ArchiveFebruary 2023

Bored of Lunch – The Healthy Slow Cooker Book

How about this…. Top of the best seller charts in Ireland for the past few weeks has been a cookbook ‘Bored of Lunch – The Healthy Slow Cooker Book’, written by social media sensation, Nathan Anthony. It’s really worth pricking up your ears when a cookbook is giving Prince Harry’s publishing sensation, ‘Spare’, a run for its money….
What’s going on? It’s quite simple, Nathan Anthony who has over a million followers on social media has just written the cookbook that the millions of people who work long hours and need quick, easy recipes, have been desperately craving.
It’s a brilliant story, Nathan who comes from Portadown, started his blog in 2020 during the pandemic. He wanted to share the meals he was cooking in his own kitchen ‘to help people to cook healthier, more interesting meals at home’.
Nathan is anxious for people to know that he is not a trained chef, has never actually worked in the hospitality industry and neither does he have a background in nutrition. His career is in finance, in his day job, he’s a super, busy project manager in one of the largest companies in the UK, FTSE 100 but he absolutely loves to cook at home, and his food has certainly struck a chord.
Nathan’s recipes tick all the boxes, they are affordable, satisfying, flavourful, and overall, really quick and simple to make. A dream, come true for those who are trying to keep all the balls in the air, feed their family, healthy, nourishing food and are fed up of eating the same meals over and over again.
The book is flying off the shelves and bringing joy and fun to the many who feel they are just too busy to cook.… Bravo, Nathan.
He makes brilliant use of his slow cooker.  Most of the recipes are cost-effective and perfect for those who want to prepare meals for themselves and for the family for the week ahead. Most recipes are made with ingredients that you are likely to have in your pantry or are easy to source so you won’t have to go hunting in a deli or specialist shop.
Each recipe has a calorie count because that’s what he likes to keep track of himself.
It’s also worth noting that slow cookers use significantly less electricity than regular ovens and hobs, a not insignificant fact, in the midst of this cost of living crisis. However, if you don’t have a slow cooker, all of the recipes can of course be cooked in a regular saucepan on the stove and many are one pot dishes.
There’s much to choose from, weekday lunches and dinners, light meals, family, favourites, comfort food, feeding a crowd, and even a chapter on fakeaways….
Here are a few of Nathan’s recipes to tempt you.

Recipes from ‘Bored of Lunch – The Healthy Slow Cooker Book’ by Nathan Anthony, published by Ebury Press 

Chorizo, Carrot and Chilli Soup

I’m obsessed with chorizo and its smoky flavour enhances any dish.  Like all my soups, this could be made in a large saucepan on the hob – just bubble all the ingredients away for 25-30 minutes, then blitz until smooth. 

Serves 6 

170g (scant 6oz) chorizo, sliced

7 carrots, chopped (skin left on)

3 potatoes, chopped (skin left on)

1 red chilli, sliced 

3 garlic cloves, chopped 

1 tablespoon curry powder 

small handful of fresh coriander 

1.2 litres (2 pints) vegetable or chicken stock 

salt and pepper, to taste 

chilli flakes, to garnish

If you have the time, heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat on the hob, then place the chorizo in the pan and sear until browned on both sides.  If you’re in a hurry, just skip this step.

Reserving a few slices of chorizo for garnish, place all the ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and season to taste.  Cook on high for 3 hours, then blitz the soup with a handheld blender until smooth.  Garnish with the reserved chorizo and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. 

Honey Chilli Beef Noodles 

This is a quick and lean version of one of my favourite local Chinese takeaway dishes, and one of the most popular recipes I have ever shared with my online followers.

Serves 3

400g (14oz) beef steaks, thinly sliced 

4 tablespoons dark soy sauce 

5 tablespoons light soy sauce 

2 teaspoons rice vinegar 

5 garlic cloves, crushed 

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

3 tablespoons orange juice

4 tablespoons honey 

2 teaspoons chilli flakes

1 tablespoon cornflour, mixed to a paste with 1 tablespoon water 

1 red pepper, sliced 

200g (7oz) dried egg noodles

350ml (12fl oz) hot chicken stock

chopped spring onions and sesame seeds, to garnish 

Place all the ingredients, except the red pepper, noodles and stock, in the slow cooker and stir.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Add the red pepper, noodles and stock, stir and cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.  Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds.

Chicken and Peanut Curry

I adore anything with peanut butter in it.  The lime, chilli and curry powder give this dish a great flavour profile and the long, slow cooking makes the chicken taste even more incredible.  If you like a thicker sauce, add the optional cornflour paste in the ingredients.  Serve with rice.

