ArchiveMarch 2024


 I’ve been in and out of the country like a yo-yo for the past few weeks, India, New York, London…
The weather here in Ireland has been mostly shocking but every time I flew home, I was thrilled. First by the daffodils, blooming their hearts out, willing us to cheer up after the long Winter and more recently little spears of chives, sweet cicely and salad burnet bravely popping up in the herb garden, how wonderful is the miracle of nature, Spring is here at last and now its Easter.

My flock of hens hate the wind and rain but in response to the warmer weather they are laying with a vengeance so lots of eggs for the children to paint and enjoy for Easter. Try my newest sesame fried egg recipe, inspired by my trip to New York.

Newborn lambs are bleating in the fields around us, delighted to be out in the sunshine at last. Traditionally, lamb is the meat of choice for Easter, you’ve heard the term spring lamb which now refers to lamb 3 to 6 months old but genuine spring lamb, 6-10 weeks, is now extremely difficult to come by and certainly must be ordered well ahead of Easter but so worth the effort. It’s incredibly tender and succulent and more expensive but a really special treat.
Nowadays, the term lamb is bandied around with gay abandon and can refer to meat from an animal 6-12 months old. I love lamb but am finding it more and more difficult to find lamb that is grass fed and not finished on concentrates.

But in fairness to the farmers, the weather has been a huge challenge this spring, but hopefully one of my favourite local butchers has sourced a young lamb for me.

I’ll roast it gently and eat it with the first of the fresh mint.  This is the value of supporting your local butcher who really knows the source of their meat and the farmers who rear and care for the animals.

The supermarket shelves are piled high with Easter eggs and bunnies for just a few euros, many of them made from doubtful chocolate but how about buying just one beautiful Easter egg made by an artisan chocolatier as a treat for yourself. You can nibble slowly and enjoy it over the next couple of days or even weeks.

There are many award-winning chocolate makers around the country:

KoKo of Kinsale, Bean and Goose in Wexford, Lorge Chocolatier in Kenmare, Hazel Mountain Chocolate in the Burren, Wilde Irish Chocolates in Clare, Nooo Chocolate in Mayo, Grá’s Chocolate in Galway… but there are many others.

Too late now to make a Simnel cake or a batch of hot cross buns (see my Examiner column 27th March 2021 on Easter Baking) but join me and make my favourite field rhubarb pie.

I’m going to enjoy it with both custard and Jersey cream.

Happy Easter everyone.

Sesame Fried Eggs

My favourite new fried eggs – an inspiration from my recent New York trip.

Serves 1

1 fresh egg

1 generous dessertspoon white sesame seeds

10g butter

freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper or hot chilli sauce (optional)

coriander or flat parsley

Heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, sprinkle the sesame seeds into the centre.  Crack an egg on top, cook for a couple of minutes until the base is setting and the sesame seeds are toasty.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Flip the egg over, cook for a further minute or two.

Slide onto a warm plate, sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt, Aleppo pepper to taste and some coriander or flat parsley.

Enjoy with crusty bread.

Lamb Roast with Thyme and Garlic

Spike your leg of lamb with little tufts of thyme and tiny slivers of garlic – delicious hot, warm or at room temperature on a buffet. Loin of lamb, shoulder or rump may also be cooked in the same manner.

Serves 8-10

1 x 2.7-3.2kg leg of lamb

4-5 cloves of garlic

little sprigs of thyme

salt and freshly ground pepper


600ml stock, preferably homemade lamb stock

Roux (optional)

Choose a good leg of lamb with a thin layer of fat.  Ask the butcher to trim the knuckle and remove the aitch bone for ease of carving later.

With the point of a sharp knife or skewer, make deep holes all over the lamb, about 2.5cm apart. It is a good idea not to do this on the underside of the joint, in case somebody insists on eating their lamb unflavoured. Divide the thyme sprigs into tufts of three or four leaves together.

