ArchiveOctober 2022


We’re all set for Halloween, squash, pumpkins and gourds of every size, shape and colour are piled precariously on the table in the hall of the cookery school, on the window ledges, in baskets and boxes, they look so decorative.  It’s become a bit of a tradition, our grandchildren and children from the local schools to come to the farm to harvest the squash and pumpkin every Autumn. They have the best fun and are intrigued by the names, Hubbard, Turks Turban, Little Gem, Delicata, Hokkaido, Crown Prince, Kobocha,  Cocozelle, Jack be Little, Red Kuri… Some are the size of a child’s fist, others so enormous that it takes two sturdy lads to carry them.

On my recent trip to New York, there were pumpkins everywhere and in everything – pies, muffins, lattes, smoothies, bread, soups, cake, baked, roasted, frittatas, stews, curries, pasta, bread, pancakes, salads, pickles, even popsicles and ice cream…both sweet and savoury dishes – pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

Everyone loves carving pumpkins into scary faces for Halloween, the festival that apparently originated in Ireland over three thousand years ago when the pagan festival of Samhain  marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new year, the natural transition from lighter Summer to the darker Winter. At this time of the year it was believed that the division between this world and the other world was at its most fragile, allowing spirits to pass though. So as in the Mexican tradition of the ‘Day of the Dead ‘the spirits of the ancestors were invited back home and evil spirits were warded off. Bonfires, traditional food, costumes and masks were all part of the festivities.

After the famine, the Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America where it is now one of the major holidays of the year. Similarly, here in Ireland where it is fast becoming as big as Christmas.  For several weeks now children have been whipped into a lather of excitement by all the Halloween temptations on TV and in the shops and the anticipation of dressing up as ghouls and witches to do the rounds of their neighbourhood for the annual ‘trick or treat’.

You may be amused to hear that we were inadvertently removed from the ‘must visit’ list a number of years ago when word spread among the ‘trick or treaters’ that Ballymaloe Cookery School was ‘no good’ because you only got fruit and nuts…

The fact that they were home-grown apples and fresh hazelnuts, cobnuts and walnuts from the nut garden did not remotely impress the scary little dotes who were hoping for proper sugar laden treats. So I think we’ve been black-listed!!

Apparently, Barmbrack is back…! I never realized that it wasn’t cool …  It’s always been a treasured part of Halloween for me, super easy to make and the best fun to make with the kids … adding in the ring and charms…

Here too are a few pumpkin recipes for you to have fun making with your children and their friends.  There are masses more ideas online.

Ballymaloe Halloween Barmbrack

Everyone in Ireland loves a barmbrack, perhaps because it brings back lots of memories of excitement and games at Halloween. When the barmbrack was cut, everyone waited in anticipation to see what they’d find in their slice: a stick, a pea, a ring, a piece of cloth and what it meant for their future.

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up (rather than boiled as in the recipes above). This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the Halloween Barmbrack.  Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) currants

50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered

300ml (10fl oz) hot tea

1 organic egg, whisked

175g (6oz) soft brown sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel (see recipe)

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3 inch)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

Cook in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins vary in intensity of flavour, some are much stronger than others so you may need to add some extra stock or milk. I sometimes add a can of coconut milk with delicious results.

Serves 6-8

900g (2lbs) pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

175g (6oz) onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

25g (1oz) butter

1 sprig of thyme

450g (1lb) very ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock

salt, freshly ground pepper

pinch of nutmeg


35g (1 1/2oz) butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon white mustard seeds

5cm (2 inch) piece of cinnamon stick

Put the pumpkin or squash into a pan with the onion, garlic, butter and thyme. Cover and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chopped tomatoes, (add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sugar if using tinned tomatoes) and tomato purée and cook until dissolved into a thick sauce. Stir in the stock, salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and simmer until the squash is very tender. Discard the thyme stalk, then liquidise the soup in several batches and return to the pan. You may need to add a little more stock or water if the soup is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, gently reheat the soup and pour into a warm serving bowl. Heat the coriander, cumin and peppercorns, and crush coarsely. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and, when foaming, add the crushed spices, mustard seeds and cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds until the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove the cinnamon and quickly pour over the soup.  Serve, mixing the spiced butter as you ladle it out.

Black-eyed Bean, Pumpkin and Chickpea Stew

One of the very best vegetarian one-pot dishes. What’s not to like about black-eyed beans, chickpeas and pumpkin with lots of spices? Delicious on its own, but equally good with a roast chicken or a few lamb chops. Eat with flatbreads or pilaff rice, if you prefer.

Serves 6

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick

150g (5oz) onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

225g (8oz) fresh mushrooms, sliced approx. 3mm (1/8 inch) thick

450g (1lb) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut in 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes

400g (14oz) fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

a pinch of sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

450g (1lb) cooked black-eyed beans, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

225g (8oz) cooked chickpeas, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped coriander

For the Mint Yoghurt

300ml (10fl oz) natural yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for 5–6 seconds, then add the onions and garlic. Stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edges.  Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms wilt, then add the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, a pinch of sugar and the cayenne. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and tip in the drained beans and chickpeas. Add the salt and pepper, together with 2 tablespoons of coriander. Pour in 150ml (5fl oz) of bean cooking liquid and 150ml (5fl oz) of the chickpea liquid (or 300ml (10fl oz) vegetable stock if you’ve used tinned pulses). Return to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans and chickpeas are tender.

