a very little clarified butter. Pour a ladle or cupful of the batter on to the hot pan, shake the pan until it spreads into a round. Cook like a thick pancake for 3-4 minutes on each side, don’t turn until all the bubbles have burst.

The oatcakes will keep for 2-3 days. Reheat and serve with bacon and eggs or with lemon juice and sugar or toasted with honey or cheese.

Bakewell Pudding

Bakewell is a charming little village, well worth visiting. We’ve all heard of the Bakewell Tart but in Bakewell in Derbyshire – home of the Bakewell tart and Bakewell pie – they prefer the latter. They sell them in local shops but here is a recipe to make your own.

Serves 6 approximately

6oz to 8oz puff pastry

sieved raspberry jam – ¼ lb approximately

225g (8oz) butter
1 egg and 7 egg yolks
225g (8oz) castor sugar

almond extract

Line a round or oval pie dish or plate at least one and a half inches deep with puff pastry. Spread the base with sieved raspberry jam. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a bowl over simmering water, adding the eggs and sugar. Stir until the custard is thickened. Flavour with a few drops of almond extract. Pour into the pastry, cook in a preheated oven at

180°C/350°F/Mark 4 for 45 minutes turning the heat down after 20 minutes to 160°C as necessary. Rachel’s Bakewell Bars

Derbyshire Fruit Loaf

Makes 2 loaves or with

10 – 15 slices in each

450 g (1 lb) mixed dried fruit
225g (8 oz) caster sugar
300 ml (½ pint) hot tea
1 x organic egg
450 g (1 lb) self raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons marmalade

4 tablespoons milk

1 x 18cm (7 inch) cake tin or 2 x 450g (1lb) loaf tins

Put the dried fruit and the sugar into a mixing bowl; add the hot tea and leave to soak overnight. Next day, preheat the oven to

180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Grease the cake tin or with grease proof paper. Stir the beaten egg, flour, spices and the marmalade into the fruit, milk, sugar and tea mixture. (We added 4 tablespoons of milk to soften the dough) Pour into the cake tin or tins/ Bake for l hour in loaf tins or for 1 ¼ hours in a cake tin or until firm to the touch or until a skewer pushed into the cake comes out clean. Do not open the oven during the first hour of baking time or the fruit will drop. This cake will keep well. Serve cut into slices.

Compote of Plums with Lemon Verbena

Poach the plums whole, they’ll taste better but quite apart from that you’ll have the fun of playing – He loves me – he loves me not! You could just fix it by making sure you take an uneven number! Greengages are delicious cooked in this way also.

Serves 4

400g (14ozs) sugar

450ml (16 fl ozs) cold water

6 to 8 lemon verbena leaves

900g (2 lbs) fresh Plums, Victoria, Opal or those dark Italian plums that come into the shops in Autumn

Put the sugar, water and verbena leaves into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil. Tip in the plums and poach, cover the saucepan and simmer until they begin to burst. Turn into a bowl, serve warm with a blob of softly whipped cream. Divine!

*The poached plums keep very well in the fridge and are delicious for breakfast without the cream!

Note: If plums are sweet use less sugar in syrup

Wild Food

Sloe or Damson Gin

It’s great fun to organise a few pals to pick sloes and have a sloe gin-making party. Sloes make a terrific beverage for Christmas presents. Either enjoy it neat or put a measure of damson or sloe gin in a glass, add ice, a slice of lemon and top it up with tonic.

700g (11⁄2lb) sloes or damsons

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

1.2 litres (2 pints) gin

Wash and dry the fruit and prick it in several places (we use a sterilised darning needle). Put the fruit into a sterilised glass Kilner jar and cover with the sugar and gin. Seal tightly.

Shake the jar every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 3–4 months, by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months.

Gallweys Whiskey Truffles 051334970

The local food crusade continues to gather momentum for more details.

There’s just time to catch the last of the sloes

Wait for Me! Memoirs of the Youngest Mitford sister, by Deborah Devonshire – published by John Murray

Chatsworth Estate, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP: 00 44 1246 565 300

Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S44 5QJ: 00 44 1246 850 430

Stainsby Mill, Heath, Chesterfield, Derbyshire: 00 44 1246 850 430

Fischer’s Baslow Hall, Calver Road, Baslow, Derbyshire:

00 44 1246 583 259, easy and fun to gather. If you make a batch of sloe gin now it’ll be ready to sip for Christmas. (see Wildfood). Fields in Skibbereen and Scallys in Clonakilty have been flying the flag for quite a long time. If you are in Schull look out for the ‘local produce shelf’ in Centra, on a recent visit, there were, cucumbers and leeks from Lisacahill, courgettes from Castletownsend, tomatoes from Rosbrinn, apples from Ballydehob carrots, cabbages from Goleen…Alternatively for more local produce visit Skibbereen Farmers Market every Saturday and the Schull Farmers Market every Sunday. Email are one of my favourite melting moments – fans will be delighted to hear that they have opened two Gallweys chocolate cafes – one in Tramore, the other in Waterford city – where you can not only sip hot chocolate guiltily but also have freshly roasted coffee, sandwiches, Panini, homemade soup and a couple of delicious desserts.

