Picnic at Ballyandreen Strand


We’re sitting on the bouncy grass on the cliffs above Ballyandreen Strand   watching the waves crashing onto the rocks below. It’s a beautiful day, the sea pinks and mallow are in full bloom.  It has become a tradition to have a breakfast picnic on the Monday after the Litfest with some of the speakers whose flights leave late in the afternoon. Rashers and eggs cooked in the open air, soda bread and jam, freshly squeezed orange juice and lots of coffee – it’s what memories are made of.

Lovely Claudia Roden is with us, at 81 years of age, she’s still super sprightly and still writing and cooking and game for everything that’s going on. Last night when I left the throbbing music and dance scene in the Big Shed at Ballymaloe, she was still there enchanted by the energy and excitement.

Earlier in the day she had been foraging on the seashore with Alys Fowler and given a talk on My Favourite Ingredients in the Cookery School.  Everywhere she turned someone wanted a photo, for many at the Litfest, meeting and having the opportunity to chat to Claudia was a highlight of the weekend and there were many many highlights at Litfest 2017.  Ben Reade and Sashana Souza Zanella from Edinburgh Food Studio spent 3 days cooking for Saturday night dinner, it was a triumph.  Robin Gill  from The Dairy in London also cooked a memorable Pop Up lunch at Ballymaloe on Saturday, Margot Henderson from Rochelle Canteen worked her magic on Sunday lunch. Jason Fahey and his team cooked the delicious food for the Natural Wine dinner at Ballymaloe House with the legendary Isabelle Legeron.

There were many inspirational and thought provoking events in the Grain Store on the theme of Our Responsibility.   Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner of Health and Food Safety spoke passionately about food waste. He was born in a Gulag in Siberia and he still remembers what it was like to be hungry, so feels food waste is totally immoral. He referred to the consequences to the Irish Famine and asked each and everyone of us in the audience to help tackle this challenging problem. The EU are drafting guidelines to facilitate food donations in the EU where approximately 88 tons of food are wasted every year with associated costs estimated at €143 billion.

We too fervently hope that he and his colleagues in the EU will work with us to remove the root cause of much of the problem – the scandalous waste of perfectly good produce because of EU regulations on size and uniformity and sell by dates in the retail trade.  He also spoke about ‘the need to fight against the supermarketization of our lives’.

Joanna Blythman, an investigative journalist and broadcaster and a thorn in the flesh of the processed food industry and supermarkets tweeted ‘the man is singing my song’……..In her presentation Joanna  urged us to base our diet on whole unprocessed foods that we cook ourselves. Her talks brought people from far and wide and urged us to be wary and aware of the dangers of  heavily processed food and not to allow ourselves to be misled by labelling.

Professor Ted Dinan’s talk on Diet Stress and Mental Health also had huge impact as did young agrarian leader, Severine von Tscharner-Fleming, from the Greenhorn Movement in New York who spoke on The Farmer’s Life.

Asylum seeker, Ellie Kisyombe’s talk was also deeply moving .

The Great Grocers panel which  included  Peter Ward from Country Choice, Ruth Healy from Urru,  from London, Leila McAllister from Leila’s,  Sally Clarke from Clarkes and Sally Butcher from Persepolis  …… also made a huge impact and got us thinking about the need to support independent shops.

All weekend, the Drinks Theatre was crammed with people who came from far and wide to see Colm McCan’s line up which included Isabelle Legeron who spoke about natural wines, Mary Dowey did a talk and tasting on superb champagne and sparkling wines, Kristen Jensen led a panel of Irish craft brewers…..there were artisan gins and our own Ger Buckley, cooper from Irish Distillers.

For me one of the frustrations of the Litfest is not been able to get to every single event. Rachel and I spent most of my time at the Ballymaloe Cooking School hosting inspirational chefs  – Sunil Ghai from Pickle in Dublin,  Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup in London, Monika Linton from Brindisa, Jacob Kennedy from Boca di Lupo, Sumayya Usmani  house cook, from Pakistan and Charlotte Pike past student who were doing cooking demonstrations. Others wandered around the Big Shed,  organic farm and Ballymaloe walled gardens and learned how to sow seed with GIY and so here is a sample of some of the exquisite food that was cooked.


