ArchiveMarch 2022


Not sure about you but I can scarcely enjoy a meal without feeling guilty at present.  I feel so fortunate and thank the good Lord to be able to wake up in the morning in my warm bed secure in the thought that it is unlikely that our house will be bombed before nightfall – I can’t get the images out of my head….  Cold and hungry people trudging towards the border with the few possessions they can carry in sub-zero temperatures clutching a shivering cat or a terrified child. 

No doubt, like you too, we were desperate to do something to help in some way so Rory, Rachel and I did an online cookery demonstration and raised over €13,000 for the Irish Red Cross Ukraine Appeal.  One of our students, Grainne O’Higgins baked brownies, invited people to help themselves and perhaps donate – her little project raised €128.00.  Tessa Lomas who has spent many years on the south coast of Sri Lanka showed her fellow students how to make Sri Lankan roti filled with curried mince or cheese and tomato as well as tasty hoppers and several sambals.  They were all super delicious and once again raised just over €200 for the Irish Red Cross.  Let’s all ask ourselves what we can do.  Every little helps, companies all over the country are donating food.  Ballymaloe Relish has sent a palette of pasta sauce to Ukraine.  The Sheridan brothers have mobilised the cheesemakers and cheese factories who have generously donated tons of cheese, Flahavan’s porridge oats and a palette of Barry’s tea is also winging its way to the Ukraine.  Many of us didn’t even know where Ukraine was until a few weeks ago, now we know the names of all its major cities, the colour of its flag and the sound of its national anthem…get the kids involved as well – they’ll come up with lots of ideas.

We have learned so much about the food of Ukraine, thanks to Olia Hercules, the beautiful, young Ukrainian cook living in London whose parents and brother are trapped in Kyiv at present.  For the cookery demonstration, Rachel cooked Ukrainian ‘Angel Wings’ with Black Cardamom and homemade dulce de leche (called Anna’s Sweet Milk).  Rory cooked Spatchcock Chicken with Blackberry and Grape Sauce served with Olia’s Roast Beetroot and Plums with Radicchio and Soft Herbs.  Both Rory and Rachel’s recipes were inspired by Olia’s cookbooks ‘Mamushka’ and ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ published by Mitchell Beazley. I myself cooked Chicken Kyiv and Pancakes with Ricotta and Dill, both delicious.  Chicken Kyiv is definitely having its moment once again.  Most of us hadn’t had it for years and had forgotten how delicious it was.  Here’s my recipe from the early 80’s but it’s just as delicious as ever…

Chicken Kyiv

A long-time favourite – having a poignant moment once again…

Serves 6

3 whole chicken breasts

110g (4oz) softish butter

2 garlic cloves, peeled and made into a paste

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon finely chopped basil or tarragon or thyme

2 beaten eggs

110g (4oz) flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

75-110g (3-4oz) fine breadcrumbs

oil for deep frying

Blend the butter with the garlic and herbs, either by beating them together with a wooden spoon or by putting everything in the food processor and processing until thoroughly mixed. Divide the seasoned butter into 6 equal pieces, shape them into long, tapered fingers and put into the freezer covered with parchment paper, until frozen hard.

Skin each breast and cut in half lengthwise, so you have 6 half breasts. Put the chicken breasts between sheets of parchment paper and flatten with a meat pounder, pushing down and outwards as you pound. The chicken must be almost translucent. Put a finger of frozen butter in the centre of each pounded breast.  Roll the chicken around the butter, tucking in the ends, so the rolled-up breast makes a neat sausage shaped package. The butter must be completely sealed in so that it cannot leak out during the cooking.

Dip the rolled breasts first in seasoned flour, then in beaten egg and finally roll in fine breadcrumbs. Arrange on a parchment covered baking tray.  Cover with another sheet of parchment paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Alternatively, make them the day before you plan to serve them and chill until ready to fry.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 190˚C/375˚F.

Fry the chicken Kyiv rolls, two or three at the time, until golden brown, 4-5 minutes depending on size*. Drain on kitchen paper, serve immediately with a salad of Winter leaves.

* Alternatively, shallow fry in a little clarified butter over a medium heat until golden on both sides.

Spatchcock Chicken with Blackberry and Grape Sauce

Serves 6-8

1 whole free-range organic chicken

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

chopped rosemary or thyme leaves

extra virgin olive oil or butter

a few cloves of garlic

Blackberry and Grape Sauce

100g (3 1/2oz) seedless grapes

300g (10oz) blackberries

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

2 cloves of garlic peeled and crushed

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon chopped marjoram

1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves and stalks

pinch of chopped dill

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

extra sprigs of coriander and dill for garnish

Insert a heavy chopping knife into the cavity of the chicken from the back end to the neck. Press down sharply to cut through the backbone. Alternatively place the chicken breast side down on the chopping board, using poultry shears cut along the entire length of the backbone as close to the centre as possible.

Open the bird out as much as possible.  Slash each chicken leg two or three times with a sharp knife. Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper, sprinkle with chopped rosemary or thyme and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Transfer to a roasting tin. Turn skin side upwards and tuck the whole garlic cloves underneath. Roast on the barbeque or in a preheated oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes approximately. Check the colour of the juices between the thigh and the breast – they should run clean if the chicken is cooked.

To make the sauce.

Place the grapes and blackberries in a blender and render to a smooth purée. Pass through a sieve and place in a small saucepan. Add the pomegranate molasses, season with salt and pepper and bring to a bare simmer. Add in the garlic, cayenne and marjoram and simmer gently for a further 5 minutes. Finally add the coriander and dill. Taste and correct seasoning.

To Serve

Serve the sauce hot with the carved chicken and its cooking juices and sprinkled with  a few sprigs of coriander and dill.

