ArchiveApril 2023


I’m not the only one who gets excited about rhubarb. A recent post on our Instagram page of one of our students uncovering a forcing pot in the garden got over 3 1/2 million hits and 394 comments….
As a little girl, stewed rhubarb and custard was a favourite pudding. When I came to Ballymaloe in the late 1960’s, I discovered super delicious, rhubarb fool, which is simply softly whipped cream folded into stewed rhubarb. We love to serve it with shortbread biscuits. Try this version of the biscuit, made with half wholemeal flour and half white, it was an inspired find from a student’s experiment on the last 12-week course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.
Don’t waste a drop of the leftover juice, it makes a delicious lemonade or a rhubarb fizz…
Rhubarb is a kind of enigma… a vegetable masquerading as a fruit, pink and tart, plentiful, versatile and perennial. So, once you plant a few stools in your garden or flowerbed, (why not) it will re-emerge in Spring every year to delight you after the long Winter.
Older people used to speak of how it would clear the blood… We have just moved from the pale pink rhubarb forced under terracotta cloches or in dark sheds to the outdoor garden crop. The latter is tarter and a little less tender, but I love both and use it in a myriad of delicious ways, mostly cooked, but my Danish friend Camilla Plum introduced me to this raw rhubarb, cucumber and mint salad. The thinly sliced rhubarb is raw and tart, a delicious combination.
Have you tried serving stewed rhubarb with a pork chop yet? A delicious combination and rhubarb sauce is particularly tasty with a few freshly cooked pan grilled mackerel. It also cuts the sweetness of a meringue roulade. And how about rhubarb, ginger and sweet geranium jam…I’ve just filled a sponge cake with this jam and some softly whipped cream… it was a big hit to say the least…
Here are several of our new favourites to try and don’t forget to freeze a few bags of chopped rhubarb. It freezes brilliantly and it’s particularly good for jams. Combine with strawberries when they come into season for a really memorable flavour combination
If you don’t have your own homegrown rhubarb yet, seek it out in a local shop or Farmers Market but best of all swing by a Garden Centre and buy a few plants for your garden.

Raw Rhubarb, Cucumber and Mint Salad

Do try this fresh-tasting combination from Camilla Plum, you’ll be surprised how delicious it is.

Serves 4

2-3 stalks of young red rhubarb

1/2 crisp cucumber

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 handfuls of rocket leaves

1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice

local wildflower honey or sugar to taste

fistful of shredded mint leaves

Using a vegetable slicer such as a mandolin or a thin-bladed knife, cut the rhubarb slightly on the diagonal into very thin slices.  Repeat with the peeled cucumber.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber in a bowl with the sea salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes; rinse and drain.

Toss the rhubarb and cucumber with the rocket leaves in a salad bowl.  Drizzle with lemon juice and a little honey or sugar to taste. 

Scatter the mint leaves over the top and toss gently.  It should be fresh tasting.

Serve with pan-grilled salmon, grey sea mullet or sea bass.

Rhubarb Sauce

Delicious served as an accompaniment with roast pork, duck or grilled mackerel.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces

110g (4oz) sugar

Put the rhubarb into a stainless-steel saucepan, add the sugar and toss around, leave for 5 or 10 minutes until the juice from the rhubarb starts to melt the sugar.   Then, cover the saucepan and put on a gentle heat, cook until soft.  Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.  It should not be too sweet but should not cut your throat either.   If you have a spoonful of really good redcurrant jelly, stir it in at the end, otherwise leave it out.   Serve warm.

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Pistachios

We love to arrange the rhubarb in a chevron pattern but of course one can just scatter it on the base, not so pretty but equally delicious. 

Serves 10-12 

Rich Shortcrust Pastry 

225g (8oz) plain white flour 

175g (6oz) cold butter

pinch of salt 

1 dessertspoon icing sugar 

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind (save a little egg wash for the pastry shell)


600g (1 1/4lb) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces 

2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is


2 large or 3 small eggs 

3 tablespoons caster sugar  

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

300ml (10fl oz) cream 


40g (1 1/2oz) coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

1 x 30.5cm (12 inch) tart tin or 2 x 18cm (7 inch) tart tins 

Make the shortcrust pastry.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your 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.   Add the icing sugar.

Whisk the egg or egg yolk and add some water. Using a fork to stir, 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.

Wrap in parchment paper and leave to relax in the fridge for at least 1 hour before using.  It will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and also freezes well.

Line the tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes.  

Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with dried beans.

Bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. 

Remove the paper and beans (save for another use). Paint the tart base with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.   

Arrange the cut rhubarb close together in a pattern on the base of the tart shell (could be in lines, chevron or in circles). Sprinkle with 2-4 tablespoons caster sugar depending on how tart the rhubarb is.  Forced rhubarb is sweeter than garden rhubarb.  

Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons caster sugar, vanilla extract and add the cream. Strain this mixture through a sieve, pour carefully into the tart shell around and over the rhubarb.  Cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked.  Cool on a wire rack. 

Sprinkle a 2.5cm (1 inch) rim of coarsely chopped pistachios around the edge of the tart.   Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream. 

Good to know…

A little reduced rhubarb syrup or redcurrant jelly painted over the top enhances both flavour and appearance

Meringue Roulade with Roast Rhubarb, Rosewater Cream and Crystallised Rose Petals

A gorgeous combination of flavour and textures – always a wow for a dinner party.  Rosewater varies in intensity, add 1 teaspoon first, taste and add more if necessary.

Serves 6 – 8

4 egg whites

225g (8oz) castor sugar


300ml (10fl oz) softly whipped cream flavoured with 1-2 teaspoons rose water

Roast Rhubarb (see recipe)


sprigs of mint, lemon balm or sweet cicely


Crystallised Rose Petals *see note at end of recipe

Swiss roll tin 30.5 x 20.5cm (12 x 8 inch) or 33 x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) for a thinner roulade

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

First make the Roast Rhubarb (see recipe).

Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer.  Break up with the whisk and then add all the castor sugar together.  Whisk at full speed until it holds a stiff peak, 10 minutes approx.

Meanwhile, line a Swiss roll tin with parchment paper, brush lightly with a non-scented oil (e.g., sunflower oil).

Spread the meringue gently over the tin with a palette knife, it ought to be quite thick and bouncy. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. 

Put a sheet of parchment paper on the work top and turn the roulade onto it.  Remove the base paper and allow to cool in the tin.

To Assemble

Spread the whipped cream and drained roast rhubarb over the meringue, roll up from the wide end and carefully ease onto a serving plate. Pipe 6-8 rosettes along the top of the roulade, decorate as you wish with crystallised rose petals and mint leaves.  Serve, cut into slices about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick.

Note:  This roulade is also very good filled with fresh raspberries, loganberries, sliced ripe peaches, nectarines, kiwi fruit, bananas, or mango and passionfruit.

Roast Rhubarb

A dish of roasted fruit couldn’t be simpler – rhubarb, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches, apples, pears.  Once again, I love to add some freshly chopped herbs, e.g., rose geranium or verbena to the sugar or the accompanying cream.  

I’ve become a huge fan of the sweet and intense flavour of roast rhubarb

Serves 6

1kg (2 1/4lb) red rhubarb

200-250g (7-9oz) sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/Gas Mark 6.

Stainless steel or non-reactive ovenproof dish, 45cm x 30cm (18 inch x 12 inch) (size depends slightly on the thickness of the rhubarb)

Trim the rhubarb stalks if necessary.

Slice the rhubarb into 2 1/2cm (1 inch) pieces and arrange in a single layer in an oven proof dish.  Scatter the sugar over the rhubarb and allow to macerate for an hour or more, until the juice starts to run. Cover loosely with a sheet of parchment paper and roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks – until the rhubarb is just tender. 

