ArchiveMarch 2023

Guest Chefs

Touch wood, I’m almost afraid to mention it but at last, life has returned pretty much to normal here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Excited students from all over the world bounce into the school every morning, eager to cook and absorb every new technique and every ounce of information. They will be with us for 12 action packed weeks, learning how food is produced, cooked, pickled, preserved and served from the much-hackneyed phrase…the farm to the fork.
It’s such a joy to also be able to invite guest chefs to the school once more.
This week, we had three lots of excitement in our lives.
Past Student Ben Fenton returned from the US to Shanagarry to celebrate his birthday at the Blackbird in Ballycotton and to tell the current batch of students about the microbrewery called Hop Yard All Works he has set up in Appleton, Wisconsin.  The beer was fantastically good…
On Thursday, Suzanne Nelson from Stissing House, the beautiful shaker house in Pine Plains, upstate New York, originally pastry chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley in California and for a number of years, lead baker in Ken Forkish’s viennoiserie section at his bakery in Portland (Oregon), joined us as guest chef to share some of the secrets of a pastry chef.
There were six nationalities on the course and people joined in from all over the world on Ballymaloe Cookery School Online.
It was so fun, Suzanne cooked six different dishes both sweet and savoury, guests favourites from Stissing House, all of which can be easily reproduced by enthusiastic home cooks.
Each had an interesting twist, I particularly loved the spiced venison stew with apricots and prunes. The stew itself is rich and delicious, but the pastry really intrigued me. It was made with tallow or what we call dripping…a sort of hot water crust, super easy to make and perfect for those who have a block about making pastry.
Dripping is super easy to make yourself, just ask your local butcher for the suet from around the beef kidney, chop it up coarsely, render it slowly into a liquid in a low oven. Both dripping and tallow keep for months, and it’s packed with minerals and vitamins, particularly Vitamin B. It also makes the most delicious chips and roasties and dripping toast…
The pastry for the onion tart was equally interesting, but this time it was made with butter and pressed into the tart tin, another gem for pastry shy cooks.
Suzanne likes to use red as well as white onions in her onion tart, but I was fascinated by the technique of adding the onions into the melted butter to pre-cook in three separate batches so there would be a difference of texture in the filling.
I’ve also included this recipe for Suzanne’s maple syrup and walnut ice cream which we served in an ice bowl,  surrounded by pink camellia flowers from the garden.
Our third celebrity visitor this week was an eighteen-year-old baker Kitty Tait from the Orange Bakery in Watlington, whose story is equally inspiring.
In her early teens, Kitty suffered from crippling  mental health problems, and eventually found solace and satisfaction through breadmaking… Seven years later, eager customers queue all along the High Street in this little Oxfordshire town for the bread and pastries she and her dad and their little team of enthusiastic bakers make in the Orange Bakery.

Her bestselling cookbook Breadsong was published in 2022 by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Here’s the recipe for Kitty’s Miracle Overnight White Loaf (no-knead bread).  The students were totally inspired by her story of depression and recovery and her new enterprise KittyKits …. all this while, she is still just 18 years of age….

Suzanne Nelson’s Onion Tart

This is a brilliant pastry for those who think they can’t make pastry.  The pastry keeps fresh in the fridge for 5-6 days.

Makes 1 x 30cm (12 inch) shallow (2.5cm/1 inch) tart

Serves 6-8

Butter and line the base of the tart tin


110g (4oz) butter, melted

70ml (scant 3fl oz) water

1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt to taste

400g (14oz) plain flour

Onion Filling

6-7 medium onions (1.5kg/3lb 5oz) mix of red and sweet white onions (Vidalia if available)

100g (3 1/2oz) butter

salt and freshly ground black pepper

about 250ml (9fl oz) white wine

4 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

150ml (5fl oz) cream

50ml (2fl oz) crème fraîche

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 tablespoons thyme leaves, chopped (optional)


Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 (or 180°C fan)


Heat the butter, water and salt for the pastry in a small saucepan until bubbling. Have the flour in a bowl, then tip in the bubbling butter. Mix until you have a ball that comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Put the pastry into the tin in blobs and press with your fingers until it covers the base and all the way up the sides, so it sticks out a little around the top – trim the edges if preferred. Prick all over with a fork, reserving any extra pastry for patching. Bake blind for 20 minutes until golden and crisp – after 15 minutes, press down with the flat base of a glass or 1/4 cup measure.


Peel and thinly slice the onions.

Melt butter in a large cast iron saucepan and add a quarter of the onions, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir well to coat with butter. Cook for approx. 20 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally. Add one third of the wine and another quarter of onions and cook for a further 20 minutes repeating the process until all the onions and wine have been incorporated. Cook until completely soft and all the liquid has been absorbed, this will take an approx. 1 1/2 hours, pay closer attention towards the end so it doesn’t burn.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, and a sprinkle of sugar to bring out the flavours of the onions. Take off the heat and leave to cool completely.  Tip into the partly baked tart shell.

Lightly beat the 4 eggs + 2 yolks with the cream and crème fraîche, add salt and pepper and pour over the onions. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme if desired.  Grate lots and lots of nutmeg on top.

Bake at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 30 minutes until golden.

Suzanne Nelson’s Winter Venison Pie

The filling can be made several days ahead – rabbit can also be substituted for venison in season. 

Makes enough for a 1.2 litre/2 pint pie dish

Serves 6

Tallow Pie Crust

360g (scant 12 1/2oz) plain flour

225g (8oz) dripping (tallow) (rendered suet from beef kidney)

118ml (generous 4 1/4fl oz) water

1 teaspoon (5g) salt

Venison Pie Filling

1kg (2 1/4lb) shoulder of venison, off the bone and trimmed

sprinkle of salt

50-100g (2 – 3 1/2oz) dripping, bacon fat or butter

2 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns

2 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries

1 teaspoon ground or 1 blade mace

2 teaspoons ground or 1 stick cinnamon

450g (1lb) onions

1 tablespoon flour

450ml (16fl oz) beef or venison stock and/or red wine

200g (7oz) dried apricots, cut in large chunks

200g (7oz) dried prunes

zest and juice of 1 orange

Egg Wash

1 egg plus 1 yolk lightly beaten with a splash of cream

Dripping Pie Crust

Put the flour in a bowl, make a well in the centre.

