ArchiveApril 2012

What’s For Dinner Mum?

Two terrific cookbooks written by two crazily busy Mums came my way this week. Both were published in Cork.  My Goodness by Liz Nolan from On Stream Publications and the other by Shiela Kiely with the catchy title of ‘Gimme the Recipe’ was pub by Mercier Press.

Blonde, beautiful mother of six Sheila Kiely’s intro will resonate with many multi-tasking modern mums who are trying to constantly keep a myriad of balls in the air – “If you are like me, then most days you are running around like a mad thing playing catch up with everything. Shower, dress and eat. Wash on, wash out, wash up. Kids up, kids fed, kids out. Work, sleep and repeat. Somewhere in between you have to manage the school run, housework and grocery shopping, and what were you thinking when you invited people over for dinner at the weekend?” On and on it goes, every sentence will resonate and we recognise the pressure, six shiny energetic faces asking expectantly yet again – ‘what’s for dinner mum?’

Well, over the years Sheila has built up a repertoire of recipes that nourish and delight her energetic household and friends, I particularly loved the chapter on planning family gatherings and parties at home.

Sheila stresses that she’s a long way from being a professional chef but that makes the book all the more accessible.

Liz Nolan developed her passion for healthy and nutritious food at the Wholemeal Cafe in London.  Her book ‘My Goodness’ concentrates on the most important food groups, vegetables and grains. Her recent work as a nutritional therapist at Health and Herbs in Galway has helped many people to improve their health by making simple changes in their diet and lifestyle.

Once again, mother of five children shares her must-have recipes enjoyed by all the family, friends and cookery students. The timing of this book is perfect. Researchers from Harvard School of Medicine recently found that simply cutting the amount of red and processed meat in peoples’ diets to the equivalent of one large steak a week could prevent almost one in ten early deaths in men and one in thirteen  in women. The study found that replacing it with poultry, fish or vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods cuts the risk of dying prematurely by up to one fifth. A few days of tasty vegetarian food could go a long way.


Sheila Kiely’s Completely Cheating Pitta Pizzas


Round pitta breads – 1 per person

Sun-dried tomato paste or red pesto

Cheddar cheese

1 tsp oregano

Toppings: chorizo, salami, red onion, cooked ham, cooked chicken

Preheat the grill.

Sprinkle the pitta with water and heat in the toaster for a couple of minutes so it puffs up. Slice each pitta bread open into two halves. Spread each half with a thin layer of the sun-dried tomato paste or red pesto. Top with whatever you fancy and grated cheddar cheese, sprinkle with oregano and grill until the cheese has melted. Serve with a scattering of chopped fresh herbs if you have them or black pepper.

Liz Nolan’s Spiced Roast Cauliflower


This is a great way to maintain the attractive shape and flavour of cauliflower. You can get black sesame seeds in Indian grocery shops.


1 tsp ground turmeric

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp sesame seeds, black or brown

½ heaped tsp salt

1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets

2/3 tbsp rapeseed oil or olive oil

Sprinkle crushed chillies


Preheat the oven to gas 6/200C/400F.

Mix all the spices, seeds and salt in a small bowl. Put the cauliflower into a large bowl, add the oil and toss together. Add the spices to the cauliflower mix a little at a time and toss to coat. Lay on a large flat baking tray and cook for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower starts to blacken very slightly.


Nutritional information

Cauliflower is part of the brassica family and, like broccoli, contains cancer fighting compounds.


Liz Nolan’s Chickpea and Red Lentil Curry with Aubergine and Spinach 


This is a delicious curry – aromatic rather than spicy


Serves 6


200g red lentils

1 medium green chilli

2–3 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 medium aubergine

2 carrots, sliced

2 ½ cm piece ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 heaped tsp ground turmeric

1 x 400g tin chickpeas in unsalted water

2 tbsp tamari

1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ bag washed baby spinach


To clean the red lentils put them into a bowl and pour cold water on them. Set aside.