To make the mint yogurt, combine the yogurt with the chopped mint in a bowl.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan before serving and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a dollop of the mint yogurt. Accompany with a good green salad and rice, if you wish.

Salad of Roast Pumpkin with Pumpkin Seeds and Preserved Lemon

Serves 8-10

250g (9oz) dried cannellini beans

1 pumpkin (approximately 1.5kg/3lb 5oz)

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds, toasted

1 preserved lemon

rocket leaves


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

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

coriander leaves

Day Before

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.

Next Day

Drain and discard the water, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 30-50 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and deseed the pumpkin. Cut into 3-4cm (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inch) pieces. Transfer to a roasting tin. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven at 220˚C/425˚F/Gas Mark 7 for 20-25 minutes until tender. Allow to cool.

Toast the pumpkin seeds for 10-15 minutes in a moderate oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the flesh from the inside of the preserved lemon and discard. Cut the rind into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice.

Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Put the rocket leaves, beans and roast pumpkin into a wide, shallow serving dish. Scatter with preserved lemon. Drizzle with dressing, toss gently. Sprinkle with coriander leaves.  Scatter with pumpkin seeds.

Taste and correct seasoning. Divide between eight shallow bowls. Eat with lots of fresh pitta or crusty ciabatta.

Pumpkin Spice Cake 

Inspired by a recipe by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey and Co in the Weekend FT a few weeks ago.

190g  (scant 7oz) soft dark brown sugar

190g (scant 7oz) spelt flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground allspice, ground cardamom

50g (2oz) hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped

50g (2oz) rolled oats

100g (3 1/2oz) block dates, pitted and roughly chopped

50g (2oz) crystallised ginger, chopped

 250g (9oz) peeled pumpkin

2 large eggs

200g (7oz) melted butter of ghee (cooled)


25g (1oz) hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped

10g (scant 1/2oz) rolled oats

15g (generous 1/2oz) Demerara sugar

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8 inch) or makes 10-12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 170˚C (fan)/325˚F/Gas Mark 3.

Mix the topping ingredients together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Grate the pumpkin using a coarse grater, then add that and the rest of the cake ingredients to the bowl.  Mix well to combine, then transfer to a lined loaf tin.  Make sure to leave some room for the cake to grow about 2 – 3cm (3/4 – 1 1/4 inch) below the top.  Score with a butter knife down the middle of the cake. 

Sprinkle the topping all over the top of the cake, then pop into the oven to bake for approx. 1 1/4 hours, until springy to the touch (cover with parchment paper if the top is browning too quickly).

Allow to cool in the tin before removing…serve thickly sliced slathered with butter…

New York

So, I just spent a few days in New York to check out the post pandemic food scene.  It feels like the Big Apple is almost back to ‘normal’ whatever that might be.  Lines outside many restaurants and extra covered seating on the sidewalks alongside every eatery.

I’d come to New York to attend the launch of the Ballymaloe Desserts cookbook published by Phaidon at King on King Street, a wonderfully convivial fun event with delicious food cooked by Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Jess Shadbolt and her team of beautiful cooks.  JR Ryle magicked up a range of Ballymaloe desserts to recreate the much-celebrated Sweet Trolley – Pear and Walnut Meringue, Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly, Almond Tartlets with Autumn Raspberries and Mint, Poached Plums, Ballymaloe Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and of course Carrageen Moss Pudding with soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.  I almost forgot the pistachio langues du chat – the books disappeared like hot cakes – the recipes are well tried and tested so people can reproduce their favourites at home.

JR went on to Chicago and Toronto, but I stayed in New York to explore the food trends.  Some of my favourite restaurants have closed, others like Daily Provisions, Union Square Café and Il Buco Alimentari seem to have somewhat lost their mojo – New York establishments have the same staffing challenges as Ireland, UK and Europe have but new places continue to open.  Many are out in Brooklyn, I had a fantastically good meal in the Four Horsemen on Grand Street and add Hart’s to your New York list too, it was fun to find Phoebe Fry, another Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni in the kitchen there.  Buvette in the West Village is just as good as ever, I go there for breakfast every time I go to New York and was not disappointed.  A superb short menu, delicious freshly squeezed juices and perhaps the best tart tatin I ever tasted.  All of Jody Williams and Rita Sodi restaurants are work seeking out – I Sodi and Via Carota but I wanted to try their newest venture, The Commerce Inn, a Shaker inspired early American tavern with farmhouse cooking – I loved the food.  Veal tongue with cabbage, dripping toast with mince, a dark sticky ginger cake and rice pudding…The decor is simple, elegant and soothing, unlike most New York restaurants where the throbbing music makes it virtually impossible to have a conversation unless you can lip read.

A highlight of my trip was a journey upstate along the Hudson River through the dazzling autumn colours to Stissing House owned by Clare de Boer of King in New York.  This place is a real gem – an utterly beautiful old ruin built in 1782 that has had many incarnations.  The décor is simple Shaker style, white painted walls, fine dark furniture, no nonsense just plain, restful old luxury.  We had what can only be described as a perfect lunch, a plate of home cured ham, smoked in the wood-burning oven, slivers of cheese and house made pickles with really good sourdough bread and homemade butter followed by the best onion tart I’ve ever eaten and a coconut cake to die for with a full inch of whipped cream and toasted coconut on top. 