Serves 3 

3 chicken breasts or 6 thighs, cut into chunks 

juice of 1 lime

4 tablespoons peanut butter 

handful of fresh coriander

4 garlic cloves, crushed 

1 tablespoon curry powder 

400ml (14fl oz) tin of reduced-fat coconut milk 

2 tablespoons soy sauce 

1 red bird’s eye chilli

1 tablespoon cornflour, mixed to a paste with 1 tablespoon water (optional)

salt and pepper, to taste 

chopped spring onions, chopped peanuts, chopped red chilli and fresh coriander, to garnish 

Place all the ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and season to taste.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7 hours. Garnish with spring onions, peanuts, chilli and fresh coriander.

Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry 

This gorgeous curry with chunks of sweet potato and comforting chickpeas has added sweetness from the mango chutney.  There is lots of sauce here, but you could add more veg and some vegetable stock to stretch it further. 

This goes great with rice, but the sweet potato makes this curry quite filling so you can just serve it on its own if you’d rather.

Serves 4 

400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes 

400ml (14fl oz) tin of reduced-fat coconut milk 

1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder 

1 tablespoon mango chutney 

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin 

1 tablespoon garam masala 

1 teaspoon honey 

4 garlic cloves, crushed 

3 large, sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks 

1 onion, sliced 

1 handful of spinach

1 teaspoon peanut butter

handful of fresh coriander, chopped 

400g (14oz) tin of chickpeas, drained 

salt and pepper, to taste 

extra fresh coriander, to garnish 

Place all the ingredients, except the chickpeas, in the slow cooker, stir and season to taste.  Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4-5 hours, then add the chickpeas and cook for another hour.  If it’s more convenient, you could add the chickpeas from the start, but they might lose some of their texture.  Garnish with extra coriander. 

Vegetarian Lasagne 

I aim for one Vegetarian day every week and when I’m craving pasta or something warming, this doesn’t disappoint.  I love lasagne and this veggie version is packed full of flavour after a long, slow cook.  I never say no to lasagne.  

This is a perfect midweek meal with garlic bread, salad and light coleslaw.

Serves 6 

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) pine nuts or other nuts 

3 x 400g (14oz) tins of chopped tomatoes 

1 tablespoon red pesto 

5 garlic cloves, crushed 

2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano 

1 tablespoon dried thyme 

1 tablespoon tomato purée 

1 courgette, finely chopped 

1 red pepper, finely chopped 

1 onion, finely chopped 

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

handful of fresh basil, chopped 

1 aubergine, sliced 

8 sheets of dried lasagne 

1-2 tablespoons basil pesto

100g (3 1/2oz) ricotta cheese (or extra Mozzarella)

100g (3 1/2oz) Mozzarella, shredded 

1 large tomato, sliced 

salt and pepper, to taste

Place the pine nuts, tinned tomatoes, red pesto, garlic, vegetable bouillon, herbs and tomato purée in a food processor and blitz for 15-20 seconds until the pine nuts are in small pieces but still have some texture.  Place the mixture in a mixing bowl, season to taste and add the courgette, red pepper, onion, mushrooms and fresh basil.  

Place one-third or the vegetable mixture in the slow cooker and top with one-third of the aubergine slices and one-third of the lasagne, breaking up the sheets to fit the pot.  Dot with one-third of the basil pesto, one-third of the ricotta and one-quarter of the Mozzarella.  Repeat the layers until the ingredients are used up, finishing with the remaining Mozzarella and the sliced tomato on top of the final layer of lasagne sheets.  

Cook on high for 4 hours.  If you have an ovenproof slow cooker pot, place it without the lid under a preheated grill for 10 minutes to create a golden crust on top.

Pancake Tuesday

There were many memorable moments at Ballymaloe House, but the following is certainly one of them.

“Myrtle, your hair is on fire…an alarmed guest exclaimed as Myrtle’s fringe went up in flames while she was enthusiastically flambéing crêpes beside their table. The guest jumped out of his chair and damped out the flames with a bunch of napkins and the water jug.  Drama in the dining room….

For many years, it was a timeless ritual to serve Crêpe Suzette on Shrove Tuesday. Many regular customers from earlier years will remember the matriarch, Myrtle wheeling the famous Ballymaloe House Sweet Trolley into the dining room with her copper chaffing dish, a pile of crêpes, the spirit stove, and a bottle of Cointreau and Grand Marnier. The delicious crêpe suzettes were made to order and Myrtle shared the recipe in the Ballymaloe Cookbook, first published in 1977 and still in print to this day. If you are fortunate to still have a copy of the first edition in hardback, treasure it, it’s a collectors’ item now.

Well here comes Shrove Tuesday once again (21st February), so I’ll share both Myrtle’s and my favourite recipe for pancake batter. I love, love, love pancakes, but doesn’t everyone? Super quick to make and such a brilliant standby, whisked together in minutes with ingredients that pretty much everyone has to hand, eggs, milk, flour, butter, caster sugar and a lemon for traditionalists. But why stop there, the possibilities for fillings are endless….

