This Could Change Your Life!


Safefood Ireland, recently commissioned a report on The Cost of Overweight and Obesity on the Island of Ireland. The report which was compiled with the help of the HSE (Health Service Executive) and NUI (National University of Ireland) Galway, DCU (Dublin City University), IPH (Institute of Public Health Ireland), National Cancer Registry Ireland, Queens University Belfast and Safe Food highlighted the lack of information to date. This comprehensive assessment of the cost of overweight and obesity in Ireland began in 2012 – the findings are quite simply shocking, 60% of Irish people are now overweight or obese and the cost to the exchequer read taxpayer is between 1 – 9 % of total healthcare.  That’s bad enough but indirect costs maybe as much again or even more.

Direct costs include In-Patient, Out-Patient, General Practice – drugs and prescription costs.

Indirect costs include lost productivity in the work place due to overweight and obesity related illness, premature mortality.

The list of chronic conditions associated with overweight and obesity is long and scary, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, clot on lung, back pain, osteoarthritis, diabetes, asthma, gout, gallbladder disease, colon cancer, oesophageal cancer…

The chance of getting Type 2 diabetes increased by 140% in overweight men and 574% in men who are obese.

In women, it’s significantly higher 292% when overweight but a shocking increase of 1141% when obese. To see the whole report go to

So what to do, well I don’t have a magic bullet but this much I do know – we’ll all feel much better if we eliminate all processed foods from our diets.

  1. Buy only or mostly fresh food, in season with the exception of bananas and citrus and avoid anything that makes health claims.
  2. Find a butcher you can trust, learn about inexpensive cuts of meat and offal and find out how to cook them.
  3. Eliminate all fizzy drinks totally from your diet and all breakfast cereals, with the exception of porridge, muesli and granola.
  4. Eat lots of peas, beans, pulses and good grains – they are an easy inexpensive form of protein and are endlessly versatile.
  5. Don’t eat between meals, standing up or on the run. Sit down around a table, eat slowly, you’ll find that you are eating less and enjoying your food more.
  6. Grow some of your own food, something, anything, anywhere, in any container you can find – on the windowsill, balcony, back yard, haggard field, just do it.
  7. Get a few hens, you don’t need much space, if you put them in a roomy chicken coop and move them around your lawn. They must have fresh grass to healthy, otherwise forget about it and source the best you can from a local farmer country market or local shop. What kind of a country do live in where it is illegal for your local shop to sell local farmers eggs, unless they are registered (quite a mission)
  8. Mothers and fathers of Ireland rise up and insist that the supermarkets remove all sweets and bars away from the tills where you queue with your children and while you are at it ask for a crèche so you don’t have to bring your child into the supermarket at all. Don’t underestimate the effect of pester power.
  9. Whenever possible, support small local shops, it’s a different kind of shopping, more personal and you’ll find dirty carrots and potatoes, yippee!
  10. Avoid all light, low fat and diet foods and lets cut our sugar intake by half immediately.

Buy Michael Pollan’s book ‘Food Rules’ it only costs about €6.00 and it could change your life!


Potato and Wild Garlic Soup


There are two types, Wild garlic (Allium ursinum), which grows in shady places along the banks of streams and in undisturbed mossy woodland, and Snowbells (Allium triquetrum), these resemble white bluebells and usually grow along the sides of country lanes. It’s delicious in salads, pasta, sauces, soups and stews.

Serves 6


45g (1 1/2oz) butter

150g (5oz) peeled and chopped potatoes

110g (4oz) peeled and chopped onion

salt and freshly ground pepper

900ml (1 1/2 pint) water or home-made chicken stock or vegetable stock

300ml (1/2 pint) creamy milk

150g (5oz) chopped wild garlic leaves (Allium Ursinum)



wild garlic flowers


Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams, add the potatoes and onions and toss them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile prepare the wild garlic leaves. When the vegetables are almost soft but not coloured add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes and onions are fully cooked. Add the wild garlic and boil with the lid off for 4-5 minutes with the lid off approximately until the wild garlic is cooked. Do not overcook or the soup will lose its fresh green colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or food processor. Taste and correct seasoning.  Serve sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.


West Cork Cheddar Cheese ‘Foccacia’



Soda Bread only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make and 20-30 minutes to bake.  It is best eaten on the day it is made but is still perfectly edible next day and is also very good toasted.  It is certainly another of the great convertibles.  We’ve had the greatest fun experimenting with different variations and uses and now the possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble Soda Bread.   Here we bake it flat with a bubbly Cheddar cheese topping.