Roast Beetroot and Plums with Radicchio and Soft Herbs

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g (18oz) beetroot, peeled, halved and cut into wedges

5 plums, stoned and quartered

pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.

150g (5oz) radicchio

1/2 – 1 red chilli, seeds in and sliced

2 teaspoons honey

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

a small handful of soft herbs such as dill and coriander

sea salt

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

Put the oil, beetroot and plums in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to mix. Transfer to a roasting tray spreading them out in a single layer. Sprinkle on the vinegar, cover with a sheet of dampened and squeezed parchment paper and put in the oven to roast for 30 – 40 minutes. The beets should be nearly cooked by now and if not, allow to cook for longer before adding the remaining ingredients.

Cut the radicchio into wedges, retaining the stalk to hold the pieces together. Add them to the beetroot tray along with the chilli and the honey drizzled over. Stir to gently mix the ingredients and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Remove the tray from the oven and carefully transfer the vegetables, fruit and cooking juices to a serving dish.  sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

Serve immediately or while still warm with a scattering of sprigs of dill and coriander.

Ukrainian Kuchmachi

Taken from ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley

Serves 2

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

200g (7oz) chicken hearts, trimmed

200g (7oz) chicken gizzards, trimmed (trimmed weight)

1 large onion, sliced

1 large garlic clove, sliced

30g (1 1/4oz) hazelnuts or walnuts, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried wild thyme or za’atar herb (optional)

1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses

seeds of 1/4 pomegranate

sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan until very hot.  Add the hearts and gizzards and leave to cook for about 2 minutes on each side until caramelized, meaning that it’s important not to stir them too often.  When a lovely golden crust has formed, take them out of the pan.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and then the onion and cook over a medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes until softened and started to turn golden.  Add the garlic, nuts, spices and herbs and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Return the meat to the pan, add the pomegranate molasses, a splash of water and season well with salt and pepper, then cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes until the meat is as soft as you like it (I don’t mind it being a tiny bit chewy, so I only cook it for 15 minutes). 

Stir through the pomegranate seeds and serve with some rice or bread.


You can also add some chicken livers – fry them in the pan with everything else, but only add them back in to braise for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time so that they don’t become too dry and chalky. 

Pancakes with Ricotta and Dill

As in many countries, pancakes are served with sweet and savoury fillings – this is a particularly delicious savoury version.  In Ukraine, they also love to drizzle pancakes with pine honey (see note at end of recipe). 

Makes 12 crêpes

Serves 6

Crêpe Batter

175g (6oz) white flour

good pinch of salt

2 large organic eggs and 1 – 2 egg organic egg yolks, lightly beaten

450ml (16fl oz) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate crêpes, half milk and half water

1-2 tablespoons melted butter

175g-225g (6-8oz) Urdu or fresh ricotta

caster sugar, to taste

1-2 tablespoons dill, chopped

4-5 tablespoons dill flowers and sprigs

lemon wedges, to serve

First make the batter.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Cover and leave in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the crêpes, stir in the melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Meanwhile, mix the ricotta with sugar to taste and stir in the chopped dill.

Heat a 28cm (11 inch) heavy cast-iron crêpe pan or a non-stick pan until very hot, then pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.  Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To serve, spread the ricotta and dill filling onto a pancake, leaving a 5mm border around the edge. Lay another pancake on top. Press down gently and cut into quarters. Decorate with dill flowers and sprigs (if using) and serve at room temperature.

Alternatively, spread one pancake with the ricotta and dill filling, fold into quarters, garnish and serve with lemon wedges.

Note: The unfilled pancakes will keep in the fridge for several days and also freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen it is probably a good idea to put a disc of silicone paper between each for extra safety.

Pine Honey

Good to make later in the year. 

Use equal weight of young pine cones (flower buds – Pinaecae) and wild-flower honey

Mince or finely chop the young pine cones.  Half fill one or two jars and top with honey.  Cover and store in a cool place for a few weeks before using.  Drizzle the honey over crêpes, pancakes, crumpets, choux…

‘Angels Wings’ – Ukrainian Fried Pastries with Black Cardamom

Taken from ‘Mamushka’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley

These are Ukrainian ‘angel wing’ pastry crisps.  Originally, they used to be fried in lard (think of Portuguese pastel de nata lard pastry).  I add some ground black cardamom seeds to the sugar, but feel free to use vanilla sugar instead.

Makes 40 pasties

250g (8oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

pinch of bicarbonate of soda

50g (2oz) butter, cubed and chilled

1 egg

1 egg yolk

25g (1oz) caster sugar

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

50g (2oz) soured cream

1 tablespoon vodka

pinch of salt

250ml (9fl oz) sunflower oil

50g (2oz) icing sugar, sifted

5 black cardamom pods, crushed and seeds extracted, then ground into a powder

dulce de leche or chocolate sauce, to serve

To make the dough, mix the flour and bicarbonate of soda together, then run in the butter with your fingertips until well combined.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg, egg yolk, sugar, vinegar, soured cream, vodka and salt, then mix well into a firm pastry dough.

Flour your work surface really well and divide the dough into two pieces.   Roll one piece of dough out as thinly as you can.  Slice the dough into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) strips and then diagonally across so that you end up with 20 diamonds.  Make a 3cm (1 1/4 inch) slash in the centre of each diamond and pull one of the ends through the slash.  Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan until very hot – be very careful with hot oil, placing it at the back of the hob if you have kids or crazy pets.  Line a large plate with some kitchen paper.

Drop the diamonds in carefully and fry them briefly until they float to the surface.  Lift them out with a slotted spoon and drain them on the kitchen paper.

Mix the icing sugar with the cardamom and sprinkle over the pastries.  I also like to treat these as nicely as I treat churros, dipping them into dulce de leche or chocolate sauce before devouring. 

