Inis Meáin

I’ve just eaten a delicious mouthful of dill pickled herring with cream cheese on a slice of freshly baked soda bread for breakfast – sublime…  I’m back on Inis Meáin for the second time this Summer, how fortunate are we to have benefited from the misfortune of some other guests who couldn’t take up their booking at Inis Meáin Suites.  There are just five rooms so one feels super fortunate.

Our bedroom overlooks the extraordinary Inis Meáin landscape, little fields surrounded by high dry stone walls, a few cattle here and there, Coilumin’s rectangular garden along the road is bursting with cabbages, ripe onions, beets, rhubarb, potatoes…He has harvested the rye since the last time we were here, tied it in sheaves, threashed it against a standing stone on the limestone pavement below his field.  He’ll save the precious seed for next year’s crop and the long straw can be used for thatching, I wondered if he made rye bread but apparently it’s not part of the island tradition.

On a fine day, one can see across Galway Bay to the 12 Pins, and the Clare coast to the south but this morning, a thick mist is swirling in from the sea, enveloping the white washed buildings of the Inis Meáin Knitwear factory.  It’s a hive of activity around the clock, lovingly turning out the most beautiful knitwear from the finest wool, cashmere, linen and cotton yarns for export to a few carefully chosen shops around the world.

The fluffy grey mist ebbs and flows and I can’t help being secretly pleased that it’s likely that our flight to the mainland in the tiny Aer Arann plane will be somewhat delayed…so I can relax and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

So let me tell you about this delicious repast â€“ Breakfast at Inis Meáin Suites is no ordinary breakfast.  It’s delivered into the bedroom porch in a handmade iroko timber box tray around 8.30am ish.  Lift off the lid, inside you’ll find a feast… 10-12 little jars and Bec containers are tucked into thick polystyrene moulds…freshly squeezed orange or apple juice, homemade granola, seasonal fresh fruit, thick unctuous yoghurt…  There are several slices of both brown and white soda bread tucked into a little box beside two slices of poppy seed banana bread.  Two fresh hardboiled eggs from their little flock of happy hens are covered in little hand knit Aran egg cosies – how cute and practical is that!  But that’s not all, there’s also a little pot of pickled herrings and a gutsy liver pâté and just in case we have a craving – two little pots of the most sublime chocolate mousse I’ve ever tasted with a pot of crème fraîche.  We made a pot of coffee from the freshly ground beans. There’s a minimum two night stay, and other choices for breakfast the next day.

Each room comes with walking sticks, two bikes, fishing rods, two deck chairs and lest you need it, an umbrella.  Wandering or cycling around the island is a joy, fields full of wild flowers…hare bells, fuchsia, loosestrife, heather, honeysuckle… A few cattle here and there and there’s certainly one donkey and maybe more.  Don’t miss the Harry Clarke’s stained glass windows in the chapel of Saint John and Immaculate Mary.  Check if Millington Synge’s little thatched cottage is open and climb up the steps to at least one of the stone forts.  You’ll probably be alone to ponder how these extraordinary ruins were built between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago…

Inis Meáin is possibly the quietest and the least visited of the three Aran Islands – there’s one shop and one pub with lots of outdoor seating.  Depending on the time of the year, there’s one or two cafés and a quirky craft shop but don’t leave the island without visiting Inis Meáin Knitwear.  No ‘fast fashion’ here – beautifully crafted pieces that you’ll treasure for a lifetime…

I almost forgot to mention dinner, always a surprise – Ruairí de Blacam’s food reflects seasonal organic produce from their garden and polytunnel, fresh catch of fish and shellfish from local fishers and occasionally wild and foraged food from the island.  The wine list chosen by Ruairí’s wife Marie-Thérèse is also exceptional.  This place is one of Ireland’s hidden gems, check it out and put your name on a cancellation list –

Thank you Ruairí and Marie-Thérèse (who hails from East Cork) for sharing your recipes.

Cáca Treacle (Treacle Bread)

Makes 2 x 450g (1lb) loaves

160g (5 1/2oz) self-raising flour

320g (scant 11oz) wholemeal flour

40g (1 1/2oz) wheatbran

40g (1 1/2oz) mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and linseed)

1 level teaspoon bread soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

400 – 450ml (14 -16fl oz) buttermilk

1 dessertspoon treacle 

2 x 450g (1lb) or 1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tins

Preheat the oven to 210ËšC/410ËšF/Gas Mark 6 1/2 and grease the bread tins.

Mix the dry ingredients together by hand in a big bowl and make well in the centre.

Mix the egg, buttermilk and treacle together, pour half of the liquid mix into the dry ingredients and mix lightly by hand.  Pour the remainder of the liquid in and continue to mix very lightly.  Turn the mixture into the prepared bread tins and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes approximately, remove from the tin and pop back into the oven for a further 15 minutes until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked, it will sound hollow. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Aubergine with Feta and Mint

We enjoyed this as a starter but you can imagine how good it would be as a salad or side also.

Slice aubergines 1cm (1/2 inch) thick, drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Grill on a cast iron griddle on a high heat until cooked through and nicely charred.  Serve three slices per person for a starter portion.

Crumble good quality feta cheese over the aubergine slices with torn mint leaves, aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

Note: good quality piquillo peppers can be an optional extra.

Monkfish Roasted on the Bone with Garden Carrots, Tzatziki and a Lemon Chilli Dressing

A delicious combination – typical of Ruairí de Blacam’s simple, inspired dishes at Inis Meáin Suites.

Serves 4

Skin and trim a 1.6kg (3 1/2lbs) monkfish tail (bone in), season generously with Maldon sea salt

Melt 50g (2oz) of butter in the oven on a baking tray until bubbling
Roll the monkfish tail in the butter until completely coated.

Roast for 12 minutes at 225°C in a fan oven.

On a separate tray with another 50g (2oz) of butter and seasoning, repeat the process with 6 medium garden carrots split lengthwise. These will need to go into the oven 5 minutes before the monkfish.

Add a good fistful of fresh thyme at the end and toss.

For the tzatziki, grate a whole cucumber on a rough grater. Salt and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Squeeze to remove the water. Stir into 500g (18oz) Greek yogurt and a generous amount of chopped dill.

Serve with the fish and carrots.

A mixture of lemon juice, good quality harissa and extra virgin olive oil is a great dressing with this dish. Quantities will depend on how spicy you wish to make it….

Broccoli with Anchovy Dressing

1 average head of broccoli will yield 5-6 starter portions

Cut the vegetable up into equal sized florets. Bring 3 litres (5 1/4 pints) of properly salted water to a rolling boil. Add the broccoli for 60 seconds, strain and plunge into ice water to arrest the cooking. Strain and set aside. 

For the anchovy dressing put 250ml (9fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin in a hand blender vessel. Add 2 whole free range eggs, 6 Ortiz anchovies, 1 crushed clove of garlic and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. Emulsify with the blender and finish off with the juice of half a lemon. Salt to taste.

Gently sweat 200g (7fl oz) of Beluga lentils & mirepoix of vegetables for 2 – 3 minutes. Add 1/2 bottle of Madeira, burn off the alcohol and reduce by half.  Add the beef stock and cook until al dente for a further 7 – 10 minutes. 

To Serve

Reheat the broccoli with boiling water from the kettle. Put a good blob of anchovy dressing on a serving plate, add the broccoli florets and a tablespoon of the lentils, dress with a chilli, garlic and olive oil…

Chocolate Pots

These exquisite little chocolate pots are served as part of the breakfast tray at Inis Meáin Suites.  I can’t do chocolate for breakfast so I tuck them into the fridge and enjoy them later for my picnic lunch of homemade soup and onion focaccia with the accompanying pot of crème fraîche.

Makes 1 litre to pour into ovenproof single serve containers

325ml (11fl oz) cream

250ml (9fl oz) milk

250g (9oz) chocolate (70%)

6 egg yolks

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

 Melt the cream, milk and chocolate together in a saucepan over a low heat.  Beat the egg yolks and the caster sugar together and combine with the chocolate mixture.  Pour into individual small oven-proof containers (ramekins or Weck jars).

Place these in a bain-marie in a deep baking tray, filled with hot tap water two thirds up the sides of the small containers.

Cook at approximately 130°C for 30 minutes approx., until a slight dome shape appears on the surface.

Leave to cool and then refrigerate. 

Note: if you can resist them, they keep brilliantly for up to a week.


For foraging nerds like me, there are treasures to be found year round.  We found a few wild mushrooms in the fields – our buckthorn berries are ripening and I’ve picked lots of rowan berries to make jelly to serve with pork, lamb or game when it comes into season. 

There are oodles of wild blackberries this year so you can satisfy your inner ‘hunter gatherer’ or just have a trip down memory lane.

We have tons on the briars in the hedgerows around the school, an extra bonus from rewilding areas on the farm to provide extra habitats for birds, wild animals, bees and other pollinating insects.  This year they are really fat and juicy, with a more intense tart flavour than the cultivated blackberries, and of course they are free.  Organise a bramble picking expedition with your children and grandchildren.  You will need to show them how to pick the best ones and how to judge if they are infested with tiny maggots – the core will be stained with blackberry juice rather than pale creamy green centre.

We buy kilos of blackberries for jam from local children who love to earn some pocket money and continue the tradition that has endured in many families for generations. 

Blackberries freeze brilliantly – they also dry well.  If you have a dehydrator, it’s really worth experimenting with blackberries – add them to scones, muffins, muesli.  Try folding some into Champ or Colcannon to serve with roast duck…

They are at their best at present but will gradually deteriorate depending on the weather.   Older people used to tell us children not to pick blackberries after Halloween, some say Michaelmas (29th September) ‘cos the ‘púca’ will have spit on them’.  This was a brilliant deterrent to stop hungry kids from eating over ripe blackberries years ago.

Have fun with blackberries…Once again, they are deliciously versatile, think of adding them to both sweet and savoury dishes as well as scattering over breakfast granola, muesli, yoghurt…Pop one into an ice cube with a mint leaf to add to cordials and aperitifs.

They are packed with Vitamin C and are supposed to improve both motor and cognitive functions and couldn’t we all do with that.  They also make delicious wine if you are into home brewing but crème de mûre is even easier – try this recipe which I originally  came across in one of my favourite cookbooks of all time, Jane Grigson’s ‘Good Things’.  It’s a brilliant base for a cordial or a blackberry Kir.

All of the hedgerows around us here are still full of fluffy meadowsweet so hope you’ve been picking some and experimenting with the fragrant blossoms – see my article of 7th August 2021.

Medallions of Venison with Blackberry Sauce

A taste of Autumn, if the wild blackberries are frozen they may need a sprinkling of sugar.

Serves 4

4 medallions of venison

225g (8oz) wild blackberries

450ml (16fl oz) homemade chicken stock

75ml (3fl oz) port

4 tablespoons sloe gin or brandy

salt and freshly ground pepper

Purée or liquidise and sieve the blackberries. Put the stock and port into a stainless steel saucepan and boil and reduce for a few minutes, add the brandy and fruit and boil until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile season the medallions of venison, fry in a very little butter on a hot pan for 2 minutes each side.

Sharpen the sauce with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, taste and correct the seasoning. Put the medallions onto a hot plate spoon over a little sauce, garnish with a few fresh blackberries if available and a few sprigs of fresh herbs.

Serve immediately with Gratin Dauphinois and a good green salad.

Crème de Mûre (Blackberry Liqueur)

Makes 2 litres (3 1/2 pints)

This recipe can also be made using blackcurrants in which case the name would change to ‘Crème de Cassis’.

Drink within 6 weeks.

1 1/2kg (3lb 5oz) ripe blackberries

2 litres (3 1/2 pints) red wine

800g (1 3/4lbs) granulated sugar, possibly more to taste

70cl (700ml/1 1/4 pints) brandy or vodka (unflavoured)

Pick over the blackberries, carefully removing bits of leaf or twig.  Put into a stainless steel bowl. 

Crush the fruit well with a potato masher.  Pour on the red wine and stir well.  Cover and leave to macerate for 48 hours, stirring from time to time.

Strain through a muslin bag into a stainless steel preserving pan.  Squeeze the bag well to get the last of the liquid out.

Add the sugar and heat up gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is almost boiling.  Simmer uncovered for about an hour until the liquid thickens and turns slightly syrupy.  Stir occasionally.

Taste, and add a little more sugar if necessary.  Allow to cool.

Add the spirit, stir well and pour into sterilised bottles.  Seal and store in a cool place.

Serve well chilled in small glasses or with sparkling water and lots of ice.

Blackberry, Bramley Apple and Sweet Geranium Jam

Blackberries rot on the hedgerows all over the countryside every year.  Think of all the wonderful jam that could be made – so full of Vitamin C!  This year, organise a blackberry picking expedition and take a picnic.  You’ll find it’s the greatest fun, and when you come home one person could make a few scones while someone else is making the jam.  The children could be kept out of mischief and gainfully employed drawing and painting home-made jam labels, with personal messages like “Lydia’s Jam – keep off”!, or “Grandma’s Bramble Jam”. Then you can enjoy the results of your labours with a well-earned cup of tea.

