ArchiveDecember 2011

Soneva Fushi – Maldives

Soneva Fushi in the Maldives – by Darina Allen

For me the word ‘resort’ immediately rings alarm bells – not my kind of holiday. So when I was invited to cook a Slow Food dinner and give a cookery class in exchange for a few days holiday on a remote island resort in the Maldives called Soneva Fushi, I was a bit ‘iffy’. The name meant nothing to me but when I mentioned it in passing to a well travelled friend he was adamant that this was not an opportunity to pass up – after all it was chosen as Resort of the Year and Best Island Retreat 2010 By Conde Nast Traveller!

One can fly directly from Gatwick to Malé, an easy 10 hour flight.
From there, it’s a thrilling thirty minute hop on a sea plane to the tiny pontoon in the sea rather grandly named Soneva Fushi International Airport.

This flight was possibly the most spectacular I’ve ever encountered, flying over miles of atolls, reefs and lagoons, surrounded by azure blue water, breathtakingly beautiful and almost surreal.

Another few minutes by motor boat and we were there but not before our shoes had been confiscated, everyone walks bare foot on the island! It looked utterly beautiful, just like those tempting travel ads on TV except it is very real. A tiny palm fringed island with white sandy beaches that slope gently into the clear blue sea. The villas are all tucked between the trees towards the surrounding lagoon. Soneva Fushi remoteness is central to its charm, the ultimate in barefoot sophistication and large enough not to be bored yet small enough to get round easily – the island is just one and half kilometres in length and half a kilometre wide. All the villas had bikes so we could pedal along the sandy paths around the island. It only takes a few minutes to cycle to the Turtle beach, the Dive centre or the Six Senses Spa. Cycling my bike under the jungle canopy with my hair billowing in the breeze was so exhilarating, I felt as though I was eighteen again! Soneva Fushi has a strong environment policy, with a resident permaculturalist and a resident marine biologist who is deeply knowledgeable about the coral reefs and totally passionate about sustainable fishing. Her name was Kate, and I have a soft spot for her because she took me snorkelling for the first time at sixty two years of age. I was sure I was a lost cause , because I’m a particularly ‘scardy’ swimmer, but lovely Kate was undaunted – she trussed me up in a life jacket, showed me how to spit on  the goggles to keep the lens clear and launched me gently off the wooden steps of Bar (a) Bara. It was SO amazing, like swimming in an aquarium of exotic tropical fish, you can’t imagine the courage it took but now I wish I’d started forty years ago. The other highlight of our visit was meeting permaculturalist Mark Garret. He spent ages showing us around the organic vegetable and fruit gardens and explaining the principals of this totally logical sustainable system of agriculture – permaculture.

The owners of Soneva Fushi, Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, are completely committed to creating an interconnected holistic system and they are well on their way to doing just that. Growing vegetables in the tropics has its challenges, not just water; the soil here is highly acidic and lacking in nitrogen so Mark and his team of local gardeners are gradually introducing the missing elements through nitrogen fixing plants and compost. Mark has introduced a 21 day Berkley composting system which is proving to be highly successful and uses the available waste material from the island- leaves, paper, cardboard, coffee grinds… Priyantha Gallege also grows both shitake and oyster mushrooms very successfully in

Saw-dust, dolomite, magnesium sulphate, red rice husk and soy bean powder mixture.
 I’m looking forward to replicating his experiments here in Shanagarry.
So how about the food? Well there was was lots of it and in true resort style a myriad of choices so it didn’t really matter how ‘picky’ an eater you are, there are many delicious options for everyone. For me some of the highlights were the sublime fresh fruit on the breakfast buffet I think I can truly say that no where else in the entire world have I found such an amazing selection of beautifully ripe fruit, mangoes and papayas at the peak of perfection, lychees, rambutans, mangosteens, guavas, chermoyas, pineapples, pomegranates, three different varieties of bananas and melons…There were also chunks of fresh coconut straight out of the shell and foamy freshly squeezed juices. This area was Sirisene’s pride and joy. He rose at 4 am each morning to have his delectable array ready for guests. The cheese and cured meat and salami room was another surprise, a temperature controlled space with marble and glass shelves to display a variety of cheese and cured meats in beautiful condition, not easy at the best of times but a truly remarkable achievement in a tropical environment. Once again this was the pride and joy of another local chap with the biggest smile called Ravi Jayawardene He knew all about the cheeses, where they came from and was delighted to share his passion.

All the breads, desserts, ice creams and sorbets were also freshly made every day and were to be found in the Eversoneva room again at the edge of the eating area. Stephen Wheeler from the UK is the ‘big boss’ who coordinates all these eating options, there are forty chefs. He and his team were so welcoming and supportive. I had great fun cooking with his boys both in the Fresh in the Garden restaurant and the main kitchen. It was fantastic to have such lovely ingredients to cook with, some directly from the organic vegetable gardens. We stayed in the littlest villa – thatched and perfect for two but there are many options – the very essence of a castaway’s fantasy. Thirty three villas have private pools and the larger Jungle Reserve and Retreats incorporate the very first Maldives tree houses. I was so delighted to be able to just chill in my ‘lounger’ to just read a book or watch the sunset. Sporty types can do some serious or gentle diving from the Padi dive centre and course snorkelling – the sea is deliciously warm.

Several times a week there’s a film in the open air Paradiso cinema under the stars, or you can climb up to the observatory for an astronomy session. And then there’s the Six Senses Spa – names by Conde Nast Traveller as the Best Overseas Spa 2006 – seriously pampering.

For me who arrived as a serious sceptic, Soneva Fushi really worked its magic and I find myself wondering how soon I can return – for me it was a perfect place to relax one can choose to be reclusive or gregarious – there is no forced fraternisation which can be an excruciating element of some resorts. It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the island but this seems to be a perennial problem for guests, almost everyone we met had been before and several people for the eighth time!

I feel this place has an intangible kind of magic that is hard to describe, the ultimate in barefoot luxury and you get your shoes back at the end!


What does it cost?
A seven night stay at Suneva Fushi can cost from USD 8250.00 for a double room with gorgeous sea views, private outdoor sitting area, private garden, it’s like a little luxurious home away from home. Do enquire about special package deals.

How to Get There
British Airways fly from Heathrow, Stanstead and Gatwick to Malé International Airport three times a week.
Maldavian Air Taxi fly at regular intervals. Soneva Fushi also has a private sea plane.
Soneva Fushi by Six Senses
Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Republic of Maldives
Tel: +960 660 0304, Fax: +960 660 0374
Places of Interest
There are lots of islands close by to explore and picnic on.

Holiday Cooking

Everyone is still in holiday mood this week, the kids are still off school, lots of opportunity to have fun, go for long walks, point to point…

If you have the strength there are terrific sales and bargains to be had in all the departments including Christmas treats – nothing like fresh air to whip up an appetite, so this could be the week to cook together and get the kids and teens peeling, chopping and mixing as well.

