ArchiveApril 2011

Welbeck Abbey

This weekend I was invited to the Artisan Food School at Welbeck in North Nottinghamshire to talk to their students about the inspirational Irish artisan food scene, the snows before Christmas meant that my first visit had to be postponed but that is an even a lovelier time of the year to visit this spectacular estate and stunningly beautiful English country house Welbeck Abbey.

Originally it was the principal Abbey of the Premonstratensian order in England. Now it is home to the descendants of the Dukes of Portland and is still a private home in the midst of a 16,000 acre estate. The house has been added to at regular intervals since the 12th century and is a mixture of architectural styles with pepper pot turrets and fantasy towers and huge gargoyles balanced on the rooftop.

Of course there are beautiful and extensive gardens, tranquil lakes, lawn tennis courts and a cricket pitch as well as a subterranean ball room and miles of tunnels. The wealth of the Earls and Dukes of Portland originally came from coal and they spent it well building an entire village to service the estate. The eccentric 5th Duke of Portland by all accounts, a kindly man known as the ‘workman’s friend’ created employment far and wide in the district by having an extraordinary series of tunnels constructed in the 19th century by the expert tunnellers from the coal mines.

I was fascinated to wander in and out of the ‘down stairs’ area which would have hummed with the voices of hundreds of staff, there was an underground train to take the food from the kitchen to the great house with a detour to deliver to the servants hall.

Present owner, Will Parente, a direct descendant of the 7th Duke of Portland remembers his grandfather telling him that as a mischievous little boy he and his friends loved to switch the tracks so the food for the servants hall ended up in the dining room of the Abbey and vice versa.

 The Parente family continue to create and innovate and have converted various buildings on the estate to new uses. There are a range of craft workshops, a farm shop, café, garden centre, museum, galleries and the School of Artisan Food, a brilliant concept created to pass on the traditional artisan skills of Cheese-making, Butchery, Baking and Brewing to future generations. The school is in the former Fire Stables and in its first year has 17 full time students. They were fascinated to hear about the growing and innovative artisan food sector in Ireland who are helping to further enhance the image of Irish food both at home and abroad. So find out more about their courses at the Artisan Food School

This weekend why not seek out some Irish artisan food and cook up a feast.

Macroom Wholemeal Soda Bread


Makes 1 loaf

225g (8oz) Macroom wholemeal flour

225g (8oz) white flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda or baking soda), sieved

375–450ml (13–16fl oz) buttermilk (depending on the consistency of buttermilk)

Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.

Mix the flours in a large, wide bowl, then add the salt and bicarbonate of soda. Lift the flour up with your fingers to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and outstretched like a claw, stir in a circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl in ever-increasing concentric circles. When you reach the outside of the bowl seconds later the dough is made.

Sprinkle a little flour on the worktop. Turn the dough out onto the flour. (Fill the bowl with cold water now so it will be easy to wash later.) Wash and dry your hands to make it easier to handle the dough.

Sprinkle a little flour on your hands. Then gently tidy the ball of dough, tucking the edges underneath with the inner edge of your hands. Pat the dough gently with your fingers to flatten it slightly into a round loaf about 4cm (11⁄2in) thick. Slide one hand underneath and with your other hand on top transfer the dough to a baking tray.

Cut a deep cross into the bread (this is called ‘blessing the bread’) and then prick it in the centre of each of the four sections to ‘let the fairies out’. There’s also a practical reason for doing this – the last part of the loaf to bake fully is the centre, so cutting the cross opens out the centre during cooking, allowing the heat to penetrate more evenly.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 15 minutes. Turn the bread upside down and cook for a further

5–10 minutes, until cooked (the bottom should sound hollow when tapped). Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Wild Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates


We often use the lovely St Tola Goats cheese in this recipe as well.


Serves 8


1 fresh pomegranate

4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese

8-12 fresh figs or plump dried figs (try to find the Turkish ones on a raffia string)

Enough wild rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of radicchio

32 fresh walnut halves



4 fl ozs (110ml) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 -1 teaspoon honey

salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator; break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith.  Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, put the cut side down on the palm of your hand over a bowl and bash the skin side firmly with the back of a wooden spoon – this works really well but it tends to be a bit messy, so be sure to protect your clothes with an apron as pomegranate juice really stains.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl.   Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves and radicchio in a deep bowl with a little dressing.  Divide between eight large white plates.  Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base.  Press gently to open out.  Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each; place a fig in the centre.  Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.


Belvelly Smoked Mackerel and Tomato Tart


Remember that some smoked mackerel has never seen the inside of a smoke house, but has been dipped in dye to simulate the smoked effect. So search out best quality fish and really ripe and firm tomatoes. For a special treat, serve with a drizzle of hollandaise sauce.

225g (8oz) Shortcrust Pastry

Tart Filling

3 ripe, firm tomatoes

Salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar

2 eggs and 1 egg yolk

300ml (10fl oz) cream

1 small onion, very finely chopped and sweated in 25g (1oz) butter

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 dessertspoon chopped tarragon

2 large whole smoked mackerel or 4 fillets, skinned, bones removed and pulled into 2cm (3/4 inch) pieces

1 x 10 inch deep tart tin

First make the pastry, line the flan ring and bake blind in the usual way. Remove from the oven place the tin on a wire rack.