1 lb (450g) plain white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda (Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 14 fl.ozs (400ml) approx.

4-6 ozs (110-175g) Irish mature Cheddar cheese


1 Swiss Roll tin 12 x 9 inches (31 x 23cm)


First fully preheat your oven to 230°C/450°F/regulo 8.


Sieve all the dry ingredients.   Make a well in the centre.  Pour all of the milk in at once.  Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.  When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board.  Tidy it up, flip over and roll the dough into a rectangle, approx.12x 9 inches (31 x 23cm).   Brush the tin with extra virgin olive oil. Press the dough gently into the tin. Scatter the grated cheese evenly over the top.


Bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200°C/400°F/regulo 6 for about 20-25 minutes or until just cooked. The cheese should be bubbly and golden on top.


Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Cut into squares and serve.


Other yummy toppings:

Tomato Fondue and Cheddar cheese

Piperonata and Pepperoni


Gratin of Cod with Leeks and Crunchy Buttered Crumbs



Fresh fish with a crunchy topping in a creamy sauce is always tempting. There is an added bonus with this recipe because one can do many variations, all of which are delicious.

Even without the leeks this is delicious.


Serves 6-8


2 1/4 lbs (1.1kg) hake, cod, ling, haddock, grey sea mullet or pollock

salt and freshly ground pepper

1lb (450g) leeks

1 oz (25g) butter


Mornay Sauce


1 pint (600ml) milk

a few slices of carrot and onion

3 or 4 peppercorns

a sprig of thyme and parsley

2 ozs (55g) approx. roux (1oz (25g) butter and 1oz (25g) flour)

5-6 ozs (140-170g) grated Cheddar or 3 ozs (75g) grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon mustard preferably Dijon

salt and freshly ground pepper


1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (optional)

1/2 oz (15g) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper


Buttered Crumbs


1 ozs (25g) butter

2 ozs (50g) soft, white breadcrumbs


1 3/4 lbs (790g) Duchesse Potato


First make the Mornay sauce. Put the cold milk into a saucepan with a few slices of carrot and onion, 3 or 4 peppercorns and a sprig of thyme and parsley. Bring to the boil, simmer for 4-5 minutes, and remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes if you have enough time.


Strain out the vegetables, bring the milk back to the boil and thicken with roux to a coating consistency.  Take off the heat, allow to cool for 1 minute then add the mustard and two thirds of the grated cheese, keep the remainder of the cheese for sprinkling over the top. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and correct the seasoning if necessary. Add the parsley if using.


Next make the buttered crumbs. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool.


Sweat 1lb (450g) finely sliced leeks in 1oz (25g) butter in a covered casserole over a gently heat – 5 – 6 minutes should be enough, they don’t need to be fully cooked.


Skin the fish and cut into portions: 6 ozs (175g) is good for a main course, 3 ozs (75g) for a starter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Lightly butter the ovenproof dish, sprinkle the cooked leeks on the bottom, lay the fish on top and coat with the Mornay sauce. Mix the remaining grated cheese with the buttered crumbs and sprinkle over the top. Pipe a ruff of fluffy Duchesse Potato around the edge if you want to have a whole meal in one dish.


Cook in a moderate oven, 180ºC/350°F/gas mark 4, for 25-30 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and the top is golden brown and crispy. If necessary flash under the grill for a minute or two before you serve, to brown the edges of the potato.



Blood Orange Tart


Blood Oranges appear in our shops for just about 4 weeks from the end of January, so we use them in juices and cocktails, fruit salad and tarts.


Serves 8


175g (6ozs) white flour

1 tablespoon castor sugar

75g (3ozs) butter

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons orange juice or water approx.



1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks

100g (3 1/2ozs) castor sugar

75g (3ozs) butter

75g (3ozs) ground almonds

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier


6 blood oranges

4-6 tablespoons apricot glaze


10 inch (25.5cm) tart tin with removable base


Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the castor sugar.  Cut the cold butter into cubes, rub into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Mix the orange juice or water with the egg yolk and use to bind the pastry.  Add a little more water if necessary but don’t make it too sticky.  Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/regulo 4.  Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin. Fill with baking beans and bake blind for 20 – 25 minutes.


Meanwhile cream the butter, add the castor sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beat well and then stir in the ground almonds and the liqueur.


