ArchiveMarch 2012

Irish Traditional Cooking Book

In the weeks preceding St. Patricks Day we get a myriad of enquiries from food and travel writers from all over the world who are honing their copy for the 17th March edition, everything from the New York or LA Times to the Sydney Morning Herald. After the preliminary questions about traditional Irish food and a request for recipes for their readers the question I dread – “Where can visitors to Ireland find these dishes?”

Mention any Irish city or town and rack your brains – What are we like that so few of our chefs are serving our traditional dishes proudly. Of course there are a few exceptions but as I write this I’m at a loss to remember any (hopefully I’ll have a flood of emails to tell me otherwise).

Eighteen years ago I wrote to the editor of the Farmers Journal and several regional newspapers – from the Kerryman to the Leinster Express, Tipperary Star to the Sligo Champion appealing for older people to share memories of the food of their childhood or their area – didn’t matter if the recipes weren’t written down – I would come and watch them making it and stand with a notebook in one hand and a weighing scales in the other.

I travelled all over the country from the Beara Penninsula to the Giants Causeway. Others came to meet me and show me how their grandmother made goose neck pudding or rhubarb pie.  People sent me letters and recipes from all over the country. The book was published and won several awards and has been in print ever since. Now a new revised edition of Irish Traditional Cooking has just been published which includes over 100 extra recipes. This time we spent time in the manuscript room of the national gallery where a treasure trove of manuscript cook books from many Irish great houses including those of Mary Ponsonby, Marianne Armstrong, The Bruen Papers of Oakpark, The Kitchen Book of Clonbrock and the history of Loughrynn.

I also spent many happy hours carefully pouring over the pages of the Birr manuscript cookbook which has been added to by several generations of the Parsons family since mid-17th Century.

There is so much material out there. Our traditional food is not just the clichéd Irish Stew or Champ and Colcannon, there was the simple nourishing food of the modest homesteads, the wholesome fare of the strong farmers, the varied diet of the coastal and island communities and the often forgotten food of the great houses, almost all of which had their own kitchen gardens, orchards, game larders, icehouses and dairies. The food was very diverse and sophisticated and includes a wide variety of spices, herbs and aromatics.

We have much to be proud of, so let’s gather our friends around and celebrate by cooking some of our traditional Irish dishes.

Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen is published by Kyle Books.


Irish Nettle Soup


Nettles made their appearance in Ireland almost 6,000 years ago as the first farmers started to cut down forest trees to clear the ground for their crop cultivation. In the Saints Lives from the Book of Lismore there is a story of how St Colum Cille came upon a woman cutting nettles to make herself a pottage. She explained that this was her diet until her cow calved, when of course she would have milk, cream, butter and perhaps some cheese. Stinging nettles still grow in great profusion throughout the Irish countryside. Use gloves when you are gathering them so as not to roast yourself! Maura Laverty in Kind Cooking describes how people would draw ‘old footless black woolen stockings’ over their hands for protection. With their high iron content nettles were prominent in Irish folk medicine, and helped in some small measure to alleviate hunger during the Famine.


Serves 6 (approximately)


45g (1½oz) butter

275g (10oz) potatoes, chopped

110g (4oz) onion, chopped

100g (3½oz) leeks, chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre (1¾ pints) homemade chicken stock

150g (5oz) young nettles, washed and chopped

150ml (¼ pint) cream or creamy



Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onions and leeks and toss them in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the lid of the saucepan, then sweat on a gentle heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Discard the paper lid. Add the stock and boil until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the chopped nettle leaves. Simmer uncovered for just a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the vegetables will discolour and also lose their flavour. Add the cream or milk and liquidize. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Serve hot.



Ham Hock with Colcannon and Parsley Sauce


One ham hock for just a few pence – a few Euros nowadays, but they are still inexpensive – would feed a hungry man. Cook the ham hocks as above until the meat is almost falling off the bones. Serve with a generous helping of Colcannon and Parsley Sauce.




There are many regional variations of colcannon – Ireland’s best-known traditional potato dish. In some areas green cabbage was added, in others kale was preferred. In parts of Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford, parsnip was added, and onions or scallions are featured in several of the versions.


Serves 8 (approximately)


900g–1.3kg (2–3lb) old potatoes e.g. Golden Wonder or Kerr’s Pinks

1 small spring or Savoy cabbage

250ml (9fl oz) approx. milk

55g (2oz) approx. butter

salt and freshly ground pepper


Scrub the potatoes. Put them into a saucepan of cold water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil. When the potatoes are about half cooked (about 15 minutes for old potatoes), strain off two-thirds of the water. Replace the lid on the saucepan, put on to a gentle heat and allow the potatoes to steam until they are fully cooked.

Remove the dark outer leaves from the cabbage. Wash the rest and cut into quarters, remove the core and cut each quarter finely across the grain. Cook in a little boiling salted water until soft. Drain, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little butter. When the potatoes are just cooked, put on the milk and bring to the boil. Pull the skin off the potatoes, mash 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 about the same volume of cooked cabbage and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately in a hot dish, with a lump of butter melting in the center.


Note: Colcannon may be prepared ahead and reheated later in a moderate oven (180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4), for about 20–25 minutes. Any leftover colcannon may be formed into potato cakes or farls and fried in bacon fat until crisp and brown on both sides – a cousin of bubble and squeak.


Parsley Sauce


Serves 6–8


4 tablespoons finely chopped

fresh parsley leaves (retain the stalks)

600ml (1 pint) fresh whole milk

30–45g (1–1½oz) roux

salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the parsley stalks into a saucepan with the cold milk, bring slowly to the boil, then remove the stalks. Whisk the roux into the boiling milk until thickened and add the chopped parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer for 5–10 minutes on a very low heat, then taste and correct the seasoning before serving


Country Rhubarb Cake


This delicious juicy rhubarb cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over the country. Originally it would have been baked in the bastible or ‘baker’ beside an open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons.


Serves 8


340g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of salt

½ teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

55g (2oz) caster sugar

85g (3oz) butter

1 egg, free-range if possible

165ml (5½fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk

680g (1½lb) rhubarb, finely chopped

170–225g (6–8oz) granulated sugar

beaten egg, to glaze

caster sugar, for sprinkling


to serve

softly whipped cream

soft brown sugar


25cm (10in) enamel or Pyrex

pie plate


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


Sift the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and caster sugar into a bowl and rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the milk, buttermilk or sour milk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to a soft dough; add the remainder of the liquid if necessary.

Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface. Turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces: one should be slightly larger than the other; keep the larger one for the lid.