Next make the tart filling. Peel the tomatoes, by dropping into boiling water for 10 seconds. Run under a cold tap for a moment and then peel. Quarter the tomatoes, remove the seeds and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice. Season with a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar.

Beat the eggs and cream. Add the cooked onions, chopped herbs and seasoning. Mix well. Fold in the tomato and mackerel. Taste and correct seasoning.

Pour the filling into the tart shell and place in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-30 minutes or until the tart is set.

Remove from the oven on a wire rack for a few minutes. Remove the tin, place on a large flat plate and serve.

This tart tastes best when served warm with a green salad. Try using Kitty Colchester’s organic rapeseed oil to make a dressing.


Glenilen Yoghurt and Cardamon Cream


This is delicious served with Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote.


Serves 8-10

425ml (15 fl ozs) Glenilen natural yoghurt

230ml (8 fl ozs) milk

200ml (7 fl ozs) cream

175g (6 ozs) castor sugar (could be reduced to 5oz)

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size

3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine


Sweet geranium or mint leaves

Ring mould or 8-10 individual bowls.

Remove the seeds from 8-10 green cardamom pods, crush in a pestle and mortar.

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.  Remove from the heat and leave to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine.

Put 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatine over the water, allow to ‘sponge’ for a few minutes.  Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear.  Add a little of the cardamom infused milk mixture, stir well and then mix this into the rest.  Whisk the yoghurt lightly until smooth and creamy, stir into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into a wide serving dish or a lightly oiled ring mould, or individual bowls or glasses and allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.





Corleggy Summer Cheese School 2011 – spend a day with Silke Cropp in Co Cavan learning the art of cheesemaking and take home your very own kilogram of cow’s milk cheese. Email

Macroom Wholemeal Bread – Donal Creedan mills our favourite oatmeal and gorgeous wholemeal flour in the last stone grinding mill in Ireland. The quiet gentle self effacing man has a cult following both at home and abroad – I’ve come across Macroom Oatmeal as far away as Zimmermans in Ann Arbor in Michigan. It’s my favourite Irish foodie present when I travel. 026 41800

The excellent Bord Bia website has tons of information and contact details of Irish artisan food producers

Easter Sunday Lunch

There’s something very special about Easter Sunday lunch, it feels like a celebration of Spring. I’ve just got a beautiful leg of Spring lamb from my butcher once a year treat – sweet, succulent and juicy.

Spring lambs are born before Christmas and are at their best at 3-4 months old weighing approximately 9-10kgs. Usually one needs to order ahead from your local butcher to be sure of some precious young lamb like this. It has quite a different flavour and texture to the hogget we’ve been enjoying up to recently.

Spring lamb needs very little embellishment, just a few flakes of sea salt rubbed into the skin before roasting. Spikes of garlic, sprigs of rosemary and spices like cumin or coriander which greatly enhance the flavour of the hogget we’ve being enjoying up to recently overpower the delicate young lamb.

For starter it’ll be new season asparagus on toast with Hollandaise Sauce. This year was there was some new seasons Irish asparagus on sale in the beginning of April – the earliest I have it – usually we have to wait until the end of the month or the beginning of May to savour the first tender spears. This year one West cork grower harvested  the first of his outdoor asparagus at the end of March – spooky or what – yet another example of accelerated global warming. I’m not complaining – I know one can get imported asparagus almost year round but nothing compares to the exquisite flavour of fresh  Irish asparagus.

We usually have a rhubarb tart for pudding on Easter Sunday after the feast of roast lamb and fresh mint sauce. Its’ at its best at the moment tender, pink with crinkly leaves. We’ve got a really good old-fashioned variety in Ballymaloe that has been passed down through the generations but its widely available in local shops and farmers markets as well.

This year I’m going to make my favourite rhubarb  tart, everyone should know about this pastry its made by the creaming method so even if you are convinced that  you have ‘hot hands’ and can’t make pastry, this recipe will make you into a ‘domestic goddess’

I’ll serve the rhubarb tart with some softly whipped cream and a sprinkling of dark brown sugar melting over the top – how delicious does that sound!

After a generous slice (or maybe two) we’ll all  go for a long walk in the blue bell wood overlooking Lough Ine – can you image a lovlier way to celebrate Easter Sunday.

Asparagus on Toast with Hollandaise Sauce

Serves 4

In season: late spring

This is a simple and gorgeous way to serve fresh Irish asparagus during its short season. We feast on it in every possible way for those precious weeks, roast, chargrilled, in soups, frittatas; quiches don’t forget to dip some freshly cooked spears in a soft boiled egg for a simple luxury. This was my father-in-law’s favourite way to eat Irish asparagus during its short season.

16-20 spears fresh green asparagus

Hollandaise sauce, (see recipe)

4 slices of homemade white yeast bread



sprigs of chervil

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus but we rarely do. Cook in about 2.5cm (1inch) of boiling salted water in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 4 or 8 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Meanwhile make the toast, spread with butter and remove crusts. Place a piece of toast on a hot plate, put the asparagus on top and spoon a little Hollandaise sauce over. Garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.