Pastry Chef Suzanne Nelson worked with Alice at Chez Panisse for many years and how fortunate are the folks of Pine Plains to have that gem in their area.  Seek out La Cabra on 2nd Avenue for superb coffee, bread and viennoiserie.  Bar Pisellino is another name for your list and here are two more that I didn’t manage to get to but wish I had. Dame in Greenwich Village is particularly known for its fried hake and chips and now Lords located at 506 LaGuardia Place, Ed Szymanski’s newest venture is more meat centric and includes pigs’ trotters and hocks, a pig’s head terrine with piccalilli, black pudding with clams and braised tripe with cipollini, offal heretofore, abhorred by most Americans is very much in evidence on cool restaurant menus as is skate or ray, a new experience for many New Yorkers.  There’s also a nostalgic thing going on, several menus including Cervo’s featured trifle…

Everything scone and everything bagel is also ‘a thing’ as is the jelly revival.  I tasted a particularly delicious blackcurrant and red wine version at Stissing House. 

Cocktails are becoming ever more exciting, lots of Mescal natural wines are on all good restaurant lists and there’s a dramatic increase in choice of non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails.  Butter boards, cream cheese and cured meat boards are everywhere.

The rye bread at La Cabra was so good that I actually brought a loaf home in my suitcase along with miche and rye from She Wolf Bakery in the Union Square Farmers’ Market, it weighs a ton but is so good.  Okra is also having a moment and pumpkin is in absolutely everything – well, it is Fall after all..

Loved my few days in New York, here are a few recipes for you to enjoy. 

Grilled Flatbread with Pimento Butter and Marjoram

Inspired by the grilled bread that I enjoyed at the Four Horsemen in Brooklyn, New York. 

Makes 8

flatbread (see recipe)

110g (4oz) soft butter

1/2 – 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika

1 tablespoon annual marjoram, chopped plus extra for sprinkling

flaky sea salt

First make the dough (see recipe).

Now for the pimento butter. 

Cream the soft butter in a bowl, add the smoked paprika and chopped annual marjoram.

Cook the flatbread (see recipe).

Brush the warm flat bread with the soft pimento butter.  Sprinkle with a few leaves of fresh marjoram and some flaky sea salt.

Serve immediately. 

Turkish Flatbread

There are so many delicious flat breads that one can make. This Turkish version called Yufka is a favourite of ours. 

Makes 8

110g (4oz) strong white flour

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8fl oz) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.  Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes. 

Ballymaloe Ginger Ice Cream with Honeycomb

Also inspired by a ginger and honeycomb ice cream from the Four Horsemen in Brooklyn. 

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks

90g (scant 3 1/2oz) sugar

200ml (7fl oz) water

25g (1oz) grated ginger

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

6 pieces of stem ginger, chopped finely

2 tablespoons syrup from the jar


Honeycomb (see recipe)

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

Continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.   Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

After one hour, fold in the finely chopped ginger and the syrup.  Return to the freezer, chill until firm.

Meanwhile, make the honeycomb (see recipe).

When absolutely cold and hard, grate a chunk on the coarsest part of the grater.  Scoop out a ball of ice cream.  Serve in an iced silver coupe.  Sprinkle generously with grated honeycomb and serve. 


Fun and easy to make – like magic, honeycomb has multiple uses – ice cream, cake decorations, petit fours, garnish…

Makes about 500 g (1lb 2oz)

85g (3 1/4oz) good quality local honey

180g (6 1/4oz) liquid glucose

400g (14oz) castor sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

15g (3/4oz) bicarbonate of soda

1 deep rectangular tin – 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch)

parchment paper or silpat mat

First loosen the honey and glucose syrup by dipping their containers in warm water, then weigh out into your saucepan.  Then add the sugar and water and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.   Gradually raise the temperature of the pan’s contents to 150°C (300°F). 

Carefully sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda into the pan.  The contents will fizz up like lava from the underworld, but don’t be alarmed, this is what puts the tiny air bubbles into the honeycomb.  Stir the mixture to make sure all the powder is incorporated, then pour it out onto your silicone sheet (or baking tray).  Leave to set for at least 30 minutes, then break the brittle mass into small pieces.

Use as required but put the remainder into a sealed glass jar or it will pick up moisture from the air and become sticky. 

Coconut Angel Cake

This coconut cake was inspired by a delicious confection that I enjoyed at Stissing House in Pine Place, upstate New York made by pastry chef Suzanne Nelson.  This version is not quite as light as hers, but we all love it here.

50g (2oz) soft butter

110g (4oz) caster sugar

150ml (5fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

150g (5oz) flour

2 egg whites

75g (3oz) desiccated coconut

40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) desiccated coconut

425ml (15fl oz) softly whipped cream

2-3 tablespoons icing sugar

20.5cm (8 inch) round cake tin, greased and lined

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

Cream the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy, gradually stir in the milk and mix until smooth.  Combine the baking powder and a pinch of salt with the flour and coconut and gently beat into the butter mixture.

Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl until they hold a stiff peak. Lightly fold into the mixture.  

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm and beginning to shrink in from the edge of the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, toast 40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) of coconut on a dry pan over a low to medium heat, stirring constantly until golden.  Turn out onto a plate to cool. 

When the cake is cold, sweeten the whipped cream with sieved icing sugar.  Taste and add a little more if necessary.  Spread a really generous layer of sweet cream on top of the cake. Suzanne’s cake had about 2.5cm (1 inch) of cream sprinkled with toasted coconut on top.  Sounds scary but it was totally delicious.     

Walnut Meringue Gâteau with Pears

Taken from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall published by Phaidon

This meringue gâteau is a very useful way to serve fresh fruit as an elegant dessert. The walnut in the meringue encourages the ripe pear to taste its best, and of course if you are eating meringue, you must also have cream.

Pears are tricky to grow, tricky to ripen and tricky to catch at the perfect moment! There are many pear trees at Ballymaloe and they grow well against the comfort of a south facing wall. The best and most useful of these pears are the later varieties, which can be stored into the winter and bring a freshness to the dessert trolley during these months. Josephine de Malines is one of the newer additions to our garden and is harvested in late October; it crops well and the fruit stores well, and the pears are very beautiful. Whichever variety of pear you choose, it is important to use fragrant and ripe fruit in this dish.

Serves 6

For the Meringue 

2 large egg whites

110g (4oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

To Assemble and Decorate

2 ripe dessert pears

225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream

5 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 130°C/265°F/Gas Mark 1.

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper and, with a pencil, draw out two 19cm (7 1/2 inch) diameter circles on the paper. Flip the paper over so the pencil is on the underside.

To Make the Meringue

Check that the bowl of your electric stand mixer is dry, spotlessly clean and free from grease. Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.

Fold in the chopped walnuts and, using the drawn-on circles as a guide, evenly spread onto the baking sheet in two circles.

Bake for about 1 hour, until crisp and set. When the meringue is cooked it will lift easily away from the baking paper. Allow to cool completely.

To Assemble and Decorate
Put one of the meringue circles on a serving plate. Peel the pears, remove the core and slice into 1cm (1/2 inch) wide pieces. Spread or pipe most of the whipped cream over the meringue and arrange the slices of pear on top of the cream. Put the second circle of meringue on top and lightly press down. Decorate the top with rosettes of the remaining cream and the walnut halves.

Venice (Marcella Hazan)

Just spent a couple of days in Venice, I’ve been before but I’d forgotten just how magical it is.  I arrived late in the evening having taken a fast train across the top of Italy from Turin where I had been attending the Slow Food Salone del Gusto Terra Madre event.  This spontaneous visit came about because I was invited to participate in a documentary on the life of Marcella Hazan, an Italian cook who was deeply influential in my early career.  The year before the Ballymaloe Cookery School was established in 1983, I travelled to Bologna in Italy to take a weeklong course with Marcella to learn how to make handmade pasta, ragu, risotto zuccotto…

It was from Marcella that I first heard about balsamic vinegar and learned that olive oil was not just for earaches…!

Later in 1992, I invited her to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and took a RTE crew to film a Simply Delicious Program in Venice.  Eventually in her later years, she and her husband Victor moved to Longboat Quay in Florida where I also visited them there.  The friendship spanned over several decades, and I still cook and pass on many of the recipes that Marcella taught me to the students here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Despite being one of the most enchanting cities in the world, really good food is difficult to find in Venice and even more difficult on a Monday when many restaurants, shops and some museums are closed. 

During that action packed week in Italy with Marcella in the 1980’s, I had several eureka moments.  One occurred in the Rialto Market in Venice on the edge of the Grand Canal.  As we wandered through the stalls piled high with the most beautiful fresh vegetables, perfectly ripe berries and stone fruit.  I noticed that often there were two options, tomatoes, peaches, zucchini – the more expensive option always seemed to have nostrale or nostrana on the sign.  I was curious about this special place where all the choicest produce seems to come from….  I spoke no Italian…I tried to enquire from the stall holders, eventually one told me impatiently that nostrana or nostrale was not a place but meant local. At a time in Ireland when local was still actually regarded as a derogatory term, this was baffling…. why then I asked was it more expensive…

The stallholder was totally exasperated by the question.  He explained in broken English… Because it’s from the lagoon area, it’s fresher, better… of course it’s more expensive (as though I was an imbecile). 

It was a lightbulb moment… Of course, it should be more expensive…this was at a time when customers in Ireland would expect to pay less for beautiful eggs or freshly picked fresh apples if they were local…

Can you imagine how wonderful that everything has come full circle.  Local is now the sexiest word in food and the coolest term on menus, although it has to be said that many more restaurants talk the talk than walk the walk…. 

I had a particularly delicious meal at Da Fiori. Maurizio and Mara Martin’s Michelin starred restaurant with a little balcony on the edge of the canal where gondolas glide past. Their son, Damiano has now joined them. Mara specializes in beautiful, freshly caught fish and shellfish from the lagoon, simply cooked and packed with flavour.  There’s another reason to try to get to Venice before the end of November – the 59th International Biennale Art Exhibition – cinema, dance, theatre…Check out Al Cova. Alla Testiere, and Da Arturo also… and don’t miss the Rialto Market… 


I’ve been told that if you want to make your way to an Italian man’s heart it is essential to be able to make a good ragu.