Serve alone or with ice-cream, panna cotta, labneh or thick Jersey cream…

Good to know – uncover the rhubarb after 10 minutes for more caramelisation

Rhubarb Fizz

Purée the roast rhubarb, put 1-2 tablespoons in a glass, top up with Prosecco or Cava or sparkling water or soda water for a non-alcoholic fizz.

*Crystallised Rose Petals

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. Using a child’s paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the flower with a teaspoon. Arrange the crystallized flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box with an airtight lid.

Rhubarb Fool

This simple combo is amazingly delicious for little effort.

Serves 6 approximately

450g (1lb) red rhubarb, cut into chunks

175g (6oz) sugar

2 tablespoons water

225 – 300ml (8-10fl oz) softly whipped cream

Put the rhubarb into a stainless saucepan with the sugar and water, stir, cover, bring to the boil and simmer until soft, 20 minutes approx.  Stir with a wooden spoon until the rhubarb dissolves into a mush. Allow to get quite cold. Fold in the softly whipped cream to taste. Serve chilled with shortbread biscuits.

Ruth’s Wholemeal Shortbread Biscuits

Thank you to Ruth O’Connell who recently attended our 12-Week Course for sharing this recipe – simply divine!

Makes approx. 20 biscuits

100g (3 1/2oz) wholemeal plain flour

75g (3oz) plain flour

110g (4oz) butter

50g (2oz) caster sugar

vanilla sugar

Preheat oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter until a pastry-like dough is formed. Knead lightly. Flour the work surface. Roll out to approx. 7mm (1/3 inch) thick. Cut into rounds. Place on a lined baking tray. Bake for 9-11 minutes, turning the tray in the oven halfway through baking. You want the biscuits to be golden and slightly crispy. Remove to a cooling rack and sprinkle with sieved vanilla sugar, while still warm.


The scraps of dough can be re-rolled easily, and any extra dough can be stored in the fridge until ready to use.


California here I come…

Ever since I started the cooking school with my brother Rory O’Connell in September 1983, I’ve tried to go to California at least every second year to check out what’s happening on the food scene and to get an idea of the trends that are coming our way.

Originally it would take 4 to 5 years before things became mainstream over here. Needless to say, nowadays with social media, ideas travel much, much faster. Nonetheless, a visit to the West Coast can keep one ahead of the curve for at least a year or two.

The main raison d’etre for the trip was to attend several events to celebrate the launch of The Ballymaloe Desserts book, written by JR Ryall, Head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House, who worked alongside Myrtle Allen for many years, and carefully carries on the tradition of a sweet trolly piled high with the irresistible sweet treats that the guests have looked forward to at the end of their Ballymaloe meal for almost 60 years. JR has also added many of his own specialties to the repertoire, gradually over the years always respecting Myrtle’s philosophy and flavours…

The first event was in Los Angeles at Lulu in the Hammer Museum. JR, collaborated with former Chez Panisse chef, David Tanis and his wonderful team to recreate a selection of Ballymaloe deserts. The second event was at Caldo Verde in the Proper Hotel downtown. Both events were sold out and oversubscribed, and the fun thing for us was that so many people who had come to Ballymaloe over the years turned up to dinner as well as lots of Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni. It was like a wonderful party every night, The flavours brought back memories for so many, and sent them all on a trip down memory lane…

The food at Lulu was absolutely delicious, totally seasonal, small plates of good things made from ingredients carefully chosen at the crack of dawn from the Farmers Market by in-house, forager, Dorothy Pirtle…

I visited four different Farmers’ Market in LA, Santa Monica and South Pasadena with Dorothy and was fascinated to discover that she was not the only Forager, dashing from stall to stall just as soon as the markets opened to find the choicest things. All the top restaurants in LA were sourcing from the farmers market with the passionate young foragers from each establishment vying with each other to pick up the freshest items to put on their menu. That’s what I mean by walking the walk not just talking the talk…an all-too-common practice over this side of the world.

Apart from Lulu, I visited several other restaurants including Great White on Melrose owned by past student, Juan Ferriero and his wife Liza, who met and became engaged at the Cookery School in 2019.

There I enjoyed, possibly the best burger of my entire trip, which Juan was happy to tell me included 20% juicy beef fat, the reason for its succulence and delicious flavour. I was so proud of him…

So, what trends did I notice…Well, there was Crudo, (raw fish) in some shape or form on virtually every menu. Oysters were everywhere with the tasting plates from different bays around the coast, Tinned fish is a huge trend and virtually every café has a canned fish offering, not just sardines, tuna and salmon, but octopus, cockles and clams, mussels, mackerel…There was even a café in Grand Central Market in LA called Kippered…

It was right in the middle of the date and citrus fruit season, delicious, juicy fruit, but my best find was several varieties of kumquats that one can eat, skin and all, bittersweet and gorgeous, unlike the variety we get over here, which is altogether more bitter and really needs to be cooked.

Lots of Korean, Japanese food and Japanese ingredients even at the farmers markets. Greatly enjoyed our meal at The Ramen Shop in Oakland, put it on your list if you’re heading for the West Coast. Mother Wolf Restaurant on Wilcox Ave also richly deserves a mention. LA really is throbbing.

Sadly, San Francisco feels like a busted flush, very much a victim of its own success. Real estate has become so crazily expensive that restaurant staff simply cannot afford to live in the city, or even in Oakland or Berkeley. In the midst of it all, there is a beyond appalling homeless problem. I spoke to a dog walker who told me he was earning $150,000 a year but still could not afford to live in San Francisco…such a beautiful city if you have money but it’s in crisis at present. I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Chronicle on my way home and there in the property section were houses advertised for $20 and $24 million despite the techie crisis…

Feels like San Francisco is no longer leading the way, although I did have several delicious meals there too including one at Zuni, where there was yet another launch for the Ballymaloe Deserts Book, might be the most launched book that ever was…

Everything I ate at Rintaro, the Japanese restaurant on 14th Street was memorable, I also loved several café bakeries and salon du thé… Don’t miss the flaky buttery Kouign-Amann at b patisserie on California St and superb baking in the The French Spot on Larkin St., a rundown part of town where you get a full-on glimpse of the other side of San Francisco but well worth a visit for the superb viennoiserie and coffee and The Mill on Divisadero where they do the most expensive but utterly delicious toast in town…Anyone for almond butter, sea salt and honey on whole-grain sourdough toast $7 or egg, garlic sage butter, flaky, sea salt and pepper on country bread for $9. Despite the prices, there’s a line out the door from morning till night, because all the toasts are super delicious.

I’ve run out of space, but I want to share a few recipes for some of the delicious things I enjoyed on my recent visit to California.

Crudo with Salmon Eggs and Fennel Flowers

One of the many crudo recipes we love.

Serves 8-10

450g (1lb) very fresh mackerel, bream or sea bass

freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon

salmon eggs

24-50 fennel sprigs (or flowers in season) depending on size

flaky sea salt

Chill the starter plates.

Fillet the fish, if necessary and spoon some of the freshly squeezed juice over the fish. Cover and chill for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness. Slice into paper thin slices. Arrange in a line of overlapping slices in the centre of the plate, spoon little blobs of salmon eggs along the middle and decorate with fennel sprigs and flowers in season. Serve immediately.

Egg in a Hole

Inspired by Mill Bakery in San Francisco. 

A feast for one.

1 thick slice of country bread, 2.5cm (1 inch) thick

Garlic and Sage Butter

25g (1oz) butter

1-2 teaspoons fresh sage, finely chopped

a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1-2 cloves garlic, well crushed

1 fresh organic egg

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

First, make the garlic and sage butter.