Hollandaise Sauce 


Serves 4-6, depending on what it is to be served with

Hollandaise is the mother of all the warm emulsion sauces.  The version we use here is easy to make and quite delicious with fish.  Like Mayonnaise it takes less than 5 minutes to make and transforms any fish into a feast.  Once the sauce is made it must be kept warm: the temperature should not go above 70-80C/180F or the sauce will curdle.  A thermos flask can provide a simple solution on a small scale, otherwise put the Hollandaise Sauce into a delph or plastic bowl in a saucepan of hot but not simmering water.  Hollandaise Sauce cannot be reheated absolutely successfully so it’s best to make just the quantity you need.  If however you have a little left over, use it to enrich other sauces or mashed potato.

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range and organic

125 g (5ozs) butter cut into dice

1 dessertspoon) cold water

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, approx.

Put the egg yolks in a heavy stainless saucepan on a low heat or in a bowl over hot water.  Add water and whisk thoroughly.  Add the butter bit by bit, whisking all the time.  As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece.  The mixture will gradually thicken, but if it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water if necessary.  Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made.  Finally add the lemon juice to taste.  If the sauce is slow to thicken it may be because you are excessively cautious and the heat is too low.  Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to coating consistency. 

It is important to remember that if you are making Hollandaise Sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage.  If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce.

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

Keep the sauce warm until service either in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water (do not have gas jet on).  A thermos flask is also a good option.

Roast Spring Lamb with Roast Spring Onions & Mint Sauce


Serves 6-8

1 leg of Spring lamb – about 2.7kgs

sea salt and freshly ground pepper


1 pint (600ml) lamb or chicken stock

a little roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

mint sauce (see recipe)

Remove the aitch bone from the top of the leg of lamb or ask your butcher to do it for you.  This makes it so much easier to carve later, then saw off the knuckle from the end of the leg.  Season the skin with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Transfer into a roasting tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.   Roast for 1-1 1/4 hours approx. for rare, 1 1/4 -1 1/2 hours for medium and 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours for well done, depending on size.  When the lamb is cooked to your taste, remove the joint to a hot carving dish.  Rest the lamb in a low oven at 50-100°C for 10 minutes before carving.

Meanwhile make the gravy.   Degrease the meat juices in the roasting tin (* see note), add the stock.  Bring to the boil and whisk in a little roux, just enough to thicken slightly.   Taste and allow to bubble until the flavour is rich enough.  Correct the seasoning and serve hot with the lamb, roast spring vegetables and lots of crusty roast potatoes.

Fresh Mint Sauce

Traditional Mint Sauce made with tender young shoots of fresh mint takes only minutes to make.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to Spring lamb but for those who are expecting a bright green jelly, the slightly dull colour and watery texture comes as a surprise.  That’s how it is meant to be, try it.

Makes 175ml/6 fl ozs approx.

25g (1oz) finely chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons sugar

110ml (4fl oz) boiling water

25ml (1fl oz) white wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice 

Put the sugar and freshly-chopped mint into a sauce boat.  Add the boiling water and vinegar or lemon juice.  Allow to infuse for 5-10 minutes before serving.



4oz (110g) butter

4oz (110g) flour

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

How Do I Degrease the Juices?

The gravy should be made in the roasting tin because that is where the flavour is.  Usually there is not a great deal of juice in the roasting pan, there will be some caramelised meat juices and lamb fat.  This is precious because it is the basis of the gravy.  Tilt the roasting tin so the fat collects in one corner.  Spoon off as much fat as possible.  Then pour icy cold stock into the roasting tin, this will cause the last few globules of fat to solidify so they can be quickly skimmed off the top with a perforated spoon.  Then continue to make gravy as in the recipe.

Easter Rhubarb Tart

Serves 8-12

This is such a terrific pastry.  If I’m in a mad rush I make it in a food processor  – it’s a little more difficult to handle if you use it right away but works fine even if you have to patch it a bit.  Make some little Easter chicks and bunnies to decorate the top.


225g (8 oz) butter

55g (2 oz) caster sugar

2 eggs free-range and organic if possible

350g (12 oz) flour


680g (1 1/2lb) red rhubarb

250 – 275g (8 – 10 oz) sugar approximately

Egg Wash

1 beaten free-range organic egg with a little milk, to glaze

1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin with 4cm (1 ½ inch) sides

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

Roll out half the pastry to about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick and line a round tin measuring 20.5 x 30.5cm (8 x 11.5 inches).

Slice the rhubarb into 1 cm (1/2 inch) rounds, fill the tart and sprinkle with the sugar.

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

Easter Bunnies

Easter bunnies are made in minutes and are delicious to nibble with a cup of tea. If there are kids around get them to decorate the bunnies.

Makes 20-25

175g (6 ozs) white flour or spelt flour

110g (4 ozs) butter

50g (2 ozs) castor sugar

To Decorate

icing sugar

110g (4oz) chocolate, melted carefully in a bowl over hot water but not boiling water.

Easter Bunny Cutters

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

Put the flour and sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Roll out to 1/4 inch (7mm) thick.  Use a Easter bunny cutter.  Transfer carefully to a baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven until pale brown, 8-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the biscuits. Remove and cool on a rack. Dredge with icing sugar or decorate with a little melted chocolate.

Note: Watch these biscuits really carefully in the oven. Because of the high sugar content they burn easily. They should be a pale golden – darker will be more bitter.

However if they are too pale they will be undercooked and doughy.  Cool on a wire rack.