Anna’s Sweet Milk

Taken from ‘Kaukasis The Cookbook’ by Olia Hercules published by Mitchell Beazley

A lady I met called Zhuzhuna Bardzimadze from Akhaltsikhe had the kindest face and tastiest pickles.  She lives, like so many others in Georgia, with her son and Kakhetian daughter-in-law Anna.  Anna makes the sweetest milk – a proper homemade dulche de leche, and by that I don’t mean boiling shop-bought condensed milk!  This is the real deal.  I loved that she knew that the amount the recipe made would vary depending on the season, due to the difference in the fat content of the milk.  In August, for instance, her yield was always bigger, as the milk is fattier.  The Georgians make cakes with this or just eat it spread on a bit of bread.  

Makes approx. 700ml (1 1/4 pints)

2 litres (3 1/2 pints) cows’ milk or goats’ milk

350g (12oz) cater sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Bring the milk and sugar to the boil in a large saucepan (it needs to be a tall saucepan, as the milk will rise and froth once the soda is added).

Take the pan off the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda.  Stir it and it will start to foam and rise rapidly (tap the base of the pan with a wooden spoon to stop it).

When it calms down, put the pan back on the heat and continue to boil over a low heat, stirring from time to time to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom, and taking care not to let it boil or the milk can curdle.  Cook for 30-40 minutes until the milk turns darker in colour (it should look like café au lait colour at this point).  When the mixture thickens and is the consistency of double cream, really watch it and start whisking continuously to prevent curdling.  As it thickens, keep whisking until it reduces right down.  Once the mixture has become viscous and brown like toasted hazelnuts, it’s ready.


If the mixture looks curdled, it can be saved by reheating and whisking in a couple of tablespoons of milk. 


Morocco is mesmerising, the closest country where the culture is intriguingly different.  So tempting for those craving a change after almost two years of isolation – barely 3 1/2 hours by plane and 1-hour time change…

Where to go?  Castleblanca, Rabat, Fez, Essaouira, Tangiers…The latter though charming is still pretty nippy at this time of the year, so how about Marrakech with its date palms and cactus, souks and bazaars and the incomparable Jemaa el-Fnaa square in the heart of the medina, a magnet for both Moroccans and visitors flocking to be fed, watered and entertained.  Drink freshly squeezed juices (no alcohol) and watch hypnotic musicians like swirling dervishes, swirling jugglers, snake charmers…Have a pic taken with a monkey on your shoulder or with colourful tea sellers who make more money from having photos taken than by selling tea.  Donkeys weave in and out through the narrow lanes of the medina with carts full of oranges.

There are henna artists, soothsayers, a frenzy of merchants selling their wares from sparklers and balloons to little bowls of snails in broth and a selection of false teeth should you need them…  At night, local cooks and chefs set up long tables on the side of the square selling steaming bowls of harira with fresh dates, grilled fish, tagines, every conceivable type of offal.   A wonderfully convivial experience and the food overall is above average.

But my absolute favourite is mechoi, the meltingly tender milk-fed lamb, cooked slowly for hours in underground clay ovens until the succulent meat is virtually falling off the bones.  You’ll find it from noon to about 4pm along Mechoi Alley – a little lane on the east side of the square.  Look out for Haj Mustapha, he was the last Hassan’s (Kings) private chef who now owns Chez Lamine and several stalls selling not just mechoi but also goat’s heads, and tangia, a lamb stew in a clay pot, traditionally cooked in the ashes of the fire that heats the water for the hammans.  I even tasted karaein – cow’s hooves with chickpeas.  Been there, done that – don’t need to do it again…

The medieval city of Marrakech with its ten kilometres of ochre coloured adobe, ramparts and seven awe-inspiring ornamental gates has many landmarks.  The minarat of the Koutoubia Mosque dominates the city.  Like most mosques in Morocco, it’s closed to non-muslims but is still a mightily impressive building.  

Marrakech was the destination for merchants, camel traders and caravans who had crossed the desert and the snow-capped Atlas mountains with their wares.  It’s steeped in history…and if you only eat in one restaurant, it has to be Al Fassia, the women’s restaurant in Gueliz and how about Al Baraka, a petrol station on Rue de Fez, about 15 minutes outside Marrakech – inexpensive but delicious food. 

The highlight of my trip was a morning food tour with Plan-It Morocco.  And even though I’ve been to Marrakech many times, I discovered many new places with Bilal, my deeply knowledgeable guide.  We started at the Kasbah, originally a posh neighbourhood close to the royal palace, now a commercial area with lots of little shops, bakeries and stalls.  First stop – a little stall selling sfeng, the famous deep-fried breakfast doughnuts eaten plain or sometimes with an egg in the centre and a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt and cumin.  Actually these doughnuts are served all day but are sprinkled with sugar in the afternoon.  We wandered through the narrow alleys and watched women making a variety of different breads.  Every neighbourhood has an underground wood-fired oven which doubles up as a community bakery.  Women bake traditional round flat breads in their homes, lay them on a cloth covered board to rise.  It’s bought through the streets to be baked in the oven when the baker has finished cooking his daily loaves.  In Morocco, there are more than seven types of Moroccan bread – all delicious.

Stalls were piled high with beautiful fresh vegetables and fruit, I watched a beautiful old lady in a patterned black and white kaftan removing the fibres from long cardoon stalks.  First with a knife and then a coarse nylon brush.  I bought a bag back to Tarabel Riad and asked the cook to prepare them for my dinner in a delicious tagine of cardoons and potatoes.  

In the Jewish quarter, we sat at a little tin table to have another traditional Moroccan breakfast – Bissara, a thick bean soup sprinkled with cumin and chilli pepper, drizzled with olive oil. It comes with a basket of bread for dipping.

