Delicious Ways with Christmas Leftovers

Phew it’s all over again for another year – hope it was jolly and lots of fun. Now for the best bit, using up the leftovers. If you haven’t eaten every last morsel from the turkey carcass, here are two delicious ways to use up the remainder.

We made the Tostadas recently with chicken and I was amazed how the grandchildren as well as the adults loved them. The kids loved the interactive bit of piling the filling on top of the tortillas.

Ramen Shops are sweeping across the US and UK. People can’t get enough of this comforting Japanese broth choc full of Chinese noodles with various additions. The best ones are of course made with homemade broth, noodles. This is a quick comforting version on the Ramen theme. Use up scraps of turkey, ham and even Brussels sprouts. Ribollita is similar, another comforting bowl of chunky soup.

If you still have any leftover Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce you may be surprised to hear it makes the most divine boozy ice-cream and it’s definitely hard to beat plum pudding that’s gently fried in butter.

A frittata is also a fantastic vehicle for little bits and pieces, add some grated

cheese and lots of freshly chopped herbs.

Macaroni cheese can be perked up with a little dice of smoked mackerel or salmon or a few little morsels of cooked ham or bacon. Left over bread can be made into all manner of bread and butter puddings – there’s no end to the delicious revival you can serve up with aplomb. Happy New Year

Turkey Tostadas

Tostadas are a favourite snack in Mexico, the filling varies according to the area, it can be beef, chicken, pork, turkey, crab or just vegetables.  The filling is always piled high so Tostadas are always quite a challenge to eat elegantly but what the heck they taste delicious! For a family meal pile the crisp torillas onto a plate and have bowls of shredded turkey meat, tomatoes, guacamole…so people can help themselves and make their own tostadas.


Serves 8


8 tortillas, they ought to be corn tortillas but wheat flour tortillas can be substituted.


225g (8ozs) refried beans, optional

1/2 iceberg lettuce, shredded

110-175g (4-6ozs) cooked turkey or chicken, shredded

4 sliced chilli, optional

4 – 6 very ripe tomatoes, sliced (cherry tomatoes would be best in which case you’ll need more)

1 or 2 avocados or guacamole

4 tablespoons spring onion, sliced

8 tablespoons sour cream

50-110g (2-4ozs) grated Cheddar cheese


Deep fry the tortillas in hot oil until crisp and golden, drain on kitchen paper.  Put each tortilla on a hot plate, spread with a little warm refried beans and then top with some crunchy lettuce, shredded chicken breast, guacamole and so on.


Finish off with a blob of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and chives.

Serve immediately.   In Mexico Tostadas are considered to be finger food – you’ll need both hands!


Refried Beans


Refried beans accompany numerous snacks including tacos and Mexican Scrambled Eggs.  The texture can be soupy or a thickish puree.


50-75g (2-3oz) best quality pork lard or butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

225g (8oz) Mexican beans


Heat the lard or butter in a heavy frying pan, cook the onion until soft and brown,  increase the heat and add about a third of the beans and their broth to the pan and cook over a high heat mashing them as you stir with a wooden spoon, or you could even use a potato masher.  Gradually add the rest of the beans little by little until you have a soft or thick puree.  Taste and season with salt if necessary.   Although this sounds as though it might be a lengthy business it only takes about 5-6 minutes.  Refried Beans keep well and may be reheated many times.




The avocado must be really ripe for guacamole


1 ripe avocado (Hass if available)

1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon freshly chopped coriander or flat parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Scoop out the flesh from the avocado.  Mash with a fork or in a pestle and mortar, add lime juice, olive oil, chopped coriander, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.  Otherwise, cover the surface of the guacamole with a sheet of plastic to exclude the air.  Cover and keep cool until needed.


A little finely diced chilli or tomato may be added to the guacamole.


Festive Frittata


Serves 6-8



A frittata is an Italian omelette.  Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it!  It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake.  This basic recipe, flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs.  Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy.  One could substitute grated mature cheddar but Gruyére and Parmesan give you more ‘bang for your buck’.


10 large eggs, preferably free range organic

1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

75g (3ozs) Gruyére cheese, grated

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

25g (1oz) butter

4 tablespoons basil or annual marjoram chopped


To Serve

Rocket leaves

Tomato and Coriander Salsa


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


Whisk the eggs in a bowl; add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, grated cheese into the eggs.  Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs.  Turn down the heat, as low as it will go.  Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.


Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface.  Alternatively after an initial 3 or 4 minutes on the stove one can transfer the pan to a preheated oven 170ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3 until just set 15-20 minutes.


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

Serve cut in wedges, arrange some rocket leaves on top of the frittata and top with a blob of tomato and coriander salsa or alternatively you can serve with a good green salad and perhaps a tomato salad.



Diced cooked potato, ham, chorizo, sweated leek, spring onion, blanched broccoli, roast pumpkin or squash, sautéed mushroom…





Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, it needs to be well flavoured but it can be varied in so many ways. The broth can be a mixture of chicken, pork, dashi, miso or vegetable based. Noodles can be traditional wheat ramen noodles or you can use buckwheat or brown rice noodles if it needs to be gluten free. The meat can be braised brisket or short ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly or bacon, tofu or shrimp. It’s whatever vegetables are in season, fresh herbs that you like. You can top it with softish hardboiled egg, nori, sesame seeds or nuts. The variations are endless. It’s also a fantastic way to use leftovers at any time of year but particularly Christmas. Here’s a basic starting point.
1.8 litres (64fl oz)        homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoon mirin
1-inch chunk ginger root, gently smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
12 oz ramen noodles or other Chinese noodles
11/2 cups sautéed greens (spinach, Swiss chard, kale or Brussels sprouts)
11/2 cups mashed cooked squash or pumpkin
1lb  roasted turkey, chicken thighs, with or without skin, sliced
3  soft cooked eggs
3 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Heat chicken stock with soy sauce, mirin and ginger. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil.
Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender (usually 4 to 5 minutes but check the directions on the package). Drain well.
Heat greens, squash and chicken.
When everything is hot, assemble soup. Place about a cupful of noodles in each bowl. Ladle the broth over noodles. Arrange greens, squash and slices of chicken — in separate areas on top of the noodles. Shell the eggs, halve and lay ½  an egg in each bowl and sprinkle with lots of  green spring onions. Eat while very hot — broth first and then other ingredients or any way you want.
Sautéed greens  Sauté 275g (10oz) baby spinach or 450g (1 lb) trimmed and chopped kale or Swiss chard in 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil until wilted and tender — a minute or two for spinach and 8 to 10 minutes for kale or Swiss chard. Season with salt and pepper.
Puréed squash - Cut a butternut or buttercup squash in half, remove seeds and pulp, brush cut surfaces with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast, cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, in a preheated 400F oven for 45 minutes to one hour or until tender when pierced with a knife. Scoop out squash and mash with 1 tbsp roasted sesame oil and salt to taste.
Roasted chicken thighs - Toss 8 boneless chicken thighs (with or without skin) in 112ml (4fl oz) teriyaki sauce or 112ml (4fl oz) hoisin mixed with 2 tbsp soy sauce. Arrange skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in a preheated 200°C/400°F/Mark 6 oven for 30 minutes.
Soft-cooked eggs - Add 4 eggs gently to a medium sized saucepan of boiling, salted (1 tbsp) water. When water returns to the boil, cover pot and turn off heat. Let rest seven minutes. Drain eggs and cool in cold water. Crack shells and soak eggs in cold water for 5 minutes longer. Remove shells and cut eggs in half lengthwise with a piece of unflavoured dental floss.


Boozy Ice Cream with Raisins


A gorgeous rich ice cream with a scoopable texture, serve it in small helpings. Here I give the recipe from scratch but if you have any Mrs Hanrahan’s sauce left over you can use that instead.


Serves 20 approximately


4 oz (110g) butter

8 oz (225g) Barbados sugar (moist, soft, dark-brown sugar)

1 egg, free-range


62ml (2½fl oz) port

62ml (2½fl oz) medium sherry


2 ¼-2 ½ pints (1.3-1.4L) lightly whipped cream


4oz (110g) muscatel raisins

62ml (2½fl oz) sherry

62ml (2½fl oz) rum

2oz (50g) fresh walnuts, chopped


2 13x20cm (5x8inch) loaf tins or plastic box


Melt the butter, stir in the sugar and allow it to cool slightly.  Whisk the egg and add to the butter and sugar with the sherry and port.  Cool.  Add the softly whipped cream.  Put into a plastic box, cover and freeze.

Alternatively line two loaf tins with cling film, cover and freeze.

Meanwhile put the raisins into a bowl, cover with a mixture of rum and sherry and allow it to plump up.  Chop the walnuts coarsely and add to the raisins just before serving.

To Serve 

Cut the ice cream in slices or serve in little glasses scattered with a few boozy raisins and some chopped walnuts.  Sliced or diced banana is also delicious with this combination.


Hot Tips


The Organic Centre in Rossinver, Co Leitrim 2014 Course Program and Seed Catalogue is full of brilliant ways to fulfil your New Year’s Resolutions to grow your own vegetables. You could start by signing up for Starting a Garden from Scratch on Saturday 22nd February 2014 and there are lots more brilliant forgotten Skills courses like Cheese Making, Beer Making, Beekeeping…  – to order a 2014 Catalogue or phone 071 9854338.


Master It – How to Cook Today – Rory O’Connell

For me it was a wonderful surprise that my latest book 30 Years at Ballymaloe won the Avonmore Cookbook of the Year award at the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards – and it really was a surprise, I was in very good company Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen and Catherine Fulvio’s The Weekend Chef were also shortlisted as were Neven Maguire’s The Nation’s Favourite Food, Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food  and Ross Lewis for his beautifully produced Chapter One – An Irish Food Story.

But for me the best cookbook of the year was unquestionably Master It – How to Cook Today by Rory O’Connell. Yes, he’s my brother and you may well be thinking ‘well she would say that wouldn’t she’ but that’s what I truly believe.

It’s a fine tome and by the way, long overdue. Rory has spent his life in food ever since he came to Ballymaloe for a Summer job after his first year at University. Myrtle in her perceptive way noticed that he had a particular interest so she invited him into the kitchen to ‘try his hand’ for a couple of weeks. After no more than ten days she decided he was a natural…

Rory cooked in the kitchens at Ballymaloe House and Arbutus Lodge for many years. He spent several years with the legendary Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico in London, a stint in Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons with Raymond Blanc, a month with Alice Waters in Chez Pannise in Berkeley California and in the inspirational kitchens of the American Academy in Rome. He was head chef at Ballymaloe House for many years.

Rory and I co-founded the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 1983 and we now run the Cookery School together with my son Toby and our ace team.

Master It is a culmination of all those years of cooking and teaching both of which Rory really really loves. “This is not a ‘chuck it in and see how it goes’ book.  I find that approach irksome and unfair, as unless the cook is utterly instinctive and much practised, this approach is fraught with pit falls. Food is too precious and expensive for that sort of game of chance. So many times, I have witnessed the wide eyed amazement and delight of a cook who, when finally cajoled into reading, weighing, heating and timing a set of ingredients, has produced a dish that has previously eluded them. My approach to cooking is simple and not new. Use the best ingredients you can find, get organised and follow the recipe.”

Master It was one of just a handful of cookbooks chosen by BBC4 Radio Food Programme as one of the outstanding books of 2013, quite an honour and they are definitely not a ‘pushover’.

To the students here at Ballymaloe Cookery School he is a hero, his creativity and presentation are inspirational and they love it.

Follow any of the recipes in Master It you will be guaranteed success and a bucketful of compliments.


Hot Tips

We are very excited about New Seasons Capezzana Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has just arrived in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop – 021 4646785

Rory O’Connell’s Carrot, Coconut and Lemongrass Soup


I tasted a soup with these ingredients in Laos a few years ago, and when I came home I set about recreating that delicious flavour. Carrot soup is a funny thing – you imagine it would be easy, but in fact it can be difficult to achieve a really flavoursome result. However, with

this lovely combination of flavours I think it works really well. It is worth noting that lemongrass grows successfully in this country in a glasshouse or conservatory, or even just on a south-facing windowsill. If possible buy carrots with the earth still on them, as generally they have much more flavour than pre-washed ones.


The ingredients

I like to make this soup with big carrots that have been sold with some earth still on them, and preferably after the first frosts, when they seem to become deeper in flavour, so this becomes a late autumn and winter soup.