Prick the chilli all over with a fork. In a large pan, heat the oil to a medium heat and add the chilli, onion and the cumin seeds. Let them heat up and sizzle for a couple of minutes to release their oils. Reduce the heat. Slice the aubergine into 3 lengthways and chop into small cubes. Add the aubergine and carrots to the pan and cook for a few minutes. Peel, grate and finely chop the ginger and add to the pan with the garlic, ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir well, cover and cook for a few minutes on a low heat to cook the spices a little, making sure the mixture doesn’t burn.  The aubergine will act like a sponge and soak up the oil but gently press down on it with the spatula to release the oil. You shouldn’t need to add any more. Drain the red lentils in a sieve over the sink, discarding the water. Add to the pan with the chickpeas including the water from the tin. Top up with about a pint and a half of water. Stir well to combine and then cover. Cook slowly on a low heat until the red lentils become mushy and lighter in colour and the vegetables are softened. Add the tamari and the salt and pepper. Check the seasoning. Stir in the spinach and leave for a minute or two until just wilting.

Serve with brown rice or quinoa

Nutritional information

Red lentils provide protein and the mineral silica for strong bones, nails and hair. They are also high in antioxidants which protect our cells from damage. Chickpeas contain protein, especially tryptophan for balancing the mood and soluble fibre for healthy bowels. Spinach is a wonderful source of minerals iron, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and A, folic acid for healthy blood cell formation, along with antioxidants for healthy cells.


Sheila Keily’s Moroccan Meatballs

serves 6

1 large red onion

3cm thumb-width piece of ginger

3 garlic cloves

1 red chilli

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

800g minced lamb

1 tbsp olive oil

2 x 400g cans of plum tomatoes

250ml chicken stock

Handful of fresh coriander to garnish


Peel and roughly chop the red onion, ginger and garlic, and blitz together with the deseeded chopped chilli, cumin and cinnamon in a mini chopper or food processor to create a spicy paste. Use a fork or your hands to mix the lamb with half of the spicy paste in a bowl and then shape them into meatballs the size of golfballs. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and brown the meatballs.

Push the meatballs to the sides of the pan and cook the rest of the spicy paste in the centre of the pan for 1 minute. Add the plum tomatoes to the centre of the pan and roughly chop them with a knife. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine with the tomatoes, paste and meatballs. Bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for 25–30 minutes. (Test the centre of a meatball to check that it is cooked through.)

Serve with a sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander and Moroccan couscous or rice.


Shiela Keily’s Sticky Pear and Apple Crumble


2kgs fruit – roughly 4 to 5 medium-sized cooking apples and 4 to 5 small ripe pears

50g caster sugar (for cooking the fruit)

100g plain flour

50g wholemeal flour

50g porridge oats

100g unsalted butter

200g light golden brown sugar

Butter to grease dish



Preheat the oven to 170ËšC/Gas Mark 5.

Peel and chop the fruit into smallish pieces and cook in a saucepan with a splash of water and the caster sugar over a medium heat until softening (still with a bit of bite and not a pulp). This takes about 5 minutes. Put the plain and wholemeal flours and the oats into a mixing bowl and chop in the butter. Use your fingertips to crumble the flour, oats and butter together until it starts to resemble breadcrumbs. Add the brown sugar and mix well with a fork.

Place the cooked fruit in a large greased baking dish and scatter the crumble mixture on top – press it down lightly but do not over-compact it.

Bake for 35–40 minutes.

Delicious on its own, even better with custard or vanilla ice-cream.

 Hot Tips

The Parents Association from Kilbarron National School in Terryglass, Nenagh have produced a delighful recipe book called ‘Our Favourite Recipes!’ each of the sixty one students of the school cooked their favourite recipe and was photographed for the book. Peter Ward wrote the forward and launched the book at his Country Choice Shop in Nenagh – contact Kathy Slattery 0863475921.

Twenty one food service businesses in West Cork joined forces to create the Bandon Food Trail which maps places to eat, shop and stay from Ballineen to Enniskeane, Timoleague to Courtmacsherry, Ballinspittle to Ballinadee, Kinsale to Bandon – don’t make a trip to West Cork without it – you can download a copy on bandon-food-trail or contact Ruth Healy at Urru in Bandon 0214613366.