Pancake batter is magical stuff, it’s definitely one of my ‘great convertibles’. Even if you never held a whisk in your hand before, you can make a million variations by just changing the proportion of egg and flour to liquid. White flour can be substituted by buckwheat, chickpea, tapioca, spelt, rice flour….or a mixture. The liquid too can be varied coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, buttermilk, even oat milk. Sparkling water or soda water gives an even crisper batter. One can create dairy free, gluten free and vegan versions. Half milk half and water result in a lacier crepe. Use less liquid to make a thicker pancake. …buttermilk will produce a stack of fluffier American style pancakes for breakfast or brunch.

Pikelets and crumpets are all variations on the theme as are Dutch babies and Toad in the Hole, Yorkshire pudding and popovers.

Basic pancakes, as we always called the thin lacy crepes, were my “go to” recipe when the kids were little. The recipe was written inside the door of the kitchen cupboard and could be whizzed up in seconds while a pan was heating up on the Aga and a little butter softened on the side of the stove. The kids would line up to eat them in turns, hot off the pan slathered with butter, sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

We were pretty conservative then but now, so much more adventurous, chocolate spread and lots of roasted nuts, peanut butter and honey, homemade lemon curd and mascarpone, honey butter and of course savoury pancakes too.

Top Tips – Pancakes

  • Have your pan hot enough.
  • Add a few tablespoons of melted butter to the batter.
  • No need to grease the pan between crepes
  • Use half milk, half water for lacier pancakes

So why not plan a Shrove Tuesday pancake party and try some of these recipes.

Myrtle Allen’s Crêpes Suzette from the Ballymaloe Cookbook

Crêpes Suzette, the queen of the pancake family, is a party piece.  It cannot be served to too many people at once, so it’s served on the menu at Ballymaloe House around Shrove Tuesday, when oranges are at their best.

Serves 4

50g (2oz) flour

1 tablespoon oil

1 organic or free-range egg

1 organic or free-range egg yolk

2 teaspoons orange curaçao

150ml (5fl oz) milk

Orange Butter

225g (8oz) large ripe oranges

75g (3oz) softened butter

75g (3oz) caster sugar

To Finish

caster sugar



Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the centre.  Pour in the oil, egg, egg yolk and curaçao.  With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, stir in the egg mixture and gradually bring in the flour. Beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. Leave aside for 30 minutes. 

Next make the orange butter. 

Grate the rind of the oranges very carefully so as not to penetrate the white.  Add to the butter and sugar.  Cream vigorously until smooth.

Put a frying pan on a high heat.  Melt about 15g (1/2oz) orange butter in the pan.  When the butter is bubbling, pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly, swirling the batter around to get it even.  Loosen the crêpe around the edge, flip over with a spatula, cook for a second or two on the other side.  Fold into a fan shape and slide onto a hot plate. Repeat with the remaining pancakes. Sprinkle them with caster sugar.  Return the pancakes to the pan, pour over a little brandy and curaçao.  Set alight, keeping your face away from the flames.  Tilt the pan and spoon the juices over the pancakes until the flame subsides.  Serve immediately on hot plates with lots of softly whipped cream. 

Ballymaloe Cookery School Pancake Batter

This pancake recipe is almost as good as those Crêpes Suzette they used to serve with a great flourish in posh restaurants when I was a child. These crêpes are half the bother and can be made for a fraction of the cost.

Serves 6/Makes 12 approximately

Pancake Batter

175g (6oz) white flour, preferably unbleached

a good pinch of salt

1 dessertspoon caster sugar

2 large organic or free-range eggs and 1 or 2 egg yolks

scant 450ml (15fl oz) milk, or for very crisp, light delicate pancakes, milk and water mixed

3-4 dessertspoons melted butter

Sieve the flour, salt, and sugar into a bowl, make a well in the centre and drop in the lightly beaten eggs. With a whisk or wooden spoon, starting in the centre, mix the egg and gradually bring in the flour. Add the liquid slowly and beat until the batter is covered with bubbles. (If they are to be served with sugar and lemon juice, stir in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and the finely grated rind of half a lemon).

Let the batter stand in a cold place for an hour or so – longer will do no harm. Just before you cook the crêpes stir in 3-4 dessertspoons melted butter. This will make all the difference to the flavour and texture of the crêpes and will make it possible to cook them without greasing the pan each time.

Heat the pan until quite hot.  Grease the pan lightly with butter and pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan thinly.

* A small ladle can also be very useful for this, loosen the crêpes around the edge, flip over with a spatula or thin egg slice, cook for a second or two on the other side, and slide off the pan onto a plate. The crêpes may be stacked on top of each other and peeled apart later.  The greasing of the pan is only necessary for the first two or three pancakes.

They will keep in the fridge for several days and freeze perfectly. If they are to be frozen, it’s probably a good idea to put a disc of parchment paper between each for extra safety.

Note: If you have several pans, it is perfectly possible to keep 3 or 4 pans going in rotation. Only necessary if you need to feed the multitudes.

