ArchiveJuly 2022

Summer Salads

Understandably, this column is always written a little ahead of publication, chances are it’ll be raining today but after all the glorious weather we’ve been having, lots of requests for Summer grills and salads including several for perennial favourites like potato salad and now that the Irish tomato season is underway, a really good tomato salad.  We have 16 varieties this year including some ‘new’ heirlooms, notably Northern Lights; Green Zebra, San Marzano, Golden Sunrise, Yellow Submarine, Sartroloise, Tigerella, Brandy Wine, Black Russian, Marmande, Mirabelle Blanche, Andine Cornue, Stripe, Dzintre Lasite…

Early season tomatoes have not as yet developed the intense sweetness they’ll have in late August. Choose the ripest you can find, cut them in haphazard shapes. Season well with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  I like to add freshly squeezed lemon juice, then drizzle them with runny honey.  Toss gently so they are well coated and garnish generously with lots of fresh mint or basil leaves.  We grow several types – Genovese, purple opal basil, lemon basil, Greek and perky Vietnamese… but the first three are best for a tomato salad.  Taste and tweak if you fancy.  This makes a delicious starter salad or an accompaniment to either fish, meat, feta or mozzarella or a selection of vegetarian salads.

The secret of a really delicious potato salad, the ultimate Summer crowd-pleaser, is to cook the potatoes in their jackets in really well-salted water.  Peel and coarsely chop while still warm.  Spread out on a wide platter, season ‘mindfully’ with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.  Sprinkle with lots of freshly chopped parsley and green scallions.  Drizzle with French dressing.  Toss gently but thoroughly. This will be delicious just as it is but if you feel that a richer, creamier,  potato salad will work better with your meal, add some mayonnaise which has been loosened with water so it’s easier to fold through.  If you have a lovage plant in your garden, add some, it will contribute a delicious, fresh celery flavour.  Once again, taste.  However the secret which Myrtle Allen taught me is to toss the potatoes in French dressing while still warm. The potato variety also matters, some favour a waxy variety which makes a ‘tidier’ potato salad but we’ve always favoured British Queens or Kerr’s Pinks at this time of year.  Of course, you can add many other good things to the basic potato salad – cucumber pickle, smoked mackerel and dill, hard-boiled eggs, chorizo…Vegans could substitute a classic mayo with tahini … 

I’ve done quite a bit of recipe testing lately.  We love the new rice salad with irresistible crunchy topping, certainly makes a great stand-alone salad but we also enjoy it with these chicken kebabs which were inspired by a recipe we tested from Mezze.

This Pedro Ximénez Panna cotta is my new favourite dessert.  We’ve enjoyed it with a sprinkle of boozy raisins but it’s also surprisingly good with summer berries. The blackcurrant season is just starting, don’t forget my favourite super intense blackcurrants with icy cold cream.  Poach the currants in a simple syrup until they burst, a matter of minutes, then serve them immediately in small bowls with some icy cold, preferably Jersey cream…exquisite!

Potato, Spring Onion and Nasturtium Salad

For a classic potato salad, omit the nasturtium and substitute lots of spring onion and parsley instead.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) freshly cooked potatoes – diced, allow about 1.1kg (2 1/2lbs) raw potatoes

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion

110ml (4fl oz) French Dressing

110ml (4fl oz) homemade Mayonnaise

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

lots of nasturtium leaves and red, orange and yellow nasturtium flowers (75-110g/3 – 4oz)

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Toss in the coarsely chopped nasturtium leaves and two thirds of the flowers.  Scatter the remaining nasturtium flowers on top of the salad.

Best served fresh but keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without mayonnaise.   Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, e.g. add cubes of chorizo, cooked mussels or cockles or even diced cucumber.

Ballymaloe French Dressing

A brilliant all-purpose salad dressing.

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

150ml (6fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

1 level teaspoon mustard (Dijon or English)

1 large clove of garlic, crushed

1 scallion or small spring onion

sprig of parsley

sprig of watercress

1 level teaspoon salt (it’s vital to put in correct amount of salt)

few grinds of pepper

Put all the ingredients into a blender and run at medium speed for 1 minute approx. or mix oil and vinegar in a bowl, add mustard, salt, freshly ground pepper and mashed garlic. Chop the parsley, spring onion and watercress finely and add in. Whisk before serving, best used fresh.

Homemade Mayonnaise

Serve with cold cooked meats, fowl, fish, eggs and vegetables.

2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1/4 teaspoon salt

pinch of English mustard or 1/4 teaspoon French mustard

1 dessertspoon white wine vinegar

225ml (8fl oz) oil (sunflower or olive oil or a mixture) – We use 175ml (6fl oz) sunflower oil and 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil, alternatively use 7/1

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the salt, mustard and the white wine vinegar (keep the whites to make meringues). Put the oil into a measure. Take a whisk in one hand and the oil in the other and drip the oil onto the egg yolks, drop by drop whisking at the same time to create an emulsion. 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 complacent or it will suddenly curdle because the egg yolks can only absorb the oil at a certain pace. Taste and add a little more seasoning and vinegar if necessary.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil, Olive Oil and Honey

Serves 6-8

8 very ripe heirloom tomatoes

salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pure Irish honey

10-12 leaves of fresh basil

Cut the tomatoes into a variety of shapes – 5mm (1/4 inch) thick slices or quarters or eighths depending on size.  Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over the tomatoes.   Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and honey.  Add the ‘torn’ basil leaves, toss gently. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.