Dip your fingers in flour. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to fit the pie plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press the edges gently to seal them. Make a hole in the center for the steam to escape. Brush again with beaten egg and sprinkle with a very small amount of caster sugar.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15–20 minutes before serving so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve still warm, with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist, brown sugar.


Potato and Caraway Seed Cakes



The following description by Flurry Knox in Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (Somerville and Ross – 1899) made my mouth water and inspired this recipe, now one of our favourites. ‘While I live I shall not forget her potato cakes. They came in hot and hot from a pot-oven, they were speckled with caraway seeds, they swam in salt butter, and we ate them shamelessly and greasily, and washed them down with hot whiskey and water.’



Serves 6 (approximately)



700g (1½lb) old potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks (about 4–5 large potatoes), scrubbed

45g (1½oz) butter

55g (2oz) onion finely chopped

1–2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt and freshly ground pepper

55g (2oz) flour

butter, for frying


Cook the potatoes in their jackets in boiling salted water. Meanwhile, melt the butter and sweat the onion in it over a gentle heat until soft but not coloured. Peel and mash the potatoes while still hot. Add the onion and butter with the caraway seeds and chopped parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the flour and mix well. Knead a little until smooth, roll out and stamp into potato cakes with the top of a glass or a cutter. Alternatively, divide the dough into 2 rounds and cut into farls. Fry in melted butter on a hot pan until golden on both sides. Serve hot.





Niall Daly’s Chocolate Shop at the English Market stocks chocolates from Valrhona, Amedei, Cluizel and Pralus. The 10 inch high 1kg solid Easter Eggs from Skelligs Irish Chocolate will keep you going until next Easter!. Niall also has Easter Eggs from French chocolatier Michel Cluizel. So difficult to choose from such a mouth-watering range of flavours  – strawberry, champagne and vanilla ganache, caramel, hazel nut praline, mint… The Menakao 100 Per Cent Chocolate is a bold choice. Tel: 021 4254448 Email: –


O’Conaills Chocolate Shops on French Church Street and Princes Street in Cork have some delectable little treats for Easter… chocolate rabbit lollypops, chocolate nests, Easter bunnies in milk, white and 70% dark chocolate…These are also available at Casey O’Conaill’s Chocolate stall at the Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday, he makes the best hot chocolate too!  Tel:  021-4373407


Bandon Farmers Market is celebrating their 6th birthday on Easter Saturday 7th April. Since opening in 2006 they have eighteen regular quality stallholders. Pick up a last minute Easter treat from Katie Buckley’s Real Chocolate Stall or for the friend who doesn’t have a sweet tooth a treat from the Real Olive Company or Gubbeen Farmhouse Product stall. Why not meet up with friends for a coffee from the Golden Bean Stall. The Market is situated in the Post Office car park every Saturday from 9:30am to 1:00pm.

Tel: 0877921103 –

Guest Chef Mary Jo McMillin

Much has changed on the Irish food scene since I started the Ballymaloe Cookery School in September 1983. There is a much greater appreciation of the produce of local farmers, fishermen and artisan food producers. Local and seasonal are the sexiest words in food and Farmers Markets have created an alternative to the supermarket. Virtually every night, there’s a choice of at least one and often several cooking programs on the various widely available TV channels, yet it’s doubtful whether people are doing more home cooking.

From the start I invited a couple of guest chefs to come to teach a class so my students could have the opportunity to meet and learn from iconic cooks and chefs from around the world, many like Jane Grigson, Madhur Jaffrey, Claudia Roden, Rick Bayliss, Maggie Beer were known to curious cooks, others like our own John Desmond from Heir Island and Mickael Viljanen from Gregans Castle were not so well known but were brilliant teachers. Even if students hadn’t previously heard of the guest chef they trusted that if I had included them on the Ballymaloe Cookery School course schedule they would unquestionably be worth coming to see.

However in the era of the celebrity chef it’s much more difficult to fill a guest chef course unless the person has a TV series or a strong media presence which certainly doesn’t guarantee that they will be good teachers or for that matter that their recipes will work. Once they are on TV, the agent comes into the equation so in many cases the numbers become unrealistic not to mention uneconomic. Nonetheless we continue to have several guest chefs every year.  This month Mary Jo McMillin – a beautiful cook from Chicago, known only to a handful of people over here – delighted us with a carefully chosen selection of the recipes she has honed over a lifetime of cooking both at home and in her restaurant and catering business ‘Mary Jo’s Cuisine’. She is a particularly brilliant ‘Slow Cook’ and by that I mean that over the years she has perfected among other things a repertoire of easy slow cooked dishes using less expensive cuts of meat that can also be prepared even days ahead and served in a variety of ways. She packed a phenomenal amount into the day …

We particularly loved her butternut squash soup, pulled lamb shoulder with pomegranates seeds and pickled onions and American chocolate cake with a dark shiny icing. She also did several great salads based on grains, rice and pasta. I’ll choose just one; this delicious lentil salad was bursting with flavour. Mary Jo has a food blog too


Butternut Squash Soup


Serves 6-8


800-900g (1 3/4-2lbs) butternut squash or other orange-fleshed winter squash should give

600g (1 1/4lbs) peeled, cubed squash (a generous quart)

25g (1oz) butter

1 1/2 inch (4cm) Ceylon cinnamon, canela or 1cm (1/2 inch) stick cinnamon

175g (6oz) onion, peeled and sliced (1 medium onion)

75g (3oz) carrot, peeled and sliced (1 medium carrot)

75g (3oz) celery, sliced (2 ribs)

1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh red chilli, or pinch crushed red pepper

2-3 whole cloves garlic, smashed

25g (1oz) fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (2 tablespoons)

1/2 teaspoon garam masala* (see below)

3/8 teaspoon turmeric

350ml (12fl oz) chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) water

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional)

freshly grated nutmeg

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) cream, half-and-half or whole milk


To prepare the squash, cut off the ends, slice into 1 inch (2.5 cm) circles. Scoop out the seeds, peel off the rind with paring knife, and cut the squash into large cubes. Set aside.


Heat the butter in a large soup pot; add the cinnamon, then toss in sliced onions, carrot, celery, chili and garlic. Cover with butter papers and sweat the vegetables over a gentle heat 10-20 minutes or until carrots are limp and tender, but not brown.


Add the grated ginger, garam masala, turmeric, and stir until fragrant. Mix in the prepared squash; add the chicken stock, water, salt, cover and bring to a boil. Simmer steadily until the squash and carrots are very tender, 15-20 minutes.