Serve with melted butter, caster sugar or whatever you fancy….

Dutch Babies

Another way to use batter delicious, I love this version of the famous Dutch baby which I enjoyed at Reynard restaurant in the Wyeth Hotel in Brooklyn.

Makes 4 

3 organic or free-range eggs

175ml (6fl oz) milk

75oz (3oz) all-purpose flour

salt to taste

3/4 tablespoon clarified butter


4 slices cooked ham or 8 slices of crispy bacon

75-110g (3-4oz) Gruyére cheese, grated

maple syrup (optional)

2 teaspoon thyme leaves

freshly ground pepper

We use a 25.5cm (10 inch) cast iron pan for ours.

Preheat an oven fully to 230°/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

Whisk all the ingredients together for the batter. Melt a scant tablespoon of clarified butter in each of the cast iron pans over a high heat, pour quarter of the batter into the very hot pan.  Transfer into the preheated oven, they will bubble up.   Reduce temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Cook for 8-10 minutes. Add a slice of cooked ham or slices of crispy bacon and a good sprinkle of grated Gruyére cheese.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the cheese melts. Slide onto a warm plate.

Drizzle with maple syrup (optional), sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Clarified Butter

Melt 225g (8oz) butter gently in a saucepan or in a Pyrex measure in a low oven 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Allow it to stand for a few minutes, then spoon the crusty white layer of salt particles off the top of the melted butter. Underneath this crust there is clear liquid butter which is called clarified butter. The milky liquid at the bottom can be discarded or used in a white sauce.

Clarified butter is excellent for cooking because it can withstand a higher temperature when the salt and milk particles are removed. It will keep covered in a refrigerator for several weeks.

Rachel’s Crumpets

Makes 12

110g (4oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 organic or free-range egg

110ml (4fl oz) whole milk

drop of sunflower oil, for greasing

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

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

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

Mini Mee’s

Kids of all ages love these…they can be fancied up with raspberries, apple purée or Kumquat Compote and cream.

Makes 50 – 60, enough to have a real feast!

4 organic or free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

25g (1oz) plain white flour

475ml (17fl oz) sour cream

2 – 3 tablespoons caster sugar

clarified butter or light oil

icing sugar for dusting

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender. Alternatively, put the eggs in a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Add the salt, sieved baking soda, flour, sour cream and sugar. Mix well.

Heat a frying pan until it is good and hot, add clarified butter to the pan and drop small spoonful’s of batter onto the pan – just enough to spread to an approximately 6cm (2 1/2 inch) round. When a few bubbles appear on the top of the pancakes flip them over and cook briefly.

Dust with icing sugar and enjoy.

Valentine’s Day

Brilliant – we’ve got through dreary January at last, celebrated St. Brigid’s Day and now it’s upwards and onwards and we’ve got St. Valentine’s Day just around the corner. Another excuse to paint the nails, pop on our glad rags and definitely a day to crack open a bottle of fizz.
 Doesn’t have to be Premier cru champagne, could be a prosecco or one of those sexy little Pet Nats that are all the rage.
There’s always a scramble for restaurant tables on the 14th of February but if you can’t snag a booking, don’t fret, you can always save up the treat for another night. Interestingly, this year several restaurants have told me that they are getting bookings for shared tables of 6 or 8 couple friends, wanting to celebrate and have fun together rather than whispering across a table for two…
However, for a celebratory experience, that’s truly special, nothing quite tops, a special home-cooked meal that’s designed to be delicious, comforting and chic.
Light the fire, lay the table and pop a few little flowers into a vase, you could go low-key or all out romantic with lots of cheesy hearts and red roses.
So, what will you cook?  Perhaps you already know your partner’s favourite dish, could be mac and cheese or even spaghetti Bolognese, which, according to Google, are among the top favourites for St. Valentine’s suppers.…!
It’s good to choose dishes, not too complicated that can be prepared ahead, finished off in a few minutes so you can serve the meal effortlessly and spend maximum time at the table rather than faffing around the cooker….
I know they are not everybody’s cup of tea but I love oysters, They are at their very best just now, plump and delicious, while there is still an R in the month plus they have a reputation for being an aphrodisiac…. It’s all that zingy zinc…..
Oysters are super easy to serve. I love them just as they are with a little squeeze of lemon juice, I’m not a fan of tabasco sauce with them but there are lots of good things to spoon onto oysters to enhance (or mask) the briny flavour, as you wish.
Here are two delicious options. Many people who don’t necessarily enjoy oysters au nature but love them when they are cooked. Here is the much-requested recipe for the Ballymaloe oysters with champagne sauce. This could be just the time to indulge, and the good news is the sauce can be prepared and the oysters opened ahead and kept in the fridge. Just pop under the grill to gratinate for a couple of minutes just before you serve them proudly with a flourish.
Some chaps love a juicy steak which sounds complicated to cook at the last minute, but actually you can slightly undercook a thick steak and leave it to rest on an upturned plate in a cool oven for 20 minutes or more. I love to serve it, thickly sliced over a bed of watercress or rocket leaves with lots of crispy potato wedges and a drizzle of Béarnaise sauce.
Alternatively, how about a tagine or a bubbly stew made several days ahead. It will just need to be heated up and popped into the centre of the table for sharing… It can also be a vegetarian or vegan version and all you’ll need is a little rice, couscous or potatoes depending on the dish. Better still, do a one pot version that includes the potatoes or pasta.
Shameless plug coming up…!  Check out Darina Allen is One Pot Feeds All for lots and lots of suggestions.
There are so many delicious romantic desserts, it might have to be something chocolatey… Alternatively, serve a kumquat compote with some unctuous vanilla bean ice cream and some little wood sorrel leaves from your walk in the woods…. and how about going all out with heart-shaped shortbread biscuits with a ‘subtle‘ message piped on top….cheesy but fun….
Here are a few options for you…