This is a delicious tray bake perfect for school lunches or to nibble with a cup of tea.

Makes 12 Bars

75g (3oz) butter, softened

25g (1oz) caster sugar

1 egg yolk

175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g (7oz) raspberry jam


100g (3 1/2oz) butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 eggs, beaten

a few drops of almond extract

100g (3 1/2oz) ground almonds

100g (3 1/2oz) semolina

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

flaked almonds for sprinkling

20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Butter the sides of the cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.

First, make the biscuit base. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and mix well, then sift in the flour and mix together to form a dough.

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface to the right size to fit the base of the tin and then press into the prepared tin. Spread the raspberry jam over the top then allow to chill in the fridge while you make the topping.

Place the melted butter in a bowl, add the beaten eggs and almond extract and mix well. Stir in the ground almonds, semolina and caster sugar.

Take the tin out of the fridge and spread the almond dough over the jam, being careful not to mess up the jam too much. (I usually place the almond dough in dots over the jam, then join it all together using the back of a spoon).

Sprinkle the top with the flaked almonds and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden and set in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin, then cut into fingers.

Island Life – Inis Meáin

I’m sitting with my back to a stone wall on Inis Meáin – on Ireland’s western seaboard – watching islander Padraic McDonagh hand threshing rye in the time honoured way. He chooses a flat lime stone area and then he made a little circle of sheaves to catch the seed. He grasps a sheaf and bashes it against a flat stone which he has propped at a perfect angle. When all the seed is threshed out he carefully collects every grain to replant for his next years crop of rye. The precious straw will be used to thatch his sheds and outbuildings. I feel hugely fortunate to come upon this gentle islander threshing his rye in a way that may date back thousands of years. It makes me wish I’d come to Inis Meáin thirty years ago.

Each of the Aran islands are truly unique and offers a different experience, understandably island life has changed dramatically in the last few decades; nonetheless it was quite a shock and a delight to discover that many of the older inhabitants of Inis Meáin – the least visited of the Aran Islands – have little or no English. All the native islanders speak a beautiful lilting Irish quite unlike the ‘civil service’ Irish I learned in National School. Not being a native speaker I connected the island with and Inis Meáin knitwear of which I’ve been an avid admirer for many years and more with the writings of John Milligan Synge. However I was eventually lured to the island by glowing descriptions of Ruairí and Marie Thérèse de Blacam’s little guest house rather incongruously named Inis Meáin Suites.

So how does one get there? There are regular ferries from Rossaveel and Doolin. Guests are met by the grey Inis Meáin ‘shuttle’ and transported way up the hill from the new harbour past an occasional white washed and sometimes thatched cottage and past the little meadows each surrounded by stark and beautiful dry stone walls. There were a few cattle here and there, a profusion of wild flowers, brambles and sloes and occasional potato ridges full of floury spuds that have been grown in a mixture of sand and seaweed. Red seaweed, kelp and black sea bladder wrack each deliver its own minerals. The islanders have collected seaweed on Caladh Mór and around the island since time immemorial and have gradually built up the soil on the solid rock face of Inis Meáin.

Ruairí de Blacam was reared on the island but educated in Blackrock College.

His mother Áine was and still is the school teacher on the island. During his gap year he went to work in an Irish pub in Germany and soon realised that cooking and playing music were a lot more appealing than college. He did a month long apprenticeship with John Desmond on Heir Island off Baltimore, Johnny, a brilliant chef and teacher kindled his passion for beautiful fresh local produce, simply cooked. Back in Dublin, Ruairí pestered Johnny Cook until he took him into his kitchen. The message was further reinforced there and on ‘stages’ in Italy, Austria and Paris. Friends urged him to open a restaurant in Dublin but he longed to return to his native Inis Meáin to open a B&B and a restaurant, a brave brave step but Ruairí knew as did his father before him that people will make a detour for quality – Inis Meáin knitwear is sold in the swankiest shops in London, New York and Tokyo…

The low slung stone building tucked into the landscape was designed in conjunction with his uncle’s firm de Blacam and Meagher. There are just four suites each with a twenty foot long window with superb views across the island, across the Twelve Pins in Connemara and Black Head.

When dinner starts with a little bowl of warm periwinkles – picked off the rocks just below the restaurant at Caladh Mór, you know you’re on the right track. The short menu illustrates the brilliance of keeping it simple. We had three delicious dinners there, gorgeous crab salads, one with mango salsa and another with celeriac remoulade and roast peppers. The juicy T bone steak came from their animals reared on the island. Ruairí served it with tiny roast carrots and parsnips and a big bowl of floury spuds again grown by Ruairí under the guidance of his maternal uncle. Lobster, like the crab, are caught in pots by the island currach fishermen.  Scallops are from the Inis Meáin bank less than a mile from the island’s coast, and spanking fresh hake is fished by local trawlers. For pudding, gorgeous crème brulee, crumbles and tarts made with apples from a local orchard. Ruairí also served crúibíní that he had picked which I think must be wild redcurrants close to the small – no one knew the English name. Deceptively simple and delicious food.