Chicken Shawarma Flatbreads with Yoghurt

Serves 4

For the Chicken

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sumac

1/4 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin

juice of 1/2 lemon

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

6 boneless chicken thighs

For the Yoghurt Raita

200g (7oz) labneh or thick natural yoghurt

1 teaspoon sumac

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 small teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon fresh mint, leaves chopped

To Serve

4 flatbreads

1 little Gem lettuces 

1/2 cucumber, cubed


2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

fresh coriander, chopped

Combine all of the ingredients for the chicken in a bowl.   Toss until coated, then marinate for at least 15 minutes or a couple of hours if possible.

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the yoghurt raita. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and tweak if necessary…

Preheat a barbeque or griddle pan to a high heat.  Cook the chicken for 5-6 mins on each side until nicely charred on the outside but juicy in the centre.

To Serve

Grill the flat breads for a minute or two on each side.  Slather each generously with yoghurt raita, sprinkle on a quarter of the cucumber dice.  Add a piece of chicken and sprinkle with sumac,  pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander.  Fold over and serve immediately.

A Salad of Coconut Rice with Sweetcorn and Peanut Crunch

The peanut crunch makes more than you need, store the excess in an airtight container and sprinkle over salads and fruit.

Serves 8

45g (scant 2oz) virgin coconut oil plus 1 teaspoon extra
3 onions (360g/12 1/2oz), peeled and roughly chopped
3 fresh makrut lime leaves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
30g desiccated coconut
200g (7oz) white Basmati rice, washed until the water runs clear, then drained
300ml (10fl oz) full-fat coconut milk
200g (7oz) frozen sweetcorn, defrosted
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g (3/4oz) coriander leaves
10g (scant 1/2oz) mint leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
60g (scant 2 1/2oz) salted peanuts
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) desiccated coconut
3 shallots (40g/generous 1 1/2oz) fried in oil
1 teaspoon soft light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put the 45g (scant 2oz) coconut oil, onions, lime leaves and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid. Put the pan on a medium-high heat, and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes until the onions are lightly coloured and translucent.
Stir in the desiccated coconut, cook for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned, then stir in the rice. Pour in the coconut milk or 200ml (7fl oz) milk and 200ml (7fl oz) water, cover, turn the heat to low and cook gently for 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff up with a fork.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Melt 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a large frying pan on a medium heat. Add the chill, peanuts and desiccated coconut and cook, stirring for 4-6 minutes until toasted. Take off the heat and stir in the fried onions, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, then tip on to a tray and leave to cool. Once cool, tip into a bowl.

Wipe clean the frying pan and put it on a high heat. When it’s smoking hot, add the sweetcorn and cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes until slightly charred. Tip into a bowl. Add the lime juice to the bowl with the olive oil, herbs and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Arrange the rice on a platter, sprinkle the topping and serve with the rest on the side immediately otherwise the delicious crunchy topping will soften.
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi

Pedro Ximénez Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is easy to make and there are endless possibilities. Pedro Ximénez, a sweet sherry is well worth looking out for, I particularly love the Lustau version.

Serves 8-10

3 gelatine leaves
800ml (1.4 pints) double cream
finely grated zest of 1 organic orange
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways in half and the seeds scraped out
100ml (3 1/2fl oz) whole full-fat milk
60ml (scant 2 1/2fl oz) brandy
110ml (4fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry
140g (scant 5oz) caster sugar

175g (6oz) raisins
150ml (5fl oz) Pedro Ximénez sherry

Put the gelatine leaves in a small bowl and pour over enough water to cover. Soak for 4-5 minutes or until they are soft, drain and squeeze out the excess water.

Put 50ml (2fl oz) of the cream in a saucepan with the orange zest and vanilla pods and seeds. Bring to the boil, turn off and leave to infuse.

Warm the milk gently in another saucepan, then take off the heat. Add the gelatine and stir to dissolve. Add the brandy, Pedro Ximénez and sugar. Strain the infused cream through a sieve, add to the milk mixture, mix well and allow to cool.

When cold, lightly whip the remaining cream and fold gently into the mixture. Pour into 8-10 ramekins, allow to set in the fridge for at least 2 hours until set.

Meanwhile, put the raisins into a small saucepan, cover with the sherry. Being very slowly to almost boiling point, turn off the heat and allow to macerate for at least 1 hour.

Serve each Panna cotta with a spoonful of Pedro Ximénez raisins.

Copenhagen – Smørrebrød (Open Sandwiches)

Apart from the thrilling restaurant and avant-garde café scene in Copenhagen, there’s still the Danish favourite tradition, smørrebrød – delicious open sandwiches mostly on rye bread with an endless selection of classic and creative new toppings.  A chilled-out way to enjoy a quick snack, lunch or entire dinner – perfect Summer food and infinitely adaptable.
Occasionally one tastes something that continues to live on in one’s memory – the flavour and texture of a smørrebrød that I ate in the 1970’s in Schønnemann’s in Copenhagen is unforgettable.  Rare roast beef, still warm on rye bread with remoulade sauce, crispy onions and horseradish.  The thinly sliced rare beef was still warm, the homemade remoulade sauce thick and unctuous, the onion rings sweet and crisp and finally a sprinkling of freshly grated horseradish all on a slice of Danish rye. The flavours and textures were exquisite.  I’ve returned over and over to recapture those flavours and that experience.

Smørrebrød (pronounced smuhr-broht) simply means bread and butter in Danish and is an interesting part of Denmark’s traditional food culture. 

After several decades of dwindling interest, smørrebrød is regaining popularity. Its waning coincided with a drop in quality – when all the toppings and rye bread became mass produced and there was more competition for fast food concepts like wraps, burgers and shawarma. But smørrebrød is having ‘its moment’.   Once again, cool young chefs are reclaiming the concept with home baked high-quality rye bread and homemade toppings served with ice cold artisan Schnapps and beer from microbreweries.

There’s a ritual, before you take the first bite, always a toast, Skal with Schnapps followed by a second toast, it seems the legacy of smörgåsbord is here to stay.

