ArchiveAugust 2011

London Calling Again

Every year I take the Ballymaloe Cookery School teachers on a skite toLondon to eat, drink and be very merry all in the way of research. We keep our eyes and ears open for new trends and tasty bites to incorporate into our repertoire and pass on to the students who come to the school.

On Friday afternoon I arrived a little earlier than some of the others and headed for Shoreditch, a really happening area in East Londonto check out the uber cool Rochelle Canteen, a quirky gem in the converted bike shed of a Victorian school. Just missed lunch, but picked up some tantalisingly delicious sounding menus. Like Brooklyn and Harlem inNew York, the Shoreditch/Whitechapel area is all about galvanize and graffiti, recycled building materials, distressed furniture, old china and dynamic street art, all impossibly chic. Just around the corner on Calvert Avenue, I found Leila’s  one of my favourite cafes and grocery shops with an achingly stylish semi open kitchen, a wooden plate rack, rusty galvanise counter, zinc topped tables, old French terracotta bowls and a blackboard. The menu is short and minimalist – toast and jam, fried eggs with sage leaves, puy lentil and courgette soup… I had a little feast – an eclectic mix, a terracotta bowl of Salmorejo with chopped hard boiled egg, strips of Serrano ham and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a bowl of fresh cherries, a gorgeous brownie on a board with a knife so I could cut it into a million little pieces and nibble it in guilty bites with a cup of Robert Wilson Ceylon tea. Sated, I then wandered into the beautiful grocery shop next door and bought some of the tea, a bag of squashed peaches and fantastic cheese. My next stop was Labor and Wait – a shop that is unquestionably my favourite retail experience, no it doesn’t sell clothes or sexy lingerie, it sells the sort of merchandise that you haven’t seen for years, Stanley Flasks, Guernsey Jumpers, vintage kitchen ware, Sussex trugs, enamel pie dishes, zinc dustpans, heavy drill aprons… and they ship…

It’s only a couple of minutes walk from The Albion, Terence Conran’s latest venture, a clever combination of hotel, café and food shop. All very ‘Conran’ but somehow very predictable in comparison to the cutting edge urban chic neighbours. Nonetheless the cafe is phenomenally popular especially for breakfast. On a fine day, visit the stylish rooftop bar and grill with views fromCanaryWharfto the Gherkin and Barbican in the distance. Railroad Cafe is another cute little café cum bookshop in Hackney. Here, Lizzie Parle and her partner Matt serve good tea, coffee, artisan beer and dinner three nights a week and hosts some great gigs downstairs at the weekend. They were writing the menu on a Perspex board and it sounded great but I was bound for Brawn on the corner ofColumbia Roadin Bethnal Green to meet the BCS team. We ordered just about everything on the menu – home made Brawn of course with tiny crunchy gherkins,  a dollop of pork rilettes with crusty bread, pork scratchings, plaice with marsh samphire, capers and brown butter, Cornish sardines with spiced aubergines and harissa, hand chopped Tuscan style beef, confit duck leg with barlotti beans and girolles………The menu is divided into Taste Ticklers, Pig , Plancha Cold, Slow Cook, Pudding and Cheese- don’t miss the wobbly Panna Cotta with cherries and the crepes with salted butter caramel. Great atmosphere, lots of sharing plates, very au courant.


Caramelized Chicory with Crozier Blue Cheese and Caramelised Walnuts


This is my version of one the Tapas we ate at José, they used Picos Blue Cheese.


Serves 6


6 heads of chicory (tightly closed with no trace of green)

2 pints (1.1L) water

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

good squeeze of lemon juice


4-6 ozs (110-175g) Crozier Blue crumbed

3 ½ oz (100g) fresh walnuts, halves

3ozs (75g) sugar

Pinch of salt

First cook the chicory.

Remove a thin slice from the root end of each chicory.  Remove the centre root with the tip of a sharp knife if you find it too bitter.  Bring the water to the boil, add salt, sugar and a good squeeze of lemon juice add the chicory and cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until almost or completely tender depending on how you intend to finish the cooking. Remove the chicory when it is tender and a knife tip will pierce the root end without resistance.  Drain well and then squeeze out all excess water (I do this in a clean T- towel).

When cool, cut each chicory into 4 lengthwise. Melt the butter in a sauté pan, cook the chicory in a single layer on a low heat until caramelized on all sides, turning when necessary. Meanwhile, caramelise the walnuts.

Sprinkle the sugar in an even layer on a heavy bottom pan over a medium heat. Spread the walnuts evenly over the sugar, cook over a low heat until the sugar first melts and then caramelises. Tilt the pan to coat the walnuts in caramel, careful not to get burnt. Turn out immediately onto a non stick silpat mat or an oiled baking tray. Separate the caramelised nuts immediately with two oiled forks and allow to get cold.


To serve

Arrange three pieces of chicory on a hot plate. Scatter some crumbled Crozier Blue cheese on top.