Melt the beef dripping (tallow) and water together in a small saucepan, add salt and stir to dissolve, pour into flour, and mix to combine. Form into a ball, flatten into a round, wrap and chill until needed.

Venison Pie Filling

Cut the meat into 2.5 – 4cm (1 – 1 1/2 inch) cubes and lightly salt.

Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes while the remainder of the ingredients are prepared.

Peel and slice the onions.

Leave the apricots and prunes whole unless any are larger than a reasonable bite size, in which case cut in half, combine with the orange juice and zest.

Grind the whole spices in an electric spice grinder or with a pestle and mortar and mix with the already ground spices.

Melt the dripping (tallow) or butter in a wide cast iron frying pan and have ready a lidded casserole to cook the meat in the oven.  Brown the meat in batches on a high heat and transfer to the casserole.  Deglaze the pan with a little stock and add to the venison. Add the spices, onions and flour to the frying pan and cook for a minute or so more to bloom the spices.  Add the stock and wine, bring to a simmer.  Stir in the dried fruits, orange juice and zest and pour over the venison in the casserole.

Bring to the boil then transfer to the oven 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 2 1/2 – 3 hours until the meat is very tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings and allow to cool completely.

Put into the pie dish or individual dishes.

Roll out the tallow crust and drape over the top of the well filled pie dish. Crimp the sides, make some decorative holes in the top.  Egg wash.

Bake 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 for 20 minutes then lower heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes.  The pastry should be nicely golden on top.  

Serve immediately.

Suzanne Nelson’s Maple Walnut Ice Cream

Based on a recipe by Wolfgang Puck

This ice-cream base benefits from curing for up to 3 days, giving a fluffy ice-cream. 

475ml (17fl oz) maple syrup

475ml (17fl oz) milk

475ml (17fl oz) double cream

pinch of salt

8 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

200g (7oz) walnuts (halves or very coarsely chopped pieces)

Place the maple syrup in a pan over a medium heat, bring to the boil, lower the heat to avoid the maple syrup boiling over and/or scorching and reduce by half (approx. 235ml/8 1/2fl oz).  Cool completely.

Meanwhile, heat the milk and cream together with a pinch of salt and when hot, gradually add to the egg yolks whisking all the time. Continuing to stir, bring the mixture to 76°C/170°F to custard (use a thermometer).  Add the vanilla extract. 

Add in the reduced maple syrup, stir well and strain into a container, cover and chill for 24 hours.

Adjust with a little vanilla extract and more salt if needed before churning (spinning). Transfer from the container into a big wide bowl, stir in the walnuts and freeze again for a further 24 hours before serving. 

Kitty Tait’s Miracle Overnight White Loaf

From Breadsong published by Bloomsbury Publishing
This was the first bread recipe I learnt to bake, and how the simple ingredients transform into a loaf still feels like magic. All you need to make a loaf twice as fast as anything on the supermarket shelf, with a crunchy crust and pillowy crumb, is a casserole dish with a lid and an oven that can get up to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8. If you make only a single recipe from this entire book, this one will probably give you the biggest thrill. It’s truly a miracle.

Makes 1 loaf

500g (18oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g (scant 1/2oz) fine sea salt
3g (scant 1/8oz) instant dried yeast (1 teaspoon or slightly less than half a 7g (1/4oz) sachet)
330ml (11 1/4fl oz) lukewarm water

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast. Stir everything together using either a sturdy spoon or your hands. Bit by bit, gently mix in the lukewarm water until a shaggy dough forms. We call this the Scooby dough in homage to Scooby-Doo.

Place a damp tea towel over the rim of the bowl and leave in a cosy (draught-free) place to prove for 12-16 hours, overnight is best. Time transforms your scrappy, dull dough into a bubbly, live creature of its own.

Once your dough has risen and is bubbling away, tip it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Remember, it’s alive, so the greater respect you show the dough with gently handling, the more it will reward you and the better your loaf will come out. Gently shape the dough into a ball (a well-floured plastic dough scraper really helps here), making sure there is a light coating of flour all over.

Place the shaped dough on a sheet of parchment paper, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, cosy place to rest for 1 hour.

Halfway through the resting time, preheat the oven to 230˚C/450˚F/Gas Mark 8 (or as high as it will go). Put a large cast-iron casserole dish with a lid and a heatproof handle into the hot oven for 30 minutes to heat up.

Once the casserole dish is good and hot, carefully take it out of the oven and lift off the lid. Uncover the dough and using the parchment paper, lift and then lower the dough into the heated casserole dish. Using a sharp knife, razor blade or scissors; score the top of the dough with slashes in any pattern you like – one long slash, a cross, a square or even a smiley face.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of water inside the casserole around the dough, replace the lid and put the dish back in the hot oven. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid to reveal your magnificent loaf and then continue to bake uncovered for a further 10 minutes to get a nice, golden crust or 15 minutes if you like your loaf a bit darker.

Place the loaf on a wire rack and leave to cool for at least 30 minutes. This is the hardest part, but it’s also the most important as the bread keeps cooking after you take it out of the oven.