Lemongrass is easy to source now and is a lovely ingredient with its sweet, scented and astringent flavour. Bright green when fresh, it dulls to a pale straw colour when dried, which is the way it is sold generally in the West. Here it needs to be sliced as finely as you can, so that it will cook down and disappear into the puréed soup. Be careful when running your hands over the grass, as its leaves can be razor sharp. If you have not cooked with it before, give it a go, as it will open up a world of different recipes to you.


Coconut milk, like lemongrass, is an essential ingredient in the cooking of south-east Asia and indeed all of southern India. Like lemongrass, using it is an entry ticket to a repertoire of dishes bigger than you can imagine. The first time you open a can, you may be surprised

by the rather grey-white colour of the contents. That’s fine, that’s the way it looks. Apart from the colour, the general appearance can also vary. Sometimes there will be a thick and solid layer on top, which is the richer cream, with a thinner, watery milk-like liquid underneath. If the can has been shaken, the two different consistencies can appear rather curdled, and again that’s all quite all right.  Just stir the two liquids together to mix. Some brands of coconut milk have been emulsified to prevent the two liquids from separating and to give the coconut a creamy appearance. I avoid these brands, because apart from the fact that in some recipes the

thick and the thin are added separately, I really just want the coconut and water that is used as part of the process and don’t want the stabilisers and emulsifiers. The quality of tinned coconut milk varies quite a bit, so search out a good brand such as Chaokoh.


Serves 6–8

40g butter

700g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

225g onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped

2 stalks of lemongrass

Maldon sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

and sugar, to taste

850ml chicken stock

500ml coconut milk

Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish


Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and allow it to foam. Add the carrots, onions and garlic and stir to coat in the butter. Remove the coarse outer leaves and the tough ends from the lemongrass. Slice the trimmed stalk finely against the grain and add to the vegetables. Tie the tough outer leaves together with string and add to the pan. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover with a greaseproof paper lid and the saucepan lid and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are beginning to soften.


Add the chicken stock, return to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are completely tender. Remove and discard the tied up lemongrass stalks. Purée the ingredients to achieve a smooth and silky consistency. Heat the coconut milk to a simmer, add to the carrot purée and mix well. Return the soup to a simmer. The consistency will be slightly thick. Taste and correct the seasoning, bearing in mind that carrots sometimes benefit from a small pinch of sugar to really lift the flavour. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.


Rory O’Connell’s Fish Fillets Bakes ‘au gratin’


Keys to Success

Measure all the ingredients accurately, so as to ensure the correct amount of sauce and flavourings for the amount of fish being cooked.

The cooked gratin should be a rich golden colour and bubbling hot when ready to be served.


Gratin of Hake with Tomatoes, Basil, Olives and Parmesan


The firm texture of hake is perfect for this dish, although cod, Pollock and salmon are also good here. Really ripe tomatoes are essential to add sweetness and depth of flavour to the sauce.

The final addition to the dish of the strong-tasting chopped olive and basil pulls the flavours together. The cooked gratin should arrive at the table bubbling hot, with a rich golden colour.

The ingredients

Hake is a firm-textured white-fleshed fish with great flavour. Freshness, as ever, is the key to a delicious result.

Fat, black and briny Kalamata olives are the preferred choice for this dish.


Serves 4:

2 teaspoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons

600g ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced 5mm thick

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large clove of garlic, peeled and very thinly sliced

4x150g pieces of hake fillet, skin removed

10 basil leaves

100ml regular or double cream

50g Parmesan

16 fat black olives, such as Kalamata, stoned removed and finely chopped

8 small basil leaves, for serving


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


Rub an ovenproof gratin dish with the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Place the sliced tomatoes in the dish and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the sliced garlic. Lay the pieces of fish on next. Tear the basil leaves and scatter over the fish. Whisk the cream and Parmesan together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the cream directly over the fish.

The dish can now be cooked immediately or covered and refrigerated for up to 2 hours. To cook, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is just cooked through and the cream and tomatoes have become a bubbling light sauce with a golden hue.

Mix the chopped olives with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle over the dish.

Scatter the small basil leaves over and serve.


Rory O’Connell’s Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel Seeds


Watch out for pork from old breeds such as Gloucester Old Spot, Saddleback, Red Duroc and Black Berkshire for juicy and flavoursome meat.

Fennel seeds have a sweet and aniseed-like flavour and are lovely with pork.

Dried chillies, with their deep and slightly smoky heat, enliven this dish.

Bitter Bramley-type cooking apples and dark red plums are best for the accompanying sauce.

Star anise is a beautiful, sweet and aromatic spice but needs to be used with restraint. Too much can result in an over-the-top, pot-pourri type flavour.


Serves 6-8

2.25kg loin or belly of pork, on the bone, with the rind on

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2-4 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 dried chillies or 2 teaspoons chilli flakes

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper

500ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F / gas 5

Score the pork rind at 1cm intervals, running with the grain of the meat. If you are worried about this, ask your butcher to do it for you. Grind the fennel seeds to a coarse powder with the pestle and mortar. Add the garlic and chilli and a pinch of sea salt and continue to grind to a paste. Season the pork with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Place it on a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast the loin for 1 hour or if using belly for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread on the spice paste. Replace in the oven and roast for a further 40 minutes. By now the juices should be running clear, and if you do the ‘skewer test’ on the pork, the skewer will be hot. Baste the pork several times during the cooking.

Remove the pork from the oven and place it in another roasting tin. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C / 450°F/ gas 8 and return the pork for a further 10 minutes to give the rind a final crisping. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 100°C/200°F/ gas ¼. Put the pork on a plate and return it to the oven to keep warm and rest for at least 15 minutes before carving.

To make the gravy, degrease the first roasting tin thoroughly, saving the fat if you wish. Deglaze the tin with the chicken stock, scraping the tin to dislodge any caramelised meat juices. Strain the liquid though a sieve into a small saucepan. Taste and correct the seasoning, and if necessary continue to cook the gravy to reduce and to concentrate the flavour. Add the parsley just before serving.

Carve the pork into neat slices and serve on hot plates, with the bubbling gravy and the apple sauce on the side.


Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate Biscuits


These biscuits are particularly festive-looking at Christmas when you can shower them with all manner of shiny edible decorations – hundreds and thousands, coloured sugars and so on. They cut beautifully into different shapes, so this may be the moment to use your fanciest biscuit cutters. During the summer months these biscuits are delicious sandwiched

together with lightly sweetened berries such as raspberries, loganberries or tayberries, and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


The ingredients

Cocoa powder, another important ingredient in the sweet kitchen, should be dark and completely unsweetened.


The pure vanilla extract used here should not be confused with vanilla essence. The extract is pure, dark, perfumed and low in sugar, indeed sometimes with no sugar at all. Generally, the pure extracts contain at least 35% alcohol. The essences tend to be low in vanilla and alcohol and high in sugar, a pale imitation of the real thing. It is quite easy to make your own extract by macerating slashed vanilla beans in water and brandy, bearing in mind the 35% of alcohol as a general rule.


Makes 36


140g salted butter, at room temperature, but not hot and oily

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

125g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g plain flour

35g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder


Place the butter, oil and caster sugar in a bowl. By hand with a wooden spoon, or with the aid of a machine, cream together until light and fluffy in consistency and pale in colour. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until well blended and smooth. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder on to the mixture and blend in until it comes together and no longer looks streaky. Do not overmix. Chill the mixture for at least 30 minutes.


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


Roll out half the mixture at a time to about 5mm thick, using a little flour to prevent it from sticking. Alternatively, roll it between sheets of baking parchment. Cut out the biscuits with your cutter of choice (you should get about 36 if you use a 5cm cutter), then, using a palette

knife, place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Leave a little space between the biscuits, as they swell slightly when cooking. Bake in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes. The biscuits will rise slightly and feel gently set to the touch. They crisp up as they cool. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow them to cool, still on the baking parchment.


Serve dusted with a little icing sugar or caster sugar, or ice with one of the icings suggested below. If you are using the icing and wish to sprinkle the biscuits with edible decorations, make sure to do that as soon as the biscuits are iced so that the decorations will stick on to the still slightly moist icing.


Best eaten on the day they’re made, but they will keep for 2–3 days in

an airtight box or biscuit tin.


Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate, prune and Armagnac Puddings with Chocolate Sauce


These puddings are delicious and without doubt made for chocolate lovers. Although not molten in the centre, they are soft and yielding. The combination of ingredients is a classic one but has timeless appeal. The cooked puddings will sit happily in a warm oven for at

least an hour before serving, and indeed could be made ahead of time, allowed to cool and reheated in a bain-marie in a warm oven. The prunes in the recipe can be replaced with cherries, a delicious variation, in which case I would soak them in kirsch. Cognac can

replace the slightly dryer Armagnac with the prunes.


The pudding can be cooked in a large dish, or in individual ramekins or even teacups.


The ingredients

Best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids, is best for this pudding.

I use Valrhona.


Prunes vary in quality, so look out for juicy-looking ones with their stones still in. I get the ones known as Agen prunes, grown in the Aquitaine region in the south-west of France. The same variety is grown successfully in California as well.


Armagnac, a brandy from the Armagnac region, which is close to Aquitaine, is dryer than the brandy from Cognac and seems to have an affinity with the flavour of the prunes, though either will do. Cream of tartar, or tartaric acid, adds stability to the beaten egg whites, resulting in a more luscious texture in the cooked pudding.


Serves 10


the prunes

225g prunes, weighed after removing the stones

4 tablespoons Armagnac or brandy


the pudding

150g best-quality chocolate, 62% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

150ml warm water

110g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs

110g plain white flour

Pinch of cream of tartar


to serve

A dusting of icing sugar

Softly whipped cream


Put the prunes into a bowl with the brandy and leave to soak overnight.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 and get ready either a 2 litre ovenproof pie or gratin dish, or ten 200ml ramekins or teacups of a similar volume. If you plan to serve the individual puddings unmoulded from their containers, you will need to paint them with

melted butter before adding the mixture. You will also need a roasting tin about 4cm deep, large enough to accommodate the ramekins or dish.


Cut the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a Pyrex bowl with the butter. Place over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Place on a low heat – don’t let the water do more than simmer. While the chocolate is melting, tear or chop the Armagnac-soaked prunes into smaller pieces, about 1cm, and either divide them between the ramekins or spread them over the base of the large dish. If there is some Armagnac that has not soaked into the prunes, save it for adding to the cream later.


When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir with a flexible rubber spatula to blend the chocolate with the butter. Add the water, sugar and vanilla and mix with a whisk until smooth. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture, followed by the sieved flour.


Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until holding soft but definite peaks. Do not allow them to over-whip and take on a grainy appearance. Stir a quarter of the egg white into the chocolate mixture and fold in the remainder with a heavy flexible spatula, making sure no lumps of egg white remain unblended.


Divide the mixture between the ramekins, or put it all into the one dish, and immediately place in the roasting tin. Pour boiling water into the tin, to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or dish. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C/325°F/gas 3 for a further 10 minutes if using individual dishes or a further 20 minutes for a large dish. The puddings will appear cooked on top but will feel a little soft and molten in the centre. Remove the roasting tin carefully from the oven and allow the puddings

to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.


The individual puddings can be turned out on to warmed plates for serving. The large dish can be brought to the table as it is. Regardless, I dust the puddings with a little sieved icing sugar just before serving.


Pass softly whipped cream separately. I sometimes serve chocolate sauce with these as well.


Rory O’Connell’s Salad of Oranges, Dates and Mint


This is a lovely refreshing salad which I like to serve when the new season oranges from Italy and dates from Morocco arrive in the shops in December. I scramble around in the garden trying to find a few surviving mint leaves to freshen it up. If the mint has all been scorched by the frost, I just use a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

This dish can be served on its own with perhaps a little yoghurt.


The ingredients

In the shops here, oranges start to get good in early December, as the Italian ones arrive on the market. These oranges are usually around for a couple of months and are sweet and full of juice, light years away from the hard little scuds we have to put up with for most of the rest of the year. Colour in oranges is not an indication of quality, and avoid rock-hard light ones in favour of firm and heavyfeeling fruit.