Blackberries are a bit low in pectin, so the tart Bramley apples help it to set as well as adding extra flavour.

Makes 9-10 x 450g (1lb) jars approx.

2.3kg (5lbs) blackberries (wild or cultivated)

900g (2lbs) cooking apples (Bramley Seedling in season)

1kg – scant 1.1kg (2lbs 4oz – 2lbs 6oz) granulated sugar

8-10 sweet geranium leaves (optional), alternatively use the finely grated zest and juice of an organic lemon

Wash, peel, core and slice the apples.  Stew them until soft with 300ml (10fl oz) of water in a stainless steel saucepan; beat to a pulp.

Pick over the blackberries, cook until soft, adding about 150ml (5fl oz) of water (or water and lemon juice) if the berries are dry.  If the blackberries are frozen, omit the water.

Put the blackberries into a wide stainless steel saucepan or preserving pan with the apple pulp and heated sugar. Destalk and chop the sweet geranium leaves (or zest of the lemon if using) and add to the fruit.  Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. 

Boil steadily for about 15 minutes approximately.  Skim the jam, test for a set and pot into warm spotlessly clean jars. Seal, store in a dark place or share with friends.

Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry and Mint Pavlova

Pavlova, the dessert named after prima ballerina Anna Pavlova has to be in here – a base for so many delicious ripe berries and fruit.  Once again, we can have some fun with flavoured creams and seasonal fruits or lemon curd or strained fruit compote…

Serves 6 – 8

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the zest of 1 lemon


300ml (10fl oz) cream

400 – 450g (14oz – 1lb) mixture of whole and sliced blackberries, raspberries, blueberries mixed with fresh mint


fresh mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Check that your bowl and whisk are dry and free of grease or any residue of detergent. Using a food-processor, whisk the egg whites until stiff, then add in half the caster sugar, continue to whisk until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Fold in the rest of the caster sugar with the cornflour, vinegar, vanilla extract or lemon zest.

Spread the meringue mixture onto a 23cm (9 inch) round or oval on the silicone paper.  Make a well in the centre and push the mixture to the side to form ‘walls’.  Bake in the centre of a preheated oven for 1- 1 1/4 hours or until very pale brown, crisp on the outside and dry underneath but soft and marshmallow in the centre. 

Remove from the oven, turn the pavlova upside down on a wire rack and peel off the paper. If it’s still a little sticky in the centre, replace in the oven for 5-10 minutes longer.  Allow to get quite cold.

To Serve

Transfer the pavlova carefully onto a serving plate.  Whip the cream softly, fill the centre of the pavlova with cream and berries.  Garnish with fresh mint.

Note:  This quantity makes 6 individual 10cm (4 inch) pavlovas which take 20 minutes to cook.

Blackberry, Apple and Hazelnut Crumble

Crumbles vie with apple pies as the comfort food of all ages, vary the fruit according to the season.  Hazelnuts will be ripe from mid-October, so keep an eye out for hazel trees if you are walking on the hills or mountain, they are indigenous to Ireland.

Serves 6-8

450g (1lb) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

225g (8oz) fresh blackberries

45-50g (1 3/4 – 2oz) granulated sugar

1-2 tablespoons water


110g (4oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

50g (2oz) cold butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

25g (1oz) chopped hazelnuts (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1.2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish or whatever you have!

Peel the apples, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into large cubes.  Turn into a pie dish with the blackberries. Sprinkle with sugar and add the water. 

Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles really coarse breadcrumbs, add the sugar and cinnamon and chopped nuts if using. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar. 

Lemon Curd Cream with Wild Blackberries, Toasted Almonds and Mint

A delicious combination of flavours and textures – combined in minutes.

Serves 4

4 tablespoons homemade lemon curd (see recipe)

3-4 tablespoons of softly whipped cream

175g (6oz) wild blackberries

a squeeze of freshly squeezed lemon juice

a sprinkling of sugar or a drizzle of honey (optional)

2 tablespoons of toasted flaked almonds

shredded mint leaves plus a couple of whole mint leaves for garnishing

Taste the blackberries, if they are very tart, add a squeeze of lemon juice and a generous sprinkling of sugar or honey.  Allow to macerate for 4-5 minutes.

Fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd.  Taste and add a more of either depending on the intensity of the lemon curd.

Toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan to a rich golden colour (watch them as they burn really easily) and cool.

To Serve

Put two generous tablespoons of lemon curd cream into each shallow bowl.  Spoon some of the macerated blackberries over the cream.  Scatter with flaked almonds and sprinkle on some shredded mint plus a few fresh mint leaves for garnish. 

Lemon Curd

Tangy delicious lemon curd can be made in a twinkling, smear it over a sponge or onto fresh bread, buttery scones or meringues – store in a covered jar in the fridge.  It is best eaten within a fortnight.

Flavedo is the outer coloured skin of citrus fruits.

Makes 2 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

50g (2oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back of it.  Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl or sterilized jar (it will thicken further as it cools.)

Cover when cold and refrigerate. 

Going Back to School (Part 2)

I ran out of space last week so here we go again, more ideas for school lunches.  As mentioned in my previous column, good nutrition is a vital part of every child’s development – so fill that lunch box with lots of real food – totally exclude all ultra-processed food and anything that purports to be healthy, it probably isn’t.  Invest in real stuff – you’ll spend less on ‘meds’ in the end

Building on last week’s suggestions.  How about sushi balls, also great and really easy to make.  Put a little surprise into the centre, younger children may not love pickled ginger and wasabi but teenagers definitely love sushi.

One batch of sushi rice will make lots but you could do scattered sushi in a bowl the next day.   They also love tacos and tostados, use corn tortillas – they are much more nutritious, easy to eat and fun to top with favourite tasty morsels plus they can be vegetarian or vegan.  Spring rolls made with rice paper wrappers are also fun for teenagers to make.  They can ‘roll their own’ around the fillings of their choice, julienne of veggies, vermicelli noodles, maybe a shrimp or two, Budda bowls with a mixture of rice, prawns, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots with a perky dressing. 

Mexican wraps are also brilliant with crunchy lettuce, strips of roast chicken, lamb or beef with crisp cucumber and tomato, add a dash of chilli sauce – for those who like it hot and more and more do.

Half or a whole avocado is the perfect lunch box food, super nutritious, easy to digest.  A spoon and a little phial of flaky sea salt is all that’s needed, a few cherry tomatoes are perfect for a pop of juicy flavour. 

An occasional hard-boiled egg – great protein, easy to peel and once again delicious with a sprinkling of sea salt or a dollop of mayo mixed with Ballymaloe Relish.  Draw a funny face or write a name on the shell if you have the energy at 7.30am in the morning!

A little pot of chive or scallion potato salad is great on its own but also a perfect base to add a dice of bacon, chicken, chorizo or cucumber. 

Mini muffuletta with layers of roast peppers, cured meat, cheese – lunch sorted in one bun.

Cheese is of course another valuable protein – Cheddar seems to be most children’s favourite, batons are easy to eat.  Add a few crackers, a slice of brown yeast or soda bread and a little chutney or relish.

Pasta or noodles with a peanut sauce are also a winner and can be a basis for lots of other additions.

Try to include some fruit, a few cherries for a treat or a squashed donut peach when they are in season and of course an organic banana is a worthwhile source of potassium, iron, fibre, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C, all in one easy package.

A slice of really good brown bread and raspberry jam couldn’t be simpler but it’s delicious and loved by everyone.

I should also mention lettuce wraps – easy to eat and particularly delicious with sticky pork and matchsticks of cucumber and carrot – try this recipe.

And finally, don’t forget dates, a brilliant snack.  One or two juicy Medjool or Deglet Noor dates are a rich source of magnesium, calcium, potassium and fibre.  Dried apricots or mango slices and fruit kebabs for a fun and tasty nibble – just thread cubes of fresh and/or dried fruit on a stick.

A wedge of water melon on a lollipop stick is another easy peasy lunchbox treat.

Sausage or frankfurter rolls.

Crumpets and drop scones are all made in minutes, slather with a little butter or peanut butter and honey.

So hopefully there’s lots of ideas in all those suggestions to keep your little dotes nourished and whet their appetites…

Basic Sushi Rice

Easy to do but just follow the instructions.

450g (1lb) sushi rice “No 1 Extra Fancy”

600ml (1 pint) water

Vinegar Water

50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice for 8-10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes.   In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.  Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off.  Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved.  Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden).  While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon.  Don’t stir.  You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan.  This is much easier if you have a helper.  Allow to cool on the plate, cover with a tea towel and use as desired.  (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Sushi Balls

Makes 20-30 pieces

sprig of dill or chervil or coriander

1/2 quantity prepared sushi rice

25g (1oz) smoked salmon, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) squares


10 cooked prawns or shrimps


1/2 cucumber, sliced wafer thin and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces


25g (1oz) roast beef, thinly sliced and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

Lay a piece of parchment paper, about 10cm (4 inch) square, on a clean work surface and place a sprig of chervil or coriander face down and then a piece of smoked salmon at the centre of it.  Put a teaspoonful of sushi rice on top of it.

Pick up all four corners of the parchment paper and gather them in the middle.  Twist the paper to compact the rice and form a small ball.  Repeat the process with the other toppings.

Keep each piece of sushi wrapped in the parchment until just before serving.  Serve with a little wasabi paste or pickled ginger depending on your children’s taste

Scattered Sushi

For scattered Sushi, put some sushi rice into a bowl, scatter with toppings of your choice for example cherry tomatoes, Mozzarella, beef and spring onion, smoked salmon or tuna, spring onions and strips of cucumber…

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Gary Masterson, one of our tutors here at Ballymaloe Cookery School shared this recipe with us, everyone loves it.

The spices transform the mince into something irresistible, to scoop up with fresh lettuce leaves. Minced chicken can also be used; I prefer the brown meat but, of course, white meat is delicious too – just bear in mind that it needs a shorter cooking time.  Use less rather than more chilli for children.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons extra virgin or vegetable oil

30g (1 1/4oz) fresh ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

500g (18oz) minced chicken or pork (I use brown meat, but use white if you prefer)

4 makrut lime leaves, shredded

50g (2oz) palm sugar or soft light brown sugar

juice of 1 organic lime

2 tablespoons fish sauce


3–4 handfuls of Iceberg lettuce or butterhead leaves

a good handful of mint leaves

a handful of coriander leaves

2–3 spring shallots, finely sliced on the diagonal

a handful of toasted peanuts or cashews, roughly chopped

1 organic lime, cut into wedges

Heat the oil over a high heat in a large (26cm/10 1/2 inch) frying pan. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and stir-fry for a minute or two to release their flavours. Add the minced chicken or pork and cook over a high heat until it starts to colour, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go.

Add the shredded makrut lime leaves, sprinkle in the sugar, squeeze in the lime juice and add 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce. Reduce the heat and cook everything down for 5–10 minutes until the mince is sticky and delicious. Season to taste with the remaining fish sauce, if necessary.

Transfer the mince to a lunch box with accompaniments, add lettuce, herbs, shallots, peanuts or cashews and lime wedges so that they can assemble their own little parcels.

Pizza Rolls

A delicious tasty bite – perfect for school lunches or a picnic.  The filling can be as simple as grated cheese or a mixture of tomato sauce, chorizo, pesto, spring onion…

This makes approx. 9 rolls but they freeze well for future lunches.

225g (8oz) pizza dough


175-225ml (6-8fl oz) concentrated tomato sauce or Tomato Fondue

1 teaspoon chopped annual marjoram

a good pinch pepper flakes (optional)

300g (10oz) diced pepperoni, tiny dice

75g (3oz) grated Mozzarella

25g (1oz) Parmesan or Cheddar cheese

Egg Wash, beaten egg with a generous pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 or use a fan oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough into a 1cm (1/2 inch) thick rectangle on a floured board. It should be roughly about 23cm long x 17cm wide (9 inches by 6 1/2 inches) but no need to reach those exact dimensions).

Spread the well-seasoned tomato sauce evenly over the dough keeping it in 2.5cm (1 inch) from the long side.  Sprinkle with marjoram, red pepper flakes (if using) evenly over the sauce.  Brush the edge with egg wash.  Sprinkle the diced peperoni and cheese in an even layer over the sauce.

Roll the dough from the long side into a tight spiral. Transfer the dough to a baking tray and refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Brush with egg wash.

Use a serrated knife to slice the chilled dough into 9 even rolls (about 2-2.5cm/3/4 – 1 inch wide). Transfer to the prepared baking tray allowing a little space between each one for expansion.