Ruairí and his wife Marie Thérèse (who hails from Midleton) are determined to produce as much of their own produce as possible. They recently acquired a couple of traditional breed, saddleback pigs so there will be succulent home produced pork on the menu before too long. After dinner we wandered up to Teach Ósta Inis Meáin pub to chat and listen to the locals speaking beautiful Irish. There are no night clubs or discos, no hurdy gurdies or juke boxes and no chicken nuggets but there is Teach Synge where the playwright stayed on the island, Dun Chonchúir (Connor’s Fort) and breathtakingly beautiful walks and timeless landscape with many prehistoric monuments – makes for a relaxing and refreshing break as Ruairí and Marie Thérèse wish for you. Booking is essential so plan ahead – well worth the detour.

Around 9pm In the morning a breakfast tray loaded with goodies arrives in your room – warm smoked mackerel, boiled eggs, good natural yogurt, home made muesli and fresh berries, freshly baked and still warm scones and soda bread, homemade marmalade and jams and maybe a slice of craftily cut pineapple – there’s plenty for a picnic later. The fridge and cupboards in the bedrooms are stuffed with tempting goodies, a far cry from the usual mini-bar offering, Green and Black dark organic chocolate, Ortiz tuna, Farmhouse cheese, Gubbeen chorizo, Carr’s water biscuits, good wine and Irish apple juice.

Everything has been carefully selected and thought through. There lots to do on the island. Two mountain bikes sit outside the suite and a couple of fishing rods are ready and baited for those who would like to catch a few mackerel to cook for supper.

Inis Meáin was recently awarded the Best Restaurant in Connaught by Food and Wine Magazine.


Cáca Risíní

We ate this delicious Cáca Risíní when we visited Áine and Tarlack de Blacam’s house on Inis Meáin.

450g (1 lb) white flour, preferably unbleached

110g (4 oz) mixed fruit – raisins and sultanas

½ level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

½ level teaspoon baking powder

no salt

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350-400 ml (12-14 fl ozs) approx.

1 x 21cm (8 inch) round tin


3 x small loaf tins 7cm (5 ½ inch) length and 6cm (2 ½ inch) depth

First fully preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl, rub in the butter and add the dried fruit. Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softer than white soda bread but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together divide it between the well greased tin or tins. Bake in the preheated hot oven. If baked in the larger round tin bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the tin and turn upside down in the oven for 10 minutes. In the smaller tins, bake for 15 minutes at 230ºC and 15 minutes at 200ºC then out of the tin, turn upside down for 5 minutes or until fully cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: it should sound hollow. Cool on wire rack, slice and eat freshly baked with a little butter slathered over each slice.

Inis Meáin Restaurant & Suites Brown Bread




Makes 2 loaves



750g (1lb 10oz) self raising flour

3 fists wholemeal flour 275g (10oz)

2 fists wheat bran 250g (9oz)

1 teasp bread soda

400ml buttermilk

400ml water

2 x 20cm loaf tins

NB – this is based on Marie Thérèse’s fist size which is very, very big. Depending on how big your hands are, adjust the amount of liquid, more than likely downwards!

Preheat oven to 210ºC/425°F/Mark 7 and grease 2 x 20cm long loaf tins. Mix the dry ingredients together by hand in big bowl and make well in centre.

Pour half of liquid in and mix very lightly by hand. Pour remainder of liquid in and mix very lightly by hand. Divide the mixture in-between the tins. Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35mins turning midway for even baking. Turn out onto wire rack to cool

Cáca Tanaí



Cáca Tanaí literally means thin bread


Makes 7 to 8 cáca tanaí

If you need bread in hurry this griddle bread is a perfect and delicious solution. Halve the recipe and make the dough as above. Heat a griddle or heavy iron frying pan over a medium heat, take a fistful of the dough (approximately 6oz) roll it into a very thin round (scant ¼ inch) Slap onto the hot griddle or pan. Cook for four to five minutes on each side. Serve immediately on a floured board with butter and chosen topping.


Ruairí Blacam’s Island Crab with Celeriac Remoulade



“I have rarely needed to write down anything that we plate up in the restaurant because the food we serve is really quite simple. The key is the produce and the produce is king. Elizabeth David’s famous quote ‘first catch your chicken’ comes to mind. So, for a decent crab salad first catch your crab!”

To serve four people you will need a dozen good sized claws. Drop them into a big pot of salted boiling water for 4 minutes.

To cook the crab claws quickly and accurately you should use no less than 5 litres of water. The more the merrier. Getting the meat out is the fun part. Use the back of a heavy kitchen knife to crack the claws and make sure to double check that there are no little bits of shell through the meat.