Pop under the grill for a minute or two, the cheese should be slightly melting, add a few coarsely chopped caramelised walnuts – serve immediately.


Salmorejo with Hard-Boiled Egg and Serrano


Serves 6


1 clove of garlic crushed

800g (1lb 7 ½ oz) ripe red tomatoes cut into quarters

50g (2oz) white bread, crust removed and cut into cubes

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 – 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, we use Forum

salt, pepper, and sugar


To Serve

2 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

75g (3oz) strips of Serrano ham cut into slivers

extra virgin olive oil

flat parsley


Shallow Terracotta Bowls


Place the garlic, tomatoes, bread, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of vinegar in to a food processor – season with salt, pepper and sugar. Whizz until well blended but still slightly coarse.

Taste, you may need to add more vinegar, depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes. Chill well. If the mixture is too thick add a little water but not too much. Serve in chilled shallow terracotta bowls with a couple of tablespoons of chopped hard boiled egg and slivers of Serrano ham in the centre of each.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Eat with lots of fresh crusty bread.



Baked Plaice or Lemon Sole with Samphire, Capers and Brown Butter


Plaice and lemon sole are at their best in Summer and early Autumn.  Make this recipe while Marsh Samphire is in season.


Serves 4


4 baby plaice in season

110g (4oz) Marsh samphire

75g (3oz) butter

1 – 1 1/2oz (25-35g) capers


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


Turn the fish on its side and remove the head.  Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly.  With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh.  Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.


Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin.   Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish.  The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked.  Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.


Meanwhile, wash the samphire under running water.  Cook the samphire in boiling water for 3-4 minutes, drain, keep warm.


When the plaice is cooked, transfer to individual hot plates.  Lift off the skin.  Put a few fronds of samphire on top of each fish.  Heat the butter in a saucepan on a high heat, when it foams and turns golden, add the drained capers, allow to sizzle for a minute or two.  Spoon the brown butter and crispy capers over the samphire and fish.  Serve immediately. 


Panna Cotta with Grappa and Cherries


Inspired by the Rose Gray’s recipe from the River Café.


Serves 8-10


1.2 litres (2 pints) double cream

2 vanilla pods

Thinly pared rind of 2 lemons

3 gelatine leaves

150 ml (5 fl oz) cold milk

150 g (5 oz) icing sugar

120 ml (4 fl oz) grappa, plus extra to serve

2 punnets of fresh cherries

8-10 moulds, 200 ml (7 fl oz) in size


Pour 900 ml (1½ pints) of the cream into a pan; add the vanilla pods and lemon rind bring to the boil, then simmer until reduced by one-third. Remove the cooked lemon rind and keep to one side. Remove the vanilla pods and scrape the softened insides into the cream.


Soak the gelatine in the milk for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove the gelatine, heat the milk until boiling, then return the gelatine to the milk and stir until dissolved. Pour the milk and gelatine mixture into the hot cream through a sieve, stir, then leave to cool.


Lightly whip the remaining cream with the icing sugar, fold in the cooled, cooked cream, then add the grappa. Place a piece of cooked lemon rind in each of the moulds, pour in the cream mixture to two thirds full and allow to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours


Turn out on to dessert plates and serve with fresh cherries and a tablespoon of grappa poured over the top.




LondonFood Market Guide – Flynn Hall is the person to contact if you’d like a brilliant guided tour of the Bermondsey Market – highly recommended 00447772875474.


The CliffBarAcademyis Ireland’s only bespoke bartender school of its kind that offers courses to become a professional bartender in a short period of time. They can also tailor make courses for companies. Contact Richard Linden  +353 1 638 3939


Keep an eye out for damsons, sloes and crab-apples when you walk in the park or through country lanes, they are not ripe yet but will be in mid-September and then you can make Damson and Sloe Gin and Jams and jellies for your winter store cupboard.


A Taste of West Cork Food Festival takes place in Skibbereen, West Cork from Saturday 10th to Sunday 18th September. Some of the exciting highlights include… Island Hopping with starters and dinner on Heir and Sherkin Islands on the MV Mystic Water. Then back to Casey’s Baltimore for dessert and music. Very limited numbers so contact 086-3639856. Celtic Cook-off, where chefs from different parts of Britain and Ireland will cook-off against each other, in a time and tasting competition at the West Cork Hotel and “A Taste of West Cork” Local and Artisan Food Producer’s Awards where the West Cork people will get a chance to vote for their favourite foods, producers and marketing. For the full program visit


Taste Council – Food Summer School

The Taste Council in association with Bord Bia will host the first national symposium on the current and future contribution of the artisan and the speciality food producer to the Irish Economy.

The ‘Future is Food’ Summer School will bring together stakeholders from the agriculture and food industries in addition to key government departments and media to discuss the best ways to use the potential we are so lucky to have in Ireland.