Bake in the preheated oven until the rolls are golden and the filling is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or wrap in parchment for school lunches.

Mini Muffuletta

The New Orleans speciality makes a perfect chunky sandwich. One can vary the fillings but there should be lots of it.

1 round rustic bun or brioche

Filling of your choice – could be…

pesto or Ballymaloe Relish

lettuce or a mixture of salad leaves and rocket

red and/or yellow pepper (roasted, peeled and roughly cut into chunks)

salt and freshly ground pepper

slices of cheese

salami, ham or chorizo, thinly sliced (approximately)

Cut a lid off the top of the little round loaf or bun.  Remove the soft crumb and keep for breadcrumbs.

Smear the pesto or Ballymaloe Relish over the base and the under-lid of each loaf.  Then arrange layers of salad leaves, roasted peppers, cheese and salami, ham or chorizo.

Pop the lid on, wrap tightly with parchment paper, keep chilled until you pop into the lunchbox.  Divide each muffuletta into five or six wedges.

Rice Bowl and lots of good things

Rice bowls, buddha bowls, poke are all riffs on a theme, a delicious little meal in a bowl.  A rice bowl will have a base of cooked rice, could be white, brown, topped with many good things, raw, cooked or a mixture flavoured with a well flavoured dressing.   They can be vegetarian, vegan or include meat, fish, game… other pulses can also be used – bulgur, freekah, pearl barley, farro, quinoa, lentils, pulses – all make a delicious and super nutritious base for a variety of toppings.  Make sure the rice is well seasoned otherwise the end result be bland and boring.

You can do infinite variations on the theme depending on the child’s taste. Thin slices of chicken or duck breast, rare beef, cured or smoked fish, vegetables, raw or roast, greens, spring onions, sliced omelette, avocado, pickled ginger.  Occasionally some mango or apple slices.  A poached, fried or hard-boiled egg for extra protein. 

Occasionally add a crispy element, a few tortilla chips, prawn crackers, crispy chickpeas….

A tasty dressing or maybe tahini, teriyaki, rayu or satay sauce is pretty essential to liven up the bowl and maybe a sprinkling of seeds, sesame, sunflower or toasted nuts.

Rachel’s Drop Scones

This is Rachel’s brilliant recipe for drop scones.  The children can easily make the batter and cook them.

Makes 12

110g (4oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 egg

110ml (4fl oz) milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and stir to mix.  Make a well in the centre, crack in the egg and whisk, gradually drawing in the flour from the edge.  Add the milk gradually, whisking all the time, to form a smooth batter.

Lightly grease a frying pan and warm it over a moderate heat.  Drop 3 tablespoons of the batter into the pan, keeping well apart so they don’t stick together. Cook for about 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface and begin to burst and the drop scones are golden underneath, then flip them over and cook on the other side for a minute or until golden on this side as well.

Remove from the pan and serve warm with butter and jam, apple jelly, lemon curd or if you are like my children, chocolate spread! (If you wish, wrap the drop scones in a clean tea towel to keep warm while you make the rest.)

Going Back to School (Part 1)

What a year our children have had to endure.  It’s been difficult for everyone in a myriad of ways but the poor little dotes have been deprived of interaction with their friends, sport and much of their natural behaviour for months on end.  Consequently, many are displaying signs of anxiety and mental illness.  Parents did their very best while they themselves battled to keep going often in a haze of confusion. 

Now it’s back to school time again in a mixture of excitement, apprehension and the extra challenge of providing healthy, wholesome, exciting school lunches every day.  We are all aware that it’s more important than ever to boost our young people’s immune system – it’s all about yummy healthy wholesome, nutrient dense food, our secret weapon to help them resist viruses, colds, flu and to cope with anxiety. 

So let’s do everything we can to source chemical-free, organic food.  The investment will be well worth the effort and occasional extra expense.  A growing body of research indicates beyond a shadow of doubt that the less we spend on nourishing wholesome food, the more we spend on meds and supplements.

Once again, I repeat the mantra ‘our food should be our medicine’ and when I say food, I don’t mean the ultra-processed food that is undoubtedly damaging our health. 

All very fine but it all takes thought, time and effort.  So here are a few suggestions…get the kids involved as soon as possible. 

If lunch is to include a sandwich – good bread is vital.  Soda bread, teeny weeny loaves, scones or bunnies are made in minutes and take only 10-15 minutes to cook.  Most 10 year olds could master it easily and enjoy the fun.  Ideally every lunch should include protein, carbs and fats.  Lots of options but how about an egg and chive mayo, a delicious sandwich filler but could also be a dip or a salad.  Ring the changes by adding a dice of cucumber or a sprinkling of smoked salmon, mackerel as an extra nourishing bounce.

Good nutrition is a vital part of a child’s development. 

Easy pop-ins:

1. A little jar of natural yoghurt – add some stewed fruit or berries occasionally or add a teeny pot of honey.  Those little mini glass pots are brilliantly useful – one can be refilled all year with a relish, sauces, jam or a dip.

2. Peanut butter or a mix of peanut butter and honey to slather over cold toast – yes believe me, it’s delicious.

3. Pitta Pockets are also a favourite, fill them with a mixture of veggie and maybe a few slices of salami and perhaps a sliver or two of cheese.

4. Hummus in its many reincarnations is also a popular choice for vegetable stick dippers. Chickpeas, beetroot, white bean and pea are all delicious…

It’s also worth making a batch of crispy chickpeas – a delicious little nibble as are nourishing nuts, make your own ‘trail mix’ and add some raisins to the nuts, maybe add some sunflower seeds too.

5. Swap out water kefir or kombucha for coke – the super cool fizzy drink for cool kids. 

6. Chips and dips are also a hit, tortilla chips, made from corn are certainly nutritious.  You can make your own for a fraction of the price.  Same with potato crisps, a few slivered potatoes will make a carrier bag full.  Steer well away from the commercial crisps with lots of phony flavours.

7. Chicken drumsticks or wings are also a great favourite to nibble.  Add a little spice if your kids enjoy Asian flavours or add a little pot of Ballymaloe Relish mixed with mayo. 

8. When the weather gets chillier, our kids love a little flask of soup and they are also enthusiastic broth guzzlers.  Save all your bones, vegetable scraps and herb stalks and keep a slow cooker bubbling – it’s magic stuff full of collagen to build healthy bones and teeth.

9. A batch of energy balls are also perfect to pop into a lunch box and we still love flapjacks or oatmeal biscuits – they keep really well, taste delicious and can be drizzled with chocolate occasionally for a special treat.

There’s so much more but I’ve run out of space.  I’ll have to do another column very soon, meanwhile, here are a few tasty bites to try out – let me know what reaction you get and don’t forget to pop in a little piece of fruit…

Teeny Weeny Soda Scones

The soda bread base only takes 2 or 3 minutes to make. Teeny weenie brown or white scones take just 10 – 15 minutes to bake, depending on size and are irresistible to children and adults alike.  Maybe brush the top with buttermilk or egg wash and dip in grated cheese or a mixture of seeds.

Makes approximately 40 teeny weenies but one could make a mixture of shapes or half the recipe

1lb (450g) white flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon teaspoon of salt

1 level teaspoon teaspoon of bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)

sour milk or buttermilk to mix – 350 – 400ml (12-14fl oz) approx.

4cm (1 1/2 inch) cutter approximately

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

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured board.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Tidy it up then flip it over. Flatten the dough into a round, about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick and stamp out into teeny weeny scones. Bake in a hot oven, 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 for 15 minutes (approx.) or until cooked through. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Cool on a wire rack.

Chopped fresh herbs e.g.; rosemary, thyme or olives may be added to the dry ingredients to make delicious little herb scones.

Brush the tops with egg wash and dip in grated cheddar cheese for yummy cheddar teeny weenies.

Blathnaid’s Energy Balls

Special thanks to my highly energetic sister Blathnaid Bergin who shared this recipe with me.  A batch of these will keep for several weeks and can be popped into lunch boxes on a whim.

Makes 24 x 50g (2oz) balls

280g (9 3/4oz) cocoa butter or chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa (64%)

85g (3 1/4oz) cocoa powder

160g (5 1/2oz) peanut butter, smooth or crunchy

8 tablespoons of honey or 12 tablespoons maple or agave syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract


260g (9 1/4oz) – use 1 or a mixture of cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecan, roughly chopped

60g (2 1/2oz) raisins or dried raspberries

100g (3 1/2oz) dried apricots, preferably unsulphered, roughly chopped

40g (1 1/2oz) Medjool dates, roughly chopped

100g (3 1/2oz) dried figs, finely chopped

pinch of salt

1 x loaf tin – 24cm (9 1/2 inch) lined with parchment paper

Half fill a large saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and turn it off.  Melt the cocoa butter or chocolate in a bowl over the simmering water, stirring every now and then.  Add the cocoa powder, peanut butter, honey (or maple or agave syrup), vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the chopped nuts and fruit mixture to the melted cocoa butter and stir well.  Pour immediately into the prepared tin.  Allow to set in a cool place and chill in the fridge.  Cut into squares or roll into balls.

If you like you can roll the balls in a little desiccated coconut. 

Store in an airtight box in the fridge.

Tortilla Chips

Corn tortilla chips are full of goodness and make an excellent alternative to crisps, they will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.

Serves 4

6-8 corn tortillas

oil for deep frying

1 teaspoon salt

Cut the tortillas into eighths.

Heat the oil to 200°C/400°F. 

Fry the pieces until they are pale golden.  Stir occasionally to ensure that all the tortilla chips colour evenly.  Drain on absorbent paper, season and toss with the salt.   


Proceed as above, toss with 4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) and/or 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne if required. 

Nibble as they are or use to scoop up a dip.   

Chips and Dips

Children love dips, there are lots of options, tomato salsa, guacamole, satay sauce, hummus but you might like to try this spicy dip. 

Spicy Peanut Dip

Use batons of carrots, cucumber, peas in the pod, roast sweet potato wedges, potato crisps, tortilla chips…

Makes 600ml (1 pint approx.)

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1-2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 x 400ml (14fl oz) tin of coconut milk

140g (scant 5oz) creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fish sauce, Nam Pla

1-2 tablespoons honey


Gently heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the curry paste, stir and cook until the paste begins to stick to the base of the saucepan, 2–3 minutes.

Whisk in the coconut milk and continue to cook, until the mixture turns a shade darker and reduces slightly, about 3 minutes.  Take off the heat, whisk in the peanut butter, vinegar, fish sauce and honey. Season to taste with salt and add a little more honey if necessary.  Cool and store in the fridge – it will keep for 5-6 days. 

Homemade Potato Crisps

Making crisps at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers! 

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying


Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.

In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180°C/350°F.

Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.

Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Serves 4

Quick and easy and super nutritious and once again terrifically versatile – a delicious little snack or starter or use as a dipper.

Pumpkin wedges can be swapped for sweet potatoes.

2 sweet potatoes (approximately 450g/1lb in weight) (orange fleshed, if possible)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary or thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon freshly roasted ground cumin and coriander

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Wash the sweet potatoes and cut them into quarters lengthwise.  Pop into a bowl and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Sprinkle with the chopped herbs or chosen spices. Season with sea salt and toss into a roasting tin.   Bake for 10-15 minutes turning once until completely tender and lightly golden.

Egg and Chive Mayonnaise

I can’t resist egg sandwiches.  I love them with lots of chives or spring onions but many kids are wary of green bits in their food so just leave them out if that’s the case.

Serves 2-4

4 free range eggs

3-4 tablespoons homemade mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives or spring onions

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Lower the eggs gently into boiling salted water, bring back to the boil and continue to cook for 10 minutes.  Drain and put immediately into a bowl of cold water.  (Eggs with a black ring around the yolk have been overcooked). When cold, shell, and chop coarsely.  Mix with the mayonnaise and chives or spring onions.  Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.


These nutritious biscuits keep very well in an airtight tin.  Children love to munch them with a banana. Don’t compromise – make them with butter, because the flavour is immeasurably better.

Makes 24-32

450g (1lb) rolled oatmeal (porridge oats)

350g (12oz) butter

1 tablespoon golden syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

175g (6oz) castor sugar

Swiss roll tin, 25.5cm (10 inch) x 38cm (15 inches) lined with a strip of parchment with overhang at each end

Melt the butter, add the golden syrup and pure vanilla extract, stir in the castor sugar and oatmeal and mix well. Spread into a large Swiss roll tin and bake in a preheated moderate oven (on low shelf), 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, until golden and slightly caramelised – about 30 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm.

Note: Make half the recipe if a 23cm (9 inch) x 33cm (13 inch) Swiss roll thin is used.


We’ve had the most gorgeous watermelons recently – huge, pot-bellied orbs of sweet juiciness, just what we love to relish during these long Summer days. Watermelons have a high water content so try to find organic fruit if you can.