In a large bowl, julienne a small sized celeriac on a Liam óg O’Flynn, more commonly known as a mandolin. Add the following and mix the whole lot together.

5 tablespoons of mayonnaise, 5 tablespoons crème fraiche, 2 tablespoons chopped non pareil capers, 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons of chopped flat leaved parsley, 2 teaspoons of chopped tarragon, 2 teaspoons of chopped chives, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Evenly share the crabmeat between 4 plates, likewise the celeriac remoulade and finish off with a nice little tuft of rocket. Eat.


Marie Thérèse de Blacam’s Inis Meáin Apple Sponge


Serves 18


225g (8oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

350g (12oz) white flour


250g (9oz) butter

350g (12oz) caster sugar

6 free-range eggs

350g (12oz) flour

2 rounded teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons milk


6 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced

1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar

1 rectangular baking tray 40 x 30 x 4cm (16 x 12 x 1.5in)

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

Make the pastry first and leave in fridge overnight if possible. If you are short on time, you can divide the pastry into 2cm thick discs, wrap in cling film and place in freezer making sure the disks are not touching each other. Leave for no more than 30mins in freezer to chill while you are preparing the sponge and filling. However the pastry is a little bit more difficult to work with this way, than if you refrigerate it overnight and then take out of fridge 15mins before rolling.

To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together in a food mixer, add the egg and beat for several minutes. Add the flour, turn out onto a floured surface, flatten into a round to chill overnight or smaller discs for the freezer as described above.

To make the sponge, cream the butter in a food mixer, then add the caster sugar and mix well. Add the eggs gradually and mix well between each addition. Sieve the flour and baking powder and mix in gradually. Add the milk and mix lightly.

Grease the baking tray with butter and dust with flour. Turn the pastry out onto a well floured surface. Roll the pastry to a thickness of 3-4mm (1/8in) and line the baking tray base with it. As it can be difficult to move such a large layer of thin pastry to the tray at once, this can be done in two separate pieces that each line half the tray, using your finger to blend the two halves together in the middle

Prepare the apple slices and spread gently and evenly on top of the pastry. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Spread sponge mixture gently on top of apple slices.

Place tray in oven. After 10mins turn tray to make sure the sponge browns evenly. Check after a further 10mins and again after a further 5mins turning as necessary (total baking time approximately 25mins). It is done when the sponge is an even golden brown. Leave to stand and cool a little in the tin before portioning into 18 slices. Delicious served warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.


Wild Food




Periwinkles can be found all along the coast of Ireland. Cover with cold fresh water and leave to soak for at least 1 hour, longer if possible. You’ll need to cover the bucket because they make a valiant and determined effort to escape, which can be a bit unnerving. Discard the water and cook.



fresh live periwinkles

boiling salted water (6 ozs (170g) salt to every 4 pints (2.3L) water

homemade mayonnaise or vinegar (optional)

Bring the water to the boil, add the salt and the periwinkles, bring the water back to the boil, strain off the water and allow the periwinkles to get cold. Pick the periwinkles out of the shells with a large pin. Eat on their own or with mayonnaise. Some people like to dip them in vinegar.




If you are shopping in Newbridge pop into the Silverware Restaurant in the Visitors Centre – delicious freshly made cakes and coffee in the morning – homemade dishes for lunch and many temptations. A lovely spot to get together with friends. Don’t forget to run upstairs to visit the Museum of Style Icons while you are there. Contact 045488439

Saturday Pizza – For just three hours every Saturday, Philip Dennhardt cooks delicious pizzas in the wood burning oven in the Garden Café at Ballymaloe Cookery School. It’s the best fun, you can watch as Philip makes the pizzas in the traditional way. He uses fresh seasonal ingredients from the organic farm and gardens and the local area. There’s always a Pizza Margherita but for Pizza of the Week see



National Organic Food Week

National Organic Food Week, now in its sixth year continues to gather momentum. The raison d’être for the week long campaign from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 September is to raise awareness about organic food and where to buy and enjoy it.During the Celtic Tiger era in Ireland the demand for organic produce grew year after year. At present, there are approximately 1500 registered organic farmers and 1.25% of arable land is being farmed organically in contrast to the European average of 4%. Now that we are in more challenging times the ‘true believers’ depending on their circumstances have continued to seek out organic produce or have decided to grow their own and possibly keep a few hens also. Some farmers who were tempted by the extra supplement offered to organic farmers under the REPS scheme have reverted now that the scheme is under review. Bord Bia estimated the organic farming market was worth €124m in 2009 and is projected to grow to €239m by 2013.


The Ballymaloe Cookery School farm has been organic for over a decade. We have built up the fertility of the soil by regular applications of well rotted farm yard manure, compost, seaweed and the use of green manures.

We grow in excess of 85 crops, all be it in small quantities, year round. We also keep a few cattle for beef, free range traditional breeds of pigs for pork sausages and cured meats. Two gentle Jersey cows provide milk and cream to make homemade butter, yoghurt and a few simple cheeses. As a result we regularly sit down to meals where every single thing on the plate including the butter and cream comes from the farm or our neighbours – such a joy and for me that is real luxury – much more thrilling that owning a pair of Louboutins or a Prada handbag – whatever turns you on!

