ArchiveNovember 26, 2023

Listowel Food Fair

Recently I was over in north Kerry for the Listowel Food Fair, now in its 28th year. Such a buzz and the warmest welcome back to this lively Kerry town. I was thrilled to bits to be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the one and only Jimmy Deenihan, what a lovely surprise.
And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I got to attend the glitzy presentation of the Best Emerging Artisan Food Awards during a delicious dinner cooked by the team of chefs of the Listowel Arms.
The award winners were virtually all new to me.
Mary Thea Brosnan won the Local Food Hero Award for her Kerry Kefir, a brilliant product with multiple genuine health benefits that stimulate our gut biome and enhance both physical and mental health considerably. It’s made with the beautiful rich milk from her herd of Kerry cows on their farm in Castleisland.
Éalú chocolate won the overall prize, a well-deserved accolade for their irresistible chocolate bonbons. A super impressive young couple, Kallam and Cliona Moriarty who only started to make handmade chocolates five months ago – what an achievement. Their chocolates are infused with the flavours of Kerry and are exceptionally delicious. I’m not exactly’ a pushover’ and of course I have no link to the company.
The 2023 Food Storyteller of the Year Award went to Kate Ryan, who recently won the prestigious Blas na hÉireann Irish Food Producers Champion. Among many other publications, Kate writes a regular ‘must read’ column in the Evening Echo highlighting the artisan and specialist food producers and farmers who are doing exciting new things on the Irish Food scene. The adjudication panel were seeking individual creators and unique voices who expand our understanding of food in all its facets and introduce us to new ways of making, cooking and celebrating food. Follow Kate via  
Christine Purcell’s delicious crusty sourdough bread from the Cookie Crumble Bakery won the Baking and Baked Goods Award and the Free-From category went to me Miso Sesame Tofu created by Méabh Mooney of OTOFU in Kilbrittain, Co Cork.
Peter Hinchcliffe was also thrilled to win the Condiment Award for his Trusted Friend, Peach Chutney and then there was Norma and Tom Dineen’s Fenugreek Farmhouse Cheese from Bó Rua. Their delicious Cheddar type cheese comes from their farm near Fermoy in County Cork. Brilliant innovative farmers adding value to the milk of their Mount Beliard herd.
I also got to pop into JB Keane’s pub to catch up with the incorrigible Billy Keane who keeps up the family tradition. This timeless institution is one of my ‘not to be missed’ places to visit in Listowel. I particularly love calling in because it brings memories flooding back of Mary Keane, teaching me how Listowel mutton pies in her kitchen behind the pub.  Since the pandemic, this space has been turned into a little snug, but still on the walls there’s Mary’s picture of Michael Collins, the Sacred Heart and lots of photos of the many celebrities who regularly call in for a creamy pint in this iconic pub.

Mary Keane’s Listowel Mutton Pies

The pastry is quite robust because of the small proportion of shortening to flour, but not at all fragile. Mary explained that the way Listowel mutton pies are eaten is unique. A big pot of mutton broth is made from the bones with maybe an onion or two added. On the day of the Listowel races, the pies are slipped, a couple at a time, into the pot of strained broth. They simmer away for a few minutes and are then served in wide shallow soup bowls with a ladle full of hot broth on top.

Serves 8

450g mutton or hogget, a mixture of neck, shank and scrag end (buy a bit more to allow for trimming)

salt and ground white pepper

For the Pastry

900g plain flour

110g margarine or butter (Mary insisted on margarine)

850ml buttermilk

½ teaspoon salt

egg wash

For the Mutton Broth

mutton or hogget bones, about 2.5kg

3-4 large onions, peeled and quartered

a couple of carrots, celery stalks, parsley stalks, a couple of sprigs of thyme or 2 stock cubes

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the lamb. Trim off the fat and any gristle or membrane. Cut into tiny pieces, roughly 3mm, and put into a shallow bowl. Season well with salt and ground white pepper. Toss to ensure the meat is evenly coated.

Make the pastry. Put the flour and salt into a bowl. Rub in the margarine or butter, add the buttermilk and mix with your hand into a firm dough, similar to (though drier than) the texture of white soda bread. Knead the dough for 30 seconds to 1 minute to firm it up. Divide it into 2 pieces. On a floured board, roll the pastry out as thinly as possible, to about 5mm thick. Using a saucer as a template, cut out 2 circles at a time. Take 1 round and roll it out a little further to thin the pastry to about 3mm. Put a good half-fistful of seasoned mutton or hogget into the centre. Brush the edge of the pastry with a little buttermilk and cover with another round that has also been rolled to a 3mm thickness. Press the edges together with the tines of a fork, then prick the top several times. Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash.

Preheat the oven to 230°C/Gas Mark 8.

Meanwhile, continue to make the remainder of the pies. When the first 4 are ready, cook on a baking tray for 20-30 minutes. Check the pies occasionally and turn the tray if necessary. Continue to make pies until all the pastry and filling is used up. Leave the pies to cool on a wire rack. At this point, they can be kept wrapped for several days or frozen for later use. 