Apparently there are over 1,000 varieties of watermelon cultivated worldwide and have been for centuries.  The seeds of wild watermelons have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. There used to be an annoying number of seeds in the fruit, but in recent times virtually seedless varieties have been developed which add greatly to my personal enjoyment of the fruit…. (although my grandchildren greatly enjoy a seed spitting competition!).

I love to keep a watermelon in my pantry, it’s super versatile, I use it for both sweet and savoury dishes and it’s a must-have for a Summer picnic.  Pop a chunk into a cold box surrounded by lots of ice and then produce a chilled slice as a thirst quencher after a swim – that’s what memories are made of. For a more grown up version, how about injecting a watermelon with vodka…so fun and delicious…check out spruce….

Save the rind – both the flesh and rind are edible. Americans particularly love watermelon rind pickle.  Bravo to the person who experimented with that originally. Here is a simple recipe from eco-chef Tom Hunt who writes a regular column in the Guardian Feast magazine every Saturday on Food Waste…
Deliciously refreshing, watermelon juice is made in minutes, great in cocktails too, popsicles, smoothies or as a boozy watermelon slushie.
Grilled watermelon slices are surprisingly delicious. Add watermelon to gazpacho for a delicious Summer starter and we love little chilled cubes with a piece of salty feta shredded over the top… they make an irresistible bite.

How about watermelon jellies or a granita. Watermelon and tomato are another irresistible combination in a salad, add some thinly sliced chilli for extra oomph.

Apart from the time-honoured combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta, both crab and shrimp partner deliciously too.

Finally, a few tips when buying a watermelon. Although you may not have much choice. Look out for a melon that has a strong consistent pale yellow stripe pattern, it should feel heavy for its size. Choose a watermelon where the skin is slightly dull rather than shiny, it’s likely to be riper and sweeter. Often the really ripe ones have a creamy yellow splodge where the melon touched the ground and have a deep hollow sound when tapped on the base

Here are a few recipes to get you started, have fun and enjoy…

Watermelon Bites



spearmint leaves

Cut the watermelon flesh into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) cubes, arrange on a platter, cover and chill. 

To Serve

Put a little piece of feta on top of each watermelon cube, top with a sprig of mint, secure with a cocktail stick.

Pan-fried Fillets of John Dory with Watermelon and Chilli Salsa

Watermelon is also a delicious foil for mackerel but they have been so scarce this Summer that you may want to use another fresh fish – John Dory, haddock, hake…

Serves 6

450g (1lb) watermelon

zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

1 not too hot red chilli, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

75-110ml (3-4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

6 x 225g (8oz) fillets of John Dory

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

To Serve

wedges of lemon

sprigs of fresh coriander

Cut the watermelon flesh into 7mm (1/3 inch) dice, removing the seeds as you do so.

Pop the diced melon into a bowl with the zest and juice of the lime, the chopped red chilli and tablespoon of freshly chopped coriander.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste.

Season the fillets of John Dory with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pan-grill on a hot pan with a little extra virgin olive oil until golden on both sides. 

Serve on hot plates with the salsa, wedge of lime and a few sprigs of fresh coriander. 

Roast Pork with Watermelon, Ginger and Chilli Salad

Serves 4

For the pork belly

1kg (2 1/4lbs) pork belly with rind attached

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary

2 garlic cloves, crushed

extra virgin olive oil

Watermelon Salad

450g (1lb) watermelon

1 heaped tablespoon of pickled ginger, chopped

1 small mild chilli, deseeded and chopped 

flaky sea salt and a little sugar

fresh mint leaves

fresh basil leaves

8 – 12 black Kalamata olives, stones in.


sprigs of mint and basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Score the rind of the pork belly.

Put the sea salt, rosemary, crushed garlic in a bowl and mix well.

Rub the rosemary mixture into the scored skin.

Lay the joint of pork on a rack in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes to allow the crackling to form, then reduce the temperature to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 and cook for a further hour or until fully cooked and the juices run clear.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel the watermelon and cut the flesh into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice, removing the seeds. Fold the chopped pickled ginger and chilli into the watermelon, season with salt and a little sugar to taste.

Carve the pork into 2cm (3/4 inch) thick slices approx.

Add mint and basil leaves and black olives to the watermelon.

Serve the pork with a side of watermelon and olive salad.  Garnish with sprigs of mint and basil. 

Watermelon, Rosewater and Maftoul Salad

Maftoul – Palestinian or Pearl couscous sounds very exotic but it’s now widely available and so worth keeping in your store cupboard. 

Serves 6

500g (18oz) watermelon, 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
1-2 teaspoons rosewater, depending on intensity

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
225g (8oz) Maftoul or Pearl couscous
seeds of 1 pomegranate
50g (2oz) pistachio, coarsely chopped
1 handful of mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 handful of parsley, coarsely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
60ml (scant 2 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) feta

Sprinkle the rosewater over the watermelon cubes (careful not to use too much).  Allow to macerate. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the couscous and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until coated and toasted.    Transfer the maftoul to a stainless-steel saucepan of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, drain and cool.

Meanwhile, flick the seeds out of the pomegranates and save the juice too.

To Serve
Mix the pomegranate seeds with the watermelon and chopped pistachio nuts. Add the mint leaves and parsley. Season well with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and sumac.

Whisk the pomegranate molasses with the extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over the feta, toss gently and add with a shower of crumbled feta to the salad. Taste and tweak if necessary.
Enjoy soon.

Watermelon Limeade

Enjoy as a drink or freeze as a granita or popsicles.

Lemon juice can be substituted for lime – taste and tweak.

Serves 4-6

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) water

5-6 tablespoons sugar

1/2 large watermelon (2.2kg/5lb flesh)

juice and zest of 2 limes

sparkling water to taste

sprigs of fresh mint

Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat.  Cut the rind off the watermelon, then cut the flesh into 5cm (2 inch) chunks, flick out the seeds and purée the chunks in batches in a food processor.  Stir in the syrup, lime juice and zest into the melon purée.  Dilute with sparkling water to taste, add a few ice cubes and a sprig of fresh mint to each glass.

Watermelon Popsicles

Proceed as above but omit the sparkling water – the mixture should taste a little sweeter than you’d like it because it will lose a little of its intensity in the freezing.  Pour into popsicle moulds and freeze for 3-4 hours.

Watermelon Granita

Proceed as above.  Freeze the watermelon liquid in a sorbetière in the usual way – the texture should be slushy.  Serve in chilled glasses with a sprig of mint.  

Grilled Watermelon

Super easy to do, delicious either as a sweet or savoury dish.  Love it with crispy roast pork with crackling or a pan-grilled heritage pork chop.



extra virgin olive oil

Top and tail the watermelon.  Cut into quarters lengthways and slice into 2.5 – 3cm (1 – 1 1/4 inch) pieces.  Sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides (careful not too much).  Lay in a single layer on a wire rack over a platter for 15-20 minutes to draw out excess moisture. 

Preheat a pan-grill or barbeque on a high heat.

Dab dry the watermelon with a cloth or kitchen paper.

Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and grill until nicely charred on both sides, 5-6 minutes. 

Transfer to a serving platter, serve sprinkled with

1 Crumbled feta and shredded mint.

2. Freshly squeezed lime juice, drizzle with new season’s honey and sprinkle with a chiffonade of fresh mint.

Tom Hunt’s Pickled Watermelon Rind

Take 400g (14oz) watermelon rind with a little flesh still attached, peel off the hard skin and cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces. Put 275ml (9 1/2fl oz) water, 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) vinegar, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, four teaspoons of salt and 100g (3 1/2oz) sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil, add the rind, return to a boil and turn off the heat. Fill a clean jam jar with the pickled watermelon and juice, top with a few slices of green chilli and screw on the lid. They’re ready to eat once cooled, and will keep in the fridge for a month or longer.

Japanese Cuisine

How about some Japanese food to really keep us in the Olympic vibe. Instead of ordering a pizza or a burger and a pint in a pub, why not impress the pals by whipping up a few super easy Japanese dishes from the host country for your socially distanced viewing party or get together.

What do we know about Japanese food?  Most of us would be hard pressed to name more than two or three Japanese dishes…sushi immediately comes to mind but understandably many feel intimidated to even attempt to make sushi rolls.  But scattered sushi, the most ancient form of sushi is ridiculously easy to make and really delicious. How about ramen – silky noodles and many other good things in a bowl of deeply flavoured broth.

Gyoza, fat juicy pork dumplings… who could resist a plate full of those?  Yakatori, tonkatsu, okonomiyaki are all staple Japanese dishes that sound super exotic but are easy to whip up once you stock up your store cupboard with a few Japanese ingredients.

Tuna, salmon or trout, tataki is light and refreshing and super easy to make – a perfect small plate for a summers evening and how about sipping a kombucha negroni to get into the spirit. Karaage or katsu, Japanese fried chicken is also a brilliant crowd pleaser.  It will disappear off a plate in a flash.  Both are Japanese fried chicken but karaage is usually thigh meat dipped in a coating of potato starch and served with a mayo based sauce while katsu tends to be sliced white meat or wings, breaded, deep fried and served with a thin sauce.

Here’s a list of essential Japanese pantry ingredients to get you started.


Sushi Rice

Soya Sauce

Mirin (sweet rice wine)

Sake (rice alcohol)

Rice Vinegar

Miso (fermented bean paste)

Wasabi (mustard)

Pickled Ginger

Bonito Flakes

Kombu (kelp)

Yoma (sesame seeds)


Yuzu Sauce (citrus)

Nori (sheets of toasted seaweed)


Chirashi Sushi – Scattered Sushi with Seared Beef Fillet and Red Onion

Chirashi sushi or scattered sushi is the oldest form of sushi and by far the easiest to make at home, no fiddling with sushi mats or sheets of nori.  Toppings to scatter over the rice can be your choice of delicious fresh seasonal ingredients and often though not always raw fish.

This recipe uses the traditional Japanese method normally used for cooking tuna, to cook beef, but it works just as well.

Serves 8

1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced in rings

500g (1lb) beef fillet or sirloin – cut into about 3 steaks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) sake

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) soy sauce

1 quantity prepared sushi rice (see recipe)

4 spring onions, finely sliced, to garnish

chilli daikon relish (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the steak with salt and pepper and set aside to season for 30 minutes.  Heat a large frying pan or pan-grill and sear the beef until brown, about 2 minutes on each side.  The surface of the beef should be well-browned, but inside should be very rare. Cook the meat for longer if you prefer it less rare. 

Transfer the beef to a bowl of iced water and allow to stand for 10 minutes.  Mix the sake and soy in a shallow dish.  Drain and pat the beef dry with kitchen paper and put into the dish of sake and soy mixture and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes or better still overnight in the refrigerator.

To Serve

Put the sliced onion into a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes.  Drain.

Remove the beef from the marinade and pat dry with kitchen paper.  Slice into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick pieces or as thinly as possible.  Fill each bowl two-thirds full with the prepared sushi rice, and arrange some slices of beef on top.  Arrange a few finely sliced spring onions and chilli daikon relish beside the beef and garnish with the onion slices.

Chilli Daikon Relish

Peel 250g (8oz) daikon, soak briefly in cold water, then grate it into a bowl.  Deseed and finely chop a small red chilli finely and mix with the daikon – a delicious accompaniment to the Scattered Beef Sushi recipe.

Basic Sushi Rice

450g (1lb) sushi rice ” No 1 Extra Fancy”

600ml (1 pint) water

Vinegar Water

50ml (2fl oz) rice wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

Rinse the rice for 8-10 minutes in a colander or sieve under cold running water or until the water becomes clear.

‘Wake up’ the rice by sitting it in 600ml (1pint) cold water for 30 to 45 minutes.   In the same water, bring to the boil and then cook for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed.  Do not stir, do not even take off the lid. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds before turning the heat off.  Remove the lid, place a tea towel over the rice, replace the lid and sit for 20 minutes.

Mix the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt together in a bowl until dissolved.  Turn the rice out onto a big flat plate (preferably wooden).  While the rice is still hot, pour the vinegar solution over the rice and mix the rice and vinegar together in a slicing action with the aid of a wooden spoon.  Don’t stir.  You must do it quickly preferably fanning the rice with the fan.  This is much easier if you have a helper.  Allow to cool on the plate, cover with a tea towel and use as desired.  (It will soak up the liquid as it cools.)

Bonito Dashi – Japanese Broth

Dashi is the basic broth of Japanese cuisine. It’s a clear, delicate, umami liquid. Every chef in Japan has their own dashi recipe.

Try this one.  This version comes from Takashi Miyazaki who taught an inspirational class on Japanese food here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in 2018.

20cm (8 inch) kombu (sugar kelp)

a handful bonito flakes

2 litres (3 1/2 pints) water

Pour the water and kombu into the pot and leave for 2 hours and heat.  Take the kombu out before the water boils and turn off the heat. (kombu dashi).  Add bonito flakes into the kombu dashi and strain the dashi into bowl after 5 minutes.