Cool slightly, remove the cinnamon sticks, and add the cream. Purée the soup in small batches at a time in a blender and use a small ladle to swirl the soup through the strainer to remove the celery strings and chilli seeds. Correct the seasonings, adding salt, pepper, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Thin to desired consistency with water, stock or milk.


* Garam Masala (an Indian spice blend)


Makes approximately 25g (1oz)


l small nutmeg, broken with side of chef’s knife

1 tablespoon whole green cardamom, including husk

1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled Ceylon cinnamon or l broken cinnamon stick

3/4 tablespoon whole cloves

1/4 tablespoon black peppercorns


Roast the spices in a dry iron skillet until fragrant. Cool slightly and grind to a powder in a spice grinder, sift and store in small jar with tight fitting lid.


Lentil Salad


Serves 4-6


200g (7oz) French Puy lentils or regular brown lentils

700ml (24fl oz) water

1 teaspoon salt

3-4 1/2 tablespoons Strong Vinaigrette (see recipe)

a small bunch of chopped green onion

3/4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or parsley

finely chopped chili or freshly ground pepper to taste


Cover the lentils with the water, bring to boil and simmer, covered for 12-15 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Add the salt and remove from the heat. Allow to stand with salt for 5 minutes.


Drain the lentils shaking off the cooking liquid. Place in a bowl and add the vinaigrette, chopped onion. Allow to stand l5 minutes to absorb seasoning. Add fresh herbs, chili or pepper and more salt if necessary.


Note: It is important to get the dressing on the lentils while they are still hot for the flavor to be absorbed. Feel free to add mint, coriander, basil, or chervil in season. The salad may be extended with diced tomato, sweet peppers, cucumber or sliced, blanched green beans. A generous sprinkling of crumbled feta and a few olives make the lentil salad a full meal.


Strong Vinaigrette


Makes approximately 475ml (16fl oz)


This vinaigrette has more vinegar. Use for all pasta, rice, chicken, vegetable and potato salads.


1 teaspoon garlic paste

175ml (6fl oz) red wine vinegar

2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon salt

225ml (8fl oz) sunflower oil or a combination of olive and vegetable oils


Prepare using the method above.



Pulled Braised Lamb Shoulder with Pomegranate Molasses


Serves 4-6


800g (1 3/4lbs) boneless lamb shoulder (a 1.3kg (3lb) square-cut bone-in shoulder will provide this amount and the added bones make a better sauce.)

1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

l large onion, peeled and diced

1 carrot peeled and diced

1/4 – 1/2 fresh chilli, sliced (optional) or 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper

4cm (1 1/2 inches) canela (cinnamon) coil or several large shards

1 tablespoon fresh ginger thinly sliced and julienned

4-5 cloves garlic chopped

large sprig of fresh thyme

4-5 peeled fresh tomatoes chopped or 1 cup tinned tomatoes

225ml (8fl oz) red wine

salt and pepper

2 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

3/4 tablespoon lime or lemon juice


If possible trim and salt the lamb the night before cooking.


Film a heavy frying pan with 3/4 tablespoons oil and quickly brown the lamb chunks and the bones. Place in a heavy enameled iron casserole. Distribute the bones around the edges and the meat chunks in the center.


Pour off any fat left in the frying pan. Add a little more olive oil and sauté the onion and carrot until limp and lightly browned. Add the chili, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, a bit more salt and pepper and continue to sauté until the seasonings smell fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, wine; bring to a boil and pour over meat in the casserole.


Cover tightly and simmer on the stovetop or braise in a preheated oven 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2 oven for 2-3 hours or until fork tender. Remove the meat and bones from the braising dish when cool enough to handle. Carefully strip any bits of meat from the bones and pull the lamb chunks removing all bits of fat. Return the bones and odd bits to the braising pan, add a little stock or water and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes, if time allows. Stain the stock, allow the fat to rise to the surface. Chill until the fat hardened so it may be removed totally.


Reduce the meat stock to almost a demi-glace (around 110ml (4fl oz). Season the meat glaze with 2 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses and 3/4 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice plus salt if needed.


Fold the room temperature sauce into the room temperature meat. Serve garnished with pickled red onion, pomegranate seeds and coriander leaves.


Pickled Red Onions


450g (1lb) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

225ml (8fl oz) white vinegar

110g (4oz) sugar

pinch of salt

3 whole cloves

broken cinnamon

dried chilli


Bring the white vinegar and sugar to a simmer with a pinch of salt and 3 whole cloves, broken cinnamon bits, dried chili, etc. Add the onions to the simmering liquid one-third at a time. As soon as the onions are pink and wilted, lift them out into a clean jam jar. Continue until all onions have been wilted. Cover the onions in jars with the brine. The onions should be pink and crunchy. Store in fridge when cool.


American Chocolate Layer Cake


A 10-inch cake will make 20 slices.


100g (3 1/2oz) cocoa powder

300ml (10fl oz) boiling water

50ml (2fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

235g (8 1/2oz) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

225g (8oz) very soft unsalted butter

200g (7oz) soft brown sugar

200g (7oz) caster sugar

4 eggs


Cut parchment circles to line the bottoms of 2 x 25.5cm (10 inch) by 5cm (2 inch) cake tins, or 3 x 20.5cm or 23cm (8 or 9 inch) by 5cm (2 inch) tins. Butter and flour tin inside edges and paper lining and set aside.


Preheat the oven to 170ºC/325°F/Gas Mark 3.


In small bowl whisk the cocoa and boiling the water until smooth, add the milk and vanilla. In another bowl sift flour, salt and baking soda.


In a deep mixing bowl, cream the butter adding both sugars (make sure to rub out any lumps in brown sugar) and whip until light. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Alternately blend in the flour and cocoa mixtures in three additions.


Divide the batter into the prepared tins and bake in a preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until the cake pulls from sides of the tin and feels springy. To remain moist as it cools, the chocolate cake may seem slightly undercooked.   Allow to cool 5 minutes in the tins. Turn out onto cooling racks, remove the parchment paper intact. Top with a  second rack and reverse the layers, leaving the cakes upright to cool.


Note: To make a smaller cake – 2 x 20.5cm (8 inch) layers – use 40g (1 3/4oz) cocoa, 150ml (5fl oz) boiling water, 1 1/2 tablespoons milk, 120g (4 1/4oz) cake flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 3/8 teaspoon soda, 110g (4oz), 80g (3 1/2oz) each white and brown sugars and 2 eggs.