This is on Tuesday 30th August, 2011 at The Brooklodge Hotel, Macreddin Village, Co. Wicklow .

To book accommodation at the Brook Lodge Hotel please call Orlaith Merrigan or Fiona Kavanagh at Reservations on 0402 36444 or by email at





Help prevent a Ban on Raw Milk Sale in Ireland.

A letter from Elisabeth Ryan of SHERIDANS CHEESEMONGERS

Dear  Customers & Friends!


Just wanted to update you about progress with Campaign for Raw Milk and also let you know about the Debate to be held in Dublin in the Sugar Club on Tuesday 6th September at 7pm

See attached poster for details.


See also attached short info leaflet on the campaign if you wanted to print out or post online etc…


We also have a website now:

where you will find more details on everything raw.. ( we’re also on Facebook and Twitter, any help to promote these greatly appreciated)


Anyone who would like to help to STOP THIS BAN , now is the time – by promoting the debate on the 6th and getting info about the Campaign out to as many people as possible!!




Kind Regards





Elisabeth Ryan


Virginia Road Station, Pottlereagh, Kells, Co. Meath

Tel: +353 (0) 46 924 5110   Fax: +353 (0) 46 924 5738   Mob: +353 (0) 86 394 9270

Delicious School Lunchbox Ideas

Philip Boucher-Hayes and Suzanne Campbell ‘s programme ‘What’s Ireland Eating?’ opened a right ‘can of worms’ when it was shown on RTE some time ago. It highlighted the stark reality of the modern Irish diet and what many of our children are eating. School lunches are an eternal dilemma for busy mothers. What can we put in the lunch box that will both entice and nourish our little dotes? Often those two aspirations seem poles apart. The challenge to make tasty bites is only part of the problem; peer pressure can prevent kids who normally have a healthy selection from eating it. Children desperately want to fit in and anything that sets them apart can cause anxiety and embarrassment. The ham or cheese sandwich seems to be a perennial standby, so instead of processed meat, why not cook a piece of bacon at the beginning of the week, slice it thinly, it makes superb ham sandwiches. If your child insists on white bread, then make a little loaf, the same recipe can be adapted for a light brown bread that many children love. It’s honestly made in minutes and can be sliced thinly to make cute little sandwiches, include a few little cherry tomatoes and batons of carrot or beetroot for them to nibble. In general the quality of sliced pan is appalling with a few rare exceptions, if you must use it seek out a traditional baker (a truly threatened species) in your area, they may still be making traditional bread. If you are fortunate enough to find a good artisan baker, support them, they are treasures and we badly need a revival for the sake of the health of the nation. A little container of tasty salad with grated carrot, apple and some nuts and seeds is easy to eat, delicious and certainly nutritious for dessert, a little pot of natural yoghurt with some honey or stewed fruit would be good – steer away from the sweetened versions some of which contain aspartame, an increasingly controversial sweetener. A little flask of soup will be warm and welcoming in winter months. Children also love drumsticks or chicken wings – easy to eat and filling. Beans or chickpeas are another inexpensive source of protein, tossed in a tasty dressing – they can become a favourite. Squares of frittata on a little slice of well seasoned quiche can be delicious occasionally. Of course a little sweet treat in the form of finger shortbread, a flapjack, Anzacs or an occasional ‘fairy cake’ or plain queen cake. Fruit is also a must, little tangerines, a small apple, banana, peach or a few cherries depending on the season and the budget. Hard boiled eggs with a little pot of salsa or garlic mayonnaise, chicken sandwiches or wraps with Ballymaloe Relish or Chutney. My grandchildren also love a little pot of potato salad with chives, pitta bread stuffed with hummus, some salad leaves a cherry tomato and maybe some batons of crispy cucumber. Slices of salami or chorizo are also easy to pick up and nibble. Pancakes, drop scones, tiny muffins, nuts and raisins and of course smoothies are all firm favourites.


A little White Soda Bread Loaf



You can make it in the round traditional way or like this in a loaf tin which is more convenient for slicing or sandwiches


1 lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon breadsoda

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 15 fl ozs (425 ml) approx

oatmeal, sesame seeds or kibbled wheat (optional)


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


Sieve the dry ingredients. 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 softish, but not too wet. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well floured worked surface. Scoop it into the oiled tin, sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. Place in the hot oven immediately turning down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/regulo 6 for 45 minutes. Remove from the tin and return the bread to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow.



White Soda Scones


Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round 1 inch (2.5cm) deep approx. Cut into scones. Cook for 20 minutes approx. in a hot oven (see above).


Carrot and Apple Salad with Honey and Vinegar Dressing


This delicious salad can be made in minutes from ingredients you would probably have easily to hand, but shouldn’t be prepared more than half an hour ahead, as the apple will discolour. Serve either as a starter or as an accompanying salad for ham or pork.