I could write several columns on the bread alone.

On past the once famous Sugar Market to watch the warka makers working at the speed of knots, dabbing the dough onto hot saucepan lids over boiling water to make the paper-thin sheets of warka used for chicken and pigeon pastilla and a myriad of other pastries. 

Next stop, Belkabir, the most famous pastry shop in the medina with 40 or more sticky sugar laden pastries from horns de gazelle to briwat (triangle shaped pastries filled with marzipan, deep-fried and dipped in honey). 

We continued to meander through the souks, with its stalls piled high with everything from Moroccan slippers, fake bags and ‘designer’ clothes, metal work, hand carved wooden spoons and boards, brassy trinkets, hand blown glass…and finally into a little secret corner called Talaa, to Chez Rashid, a favourite haunt of the locals.  I loved their sardine ‘meat balls’ with cumin and coriander – so delicious with chopped raw onion or with tomato sauce. 

We continued to walk through the souk – then back to the beautiful Tarabel Riad where Kahil picked oranges from the trees in the inner courtyard to make some freshly squeezed orange juice to quench my thirst…Sure where would you get it but in lovely Morocco.

Rory O’Connell’s Moroccan Harira Soup

In Morocco this soup is traditionally served with dates to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan which starts on the 2nd April 2022.  There are thousands of different recipes for the soup, with each household adding their own particular twist to suit tastes and preferences. Chickpeas, lentils and sometimes beans, meat, either beef or lamb, vegetables, herbs and spices are the basic ingredients.

Serves 8

100g (3 1/2oz) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water

110g (4oz) Puy lentils

450g (1lb) lamb, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each of ground ginger, saffron strands and paprika

salt and pepper

50g (2oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) long grain rice

4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

4 tablespoons chopped flat leaved parsley

lemon wedges to serve with the soup

Drain the chickpeas and discard the soaking water. Place in a saucepan with the lentils. Add the lamb, onion, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, saffron and paprika. Cover with 1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) of water and stir gently to mix. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and skim off any froth that rises to the surface. Add in half of the butter.

Turn the heat down and simmer the soup covered, for 1 – 1 1/2 hours until the chickpeas are tender. Keep an eye on the level of liquid in the pan and add a little more water if necessary.

Towards the end of cooking time, prepare the rice. Bring 850ml (scant 1 1/2 pints) water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the rice, stir gently and cook until tender. Drain the rice, reserving the cooking liquid.

Cook the chopped tomatoes in 3 tablespoons  of the rice cooking water.  Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. The tomatoes should have a “melted” appearance. Add the cooked rice, tomatoes and the remainder of the butter to the soup and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary, adding some of the reserved rice cooking water to thin out the soup a little. Add the chopped herbs and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Moroccan Semolina Bread

A traditional disc-shaped flat bread can be white or have some wholemeal added.  I use Raglan Irish organic semolina flour from Monaghan and get delicious results.

This version was given to me by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno from their cookbook ‘Bread’.

Makes 2 loaves

2 teaspoons dried yeast

175ml (6fl oz) water

250g (9oz) semolina

250g (9oz) strong white flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

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

egg glaze, beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon (of water and a pinch of salt

4 tablespoons sesame seeds

Sprinkle the yeast into 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of the water in a bowl.  Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve.  Mix the semolina, flour and salt together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted liquid and the olive oil.

Mix in the flour.  Stir in the remaining water, as needed to form a stiff, sticky dough.

Turn out onto a floured work surface.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. 

Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel.  Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.  Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Divide the dough into two pieces.  On a lightly floured work surface, shape each piece into a flattened round, 18cm (7 inch) across and 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.

Place the dough rounds onto oiled baking trays, then cover with a tea towel.  Leave to rise until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.

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

Brush the top of the dough rounds with the egg glaze and sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds.  Prick gently all over with a skewer to prevent air bubbles.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown – it should sound hollow when tapped underneath.  Cool on a wire rack.

Lamb Tagine with Cardoons, Lemon and Olives

Taken from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert published by Bloomsbury

Cardoons are domesticated thistles found in markets all over Marrakech, Italy and other parts of Europe.  We grow them here in our garden in Shanagarry.  They have a taste similar to globe artichokes and an appearance similar to that of celery. 

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lbs) boneless lamb shoulder chops, trimmed of excess fat

2 garlic cloves, peeled


3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons saffron water * (see note at end of recipe)

115g (generous 4oz) grated red onion

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

20g (3/4oz) flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

3 bundles cardoons (about 15-18 tender stalks)

juice of 2 lemons

1 1/2 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind rinsed and divided into 6 wedges

12 green-ripe, midway or red olives, rinsed and pitted

About 5 hours before serving, rinse the lamb chops, cut each into six pieces and place in a 28 – 30cm (11 – 12 inch) tagine.  Crush the garlic to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt.  Add the ginger, turmeric, saffron water, grated onion and oil and turn to coat the lamb on all sides.  Leave to marinate for 2 hours.

Set the tagine on a heat diffuser over a medium-low heat and slowly cook the meat for about 15 minutes or until it turns golden brown.  Add 180ml (generous 6fl oz) hot water and the parsley, raise the heat to medium and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low again, cover and simmer for 2 hours, turning the lamb often in the sauce.

Meanwhile, separate the cardoon stalks and cut away the tough bottom parts and the leaves.  Wash the inner stalks well.  With a paring knife or a vegetable peeler, remove the strings.  Cut the stalks into 7.5cm (3 inch) lengths and keep in acidulated water (with vinegar or lemon juice) to prevent discolouration.

After the lamb has cooked for 2 hours, push the meat to one side and slide in the rinsed and drained cardoons.  Add enough hot water to cover them.  (For the first 15-20 minutes of cooking, the cardoons must be covered by liquid).  Place the lamb pieces side by side on top of the cardoons and cook for a further 40 minutes. 