Mother’s Day

There’s a special day allocated to celebrate almost anything one can think of these days but I’m sure we all agree that if ever a celebration was warranted, it’s Mother’s Day.
It’s a movable feast so keeping up with the annual date is tricky enough. Here in these islands, it’s rooted in the Christian observance of Lent so Mothering Sunday is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly 3 weeks before Easter. Not only does it land on a different date each year, but it’s celebrated at different times around the world. So, check it out…. If your mum is in the US, it’ll be the second Sunday in May.
My lovely Mum, mother of nine, passed away over a decade ago now.  Little things remind me of her almost every day, but Mother’s Day really brings memories flooding back.  I remember her delight when we would pick a simple little posy of primroses for her, bake a few fairy cakes or a rhubarb tart or bring her breakfast in bed…
Looking back with hindsight, many of us will remember with regret how obnoxious we were during our teens and look back with shame at the torment and annoyance we caused our long-suffering parents. Hopefully we have found the right moment to tell them how sorry we are for the hoops we put them through….
Invariably, we don’t remember just how abominable and unreasonable we were until our children are going through the same phase …!
Mother’s Day gives us all, young and old the opportunity to let actions speak louder than words.
If cooking isn’t your forte, you could treat your Mum to a slap up meal in anything from a ritzy restaurant to the local café depending on your finances.  If you’re broke as well as culinarily challenged in the midst of this cost of living crisis, not to worry, it’s time to get creative and offer your services instead…
How about a practical gift token instead…I bet that an offer to wash and valet the car or clean out the fridge will be greatly appreciated…
If you have green figures, a pledge to weed the flowerbed after Winter or dig the vegetable patch will be greeted enthusiastically. You might even manage to buy a few fresh herbs to plant into a tub or hanging basket by the kitchen door.
An offer to do the washing up every evening for a week or even once would win you serious brownie points. Most mothers loathe ironing with a passion, so that’s another way to show your devotion. If you too hate ironing, grit your teeth, and cheer yourself up that you are developing life skills…That’s the sort of ‘Mumsie’ remark that my daughters hate! I am one of the rare people who love ironing but rarely do it!
If you have the cash, newspapers, magazines and the internet are packed with ideas for special Mother’s Day gifts over and above the usual cards and flowers – a voucher for a spa treatment, a ticket to her favourite retro gig, maybe even a karaoke session…
And no, not an expensive tub of anti-aging cream. I’m totally happy with my wrinkles – honourable scars built up over the years. If I could make a wish, it would be that all mothers could be released from the beauty industry’s insistence that we must look forever young.  So let’s let go of ‘aging anxiety’ and embrace our very own natural beauty.
Flamboyant gifts are all very fine, but this is a cooking column.
This year, Mother’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Easter are all in quick succession so here are a couple of my mother’s delicious family recipes plus my favourite comforting Irish stew for Saint Patrick’s Day and a recipe for rainbow cake from the revised edition of Mary Berry’s ‘Baking Bible’ which has just arrived in the post.
Finally a recipe for Simnel cake which coincidentally was traditionally made by servant girls to bring home to their mothers as a gift on Mothering Sunday.
I have a feeling that it was unlikely to have been as rich and delicious as this version…make it now so it’ll be ready to enjoy for Easter Sunday afternoon tea with family and friends.

Ballymaloe Irish Stew

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional Irish Stew, a classic one-pot dish.  The recipe varies from region to region – in Cork, carrots are a quintessential addition, not so in parts of Ulster.   Pearl barley is a favourite addition, originally added to bulk up the stew.

Serves 4-8

1.1 – 1.35kg (2 1/2 – 3lbs) lamb chops (gigot from the shoulder of lamb or a combination of gigot and neck chops) not less than 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

8 medium or 12 baby carrots

8 medium or 12 baby onions

8 -12 potatoes, or more if you like

salt and freshly ground pepper

850ml – 1 litre (scant 1 1/2 – 1 3/4 pints) stock (lamb stock, chicken stock) or water

1 sprig of thyme

1 tablespoon roux, optional (equal quantities of butter and flour cooked for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally – it will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator)


2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley

1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives

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

Cut the chops in half and trim off some of the excess fat. Set aside. Render the lamb fat on a gentle heat in a heavy pan (discard the rendered down pieces).

Trim the root end of the onions.

Peel the onions and scrape or thinly peel the carrots (if they are young you may want to leave some of the green stalk on the onion and carrot). Cut the carrots into large chunks, or if they are small, leave whole. If the onions are large, cut them into quarters through the root, when small they are best left whole.

Toss the meat in the hot fat on the pan until it is slightly brown. Transfer the meat into a casserole, then quickly toss the onions and carrots in the fat. Build the meat, carrots and onions up in layers in the casserole, carefully season each layer with freshly ground pepper and salt. Degrease the pan with lamb stock, bring to the boil and pour into the casserole. Peel the potatoes and lay them on top of the casserole, so they will steam while the stew cooks. Season the potatoes. Add a sprig of thyme, bring to the boil on top of the stove, cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Transfer to a moderate oven or allow to simmer on top of the stove until the stew is cooked, 1 – 1 1/2 hours approx., depending on whether the stew is being made with lamb or hogget

If using floury potatoes (not waxy) such as Golden Wonder or Kerr’s pinks, do not add them into the stew until after 1 hour of cooking. Sit them on top of the meat and vegetables and continue to cook for 30 minutes more.

When the stew is cooked, remove the sprig of thyme.  Pour off the cooking liquid, de-grease and reheat in another saucepan. Thicken slightly by whisking in a little roux. Check seasoning, then add chopped parsley and chives. Pour over the meat and vegetables. Bring the stew back up to boiling point and serve from the pot or in a large pottery dish sprinkled with herbs.


Irish Stew with Pearl Barley

Add 1-2 tablespoons pearl barley with the vegetables.

Increase the stock to 1.2 litres (2 pints) as the pearl barley soaks up lots of liquid.

Mary Berry’s Rainbow Cake

Recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible published by BBC Books/ Penguin Random House UK

A fun cake for Easter.  From the outside, it looks like any other cake, but once you cut into it, it reveals itself to be as colourful as a rainbow.  For St. Patrick’s Day, one could just do layers of green, white and gold and decorate it with crystallised primroses and wood sorrel leaves that look like Shamrocks – sounds cheesy but it’ll taste delicious.

