ArchiveNovember 2011

Christmas Cakes

I’ve just had an ‘oh my god’ moment where the penny has dropped that Christmas day is a mere 28 days away. It’s seems to have crept up on me and I haven’t cooked a single thing yet. In this column I will give a variety of Christmas cake and some pudding recipes. The richest can be made this weekend while the others can be whipped up closer to the time or even the day before.

This year I have decided to bake two layers of almond paste into my rich fruit cake. I adore almond paste, it’s really easy to make and adds moistness and richness to the cake. As ever fantastic ingredients make a fantastic cake, use fine Irish butter, really good eggs organic
or least free range and best quality plump dried fruit. If you are going to make a cake it might as well be delicious!

A rich fruit cake keeps brilliantly for months. I love a finger of cake with a cup of tea or strong coffee but not everyone wants to have the remains of the Christmas cake – no matter how delicious – in a tin for months on end. So, why not consider making three smaller cakes
from once the recipe this year – keep one for yourself and wrap the others in lots of tinsel and tissue – perfect presents for busy friends. The same can apply to plum puddings, a little slice is the quintessential taste of Christmas but no-one wants to have cold plum pudding hanging around for weeks after the festive season.

Once the recipe here makes 12 x ½ pint puddings each of which serves two greedy people or four who would enjoy just a few juicy morsels of plum pud.

So this weekend gather up the ingredients, root out the wooden spoon, pudding bowls and cake tins, gather the children around and have a fun baking session and pass on the skills at the same time – remember how much we all loved licking the wooden spoon!


Christmas Cake with Glazed Fruit and Nuts

This makes a moist cake which keeps very well.  It can either be made months ahead or if you are frenetically busy it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know! If the children help to chop the cherries and prepare the ingredients it will take the mystery out of ‘making the cake’ and pudding, so you’ll have given them a skill for life.


225g (8 ozs) butter

225 g (8 ozs) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden castor sugar

6 organic free-range eggs

285g  (10 ozs) plain white flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

65 ml (2 1/2  fl ozs) Irish whiskey

340 g (12 ozs) best-quality sultanas

340 g (12 ozs) best- quality currants

340 g (12 ozs) best-quality raisins

110 g (4ozs) real glacé cherries

110 g (4ozs) homemade candied peel (see recipe)

55 g (2 ozs) ground almonds

55 g (2 ozs) whole almonds

rind of 1 organic unwaxed lemon

rind of 1 organic unwaxed orange

1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated no need to peel


Almond Paste


450 g (1 lb) ground almonds

450 g (1 lb) golden castor sugar

2 small organic or free-range eggs

a drop of pure almond essence

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey


Angelica, dried apricots, pecans, glacé cherries, peeled whole almonds,


To Brush on the Cake


Apricot Glaze – 12 ozs approx

1 x 9 inch round tin or 3 x 7 inch round tins.

Line the base and sides of the tin/s with a double thickness of parchment paper. Tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin / tins.  Have a sheet of parchment or brown paper to lay on top of each tin during cooking.

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

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

Preheat the oven to 150°C/315°F/gas mark 2 1/2.

Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle.  Mix the spice with the flour and stir in gently.  Add the grated cooking apple to the fruit and mix in gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Divide the mixture into three equal parts, put one part into the prepared cake tin.  Divide the almond paste into two; roll each into a round slightly smaller than the tin. Lay one on top of the cake mixture, cover with another third of the mixture. Lay another round of almond paste and the remainder of the cake mixture.

If using smaller tins, divide each third of the mixture into 3 and the almond paste into six pieces and follow the method as above.

Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked.  

Lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat.  Put into the preheated oven. After one hour reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. 

Bake until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean after a further 3 hours approx, in total.

Pour the rest of the whiskey over the cake and leave to cool in the tin. 

Next day remove from the tin.  Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.  Store in a cool dry place, the longer the cake is stored the more mature it becomes.

A couple of days before Christmas remove the paper from the cake. Brush with apricot glaze, arrange nuts and dried fruit in a circular pattern on top. Brush more apricot glaze over the nuts and fruit. Wrap a ribbon around the edge and tie a bow. Place on a plate, admire your handy work and enjoy!



Children’s Christmas Cake

I found this recipe while researching for the revised edition of my Traditional Food Book. Nancy Elliott lived in Clones, Co Monaghan. She married in 1865 and had eleven children.  She was a keen baker and had a large collection of cake recipes including this which she made especially for her children.

Serves 8


75g (3oz) soft butter

100g (3 ½ oz) castor sugar

3 eggs

1 tablespoonful milk

1 tablespoonful of cream

juice of a lemon

110g (4oz) sultanas

1 teaspoonful baking powder

225g (8oz) cream flour – add as much flour as will make a stiff dough 

Tin Size: 18 cm (7 inch) round tin line the base and sides with greaseproof paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Mark 4. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light. Add the eggs one by one. Beating well after each addition. Stir in the milk, cream, lemon juice and sultanas. Sieve the flour and baking powder together, fold into the mixture. Place in the prepared tin and bake in the pre-heated oven for 1 – 1 ¼  hours.