Peel the garlic cloves and cut them into little spikes about the same size as a matchstick broken into three. Stick a spike of garlic into each hole with a tuft of thyme. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two if you have time.   Alternatively cook immediately.

Heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Sprinkle the joint with salt and freshly ground pepper and put it into a roasting tin in the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 after 20 minutes. Cook 1 hour approx. more for rare lamb, 1 1/2 hours if it is to be well done. Remove the joint to a serving dish and allow it to rest while you make the gravy.


Spoon the fat off the roasting tin. Pour the stock into the cooking juices remaining in the tin. Boil for a few minutes, stirring and scraping the pan well, to dissolve the caramelised meat juices (I find a small whisk ideal for this). Thicken with a very little roux if you like.

Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper if necessary. Strain and serve the gravy separately in a gravy boat. Serve with lots of crusty roast potatoes and apple and mint jelly on the side.

Apple and Mint Jelly

Easy to make, fresh tasting and delicious made with some fresh mint, serve with roast Spring lamb.

Makes 2.7-3kg

2.7kg crab apples or Bramley cooking apples

2.7 litres water

2 unwaxed lemons


Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 45 minutes.

Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight.  Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g sugar to each 600ml of juice*. 

Warm the sugar in a low oven.

*We use 350g of sugar, but if you wish to keep the jelly for 9 months or more, it may be preferable to use 425g (to each 600ml).

Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.  Add 4-6 large sprigs of fresh mint to the apples while they are stewing and add 4-8 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint to the jelly just before it is potted.  

Test, skim and pot immediately.

New Season Garden Rhubarb Pie

This gem of a recipe was passed on to me by my mother who was famous for her pies – it’s a real keeper. The pastry is made by the creaming method so people who are convinced that they suffer from ‘hot hands’ don’t have to worry about rubbing in the butter. This pastry can be made a day before, cover and keep in the fridge.

Serves 8-12


225g soft butter

50g caster sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

350g white flour, preferably unbleached


900g sliced red rhubarb (about 1cm thick) (not forced) 

370g sugar

egg wash-made with one beaten egg and a dash of milk

caster sugar for sprinkling

To Serve

softly whipped cream

Barbados sugar

1 x tin, 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm deep

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the pastry.

Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food mixer (no need to over cream). Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce speed and mix in the flour slowly. Turn out onto a piece of floured greaseproof paper, flatten into a round wrap and chill. This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle.

To make the tart

Roll out the pastry 3mm thick approx. and use about two-thirds of it to line a suitable tin. Place the sliced rhubarb into the tart, sprinkle with sugar. Cover with a lid of pastry, seal edges, decorate with pastry leaves, egg wash and bake in the preheated oven until the apples are tender, approx. 45 minutes to 1 hour.

When cooked cut into squares, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar and serve with softly whipped cream and Barbados sugar.

The Batch Lady Grab and Cook

Ever heard of The Batch Lady, aka Suzanne Mulholland? I certainly hadn’t until a cookbook of the same name landed on my desk last week. Yet another cookbook I thought…What could possibly be different this time?
Well for a start, batch cooking is definitely ‘of the moment’ at a time when many of us are stretched to the limit struggling to keep all the balls in the air in the midst of super busy lives.
This book has some great tips and new practical ideas for both sweet and savoury dishes to simplify everyday meals. Tempting isn’t it.
In the intro, Suzanne promises that “Every recipe in this book can be made in advance, with no cooking involved until the night you want to eat it. You will have minimal washing up; minimal thought needs to go into it and yet you get maximum results night after night. “
Also, in the first few lines of the intro, Suzanne drops an unexpected bombshell…I don’t like cooking! I thought that sounds a bit odd for a cookbook author, but then she qualifies it by saying (well not every night anyway).
In this book, (her fifth), she shares the secrets of how she has organised her life, so she herself can eat well and put a home-cooked meal on the table for her family and friends.
She makes best use of her air fryer, slow cooker, pressure cooker, oven and of course the freezer.
There’s a chapter on cooking from frozen, how to choose your cooking methods, a basic tool kit, and The Batch Lady Larder – it’s definitely impressive.
Also a very interesting choice of recipes, most of which take no more than five minutes to prepare and can be cooked there and then or popped into the freezer and retrieved for an easy meal whenever you fancy.
This girl Suzanne, whom I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of before, is changing how we cook from scratch, convincing those without time, confidence or inclination to still have a delicious, healthy home-cooked meal whenever they want.
‘The Batch Lady, Grab and Cook’ published by Ebury Press.
Here are three recipes to whet your appetite.