People regularly argue about whether organic food tastes better or not, as ever it’s difficult to be dogmatic, the skill of the grower affects the quality, variety affects flavour and freshness is of paramount importance. Organic food that comes from half way across the world may not have any chemical residues but it is unlikely to make you go ‘wow’ when you taste the first forkful.

So look out for fresh, local organic Irish produce at Farmer’s Markets and neighbourhood shops. Seek out and subscribe to organic vegetable box schemes so you will have a year round supply of vegetable for yourself and your family. Some of the best also include free range eggs, fresh herbs and maybe a recipe of the week and advice how to prepare and cook unfamiliar produce.

Check out the Bord Bia website for news of over 70 events around the country during National Organic Week, including Portumna Forest Picnic on Sunday 12th of September. The picnic takes place from 12 noon to 4pm and admission is free.. Peter Ward from Country Choice, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary is organising the annual Blas an Fhomhair organic lunch on Sunday 19th September.

In addition to nationwide events, Bord Bia will host the National Organic Awards 2010 on Tuesday 14th September, alongside a one day trade conference on the opportunities within the German organic market. I myself will do a talk at the Nano Nagle open on how to make the most on cheaper cuts of organic meat cuts in the Nano Nagle Centre, Ballygriffin, Co. Cork on Wednesday 15th September at 6:30pm.There’s all sorts of exciting events to choose from – how about an Organic Apple juicing demonstration at Trevor’s Kitchen Garden, 37 Tara Cove, Balbriggan. Co. Dublin.

All around the country, there are organic farm walks, tastings of organic food in shops and super markets and some like Urru in Bandon are giving a 10% discount on all organic food in the store.

Teagasc has scheduled its National Organic Conference entitled ‘Challenges and Opportunities for Organic Producers’ in Birr, Co. Offaly on Thursday 16th September.


Eric Treuille’s Thai Lime and Organic Coconut Chicken

Eric Treuille and his wife Rosie own the iconic Books for Cooks in Blenheim crescent in London. Eric has written several excellent cookbooks.


Serves 8


2 organic lemon grass stalks

3 organic fresh green chilies, seeded and chopped

2 organic garlic cloves, chopped

3 organic spring onions, chopped

1 handful fresh coriander leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

grated zest of 1 organic lime

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce

125ml coconut milk

8 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts, butterflied

salt and black pepper


fresh Mango or Papaya Sambal (see recipe)


To Serve



Little Gem lettuces


Butterflying a chicken breast.


With one hand on the breast to hold it in place, slice through the middle horizontally to cut almost in half. Open out flat.


Remove and discard the tough outer skin from the lemon grass stalks and roughly chop. Put lemon grass, chillies, garlic, spring onion, fresh coriander, cumin, pepper, turmeric, ground coriander, lime zest, lime juice, ginger, fish sauce and coconut milk in food processor or blender; pulse until smooth. In a bowl, toss the chicken with the lemon grass mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Grill over medium-hot coals until the chicken is opaque with no trace of pink – approximately 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve hot with fresh mango or papaya sambal in little gem lettuce leaves.




Make marinade up to 3 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate chicken up to 4 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.


Organic Mango or Papaya Sambal


Makes 225g (8oz) approximately


1 ripe organic mango or organic papaya peeled and diced

1/2 organic red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed organic lemon juice

1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)

1 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons

roughly chopped coriander

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the mango, chopped red onion, freshly squeezed lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and coriander in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently. Cover and allow the flavours to mingle for 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Aubergine and Tahini Dip: baba ghanouj

There are loads of lovely organic aubergines at present so make the most of them with this delicious Middle Eastern dip.

Makes about 550 g(1 lb 3 oz)

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 organic aubergines

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-4 organic cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

3 tbsp light tahini paste (sesame paste)

juice of 1 organic lemon

125 ml (4 171 fl oz) Greek-style yoghurt

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375ºF/gas mark 5)

Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over a baking tray. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and place skin side down on the tray. Drizzle with another tablespoon of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the garlic and aubergines are soft.

Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh from the skin of the aubergine. Discard the skin and put the flesh into a food processor with the garlic, tahini, lemon juice and the remaining olive oil. Blend until smooth and transfer to a bowl. Alternatively, place all the ingredients in the bowl and puree using a hand-held beater. Allow to cool.

Once cool, fold in the yoghurt and almost all of the parsley. Check the seasoning, adjusting if necessary, then spoon into a serving bowl and scatter with the remaining parsley.


Heirloom Organic Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Runny Honey


The Ballymaloe Cookery School stall at the Midleton Farmers’ Market has a unique selection of organic heirloom tomatoes in all shapes and sizes. Red, yellow, black, striped, round, pear shaped and oval. They make a divine tomato salad and are wonderful with fresh buffalo mozzarella and lots of fresh basil.