Jerusalem artichokes are in season now, a brilliant winter vegetable, with the highest inulin content of any vegetable. They are particularly valuable if you’ve been on a course of antibiotics which will whack the good bacteria in your system as well as the baddies, you’ll need to rebuild your beneficial gut flora and nothing will do the job faster than Jerusalem artichokes and delicious they are too. They look like knobbly potatoes and provide lots of fun peeling. Here’s the most delicious recipe for soup but they are also fantastically good thickly sliced and then roasted after they’ve been tossed in extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast them at about 200°C/400°F/Mark 6. When they have caramelised on one side, flip them over and continue to cook. Great as a vegetable or an accompaniment to fish, meat, or game but really gorgeous mixed with rocket leaves and roasted hazelnuts as a starter. How about a fine pot of stew made with shoulder of lamb or shin of beef. Let it bubble away slowly in the oven while you enjoy a long walk in the winter frost or sunshine.

A few floury Ballycotton Queens or a bowl of Champ would round off a perfect lunch or supper.

Everyone loves bread and butter pudding – we do a ton of varieties on this recipe, I’ll make a Seville orange marmalade version in a few weeks just as soon as I’ve made my marmalade, but the original is impossible to beat – loved by young and old.

The apple fritters are a quickie and the kids will love making them too – they cook into funny shapes with crispy edges that can be interpreted as little monsters or ghouls. Toss them in cinnamon sugar – Green Saffron has beautiful fresh cinnamon.


Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Avocado and Hazelnut Salsa


Serves 8-10

Jerusalem artichokes are a sadly neglected winter vegetable. They look like knobbly potatoes and are a nuisance to peel, but if they are very fresh you can sometimes get away with just giving them a good scrub. Not only are they a smashing vegetable but they are also delicious in soups and gratins. They are a real gem from the gardeners point of view because the foliage grows into a hedge and provides shelter and cover for both compost heaps and pheasants! For a simple family meal omit the avocado and hazelnuts.

50g (2oz) butter

560g (1 1/4 lb) onions, peeled and chopped

1.15kg (2 1/2 lbs) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed, peeled and chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) creamy milk approx.




Avocado and Roast Hazelnut Salsa



1 ripe avocado, halved, stone removed, peeled and diced into neat scant 1 cm dice

3 tablespoons of hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons of hazelnut or olive oil

1 tablespoon of chopped flat parsley

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients for the avocado and hazelnut garnish. Taste and correct seasoning. This mixture will sit quite happily in your fridge for an hour as the oil coating the avocado will prevent it from discolouring.


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the onions and artichokes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover and sweat gently for 10 minutes approx. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Liquidise and return to the heat. Thin to the required flavour and consistency with creamy milk, and adjust the seasoning.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen. Garnish with chopped parsley and crisp, golden croutons. 


Lamb Stew with Bacon, Onions and Garden Herbs



Serves 4-6

A big pot of bubbly strew makes the most comforting supper on a cold January day

If you’d rather not cover the top with peeled potatoes serve champ or colcannon separately. Let me tell you they smack their lips in France at the mere mention of a great big bubbling stew and now these gutsy, comforting pots are appearing on many of the smartest restaurant menus.


4 lb (1.8kg) gigot or rack chops from the shoulder of lamb not less than 2.5cm (1 inch thick)

12 ozs (350g) green streaky bacon (blanch if salty)

seasoned white flour, preferably unbleached

a little butter or oil for sautéing

1 lb (450g) onions, (baby ones are nicest)

12 ozs (350g) carrot, peeled and thickly sliced

1 3/4 pints (750ml) approx. lamb or chicken stock

8-12 ‘old’ potatoes (optional)

sprig of thyme

roux – (optional) Mushroom a la Crème (optional)



2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley


Cut the rind off bacon and cut into approx. 1/2 inch (1cm) cubes blanch if salty and dry in kitchen paper. Divide the lamb into 8 pieces and roll in seasoned flour. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and sauté the bacon until crisp, remove and put in a casserole. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté until golden then add to the bacon in the casserole. Heat control is crucial here, the pan mustn’t burn yet it must be hot enough to sauté the lamb. If it is cool the lamb will stew rather than sauté and as a result the meat may be tough. Then quickly sauté the onions and carrots, adding a little butter if necessary, and put them into the casserole. Degrease the sauté pan and deglaze with the stock, bring to the boil, pour over the lamb.


Cover the top of the stew with peeled potatoes (if using) and season well. Add a sprig of thyme and bring to simmering point on top of the stove, cover the pot and then put into the oven for 45-60 minutes, 180C/350F/regulo 4. Cooking time depends on how long the lamb was sautéed for.


When the casserole is just cooked, strain off the cooking liquid, degrease and return degreased liquid to the casserole and bring to the boil. Thicken with a little roux if necessary. Add back in the meat, carrots, onions and potatoes, bring back to the boil.

The casserole is very good served at this point, but it’s even more delicious if some Mushroom a la Crème is stirred in as an enrichment. Serve bubbling hot sprinkled with chopped parsley.



Colcannon is another traditional mashed potato dish like champ, but with kale or cabbage instead of spring onions. For another variation try mashed parsnips, a delightful addition. Kale is in season at present, it’s a magic vegetable the most nutritious of all the brassicas.

Serves about 8

450g (1lb) Savoy cabbage or kale (kale is the most traditional)

1.3kg (3lb) ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

about 225ml (8fl oz) milk

salt and freshly ground pepper

50g (2oz) butter

Scrub the potatoes, put them in a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are half-cooked after about 15 minutes, strain off two-thirds of the water, replace the lid on the saucepan and put onto a gentle heat, leaving the potatoes to steam until they are cooked.

Meanwhile, if using cabbage, remove the dark outer leaves, wash the remainder, cut it into quarters, remove the core and cut finely across the grain. Boil in a little boiling water or bacon cooking water until soft. Drain and season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter.

When the potatoes are just cooked, put the milk and the finely chopped shallots into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pull the peel off the potatoes and discard. Mash the potatoes quickly, while they are still warm, and beat in enough boiling milk to make a fluffy purée. (If you have a large quantity, put the potatoes in the bowl of a food mixer and beat with the spade.) Then stir in the cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. For perfection, serve immediately in a hot dish with a lump of butter melting in the centre.

Colcannon may be prepared ahead up to this point and reheated later in a moderate oven 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4, for 20–25 minutes. Cover while reheating so it doesn’t get too crusty on top. 


Bread and Butter Pudding


This is one of the older nursery puddings that has enjoyed a terrific revival, but initially it was just a way of recycling old bread, made with just milk and a scattering of dried fruit. It was something that you ate but didn’t necessarily relish. But there’s nothing frugal about this recipe – it’s got lots of fruit in it and a generous proportion of cream to milk. When people taste it, they just go ‘Wow!’ I know it has a lot of cream in it, but don’t skimp – just don’t eat it every day! We play around with this formula and continue to come up with more and more delicious combinations, depending on what’s in season and what we have around; see below for some of them.



Serves 6-8



12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed

50g (2oz) butter, preferably unsalted

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice

200g (7oz) plump raisins or sultanas

450ml (16fl oz) cream

225ml (8fl oz) milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

175g (6oz) sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling

pinch of salt

1 x 20.5cm (8 inch) square pottery or china dish

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the spice and half the raisins, then arrange another

layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, again, buttered side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

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

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream.


This bread and butter pudding reheats perfectly.

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using

• Barmbrack as a base – add mixed spice or cinnamon.

• Pannettone – proceed as above.

• Brioche – proceed as above or use apricot jam and lace with apricot


• Rhubarb or gooseberry and elderflower compote (see recipe) or spiced apple purée may also be used.



Apple Fritters with Cinnamon Sugar


Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadn’t had these for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan.