Eggs are a totally magical ingredient, the quintessential fast food, versatile, nourishing… Think about it, if you have two boiled eggs or in the case of hungry chaps three or four for supper with a few slices of brown soda bread you’ll feel deliciously sated. They need to be good eggs of course, really fresh and preferably free range and organic. The exciting thing is that a growing number of people have been smitten by the ‘fancy fowl’ bug. All over the country people are keeping a few hens in their back gardens and have discovered the joy of collecting and eating their own freshly laid eggs. Kids of all ages love hens and it’s a brilliant way to reconnect them with how food is produced. Several local schools have a chicken coop with a couple of hens and the children learn how to care for them – it’s a brilliant way to foster entrepreneurial spirit – several have started to keep hens at home and sell the eggs to their mammie’s friends and the neighbours.

It’s win win all the way, instead of paying the council to dispose of the scraps from your cooking they can be fed to hens and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful eggs a few days later. The hen ‘poo’ is a brilliant addition to your compost, which in turn can go into the garden to make the soil more fertile to grow healthy, beautiful fruit and vegetables.

So for those of us who do have hens, this time of the year can be challenging – hens don’t love cold weather any more than we do so their productivity is diminished during the winter – as soon as the weather improves they start to lay with gay abandon. Suddenly there’s a glut of eggs. There are several ways of preserving eggs, My favourite short term way of preserving eggs is Buttered Eggs – a simple technique which seals the shell and gives the eggs a delicious curdy texture. Pickled eggs are another brilliant solution; they are a great favourite in British pubs and deserve to be much better known over here as do Scotch Eggs which are having a terrific revival.

Pickled Eggs

Makes 12


850ml (11⁄2 pints) white wine vinegar

10g (1⁄2oz) fresh root ginger

7g (1⁄4oz) white peppercorns

7g (1⁄4oz) black peppercorns

1 chilli

12 organic eggs, hard-boiled

Put the vinegar and spices into a stainless-steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, sieve and leave to cool.

Peel the eggs, run under a cold tap to remove any traces of shell and put into a sterilised Kilner jar. Pour in the spiced vinegar. The eggs must be completely covered; otherwise they won’t keep. Seal the jar with the clip and keep for 3–4 weeks before using.

Scotch Eggs

Serves 6

450g (1lb) best-quality sausage meat (or homemade sausage meat)

6 hard-boiled eggs (preferably free-range)

1 tablespoon) freshly chopped herbs, eg. parsley, chives, thyme

1/2 teaspoon English mustard

1 beaten egg

seasoned flour

dry, white breadcrumbs

best-quality oil for deep frying

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and put in the eggs carefully, one by one. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. (The eggs should be covered with water.) Pour off the water and cover with cold water.

Mix the fresh herbs and mustard thoroughly through the sausage meat. Divide the sausage meat into 6 even-sized pieces. Put a piece of sausage meat onto a floured board and flatten it with your hand into an oval shape, large enough to cover an egg. Shape the sausage meat around the peeled egg with your hands, making sure that the egg is evenly coated and there are no cracks. Cover the rest of the eggs in the same way.

Roll the Scotch eggs in seasoned flour, beaten egg and finally coat them with dry, white breadcrumbs. Coat all the eggs in the same way. Heat the oil for deep frying; making sure it is deep enough to cover the eggs. The fat should be a medium heat, 180C\350F, because if it is too hot, the outside will be brown before the inside is cooked. Put the Scotch Eggs into the basket (a few at a time) and lower them into the fat. Fry them for 5 or 6 minutes, and then lift them out of the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Serve warm with a good Green Salad and perhaps a Tomato and Basil Salad.

Fried Eggs with Crispy Sage

Simple, but so delicious

Serves 1

2 freshly laid organic eggs

Clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil

4-6 sage leaves

Sea salt

Sourdough toast – from Arbutus Artisan Bakery in Cork

Heat 3-4 tablespoons of clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil in a heavy frying pan over a high heat. Crack the egg one at a time into the pan and allow to sizzle for a minute or two. Baste with the hot butter or olive oil or flip them over. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a warm plate, add the sage leaves to the pan and allow to sizzle for a couple of seconds in the butter or oil. Pour the contents of the pan including the sage leaves over the eggs. Serve with lots of sourdough toast.

Fluffy Smoked Haddock and Parmesan Omelette

This delicious omelette was a favourite of the English author and playwright Arnold Bennett and is still served at the Savoy Hotel where he ate almost every night after the theater. It would also be good made with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel. Delicious for breakfast or served with a green salad for lunch or dinner.

Serves 1-2 as a main course 

2-3ozs (50-75g) smoked haddock

a little milk

1 oz (25g) butter

1/4 pint (150ml) cream

3 eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated


parsley, freshly chopped 

10 inch (25.5cm) omelette pan, preferably non-stick

Put the smoked haddock into a small saucepan. Cover with milk and simmer gently until it is cooked enough to separate into flakes (about 10 minutes). Drain. Toss the haddock over a moderate heat with half the butter and 2 tablespoons of the cream and keep aside. Separate the eggs beat the yolks with a tablespoon of the cream and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Whip the egg whites stiffly. Fold into the yolks with the haddock and add half the grated Parmesan cheese.