Serves 6


8 ozs (225g) grated carrot

10 ozs (285g) grated dessert apple, e.g. Cox’s Orange Pippin if available

salt and freshly ground pepper





2 good teaspoons pure Irish honey

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar





a few leaves of lettuce

sprigs of watercress or parsley

chive flowers if you have them


Dissolve the honey in the wine vinegar. Mix the coarsely grated carrot and apple together and toss in the sweet and sour dressing. Taste and add a bit more honey or vinegar as required, depending on the sweetness of the apples.


Take 6 large side plates, white are best for this. Arrange a few small lettuce leaves on each plate and divide the salad between the plates. Garnish with sprigs of watercress or flat parsley and sprinkle with chive flowers if you have some. Season to taste.



Quiche Lorraine


Serves 6


1 x quantity Shortcrust Pastry (see recipe) 

1 tablespoon olive oil

175g 6oz) streaky bacon cut into 1cm (1/2in) lardons

100g (4oz) chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml (1/2 pint) double cream

1 scant tablespoon chopped parsley

1 scant tablespoon chopped chives

50g (2oz) Cheddar cheese, grated

50g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated

salt and freshly ground black pepper

23cm (9 inch) diameter baking tin

Make the pastry (see recipe).

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

Line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’ for about 25 minutes, the base should be almost fully cooked. Remove the paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes. This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp. Remove and dry on kitchen paper. Then sweat the onions gently in the same oil for a further 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheeses and cool bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning.

Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has set. Serve warm with a green salad and relish.




Basic Shortcrust Pastry



6 ozs (175g) white flour, spelt or sieved wholemeal flour

3 ozs (75g) butter

pinch of salt

beaten egg or water (to bind)


Sieve the flour with the salt, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult -to-handle pastry will give a crispier shorter crust.


Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.


N.B. 4 ozs (110 g) pastry will line one 6-7 inch (15-18cm) flan tin.




3ozs (75g) will produce a richer pastry, but beginners would be wiser to use

2ozs (50g) butter to 4oz (110g) flour for ease of handling.


Potato and Spring Onion Salad


Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes – diced, allow about 2 1/4 lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes

4 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 tablespoons chopped spring onion or chives

4 fl ozs (110ml) French dressing

4 fl oz (110 ml) mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with the chopped spring onion and parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days in the fridge.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.


Drop Scones


Makes 12

110g (4ozs) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl ozs) milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge. Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat. Drop 3 tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)


Lisa Bowskill’s Mini Muffins


Makes 12 muffins or up to 36 mini muffins

10oz (275g) plain flour

1 level tablespoon baking powder

3oz (75g) caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium eggs

8floz (225ml) milk

4oz (110g) melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6

Place paper muffin cases in muffin tin. Hand whisk together sugar, eggs, milk, melted butter and vanilla. Sieve flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into beaten mixture. It should look like lumpy batter. Add filling of your choice.

Divide mixture between 12 cases or put just over 1 teaspoon per mini muffin case. Fill almost to the top. Bake at the top of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Note: Reduce baking time to 15-20 minutes for mini muffins




These nutritious oatmeal biscuits keep very well in a tin. Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better. This is the recipe that I use when I want to prove to people who swear they can’t boil water that they can cook. We often drizzle them with melted chocolate as an extra treat. Makes about 24


350g (12oz) butter


1 tablespoon golden syrup


1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


225g (8oz) caster sugar


450g (1lb) rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)


Swiss roll tin 25 x 38cm (10 x 15in)


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


Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and vanilla extract, stir in the sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread evenly into the Swiss roll tin.


Bake until golden and slightly caramelised, about 30 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm – they will crisp up as they cool.




Oatmeal and coconut flapjacks


substitute 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut for 50g (2oz) oatmeal in the above recipe.




Anzac Biscuits



Makes 34 biscuits approximately, depending on size


150g (5 oz) plain flour

50g (2 oz) porridge oats

50g (2 oz) desiccated coconut

150g (5 oz) castor sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

150g (5 oz) butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup


Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2


In a large bowl stir together the flour, oats, coconut, sugar and the baking powder. In a small saucepan combine the butter and the syrup and cook the mixture over a moderately low heat, stirring until the butter is melted. Pour the butter mixture into the flour mixture and combine the mixture well. Place into small balls and put them 5cm (2 inches) apart on baking sheets and flatten them slightly with the back of a fork dipped in water. Bake the cookies in the middle of a preheated oven for 15 minutes or until they are golden. Let the cookies cool slightly on the baking sheet, transfer them with a spatula to a rack, and let them cool completely.