Cream the butter in a bowl, stir in the sage and a few drops of lemon juice at a time.  Add the crushed garlic.  Use immediately or form into a roll and wrap in greaseproof paper, screwing each end so that it looks like a cracker.  Refrigerate.

Heat a non-stick pan on a low to medium heat.

Remove a circle of bread from the centre of the slice of bread, slather one side with garlic and sage butter. Pop onto the pan, butter side down, cook for 3-4 minutes until crisp and buttery on the base. Flip over, then butter the top side. Crack an egg into a cup and slide into the cavity. Cover the pan with a Pyrex lid or a plate and continue to cook until the egg is just set in the centre. Sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt and a little freshly cracked pepper. Enjoy immediately.

David Tanis’s Chickpea Salad with Green Chutney

This salad is also delicious topped with roasted small potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, cauliflower or any other seasonal vegetable.  

Serves 4-6

375g (13oz) dry chickpeas, soak overnight. 

Next day, cover with fresh water, bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes until cooked. 

Alternatively use 850g (1lb 14oz) cooked chickpeas

Green Chutney

50g (2oz) coriander leaves and tender stems

10g (scant 1/2oz) mint leaves

50g (2oz) baby spinach leaves

1 Serrano or jalapeño chilli (add more chilli if you like it hotter)

good pinch of salt

2 teaspoon sugar

1-2 tablespoons water to bind


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

pinch of cayenne

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice


4-6 radishes, thinly sliced

2-3 ‘jammy’ soft-boiled eggs, halved

fresh coriander, roughly chopped

To make the green chutney.

Purée all the ingredients in a blender – add the water if necessary.  This makes a bright green medium spicy green chutney.  Best used on the day it is made.

Drain the chickpeas and place in a deep wide bowl. Season generously with salt and a drizzle with the olive oil. Add the toasted ground cumin, garam masala and a pinch of cayenne. Add a good squeeze of lime. Toss well, taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, add 2-3 tablespoons green chutney and toss again. Serve the remaining green chutney in a separate bowl.

To Serve

Garnish each serving with the soft egg half, some thinly sliced radishes and coriander.

Zuni Café Roast Chicken with Warm Bread Salad

‘You don’t need a brick oven for this perfect roast chicken from the legendary chef Judy Rodgers — but you do need a hot one, and a day or so to dry-brine the bird before using it. If you don’t have the time to dry-brine, don’t. You’ll still end up with one of the best roast chickens you’ve ever had. Just dry the bird really well with paper towels before seasoning and dab it again before putting it into the sizzling pan. Rodgers’s technique, which involves drying and seasoning the chicken, then flipping it while cooking, results in a wonderfully browned bird, with crackling skin and moist meat. Serve it over a bread salad, as she did, or with well-dressed greens and a baguette. You win either way.’

Serves 2-4

1 small chicken, 1.2-1.6kg (2 3/4 – 3 1/2lbs)

4 sprigs fresh thyme, marjoram, rosemary or sage

sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt 1-2 days before serving. Remove the lump of fat inside the chicken (render for roast potatoes). Pat the chicken very dry (a wet chicken won’t brown).

Slide a finger under the skin of each of the chicken breasts, making 2 little pockets, then use a fingertip to gently loosen a pocket of skin on the outside of the thickest section of each thigh. Push an herb sprig into each of the 4 pockets.

Using about 3/4 teaspoon sea salt per 450g (1lb) of chicken and pepper to taste, season the chicken liberally all over with salt and the pepper. Sprinkle a little of the salt just inside the cavity and on the backbone. Twist and tuck the wing tips behind the shoulders. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 240°C/475°F/Gas Mark 9.

Depending on your oven and the size of your bird, you may need to adjust the heat to as high as 250°C/500°F/Gas Mark 10 or as low as 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 during roasting to brown the chicken properly.

Choose a shallow roasting tin or dish barely larger than the chicken or use a 25cm (10 inch) saucepan with a metal handle. Preheat the tin over a medium heat. Wipe the chicken dry and set it breast side up in the tin – it should sizzle.

Place in the centre of the oven and watch for it to start sizzling and browning within 20 minutes. If it doesn’t, raise the temperature progressively until it does. The skin should blister, but if the chicken begins to char, or the fat is smoking, reduce the temperature slightly. After about 30 minutes, turn the bird over (drying the bird and preheating the tin should keep the skin from sticking). Roast for another 10-20 minutes, depending on size, then flip back over to re-crisp the breast skin, another 5-10 minutes. Total oven time will be 45-60 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the roasting tin and put on a plate. Pour the clear fat from the tin, leaving the drippings. Add about 1 tablespoon of water to the hot tin and swirl. Slash the stretched skin between the thighs and breasts of the chicken, then tilt the bird and plate over the roasting tin to drain the juice into the drippings. As the chicken rests, tilt the roasting tin and skim the last of the fat. Place over a medium-low heat, add any juice that has collected under the chicken, and bring to a simmer. Stir and scrape.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and pour the tin drippings over the chicken.

Warm Bread Salad

This is, quite possibly, the bread salad to end all bread salads. Judy Rodgers, the legendary chef and bread lover, developed it to serve alongside roast chicken, but it’s perfect paired with any roast meat. Bread chunks are mixed with a sharp vinaigrette, softened currants, toasted pine nuts and lightly cooked scallions and garlic. Everything is piled into a roasting pan then slid into the oven just before the chicken comes out and stays in while the chicken rests (if you’re not making it with chicken, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8, turn it off and pop the salad in for 15 minutes). At the last minute, toss the bread mixture with arugula and vinaigrette. Top with the jointed Zuni Café roast chicken.

Serves 4

1 tablespoon dried currants

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon warm water

2 tablespoons pine nuts or cashew nuts

225-300g (8 -10oz) slightly stale ciabatta or other open-textured white bread

8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar, approximately

salt and coarsely ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, slivered

25g (1oz) thinly sliced scallions

4 tablespoons lightly salted chicken stock

110g (4oz) rocket leaves or mustard greens, rinsed and dried

Place the currants in a small dish, add the red wine vinegar and warm water, and set aside.

Heat the grill. Place the pine nuts or cashew nuts in a small baking dish, and toast under the grill until very lightly coloured. Set aside.

Cut the bread into three or four large chunks. Closely trim off most of the crust and reserve, if desired, to toast and use for breadcrumbs or croutons. Brush the bread all over with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Briefly grill the bread chunks, turning until crisp and golden on the surface. Remove from the oven, trim off any charred tips, and tear the chunks into the irregular pieces, from 5cm (2 inch) wads to large crumbs. Place in a wide metal, glass or ceramic salad bowl.

Whisk 50ml (2fl oz) olive oil with 1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons of this dressing over the bread and toss.

Place one tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the garlic and scallions, and cook, stirring constantly over a low heat until softened but not coloured. Add to bread and fold in with the drained currants and pine nuts. Drizzle the salad with stock and toss. Taste a couple pieces of bread. Add a little more vinegar, salt and pepper if necessary. Toss well, and transfer to a baking dish. Cover loosely.

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

About 30 minutes before serving.

Put the bread salad in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Return the salad to a bowl. Add the greens, remaining vinaigrette, and enough of the remaining olive oil so the bread is not dry. Toss again. Serve with Zuni Café roast chicken.

Lulu in LA Bay Leaf Ice Cream

Special thanks to David Tanis for sharing this exquisite ice cream recipe.

