ArchiveAugust 2023

Bold Beans Cookbook

Whoever would have imagined that we’d be back into tights and woolly jumpers in early August…

This week I’m zoning in on beans and pulses. Apparently, there are literally thousands of varieties, I’ve been thinking a lot about beans, I’m a big bean fan, they’re one of my essential year-round store cupboard ingredients, just as brilliant for summer salads as they are for gutsy winter stews. I’ve tasted and cooked possibly 10 to 12 types so that leaves thousands more to go!

Beans are a totally brilliant food, definitely a super food, a very inexpensive source of protein, plus they are also the farmers friend because they fix nitrogen naturally in the soil though the nodules on their roots.

Beans contain lots of fibre and are a very valuable source of essential vitamins and minerals. They help to reduce cholesterol, decrease blood sugar levels, contribute to a healthy gut biome and are of course vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. 

At a time when the world we live in is facing a myriad of problems, not least fragile food systems, food insecurity and the now very evident climate issues…CO2 and methane levels are the highest for over 2 million years. 

We’re in a proper mess and there’s certainly no single way to solve the complex climate challenges but beans can certainly be a small part of a sustainable nutritious climate positive solution. 

They can grow anywhere from sea level to 3000 metres, in harsh conditions and poor soil. Super nourishing and an especially important gift during this cost of living crisis. People survived on beans when meat was hard to come by. 

I recently added a new cookbook entitled Bold Beans to my library, a collection of super exciting bean recipes collected by Amelia Christie-Miller (published by Kyle Books) so I’m having fun trying out new recipes.

A few basic bean facts:

  1. Source the very best quality beans you can, many on general sale are of very poor quality…
  2. Brexit has complicated supply, but if you’re in London, do go along to Brindisa in Borough Market where they have an outstanding variety of beautiful quality pulses or buy online –
  3. It’s essential to soak beans before cooking. 
  4. Toss them into a spacious bowl, cover with plenty of cold water and allow to soak at least overnight or better still for 12 hours plus until they more than double in size.
  5. In warm weather, refrigerate the beans while soaking otherwise they may begin to ferment.
  6. Drain and cover amply with freshwater.
  7. I love to cook beans in a terracotta pot, I somehow feel, it gives them an extra, je ne sais quoi…
  8. Cover and cook gently until tender. The cooking time will depend on the age of the beans and how gently the beans are simmered, a heat diffuser mat can be a help to keep the heat even. 
  9. Don’t add salt until the end of cooking, salt will toughen the skins. 
  10. A piece of streaky bacon or salt pork added to the beans while cooking enhances the nutrient level even further.

Here are some recipes from the Bold Beans cookbook to enjoy…

Black Bean, Coconut and Lemongrass Broth

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Making a homemade curry paste fresh is far easier than you might think, and it makes a world of difference in this recipe. We learned this trick from the veg queen, Anna Jones. Sometimes curries can be heavy and rich, but the blitzing of the fresh herbs really brings a lightness to this broth. (Of course, you can cheat and use a Thai green curry paste for something similar). The balance of creamy coconut, fresh lime, sweet vegetables and earthy black beans makes this a super satisfying, take on a Thai green. 

Serves 3-4

For the curry paste

4 tbsp neutral oil (sunflower)

thumb-sized piece of ginger (50g), peeled and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 heaped tsp ground turmeric

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

1-2 small green chillies

small bunch of coriander (15g)

4-5 mint sprigs, leaves picked 

For the broth

2 x 400ml cans coconut milk

1 veggie stock cube, crumbled

1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari

1 lemongrass stalk

700g jar black beans with their bean stock or 2 x 400g cans black beans, drained (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

2 red or romano peppers, cut into 2.5cm strips

200g mangetout, sliced into bite-sized pieces (or fine green beans or sliced courgettes)

300g quick-cook noodles

juice of 2 limes

maple syrup, to taste, if needed

shop-bought crispy onions, to serve (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients for the curry paste in a food processor and blitz to combine.

Spoon the mixture into a large, heavy-based casserole dish or a large saucepan over a medium-high heat and warm through, stirring for a minute. Add the coconut milk, stock cube (we used 300ml of bean cooking liquid) and soy or tamari. Bash the lemongrass stalk using a rolling pin or jar of beans and add that to the pan as well.