So how to make a memorable smørrebrød.  Super healthy and tasty rye bread is the foundation. The butter has to be salted. Next assemble the toppings…

According to my friend Trine Hahnemann, who has written a book ‘Open Sandwiches’ on the subject, there must be at least three of the following components: salt, sweet, sour, butter and umami. You’ll also need a contrast of texture and flavour. Balance soft with crunchy, sweet and sour…
There should be more than one colour and a garnish of fresh herbs, could just be a little pinch of cress grown on the windowsill.

Trine gives an example of a classic combination:
A slice of rye bread, buttered, hard-boiled eggs (soft and fatty), tomatoes (firm and sweet/tart), creamy mayo, salt and freshly ground black pepper and cress – a perfect simple smørrebrød.
There are several unspoken rules that only Danes can tell you about.
Always use herring first and then salmon or other fish.  Don’t combine fish with meat and vegetables…Finally, cheese always comes at the end.

Everyday open sandwiches are called Madder. For a family style supper, lay out a range of toppings on a board, everyone can assemble a madder of their choice – a perfect convivial supper. 

Trine Hahnemann reminds us that to make smørrebrød you just need a few basic ingredients most of which will already be in your cupboard or fridge.
You can of course buy some of the toppings but homemade will taste so much better and that’s the trademark of the young chefs who are spearheading the revival. Some of the smørrebrød establishments like Schønnemann’s (est. 1877) have chefs’ specialities like René Redzepi’s smørrebrød.  Smoked halibut with cucumber and dill mayo.

Good rye bread, a Danish staple, is now becoming easier to find over here. Trine gives 70 recipes and two rye breads in her ‘Open Sandwiches’ book published by Quadrille. It’s also worth knowing that rye bread keeps and freezes brilliantly.  All the pickles and condiments can of course be bought but will taste so much better and be better for you if homemade.

Just get started, include the kids, have fun and make delicious smørrebrød part of your everyday life.
Here are a few suggestions but of course one can use alternative ingredients depending on what you have to hand.

Beef, Remoulade, Crispy Onions and Horseradish

For perfection, the beef should be still warm and medium rare.

4 slices rye bread
4 thin slices rare roast beef

Remoulade Sauce (see recipe)

cucumber pickle

fresh grated horseradish
crispy onions rings (cooked in dripping or oil)
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Butter each slice of rye bread evenly. Arrange a ruffled slice of rare beef on top. Add a dollop of remoulade on one side and some cucumber pickle on the other.  Grate a little fresh horseradish on top and garnish with crispy onions.  Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and a grind of black pepper. 

Cucumber Pickle

Serves 10-12

1kg (2lb 4oz) thinly sliced unpeeled cucumber

3 small onions thinly sliced

225g (8oz) sugar

1 tablespoon salt

225ml (8fl oz) cider vinegar

Combine the cucumber and onion sliced in a large bowl.  Mix the sugar, salt and vinegar together and pour over cucumbers.  Place in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator and leave for at least 1-2 hours or overnight before using. 

Keeps well for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Seasonal Note

When we have our homegrown organic cucumbers, we find that we need to reduce the sugar by 50-75g (2-3oz).


Taken from Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann published by Quadrille

Makes about 400g (14oz)

200g (7oz) mustard pickles (see recipe)
150g (5oz) mayonnaise
50g (2oz) full-fat natural yoghurt
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Drain the pickles a little in a sieve if you do not want the rémoulade to be too runny. Then mix them in a bowl with the mayonnaise and yoghurt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mustard Pickles

Taken from Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann published by Quadrille
The best pickles I know of; this is my mother’s recipe. I use the pickles in the Rémoulade, but also just to serve as pickles for meat, fried fish or fishcakes.

Makes about 400g (14oz)

750g (1lb 10oz) green tomatoes, cut into chunks
1kg (2lb 4oz) courgettes (zucchini), cut into chunks
350g (12oz) onions, cut into chunks
35g (3 tablespoons) sea salt flakes, or to taste
500ml (18fl oz) apple cider vinegar
50ml (2fl oz) lemon juice
400g (14oz) granulated sugar
40g (generous 1 1/2oz) plain flour
2 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds, ground
2-3 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

Blend the tomatoes, courgettes and onions until very fine in a blender or food processor (or with a hand blender). Mix with the salt, then set aside for 3-4 hours in a cool place.

Pour the vegetables into a jelly bag and leave to drain for a couple of hours. Then place the vegetables in a big saucepan with 400ml (14fl oz) water and 75ml (3fl oz) of the vinegar. Bring to the boil while stirring, then let it simmer over a very low heat for 20 minutes. Once more, pour the vegetables into a jelly bag and leave to drain for some hours – even better overnight until rather dry.

Place the vegetable mixture in a big saucepan, then add the remaining vinegar and the lemon juice. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl, then stir into the vegetables. Bring to the boil, still stirring, then let it simmer for 30 minutes over a very low heat, stirring often. Season to taste with more salt, curry powder and sugar. Pour the pickles into sterilised jars and seal them. Store in a cold place, they will keep for 1 year.

Crispy Onions

Taken from Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann published by Quadrille

Makes enough for 10-12 smørrebrød

750g (1lb 10oz) onions, finely sliced

50g (2oz) plain flour

1 tablespoon sea salt flakes, plus more to taste

1 litre flavourless vegetable oil, for deep-frying

Place the sliced onions in a bowl with the flour and salt and mix very well, until the onions are covered with flour.  Pour them into a sieve to get rid of any extra flavour.

Heat the oil in a frying pan.  Make sure the oil is hot by dropping in a slice of onion; if it sizzles, it is ready.  Reduce the heat a little and add one-third of the sliced onions.  Be careful – it may spit!  Don’t leave; instead, stir occasionally.  Fry until light brown and crispy.