Decorate it with red and white sugar.  Do not cut till 2 days old.

Mummy’s Plum Pudding


It has always been the tradition in our house to eat the first plum pudding on the evening it is made.   The grandchildren can hardly contain themselves with excitement – somehow that plum pudding seems the most delicious, it’s our first taste of Christmas.   The plum pudding can be made from about mid-November onwards. Everyone in the family helps to stir so we can all make a wish.


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


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


12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml)JamaicaRum


Mix all the ingredients together very thoroughly and leave overnight; don’t forget, everyone in the family must stir and make a wish!  Next day stir again for good measure.  Fill into pudding bowls; cover with a double thickness of greaseproof paper which has been pleated in the centre, and tie it tightly under the rim with cotton twine, making a twine handle also for ease of lifting.


Steam in a covered saucepan of boiling water for 6 hours.  The water should come half way up the side of the bowl.  Check every hour or so and top up with boiling water if necessary.  After 5 hours, 3 hours, 2 hours depending on the size, remove the pudding.   Allow to get cold and re-cover with fresh greaseproof paper.  Store in a cool dry place until required.


On Christmas Day or whenever you wish to serve the plum pudding, steam for a further 2 hours.  Turn the plum pudding out of the bowl onto a very hot serving plate, pour over some whiskey or brandy and ignite.  Serve immediately on very hot plates with Brandy Butter.


You might like to decorate the plum pudding with a sprig of holly; but take care not to set the holly on fire – as well as the pudding!


Raisin Cake from the Blaskets


According to Máire Ní Ghuithín – who wrote Bean An OileáinRaisin Cake was the Christmas treat. On the Blaskets there was no need for a scales – the bag of raisins would be weighed in the shop. 

Every house had large mugs for tea hanging on the dresser in the kitchen; they would hold 175g (6oz) of flour.

The ingredients were as follows. 


3 mugfuls of white flour – 500g (1lb 2oz)

One rounded teaspoonful of baking-soda 

One rounded teaspoonful of salt

A small knob of butter 25g (1oz)

One egg beaten

Half a cupful of sugar 110g (4oz) Demerara

Half a pound of big raisins (with seeds removed) – muscatels (we used Lexia raisins)

Sour milk – we used 425ml (15fl) buttermilk


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4

Line the base and sides of a 20cm (8inch) round tin with greaseproof or parchment paper.

All the ingredients, except the sour milk or yeast liquid were mixed together.  The mixture was then moistened with the sour milk.  Maire doesn’t say how long it took to bake the cake.  Sean Pheats Tom O Cearnaigh, also mentions in his 1992 book ‘Fiolar An Eireabaill Bhain’ that milk or cream, and ‘yeast flour’ were used to make a raisin cake, and that it was baked for an hour.

How we did it –

Sieve flour and bread soda into a bowl.  Add salt and sugar, rub in the butter.  Add the raisins and mix well.  Make a well in the centre, add the egg and sour milk and mix to a softish dough. Transfer into the lined tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx.

Cut in wedges and serve buttered.  This cake keeps well for a few days.


Mary Jo’s Stollen

Stollen is a favourite German Christmas Cake with a layer of almond paste baked into the centre.

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


Brandied Fruit:

150g (5oz) mixed sultanas and currants

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

1 1/2 tablespoons brandy


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

150ml (5fl oz) lukewarm milk

175g (6oz) strong white flour


75g (3oz) castor sugar

Grated rind 1/2 lemon

110g (4oz) softened butter

2 eggs

1 level teaspoon salt

275g (10oz) strong white flour



75g (3oz) ground almonds

60g (2 1/2oz) castor sugar

1 tablespoon egg white

Drop of almond essence


Melted butter

Icing sugar


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot Tips

Cork City Slow Food Event – Garden Talk with Kitty Scully – Kitty Scully of the RTE show ‘How to create a Garden’ is the guest speaker on Tuesday, 29th November at 7:30pm in the Blarney Garden Centre. Kitty will share her passion for all things gardening and growing, and will show how to prepare, design and care for a garden the organic way. To book email Price: €10 – includes tea/coffee, home baked scones, 10% discount in garden centre, printed information material.


Mary Dowey’s Weekend Wine Course at Ballymaloe House – Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2012 – the perfect gift for a wine-lover – the course has become a firm fixture on the spring calendar at Ballymaloe House. Learn the essentials of wine appreciation while enjoying superb food, great wines and good company in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses. To purchase a gift voucher or to book Tel: 00 353 (0)21 4652531


Two Christmas Cookery Courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School – an early Christmas present to bring good cheer and lift the spirits!  One day Christmas Cooking Part 3 Monday 12th December 9.30am to 5.00pm and Rachel Allen’s Festive Entertaining Part 2, two and half day practical hands on course Tuesday 13th to Thursday 15th December. To book 021 4646785 or online


Meat Free Monday

Meat Free Monday – The whole idea continues to garner approval – there’s a million good reasons why this is a brilliantly good idea. Between 1961 and 2007 the world population increased by a factor of 2.2. In the same period total meat production quadrupled and poultry consumption increased 10-fold. Consequently the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate that livestock production is responsible for up to 18 % of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, although some estimates putting the figure as high as 50 %.