It is a wonderfully versatile sauce – the classic Bolognese sauce for Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, indispensable for lasagne, and also delicious with polenta and gnocchi not to be confused with the well-known brand of the same name.  I have been making Marcella Hazan’s version for many years from her Classic Italian Cookbook (a book you would do well to seek out).  It is the most delicious and concentrated one I know.  Marcella says it should be cooked for several hours at the merest simmer but I find you get a very good result with 1 – 1 1/2 hours cooking on a diffuser mat.  Ragu can be made ahead and freezes very well.

Serves 6

45g (1 1/2oz) butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

2 tablespoons carrot, finely chopped

350g (12oz) minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck


300ml (10fl oz) dry white wine

110ml (4fl oz) milk

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 x 400g (14oz) tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice.

small casserole

In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well. Heat the butter with the oil and sauté the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy.)

Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.  Turn the heat down to medium, add in the milk and the freshly grated nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring every now and then. Next add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down to the very lowest so that the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer – just an occasional bubble. I use a heat diffuser mat for this.

Cook uncovered for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours (better still 2 or even 3 hours), depending on how concentrated you like it, stirring occasionally. If it reduces too much add a little water and continue to cook. When it is finally cooked, taste and correct seasoning. Because of the length of time involved in cooking this, I feel it would be worthwhile to make at least twice the recipe.

Marcella Hazan’s Pappardelle or Noodles with Chicken Liver Sauce

It was Marcella Hazan who first introduced me to classic Italian cooking, she became a legend in her lifetime.  This recipe is one of my favourites from her Classic Italian Cookbook.

Serves 4

225g (8oz) fresh chicken livers

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

25g (1oz) butter

50g (2oz) diced pancetta, or prosciutto (I use unsmoked streaky bacon)

2 tablespoons chopped shallot or onion

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh sage

110g (4oz) minced lean beef

6-8 twists freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon concentrated tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons dry white vermouth

300g (10oz) pappardelle or fresh noodles

To serve

freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

Wash the chicken livers well, trim off any fat or traces of green and cut each lobe into 3 or 4 pieces.  Dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the diced streaky bacon and fry gently until it begins to crisp, then remove to a plate.  Add the butter and sauté the onions over a medium heat until translucent, add the garlic, stir 2 or 3 times, add back in the bacon and the sage leaves, then add the minced meat, crumbling it with a fork, and cook until it has lost its red raw colour.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken livers. Stir and cook until they have lost their raw colour, add the tomato puree and vermouth and cook for 8-10 minutes. Taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle or noodles until al dente in boiling salted water – 4.5 litres (8 pints) to 1 tablespoon of salt.  If they are fresh, they will only take seconds after the water comes back to the boil.

The moment the pasta is drained, transfer to a warm dish, add the sauce (and a couple of tablespoons of pasta water if necessary – it should be moist and juicy).  Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.  Add a little grated Parmesan if desired.  This sauce is also delicious served with risotto.

Marcella Hazan’s Tortellini with Parsley and Ricotta and Sauce Alfredo

Also delicious served with Sage Butter (see recipe).

Serves 4-6

20g (3/4oz) finely chopped parsley, flat parsley

250g (9oz) fresh ricotta

100g (3 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


225g (8oz) “00” white flour

pinch of salt

1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon olive oil

To Cook

4.5 litres (8 pints) water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon salt


150ml (5fl oz) double cream

3 tablespoons butter

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

First make the pasta dough.

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

Combine all the filling ingredients, parsley, ricotta, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, egg yolk and nutmeg – in a mixing bowl and mix well with a fork.  Check seasoning, then set aside.

Roll out the pasta as thinly as you possibly can.   Stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) rounds, stuff and fold the circle in half to form a half moon.

Bring the water, containing 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then drop in the tortellini.

While the tortellini are cooking, choose an enamelled cast iron or other flameproof dish that will later hold all the tortellini without stacking them too high.  Put in half the cream and all the butter, and simmer over moderate heat for less than a minute, until the cream and butter have thickened. Turn off the heat.

Fresh tortellini are done within 5 minutes after the water returns to the boil, while dry tortellini may take 15-20 minutes.  When done – they should be firm, but cooked throughout -transfer them  with a large, slotted spoon or colander to the pan containing the cream and butter and turn the heat on to low. Turn the tortellini to coat them all with the cream and butter sauce (add a little pasta water if necessary).  Add the rest of the cream and all the grated cheese and continue turning the tortellini until they are evenly coated and all the cream has thickened. Serve immediately from the same pan, with an extra bowl of grated cheese.

Sage Butter

110g (4oz) butter

32 – 40 sage leaves

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the sage leaves and keep on the heat until they just start to crackle.  Pour over the pasta – it should lightly coat the pasta.

Chicken Roast with 2 Lemons

This recipe, given to me by Marcella Hazan when I did a cookery course with her in Bologna in 1982, is the simplest most delicious roast chicken recipe I know – no fat, no basting, no stuffing.