Serves 4

8 very ripe organic heirloom tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

1–2 tablespoons organic lemon juice

2 teaspoons runny honey

2 teaspoons fresh basil leaves, torn

Cut the tomatoes into 5mm (1⁄4 inch) thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix the oil, lemon juice and honey together. Add the basil leaves, pour the mixture over the tomatoes and toss gently. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. A little freshly squeezed lemon juice enhances the flavour in a very delicious way.

Pickled Organic Carrots with Star Anise


Scott Walsh a talented chef from Ballymaloe House came up with this recipe.

10 organic carrots, peeled and sliced thinly lengthways on a mandolin

600 ml (1 pint) unsweetened carrot juice

100 g (3 1/2 oz) castor sugar

200 ml (7 fl oz) white wine

200 ml (7 fl oz) white wine vinegar

200 ml (7 fl oz) water

250 ml (9 fl oz) Extra virgin olive oil

bunch of tarragon and thyme

8 star anise

2 tablespoons coriander seeds, whole

10 black peppercorns

Place all ingredients into a wide stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil, then simmer gently until carrots soft. Allow to go cold before serving.


Green and Black Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies


Makes about 36-40, depending on size

In season: All year

225g (8ozs) butter

200g (7oz) brown sugar

165g (6oz) castor sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

350g (12 oz) plain white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

150g (5oz) Green and Black 70% broken into pieces

100g (3 1/2 ozs/ 2/3 cup) chopped nuts – hazelnuts

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

Cream the butter add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla extract.

Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Lastly, add the Green and Black chocolate pieces and the chopped nuts.

Divide the mixture into 7g (1/4 oz) pieces, for teeny weeny pieces, or 25g (1oz) for medium sized or 50g (2oz) for American style cookies onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.


Fool Proof Food

Hot Buttered Oysters on Toast

These wonderfully curvaceous oyster shells tend to topple over maddeningly on the plate so that the delicious juices escape. In the restaurant we solve this problem by piping a little blob of mashed Duchesse potato on the plate to anchor each shell.

12 Pacific (Gigas) oysters

25g (1oz) butter

1/2 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped

To Serve

4 segments of lemon

4 ovals of hot buttered toast (optional)

Open the oysters and detach completely from their shells. Discard the top shell but keep the deep shell and reserve the liquid. Put the shells into a low oven to heat through. Melt half the butter in a pan until it foams. Toss the oysters in the butter until hot through – 1 minute perhaps.

Put a hot oyster into each of the warm shells. Pour the reserved oyster liquid into the pan and boil up, whisking in the remaining butter and the parsley. Spoon the hot juices over the oysters and serve immediately on hot plates with a wedge of lemon.

Alternatively discard the shells and just serve the oysters on the hot buttered toast. The toast will soak up the juice – Simply Delicious!






Our Friends in the North – Sweden

Slow Food has brought me to many remote places around the globe in search of ancient cultures and indigenous foods. Recently I found myself in Sápmi (Samiland) in northern Sweden – the land of the midnight sun; it was bright almost all night.

Since time immemorial an indigenous race called the Sami have lived in an area called Sápmi that extends across four countries from the Kola Peninsula in Russia to northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. At present there are about 80,000 Sami whose main occupation is reindeer herding, handicrafts, hunting, fishing and more recently tourism.

Throughout history indigenous people have been oppressed. Their land has been confiscated, their cultures have been suppressed and in some cases they have been victims of genocide. The Sami have had their share of challenges over the centuries however in 1993 the Sami government was set up by Act of Parliament. In 1998 the Swedish government apologised to the Sami people for Sweden’s oppression. There are still disputes about ancestral land rights but much progress has been made and this year a representative of the Sami will lead the procession of indigenous people at the opening of the Slow Food Terre Madre event in Turin from 23rd – 27th October, 2010.

The Slow food National Councillors meeting was held in Hemavan in Sápmi this year so we had the opportunity to learn about their food and culture. Like all indigenous tribes they live in harmony with nature. The Sami language is extremely rich, for example, they have over a hundred words for snow. Traditionally their diet consisted of a lot of reindeer and elk meat, fresh, dried, salted and smoked. Every scrap of the deer is utilised as well as the hide for clothing and rugs, the antlers for handicraft and the bones for handles of cutlery, whistles, paper knives… In Summer, they eat more fish and vegetables, in late Summer and Autumn, a variety of berries, wild mushrooms and fruit. They bake lots of delicious dry crisp breads before they go up the mountains to herd, it’s stored for months and then dampened and warmed again before they eat it.