The main ‘baddies’ are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is caused by ‘enteric fermentation’ – which in plain English means the burping and farting – by cows, sheep and goats. Nitrous oxide rises off slurry (manure) pits (primarily on pig farms) or is the by-product of the production of fertilisers. Carbon dioxide is produced when rainforests are cut down to make way for grazing cattle, or for growing crops to feed farmed animals. Carbon dioxide may get most of the publicity, but the other two are, if anything more serious, methane is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and remains in the atmosphere for 9 – 14 years. Nitrous oxide is 310 times more powerful that carbon dioxide and hangs around for up to 114 years. What this means is that gases that are being released today will continue to degrade the climate for eons to come.

As if that’s not enough, global meat production uses massive amounts of water, we may not have to worry about it in this country but the estimated 634 gallons of fresh water required to produce one 5.2 ounce (147g) beef burger would be enough for a 4 hour-shower. Like fossil fuels, fresh water supplies are running out in many parts of the world. The glaciers that are the source of many of the great rivers are melting due to climate change and the Ganges, the Niger and Yellow Rivers are drying up. As they disappear, so does the world’s available water.

Nutritionists and doctors remind us that there are definite health benefits to reducing our consumption of meat. According to the World Health Organisation we eat considerably more protein than is considered necessary or optimal for good health. A meat-and-dairy-heavy diet is now being linked to some of the world’s biggest killer diseases, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Animal welfare issues involved with some intensive methods of food production continue to cause concern and then there are the fish: it has been estimated that if current fishing trends continue, there will be no fish left by 2048. Industrialised fishing vessels with their football-pitch sized nets or lines of hooks a mile long devastate coral reefs and ocean beds, kill and injure marine wildlife including dolphins, turtles and sea birds, and are pushing the oceans to the brink of environmental collapse.

In the current economic climate there are many other compelling reasons to remind ourselves that vegetables are by far the most important food group and to support The Meat Free Monday campaign – which was started by the McCartney family in St John’s Park in London in June 2009. Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney have now come together to write the foreword for Meat Free Monday Cookbook published by Kyle Books and packed with many delicious recipes where you won’t miss the meat.



Makes 12 servings.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Roughly chop 200g (7oz) mixed nuts such as almonds, pecan and hazelnuts and tip into a large bowl. Add 450g (1lb) rolled oats, 50g (2oz) sunflower seeds, 50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds, 50g (2oz) linseeds and 50g (2oz) desiccated coconut and mix well. Add 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil and 100ml (3½fl oz) runny honey and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour the mixture into a large roasting tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crisp, stirring frequently so that the mixture toasts evenly. Remove from the oven and add 100g (4oz) roughly chopped dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries. Leave to cool before scooping into storage jars. Serve with fresh berries, organic milk or natural yogurt.


Potatoes With Hazelnuts and Rosemary

Simon Rogan

Serves 4

Take about 20g (3/4 oz) tiny rosemary needles from the bunch and set aside. Boil 450g pink fir potatoes with 25g (1oz) sprig of rosemary leaves. Meanwhile simmer 25g (1oz) hazelnuts in water for 4 minutes, drain, peel and pat dry. Gently fry the hazelnuts in a little hazelnut oil until golden brown, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cool down and crush into smaller pieces. When the potatoes are cooked, peel, slice and fry in a generous amount of hazelnut oil until they are golden brown. Remove and drain onto kitchen paper, wipe clean the pan and place into it another 2 tablespoons of hazelnut oil with 100ml (3½fl oz) crème fraîche. Reduce until the sauce is the right consistency, add the rosemary needles and return the golden potato slices. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, place into a bowl and scatter over the fried hazelnut pieces.



Serves 4–6


Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Remove the stalks from 250g kale and shred finely. Plunge into boiling water for 30–60 seconds, then refresh under cold water. Set aside. Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, stir in 25g (1oz) plain flour and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually blend in 450ml (16fl oz) full fat organic milk, stirring well. Place back on the heat and bring gently to the boil, stirring continuously until thickened and smooth. Crumble in 125g (4 ½ oz) goat’s cheese. Add 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder and salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix well. Place the kale in an ovenproof dish, then spoon over the sauce. Combine 75g (3oz) breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds, and then spread evenly over the surface. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Onion Bhajis with Tomato and Chilli Sauce

Serves 4

Onion bhajis are very popular in Britain but shop-bought ones can be greasy and tired. These ones are anything but. They are served with a feisty sauce that transforms what is usually thought of as a snack into a satisfying meal.

25g (1oz) green chillies, deseeded and chopped

1 red pepper, deseeded and cut in 5mm dice

1/2 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons water

salt and freshly ground pepper

110g (4oz) plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon chilli powder

2 organic eggs, beaten

150ml (5fl oz / ¼ pint) water

4 onions, thinly sliced in rings

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

sunflower oil


First make the sauce. Put the chillies, pepper, tomatoes and garlic into a stainless steel saucepan with the sugars, vinegar and water. Season and simmer for 10 minutes until reduced by half.