Serves 6–8

110g (4oz) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz) milk

good-quality vegetable oil, for frying

450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

225g (4oz) caster sugar

1 x teaspoon cinnamon powder

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1⁄4in). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar mixed with cinnamon. Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.


Nana Peg’s Meat Pie


Serves 6 approximately

10 ozs (275 g) plain flour

6 ozs (175 g) butter

1 onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 pint (500 ml) beef stock

2 lbs (900 g) round steak

salt and pepper

Oven proof dish 12 x 9 inches (30.5cm x 23 cm)

Preheat the oven 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6

Mix the flour with ¼ tsp of salt and pepper. Cut the butter into cubes and mix into the flour. Don’t over mix just enough so that you can still see the butter cubes. Add enough water to the flour and butter mix to make dough, and then knead lightly. Wrap pastry in cling film and put into the fridge too chill for 15 minutes.

Cut the steak into ½ inch cubes and roll in seasoned flour then put them into the oven proof dish. Put the chopped onions and carrots over the meat. Pour the beef stock over the meat and vegetables, not above the level of the meat. Take out the pastry and then roll in out to fit the dish, then lay it over the meat and have some pastry left over so that you can roll it and put around the side. Put into the preheated oven and after 10 minutes take it out and cover with tin foil, reduce the temperature to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 and cook for approximately 1 hour. Take the meat pie out of the oven and remove the tin foil, put back into the oven for approximately 10 minutes to brown.


Rapeseed Oil – Kitty Colchester brought me a delivery of Second Nature Rape Seed Oil freshly pressed last Monday from Drumeen Farm in Urlington Co Kilkenny the oldest existing organic farm in Ireland.

This is the week to make marmalade – take advantage of the extra help around the house and have chop and gossip session, the marmalade will be made in no time and they can all boast that they made it and will have the skills for life. I find the peel of organic marmalade oranges softens better. Cathriona Daunt sells organic Seville oranges – 0863623918.

Declan Ryan continues to expand his wheat flour range of artisan breads, we love the medieval loaf packed full of nuts and fruit with an Irish Farmhouse Cheese like Ardsallagh goats cheese, the perfect gift for a foodie friend.

Remember what milk used to take like before it was homogenized as well as pasteurised? Every Thursday the queue is getting longer at Mahon Point Farmers Market for beautiful Glenilen milk, freshly from the farm, pasteurised and sold in glass bottles. The cream rises to the top and is a forgotten flavour – almost as good as having your own cow – while you are there pick up some homemade butter, a couple of yogurts and some real cream – this is what real Irish produce is about –

Using Up Christmas Leftovers

I love using up leftovers – turning odds and ends of this and that into something tasty and delicious. It’s a skill I learned early in life – Mummy could always whip up something delicious from a few miscellaneous ingredients and a bit of imagination.

So let’s see what’s in the fridge and the pantry after Christmas. Every scrap of left over turkey has been salvaged to make turkey sandwiches but there’s still the carcass which makes the best broth of all, add a couple of onions, a few stalks of celery, some thick chunks of carrot, maybe the green leek tops and a few peppercorns. Cover with cold water and simmer it gently for a few hours to tease out the delicious flavour. If your family and friends can’t be bothered, offer to take theirs too and if necessary freeze until you have the time to make a gorgeous pot of turkey broth.

Left over goose or duck is delicious in a salad with red cabbage and apples and maybe a few lentils or turn it into a shepherd’s pie with a crisp potato or potato and celeriac topping. Ham of course, can be used in a myriad of ways – even little scraps can be used in an omelette, in pasta sauces or a frittata. Left over cranberry sauce will keep for weeks, try it with goat cheese or a filling for a meringue roulade or add it to scones with some orange zest. Left over plum pudding will keep for weeks, just cover it and when the humour takes you, cut it into thick slices and fry it gently in butter and top it with a dollop of whiskey cream or Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce. It’ll taste almost better than the original. Check out the Midleton Farmers Market website to discover what new and exciting local foods are on the stalls this week.

Brussels sprouts make delicious salads; even the outer leaves make a tasty bright green soup. Try slicing or shredding them thinly, toss in a little sizzling butter and extra virgin olive oil with a little diced chorizo and some diced cooked potato, add a sprinkling of parsley, some thyme leaves and salt and freshly ground black pepper and you will be surprised how delicious and fulfilling it is.

Marrons glacé also keep for ages but if you would like a quick pudding, eat them in the Italian way with Chantilly cream and crystallized violets – delicious.

Smoked salmon trimmings are equally versatile, even a little can be whizzed up with some butter and a few drops of lemon juice to slather on toast – packed into pots this mixture will keep for several weeks. Mulled wine reheats well but left-over wine also make toothsome granita or a jelly – you will need to dilute it with water, otherwise it will be too concentrated – 3 teaspoons of gelatine added to 1 pint of liquid, a little cinnamon added to the softly whipped cream is a nice touch.

Left over mincemeat has a thousand uses, it keeps for ages so there’s no great urgency (the Ballymaloe mincemeat recipe keeps for well over 2 years) but you might like to try this Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart our favourite new thing.


Turkey Stock or Broth


Keep your turkey carcass to make a stock that may be used as the basis of a delicious soup or in St Stephen’s Day pie. This is definitely the best-flavoured stock of all and it can be made in the same way as the chicken stock. I’m always discouraging my friends from making this so that they give me their turkey carcasses!

Stock will keep for several days in the refrigerator. If you want to keep it for longer, boil it up again for 5–6 minutes every couple of days; allow it to get cold and refrigerate again. Stock also freezes perfectly. For cheap containers, use large yogurt cartons or plastic milk bottles, then you can cut them away from the frozen stock without a conscience if you need to defrost it in a hurry! Makes about 3.5 litres (6 pints)

2–3 raw or cooked turkey carcasses or a mixture of both giblets from the turkey (neck, heart, gizzard – save the liver for pate)

2-3 onions, sliced

2-3 leeks, green part

4 outside celery stalks or 2 lovage leaves

2-3 carrots cut into chunks

a nice bunch of parsley stalks

2-3 sprigs of thyme

10 peppercorns

Chop up the carcasses as much as possible with the giblets. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about 3.4 litres (7 pints) cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim the fat off the top with a tablespoon. Simmer for 3–4 hours. Strain and remove any remaining fat. Do not add salt. For a simple bowl of turkey broth add a little julienne of carrot and leek and fresh beans and a scattering of fresh parsley leaves.


Potted Smoked Salmon




This is a delicious way to use up smoked salmon trimmings.




Smoked salmon trimmings


Softened butter, unsalted


Hot toast




Remove any skin or bones from the fish. Weigh the flesh. Add three quarters the weight in butter. Blend to a smooth puree. Fill into pots and run clarified butter over the top. Spread on hot toast and serve.




Turkey, Tomato and Chickpea Stew


Serves 6

1 tablespoon mustard seed

3 onions chopped

1 tsp freshly grated fresh ginger

1-2 red chillies, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

8 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper


2 x 400g (14oz) tins chickpeas

500g (18oz) cooked turkey, diced

250g (9oz) cooked ham, diced

lots of fresh coriander

Salsa Verde – see recipe


Salsa Verde


This green salsa is very good served with beef, lamb, and pork and also oily fish, like salmon and mackerel. It keeps for several weeks in the fridge.