Medjool dates, fat, meaty and shiny, arrive in the shops in December, usually the same time as the good oranges, a fortuitous bit of timing. Watch out for another wonderful variety of date called Barhi, which Alice Waters introduced me to at the Berkeley farmers’ market in California.


Orange flower or orange blossom water is a perfumed distillation from the fresh blossoms of Seville oranges and can be found in good food shops and chemists.


Serves 4–6


5 oranges

1 tablespoon caster sugar or 1 dessertspoon honey

12 dates

2 tablespoons orange flower water

1 tablespoon mint leaves

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (optional)


Remove the zest from one of the oranges with a fine grater or a Microplane. Juice the zested orange and put into a bowl with the zest. With a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the remaining oranges. Slice or segment the oranges and add to the juice and zest with the caster sugar or honey.


Halve the dates lengthways, remove the stones and add to the oranges. Sprinkle on the orange flower water. Chop the mint leaves and gently mix all the ingredients together, being careful not to break up the orange pieces. If using the pomegranate seeds, add now. Cover and chill before serving.


Rory O’Connell’s Brown bread Ice Cream


I think this is a brilliant recipe – it’s really simple and tastes great. I use it year round. In autumn and winter I serve it with poached pears or citrus fruit, and in spring and summer I serve it with all of the different fruits as they arrive in season. It works really well with the first rhubarb, then with gooseberries and so on, and it’s heavenly when paired with roast peaches or nectarines in high summer.


The ingredients

Wholemeal bread, lightly processed into coarse crumbs about the

size of peas, is ideal here.


Serves 6–8

175g coarse wholemeal breadcrumbs (brown soda

breadcrumbs are ideal)

600ml regular, double or whipping cream

125g soft light brown sugar (or icing sugar)

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon dark rum, or whiskey or brandy

2 egg whites


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5. Spread the breadcrumbs out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes. They should become crisp and slightly browned.


Meanwhile, beat the cream with the sugar until softly whipped. Mix the egg yolks with the rum, if using, and add to the cream mixture, beating it in well.


When the breadcrumbs are cool, fold them into the cream mixture gently and thoroughly, so that they are evenly distributed. Lastly, whip the whites of the eggs stiffly and fold into the mixture. Freeze in the usual way, in a covered container. There is no need to stir up this ice cream.

Ten Days ’til Christmas

The excitement gathers, only ten days to Christmas. Hopefully you got the opportunity to make a Christmas cake and a pudding and some mincemeat over the past few weeks. The base of Mrs Hanrahan’s Sauce and Brandy Butter can also be made now. Hide them for fear the family dig in!

You’ll probably have opted for a turkey or a goose – so here are my favourite recipes – a potato stuffing is fantastic in a goose but the buttery herb stuffing I’ve chosen for the turkey is also perfect for a goose or duck or indeed either a pheasant or guinea fowl.

The most dramatic improvement for a turkey particularly if you can’t get your hands on a free-range bronze turkey is to brine it. The way this simple procedure enhances the flavour is dramatic.

It couldn’t be simpler just soak the bird in a brine mixture of salt and water (preferably for 48 hours); the electrically charged ions of the salt plump up the muscle fibres, allowing them to absorb water. This changes the structure of the proteins, preventing the water from escaping during cooking. In addition to keeping the meat moist, the salt intensifies the flavour.

This brine can also be used for chicken and pork with spectacular results, spread the left over brine on your garden paths, it’ll kill the weeds.

For the first time this year Sharon fruit or persimmon are coming into the shops ripe – they are just so gorgeous in the Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans

This would be a totally delicious starter salad before Christmas dinner – it only takes a couple of minutes to make – light and lipsmackingly good.

If you would like to ring the changes with goose try serving it with a kumquat compote or a combination of kumquat and apple. Both can be made ahead and reheated.

Have a wonderful Christmas and many blessings for 2014.


Winter Salad of Pomegranates, Persimmons and Pecans


At last we can source ripe persimmons, they are wonderfully versatile and also great with goats cheese or mozzarella and rocket leaves.

Serves 8



2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar, Sherry vinegar or wine vinegar I use Forum Chardonnay Vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


3 ripe persimmons

3 ripe d’Anjou or other pears

1 lime, freshly squeezed

seeds from ½ pomegranate


a selection of frizzy lettuce, watercress and rocket leaves

1 lime freshly squeezed


3- 4ozs (75g – 110gs) fresh toasted pecans


First make the vinaigrette.


Mix the Balsamic or sherry vinegar, mustard, shallots, salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.


Slice the persimmons and pears into slices about 1/4 inch (5mm) thick.  Put into a medium bowl and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice.  Add the pomegranate seeds.  Toss gently.


Wash and dry the greens, store in a clean towel in the fridge until ready to use.


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


Put the nuts onto a baking sheet in a moderate oven for 5 -6 minutes, tossing gently from time to time.  Alternatively toast under a grill.


To Serve


Toss the greens in some of the vinaigrette and arrange on eight plates.  Toss the fruit mixture lightly in the remaining vinaigrette.  Arrange on top of the greens and sprinkle with the toasted pecans.

Serve immediately.


Brining a Turkey


A brilliant way to guarantee moist tender flavourful meat.


To make basic brine, mix together 8 quarts (12.8 pints) water and 2 cups (16fl ozs) salt in a stainless steel 5 gallon bucket or a large container with a cover. A little sugar may be added to the brine, even a few spices. Add the raw turkey, cover and chill overnight.


N.B. If you want to brine the bird for just 24 hours, reduce the amount of salt to 8fl ozs


Old Fashioned Roast Turkey with Fresh Herb Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce


Serves 10-12


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


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


Fresh Herb Stuffing


170g (6ozs) butter

350g (12oz) chopped onions

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

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

salt and freshly ground pepper



neck, gizzard, heart, wishbone and wingtips of turkey

2 sliced carrots

2 sliced onions

1 stick celery

Bouquet garni

3 or 4 peppercorns


For basting the turkey

225g (8ozs) butter

large square of muslin (optional)


cranberry sauce

bread sauce



large sprigs of fresh parsley or watercress


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


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


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


The turkey is cooked when the juices run clear.


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


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


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


If possible, present the turkey on your largest serving dish, surrounded by crispy roast potatoes, and garnished with large sprigs of parsley or watercress and maybe a sprig of holly. Make sure no one eats the berries.


Serve with Cranberry Sauce and Bread Sauce. See – Darina’s Weekly Letters for the recipes.


Traditional Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing, Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple


Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing is almost my favourite Christmas meal. However, just a word of warning: a goose looks enormous because it has a large

carcass. Many people have been caught out by imagining that it will serve more people than it does. Ensure that you allow 450g (1lb) in cooked weight per person.


Serves 8-10


goose, about 4.5kg (10lb)

salt and freshly ground pepper

roux for the gravy (optional)


Giblet Stock

goose giblets

1 onion, sliced

1 carrot, chopped

bouquet garni

a sprig of thyme

4 parsley stalks

3 celery stalks, sliced

6 black peppercorns


Potato Stuffing


25g (1oz) butter

450g (1lb) onions, chopped

450g (1lb) cooking apples e.g.

Bramley Seedling, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon lemon balm

25ml (1 fl oz) fresh orange juice

900g (2lb) potatoes, in their jackets

1⁄4 teaspoon orange rind, finely grated

salt and freshly ground pepper


To Serve

Rose Geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce


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

Combine the wishbone with the other stock ingredients in a saucepan, cover with cold water and the lid of the saucepan and simmer for 1 1/2–2 hours. Season the cavity of

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

To make the potato stuffing, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the onions, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.

Then add the apples, herbs and orange juice. Cook, covered, until the apples are soft and fluffy.


Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in their jackets until cooked, peel, mash and add to the fruit and onion mixture. Add the orange rind and seasoning.

Leave it to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.


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


Stuff the goose loosely, then roast it for about 2 hours or until the juices run clear. Prick the thigh at the thickest part to check the juices. If they are still pink, the goose needs to cook a little bit longer. When cooked, remove the bird to a serving dish and put it in a very low oven while you make the gravy.


To make the gravy, spoon off the surplus fat from the roasting tin (save the fat for sautéing or roasting potatoes – it keeps for months in a fridge). Add about 600ml (1 pint) of the strained giblet stock to the roasting tin and bring to the boil.


Use a small whisk to scrape the roasting tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits which are full of flavour. Taste for seasoning and thicken with a little roux if you like a thickened gravy. If the gravy is weak, boil it for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if it’s too strong, add a little water or stock.

Strain and serve in a hot gravy boat.


Carve the goose. Serve it, the rose geranium and Bramley Apple Sauce and the gravy separately.


Roast Goose with Quince


I sometimes serve a warm compote of stewed quince with a simple roast stuffed goose instead of Bramley apple sauce and I find it to be a surprisingly good combination for a change.



Kumquat Compôte


A gem of a recipe, this compôte can be served as a dessert or as an accompaniment to roast duck, goose or glazed ham.  Also delicious with goat’s cheese or yoghurt, it keeps for weeks in the fridge.


Serves 6-20 depending on how it is served


235g (8 1/2 oz) kumquats

200ml (7fl oz) water

110g (4oz) sugar


Slice the kumquats into four or five round depending on size, remove the seeds.  Put the kumquats into a saucepan with the water and sugar and let them cook very gently, covered, for half an hour or until tender.


Serve warm or cold.




The award winning Tinahely Farm Shop is open every day until Christmas Eve when they close for Christmas at 2pm. They stock 32 different Irish and European farmhouse cheeses and make up some fantastic cheese hampers for gifts.  The shop sells freshly baked gluten free cakes and fresh white and brown soda bread every day. Rebecca Hadden makes soup from whatever fresh vegetables she can find in the garden daily and she also makes beautiful Christmas wreaths. Tinahely Farm Shop, Coolruss, Tinahely, Co Wicklow, Ireland
– on the Shillelagh road. 087 8168457 – –


Mahon Point Farmers Market will be open as usual on Thursday 5th  Thursday12th  and Thursday 19th December, plus two additional Saturday markets on 14th and 21st  December from 10 – 3pm – on Saturday 14th there will a wonderful festive atmosphere with four local choirs performing –


Midleton Market will be operating every Saturday until Christmas and will run for an extra day on Monday 23rd from 9am to 2pm –


Fans of Iago (of which I am most definitely one) should know they are moving from the English Markey to Princess Street in Cork into a great new premises, the new shop is brimming not just with beautiful cheeses but a whole range of gastro temptations.

Homemade Christmas

The countdown to Christmas continues. This week, let’s get the puddings sorted and a little encouragement for those of you who have never ventured to make your own plum pudding or homemade mincemeat, honestly it’s a doddle. Mincemeat is just a question of combining ingredients and putting the end result into glass jars.

For the plum pudding, it’s the same but when you’ve mixed all that yummy dried fruit with the suet, spice and breadcrumbs, everyone has to make a wish before you divide it between the pudding bowls for the initial steaming. Here’s where that pressure cooker I wrote about a few weeks ago can really come in handy – it will reduce the cooking time substantially.

Your butcher will give you lovely fresh suet which will make a delicious succulent pudding and if you would like a gluten-free version use gluten-free bread to make the breadcrumbs (note, commercial suet often contains flour.) Here again is my favourite plum pudding recipe passed down through my grandmother’s family for many generations. Make a large, a medium and several teeny weenies for friends who would love just a taste of a moist and succulent pudding. A pot of brandy or rum butter completes the gift.

Mincemeat also benefits from being made well ahead; here’s a delicious recipe we use at Ballymaloe which is also gluten free. This also can be added to your edible presents.

On the subject of edible presents, few things are more welcome around Christmas than some delicious homemade gifts.  Pickles, relishes, chutneys also benefit from a couple of weeks mellowing. Confiture d’Oignons is a particularly delicious accompaniment to have in the pantry to cheer up cold meats or to add to starter plates of coarse pates or terrines.

We also love to have a proper old fashioned trifle at Christmas. This is also my mum’s recipe which was so loved that she had to hide it every year in ever more obscure places otherwise the boys would polish it off when they came home from midnight mass. It can easily be made a few days ahead of Christmas provided it’s well soaked in sweet sherry. The sponge cakes could even be made now and frozen but don’t add cream and final embellishments until Christmas Day or whenever you decide to serve it.

Christmas is all about tradition, in our house it was always served in the special cut-glass trifle bowl which only appeared once a year however it also works brilliantly in tiny glass pots (we use recycled Glenilen yoghurt pots) for individual helpings or little presents.