Sieve the flour, baking powder and chilli powder into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs, gradually add in the water, mix to make a smooth batter. Stir in the thinly sliced onions and chives. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Just before serving heat the oil to 170°C /gas mark 3 1/2 approximately. Fry teaspoons of the batter in the sunflower oil for about 5 minutes on each side until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper. Serve hot or cold with the tomato and chilli sauce.



Guilt-free fast food! Perfect in a toasted bun, these deliciously spicy burgers will become firm family favourites and are guaranteed to convert even the most committed of carnivores.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

400g can lentils, drained and rinsed

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon tahini paste

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 large organic egg, beaten

100g (3 ½ oz) fresh breadcrumbs

100g (3 ½ oz) grated Gruyère

100g (3 ½ oz) feta, crumbled

plain flour, for dusting

salt and freshly ground black pepper

to serve

burger buns

shredded lettuce

sliced tomatoes

sliced red onions

sliced avocados

soured cream

tomato ketchup


pickles and relishes

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, add the chopped onion and cook over a medium heat until tender but not coloured. Add the garlic, ground cumin and cayenne and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Tip the lentils and chickpeas into the bowl of a food-processor and blend until coarsely chopped. Add the onion mixture, tahini paste and parsley, and blend again until combined and nearly smooth. Tip into a large bowl and add the beaten egg, breadcrumbs and both of the cheeses. Mix together using your hands and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Shape the mixture into patties and lightly dust in plain flour. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan, slide the burgers into the pan and cook until golden on both sides.

Serve in toasted buns with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and avocados and a dollop of soured cream, ketchup or mayonnaise and pickles of your choice.



Makes 12


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases. In a large mixing bowl, cream 75g unsalted butter and 150g (5oz) soft light brown sugar together until pale and creamy. Add 2 organic eggs 1 at a time, mixing all the time. The mixture might look split at this stage but, don’t worry, that’s normal. Sift 85g (3 ½ oz) plain flour and 85g (3 ½ oz) self-raising flour together into a bowl. Mix 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder and 90ml organic milk together in a separate bowl. Fold in one third of the flour mixture and beat well then half of the coffee mixture and beat well again. Repeat the process, beating well between each addition. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases until two thirds full. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. For the topping, whisk 300ml (10fl oz /½ pint) whipping cream and 25g (2oz) icing sugar together to soft peaks. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe swirls over the cupcakes. Decorate each cupcake with a chocolate-covered espresso bean and dust with drinking chocolate powder.



Serves 4–6


Preheat the oven to 190°C /gas mark 5. You will need an ovenproof dish 18cm long and 4cm deep. In a medium size saucepan bring 600ml organic milk and 284ml double cream to the boil over a moderate heat. Meanwhile mix together in a bowl 4 organic egg yolks and 125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar. Pour over the organic milk and cream mixture, stir well to combine, then strain into a jug, adding a few drops of vanilla extract. Layer 1/4 sliced baguette in the bottom of the ovenproof dish, and scatter over 50g (4oz) sultanas and 50g (4oz) roughly chopped plain chocolate. Dip 1/4 sliced baguette in 50g (4oz) melted butter and lay the sliced on top of the sultanas. Pour over the custard mixture and leave to soak for 30 minutes, pushing the bread beneath the surface of the custard. Place the dish in a bain-marie (a roasting tin containing boiling hot water to reach to halfway up the sides of the ovenproof dish). Bake the pudding for 1 hour until golden brown. In a small saucepan heat together 4 tablespoons apricot jam and 2 tablespoons orange juice. Brush liberally over the bread and butter pudding and serve immediately.

Hot Tips

Ed Hick’s Bacon Jam – it’s a relish – savoury, tangy, delicious, great on toast with a fried egg on top or a burger relish or just simply spread on crusty bread with a slice of apple. It’s an easy and really yummy pasta dressing or for true addicts, just eat it by the spoon – it’s the porkiest, piquantest, sweet/sour chutney

Simplee Salt was created by Edel at her home and garden in East Cork – she grew more herbs in her garden that she knew what to do with so she started creating flavoured sea salts and which is now stocked in shops all over Ireland – look out for Simplee Salt – Fresh Herb, Chili and Whole Black Peppercorn Sea Salts in shops all over Ireland. See the website for a list of stockists…

 Planting an Orchard – Ballymaloe’s former head gardener Susan Turner has agreed to teach a half day workshop for anyone interested in creating a fruit orchard. The course is ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners alike who want to choose and establish varieties for a fruit orchard. Susan will talk through pruning of both newly planted trees and the cropping tree and also how to rejuvenate an old orchard. Susan is a gardener with an international reputation and clientele and is an inspirational teacher. The course starts at 9.00am on Monday 21st November and finishes at 2.00pm. It includes a delicious light lunch using ingredients from the farm. The cost is just €95.00. To book a place (a few still remaining) please call 021 4646785 or online at