Melt the remaining butter in the omelette pan. Pour the mixture in gently and cook over a medium heat until the base of the omelette is golden. Spoon the remaining cream over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the finely grated Parmesan. Pop under a hot grill for a minute or so until golden and bubbly on top. Slide on to a hot dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately accompanied by a good green salad.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream with Pedro Ximénez and Raisins

Really good eggs and really good cream makes really good ice cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips, Turkish delight or crystallised ginger, finish the ice cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks

110g (4oz) sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and seeds from ½ vanilla pod

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

100g (3 1/2 oz) Muscatel raisins covered with 100ml (3 1/2 fl ozs) Pedro Ximénez sherry or Pedro Ximénez Malaga wine

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract and vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze. Serve with Muscatel soaked raisins, with a chilled glass of Pedro Ximénez on the side or poured over the ice cream.


New season’s Irish asparagus is at the Skibereen Farmers Market from Tim York of Lisheen Organics. Phone 028 38824 email

Homage to Rose Gray from the River Café two and half day cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Gillian Hegarty, who worked with Rose at the legendary River Café will teach some of her favourite recipes – not to be missed Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th April 021 4646785

Sea kale, now in season for just a few short weeks is a deliciously delicate vegetable traditionally grown inside terra pots to exclude the light. It resembles celery in appearance but has a totally different, sublime flavour. It is never found in super markets and rarely even in Farmers Markets but you can occasionally find plants in good garden centres and it’s a perennial that’s definitely worth growing yourself. If you’d like to taste it first it will be on the menu at Ballymaloe House near Shanagarry for the next couple of weeks with the first of the new seasons asparagus from the walled garden. 021 4652531.


Local Ingredients

For many of us with busy lives Monday to Friday whizzes past in a buzz of activity – home from work in the evening. What will we have for supper?

It is so tempting to flop in a comfy chair, put up the feet and nibble a ready meal – Michelle Darmody has lots of exciting suggestions for easy week day meals but how about an extra special meal at the weekend when there is a bit more time for shopping, chopping and cooking with family and friends around the dining table.

Yummy food is all about good ingredients, they don’t have to be expensive but they do need to be fresh and in season. Local seasonal food can be difficult to find in large supermarkets and affiliated shops, so part of the fun can be grabbing a shopping bag and heading for your local farmers’ market. Why not set yourself a challenge – that the main ingredients should all come from within a twenty five mile radius of your home – obviously salt, pepper and spices will need to be imported but it should be possible to find a good free range or better still organic chicken locally. Choose a fine plump one with giblets so you can make a nice pot of chicken broth with the carcass and that can be the basis of a delicious soup, stew or chicken pie. The hens are all laying well at the moment so there are lots of lovely free range eggs at the market or you could go one better and bring home a few lively hens from Mahon, Midleton or Douglas Farmers Market and have the pleasure of collecting freshly laid eggs every day (almost!) There are gorgeous crinkly Savoy cabbages around at present – they only cost a couple of euros and make a delicious salad as well as Buttered Cabbage.

The pudding has to be new seasons rhubarb I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a rhubarb pie, tart or crumble or cake. I’ve got lots and lots of recipes but I’ve chosen a rhubarb crumble cake that everyone loved when they tasted it recently. Happy cooking.

Swede Turnip Soup with Pancetta and Parsley Oil

Serves 6-8

12 ozs (350g) Swede turnips, diced

1 tablespoon sunflower or arachide oil

5 ozs (150g) rindless streaky bacon cut in 1/2 inch (1cm) dice

4 ozs (110) onions, chopped

5 ozs (150g) potatoes, diced

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pints (900ml) homemade chicken stock

cream or creamy milk to taste


8 slices pancetta

Parsley Oil

50ml (2fl ozs) extra virgin olive oil

50g (2ozs) parsley, chopped

First make the parsley oil.

Whiz the parsley with the olive oil until smooth and green.

Next, make the soup.

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the bacon and cook on a gentle heat until crisp and golden. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon. Toss the onion, potato and turnip in the bacon fat, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper to keep in the steam, and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are fully cooked. Liquidise, taste, add a little cream or creamy milk and some extra seasoning if necessary.

Spread the slices of pancetta on a wire rack over a baking tray. Cook under a grill for 1 – 2 minutes or until crisp.

Serve in bowls, drizzle each with parsley oil and lay a slice of crispy pancetta on top.

08/12/09 (SH) (12011)


Smoked Egg, Chorizo and Rocket Salad

Hard-boiled eggs with softish centres are also delicious in this recipe.

Serves 6

6 freshly smoked, hard-boiled organic eggs

6 tiny or 3 medium beetroots, cooked

sugar and salt

extra virgin olive oil

200g (7oz) chorizo, sliced

a mixture of salad leaves, such as cos, little gem, purslane and rocket

a piece of aged Coolea, Desmond or Gabriel cheese

For the Vinaigrette

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

a little Dijon mustard

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve

homemade Mayonnaise

Prepare the eggs either by smoking them or hard-boiling them.

To prepare the beetroots, leave 5cm (2 inches) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beets. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroots will bleed during cooking. Put into a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover the pot, bring to the boil and simmer for 1–2 hours, depending on size. Beetroots are usually cooked when the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger. If in doubt, also test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

Meanwhile, whisk the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a bowl. Just before serving, heat a little olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and cook the slices of chorizo for a minute or two until they warm through and the oil begins to run. Toss the salad leaves in a little vinaigrette and arrange on the base of a serving plate. Cut the eggs lengthways – the centres should still be slightly soft and will be best if still warm. Arrange haphazardly on top of the leaves. Tuck beetroot quarters in between the leaves and sprinkle the slices of chorizo over the salad. Grate some hard cheese over the top. Drizzle the salad with the chorizo oil from the pan and serve immediately with lots of crusty sourdough bread and some homemade mayonnaise.