When the tart is par-baked, allow to cool. Brush the base with apricot glaze and fill with the almond mixture, return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes approx. or until cooked and firm to the touch both in the centre as well as at the sides.  Meanwhile remove the peel and pith from the blood oranges and segment, drain and arrange in a pattern on top of the warm tart.  Alternatively slice the peeled oranges into thin rounds and arrange slightly over-lapping on top of the warm tart.  This looks prettiest but is slightly trickier to slice.  Either way paint evenly with apricot glaze.  Serve warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream.


Citrus Fruit Salad


In the winter when many fruits have abysmal flavour the citrus fruit are at their best, this delicious fresh tasting salad uses a wide variety of that ever expanding family.   It’s particularly good with blood oranges which appear in the shops for only a few weeks, so make the most of them.   Ugli fruit, Pomelo, Tangelos, Sweeties or any other members of the citrus family may be used in season.


Serves 6 approx.


1/2 lb (225g) Kumquats

12 fl ozs (350ml) water

7 ozs (200g) sugar

1 lime

1/2 lb (225g) Clementines

1/4-1/2 lb (110g-225g) Tangerines or Mandarins

2 blood oranges

1 pink grapefruit

lemon juice to taste if necessary


Slice the kumquats into 1/4 inch (5mm) rounds, remove pips. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, add the sliced kumquats. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool. Remove the zest from the lime with a zester and add with the juice to the kumquats.  Meanwhile peel the tangerines and clementines and remove as much of the white pith and strings as possible. Slice into rounds of 1/4 inch (5mm) thickness, add to the syrup. Segment the pink grapefruit and blood oranges and add to the syrup also. Leave to macerate for at least an hour. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary. Serve chilled.


Almond and Orange Florentines


Makes about 20


vegetable oil for brushing

2 organic egg whites

100g (3 1/2oz) icing sugar

260g (9 1/2oz) flaked almonds

grated zest of 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas Mark 2.


Line a heavy baking tray with greaseproof paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil. Next to you have a small bowl with some cold water.


In a mixing bowl place together the whites, sugar, almonds and zest. Mix them gently until blended. Dip your hand in the bowl of water and pick up portions of the mix to make little mounds on the lined tray, well-spaced apart.


Dip a fork in the water and flatten each biscuit very thinly. You want to make the biscuits as thin as possible without creating many gaps between the almond flakes.

Place the baking tray in the oven and bake approximately 12 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown. Check underneath one biscuit to make sure they are cooked through.


Allow to cool down well. Gently, using a palette knife, remove the biscuits from the baking sheet and into a sealed jar.


Hot Tips

We picked the first of the wild garlic (Allium ursinum) leaves or ransoms this week and added them to salads, soups, sauces…Wild garlic butter is delicious with a piece of pan grilled fish. The first wild garlic grows in slightly shaded places, in woods and on the edges of fields. Allium Triquetrum looks more like a whote blue bell and more likely to be found on roadsides but a little later. Make the most of wild garlic while it’s in season for the next month or so.


Alicia Joy O’Sullivan had her first outing of the Skibbereen Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago.  She was inspired to bake by Rachel’s TV program ‘Bake!’ A beautiful little array of buns, cake and tarts. Let’s support and encourage our young food entrepreneurs. When we met Alicia she sweetly gave me a slice of her special cake to bring home to Rachel, her food hero.

The Dublin food scene is really hopping seems a new restaurant or café is opening every couple of weeks; I still haven’t got to Dylan McGrath Fade St Social in Dublin 2, which I hear is an exciting edition to the Dublin dining scene  I did however get to Hatch and Son beside the Little Museum of Dublin on Stephens Green (not to be missed) by 7pm on Thursday evening they’d had such a busy day that they’d almost run out of food!  Find them at 15 St Stephen’s Green Dublin 2. Telephone +353 1 6610075 – Hugo Arnold and the Dominic and Peaches Kemp are behind this enterprise, cool space and a real emphasis on Irish artisan ingredients, what Hugo describes as ‘No fuss, just good, honest Irish food.’

The demand for places on the Transition Year Work Experience Program at Ballymaloe Cookery School  in recent years has been phenomenal. In response, three new One Week Transition Year Cookery Courses before Easter 2013, have been added to the course schedule. TY Students will learn a variety of skills and cover a range of topics both in demonstration and Hands-On sessions. In one busy week students will learn how to make homemade bread, jam, soups, yummy starters, main courses, desserts, biscuits and even a cake or two plus how to make butter and yoghurt from our own Jersey cow’s milk and cream. Please phone 021 4646785 to book. Dates of courses are 25th February  – 1st March and  4th to 8th March and 11th to 15th March 2013.

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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