Limerick Slow Food Celebration

is on Sunday 21st August from 12.00pm to 5pm at Curraghchase Farm Kilcornan, Co Limerick. Learn a few Forgotten Skills – bee keeping talk and demo, pig and poultry keeping (free range), an informal walk and talk, Shorthorn Cattle Society, talk and roast beef tasting, forest mushroom growing display, bread making demo of simple soda bread, organic vegetable growing from the poly tunnel. Admission €5. Caroline Rigney has compiled and written a small book full of stories, features and recipes and it will be on sale, all profits to go to Pieta House for suicide awareness. Email – Mobile 087 2834754.

Raw Milk Sales Threatened

– Those who feel strongly about the importance of having freedom of choice to buy unpasteurised milk from a clean and healthy herd may want to sign the petition on the Slow Food Ireland website see

Waterford Harvest Festival

is on this year from Saturday 3rd to Sunday 11th September. Three main Slow Food events are Artisan Food Tours to artisan producers – booking essential for this. Tutors from the school of Artisan Foods in the UK will give demonstrations on Cheese Production, Butchery and other artisan food skills. Slow Food France will be be providing demonstrations and tastings of Catalonian food in the Theatre Royal during the festival. Visit the All Ireland Slow Food Market with over 150 food stalls along the One Mile Quay on Sunday 11th September.


Let’s pretend its Summer! We’ll whip up a few delicious salads from the bounty of fresh Summer fruit and vegetables in season. Once again I am snatching a few days holidays in West Cork and am reminded of just how fortunate both locals and visitors to this area are – the quality of the produce from local farms, fishermen and markets is truly superb.

I managed to catch Bantry market on the first Friday of the month – that’s the big one – when the usual weekly market quadruples in size and spills out along several of the roads from the central square. Everything you might need or not need is available at Bantry market from fancy fowl, knick-knacks, frilly dresses and all manner of apparel both vintage and new, fresh herbs, flowers and rare plants, fishing gear, wellies, handy tools and of course artisan food. I filled up my bags and baskets and did my bit for several of the other retailers too, all of whom seemed to be doing a roaring trade on market day. West Cork markets have a very special quality which I find totally charming, slightly anarchic in the best possible way – a mixture of food, craft, and lots of surprises. Skibbereen is another example of a great little market which totally reflects the diversity of the area and the creative mix of locals and newcomers. You’ll find the eclectic collection of stalls in the Fair Field just off Bridge Street on Saturday mornings.

Schull Country Market is another brilliant example; this is tucked into the car park over looking Schull Pier and Harbour on Pier Road. Fewer stalls but an appealing mix of local food, plants and craft. It was thronged recently with regulars and holiday makers, many of whom were deeply envious and wished they could clone the market and transport it to their own area. If you are close to Baltimore on Sunday mornings, check out the market just outside Caseys Hotel close to Glebe Café and Gardens.

I didn’t manage to make it to the Clonakilty market on Thursday and I hear there is also a market in Leap on Wednesday and yet another in Roscarberry on Saturday mornings.

Scarcely enough days in the week to visit them all and certainly not enough meals to eat all the tempting produce.

Don’t forget the original and still brilliant Country Markets – Skibbereen on Fridays in Abbeystrewry Church Hall – and for details of others and

Here are some of the dishes I enjoyed from my forays around the markets.


Rory O’Connells Hot Mackerel Salad with Land Cress, Ruby Beetroot, Eggs and Horseradish Mayonnaise


Mackerel is a wonderful fish, beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. Its elegant and streamlined shape, beautiful markings and flashing silvery colouring make it a sight to behold. The most important thing, though, is the freshness of the fish. In east cork where I live near the fishing village of Ballycotton, there is an expression that goes “the sun should never set on a mackerel”. I am in the fortunate position of being able to drive the couple of miles to the village, and can buy fish from the anglers at the pier, before the sun sets. Straight home with them then and into the pan. Regardless of your closeness to the source of the fish, do try to ensure you are bringing home a really fresh fish.

Mackerel responds very well to many different cooking techniques. It can be poached, baked, roasted, pan fried, or as in this case grilled. I also like to souse and pickle it. Mackerel is one of the busiest fish in the sea and is constantly moving through the water and feeding. Its athletic lifestyle is fuelled by the omega oil that it stores in its body and which is regarded as highly beneficial for us all. So how can you go wrong with a fish that looks that good, tastes that great and is cheering our bodies up as well, and not forgetting that is still great value for money.

Beetroot and horseradish are obvious combinations with this oily fish and the eggs add a little richness. If you can’t kind the peppery land cress that I suggest here, replace it with watercress, rocket leaves or a few organic or wild greens.

This salad can be served as a starter or a main course. Here I am giving quantities for serving as a main course so just reduce the quantities accordingly for serving as a starter.