Kombucha Negroni

How about sipping this cocktail to get into the Japanese spirit.

50ml (2fl oz) best gin

25ml (1fl oz) Campari

10ml (scant 1/2fl oz) freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) kombucha

lemon wedges

Combine the ingredients and shake over ice.  Pour into a chilled glass and enjoy.


Ramen is the ultimate comfort food, the basic broth needs to be well flavoured but it can be varied in so many ways.  It can be a mixture of chicken, pork, dashi, miso or vegetable based.  Use traditional wheat ramen noodles or choose buckwheat or brown rice noodles for a gluten-free version.  Meat can be braised beef, brisket or short ribs, pork shoulder, pork belly or bacon, tofu or shrimp.  Add whatever seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs you fancy.  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.  Here’s a basic starting point.

Serves 6

1.8 litres (3 pints) homemade chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2.5cm (1 inch) chunk ginger root, gently smashed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

300g (10oz) squash or pumpkin, diced into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

2 red chillies, finely sliced
200g (7oz) ramen noodles or egg noodles
100g (3 1/2oz) mizuna or spinach or Swiss chard or kale, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

450g (1lb) sliced cooked chicken thighs, with or without skin
3 ‘hard-boiled’ eggs – cook for 7-8 minutes rather than 10
6 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

6 lime wedges

Heat well-flavoured chicken stock with soy sauce, mirin and ginger. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard the ginger.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the sesame oil, squash and sliced chilli and simmer for 10 minutes.  Taste and tweak if necessary, it needs to be highly seasoned.

Cook the noodles in boiling water until just tender (usually 4 to 5 minutes but check the directions on the package).  Drain well.  Add the mizuna or other greens to the soup, cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the coriander and lime juice.

Place the noodles in each bowl, top with the sliced or shredded chicken.  Ladle the broth over noodles.  Shell the eggs, halve and lay half an egg in each bowl and sprinkle with lots of green spring onions and garnish with a lime wedge.  Eat while very hot — broth first and then other ingredients or any way you want.

Yakitori Chicken with Teriyaki Sauce

Yakitori, literally means grilled bird – a Japanese version of skewered chicken.  I love this recipe, I’m using thigh meat but it’s also delicious with chicken livers or gizzards.  Do your best to source organic chicken.

Serves 6-8 as a starter/nibble

450g (1lb) boneless chicken thighs, chicken livers or gizzards

110ml (4fl oz) dark soy sauce or tamari

50ml (2fl oz) mirin

2 tablespoons sake

1 tablespoon dark soft brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger


2-3 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced

Cut the chicken thighs, livers or gizzards into generous 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Combine the soy sauce or tamari, mirin, sake, brown sugar, crushed garlic and grated ginger in a small saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil and cook for 7 minutes or until just thickened, cool.  Save 2 tablespoons, pour the remainder over the chicken and marinade for an hour if possible.

Meanwhile, soak bamboo satay sticks in water. Alternatively, use flat metal skewers.

Preheat the oven or grill to 220°C/430°F/Gas Mark 7.

Thread 5 or 6 pieces of chicken, liver or gizzard onto the skewers.

Roast or pan-grill, turning occasionally – about 3-4 minutes for livers, 6-7 for thighs or 9-10 minutes for gizzards. Careful not to overcook but nonetheless, it’s important that they are fully cooked.

Drizzle with the remaining sauce, sprinkle with slivered scallions and serve immediately with Teriyaki Sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce

110ml (4fl oz) sake

110ml (4fl oz) soy sauce

scant 75ml (3fl oz) mirin

3 tablespoons dark soft brown sugar

Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Boil gently for 7-8 minutes or until the liquid thickens. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks or more.

Reheat and drizzle over pan-grilled chicken, fish, pork, tofu, vegetables… for a delicious Japanese flavour.


Add some teriyaki sauce to a burger or meatball mixture.

Teriyaki is derived from the Japanese words teri to shine

Tataki with Ponsu Sauce

Tataki refers to a Japanese method of cooking where the surface of the fish or beef is lightly seared on a very hot pan before marinating. The centre remains very rare – you’ll love this technique.

Serves 4


45ml (1 3/4fl oz) soya sauce

15ml (generous 1/2fl oz) yuzu sauce

10ml (scant 1/2fl oz) rice vinegar

15ml (generous 1/2fl oz) mirin (rice wine)

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

15ml (generous 1/2fl oz) dashi stock

250g (9oz) fresh tuna, wild salmon or trout chilled

1-2 spring onions

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

2 radishes

1 mini cucumber, very thinly sliced, optional

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a jar. Cover and pop into the fridge until needed. Cut the chilled fish into pieces approximately 7cm (2 3/4 inch) wide by 20cm (8 inch) long. Prepare in either of the following ways.

1. Lay the fish on a wire rack. Blow torch all sides. Cool.

2. Sear the fish on a hot non-stick pan with a tiny drop of oil for a couple of seconds (30-45 seconds max). Cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish, slice the radishes into paper thin slices and the spring onions diagonally into “horse’s ears”. Chill in iced water. Toast the sesame seeds.

To Serve

Slice the cold fish into 1cm (1/2 inch) slices. Arrange on chilled plates. Shake the ponzu sauce. Spoon over the fish. Garnish with spring onion and radishes and cucumber, if available. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Karaage – Japanese Fried Chicken Andrew Zimmern

This version of izakaya-style Japanese fried chicken comes from Andrew Zimmern… bite-size chicken thigh pieces quickly marinated, dredged in flour and potato starch and double fried for an extra crispy crunch. He likes to season the chicken with a mix of salt, cumin and Szechuan peppercorns, and then serve it with Kewpie mayo and togarashi. Andrew says ‘it’s seriously the best fried chicken I make, a guaranteed crowd pleaser’.  Kewpie mayo, beloved of Japanese and increasingly across the world, seems smoother and creamier than regular mayo – it’s made with egg yolks, rice or cider vinegar, no salt or sugar and a sprinkling of the flavour enhancer, MSG.

5 boneless, skin on chicken thighs

salt and pepper for seasoning

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sake

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

125g (4 1/2oz) plain flour

150g (5oz) potato starch

Mayonnaise, lemon and togarashi, for serving

Cut the chicken thighs in 4ths or 6ths to make bite size chunks. Marinate in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil for 30-45 minutes, no more.

Meanwhile, heat the deep-fat fryer to 170ËšC/325ËšF.

Place the plain flour in one bowl and the potato starch in another.

After marinating, dip the chicken one piece at a time in the plain flour and then dredge in the potato starch, fry 5-6 pieces at a time maintaining 170ËšC/325ËšF temperature and cook for a few minutes to light gold, reserve on to a wire rack and repeat with all the chicken pieces.

Increase the heat to 190ËšC/375ËšF and repeat to crisp all chicken and cook through to walnut brown. Drain again over a wire rack.

Season with salt or a seasoned salt (I like salt/cumin/Szechuan peppercorns).

Serve immediately with Kewpie mayonnaise, lemon wedges, shichimi togarashi.


If you have been meandering along the country roads for the past few weeks, you’ll have seen swathes of fluffy cream flowers along the verges, tiny sweet fragrant blossoms clustered together in irregularly branched cymes.   The plant grows 2-4 foot tall and is called meadowsweet.  The legendary Tudor botanist and herbalist John Gerard called this wildflower that blossoms from the end of June until mid-September ‘Queen of the Meadows’, and described how it ‘delighted the senses and scented people’s houses’. 

It thrives in clammy meadows and ditches and along river banks.  It delights me too and I love it for a myriad of reasons, not only the fact that it comes into season just as the elderflowers fade.  I’ve been using the latter in a myriad of ways but from now until September, it’s the turn of frothy meadowsweet.  It has many medicinal qualities and is known to contain salicylic acid, one of the components of aspirin and has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.  Herbalists value it for its many medical qualities, bees and hoverflies love it too.

But this is a cooking column so how do we enjoy it in the kitchen.  Well, I’ve been adding to my repertoire of meadowsweet recipes for the past few Summers.  It flavours custard deliciously which can then be churned into meadowsweet ice-cream.  You can imagine how fragrant meadowsweet panna cotta and crème brûlée are – infuse the milk for rice pudding.  It also makes a delicious cordial, lemonade, spritzer or a simple tea.  Strew a few blossoms on the base of a cake tin while making a sponge and/or add some to a lemony icing.  Try flavouring end of season rhubarb compote for a delicious surprise and I’ve had success with both rhubarb and ginger meadowsweet jam plus it also combines well with gooseberry to make a delicious compote. How does meadowsweet gin and tonic sound? Infuse gin for a week or two as you would sloe or damsons. Strain and enjoy.

Keep your eyes peeled for meadowsweet as you drive through the countryside.  Pop it into a vase on your kitchen table, it will perfume the entire kitchen while you decide on delicious ways to enjoy it…

Meadowsweet Tisane

From Spring onwards when the herb garden is full of an abundance of herbs, we make lots of tisanes and herb teas.  All you need to do is pop a few leaves or flowers into a teapot, pour on the boiling water – and allow it to infuse for a few minutes. Infinitely more delicious than the dried herb teabags.

meadowsweet, lemon verbena, rosemary, sweet geranium, lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint…


Bring fresh cold water to the boil.  Scald a China tea pot, take a handful of meadowsweet flowers and crush them gently.  The quantity will depend on the strength of the herb and how intense an infusion you enjoy.  Put them into the scalded teapot.  Pour the boiling water over the flowers, cover the teapot and allow to infuse for 3-4 minutes.  Serve immediately in a glass or China teacups.

Meadowsweet Lemonade

3 lemons

225ml (8fl oz) meadowsweet syrup (see recipe)

750ml (1 1/4 pints) water


meadowsweet heads

Juice the lemons.  Add the syrup and water.  Mix and taste.  Add ice and meadowsweet to garnish.

Meadowsweet Syrup

Makes 400ml (14fl oz)

225g (8oz) sugar

300ml (10fl oz) water

10-15 meadowsweet heads

To make the meadowsweet stock syrup: Put the sugar, cold water and meadowsweet into a saucepan.  Bring slowly to the boil.  Boil for 2 minutes then allow it to cool.  Strain and store in the fridge until needed.

Meadowsweet Gin

It’s great fun to organise a few pals to pick some meadowsweet and have a meadowsweet gin-making party.  Either enjoy it neat or put a measure of damson or sloe gin in a glass, add ice, a slice of lemon and top it up with the finest tonic.

50g meadowsweet (heads)

350g (12oz) granulated sugar

1.2 litres (2 pints) gin

Examine the meadowsweet and shake in case there are any insects.  

Put the meadowsweet into a sterilised glass Kilner jar and cover with the sugar and gin. Seal tightly.

Shake the jar every couple of days to start with and then every now and then for 2-3 weeks by which time it will be ready to strain and bottle. It will improve on keeping so try to resist drinking it for another few months.

Meadowsweet Rice Pudding

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on any day of the year. You need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. I loved this irresistible version perfumed with meadowsweet.  Its delicious warm but I love to serve it chilled in Summer with a few fresh berries.   

Serves 6–8

100g (3 1/2fl oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

40g (1 1/2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

850ml (1 1/2 pints) milk

20g (3/4oz) freshly picked meadowsweet

To Serve

softly whipped cream and soft dark brown sugar

summer berries, optional

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish

Preheat the oven to 180ËšC/350ËšF/Gas Mark 4.

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk and meadowsweet to the boil.  Strain using a colander, remove the meadowsweet and pour the fragrant liquid over the rice. Bake for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours approximately (usually the latter but keep checking). The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have absorbed up the milk, but the rice pudding should still be soft and creamy. Calculate the time 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.

Serve with a dollop of softly whipped cream and a sprinkling of soft brown sugar. 

Meadowsweet Ice-Cream

Makes 1.2 litres (2 pints)

This is wonderfully rich ice-cream, delicious on its own but also irresistible with fresh raspberries, tayberries, boysenberries or Irish blueberries. 

60g (2 1/2oz) meadow sweet flowers (weighted off stalk)

350ml (12fl oz) whole milk

8 egg yolks

110g (4oz) sugar

350ml (12fl oz) rich cream, cold

Place the meadowsweet flowers and milk in a heavy saucepan.   Heat to just below the boiling point and remove from the heat.   Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes.  Strain through a fine sieve.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together.  Add warm milk gradually, stirring constantly until all the milk is added.  Return to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the back of a spoon (170Ëš- 175ËšC).

Pour the cream into a large bowl.  Strain the custard into the cream.  Mix well, then chill thoroughly.

Freeze according to the directions of your ice-cream machine.

Serve alone on chilled plates or with summer berries.