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group presents – ‘Wines for Christmas’ – Choosing wines to suit Christmas fare, the best wines to buy this year and serving and storing wine with Colm McCan award winning sommelier from Ballymaloe House and Peter Corr experienced importer and distributor in the Cork area. Crawford Art Gallery Café, Cork – Thursday 24th Nov at 7.30pm – entrance 6 euro including tea & coffee

Georgina Campbell Awards 2012

Every year the Georgina Campbell Awards are eagerly awaited by the restaurant industry. Awards are always fun, they lift the spirits and generate extra buzz at any time but most particularly at present when so many businesses are being put to the pin of their collar even to survive. Georgina’s highly respected guide has been in operation since 1997, she continues to think outside the box. Innovation is the name of the game at the moment, everyone is trying desperately to find new ways to attract business, so this year she added four new awards and four new criteria awards to highlight establishments who are excelling in unexpected areas and targeting a particular clientele.

The Pet Friendly Hotel of the Year took my fancy, Derek Davis who presented the awards at Bord Bia in Dublin, quipped that “many people would rather leave their husband behind than the dog!.” and so were missing an opportunity… not so the Dunloe Castle Hotel in Killarney who, for a nominal charge per night, has created a pet-friendly environment with luxurious kennels or a dog friendly guest room with pet beds and pet treats – the only trouble is likely to be persuading them to hop in the car when it’s time to leave.

The Green Hospitality Award went to Cooperhill House Riverstown, Co Sligo, where the 500 acre estate of woodland and pasture supplies much of their food. They compost vegetable waste and use sustainably produced firewood. Georgina reminded us “that they were environmental centuries before it became fashionable” Café of the Year Award went to Builín Blasta Café in Spiddal, Co Galway. Where there was much praise for this little café owned by New Zealander J-me Peaker – “where tea is made with real leaf tea and baking is a genuine forte.” Sunday Lunch of Year was won by VW Restaurant Viewmount House, Co Longford. “Sunday lunch is back with a vengeance for family get-togethers – a real treat.”

The Casual Dining Award which acknowledges and highlights the quality of smaller establishments, especially those serving all day food, went to the Salty Dog Hotel and Bistro in Co Down as did the Hotel Breakfast of the Year Award. Outstanding Service Award went to the outstanding Chapter One Restaurant owned by Ross Lewis in Dublin. The Ethnic Restaurant of the Year Award went to Cava – Spanish Restaurant and Tapas Bar in Galway for its all day Tapas menu and for having brought “a true taste of the Iberian Peninsula to Galway City.”

Peter and Mary Ward of Country Choice in Nenagh, Co Tipperary scooped the first The Natural Food Award “who better to begin than with an establishment – coffee shop, retailer and artisan producer – that celebrates the simple good foods of the locality in simple words, meats, milk, cream, eggs, butter and flour: The economy of Tipperary is agricultural and we intend to demonstrate this with a finished product of tantalising smells and tastes.”

Cork picked up several other awards The Just Ask Restaurant of the Year went to the Farmgate Restaurant in the English Market, Pub of the Year 2012 award went to Mary Ann’s Bar and Restaurant Castletownsend and Ballymaloe House were very proud to win three awards – Good Cooking Award, Good Housekeeping Award and Best Breakfast Award 2012.

For a full list of award winners visit or better still buy the Georgina Campbell Guide 2012 and keep it in the glove compartment of your car.

Apple Muesli

Serves 2

This recipe can be made in a few minutes and is so full of vitamins you’ll be jumping out of your skin all day!

4 tablespoons rolled oats (the speedicook type)

3 tablespoons water

2 large dessert apples eg. Golden Delicious or Worcester Permain

4 apples eg. Cox’s Orange Pippin

1 teaspoon honey approx.

To Serve Soft brown sugar and maybe a little runny cream

Equipment 1 grater

Measure out the water into a bowl and sprinkle three tablespoons of oatmeal on top. Let the oatmeal soak up the water while you grate the apple. A stainless steel grater is best for this job, use the largest side and grate the apple coarsely, skin and all. I grate through the core, but watch your fingers when you are coming close to the end, pick out the pips and discard. Stir a tea spoonful of honey into the oatmeal and then stir in the grated apple, taste, if it needs a little more honey add it, this will depend on how much you heaped up the spoon earlier on. Divide it between two bowls. Have one yourself and give the other to your favourite person that morning. It should taste delicious just like that but will taste even scrummier if you sprinkle over a little soft brown Barbados sugar and a very little runny cream.