Makes 10-12

900ml (1 1/2 pints) of milk

450ml (16fl oz) cream

15 fresh bay leaves

1 pinch of salt

1 cinnamon stick, break in half

260g (scant 9 1/2oz) caster sugar

peel of 1 organic lemon

12 egg yolks

Put all the ingredients except the egg yolks in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring slowly to the shivery stage, turn off the heat and allow the flavours to macerate for at least an hour.

Whisk 12 egg yolks until light and fluffy gradually pour on the flavoured liquid whisking all the time.

Return to the saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly backwards and forwards with a straight end wooden spoon until the light crème anglaise coats the back of the spoon. Pour into a stainless-steel bowl and chill over ice, stirring regularly.

Churn in an ice cream machine.

Serve a ball of ice cream in chilled bowls on top of a blob of softly whipped cream (yes, that’s not a misprint)

Sprinkle with bay leaf dust and serve as soon as possible.

Bay leaf dust.

Dry the fresh bay leaves in a dehydrator until crisp, about 24 hours at 46°C/115°F (alternatively, hang up somewhere to dry at room temperature for a couple of days).  Whizz in a clean spice grinder, sieve, and store in a dark sealed glass jar.


Have you been fantasizing about a little break? how about a staycation of a few days break in Ireland…

I’ve just had an action-packed weekend in Belfast and I can tell you the city is rocking. The food scene is exploding, and I certainly couldn’t manage to fit all my ‘must do’s into my available meal slots, I’ll have to go back for more…
If you feel like driving, it’s an easy road trip from Cork but I hopped on the train to Dublin, took the Luas to Connolly Station and onto the super comfortable Enterprise to Belfast.
I had a long list of places to visit, delis, cafés, cool shops and of course restaurants.  St. George’s Street market on Friday or Saturday is a must. Pick up some soda farls and potato bread…Sunday is mostly for bric-a-brac hunters…
I also loved Mike Thompson‘s cheese shop on Little Donegal Street, a fantastic selection of cheese as well as his own raw milk blue veined, Young Buck, the first artisan cheese to be made in Northern Ireland after the troubles… Mike is a great fan of Hegarty‘s cheese and I also bought a Cavanbert made by another pioneer farmhouse cheesemaker Silke Cropp from Co Cavan…. I also added a little roll of Abernethy’s handmade butter and some charcuterie from the Cole family in Broughgammon.
Then onto a new Nordic influenced bakery round the corner on Donegal Street called Bakari owned by Jack Mowbray.  A really interesting range of breads and viennoiserie, many made from heirloom wheat.
Bread and Banjo on the Ormeau Road is another place to swing by for properly good artisan breads.
Foodies who don’t have time to do research, but want to pack as much as possible into a delicious weekend could sign up for one of several food tours. Caroline Wilson of Belfast Food Tours comes highly recommended.
We had a delicious dinner of small plates at Niall McKenna‘s Waterman House restaurant and the most delicious smoked ham with really good house-made sourdough bread and brown butter. Chef Cathal Duncan told me that they smoke the streaky bacon in their Little Green Egg barbecue and smoker. It was so good that I begged for some for my picnic on the train and I have to tell you that I was the envy of all my fellow travellers….
I also loved their arancini with celeriac and Young Buck purée and the pressed potato slices and the scallops with Jerusalem artichokes and…Top Tip – check out the schedule at the Waterman Cookery School
Of course I wanted to get back to Michelin starred OX but didn’t make it this time…. Everyone says lunch is brilliant value for money at £40-45.
I did however get out to FRAE in Holywood (10 minutes by train or a bit longer by car). Loved Shaun Tinman’s eclectic little bites and little plates. The jambons made with ham hock and Coolea cheese were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Even the bread from the Bara Bakehouse in Comber and the homemade butter were exceptional. The last of the squashed roasties with caramelised garlic could be the subject of a serious row…see frae_range on Instagram If you can’t bag a table there, (only 20+ seats), I believe Noble on Church Street in Holywood is also worth a detour.
Used to be that shops, restaurants and cafés were not allowed to open before noon on Sundays, to facilitate those who wished to go to church, but that’s all changed now that tourists are pouring back into Belfast from all over the world, all desperate for a Sunday brunch.
There is so much happening around the Cathedral Quarter. For those who want super lux accommodation, the Merchant Hotel is right there, in the midst of all the pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés.
I return to Established Coffee on Hill St every time we visit Belfast and it’s still as good as ever, superb coffee, pastries and brunch dishes. Everyone raves about Neighbourhood Café too.  The Dirty Onion pub and Yardbird are close by too. It’s just around the corner on Donegall St and is owned by Ryan Crown and Oisin McEvoy.  I didn’t make it this time cause the queue was so long, I would’ve missed my train, but friends raved about the Turkish eggs with garlic yoghurt, chilli butter, dill and sourdough…
I also missed lunch at Yügo which does the most delectable Asian fusion tapas on Wellington St by just a few minutes. As I left, I was deeply envious of the diners, tucking into exciting looking multi-ethnic plates.  It too gets many plaudits from choosy critics.
Lots of cool shops of course but this is a food column.
I hasten to add that I have no affiliation to any of these places, those I recommend are just personal picks.
Thank you to the chefs who shared recipes for some of the dishes that I enjoyed so much on my brief interlude in Belfast city.

Waterman House Arancini with Young Buck Custard

Makes 50 approx./Serves 12

500g (18oz) arborio risotto rice

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) vegetable stock

1 shallot, finely diced

1 clove of garlic, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon chopped thyme

150ml (5fl oz) white wine

1 celeriac, peeled and chopped (750g – 800g/1lb 10oz – 1 3/4lbs approx.)

100g (3 1/2oz) Parmesan, finely grated

200g (7oz) butter

200ml (7fl oz) whipping cream

250g (9oz) Young Buck blue cheese, rind removed and crumbled

4 eggs, beaten with a fork

250ml (9fl oz) double cream

150ml (5fl oz) milk

flour, egg and breadcrumbs to bread arancini

oil for deep frying

To make Young Buck custard, heat the milk and cream to a simmer, pour mixture over the beaten eggs, whisk well and return to the saucepan.  Continue to cook over a gentle heat until the mixture has thickened slightly, if you have a temperature probe 82°C is the perfect temperature. Once the custard has thickened, pour over crumbled blue cheese, mix well and transfer to a blender. Blitz until smooth and chill until needed.

To make celeriac purée, sweat the chopped celeriac in half the butter until well softened, add the cream and bring to a simmer. Once the cream has reduced by half, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, reserve.

To make the risotto base.

Sweat the shallots, garlic, and thyme in a little olive oil until soft, add in rice, stir well ensuring each grain of rice is coated in the olive oil.  Allow the rice to toast for a couple of minutes until it takes on a translucent appearance. Add the wine and reduce completely over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Gradually add the vegetable stock to the rice one ladleful at a time, it will take around 12 minutes to thoroughly cook the rice, you may not need all the stock. The rice should be well cooked but still holding its shape, when you have reached this stage, add the remaining butter and Parmesan along with 500g (18oz) of the celeriac purée, season well with salt and pepper. Spread the risotto mixture out on a baking sheet and chill.

Once the risotto is completely cold, roll into 20-25g (3/4 – 1oz) balls and chill for 30 minutes. Then coat the balls seasoned in flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs.  Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 170°C and fry arancini for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Gently warm the blue cheese custard without boiling.  Serve the arancini on top of the custard and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

Waterman House Seared Scallops with Jerusalem Artichoke & Truffle Jus

Serves 4

12 medium scallops, cleaned and roes removed

10 large Jerusalem artichokes, washed

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) milk

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) cream

500g (18oz) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

50g (2oz) preserved truffles, finely chopped

50ml (2fl oz) truffle oil

10ml (scant 1/2fl oz) chardonnay/white wine vinegar

1 small shallot, finely diced


2 litres (3 1/2 pints) beef stock

freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the artichoke purée.