Let’s have a homemade Christmas this year and enjoy the compliments.


Mummy’s Plum Pudding


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

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


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


12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

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

12 ozs (350g) finely-chopped beef suet

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

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica rum


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

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

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

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


Brandy Butter


3ozs (75g) butter

3ozs (75g) icing sugar

2-6 tablespoons brandy


Cream the butter until very light, add the icing sugar and beat again.  Then beat in the brandy, drop by drop.  If you have a food processor, use it: you will get a wonderfully light and fluffy Brandy Butter.


Note: Rum may be substituted for brandy in the above recipe


Mummy’s Traditional Irish Sherry Trifle


There’s a few things, like gravy and trifle, that are very personal – your yardstick is whatever your mammy or granny used to make. In earlier years, Mummy would have made this trifle with the trifle sponges that could be bought in Mrs Freeman’s shop in our village around Christmas; they looked like sponge rusks. Over the years, as these sponges became more difficult to source, we started making the sponge ourselves. We actually used to have a layer of tinned peaches in this trifle, but now I’m too snooty to put them in; the truth is I prefer the trifle without them. Even when my brothers were in their late 40s and 50s, they seemed to revert back to childhood and squabble over the trifle, finishing it off in the middle of the night when they came home from the pub on Christmas Eve. Mummy would have to go to great lengths to hide it on the top of a cupboard or even in her wardrobe, but somehow they always managed to find it! So, why is it better than any other trifle you’re likely to taste? Surprise, surprise – it’s the quality of the ingredients. Use homemade sponge cake, homemade raspberry jam and homemade custard made with good organic eggs, lashings of Bristol cream sherry (don’t waste your time with cooking sherry), and you cannot go wrong. Choose a bowl (glass for preference) that’s not too deep, otherwise the layers will become disproportionate – either too luscious or too dry. For a posher version, line the glass bowl with slices of Swiss roll.


Serves 8–10


450g (1lb) homemade sponge cake

225g (8oz) homemade Raspberry Jam


For the Custard

5 organic eggs

11⁄4 tablespoons caster sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

700ml (11⁄4 pints) full-cream milk


150–175ml (5–6fl oz) best-quality sweet or medium sherry – don’t spare the sherry



600ml (1 pint) whipped cream

8 cherries or crystallised violets


8 diamonds of candied angelica

a few toasted flaked almonds


1.7 litre (3 pint) trifle bowl, preferably glass


Sandwich the rounds of sponge cake together with raspberry jam. If you are using trifle sponges, sandwich them in pairs (you’ll need 5–6 pairs).

Next make the egg custard. Whisk the eggs with the sugar and vanilla extract. Heat the milk to the ‘shivery’ stage and pour it over the egg mixture, whisking all the time. Return the mixture in a heavy saucepan over a gentle heat and stir with a straight-ended wooden spoon until the custard lightly coats the back of the spoon. Don’t allow it to boil or it will curdle.

Cut the sponge into 2cm (3⁄4in) slices and use these to line the bottom of a 1.7 litre (3 pint) glass bowl, drizzling generously with the sherry as you go along. Spoon over a layer of the warm egg custard then add another layer of sponge and drizzle 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 in a cold larder or fridge for the flavours to mature.

To serve, spread softly whipped cream over the top, piping rosettes if you wish, and decorate with cherries or crystallised violets and large diamonds of angelica. Scatter with a few toasted flaked almonds.


Ballymaloe Mincemeat


Makes 3.2 kilos approx.

Makes 8-9 pots.


2 cooking apples, eg. Bramley Seedling

2 organic lemons

450g (1lb) beef suet

pinch of salt

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

2 tablespoons Seville orange marmalade

225g (8oz) currants

450g (1lb) sultanas

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

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


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




Ballymaloe guests have been enjoying Nora Ahern’s farm fresh geese, ducks and turkeys for several decades – if you hurry you can too – 021 4632354.


The inaugural Bord Bia Christmas Food Market will take place at CHQ Building, IFSC, Docklands, Dublin 1 from Thursday 12th December to Saturday 14th December, 10am to 8pm – and 10am to 6pm on Sunday 14th December. You’ll be spoilt for choice with produce from 40 Irish food producers under one roof!


Ballymaloe Cookery School Gift Vouchers last a lifetime – 021 4646785.

Countdown to Christmas

Whoops! Christmas has sneaked up on us once again. The shops are brimming with tempting trinkets and baubles and canny shoppers are taking advantage of pre-Christmas bargains, and ticking off their lists.

How good does it feel to be organised, but more and more of challenge for so many who are trying to balance both time and budget.

If you have not already ordered your turkey or goose, do it today. Organic free range turkeys are still in short supply ever since the annual sales of New York dressed turkeys were stopped in 1999.

I like to find an old fashioned bronze turkey but well reared white turkeys can also be good if hung for long enough. I hang them for three weeks plus but that may not be to everyone’s taste. I personally find it greatly enhances the flavour.

A good ham is almost as much of challenge to find nowadays, as the paranoia around fat has forced producers to produce leaner and leaner ham which no longer has the sweetness or succulence of a fine fat ham.

This week’s column is the first of three devoted to a countdown to a traditional Christmas. I’ll include recipes for my favourite Christmas cakes, both a light and a rich version. I’ll also include JR Roberts’s recipe for Dundee cake. These can be made now wrapped and stored or they can be made closer to C – Day.

The Irish cranberry season has just started; we got the first plump berries from Ciara Morris in the Bog of Allen last week. Seek them out in the shops, they freeze perfectly or you can make the cranberry sauce now and also pot some up in small glass jars for presents.

Plum puddings can also be made ahead, again my favourite plum pudding recipe passed down through my grandmother’s family for many generations. Make a large, a medium and several teeny weenies for friends who would love juts a taste of a moist and succulent pudding. A pot of brandy or rum butter completes the gift.

Mincemeat also benefits from being made well ahead; here are two recipes both gluten free. These two can be added to your edible presents. Pickles, relishes, chutneys also benefit from a couple of weeks mellowing. Confiture d’Oignons is a particularly delicious accompaniment to have in the pantry to cheer up cold meats or to add to starter plates of coarse pates or terrines.

Italian Pan Forte is another yummy fruit and nut dense sweet meat that keeps for months – if you don’t fancy making it yourself order it well ahead from Patisserie Regale in West Cork –  (023) 8855344.



JR’s Dundee Cake

JR’s famous Dundee cake makes a lovely light Christmas Cake which can be iced or not as you please.


Makes 1 x 18cm (7 inch) round cake or 900g (2lb) loaf


225g (8oz) softened butter

225g (8oz) caster sugar

grated rind of 1 large orange

4 eggs

225g (8oz) plain flour, sifted

50g (2oz) ground almonds

25g (1oz) mixed candied peel

100g (4oz) currants

100g (4oz) sultanas

100g (4oz) raisins

50g (2oz) glacé cherries, quartered

40-50 split blanched and peeled almonds


Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 and line an 18cm (7 inch) round tin or a 900g (2lb) loaf tin.


Cream butter and sugar until smooth and light. Beat the eggs. Add in three stages alternating with a tablespoon of the flour between each addition. Beat thoroughly. Mix ground almonds, dried fruit and orange rind before folding into the mixture. Fold in the remaining flour carefully. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and arrange the split almonds over the entire top.


Bake in the preheated oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.


Darina Allen’s Iced Christmas Cake


This makes a moist cake which keeps very well. It can either be made months ahead or, if you are frenetically busy then it will still be delish even if made just a few days before Christmas – believe me I know!.


Serves about 40


110g (4oz) real glacé cherries

50g (2oz) whole almonds

350g (12oz) best-quality sultanas

350g (12oz) best-quality currants

350g (12oz) best-quality raisins

110g (4oz) homemade candied peel

50g (2oz) ground almonds

zest of 1 organic unwaxed lemon

zest of 1 organic unwaxed orange

60ml (21⁄2 fl oz) Irish whiskey

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) pale, soft-brown sugar or golden caster sugar

6 organic eggs

275g (10oz) flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 large or 2 small Bramley seedling apples, grated


Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) round, or 20cm (8 inch) square tin with a double thickness of silicone paper. Then tie a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin. Have a sheet of brown or silicone paper to lay on top of the tin during cooking.


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


Preheat the oven to 160°C/ 325°F/gas mark 3.


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


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


Now lay a double sheet of brown paper on top of the cake to protect the surface from the direct heat. Bake for 1 hour. Then reduce the heat to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 21⁄2 hours, until cooked; test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the remainder of the whiskey over the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.


Next day, remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap the cake in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.


Store in a cool, dry place; the longer the cake is stored the more mature it will be.


Almond Paste and Cake Icing


I ice the Christmas cake above with almond icing and decorate it with heart shapes made from the almond paste. Then I brush it with whisked egg yolk and pop it in the oven – simply delicious!.


Serves about 40

450g (1lb) golden caster sugar

450g (1lb) ground almonds

2 small organic eggs

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

a drop of pure almond extract


For Brushing on the Cake


1 organic egg white, lightly whisked, or sieved apricot jam (see page 448)


For the Fondant Icing


1 packet fondant (450g/1lb)


Sieve the caster sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Whisk the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of almond extract, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all of the egg).


Sprinkle the worktop with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth.


Remove the paper from the cake. To make life easier for yourself, put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto the worktop and dust with some icing sugar. Take about half the almond paste and roll it out on the paper: it should be a little less than 1cm (1⁄2 inch) thick.


Paint the top of the cake with the egg white or apricot jam and put the cake, sticky-side down, onto the almond paste. Give the cake a thump to ensure it sticks and then cut around the edge. If the cake is a little round-shouldered, cut the almond paste a little larger; pull away the extra bits and keep for later to make hearts or holly leaves. Use a palette knife to press the extra almond paste in against the top of the cake and fill any gaps. Then slide a knife underneath the cake or, better still, underneath the paper and turn the cake the right way up. Peel off the greaseproof paper.


Then roll out 2 long strips of almond paste: trim an edge to the height of the cake with a palette knife. Paint both the cake and the almond paste lightly with egg white or apricot jam. Then press the strip against the sides of the cake: do not overlap or there will be a bulge with the uneven edge upwards. Trim the excess almond paste with a long-bladed knife and keep for decoration and to make almond biscuits. Use a straight-sided water glass to even the edges and smooth the join. Then rub the cake well with your hand to ensure a nice flat surface.


Leave in a cool, dry place for a few days to allow the almond paste to dry out; otherwise the oil in the almonds will seep through the fondant icing.


To fondant ice


Sprinkle a little icing sugar onto the worktop.

Roll out the sheet of fondant to a thickness of a scant 5mm (1⁄4 inch).

Paint the cake with egg white or apricot jam, then gently lift the sheet of icing and lay it over the top of the cake so it drapes evenly over the sides.


Press out any air bubbles with your hands, and then trim the base. Decorate as you wish. We use a little posy of winter leaves and berries including crab apples, elderberries, rosemary, old man’s beard and viburnum.


That’s just one option. You could also add simple shapes stamped out of the remaining fondant icing – stars, holly leaves, Santa’s – to produce an impressive result. Or you could use gold ribbon wrapped around the cake, tied in an ornate bow on the top.


White Christmas Cake


This White Christmas Cake with its layer of crisp frosting is a delicious alternative for those who do not like the traditional fruit cake.  It is best made not more than a week before Christmas.


150g (5oz) butter

200g (7oz) flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon Irish whiskey

1 teaspoon lemon juice

75g (3oz) ground almonds

6 egg whites

225g (8oz) castor sugar

75-110g (3-4oz) green or yellow cherries

50g (2oz) finely-chopped home-made candied peel



White Frosting


1 egg white

225g (8oz) granulated sugar

4 tablespoons water


18 cm (1 x 7 inches) round tin with a 7.5 cm (3 inches) sides


Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3.


Line the tin with greaseproof paper.  Cream the butter until very soft, sieve in the flour, salt and baking powder, then add the lemon juice, whiskey and ground almonds.  Whisk the egg whites until quite stiff; add the castor sugar gradually and whisk again until stiff and smooth.  Stir some of the egg white into the butter mixture and then carefully fold in the rest.  Lastly, add the chopped peel and the halved cherries.  Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours approx.  Allow to cool, cover and ice the next day.