Last year John and Sylvia McCormack from Aghada East Cork did some experimental baking of ‘Cake Pops’ a popular American idea and now bake over 300 a day and supply the Granary Food Store in Mildeton, Roasted and Idaho Cafes in Cork City, Café du Journal in Monkstown Dublin, Café Libro in Naas and Swords and at Mahon Point Farmers every Thursday – 0872415513 John McCormack –

Slow Food International Grandmothers Day

This weekend, I’m heading to Sandbrook in Co Carlow to celebrate International Slow Food Grandmother’s Day. Grannies, grandpas, nanas, mamas, dadas and children of every age can come along to Ballon have fun, learn and share their experience on Sunday 22nd April, 2012.

Food producers, chefs, farmers and artisans will come together to celebrate good clean and fair food, the Slow Food way, with almost 30 different exhibitors, terrific treats to sample, interesting stories to hear, talents to admire and skills to learn.

There will be lots of workshops, cookery demonstrations, talks on passing skills, everything from how to make homemade butter, Ballymaloe Balloons,  to lemonade to raspberry buns, the first thing I ever learned how to cook. Auntie Florence will show us how to crystallise flowers and the secret of her crumpets. You can learn how to knit, sew and plant and grow how to hatch out chicks, keep hens, forage for wild food, weave willows, make candles, keep bees…

Bring along your favourite recipe that you would like to pass onto your children or grandchildren and we’ll make a scrap book and publish them on the Slow Food Ireland website . So many family recipes are lost because we forget to ask or to record them until it’s too late so why not bring a copy book today and write the favourite family recipes for your children.

There are also fun things for children of all ages to do – from face painting to arts and crafts competitions, petting zoo and a games area.

Charismatic Dublin pork butcher, Ed Hicks will do a two hour sausage making class for kids on a first come first served basis.

Slow Food International Grandmothers Day at Sandbrook House, Ballon, Co Carlow is from 11am to 6pm on Sunday 22nd April – Tel: 0599159247 –


Myrtle Allen’s Balloons


Children’s tea at Ballymaloe House is a jolly carefree affair which holds happy memories for generations of children. Myrtle Allen whips up these balloons in a matter of minutes, they taste just like doughnuts – the problem is to stop the grown-ups stealing them from the children!


5 ozs (140g) plain white flour

2 teasp. castor sugar

pinch of salt

1 level teaspoon baking powder


extra caster sugar and a little ground cinnamon


Makes 10 balloons.


Heat good quality oil in a deep fry to 190C/375F. Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix the batter to a thick dropping consistency with milk. Take a dessertspoonful of the mixture and push it gently off with your finger so that it drops in a round ball into the fat. Repeat. Fry until golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Roll the balloons in castor sugar or castor sugar and cinnamon mixed. Serve at once.


Raspberry Buns


As far as I can remember, these buns were the very first thing I helped my Auntie Florence to bake. My grandchildren love filling the holes with jam, just as I did.


Makes about 10


200g (7oz) self-raising flour and 25g (1oz) ground rice


225g (8oz) self-raising flour

75g (3oz) caster sugar

75g (3oz) butter diced

1 organic egg

1 tablespoon full cream milk

homemade raspberry jam

egg wash

caster sugar


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

Put the flour and ground rice, if using, into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Add in the diced butter and toss it in the flour. Then rub it into the dry ingredients with the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg with the milk and then use a fork to mix it with the dry ingredients until you have a softish dough.

Divide the mixture in two, roll each half into a thick rope and then divide each into five pieces. Form each piece into a round, dip your thumb in flour and make an indentation in the centre of each bun.

Drop a little spoonful of raspberry jam into the hole, and then pinch the edges of dough together to cover the jam.

Transfer to a baking tray, brush the top of each raspberry bun with egg wash and bake for 10 – 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, sprinkle with caster sugar and eat while nice and fresh.



Great Grandmother’s Victoria Sponge


A buttery sponge cake was standard fare to serve with afternoon tea in my Grandmother’s house at Donoghmore. When it was taken out of the oven of the Aga it was cooled on a wire rack by the window in the back kitchens. Thick yellow cream spooned off the top of the milk in the dairy was whipped and as soon as the cake was cool it was sandwiched together with homemade jam from the raspberries picked at the top of the haggard.