Roughly chop 4 of the artichokes and sweat gently in 100g (3 1/2oz) of the butter until soft, add the milk and cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook out until the liquid has reduced by half, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth, season with salt and reserve.

To make truffle butter, combine 250g (9oz) of butter with the truffles, oil, vinegar and shallot and season with salt. Roll the butter mixture in parchment paper and reserve in the fridge.

To make the artichoke crisps.

Slice 2 of the artichokes very thinly on a mandolin and put into a pan of cold water.  Bring to the boil and drain immediately, spread the artichokes out on a tray and allow to cool.  Pat dry with kitchen paper and deep fry at 160°C until crisp, season with salt and reserve in an airtight container.

Put the remaining artichokes in a pan of cold water and simmer until tender, remove and allow to cool. Once cooled, slice the artichokes in half and heat the remaining butter until it is foaming. Place the artichoke in the pan cut side down; cook gently on the stove until the artichokes start to take on some colour. Place the pan into the oven at 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 for 25-30 minutes or until the artichokes are well coloured. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

For the truffle sauce, reduce the beef stock by two-thirds or until it starts to thicken, gradually whisk in the cold, diced truffle butter until you reach a nice saucy consistency.

To cook the scallops, heat a frying pan until very hot and sear the scallops on one side until golden brown, turn the scallops over and reduce the heat.  Cook for a further minute, then add a knob of butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Baste the scallops for 30 seconds then remove to a warmed plate.

To serve, place some of the heated purée onto the plate, place the scallops on top, drizzle over some of the truffle jus. Sprinkle over some of the crispy artichokes and serve.

Chicken Marbella from Shaun Tinman at Frae

So, unlike the original recipe from the Silver Palette cookbook, we’ve prepared ours as chicken cooked over the charcoal BBQ and served with the accompaniments suspended in the sauce.

Serves 6

12 chicken thighs, skin on
olive brine reserved from gordal green olives

2 tablespoons aged malt vinegar

small bunch thyme

1 head crushed garlic

3 shallots, diced
4 bay leaves
250ml (9fl oz) white wine
splash of Madeira
1 1/2 litres (2 1/2 pints) good quality chicken stock

1 can gordal green olives, torn in half
25g (1oz) capers

50g (2oz) pitted prunes, roughly chopped
knob of butter

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

freshly ground black pepper

Ideally, marinate the chicken thighs in the gordal olive brine, aged vinegar, thyme and garlic overnight, but a few hours will suffice.

For the sauce, add a splash of oil to your saucepan and gently cook the shallots until translucent, no colour. Add bay leaves, then deglaze with the wine and Madeira. Add chicken stock and gently reduce to a consistency where the sauce just coats the back of a spoon then set aside.

The chicken is best cooked slowly over charcoal allowing the skin to render and become crisp without burning, intermittently brushing the flesh side with the reserved marinade. If the BBQ isn’t an option, good results can be achieved cooking the chicken on a wire rack under a medium grill.

As the chicken is resting, return the sauce to a low heat and add the olives, capers and prunes, allow to soften in the sauce for a few minutes then add the butter and parsley and stir until evenly incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt pepper and a little aged vinegar as necessary.

Season and divide the chicken evenly between warmed serving plates, and spoon the sauce over the top.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake, Armagnac Syrup from Shaun Tinman at Frae

You’ll need to be fast, blood oranges are just coming to the end of the season.

Serves 6

6 blood oranges

225g (8oz) of caster sugar
15g (generous 1/2oz) of butter
150ml (5fl oz) of whipping cream
150ml (5fl oz) blood orange juice
80ml (scant 3 1/4fl oz) of Armagnac

150g (5oz) butter
150g (5oz) demerara sugar
150g (5oz) self-raising flour
2 eggs

vanilla ice-cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts to serve

Peel and segment the blood oranges, juicing the excess.

For the caramel sauce, gently cook the sugar in a saucepan until it has fully dissolved and turned a medium caramel colour. Add the butter, followed by the cream and juice. Keep over a medium heat and stir gently until it comes together. Reduce until the consistency of the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and add the Armagnac.

For the cake mixture, cream the butter and sugar together, beat the eggs in one by one and fold in the flour. Transfer mixture to a piping bag.

Lightly butter dariole moulds, then add 1cm (1/2 inch) depth caramel to each, followed by a heaped tablespoon of the blood orange segment. Carefully pipe a 3cm (1 1/4 inch) layer of cake mixture into each dariole, covering the fruit below.

Bake at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 minutes, rest for 5 minutes before carefully turning out. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, a drizzle of the remaining syrup and some chopped hazelnuts.

Fadge or Potato Bread

Go along to St. George’s Market on Friday, Saturday or Sunday for a Belfast Bap on potato bread – OMG…Lots of stalls sell fadge or potato bread.  It can be cooked on a griddle, in a frying pan or in the oven.

Serves 8

900g (2lb) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg, preferably free range

25 – 50g (1 – 2oz) butter

seasoned flour

salt and freshly ground pepper

creamy milk

bacon fat, butter or olive oil for frying

Cook the potatoes in their jackets, pull off the skin and mash right away.   Add the beaten egg, butter and flour.  Season with lots of salt and freshly ground pepper, adding a few drops of creamy milk if the mixture is altogether too stiff. Taste and correct the seasoning. Shape into a 2.5cm (1 inch) thick round and then cut into eighths.  Dip in seasoned flour.  Bake in a moderate oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 – 20 minutes or alternatively cook on a griddle over an open fire or fry in bacon fat or melted butter on a gentle heat.  When the fadge is crusty and golden on one side, flip over and cook on the other side (4 – 5 minutes approx. each side).  Serve with an Ulster fry or just on its own on hot plates with a blob of butter melting on top.


Once again, one can do lots of riffs on potato bread.  Add chopped chives, wild garlic, thyme leaves, seaweed…

Easter Eggs

What can be more adorable on Easter Sunday morning, than the joy and excitement on the children’s faces when they see the new-born chicks in the Palais des Poulets here on the farm… If our hens don’t get broody, Eileen and John take matters into their own hands.  A dozen or so eggs go into the incubator in the potting shed…twenty one days later, the chicks start to hatch out, pecking through the shells with their little beaks… yet another miracle of nature. Within a few hours, they are all fluffed up and cheeping, ready to tuck into a little fine oatmeal or chick mash.
Within 18-22 weeks the females are crowing with pride having laid their first egg. These smaller, initial attempts are referred to as pullets eggs… the term given to a chicken before it officially becomes a hen.
As I cook, I can scarcely imagine life without eggs or hens for that matter. Ever since I was a child, we’ve always had hens, they gratefully gobble up the food scraps and reward us with beautiful fresh eggs a few days later.
The hen manure goes onto the compost and eventually back into the garden to enrich the soil making it more fertile to grow even more nutritious vegetables. What’s not to love about that virtuous cycle…
Recently, the price of eggs has gone up for several reasons, not least because the price of organic and non-organic grain has increased since the Ukraine war.
Because of bird flu, we have been instructed to keep our flock indoors since mid-September (2022) and it looks like they won’t be released until maybe the end of April.
Just like all of us during lockdown, our hens hate being cooped up indoors and long to be able to roam freely through the grass and scratch for grubs and insects. They are altogether happier and healthier when they can wander around naturally outdoors not to speak of laying more delicious nutrient dense eggs.
Boiled eggs and soldiers are one of my favourite kitchen suppers. Friends love to join me, for many, it’s a trip down memory lane from when we were children, dipping little fingers of toast into the runny yolk.