Using a skimmer, transfer the onions to a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle with a little more salt.  Repeat the process with the other batches. 

Mackerel Rillettes

Taken from Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann published by Quadrille
In August, the mackerel are big and fat, and that’s when they are best to smoke. They can be eaten on rye bread with egg yolk and raw onions. When I visit my mother in the country in summertime, we always sit outside and eat the smørrebrød. I have merely added fresh coriander; I hope she doesn’t mind…

Serves 4

170g (scant 6oz) smoked mackerel
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
5 radishes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated unwaxed lime zest
2 tablespoons chopped coriander, plus leaves to decorate
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
4 slices of rye bread
salted butter

Carefully remove and discard the skin and bones from the mackerel. Break up the fish into pieces.

Mix the mackerel, eggs, chives, radishes, lemon juice, lime juice, lime zest, coriander and chilli flakes. Season to taste with pepper.

First hard-boil the eggs.
Place the eggs in a small saucepan and pour cold water over, so they are covered. Bring to the boil and let them boil for 4 minutes. Take the saucepan off the heat, pour out the boiling water and pour plenty of cold water over the eggs. After 10 minutes, peel them; they are ready to be used.

Place the rye bread slices on a work too and spread the butter evenly on each slice. Divide the mackerel rillettes between each bread slice and top with the coriander leaves.

Tomato, Egg and Mayonnaise

Taken from Open Sandwiches by Trine Hahnemann published by Quadrille
You can use cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise here, if you prefer. Or change the herbs: chopped chives, chervil and dill will work well instead of cress.

Serves 4

4 slices of rye bread
salted butter
2 large tomatoes
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cress
sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Place the rye bread slices on a worktop and spread the butter evenly on each slice. Slice the tomatoes. Cut each egg into 4 slices, and place 2 slices of egg with 1 slice of tomato in the middle of each bread.

Divide the mayonnaise between the open sandwiches, place the cress on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Denmark Food Scene

Just returned from a few action-packed days in Copenhagen, still a super exciting food town.  I’d been invited to join a friend’s table at NOMA, René Redzepi’s internationally acknowledged restaurant in the midst of a garden overlooking the famous Copenhagen incinerator and ski slope.  It’s been awarded the best restaurant in the world for 3 years in a row in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards.

Having achieved all possible accolades,  René has decided to follow in the footsteps of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli in Spain so this will be the last season of NOMA.  He’s working on a new project yet to be revealed.  The whole NOMA experience is unforgettable from the moment you are welcomed on arrival.  One walks up the beautiful borders of swaying grasses and perennials interspersed with fresh herbs to the restaurant.  The planting plan was designed by Piet Oudolf who created the garden on the Highline in Manhattan.  The food is creative, complex and delicious. 

René and his team greeted us warmly with a glass of sparking fizz,

Fifteen memorable vegetarian courses followed – I would have no idea how to create any of the complex multi-ingredient dishes with up to 5 or 6 people working on each course.  Many are willing interns anxious to learn in this famous kitchen.  The name NOMA on your CV, certainly opens doors but nowadays questions are frequently being asked about the future of this practice. 

Some of the produce and fresh herbs come from the gardens and the glasshouse beside the kitchens and the fermentation and pickles are a revelation.  But Copenhagen is not just about NOMA, the restaurant that is credited with starting the Nordic food revolution and transforming Copenhagen into the culinary capital of the world. 

During the pandemic, NOMA opened Popl, a NOMA burger joint selling fat, juicy burgers made from organic grass-fed beef.  It too is a huge success but I particularly love the little cafés cum bakeries, wine bars and cocktail bars all of which serve a selection of delicious small plates.  In the few days we were there we tried as many as possible.

Lille Bakery in Refshaleøen is in an old industrial area in a non-auspicious part of town.  It was started in 2018 on a shoestring by Jesper, Mia and Sara who met at 108, the Michelin-starred restaurant of René Redzepi.  Tables are a mixture of junk shop finds and timber cable reels but the sourdough bread, flaky croissants, cardamom buns, sausage rolls and baked goods are exceptionally delicious.  I was thrilled to find that one of our past students, James Lang who learned to bake his first loaf of sourdough in our Bread Shed here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School was one of the bakers in this tiny but exceptional bakery.  I also loved their typical Danish breakfast, a ham and cheese sourdough sandwich slathered generously with butter and I’m still dreaming about the soft, puffy Berliner, a doughnut with no central hole in the centre filled with a rhubarb cream and topped with a little smidgeon of meringue.

Alice Café is another hidden gem in Markmandsgade 1. It too has a short menu of very good things and some say the best hand-crafted ice-cream in Copenhagen.  The notice board on the wall told us the time when the sourdough buns, flaky croissants, tebirkes (poppy seed pastries), cardamom twist and teboller (buttermilk buns) would be coming out of the oven.  Apart from really sensational bread, each has their own specialities and devotees.  We also visited the Hart Bageri owned by Richard Hart, originally Chad Robertson partner at Tartine (in California) and later head baker at NOMA.  His bread is legendary and he too had his specialities – a burnt basque cheesecake plus cardamom croissants and spandauer – a black sesame cookie to die for! 

And yet another gem, Hahnemann’s Køøken in Østerbro.  When I arrived Trine Hahnemann was teaching a French group from Brittany how to make a selection of Danish smorgasbord (see next weeks column) but then she showed me around her café, bakery and truly sensational selection of baked goods – cakes, pastries and breads, all made from 100% organic ingredients.

Thank you to all these generous bakers who shared their recipes with us all.  Let me know how you enjoy them…


Puffy doughnuts without the hole in the centre – totally irresistible!