Serves 20

6 eggs

375g (13oz) caster sugar

375g (13oz) soft butter or baking spread, straight from the fridge

375g (13oz) self-raising flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

food colouring paste or gel (in 6 different colours)

For the cream cheese icing:

375g (13oz) butter, softened

3 tablespoons milk

750g (1lb 10oz) icing sugar, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

275g (10oz) full-fat cream cheese

hundreds and thousands, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 (160°C fan).

Grease and line two 20cm (8 inch) round loose-bottomed cake tins with non-stick baking paper. 

Measure one-third of the cake ingredients into a large bowl and whisk using an electric hand whisk for 2 minutes.  Divide the mixture into 2 bowls and add some food colouring to each bowl (two different colours) and mix well. 

Spoon into the tins and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until well risen and springing back when pressed in the centre with your fingertips.  Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

Wash, grease and reline the tins.  Repeat the method to make four more cakes, all in different colours.

To make the cream cheese icing, beat the butter and milk with half of the icing sugar in a large bowl, using an electric hand whisk, until smooth.  Add the remaining icing sugar, the vanilla extract and the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy. 

To assemble the cake, remove the baking paper from all six cakes.  Place the violet cake on a cake board and spread with a little icing.  Continue to layer the cakes with icing sugar until you have all six cakes stacked neatly with the red cake on top.  Cover the whole surface of the cake with a thin layer of icing, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes.  This will help to seal the crumbs. 

Once the icing is firm, cover with a final layer and spread to make a smooth finish.  Sprinkle the top with hundreds and thousands. 

Mummy’s Country Rhubarb Cake

This traditional Irish recipe is particularly interesting because it uses sour milk or buttermilk. The resulting texture is soft – more cakey than other pastries. Even though it is referred to as rhubarb cake, it was always made in the shape of a pie or tart on a plate. Mummy made it throughout the year with whatever fruit was in season: rhubarb or green gooseberries were especially irresistible because all the bittersweet juices soaked into the pastry. According to the season, she also used plums, apples, blackberries and damsons. It’s important that firm fruit (such as apples and rhubarb) is thinly sliced, otherwise it doesn’t cook properly.

Serves 8

For the Pastry

350g (12oz) white flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

40g (1 1⁄2oz) caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

110g (4oz) butter

1 organic egg, beaten

about 125ml (4 1/2fl oz) sour milk or buttermilk

700g (1 1⁄2lb) rhubarb, thinly sliced

225g (8oz) granulated sugar

egg wash

To Serve

caster sugar, for sprinkling

soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream

25cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex plate

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

Sieve the flour, salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Rub in the butter. Add the beaten egg and enough sour milk to mix to a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board. Divide in two. Roll both pieces into rounds large enough to fit your enamel or Pyrex plate and line the plate with one of the rounds. Put a good layer of thinly sliced rhubarb on the pastry, sprinkle the sugar over the top and cover with the other piece of dough. Pinch the edges together. Brush the top with egg wash. Bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until the pastry is golden and the rhubarb is soft and juicy.

Sprinkle with caster sugar; serve warm with soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake is the traditional Easter cake. It has a layer of almond paste baked into the centre and a thick layer of almond icing on top.  The 11 balls represent 11 of the 12 apostles – Judas is missing because he betrayed Jesus.  This cake keeps for weeks or even months, but while still delicious it changes both in texture and flavour as it matures.

225g (8oz) butter

225g (8oz) pale, soft brown sugar

6 eggs, preferably free range

300g (10oz) white flour

1 teaspoon mixed spice

65ml (2 1/2fl oz) Irish whiskey

350g (12oz) best quality sultanas

350g (12oz) best quality currants

350g (12oz) best quality raisins

110g (4oz) cherries

110g (4oz) homemade candied peel

50g (2oz) whole almonds

50g (2oz) ground almonds

rind of 1 lemon

rind of 1 orange

1 large or 2 small Bramley Seedling apples, grated

Almond Paste

450g (1lb) ground almonds

450g (1lb) caster sugar

2 small eggs

a drop of pure almond extract

2 tablespoons Irish whiskey

Line the base and sides of a 23cm (9 inch) round, or an 20.5cm (8 inch) square tin with brown paper and greaseproof paper.

Wash the cherries and dry them. Cut in two or four as desired. Blanch the almonds in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, rub off the skins and chop them finely. Mix the dried fruit, nuts, ground almonds and grated orange and lemon rind. Add about half of the whiskey and leave for 1 hour to macerate.

Next make the almond paste.

Sieve the caster sugar and mix with the ground almonds. Beat the eggs, add the whiskey and 1 drop of pure almond extract, then add to the other ingredients and mix to a stiff paste. (You may not need all the egg). Sprinkle the work top with icing sugar, turn out the almond paste and work lightly until smooth. 

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

Cream the butter until very soft, add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs and add in bit by bit, beating well between each addition so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. Mix the spice with the flour and stir in gently. Add the grated apple to the fruit and mix in gently but thoroughly (don’t beat the mixture again or you will toughen the cake).

Put half of the cake mixture into the prepared tin, roll about half of the almond paste into a 21.5cm (8 1/2 inch) round. Place this on top of the cake mixture in the tin and cover with the remaining mixture. Make a slight hollow in the centre, dip your hand in water and pat it over the surface of the cake: this will ensure that the top is smooth when cooked. Cover the top with a single sheet of brown paper. 

Put into the preheated oven; reduce the heat to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 after 1 hour. Bake for a further 2 1/2 hours approximately until cooked, test in the centre with a skewer – it should come out completely clean. Pour the rest of the whiskey over the cake and leave to cool in the tin.

NOTE: When you are testing, do so at an angle because the almond paste can give a false reading.

Next day remove the cake from the tin. Do not remove the lining paper but wrap in some extra greaseproof paper and tin foil until required.