Ballymaloe Oysters with Champagne Sauce

Serves 2

8 rock or Japanese Oysters

Champagne Sauce

This sauce makes lots, but it is also excellent with baked fish, e.g. turbot, black sole and brill.

quarter bottle of Champagne or sparkling white wine

12g (1/2 oz) finely chopped shallot

2 large egg yolks

110g (4oz) of butter

150ml (5fl oz) whipped double cream

First make the champagne sauce.

Boil the champagne with the shallot, reducing to 1 tablespoon.  Remove from the heat and beat in the yolks.  Return to a very low heat and add the butter bit by bit as for Hollandaise sauce. When all the butter has melted, fold in the whipped cream.

Scrub the oysters well. 

Just before serving, put into a hot oven 250°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9 until they just start to open and release their juices. Using an oyster knife, remove and discard the top shell, place a little champagne sauce on top of each oyster and put under a hot grill until golden.  Serve immediately and garnish with frothy fennel and a lemon wedge.

Chargrilled Sirloin Steak with Crusty Potatoes and Béarnaise Sauce

An irresistible meal on a sharing plate, just tuck in and enjoy.

Serves 2

2 x 175g (6oz) sirloin or 1 rib steak 2 inch (5cm) thick

700g (1 1/2lbs) small potatoes

coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 bunches Rocket, watercress or mixed lettuces

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper

To prepare the steak, drizzle both sides with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile make the Béarnaise Sauce (see recipe).

Wash the potatoes, dry and rub with olive oil, (cut in half if large). Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the potatoes onto a baking sheet and roast at 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 until crusty and tender in the centre – about 35 minutes.

Put the rocket or watercress into a bowl. Mix the red wine vinegar with the olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange on a serving plate.

At the last minute, grill the steak over a charcoal fire or on a pan-grill, allow to relax for 5 minutes. Slice at an angle. Arrange the slices of steak over the salad and serve with Béarnaise Sauce.  Finally scatter on the potatoes.

* The flavour of chargrilled steak is wonderful, but an iron grill pan also gives a delicious result.

Béarnaise Sauce

The consistency of Béarnaise sauce should be considerably thicker than that of Hollandaise or Beurre Blanc, both of which ought to be a light coating consistency. If you do not have tarragon vinegar to hand, use a wine vinegar and add some extra chopped fresh French tarragon.

Serves 4–5

2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots

pinch of freshly ground pepper

1 organic egg yolk

50g (2oz) butter

1/2 tablespoon freshly chopped French tarragon leaves

Boil the first 4 ingredients together in a low sided, heavy-bottomed, stainless-steel saucepan until completely reduced and the pan is almost dry but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water immediately. Pull the pan off the heat and leave to cool for 1 or 2 minutes.

Using a coil whisk, whisk in the egg yolks and add the butter bit by bit over a very low heat, whisking all the time. As soon as one piece melts, add the next piece; it will gradually thicken. If it shows signs of becoming too thick or slightly scrambling, remove from the heat immediately and add a little cold water. Do not leave the pan or stop whisking until the sauce is made. Finally, add 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped French tarragon and taste for seasoning.

If the sauce is slow to thicken, it may be because you are excessively cautious, and the heat is too low. Increase the heat slightly and continue to whisk until all the butter is added and the sauce is a thick coating consistency. It is important to remember, however, that if you are making Béarnaise sauce in a saucepan directly over the heat, it should be possible to put your hand on the side of the saucepan at any stage. If the saucepan feels too hot for your hand it is also too hot for the sauce!

Another good tip if you are making Béarnaise sauce for the first time is to keep a bowl of cold water close by so that you can plunge the bottom of the saucepan into it if it becomes too hot.

Keep the sauce warm in a Pyrex bowl over hot but not simmering water or in a Thermos flask until you want to serve it.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine with Tomatoes and Honey

This wonderful Moroccan dish, which Claudia Roden made for us when she was guest chef at the school, derives its name from the tomatoes in which it cooks (there are mountains of them that reduce to a thick sauce) and from the honey, which comes in at the end.
It makes enough for six but there’s always tomorrow and it will reheat deliciously. 