Cream Filling


225ml (8fl oz) heavy cream

3/4 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Sandwich the cake layers, both tops facing the filling with whipped cream. Press you hand around the edges of top of cake to insure the filling levels out to the sides, even the edge with palate knife. To crumb-coat the cake, use some softened ganache (left from previous batch), butter cream, or apricot glaze and spread thinly over the sides and top of cake. Chill the filled cake before pouring over ganache.




150ml (5fl oz) heavy cream

1 teaspoon honey or corn syrup (optional)

175g (6oz) chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, preferably discs.


In a small saucepan scald the cream and honey almost to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate is evenly melted. Cool slightly and pour over the cold, filled layer cake, evenly spreading the ganache around the sides. (A turntable cake stand is helpful for this step.)  Once icing begins to set, use the bottom of the tart tin to lift the cake onto a plate. The iced cake may be held at cool room temperature for an hour or chilled. To cut in even slices, use a thin knife dipped in very hot water and wiped dry.


Hot Tips


Dates for the Diary – Spring Food Festivals

Galway Food Festival, Friday 6th- Sunday 8th April 2012,
Waterford Festival of Food, Dungarvan, Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th April 2012

For those who find recipe measures and conversions difficult, Shirley Bond has self-published a brilliant and simple to use handbook ‘How do you Measure Up? All Your Measuring and Weighing Questions Answered’ which deals with tricky questions like…”can you convert Imperial measures to and from metric measures and cup capacities so you can enjoy any recipe regardless of how it is written?” or “How long will a turkey take to defrost and then cook?” There are handy shopping, labelling and storage guides too. Published by Woodlands Publishing

Bangkok Street Food

Wow, I just long to return to Bangkok and not just for a few days en route to another destination in Asia., That’s what I did this time but it just whetted my appetite for more . I was just beginning to get the hang of it when it was time to leave. The frenzy of the traffic and the street life, the swirling colour, bustle, noise and the intoxicating kaleidoscope of tastes and smells. The markets and street food alone would be quite enough to bring me rushing back not to speak of the glittering Royal Palace complex which left me totally gobsmacked.
Don’t miss Tor Kor Market and just across the road is the unmissable Chatuchak Weekend Market ,a labyrinth of about 8,000 stalls selling not just the usual tourist souvenirs but it’s now morphed into a starting ground for young talent and entrepreneurs trained in Thailand, New York, London and Toyko. There’s an abundance of handcrafts from around the world, antiques, clothes, accessories, pets, plants, furniture, books, utensils…You need a ton of energy and an empty container!

The variety of street food in Bangkok simply cannot be matched anywhere else. Snacking is a way of life in Thailand.  Every day, millions of people from all walks of life eat at roadside stalls or food markets. To meet the demand an army of street vendors work day and night 24/7 chopping, wokking, grilling, cleaning…… These make shift-kitchens, carts, food stalls, mobile restaurants are all over the city, on pavements, street corners, underneath flyovers, in the park, on the beach, in railway stations….it feels like one is never more than a few minutes away from your next tasty morsel. There are even floating kitchens – in boats at the food markets on the Mekong River and canals. Many of the most famous Thai dishes actually originated on these street stalls before they appeared on menus in Thai restaurants. For me the best place to really taste the food of any country is on street stalls.

The setups are varied and ingenious, most are mobile. Those attached to bicycles can be pedalled from place to place; meals on wheels in every guise from side car motorcycles to customize pick up trucks. The  most basic and traditional  and one of the oldest forms of selling and transporting street food is the Haph a flexible wooden pole with woven basket on either side which resembles a large balance scales. Some vendors even carry small plastic tables and chairs to seat their customers or set up a little roadside restaurant.

The main cooking methods on street stalls are boiling; grilling, steaming, wokking or frying could be on a flat griddle, stir frying or deep frying in a big wok of oil. Each stall specialised in one kind of food, sometimes just one dish which their reputation depends on. They have specialised equipment and utensils for preparing their noodle soup, stir fry, satay, dumplings, salad, relishes or fruit.

The fruit seller ‘pon la mai sod’ only sells beautiful seasonal fruit. Rose apples, green mango, pineapple, watermelon, guava…… Big blocks of ice are used to keep the fruit cool. The fruit is expertly sliced. Two dips are offered in puffed up plastic bags, a mixture of salt, crushed chilli and sugar or a sweet spicy dip with fish sauce. The latter is especially eaten with finger slices of green mango.

Street foods give you the real flavour of a country. I know it’s an anathema to many people to encourage them to eat street food in this era of food hygiene paranoia.  But believe me you are more likely to have a ‘gippy tummy’ from a dodgy hotel buffet that goes in and out of the kitchen over and over again. “The food hawkers take pride in the quality of their dishes. They shop daily in the food market to buy the fresh ingredients. Usually they pack up the stall and finish work when everything is sold out.” Often the food is cooked while you wait, so pick up courage and enjoy.


Chicken and Banana Flower Salad – yam hua pli


Banana flowers are also known as Banana Blossom, they are sometimes available in Asian shops but if you can’t find, Belgium endives make a very good substitute. Shrimps make a good substitute for chicken.


Serves 2


1 banana flower

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice



250g (8 ozs) chicken breast



230ml (8 fl ozs) coconut cream

1 tablespoon roasted chilli paste

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 stalk of lemon grass – white part sliced finely

1-2 ozs (25-50 g) toasted cashew nuts

1 handful fresh coriander leaves

2 kaffir lime leaves – shredded very finely

1 red chilli, thinly sliced


Remove the outer leaves of the banana flower. Quarter lengthwise and remove the core. Slice very finely and leave to soak for at least an hour in a mixture of water and lime juice to reduce the bitter flavour. Poach the chicken on a low heat in the coconut cream for 8-10 minutes until just cooked.  Remove the chicken, save the coconut cream to make the dressing. When the chicken is cool, slice into very fine shreds.  Mix the coconut cream with chilli paste, fish sauce, sugar and freshly squeezed lime juice. Drain the banana flower well. Mix with the lemon grass, toasted cashew nuts and chicken. Drizzle with dressing and mix well. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves, shredded  kaffir lime leaves and sliced chilli.



Grilled Chicken Satay – satay gai – moo



Satay is always served with peanut sauce and spicy cucumber relish.

Pork may also be served in this recipe.


Makes 10 approx



450g (1 lb) chicken breast or pork fillet

2 teaspoon coriander seeds

½ teaspoon cumin

2 garlic cloves

4 red Asian shallots or 2 Irish shallots, chopped

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

2.5cm (1 inch) piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped or ½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoon caster sugar


10 wooden or bamboo skewers


Spicy Cucumber Relish (see recipe)

Satay Sauce (see recipe)



Soak the bamboo skewers in water for 1 hour; this will prevent burning while grilling. Cut the chicken or pork into ¼ inch (5mm) strips.