When you wish to ice the cake, roll the remainder of the almond paste into a 23cm (9 inch) round. Brush the cake with a little lightly beaten egg white and top with the almond paste. Roll the remainder of the paste into 11 balls. Score the top of the cake in 4cm (1 1/2 inch) squares or diamonds. Brush with beaten egg yolk, stick the ‘apostles’ around the outer edge of the top, brush with beaten egg. Toast in a preheated oven 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7, for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden. Decorate with an Easter Chicken.  Cut while warm or store for several weeks when cold.

NB: Almond paste may also be used to ice the side of the cake.  You will need half the almond paste again.

Vegetable Shortage in Supermarkets

Empty baskets in the vegetable and fruit section of our supermarkets (and even more so in the UK) in recent weeks has sent a quiver of panic through the retail trade. Shoppers are having to become accustomed to gaps on the shelves.

The shortages are caused by a variety of factors, unpredictable weather conditions linked to climate change, soaring fuel costs, staff shortages and supply chain issues.

An unexpectedly cold snap in Spain during the past month resulted in 16 consecutive nights of below zero temperatures. The increasing energy costs have meant that many growers delayed planting crops or actually left their greenhouses empty altogether because they simply no longer afford to grow at a loss…

It’s crunch time, there simply isn’t enough product to go around. For far too long, we have ignored the vegetable and fruit growers’ warnings that they cannot continue to grow indefinitely unless they are paid a fair price for what they produce. Already many experienced growers who have been in business for generations have reluctantly locked their gates and are selling up.

It’s abundantly clear that our food supply system is deeply flawed and the just-in-time delivery model leaves us vulnerable to unexpected shocks. This wakeup call exposes the fragility of the modern supply chain.

Regular readers of this column will recall that I have highlighted this issue on many occasions. We urgently need a government food strategy that supports Irish farmers to produce fresh local food so we are no longer overly reliant on importing fresh products from thousands of miles away. Otherwise, we will have no Irish vegetable growers within a couple of years and then what….

Advance planning is crucial, fresh food cannot be spirited onto the shelves in a few days…… It takes 3 to 5 months for many vegetables to grow from seed to shelf.

Meanwhile, at home. Let’s take back control – let’s consider growing some of our own food. It couldn’t be a better time of the year, Spring is in the air, perfect time to sow seeds.

Even if you’ve never grown anything in your life before, you can certainly grow some salad leaves, even on your balcony or windowsill…. All you’ll need is a container, could be a recycled box or even a plastic mushroom container from your local greengrocer…Fill it up with some soil or compost, scatter some salad mix seeds over the top, sprinkle on a little more soil and mist with water…Cover with a sheet of damp newspaper…The seeds will germinate within a couple of days, remove the paper….They love plenty of light, then all you need is a bit of patience as you watch your salad leaves grow…Within a few weeks, you’ll be able to harvest your very own salad leaves several times.

Then you may want to progress to a raised (or otherwise) bed in your garden.

In the US, an enthusiastic movement to ‘Grow Food, Not Lawns’ has been gathering momentum for some time now –

Meanwhile, let’s go out of our way to source freshly harvested local food, jumping with vital nutrients to ensure optimum health. We can all take matters into our own hands and make a difference by actively sourcing in local shops and farmers markets….

Hotels, restaurants, hospitals, universities around the country can also make a dramatic contribution by linking in with local farmers and food producers to commission them to grow, even staples like potatoes, carrots, salad leaves and onions at an agreed price, a win-win situation for all.

Our current food system is broken… it’s time for urgent action…

Meanwhile, on both a government and personal level, we can and must, all make a difference. Let’s make a concerted effort to eat with the seasons when local food is at peak flavour and perfection …

So, what’s in season?

It can be confusing, ask your local shop or supermarket to identify local seasonal produce on their shelves … Winter roots and greens are at their peak at present so look out for kales, chard, Savoy cabbage, cauliflower, leeks… Swede turnips, Jerusalem artichokes, black radishes, winter carrots, parsnips… The first of the new seasons rhubarb is ready for picking and if you have access to wild watercress, it’s deliciously peppery at present, perfect for salads, soups and garnishing.

Have fun experimenting, use lots of spices and lashings of gutsy winter herbs …. Enjoy and give thanks to Mother Nature for her bounty…

Soda Bread Focaccia with Roast Jerusalem Artichokes, Potato and Thyme Leaves

Jerusalem artichokes look like knobbly potatoes but have quite a different flavour and are really, really worth seeking out. If you don’t already have them in your garden you’ll find them in some of the better supermarkets and certainly on stalls in local farmers markets. For example, Midleton, Mahon Point and Skibbereen…They’re in season at present, incredibly versatile, here is yet another way to enjoy them…

450g (1lb) plain white flour

1 level teaspoon salt

1 level teaspoon bread soda

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


450g (1lb) Jerusalem artichokes

450g (1lb) cooked potatoes, sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

225g (8oz) Gruyère and Parmesan

1 large Swiss roll tin with edges 32cm (13 inch) (length) x 23cm (9 inch) (width) x 5cm (2 inch) in depth

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

Slice the well-scrubbed artichokes into 1cm (1/2 inch) rounds. Toss the Jerusalem artichokes with the extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves … Season well with salt.  Arrange in a single layer on a roasting tin.  Roast for 10 minutes or until pale golden on one side then flip over and cook on the other side.   Test with the tip of a knife – they should be just tender. 

To assemble.

First make the soda bread.

Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.  Pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.  WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS.  Tidy it up and flip over gently.  Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and cut a cross on it to let the fairies out

Brush the tin with extra virgin olive oil.  Roll out the dough into a rectangle, line the tin and brush with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Cover with slices of Jerusalem artichoke and potato, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining thyme leaves and the grated cheeses.