Add the beans, along with 1 tablespoon of their stock (or water, if using canned) and the red pepper. Let this bubble away for 8-10 minutes until the pepper is tender. Finally, add the mangetout and bubble away for about 4 minutes until cooked, adding the quick-cook noodles for the last minute. Finish by adding lime juice to taste. You can add a squeeze of maple syrup at this point if the curry needs some sweetness, or some more soy if it needs more salt.

Serve in big bowls and top with crispy onions, if using.

Note from Darina

If you wish to make your own crispy onions or shallots.

Slice the peeled onions or shallots thinly.  Spread out on kitchen paper and allow to dry out. Cook until golden and crisp in hot oil, moving them with a metal spoon as they cook.  Drain on kitchen paper.

White Bean Soup with Hazelnut Rosemary Pesto

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

For best results, the parsnips, pears and onion should all be chopped into similar 2cm chunks.  When roasted in their skins, the garlic cloves deliver a sweet but rounded depth that we LOVE, and the nutty rosemary pesto makes it even more flavoursome. If you don’t have time to make pesto, use shop-bought and stir through 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried rosemary just before serving.

Serves 3

3 medium or 2 large parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

2 pears, peeled and roughly chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

3-4 fat garlic cloves, skin on

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin (optional)

700g jar white beans with their bean stock, or 2 x 400g can white beans with 200ml veg or chicken stock (we used 250g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

about 450ml vegetable or chicken stock

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pesto

small bunch of parsley (about 15g), roughly chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves (or sage fried in olive oil until crispy)

50g blanched and toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts or pine nuts)

50g vegetarian hard cheese or Parmesan, or Pecorino, grated

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6 and line a roasting tray with parchment.

Tumble the chopped parsnips, pears, onion and whole garlic cloves (skin on) onto the roasting tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with the cumin, salt and pepper and give it a good mix.  Roast for 35-40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and have started to caramelise. 

While the veg is roasting, make the hazelnut and rosemary pesto. Combine all the pesto ingredients in a blender and blitz until a chunky paste is formed. Alternatively, grind the ingredients in a pestle and mortar for an even chunkier texture. Season to taste. Add more olive oil to loosen if necessary (we added an additional 7 tbsp olive oil to loosen the mixture to our liking).

Remove the roasting tray from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins and tip the contents of the try into a large, deep pan. Add the beans with their bean stock (we added 500ml), along with the additional stock, and blitz until smooth using a handheld blender. How much additional stock you add will depend on the consistency you like your soup. Heat the soup through until hot.

To serve, pour the soup into warm bowls. Top each one with a spoonful of the pesto. This soup can happily be made in advance (it will keep for up to 3 days) and can be reheated in a saucepan to serve. It will also freeze well; cook straight from frozen until piping hot.

Oaxacan Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado and Lime Vinaigrette

I love this perky Mexican salad and make it throughout the year with either fresh or canned sweetcorn.

Serves 6-8

2 x 400g cans black beans, rinsed and drained

or 450g black beans, soaked overnight and cooked for 30 minutes

175-225g cooked fresh sweetcorn or corn niblets

2 red bell peppers, deseeded and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated

2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

125g chopped fresh coriander, plus extra to garnish

2 ripe but firm avocados, diced (preferably Hass)

corn tortilla chips, to serve


9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp lime zest

6 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsp granulated sugar

Put the black beans, sweetcorn, red peppers, garlic and shallots into a bowl.  Sprinkle over the salt, cayenne and chopped coriander.  Toss gently to combine. 

Mix the extra virgin olive oil with the lime zest and juice.   Add the sugar and whisk to emulsify.  Pour over the salad and toss.  Season to taste and add a little more sugar if necessary to balance the lime.

Just before serving, add the avocados and mix gently.  Garnish with coriander and serve at room with lots of tortilla chips on the side.

Roast Fig, Butter Bean and Pecorino Salad

Recipe taken from Bold Beans published by Amelia Christie-Miller published by Kyle Books

Crisp and golden butter beans, sweet jammy figs, sharp and salty Pecorino and a zingy, creamy pistachio dressing – this little salad ticks all the boxes.  Perfect during late summer/early autumn when figs are at their best.  I love adding beans to so many things, salads especially, to instantly bulk them up and add some substance.