Dry roast the coriander and cumin seed. Pound the coriander seeds, cumin, garlic, shallots, ginger and turmeric in a pestle and mortar until smooth. Add salt, oil and sugar. Marinate the chicken or pork in this mixture for at least 1 hour. Thread the strips of meat onto the skewers. Push the meat right to the top, the skewer should be hidden in the meat otherwise it will burn during cooking.  Grill, turning regularly. Serve with Cucumber Relish and Satay Sauce.



Cucumber Relish – naam jim taeng-gwa




4 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 pinch of salt

½ teaspoon chilli powder or large red chilli, julienned

4 tablespoons cucumber, julienned

2 tablespoon, shallot, sliced

1 tablespoon coriander leaves chopped



Bring water with sugar, vinegar and salt to the boil. Turn off the heat when sugar has dissolved. Cool. Add chilli, cucumber and shallot. Finish with coriander leaves.



Peanut Sauce

naam satay /naam jim thua


2 large dried chillies, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 stalk lemongrass, chopped

1 tablespoon turmeric, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

450ml (16fl oz) coconut milk

1 tablespoon tamarind water

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons ground roasted peanuts


Pound the chilli, garlic, lemongrass and turmeric in a mortar until smooth. Heat oil in a wok on a low heat and fry the paste until fragrant. Add coconut milk and bring to the boil. Keep boiling for 7 minutes. Add tamarind water, sugar, salt and peanuts. Keep on boiling for 5 minutes.


Grilled Pork – moo yang – moo ping – Taken from Bangkok Street Food


10 wooden or bamboo skewers

400g pork fillet, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, chopped

6 coriander roots, scraped and chopped

½ teaspoon white ground pepper

4 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

125ml coconut cream

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon castor sugar



Soak the skewers in water for 1 hour to prevent from burning. Combine all the ingredients but the pork in a large mixing bowl, mix well. Let the pork strips marinate in this mixture for at least half an hour. Weave the strips of pork on the skewers and grill over charcoal for about 5 minutes, until cooked. Turn regularly.


Coriander cilantro is a very versatile. Here we are familiar with the use of stalks and leaves but in Thai cooking the root is very often used. Wash and scrape it and chop it finely. If you can’t find it in Asian supermarket, you can use the stalks of coriander instead. It won’t be exactly the same thing but it’s the next best option.



Stir Fried Noodles with Pork and Soy Sauce


kuaytiaw phat sii iew sai moo


Serves 4


2 tablespoons oil

3 garlic cloves, crushed

450g (1lb) pork cut in strips

1 handful wide rice noodles, soaked and drained

4 stalks of Chinese broccoli, cut diagonally

2 eggs beaten

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

150ml (5 fl oz) chicken stock or water

lots of white pepper



Heat oil in a wok on a medium heat, add garlic and pork and stir fry until coloured. Add the noodles and Chinese broccoli. Stir in the beaten egg and mix well. Add the soy sauces, oyster sauce and sugar. Stir fry for another 30 seconds. Add stock or water bring to the boil. Season it with white pepper. Taste.




Just Nuts

People are coming up with all sorts of exciting ideas to start a food business. Recently I came across a stall called Just Nuts at Mahon Point Farmers market and loved it. A new idea from Fiona Buckley who recognised there was an opportunity for import substitution when she realised all the roasted, spiced party nuts were imported. She now sells 8 different homemade flavours including sweet spiced nuts with cinnamon and nutmeg, New York nuts with fresh rosemary and cayenne and three sugar free options.  Phone 0872430519 –email: or find her on on FaceBook.


Good Things Cafe

Lots of tempting options on Carmel Somer’s 2012 Good Things cookery course schedule. You’ll have the added bonus of spending time in lovely West Cork. Don’t forget to seek out Jaffa Gill’s Durrus Farmhouse Cheese – and


Slow Food and GIY Event at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Trevor Sargent will speak on how to feed your family and make some money from a small organic plot on Tuesday March 20th 2012 at 7pm. €6.00 Slow Food and GIY members and €10.00 non Slow Food and GIY members. All proceeds to the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. Phone 021-4646785 for more details.


Wild Food

Wow! It’s so exciting how everything is bursting into life – plenty of wild food there for the foraging. Lots of wild garlic and Alexanders on the road side, the peeled stems are delicious lightly cooked and served with melted butter or Hollandaise sauce.


Everyone I know is baking again, it’s become quite a phenomenon, and suddenly it’s the coolest, hippest thing to be able to whip up a Victoria Sponge or a sticky gingerbread. Grans suddenly find themselves in demand to teach us how to make a few fluffy crumpets or transform fairy cakes into butterfly buns.

Old fashioned cakes are making a big comeback, people are tiring of slick fondant covered confections and elaborate gateaux that look impressive and luscious but rarely deliver on flavour. Too many disappointments have made people increasingly distrustful of dramatic presentations and more hopeful when they encounter old fashioned chocolate or coffee cakes such as one might find at the County Agricultural show with a proudly displayed bright red rosette.

Funny how the pendulum swings, I even notice in cookbooks that the food stylists often make a point of creating a homesy look rather than an intimidatingly perfect professional look. Perhaps it’s something to do with these changing times that we find the distinctly homemade look comforting and less intimidating to achieve if one is starting to bake. To celebrate Mothers’ Day this year let’s bake a few old favourites and have a special tea party for Mum. Lay a pretty table use that flowery china that’s been languishing in the sideboard in the parlour for years. If not, see what you can find in a charity shop, rummage until you find some pretty napkins and pile things high on the tiered cake stand, don’t forget the doylies and sugar lumps!

Here are some suggestions that bakers of all ages can enjoy making and sharing.

Happy Mothers’ Day for Sunday 18th March.




Gingerbread can be baked in a loaf tin, like bread, and cut it into thick slices that we butter. This one is particularly good when it’s fresh, so eat it quickly!  Alternatively bake in a 22cm x 7.5cm (9 x 3 inch) square brownie tin for 40-45 minutes, serve cut into 12 x 7.5cm x 10cm (3 x 4 inch) squares with a blob of cold apple puree and cream or with crystallised ginger cream.