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

Cook in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.  Reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the tin, cook on a wire rack, cut into squares and eat soon.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Bacon, Cabbage and Scallion Champ Pie 

Who doesn’t love bacon and cabbage? St Patrick’s Day is coming up too…This version is a traditional Irish meal, all in one pot meal. Make from scratch or I sometimes love to whip this up with the leftovers from a bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce meal, it gets a terrific reaction.

Serves 8-10

650g (1lb 6oz) bacon (collar or oyster cut, rind on) or cooked ham

Parsley Sauce (see recipe)

1 teaspoon English mustard

2 tablespoons cream

450g (1lb) Savoy or Hispi cabbage, cored and sliced across the grain

450g (1lb) Scallion Champ (see recipe)

1 x 3 pint terracotta dish (25cm (10 inch) width x 2.5cm (1 inch) depth)

Cover the uncooked bacon in cold water, bring to the boil uncovered. Taste, if the liquid appears very salty discard and re-cover with hot water. Bring back to the boil, cover, and cook for 40-45 minutes approximately or until the rind will peel off easily. Remove to a plate, add the chopped cabbage to the bacon water and continue to cook until the cabbage is tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on the variety.  Drain well.

Meanwhile, make the Parsley Sauce (see recipe).

Add mustard and cream.  Taste and correct seasoning.

Make the Scallion Champ (see recipe).

Remove the bacon rind, if necessary, Cut the bacon into scant 2cm (3/4 inch) chunks. Add the cooked cabbage and mix gently. 

Bring the Parsley sauce back to the boil.  Fold in the bacon and cabbage, add a little bacon cooking water if necessary. Taste, correct the seasoning.

Fill into one or several pie dishes.

Pipe a generous layer of Scallion Champ on top. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, cook for 10-15 minutes until bubbling and beginning to colour on top.  Serve immediately with a little extra mustard on the side.

Parsley Sauce

Serves 6–8

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves (retain the stalks)

900ml (1 1/2 pints) fresh whole milk

30-45g (1-1 1/2oz) Roux (see recipe)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the parsley stalks into a saucepan with the cold milk, bring slowly to the boil, then remove the stalks. Whisk the roux into the boiling milk until thickened and add the chopped parsley. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Simmer for 5-10 minutes on a very low heat, then taste and correct the seasoning.  The sauce should be thickish for this pie.


110g (4oz) butter

110g (4oz) flour

Melt the butter and cook the flour in it for 2 minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally.  Use as required.  Roux can be stored in a cool place and used as required or it can be made up on the spot if preferred.  It will keep at least a fortnight in a refrigerator.

Spring Scallion Champ

Serves 6-8

1.5kg (3lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g (1 3/4oz)

chopped chives

350ml (10-12fl oz) whole milk

50-110g (2-4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets in well-salted water.

Meanwhile chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse. 

Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while still hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, beat in the butter. 

Serve in 1 large or 4-6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion champ may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Cauliflower or Broccoli Salad

Cauliflower or broccoli salad is not an obvious choice, but it is surprisingly delicious. The secret as is the case with many salads is to dip the florets in a good dressing while still warm, so they really absorb the flavours.

Serves 6

1 small head cauliflower

110ml (4fl oz) Ballymaloe French Dressing (see recipe)

Ideally this should be made with slightly shot heads at the end of season. Take a head with the leaves on, trim off the damaged ones. Wash and shred the remaining leaves and stalk, split the cauliflower into small florets so it will cook evenly.

Take a saucepan that fits the cauliflower exactly and boil 1 inch of water in it. Add a little salt, put in the shredded leaves and sit the cauliflower on top, stems down and cover closely. Control heat so that it does not boil dry. Remove from the pot when the stalks are barely tender. Divide into florets. dip each into French dressing while they are still warm and arrange like a wheel on a round plate. Build up layer upon layer to reform the cauliflower head. This looks good and tastes delicious on a cold buffet.

Note: Green broccoli (Calabreze) or purple of white sprouting broccoli can be cooked this way also and a mixture of all three looks and tastes wonderful.

Make all the difference… Salad Dressings

Best to dress a green salad just before serving, otherwise it can look tired and unappetising. The flavour of the dressing totally depends on the quality of the oil and vinegar. We use beautiful, cold-pressed oils and superb wine vinegars to dress the precious organic lettuce and salad leaves. The quantity one uses is so small it’s really worth buying the very best quality you can afford – it makes all the difference.

Simple French Dressing

makes 120ml (scant 4 1/2fl oz)

6 tablespoons cold-pressed extra virgin

olive oil

2 tablespoons best-quality white or red

wine vinegar

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black


Whisk all the ingredients together just before the salad is to be eaten. Salad dressings are always best when freshly made but this one, which doesn’t include raw garlic, shallot or fresh herbs, will keep in a jar in the fridge for 3–4 days. Whisk to emulsify before using.

Ballymaloe French Dressing

Makes approx. 150ml (5fl oz)

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

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground

black pepper

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

Honey and Wholegrain Mustard Dressing

Makes approx. 250ml (9fl oz)

150ml (5fl oz) extra virgin olive oil or a mixture of

olive and other oils, such as sunflower

and groundnut

50ml (2fl oz) white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

2 heaped teaspoons wholegrain honey


2 garlic cloves, crushed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, whisking well before use. Season to taste. Preferably use fresh but it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Whisk to re-emulsify before using.

Herbed Vinaigrette Dressing

Makes approx. 250ml (9fl oz)

175ml (6fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs, such

as parsley, chives, mint or thyme

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the dressing ingredients into a screw-top jar, adding salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Shake well to emulsify before use or whizz together all the ingredients in a food processor or liquidiser for a few seconds.

For a variation, use 4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice or wine vinegar instead of the cider vinegar. This dressing should be served when freshly made otherwise the herbs will discolour. As a compromise the dressing could be made a day or two ahead without the herbs, then whisk and add the fresh herbs just before serving.