Serves 2

100g shelled pistachios

½ x 700g jar butter beans, drained (we used 200g dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked the following day – this can take anything from 30 – 60 minutes)

3 large, ripe figs, quartered

1 tbsp olive oil

small bunch of thyme (about 15g), leaves picked

25g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative, shaved

sea salt

lamb’s lettuce or rocket, to serve

For the dressing

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

20ml white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

½ garlic clove, crushed

1 tsp honey

juice of 1 lemon

10g aged Pecorino, Parmesan or veggie alternative   

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tray with parchment.

Tip the pistachios on to a separate baking tray and roast for around 12-15 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Leave to cool and increase the oven temperature to 220°C (200°C fan)/Gas Mark 7.

Rinse the drained beans and pat them dry with a paper towel. Tip into a bowl, then add the figs, olive oil, thyme and a pinch of salt. Toss well and transfer to the prepared baking tray. Spread out evenly so that the ingredients aren’t piled on top of each other, then roast for 20-25 minutes, until the figs are jammy, and the beans are crisp.

To make the dressing, transfer 60g of the cooled pistachios to a small blender, along with the dressing ingredients. Add a pinch of salt and blitz to emulsify. You may need to loosen with a tablespoon or two of cold water to reach a drizzly consistency. It should look like a runny pesto. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Set aside.

When everything’s ready, assemble the salad. Toss a few good handfuls of lamb’s lettuce or rocket with some extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Divide between 3 plates and top with the figs and beans, drizzling over any juice from the pan. Scatter over the Pecorino or Parmesan shavings, then drizzle with the dressing. Finish by roughly chopping the remaining pistachios and scattering on top. Serve immediately. 

Wales Trip

We recently went on an expedition to West Wales to celebrate a special farm anniversary. Our friend Patrick Holden, a pioneer of the modern, sustainable food movement has been managing his Bwlchwernen Fawr Farm close to Lampeter organically for over 50 years. Patrick, formerly head of the Soil Association and most recently founding director of the Sustainable Food Trust is one of the great renaissance men. He and his lovely wife Becky now make a multi award-winning organic Cheddar cheese with a cult following, named HAFOD (pronounced HAVOD) from the rich milk of their herd of Ayrshire cows.

The farm is an example of what, in an ideal world all farms could be, rich mixed pastures, abundant hedgerows filled with birdsong and wildlife, a pond teaming with fish and pollinating insects. A striking example of farming with nature. 

We found ourselves in an incredible gathering of inspirational people all of whom were passionate about food and farming. The weekend was spent discussing soil health, sustainable landscapes biodiversity, and the future of farming and the planet, interspersed with dancing and feasting and wonderful music….

Vandana Shiva, the Indian environmentalist, who when asked if it was too late to save the planet at a Soil Association conference a number of years ago, famously and sagely replied, ‘The planet will be fine without us’.

Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project in Cornwall was also at the gathering and wondered why destroying life in the soil, poisoning the water and the air for future generations, is not looked on as treason.

Organic farming ticks all the boxes, producing nutrient dense sustainable food that nourishes and healthy biodiverse landscapes and environments. It can lock up carbon from the atmosphere and thus we fervently hope, stave off the climate change which is currently creating record temperatures across Europe, US, Africa and China.

Here in Ireland, less than 2% of land is farmed organically with a government target of 7.5% by 2027. The recent EU incentives coupled by the rising cost of fertiliser, pesticide and herbicides are encouraging others to join the ranks, attracted by the rate of payment in the new Organic Farming Scheme. The hope is that that figure will have risen to 4% by 2030 still way off the Eu target of 25% by 2050. 

Wales is so easy to reach by ferry and so beautiful. We stayed on for a few extra days to meander through the narrow Welsh lanes edged with Queen Anne’s lace, lots of willow herb, loosestrife and Himalayan balsam and stayed in the Harbourmaster Hotel in the little fishing village of Aberaeron, home to a second branch of one of my favourite food shops, Watson and Pratt. Put that name on your ‘must do’ Welsh list. There is also a branch of this superb organic grocery in Lampeter rather incongruously tucked into an industrial estate.