To make the white frosting:  This delicious icing is just a little tricky to make, so follow the instructions exactly.  Quick and accurate decisions are necessary in judging when the icing is ready and then it must be used immediately.  Dissolve the sugar carefully in water and boil for 1 1/2 minutes approx. until the syrup reaches the ‘thread stage’, 106-113C/223-236F.  It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form a thin thread.  Pour this boiling syrup over the stiffly-beaten egg white, whisking all the time.  Put the bowl in a saucepan over simmering water.


Continue to whisk over the water until white and very thick. (This can take up to 10 minutes).  Spread quickly over the cake with a palette knife.  It sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential.


Decorate with Christmas decorations or crystallised violets or rose petals and angelica.


Mummy’s Plum Pudding


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


12 ozs (350g) raisins

12 ozs (350g) sultanas

12 ozs (350g) currants

12 ozs (350g) brown sugar

12 ozs (350g/6 cups) white breadcrumbs (non GM)

12 ozs (350g/3 cups) finely-chopped beef suet

4 ozs (110g/2 cup) diced candied peel (preferably home-made)

2 Bramley cooking apples, coarsely grated

4 ozs (110g) chopped almonds

rind of 1 lemon

3 pounded cloves (1/2 teaspoon)

a pinch of salt

6 eggs

2 1/2 fl ozs (62ml) Jamaica Rum


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


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


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

Brandy Butter.


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




Order your Christmas organic free-range bronze turkeys from Dan and Anne Ahern near Midleton Co Cork 021 4631058 or 086 1659258. Free-range bronze and white turkeys, geese, ducks and large chickens from Robbie Fitzsimmons of East Ferry Poultry – 086 8548574 and Tom Clancy in Ballycotton supplies free-range bronze turkeys, geese and ducks -086 3089431.

Super hams from Martin and Noreen Conroy – Woodside Farm 0872767206, TJ Crowe in Co Tipperary 062 71137 and Gubbeen Smoke House in West Cork 028 27824…to mention just a few.

Organic Irish Cranberries – Ciara Morris and Michael Camon of Slievebloom Farmhouse Foods have been growing four acres of organic cranberries on the only Irish cranberry farm since 2007. Their fresh berries are included on the menu in Michelin Star Restaurant Chapter One in Dublin and are available widely in supermarkets during the Christmas season. Their Cranberry & Mulled Wine Sauce and Cranberry Chutney won the Best Emerging Products Award at Listowel Food Festival in 2009 -

Raw Honey is the term loosely used to describe honey that has not been heated above 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) during extraction. Raw honey solidifies after extraction to a creamy slightly crystallised texture which I love. Consequently this honey has all the nutritional goodness, high antioxidant levels and healing properties. I recently tried a local honey Terry’s Raw Honey from Cloyne, East Cork. Available from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Shop. 021 4646785.

Pressure Cooking with Catherine Phipps

I thought the Slow Cooker and pressure cooker had gone out with the flood, but I was quite wrong. Having heard a recent BBC Radio 4 Food programme on the subject, I discovered that sales are booming once again.

Celebrity chefs are not exactly waxing lyrical on TV cooking programmes in the way they are embracing the Thermomix and Pacojet but the blogosphere is hopping. Real live, busy Mums and Dads have rediscovered these trusty cooking pots that between them tick all the relevant boxes. The slow cooker does wonders for cheap ingredients and uses a miniscule amount of electricity as it gently braises inexpensive cuts of meat to melting tenderness or of course it could be a plump chicken, a shoulder of pork or lamb, a bean stew… It seems to me that the slow cooker is the equivalent of a trusty friend that can literally have the family supper ready when you arrive home from work. What’s not to like about that?

The pressure cooker was the icon of the 1950s, but people of my age often have a very jaundiced view. The food that emerged could be quite samey in flavour although my Mum managed to cook many delicious soups and stews.

Nonetheless, to me as a child it always seemed to be a scary bit of kitchen equipment and we lived in fear of it exploding. Nowadays pressure cookers are much more sophisticated – state of the art stainless steel pots, with three, sometimes four release valves. They reach temperatures of 120º degrees and cook food 70 % faster on average than conventional pots. Apparently, iconic chef Heston Blumenthal swears by a pressure cooker to make stock so that’s worth contemplating.  I was also astonished to hear that one can make delicious crème caramels or Parmesan custards – I would have thought they would have curdled but apparently not. Meat, game, bean stews and dahls are all cooked in a twinkling thus saving time and expensive energy. All of the above would appear to be enough to rekindle interest in slow cookers and pressure cookers items than many of us relegated to the back of our cupboards years ago. They both, save time and energy, do wonders for cheap ingredients and have made it possible to make homely comforting food, seems to me it’s time to go rooting in the garage or to invest or re-invest in these two unlikely heroes of our time.

Here are some recipes from Catherine Phipps terrific new book – The Pressure Cooker Cookbook – over 150 Simple, Essential, Time-saving Recipes – published by Ebury Press.


Catherine Phipps Channa (Red Lentil) Dhal

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2cm piece of root ginger, finely chopped

300g red lentils or channa dhal, well rinsed

2 tablespoons chopped coriander stems

200g tinned chopped tomatoes



coriander leaves, to garnish

sliced green chillies to garnish (optional)

1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve


For the Spice Blend


5cm piece of cinnamon stick

4 cloves

4 green cardamom pods

2 black cardamom pods

1 mace blade

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon fenugreek seed, ground

½ teaspoon nigella seed

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


For the Temper


vegetable oil or ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 onion sliced


Heat the vegetable oil in the pressure cooker. Add all the ingredients for the spice blend and fry until they start to splutter and smell aromatic. Add the chopped onion, garlic and ginger and continue to fry until everything has started to turn a light golden brown.


Stir in the lentils and the coriander stems, add a generous pinch of salt and pour over 750ml water and the tomatoes. Close the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for 1 minute only, and then leave to release pressure naturally. Alternatively, cook for 5 minutes and fast release.

Stir thoroughly as much of the dhal will be sitting on the top.

Meanwhile make the ‘temper’. Heat a 3mm layer of oil or ghee in a frying pan. Add the cumin seed and fry until it starts to splutter, and then add the onion. Fry until it is soft and brown. Pour the onion and cumin mixture into the cooked lentils and add salt to taste. Simmer until thick. Garnish with fresh coriander, green chillies if you want extra heat and wedges of lemon for squeezing.

Catherine Phipps Parmesan Custards


butter for greasing

50g finely grated Parmesan

150ml milk

150ml single cream

2 egg yolks

pinch of cayenne

salt and freshly ground black and white pepper


For the shrimp paste


100g cooked brown shrimp

50g butter, plus more spreading

Squeeze of lemon juice

Grating of nutmeg

4 very thin slices of robust white sour dough bread


Cut out four circles of greaseproof paper, using the base circumference of your chosen receptacle as a template. Butter the paper circles and also your ramekins or cups.


Reserve 1 tablespoon of Parmesan and put the rest into a heatproof bowl with the milk and cream. Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water and warm through, stirring occasionally, until the cheese has melted. Be patient, this will take longer than you would expect. Allow to cool completely, then whisk in the egg yolks, some salt and white pepper and the pinch of cayenne.


Divide the mixture between the ramekins and cover each with a buttered circle of greaseproof paper – it needs to be touching the custard, not sitting above it, but there is no need for any additional cover. Put the steamer basket, upturned, in your pressure cooker. Place the ramekins on top and carefully pour boiling water around them. Close the lid and bring to high pressure. Cook for five minutes for a very soft set (I favour this), or 6 minutes if you want it slightly firmer, then remove from the heat and release pressure quickly.


While the custards are cooking, make the toasts. Puree together the shrimp, butter, lemon juice, nutmeg, salt and black pepper in a blender or food processor. Spread this over half the slices of sourdough and cover with the remaining slices to make this sandwiches. Butter the outsides of the bread and put in a heated sandwich maker, or grill both sides in a frying pan. Cut into soldiers.


Catherine Phipps Moroccan Spiced Lamb with Mint and Watermelon Salad


2 kgs lamb or mutton shoulder boned and cut into 4 pieces

100ml plain yoghurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

250ml pomegranate juice

250ml chicken stock or water

1 tablespoon rose water

3 small cucumbers topped tailed and sliced into ribbons

¼ large watermelon, seeded and cut into fairly small chunks


3 dried rosebuds crumbled (optional)

finely chopped mint to garnish


For the Ras el Hanout


large pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon ground mace

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 dried rosebuds, crumbled


To make the Ras el Hanout, grind the saffron strands to a powder with a pestle and mortar. Combine with the rest of the spices and the rosebuds.

Put the meat in a non-metallic bowl or container. Mix the Res el Hanout with the yoghurt and massage well into the meat. Leave to marinate at least overnight (If you don’t have time to marinate, omit the yoghurt and just rub in the spice mix)


When you are ready to cook the meat, remove as much of the marinade as possible. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker and brown all the meat until seared and well caramelised. Pour over the pomegranate juice, stock and rose water. Close the lid then bring to high pressure. Cook for 45 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to release pressure naturally.

Remove the meat from the pressure cooker. Return the cooker to the heat and simmer the cooking liquor until it has reduced to the consistency of a light syrup, then strain it. While the liquor is reducing, shred the meat with a couple of forks.

Arrange the cucumber and watermelon on a large serving platter and sprinkle over all the shredded meat. Pout over some of the reduced cooking liquor and keep the rest in a jug on the side. Decorate with finely chopped mint and crumbled rose buds (optional)


Catherine Phipps Lemon Surprise Pudding


50 g butter

100g golden caster sugar

Grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

2 eggs separated

25g self-raising flour

25g ground almonds

¼ teaspoon almond extract


Butter a round 18 – 20cm soufflé or pie dish. Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat the egg yolks into the creamed mixture, one at a time. Fold in the flour and almonds, then gradually pour in the milk and lemon juice. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles! Whisk the egg whites until dry and stiff, then fold into the lemony batter.

Pout into a prepared soufflé dish. Cover tightly with two layers of greaseproof paper. Place in the pressure cooker on top of the upturned steamer basket. Pout water into the pressure cooker until it is just short of the top of the basket. Lock the lid and bring to full pressure. Time for 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Slow release at room temperature. Serve hot or cold, with cream.


Hot Tips

Book of the Week

Flamboyant Irish potter Stephen Pearce has just published his auto biography, Warrior Spirit. It documents the story of a colourful life from his childhood in Shanagarry to the excitement and challenges he encountered in his roller coaster adventures through the decades.  Available from Stephen Pearce’s website


I’m a big fan of hardwood timber chopping boards. Buy a good one and you’ll have it for life. Sacha Whelan makes 1 inch plus hardwood boards which would make a gift which will literally last a lifetime. I recently came across Gertie McEvoy boards. She makes a range of boards of all sizes in her workshop in Abbeyleix, good looking, practical and chic –Sacha Whelan – 087 2618754 Gertie McEvoy 0868258201


To Celebrate Terra Madre Day ‘Saving Endangered Animal Breeds’ there is an East Cork Slow Food Event at Ballymaloe Cookery School. The story of the Bilberry Goats from Waterford is a fascinating one, Martin Doyle who rescued and saved them from extinction will join us on Thursday 28th November 2013 at 7:00pm.  Proceeds to go towards fundraising for the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project. 021 4646785.


They say the best time to start a business is in a recession – lots of new restaurants opening recently. Perry Street Market Café on Perry Street is causing quite a stir in Cork – we enjoyed a frittata made with O’Connells Smoked Haddock and Ardsallagh Goats Cheese and an equally delicious fish pie. 021 427 8776. Pop your head into Best of Buds flower shop next door for beautiful blooms. 021 427 4783.


Margarine V Butter? Butter Wins Hands Down! It’s Official Butter is Good for You!


Hey guess what! Surprise, surprise butter is better for you than margarine or all those spreads, it’s all over the Examiner, Irish Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Times et al – how brilliant is that – 40 years later we discover that butter a totally natural product made from cream is better for us than margarine containing up to ten ingredients.

It’s even more bizarre than that, we’ve now discovered at long last that fat is good for us and that the low fat diets were in many cases detrimental to our health.