Add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the sauce.  Then continue adding the lemon juice by the tablespoon, tasting before adding more each time.  Simmer gently, uncovered, to allow the sauce to reduce and the flavours to blend.  If there’s a lot of liquid left when the meat is cooked, tilt the tagine, spoon the liquid into a saucepan and boil rapidly to reduce the liquid to a sauce with a coating consistency.

Rearrange the pieces of lamb and cardoons in the tagine so the meat is completely covered with the cardoons.  Garnish with the preserved lemon rind wedges and the olives.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more lemon juice, if you like.  Serve at once. 

*Saffron Water

Dry 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron strands in a warm (not hot) pan.  Crush again, then soak in 240ml hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator.  This will keep for up to a week. 

Deglet Noor Date, Almond and Goat Cheese Salad

One of the many delicious salads from L’Hôtel Marrakech – a favourite Riad on the edge of the medina.

Serves 4

50g (2oz) toasted hazelnuts, very coarsely chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

salt and freshly ground black pepper

110g (4oz) Delget Noor dates, chopped

4 handfuls of mixture of fresh leaves – rocket, spinach, flat-parsley

75-110g (3-4oz) soft goat’s cheese – St. Tola

First toast the unskinned almonds in a preheated oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 for 10-15 minutes and chop coarsely lengthwise.

Whisk the extra virgin olive oil together with the pomegranate molasses, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stone the dates and cut each in three so the pieces are still chunky.

Put the fresh leaves into a bowl, drizzle with dressing, toss to coat the leaves.  Add the dates to the leaves with the almonds and toss again gently.

Divide between 4 wide salad bowls.  Put a few blobs of goat cheese on each one.  Drizzle a little more dressing on top.  Taste, sprinkle with a few grains of flaky sea salt and enjoy.

Moroccan Snake

One of the glories of Moroccan confectionery, great for a party.  Individual “snakes” can be made with a single sheet of filo.

Serves 10-15 people

1 packet best quality filo pastry

75-110g (3-4oz) melted butter


450g (1lb) ground almonds

325g (11oz) castor sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

75-110ml (3-4fl oz) orange flower water

Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.

To Assemble

Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 2.5cm (1 inch) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordion shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.

Rekindling the Fire, Food and the Journey of Life

Food On The Edge held in October last year at Airfield Estate in Dublin was a beacon of light and hope in a deeply challenging year.  Chef JP McMahon from Anair and Tartare in Galway gathered an impressive line-up of speakers from around the world to encourage and inspire us.  The theme was Social Gastronomy with the stated aim of gathering ‘a network of like-minded chefs together to build long term partnerships around the world using the power of food as a vehicle for change and development at a grass roots level’.

In an open sided tent on the Airfield Estate in Dundrum, I heard many inspirational speakers.  Some were online, others there in person, shared their pandemic experiences, insights and hopes for the future.  Many iconic names such as Alice Waters, Anissa Helou, David and Stephen Flynn of The Happy Pear, Eoin Clusky of Bread 41, Joshua Evans, May Chow…and also a couple of speakers whose names I had not been familiar with previously.  I particularly remember Martin Ruffley and Anna King who shared the stage and gave a riveting talk.  Anna has a doctorate in Philosophy (ethnography from NUI in Galway and a lifelong interest in mindful meditation.  She became hooked on the healing benefits of eating seasonal, natural foods, she has lived and studied on a number of organic farms, both in the UK and France, who follow the philosophy of Mahatma Gandi and Rudolf Steiner.

Martin Ruffley, a recovering alcoholic, spoke with enormous courage about his lifelong struggle with addiction and his long and convoluted journey from ‘dark to light’.  He told how cooking and sharing food became a vitally important part of a cathartic process of exorcising his demons and finding peace.  Martin, now a chef lecturer at NUI Galway, has travelled and ‘staged’ in top restaurants around the world, fuelling his passion and honing his craft in pursuit of culinary excellence.  In 2020 he received the prestigious President’s Award for Teaching Excellence.  He spoke humbly and honestly, the audience were riveted, there was scarcely a dry eye in the tent and at the end there was a unanimous standing ovation.

Fast forward to March 2022, he and Anna King have collaborated to produce a cookbook entitled ‘Rekindling the Fire, Food and the Journey of Life’ – it is dedicated to all those still struggling with addiction…. ‘May the light of loving kindness illuminate your path, and the darkness of the night inspire your wildest dreams’.

Anna and Martin hope that this collaboration will inspire anyone who reads their book to cook.  ‘The recipes offer home-cooks, amateurs and seasoned chefs alike an opportunity to experiment with both new and old techniques, through easy-to-follow, concise instructions that will really ‘up anyone’s game’ in the kitchen.  ‘You will learn how to create some magical dishes, as well as discover invaluable insider tips that will transform a meal from the ordinary to the exceptional’.    The title is a combination of Anna’s beautiful prose and Martin’s eclectic recipes gleaned from 40 years of experience and his travels around the world.  Martin believes as I do that travel is an essential element of any chef’s education – I’ve chosen to share some recipes that are accessible to home cooks but there are also many tantalising recipes for professional chefs between the black covers of this unique cookbook – from darkness to light. 

‘Rekindling the Fire, Food and the Journey of Life’ published by Austin MaCauley Publishers

Goi Cuon: Spring Roll with Pork Belly

Serves 4

100g (3 1/2oz) pork belly

4 baby gem lettuce leaves

a few mint leaves

1 tablespoon chives

1 pack of rice paper wrappers

10g (scant 1/2oz) mooli (julienne)

10g (scant 1/2oz) carrot (julienne)

Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons sunflower oil

a dash of sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste

6 tablespoon hoisin sauce

2-3 tablespoons peanut butter

a splash of water

1 red chilli, finely diced

Slow roast the pork belly for 3 hours at 140˚C.