1 bunch of rocket, mint, tarragon and flat parsley

1 tablespoon of capers

2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a smooth paste

8 anchovies, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

8floz olive oil

zest of 1 lemon

black pepper

Maldon Sea salt to taste

Chop the herbs and mix with the other ingredients. Taste and correct seasoning. Store in a covered container in the fridge or freeze.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan over a medium heat, add the mustard seeds, cook for a minute or two until they pop, add the onion, toss and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and continue to fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Increase the heat add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar and continue to cook for 6-10 minutes. Add the chickpeas, turkey and ham. Stir and let it bubble for 5 minutes. Add lots of fresh coriander. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Pour into a hot serving bowl. Serve in deep wide soup plates, drizzled with Salsa Verde. Garnish with sliced chilli and coriander leaves. Eat with naan or another flat bread and a bowl of yoghurt.


Frittata with Ham and Mushrooms



Serves 6-8


A frittata, the Italian omelet, is a brilliant recipe to have in your repertoire, doesn’t matter how many hungry lads arrive in, looking expectant, just look in the fridge and add whatever delicious little left over you can find.


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

a mixture of the above two cheeses or other leftover cheese

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons basil or marjoram chopped

225g (8oz)diced cooked ham

110g (4oz) sliced and sautéed mushrooms


450g (1lb) sliced leeks, sweated in a little olive oil or butter



To Serve


Rocket leaves

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

Non-stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan


Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Mark 3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese, ham, mushrooms or leeks into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes. Then transfer into the oven for 12 – 15 minutes. Remove from the oven; allow to settle for 3 or 4 minutes.

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate.

Serve with a good green salad and maybe some tomato salsa made with cherry tomatoes at this time of the year.


Marrons Glacées with Sweet Cream and Crystallized Violets


By the end of October the cafes and food shops of Turin are selling beautiful new season’s marrons glacées. They are arranged on little gold trays decorated with crystallized violets.

The Italians eat them for dessert on a bed of crème Chantilly. The combination of sweetened vanilla scented cream and marrons glacées with the crunchy crystallized violets is divine.

Look for them in specialist food shops during Christmas and enjoy them the Piedmontese way.


Crème Chantilly


Stiffly whip 300ml (1/2 pint) double cream, fold in 1 tablespoon castor sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence.


Mincemeat and Apple Meringue Tart


Serves 10-12

The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. Use it for a variety of fruit tarts. It can be difficult to handle when its first made and benefits from being chilled for at least an hour. Better still, if rested overnight.



6 oz (175 g) white flour

1 oz (25 g) caster sugar

½ oz 10 g) icing sugar

1 egg, beaten



1 lb (450 g) mincemeat

1½ lbs (700 g) Bramley apples



3 egg whites

6 ozs (175 g) caster sugar


Egg wash


1 x 9 inch (23 cm) deep tart tin


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


First make the pastry in the usual way. Beat the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the egg and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 1 hour otherwise it is difficult to handle.

Bake the tart base blind for about 25 minutes in the preheated oven or until pale and golden, remove the beans and paper.

Brush the prebaked tart shell with a little beaten egg and pop back into the oven for 5-minutes or until almost cooked. Cool. Reduce the temperature to 130ºC/250ºF/gas mark ½.

Peel and core the apples. Cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks. Place in a sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. Put on a very low heat and cook until the apples have broken down 25- 30 minutes approx.

Whisk the egg whites with the caster sugar until it reaches stiff peaks. Spread the apple puree over the cooked pastry base, spoon the mincemeat over the apple. Top with the meringue fluffing into peaks. Return to the oven and cook for 1 hour until the meringue is crisp. Cool on a wire rack and serve with a bowl of softly whipped cream.



Last minute dot com!

Ballymaloe Cookery School will be open today – Christmas Eve – for last minute gift vouchers. Decide on an amount or purchase a cookery course over the phone and we will email you a copy to print and we’ll post the actual voucher to arrive later. 021 4646785 or


Caherbeg Spiced Beef. A piece of spiced beef is a brilliant standby for any time not just Christmas and New Year. There’s lots of good ones but you shouldn’t miss the Caherbeg version which I have just discovered, beautifully balanced and not too spicy. Willie Allshire has been experimenting and I’d wager a bet that this too will be an award winner as well as their puddings – 023 8848474 – Caherbeg, Rosscarbery, West Cork.

Enjoy the Christmas Season to the full then join nutritionists Debbie Shaw and Linn Thortennson for their Wellness Programme in the Fermoy Youth Centre, for 5 Tuesday nights starting January 24th, 2012 to feel healthier and happier and to have more energy.  Tel: 086-3893768, or email: or visit

New Seasons Olive Oil – We have just got a delivery of the first of the New Seasons Tuscan olive oil, Capezzana, Fontodi and Selvapiana extra virgin olive oil ‘to die for’ – the ultimate present for a foodie friend.

Christmas is Coming, the Geese are Getting Fat…

‘Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man’s hat…’so goes the old nursery rhyme so if we are lucky enough to be sitting down to a fine plump goose or turkey this Christmas, let’s give thanks to the Good Lord and Terra Madre and resolve to put our hands in our pockets for Simon or St Vincent de Paul, doesn’t necessarily have to be money – could be food or a few bottles of beer, wine, or lemonade to bring cheer during the festive season.  The delicious, buttery, herby stuffing I’m using here for the turkey would also be delicious in a free range chicken, pheasant or guinea fowl, the accompaniments are interchangeable but a few homemade potato crisps –  called game chips when they are served with game would also be delicious  if non-traditional – served with turkey. Again the stuffing for goose or duck can be interchangeable. Several local farmers, including Tom Clancy in Ballycotton, Robbie Fitzsimmons in East Ferry near Midleton and Eugene and Helena Hickey of Skeaganore in Ballydehob,West Cork rear delicious ducks.

Bramley apple sauce is of-course a delicious foil for the rich goose meat but here I serve it with a simple Seville orange sauce. Don’t forget to save the precious duck or goose fat – it’ll keep for ages in the fridge and produces totally irresistible roast potatoes.

For a starter, smoked and fresh salmon rillettes with dill or ruby grapefruit, with green grapes and pomegranate seeds is light and refreshing. Both can be made ahead, the rillettes several days ahead and the day before for the grapefruit starter.

The sauce for the plum pudding (see my recipe for this in the Examiner Saturday 26th November) keeps for weeks, make more than you need, pop on a label and a ribbon and use the extra jars as presents.

Pick up a nice piece of spiced beef from your butcher, cook it according to the instructions and serve it with some cucumber pickle, slices of avocado and flat leafed parsley, a great standby for salads and sandwiches after Christmas.

Traditional mince pies have a pastry top and bottom and delicious though they are we have had fun doing lots of twists on the original, we sometimes add a teaspoon of Bramley apple puree to each tart, or replace the pastry top with meringue or crumble with flaked almonds – delicious and less filling.

Sticky toffee pudding is another delicious alternative to plum pud – less expensive to make – just watch your family and friends fighting over the last few morsels in the best Christmas spirit! Enjoy and many blessings for 2012.

Rillettes of Salmon and Dill


This is a terrific standby recipe made from a combination of fresh and smoked salmon. It makes a great little starter but can be tarted up in all sorts of ways or simply slathered on hot thin toast or crusty bread for a tasty nibble to accompany a glass of crisp white wine.