In a widely reported piece in the British Medical Journal, eminent cardiologist at Croyden University Hospital, Dr Aseem Malhotra argued that it was time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease. From his analysis of the independent evidence he has concluded that there is no argument to back up the theory that saturated fats from non-processed foods are detrimental to our health. He maintains that saturated fats have been ‘demonised’ ever since a landmark study in the 1970’s concluded that there was a correlation between the incidence of coronary heart disease and total cholesterol. An entire food industry has evolved and profited from this low fat mantra for almost four decades and the reality is low fat foods are often loaded with sugar and added salt, so according to Dr Malhotra it’s time for a paradigm shift,

“We are now learning that added sugar in food is driving the obesity epidemic plus the rise in diabetes and cardiovascular disease”

The relentless message that saturated fat must be avoided to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease has dominated public heath campaigns and dietary advice for almost 40 years. This recommendation clearly has not produced the desired result.

Dr Malhotra highlighted the fact that the amount of fat consumption in the US has decreased from 40 to 30% in the past 30 years yet obesity rates have rocketed. Questionable dietary advice has also led to the over medication of millions who have been prescribed statins to control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. When, he argues, “adopting a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack is almost three times as effective in reducing mortality as taking a statin.  Doctors need to embrace prevention as well as treatment”

Dr Malhotra argues that sugar rich foods are more likely to result in a heart attack via Metabolic syndrome – a cluster of symptoms including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity (the plague of the 21st century.) Butter, full fat milk, cheese and even eggs (for a period) were demonised while oil based spreads and low fat products flew off the shelves. Many schools changed over to serving low fat products to their students and even questions on the Leaving Certificate paper suggested that margarine was more beneficial to your health than butter, a fact that incensed my niece in her recent exam.

Despite the paranoia around cholesterol levels a recent University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study indicated that 75% of acute heart patients do not have ‘high cholesterol’

Sounds like it’s time to rethink the received wisdom and “bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease” This won’t be easy considering the huge vested interests in the low fat industry – wait for the backlash.

Professor Robert Lustig, Paediatric Endocrinologist at the University of San Francisco, commented “Food should confer wellness not illness and real food does just that, including saturated fat, but when saturated fat got mixed up with the high sugar added to processed food in the second half of the 20th century, it got a bad name. Which is worse the saturated fat or sugar? The American Heart Foundation has joined in the debate “Sugar many times over, plus added sugar causes all the diseases associated with metabolic syndrome instead of lowering serum cholesterol with statins, which is dubious at best, how about serving up real food?” They have a point.


Curly Kale Soup


The recent frost has sweetened the kale. One way to use it up is in this delicious soup. When I eat this, I feel like every mouthful is doing me good. Note that if this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups.


Serves 6


50g (2oz) butter

140g (5oz) potatoes, peeled and diced (7mm/1/3in)

110g (4oz) onions, peeled and diced (7mm/1/3in)

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken stock or vegetable stock

250g (9oz) curly kale leaves, stalks removed and chopped

50–125ml (2 – 4fl oz) cream or full-cream milk


Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions and turn them in the butter until well-coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and boil gently, covered, until the potatoes are soft. Add the kale and cook with the lid off, until the kale is cooked. Keep the lid off to retain the green colour. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both their fresh flavour and colour. Purée the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the cream or creamy milk just before serving.


Roast Pork with Crackling and Spiced Aubergines


You may need to order the joint ahead to ensure that the rind is still on – no rind – no crackling!


Serves 6-8


1 x 2.25kg (5 lbs) loin of organic free-range pork with the skin rind intact.

Maldon Sea salt



Salt and freshly ground pepper


Spiced Aubergines (see recipe)


Maldon sea salt


Rocket leaves


Score the skin at 1/4 inch (5mm) intervals running with the grain – let your butcher do this if possible because the skin, particularly of free range pork can be quite tough. This is to give you really good crackling and make it easier to carve later.


Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/regulo 5.


Sprinkle some salt over the rind and roast the joint on a wire rack in a roasting tin.  Allow 30-35 minutes per 1lb (450g). Baste with the rendered pork fat every now and then.


Meanwhile cook the Spiced Aubergines.


Just before the end of cooking time remove the pork to another roasting tin.  Return to the oven and increase the temperature to 230ºC/450ºF/regulo 8, to further crisp the crackling. When the joint is cooked the juices should run clear.  Put the pork onto a hot carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes in a low oven before carving.  Serve two slices of pork per person with some Spiced Aubergine and garnish with Rocket.   Sprinkle a few grains of Maldon sea salt over the pork.

Rustic roast potatoes and a good green salad would also be great.


Spiced Aubergine


Serves 6


500g (1 lb 2 ozs) aubergines

lots of extra virgin olive oil


1 inch (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped

6 large cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely crushed

50ml (2 fl ozs) water


1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

350g (3/4 lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped or 1 x 400g (14ozs) tin tomatoes + 1 teaspoon sugar or honey to taste

1 tablespoon freshly ground coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like)

sea salt

50g (2ozs) raisins


Cut the aubergine into 3/4 inch (2cm) thick slices.  Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive in a grill pan.  When hot, add some aubergine slices and cook until golden and tender on both sides.  Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Repeat with the remainder of the aubergines, adding more oil if necessary.

Put the ginger, garlic and water into a blender.  Blend until fairly smooth.


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan.  When hot, add the fennel and cumin seeds, (careful not to let them burn).  Stir for just a few seconds then put in the chopped tomato, the ginger-garlic mixture, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, salt and sugar or honey. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the spice mixture thickens slightly, 5-6 minutes.


Add the fried aubergine slices and raisins, and coat gently with the spicy sauce.  Cover the pan, turn the heat to very low and cook for another 3-4 minutes.  Serve warm.


The spiced aubergine mixture is also good served cold or at room temperature as an accompaniment to hot or cold lamb or pork.


Roast Potatoes


A big roasting tin of crusty roast potatoes always invokes a positive response. Everyone loves them. They are easy to achieve but I still get asked over and over for the secret of crunchy golden roasties. So here are my top tips:


Grow or seek out good-quality dry, floury potatoes such as Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks. New potatoes do not produce good roast potatoes. For best results, peel the potatoes just before roasting. Resist the temptation to soak them in water, or understandably they will be soggy, due to the water they absorb. This has become common practice when people want to prepare ahead, not just for roasting, but also before boiling. After peeling, dry the potatoes meticulously with a tea-towel or kitchen paper. Otherwise, even when tossed in fat or oil, they will stick to the roasting tin. Consequently, when you turn them over as you will need to do halfway through the cooking, the crispy bit underneath will stick to the tin.

If you wish to prepare potatoes ahead, there are two options. Peel and dry each potato carefully, toss in extra virgin olive oil or fat of your choice, put into a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Alternatively, put into a plastic bag, twist the end, and refrigerate until needed. They will keep for 5 or 6 hours or overnight without discolouring.


Roast potatoes may be cooked in extra virgin olive oil, top-quality sunflower oil, duck fat, goose fat, pork fat (lard) or beef dripping. Each gives a delicious but different flavour. Depending on the flavour and texture you like, choose from the following cooking methods:


Toss the potatoes in the chosen fat and cook.


If you prefer a crunchier crust, put the peeled potatoes into a deep saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, simmer for 2–4 minutes only and drain. Dry each blanched potato and score the surface of each one with a fork. Then toss in the chosen oil or fat, season with salt and cook in a single layer in a heavy roasting pan in a preheated oven at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8.


Drain the blanched potatoes, then put the saucepan with the potatoes inside over a medium heat, and shake the pot to dry the potatoes and fluff the blanched surface. Toss in your chosen oil or fat, season with salt and roast as above.


Note: some cooks, to create an even crunchier crust, like to toss the potatoes in a little flour seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper and maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika.


Yoghurt with Honey and Dates


unsweetened natural yoghurt, very cold

Irish honey

Medjool dates, fresh

thick cream

fresh almonds or lightly toasted almonds

fresh mint leaves


For each person half-fill a pudding bowl or glass with yoghurt.

Stone dates and chop them roughly.  Put a few on the top of each helping of yoghurt.

Spoon a good dollop of thick cream over the top, and then trickle over 1 teaspoon of runny honey.

Scatter a few almonds and a couple of shredded mint leaves on top.



The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards announced their shortlist in the Avonmore Cookbook of the year category.  Kevin Dundon’s Modern Irish Food, Chapter One Ross Lewis, 30 Years at Ballymaloe Darina Allen, Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen Rachel Allen, The Nations Favourite Food, Neven Maguire, The Weekend Chef Catherine Fulvio. You can vote for your favourite at

Seek out heritage Woodside Saddleback pork from Martin and Noreen Conroy if you really want a fantastic joint of juicy (chemical free) pork with crackling. It sells out early at Midleton Farmers Market on a Saturday or Mahon Point on a Thursday – 087 2767206.

Ballymaloe Cookery School 12 Week Certificate graduate Caroline Gray has opened the cutest Café Gray in Greystones in Co Wicklow – I haven’t managed to get there yet but I hear terrific reports. 087-1260206.

I’m often asked for recommendations for places to eat or stay in Dublin. The capital food scene is exploding at present but I’m set in my ways and No. 31 in Leeson Close is still my home from home in Dublin. Great breakfast, love the fluffy cheese omelette and the little bowl of porridge!

Gillian Hegarty’s Tuesday Supper Club at Ballymaloe House

Tuesday 19th November – Gillian prepares and cooks a Tuscan Dinner and on Tuesday 26th November Sunil Ghai from Ananda Restaurant in Dublin will join Gillian in the kitchen. Set four course meal including aperitif for €45 – to book – 021 4652531.

Feeding the 10,000 – Good Food Ireland Food Summit 2013

The recent Web Summit in the RDS in Dublin brought to Ireland by brilliant young entrepreneur Paddy Cosgrave blew people out of the water. Paddy looks like a gangly curly haired cherub but can you imagine the crazy dreams inside that boys head. Just ten days before the 3rd Web Summit he contacted Margaret Jeffares, Founder of Good Food Ireland and asked if she would take on the feeding of the 10,000 and so the inaugural Food Summit in association with Good Food Ireland was born. What a blast – over sixty Good Food Ireland members rose to the occasion. Margaret contacted Rory O’Connell and asked him to manage the project – it was a tantalising but terrifying project – an irresistible opportunity not to be missed to give 10,000 delegates from over 30 countries a taste of some of the very best food Ireland has to offer.

Good Food Ireland has organised many outstandingly successful events but this was on quite a different scale. It’s difficult to resist Margaret Jeffares passion to showcase the best of what Ireland has to offer and her considerable powers of persuasion. Rory and herself put a plan together. A huge marquee was erected in Herbert Park close to the RDS. Kitchens were installed with the help of John Coughlan and his catering team. Good Food Ireland members from all four corners of Ireland, chefs, farmers, fishermen, cheese makers and bakers, black pudding and sausage makers, fish smokers…Glenilen brought their beautiful yoghurt and the Stanley’s served their Rossmore ice-cream made at their farm close to Rathdowney in Co Laois. Seafood Chowder from Carrygerry House near Shannon was also warmly received and the Shelbourne Hotel served 600 Carlingford Oysters in a couple of hours – where would you get oysters at a conference?

Artisan baker Robert Ditty baked his famous oat cakes and O’Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook served Hereford prime beef which had the techies drooling. Sunil Ghai from Ananda Restaurant made his homemade chicken tikka masala for thousands. Peter Ward from Country Choice in Nenagh brought 25 whole cooked hams (2,500 slices) and gave delegates a running commentary about the Good Food Ireland members who were serving their food. Gillian Hegarty from Ballymaloe House cooked 34 gallons of chickpea and Swiss chard stew which she had calculated to be enough for two days but was completely gone by 2pm on the first day when over 7,000 people poured into the Good Food Ireland Food Summit instead of the expected 5,000 plus.

The response to the food was phenomenal – Twitter went crazy and Good Food Ireland trended on Twitter. SO many people spontaneously came up to the Good Food Ireland members to thank them for the food which meant so much, to the many people who had voluntarily given up their days to give people a taste of the best of Irish Food. Many of the chefs and producers were totally out of food after the first day so there were amazing stories of Good Food Ireland members toiling through the night to make or bake enough food to make up the thousands of portions needed by Rory O’Connell for the second day.

Nora Egan drove home to Inch House in Co Tipperary where she and her girl made and cooked 40 new black puddings until 4am and then at the crack of dawn her son drove to Dublin with the freshly made puddings.