6 ozs (170g) flour

6 ozs (170g) castor sugar

3 eggs

4½ ozs (125g/1 stick, plus 1 level tablesp.) butter

14g/1 tablesp. milk

1 teasp. (5g) baking powder


4 ozs (225g) home-made raspberry jam (see recipe)

10 fl ozs (285g) whipped cream


castor sugar to sprinkle

2 x 7 inch (18cm) sponge cake tins


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

Grease and flour the tins and line the base of each with a round of greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and gradually add the castor sugar, beat until soft and light and quite pale in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. (If the butter and sugar are not creamed properly and if you add the eggs too fast, the mixture will curdle, resulting in a cake with a heavier texture). Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in gradually. Mix all together lightly and add 1 tablespoon of milk to moisten.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 tins, hollowing it slightly in the centre. bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked. Turn out onto a wire tray and allow to cool.

Sandwich together with homemade Raspberry Jam and whipped cream. Sprinkle with sieved castor sugar. Serve on an old fashioned plate with a doyley.


Aunt Alice’s Raspberry Jam



Makes 3 x 1 lb (450g) pots


Raspberry jam is the easiest and quickest of all jams to make, and one of the most delicious.  Loganberries, Boysenberries or Tayberries may also be used in this recipe.


2 lbs (900g) fresh raspberries

2 lbs (900g) white sugar (use 1/4 lb (110g) less if fruit is very sweet)


Wash, dry and sterilise the jars in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes.


Put the raspberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the juice begins to run, then add the hot sugar and stir over a gentle heat until fully dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Test for a set by putting about a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate, leaving it for a few minutes in a cool place. It should wrinkle when pressed with a finger. Remove from the heat immediately. Skim and pour into sterilised jam jars. Cover immediately.

Hide the jam in a cool place or else put on a shelf in your kitchen so you can feel great every time you look at it! Anyway, it will be so delicious it won’t last long!

Hot Tips

On the Wild Side – Oliver Beaujouan – well known artisan food producer from Kilcoummin near Castle Gregory in Co Kerry has been exciting us about the possibilities of the variety of sea weeds around our coasts for many years. Look out for his kelp pickled a la Provencal and Sea Spaghetti pickled with fresh chilli – delicious with stir fried pork fillet or in salads and bouncing with nutrients. Available at the Little Cheese Shop in Dingle, the Limerick Milk Market and at the Cheese Stall at the Midleton Farmers Market every Saturday. Tel: 0877922468


Robbie Fitzsimmon’s 75 day old chickens grow slowly, range freely and have twice the flavour and are twice the size of their intensively farmed cousins – one chicken will feed the entire family with left overs for next day’s sandwiches and carcass and giblets for chicken broth – at €10.00each they are a genuine bargain. East Ferry Free Range – 0862056020 –


Farmers Market Lunch – Chef owner Kevin Aherne of Sage Restaurant in Midleton is one the first customers into Midleton Farmers Market each Saturday to source the pick of the produce from the stalls to showcase on his lunch menu, a brilliant example of a business supporting local farmers and fishermen and serving local food proudly to his eager and appreciative customers. Tel: 021 4639682 –



Irish Traditional Cooking – Batting for Ireland

My new book Irish traditional Cooking was launched in New York over St Patrick’s Weekend, a busy few days, lots of interviews with food editors, radio and television including an early morning appearance on CBS on St Patricks Day. In between I was batting for Ireland as ever and spreading the news at every possible opportunity about the artisan renaissance in food production, farm house cheeses and farmers and country markets. Many Irish products are now widely available in the US, including Kerrygold butter, Irish Cheddar cheese, Odlums flour, Barrys tea, Kilbeggan porridge… The prestigious Manhattan store Dean and Deluca has increased its list of Irish products from two in 2011 to eleven in 2012, while I was there I was delighted to see that they were doing a brisk trade in Ballymaloe Country Relish, Dubliner cheese and Burren smoked salmon. Sarah Grubb was over to promote the launch of Cashel Blue Cheese in the US and Sean Hyde was charming everyone with her irresistible smile and a spoonful of country relish.

The head buyer from Dean and Deluca was high in her praise of Bord Bia and the Market place event they organised for food buyers last year which she insisted was the best she ever attended. However she was quite alarmed to learn that there was a possibility that Ireland was considering doing trials of genetically modified potatoes which if passed would mean the loss of Ireland’s GM free status. The perception of Irish produce in the US as in many other countries is of wholesome, clean food they can trust. Why would we want to lose our precious clean green image on which so much depends when there are already several varieties of blight resistant potatoes that could be further developed instead?  With GM, if something unexpected goes wrong and there are already numerous examples of unintended consequences with GM crops, it’s not a question of product recall, once the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ there’s no going back- you only lose your virginity once!