The texture of this pate should be coarse and slightly stringy – it should resemble that of pork rillettes, where the meat is torn into shreds with forks rather than blended.  Don’t be spooked if the amount of butter you use – you’re not going to eat it all yourself!


Serves 12-16


350g (3/4 lb) freshly-cooked salmon

350g (3/4 lb) smoked wild or organic Irish salmon

350g (3/4 lb) softened butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 – 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

a good grating of nutmeg

lemon juice to taste


To Cook the Smoked Salmon


25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons water

clarified butter (optional)


Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a small saucepan; add the smoked salmon and 1 tablespoon of water.  Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes or until it no longer looks opaque.  Allow it to get quite cold.


Cream the butter in a bowl.  With two forks, shred the fresh and smoked salmon and mix well together.  Add to the soft butter still using a fork (do not use a food processor).  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, chopped dill or a little freshly grated nutmeg.  Taste and add lemon juice as necessary, and some freshly chopped fennel if you have it.


Serve in individual pots, tiny Kilner jars, in a pottery terrine, on cucumber slices or on grilled bread. Cover with a layer of clarified butter.  Serve with hot toast or hot crusty white bread, a little salad or organic leaves and fresh herbs.  Salmon rillettes will keep perfectly in the refrigerator for 5 or 6 days provided they are sealed with clarified butter.


Salmon Rillettes on Cucumber Slices

2 cucumbers

salmon rillettes as above

Cut the cucumber into 1/4 slices.  Pipe or spoon a blob of pâté onto the cucumber slices.  Garnish with sprigs of chervil and chive or wild garlic flowers.  Arrange 3 on a plate with a little salad in the centre or serve as a canapé.


Salmon Rillettes on Grilled Sour Dough

Toast or char grill a slice of sour dough bread, spread with some rillette mixture. Top with a few tiny rocket leaves and some chive or wild garlic flowers.



Pomelo, Grape, Pomegranate and Ruby Grapefruit Salad


A deliciously refreshing starter before you tuck into the Christmas feast. If you can’t find a Pomelo, the giant of the citrus fruit family then just increase the number of Ruby grapefruit.


Serves 10


1 Pomelo

3 Ruby Grapefruit

30 grapes

1 pomegranate

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

2 tablespoons castor sugar or more if necessary


Peel and carefully segment the pomelo.  The segments are very large so cut into triangular shape pieces across the grain and put into a bowl.  Peel and segment the grapefruit in the same way but leave the segments whole and add to the pomelo.  Peel and pip the grapes and add to the citrus fruit in a bowl. Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator.  Hold it cut side on the palm of your hand, bash the skin side with the bowl of the wooden spoon, this will loosen the seeds from between the membrane, add to the fruit. Sprinkle with sugar and mint. Taste, add more sugar if necessary. Chill before serving in pretty white bowls or glasses with a sprig of mint on top.


Note: Sweeties, Ugli Fruit or ordinary Grapefruit may also be used in this recipe.

This cocktail is also delicious without the pomegranate.



Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing


Serves 10-12



This is my favourite roast stuffed turkey recipe. You may think the stuffing seems dull because it doesn’t include exotic-sounding ingredients like chestnuts and spiced sausage meat, but in fact it is moist and full of the flavour of fresh herbs and the turkey juices.  Cook a chicken in exactly the same way but use one-quarter of the stuffing quantity given.


(4.5-5.4kg) 1 x 10-12lb, free-range and organic, turkey with neck and giblets


Fresh Herb Stuffing

170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

400-500g (14-16ozs) approx. soft breadcrumbs (check that the bread is non GM) (or approximately 1lb 4ozs of gluten-free breadcrumbs)

50g (2oz) freshly chopped herbs eg. parsley, thyme, chives, marjoram, savoury, lemon balm

salt and freshly ground pepper



neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


cranberry sauce

bread sauce



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


Remove the wishbone from the neck end of the turkey, for ease of carving later. Make a turkey stock by covering with cold water the neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone, wingtips, vegetables and bouquet garni. (Keep the liver for smooth turkey liver pate).  Bring to the boil and simmer while the turkey is being prepared and cooked, 3 hours approx.



To make the fresh herb stuffing: Sweat the onions gently in the butter until soft, for 10 minutes approx., then stir in the crumbs, herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to get quite cold.  If necessary wash and dry the cavity of the bird, then season and half-fill with cold stuffing.  Put the remainder of the stuffing into the crop at the neck end. 


Weigh the turkey and calculate the cooking time. Allow 15 minutes approx. per lb and 15 minutes over. Melt the butter and soak a large piece of good quality muslin in the melted butter; cover the turkey completely with the muslin and roast in a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 2 3/4-3 1/4 hours.  There is no need to baste it because of the butter-soaked muslin.  The turkey browns beautifully, but if you like it even browner, remove the muslin 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time.  Alternatively, smear the breast, legs and crop well with soft butter, and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  If the turkey is not covered with butter-soaked muslin then it is a good idea to cover the whole dish with tin foil.  However, your turkey will then be semi-steamed, not roasted in the traditional sense of the word. 


The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.


To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices: they should be clear.  Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.   .


The turkey is done when the juices run clear. To test, prick the thickest part at the base of the thigh and examine the juices, they should be clear. Remove the turkey to a carving dish, keep it warm and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy: Spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting pan. De glaze the pan juices with fat free stock from the giblets and bones. Using a whisk, stir and scrape well to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the roasting pan. Boil it up well, season and thicken with a little roux if you like. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in a hot gravy boat.


If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast

potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.


Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce (for recipes for both of these visit )




Traditional Roast Goose with Seville Orange Sauce


Serves 8-10


1 x free range, Irish goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper


Seville Orange Sauce

2 x organic orange

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine vinegar

5 fl ozs (126ml) red wine

1 pint (600ml) goose, duck or chicken stock (made from the giblets)

8 fl ozs (220ml) Port

1 – 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

salt, pepper and a few drops of lemon juice


4 tblsp Seville orange marmalade

watercress salad – (optional)


To prepare the goose, gut the bird and singe off the pin feathers and down if necessary. Remove the wishbone from the neck end and add to the giblet stock.

Season the cavity of the goose with salt and freshly ground pepper; also rub a little salt into the skin.

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

Roast the goose for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer.

Meanwhile make the sauce – Scrub the orange.  Peel the zest with a swivel top peeler and cut two thirds into fine julienne strips, blanch and refresh.

Boil the sugar and vinegar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over moderately high heat for several minutes until the mixture has turned chestnut brown coloured syrup.  Remove from the heat immediately and pour in 1/4 pint (150ml) of the stock.  Simmer for a minute, stirring to dissolve the caramel. Then add the rest of the stock, port, wine and juice of one orange. Simmer until the sauce is clear and lightly thickened; add the orange liqueur little by little.  Add the blanched orange julienne.  Taste, correct the seasoning and sharpen with lemon juice if necessary, leave aside.  The sauce may be prepared to this point several hours in advance.

When the goose is cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you reheat the orange sauce.

Carve the goose. Serve it with the Seville orange sauce and a watercress salad.



Sticky Toffee Christmas Pudding


A delicious alternative to plum pudding.