25g (1oz) fresh yeast

450g (1lb) baker’s or strong flour

40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

75g (3oz) butter

1 organic egg, whisked

150–225ml (5 – 8fl oz) water at blood heat

Dissolve the yeast in a little of the tepid water. Sieve the flour, sugar and salt into a bowl. Rub in the butter and then add the whisked eggs. Add the yeast mixture and enough additional water to make a fairly soft dough. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Turn out onto a floured board. Knead well, about 5–10 minutes, until the dough becomes firm and springy. It should bounce back when pressed with a finger.

Put into a deep Pyrex bowl, cover and leave to rise until it doubles in size. Punch down to knock out the air and redistribute the yeast back in contact with the dough. Knead well for 2–3 minutes. Leave to rest for a further 5 minutes.

Divide the basic yeast bun dough into 25g (1oz) pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and flatten.  Arrange on a floured tea-towel or tray, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Heat some good-quality sunflower oil in a deep-fryer to 160°C (315°F). Gently slip a few risen Berliners into the oil. Cook for about a minute on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon until they are evenly brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Leave to cool slightly.

Toss in crunchy sugar and eat soon.

Alternatively, mix 110g (4oz) of caster sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon in a wide, shallow bowl. Toss the doughnuts in the cinnamon sugar. Pipe vanilla pastry cream or rhubarb pastry cream into the centre through the side.  

Lille’s Cardamom Buns

Remonce, a Danish word for pastry filling  is basically a brown sugar and cardamom buttery filling that’s whipped, spread across sheets of croissant dough which is rolled up like a Swiss roll and portioned.  This dough can also be used for croissants and cinnamon buns.


soft butter 500g (18oz)

brown sugar 225g (8oz)

caster sugar 225g (8oz)

salt 5g (scant 1/4oz)

cardamom (blitzed) 12g (1/2oz)

Put the soft butter into a bowl with the sugars, salt and ground cardamom.  Whip until light and soft. This makes 500g (18oz) of filling, it could be halved but keeps well and can also just be spread on some Brioche toast or eaten on its own! 

Bun Dough

Makes 25

flour 833g (1lb 13oz)

sugar 83g (3 1/4oz)

salt 16g (generous 1/2oz)

fresh yeast 33g (1 1/4oz)

soft butter 50g (2oz)

milk 500g (18oz)

water 366g (12 1/2oz)

500g block of square butter

There is no big secret with this dough either.  Put all the ingredients into a mixer (except from the extra 500g/18oz butter block).  Mix with a dough hook for 5-10 minutes on a low to medium speed to a smooth texture.  Wrap the dough and immediately transfer to the fridge.  Leave overnight.  The laminating begins the next day….

Roll the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper to approx. 20cm x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) square. 

Flour the worktop and roll the risen dough into a square (approx. 40cm x 40cm/16 x 16 inch).  Place the square of butter into the centre of the dough and fold the dough over the butter. Press gently to seal the edges.

Next, make the first lamination….

Flour the worktop lightly, roll the dough into a rectangle. Brush off any excess flour and fold in 3 lengthwise. Give the dough a 90° turn, seal the open edges with a rolling pin. Re-roll the dough towards the open end into a rectangle. Fold in 3 once again. Cover tightly with greaseproof paper. Refrigerate for an hour. Then repeat this process, cover and refrigerate the dough overnight.

Next day, roll out into a long rectangle 30 x 12cm (12 x 5 inch), slatter with cardamom remonce (you won’t need it all), then roll it up to form a Swiss roll log shape. Portion into 100g (3 1/2oz) pieces.  Place the buns on a lined tray, cover lightly and prove until the layers have begun opening up a little, approx. 3-4 hours.

Bake at 210˚C/410˚F/Gas Mark 6 for 18-25 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the bottom.

Trine Hahnemann’s Traditional Strawberry Cake

This cake has got it all: marzipan, chocolate, cream, vanilla, and strawberries. It can be found in almost every bakery in Denmark. You can bake the marzipan base and keep it in the freezer; I like to bake 4 at the time. Then you can easily make this strawberry cake on a summer day.

Serves 10-12

125g (4 1/2oz) marzipan*, grated

125g (4 1/2oz) caster sugar

125g (4 1/2oz) soft butter, plus extra for greasing

3 eggs

40g (generous 1 1/2oz) plain flour or corn starch


1 pod of vanilla

200ml (7fl oz) single cream

2 egg yolks

3 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon corn flour

200ml (7fl oz) heavy cream

Chocolate Glaze

200g (7oz) dark chocolate

4 tablespoons heavy cream


500g (18oz) strawberries

2-3 tablespoons red currant jelly

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

Beat the grated marzipan with the sugar in a mixing bowl (you get the best result using an electric mixer), then add the butter and beat again until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition, until the mixture is even and smooth, then fold in the flour or corn starch. Pour the dough into a buttered round baking tin 24 centimetre. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool down.

Now melt the chocolate over steam, add the butter and mix well.

When the marzipan base is cooled down, spread the chocolate evenly over it.

When the chocolate has set on the marzipan base, it is time to make the cream.

For the cream, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwaysand scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. Put the vanilla seeds with the single cream in a saucepan and heat until steaming hot. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl until the mixture turns pale and fluffy, then whisk in the corn flour. Stir one-third of the hot cream into the egg mixture, then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Stir over a low heat until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

When the cream filling is cold, whip the double cream until it forms stiff peaks and fold it in the cream.

Carefully rinse the strawberries in cold water, remove the little flower and cut in half, dry them carefully. Place the red currant jelly in a piping bag.