Serves 6

6 organic, free-range chicken legs

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

225g (8oz) onions, diced

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

a pinch of saffron threads

1.3kg (3lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or tinned chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons honey

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


50g (2oz) blanched almonds, skinned and toasted

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

a few sprigs of coriander

Separate the drumsticks from the thighs and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil over a medium heat in a wide 25cm (10 inch)/3.2-litre casserole and add the onion, garlic and spices. Cook for a minute or two, stirring, and then add the tomatoes and chicken pieces. Cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 1 1/4 hours until the chicken is meltingly tender.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Return the tomato sauce to the hob and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the sauce thickens – it should be concentrated and unctuous. The colour will darken somewhat. Stir regularly to prevent the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan as the sugar in the tomatoes begins to caramelise. Add the honey. Return the chicken to the casserole to heat through.

Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a hot serving dish, spoon over the sauce and garnish with the toasted almonds, sesame seeds and sprigs of fresh coriander.

Vegetable and Tofu Curry

You’ll love this curry, relished by everyone including vegetarians and vegans.  Even ardent curry haters can’t get enough of this deliciously spiced dish.  It’s also an excellent base for other additions such as chunks of cooked potato.

Serves 4 -6

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 – 2 chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped

zest of 1 organic lemon or 2 limes

110g (4oz) coriander leaves and stalks (coarsely chopped) plus extra to serve

60g (2 1/2oz) cashew nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

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

400ml (14fl oz) homemade vegetable stock

500g (18oz) pumpkin or sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

1 small cauliflower, weighing approx. 350g (12oz), broken into small florets

225g (8oz) firm tofu, cut into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice

225g (8oz) chard, thinly sliced (use French beans in Summer)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

organic lemon or lime wedges, to serve

Combine the garlic, chilli, citrus zest, roughly chopped coriander leaves and stalks, cashew nuts, ginger, turmeric, cumin and 1 teaspoon of salt in a food processor and whizz to a chunky or smooth purée, depending on your preference.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, stir in the garlic and ginger purée and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring. Whisk in the coconut milk and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 8–10 minutes.

Add the chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin and return to the boil. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and tofu chunks and bring back to the boil, then cover and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add the chard and simmer for a further 3–4 minutes, uncovered, until all of the vegetables are cooked through.

Season with salt and pepper, and squeeze over a little lemon or lime juice, to taste. Sprinkle with lots of coriander and serve with lemon or lime wedges.

Little Chocolate Pots with Raspberries

How about a Valentine’s Day biscuit on the side…

Serves 2 plus 1 extra!

Chocolate Mousse

50g (2oz) good quality dark chocolate (we use 54% Callebaut)

50ml (2fl oz) cream

1 egg, separated

225-350g (8-12oz) fresh raspberries

whipped cream
fresh mint leaves

First, make the chocolate pots.

Chop the chocolate finely.  Bring the cream up to the boil, turn off the heat, add the chocolate to the cream and stir it around until the chocolate melts in the cream.  Add in the alcohol, if using, and whisk in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites until just stiff, then stir in a quarter of the egg white, fold in the rest, gently, being careful not to knock all the air out.  Divide between 6 pots or espresso cups.
Cover and chill and allow to set for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

To Serve
Pipe a rosette of softly whipped cream onto each mousse, arrange fresh raspberries on top and maybe a mint leaf.


Little Chocolate Pots with Raisins in Pedro Ximénez and Crème Fraîche


Pedro Ximénez

Follow the master recipe.

Warm some Pedro Ximénez or rum.  Pour over the raisins and allow to plump up and macerate.

Put the little pot or espresso cup on a small plate or saucer.  Spoon a generous teaspoon of boozy raisins on one side.
Place a blob of whipped cream on the other side, add a teaspoon and serve.

Valentine’s Day Biscuits

Stamp the dough into heart shapes but it can be used for all kinds of shapes, round, square, rectangles, teddy bears, animals, birds……

Makes 20-30

175g (6oz) plain white flour

75g (3oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

1/2 – 1 egg, free-range and organic

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

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Rub in the butter, add the caster sugar and mix well.  Beat the egg.  Mix the dry ingredients to a stiff dough with the beaten egg.

Turn out onto a floured board and roll out to a scant 5mm (1/4 inch) thickness.  Cut the biscuits with the cutter of your choice.  Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes depending on thickness.  Cool on a wire rack.

When cold, decorate as desired.

Royal Icing

450g (1lb) icing sugar

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons strained lemon juice

red food colouring or whatever you fancy…

Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl just until they begin to froth; then add the sieved icing sugar by the tablespoonful, beating well between each addition.  If you are making the icing in an electric mixer, use the lowest speed. When all the icing sugar has been incorporated, add the lemon juice.   Beat until the icing reaches stiff peaks; scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until you are ready to use the icing.