Serves 8-10


8 ozs (225g) chopped dates (use block dates)

1/2 pint (300ml) tea

4 ozs (110g) unsalted butter

6 ozs (175g) castor sugar

3 eggs

8 ozs (225g) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon Espresso coffee


Hot Toffee Sauce

4 ozs (110g) butter

6 ozs (175g) dark soft brown,Barbadossugar

4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar

10 ozs (285g) golden syrup

8 fl ozs (225ml) cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


2 pint pudding bowl


8 inch (20.5cm) spring form tin with removable base or a heavy cake tin


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/regulo 4.


Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes.   Brush the cake tin with oil and place oiled greaseproof paper on the base.


Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour.  Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the date and tea and stir this into the mixture.   Turn into the bowl and cover with parchment paper – cook for 1-1 1/2 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. (Alternatively cook in a spring form tin.)


To make the sauce

Put the butter, sugars and golden syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


To Serve

Pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Turn out the sticky toffee pudding, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream.


Hot Tips


Christmas Markets…

Mahon Point Farmers Market has a special Christmas market on Thursday 22nd December of December from 10am to 3pm when the artisan food producers will be joined by crafts people


All-Weather Christmas Markets at the Milk Market Limerick on Saturday, December 17, 2011, 08.00am to 4.00pm and Sunday, December 18, 2011, 11am to 4pm –

Midleton Farmers Market – Christmas Market is on Saturday 24th December – 9.00am to 2.00pm

Douglas Farmers Market – Christmas Market on Saturday 24th December – outsideDouglas Court Shopping


Mary Dowey’s Weekend Wine Course at Ballymaloe House – Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th March 2012 – the perfect gift for a wine. 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


A membership to Slow Food or a subscription to the Food and Wine Magazine would be a really welcome Christmas gift for a foodie friend.




Hand-made for Christmas

More edible presents this week as promised. Several readers gave me a blow by blow account of making their Christmas cake; one complained that the top of her cake had got burnt, even though she had followed the recipe exactly – so upsetting. She hadn’t realised that if one is using a fan-assisted oven the heat is more intense. Consequently it is necessary to reduce the temperature by 10 % or 20 % depending on the brand of oven. Try to find the instruction manual or ask the suppliers. If you have a choice, cook all the cakes and biscuits in a conventional oven which is a less ‘drying heat’. However a fan oven is particularly good for meringues. We’ve been experimenting with lots of flavours of meringues – the super-size ones that our friends at Ottolegnhi in London made famous. A cellophane bag of these with a big bow would be very impressive. Pop a jar of Glenilen clotted cream in too, to complete the delicious gift. Panforte di Siena is a dense Italian cake, solid with nuts and toasted fruit, a gorgeous gift and a terrific standby for when you feel like a little nibble of something rich and fruity. It keeps for months in a tin so even if you forget about it, it will still be surprisingly delicious.

Nougat is also surprisingly easy to make, wrap the homemade bars in cellophane and embellish with hand written labels.

Homemade marshmallow and honeycomb are fantastic fun to make; they fluff up and give you lots of ‘bang for your buck’! A jar of Green & Black organic chocolate powder with a bag of marshmallows makes an inexpensive yet indulgent pressie. Dip some of the honeycomb in chocolate – oh so good, you may have to resist nibbling it yourself. Maybe you could include a recipe for honeycomb ice-cream.

You’ll have egg yolks left over from meringues so how about a few little pots of white chocolate mousse. These need to be made closer to Christmas but will keep covered in the fridge for 5 or 6 days. In Summer I love them with raspberry coulis but a bitter dark chocolate sauce and a kumquat compote is a delicious accompaniment.

Making homemade mustard is serious one-upmanship but in fact it’s much easier to make than biscuits cakes or cookies. Add it to a little hamper with a few jars of relish, pickles and chutney. The perfect gift to accompany and liven up cold meats after Christmas.

Goats cheese preserved in oil and honey with walnuts are a complete doddle to make, add a packet of Gubbeen or Sheridans homemade biscuits and a bottle of Albert i Noya organic wine to the hamper for extra wow factor. The honey would be delicious drizzled over some Blue Cheese – Fermoy Farmhouse Cheese have just started to make a feisty blue – be the first to serve it at your Christmas dinner party– time to get busy – more next week

All recipes taken from ‘Gifts from the Kitchen’ by Annie Rigg published by Kyle Cathie

Pink Raspberry Swirl Meringues

These meringues are big, pillowy sugary treats. Package these large clouds of raspberry swirled meringues in individual boxes lined with paper or in cellophane bags. They are delicious eaten on their own or with a generous spoonful of softly whipped double cream and a handful of fresh raspberries.

Makes 4 – 6 large meringues


300g caster sugar

4–5 large egg whites, weighing 150g

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon red food-colouring paste

2 tablespoons raspberry flavouring, optional

3–4 tablespoons (25g) freeze-dried raspberry crispies


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and line a solid baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment.

Put the sugar into a small roasting tin and heat in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes, or until hot to the touch.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a free-standing electric mixer and whisk until light and foamy. Remove the hot sugar from the oven and turn the temperature down to 110°C/225°F/gas mark 1/4. Quickly tip the sugar on to the egg whites and whisk on medium speed for 8–10 minutes, until the meringue is very stiff, white and cold.

Using a wooden skewer, dot the food colouring and drizzle the raspberry flavouring over the meringue mixture, then scatter over the raspberry crispies. Using a large metal spoon, very lightly fold in, using 3 or 4 strokes of the spoon, so that the meringue is marbled with pink.

Spoon the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet in 4–6 large peaky meringue shapes, and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 11/2–13/4hours, or until crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet.

*Package in pretty boxes or cellophane bags. They will keep for 3 days in an airtight box.


Chock full of nuts, dried fruit and spices – panforte is delicious dusted with icing sugar, cut into small wedges or squares and served after dinner with coffee. Originally from Sienna and although not specifically a festive treat it would certainly make an ideal Christmas present. Annie has suggested making it into two smaller cakes so that you can make two gifts at once.

Makes 2 Cakes

sunflower oil, for greasing

100g (3 ½ oz)blanched almonds

100g (3 ½ oz) blanched hazelnuts

75g (3oz) unsalted shelled pistachios

300g (10 ½ oz) mixed dried fruits, including apricots, candied peel, raisins, figs and medjool dates, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

90g (3 ¾ oz) plain flour

1 rounded tablespoon cocoa

pinch of salt

175g (6oz) clear honey

175g (6oz) caster sugar

icing sugar, to serve


Grease 2 x 18cm round tins and line the base of each with a disc of rice paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Spread the almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast in the preheated oven for about 5–7minutes until lightly golden. Cool slightly, then roughly chop with the pistachios and tip into a large bowl. Add the chopped dried fruit and mix well. In another small bowl, mix together the spices, flour, cocoa and salt. Add to the dried fruit and nuts and mix until thoroughly combined. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Combine the honey and sugar in a medium-sized pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 115°C/240°F on a sugar thermometer.

Remove from the heat, pour into the fruit and nut mixture and mix well. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level.

Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 45–60 minutes, until firm. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin. Run a palette knife around the edge of the tin and carefully ease out the panforte. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

*Stored in an airtight container, panforte will keep for weeks.

Nougat with Cherries and Toasted Marcona Almonds

You could swap the almonds for blanched, toasted hazelnuts and dried figs and cranberries for the cherries and apricots. Make the nougat the day before you plan on eating it so that it has plenty of time to harden and set.