Wright’s Food Emporium, a former Georgian pub in the village of Llanarthney in Carmarthen is also worth a detour, a magnet for good food lovers. Another independent food shop and café, stuffed to the ceiling with delicious food, natural wines and other good things…

There we found my favourite bitter Seville Orange Marmalade Coedcanlas No 3 made by Nick and Annette Tonkin in the remote Daugleddau estuary in West Wales. The marmalade is made with bitter Sicilian oranges, the hand cut peel is gently cooked in large copper pans sweetened with honey from their own bees and is exceptionally delicious. That’s coming from someone who makes hundreds of pots of marmalade of her own every year.

Lots of other temptations on the shelves at Wright’s, superb, canned fish – anchovies, sardines and Arroyabe tuna.

On our way back to the ferry, we also swung by Caws Teifi organic farm in Ceredigion to catch up with Rob Savage who attended a natural cheese making course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School a few weeks ago. He and his family make a whole range of multi-award winning cheeses from raw milk on their farm. Another brother established the Dà Mhìle distillery in other farm buildings across the farmyard, producing organic gin and whiskey…such an innovative family.

We stocked up with their artisan cheese plus a bottle of whisky and made our way to Newport to a food truck they had recommended called Pasta A Mano. You need to know about this – it’s quite a find, parked close to the water’s edge with stunning views over the little bay. This tiny trailer has a cult following for its freshly made pasta and some of the best cannoli this side of Sicily, not much more than two hours from Fishguard.

Hafod Cheddar Cheese Soufflé with Chives

Many people are convinced that making a soufflé is far beyond them, not a bit of it. If you can master a white sauce, whisk egg whites stiffly into a fluffy mass and fold them gently, then you can make a soufflé that will draw gasps of admiration from your family and friends. Cheddar cheese soufflé doesn’t rise to quite the heights of a Gruyére and Parmesan soufflé, but it is nonetheless a very tasty supper dish or a delicious starter.

Serves 6-8

25g butter

2 tbsp flour

300ml milk

3 egg yolks, preferably free-range

4 egg whites, preferably free-range

1 level teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tbsp chives, finely chopped

175g Hafod Cheddar cheese

2 tbsp dried breadcrumbs

600ml soufflé dish or 6-8 individual soufflé dishes

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, when it has stopped foaming add the flour and stir well. Cook gently for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, whisk in the milk slowly, return to the heat and cook until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat once more and beat in the egg yolks one by one. Then add the salt, mustard, chives and all but 2 tablespoons of the cheese (reserved to sprinkle over the top). * Whisk the egg whites until they reach a stiff peak. Stir about one third of the whites into the cheese mixture and fold in the remainder very carefully. Put into a buttered and crumbed soufflé dish or dishes.

Sprinkle grated cheese on top and bake in a preheated oven 200°C/Gas Mark 6, for 9-10 minutes for individual soufflés or 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 25-30 minutes for a large soufflé. They should be well risen and golden on top yet slightly soft in the centre.

Serve immediately on hot plates.

* Can be prepared ahead to this stage but the base mixture must be warmed gently before egg whites are folded in.

NOTE Egg whites must not be whisked until you are about to cook the soufflé, otherwise they will lose volume.

Hafod Smoky Bacon, Flat Mushroom and Chive Quiche

If you are a beginner, perhaps you may want to use 175g flour to 75g butter to allow a little more pastry to work with.

Serves 6 approximately

Shortcrust Pastry

110g plain white flour

pinch of salt

50g butter

1 egg, preferably free-range and a few drops of water to bind, 2-3 tablespoons of liquid approx.


110g rindless streaky rashers (slightly smoked if available)

1 tbsp olive or sunflower oil

110g chopped onion

1 tbsp olive oil

110g sliced mushrooms

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, preferably free-range

300ml cream or 175ml cream and 110ml milk

1 tbsp chopped chives

75g freshly grated Hafod or other aged Cheddar cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper

flan ring or deep quiche tin, 19cm diameter x 3cm high

First make the shortcrust pastry.

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, 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 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 the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly 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 rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Line a flan ring or quiche tin with the pastry and bake blind in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4, for 20-25 minutes.

Cut the bacon into 1cm lardons. Place in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil, drain and dry on kitchen paper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and crisp off the bacon, remove to a plate.  Reduce the heat and sweat the onions gently in the oil and bacon fat, cover and cook on a low heat for 8-10 minutes. Cool.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan, add the mushrooms, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until tender.

Whisk the eggs, add the cream (or cream and milk), chives, grated cheese, sautéed mushrooms, bacon and onions. Season, fry off a little on a pan to taste. Pour the filling into the tart shell and bake in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes or until the centre is just set and the top golden.