The texture of the icing is important.  Fill some slightly stiffer icing into a piping bag with a fine writing nozzle, pipe a message on each biscuit or for a fancier finish, pipe an outline on the edge of each biscuit.  Then pipe some softer icing inside the lines to fill the centre (you’ll need a slightly larger nozzle).  Allow to set, then pipe the message on top in chosen coloured icing –  ‘Love You’; ‘Sorry’; ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘Oops’…….

Season of Root Vegetables

Oh, this really is a tough time of the year for many , the month of reckoning after the Christmas splurge and all for what…. Can we even remember what we spent a lot of our hard-earned cash on or the presents we got….?
It’s an especially good time of the year to get creative in the kitchen, using inexpensive but deliciously satisfying ingredients in response to the cost-of-living crisis that’s spooking us all…
So back to basics… What’s in season at present, well of course the citrus fruits are at their very best but let’s think veg…
Once upon a time, root vegetables were our winter staples, they stored well at a time of the year when fresh fruit and vegetables were not so readily available.
Does anyone make a Root Pit anymore?
I remember when I was little, beetroot, carrots and Bramley apples were carefully stored for Winter in the garden in straw lined pits, covered with soil, a traditional way of preserving vegetables.
When I visited Faviken, the legendary 3 Star Michelin restaurant in Northern Sweden in the late 1990’s, Magnus Nielsen proudly showed me his root store beside the restaurant.
Well, one way or the other,  a wide range of root vegetables are now available in our shops and supermarkets. Try not to buy washed vegetables, they have less flavour and quite possibly,  less nutrients due to leaching as a result of the industrial washing process.
Think swede turnips, parsnips, celeriac, beetroot, black radishes, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes… Of course, carrots are also a root vegetable but many of the carrots available at present are imported, partly because it’s becoming virtually impossible for Irish vegetable growers to stay in business because they’re not paid nearly enough to cover the cost of production…
We’re all losers in this race to the bottom. If this continues and sadly, I don’t see much reason to expect change any time soon there will be virtually no Irish vegetable grower left within a couple of years…
Seek out fresh produce from local producers.  Small local shops and farmers’ markets are the best place to source this kind of produce, packed with the vitamins and minerals we need to get us healthily throughout these winter months.
Back in the kitchen, spices and fresh herbs are your friend to perk up root vegetables but don’t just think savoury. Virtually all the roots  can be incorporated into sweet dishes too and are also brilliant to spin out a little meat or to bulk up a stew or casserole.
The other advantage of root vegetables is their keeping qualities, you can use half a Swede turnip and use the remainder a week later.
Best to store roots in a cool dark place and they don’t need to be in the fridge, a covered box in the garage is fine.
 So here are a few suggestions for delicious rooty recipes, both sweet and savoury.  I particularly loved a pot of Bodice and Roots that I made recently with a sheet of bacon spareribs from my local butcher that cost just €7 and made a fine supper for eight of us.
If you are in Cork city, go along to the butchers in the English market,  particularly Kathleen Noone’s & O’Reilly’s Stall to find a whole selection of less expensive traditional cuts of pork and bacon. skirts and kidneys, pig’s tails, tripe and drisheen,  fresh and salted ribs…. The latter are endearingly known as bodice in Cork… all are delicious with root vegetables even if it’s just a big bowl of carrots and parsnip mash with a blob of good butter melting into the centre….

Mary Jo’s Bodice with Root Vegetables

This recipe makes a great big comforting, tasty pot that will feed the entire family for a few Euros.

Serves 8

1 bodice (bacon ribs), cut in 8 pieces

1 medium onion, 150g (5oz) approx.., cut into 8 wedges

300g (10oz) carrots, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) chunks

300g (10oz) parsnips, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) chunks

3/4 Swede turnip, cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) chunks

a  sprig fresh thyme, bay leaf and 2-3

parsley stalks

10-12 peppercorns

4-6 potatoes, peeled and cut in half 

1 small or 1/2 medium cabbage, sliced


2-3 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley

Cover the bodice in cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer

for 30-45 minutes before adding the onion, carrots, parsnips, swede turnip, sprig of thyme, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns.

Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for a further 30 – 45 minutes,  then add the halved  potatoes. Continue to cook for a further 10 mins, add the cabbage and cook until fully tender.  It should be soupy.  Remove the sprig of thyme, parsley stalks and bay leaf.

Taste , correct the seasoning (it may need more salt depending on how salty the ribs are).  Scatter with lots of coarsely chopped parsley and serve with lots of butter and mustard… 

Venison and Jerusalem Artichoke Stew with Gremolata

There is lots of delicious venison around at present but a shoulder of lamb or goat (if you can get it) also works excellently in this recipe.