Serves 4

4 mackerel, filleted

4 ruby beetroot, gently washed and leaves trimmed

pinch of salt and sugar

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon more for cooking the fish

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

seasoned flour

4 handfuls of land cress, washed and dried

extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 organic eggs, hardboiled, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoons horseradish mayonnaise (see recipe)


2 tablespoons chopped chives

Place the beetroot in a saucepan they fit snugly into. Season with a good pinch of salt and sugar. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the beetroot are cooked. The length of cooking time of the beets is determined by the size, age and freshness of the vegetable. They will take a minimum of 30 minutes and up to two hours to cook. Any that take longer than that to cook tend to be either too big or too old and can be woody and faded when peeled. If the water evaporates during the cooking, top it up with fresh water. Check to see if the beetroot are cooked by lifting one out of the saucepan and rubbing the skin. If the skin rubs off with no resistance, they are cooked. If not, replace in the saucepan and cook for longer. When cooked, remove and allow to cool slightly. I like to dress them while still warm. Mix the olive oil, honey and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Peel the beetroot and slice in 1cm (1/2 inch) slices or cut into sections. Toss in the dressing, taste and correct seasoning.

Heat a heavy frying pan until hot but not quite smoking and glaze the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil. Dip the mackerel fillets in seasoned flour and shake off the excess. Place the fish, skin side down in the hot oil and cook until a rich golden colour is achieved. Turn and cook on the other side.

While the fish are cooking, divide the greens between four, large hot plates. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the beetroot and their dressing on the greens and then divide the egg quarters between the plates. Drizzle each plate with a dessertspoon of horseradish mayonnaise, particularly over the eggs and the beetroot. Place the cooked fish, straight from the pan on top of the salads. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.


Horseradish Mayonnaise

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of caster sugar

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

1/4 pint (150ml) sunflower oil or light olive oil or a mixture

1 heaped tablespoon of finely, grated fresh horseradish

1 teaspoon of chopped parsley and tarragon

Put the egg yolks, mustard, sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Whisk well and add the oil gradually, whisking all the time. The sauce will emulsify quite easily. Add the horseradish and chopped herbs. Taste and correct seasoning. It is unlikely to need salt because of the large quantity of mustard.

Chill until needed.


Skye Gyngell’s Crab Salad with Nam Jim and Mixed Cress

I found some really delicious cooked crab meat in Fields Supervalu in Skibbereen so I could make this delicious salad – we love Sky Gyngell’s food at Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond – this comes from her book “A Year in my Kitchen”

Serves 4

500g (1lb 2oz) freshly prepared white crab meat

Handful of mixed cress or wild rocket

1 large, mild red chilli, finely sliced (optional)

Nam Jim

2 garlic cloves, peeled

bunch of coriander, roots and stems only, washed

Sea salt

1 green bird’s eye chilli, chopped

2 tablespoons palm sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

2 red shallots, peeled and finely chopped

To Serve

lime wedges

First make the nam jim (as close to serving as possible). Using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic and coriander roots and stems with a pinch of salt until well crushed. Add the chilli and continue to pound. Mix in the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, then stir in the chopped shallots. Before serving, taste and adjust the flavours as necessary, perhaps adding a little more salt or lime juice.

Dress the crab with about 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) of nam jim – enough to give it a clean, clear, sweet, hot flavour, but not too much otherwise you will overpower the delicate taste of the crab. Scatter the mixed cress through, along with the red chilli for an extra kick if required. Serve with lime wedges on the side.


Nectarine, Proscuitto, Irish Mozarella and Mint Salad

I picked up some Irish Buffalo Mozarella and Ricotta from the Real Olive Stall at the Bantry Market and made this salad.


Serves 6

4 ripe nectarines or peaches

Rocket leaves – enough for 6 plates

12 slices of prosciutto or Serrano ham

3 fresh Irish Buffalo Mozarella

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 30 spearmint leaves

extra virgin olive oil

Halve the ripe nectarines, remove the stones. Slice each nectarine or peach into 3 pieces. Scatter a few rocket leaves on each plate. Put 3 pieces of fruit on each plate. Tear the mozzarella and tuck it in here and there. Season with flakes of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Scatter with torn mint leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.


Ricotta with a Compote of Apricots and Sweet Geranium Leaves


Serves 6

2 balls of fresh Irish Ricotta

450g (1lb) fresh apricots

225g (8ozs) sugar

250ml (8 fl ozs) cold water

4-6 large rose geranium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolens) if you can’t find rose geranium, lemon verbena, spearmint or lemon balm are delicious alternatives.

Put the sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan with the sugar and water, bring slowly to the boil. Meanwhile, slice the apricots in half and remove the stones.


Add the halved apricots to boiling water cover the saucepan and simmer until the apricots are soft. Turn into a bowl and chill.

To Serve

Spoon a portion of fresh Irish Ricotta onto each individual plate. Serve with a few poached apricots and some juice, garnish with a sweet geranium leaf and some softly whipped cream

Telephone Toby Simmonds 021 4270842 for details of your nearest stockist of Irish Mozzarella.


