Bountiful Season




For those of us who love to grow some of our own food this is the beginning of the bountiful season where each meal begins with a ‘oops’ in my tummy and a feeling of delight at the first radishes, first new potatoes, the first beets, the first fresh green peas, the first cucumbers and most amazing of all the first little cherry tomatoes, the earliest ever.

My fussy little grandchildren run in and out of the rows of peas and broad beans picking, choosing the fattest pods, the greenhouse is their greengrocer. This is where food comes from as far as they are concerned, not off a supermarket shelf. They pull the carrots out of the ground, run them under the tap and munch them, there and then. They show their friends excitedly how to pod the broad beans, pluck them out of their furry nests and nibble them fresh out of the pods. Every day is a new thrill for them.

The Cookery School students too are enchanted by the abundance of fresh produce. Several planted a little veg plot in a raised bed, 5 or 6 weeks ago and are astonished to be harvesting produce from them already. Others have box gardens with lettuce, little carrots, fresh herbs and radishes on the window sills of their cottages. It’s like magic and remember if you teach someone how to sow a seed to grow some of their own food, you change their life – and no you don’t need to live in the country or a farm or even have a garden. All you need is a container, could be a seed tray, an old box or even a drawer, a seed, light and water and hey presto you can grow on your window sill, balcony, roof, up walls, down walls, in your back yard……

In fact, it’s happening already everywhere. ‘Grow Food not Lawns’ is a big movement in the US now.

There’s a huge grass roots movement , an explosion,  urban farming and gardening from Manhattan to Tokyo. It’s literally a worldwide phenomenan, as more and more people want to take back a little control over the food they eat.  The call for a new type of agriculture and sustainable food production system grows ever louder.

We also had the first of the kohl rabi recently, they all seem to be ready at the same time, so we were frantically testing recipes so we wouldn’t waste a single scrap.

Not sure if you know them, they look like ‘sputnicks’ with stalks and leaves growing haphazardly from the sides. They too are edible. The kohl rabi itself tastes like a mild white turnip and is delicious either raw or cooked.

Here are two of the recipes we particularly enjoyed.

We also use both the stalks and the leaves of the young beets, they are so delicious, just chopped and cooked in boiling salted water. Stalks first for a few minutes, then add the leaves for a few a minute or two more.  Drain very well, then toss in butter or extra virgin olive oil. One of the best greens of all, but we also made a beetroot stalk soup and a separate beetroot leaf soup. One was a grey/green the other pinky red, both were so delicious we will definitely make them again.

For a little bit of fun, we poured some of each into a soup bowl so we had two distinct colours and an impressive cheffy presentation. But think of it, when you grow your own beets one has three vegetables rather than just the one. The beet greens and stalks are normally just chopped off and disregarded in the current retail system. Another compelling reason to have a go at growing your own.

Hedgerows all around the country have fluffy white elderflower and the green gooseberries are prefect to use so don’t miss the magical combination, delicious on their own or with panna cotta, ice cream, carrageen moss….a flavour combo made in heaven.

Another reason to give thanks to Mother Nature and the gardeners….


Kohlrabi or White Turnip and Coconut Curry


Serves 4-6


225g (8oz) onion, peeled and finely chopped

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

700g (1 1/2lbs) kobhrabi or white turnip, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

seeds from 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

20g (3/4oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

sea salt and black pepper

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

400ml (14fl oz/1 3/4 cup) vegetable stock or water

200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) coconut milk

handful fresh coriander leaves


Rice and Naan bread

Mint or coriander yoghurt


Melt the butter and the oil in a wok, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat until soft and translucent.  Meanwhile, prepare the kohlrabi, add to the onion and cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.


Stir in the mustard, cumin and fennel seeds and cook for 2 minutes, careful not to brown the seeds or they will become bitter.  Add the ground turmeric or coriander, crushed cardamom seeds, ginger, garlic and chillies and cook for 30 seconds.  Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, add the chopped tomatoes, stock or water. Bring to the boil and and simmer for 20 minutes, then add the coconut milk and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the kohlrabi is tender.  Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Pour into a hot serving bowl, scatter with coriander and serve with rice, naan bread and mint or coriander yoghurt.


 (Recipe adapted from


Kohlrabi, White Cabbage and Cranberry Slaw with Herbs and Sesame Seeds


Love this salad which we borrow from Yotam Ottolenghi – the pickled ginger provides a zesty burst of flavour.