We were invited to a Sami village called Daelvie to see their way of life and beloved reindeer. The entire year of the semi-nomadic Sami revolves around reindeer herding, they follow the deer throughout the seasons – up the mountain slopes in summer and down into the forests in winter. In May they mark the ears of the young ‘calves’ – each family has a distinct mark; September is slaughter month by then the calves are about six months old. Every scrap of meat is either eaten fresh or preserved and the surplus is sold. Reindeer is some of the purest meat on earth – very high in vitamins, minerals and omega 3 – the animals graze on wild herbs, lichens, grasses, young shoots and bark. The meat is absolutely delicious; we ate it in a myriad of ways, fresh, dried, salted, and smoked, in sausages and burgers, often in conjunction with a wild mushroom sauce. Lingonberries, and other wild berries are used for sauces, preserves and desserts. One evening we had cloudberry jam with waffles and cream. Cloudberies look like yellow raspberries, and grow in mossy areas and in the tundra.
We also ate wild mushrooms in many guises, morels and delicious chantrelles in a soup, little quiches and as a sauce with reindeer and artic char – the latter is a pink fish with pale flesh not unlike trout. The wild mushrooms are dried during the season and are much loved.

Sami are expert at preserving – in the past their very survival depended on it. Originally they stored food in underground water holes now freezers are more common. In early Spring – they eat the young shoots of rowan and beech and make a soup from spruce leaves and a syrup from the needles.

Angelica grows wild; the young stalks are peeled and eaten raw as a vegetable or candied as a sweetmeat.

They also pick buckets of wild sorrel in early summer and cook it in a little water until it wilts. Then it can be stored for months. They eat it with a blob of whipped cream and some sugar sprinkled on top – this was a revelation – totally delicious full of vitamin C – the oxalic acid is diluted by cream and milk.

The Sami women also explained that the children love to eat bilberry flowers in early June in the mountains. When I walked up the hill I nibbled some, they tasted of sweet honey.

As with many indigenous communities, they know the medicinal value of each plant and food and are passionate about passing on the skills, language, music and traditional dress (gakti) to the younger generation who seem to be hugely proud of their culture and heritage.

Years ago they lived in simple dwellings called Goahti and Lavvu. The latter was a portable tepee-like hut, the former was a permanent dome shaped structure consisting of a timber frame sealed with birch bark and covered with turf or sods of earth. Nowadays they are more likely to live in a typical Swedish timber house.

We had a wonderful feast in the village, of local food from the valley and surrounding area including dried reindeer (Suovasa) a product recognised as unique to the Sami by Slow Food who created a presidia to protect it.

They sang us some of the haunting traditional yoiks, made us coffee in smoked blackened kettles over the open fire and gave us slices of delicious homemade rhubarb Swiss roll. Here are some recipes that are typical to the Sami for you to enjoy.

Peppered Venison Salad with Horseradish Cream, Rustic Roast Potatoes, Red Onions and Chives


Serves 4 – 6




450g (1 lb) loin of venison, trimmed of all fat and gristle

4 tablespoons cracked pepper


Rosemary and Honey Vinaigrette


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 tablespoon wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary

1 teaspoon mustard

Horseradish Cream

Rustic Roast Potatoes

1 small red onion, thinly sliced


3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons vinegar

Pinch of salt


2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

4 handfuls of mixed salad leaves

To Assemble

First make the vinaigrette. Put all the ingredients together in a jar and shake together, taste and adjust seasoning. Make the horseradish cream (see recipe).

Cook the rustic roast potatoes.

Marinade a thinly sliced onion in the sugar, vinegar and salt for 10 –15 minutes.

Cut the venison into 5mm (¼ inch) medallions.

Rub one side of each slice of venison with cracked pepper.

Heat a frying pan and sauté the venison in hot olive oil, season and cook very fast until just medium rare. While the venison is frying, toss the salad leaves in a little dressing and divide between four large plates or one large serving dish. Arrange the rustic roast potatoes around the sides of the plate. When the venison is cooked place the medallions overlapping, on top of the salad. Arrange a few slices of red onion over the venison. Drizzle with horseradish cream and sprinkle with chopped chives. Serve immediately.


Horseradish Cream


A nice big chunk of horseradish keeps for ages in the fridge or pantry. The Sami use it for lots of dishes.


Horseradish grows wild in many parts of Ireland and looks like giant dock leaves. If you can’t find it near you, plant a root in your garden. Watch out, it’s very prolific so plant it in an area of the garden where you don’t mind if it spreads.


Serves 8 – 10


3-4 tablespoons grated horseradish

2 teaspoons wine vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

(see recipe)


teaspoons mustard


teaspoons salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

250 ml (8 fl ozs) whipping cream


Scrub the horseradish root well, peel and grate on a ‘slivery grater’. Put the grated horseradish into a bowl with the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Stir in the cream but do not over mix or the cream may curdle. It will keep for 2-3 days: cover so that it does not pick up flavours in the fridge.


This is a fairly mild horseradish sauce. If you want to really clear the sinuses


increase the amount of horseradish!4 ozs (110g) plain flour

4 eggs, organic and free-range

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

2 tablespoons warm water

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

rhubarb and ginger jam

whipped cream

Swiss Roll tin 1 x 10 inches (25.5cm) x 15 inches (38cm)

First make the rhubarb jam. Then make the Swiss roll.