Garden Workshop: Summer Pruning at Ballymaloe Cookery School

on Monday 15th August at 9.00 am – 2.00pm. The Fruit Garden at the Ballymaloe Cookery School is bursting with lush juicy fruit – peaches, plums, apples and pears. Susan Turner who was head gardener at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for many years is teaching a half day course on pruning fan trained peaches, plums and cherries as well as training apples and pears in cordons, espaliers and step overs…..This course is ideal for those who want to develop their fruit garden both in a functional and decorative capacity…….Limited places available…€95 Light lunch included. Booking Essential 021 4646785

West Cork Garlic – I met Axel and Mary Miret at the Skibbereen Farmers Market, they grow five or six different varieties of French garlic near Enniskeen – Albigensian, Solent, Picardy and Lautrec…a welcome home-grown alternative to the Chinese garlic flooding the country – 023 8847302.

If you are looking for rare plants and unusual herbs seek out Doris and Achim Hoffmann from Peppermint Farm – they sell beautiful healthy plants at several West Cork Farmers Markets. Telephone – 028-31869 or

A Moroccan Feast

Although I’ve been to Morocco several times, I’ve never been to the capital Rabat before – it’s a beautiful city right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

Just a mere half a kilometre from the Centreville locals can stroll on the beach and splash and frolic in the sea. I loved wandering through the narrow white and blue washed lanes of the Kasbah des Oudaias in and out of the sunlight; catching little breezes. The colour of the walls, the texture of the plaster, the doorways and doorknockers, all give a clue as to the inhabitants of the house, Muslim, Christian, Andalucían, Portuguese…

Before you leave that area take a stroll through the Andalucían garden reminiscent of the Alambra Palace in Granada then pause at the Moorish Café overlooking the Bouregreg River for a frothy mint tea served in a gold edged glass and the most delicious Moroccan biscuits you will taste in Rabat – the same family have baked them for over a hundred and fifty years – each has a name – cornes de gazzel, doigts the jeune fille bracelet de marriage, macaroon de cocoa, Briouts and triangular filo pastries tossed in honey and sesame seeds…

Inside the thick walls of the medina there is a labyrinth of alleyways with stalls selling clothes, shoes, jewellery, kitchen ware, and of course food. Piles of ground spices, dates, almonds, walnuts, olives, preserved lemons, couscous, sea salt and saffron from Taroudant. Another stall sold soft cheeses in wicker baskets, and for the cook a mesmerising selection of terracotta tagines and soft clay cooking pots are piled high.

The raison d’être for my visit was the International Slow Food Meeting. the Moroccan members were anxious to give us a Taste of Morocco so we had several cooked salads, La Grande couscous and at least five different tagines, the most memorable of which was a chicken with olives, saffron and preserved lemons and lamb with okra and cardamom. We also had plump figs, lots of dates, argan oil and a variety of Moroccan flat breads.

Morocco is still brilliant value for money; a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice of at a street stall will cost you 4 Dirham (about 40 cent).

At another memorable meal, we enjoyed Mechoui, young milk fed lamb, roasted to melting tenderness with thin crispy skin, served simply with salt and freshly ground cumin.

As is the Moroccan tradition a whole lamb was served to each table of eight. After we had feasted we all worried about the delicious remains but The Slow Food Convivia leader of Rabat, Zoubida Charrouf told us about the tradition of cooking more than was needed to share with the poor and homeless after the meal.

How about having a Moroccan feast this weekend, most of the dishes are made for sharing with the family.


Moroccan Grilled Tomato and Pepper Salad


Claudia Roden gave us this delicious recipe.


Serves 6

Choose fleshy peppers. Put them on a baking sheet under the broiler about 3 ½ inches (9cm) from the heat (or grill them on the barbecue). Turn them until their skins are black and blistered all over. Alternatively, roast them in the hottest oven for ½ hour, or until they are soft and their skins begin to blister and blacken – they need to be turned only once. To loosen the skins further, put them in a pan with a tight fitting lid or in a strong polyethylene or brown paper bag and twist it closed. Leave for 10 – 15 minutes. This helps to loosen the skins. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel them and remove the stem and seeds. Keep the juice that comes out and strain it to remove the seeds, for it can be used as part of the dressing


3 red or green bell peppers

3 tomatoes

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons wine vinegar

Salt and pepper


Grill or roast the peppers and tomatoes (see above). Take the tomatoes out after about 10 minutes, when the skin is loosened and they are only a little soft. Peel the peppers and tomatoes and cut them into pieces. Dress with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.


For a flavoursome Moroccan version, add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves, 1-teaspoon cumin, the chopped peel of 1 preserved lemon, and 1-2 hot chilli peppers, seeded and finely chopped. If you have an opportunity to buy the rare argan oil, it is wonderful with this, as well as with most salads.

You may grill or roast a head of garlic at the same time, then peel the cloves. Garlic needs 10 minutes in the oven to become soft.