Whip the cream quite firm, fold into the cold custard, place on top of the chocolate 2 centimetres from the edge, form into a little pyramid shape. Cover it with the strawberries, place small dollops of jelly in between the strawberries, decorate with flowers. Serve right away or keep in refrigerator until ready to be served.

*real marzipan with 60% almonds

Tramore (Seagull Bakery and Mezze)

Despite the chronic staff shortages, exciting new restaurants and cafés are popping up all around the country.

Tramore is definitely one of the new (ish) hot spots.  A few weeks ago, we made a pilgrimage to the seaside town just a few miles from Waterford city to visit the Seagull Bakery established by Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Sarah Richards in 2013.

Her natural sourdough breads and viennoiserie are exceptional and they have now expanded into another branch in Waterford from the original premises into a new purpose-built bakery with a stunning view over the Back Strand and sand dunes of Tramore Beach.

The artisan bakery movement is definitely one of the most exciting aspects of the new Irish food revolution.

I reckon any reasonable size town in Ireland could support an artisan bakery nowadays.

I hadn’t been to Tramore for over 30 years, but it has always had a very special place in my heart.  Growing up in the midlands of Co. Laois is about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to be in Ireland.  The highlight of our summer was an occasional day in Tramore.  Mummy would roast a chicken, make a couple of loaves of soda bread and pack a delicious picnic.  Then 7 or 8 of us plus the picnic, buckets, shovels and spades would pile into the old Ford Zephyr or Zodiac car.  My little brother Tom often lay on the back window ledge. We didn’t care how squished we were…we were going to the seaside for the day, you’d be arrested nowadays!

Apart from the bakery, we had a delicious lunch at Beach house restaurant, many little plates of deliciousness.  Add it to your Tramore list.

And then we wandered into Mezze, just up the hill from the Seagull bakery.  Well, how about that for a tantalising surprise, a café and shop packed with the sort of ingredients often difficult to source plus a Middle Eastern Take Out offering lots of vegetarian and vegan options as well as the occasional meat special.

I was intrigued…The young couple behind Mezze are Dvir Nusery from Israel and his Irish partner Nicola Crowley.  They met on the side of a glacier in New Zealand and although they couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds, different foods, religions, cultures and climates, their mutual love of food, travel and passion to share their experiences with others created a bond.  They moved to Israel but after eight years, quit their managerial office jobs in Tel Aviv, packed their bags and left for Ireland with their two kids.  It’s a long story through Festivals, Farmers’ Markets, Pop Up cookery classes, but just before the pandemic they opened their own ‘bricks and mortar’ place in their new hometown of Tramore.

When I wandered into Mezze, I met Dvir and Nicola who are serving the sort of delicious, irresistible, Middle Eastern food, passed from generation to generation in families – falafels, shawarma, salads, dips made for sharing…

They carefully source vegetables and meat locally from farmers and growers and high welfare meat producers.

When I asked about sharing a recipe, Nicola told me shyly that they had just written a book which would be published in June.  I’ve just got a copy – it’s called ‘Middle Eastern Food Made to Share’ and self-published by Mezze in Tramore, how cool and resourceful is that.

Here are a few tempting recipes to seek out in the book. It really is full of dishes you’ll want to share with family and friends.

Middle Eastern Lamb Kebabs from Mezze

Nicola and Dvir say ‘This is our go-to for barbecues.  We rarely have a barbecue where these kebabs don’t feature and they’re always well received!’.  You can swap out minced beef for lamb.

Makes 10 – 12 patties to serve 4 – 6

450g (1lb) minced lamb

1/2 onion, finely chopped

20g (3/4oz) fresh parsley, leaves and stalks finely chopped

20g (3/4oz) pine nuts (optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon baharat* (see end of recipe)

1 teaspoon ground fennel

1/2 tablespoon sea salt

To Serve

Tahini Sauce


pita bread

grilled vegetables or salad

Mix all the ingredients together and form into small patties.

Barbecue on a grill or fry on a griddle pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, until cooked through.

Serve with tahini sauce, amba or pita and grilled vegetables or salad.

Baharat Spice Blend from Mezze

Meaning ‘spice’ in Arabic.  Use to spice up Middle Eastern kebabs, stews…

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix all the spices together and store in a jar in a cool, dark place. 

Tahini Sauce from Mezze

Made from crushed sesame seeds, tahini, the paste used for this recipe is found in sweet and savoury foods in the Middle East.

Add this sauce to salads as a dressing, use it as a dipping sauce or sandwich spread or drizzle over chargrilled aubergines or homemade falafel.

150g (5oz) tahini

150ml (5fl oz) water

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Whisk all the ingredients together until well combined, then pour into a squeezy bottle or jar.  This will keep in the fridge for up to a week. 

Tip: reduce the amount of water in the recipe if you want a thicker dip. 

Amba from Mezze

Delicious with kebabs.

Amba is widely used in Israel on falafel, sabich or shawarma.  Its roots are in India, with a curry flavour from the fenugreek, and is thought to have come to Israel with Iraqi jews.  This is best used to spice up a sauce or dish. 

2 tablespoons fenugreek

1 1/2 tablespoons ground turmeric

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon salt

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon amchoor (mango powder)

Grind all the ingredients together in a small food processor or with a pestle and mortar.  Mix the spice blend with a little water to form a pouring sauce. 

Chicken Shishlik (Shawarma Spiced Chicken Skewers) from Mezze

Ask your butcher to debone the leg and chop it into cubes for you to save you the trouble.  They don’t usually charge extra for this and it will work out cheaper and tastier than a chicken breast.

Serve 4

2 tablespoons extra virgin rapeseed oil

1 tablespoon shawarma spice blend *(see end of recipe)

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 deboned free-range chicken legs or 8 deboned thighs, cut into 2-3cm (3/4 – 1 1/4 inch) cubes

If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water.  We like to use metal ones.