Serves 4

1 x 1.35-1.8kg (3-4lbs) free-range organic chicken


freshly ground black pepper

2 small organic lemons

trussing needle and string

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Wash the chicken thoroughly with cold water. Remove any bits of fat from around the vent end. Drain the chicken well and dry thoroughly with a tea towel or kitchen paper.

Rub the salt and freshly ground black pepper with your fingers over all the body and into the cavity. Wash the lemons well and dry them with a tea towel, roll on the counter and prick each of the lemons in at least 20 places with a cocktail stick or skewer.

Put both lemons in the cavity. Close up the opening with cocktail sticks or with a trussing needle and string. Don’t make it absolutely airtight or the chicken may burst!

Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast side down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is  self-basting, so don’t worry it won’t stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken breast side up. Be careful not to puncture the skin. 

Cook for another 30-35 minutes then increase the heat to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further additional 20 minutes. Calculate between 20-25 minutes total cooking time for each 450g (1lb). There is no need to turn the chicken again.

Bring the chicken to the table whole, garnished with sprigs flat parsley and leave the lemons inside until it is carved. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious, so be sure to spoon them over the chicken  slices. The lemons will have shrivelled up but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze, they may squirt.

Serve immediately.

One Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

I’m just the biggest fan of Jamie’s – I don’t even need to write Oliver – you all know who I mean. 

I was first introduced to Jamie by the late Rose Gray of the River Café in London in the early 1980s.

When I raved about the exquisite lunch, a sublime spinach rotolo I had just eaten, Rose brought me into the kitchen to introduce the young chef with tousled hair and a mischievous grin who had cooked my lunch, saying, ‘Watch this boy, he’s going to go far…’

A few months later in 1999 Jamie hit our TV screens with his first series, The Naked Chef, it caused a sensation and suddenly it was ‘pukka’ rather than naff for young lads and lasses to cook. Soon after the series, the cook book The Naked Chef (which he wrote when he was 18), flew off the shelves, it sold over 1.2 million copies by the end of the year 2,000.

Jamie was on a mission….

In 2002 he established the Fifteen Foundation, a program that gave underprivileged youths the opportunity to experience a career in the culinary industry at his Fifteen Restaurant in London.

Jamie then turned his attention to the shocking quality of school dinners and the TV series Jamie’s School Dinners documented the challenges he faced training a group of school cafeteria workers but helped to launch the overwhelmingly successful Feed Me Better. 

On and on he went urging Governments both here, and in the US to feed our children healthy wholesome food. Jamie Magazine and twenty-five restaurants followed…

Sadly in 2019 the whole of the Jamie Oliver group became insolvent – a bruising experience for all concerned. Jamie may have lost a fortune but not his vision and capacity for hard work. His absolute passion to fight childhood obesity remains undimmed and has led to the UK Government’s new obesity strategy which he hopes will include banning junk food advertising.

There is so much more about this chap who started out as a special-needs kid in school and went on to write 30 cookbooks and to sell over 15 million.

But this article is to tell you about Jamie’s new book,  One, Simple One-Pan Wonders. It’s a cracker, as Jamie might say in his ever-punchy parlance. It’s packed with budget friendly recipes that you can rustle up any time.  Meals to get novice cooks started minimum prep and washing up, big on flavour, all cooked in just one pan or tray. This may well be Jamie’s most user-friendly cookbook and that’s saying something from an ‘aged’ fan girl.

Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite…

‘One, Simple One-Pan Wonders’ by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Michael Joseph

Buddy’s Pasta Bake

Broccoli, cheesy sauce and garlic bread crispy bits.

Serves 8

2 heads of broccoli – 375g (13oz) each

4 cloves garlic

1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) semi-skimmed milk

100g (3 1/2oz) baby spinach

100g (3 1/2oz) Cheddar cheese

500g (18oz) dried pasta shells

100g (3 1/2oz) garlic bread

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

Cut off and discard the tough ends of the broccoli stalks, trim the green florets into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces and put aside, then roughly chop all the remaining stalks and place in a food processor. Peel and add the garlic, then blitz until fine. Place a large shallow casserole pan on a medium heat. Once hot, go in with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the chilli flakes, to taste. As soon as they start to sizzle, tip in the blitzed broccoli stalks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of milk. Pour the remaining 500ml (18fl oz) of milk into the processor with the spinach and crumble in the cheese (I wanted this to be healthy, but now’s the time to add the extra cheese if you want it more indulgent). Blitz until smooth, pour into the pan, then bring to the boil and season to perfection. Stir the broccoli florets and pasta shells into the sauce and boil for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Tear the garlic bread into the processor (there’s no need to clean it first) and blitz into crumbs. Sprinkle over the pasta bake and transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Delicious served with a fresh green salad.

Seasonal Swaps

Go festive and swap out the broccoli for Brussels sprouts – blitz half for the sauce and quarter the rest to add with the pasta. Embrace Christmas cheese board cheeses and try a cheeky crumbling of chestnuts in the garlic bread crispy bits.

Tender Glazed Lamb Shanks

Sweet peppers, new potatoes, olives, garlic and parsley.