Tagine of Chicken with Green Olives and Saffron

Serves 6

1 free range and organic chicken, jointed

2 onions chopped

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons coriander leaves

1 small cinnamon stick

½ preserved lemon, cut into dice (see recipe) (optional, depending on size, leave whole)

175g (6oz) green olives, rinsed and stoned

Juice of 1/2 lemon


2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of saffron strands

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, toasted and ground

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Coriander leaves

Cous cous

First prepare the marinade. Mix the garlic, saffron, ginger, cumin, paprika, salt, freshly ground pepper and the olive oil in a bowl. Spread over the chicken, transfer the meat to a shallow dish, cover with Clingfilm and leave overnight to marinate in the fridge.

Next day, transfer the chicken and the marinade to a casserole. Add the onions, parsley, coriander and cinnamon stick and half cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, turning the chicken pieces frequently in the liquid. Add more water if it starts to reduce. Cook for a further 15 minutes, partly covered, until the chicken is tender and almost falls from the bone. Add the preserved lemons and the olives and continue cooking for a further 5-6 minutes so the flavours combine.

Transfer the chicken pieces, lemon and olives to a serving dish and cover to keep warm. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Boil the sauce uncovered until it is about 250ml (9fl oz). Add the lemon juice and season to taste with more salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately with lots of fresh coriander and cous cous.


North African Preserved Lemons


The skins of lemons preserved in salt, also referred to as “pickled”, lend a curious and wonderfully intense flavour to North African dishes.

6 lemons (choose them with thick skins)

6 tablespoons course or fine sea salt

juice of 3 lemons or more

Wash and scrub the lemons. The classic Moroccan way is to cut each lemon in quarters but not right through, so that the pieces are still attached at the stem end, and to stuff each with plenty of salt. Put them in a glass jar, pressing them down so they are squashed together, and close the jar. It is best if they pack the tightly. Leave for 3-4 days, by which time the juice will have been drawn out of the lemons and the skins will have softened. Press them down as much as you can (it is usual to put a clean stone or heavy object on top to keep them down and add fresh lemon juice to cover them entirely. Close the jar and leave in a cool place for at least a month, at which point they should be ready. The longer they are left, the better the flavour.

Before using, wash well to rid of the salt.


Salted water is sometimes poured in instead of the extra lemon juice.

Some people pour a little oil on top as a protective film.

Another Moroccan way is to slice 2lbs (1kg) lemons, sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of salt, and put them in a jar. After about 3 days, when the juice has been drawn out add more lemon juice to cover and about ¼ cup of peanut or olive oil, which acts as a protection.




Cous Cous with Apricots and Pistachio Nuts



Serves 8


12 ozs (340g) Couscous (precooked)

16 fl ozs (450ml) homemade chicken stock or water

2 ozs (50g) dried apricots (soaked in cold water)

2 ozs (50g) pistachio nuts (or toasted almonds) halved

salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Put the couscous, apricots and pistachio nuts into a pyrex bowl, cover with boiling water or stock and allow to soak for 15 minutes, stir every now and then. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and add some olive oil. Cover dish heat through in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Reglo 4 for about 10 minutes. We usually put the bowl into a bain-marie.





Instead of apricots and pistachio nuts stir in 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of freshly chopped fresh herbs just before serving, eg. mint or coriander, parsley and chives.


A little grated orange rind or lemon rind and freshly squeezed juice is also delicious.



Moroccan Snake



One of the glories of Moroccan confectionery, great for a party. Individual “snakes” can be made with a single sheet of filo.


Serves 10-15 people


1 packet best quality filo pastry





1 lb (450g) ground almonds

12 ozs (350g) castor sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

3-4 fl ozs (75-110ml) orange flower water


3-4 ozs (75-110g) melted butter


Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.



To Assemble


Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordion shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.


Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.



If you would like to source some really great saffron from Morocco contact Safran Maroc, Cooperative Agricole Taliouine, Centre Commune Rurale Tassousfi, 12km De Taliouine Province Taroudant. Email –

Apart from the moving statue there’s yet another good reason to visit Ballinspittle near Kinsale. I’ve discovered Diva a lovely little café with lots of little pots of healthy organic herbs growing outside. I bought some crusty potato bread and scanned the delicious sounding menu. The Crab Ravioli with Ginger and Lemongrass sounded really good. Shannen Keane sources many of her ingredients locally; she gets her veggies from Liz and Colum O’Regan from Horizon Farms in Kinsale. John and Mary Cronin of Feirm Urfrom Belgooly supply the organic buttermilk and yoghurt which Shannen uses in the tsatziki she serves with her delicious lamb burgers. In June, Shannen opened Diva Boutique Bakery where they make Ballinspittle seeded sough dough, wheaten loaf, New York style rustic rye… breads for the café. They also make hand rolled croissants. Follow Diva on twitter dvaboutiquebake and on Shannen’s blog – email – diva, or phone 021 4778465 for the opening hours.


Past Letters