Serves 6

900g (2lbs) potatoes, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

250g (9oz) onions, sliced or roughly chopped

250g (9oz) leeks, sliced

3 cloves garlic

500g (18oz) artichokes, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

500g (18oz) carrots, peeled and sliced crossways into 1cm (1/2 inch)

1 teaspoon salt

900g (2lbs) venison or lamb shoulder cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) venison, lamb or chicken stock

1 sprig of thyme

To Serve

Gremolata (see recipe)

Season 900g (2lbs) potato cubes well with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the onion and crushed garlic, toss and add the carrots and Jerusalem artichokes.  Stir and cook for 4-5 minutes until just beginning to colour at the edges.  Transfer to a casserole.  Add the venison or lamb and toss in batches over a high heat.  Add to the casserole with the stock and the sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the diced potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for 15-30 minutes or until the meat and vegetables are cooked (lamb cooks faster than venison). Remove the thyme and parsley.  Taste and correct the seasoning and sprinkle with gremolata or just chopped parsley. 


Gremolata is a fresh tasting mix of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest. We use it to sprinkle over roast or braised meats, pastas or anything pan-grilled – delicious!

4 tablespoons preferably flat parsley, chopped

1 generous teaspoon grated or finely chopped lemon zest

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and use soon.

Swede Turnips with Caramelised Onions

Best in Winter and early Spring, a little frost sweetens the flesh.  Swede turnips are so versatile, brilliant value and take on lots of flavours.  The caramelised onions add a whole new dimension to the mashed swedes here.  Lots of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is another option. 

Serves 6 approximately.

900g (2lbs) swede turnips

salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

Caramelised Onions (see recipe)


finely chopped parsley

Peel the turnip thickly in order to remove the thick outside skin.  Cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes approx.  Put into a high sided saucepan.  Cover with water.  Add a good pinch of salt, bring to the boil and cook until soft – this can take between 45-60 minutes.  Strain off the excess water, mash the turnips well and beat in the butter.  Taste and season with lots of freshly ground pepper and more salt if necessary. Garnish with parsley, sprinkle with caramelised onions and serve piping hot.

Caramelised Onions

These keep for ages and are also a brilliant condiment to have in the fridge for another time.

450g (1lb) onions, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Toss in the onions and cook uncovered over a low heat, scraping the base of the saucepan regularly with a wooden spoon for whatever length of time it takes for them to soften and caramelize to a rich golden brown, 30-45 minutes approx.

Roast Winter Vegetables

This gratin tastes different every time I make it. A versatile technique that can be vegetarian or vegan with added tofu, or you can include chunks of bacon or spicy sausage. Remember you don’t need all these vegetables, just three or four would be brilliant – gutsy winter herbs really add oomph! Substitute 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and maybe some smoked paprika for the herbs if desired.

This gratin tastes different every time I make it. A versatile technique that can be vegetarian or vegan with added tofu, or you can include chunks of bacon or spicy sausage. Remember you don’t need all these vegetables, just three or four would be brilliant – gutsy winter herbs really add oomph! Substitute 1 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and maybe some smoked paprika for the herbs if desired.

Serves 8

2kg (4 1/2lbs) winter vegetables of your choice from:

carrots, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

parsnips, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

red or white onion, peeled and cut into wedges of quarters or sixths, depending on size

leeks, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) rounds

beetroot, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

celeriac, peeled and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) pieces

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tablespoons rosemary and/or thyme, freshly chopped

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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

Toss the prepared vegetables into the gratin dish, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with freshly chopped herbs. Toss well so each chunk is lightly coated. Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally, or until the vegetables are fully cooked and starting to caramelize at the edges. Serve immediately.

Tuck in as soon as the roast vegetables come out of the oven, if they sit around in or out of the oven, they’ll quickly go soggy and you may wonder why you bothered.

Carrot and Cardamom Cake

Light, tender and delicious, this carrot cake is perfect for afternoon tea, but has also been much enjoyed for dessert. It will also keep really well for a week or more in an airtight container.

Serves 8–10

50ml (2fl oz) vegetable or sunflower oil, plus extra for brushing

150g (5oz) plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

pinch of salt

2 large organic eggs

100g (3 1/2oz) caster sugar

55g (2 1/4oz) soft brown sugar

50ml (2fl oz) natural yogurt

175g (6oz) carrots, finely grated

10g (scant 1/2oz) pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

fresh mint leaves

For the icing

225g (8oz) icing sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

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

Brush a 20.5cm (8 inch) round springform cake tin with oil and pop a round of baking parchment in the base.

Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cardamom and salt into a bowl. Whisk the eggs, sugars, yogurt and oil together until smooth. Gently mix the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, add the carrots and pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely while you make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, add enough strained lemon juice to make a thickish icing. Pour onto the top of the cold cake. Spread quickly with a palette knife so it begins to dribble down over the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the surface with coarsely chopped pistachio nuts and decorate with fresh mint leaves if available.


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