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks – roughly 400g (14oz) each

1 bulb of garlic

6 mixed-colour peppers

1 lemon

800g (1lb 12oz) baby new potatoes

8 black olives, stone in

1 teaspoon runny honey

half bunch of flat-leaf parsley – 15g (3/4oz)

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Place a large deep casserole pan on a high heat. Season the lamb shanks with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then fry in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turning until browned all over. Meanwhile, halve the unpeeled garlic bulb across the middle and tear up the peppers into big chunks, discarding the seeds and stalks. Add both to the pan, then use a speed-peeler to add the lemon peel in strips. Go in with the potatoes, halving any larger ones, then squash, de-stone and add the olives, also stirring in a splash of liquor from their jar. Mix together well, cover, then transfer to the oven for 1 hour. Mix up again, and cook uncovered for another hour, or until the lamb is tender.

Remove from the oven. Mash the soft garlic cloves into the stew, discarding the skins, then season to perfection with salt, pepper and a thimble of red wine vinegar. Brush the honey over the lamb, then pick over the parsley leaves and serve.

Go Veggie

Simply swap the lamb for quarters of scrubbed celeriac, treating it in exactly the same way, and chuck in a jar of drained chickpeas.

Rosemary Roast Chicken

Sweet leeks, garlic, cider, butter beans, crème fraîche and Stilton.

Serves 4

1kg (2 1/4lbs) mixed chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on, bone in

3 cloves of garlic

3 leeks

3 sprigs of rosemary

250ml (9fl oz) nice cider

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of butter beans

30g (1 1/4oz) Stilton cheese

3 tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚/Gas Mark 4.

Put the chicken into a large cold shallow casserole pan and place on a high heat. Fry for 10 minutes, or until golden all over, turning regularly, while you peel and finely slice the garlic, and wash, trim and very finely slice the leeks. Pick and roughly chop the rosemary leaves, then add to the pan with the garlic and leeks, season with sea salt and black pepper, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to soften slightly. Make sure the chicken is skin side up, then pour in the cider, half drain and add the beans, and roast for 45 minutes or until the chicken pulls easily away from the bone.

Move the pan to a medium-high heat on the hob. Bomb in the little nuggets of Stilton and add the crème fraîche. Mix well, simmer for just a few minutes, then you’re ready to serve. I like it just as it is, or with a side of steamed greens.

Toffee Apple Buns

Soft and sticky with vanilla and cinnamon

Serves 12

500g (18oz) strong bread flour

1 x 7g (1/4oz) sachet of dried yeast

100g (3 1/2oz) dried apple slices

4 eating apples

1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

100g (3 1/2oz) Demerara sugar, plus extra for dusting

100g (3 1/2oz) soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

Mix the flour and 1 level teaspoon of sea salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

In a jug, mix the yeast into 300ml (10fl oz) of lukewarm water and leave for a few minutes. Now, gradually pour the mixture into the well, bringing in the flour from the outside to form a dough. Knead on a flour-dusted surface, picking the dough up and slapping in back down, for 10 minutes, or until smooth and springy. Lightly oil the bowl, sit the dough back in, cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Finely chop the dried apple. Peel, quarter, core and finely slice the fresh apples. In a bowl, scrunch all the apples with the cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. Stretch the dough out on an oiled work surface to 30cm x 50cm (12 inch x 20 inch). Evenly spread over the soft butter, scatter over the sugared apples and drizzle over any juices. Starting from the long side closest to you, roll the dough up into an apple-filled sausage. Slice into 12 equal pieces. Generously butter the inside of a 28cm (11 inch) non-stick ovenproof frying pan and dust with a little sugar. Sit the rolls in the pan, swirl side up, cover with a clean damp towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚/Gas Mark 4.

Dust the buns with a little sugar and bake at the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and sticky. Turn out onto a board and serve.


We’re right bang in the middle of the Irish apple season and for some varieties it’s a bumper season- we’ve got so many, we can scarcely cope…..
There are big baskets brimming with apples in the hall of the cookery school with a sign saying ‘Delicious Home-grown Apples – Help Yourself’.
So many different old-fashioned varieties, the sort one can never find in a supermarket – Strippy, Irish Pitcher, Egremont Russet, Ard Cairn Russet, Pig’s Snout, Pitmaston Pineapple,  Ballinora Pippen…
We make every effort to pick up all the windfalls.

If like me you can’t bear to see the apples rotting on the ground, how about some ideas for using up a glut.  You’ll want to share some with your friends and if you have a Ukrainian refuge close by, a basket, brimming with apples will be warmly welcomed and you can share recipes, maybe discover the secret of a favourite Ukrainian apple tart.
So where to start?