Rory O’Connell’s Meadowsweet Panna Cotta

Meadowsweet is used to flavour the cream for this delectable panna cotta (‘cooked cream’).

Serves 8

Panna cotta

600ml (1 pint) cream

6g (1/4oz) meadowsweet flowers

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 leaves of gelatine

To Serve

250g (9oz) ripe raspberries

mint leaves

softly whipped cream

8 ceramic, glass or tin moulds, approximately 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) each, brushed with non-scented oil such as sunflower or grape seed

Put the cream and sugar into a stainless-steel saucepan over a low heat, add the meadowsweet flowers.  Slowly bring to the shivery stage – turn off the heat and infuse for 15 minutes or more. 

Cover the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until pliable, 3-4 minutes.  Pour the meadowsweet cream through a sieve.  Return to the saucepan and add the well-drained gelatine leaves. Stir to dissolve completely.  If necessary, warm the meadowsweet infused cream slightly. Divide the panna cotta between the oiled moulds and chill for at least 3 hours or until gently set.

Serve with fresh berries or a seasonal compote – particularly good with poached apricots.

Rhubarb and Meadowsweet Compote

Meadowsweet is sometimes called mead wort or Queen of the Meadows. It grows in damp places, meadows and sometimes along the roadside.  It flowers from early summer to early autumn.  We use it to flavour panna cotta, ice-cream, custard – here I’m using it to flavour a fruit compote – delicious!

Serves 4

450g (1lb) field rhubarb

450ml (16fl oz) stock syrup (dissolve 175g/6oz of granulated sugar in 300ml (10fl oz) of water and boil for 2 minutes)

4-6 sprigs of meadowsweet

Cut the rhubarb into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put the cold syrup into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the rhubarb and meadowsweet.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for just 1 minute, (no longer or it will dissolve into a mush). Turn off the heat and leave the rhubarb in the covered saucepan until just cold.  Remove the meadowsweet, serve with lots of softly whipped cream sprinkled with meadowsweet blossoms.

Summer Pasta

Life without pasta – can you imagine…well I can though I would no longer want to contemplate a scenario where the ‘go to’ pantry ingredient was unavailable. You may not remember when you first tasted pasta – it’s always been in your life but I certainly do – it was in the late 1960’s, soon after I had started in Ballymaloe House kitchen…’Children’s Tea’ was served every evening at 5.30pm – essentially supper. Myrtle loved to cook delicious food that the children loved to eat so the over-picky eaters didn’t miss the junk.
On this occasion, word came from the dining room that one child would only eat spaghetti tossed in butter with a sprinkling of grated Cheddar. What was spaghetti? It certainly wasn’t available in our local village shop at that time so someone was dispatched to Midleton to find a few packets.  I was intrigued… Subsequently spaghetti became a favourite item on the ‘Children’s Tea’ menu.. That child who ate nothing but pasta for the entire stay is now a hugely successful international business man with a penchant for gourmet foods…

Actually, now that I think about it, we may have had macaroni in our village shop in Cullohill in Co. Laois earlier but spaghetti was a new discovery for me.

I keep wondering just how many pasta shapes there are, certainly hundreds, it’s difficult to do an exact count because some have different names in different regions and dialects. Pasta manufacturers and cooks occasionally come up with new shapes or new names for old shapes – the possibilities are endless, depending on who you ask. In food historian Zanin De Vita’s encyclopaedia of pasta, she encountered 1,300 names for pasta which of course takes in both historical and dialect names.

It’s the quintessential ‘handy’ ingredient so today I’ve chosen five of my favourite deliciously fast (dried) pasta dishes for spontaneous Summer meals…
Remember, alphabet pasta – Alfabeto and then there’s are also Stelline (little stars), quadrucci (little squares), puntini (little dotes). Delicious served in a chicken or vegetable broth, maybe add some peas and sprinkle with a dusting of Parmesan and not just for children.
Love the way pasta can be as simple as that or a luxurious main course for a special dinner party.
Try this with lobster, cream and fresh herbs. Could be prawns or scallops either. Also love to just add some delicious fresh vegetables, peas, beans, courgettes, seaweed or wild greens depending on the season or what you can forage from your local Farmers Market. Fettuccini A’lfredo – rich and gorgeous lends itself to seasonal additions but a fruity extra virgin olive oil enhances all pasta dishes.
All pasta starts off fresh whether it’s handmade at home or extruded from a machine in a factory which is then destined to be dried so it last indefinitely ready for us to use at a moments notice.
In this article, I’m concentrating on the latter…

Cheat’s Method of Cooking Dried Pasta

I developed this method of cooking pasta when we taught a ‘Survival’ course for students in bedsits or small apartments with limited cooking facilities.  Italians are usually shocked, but it works brilliantly.

Choose a large deep saucepan; two handles are an advantage for ease of lifting.  To cook 500g (18oz) pasta, use 2 tablespoons of dairy salt or sea salt to 4.5 litres of water.  Bring the water to the boil before adding the salt and the pasta.  Tip the pasta in all at once, stir well to ensure the strands are separate, then cover the pan just long enough to bring the water back to the boil.

Cook for 2 minutes for noodles, spaghetti and tagliatelli, or 4 minutes for penne, small shells etc.  Keep the pan covered.  Then turn off the heat and allow the pasta to continue to cook for the time indicated on the packet.  Test, drain and proceed as usual.

Pasta made by this method is good and does not overcook as easily as pasta made by the conventional method.

Courgetti Carbonara

This is a delicious Summery version from Thomasina Miers. If you can find both yellow and green courgettes, they’ll add a stunning, two-tone colour to an otherwise pale dish.

Serves 4

4 medium courgettes

salt and freshly ground black pepper 

200g (7oz) spaghetti 

3 medium organic, free-range eggs

75g (3oz) grated Parmesan or Pecorino (or a mix) plus extra to serve

100g (3 1/2oz) smoked pancetta cubes 

3 small garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped 

1 handful roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve 

Prepare the courgettes, use a julienne peeled or a sharp knife to peel them into long, fine strips, stopping when the core becomes seedy – you want about 500g (18oz) in total – then set aside and discard the cores.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in bowl, season well and stir in the cheese. 

Put a large, wide frying pan over a medium heat and stir-fry the pancetta for five minutes, by which time it will have begun to release its fat.  Add the garlic, continue to cook for another few minutes, until the pancetta and garlic are golden, then remove from the heat.

Once the spaghetti is al dente, return the pancetta to the heat and use tongs or forks to transfer the spaghetti to the pancetta pan, reserving the pasta cooking water.

Add the courgettes to the pan with a big splash of cooking water and stir well for a few minutes, so everything is coated in the garlicky oil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the egg mix until you have a lovely, glossy sauce, adding enough cooking water, a few tablespoons at a time, to get it to a creamy consistency.

Transfer to hot plates, sprinkle with a little extra cheese and the parsley and serve immediately.

Penne or Orecchiette with Tomatoes, Spicy Sausage and Cream

Serves 6

450g (1lb) penne or orecchiette

4.5 litres (8 pints) water

2 tablespoons salt

175-225g (6-8oz) Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage                         

25g (1oz) butter

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

675g (scant 1 1/2lb) fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled, and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice or 1 1/2 tins (400g/14oz tin) tomatoes, chopped

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

pinch of chilli flakes

175-300ml (6-10fl oz) cream

2 tablespoons flat parsley, finely chopped

4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)

lots of snipped flat parsley

Bring 4.5 litres (8 pints) of water to the boil in a large saucepan over a high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, then add the pasta. Stir well. Bring back to the boil for 4 minutes, cover, turn off the heat and allow the pasta to continue to cook in the covered saucepan until al dente – 9-12 minutes depending on the brand of pasta.

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan, add the chopped rosemary and diced tomatoes. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.   Cook until the tomatoes have just begun to soften into a sauce, about 5 minutes approx.  

Peel the casing off the Chorizo or Kabanossi sausage if necessary, then half or quarter each stick depending on size.  Slice into rounds or at an angle as desired.  Add to the pan with the chilli flakes, season lightly with salt (be careful not to overdo the salt as the sausage may be somewhat salty).    Add the cream and chopped parsley, cook, stirring frequently until the cream comes to the boil.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked (it should be ‘al dente’), drain and toss with the sauce, add the grated Parmesan. Toss again, check the seasoning.  Sprinkle with flat parsley and serve at once.  

Note: Please omit chorizo for vegetarian option.

Summery Fettuccine all’Alfredo

There actually was an Alfredo, in whose Roman restaurant this lovely dish became famous.  In Italy home-made – better still, hand-made pasta is essential, cooked very aldente and good-quality fresh double cream but one could use dried pasta (340g-450g/¾ – 1lb) in an emergency. This original recipe came from the late Marcella Hazan its rich and gorgeous on its own and can be the base for numerous seasonal additions.

Serves 5-6

Pasta Dough

300g (10oz/2 1/2 cups) “00” flour

25g (1oz) semolina flour

pinch of salt

1 large egg and 3-4 large egg yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon cold water

225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) double cream

45g (1 3/4oz/1/3 stick) butter


65g (2 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

freshly ground pepper (4-6 twists of the mill)

a very tiny grating of nutmeg

First make the pasta.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs (no need to whisk the eggs), oil and water. Mix into a dough with your hand. The pasta should just come together but shouldn’t stick to your hand – if it does add a little more flour.  (If it is too dry, add a little extra egg white being careful not to add too much.)  Knead for 10 minutes until it becomes elastic. It should be quiet pliable, wrap in clingfilm and rest in fridge for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and roll out one piece at a time into a very thin sheet, keeping the other piece covered. You ought to be able to read the print on a matchbox through the pasta.  A pasta machine or long thin rolling pin is a great advantage but you can manage perfectly well with an ordinary domestic rolling pin. 

Cut into strips, 1/8 inch (3mm) wide.

Choose an enamelled cast-iron pan, or other flameproof dish that can later hold all the cooked fettuccine comfortably.  Put in 150ml (5fl oz/1/2 cup) of the cream and all the butter and simmer over medium heat for less than a minute, until the butter and cream have thickened.  Turn off the heat.

Bring 8 pints (4.8 litres/20 cups) of water to the boil.  Add 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) of salt, then drop in the fettuccine and cover the pot until the water returns to the boil.  If the fettuccine are fresh, they will be done a few seconds after the water returns to the boil.  If dry, they will take a little longer.  (Cook the fettuccine even firmer than usual, because they will be cooked more in the pan.)  Drain immediately and thoroughly when done, and transfer to the pan containing the butter and cream.

Turn on the heat under the pan to low, and toss the fettuccine, coating them with sauce.  Add the rest of the cream, all the grated cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Toss briefly until the cream has thickened and the fettuccine are well coated.  Check seasoning.  Serve immediately from the pan, with an extra bowl of grated cheese.


Fettucine with Courgettes and Zucchini Blossoms

Follow the master recipe, adding 450g (1lb) of sautéed courgettes with the hot drained fettuccine. Garnish with torn zucchini blossoms.

Fettucine with Broad Beans

Follow the master recipe, adding 450g (1lb) of lightly cooked and shelled broad beans or 225g (8oz) freshly cooked peas with the hot drained fettucine.

Fettucine with Red Pepper and Rocket

Follow the master recipe, adding some strips of roasted red pepper and a few rocket leaves with the hot drained fettucine.

Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon and Parsley

Follow the master recipe, adding 50-110g (2-4oz) smoked salmon, cut into cubes, and 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) approximately of chopped fresh parsley. Omit the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Fettucine with Roasted Pumpkin and Rocket Leaves

Follow the master recipe, adding 225g (8oz) of roasted pumpkin, 16 – 24 rocket leaves (depending on size) and a few toasted pine kernels with the hot drained fettucine.

Creamy Bucatini with Spring Onions, Mint and Pistachios

Bucatini is the name of chunky spaghetti but ordinary spaghetti would also be fine.

Serves 6

450g (1lb) bucatini or spaghetti
50g (2oz) butter
450g (1lb) spring onions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced
300ml (10fl oz) cream
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
100g (3 1/2oz) grated Pecorino
1 teaspoon finely grated organic lemon zest
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
4 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) pistachios, coarsely chopped
1 organic lemon

Bring 8 pints (4.5L/10 American cups) of water to a fast rolling boil. Add a generous tablespoon of salt

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted (add 2 generous tablespoons of salt per 4.5L (8 pints) of water) boiling water over a high heat until al-dente.

Reserve 225ml (8fl oz) of the cooking water. Drain the pasta well.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over a medium heat, add the sliced spring onions and cook stirring occasionally for 6-7 minutes, or until fully cooked and beginning to brown at the edges.

Add the cream, chopped rosemary, pepper flakes, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Allow to bubble for 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat and stir in the grated Pecorino. Add the pasta and about 110ml (4fl oz) of the reserved cooking liquid, bring back to the boil adding a little more pasta water if necessary.