Cabbage, Sultana and Fennel Salad

Serves 4 – 6


450g (1lb) cabbage, thinly sliced

1 small fennel bulb, diced

4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) fennel or dill leaves chopped

75g – 110g (3 – 4 oz) yellow sultanas

110ml (4oz/1/2 cup) yoghurt

110ml (4oz/1/2 cup) mayonnaise

1-2 teaspoons runny honey

freshly squeezed lime juice of 1-2 limes

salt and freshly ground salt and pepper

Put the thinly sliced cabbage into a bowl, add the chopped fennel and fennel herb and sultanas. Mix the yoghurt/mayonnaise with the honey and lime juice. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Drizzle over the cabbage, toss well. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Chicken and Bacon Pie

Serves 6 – 8850ml (1½ pints) homemade chicken stock or water
2 large carrots, cut into chunks
2 large unpeeled onions, quartered
2 celery sticks, cut into small chunks
6 black peppercorns
1 bouquet garni
1 large free-range, organic chicken or boiling fowl
1 sprig of tarragon (optional)
16 small flat mushrooms
25g (1oz) butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 button onions, peeled
450g (1lb) streaky bacon in a piece, cooked
110g (4oz) peas – frozen are fine (optional)
500g (1lb 2oz) puff pastry
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk)
green salad, to serve

For the sauce:
150ml (1/4 pint) dry white wine
110g (4oz) roux
250ml (9fl oz) single cream)

500g (18oz) puff pastry

Egg wash

1 large or 6-8 small ovenproof pie dishes

Put 5cm (2 inches) of water or chicken stock in a heavy casserole and add the vegetables and bouquet garni. Lay the chicken on top. Add a sprig of tarragon if available and cover with a tight fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then transfer to a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for 1-2 hours, depending on the size of the bird. Watch that it does not boil dry. The water should be deliciously rich and may be a little fatty.

Meanwhile fry the whole or sliced flat mushrooms depending on size in a little butter on a hot pan, season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Sweat the onions in butter in a small, covered casserole until soft. Cut the cooked bacon into cubes. When the chicken is cooked remove from the casserole onto a large platter and carve the flesh. De-grease cooking liquid. Arrange the sliced chicken in layers in a deep pie dish, covering each layer with bacon, onions and mushrooms, add peas if using (no need to cook).Next make the sauce. Put 600ml (1pint) of the strained and de-greased cooking liquid and the dry white wine into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisk in the roux. Cook until thick and smooth. Add the cream. Bring to the boil again. Taste and correct the seasoning. Allow to cool, put in one large or eight small individual pie dishes cover with puff pastry. Decorate the top with the left over puff pastry – Have fun, we sometimes make funny faces, write messages – yummy, scrummy, yippee, or put a fine pastry cockerel on top if your guests are not to sensitive!

Refrigerate until required. Could be prepared ahead

Preheat the oven to 230C/450F/gas mark 8. Just before cooking, brush the top with egg wash and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for a further 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with a good green salad.

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Can be served as a pudding or a cake.

Makes a 20cm cake – Serves 10Crumble Topping

75g (3oz) self raising flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

75g (3oz) sugar – we used ½ light muscovado sugar and ½ castor sugar

50g (2oz) cold butter cut into cubes

70g (2 ½ oz) flaked almonds

Cake Mixture

1kg (2¼lb) red rhubarb, chopped

125g (4 ½ oz) light muscovado sugar – plus 2 tablespoons extra

125g (4 ½ oz) butter, softened

2 eggs, beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

100g (3 ½oz) self raising flour, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

100g (3 ½oz) ground almonds

2 tablespoons milkicing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. 1 x 20cm loose-bottomed tin greased and lined with a circle of baking parchment. First make the crumble. Sieve the flour and cinnamon together into a mixing bowl, add the sugar and rub in the chilled butter with your fingertips. It should look like very coarse bread crumbs. Stir in the flaked almonds and keep to a side while you make the cake.

Cut the rhubarb into 5cm lengths, put in a stainless steel saucepan with 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 5 – 6 minutes, until the rhubarb is just beginning soften.

Cream the butter and with 125g sugar until light and fluffy. Mix the eggs with the vanilla, then beat into a butter mixture a splash at a time, making sure each bit is well incorporated before adding the next. Add a tablespoon of the flour if it threatens to curdle. When all the egg has been added, stir in the sieved flour, baking powder and ground almonds until everything is well mixed, add the milk to give a smooth, uniform batter.

Spread the mixture over the base of the cake tin, then add the strained rhubarb, sprinkle the crumble evenly over the top. Bake for 1 hour, covering the top with foil after 45 minutes if there’s any risk it might burn. It should be set in the centre, although the rhubarb layer makes it a bit squidgy, so it may sink as it cools. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before removing. Sprinkle with icing sugar and eat warm with lots of softly whipped cream.

Mother’s Day

It’s Mothers Day tomorrow, bunches of flowers, boxes of chocolates, mugs and pretty cards with cute little messages all have a feel good factor for us and show our lovely Mums we are thinking of them on Mother’s Day but how about giving a real surprise? Maybe show our appreciation with breakfast in bed or cooking even one fab dish for lunch or supper, you can’t imagine how thrilled us Mum’s are when we get a little extra surprise.