Barry Liscombe of Hartes Bar and Grill in Kildare was making 1,000 more chocolate truffle lollipops until two o’clock in the morning. Veronica Molloy of Crossogue Preserves came back again on Thursday to help out her Good Food Ireland Family, even though all her produce had been enjoyed. The legendary Helen Gee from Abbeyleix was busy slathering her delicious jam onto Waterford Blaas.

Mark Staples, chef from the Merrion Hotel rang his butcher and got enough meat to make almost 1000 portions of succulent beef casserole through the night.

Tom O’Connell headed back to his restaurant in Donnybrook and got his team to make another 2,000 portions of vegetable stew to serve with a fluffy vegetable couscous. The vegetarian and vegan options were hugely appreciated by the delegates and the team effort and determination to showcase the best Irish artisan and local food. Paddy Cosgrave and his team invited Margaret Jeffares, Rory O’Connell and the members of Good Food Ireland Food Summit team onto the main stage to receive a standing ovation and resounding cheers from the 10,000 Web Summit participants. Here are just a few of the recipes for some of the dishes that elicited an enthusiastic response.

For a full list of the Good Food Ireland members who did Ireland the Food Island proud see


Mildly Spiced Curry of Dublin grown Vegetables with Green Saffron Curry Spices


From O’Connell’s Restaurant in Donnybrook, Dublin.


1 white onion | medium size – sliced thinly

½  a head of broccoli

½  a head of cauliflower

2 carrots – medium sized – cubed

2 peppers – red and yellow

any other root vegetable

fresh coriander – chopped

For the Sauce

coconut milk – 1 tin of 400 ml

double cream – 600ml

1 tablespoon korma curry spices (preferably Green Saffron Spices)

100ml sweet chilli sauce

optional chilli flakes for a spicier taste

salt & pepper to taste


First, fry the thinly sliced onions.   Add korma curry spices and cook of about 1 min. Stir well.   Stir in the cream and the coconut milk. Add sweet chilli sauce and bring gently to the boil.  Once the preparation reaches boiling point, reduce to ‘medium to low heat’ and allow to simmer for another 20 minutes or so until the sauce has thickened.

Season to taste. Whilst the sauce is simmering, steam the carrots, broccoli and cauliflower,  until ‘al dente’ .   You may decide to add other vegetable that you like to this selection.   Whilst steaming the vegetables, do not overcook (as they will keep on cooking gently whilst being reheated in the sauce). Slice and ‘seed’ the peppers – slices 1cm wide. Roast the slices until ‘al dente’ (do not over roast – as mentioned above).

When the sauce has thickened enough (coating the back of a spoon), add the vegetables and mix well. Just before serving, add some chopped coriander to taste.


Gillian Hegarty’s Chickpea, Swiss Chard and Tomato Stew


Gillian Hegarty of Ballymaloe House originally learned this recipe from Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers from the River Café in London.


Serves 6 – 8


175 g (6 oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

1 large garlic clove, peeled

6 tablespoons olive oil

900 g (2 lb) Swiss chard leaves, washed and large stems removed (set aside to use in the recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 head of celery outer stalks removed peeled and diced finely

2 dried chillies, crumbled

2 teaspoons of fresh picked thyme leaves

3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped

250 ml (8 fl oz) white wine

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

3 handfuls flat leaf parsley chopped

extra virgin olive oil


Drain the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with water to cover, add the garlic, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes or until tender. Keep in their liquid until ready to use. Blanch the chard leaves and chop coarsely. Chop the chard stalks into half inch pieces

Heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onion and fry for a minute then season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and cook for a further 20 minutes stirring frequently until they have completely collapsed.

Add the carrot, Chard stalks and celery cook slowly for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season with salt, pepper and chilli. Add the garlic and thyme leaves. Cook for a further 5mins with the lid off. Pour in the wine and reduce almost completely. Add the tomato sauce and reduce until very thick. Add the chickpeas and mix. Season and cook for 10 minutes. Add the chopped chard leaves at the very end to retain their colour and freshness.

Chop the parsley just before you are about to serve, stir  into the chickpeas, drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.


JR’s Handmade Rose Water Marshmallows


The delegates at the Web Summit loved these homemade marshmallows which JR Ryall of Ballymaloe House made.



Makes approximately 100


455g (1lb) granulated or caster sugar

1 tablespoon liquid glucose

9 gelatine leaves or 5 1/2 rounded teaspoons of powdered gelatine

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon good quality rose water

red food colour paste

4 tablespoons icing sugar and 4 tablespoons cornflour sieved together


Line the bottom of a 30 x 20cm (11 x 8 inch) baking tray with parchment paper. Dust with sieved icing sugar and cornflour.


Place sugar, glucose and 200ml (7fl oz) of water in a heavy bottom saucepan. Stir to ensure all of the sugar is wet. Using a pastry brush dipped water, remove any sugar crystals from the side of the saucepan. Place the saucepan on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling do not stir, simply tilt the pot from side to side to ensure the solution heats evenly until it reaches 127°C/260°F. It is important to keep an eye on the temperature using a sugar thermometer.


Meanwhile, rehydrate the gelatine in 140ml (4 3/4fl oz) water.


When the boiling syrup reaches 110°C/230°F start whipping the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.


Add the rehydrated gelatine and water into the syrup when it reaches 127°C/260°F and stir with a wooden spoon. The mixture will foam slightly, this is normal. Pour the hot syrup onto the egg whites and whip on full speed for 5-10 minutes until the marshmallow thickens and the bowl of the mixer is warm to the touch. Turn the speed of the mixer to low and whisk in the rosewater and enough food colour paste to turn the marshmallow baby pink.


Spoon the thick marshmallow mix onto the lined baking tray and smooth with a palette knife. Allow to set (usually takes 2 hours).


Dust the top of the marshmallow with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Turn out onto a work surface, peel off the paper and cut into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in the cornflour and icing sugar mix to finish.



Ballymaloe Fudge

Fudge was also a huge hit at the Food Summit.

Makes 96 approx.


1/2 lb (225g) butter

2 lbs (900g) castor sugar

1 can evaporated milk

7 fl ozs (200ml) water

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Swiss roll tin 9 x 13 inch (23 x 33cm)


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a low heat. Add the milk, water, sugar and vanilla extract and stir with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat to simmer, stir constantly until it reaches the ‘soft ball’ stage – 113°C/235°F.

To test, put some of the fudge in a bowl of cold water.

When ready pull off the heat. Stir vigorously until it thickens and reaches the required consistency – thick and sandy.   Sit the base of the saucepan into a sink of cold water to stop the cooking.  Pour into a Swiss Roll tin and smooth the surface with a spatula.

Allow to cool and then cut into squares before it gets completely cold.


Hot Tips

Ballyvolane House recent winner in the Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British and Irish Hotels is collaborating again with Theatre Makers Ltd. who brought Madame Chavelle to Ballyvolane last autumn. Playwright/actor/director Jack Healy will perform a one-man-show of the epic poem “The Great Hunger” by Patrick Kavanagh while guests eat a sumptuous dinner on Saturday, 16th  November in the old barn at Ballyvolane House – brilliantly entertaining evening. Phone +353 25 36349 to book tickets –

Some Winter Courses at Ballymaloe Cookery School

Garden Workshop: Creating a Fruit Orchard and Winter Pruning with Susan Turner Monday 25th November 9:00am to 2:00pm – Learn how to choose fruit varieties for successional cropping, good storage ability and reliable resistance against pests and diseases. Plant and stake a tree correctly. Understand the pollination requirements for fruit trees when choosing varieties. Identify the difference between fruit buds and vegetative buds. Understand the difference between summer and winter pruning. Formative pruning of newly planted trees Prune the cropping tree. Rejuvenate an old orchard. €95.00 Lunch included – phone 021 4646785 to book.

Sushi tastes great and it is quick to prepare, which makes it ideal and great fun for home entertaining. Sign up for a half-day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School with Darina Allen and Shermin Mustafa on Wednesday 27th November 9:30am to 2:00pm and learn how to prepare the more popular sushi dishes and how to make seven different types of sushi. Students will have the opportunity to taste all the Sushi prepared during the course. Lunch included. Phone 021 4646785 to book or


Delicious Little Plates!

Small plates are fast becoming a real enduring trend in restaurants. Rather than a full meal or even just a main course, one can order a series of little plates, which presents an opportunity to taste a wide variety of dishes on the menu; I love this way of eating. This is a concept I came across in the US about 10 years ago.

For many years now, some of my favourite restaurants in London have chosen this concept,  Terroirs, Pulpo, Barrafina, Duck Soup….. On a recent trip to London, I ate at their second venture, Raw Duck out on 5 Amhurst Road in Hackney. As before the emphasis is on fine ingredients, simply assembled. There’s a long blond, poured concrete counter with a scalloped edge on one side where you can watch your food being prepared and communal concrete tables along the other wall and an appealing deck area out behind.

Owners, Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy have cleverly brought together food from some of the best food producers in London,  Bread from E5 Bakehouse, Gelupo Ice-cream, decadent cakes and breakfast buns from Violet Cakes.  Meat, vegetables and cheese from Natoora.

On my last trip, I had delicious canned mackerel with heirloom tomatoes, I’ve always loved sardines on grilled bread but I’ve never eaten canned mackerel before but it was fantastically good. This time I wanted to taste virtually everything on the menu. Here is my version of some of the delicious plates I ate. There’s also a tempting wine list with biodynamic and natural wines.

Another couple of hot spots are Koya and the Koya Bar, both serving Japanese udon noodles. They were started by Irish man John Devitt. Initially, it was an Irish joke around London, well it’s no joke now with daily queues along Frith Street. Newly opened, Koya Bar opens at 8:30am for breakfast. There’s an amusing Japanese take on an English breakfast with noodles but there are more exciting things to try, the slithery silky Udon noodles are home made as is the dashi broth – already this fresh food has developed a cult following.

On this trip, a fortuitous meeting meant that I came home via Belfast which gave me the opportunity to eat at Ox in Oxford Street in Belfast. I’d read lots of terrific reviews which had whetted my appetite. The unpretentious almost spartan restaurant overlooks the River Lagan, simple unpainted timber tables, high ceilings and a warm welcome. Owners Alain Kerloc’h and Stephen Toman have a very impressive pedigree. The food is contemporary and ‘of the moment’ with many Nordic influences. They are obviously putting lots of effort into sourcing good ingredients. There’s a high level of skill and technique in the young multi ethnic team and a palpable excitement and wish to please. There’s a set menu with many choices and an impressive wine list. You’ll need to book ahead but as the Michelin Guide says, it’s worth a detour plus the train journey from Dublin to Belfast is one of the loveliest in the country.


Figs with Yoghurt, Sumac, Pistachio and Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Serves 4 as a starter or small plate


8 fresh figs in season


8 tablespoons Greek style natural yoghurt

2 teaspoons fresh sumac

3 – 4 teaspoons pistachios, halved

extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

a few flakes of sea salt


Spoon two – three tablespoons of yoghurt onto each plate. Cut the figs into quarters, push gently down into the yoghurt. Sprinkle with sumac and pistachios, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey, serve.


Kale, Fennel, Radish and Parmesan Salad


Serves 4 as a starter or small plate


150g (5oz) green curly kale, stalks included

110g (4oz) fennel thinly sliced

8 French Breakfast radishes thinly sliced at a long angle

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper


Keep the sliced fennel and radishes in iced water for at least 5 minutes.


To serve


Remove the stalks from the kale and shred very finely.


Put some kale, drained fennel and radishes into a bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Grate on some Parmesan with a slivery micro plane. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss and taste and serve.


Cacciatore with Honeycomb and Thyme Leaves



Serves 1 starter or small plate



one slice of Cacciatore, 1/4 inch thick

a little sliver of honeycomb or candied lemon peel

a sprig of thyme

a few flakes of sea salt

extra virgin olive oil


Lay the cheese on a warm plate, put the honeycomb or diced candied lemon peel in the centre of the slice. Lay a sprig of thyme on top and sprinkle a few flakes of sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin oil on top.


Serve immediately.


Grilled Chicken with Yoghurt and Harissa


Serves 6 – as a starter or small plate


4 – 8 organic chicken thighs, depending on size

4 – 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

fresh thyme leaves

6 teaspoons harissa (see recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

18 – 24 fresh rocket leaves or coriander sprigs


Bone the chicken thighs, put them into a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with thyme leaves, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Heat a pangrill, put the chicken skin side down onto the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until crisp on one side then turn over and continue to cook until the juices run clear.