Next, make a simple broth. Put the mutton or hogget bones into a deep saucepan, add the onions, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Mary adds a couple of stock cubes later, but if you’d rather not she suggested adding a few thickly sliced carrots, a few celery stalks, a sprig or two of thyme and some parsley stalks. Simmer for 1-1 ½ hours, covered.

Strain the stock and taste, add salt and pepper to correct the seasoning. The broth will keep in a fridge for several days or may be frozen. To serve the mutton pies, bring the broth to the boil in a deep saucepan, then drop a couple of meat pies into the broth. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Transfer each pie into a wide, shallow soup bowl. Pour a ladle of mutton broth on top. Eat with a fork and spoon and extra pepper and salt to taste.

Ballymaloe Sourdough Bread

Taken from The New Ballymaloe Bread Book by Darina Allen, published by Gill Books

Once you’ve established your starter, it’s only a question of mixing the other ingredients and having patience. It does take time, but most of that time the bread is quietly rising or baking. Every loaf is an adventure. Each will be slightly different and every time you make a loaf you will learn more about the process. Enjoy experimenting and remember, people have been making sourdough bread for centuries.

Makes 1 loaf

340g sourdough starter (see The New Ballymaloe Bread Book by Darina Allen, published by Gill Books)

200g cold water

230g strong white flour

70g malted/granary flour

20g rye flour

5g wheat germ

11g salt

Put the starter, water, flours and wheat germ in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a dough hook on a slow speed for a few seconds, until the dough has combined. Rest the dough for 5 minutes.

After resting, add the salt and turn the mixer on a slow speed – if you beat it too fast at this stage, you can break the gluten. When the dough is sticking to the sides of the bowl and coming away in strings, this is the gluten being developed. Increase the speed and continue to mix until it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl and the dough hook lifts the dough cleanly out.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rest in the fridge for 24 hours.

The next day, for the first shaping, pour the dough out of the bowl onto a clean work surface and knock it back. Stretch and fold the dough a few times, then shape it into a smooth, tight, round ball and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes in a cool kitchen or 5–10 minutes in a warm kitchen.

Stretch and fold the dough a few times. Turn and push to shape it into a smooth, tight round ball.

For the second shaping, flip your dough over, flatten and spread it out with your fingers. Pull all the edges into the centre of the dough – this helps to trap the CO2 and gases in the dough to give it a nice airy crumb. Flip it back over with a dough scraper (or roll it over) and shape into a smooth, tight, round ball again. The tighter and less sticky the ball is, the better it will hold its shape and rise in

the oven. If it’s too tight, though, the surface will rip and become sticky again. If this happens, rest the dough again for 10-15 minutes and repeat.

Flip the dough over. Pull all the edges into the centre of the dough. Flatten and spread it out with your fingers. Put the dough upside down into a lined, floured banneton (or in a 16-20cm bowl lined with a clean linen tea towel and floured) and leave in the fridge, covered, overnight or for up to 24 hours.

The next day, put a casserole/Dutch oven with its lid on in the oven to preheat. (For this recipe, the lid must be flat. Alternatively, you could cook the loaf directly on a hot baking tray in the oven, but this is the least good option for home baking.) Preheat the oven fully to its maximum temperature or at least 250°C/Gas Mark 9. It is essential that the casserole/Dutch oven is fully preheated, overwise the bread will stick firmly to the base. It will take 30-35 minutes for the heat to penetrate completely.

Meanwhile, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature while the casserole/Dutch oven is preheating.

Using an oven mitt or thick tea towel, lift the hot casserole/Dutch oven out onto a pot rack. Lift off the lid and carefully turn the dough out of the banneton onto the upturned lid. Slash the top with a sharp serrated knife or baker’s blade (lame) and mist lightly with water (optional).

Replace the casserole/Dutch oven base on top of the lid and quickly put it back in the hot oven. Reduce the temperature to 230°C/Gas Mark 8 and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the upturned base and continue to bake the bread on the lid for 10-15 minutes, until the crust is dark golden brown. When fully cooked, the bread will feel light and will sound hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

Ballymaloe Balloons (Cheats Doughnuts)

Taken from The New Ballymaloe Bread Book by Darina Allen, published by Gill Books

There was a brilliant reaction to these balloons when I recently made them on the Today Show. My mother-in-law, Myrtle Allen, made them regularly for her children, then passed on the recipe to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’ve also been a favourite of guest children at Children’s Tea in Ballymaloe House for over 40 years. They cook into funny, uneven little shapes which can resemble little birds, animals or dragons…lots of fun for the children – use your imagination to decide what they look like!

Makes about 10

150g white flour

2 teaspoons caster sugar

1 level teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

175-200ml full-fat milk plus more if needed

light olive or vegetable oil, for deep-frying

extra caster sugar or cinnamon sugar (granulated sugar mixed with a little ground cinnamon), to coat

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl. Mix to a thick batter (dropping consistency) with the milk.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 190°C. If you don’t have a deep-fryer, heat 4cm light olive or vegetable oil in a deep pan.

Take a heaped teaspoonful of the mixture and gently push it off with your finger so that it drops in a round ball into the fat. Fry until puffed and golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat the process until you have used up all the batter.

Roll the balloons in caster sugar or cinnamon sugar and serve at once. These are also delicious with sweet apple sauce flavoured with a little cinnamon or a bowl of lemon curd.


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