Creamy Sausage and Cannellini Bean One-Pot

I love an easy sausage one-pot, and this one ticks all the boxes. This recipe uses cannellini beans; but they can easily be swapped for chickpeas or butter beans if you prefer.

Tip: you can make this vegetarian with veggie sausages, a vegetarian Parmesan substitute and a vegetable stock cube. 

Serves 4 

Preparation: 5 minutes 

115g frozen diced onions

2 tsp frozen chopped garlic 

350g frozen mixed chopped peppers 

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp smoked paprika 

1 tsp dried oregano 

200g cream cheese 

60g grated Parmesan 

1 chicken stock cube, crumbled 

8 pork sausages

To Cook

1 tbsp olive oil 

500ml (2 cups) boiling water 

*If making ahead to freeze.

Put the onions, garlic, peppers, cannellini beans, smoked paprika, oregano, cream cheese, Parmesan and crumbled stick cube into a large freezer bag, mix together and freeze flat.

Keep the sausages in their packet, or put in a smaller freezer bag, and freeze alongside the bag of sauce. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Hob 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost. Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large casserole dish and place on a medium heat.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Add the contents of the freezer bag, stir well, then pour over the boiling water.  Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost.  Turn the slow cooker to the sauté setting and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Add the contents of the freezer bag, stir well, then pour over the boiling water.  Pop the lid on and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost.  Turn the pressure cooker to sauté and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over.  Once browned, add the contents of the freezer bag and pour over the boiling water.  Give it a good mix, then seal the lid and cook for 9 minutes.  Once cooked, allow the steam to quickly release. 

If cooking now. 

  1. Hob 

Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a large casserole dish and place on a medium heat.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water and stir well.  Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  

  • Slow Cooker 

Turn the slow cooker to the sauté setting and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown all over.  Once browned, add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water and stir well.  Pop the lid on and cook for 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Turn the pressure cooker to sauté and add a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the pork sausages and brown them all over, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the boiling water, give it a good mix, then seal the lid and cook for 9 minutes.  Once cooked, allow the steam to quickly release. 

Satay Chicken Curry

This is one of my favourite curries! The mild coconut peanut sauce is so delicious, and it’s the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. If you’re a peanut lingered this one’s for you!

Serves 4

Preparation: 5 minutes 

650g skinless and boneless chicken thighs

350g frozen mixed sliced peppers

3 tsp frozen chopped garlic 

3 tsp frozen chopped ginger 

1 onion, finely sliced 

3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter 

1 tbsp mild curry powder 

1 tbsp runny honey 

2 tbsp soy sauce 

juice of 1 lime 

1 tbsp frozen chopped coriander 

1 chicken stock cube, crumbled 

1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk 

* If making ahead to freeze. 

Put all the ingredients into a large freezer bag, mix well, then freeze flat. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Hob 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into a large saucepan or casserole dish. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Pop the lid on the pan and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into the slow cooker. Pop the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Remove from the freezer and leave to fully defrost, then pour into the pressure cooker.  Seal the lid and cook for 16 minutes on high pressure, then allow it to naturally release. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

If cooking now.

  1. Hob 

Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan or casserole dish and mix. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, pop the lid on and cook for 45-50 minutes, stirring often. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Slow Cooker 

Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and mix. Pop the lid on and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

  • Pressure Cooker 

Put all the ingredients into the pressure cooker and mix.  Seal the lid and cook for 16 minutes on high pressure, then allow it to naturally release. Once cooked, shred the chicken using two forks. 