To construct the roll.

Soak the rice paper in cold water for a few seconds until it is soft and


Lay out the rice paper and add your prepared ingredients and the

sliced pork.  Don’t be tempted to add too many ingredients because

it will be harder to roll.

For the dipping sauce, add all the ingredients except the water.  Check for consistency, then add water to achieve the desired consistency.  It should be thick enough so that it adheres to the Goi Cuon.

To Serve

Place the spring rolls onto a plate and serve the dipping sauce on the side.


The traditional Goi Cuon includes pork and shrimp.  However, you can construct your own versions with different ingredients. 

Beetroot Risotto

Serves 4

200g (7oz) Arborio rice

1kg (2 1/4lb) beetroot

1 litre beetroot stock/juice

70g (scant 3oz) butter

100g (3 1/2oz) shallots, finely diced

60g (scant 2 1/2oz) Smoked Gubbeen Cheese

salt and pepper

Bake one whole beetroot (*see Darina’s top tip at end of recipe) and juice the remaining beetroot.

Add some of the butter to a suitable pan and sweat the diced shallot until slightly translucent.  Add the rice and stir until each grain of rice has been coated in the butter.  Add a ladle full of hot beetroot juice into the rice until the rice has absorbed the beetroot juice.

Repeat this procedure until the rice has swollen and is almost tender.

The rice should be soft but not chalky.  It is usually cooked in 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and add the diced beetroot, butter and half of the grated Gubbeen.  Check for seasoning, cover and allow to rest for 3-4 minutes.

Eat immediately with some grated Gubbeen on the side.

*Darina’s Top Tip: Bake the beetroot in a preheated oven 200˚C for 1 hour approx., by which time the skin will rub off easily.

Grilled Spiced Chicken

The Lebanese are a very hospitable people and would often welcome us into their homes.  This recipe is a take on a dish that I had in the village of As Sultaniyah, just north of Tibnine, where we were treated to an excellent lunch of chicken cooked on a charcoal grill with salad, followed by a glass of chai on the veranda. 

Serves 4

12 chicken thighs

zest and juice of 2 lemons

120ml (scant 4 1/2fl oz) olive oil

4 garlic cloves

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

5g (scant 1/4oz) cumin seeds

5g (scant 1/4oz) coriander seeds

10 green cardamom pods

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1-2 teaspoons sea salt

300g (10oz) Greek or plain yoghurt

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds on a dry pan to release the oils and pass through a spice grinder.  Alternatively, pound in a pestle and mortar.

Grate and juice the 2 lemons.

Transfer the chicken pieces into a bowl (or a zip lock bag) with the lemon juice and zest, olive oil and all the dry ingredients.  Mix well and refrigerate overnight.

To Cook

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.  The chicken pieces can be skewered and grilled on a BBQ or can be transferred to a suitable dish and roasted in a hot oven for 25-30 minutes.

To Serve

Drizzle with yoghurt and serve with manoushi bread or pitta bread.


Chicken breast can also be used.  Butterfly the chicken breast and bat it out, then marinade (as above).  This will cook on a grill in 8 to 10 minutes. 

Watermelon and Rosewater Ice with Barazek

This dish is inspired by the generous nature of the locals, who so kindly gave us watermelon to quench the thirst from the hot summer sun while on checkpoint duty at Tibnine Bridge.  To this day, I have never tasted a watermelon as sweet.

And of course barazeks are wonderful biscuits that are found all over Lebanon.  They are utterly delicious.

Serves 4

1kg (2 1/4lb) watermelon

150g (5oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) glucose

a dash of rosewater (can be purchased in any Middle-Eastern store)

juice of 2 lemons

5g (scant 1/4oz) watermelon seeds

Chop the watermelon and put the seeds aside. 

Blitz the watermelon to a purée.

Add the sugar to a pan with the glucose and heat gently until dissolved.  Cool down and all the watermelon purée.

Add rosewater and lemon juice to taste.

Churn in an ice-cream machine or place into a container and cover with a lid and freeze.

To Serve

Transfer into a cocktail glass or bowl, sprinkle with watermelon seeds and serve with barazeks (see recipe).

Barazek Sesame and Pistachio Biscuits

Yields 20 to 25 biscuits

20g (3/4oz) brown sugar

20g (3/4oz) icing sugar

75g (3oz) unsalted butter

1 medium egg

a few drops of vanilla essence

100g (3 1/2oz) flour

20g (3/4oz) pistachio nuts

20g (3/4oz) sesame seeds

Cream the butter, icing sugar and brown sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla essence and slowly add the beaten egg and then the flour.  Scale into small pieces and mould with your hand into little balls.  Shape into discs 1cm (1/2 inch) thick.  Press one side of the biscuit into sesame seeds and the other side onto the finely chopped pistachios.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in a hot oven at 180˚C.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and serve. 


Just had a ‘delicious’ long weekend in London. I’d forgotten how much I missed London and how much fun and excitement one can cram into a few days in one of the most exciting and innovative food cities in the world. And not just food…we also got to the Francis Bacon exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art, a must see for those of you who, like me, were tormented  and baffled by Bacon’s work heretofore. By the way, Bacon was Irish and of course thanks to Barbara Dawson, his studio is now on display in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. We were so longing for an injection of culture so we popped into many galleries and exhibitions.  Unfortunately time ran out so we didn’t make it to the revamped Courtauld Institute of Art to see the Van Gough Exhibition – it’s on until the 8th May so hopefully next time but we did manage to get tickets to the glorious Theodore production at The Royal Opera House, much of which was set in a kitchen, four glorious hours with some of the best voices in the world – DiDonato, Orlinski, Julia Bullock…

Too late for dinner that night but we did have a super tasty tapa lunch at the new José Pizarro restaurant in the Royal Academy of Art after the Bacon Exhibition, definitely worth seeking out.