Mix the oil, shawarma spices and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat, then marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge. 

Heat your barbecue or griddle pan.

Skewer the chicken pieces, leaving enough room on the bottom of the stick to hold it.  Grill on the hot barbeque or griddle pan for 6-8 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through. 

Shawarma Spice Blend

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground nutmeg

Mix all the spices together and store in a jar in a cool, dark place. 

Persian Love Cakes from Mezze

The Persian Love Cake is thought to have been made for the Prince of Persia to make him fall in love with the baker.  The cake is gluten-free and dairy-free, so it can be enjoyed by many.  The cakes will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container. 

Makes 12 mini loaf cakes or muffins or 1 x 20cm (8 inch) cake

50g (2oz) raw pistachios

200g (7oz) ground almonds

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cardamom

200ml (7fl oz) sunflower or neutral rapeseed oil

4 free-range eggs


1 lemon

75g (3oz) caster sugar

3 tablespoons rosewater

Icing (optional)

1 tablespoon lemon juice, reserved from the syrup

2 teaspoons rosewater

1/2 tablespoon cold water (or more if needed)

150g (5oz) icing sugar

To Decorate

rose petals

chopped pistachios

Make the syrup first and allow to cool before the cakes are baked.

Juice the lemon into a measuring jug or small saucepan and reserve 1 tablespoon of juice for the icing.  Top up the juice with water to make 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) of liquid.  In the saucepan, combine the juice mixture with the sugar and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.  Take it off the heat, add the rosewater and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 160˚C/320˚F/Gas Mark 3.  Grease 12 mini loaf cake tins, a 12-hole muffin tin or 1 x 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with a little oil and line with non-stick baking paper if your tin tends to stick. 

Put the pistachios in a food processor and grind until they’re almost as fine as the ground almonds.  Don’t overdo it, though, or they’ll start to turn into a paste.  Add the ground almonds, sugar, baking powder, cardamom, oil and eggs and pulse until just combined into a batter.  Pour the cake batter into the tin(s) and bake in the oven for 20-22 minutes (or 30-35 minutes for a whole cake), until firm and golden brown. 

To make the icing, mix the reserved lemon juice with the rosewater and cold water.  Sift the icing sugar into a medium bowl and add the juice and rosewater mixture gradually, whisking until the icing is a thick pouring consistency.  Add more water or sifted icing sugar if needed. 

When the cake is baked, pierce it all over with a skewer and gently pour over the syrup.  Allow to cool a little, then remove from the tin(s) onto a cooling rack.  Place a tray under the cooling rack and once fully cooled, pour the icing over the top of the cakes, allowing it to drizzle down the sides.  Sprinkle with rose petals and chopped pistachios and serve. 

Limonana (Lemonade and Mint) from Mezze

This refreshing drink is found in cafés and bars all over Israel.  Sometimes it’s served as a drink or sometimes as a slushy.

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) lemon juice (approx. 3 lemons)

400ml (14fl oz) water

25g (1oz) fresh mint

lemon slices


Sugar Syrup

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

25g (1oz) fresh mint

Mix the sugar syrup ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until thickened.  Once cool, remove the cooked mint leaves.

Put the syrup into a litre jug and add all the remaining ingredients.  Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice or sugar if necessary.

If you want to make a slushy, add the syrup and remaining ingredients, including the picked mint leaves, into a blender and blitz. 

Save Our Soils

A few evenings ago, I had a phone call from Mc Minville in Tennessee. On the other end of a crackly line was a girl called Anastasia Titko inviting me to support the Save Soil movement.

To my shame, I was unaware of this movement despite being passionate about the crucial importance of the soil and the increasing crises of diminishing fertility even here in Ireland for many years.

In our hectic lives, preoccupied with our own day to day activities, few of us give a moment’s thought to the soil, we perceive it as an inert substance below our feet rather than a living organism where zillions of life forms thrive – the biggest ecosystem on the planet and  few of us know anything about it.

A few startling statistics:

  • 52% of agricultural soil across the planet is degraded.
  • There has been an 80 to 90 % drop in nutrient levels in fruit & veg in the U.S. in the past two decades.  
  • Over here we are fortunate if the intensively produced crops contain 50 % of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements they did in the 1950’s.

To get the same volume of micronutrients we got in the 1950’s from one orange we now need to eat 7 or 8 (Seek out organic produce for maximum nutrients).

Over 2 billion people suffer from nutritional deficiencies worldwide.

Many of you will already be aware that food grown in rich fertile soil is significantly more complex, nutritious and delicious. The microbial life in the first 12-15 inches of topsoil is the basis of our existence. Once again, I quote Lady Eve Balfour – one of the founders of the Soil Association, ‘’The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible’’

Every responsible scientist in the world is telling us that at best we have only 80 – 100 harvests left, that means approx. 40-50 years of rich agricultural soil left on the planet.

By 2045 we’ll be producing 40 % less food than we are producing now for a population of an estimated 9.3 billion people.

The consequences are unimaginable, the food shortages that could manifest in the next 25 years and even sooner because of the Ukrainian War – social unrest, a flood of food and climate refugees.  Once there are food shortages, civil wars will unfold across the world.

It’s difficult to imagine such a scenario as we travel through the lush green Irish countryside in June but those of us who have even seen photos of worn out, parched soil in middle America see the stark reality of what has happened through exploitation in many countries, Save the Soil movement would say most countries.

50 % of the topsoil has been lost in the last 100 years.

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt ‘The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself’.

Sadhgura, the driving force behind the Save the Soil movement, is embarking on a 30’000 km lone motorbike journey through 34 countries to raise awareness, generate support and bring about a policy change to regenerate soil.