Peter Ward’s Pint Glass Soda Bread

This is one Peter’s signature recipes at Country Choice. It was put together in response to his sons request for nice bread when he was starting collage. He was a bit lazy and hated measurements etc. So Peter came up with this recipe as every student has a pint glass. He uses Macroom flour but any good wholemeal would do.

pint glass coarse flour

 pint glass white flour

 three quarters of a pint buttermilk

enough salt to coat the bottom of a pint glass

enough soda to coat the bottom of a pint glass

tablespoon butter

Mix dry. Add wet, shape and bake. We make a flat cake about 1 ½ inches high with a cross on it and bake it on the floor of the hot oven of the Aga. Alternatively, bake in an preheated oven – 230°C/450°F/Mark 8 – for 15 minutes then at 200°C/400°F/Mark 6 for a further 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Builín Blasta Café Organic Irish Salmon Fishcake

Makes 6  

500g (18oz) plain dry mashed potatoes

500g (18oz) organic salmon pieces (skin off & bone out) 

100mls (3½fl oz) white wine

1tbsp Dijon mustard

1tbsp tomato ketchup

1tbsp anchovy – chopped

salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ Mark 4. Firstly poach the salmon in a small oven proof dish with the wine plus just enough water to cover. Bake with a lid on for approximately 15 minutes. Drain and flake into the mashed potatoes. Add the mustard, tomato ketchup and chopped anchovy, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and combine with a fork, taste and correct seasoning. Cool and store in the fridge for hour.  Divide into 6 and shape the fishcakes. Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan over a medium heat, fry the fishcakes for about 2 minutes and then transfer to the oven for 10-15 minutes. (Alternatively finish on the pan) J-Me likes to serve these with steamed green vegetables like kale or spinach and a sweet chilli sauce.  

Farmgate Restaurant’s Poached Leg of Mutton with Caper Sauce

The Just Ask Restaurant of the Year Award went to the Farmgate Restaurant in the English Market in Cork. Since opening in 1994 – well before most restaurateurs in Ireland thought it might be popular or profitable to focus on local produce and traditional dishes – Kay Harte’s café above the English Market in Cork has epitomised everything that is best about simple, wholesome, fresh Irish food that has travelled as short a distance as possible to reach the plates of their happy customers.

Serves 6/8

1 leg of mutton – around 2 ½ kg (5lbs 18oz)

300 ml (10fl oz /½ pint) of chicken stock (use low- salt bouillon if necessary),

enough water to cover mutton in the pot

bay leaves, onions, carrots and leeks (2 of each should do) (vegetables are used for flavouring the stock- discard after cooking)

Put all of the ingredients for the mutton into a large enough pot and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 1 ½ – 1 ¼ hours. While the mutton is cooking you can get on with making the caper sauce – which can be kept warm until serving.

Caper Sauce

50g (2oz) butter

50g (2oz) plain flour


capers to taste (Kay Harte uses lots) optional:

a teaspoon of English mustard or a little anchovy is lovely.

Melt the butter (over a medium heat), then add the flour (classic Roux base). Stirring continuously, add 300ml (10floz / ½ pint) of heated milk and 300ml (10floz / ½ pint) of stock from the mutton pot. When bubbling, add in good quality roughly chopped capers and chopped parsley. Add in a drop of cream (mustard or anchovy if using), and season to taste. Remove from heat and keep warm until serving. Slice the mutton – and serve with caper sauce and steamed golden wonder potatoes in their jackets. Some fresh parsley looks lovely to finish.

Builín Blasta Café Chocolate & Beetroot Brownie

The beetroot can be added raw, all you need to do is peel and grate it but J-Me Peaker finds the outcome nicer if the fresh beetroot is cooked and grated. “The texture is soft and the flavour is fantastic.”

Makes 12  

185g (6 ½ oz) dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids

185g (6 ½ oz) butter

3 free-range eggs

440g (15 ½ oz) sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

155g (5 ¼ oz) white flour 300g (10 ½ oz) raw beetroot finely grated

8 inch round oven dish lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Mark 3. Melt the chocolate & butter in a Pyrex bowl over a pot of lightly simmering water. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract – not too much, just give them a little beat to combine. Pour this into the melted chocolate and fold.  Add the flour and then the beetroot.  Pour in the brownie batter into the prepared tin. Bake for 45 minutes, cool, then cut into 10-12 pieces. Serve with lightly whipped cream. Enjoy! 


Midleton Farmer’s Market – Don’t miss the great new ‘Ms. Hederman’s’ stall piled high with irrisistible sweet puddings, pastries and petit fours…Try her chocolate and chestnut rum pots or the lemon creams, yummy. Every Saturday 9.30am to 2pm. Facebook: The Ms Hederman’s – 0868213984

Time to order your turkey or goose for Christmas – I’ll be looking for a bronze turkey this year. The Good Food Ireland website has a list of suppliers  You can also order Christmas geese and turkeys from Nora Aherne 021 4632354.

Darina Allen’s Cookbook of the Week – Tapas by Elisabeth Luard – A brilliant little book on Tapas by one of my favourite cookery writers of all time Elisabeth Luard. Elisabeth has been living in Spain for fifteen years and her seemingly effortless style of writing and understanding of the way in which ordinary people’s cooking reflects their history, culture and everyday life, makes her one of the most individual and distinctive food writers of all time. Tapas are the wonderfully tempting little dishes of food that are traditionally served with sherry in southern Spain. Beautifully simple, tantalisingly delicious and easy to prepare, they are perfect for all kinds of occasions. Perfect to nibble with drinks or a little selection makes an irresistible starter. Tapas are about brilliant ingredients; Elisabeth gives suggestions for tapas for different seasons and occasions. Published by Grub Street Press.