For a posher version for Easter, look out for a few spears of new season asparagus. West Cork has some of the first asparagus of the season so if you’re in that area, get to the Skibbereen Farmers Market early on Saturday morning…tends to sell out…
For perfectly poached eggs, no need for any fancy gadgets…just pop a freshly laid egg, into barely salted simmering water…it will plump up deliciously unlike a stale egg that will splinter and spread all over the saucepan.
Really good eggs, add magic to cakes, the yolks add richness and the whipped egg whites, contribute lightness and a tenderness to the texture but surprise, surprise the quality really matters…
We’re loving our new Easter egg cake to add to the traditional Pasque afternoon tea. A lighter cake than the traditional simnel cake – see Examiner article 18th March 2023.  The kids would love to help and they really enjoy making the Easter egg nests and arranging the fluffy chicks on top.
Have you come across Aussie folded eggs yet, a new one to me until recently…I came across them on an Aussie inspired all day brunch menu on a recent trip to California
They’re a kind of elegant hybrid version of a ruffled omelette/scramble that resembles a rose on the plate…. Tender and delicious, often accompanied by avocado or on top of avo toast… it’s become one of my new favourites…

Freshly Boiled Eggs with Asparagus and Soldiers

Mothers all over the country cut up fingers of toast for children to dip into soft-boiled eggs. In our family we call them ‘dippies’. A trip down memory lane…

2 fresh organic eggs

salt and freshly ground pepper

a few pats of butter

1 slice of fresh best quality white loaf bread

6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut in fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups, put the dippies and asparagus on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

To prepare and cook the asparagus.

Hold each spear of asparagus over your index finger down near the root end, it will snap at the point where it begins to get tough. Some people like to peel the asparagus, but we rarely do.

To boil.

Tie similar sized bundles of asparagus in bundles with raffia.  Choose a tall saucepan.

Cook in about 2.5cm (1 inch) of boiling salted water (1 teaspoon salt to every 600ml/1 pint) in an oval cast iron casserole. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes or until a knife tip will pierce the root end easily.  Drain and serve immediately.  If serving cold, refresh in cold water and drain again.

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast

No fancy egg poachers or moulds are needed to produce a perfect result – simply use a really fresh egg laid by a happy, lazy duck or hen. The tips you hear about putting the vinegar in the water are really only valid for eggs that aren’t so fresh – if you have a fresh, organic egg, the albumen is strong enough to hold together. And in my book, what could possibly be the point of poaching an egg that wasn’t any good to start with?

Serves 1

2 organic eggs

toast, freshly made from a slice of pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil. Reduce the heat, swirl the water, crack the egg into a tiny bowl or a cup, and slip the egg gently into the whirlpool in the centre. This avoids getting the tips of your fingers burned as you drop the egg into the water. The water should not boil again but bubble very gently just below boiling point. Cook for about 3–4 minutes, until the white is set, and the yolk is still soft and runny.

Meanwhile, make a slice of toast. Cut off the crusts, butter the toast and pop it onto a hot plate. Lift out the poached egg or eggs on a perforated spoon; drain and place on top of the toast. Serve immediately.

Or you can poach the eggs ahead of time and then reheat them briefly in boiling water. Just cook them for a minute less than usual, and then slip them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking further.

To reheat the poached eggs, bring a saucepan of water to the boil, draw off the heat and slip the egg back into the water for a minute or two until hot through.

Folded Eggs and Chives and Aleppo Pepper

You can also imagine how good it is with paper thin slices of chorizo or asparagus. We used wild garlic flowers to garnish while they are in season. 

2 organic eggs

1 tablespoon cream

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10g butter

25cm (10 inch) non-stick pan

freshly chopped chives and Aleppo pepper

Whisk the eggs with the cream.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Melt a blob of butter in the non-stick pan over a medium heat.  When it sizzles, pour on the egg and swirl to cover the base of the pan.  Allow the egg to set undisturbed for 10 seconds then gradually bring the edges of the egg to the centre with a spatula from all sides so it begins to look like a flower.  Just as soon as the liquid egg stops running, remove the pan from the heat, grind some coarse black pepper and sprinkle with finely chopped chives and Aleppo pepper.  Slide the egg onto a warm plate.  Serve as it is with toast or add bacon, avocado, tomato, smoked fish…Enjoy soon.

David Tanis’s Swiss Rösti with Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg

In Switzerland, rösti (pronounced roosh-ti) is considered a national dish, though it is most popular in the German-speaking regions of the country. Made from grated potatoes, it resembles American hash browns, fried in a skillet like a thick potato pancake and cut into wedges. Rösti is often enhanced with ham, bacon or cheese or served with sausages. This posh version is garnished with smoked salmon, sour cream and a poached egg, perfect for a weekend breakfast. For best results, boil the potatoes one day (or at least several hours) in advance and chill. Cook them until just done and still firm — check with a skewer or paring knife — or they will be impossible to grate.

Serves 4-6

900g (2lbs) yellow-fleshed potatoes, parboiled, peeled and chilled

salt and pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons clarified butter, duck fat or vegetable oil, plus more as needed

4-6 organic eggs, at room temperature

6 slices smoked salmon (about 225g/8oz)

225g (8oz) crème fraîche or sour cream

snipped chives, for garnish

watercress, for garnish

Using the large holes of a box grater, shred the parboiled potatoes onto a baking sheet. (Try not to mash them). Season with salt and pepper.

Place a 23cm (9 inch) cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is hot, use a spatula to transfer all the grated potatoes to the skillet. Let the potatoes begin to brown, then turn heat to medium. Press down lightly with spatula to form a thick cake. Let the cake fry gently until the bottom is golden brown and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Shake the pan to be sure the cake isn’t sticking; loosen with a spatula if necessary.

Lay a plate over the uncooked side of the cake and carefully invert the cake onto the plate, crisp side up. Return the skillet to the stove, add a little more butter to the pan as necessary and slip the cake back in, uncooked side down.

Fry gently for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp on the second side. Remove from heat and slide the cake (or invert) onto a plate or cutting board. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Poach the eggs.

Fill a wide skillet halfway with water. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to a gentle simmer. Break each egg into a teacup, then carefully slip it beneath the water’s surface. Cook for 2 minutes, until eggs are barely set, then turn off heat. (Leave eggs in hot water to finish cooking as you prepare the plates).

Cut the rösti into wedges and divide among plates. Drape a slice of smoked salmon next to each wedge. Remove eggs one by one with a slotted spoon (holding a towel beneath spoon to catch excess water), and place on the other side of each wedge.

Top each wedge with a dollop of crème fraîche. Garnish with a sprinkle of chives and a sprig of watercress.

Asparagus, Rocket and Wild Garlic Frittata

This is an example of how we incorporate seasonal ingredients into a frittata.  Asparagus is an extra treat here; you can use any asparagus, but I tend to use the thin, weedy, but still delicious spears in frittata and to add to scrambled eggs.

Serves 6

225g (8oz) thin asparagus

8 organic eggs

50g (2oz) Parmesan or Pecorino or Coolea or a mixture, freshly grated

2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped wild garlic and rocket leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

wild garlic flowers, to garnish (optional)

salad leaves, wild garlic and rocket, to serve

non-stick frying pan – 19cm (7 1/2 inch) bottom, 23cm (9 inch) top rim

Bring about 2.5cm (1 inch) of water to the boil in an oval casserole.  Trim the tough ends of the asparagus, add 1 teaspoon of salt and blanch for 2-4 minutes until.  Drain. Slice the spears at an angle, keeping 4cm at the top intact. Save for later.