The Thursday evening flight from Cork Airport.  (Am I biased or is it the friendliest little airport in the world?) brought us into London in time to have dinner at Quo Vadis on Dean Street, I love Jeremy Lee’s food and there’s no deafening music in the dining room.  Right next door is Barrafina, another of my favourite restaurants and is a must if you don’t mind queuing. 

I love to wander through a Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. You could and should visit Borough Market particularly if you haven’t been before but I headed for Maltby Street Market under the railway arches and made my way through the little passages to Spa Terminus to find some of the very best ingredients in London – Neal’s Yard Dairy and Mons for best artisan cheese, exceptional salami and cured meats @Ham and Cheese, fruit and veg @Natoora, honey, jams, beers, fantastic bread and pastries @DustyKnuckle pop-up.  Pick up a custard doughnut @StJohn’s Bakery and coffee @Monmouth. Both 40 Maltby St. Wine Bar and Flor are still not doing dine-in but you can pick up a picnic or takeout.

Then into a cab over to Brawn in Shoreditch, located at the end of Columbia Rd for a superb lunch (and I don’t use that word lightly) lunch. Wesley, the maître d’ of 7 years is from Cork so we got a warm Cork welcome.
Oren in Dalston is one of the names on all ‘foodies’ top recommendations at present, a wide Mediterranean menu and ear-splitting music but many delicious middle-eastern influences. Put Dishoom on your list too. We went to the Derry Street location in Kensington, an art deco Mecca. There are many, many good things on the menu but don’t miss the iconic Bacon Naan, reminiscent of the Iranian cafés in Mumbai, street food at its irresistible best. We had lunch at Café Cecilia, Max Rocha’s hopping new restaurant in Hackney, just across the road from Regent’s Canal. It and Fallow on 2 St. James’s Market where we had dinner are the hottest tickets in town and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I particularly loved the calcots with Romesco and the deep-fried bread and butter pudding. Haven’t even mentioned the shops but this is a food column. Fortum and Mason is just opposite the Royal Academy of Art so worth wandering into – just saying!
If you are in Kensington High St, check out Sally Clarke’s lovely restaurant and food shop… and on and on it goes…
Café Deco is definitely on the list for my next trip, brilliant reports.

Here are some of the many good things I enjoyed.

Cauliflower Fritters with Aioli

Cauliflower is definitely having a moment.  These are addictive and make a delicious nibble, a starter or a side.  Florets of Romanesco, calabrese or broccoli also work well here.  A plain flour batter with a sprinkle of chilli flakes would be delicious too. 

Serves 4 – 6

1 small to medium cauliflower, Romanesco or Calabrese (about 550g/1lb 3/2oz when trimmed) – we allow 75g (3oz) of florets per person

For the batter:

225g (8oz) gram flour (chickpea) or besan

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon salt

300ml (10fl oz) water

olive oil for deep-frying

To Serve


Trim the cauliflower florets if necessary.

Blanch in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes, drain well and refresh.

Sift the flour into a bowl.  Add the chilli, turmeric and freshly roasted cumin seeds and a half teaspoon of salt.   Whisk in enough water to make a batter with a light coating consistency.

Heat the oil in a deep fry (180°C).  

Dip one floret into the batter, shake off excess and cook in the hot oil until crisp and golden.  Taste, add more seasoning or spice to the batter if necessary.   Cook the rest.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve each portion with a little bowl of aioli.

Aioli – Garlic Mayo

‘Aioli’ refers not only to the sauce made with garlic, egg yolks and olive oil, but also to a complete dish where the sauce is served with boned salt-cod, hard-boiled eggs, squid or snails and vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, artichokes and green beans.

225ml (8fl oz) homemade mayonnaise

1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped parsley and taste for seasoning.

Smoked Eel and Horseradish Sandwich with Pickled Onion

This iconic sandwich from Quo Vadis is one of London’s must haves.

Serves 1

2 rectangular pieces of sourdough bread

extra virgin olive oil

smoked eel from Lough Neagh

horseradish sauce

Pickled Red Onions


Heat a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.  Fry the bread until golden on both sides.  Slather a generous smear of horseradish sauce on both pieces.  Arrange 6-8 pieces of smoked eel on its side on the base.  Top with the other slice of bread.

Serve warm with a tangle of pickled onion. 

For the Pickled Red Onions

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

25g (1oz) granulated sugar

pinch of salt

110g (4oz) red onions, peeled and thinly sliced on a mandolin

Put the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil.  Add the sliced onions and simmer for 2–3 minutes or until they turn pink and wilt. Lift out the cooked onions with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a sterilised jam jar with a non-reactive lid.  Top up the jar with the hot vinegar, cover and cool.  Once cold, store in the fridge.

Dishoom Bacon Naan

The Naan breakfast roll from Dishoom in London is justifiably famous, this is my interpretation.

Serves 1

1 naan bread

2-3 smoked streaky bacon rashers

cream cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper

a few sprigs of fresh coriander

To Serve

Tomato and Chilli Jam

Fry the bacon until golden and pop on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat. 

Warm the naan on a dry pan. 

Slather the surface of the warm naan with cream cheese, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Lay the slices of bacon side by side on one half.  Add a couple of coriander sprigs.   Fold over.  Cut in half crossways.  Serve on a warm plate with a little bowl of tomato and chilli jam.

Alternatively, drizzle the tomato and chilli jam generously over the bacon before folding the naan.  