Rhubarb and Custard Meringue Tart

You’ll get lots of compliments for this celebration, rhubarb tart it’s even delicious without the meringue on top… 

Serves 8-10

300g (10oz) sweet shortcrust pastry, chilled made from:

200g (7oz) white flour

pinch of salt

100g (3 1/2oz) butter

1 egg yolk (keep white aside for meringue)

2-3 tablespoons cold water approx.


1 kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb, cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces

3 egg yolks

120g (scant 4 1/2oz) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons plain flour


3 egg whites

175g (6oz) caster sugar

1 x 26cm (10 1/2 inch) tin, preferably with a pop-up base

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

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour with the salt, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.

Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. Take a fork or knife, (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

Cover and chill for half an hour, if possible, this will make it less elastic and easier to roll out.  Roll out the pastry and line the tin.  Line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans.  Bake ‘blind’ for 20 minutes approx. until the pastry is three-quarters cooked, remove from the oven. Remove the baking beans, brush the base with beaten egg wash and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Slice the rhubarb and spread over the pastry base. 

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla extract and flour and spread over the rhubarb.  Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes, this will start the rhubarb cooking.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until fluffy.  As they stiffen, trickle in the caster sugar and continue to whisk until stiff.

Remove the tart from the oven and pipe or spread the meringue on top.  Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, return to the oven.    Bake for a further 25 minutes. 

Cool on a wire rack and serve with softly whipped cream.


Incredible India, it keeps drawing me back year after year, not just for the extraordinarily varied culture and vibrant colours but the haunting mystical music, spicy pungent smells and of course the food.

India is huge, a subcontinent with a myriad of different gods, religions, customs, temples and colourful festivals. The traffic is crazy, endless honking of horns …. but always something to celebrate.

I love the way the cows still wander nonchalantly through the streets with such an air of entitlement even in enormous cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta knowing that the sea of motorbikes, cars and lorries will avoid them.

Cows are sacred in India, worshipped and revered and are certainly not for eating. Nothing is wasted.  Cow manure is shaped in flat frisbee size patties, sun dried and then used for fuel…that may sound gross to us but it’s totally sustainable and doesn’t smell at all unpleasant…

Beef is not an option on the menu for millions of people – a high percentage of whom are vegetarian. In the towns and villages, people leave out food and water for the cows on their doorsteps believing strongly that they will receive blessings from the gods in return. 

This time we went back to Rajasthan, an area over twice the size of Ireland, much of which is semi-arid desert and hilly terrain where a variety of tribals live alongside pastoralists, camel herders, nomads and subsistence farmers.

Jodhpur, Jaipur and Udaipur are the tourist hotspots in this area but wonderful as they are, we love to get out of the towns, well off the tourist track and into the rural areas. We are intrigued by the way of life of the Raikas, in their traditional white garb and bright red turbans. They move their flocks of camels, sheep and goats from place to place, nibbling sustainably on the trees and the sparse vegetation. Another group moves through the landscape digging up the Prosopis juliflora trees which they then make into charcoal, providing them with a meagre livelihood and helping to eradicate an invasive species at the same time… killing two birds with one stone.

In 1971, Prime Minister Indra Gandhi passed the 26th Amendment Act and abolished the privileges and privy purses of all the princely rulers meaning they no longer recognised any of the princes or chiefs as the ruler.  Many of the Rajput families are now converting their often crumbling palaces into heritage hotels or homestays. These are a wonderful experience for the traveller, family run, with an intriguing history, delicious food and famed Rajput hospitality.

We have stayed and returned to many over the years but on this occasion, we found two new places, one called Chanoud Garh, just outside the village of Chanoud in northern Rajasthan – 

A magnificent 300-year-old palace, home to Thakur Ajeet Singhji and his family, descendants of the original Mertia Rajputs.

The second was a camp called Sujan Jawai, built in the midst of the desert, in the Aravali hills, close to the Jawai Dam. This is a game reserve where leopards roam freely and coexist with the local tribes, pastoralists and villagers. 

As ever, I was on the lookout for new (to me) flavours, cooking techniques and unfamiliar ingredients. At Chanoud Garh I took a cooking class from Swati, sister of the owner.

As we walked across one of the ancient courtyards to the little demonstration kitchen, a local lady sat cross-legged, cheerfully grinding homegrown chickpeas in an ancient stone quern to make dahl.

In many parts of India, medievalism exists side-by-side with the 21st-century. Barefoot children have mobile phones and many simple mud dwellings have satellite dishes. At Swati’s class I learned how to make Dhoongar chicken, a traditional Rajasthani dish.

The flavours were exquisite, and the recipes can be reproduced at home. 

Later in Udaipur, after we had visited Seva Mandir, the NGO we’ve been collaborating with for many years  

I took another cooking class with a local cook from Udaipur called Meenakshi Singh.  Here I learned several other delicious new dishes which I hope you’ll also try…

Dhoongar Chicken

A delicious whole smoked chicken curry from Swati Rathore at Chanoud Garh in Rajasthan –

Serves 4

Smoked Chicken

2 – 3 tablespoons sunflower oil

450 – 700g (1 – 1 1/2lbs) chicken pieces without skin – could be thigh or breast

175g (6oz) onion, finely sliced – save the 1st layer for smoking at the end

250g (9oz) natural yoghurt

5 tablespoons fresh tomato purée * see end of recipe

15g (generous 1/2oz) teaspoons ginger paste, peel and purée

15g (generous 1/2oz) teaspoon garlic paste, peel and purée

1 bay leaf

1 black cardamom

5cm (2 inch) cinnamon stick

2 cloves

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon coriander powder

1/4 – 1/3 teaspoon red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the dhoongar smoking:

wood charcoal

1 onion, peeled and halved, remove one layer and keep for smoking  

1 teaspoon clarified butter (ghee)

2 cloves

1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves

Heat the sunflower oil on a medium to high heat in a saucepan, add the bay leaf, black cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.  Stir and fry for a minute or so until the flavours are released.  Then add the sliced onions and cook until beginning to brown (8 – 10 minutes).  Turn up the heat, add the chicken, allow to fry for 4 – 5 minutes.  Add the fresh tomato purée, yogurt, ginger and garlic paste, coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt to the chicken.  Stir well and bring to the boil. Cover with the lid and allow to simmer on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.  When cooked (15 minutes approx.), remove the lid and fry until the oil separates and the spices are well fried (8 minutes).  This is a dry curry but packed with flavour.  You can add some extra ghee if necessary.