Sprinkle in the chives and lemon zest. Taste and tweak the seasoning if necessary.

Turn into hot pasta bowl, sprinkle with freshly chopped mint and coarsely chopped pistachio nuts. Grate a little Pecorino and a little more lemon zest over the top and serve immediately.

One Pot/Tray Cooking

While still being super careful, we’re all determined not to waste a second of this outdoor Summer and certainly even those of us who love to cook don’t want to spend any longer than necessary ‘slaving over a hot stove’ of for that matter over a sink-full of washing up.

So here’s the plan, let’s confine our meals to one roasting tin and perhaps a bowl of crunchy lettuces, salad leaves and soft herbs. Once you get on the ‘one tray’ track, it’s like a game.  It’s amazing what combinations you can conjure up – a whole meal on just one roasting tin.

So this week, I’ve got something for everyone – meat and fish lovers, vegetarians, vegans, even a pasta dish, all substantial enough to feed the family.

I’ve chosen a delicious pan roasted cauliflower from Anna Jones new book ‘One Pot, Pan, Planet’. This can be vegetarian or vegan if you choose to use vegan butter. Pine nuts are super expensive now but cashew or pistachios, even almonds work really well here too.
Another delicious vegetarian option might be a chickpea braise with kale and harissa.
For those of you who have my last book, ‘One Pot Feeds All’ (published by Kyle Books), there are a myriad of recipes for one pot, one dish, sheet pan or roasting tin. Roast salmon is cooked in just 8-10 minutes and can feed 15-20 people or how about a whole turbot or a large Summer plaice on a bed of potatoes and slivered fennel with a herb butter.
A great big dish of chicken thighs with potatoes, onions and aioli will also feed the entire family deliciously as will Moroccan lamb chops with tahini and yoghurt – supper in a dish.
How about wrapping up with an irresistible pud, apple and raspberry traybake with sweet geranium sugar.

Let me know which you enjoy most…all save time, wash up and mean you can have maximum fun in the sun…Enjoy

Anna Jones’s Pan-Roasted Cauliflower with Saffron Butter

Cooking vegetables like this (pan roasting) happens a lot in restaurant kitchens but it’s a good thing to do at home too. You get the vegetables going in the pan, building up a bit of colour and texture, then blast them in the oven to cook through; they get some direct heat and char from the hob, then some more mellow-even heat from the oven. I love adding vinegar when I am cooking vegetables and it’s balanced here by the sweetness of the cauliflower, saffron and pine nuts. This recipe is inspired by the brilliant cook, Lela DeMille.

Serves 4

For the Yoghurt

a small bunch of mint and/or parsley, finely chopped

6 tablespoons thick natural yoghurt or vegan yoghurt of your choice

a drizzle of good olive oil

For the Cauliflower

olive oil

1 large cauliflower (about 800g/1 3/4lb), florets separated and stalks finely sliced

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

a good pinch of saffron strands (or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric)

50g (2oz) butter or vegan butter, cubed

a small bunch of parsley and/or coriander, roughly chopped

To Serve

4 flatbreads

a good pinch of sumac or Aleppo chilli

150g (5oz) pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the oven to 220°C/(200°C Fan)/Gas Mark 7.

Mix the mint and/or parsley and yoghurt in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, stir in a splash of olive oil, then set aside.

Heat a large oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat, add a good glug of olive oil, then add the cauliflower in a single layer (you may need to cook it in a few batches). Once all your cauliflower is browned on both sides (this will take about 10 minutes), put the lot back into the pan and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the stalks are soft and the florets crisp.

Remove the pan from the oven using an oven glove, then put it back on the hob over a medium heat, add the vinegar and saffron or turmeric then reduce the vinegar for about 2 minutes. Take off the heat, add the butter, toss the cauliflower in it to create a thick and glossy sauce, then stir through most of the parsley and/or coriander.

Spoon the yoghurt into a shallow serving bowl and use the back of a spoon to swirl it over the bottom, then tumble the buttery cauliflower in. Finish with the last bit of parsley, the pine nuts and some sumac, and serve with flatbreads.

Anna Jones’s Quick Chickpea Braise with Kale and Harissa

This is a meal in a pan, a pan full of all the things I want to eat on a cold weeknight and there is little more comforting than that. Most greens would work here in place of the kale. Jarred chickpeas are my choice – always. If you don’t have preserved lemons, the zest of an unwaxed lemon will do fine.

Serves 4

olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

2 big handfuls of kale (about 200g/7oz), leaves roughly chopped, stems shredded

1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric

1 preserved lemon

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

2 x 400g (14oz) tins chickpeas or a 660g (1lb 7oz) jar

a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

To Serve

4 tablespoons plain yoghurt of your choice

1 tablespoon harissa

tahini for drizzling

4 flatbreads

Put a little oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for five minutes.

Once the onions have had five minutes, add the garlic, kale stems (leaves go in later), and turmeric to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.

While that happens cut the preserved lemon in half, remove and discard the flesh, then finely chop the peel. Add this to the pan along with the tomatoes and the chickpeas, including the liquid. If you are using jarred chickpeas you might want to add another 150ml (5fl oz) water here, as there will be less liquid than if you are using two tins.

Cook for about ten minutes, until the tomatoes have thickened and reduced. Add the reserved kale leaves and cook for a few minutes until wilted. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed (the jarred chickpeas are usually already well-seasoned, so be sure to taste first). Stir in most of the parsley.

Ripple the yoghurt and harissa together in a bowl and serve with the braise, a drizzle of tahini, the last of the parsley and some warm flatbreads.

Chicken Supper in a Dish with Aioli

Tumble all of the ingredients together in a bowl, season them well and toss them into a roasting tin for an irresistible one-dish supper.

Serves 8 -10

2kg (4 1/2lb) potatoes, such as Home Guard or Vita Bella (organic)

225–275g (8-9 1/2oz) medium onions, sliced into rings

8–10 large organic, free-range chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks

1 large head of garlic, separated into cloves

1–2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika (or a mixture of both)

2 tablespoons chopped marjoram

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 organic lemon

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To Serve

3–4 large ripe tomatoes

a dash of balsamic vinegar, to taste

a dash of honey or sugar, to taste

3–4 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley

Aioli (see recipe)

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunky wedges. Put them into a large bowl with the sliced onion rings, chicken pieces and garlic cloves and sprinkle over the paprika, marjoram and plenty of salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with the extra virgin olive oil and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss thoroughly to coat the potatoes and the chicken in the flavourings. Spread in a single layer over a large roasting tray or a large gratin dish, approx. 35 x 40cm (14 x 16 inch).

Roast for 15–20 minutes, then reduce the heat to a moderate 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for a further 45 minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crisp at the edges and the chicken skin, is sticky and irresistible. Check the chicken is cooked close to the bone; it may take a little longer.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place them in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper, balsamic vinegar and honey (or sugar). Stir in the parsley. Sprinkle the tomato mixture over the hot chicken just as it comes out of the oven.

Accompany with the aioli and a salad of organic leaves anointed with an extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

For the Aioli

2 organic, free-range egg yolks

1–2 garlic cloves

a pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

250ml (9fl oz) oil, such as sunflower, groundnut or olive oil or a mixture (I use 175ml (6fl oz) groundnut oil and 75ml (3fl oz) olive oil)

2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

*Good to know

If the aioli curdles, it will suddenly become quite thin. If this happens you can quite easily remedy the situation by cracking another egg yolk into a clean bowl and whisking in the curdled aioli, half a teaspoon at a time.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the garlic, mustard, salt and vinegar. Pour the oil(s) into a measuring jug. Taking a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other, carefully drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop, whisking at the same time. Within a minute, you will notice that the mixture is beginning to thicken. When this happens, you can add the oil a little faster – but don’t get too cheeky or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace.* Once all of the oil has been incorporated, beat in the parsley. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar, if necessary.

Baked Plaice, Turbot or Brill with Potatoes, Fennel and Herb Butter

A very simple ‘master recipe’, which can be used not only for plaice, turbot or brill but also for other flat fish, such as dabs, flounder, sole and lemon sole. Depending on the size of the fish, you can serve this recipe as a starter or a main course. It’s also delicious served with hollandaise sauce, mousseline or beurre blanc in place of the herb butter.

Serves 2

450g (1lb) potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

175g (6oz) onions, thinly sliced

1/2 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1 x 1–1.75kg (2 1/4 – 3 3/4lbs) fresh plaice, turbot, brill or other flat fish on the bone

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Herb Butter

110g (4oz) softened butter

4 teaspoons finely chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Toss together the thinly sliced potatoes, onions and fennel in a bowl. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and spread evenly on an approx. 30 x 50cm (12 x 20 inch) baking tray. Bake for 5 minutes while you prepare the fish.

Turn the fish on its side and remove the head if you wish; I prefer to leave the fish whole. Wash the fish and clean the slit by the head very thoroughly. Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin right around 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.

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper and lay on top of the partly cooked vegetables. Bake for 17–20 minutes until the vegetables are tender and the fish is cooked. To check if the fish is cooked, lift the flesh from the bone at the head: once it is ready, it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no traces of pink.

To make the herb butter, mix the softened butter in a little bowl with the herbs.

Just before you are about to serve, catch the skin down near the tail of the fish and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if it hasn’t been properly cut). Bring to the table and serve from the dish or lift the two fillets onto a hot plate and coat with the herb butter. Raise the tail and carefully lift the bone off the remainder of the fish. Break at the head and put aside. Carefully lift the remaining two fillets onto the plate. Coat with the herb butter and surround with the potatoes, onions and fennel, which should be deliciously charred at the edges. Serve immediately.

Moroccan Lamb Chops with Tahini and Yoghurt on a roasting tray

Simple, delicious and easy to do.  Swap out the spices with chopped rosemary for another version. 

Serves 8 or 4 very hungry guests.

8 centre loin lamb chops

4 teaspoons roasted and freshly ground cumin or 2 teaspoons roast and freshly ground cumin and 2 teaspoons roast and freshly ground coriander seeds

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3-6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1kg (2 1/4lb) potatoes, cut into chunks

500g (18oz) onion, sliced into thick rounds

8 whole garlic cloves

75ml (3fl oz) tahini

75ml (3fl oz) natural yoghurt

25g (1oz) sesame seeds and sunflower seeds

To Serve

sprigs of fresh mint and coriander

Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

Dry roast the cumin and coriander separately on a dry pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, grind in a pestle and mortar and mix.

Sprinkle each lamb chop on both sides with the spice mix.

Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in the roasting tin on a high heat.  Brown the lamb chops on both sides for 3-4 minutes.  Remove to a plate, add the potato chunks to the pan, adding a little more oil if necessary.  Toss until they start to brown, add to the lamb.  Lay the thick onion slices on the base of the tin in a single layer.  Cook for 1-2 minutes or until they start to brown.  Flip over, add the garlic cloves, then spread the lamb chops and potato chunks on top.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the lamb is cooked and the potatoes are browning at the edges.

Drizzle with tahini and yoghurt, sprinkle with the seeds.  Scatter with sprigs of fresh mint and coriander.  Serve accompanied by a green salad.

Apple and Raspberry Traybake with Sweet Geranium Sugar

You’ll find yourself reaching for this recipe over and over again. Here I use apple and raspberries with sweet geranium, but I also love it by substituting blackberries for the raspberries, green gooseberries and elderflower, or plums. I enjoy arranging the raspberries and apples in neat lines, but if you are super busy just sprinkle them over the top of the sponge base.   

Serves 10-12

8–12 lemon geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

3–4 cooking apples, such as Bramley Seedling or Grenadier

150g (5oz) raspberries

25g (1oz) caster sugar

crème fraîche or softly whipped cream, to serve

For the Sponge Base

225g (8oz) softened butter

175g (6oz) caster sugar

275g (9oz) self-raising flour

4 organic, free-range eggs

Sweet Geranium Sugar

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

50g (2oz) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3.

Line the base of a 33 x 23 x 5cm (13x 9 x 2 inch) cake tin, or a 25.5cm (10 inch) sauté pan or cast-iron frying pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides. Arrange 6–8 sweet geranium leaves over the base – these give the sponge a haunting lemony flavour.

To make the sponge base, combine the butter, sugar and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a second or two, then add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together. Spoon the mixture over the base of the tin as evenly as possible (over the sweet geranium leaves).

Peel the apples. Cut into thin slices and arrange on top of the sponge in three lines. Arrange a line of raspberries in between each row. Sprinkle 25g (1oz) of caster sugar over the top and bake for about 50 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sweet geranium sugar.

Whizz 2–4 sweet geranium leaves with the caster sugar in a food processor. Spread over a baking tray and set aside at room temperature to dry out.

Once it is fully cooked, the centre of the cake should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Serve in the tin, sprinkled with the sweet geranium sugar. Alternatively, leave to rest in the tin for 4–5 minutes before turning out. Serve with crème fraîche or softly whipped cream.

