ArchiveNovember 11, 2017

Pure Butter

I rarely shop in a supermarket, I know this sounds quite extraordinary but I live in the country, in the middle of a farm and we grow a lot of our own food. I’m also a big advocate of Farmers Markets and small independent local shops so my reality is kinda different.
It can be months between one visit to a supermarket and the next – having said that I love a wander around Fields in Skibbereen when I’m in West Cork, a large supermarket which still manages to keep the local shop feel and one of the few (Scally’s in Clonakilty is another) that goes out of its way to source and support local farmers, food producers and fishermen.
Hadn’t been for a while and was in search of a pound of butter to make some hollandaise sauce to embellish a fine fresh hake that I had just bought in the Skibbereen Farmers Market.

At first I thought there was no butter but eventually I found some Kerrygold and Aughadown from Drinagh Co-Op at the very end of a long run of every conceivable spread. I had passed yards and yards of dairy products, mostly, light, low fat, no fat……

What IS going on? Surely people know by now, that pure natural butter is good for us and that other edible ‘food like substances’ predominately made in laboratories are most definitely not. The myth that low fat is good for you was the biggest con of the late 20th and 21st century. That theory and false science has been thoroughly discredited.

If you only remember one thing from this article, it ought to be the following fact. We need good fat in our diet to help the body to absorb the nutrients from other foods. Only two Vitamins, B and C are water soluble, all the others are fat soluble – so what does that mean? Unless we have some fat in our diet, we cannot extract maximum nutrition from the what we eat… So that’s just one of the many reasons why low fat is detrimental to our health and why ‘surprise, surprise’, people who were put on a totally low-fat diet were found to be suffering from malnutrition, yes malnutrition after a few months.

The fat doesn’t have to be butter, it can be extra virgin olive oil, lard or beef dripping but it must be a good fat, pure and preferably organic. If you don’t believe me, do your own research and see how ever since the Keys 1961 report followed by The Dietary Goals for the United States encouraged Americans to eat less high fat red meat, eggs and dairy and replace them with more calories from fruits, vegetables and especially carbohydrates. First in the US and then everyone else seems to follow suit without ever checking their science. So for four decades, our governments, department of health, dieticians and doctors (who by the way have virtually no training in nutrition) have repeated the same dogma over and over again. It wasn’t until 2014 when the result of the meta analysis of over 80 scientific papers and research documents that we learned that there wasn’t a shred of evidence to link butter and saturated fats to cardiovascular disease, fancy that….

Meanwhile, a multi-billion dollar/euro/pound industry has been developed on the back of this false science. But the most serious element is that by now the general public have been so brainwashed into thinking that fat of any kind is public enemy No 1 that they actually can’t face it.

Desperately serious for our health. Babies and small children need lots of good fat for their brain development. It’s connected to fertility, to our energy level, concentration…..
Least there be any misunderstanding, it’s not the fault of the supermarkets, they will sell what the public want……So don’t be conned, eliminate those low-fat products totally from your diet. Mother Nature did not put fat on meat and fish to annoy us, it’s there so we can absorb the maximum benefit from the lean meat. See Weston A Price Foundation –

Where can I find Jersey Milk ?
In the Cork area, whole raw milk is available from Dan Aherne’s stall at Mahon Point (Thursday from 10am-2.30pm) and Midleton Farmers Markets (Saturday from 9am-1pm).
Raw Jersey milk, cream and handmade butter are available from the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop only – open Monday to Saturday from 11am – 5.30pm

Skibbereen International Mince Pie Festival
An exciting new Christmas event. Join Tessa Perry and myself on December 2nd 2017 at the Courtyard, Mardyke Street at 2pm in Skibbereen for the Mince Pie Festival Final. €10.00 enters up to 6 mince pies. I’ll be happy to sign copies of my new book Grow, Cook, Nourish for Christmas pressies. Phone Matt on 087 245 8627 for the details

10 Great Brunch Recipe Ideas at the Ballymaloe Cookery School
More substantial than a breakfast, lighter than a full lunch, brunch is the perfect meal for enjoying quality time with family and friends and enjoying hassle-free entertaining. In this half day cookery course, we will teach many simple delicious recipes to entertain and delight, sharing with you a wonderful repertoire of brilliant brunch ideas from spicy Sri Lankan chilli eggs to the classic Mexican huevos rancheros, light-as-a-feather ricotta hot cakes with honey, all-American Corn cakes or Dutch pancakes with crisp home cured bacon or tangy blueberry drop scones dripping with fresh butter. Friday November 17th 2017.

Festive Cooking with Darina Allen at the Ballymaloe Grain Store
Let us help you prepare for the Christmas holidays! Join us for a fun evening on Friday November 23rd 2017 at 7pm at the Ballymaloe Grain Store. Proceeds to support the Cork Quaker Meeting’s project to renovate and extend its Meeting House. Tickets €25.00. For more info or to buy tickets mail or phone Denise at 085-7285287.

Roast Haddock or Hake with Red Pepper Sauce
This is a super rich sauce with a sublime flavour, it makes any fish into a feast. The technique for roasting fish is one we all need in our repertoire – really quick and easy….. Serve naked or with any sauce you fancy.