Whisk the eggs together into a bowl.  Add the blanched asparagus, except the tops, most of the Parmesan and the wild garlic and rocket leaves.  Season well. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the egg mixture and reduce the heat to the bare minimum – use a heat diffuser mat if necessary.  Arrange the asparagus tops over the frittata and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.  Continue to cook over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes until just set.  Alternatively, after an initial 4 or 5 minutes on the hob you can transfer the pan to an oven (this is my preferred option), preheated to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 for 10-15 minutes until just set.

Pop under a grill for a few minutes, but make sure it is at least 12.5cm (5 inches) from the element.  It should be set and slightly golden. Turn out onto a warm plate, cut into wedges and serve immediately with a salad of organic leaves, including wild garlic and rocket.  Garnish with wild garlic flowers, if available.

Easter Egg Cake

A gorgeous, luscious Easter cake, fun for all the family. 

Makes 1 cake

400g (14oz) self-raising flour

300g (10oz) caster sugar

zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)

4 organic eggs, beaten

300ml (10fl oz) whole milk

300ml (10fl oz) light olive oil

Easter Egg nests (see recipe)

3 x 20.5cm (8 inch) round tins

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

Line the cake tins with parchment paper.

Sieve the flour, sugar and lemon freshly grated lemon zest into a bowl.  Whisk the egg, milk and oil together in a separate bowl.

Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Divide evenly between the three tins, bake in the preheated oven until well risen and golden on top for 30-45 minutes approx.

When the cake is fully cooked, it will have shrunk in a little from the sides of the tin.  A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean.

Meringue Buttercream

Makes enough to ice one cake generously but you may want to use a little less.  Keep the remainder in an airtight box in the fridge to decorate cupcakes, cookies…use within 5 days.

150g (5oz) egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

zest of 2 organic lemons (use the juice for homemade lemonade)

450g (1lb) butter, softened and cut into cubes.

Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl of a food mixer, rest over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the egg whites reach 80°C. Whisk on maximum speed in the food mixer until stiffly whipped and cool. With the machine running, add the freshly grated lemon zest and butter, one piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. If the mixture begins to look curdled, continue to whisk until it re-emulsifies.

To Finish

Spread a layer of buttercream on 2 cakes, sandwich the three layers together.  Ice both the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired. 

For this Easter Egg Cake, we make Easter Egg Nests to embellish the top but have fun, use your creative streak and get the kids to participate.  Enjoy and Happy Easter to one and all.

Easter Egg Nests

Super easy and fun to make – decorate with fluffy Easter chicks.

Makes 24

110g (4oz) Rice Krispies or Cornflakes

175g (6oz) chocolate

72 mini speckled eggs

cupcake papers or ring moulds

Put the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over a saucepan of hot water.  Bring just to the boil, turn off the heat immediately and allow to melt in the bowl.  Stir in the Rice Krispies or Cornflakes.

Spoon into cupcake cases.  Flatten a little and make a well in the centre.  Fill with three speckled chocolate mini eggs.  Allow to set. 

Irish Food Writers Guild Awards 2023

There was a super buzz at the 30th Irish Food Writers Guild Awards at Suesey Street restaurant in Dublin‘s city centre recently. This was the first in-person award ceremony since 2020 and we were all thrilled to see each other once again.

The great and the good of the Irish food media were gathered together to celebrate the award winners…. Artisan producers – farmhouse cheesemakers, brewers, charcutiers, fish smokers…… plus two remarkable organisations.

The inspirational and much loved, Field of Dreams in Cork won the Community Food Award. This organic vegetable garden project used as a catalyst for learning and personal development has enriched the lives of the Cork Downs Syndrome community for many, many years.

Hero brothers, Kevin and Sheamus Sheridan, who have done so much for decades to encourage, support and promote Irish farmhouse cheesemakers won the Lifetime Achievement Award. From one small stall in the farmers market in Galway to 21 establishments in less than 30 years is quite the achievement. 

In the early 1980’s, we were a nation of Calvita eaters…. Kevin and Sheamus have not only provided a shop window for Irish Farmhouse cheeses but helped in no small way to change the image of Irish food both at home and abroad and opened up a brave new world for the distinctive cheeses of Ireland. 

The food writers who hadn’t met each other for over three years were delighted to catch up again and to meet the overjoyed award winners whom they had independently and anonymously proposed.

Nowadays, there are so many awards it’s difficult to keep track but crucial to the integrity of the IFWG Awards is the nomination and judging process. No company or individual can enter themselves but rather are nominated in a confidential process by the IFWG members. Products are bought and paid for, and a formal tasting meeting takes place where members vote, using proportional representation. 

Consequently, the IFWG awards are arguably the most coveted and prestigious of all the food awards. 

Apart from the last two winners, there were six others whom you really need to know about.

Two from Northern Ireland, both personal favourites of mine.

Ballylisk Triple Rose is a white mould ripened cheese, made by Mark Rice from a single herd on the family farm in Ballylisk in County Armagh, a gorgeous gooey feisty cheese… Watch this space, there’s already a range of accompaniments and several other cheeses with several more in development.

Lough Neagh smoked Eel is one of my all-time favourite traditional Irish foods with a wonderful backstory. Fishermen have been catching eels on Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in these islands since the Bronze Age. The young elvers are born in the Sargosso sea and gradually make the long and perilous journey across the wild Atlantic Ocean to mature in the unique habitat of Lough Neagh. In 1965, the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-Operative was set up with the express intention of safeguarding the traditional methods of catching eels and it has steadfastly maintained its focus on building a sustainable and viable future for succeeding generations of fishers.

It was a world that fascinated Sheamus Heaney, who wrote A Lough Neagh Sequence for the fishermen. 

In 2011, Lough Neagh eel was awarded a coveted PGI (protected geographical indication) by the EU. I love to enjoy it simply and savour it slowly with a little brown bread and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, perhaps a little horseradish.  The chef at Suesey Street made a beautiful starter plate of Smoked Lough Neagh Eel with Sheep’s Yoghurt Mousse and Dill.  I also love therecipe for Jeremy Lee‘s iconic smoked eel sandwich at Quo Vadis in Dean St in London’s Soho (see Examiner column 5th March 2022). This recipe with many of Jeremy’s other classic recipes come from his new book ‘Cooking Simply and Well for One or Many’ published by 4th Estate.   

The Environmental Award went to The Wooded Pig.

Coppa from a range of artisan charcuterie made by Eoin Bird from ethically raised, rare breed pigs reared on his family farm near Tara in County Meath. The pigs roam freely in the woodlands in the time-honoured way though the ash, oak and beech trees snuffling up oak mast and acorns, which add immeasurably to the flavour of the charcuterie.

Eoin and his family fundamentally believe that as custodians of the lush verdant landscape, they must champion a biodiverse way of farming that is sustainable, places the animals welfare at the heart of what they do and is good for nature and wildlife also.

The Notable Contribution to Irish Food Award was won by Gabriel Flaherty of Aran Island Goats Cheese in County Galway. Gabriel became intrigued by cheesemaking after his wife gave him a birthday present of a course. He bought a herd of frisky Nubian, and Saanen goats who love the beautiful herby pastures on the island, he started to experiment and the rest is history. Gabriel combines his love of cheese with bespoke tours on the history, culture, and food of his beloved Inis Mór …

And last, but certainly not least, the Irish Drink Award went to Béal Bán from Beoir Chorcha Dhuibhne also known as West Kerry Brewery. The Brewery is based in the garden of Adrienne Heslins pub, Tig Bric in Ballyferriter on the lovely Dingle peninsula. It was the first brewery in Kerry and the first in Ireland to be founded and managed by a woman. Still proudly independent, Adrienne brews what she calls ‘progressive, traditional’ beers…  Besides Béal Bán, they now have 17 beers in their portfolio so be sure to call in to the pub on your next visit to the Dingle peninsula.