Makes about 20 squares


2 large sheets of rice paper

100g (3 ½ oz) blanched Marcona almonds

50g (2oz) shelled, unsalted pistachios

100g (3 ½ oz) natural coloured glacé cherries

50g (2oz) dried apricots

175g (6oz) clear orange blossom honey

300g (10 ½ oz) caster sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 large egg white

pinch of salt


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 15cm square tin with a depth of 5cm, and line the base and sides with a sheet of rice paper.

Lightly toast the almonds and pistachios in a baking tray in the oven until pale golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, then roughly chop. Cut the cherries in half, tip them into a sieve and rinse under cold running water. Dry well on kitchen paper. Roughly chop the dried apricots.

Place the honey, caster sugar and water in a medium pan. Set the pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat, bring the mixture to the boil, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, until it reaches 164°C/327°F on a sugar thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the egg white with a pinch of salt in a large heatproof bowl until it holds soft peaks – I recommend a free-standing mixer as it will make the process a lot easier. Continue to whisk while adding the hot honey caramel mixture in a steady stream. Keep whisking until the mixture stiffens, thickens and turns pale cream-coloured. Add the nuts and dried fruit and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared tin and spread level. Press another sheet of rice paper on top and set aside to cool.

Once cold, tip the nougat out on to a board and cut into pieces.

*Package in small quantities in transparent cellophane bags. Stored in an airtight container, the nougat will keep for 4–5 days.

Pink and White Vanilla Marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are the stuff of dreams! They are light as pink fluffy clouds, oh-so-sweet and with just a hint of pure vanilla extract. Cut into squares and package into pink- and white-striped bags for a pretty present.

Makes about 30

1 tablespoon icing sugar

1 tablespoon cornflour

2 tablespoons powdered gelatin

400g (14oz) granulated sugar

50g (2oz) golden syrup

2 large egg whites

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pink food colouring paste


Mix the icing sugar and cornflour in a small bowl. Lightly grease a 23cm square tin with a depth of about 5cmwith a little sunflower oil and dust with the icing sugar and cornflour mix, tipping out and reserving the excess.

Measure 6 tablespoons of cold water into another small bowl, sprinkle over the gelatin and set aside.

Tip the sugar into a medium-sized pan, add 250mlwater and the golden syrup and place the pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring the mixture to the boil and continue to cook steadily until the syrup reaches 120°C/250°F on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat, add the sponged gelatin and stir until thoroughly combined and the gelatin has melted.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add a pinch of salt and whisk until the whites hold a stiff peak. Add the vanilla and the hot gelatin syrup in a steady stream and continue to whisk for a further 3–4 minutes, until the mixture will hold a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin in an even layer. Add a tiny amount of pink food colouring paste to the remaining mixture and stir until evenly coloured. Pour the pink marshmallow over the white and leave to set (at least 2 hours).

Once the marshmallow has completely set, dust the work surface or a board with the remaining icing sugar and corn-flour mixture. Carefully tip the marshmallow out on to the prepared board and cut into squares, using a sharp knife. Dust the individual marshmallows before packaging.

* Package in striped paper bags. Stored in an airtight box, the marshmallow will keep for 3 days.


Honeycomb and chocolate – the perfect little stocking filler!

Makes about 20 pieces

300g (10 ½ oz) caster sugar

150g (5oz) golden syrup

pinch of cream of tartar

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

11/2teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

150g (5oz) dark or milk chocolate

Line a 20cm square baking tin with lightly oiled foil. Half fill the sink with cold water and have ready a whisk and the bicarbonate of soda.

Tip the sugar, syrup, cream of tartar and vinegar into a medium-sized, solid-based pan. Add 5 tablespoons water and set the pan over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring the mixture to the boil. Continue to cook until the mixture turns amber-coloured and reaches ‘hard crack’ stage, or 154°C/300°F on a sugar thermometer.

As soon as the caramel reaches the right temperature, remove the pan from the heat and plunge into the sink of cold water to speed up the cooling process. Working quickly, tip the bicarbonate into the caramel and whisk to combine evenly; the mixture will foam up like a mini volcano. Pour into the prepared tin in an even layer and leave to cool.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Turn the honeycomb out of the tin, peel off the foil and break into chunks. Half dip each piece into the melted chocolate. Leave to harden before packaging.

*Stored in an airtight container, it will keep for 2–3 days.

Wholegrain Honey Mustard

Makes 3 Jars

225g (8oz) mixed yellow and brown mustard seeds

1 teaspoon crushed dried chilli flakes

275ml (9fl oz) white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

4 tablespoons clear honey

1 teaspoon sea salt


Mix the mustard seeds, chilli flakes, vinegar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Cover and set aside for at least 12 hours and up to 24.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick from the mustard seeds, add the honey and mix well. Transfer three-quarters of the mixture to either a food processor and blend until lightly crushed or pound the mustard using a pestle and mortar.

Combine with the remaining soaked mustard seeds and season with salt. Spoon into sterilised jars cover and seal before labeling.

*Store for months unopened in a cool, dry cupboard or larder.

Once opened, it will keep for 2–3 months at least in the fridge.



So brilliant to see so many schools pushing out the posts to reconnect children with how food is produced teaching them how to grow and cook – valuable skills for life. Midleton College is a shining example; they have 30 free-range hens, 5 Gloucester Old Spot pigs, a new home economics room and a chef who really cares about cooking food that nourishes the children and a headmaster – Simon Thompson – who inspires them all.Recently they self-published the Midleton College Cookbook with contributions from students and parents past and present. For €15.00 it’s really worth seeking out, there are quite a few gems in it.

Wild Spanish Figs – we got a box of gorgeous wild Spanish figs from Peter Wards Country Choice Shop in Nenagh. What other delicious surprises does he and Mary have in their shop in Nenagh and at the Milk Market in Limerick on Saturday mornings? 25 Kenyon Street, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary 067 32596
Santa arrives at 11.30am at Bandon Farmers Market on the Main Street on Saturday 17th December. The market will be back in it’s usual place in the post office car park for Christmas markets on the 23rd and 24th December from 9:30am to 1:30pm.

Homemade Christmas Presents

Christmas this year is for many people something to be dreaded rather than looked forward to with the usual joy and anticipation.

Everywhere one turns, there are a myriad of reminders of out of reach temptations.

The Christmas lights have been twinkling for several weeks now and this year I saw the first Christmas tree already bedecked with baubles and bows in mid November. There’s an understandable desperation in the retail world as they try to tempt us all to buy but if the money isn’t there, Christmas with all the glamour and glitz turns to torment.

A cook will always welcome a rosemary bush, plant it for remembrance. The aromatic spears can be plucked in every season to flavour lamb, chicken, pork, roast vegetables and jellies and sorbets. Choose a favourite farmhouse cheese and arrange for one to be sent by mail or courier once every 2-3 months. Alternatively choose a little hamper of Irish Farmhouse Cheese from Iago or On the Pig’s Back in the English Market in Cork, Sheridans in Galway or Dublin, or Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh.

A gift token for the Midleton Farmers Market or tempting food and wine shops like Urru in Bandon or The Butlers Pantry inDublin, or one of the Avoca Shops is bound to be a hit.

However, there are many alternative ways to give a present, pledges on homemade little ‘gift vouchers’ cost nothing and give double pleasure, a gift of babysitting, cook dinner for the family, wash the car, walk the dog, Hoover the house…

Gifts that involve your time seem to have a different dimension and meaning plus an extra feel good factor.