Hot Tips

Cookery Demonstration  to raise funds for Aaron McMahon’s brain tumour treatment. Join Debbie Shaw at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Thursday June 8th, 7pm who will teach a Middle Eastern Summer Feast. Tickets must be pre purchased and available from Debbie 086 389 3768 or at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop, 021 4646785


Limerick’s International Food Truck Festival runs from June 1st – 5th 2017 in the People’s Park.  Don’t miss this fun event, the weekend will see Limerick going large on food trucks when the European Food Truck Association will bring 60 food trucks from 14 countries to the city’s People’s Park. www.Limerick.ie/foodtruckfestival


 Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Gnudi with Watercress and Goat’s Curd

These great little ricotta dumplings – not to be confused with gnocchi, which are made using wheat flour and potatoes – are simple to make and take just a few minutes to cook. We can’t recommend making gnudi enough because everyone always loves it. We’ve chosen one of our favourite ways to serve gnudi here. If you are having a few friends over, make gnudi!

Serves 4

For the gnudi:
500g (18oz) ricotta
1 egg yolk
30g (1 1/4oz) ‘00’ flour
30g (1 1/4oz) grated Parmesan
zest of 1 lemon
2kg (4 1/2lbs) semolina flour, for dusting
salt and freshly ground black pepper


Combine the ricotta, egg yolk, ‘00’ flour and Parmesan together in a bowl, then add the lemon zest and salt and pepper and mix again.

In a large, deep, non-reactive baking tray or plastic container spread out a layer of semolina flour, about 5mm thick.

Roll the gnudi mixture into 10 balls and then place on the semolina flour in a single layer, making sure they do not touch each other.

Once you’ve used up all the mixture completely cover the gnudi with the remaining semolina flour and chill into the fridge for 24 hours. After 24 hours the semolina will have formed a crust on the gnudi – this helps the dumplings hold their shape.

When you’re ready to cook the gnudi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, dust off the excess semolina flour (any excess semolina flour can be kept in the fridge and used again) and boil for 3 minutes, reserving some of the cooking water.

To Serve:
80g (3 1/4oz) butter
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
large bunch of watercress, thick stalks removed
160g (5 1/4oz) goats’ curd or a good-quality cottage cheese, preferably unpasteurised
zest of 1 lemon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter and olive oil together in a large pan until the butter begins to foam. Add the watercress and couple a small ladles of the gnudi cooking water and stir gently. As soon as the watercress starts to wilt, add the goats’ curd or cottage cheese and give it another stir (you may need to add a little more of the gnudi water to thin the sauce slightly).


Drain the gnudi and add to the sauce. Give everything a gentle stir, being careful not to break the gnudi. Divide the gnudi and sauce between four bowls and finish each bowl with a grating of lemon zest, a good drizzle of olive oil and a few twists of black pepper.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup (LitFest 2017)


 Sumayya Usmani’s Lahori Fish

In Chickpea Batter and Ajwain Seeds


Summer holidays spent with my cousins in Lahore were always a food adventure. This is a city that never stops eating, and one of the most authentic street meals from Lahore’s foodie hot spot is this lightly battered chickpea flour fish. The trick to a crispy coating is dipping the fish in rice water (that’s the starchy water that’s drained off after boiling rice) instead of tap water. An alternative is to mix a teaspoon of cornflour in tap water for a similar effect.

Preparation 20 minutes/Cooking 10–15 minutes

Serves 4–6


4–6 haddock fillets

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

100g (3 1/2oz/generous 1 cup) gram flour

2 tablespoons rice flour

1 teaspoon dry-roasted cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)

1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes (or more if you like)

100ml (3 1/2fl oz/scant 1/2 cup) rice water (made by boiling 1 tablespoon of rice in 120ml/4fl oz/1/2 cup water, straining and reserving the water, or 100ml (3 1/2fl oz/ scant 1/2 cup) water mixed with 1 teaspoon cornflour/cornstarch)

50ml (2fl oz/scant 1/4 cup) corn oil


Rub the fish with the lemon juice, turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix the gram flour, rice flour, cumin, ajwain, red chilli flakes and remaining salt together in a bowl. Pour the rice water into another bowl. Dip the fish into the dry gram flour mix, then in the rice water and repeat again. Continue until all the pieces of fish are covered.


Heat the oil in shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for 4–5 minutes on each side until cooked through with a crisp coating. Serve hot with lemon slices.

Kitchen Secret

To get a really crisp coating, begin by patting the fish dry with kitchen paper to remove all the non-starchy moisture before dipping into the starch water. If your fish is a little smelly, rub some white vinegar on the fish then rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper before coating.


Sumayya Usmani’s Karhai Ginger Chicken

 On the days I was greeted with the hot citrus tang of fresh ginger from my grandmother’s garden as it was sliced artfully into julienne pieces, I knew I was getting Pakistani-style ginger chicken for supper. This is a dish that is found in every restaurant and home in Pakistan and is simple and quick to make, with bursts of raw ginger added at the end for a fresh finish. Serve with a daal and rice – and you can substitute chicken with boneless duck or turkey for a fuller flavour.