Spring is well and truly here, so this weekend I’ll include a few more recipes from my new Traditional Irish Cooking book.

We’ve been enjoying the sea kale from the garden for the past few weeks – it’s a deliciously delicate plant that has been growing around our coast for centuries. People learned that if they excluded light it became pale and tender, each plant was jealously guarded and hidden and eventually it was domesticated in walled gardens of the great house. Potters were commissioned to make tall terracotta pots with lids to cover the plants so the plant could grow and blanch inside.

The season is almost over so you’ll need to be fast, alternatively plant a few plants for next year, it’s not easy to find in the shops but Farmers Markets occasionally sell it.

Nonetheless the Irish asparagus season is just beginning, we have five tiny spears peeking out of the ground, and this is another perennial plant that is well worth growing. It’s one of life’s real luxuries and again the season is short so its heaven to be able to have a few little feasts of asparagus.


Traditional Irish Cooking by Darina Allen is published by Gill and MacMillan.


Asparagus on Grilled Bread with Hollandaise Sauce


Both asparagus and seakale have long associations with country house cooking in Ireland, when they were grown in the kitchen gardens of the ‘big house’. Hollandaise sauce or melted butter was the preferred accompaniment, rather than French dressing, which is a more recent accompaniment.


Serves 4


16–20 spears of fresh asparagus

4 slices of bread – we use Arbutus Biggie from Declan Ryan’s artisan bakery




sprigs of chervil


Trim the asparagus and cook in boiling salted water until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily. Meanwhile, make the Hollandaise Sauce (see below). Toast or chargrill the bread, butter it and remove the crusts. Place a piece of toast on a hot plate, place 4 or 5 pieces of asparagus on top and spoon a little Hollandaise sauce over it. Garnish with a sprig of chervil and serve immediately.


Seakale with Melted Butter


Serves 4-6


450g (1lb) seakale

55-75g (2-3oz) butter or Hollandaise Sauce – see recipe.

salt and freshly ground pepper


Wash the seakale gently and trim into manageable lengths – about 10cm (4 inches).  Bring about 600ml (1 pint) water to a fast rolling boil, add one teaspoon salt.  Pop in the seakale, cover and boil until tender – 5 to 15 minutes depending on thickness.


Just as soon as a knife will pierce the seakale easily, drain it and then serve on hot plates with a little melted butter and perhaps a few small triangles of toast.  At the beginning of its short season in April we serve it as a first course on hot toast with melted butter or Hollandaise sauce (see recipe).


Hollandaise Sauce


2 egg yolks, free-range

1 dessertspoon cold water

110g (4oz) butter, cut into dice

1 teaspoon lemon juice (approximately)


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


Wild Garlic Champ


Potatoes could be relied on to satisfy hearty appetites, and in farming households, milk and butter would usually have been plentiful.  One of the best-loved ways of cooking potatoes was (and is) to mash them with boiling milk, add chopped scallions or chives and serve this creamy.  Champ was economical as well as nutritious and tasty.  Also, no shopping was required, since all the ingredients were to hand.  I came across many regional variations on the champ theme, some called by different names.  Champ is best made with the traditional main crop potato varieties, like Golden Wonder and Kerr’s Pinks.  Leeks, nettles, peas and brown crispy onions are all delicious additions.


Serves 4


6–8 unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes, e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

55g (2oz) scallions or spring onions, (use the bulb and green stem)

55g (2oz) wild garlic

350ml (12fl oz) full-cream milk

55-110g (2-4oz) approximately, butter

salt and freshly ground pepper


Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.  Chop finely the scallions or spring onions and the wild garlic.  Cover the scallions/spring onions and wild garlic with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and, while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions/wild garlic.  Beat in some of the butter.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.


Serve in one large or 4 individual bowls with a generous knob of butter melting in the centre.


Note: Champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.  Cover with tin foil while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin.