To Serve 

Serve with fluffy rice, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime. 

Hot Chocolate Pots 

These hot chocolate pots are so decadent and are totally delicious. Split them open and you get hot chocolate spread encased in sponge – so yummy. They are amazing to have in the freezer for when the sweet craving strikes. You will need four metal or ceramic ramekins. 

Makes 4

Preparation: 10 minutes 

140g butter, at room temperature, plus 1 tsp to grease the ramekins 

140g caster sugar 

2 eggs 

1 tsp vanilla extract 

110g plain flour 

30g cocoa powder 

4 heaped tsp chocolate spread 

* If making ahead to freeze.

  1. Grease all four ramekins with the teaspoon of butter and set aside. 
  2. Put the butter and sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. 
  3. Add the eggs, vanilla, flour and cocoa powder, and whisk again until you have a lump-free batter.
  4. Half-fill each ramekin with the batter. 
  5. Spoon 1 heaped teaspoon of chocolate spread into the centre of each ramekin, then cover with the rest of the batter. 
  6. Wrap each ramekin with cling film and tin foil, and place in the freezer. 

Cooking Options from frozen.

  1. Oven 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Unwrap the ramekins and cook the frozen puddings for 25 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

  • Air Fryer 

Preheat the air fryer to 160°C. Unwrap the ramekins and cook the frozen puddings in the air fryer for 20 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

If cooking now.

Follow the method in the ‘making ahead to freeze’ section up until the end of step 5.

  1. Oven 

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Cook the puddings for 19 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

  • Air Fryer 

Preheat the air fryer to 160°C. Cook the puddings in the air fryer for 15 minutes. Either run a knife carefully down the side of each and tip out onto a plate or serve as they are in the ramekins. 

To Serve

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar and some ice cream or double cream 

Saint Patrick’s Day

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, I hope you are celebrating…

I just love traditions, any excuse to add a little extra sparkle and fun and to enter into the spirit of the occasion. Sounds naff but we love to illuminate Ballymaloe House and the Cookery School in luminous green light in tandem with Tourism Ireland’s recent Global Greening initiative. Iconic buildings around the world were highlighted in what had been a very successful ploy to focus the world’s attention on Ireland. Buildings lit up green include the Opera House in Sydney; Empire State Building in New York; Niagara Falls in Canada; Christ the Redeemer Statue in Brazil, Prince’s Palace in Monaco, London Eye….
We’ll encourage the cookery students to pull out their green ribbons and glad rags, dress up and have fun.

As you know, Saint Patrick is reputed to have banished reptiles from Ireland so if we can find our felt snakes wherever they were carefully put away from last year we’ll set up a treasure snake hunt down by the pond garden. I know, I know…but it’s a bit of gas and silly fun for all ages.

Do you have a few special Saint Patrick’s Day dishes that you like to rustle up to serve to family and friends gathered around the kitchen table. I just love bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce. Of course, corned beef and cabbage is the emigrant’s favourite in America and very tasty it is too with some real Colman’s mustard mixed from the powder.
Many local butchers still make a batch of corned beef for Saint Patrick’s Day. We serve it at the Cookery School to our multi-ethnic students, but it has to be said that for many of our Irish students, it’s their very first taste of corned beef and they love it! Cook it with lots of chunky carrots and quartered cabbages and a big jug of parsley sauce and don’t forget plenty of floury potatoes and butter!
We also love to make a couple of spotted dogs to serve freshly baked and still warm slathered with butter for tea – totally irresistible. Remember, I’m on a mission to get everyone making some bread. Soda bread is the quickest and easiest and spotted dog, speckled with dried fruit is just a variation on the white soda bread. This recipe is from ‘The New Ballymaloe Bread Book’ published by Gill Books just before Christmas and I have to say it has been responsible for taking the mystery out of bread making for so many people which is definitely the object of the exercise. Now that the squishy commercial bread and faux sourdough have become so ubiquitous and seem to be unquestionably linked to the phenomenal rise in intolerances, it’s time to turn on the oven!.
Our field rhubarb is growing apace. For me, there has to be a rhubarb tart or rhubarb pie on Saint Patrick’s Day with lots of custard and a big dollop of whipped cream for a real celebration.