Now do the Dhoongar smoking. 

Heat a stumpy piece of charcoal on a gas jet or in a barbecue.

Take the layer of the halved onion (or a little stainless-steel bowl) and lay on top of the chicken in the saucepan.  Place the hot charcoal in the centre of the onion layer and then pour a little ghee or butter on top along with a couple of cloves. It will instantly start to smoke, cover immediately with a tight-fitting lid and leave for 15 – 30 minutes for the chicken to absorb the smoke. 

Uncover, discard the onion, and charcoal.

Finally add the chopped coriander and serve. 

* The tomato paste that Swati used was made from whole fresh ripe tomatoes puréed.

Kashmiri Lamb Korma with Green Coriander

A rich, flavourful Kashmiri curry usually made with goat, but mutton, pork or beef also works well.  Serve with pilaf rice.

Serves 8

250g (9oz) onion paste (purée)

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

3 – 4 necks of lamb, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) slices and trimmed of excess fat – your butcher will do this for you

30g (1 1/4oz) clarified butter [ghee]

salt and freshly ground black pepper

15 whole green cardamom pods, gently crushed to slightly open the pod

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

75g (3oz) green coriander, chopped

200g (7oz) natural yoghurt

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

To make the onion paste.

Whizz 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water with the onion in a food processor for 30 seconds until it forms a smooth paste.

Heat the clarified butter in a cast-iron pan and brown the lamb for 3 – 4 minutes on each side.  Cook in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan.  Add to a casserole and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Remove the excess oil from the cast-iron pan and deglaze with 200ml (7fl oz) water and bring to a boil.  Add the ground onion and cardamom and cover with the boiling water. Cover the casserole and cook in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until the meat is tender.  Remove from the oven.    

Add the coconut milk, mix thoroughly and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes on the hob. This will produce a delicious rich sauce.

Add lots of chopped green coriander, finally stir in the yoghurt, stir well and serve.

Ahilya Fort’s Tomato Cutt

Richard Holkar at Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar kindly shared this recipe with me.  Serve as a vegetable accompaniment.

Serves 12

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

125g (4 1/2oz) onion, chopped into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

450g (1lb) tomato, chopped into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice

25g (1oz) garlic paste (peel and purée)

25g (1oz) ginger paste (peel and purée)

2 teaspoons turmeric powder

1 – 2 teaspoons chilli powder, depending on how hot you like it

2 teaspoons cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

2 teaspoons sugar

110ml (4fl oz) water or vegetable stock

1 teaspoon salt

250g (9oz) tomato, chopped


2 tablespoons fresh green coriander, chopped

Heat oil in a pan on high heat, add bay leaf and cumin seeds and cook for a few seconds until the cumin pops.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook stirring until light brown in colour (5 – 6 minutes), then add the 450g (1lb) of chopped tomato and cook on a medium-high heat for 7 minutes. 

Add the ginger and garlic paste, mix well and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat, add the remaining ingredients and cook for another 7 minutes. Check for seasoning and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt if necessary.   

Add remaining 250g (9oz) of chopped tomato and simmer for 5 minutes. It should be a thick soupy consistency. This will depend on how juicy your tomatoes were. If it’s too thick add 110ml (4fl oz) of boiling water or more if needed.

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve.  

Safed Aloo (Potatoes with Yoghurt and Coriander)

Swati Rathore from Chanoud Garh shared this recipe with me.

Serve as a stand-alone dish or as part of a thaili (an array of selective dishes served together on a round platter).

Serves 2

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small red or white onion, chopped

1 dry red chilli, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, slightly crushed

5 garlic cloves, peeled
4-6 tablespoons of natural yoghurt

1 heaped teaspoon of cashew powder (unsalted cashew nuts)
2 – 4 cooked potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt to taste

fresh coriander leaves, chopped.

Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan, add the chopped onion, stir and fry over a medium heat until translucent, add the red chilli, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and whole garlic cloves. Stir and fry for 3 – 4 minutes.

Mix the yoghurt and cashew powder in a bowl, add to the pan.  Bring to the boil, stirring continuously and allow to simmer for a few minutes on a low heat until it thickens somewhat.  Add the boiled potato cubes and salt to taste. Continue to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add the chopped coriander.  Serve hot.

Pea Halva ….Mattar Halva

Another delicious recipe from Swati at Chanoud Garh.  I’d previously eaten both a fruit and nut combination, plus a carrot, cardamom and pistachio halva so I was intrigued by this delicious pea version which was new to me.

Serves 4-6

green peas

2 generous tablespoons of clarified butter or ghee
2 whole green cardamom
1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 tablespoon each of sultanas or raisins, coarsely chopped cashew nuts and sliced almonds

Purée the fresh peas with a little milk in a food processor and keep aside. Melt the tablespoons of the ghee or clarified butter in a sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the whole green cardamom and then the pea purée. Stir continuously on a low heat until the mixture looks split and the globules of ghee are visible….about 5 minutes.
Add a little more milk and stir continuously. When the peas have cooked and the milk has condensed, 10 minutes approximately, the mixture will be a richer colour and the ghee will have separated so it appears curdled. Add the sugar, stir continuously, the halva is ready when it’s a deeper green colour and the ghee is visible on the sides of the pan. Add the ground cardamom and half of the dried fruit and nuts. Taste and add a little more if necessary…. Serve hot in small bowls sprinkled with the remainder of the dried fruit and nuts…


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