He will urge every government on the planet to enshrine soil regeneration in their national policy. We have inherited this vital resource from our ancestors, we must pass it on as living soil for the survival of future generations.

We know what to do…Let’s make it happen…

Readers who sowed seeds earlier in the year will now be experiencing the joy and satisfaction of harvesting some of your own fresh, chemical-free produce from your garden, raised beds, balconies or windowsills…Continue to enhance the fertility of the soil with compost and seaweed and if you can get it, well-rotted farmyard manure preferably from an organic farm.

We ourselves have an abundance of beautiful fresh produce at present.  If you’d like to taste some, come to our Farm Shop here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School or check the stalls at the Farmers Market in Midleton and Mahon Point.

Rory O’Connell’s Broth with Broad Bean Leaves and Mint

The object of the exercise here is a light yet flavoursome broth, spiked with the best greens each season has to offer.

The secret to success is in the late addition of the green or defining ingredients to the broth. There is a bit to do though, before that stage is reached. Dice the onion and potatoes neatly, remembering that they will be clearly visible in the finished broth and cook them very gently so that they do not collapse before the stock is added. The broth should never boil rapidly, just a gentle simmer and crucially the saucepan lid stays off once the greens go into the saucepan. Careful tasting to perfect the seasoning, will make an enormous difference to the finished broth.

Serves 4-6

175g (6oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into neat 1cm (1/2 inch) in dice

175g (6oz) onions, peeled and finely chopped

50g (2oz) butter

2 cloves of garlic, peeled crushed to a paste

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken stock

600ml (1 pint) of broad bean leaves

300g (10oz) small broad beans, cooked and peeled

2 tablespoons small mint leaves

salt and pepper


Drizzle of olive oil

50g (2oz) grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and allow to foam. Add the potatoes, onions and garlic. Use a wooden spoon to coat in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or greaseproof paper and with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on a very low heat to allow the vegetables to sweat gently until barely tender. This will take about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook and allow the diced potato to collapse. Add the stock, stir gently and bring to a simmer. Replace the saucepan lid and cook for a further 10 minutes. The broth should be barely bubbling. If it cooks too fast at this stage, the delicacy of flavour of the chicken stock will be lost. By now the potato and onion should be tender but still holding their shape. Taste and correct seasoning. This is the base and can be put aside until later.

To finish the soup, bring the base back to a simmer. Add the broad beans and leaves and allow the leaves to wilt and take on a melted consistency and the beans to warm through. Then add the chopped mint leaves and again watch the cooking time very carefully, two minutes should do it. Taste one last time to ensure the seasoning is spot on. Serve immediately just as it is or with a drizzle of olive oil and a nice sprinkling of grated Parmesan.

Pickled Beetroot and Onion Salad

A simple pickled beetroot that is a revelation when you taste it.

Serves 5-6

450g (1lb) cooked beetroot

200g (7oz) sugar

450ml (16fl oz) water

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)

225ml (8fl oz) white wine vinegar

Dissolve the sugar in water, bringing it to the boil. Add the sliced onion and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the vinegar, pour over the peeled sliced (diced or cut into wedges) beet and leave to cool.

How to cook Beetroot

Leave 5cm (2 inch) of leaf stalks on top and the whole root on the beet. Hold it under a running tap and wash off the mud with the palms of 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 the pot, bring to the boil and simmer on top, or in an oven, for 15-20 minutes (in May/June when they are young) depending on size (they can take 1-2 hours in late Autumn and Winter when they are tough). 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.  Use in chosen recipe.

David Tanis’s Cucumber with Feta, Mint and Sumac

New season’s Irish cucumbers are now in the shops.  The sumac can be found at Middle Eastern shops and is available in many supermarkets now.  It adds a pleasant sour flavour that lemon juice alone does not provide.  To keep the cucumber crisp, don’t dress them more than 30 minutes before serving.  

Serves 6

900g (2lbs) cucumbers, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove, grated

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) feta, cut into rough 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

1 tablespoon sumac

2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon marjoram

Halve the cucumbers lengthwise and slice into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces.  Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, feta and sumac and toss to coat.  Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Transfer to a serving platter.  Just before serving, sprinkle with fresh mint, parsley and crushed red pepper flakes, then dust with marjoram. 

Zucchini Parmigiana 

I love this Summer supper dish – a riff on Parmigiana di Melanzane.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in Summer, or 2 tins (x 14oz) of tomatoes in Winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

900g (2lbs) zucchini or courgettes (same thing, different name!)

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more if you fancy but don’t overdo it

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

110g (4oz) of grated Parmesan

1 x 25 x 30.5cm (10 x 12 inches) rectangular gratin dish

First make the tomato sauce.

Heat the oil in a stainless-steel sauté pan or casserole.  Add the sliced onions and garlic toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured – about 10 minutes. It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.  Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions.  Season with salt, freshly ground , sugar and red pepper flakes (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).  Cover and cook for just 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomato softens, uncover and reduce a little.  Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour. 

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

Meanwhile, slice the zucchini lengthwise into 5 – 7mm (1/4 – 1/3 inch) strips.  Arrange them in a single layer on a couple of oiled baking trays.  Season with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.

Add the freshly grated chopped basil to the tomato.  Taste and add a little sugar if necessary.

To assemble.

Spoon a quarter of the tomato sauce over the base of the gratin dish.

Arrange a third of the zucchini strips over the top.  Add more sauce, a quarter of the grated Parmesan.  Repeat with two more layers finishing with the last quarter of the grated Parmesan and any juices from the tray.  *Can be prepared ahead to this point.

Reduce the oven to 190˚C/375˚F/Gas Mark 5.

Pop in the gratin and cook for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and golden.  Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving with a green salad and lots of crusty bread to mop up the juices. 


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