Serves 4 – 6 as a main course

1 1/2 lbs (675g) haddock, hake or ling, carefully trimmed of skin and membrane
Butter or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 red pepper
5ozs (150g/1 1/4 stick) butter (preferably unsalted)
8 fl ozs (250ml/1 cup) cream

Sprigs of flat parsley or chervil

Cut the fish into 4oz or 6oz portions, refrigerate until needed.
Seed the red pepper and dice the flesh into neat 1/8 inch (3mm) cubes. Sweat gently in 1 teaspoonful of butter in a small covered pot on a low heat until soft (it’s really easy to burn this so turn off the heat after a few minutes and it will continue to cook in the pot).
Put the cream into a saucepan and gently reduce to about 3 tablespoons (4 scant American tablespoons) or until it is in danger of burning, then whisk in the butter bit by bit as though you were making a Hollandaise sauce. Finally stir in the diced red pepper. Thin with a very little warm water if necessary and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/regulo 9.
Arrange the skinless fillets on a baking tray, brush with melted butter or a little extra virgin olive oil. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for 4 – 6 minutes depending on the thickness.

To serve
Arrange the fish on warm individual plates. Coat each piece with the red pepper sauce. Garnish with sprigs of flat parsley or chervil and serve immediately.

Buttered Shrimps or Prawns with Bretonne Sauce

Shrimps are in season at the present. Another gorgeous herby butter sauce, quick and easy to make and also delicious with other fish even the humble mackerel.

Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course

2 lbs (900g) shrimps or prawns

4 pints (2.3 litres/10 cups) water
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) salt

Bretonne Sauce
1 eggs yolk, preferably free range
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (We use Maille Verte Aux Herbs)
1 tablespoon fresh herbs – mixture of chervil, chives, tarragon and fennel, chopped or as a last resort just parsley
75g (3ozs/3/4 stick) butter, melted

Flat parsley or fresh fennel

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

Bring 2.3litres of water to the boil. Add 2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) of salt, toss in the live or very fresh shrimps, they will change colour from grey to pink almost instantly. Bring the water back to the boil and cook for just 2-3 minutes. The shrimps are cooked when there is no trace of black at the back of the head. Drain immediately, and spread out on a large baking tray to cool.

Next make the Bretonne Sauce.
Whisk the egg yolks with the mustard and herbs in a small pyrex bowl. Bring the butter to the boil and pour it in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens to a light coating consistency as with a Hollandaise.
Keep warm in a flask or place the bowl (not stainless steel) in a saucepan of hot but not boiling water.

Just before serving, peel the shrimps or prawns. Toss in foaming butter in a frying pan until heated through. Heap them onto a hot individual warm plates. Coat with the sauce. Garnish with flat parsley or fresh fennel and serve immediately.

Baked Plaice, Dover Sole with Herb Butter

This is a very simple ‘master recipe’ which can be used not only for plaice and sole but for all very fresh flat fish, e.g. brill, turbot, dabs, flounder and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, it can a starter or a main course. Because it is cooked on the bone the flavour is superb. It is also delicious with Hollandaise Sauce, Mousseline or Beurre Blanc.

Serves 4

4 very fresh plaice or sole on the bone

Herb Butter
2-4 ozs (50-110g/1/2 – 1 stick) butter
4 teaspoons mixed finely-chopped fresh parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/regulo 5.

Turn the fish on its side and remove the head. Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.

Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin. Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs. Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut). Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them. Serve immediately.

Ballymaloe Vanilla Ice Cream with Raisins and PX
Really good cream makes really good ice cream. This recipe is made on an egg-mousse base with softly whipped cream. It produces a deliciously rich ice cream with a smooth texture that does not need further whisking during the freezing period. This ice cream should not be served frozen hard; remove it from the freezer at least 10 minutes before serving. You can add other flavourings to the basic recipe: liquid ingredients such as melted chocolate or coffee should be folded into the mousse before adding the cream. For chunkier ingredients such as chocolate chips or muscatel raisins soaked in rum, finish the ice cream, semi-freeze it and then stir them through, otherwise they will sink to the bottom.

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks
100g (3 1/2oz/scant 1/2 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/3 vanilla pod
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with 200ml (7fl oz/scant 1 cup) of water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C (223–235°F): it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Add the vanilla extract or vanilla seeds and continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.

This is the stage at which, if you’re deviating from this recipe, you can add liquid flavourings such as coffee. Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

Put a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream into a glass or a cappuccino cup, top with a shot of espresso and serve immediately. Yummeee

Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding with softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on a cold winter’s day. Make it with whole milk and you’ll need to use short-grain rice which plumps up as it cooks. This is definitely a forgotten pudding and it’s unbelievable the reaction we get to it every time we make it at the Cookery School. It’s always the absolute favourite pudding at my evening courses.

Serves 6–8

100g (31⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)
40g (1 1/2oz/scant 1/4 cup) sugar
small knob of butter
850ml (1 1/2 pints/3 3/4 cups) whole milk

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint/5 cups) capacity pie dish

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1–1 1/2 hours. The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk, but still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time it so that it’s ready for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

School Lunch Box Suggestion

Apple Fritters

Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadn’t had these for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan. You can add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the sugar to toss the apples in for extra flavour.

Serves 6–8


110g (4oz) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz) milk

good-quality vegetable oil, for frying

450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

225g (4oz) caster sugar


Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 180°C (350°F). Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1⁄4in). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat, a few at a time. Fry until golden brown, drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar. Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.


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