Preparation 10 minutes/Cooking 25–30 minutes

Serves 4


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon each of garlic purée and

grated ginger

200g (7oz) chicken breast cut into

5cm (2 inch) chunks

2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

1 tablespoons tomato purée

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

salt, to taste

1 tablespoons unsalted butter



5cm (2 inch) piece ginger, peeled and cut into julienne

handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped

2 green chillies, finely chopped

10 mint leaves, chopped


Heat the oil in wok-style pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and allow to splutter for 30 seconds. Add the garlic purée and grated ginger and fry for a further 30 seconds, or until the raw smell of garlic disappears.

Add the chicken to the pan and fry until it is sealed all over. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5–7 minutes until softened, then add the tomato purée and the yogurt and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until the oil starts to separate. Add the red chilli powder, black pepper, turmeric and salt and cook for a further 5–7 minutes until the chicken is done. Add the butter before turning off the heat and letting the butter melt.

 Before serving, add the julienned ginger, coriander, green chillies and mint, and stir through.


Jacob Kennedy’s Courgette Carpaccio with Parmesan and Anchovy

Spring and early summer, joy sprouts from the soil in leafy greens and a bounty of vegetables. Younger courgettes (where the seedy core is still embryonic) are delicious barely cooked, or boiled until tender and drenched in olive oil – but really sing raw. I like to use the Romano variety – firm, dry, sweet and mild, with a beautiful ridged form that makes stars when sliced. These are the best, for everything, but any courgette will make for a nice dish, particularly the paler skinned varieties.

Serves 4 as a starter

600g (1 1/4lb) youngish courgettes

8 fillets salted anchovy

4 tablespoons very finely diced parmesan

a few whole flat-leaf parsley leaves

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Slice the courgettes across into very thin roundels. Arrange flat on a plate like a carpaccio. Chop the anchovy fillets coarsely or slice them lengthways into thin strips and lay on top of the courgettes. Season with salt and a little pepper. Scatter with the parmesan and parsley, and drizzle with oil. Serve straight away.

Jacob Kenedy, Bocca di Lupo (LitFest 2017)


Clare Lattin and Tom Hill’s Puff Pastry Strawberry Galette

 A galette doesn’t rely as much on the consistency of oven heat as a tart, where you want the heat to be perfectly even all over. Here the pastry needs to be perfect, as does the quality of fruit you are using.

We’ve made galettes with just about every fruit going, from pears and strawberries to plums and rhubarb, so do experiment with whatever fruits you have going and see what happens.

Serves 8–12

For the pastry:

375g (13oz) plain flour
50g (2oz) cornflour
200g (7oz) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice
100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar
60g (2 1/2oz) crème fraîche
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of salt
beaten egg, to glaze

First make the pastry. Tip the flour and cornflour into a food processor and add the diced butter. Pulse until you have a coarse crumb texture – you want to have small clumps of butter visible through the flour.

Add the remaining pastry ingredients (except the beaten egg) and pulse briefly to combine, adding a dash of cold water if needed to bring it together into a dough. Don’t overwork the dough as you don’t want all the butter fully combined. Tip out on to a work surface, pat into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile make the filling. Quarter your apples and remove the core. Use a mandoline slicer to thinly slice the apples and put into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, prunes and hazelnuts and give it a good mix with your hands. Leave to macerate at room temperature until needed.

Once your pastry is chilled preheat the oven to 180°C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

For the filling:

1kg (2 1/4lb) strawberries

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

a splash of rose water

handful of crushed pistachios

crème fraiche to serve


Lay a large sheet of parchment paper on to a work surface and dust with flour. Place the pastry on to the parchment and with a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out to a circle approximately 35–40cm (14-16 inches) in diameter and 3mm (1/8 inch) thick. The pastry will be quite soft so take care.

Tip the filling along with the juices on to the pastry and spread out, leaving a 5cm border all around. Fold the border over the fruit filling – this process doesn’t need to be too neat and if the pastry tears just pinch it back together. Remember this is rustic galette; it wouldn’t sit right in a French patisserie, but that’s the point. Once you’ve folded in the edges, brush them with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little brown sugar. Slide the galette, still on the parchment paper, on to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is cooked. Serve hot with crème fraîche or ice cream.

Clare Lattin and Tom Hill from Duck Soup (LitFest 2017)



About the author

Darina Allen
By Darina Allen


Past Letters

  • Recipes