Continue to seek out beautiful Irish artisan products to support those food heroes who enrich our lives so much….

Aran Island Goat’s Cheese and Thyme Leaf Soufflé

We bake this soufflé until golden and puffy in a shallow oval dish instead of the traditional soufflé bowl; it makes a perfect lunch or supper dish.

Serves 6

75g (3oz) butter

40g (1 1/2 oz) flour

300ml (10fl oz) cream

300ml (10fl oz) milk

a few slices of carrot

sprig of thyme, a few parsley stalks and a little scrap of bay leaf

1 small onion, quartered

5 eggs free range organic, separated

110g (4oz) crumbled Aran Island goat’s cheese

75g (3oz) Gruyère cheese

50g (2oz) mature Coolea farmhouse cheese, grated (Parmesan – Parmigiano Reggiano or Regato may also be used)

a good pinch of salt, cayenne, freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves


thyme flowers if available

30cm (12 inch) shallow oval dish (not a soufflé dish) or 6 individual wide soup bowls with a rim

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

Brush the bottom and sides of the dish with melted butter.

Put the cream and milk into a saucepan, add a few slices of carrot, a quartered onion, 4 or 5 peppercorns and the fresh herbs.  Bring slowly to the boil and allow to infuse for 10 minutes.   Strain and discard the flavourings, (we rinse them off and throw them into the stockpot if there is one on the go.)

Melt the butter, add the flour and cook for a minute or two.  Whisk in the strained cream and milk, bring to the boil and whisk until it thickens.   Cool slightly.   Add the egg yolks, goat’s cheese, grated Gruyère and most of the grated Coolea (or Parmesan if using.)  Season with salt, freshly ground pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.   Taste and correct seasoning. Whisk the egg whites stiffly and fold them gently into the mixture to make a loose consistency.   Put the mixture into the prepared dish, scatter the thyme leaves on top and sprinkle with the remaining Coolea or Parmesan cheese. 

Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the sides and top are nicely puffed up and golden, the centre should still be creamy. Garnish with thyme flowers.

Serve immediately on warm plates with a good green salad.

The Wooded Pig Coppa-Wrapped Monkfish

Head Chef Deniss Laskeno of Suesey Street, kindly shared this recipe with me.

Serves 4

800g (1 3/4lb) monkfish

100g – 120g (3 1/2 – scant 4 1/2oz) The Wooded Pig Coppa

For the brine:

60g (scant 2 1/2oz) granulated sugar

30g (1 1/4oz) salt

15g (generous 1/2oz) light brown sugar

1 litre (1 3/4 pints) water 

2g ground black pepper

1g garlic powder 

10g (scant 1/2oz) Worcestershire sauce

1 fresh bay leaf 

For the morel sauce:

100g (3 1/2oz) fresh morels

10g (scant 1/2oz) butter

10g (scant 1/2oz) garlic, finely diced

10g (scant 1/2oz) shallots

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) Madeira

10g (scant 1/2oz) salt

2g black pepper

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) double cream

For the vegetables:

150g (5oz) peas, blanched and refreshed

150g (5oz) broad beans, blanched and refreshed

12 baby leeks, trimmed, blanched and refreshed

a little white wine

1/2 lemon


olive oil

To prepare the monkfish:

To get your monkfish ready for brining, trim the tail, hold the skin with a towel in your hand, and pull it from the flesh like you would remove your socks.

Place all ingredients for brine in a large pot and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Submerge monkfish in brine and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

After removing monkfish from the brine, wash in ice cold water for a few minutes. Pat dry and place in the fridge to air dry for 2-5 hours.

Wipe down the workstation with a damp cloth to keep the surface slightly wet. This will help the cling film to stick to the table, preventing it from sliding around as you work.

Place a layer of cling film onto the working surface, ensuring that it covers the surface completely. Lay an even layer of coppa on top of the cling film, making sure that it is at least twice as wide as the thickness of your fillet. This will ensure that the coppa evenly covers the entire fillet.

Using the cling film, carefully roll the coppa and fillet into a tight roulade, being sure to squeeze out any excess air as you go. Once you have rolled it to your liking, tie off both ends tightly.

Steam at 63°C for 7 minutes. Once it has been cooked, place it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. When it has cooled, cut into four portions.

To make the morel sauce:

Start by cleaning the morels with a soft brush to remove any dirt or debris. Cut off the bottom part of the stems if they are tough and discard.

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the diced garlic and shallots and sauté until softened and fragrant.

Deglaze the pan with Madeira and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the cleaned morels to the pan and stir to coat them in the sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.

Pour in the double cream and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the sauce for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened and reduced by half. Once the sauce has thickened, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

Transfer the morel sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little water or more cream to thin to your desired consistency.

To prepare the vegetables:

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

Pan fry the monkfish portions to a golden colour on a hot pan, ensuring a delightful sear on all sides.

Carefully transfer monkfish to an oven tray and add a drizzle of lemon, a splash of white wine, and a dollop of butter on top of each piece. Place the monkfish in the oven and cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. We aim to reach a temperature of 73°C, probing the fish close to the bone to ensure the entire piece is cooked to perfection.

Reheat the broad beans and peas in a sizzling sauté pan over medium high heat with a touch of butter or olive oil and season them with salt.

We prefer to char our baby leeks over an open flame, but feel free to use your preferred method of cooking.

To assemble:

Place the morel sauce on the plate and lay the vegetables on top. Add with the coppa-wrapped monkfish and delicate, fresh microgreen leaves.

Yoghurt and Cardamom Cream

If you can’t source Velvet Cloud, use the very best natural yoghurt that you can find.

Serves 8-10

225ml (8fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) caster sugar

200ml (7fl oz) cream

1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds, freshly ground – you’ll need about 8-10 green cardamom pods depending on size

3 rounded teaspoons powdered gelatine

425ml (15fl oz) Velvet Cloud natural yoghurt

Garnish: fresh mint leaves

8 moulds or serving dishes

Put the milk, sugar and cream into a stainless-steel saucepan with the ground cardamom, stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from the heat and leave to sit to infuse while you dissolve the gelatine. Sponge the gelatine in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of cold water. Put the bowl into a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine has melted and is completely clear. Add a little of the infused milk mixture and stir well and then mix this into the rest. Beat the yoghurt lightly with a whisk until smooth and creamy, add into the cardamom mixture.

Pour into individual moulds. Allow to set for several hours, preferably overnight.

Just before serving.

Unmould a cardamom cream onto a cold plate and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.  Alternatively, serve the cardamom cream in individual bowls and garnish with mint leaves.

Ballylisk Triple Rose with Homemade Crackers

We love these homemade crackers with Ballylisk Tripe Rose cheese.

Makes 20-25 biscuits

Ballylisk Triple Rose cheese

Homemade Crackers

225g (8oz) plain white flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

25g (1oz) butter

1 tablespoons cream

water as needed, 5 tablespoons approx.

Put the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.   Rub in the butter and moisten with the cream and enough water to make a firm dough.

Roll out very thinly to one sixteenth of an inch approx.  Prick with a fork.  Cut into 9cm (3 1/2 inch) squares with a pastry wheel.  Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2 for 30 minutes approx. or until lightly browned and quite crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.

Note: For Wheaten Crackers – use 110g (4oz) wholemeal flour and 110g (4oz) plain white flour.


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