Serve warm with a green salad.

April Bloomfield’s Roast Pork Sandwich with Tuna Mayonnaise

A really tasty combo – each of the components can be used separately to delicious effect.

Serves 6

For the brine and the pork

5 litres water

546g salt

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs of rosemary

3 sprigs of thyme

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

½ bunch flat leaf parsley

1 boneless pork loin (900g – 1.3kg) tied with kitchen twine – season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

450ml white wine

Tuna Mayonnaise

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 egg yolks

225ml olive oil

1 ½ tbsp capers, drained, rinsed and finely chopped

1 ½ tsp crushed red chilli flakes

1 ½ tbsp finely chopped drained anchovy fillets in oil

150g tin of tuna in oil, drained and flaked into small pieces

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Sandwich

50ml red wine vinegar

50ml extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

6 crusty rolls

110g rocket leaves

To brine the pork.

In a large saucepan, bring the water, salt, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and parsley to a boil over a high heat, stir until the salt dissolves.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Add the pork and cover the saucepan.  Refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the pork from the brine and dry with kitchen paper.  Place in a shallow roasting tin, generously season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the wine.  Place the tin in the preheated oven and roast the pork until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140°C for medium or 150°C for medium/well done, 40-50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the mayonnaise.

Whisk together the vinegar and egg yolks in a large bowl.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until emulsified and thick, then add the capers, chilli flakes and anchovies.  Add the tuna and mix gently to combine.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and refrigerate.

To assemble the sandwich.

Reduce the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3.

Combine the vinegar, oil, onion, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl, allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Slice the rolls, put back together and place on a baking sheet in the oven and toast for 5 minutes.  Remove the buns from the oven and spread the mayonnaise mixture on all halves.  Thinly slice the pork and place 3-4 slices on the bottom buns.  Drain the onions, reserving the liquid and place on top of the pork.  Lightly toss the rocket with some of the onion marinade and place on top of the onions.  Cover with the top buns and enjoy. 

David Tanis’s Pasta Cacio e Pepe

This delicious version of Cacio e Pepe, one of my all-time favourite pasta dishes comes from one of my all-time favourite cooks David Tanis

Cacio e pepe (literally, “cheese and pepper”) has lately achieved mythic status, which is a bit surprising considering it’s so basic. You can get it in any restaurant in Rome, but it’s really a home dish. The trick is getting the pasta to finish cooking properly in the creamy sauce, which is just pasta water, butter, and cheese. The more peppery, the better.

Serves 2

225g linguine

2 tbsp butter

½ tsp coarsely crushed black pepper

110ml pasta water


170g Pecorino, grated

Cook the linguine extra al dente (this is crucial) in well-salted water.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the coarsely crushed black pepper.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan, along with 110ml of pasta water and a good pinch of salt.

Stir constantly, keeping the liquid at a rapid simmer; the pasta will begin to wilt in the sauce and absorb liquid. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Turn off the heat, add the grated pecorino, and stir until the pasta is coated with the creamy sauce. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Enjoy immediately.

Rory O’Connell’s Chocolate Tartlets with Whiskey Drunken Prunes

This is not just a delicious recipe, it’s an introduction to a brilliant technique for making tartlets – check out paragraph 3…

Make 12 tartlets


12 “mit-cuit” prunes, stones removed

2 tbsp Irish whiskey


150g plain flour

25g caster sugar

10g icing sugar

80g cold butter, finely diced

2 tbsp beaten egg, approx.

Chocolate Ganache

100g chocolate, 60% cocoa solids

50ml cream

1 tbsp honey

You will need 12 individual tartlet tins or a tray of the same number, each measuring 6.5cm wide, 2cm deep or as close to that as is possible.

To serve

6 tbsp softly whipped cream

unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the prunes in a small bowl with the whiskey, cover and allow to soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. The prunes will drink up most or all of the whiskey.

To make the pastry, place the flour, sugars and butter in a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until the butter resembles a fine crumb. Add in the egg and again using the pulse button, just process the mixture until it is just starting to come together. Now, pour the mixture into a bowl and finish bringing the pastry together by hand. Knead briefly to achieve a smooth dough. Flatten the dough into a neat disc, approx. 2cm thick and wrap in parchment paper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the chilled pastry from the fridge and place on a flour dusted counter. Leave it for 5 minutes before rolling it out to about 3mm thick. Using an 8cm cutter, stamp out 12 pieces out of the dough. Lay the pastry pieces over the upturned tartlet tray, making sure that they are neatly centred on the bases of the tray. There is no need to firm the pastry into place.

Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Place the tray of chilled tartlets in the oven and cook for approximately 12 minutes or until starting to look a pale hazelnut colour and completely cooked.

Place the tray on a cooling rack and allow to cool. As soon as the cases feel firm to the touch, remove from the trays and place on the cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chocolate in a Pyrex bowl and place over a saucepan of cold water. The bottom of the Pyrex bowl should not be touching the water in the saucepan. Place the saucepan on the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and the chocolate will gradually finish melting in the heat remaining in the saucepan. When the chocolate is fully melted, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Place the cream and honey in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Add the cream to the chocolate in 3 separate increments using a small flexible rubber spatula. Each time you add the cream, stir vigorously with the tip of the spatula working from the centre of the bowl to the edge.

Divide the whiskey soaked prunes between the tartlets. Use the back of a teaspoon to smooth the prunes into place. Spoon the ganache over the prunes filling the shells to as close to the top as you dare.

Place the tartlets in a cool place or the fridge to allow the ganache to set.

When ready to serve, drape a dessertspoon of softly whipped cream over each tartlet and dust generously with cocoa powder.

Euro-Toques Food Awards 2023

The Euro-Toques Food Awards are back after an absence of three years (2020 was a virtual event due to Covid). The original awards were established in 1996 by my lovely mother-in-law Myrtle Allen, one of the great pioneers of local food to recognise and celebrate the very best food that Ireland produces. She would undoubtedly be thrilled to see how the movement has gathered momentum since the early days.

The Euro-Toques Food Awards continue to be a unique opportunity for chefs to acknowledge the work of small artisan producers whose produce they rely on to create their unique food.
This year, six awards were presented under the categories of WATER, LAND, FARM, DAIRY, ARTISAN PRODUCE and CRAFT
Two Cork producers were among the six prestigious award winners.  The ARTISAN PRODUCE award went to Killahora Orchards and Rare Apple Ice Wine. Innovative cousins David Watson and Barry Walsh’s orchards date back to 1837. Their range also includes an apple port, a pét-nat and a light sparkling perry made from their pears.
The Skeaghanore Ducks from West Cork, beloved by so many chefs, won the FARM Awards. Helena Hickey believes that the salty air wafting in from Roaring Water Bay imparts a unique taste, acting as a pre-salting agent enhancing the flavour of their hand reared Pekin ducks.
KELLY’S Mussels scooped the award in the WATER category. Their sustainably farmed, native mussels grow on mussel rafts along the Galway coastline. Plump, nutrient dense, and absolutely delicious.
At a time when there is so much faux honey on sale, it was brilliant to see so many superb Irish honeys nominated. Olly’s Farm honey from Dublin, Hive Mind from Cork, Brookfield Farm honey from Tipperary but the winner in the LAND category went to Noel and Heather Leahy for their raw native Irish bee honey collected from traditional hives on the slopes of Sliabh Aughty Mountains near Loughrea in East Galway. Keep an eye out also for their Hot Honey flavoured with chilli flakes and poitín. Delicious, drizzled over a pizza or a rasher sandwich.
In the DAIRY section, Aisling and Michael Flanagan’s unctuous Velvet Cloud, sheep’s milk yoghurt from Claremorris in Co. Mayo won the award. Lacaune and Friesland sheep produce the milk for their range of products. I also loved their deeply flavourful semi-hard, Rockfield cheese and creamy sheep’s milk labneh already prized by the chefs and a must have ingredient for many.
Last, but certainly not least, another intriguing product, Wildwood Balsamic made by artist turned artisan vinegar maker, Fionnan Gogarty. He makes his vinegars from foraged ingredients from the mountains, hedgerows, seashore and gardens of Co. Mayo. Transforming them slowly into vinegars of rare flavour and beauty. Just a few drops of these precious potions enhance the flavour of a myriad of dishes.
The awards were hosted by Kevin and Catherine Dundon at Dunbrody House in Co. Wexford were attended by many of the producers and Euro-Toques chefs who are committed to sourcing and supporting the very best Irish artisan produce. A brilliant, convivial and inspiring event!