Edible presents are also doubly welcome so this week and next, I’ll suggest lots of easy and delicious homemade gifts to charm your family and friends – not just fancy bottles that can sometimes sit on a kitchen shelf for years.  A few cartons of frozen homemade soup, a tagine or a gorgeous pot of comforting stew will be welcomed with open arms and greatly enjoyed at a later stage. So it doesn’t have to be fancy just delicious and after all the way to everyone’s heart is through their tummy at Christmas and throughout the year.


Winter Root Vegetable Soup

A mixture of carrot and parsnip would also make a delicious soup if you can’t find celeriac andJerusalemartichokes. Easy, cool and fill into the carton, cover and freeze and label.



Serves 12 approx.



125g/ 4½oz celeriac

250g/9oz parsnips


or whatever combination of vegetables you fancy or have to hand.

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) carrots, preferably organic, chopped

90g (3oz) butter

225g (8oz) onion, chopped

275g (10oz) potatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

sprig of spearmint

2.4L (4 pints) homemade light chicken or vegetable stock

124ml (5 fl ozs) creamy milk, (optional)

6 teaspoons freshly chopped spearmint

1 teaspoon thyme leaves



a little lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche

parsley springs


Melt the butter and when it foams add the peeled and chopped vegetables, season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add thyme leaves, cover with a butter paper (to retain the steam) and a place with a tight fitting lid. Leave to sweat gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes approx. Remove the lid, add the boiling stock and cook until the vegetables are soft, alternatively add 3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Alternatively, puree the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little creamy milk if necessary.

If serving immediately, garnish with a swirl of lightly whipped cream or crème frâiche and some parsley sprigs.



Tagine of Lamb with Preserved Lemon


Any tagine, stew or casserole can be make in large quantities and gifted in portions for 1 to 2 people – easily defrosted and enjoyed. Don’t forget to add reheating and serving instructions to your label.


Serves 6


1.35kg (3 lbs) boned shoulder of lamb

scant 1 dessertspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

generous pinch saffron

50g (2ozs) unsalted butter

2 onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped


175g (6ozs) raisins, soaked in water and drained

2 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons chopped coriander


1 tablespoon oil

50g (2ozs) flaked almonds

1 preserved lemon (half if large) optional

fresh coriander leaves

natural yoghurt


Trim the lamb, discarding excess fat. Cut into 1 1/2 inch (4cm) cubes. Mix cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron with 4 tablespoons water. Toss the lamb in this mixture. If you have time, leave to marinade for up to 24 hours.


Melt the butter in a wide pan. Add the lamb, onions, garlic, salt and enough water to come half way up the meat. Bring up to the boil, cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about an hour, turning the lamb occasionally until the meat is meltingly tender. Add the drained raisins, honey and half the coriander. Continue simmering for a further 30 minutes or so, uncovered until the sauce is thick and unctuous. Taste and adjust seasoning.


While the tagine is cooking, scoop out the flesh out of a preserved lemon, chop up the peel.  Fry the almonds in the oil until almost golden brown. Then add the diced lemon and toss 2 or 3 times. Drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle preserved lemon, almonds and remaining coriander over the lamb just before serving. Natural yoghurt makes a delicious accompaniment.

Note: No need to serve any vegetable, but a green salad would be a delicious


Beetroot and Ginger Relish


This sweet sour relish is particularly good with cold meats and coarse country terrines and keeps for ages, pretty labels and ribbons and maybe a sprig of holly will make it all the more festive.


1 1/2 ozs (45g) butter

8 ozs (225g) onion, chopped

3 tablespoons sugar

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb (450g) raw beetroot, peeled and grated

1 fl oz (25ml) sherry vinegar

4 fl ozs (120ml) red wine

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger


Sweat the onions slowly in butter, they should be very soft, add sugar and seasoning and allow to brown slightly.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook gently for 30 minutes.  Serve cold.


This relish keeps for ages.


Janie’s Green Tomato Jam


If you or some of your friends still have some green tomatoes, this is a completely delicious jam which can be used for sweet or savoury dishes. Delicious with cold meats and pâte.  We use the green fruit for chutneys for predictable things like fried green tomatoes and chutneys.


Makes 2 small jars


500g (18oz) green tomatoes

450ml (16fl oz) water

300g (11oz) granulated sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon


Wash and slice the tomatoes (no need to peel), and place in a large pan with the water. Bring to the boil then simmer covered for 50-60 minutes until tender. Add remaining ingredients over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.


Boil rapidly for 10 –12 minutes or until setting point is reached.



Blood Plum and Apple Chutney

Particularly delicious with cold ham, pot in small jars.


Makes 7 x 200ml (7fl oz) small jars


110ml (4 fl ozs) cider or wine vinegar

175g (6ozs) caster sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon peeled and grated ginger

900g (2lb) blood red plums, stoned and chopped

900g (2lb) Bramley apples, peeled and chopped


Put the vinegar and sugar in a stainless steel saucepan with the cinnamon, star anise and ginger.  Heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the chopped plums and apples, simmer gently for about 40 minutes until the plums and apples are tender and the liquid is thick.  Pour into jars.  Cover and keep in the fridge.

Ballymaloe Mincemeat

This mincemeat is the most delicious I know, add a few recipe suggestions to the basket, it’s great in pies, tarts, ice-cream…


Makes 3.2 kilos approx. Makes 8-9 pots.


2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) beef suet

pinch of salt

110g (4oz) mixed peel (preferably homemade)

2 tablespoons orange marmalade

225g (8oz) currants

450g (1lb) sultanas

900g (2lbs)Barbadossugar (moist, soft, dark-brown)

62ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey


Core and bake the whole apples in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, for 30 minutes approx. Allow to cool.  When they are soft, remove the skin and mash the flesh into pulp.  Grate the rind from the lemons on the finest part of a stainless steel grater and squeeze out the juice and stir into the pulp.  Add the other ingredients one by one, and as they are added, mix everything thoroughly.  Put into sterilized jars, cover and leave to mature for 2 weeks before using.  This mincemeat will keep for a year in a cool, airy place.



Hot Tips


Free Range Turkeys and Geese for Christmas

If you haven’t already ordered your turkey or goose…

East Ferry Free Range deliver fresh, oven ready White and Bronze Turkeys and Geese all over Ireland. Robbie Fitzsimmons can do last minute deliveries too 0862056020 or email

Philip Monks from Monksfarm,  Ballyvaughan, Co Clare delivers fresh free-range Bronze turkeys and Legarth geese (traditional white geese)  to the Dublin, Limerick and Galway areas, he’ll also take orders right up to the last minute… Order online or phone Philip direct 086-8735565


Seek out Riverlane Panforte – a small Italian cake with an intense flavour made from Irish honey, home-made candied peel, Bandon Creamery butter and nuts -  available in Urru Bandon, the ABC stall (Alternative Bread Company) in the English Market and Riverlane Café in Ballineen, Co Cork – Susan Fehily – 0238847173 – Perfect when you feel like a slice of something.


I’ve just discovered Highbank Organic Orchard Syrup “Irelands answer to maple syrup” it’s a sweet and delicious, pouring syrup, the first of its kind. The organic apples are grown and produced by Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny – no pesticides, no artificial fertilisers or preservatives. The syrup keeps for ages and is delicious drizzled over goat cheese, ice-cream, coarse pate, ham, pork, yoghurt..Available at Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop – 021 4646785 –




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