Allow to rest for a few minutes, slice into strips. Put a mound of chicken, skin side up on a plate. Spoon a large tablespoon of yoghurt onto the plate and put a teaspoon of harissa on top. Add a few fresh rocket leaves or some sprigs of coriander to each plate, sprinkle the chicken with a few flakes of sea salt. Serve immediately.




Makes 100g (3 1/2oz)


10 dried red chillies, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes

5 fresh red chillies

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons – extra virgin olive oil


De-seed and roughly chop the dried and fresh chillies.  Put in a food processor with the garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and olive oil.  Whizz until smooth.


Store in a jar with a layer of olive oil over the top.  It will keep for 3 months.


Hot Tips

On a recent visit to Mahon Point Farmers Market I found several new products. Gubbeen with Moruga Scorpion chilli, a delicious super-hot hybrid chilli from central Trinidad, that’s a million times stronger than the ghost chilli – three chillies were enough to give a feisty tingle to 10kgs of Gubbeen pork, we all loved it. Kilree Goats Cheese made by Helen Finnegan of Knockdrinna was a find on Mark Hosford’s Cheese stall. He’d sold out of Anna Leveque’s goats crottin, I’ll have to get there earlier next time. Tom Clancy had lovely earthy Ballycotton Queens – ‘balls of flour’ – that had customers lining up but also quail eggs from Golden Quails, Rylane, Cork beside his own free range chickens. Every Thursday from 10am to 3pm.


Fancy something different for your staff Christmas outing this year? The team at Ballymaloe Cookery School will help you cook up a storm before sitting down to a delicious dinner that you and your colleagues have cooked together. Phone 021 4646785 –


Limerick is gearing up to be City of Culture 2014 and is swiftly becoming a foodie hotspot. Food writer and blogger Valerie O’Connor has started Limerick Food Trails to show locals and visitors around the city’s many food gems. “We have a huge and thriving Milk market that attracts 6-8,000 visitors every Saturday, packed with the finest artisan produce from raw milk cheeses, sushi, free-range meats and locally made chocolate. Then there are wonderful food shops supporting local producers as well as traditional butchers making our world famous Limerick Ham. Limerick has so much to offer, the trails can change from week to week with endless surprises for the foodie from home or abroad”.


What is the Human Cost of our Food?

I was totally shocked by an article by George Arbuthnott in the Sunday Times Magazine recently on the human cost of our food “They’re the invisible army – modern day slaves, trafficked into Britain to work in the food factories and farms that supply our leading supermarkets. They live in squalor, are paid next to nothing and are often physically abused.”

For a very long time, I’ve been deeply concerned about the relentless downward pressure on the price of many food items. The consequence has been to force down the price of the wrong foods. Living on the farm and being actively involved in the food business I know it simply can’t be done. It’s impossible to produce any kind of food that is nourishing and wholesome for the retail price that’s being charged for many items. The horse meat scandal should have taught us that, but after the initial shock the message is soon forgotten. Someone has to be paying to supply us with the unrealistically cheap food we have now come to believe is our right.

In the 1980s we spent 27.7% of our income in real terms on food, nowadays its just 16.2%, so the reality is food has now moved a long way down our list of priorities.

When the supermarket offers ‘Buy one, get one free’ most of  the general public are unaware that is usually the farmers or food producer who is supplying the ‘free’ one consequently they are getting half the amount of money for their produce. When the retailers need a product they ask their suppliers to source it at a certain price and on and on it goes through an increasingly convoluted food chain which often involves migrant workers, who have been hoodwinked by the promise of generous pay and good working conditions. The human traffickers and gang masters who lure these vulnerable, uneducated people – who are often desperate to get work – prefer to target those who don’t speak the language so they can’t communicate with fellow workers. They work in many areas of food production, meat packing and processing and the supermarket buyers sometimes do not realise exactly how the product is achieved at the price. But it’s time to ask questions. Many large fruit and vegetables farmers are greatly dependent on migrant labour for harvesting, and there are many who treat their workers honourably and work with the gangmasters who do not engage in exploitation. But it’s very much a live issue; BBC Farming Today Program also looked at it recently.

Paul Broadbent the chief executive of the GLA (Gangmasters Licencing Authority) explained their modus operandi “The traffickers are locking people up for six; seven hours a day and then making them work 16 to 17 hours. The victims are absolutely trapped because they are financially tied to these people. They don’t feel able to report it to the police because the enforcers have told them they will be deported.”

“They take the passport, mobile phone and any form of identification off the victims and set up a bank account into which all their earnings are paid, it may be the case that victims either don’t know what they are signing or the enforcer threatens and intimidates them into it. The controlling man then uses the account to apply for bank loans and benefits and racks up thousands of pounds. Every conceivable fraud and deception is committed and they rule with an iron rod. They force people to live in squalor and pile them high.”

Animal welfare issues are increasingly highlighted and rightly so but how about the human cost of our cheap food.


Pumpkin, Goat Cheese and Kale Tart


Kale is now in full season and several varieties are available in the farmers markets.


Serves 8


175g (6oz) Shortcrust Pastry


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

450g (1lb) pumpkin or butternut squash

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves


150g (5oz) Ardsallagh goat cheese (or another soft goat cheese)

75g (3oz) spring onion, chopped

2 eggs and 3 egg yolks

200ml (7 fl oz) cream

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

25g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

50g (2oz) Gruyère cheese, grated

110g (4oz) kale – raw and stripped off stalk

salt and freshly ground black pepper


23cm (9 inch) diameter tart tin


Make the pastry, wrap well and rest in the fridge.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Mark 6


Peel the pumpkin or squash and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks. Arrange on a roasting tin.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Season with salt and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Roast for 30 minutes approximately or until tender, allow to cool.


Bring a large pot of water to the boil, add the kale, blanch for 2 minutes, drain and refresh under cold running water, drain. No need to blanch rocket.


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


Reduce the temperature to moderate 180°C/350°F/Mark 4


Heat the oil in a sauté pan, add the chopped spring onions to the pan, cover and sweat gently on a low heat for about 6 minutes or until almost soft.


Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl; add the cream, cheeses, thyme leaves, cooled spring onion and kale or rocket. Mix well and add seasoning.


Taste or otherwise, heat a frying pan, cook a teaspoon of the mixture on a gentle heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it coagulates – taste and if necessary correct the seasoning.  Arrange chunks of roast pumpkin (peel removed) and chunks of goats cheese over the base of the tart.


Pour the filling into the base of the tart.   Return to the moderate oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has just set. Serve warm with a freshly tossed green salad.


Pumpkin Curry


Fresh curry leaves are readily available nowadays one can usually buy them from Asian shops or frozen if fresh are unavailable –they have a distinct flavour but if they are unavailable you can leave them out


Serves 8


1kg (2 ¼ lb) pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2.5cm (1in) chunks

4 green chillies, finely sliced

25g (1oz) Bombay onions, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

a sprig of fresh curry leaves

1 teaspoon ground fenugreek

1 teaspoon mustard powder

Pinch ground turmeric

110ml (4floz) coconut milk


Put all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the pumpkin is cooked – approx.. 10 – 20 minutes, depending on type of pumpkin.

Serve with a selection of curries or on its own accompanied with rice.


Kuku Kadoo


This is the Persian version of a Spanish tortilla or Italian frittata – we’ve been enjoying it with the last of the summer zucchini.


Serves 6-8


2 tablespoons (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil

1 lb (450g) onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

¼ teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated

6 small zucchini, halved and cut thinly across

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

8 organic eggs

1 teaspoon turmeric

3 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


Parsley sprigs and sumac


10 inch (25.5 cm) pan


Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.  Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger.  Cover and sweat for 6-8 minutes, add zucchini. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Stir and cook for 6-8 minutes.  Whisk the eggs, add the turmeric, flour and bicarbonate of soda.  Add the cooked zucchini mixture.  Pour into a greased gratin dish.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  When just set, serve sprinkled with parsley sprigs and sumac.


Alison Heafey’s Autumn Nut and Caramel Tart


This recipe comes from former student Alison Heafey, who got it from her friend Cindy Mushet, author of The Art and Soul of Baking. I always encourage students to share recipes as well as asking for recipes in restaurants; it’s a great way to expand your culinary skills. This is possibly my favourite autumn tart.


Serves 10–12


For the vanilla shortcrust pastry

175g (6oz) plain flour

50g (2oz) sugar

¼ teaspoon sea salt

110g (4oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1.5cm (½in) pieces

2 large organic egg yolks

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1–2 teaspoons water


For the frangipane filling

110g (4oz) whole natural almonds, lightly toasted

100g (3½oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) unsalted butter, softened

2 large organic eggs

2 tablespoons plain flour

½ teaspoon almond extract


For the nut and caramel topping

110g (4oz) water

300g (10½oz) granulated sugar

2 tablespoons golden or corn syrup

110g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened

110g (4oz) double cream, at room temperature

75g (3oz) whole unsalted almonds, lightly toasted

60g (2½oz) pecan halves, lightly toasted

50g (2oz) walnut halves, lightly toasted



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


First make the pastry. Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse five times to blend the ingredients. Add the butter and pulse 6–8 times until it is the size of large peas. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of water. Add to the food processor, then process until the dough begins to form small clumps. To test the dough, squeeze a handful of clumps – when you open your hand they should hold together. If they fall apart, sprinkle the remaining water over the dough and pulse several times. If necessary, add up to one further teaspoon of water to bring the dough together.


Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it gently 2–3 times, to bring the dough together. Shape it into a round disc approx. 15cm (6in) across. Set aside in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Break the cold dough into 2.5–5cm (1–2in) pieces and scatter them evenly over the bottom of a 24cm (9½in) tart tin. Use the heel of your hand to press the dough flat, connecting the pieces in a smooth layer. Press from the centre of the tin outwards, building up some extra dough around the base at the edge of the tart. Using your thumbs, press this excess up the sides of the tin, making sure it is the same thickness as the dough on the bottom. Roll your thumb over the top edge of the tin to remove any excess dough (save this for patching any cracks that might form during baking). Chill for at least 30 minutes.


Bake ‘blind’ for 20–22 minutes or until the edges and centre are set. (If the shell is cracking and sticking to the baking parchment lining, replace it and continue to bake for a further 5–6 minutes.) Remove the baking parchment and beans and set aside to cool. Once cooled, return the pastry shell to the oven and bake for a

further 10–12 minutes or until the crust is a pale tan colour. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before adding the filling.


Meanwhile, make the frangipane filling. Put the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the butter and blend. Add the eggs, flour and almond extract and mix thoroughly. Pour the filling into the tart case and bake for 30–35 minutes, or until firm in the centre and lightly browned.

Set aside to cool completely.


To make the topping, put the water, sugar and golden (or corn) syrup in a saucepan large enough to eventually hold all the nuts as well. Heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Then increase the heat to high and boil rapidly until the sugar darkens to a rich golden brown colour.


Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the butter and cream (be careful, as the mixture will rise in the pan and splutter). Stir briefly with a wooden spoon to blend, then add the toasted nuts. Stir gently to coat the nuts in the caramel sauce, then immediately spoon the nuts over the cooled frangipane tart, reserving the caramel in the pan. Use two spoons, not your fingers, because the mixture will be very hot. Finish, if you like, by spooning some of the caramel sauce over the nuts. Set aside to cool.


Remove from the tin just before serving. Serve at room temperature.


The National Organic Conference – Addressing the Needs of the Market will be held on 5th and 6th November 2013 at the Bridge House Hotel, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Book online or 0719640688

You can travel to every part of Ireland and encounter an interesting, distinctive, local farmhouse cheese.  Read some amazing stories about the people behind farmhouse cheese on their new website or visit one of the farms and experience first-hand, the story of farmhouse cheese – farm visits are free to attend but you must book your place online

If you have visitors staying and are racking your brains for something original, stylish and fun to do with them, contact Eveleen and Pamela Coyle and they will arrange a Fabulous Food Trail for you in Dublin or Cork city. They’ll show you all that is best in contemporary Irish food, shops and cafés as you wander through the lesser known parts of each city, tasting as you go. or or by calling (01) 497 1245.





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