Poached Leg of Mutton with Parsley Sauce


Kay Harte, from the much-loved Farmgate Café upstairs in Cork City’s English Market, shared this recipe with us. Kay constantly features local produce on her menu, if possible from the market downstairs. The corned mutton is supplied by Paul and Alan from Coughlan’s Butchers in the market. They bone the leg of lamb and open it out, then corn it for about 36 hours and it is absolutely mouth-watering. Any leftovers can be converted, very simply, into a mutton pie the next day.


Serves 6–8


1 leg of corned mutton – around

2½kg (5lb 8oz)

2 bay leaves

2 onions, quartered

2 carrots, cut into chunks

2 leeks, cut into chunks

900g (2lb) potatoes


Parsley sauce (See Irish Examiner Saturday 31st March)


Put the leg of mutton into a large pot and add enough water to cover. Add the bay leaves, onions, carrots and leek (Kay says she just chops the onions into quarters and adds them ’skin and all’); these are to flavour the cooking water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer very slowly with the lid on for 1½–2 hours – depending on how big the piece of mutton is. When cooked, turn off the heat and leave to rest in the cooking liquid until ready to carve. Put well-scrubbed local potatoes into a steamer; they usually take about 30 minutes, depending on size. When cooked, remove the lid and put a damp tea towel on top while you are waiting to serve. This helps the ‘floury’ process! Make the Parsley Sauce while the potatoes are cooking. Kay says that either mashed turnip or mashed carrot and parsnip are lovely served with this dish. You can cook the vegetables in the mutton broth for added flavour. Mash them with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of local honey. Creamy mash or scallion champ are good with this too.


Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle


Serves 8–10

2 layers of homemade sponge cake or 450g (1lb) bought trifle sponges (trifle sponges are lighter so you will need less custard)

225g (8oz) homemade raspberry jam

150–175ml (5–6fl oz) best quality sweet or medium sherries – don’t spare the sherry and don’t waste your time with cooking sherry


Egg Custard


5 eggs, free-range if possible

1¼ tablespoons caster sugar

¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

750ml (1¼ pint) rich milk




600ml (1 pint) whipped cream

8 glacé cherries or crystallised violets

8 diamonds of angelica

Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with homemade raspberry jam. If you

use trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs. Next make the egg custard. Whisk the eggs

with the sugar and vanilla extract. Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and add it to the

egg, whisking all the time. Put into a heavy saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the

custard coats the back of the wooden spoon lightly. Don’t let it boil or it will curdle.

Cut the sponge into 2cm (¾in) slices and use these to line the bottom of a 1.7 litre

(3 pint) glass bowl, sprinkling generously with sherry as you go along. Pour in some

of the homemade egg custard and then add another layer of sponge. Sprinkle with the

remainder of the sherry. Spread the rest of the custard over the top. Cover and leave for

5–6 hours, or preferably overnight, to mature.

Before serving, spread whipped cream over the top, pipe rosettes if you like, and

decorate the trifle with glacé cherries or crystallised violets and diamonds of angelica.




Darina Allen will celebrate the launch of her new book with a cookery demonstration of  recipes from Irish Traditional Cooking in Arnotts Department Store, Dublin at 1.30pm on Friday 20th April – all welcome.


The Café at the End of the Shop at Ballymaloe House is now opening on Friday evenings from 7pm to 9:30pm for Spanish style small plates – the menu changes weekly – might be, plates of hand-cut Iberico de Bellota Jamon, Woodside Farm pork ribs, borlotti bean curry… wine and cava served by the glass. Contact Dervilla O’Flynn for details – 086-8136928 or 021-4652032.


Handmade knives from Gubbeen – If you have a few bob spare think of investing in one of Fingal Ferguson’s handmade knives – believe me they’ll be collectors’ items before too long – phone 028-27824.


Join nutritionists Debbie Shaw and Linn Thorsstenson for their new 1-day course “Healthy Eating on a Budget for all Ages”  on Saturday April 21st, Ambassador Hotel, Cork City, from 10am to 4.30pm – visit, email: or tel: 086-7855868.


Tart Anglo Irish Bakery Great new little Café in Portobello Docks, Kensal Road in London – next door to the Dock Kitchen – don’t miss it – 00447747723812.