Makes 1 loaf


225g (1/2 lb) white flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

110g (4oz) soft brown sugar

75g (3oz) butter, cut into cubes

175g (6oz) treacle

150ml (5fl oz) milk

1 very small or 1/2 organic egg

50g (2oz) sultanas

25g (1oz) chopped crystallised ginger (optional)


1 x 23cm (9inches) x 12.5cm (5inches) x 6.5cm (2 1/2 inches) loaf tin lined with silicone paper


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


First line the loaf tin with silicone paper.


Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Gently warm the brown sugar with the cubed butter and treacle. Then add the milk. Allow to cool a little and stir into the dry ingredients and make sure that there are no little lumps of flour left (I use a whisk for this). Add the beaten egg and the sultanas and ginger if desired. Mix very thoroughly and. Bake in a lined loaf tin for approximately 1 hour in a moderate oven.  Cool in the tin.  Serve with butter.


Coffee Cake


This is a splendid recipe for an old-fashioned coffee cake – the sort Mummy made – and we still make it regularly. Everyone loves it. I’m a real purist about using extract rather than essence in the case of vanilla, but in this cake, I prefer coffee essence (which is actually mostly chicory) to real coffee.


Serves 10–12


225g (8oz) soft butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

4 organic eggs

225g (8oz) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 teaspoon baking powder

scant 2 tablespoons Irel or Camp coffee essence


Coffee Butter Cream

50g (2oz) butter

110g (4oz) icing sugar, sieved

1–2 teaspoons Irel or Camp coffee essence


Coffee Icing

450g (1lb) icing sugar

scant 2 tablespoons Irel or Camp coffee essence

about 4 tablespoons boiling water


To Decorate

toasted hazelnuts or chocolate-covered coffee beans


2 x 20cm (8in) round sandwich tins


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


Line the base of the tins with circles of greaseproof or silicone paper. Brush the bottom and sides with melted butter and dust lightly with flour.



Florence Bowe’s ‘Crumpets’


Another great standby, ‘Crumpets’ can be made in minutes with ingredients you’d probably have in. My children make them and cook them directly on the cool plate of the Aga. They are also the ideal solution if you’ve got nothing in the tin when a friend drops in for tea, because they only take a few minutes to make. The problem is one always eats too many!


Makes 15 approx.


1/2 lb (225g) white flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon. bread soda

teaspoon Bextartar (cream of tartar)

2 eggs, preferably free range

8 fl ozs (250ml) milk

2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

1 oz (30g) butter


To Serve

Homemade jam or apple jelly


lemon juice and castor sugar


Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter. Drop the eggs into the centre, add a little of the milk and stir rapidly with a whisk allowing the flour to drop gradually in from the sides. When half the milk is added, beat until air bubbles rise. Add the remainder of the milk and allow to stand for one hour if possible. *  Drop a good dessertspoonful into a hottish pan and cook until bubbles appear on the top. It usually takes a bit of trial and error to get the temperature right. Flip over and cook until golden on the other side. Serve immediately with butter and homemade jam or better still apple jelly.  Alternatively crumpets can also be served with warm lemon juice and sprinkled with castor sugar.


* They are usually lighter if the batter is allowed to stand but I’ve often cooked them immediately with very acceptable results!




Beat the soft butter with a wooden spoon, add the caster sugar and whisk until pale in colour and light in texture. Whisk the eggs. Add to the mixture, bit by bit, whisking well between each addition.


Sieve the flour with the baking powder and stir gently into the cake mixture. Finally, add in the coffee essence and mix thoroughly.


Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared sandwich tins and bake for 30 minutes. When the cakes are cooked, the centre will be firm and springy and the edges will have shrunk from the sides of the tins. Leave to rest in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Remove the greaseproof paper from the base, then flip over so the top of the cakes don’t get marked by the wire rack. Leave the cakes to cool on the wire rack.


To make the coffee butter cream, whisk the butter with the sieved icing sugar and add the coffee essence. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy.


To make the coffee icing, sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of a thick cream.


When cold, sandwich together the bases of the cakes with the coffee butter cream and ice the top with the coffee icing. Decorate with the toasted hazelnuts or chocolate-covered coffee beans.



Coffee Butter Cream Icing

If you would prefer to ice the cake with Coffee Butter Cream, use 225g (8oz) butter, 450g (1lb) icing sugar and 1–2 tablespoons of Irel or Camp coffee essence and make as above.


Beautiful Butterfly Buns


Makes 12


4 ozs (110g) butter, chopped

4 ozs (110g) castor sugar

5 ozs (145g) white flour

2 eggs, preferably free range

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 x 12 bun tray

Raspberry jam

Freshly whipped cream

Icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.

Chop up the butter into small dice, it should be reasonably soft. Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz for about 30 seconds. Clear the sides down with a spatula and whizz again until the consistency is nice and creamy, 15 seconds approx. Put into greased and floured bun trays or paper cases and bake in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 as soon as they begin to rise.  Bake for 20 minutes approx. in total. Cool on a wire rack and decorate as desired.

Cut the top off the buns, cut this piece in half and keep aside. Meanwhile put a little homemade raspberry jam and a blob or cream on to the bottom part of the bun. Replace the two little pieces, arranging them like wings. Dredge with icing sugar and serve immediately.

These buns may be iced with dark chocolate icing or coffee icing. They are also delicious, painted with raspberry jam or redcurrant jelly and dipped in coconut.



Coffee Icing

8 ozs (225g) icing sugar

scant 1 tablespoon Irel coffee essence

2 tablespoon approx. boiling water


Sieve the icing sugar and put into a bowl. Add coffee essence and enough boiling water to make it the consistency of thick cream.





All Island Cookery Competition – St Angela’s College and Safefood are hosting the Take Away my Way All Island Cookery Competition Finals on Monday 12th March and Tuesday 13th March in St Angela’s College.  Phone 071-9135662.


Cooking for Baby at Ballymaloe Cookery School – as a mother of four and grandmother of eight, I am happy to pass on the tips and advice gleaned over years of feeding children and grand-children totally without packets, cans or jars! Everyone wants to feed their babies nourishing and wholesome food, learn how on this Half Day Course on Friday 23rd March 20122:00pm to 5:00pm €85.00 – tel: 021 464675 or


A Date for the Diary… International Slow Food Grandmother’s Day celebration at Sandbrook House, Ballon, Co Carlow – a special two-day event on 21st & 22nd April – see more details at


Lao Food – Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is an enchanting little city in northern Laos located in a valley at the confluence of two rivers- the Mekong and the Nam Khan.

Partly because of its isolation it has retained its centuries old culture and strong Buddhist spirituality. Visitors flock there to visit the temples ( thirty four still survive) and  meander through the French colonial streets or take a leisurely boat trip along the Mekong stopping off here and there to visit little fishing villages where they supplement their income gathering and drying  a nutritious river weed or spinning, dying and hand weaving beautiful Lao textiles.