Artisan Brewing in Ireland

The whole artisan beer scene is going into orbit in Ireland. At present there are 14 or 15 craft brewers and the public, bored with the usual offerings, can’t get enough of it. These beers are incredibly diverse, some with citrus notes, others with a distinct hint of chocolate or bitter caramel. Just like the farmhouse cheeses, I always imagine that they reflect the personality of the brewers, eclectic feisty hand made beers with real character and flavour.

With an alcohol content of between 4 and 6 percent many are best drunk with food or enjoyed leisurely as you read the daily newspapers.

At one time in Ireland we had a vibrant regional beer industry with each town or country proud to drink their own beer. Our local brew, Perrys Ale was made in Rathdowney in Co Laois. Strangman’s Brewery in Waterford made a light beer with was enjoyed by the pupils at Newtown School in Waterford until it became quite the wrong thing for Quakers to have anything to do with beer! The tradition died out in the 20th Century as the larger brewers grew at expense of the independent brewers.

This week as part of the 12 week Certificate Course students school tour we visited the 8 Degree Brewery in Mitchelstown. There we found ‘two cocky foreign guys’ as Cameron Wallace from Australia and Scott Baigent from New Zealand describe themselves, having lots of fun making beer and jolly good it is too.

They were both lured to Ireland by their Irish wives. Scott, an ex-engineer is married to a past Ballymaloe Cookery School student and well known blogger, Caroline Hennessy – see

Cameron Wallace is an ex accountant, both were perplexed at the lack of choice on the beer scene in Ireland. As they travelled they did lots of research and eventually decided that brewing appealed to both of them, lots of piping and some paperwork – perfect!

They made a plan, did lots of home brewing, headed off to Germany to The Brewing Institute in Berlin, found a great warehouse outside Mitchelstown and started to brew. They managed to buy some great kit from the well established Carlow Brewery who was up scaling. All they needed was good malting barley, some hop pellets and a spirit of adventure and fun which they have in spades.

Last Easter they launched at the Franciscan Brewery in Cork and have already developed a cult following and are now available in 65 outlets.

So far there are three – Howling Gale, Knockmealdown Porter and Sunburnt Irish Red created for the Red Head Festival at Cronins in Crosshaven.

At a recent Slow Food feast in O’Briens Chop House in Lismore, 8 Degree beer was served side by side with Dungarvan beers made by Cormac O’Dwyer and Tom Dalton with their partners Jen and Claire. We drank little shots of their Blackrock Stout with chef Robbie Krawczyk’s Native oysters and Smoked Blackwater Salmon, a delicious combination.

We also enjoyed crispy pigs tails with sauce Gribiche. And breast of wild wood pigeon on smoked potato purée. Beef ribs from local butcher Michael McGrath were also fantastic and there was bone marrow and tongue fritters for the adventurous – all delicious.

Dan Hegarty who makes that really good cloth bound Hegarty’s cheddar on the family farm in Whitechurch was also with us, to share and regale us with stories of his cheese-making adventure.

Cheese and the artisan beer was a terrific pairing and those who still had a little space tucked into large helpings of Justin’s sloe gin trifle, it’s a wonder we went home at all!


Scampi or Deep-Fried Prawns with Tartare Sauce


Scampi was the ‘must have’ starter of the 60’s and 70’s, utterly delicious when made with fresh prawns, sadly nowadays it is more often a travesty made with inferior soggy frozen prawns.

very fresh Dublin Bay prawns, peeled

beer batter, see below

tartare sauce (see recipe)

Preheat the oil to 180°C/350°F in a deep fry.



Beer Batter


I sometimes dispense with the water and just use beer.

Produces a crisp coating for fish

250g (9 oz/) self raising flour

good pinch of salt

4 fl ozs (110ml) beer Howling Gale or Helvick Gold Blonde Ale

6 – 8 fl ozs (175 – 225ml) cold water

First make the batter; sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in the beer and water.


Just before serving dip the very fresh prawns individually in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with a little bowl of tartare sauce and a segment of lemon.




Tartare Sauce


This classic is great with deep-fried fish, shellfish or fish cakes. Tartare sauce will keep for 5–6 days in a fridge, but omit the parsley and chives if you want to keep it for more than a day or two. A quick tartare sauce can be made by adding the extra ingredients into a homemade mayonnaise at the end.

Serves 8–10

2 organic egg yolks, hardboiled

2 organic egg yolks, raw

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) extra virgin olive oil and 125ml (4fl oz) sunflower oil, mixed together

1 teaspoon capers, chopped

1 teaspoon gherkins, chopped

2 teaspoons chives, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

lemon juice, optional


Take the hardboiled eggs and remove the yolks from the whites. Sieve the hardboiled egg yolks into a bowl and add the raw egg yolks, Dijon mustard and vinegar. Mix well and whisk in the oil drop by drop, increasing the volume as the mixture thickens. When all the oil has been absorbed, add the capers, gherkins, chives and parsley. Roughly chop the hardboiled egg white and fold it gently into the base with salt, freshly ground pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.