Tomato and Chilli Jam

Makes 4 x 200ml (7fl oz) jars

This zingy tomato and chilli jam is a hit with everything from fried eggs to cold meat.  Terrific on chicken paillarde or pan-grilled fish or spread on bruschetta with goat’s cheese and rocket leaves.

1kg (2 1/4lbs) very ripe tomatoes

4-8 red chillies

8 cloves of garlic, peeled

about 5cm (2 inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

50ml (2fl oz) fish sauce (Nam Pla)

500g (18oz) golden castor sugar

200ml (7fl oz) red wine vinegar

Peel the tomatoes and chop into 1cm dice. Purée the chillies, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a blender.  Put the purée, sugar and vinegar into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the tomatoes and bring to the boil slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook gently for 30-40 minutes, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. 

When cooked, pour into warmed, sterilized glass jars.  Allow to cool.  Store in a cool place.

Charred Calcots with Romesco 

Max Rocha of Café Cecilia kindly shared this recipe with me – it’s delicious and worth seeking out on your next trip to London!

Romesco Sauce

15 blanched almonds

15 hazelnuts

10 cherry tomatoes

2 red peppers

1 red chilli

1 clove garlic

100g (3 1/2oz) stale bread

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) good quality olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika


3 calcots onions

white wine

1/2 head of garlic

1 red chilli

olive oil


To Serve

crème fraiche

For the Romesco

Toast the nuts in a 170˚C/325˚F/Gas Mark 3 preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Place the tomatoes (cut in half), the peppers (cut in half and seeds removed), the whole chilli and the garlic on a baking tray.  Coat with olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven until the peppers and tomatoes are completely cooked (around 40 minutes).

Allow all ingredients to cool. Then blitz the nuts and bread in a food processor to a chunky consistency.

Add your roasted vegetables and blitz to your required consistency. Add the paprika and the olive oil.  Add all the roasting juices from the pan.  Season with salt to taste and set aside.

For the leeks/calcots.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, once boiling turn down to a low – medium heat.

To the water, add a splash of white wine, half a head of garlic, a fresh chilli, a splash of olive oil and some salt.  Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.

Poach the onions/leeks in liquor until tender, roughly 5 minutes.  This can be done ahead of time and kept at room temperature.

When ready to serve, heat up a warm griddle pan and char the leeks on both sides.  Arrange in an organic tumble on the plate, with a nice spoonful or romesco and a teaspoon of crème fraiche.

Pear, Crozier Blue, Membrillo and Walnut Salad

A delicious combination of texture and flavour inspired by a salad I enjoyed at Quo Vadis on Dean Street.

Serves 4

A mixture of Winter salad leaves – castlefranco, endive, radicchio…

2-3 ripe but firm pears

50g (2oz) Crozier blue cheese, crumbled (Jeremy used Stichelton)

75g (3oz) membrillo, 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

75g (3oz) fresh walnut halves,  lightly roasted and coarsely chopped


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon Forum Chardonnay vinegar

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 clove of garlic, grated

1/2 teaspoon honey

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together.

Half and core the pear, cut into wedges.

Put the salad leaves into a wide bowl, add the pears, crumbled cheese and membrillo dice.  Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently to coat all the leaves.  Add the chopped walnuts, toss again and taste.  Divide between 4 plates and eat immediately – a gorgeous combination.

Dark Chocolate Mousse with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sea salt

This rich chocolate mousse recipe comes from Rory O’Connell who loves to serve it with pouring cream.  A little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling of flaky sea salt is heavenly…

Serves 6

225g (8oz) chocolate chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces (62% or 70%)

50g (2oz) butter diced

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

225g (8oz) granulated or caster sugar

225ml (8fl oz) water

To Serve

extra virgin olive oil

flaky sea salt

Place the chocolate and butter in a Pyrex bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of cold water, making sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl and place the pan on the heat. Bring the water to a simmer and immediately turn off the heat, allowing the butter and chocolate to melt gently in the bowl.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a spotlessly clean bowl for whisking later.  Whisk the yolks to a pale mousse.

To make the caramel, put the sugar and 125ml (4 1/2fl oz) of water into a heavy-based saucepan and place on a low heat. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve before the liquid comes to a boil. Once it boils and has become a syrup, remove the spoon and do not stir again. Allow the syrup to become a dark chestnut coloured caramel. If it is colouring unevenly in the saucepan, tilt the pan gently to and fro to get it to even out by running the dark caramel into the paler syrup. Do not be tempted to stir as if you put a cold spoon into the caramel, it will “block” and go solid- a disaster. Keep going until the caramel is a deep chestnut colour and almost burnt.* Then immediately and quickly add the remaining 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of water, hot, if possible, to prevent less spluttering.

*For safety, place the saucepan sitting in the dry sink before adding that 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of water as it is in a deeper place and the spluttering caramel just splashes onto the sides of the sink rather than the work top.

Now the caramel will look a bit odd, but once you put the saucepan back on the heat it will cook out to a single consistency again. Cook it until it thickens again – when you dip a spoon into the caramel and allow it to drop off, it will fall in a thickish thread.  Pour this gradually on to the whisked egg yolks, whisking all of the time. A food mixer with a whisk attachment or a hand-held electric whisk will do this job perfectly. The mixture will whisk to a mousse in a matter of minutes.  Stir the melted chocolate and the vanilla extract into the mouse. You may need to be a little vigorous with the stirring.

Whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak. Do not allow them to over-whip and become grainy.  Stir a quarter of the egg white into the mousse to soften it and then fold in the remaining three quarters lightly yet thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into a shallow serving dish. There will not be a lot of mousse, but it is rich so the servings should be small.

Place the mousse in the fridge to chill for 4 hours.

Serve a quenelle of mousse on a cold plate, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a few grains of flaky sea salt… sublime!


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