Another village is famous for Lao Lao, a lethal home brewed rice whiskey and if you fancy you can buy a snake preserved in whiskey as a souvenir!

Luang Prabang also has possibly the most tranquil Night Market in Asia. Hundreds of people from local villages sell handcrafts, Hmong appliqued blankets, bamboo lamps, silver jewellery, handmade paper, embroidered bags and lots more but for the purpose of this article I’m going to concentrate on the food.

Lao food is unique, a wonderfully diverse cuisine that incorporates the Lao taste for sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

It’s very rare to see someone eating alone in Laos, eating always seems to be a very convivial affair with everyone gathered around the table to enjoy the meal however simple, together, Low woven  bamboo tables are still popular, family and friends sit on the ground and squeeze up so everyone fits and can reach and dip into the selection of dishes on the table.

This will always include lots of sticky rice, (known in the West as glutinous rice) noodles and a soup usually based on chicken, fish and pork, a variety of vegetables and fresh herbs. The concept of starter, main course and dessert doesn’t exist.

Laos is a very poor country so in order to get enough protein into their diet, people have had to eat anything that walks, slithers, flies or swims. The protein supply often comes from river fish though in the mountainous north they have had to adapt to eating such ‘delicacies’ as rats, moles, bats and frogs. Even the larvae of wasps and flying and crawling insects, bugs, ants, and ant eggs don’t escape the wok. Absolutely, no part of any animal killed for food is wasted, every single scrap of pig, chicken and fish is used and the head of a chicken or a fish is considered to be a great delicacy in a soup.

The offal is used in all sorts of inventive ways, often in noodle soups or barbecued over charcoal in the little clay outdoor cooking stoves that are still widely used.

The dishes are all shared and everybody dips in with their spoons, forks or hands.

Chopsticks are only used for noodle soups and dishes.

Several uniquely Lao flavours are a bit of an acquired taste, a Luang Prabang speciality called Jeo bong is a very popular chilli dip where the recipe calls for 50 dried red chillies to start with!

The locals love to dip everything from barbecued vegetables to dried buffalo skin in this perky paste.

Pa Dak is another distinctive flavour, it’s made from rotting fish and anchovies with salt and water added, most households would have had an earthenware jar with this pungent mixture rotting away by their front door-step but nowadays many people just buy it or shrimp paste from the Pa Dak ladies in the Market, just follow your nose to find them!

Pa Dak is not only a brilliant flavour enhancer but also another vital source of inexpensive protein.

Wild foods like bamboo shoots, fern fronds, fungi and wild honey, foraged from the hills and forests are also incorporated into the menu in season and then there are the delicious fruits, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, ramboutan jackfruit, bananas…

There are several cooking school options in Luang Prabang, The highly recommended Tamarind was full so I booked into the Tamnak Lao Cooking school for a day course .We started at 10am with a  fascinating tour of the Market to learn about Lao ingredients. On our return to the timber and rattan cooking school, our teachers Leng Lee and Phia Yang taught us two dishes, Luang Prabang Salad and Feu Khua, sticky rice noodles with chicken and vegetables which we then cooked ourselves and ate for lunch, both were delicious and easy to reproduce at home.

At the beginning of the afternoon session, Leng and Phia demonstrated five dishes for us plus how to cook sticky rice in the traditional bamboo steamer. We could choose three each to cook for dinner, I had never made banana leaf salad before so I chose to make that plus the fried aubergine and pork dish with the unpronounceable name – do try it, it’s totally delicious and the chicken and chilli casserole which is really more like a casserole than a soup, We had a terrific day and I was delighted to learn a variety of Lao dishes that I can easily reproduce to make a little Lao feast at home…

Those of us who haven’t got a banana tree in our garden can substitute chicory instead, it works surprisingly well.


Luang Prabang Salad


This salad is always served at all special occasions. Learn how to make delicious but very easy mayonnaise that never curdles.


This recipe serves one or two people if eaten alone. If eaten with other dishes, the salad would be enough for three or four people.



a mixture of Salad Leaves

fresh Watercress sprigs

1 sliced tomato

1 sliced medium cucumber

1 tablespoon crushed unsalted peanuts

1 tablespoon mince pork (optional)

2 hardboiled eggs

1 sliced hardboiled egg (if unable to slice, quarter the egg)


2 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon white pepper – finely ground black pepper can also be used ¼ teaspoon salt coriander for garnish (cilantro)


First, prepare the mayonnaise. Take two of the hardboiled egg yolks and place in a food processor, blender or pestle and mortar Add the oil, vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt slowly Blend until smooth.


Make the Salad


Spoon half the mayonnaise onto the salad leaves and watercress and mix well. Place the salad leaves/watercress on a plate or in a bowl in a pyramid shape. Place the sliced cucumber around the bottom and the sliced tomato above it. Place the sliced egg on top of the cucumber and tomato. If the egg has been cut in quarters, place them around the bottom of the salad. Use any left-over egg white to garnish the salad.

Sprinkle the crushed peanuts and some of the coriander on the top of the salad.

If using the pork, fry it in a little oil and when cooked place it over the top of the salad

TIP: if you like the flavour of mint you can add it to this salad, we did and it was delicious.




Feu Khua – Fried Sticky Rice Noodles with Chicken and Vegetables


A great tasting dish to learn how to cook with rice noodles which are so popular throughout Asia.


This recipe serves one person.


100g (3½oz) chicken breast cut into pieces*

150g (5oz) rice noodles**

1 egg

2 cherry tomatoes

Or 1 large tomato***

¼ onion quartered and sliced thinly

2 cloves garlic (crushed in a mortar or use a garlic crusher)

120g (4 ¼ oz) Asian green vegetables ****

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 ½ tablespoons oil


½ cup (4 fl ozs) water

1 teaspoon corn flour mixed with enough water to make a thin paste ½ teaspoon soy sauce

1 lime or lemon

1 chilli


mix together

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper


Place the rice noodles in a bowl with cold water for 30 minutes or for 4-5 minutes in hot water.  Swirl with a spoon so they separate. Drain well. Place the 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok, and heat. Put the noodles in the wok and stir for several minutes until the noodles are well cooked (beginning to turn golden) Break the egg onto the noodles and spread all over the top,  until the noodles are coated with egg. Turn and continue to cook until crisp on both sides. Place the noodle/egg mixture onto a plate, cut into pieces. Place the remaining oil into the wok with the crushed garlic and stir until the garlic begins to change colour. Add the chicken and stir fry until cooked through. Add the green vegetables and ¼ to ½ cup of water (this helps cook the vegetables) keep stir frying until the water begins to reduce.