For breakfast in bed, always a delight, lay a little tray with a pretty cloth or even a gingham napkin, a tiny posy of flowers that would definitely give her an ‘oops’ in her tummy. You’ll need a nice pot of tea or coffee for a start and maybe some mini scones or muffins. They are really easy to make and look adorable. A glass of freshly squeezed orange or pink grapefruit is also a special treat, just cut the citrus fruit around the equator and squeeze – even one of those little plastic juicers will do the job perfectly.

It’s a bit of a mission cooking a full Irish but a delicious scrambled egg or a mini frittata made with good eggs can be delectable. If you really want to impress, make a loaf of bread as well, this is a nice easy recipe. There are gorgeous bunches of  new seasons rhubarb in the shops at the moment so I’ll also include rhubarb and ginger jam which can be made with little effort over two days.

If you prefer to rustle up something for lunch, how about a cheddar cheese fondue, the whole family can gather around the kitchen table, tuck in and have fun. Better still there will be virtually no washing up.

If you want to go the whole hog and treat your mum to an evening off, then how about a full dinner? Try to enlist other family members to help, lay the table, do place names, and maybe draw zany place mats… A posy of flowers will add to the special atmosphere and excitement. Better still run a nice bath for Mum to relax in, while you cook. Maybe scatter some rose petals into the water, light a few candles, play some soothing music, then treat her to Tomato Soup with Pesto Toasts followed by Roast Chicken Salad and as a finale a luscious Chocolate Meringue Roulade. How about that for a special treat for Mum?

Fresh Soda Bread for Mum

This is a more modern version of Soda Bread, couldn’t be simpler, just mix and pour into a well greased tin. This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted.

Makes 1 large loaf or 3 small loaves

400g (14 oz) stone ground wholemeal flour

55g (3oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon bread soda, sieved (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon honey

1 egg, preferably free range

1 tablespoon arachide or sunflower oil, unscented

425ml (15fl oz) buttermilk or sourmilk approx. (put all the milk in)

Sunflower or sesame seeds optional

Loaf tin – 9 inches (23cm) x 5 inches (12.5cm) x 2 inches (5cm)

Preheat oven to 2001C/4001F/regulo 6.

Put all the dry ingredients including the sieved bread soda into a large bowl, mix well. Whisk the egg, add the oil and honey most of the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid, mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy, pour into an oiled tin or tins and bake for 60 minutes approx, or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Tomato Soup with Pesto Crostini

Serves 5

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.

1¼ pints (750ml) homemade tomato puree (see recipe) or 2 x 14 oz (400g) tins of tomatoes, liquidised and sieved

1 small onion, finely chopped

¾oz (15g) butter

8 fl ozs (250ml) Bechamel sauce (white) (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 fool proof food

6 crostini made from 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 tomato puree, (or 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.

Spread a little blob of Pesto on 6 freshly cooked crostini and serve with each bowl of tomato soup.

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

Bechamel sauce

½ pint (300ml) milk

a few slices carrot

a few slices onion

a small sprig of thyme

a small sprig of parsley

3 peppercorns

(2oz) 45 g roux

salt and freshly ground pepper

This is a wonderfully quick way of making Bechamel 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, and remove from the heat and leave to infuse for ten 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 the seasoning if necessary.

Roast Chicken Salad with Caesar Dressing

Crisp leaves of little Gem lettuce provide the perfect scoops for chunks of tender chicken drizzled with creamy Caesar dressing.  Everything can be prepared ahead, ready for the final assembly.

Serves 12

1 large organic chicken

2 lemons

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon clear honey

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range

2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 x 2 ozs (50g) tin anchovies

1 clove garlic, crushed

a generous pinch of English mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce

1/2-1 tablespoon) Tabasco sauce

6 fl ozs (175ml) sunflower oil

2 fl ozs (50ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 fl ozs (50ml) cold water

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

To Serve

Separate the leaves from the lettuces, arrange the leaves over 2 platters.  Remove each breast coarsely from the chicken in one piece.  Pull the meat from the legs and wings and shred it.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cut each breast in to 6pieces each with a little skin attached.  Put a little brown meat in each lettuce leaf, then top with a slice of breast. (Save the remainder of the dressing for another occasion. Refrigerate until needed).

Just before serving, drizzle a little dressing over each piece of chicken.  Garnish with watercress sprigs

Cheddar Cheese Fondue

A fondue party is so retro, terrific fun.  Choose your seat carefully because if you drop the bread into the fondue you must kiss the person on our right – this could be your big chance! Myrtle Allen devised this Cheese Fondue recipe made from Irish Cheddar cheese. A huge favourite at Ballymaloe.  Even though it’s a meal in itself it can be made in minutes and is loved by adults and children alike. A fondue set is obviously an advantage but not totally essential.

Serves 2 – perfect for a romantic supper.

2 tablespoons white wine

2 small cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons Ballymaloe Tomato Relish or any tomato chutney

2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley

170g (6 ozs) grated mature Cheddar cheese

Crusty white bread

Put the white wine and the rest of the ingredients into a fondue pot or small saucepan and stir. Just before serving put over a low heat until the cheese melts and begins to bubble. Put the pot over the fondue stove and serve immediately.  Provide each guest with fresh French bread or cubes of ordinary white bread crisped up in a hot oven.  They will also need a fondue fork and an ordinary fork.