Kelly’s Mussels and Clams with Lemongrass and Coconut

Serve either as a starter or with some homemade bread and salad as a light main course.

Serves 4 as a main course

900g Kelly’s mussels

450g Kelly’s clams

25g butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, pureed

2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped

1 glass white wine

1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

2-4 tbsp lime juice

sea salt and cracked black pepper

chopped coriander

Sauté the shallots, garlic and lemongrass in butter, add the wine and reduce by half. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and season, boil and reduce by half.

Add the mussels and clams, season and add chopped coriander.

Skeaghanore Duck Breast with Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

Beetroot and blackcurrant are a surprisingly good Summer combination.  Who knew you could enjoy the flowers of your dahlias in your salad.

Serves 4-6

4 Skeaghanore duck breasts

flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad (see recipe)

flat parsley

First make the Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad.

15 minutes or more before cooking, score the fat on the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern.  Season on both sides and allow to sit on a wire rack.

When ready to cook, dry the duck breasts with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.

Put fat side down on a cold pan-grill, turn on the heat to low and cook slowly for 15-20 minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the duck skin is crisp and golden.

Flip over and cook for a couple of minutes, or transfer to a preheated moderate oven, 180°C/Gas Mark 4, until cooked to medium rare or medium, 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the duck breasts.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes or more. 

Put a portion of beetroot and blackcurrant salad on each plate. Thinly slice or dice the duck breasts into 8mm and arrange or scatter on top of the salad.  Sprinkle with sprigs of flat parsley and dahlia petals and marigold leaves if using. Add a few flakes of sea salt and serve.

Beetroot, Blackcurrant and Dahlia Salad

Such an obvious combination but one I hadn’t tried until I tasted it in Sweden. We already love the marriage of raspberries and beetroot. This recipe can be served as a starter or an accompanying salad.

Serves 8

450g pickled beetroot 

200g sugar

450ml water

1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced

225ml white wine vinegar

110–225g blackcurrants

wine coloured dahlias and maybe a few marigold petals.

Roast or boil the beetroot.

Meanwhile, make the pickle.

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

Add the blackcurrants to the pickle, bring back to the boil and then turn off the heat.

If serving the salad as an accompaniment.

Surround the serving plate with blackcurrant leaves.  Pile the salad into the centre, decorate with flowers and serve.

Classic Roast Stuffed Skeaghanore Duck with Sage and Onion Stuffing, Bramley Apple Sauce and Gravy

What’s not to love about a crispy roast duck with all the trimmings…

Serves 4

1 free range Skeaghanoreduck, 1.8kg approx.

Sage and Onion Stuffing

45g butter

75g onion, finely chopped

100g soft white breadcrumbs

1 tbsp fresh sage, freshly chopped

salt and freshly ground pepper


neck and giblets from duck

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion

bouquet garni

2-3 peppercorns

Bramley Apple Sauce

450g cooking apples, (Bramley Seedling)

50g sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

1-2 dsp water

To make the stock, put the neck, gizzard, heart and any other trimmings into a saucepan with 1 medium carrot cut in slices and the onion cut in quarters.  Add a bouquet garni of parsley stalks, small stalk of celery and a sprig of thyme.  Cover with cold water and add 2 or 3 peppercorns but no salt. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 2-3 hours.  This will make a delicious stock which will be the basis of the gravy. 

Meanwhile, singe the duck and make the stuffing.

To make the stuffing, melt the butter and sweat the onion on a gentle heat for 5-10 minutes until soft but not coloured, add the breadcrumbs and sage.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Unless you plan to cook the duck immediately allow the stuffing to get cold.

When the stuffing is quite cold, season the cavity of the duck and spoon in the stuffing.  Truss the duck loosely.

Roast in a moderate oven 180˚C/Gas Mark 4 for 1 ½ hours approx. 

To make the bramley apple sauce.

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

When the duck is cooked, remove to a serving dish, allow to rest while you make the gravy. Degrease the cooking juices (keep the duck fat for roast or sauté potatoes).  Add stock to the juices in the roasting pan, bring to the boil, taste and season if necessary.   Strain gravy into a sauceboat. Serve warm with the duck and bramley apple sauce.