Irish Beef and Dungarvan Blackrock Stout Stew


Serves 6-8


In season:


This kind of recipe belongs to the newer tradition of Irish cooking, using some of our best ingredients. It makes a wonderful gutsy stew which tastes even better a day or two later.


900g (2 lbs (900g) lean Irish stewing beef

3 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground pepper and a pinch of cayenne.

2 large onions (10oz/285g) approx.

1 large clove garlic, crushed optional

2 tablespoons tomato puree dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

1 bottle Dungarvan Blackrock Stout (300ml)

lb (225g) carrots cut into chunks


Trim the meat of any fat or gristle, cut into 2 inch (5cm) cubes, toss in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil. Season the flour with salt freshly ground pepper and a pinch or two of cayenne, toss the meat in this mixture.

Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat; brown the meat on all sides. Add the coarsely chopped onion, crushed garlic and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the contents of the pan to a casserole, deglaze the frying pan with some of the stout, bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the caramelised meat juices on the pan, add to the meat with the remaining stout, add the carrots cut into chunks. Stir, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Cover with the lid of the casserole, simmer very gently until the meat is tender – 2-3 hours.

The stew may be cooked on top of the stove or in a low oven 150C/300F/regulo 2. Taste and correct the seasoning. This stew can of course be eaten the moment it is cooked but tastes even better if cooked a day or two ahead. Scatter with lots of chopped parsley and serve with Champ, Colcannon or plain boiled potatoes.




Oyster and Stout Beef Pie



Oysters have an affinity with many Irish ingredients, of which Irish beef is one.

Serves 4

12 oysters, shells removed, juices strained and reserved

2 tablespoons plain flour

salt, freshly ground black pepper

700g/1½lb stewing beef, in 1in cubes

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

1-2 onions, finely chopped

225g/8oz mushrooms, sliced

425ml/15fl.oz Stout – Dungarvan Blackrock or Knockmealdown Porter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

200g/7oz puff pastry

Green salad

Pie Dish

First open the oysters and shake off the excess. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Toss the beef in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan. Once the oil is hot, add the beef to the pan a little at a time and seal. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan as this will only create a stewing process.) Remove the beef from the pan.

Fry the onions and mushrooms until soft and then return the meat to the pan. Add the Dungarvan Blackrock Stout or Knockmealdown Porter, Worcestershire sauce and the oyster juices. Season with salt and pepper. Mix gently, cover and simmer until the meat is tender (about 1½ hours). Remove from the heat, add the oysters, stir gently and allow to cool completely. Preheat the oven to 230ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Grease a deep pie dish. Pour the cold mixture into the pie dish. Cover with the pastry lid, leave a slight overhang around the edge of the dish. Crimp the edges and cut an air vent in the centre of the pastry and decorate with pastry leaves.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4. Bake for a further 30 minutes until the meat is heated through and pastry cooked.

Serve with a green salad.




Knockmealdown Porter Cake


The porter, be it Guinness or Murphy, plumps up the fruit and gives it a very distinctive taste. If you can manage to hide it away, this cake keeps really well. Serves about 20

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) golden caster sugar

300ml (1⁄2 pint) Knockmealdown Porter

zest of 1 orange

225g (8oz) sultanas

225g (8oz) raisins

110g (4oz) mixed peel

450g (1lb) white flour

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons mixed spice

110g (4oz) cherries, halved

3 organic eggs

23cm (9in) round tin, lined with silicone paper

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

Melt the butter, caster sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and the fruit and peel (except the cherries). Bring the mixture to the boil for 3–4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and leave to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Add the fruit mixture to the flour and add the cherries. Whisk the eggs; add them gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you wish, when the cake is cooked, you can pour 4 tablespoons of stout over it. Keep for 2–3 days before cutting.



Slow Food East Cork event – Spectacular Cakes for Christmas

with Pamela Black at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday November 16th at 7.00pm. Lots of special techniques and decorating tips. Slow Food Members €35.00 – Non Slow Food Members €40.00 Proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Booking Essential on 021 4646785 or

The Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize

in conjunction with the Moth Magazine – entries close on 31st December 2011 so stir up those creative juices to pen a winning poem – the first prize is €2,000.00…

The competition is open to everyone, and will be judged by Matthew Sweeney, whose most recent collection was shortlisted for The Irish Times/Poetry Now Award and the T. S. Eliot Prize. Go to for details on how to enter.

Farmhouse Cheeses of Ireland – A Celebration by Glynn Anderson and John McLaughlin

– Ireland Farmhouse Cheeses win top prizes in cheese shows all over the world yet many of us are hard pressed to name more than 4 or 5. There are over 60 to choose from – cow, goat, sheep and buffalo milk cheeses from all four corners of the island – at last a book to catalogue and celebrate the achievement of Farmhouse Cheese- makers who have helped to change and enhance the image of Irish Food both at home and abroad. Published by The Collins Press




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