Fresh Eggs for Easter

We’ve have just hatched out a clutch of fluffy chicks in time for Easter. A few weeks ago, we put a batch of fertile eggs into the incubator, plugged it in and hoped for the best. Twenty one days later we heard faint cheeping and eventually a few damp little chicks pecked their way out of the eggs. After several hours they fluff up and get perky enough to be moved out under the infra red lamp in the Palais des Poulets. After a few weeks they’ll grow pinfeathers and eventually proper plumage. Well have to wait to see which grow little tails, those will grow into fine cockerels and the others will mature into
hens. We’ll fatten up the cockerels for the pot and the hens will keep us supplied with beautiful eggs. A few weeks ago I was in New York and guess what were the coolest new hobbies- keeping chickens in your backyard and bees on your roof, can you imagine?
Public demand is such that the by-laws have changed in many areas to enable people to keep their own fowl. At one dinner party in Brooklyn, guests spent over half an hour comparing notes on how to keep chickens!


At the Farmers Market in Union Square they were selling eggs from several different types of rare breeds of hens, the beautiful blue-green eggs of the arucanas were selling at several dollars a dozen more than the others and at Dean and Deluca in Manhattan, beautiful duck eggs sell individually for two or three dollars each.

Eggs were starring on restaurant menus too; at the Green Table in Chelsea Market I had a beautiful plate of devilled eggs on a bed of peppery watercress, with crusty bread from Amy’s Bakery next door. Scotch eggs were everywhere with even quails eggs wrapped in a succulent mix of heritage pork sausage meat. Expensive heritage meats from traditional breeds are the hottest thing and the mantra ‘eat less but better meat’ is gaining momentum as is ‘meat free Monday’

At Buvette a chic little French café on Grove street in the West Village I had a bowl of slow cooked kale topped with a poached eggs and some grilled bread with crumbly pecorino, for breakfast and Ino in Bedford Street serve truffled egg in toast that worth flying over for.

Like many people who keep their own hens, I’m frightfully fussy about eating eggs away from home but nowadays in New York there are actually places where you can trust the quality of the eggs, they may even come from someone’s backyard or the roof garden in the neighbourhood.

Happy Easter to you all.


A Selection of Devilled Eggs



Serves 8



4 free range eggs

2-3 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Lower the eggs gently into boiling salted water, bring the water back to the boil and hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water.  (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, slice in half lengthways. Sieve the yolks, mix the sieved egg yolk with mayonnaise, add chopped chives and salt and pepper to taste. Fill into a piping bag and pipe into the whites. Garnish with a sprig of parsley or chervil and serve on a bed of wild watercress leaves.



Country Relish Eggs


Makes 8 halves


As above, add 1 tablespoon of sieved Ballymaloe Country Relish to the sieved egg yolk with the mayonnaise. Season well taste for seasoning. Decorate with a sliver of gherkin and a cheeky chive.



Kalamata Eggs


Makes 8 halves


As above and add 4 black Kalamata olives stoned and finely chopped to the sieved egg. Continue as above. Decorate with a sliver olive and a sprig of chervil.



Anchovy Eggs


Makes 8 halves


As above – add 2 – 4 finely mashed anchovies and 2 teaspoons of finely chopped parsley to sieved yolk and proceed as above. Garnish with a sprig of fennel and a fennel flower if available.



Wasabi Eggs


Makes 8 halves


Add ½ teaspoon of wasabi mustard to the sieved egg yolk with the mayonnaise, taste and correct the seasoning. Garnish with salmon roe and wild garlic or chive flowers in season.


To Serve


Choose rectangular plates if available. Arrange a few wild watercress leaves on the plate and top with four devilled eggs of different flavours. Garnish each and serve with brown yeast bread.


Fried Eggs with Sage


Simple but so delicious.


Serves 1


2 freshly laid organic eggs

clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil

4-6 sage leaves

sea salt


Sourdough toast


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



Scotch Eggs with Tomato and Chilli Relish



Serves 6



Scotch eggs are having a huge revival.  As ever the flavour depends on the quality of the sausage meat and the eggs.  One can add lots of exciting ingredients to the sausage meat to introduce new flavour – ginger, sweet chilli sauce, freshly roasted coriander and or cumin, lots of fresh herbs, grainy mustard…They are best served warm but can also be reheated.  Great for a picnic, lunch or food served with a little salad of organic leaves and herbs.