Goat Rendang

A wonderful slow cooked dish from Malaysia, Indonesia and Sumatra usually served for feasts and celebrations.  It should be chunky and dry, yet succulent – lamb or beef may be substituted if goat is unavailable.

Serves 8

1 ½ kg goat meat

5 shallots, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

3cm root ginger, roughly chopped

4 red chillies, seeded and roughly chopped, or 2 teaspoons chilli powder

1 bay leaf

1 stalk fresh lemongrass, bruised

1 teaspoon turmeric

salt and freshly ground pepper

3 x 400g cans of coconut milk

mint leaves

lime segments

Cut the meat into 4cm cubes. Purée the shallots, garlic, ginger and chillies in a food processor. Put all these ingredients in a wide sauté pan or a wok, add the bay leaf, lemongrass, turmeric, salt and meat and cover with coconut milk. Stir and bring to the boil on a medium heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat and allow to bubble gently for 1 ½ hours, stirring from time to time. By this time the coconut milk should be quite thick.

Continue to cook stirring frequently until the coconut milk starts to get oily.  Keep stirring until the oil is reabsorbed by the meat.  Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Serve hot with a bowl of fluffy rice.  We like to serve some fresh mint leaves and segments of lime with the rendang.


Rendang keeps well in the fridge and reheats perfectly.

Honey Mousse with Lavender Jelly

Taken from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall, published by Phaidon

The honey mousse in this dish was adapted from a recipe in Lindsey Shere’s wonderful book, Chez Panisse Desserts. In her recipe, Lyndsay suggests to serve the mousse with figs, raspberries or peaches, or to garnish it simply with lightly toasted sliced almonds. The delicate honey mousse alone contains no refined sugar, just honey, and it pairs so nicely with virtually all Summer fruits. It also pairs beautifully with lavender, and for a short while every year in June, before lavender comes into full bloom, I like to set a layer of lavender flavoured jelly over the top of the mousse.

I always use fresh lavender when preparing the jelly for this dish – the flavour of dried lavender is not the same – and when the small blue buds are added to the hot syrup they release their fragrant oil, and for a fleeting moment the herbs volatile aroma fills the kitchen in the most pleasing way.

Serves 6

For the honey mousse

350ml cream

2 gelatine leaves

2 tbsp water

60ml best quality local honey

1 tbsp Grand Marnier

1 large egg

For the lavender jelly

110g caster sugar

250ml water

14 fresh lavender heads, to infuse

2 gelatine leaves

12 fresh lavender heads (to decorate)

Have a pretty 1.2 litre serving bowl to hand. 

For the honey mousse: Whip the cream to soft peaks and hold in the fridge until needed. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Warm 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan, add the softened gelatine leaves and stir to dissolve completely. Then add the honey and Grand Marnier and mix until everything is combined. Now whisk the whole egg until light and quadrupled in volume, this takes approximately 5 minutes using an electric mixer on high speed. Fold the whisked egg into the whipped cream. 

Add one third of the cream into the honey mixture and mix to combine, it will take a minute of mixing for the two to blend – the sweet liquid is much denser than the fluffy cream. Finally, fold in the remaining two thirds of the cream. Pour the honey mousse into a serving bowl and place in the fridge until set, approximately 4 hours.

For the lavender jelly: Put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Once the syrup has boiled, remove from the heat and add the lavender heads. Take time to enjoy the wonderful lavender perfume as the syrup cools to room temperature. Pass the syrup through a fine sieve to remove the lavender heads. Next, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Warm a little of the lavender syrup, add the softened gelatine leaves and stir to dissolve. Add the remaining lavender syrup into the dissolved gelatine and mix well. Arrange 12 fresh lavender heads on top of the honey mousse. When the lavender mixture has cooled to room temperature once more, carefully spoon it over the surface of the mousse to cover the lavender flowers. Place in the fridge until the jelly is set.

Strawberries and Wildwood Balsamic Vinegar with Softly Whipped Cream

Many years ago, Marcella Hazan showed me how balsamic vinegar hugely enhances the flavour of strawberries.  Use one of the Wildwood balsamic vinegars for this recipe.

900g ripe, strawberries, stalks and hulls removed

1-2 tbsp Wildwood aged Balsamic vinegar

1-2 tbsp caster sugar

Put the hulled strawberries into a bowl, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and sugar, leave to marinate for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Serve at room temperature with softly whipped cream.


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