Summer Salads Part 2

It seems that you really loved those Summer Salads in my column of several weeks ago so here as promised are a few more combinations to add to your repertoire.  Pile your salads high and tuck in and enjoy.

For those of us who love to garden and grow some of our own food, this is the most fantastic time of the year.  Problem is, there are scarcely enough meal slots to enjoy all the produce. 

I’m crazy about beetroot – we’ve got a glut of gorgeous tender beets at present, so we’ve been enjoying it in every shape and form, roast, boiled, pickled, made into crisps, and of course in both hot and cold soups.  This Beetroot, Almond and Mint Leaf salad has been getting an enthusiastic response.  If you don’t have pomegranate molasses, buy a bottle whenever you find it but meanwhile, substitute runny honey and lime juice.

Swiss chard is another brilliant vegetable that provides double value for money and keeps on giving…Of course, it’s delicious cooked simply or in a gratin but how about combining it with a tahini dressing, some fat juicy raisins and toasted cashew nuts.  I particularly love it with a sprinkling of paprika and warm flat breads.

Several of our teachers and gardeners go out fishing on these Summer evenings.  We’ve been getting some gorgeous fresh pollock and mackerel and an occasional turbot.  We love to hot-smoke the fish in a biscuit tin over a gas jet – super simple and combine it with the first of the new season’s marsh samphire and some roast red and yellow peppers.  This was a huge hit when Rory O’Connell first served it at a Long Table Dinner in the greenhouses pre-Covid….

If you’d like to make it more substantial, add some cooked and diced, preferably, warm potatoes and serve with a dollop of homemade mayonnaise.  We also love this mackerel niçoise salad – a celebration of Summer in a dish.  Here too is a recipe for bhelpuri, one of my favourite Indian street food combos.  A delicious melange of mango, red onion, spices, chutneys, crunchy puffed rice, sev and peanuts with a tamarind dressing.   

And last but not least for this week, a salad to showcase a few of the white peaches that grow along the south facing wall of the Green dining room here at the cookery school – we are inordinately proud of our home-grown stone fruit, not all of them look picture perfect but even the wonky ones are delicious in salads.  Try this combination but we also love them with blanched French beans and roasted almonds, a sprinkling of chives and a lime dressing, this recipe was inspired by a past student, Thomas Straker – follow him on Instagram: @thomas_straker

He’s got lots of really scrummy ideas in 60 second videos.

Those of you who have my Grow Cook Nourish, book published in 2017 by Kyle Books will find lots of inspiration in there too with 500 recipes to make the most of the Summer harvest from your own garden or the Farmers Market.  This is about all I can squash into this column but there’s so much more…Just one of these salads make a delicious Summer lunch and several can also be served as a starter. 


Beetroot, Almond and Fresh Mint Leaf Salad

We’re crazy about beetroot and continue to dream up new ways to enjoy them.  This is a particularly delicious combination.  Serve it as a starter or as part of a mezze.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons blanched, unskinned almonds or roasted Marcona almonds

450g (1lb) cooked beetroot (see below)

2 tablespoons shredded mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh pomegranate seeds

Pomegranate Dressing

1 large pomegranate

1 tablespoon Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar or a good red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

If using blanched almonds, roast them in the oven at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and leave to cool, then roughly chop.

Peel and slice the beetroot into wedges. 

To make the pomegranate dressing, cut the pomegranate in half and juice on a citrus juicer. Alternatively, remove the seeds and discard any bitter skin or white pith.  Put the seeds in a nylon sieve and press them with the back of a spoon to extract all the juice, discarding any skin or hard seeds.   Put the juice and the remaining dressing ingredients into a jam jar with a lid, season with salt and pepper and shake well. 

Pour the dressing over the beetroot, then scatter over the almonds, mint and pomegranate seeds.  Mix gently, taste and serve.

How to Cook Beetroot

Leave 5cm (2 inch) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the ‘tail’.  Save the stalks and young leaves.   Hold the beetroot under a running tap and wash off the mud with your hands, so that you don’t damage the skin; otherwise the beetroot will bleed during cooking. Cover with cold water and add a little salt and sugar. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer on the hob or cook in the oven (230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8), for 1-2 hours depending on size. Beetroot are usually cooked if the skin rubs off easily and if they dent when pressed with a finger.  If in doubt, test with a skewer or the tip of a knife.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Warm Smoked Pollock with Roast Peppers and Marsh Samphire

Marsh Samphire is in season from mid to late summer.   Failing that, blanched and refreshed French beans work well.  I also love to use raw or blanched purslane to samphire when in season.  My brother Rory O’Connell first served this at a Long Table Dinner in the greenhouse, where it was a huge hit.

Serves 8 as a starter

450g – 700g (1 – 1 1/2lbs) pollock, skin on

2 red and yellow peppers

110g – 160g (4-5 1/2oz) marsh samphire

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

You don’t need any special equipment to hot-smoke fish – even a biscuit tin will do the job.

Lay the fish fillets flesh-side up on a tray, then sprinkle the unskinned Pollock with salt as though you were seasoning generously.  Leave for at least an hour but not more than 3 hours.  Dry the fillets with kitchen paper, place on a wire rack and leave to dry in a cool, airy place for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 9.

Put the peppers on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes until the skin blisters and the flesh is soft.

Alternatively, put a wire rack over a mild gas flame and roast the peppers on all sides. When they are charred, remove.  When roasted, put the peppers into a bowl and cover with an upturned plate for a few minutes – this will make them much easier to peel. Peel, deseed and cut into strips.

To smoke the Pollock, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sawdust (we use apple wood) on the base of a rectangular biscuit tin or smoking box.  Put a wire rack into the tin and lay the fish, flesh-side up on top.  Put the box on a gas flame over a high heat for a minute or so until the sawdust starts to smoulder.  Cover the box with a lid or tightly with tin foil, then reduce the heat and smoke for 6-7 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave to sit, unopened, for 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, put the samphire into a saucepan of boiling water (not salted), return to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until tender.  Drain off the water (refresh in cold water if serving later). Toss the samphire in extra virgin olive but do not add salt because samphire has a natural salty tang.

To serve, divide the smoked pollock into nice flaky pieces, arrange on a serving platter with strips of red and yellow pepper and sprigs of samphire on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper and a few flakes of sea salt.

Serve with homemade mayonnaise.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Swiss Chard with Tahini, Yoghurt, Cashew Nuts and Crisps

Chard is such a brilliant vegetable, it’s another brassica that gives double value for money and keeps on giving.  The currants, sultanas or raisins add an appealing sweetness here.  Spinach, plus the stalks, may be substituted in this recipe.

Serves 4

1.3kg (3lbs) Swiss chard

25g (1oz) butter

2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to serve

40g fresh (1 1/2oz) cashew nuts or almonds, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced

4 tablespoons currants, sultanas or raisins

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

sweet paprika, vegetable or potato crisps to garnish (optional)

flatbread or pitta, to serve

Tahini and Yoghurt

50g (2oz) light ‘untoasted’ tahini paste

50g (2oz) thick natural yoghurt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

a little honey, if necessary

First make the Tahini sauce.

Put all the ingredients into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of water, season with a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth.  Taste and add a little honey, if necessary.  Set aside.

Separate the green chard leaves from the white stalks.  Cut both into 2cm (3/4 inch) wide slices but keep them separate.  Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to the boil, add the chard stalks, simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add the leaves and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and squeeze the chard well until it is completely dry.

Next, put the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat.  Add the nuts and toss them in the pan for about 2 minutes until golden.  Add the garlic and dried fruit and toss until they begin to turn golden.  Return the chard to the pan and toss until warm.  Season to taste. 

Serve the chard with some of the tahini sauce on top.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, scatter with vegetable or potato crisps and a sprinkle of paprika.  Serve with freshly cooked flatbread or pitta.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Peach, Gorgonzola and Watercress Salad

A gorgeous summer starter salad – made in minutes. A super way to use really ripe peaches. I find the combination of peaches and watercress irresistible. Here, one also has the saltiness of the blue cheese and freshness of the spring onions.

Serves 8

4 ripe peaches or nectarines

2–3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon

juice and a little honey, sprinkled over the peaches to stop them discolouring

small watercress or rocket leaves

225g (8oz) blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola, Crozier or Wicklow Blue

110g (4oz) walnut halves, coarsely chopped

4 scallions or spring onions, thinly sliced

For the dressing

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

6 tablespoons walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard

1 teaspoon wildflower honey

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together in a little bowl with a fork. Season to taste.

Choose perfectly ripe peaches or nectarines. Slice in 6–8 pieces and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey if not serving immediately. Scatter a few watercress sprigs or rocket leaves on each plate, tuck a few peach slices in here and there, crumble some Gorgonzola or other blue cheese over the top. Drizzle a little dressing over the salad, sprinkle some toasted walnuts and thinly sliced

scallions or spring onions over the top. Serve immediately.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Salade Niçoise

This is the quintessential French salad and makes a wonderful Summer lunch. Some versions include crisp red and green peppers, and some omit the potato for a less-substantial salad.  All the many varieties of green beans can be included.

Serves approx. 8

8 medium new potatoes, such as Pink Fir Apple, cooked but still warm

3–4 ripe tomatoes, quartered

110g (4oz) runner beans, topped and tailed and cut into approx. 5cm (2 inch) lengths, blanched and refreshed

pinch of granulated sugar

1 dessertspoon chopped chives

1 dessertspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 dessertspoon annual marjoram or thyme

1 crisp lettuce (optional)

3 hard-boiled organic eggs, quartered

12 black olives

1 teaspoon capers (optional)

1 x 50g (2oz) can anchovy fillets and/or 2 x 100g (3 1/2oz) cans tuna

8 tiny spring onions

Ballymaloe French Dressing (see recipe)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the new potatoes into 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices and toss in some Ballymaloe French dressing while still warm. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss the tomatoes and beans in some more dressing, season with salt, pepper and sugar and sprinkle with some of the chopped herbs. 

Line a shallow bowl with lettuce leaves, if using, and add the potatoes.  Arrange the remaining ingredient appetisingly on top of the potatoes, finishing off with the olives, capers, if using, and chunks of tuna and/or the anchovies. Drizzle some more dressing over the top.  Sprinkle over the remaining herbs and spring onions and serve.

Vegetarian Salade Niçoise

Omit the tuna fish or anchovies and add strips of roasted red and yellow peppers and chargrilled onions.  

Ballymaloe French Dressing

Makes approx. 150ml (5fl oz)

125ml (4 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small bowl or jam jar. Whisk until the dressing has emulsified. Preferably use fresh but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Whisk to emulsify before using.

From Grow, Cook, Nourish published by Kyle Books

Bhelpuri from Kricket

Every street stall in Mumbai has its own take of bhelpuri but this version comes from Kricket in London – it’s a signature dish on their menu which they can’t take off.

Serves 4

4 tablespoons natural yoghurt

caster sugar to taste

100g (3 1/2oz) store-bought bhelpuri mix

1/2 red onion finely diced

1 green raw mango finely diced

4 tablespoons Coriander Chutney (see recipe)

4 pinches chaat masala

4 tablespoons Tamarind & Date Chutney (see recipe)

80g (3 1/4oz) store-bought sev

a small handful of coriander or finely chopped coriander leaves

For the coriander chutney 

500g (18oz) fresh coriander, stems and leaves

200ml (7fl oz) vegetable oil

a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger root

4 garlic cloves peeled

2 green chillies

6 tablespoons lemon juice

caster sugar to taste

sea salt to taste

For the tamarind and date chutney (Makes 900g)

500g (18oz) tamarind paste

2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 fresh Indian bay leaves

300ml (10fl oz) water

2 tablespoons Kashmiri red chilli powder

4 tablespoons date purée or a handful of fresh dates

200g (7oz) jaggery or caster sugar

Make the coriander chutney. Blitz the coriander in a food-processor with the oil, ginger, garlic and green chillies until it forms a fine paste. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with sugar and salt. Store in sterilised jars in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Make the tamarind and date chutney. Boil all the ingredients in a large heavy-based saucepan over a low heat for about one hour, until well blended and thick. Set aside to cool. If you have used fresh dates, you may need to blitz the chutney in a blender until smooth. Once cool, store in sterilised jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Beat the yoghurt in a bowl and sweeten to taste with sugar. Set aside until ready to serve.

Put the bhelpuri mix in a bowl, add the onion and mango, along with the coriander chutney and chaat masala. Mix well.

Spoon the mixture into mounds on four serving plates, then generously spoon over the yoghurt and tamarind and date chutney, leaving some yoghurt visible. Sprinkle the sev, and top with the fresh coriander. Serve immediately as it will become soggy very quickly.

From Kricket: An Indian Inspired Cookbook by Hugh Johnson published by Hardie Grant


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