Chocolate Meringue Roulade

A really luscious but completely irresistible dessert, perfect as a naughty treat for Mum on Mothers Day.

Serves 10-12


4 egg whites

250g (9oz) castor sugar

4 rounded teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Chocolate Filling

225g (8oz) best quality dark chocolate

300ml (10fl oz) cream

1/2 – 1 tablespoon rum or orange liqueur

Chocolate Wafers

50g (2oz) best quality dark chocolate

Icing sugar

Swiss roll tin 38×25.5cm (15x10inch)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4

First make the Meringue

Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease.  Add 225g (8oz/1 cup) of the castor sugar to the egg whites all at once and whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks (this can take up to 10 minutes).  Sieve the cocoa and the remaining 25g (1oz/1/8 cup) castor sugar together and fold in very gently.

Line the Swiss roll tin with oiled tin foil.  Spread the meringue evenly over the tin foil with a palette knife.  Bake in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

Turn out onto a sheet of bakewell paper and remove the tin but leave the tin foil on, allow to get cold.

Meanwhile make the chocolate filling

Put the cream in a heavy-bottomed, preferably stainless steel saucepan and bring it almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate. With a wooden spoon, stir the chocolate into the cream until it is completely melted. Transfer the chocolate cream to the bowl of a food mixer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Add the liqueur and whisk until it is just stiff enough to pipe.

To make the chocolate wafers

Melt 50g (2oz) of chocolate over a gentle heat or in a very low oven. Spread onto a piece of card, allow to set.

To assemble

Peel the tin foil off the meringue, spread most of the ganache over the surface. Holding the edge of the bakewell paper roll up the roulade from the short end. Transfer to a serving dish – easier said than done! Dredge with icing sugar. Pipe the remainder of the ganache onto the top. Cut the chocolate sheet into diamonds or stamp out in heart shapes. Use to decorate the roulade. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Raspberry Coulis

8 ozs (225g) raspberries

3-6 tablespoons sugar

8 tablespoons water

lemon juice – optional

Make a syrup with sugar and water, cool and add to the raspberries.  Liquidise and sieve, taste, sharpen with lemon juice if necessary.  Store in a fridge.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

A change from raspberry and strawberry jam, make it now when rhubarb is in full season and not yet thick and tough. It is also gorgeous in a light fluffy sponge cake.

Makes 8 x 1 lb (450 g) jars

4 lb (1.8kg) trimmed rhubarb,

4 lb (1.8kg) granulated sugar

grated rind and juice of 2 lemons

2 ozs (50g) bruised ginger

2 ozs (50g) chopped crystallized ginger or stem ginger preserved in syrup (optional)

Wipe the rhubarb and cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces.   Put it in a large bowl layered with the sugar, add the lemon rind and juice.  Leave to stand overnight.  Next day put into a preserving pan, add the bruised ginger tied in a muslin bag.  Steadily bring to the boil until it is a thick pulp.  Remove the bag of ginger and then pour the jam into hot clean jars, cover and store in a dry airy cupboard.

If you like 2ozs (50g) chopped crystallized ginger or preserved stem ginger can be added at the end.

Fool Proof Food


Homemade Pesto takes minutes to make and tastes a million times better than most of what you buy.  The problem is getting enough basil.  If you have difficulty, use parsley, a mixture of parsley and mint or parsley and coriander – different but still delicious.

Serve with pasta, goat cheese, tomato and mozzerella.

4ozs (115g) fresh basil leaves

6 – 8 fl ozs (175 – 250ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 oz (25g) fresh pine kernels (taste when you buy to make sure they are not rancid)

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 ozs (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiana Reggiano is best)

salt to taste

Whizz the basil with the olive oil, pine kernels and garlic in a food processor or pound in a pestle and mortar.  Remove to a bowl and fold in the finely grated Parmesan cheese. Taste and season.

Pesto keeps for weeks, covered with a layer of olive oil in a jar in the fridge. It also freezes well but for best results don’t add the grated Parmesan until it has defrosted. Freeze in small jars for convenience.


Build a wood fired oven – if you have been bitten by the DIY bug how about picking up a copy of ‘Building a Wood Fired Oven to Cook Bread and Pizza’ by Tom Jaine published by Prospect Books – Having read it myself I feel like picking up a trowel myself. Meanwhile don’t miss Philip Dennhardt’s yummy Saturday Pizza’s at the Ballymaloe Cookery School every Saturday between 12pm and 4:30pm – 021 4646785 –

Instead of or as well as giving a box of chocolates on Mother’s Day this year why not give your Mum a gift voucher for ‘ Hand Made Chocolates – Demonstration Course’ from 10am to 4pm on Sunday 10th April 2011 at the Baking Academy Palmerstown Village, Dublin 20, close to the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre. There are also some wonderful bread and cake baking courses.  Phone 01 8451214 – Email:

Slow Food Ireland have organised a Seaweed Foraging event on Friday 8th April at 2:15pm sharp Bruce MacDonald of Copper Coast Tours will show you how to identify and gather edible seaweed on Shanagarry Strand (Garryvoe Beach) in Shanagarry, Co Cork. Bring your boots, coats, buckets, knife or scissors and come foraging. To find out the cost where the meeting place is phone 021 4646785.


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