You can juice, purée, pickle, dry, make jams and jellies or of course a myriad of chutneys and pies. Let’s start with juice. Homemade apple juice is infinitely tastier than any commercial variety – you’ll need a juicer. (Juice extractor). If you fancy making cider maybe invest in a traditional apple press and share with friends.  How fun would that be?
Freshly pressed juice will keep for a day or two in the fridge in dark sterilised bottles or it can be frozen. We use recycled litre milk containers. Don’t fill completely to the top to allow for expansion during freezing. They’ll stack neatly in a freezer. Alternatively, pasteurise the juice but it will lose its fresh flavour and many of its nutrients.
Dried apples slices make a terrific nibble. Kids love them and you may find yourself munching one or two instead of chocolate when you are hankering for something sweet.
Choose dessert apples, don’t even bother to peel. Just core and slice thinly. Dip them in a solution of freshly squeezed lemon juice and water and maybe a little honey to stop them oxidising.
One can dry apples in several ways:
Lay the dipped slices in a single layer on a wire rack over a baking tray.  Pop in a fan oven at the lowest heat, fan 50˚C or not more than 100˚C. Flip over after an hour and continue until dry. Store in cellophane bags. Alternatively, use a dehydrator, Nisbets, Lakeland or Amazon have them. They are a brilliant bit of Kitchen kit and can be used for drying everything from rose petals to orange or pineapple slices, mushrooms, jerky…it may also be worth trawling through eBay for a second-hand bargain.
Stewed apple or apple purée is a brilliant standby and can be used in a myriad of different ways. I love icy cold stewed apple with a dribble of Jersey cream. It brings childhood memories whooshing back and who doesn’t love stewed apples and custard and of course baked apples.  Make a delicious, puréed apple sauce and freeze in small containers to serve with roast duck or a pork chop.

How about making apple leather.  Just spread a thin layer of not too sweet apple purée onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cook as above in a fan oven at the lowest temperature or not higher than 80˚C. I do mine in the coolest oven of my ancient Aga. Leave it overnight and it will peel easily off the parchment. Next day, roll it up in parchment and store in an airtight tin – another irresistible nibble.
You might like to try this apple and cinnamon vodka too, you could gift it to a friend for Christmas but not sure you’ll have it that long…
Here’s a recipe for an apple and tomato chutneywe love and an apple and rosemary tart and don’t forget about apple jelly – a brilliant way to use up every last windfall apple and whatever wild berries you can find – elderberries, sloes, haws, blackberries, japonica, medlars…(See my column of 10th September for the recipe).
Enjoy the glut but try not to waste a single bit of nature’s bounty.
Check out my Forgotten Skills Book published my Kyle Books for lots and lots of recipes and suggestions…

Apple and Tomato Chutney

There are a million recipes for tomato chutney. This is definitely one of the best and has the advantage of using up a glut of windfall apples as well.

Makes 12 x 450g (1lb) pots

3.6kg (8lbs) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) onions, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled and chopped

925g (2lbs 1oz) sugar

850ml (scant 1 1⁄2 pints) white malt vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons ground black pepper

3 teaspoons allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

350g (12oz) sultanas

Prepare all the ingredients and put into a large, wide stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to the boil. Simmer steadily, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until reduced by one-third and slightly thick. Pot in sterilised jars, cover with non-reactive lids and store in a cool, dry place.

Bramley Apple and Rosemary Pan Cake

Try this combination of apple and fresh rosemary, I think you’ll love it … you could add a little chopped rosemary to the softly whipped cream to for extra oomph…. 

Serves 10 – 12

150g (5oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) water

600g (1 1/4lbs) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 7mm (1/3 inch) slices

150g (5oz) soft butter

175g (6oz) sugar

200g (7oz) self-raising flour

generous pinch of salt

3 eggs, free-range and organic

1-2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

1 x 25cm (10 inch) stainless-steel sauté pan or a cast iron frying pan

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Put the sugar and water into the pan.  Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until the sugar caramelizes to golden brown (if the caramel is not dark enough the tart will be too sweet).

Meanwhile arrange the peeled and sliced apples in a pretty pattern over the caramel…. Careful not to burn your fingertips… Use a fork to place the apples so as not to touch the caramel.

Put the butter, sugar, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.   Whizz for a second or two, add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together, add the chopped rosemary and whizz for a second.  Add milk to soften the mixture.  

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.   The centre should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan.   Allow to rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out.   Serve with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar…. 

Brambly Apple and Sweet Geranium Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking. 

450g (1lb) cooking apples, (Brambley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

Peel, quarter and core the apples, cut pieces in two and put in a small stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan, with the sugar, water and sweet geranium, cover and put over a low heat, as soon as the apple has broken down, stir and taste for sweetness. Serve warm with the pork and gravy.

Apple Tarte Tatin

The ultimate French apple tart. The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century.  They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph – soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath.  It is unquestionably my favourite French tart! One can buy a special copper tatin especially for this tart.

Serves 6-8

1.24kg (2 3/4lbs) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples

175g (6oz) puff pastry or rich sweet shortcrust pastry

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

210g (7 1/2oz) castor sugar

a heavy 20.5cm (8 inch) tatin mould or copper or stainless-steel sauté pan with low sides

Preheat the oven to 220˚C/425˚F/Gas Mark 7 for puff pastry.  For shortcrust 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

First, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan.  Prick it all over with a fork and chill until needed.

Peel, halve and core the apples.  Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour.  Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side.  Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Hold your nerve otherwise it will be too pale.  Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.

Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the edges.  Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft, 25-30 minutes approx.  For puff pastry reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 after 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like.  Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate.  (Watch out – this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out).  Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.


Pear Tarte Tatin

Substitute pears for apples in the above recipe.

Apple and Cinnamon Vodka

Fill a sterilised glass jar with chopped apples, add a couple of cinnamon sticks and 200-250g (7-9oz) sugar depending on the variety of apple.  Cover in vodka, seal, shake and allow to infuse for 4-14 days. Strain and pour into sterilised bottles, cover tightly and enjoy over ice or with tonic water.


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