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

6 hard-boiled or semi-hard boiled eggs (preferably free-range)

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

1/2 teaspoon English mustard

1 beaten egg

seasoned flour

dry, white breadcrumbs (but not too fine)

best-quality oil for deep frying


Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and put in the eggs carefully, one by one.  Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes. (The eggs should be covered with water.) Pour off the water and cover with cold water.  The time depends on whether a runny or hard boiled yolk is required.


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


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


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


Alternative Suggestion

Split the scotch eggs in half and serve with a green salad and a little bowl of Dijon mayonnaise and tomato and chilli jam (see recipe).


Scotch Egg Salad

Serve the scotch eggs on a salad of mixed leaves – Rocket, Watercress, whole cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and chunks of cucumber.


Tomato and Chilli Relish



Makes 2 x 200ml (7fl oz/) jars


900g (2lbs) tomatoes, chopped

400ml (14fl oz) white wine vinegar

200g (7oz) caster sugar

1-2 red chillies, depending on heat, chopped

10 allspice berries, crushed


First chop the tomatoes into 7mm (1/3 inch) dice, no need to skin.  Put the chopped vinegar, sugar, chilli and crushed all spice berries into a stainless steel saucepan.  Bring to the boil then simmer stirring regularly until it reduces and thickens to a jam-like consistency (about 20 minutes approximately).  Pour into sterilised jars, cover and allow to mellow for 4 or 5 days at least before.


Crispy Deep-fried Eggs


This technique takes a bit of practice but the crispy white is irresistible.


extra virgin olive oil, sunflower or peanut oil

really fresh organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper




Tomato and Chilli Jam (see recipe)

rocket leaves


Heat the oil in a deep sided frying pan.  It should be really hot, test by dropping in a tiny cube of bread – it should brown in seconds.


Break an egg into the hot oil. Tilt the pan immediately so the egg slides down into a pool of oil.  Use a tablespoon to lift the white over the yolk so the yolks is completely enclosed between two layers of white.  This will prevent the yolk from overcooking and allow the white to get deliciously crisp and slightly golden. Cook for a minute or two more.


Lift the egg out of the oil with a perforated spoon, drain well on kitchen paper.  Serve on warm crisp croutons with tomato and chilli jam and some rocket leaves.


Rachel’s Baked Eggs with Creamy Kale

Taken from Rachel Allen’s Entertaining at Home


Serves 6


These are delicious for brunch or a casual supper. If you can’t get kale, use  spinach. I love to use the Irish farmhouse cheese Glebe Brethan for its  delicious flavour and melting texture, but you could use Gruyère instead.



25g (1oz) butter

900g (2lb) kale with stalks removed before weighing

Salt and ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

350ml (12fl oz) single or regular cream

6 eggs

350g (12oz) Glebe Brethan or gruyère cheese, grated

Six 100ml (31⁄2 fl oz) ramekins or ovenproof dishes


Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°f), Gas mark 4. Add the butter to a large wide frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the kale and season with salt and pepper. As

soon as the kale wilts and becomes tender, add the cream and nutmeg, then allow to bubble for 3–5 minutes until thickened. Divide the kale between the ramekins or dishes, placing it around the inside of each dish and leaving a small well in the

centre. Break one egg into each dish and sprinkle (50g) 2oz of the grated cheese over the top. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling around the edges. Scatter over a little pepper and serve immediately with a little toast on the side.



Hot Tips


Easter Egg Painting Competition at Midleton Farmers Market today at 10:30am with yummy chocolate prizes from O’Conaills Chocolate – rabbit lollypops, chocolate nests, Easter bunnies… 021-4373407


Biccies for farmhouse cheese – the best new product I have tasted for a while is Sheridans Irish Brown Bread Crackers – made in Ireland with stone-ground wholemeal flour, butter and buttermilk from Cronin’s family dairy in Belgooly, Co Cork. Sheridans Cheesemongers Dublin – Tel 01 6793143 –

Spring Foraging course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – you’ll learn how to identify and use over forty wild food, plants, wild flowers, nuts, berries, fungi, seaweeds and shellfish depending on the season. Suitable for chefs or for anyone with an interest in foraging for pleasure or to earn a living.Saturday 28th April 9am to 5pm 021 4646785.


Food for the Gods – The 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 Daly 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: –


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