Add corn flour, a little water, oyster sauce, soy sauce, tomatoes, salt pepper, sugar and mix well. Add the onion – shouldn’t be overcooked

Keep stir frying quickly and when the onion is cooked and the ingredients are well mixed, add the rice noodle/egg mixture and stir fry well together. Place on a plate to serve.

As side dishes, quarter the lime or lemon and slice a chilli thinly.

Put both in a small dish. You can also put a tablespoon of soy sauce in a small dish with quarter sliced chilli added.


*Chicken, pork or beef can be used

**If fresh rice noodles are not available, use any other type of noodle as long as they are not too thin. If using dried noodles, before use, soak them until they soften.

*** If using cherry tomatoes, cut them in quarters. If using large tomatoes, cut into six pieces.

**** Use any Asian green vegetables or other available green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, rocket (arugula) and carrots – a great way to use up those vegetables that sit in the fridge.

TIP: Use more or less garlic, oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and chilli to your taste.


Hicken Larp (Chicken Salad)


Very delicious traditional Lao cold salad – the same recipe can also be made from fish, tofu or pork


This recipe serves one person or three or four if served with other dishes.



200g (7oz) chicken mince – no fat (1 large chicken breast with skin removed)

1 chicken/pork cube or ¼ teaspoon powdered stock, mixed with 2 tablespoons of hot water

1 medium lime/lemon – juiced

2 tablespoons hot water

2 tablespoons banana flower finely sliced, rinsed well in water and drained (optional)*

2 kaffir lime leaves – sliced thinly

1 spring onion (long green onion) – sliced thinly

2 shallots (or quarter of a purple Spanish onion) – sliced thinly

2 garlic cloves – finely sliced

1 bunch of coriander cut up finely – green part only (ciltrano)

2 stalks of lemon grass thinly sliced – white part only

6 saw tooth leaves or large rocket (arugula) leaves – thinly sliced ¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon rice powder**

1 teaspoon chilli powder or fresh chillies to taste if you like it hot ¼ teaspoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon fried garlic

1 tablespoon fried shallots


Put the chicken stock or pork stock, chicken mince, half the lime juice and water in a wok.

Place over a low heat and keep stirring until the mince is cooked through and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Add the banana flower. Mix well.

Add the kaffir lime leaves, spring onion, shallot, garlic, coriander, lemon grass and rocket leaves. Mix well. Add salt, rice powder, chilli powder, fish sauce, fried garlic and fried shallot. Mix thoroughly. Finally when the salad is thoroughly mixed, pour the remainder of the lime/lemon juice over the salad, give it a quick stir through and serve with a garnish of coriander leaves.


*If you cannot buy banana flower, you can replace it by using burghul (Middle Eastern cracked wheat) – or you can leave it out altogether and just add a bit more chicken. Keep in mind that most Lao who live overseas make larp without the banana flower and it tastes the same.

Banana flower only adds texture not flavour, Just add a bit more chicken, pork, etc. to the dish while cooking.


**Rice powder can be purchased in any good Asian supermarket and comes in small cellophane bags. If you cannot buy rice powder, it can be made by dry-frying raw sticky rice or long grain rice until it begins to turn golden – approximately 10 minutes – Then whizz it in a kitchen blender or pound in a mortar until a fine powder forms. Store in an airtight glass jar.


***You can usually buy deep fried onion and garlic in Asian supermarkets, but you can make your own by slicing Asian shallots (small brown or purple onions) and garlic very finely and deep frying them in a wok until they turn golden in colour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.




Khua Maak Kheua Gap Moo – Fried Eggplant with Pork


Very easy dish to make and very delicious too.


This recipe serves one person.




60g pork

3 large onions (if small use three extra)

1 Asian eggplant – long eggplant*

2-3 garlic cloves – depends on your taste

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

2 ½ tablespoons oil


Cut the spring onions into 2cm lengths. If the white part is large, also cut in half lengthways. Cut the eggplant into 3cm lengths, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. (if using European eggplant cut into cubes) Crush the garlic in a mortar or use a garlic press.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok, add the eggplant and stir fry until it begins to soften and turn a golden colour. Do not overcook and make the eggplant too soft. Note if you want to use less oil, use 1 tablespoon oil and add extra water so the eggplant softens and is highly golden in colour. Place the cooked eggplant in a dish, sieve and set aside. Place the remaining oil into the wok with the crushed garlic and stir until the garlic begins to change colour. Add the pork and stir frying until cooked. Add the salt and sugar.

Keep stir frying and add the oyster sauce, onion and cooked eggplant.

Keep stir frying until the onions begin to soften – it must be cooked but still firm. Taste and add more salt if required.


*Asian eggplants have many names, such as Chinese or Japanese eggplants. Asian eggplants do not need to be salted before cooking. If you get one with lots of black seeds, throw it out as it cannot be made edible.


The Asian eggplant can be replaced with 1 medium European eggplant (aubergine). If you are using a European eggplant and it is full of black seeds, salt it before use. To salt sprinkle the cut eggplant with salt and leave for 20 minutes until the moisture is drawn out of the eggplant then wash, dry and use per recipe. You can now buy aubergine (eggplant) without black seeds which does not require salting.


Hot Tips


Freedom From Hunger


Soup for Life – Gorta’s annual fundraising campaign was launched at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Friday 13th February. Food entrepreneurs Cully and Sully are supporting ‘Soup for Life’ for the second year in a row; they have pledged to donate 5c per carton of soup during National Soup Week from Monday 5th to Sunday 11th March, 2011. Across Ireland 250 restaurant will donate €1 for each bowl of soup sold see  www.soupforlife for list of participating restaurants.

If you want to get involved why not make a delicious pot of soup and invite some friends around, ask your guests to make a small donation to Gorta -  for details of how to do this email  or phone  1850 80 80 80

Mary Jo Mc Millin’s name may not be familiar to many but her restaurant and catering business in Oxford, OH, USA had a cult following and those who attended her classes gained a repertoire of delicious dishes and recipes that really worked.  She in turn loves Ireland and has been visiting for over 30 years. Mary Jo was particularly famous for her braises and slow cooked dishes and of course her baking. She will be teaching a one day cookery course at Ballymaloe Cookery School next Saturday 10th March. Learn two fool-proof menus and the secrets of several of Mary Jo’s sought after cakes and pastries and French bread. Phone 021 4646785 to book or online



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