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Gas Mark 5.

Line a large Swiss roll tin with greaseproof paper cut to fit the bottom of the tin exactly. Brush the paper and sides of the tin with melted butter, dust with flour and castor sugar.

Sieve the flour. Years ago, we would put the eggs and castor sugar into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it is light and fluffy. Take it off the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture is cool again. (Now we use an electric mixer, so no heat is required.) Add the water and vanilla extract. Sieve about one-third of the flour at a time and fold it into the mousse using a large metal spoon.

Pour the mixture gently into the tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-15 minutes.

Meanwhile put a sheet of greaseproof paper on the work top, sprinkle with castor sugar. The Swiss roll is cooked when it feels firm to the touch in the centre, the edges will have shrunk in slightly from the sides of the tin. The Swiss roll must be rolled up immediately; if it gets cool it will crack. Turn the Swiss roll out onto the sugar coated paper; spread a layer of rhubarb jam evenly over the surface. Roll tightly with the help of the paper. Keep covered with the greaseproof paper until cool.


To serve

Unwrap and cut into 3/4inch (2cm) thick slices and serve with softly whipped cream.

Waffles with Cloudberry Jam

Makes 12

Cloudberry jam is easy to find though expensive in Scandinavia if you can’t find it substitute your favourite jam or fresh summer berries.

175g (6ozs) white flour

15g (1/2oz) sugar

a pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

350g (12ozs) milk, slightly warmed

50g (2ozs) butter, melted

2 eggs, free-range and organic if possible, separated

cloudberry jam

whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Preheat waffle iron. Sieve all the dry ingredients into a deep bowl. Make a well in the centre. Mix the warm milk, melted butter and whisk in the egg yolks. Gradually pour the milk and egg yolk mixture into the well stirring continuously to make a smooth batter. Whip the eggs whites stiffly and gently fold into the batter.

Heat the waffle iron. Pour a 75g (3oz ladle of batter onto the hot iron. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden on both sides.

Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve hot with a blob of cloudberry jam in the centre and some softly whipped cream or ice cream.

Swedish Medals

These are the most delicious chocolate and apple shortbreads.

Makes 10-12


200g (7 ozs) plain white flour

50 g (2 ozs) icing sugar

zest of 1 small organic lemon

100 g (3½ ozs) butter

1 small beaten egg (you may not need all of it)

Apple Filling

2 dessert apples, I like to use Cox’ s Orange Pippin

100 g (3½ ozs) vanilla sugar

Chocolate Icing


Serve with roast beef, smoked venison or smoked mackerel or eel, also great with pickled beetroot.

Rhubarb Swiss Roll – Sami Style


Serves 8 – 10

Swiss roll

200 g (7 ozs) dark chocolate

40 g (1½ ozs) butter

200 ml (7 fl oz) cream

2 baking trays

First make the biscuits, sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl, add the finely grated lemon zest. Grate the chilled butter on the coarse part of a grater (or chop into cubes). Add to the dry ingredients, toss and rub in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add just enough egg to mix to a dough (it shouldn’t be wet or sticky). Cover with Clingfilm, flatten into a round and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and chop the apples. Put into a small stainless steel saucepan with a teaspoon of water and the vanilla sugar (or plain sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract). Put on a low heat, cover and cook to a soft thick pur̩e Р8-10 minutes. Turn out onto a plate and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Roll out the biscuit dough to a thickness of 2-3 mm/⅛ inch. Use a 6-7 cm/2½-2¾ inch ‘cookie’ cutter or even a glass to stamp out rounds. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes or until pale golden. Allow to rest for a minute or two, then transfer carefully to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, put the chocolate and butter into a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of water. The base of the bowl should not touch the water. Bring the water to the boil, turn off the heat and allow the chocolate to melt. Using a small palette knife spread half the biscuits with the chocolate icing keeping a 2 mm/â…› inch border around the edge. Leave on a wire rack to set.

Meanwhile whip the chilled cream quite stiffly. Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle.

To assemble, put a teaspoonful of thick sweet apple sauce in the centre of half the biscuits. Pipe a ring of cream around the apple sauce. Top each one with a chocolate ‘medal’. Serve immediately with tea or coffee as they do in Sweden but we also love them as a dessert.


Buffets are the perfect way to entertain any number of guests with the minimum of fuss.

Ballymaloe Cookery School are teaching a one day Ballymaloe Buffet Course. This includes dinner in Ballymaloe House on Sunday, 5th September 2010 – to give students the opportunity to see how the buffet is presented – followed by a full day of cookery demonstrations the following day. There are still some places left – book online or telephone 021 4646785.

You need to know about a very exciting new pub – Woodford on Paul Street in Cork City is the brainchild of Jacque and Eithne Barry and follows the same ethos, food from Cork, well sourced and sustainable. The yummy lunch menu includes Roast Tomato, Red Pepper and Chilli Soup and Shepherds Pie – Made From Slow Braised Shoulder Of Lamb. 021 4253932u 


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