Serves 4


3-4 kohlrabi bulbs

200g white cabbage

25g parsley, chopped

25g dill, chopped

25g tarragon, chopped

70g dried cranberries

2 teaspoons pickled ginger

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

120ml lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sesame oil

4 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons nigella seeds

salt and black pepper


Peel the kohlrabi, slice thinly and cut them into matchsticks. Quarter, core and slice the cabbage across the grain as thinly as possible.


Put into a large bowl, add all of the other ingredients, mix well.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, taste and tweak if necessary




Beetroot Soup with Chive Cream

Serves 8-10


In Season: Summer & Autumn


900g (2 lb) young beetroot

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

225g (1/2lb) onions

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.2L (2 pints/5 cups) homemade chicken or vegetable stock approx.

125ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) creamy milk


Chive Cream

125ml (4 fl oz) sour cream or crème fraiche


Finely chopped chives

Wash the beetroot carefully under a cold tap. Don’t scrub, simply rub off the clay with your fingers. You won’t want to damage the skin or cut off the top or tails because it will ‘bleed’ in the cooking.  Put the beetroot into cold water, and simmer covered for anything from 20 minutes to 2 hours depending on the size and age.

Meanwhile chop the onions, sweat carefully and gently in the butter until they are cooked.   The beetroot are cooked when the skins will rub off easily.

Chop the beetroot and add to the onions. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. * Put into a liquidiser with the hot chicken stock. Liquidise until quite smooth.  Reheat, add some creamy milk, taste and adjust the seasoning, it may be necessary to add a little more stock or creamy milk.

Serve garnished with little swirls of sour cream and a sprinkling of finely chopped chives.

Watchpoint: careful not to damage the beetroot during preparation or they will bleed


Golden Beetroot Soup

Use the golden Chioggia beetroot variety in the recipe above.


Chilled Beetroot Soup

Proceed as in the master recipe above to *. Liquidise with just enough stock to cover. The mixture should be smooth and silky. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Fold in some cream and yoghurt.


Serve well chilled in small bowls with little swirls of yoghurt and finely chopped chives.


Elderflower Cake with Green Gooseberry Compote


12 ozs (350g) soft butter

12 ozs (350g) castor sugar

4 eggs, preferably free range

12 ozs (350g) self-raising flour


Elderflower Syrup

2 heads of elderflower

2oz (50g) castor sugar

¼ pint (150ml) water

zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon


We used a round tin with slightly sloping sides – 1½ (4cm) deep, bottom diameter 8½ in (21.5cm), 9½ (24cm) across top,  well greased, but a regular 9 in (23cm)  round cake tin will be fine.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Put the butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Spread evenly in the well buttered tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile make the syrup.  Put the sugar and water into a saucepan over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves, add the elderflowers, bring to the boil for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and add the lemon zest and juice.  Leave aside to cool.  Strain.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pour all the syrup over the top, leave to cool. (see note at end of recipe)

Remove the cake from the tin and serve with Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote and softly whipped cream for dessert.

A slice of the cake on its own with a cup of tea is also delicious.

Note: If you are serving the cake on its own, only pour half the syrup over it.



Green Gooseberry and Elderflower Compote


Serves 6-8


2 lbs (900g) green gooseberries

2 or 3 elderflower heads

1 pint (600ml) cold water

1 lb (450g) sugar


First top and tail the gooseberries. Tie 2 or 3 elderflower heads in a little square of muslin, put in a stainless steel or enamelled saucepan, add the sugar and cover with cold water. Bring slowly to the boil and continue to boil for 2 minutes. Add the gooseberries and simmer just until the fruit bursts. Allow to get cold. Serve in a pretty bowl and decorate with fresh elderflowers.


Hot Tips

Só Sligo Food Festival

If you are in the North West, don’t miss Só Sligo Food Festival. Lots of exciting things that include foraging walks, pizza making for the kids, Irish Stew Championship…one of the highlights is the

Irish Fermentation Festival as part of Só Sligo Food Festival.

On Sunday June 19th, at the Organic Centre in County Leitrim

from 2pm there will be cookery demonstrations, talks, tastings and make your own fermented foods. JP McMahon, Prannie Rhatigan, Gaby and Hans Wieland and many others are participating on the day. or tel: 071 985 4338

Slow Food Mayo

It’s all happening in the North West. Slow Food Mayo have a convivial day out on Thursday June 23rd beginning at 12.30pm with a tour of Mescan Brewery, a tasting lunch at The Tavern in Murrisk, Co Mayo and seaweed foraging along the coast of Clew Bay.

Tel: 098 64060

World of Coffee comes to Dublin, June 21st – 22nd 2016

The World of Coffee comes to Dublin featuring a coffee symposium, sustainability forum, world barista championship, educational and workshop seminars, world brewers cup…

About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


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