Once again, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Cork has a long tradition of corning beef – in fact, corned beef was a huge Cork export for much of the seventeenth century, and during the Napoleonic wars, Cork supplied the British army with corned beef. The skill of corning beef is still known, and some family butchers still keep a brine barrel, but the reality of Celtic-Tiger Ireland is that eating corned beef has gone out of favour. So even the butchers that know how to corn beef often don’t, because there is so little demand for it. It’s totally ironic that Americans seem to think that we still live on corned beef and cabbage, whereas many Irish people haven’t had it in years. Our local butcher Michael Cuddigan showed Mrs. Allen and her chefs how to corn beef before he retired, and they serve it in Ballymaloe for Sunday lunch. Now that we are passing on this skill to you, corned beef is something you don’t even have to ask your butcher for – you can just make your own. 

Serves 6-8

1.8kg corned silverside of beef

3 large carrots, cut into large chunks

6-8 small onions

1 teaspoon dry English mustard

large sprig fresh thyme and some parsley stalks, tied together

1 cabbage

salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the corned beef into a saucepan with the carrot, onions, mustard and the herbs. Cover gently in cold water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Discard the outer leaves of the cabbage, cut in quarters and add to the pot. Cook for a further 1-2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are soft and tender.

Serve the corned beef cut into slices surrounded by the vegetables. Serve lots of floury potatoes and freshly made mustard as an accompaniment.

Spotted Dog

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

In some parts of the country, spotted dog is also called railway cake – ‘a currant for every station’ as the saying goes.   In my case though, it would be ‘a sultana for every station’. I prefer them for their more luscious flavour. This bread has always been a favourite with our children, freshly made on Sunday mornings for our picnics on the cliffs at Ballyandreen or relished with lashings of butter, jam and steaming mugs of drinking chocolate after a winter walk on Shanagarry strand. Perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Makes 1 round loaf

450g plain flour, preferably unbleached

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

110g plump sultanas

1 dessertspoon sugar

1 level teaspoon salt

1 egg

350ml buttermilk (approx.)

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.

Sieve the flour and bicarb into a large mixing bowl, then add the fruit, sugar and salt. Mix the ingredients well by lifting them up above the bowl and letting them fall loosely back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to the finished bread.

Now make a well in the centre of the flour. Break the egg into the bottom of the measuring jug, whisking to break it up, then add the buttermilk up to the 400ml level, so that the egg makes up part of the total liquid measurement. Pour most of this milk and egg mixture into the flour.

With your fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circular movement, drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Add more milk and egg mixture if necessary.

The dough should be nice and soft, but not too wet and sticky.

With spotted dog, as with all soda breads, mix as quickly and as gently as possible to keep the dough light and airy but avoid over-mixing. When it comes together – a matter of seconds – turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.

With floured hands, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a round and press gently with the fingers to about 6cm high.

Transfer the dough onto a baking tray dusted lightly with flour. Mark the top with a deep cross and prick each of the dough triangles with your knife to let the pesky fairies out.

Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 35 minutes, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cut into thick slices and spread lavishly with Irish butter and jam.

Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with slices of Cheddar cheese.

Rhubarb and Custard Tart with Pistachios

Rhubarb and custard are a combo made in heaven. This tart has a carefully arranged lattice of rhubarb on top but if you can’t be ‘faffed’ arranging the rhubarb meticulously, just scatter it into the tart base – it’ll still taste delicious.

Serves 10-12 


225g plain flour 

pinch of salt 

175g soft butter

1 dessertspoon icing sugar 

a little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind 


600g or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces 

1-2 tablespoons caster sugar 

2 large or 3 small eggs 

3 tablespoons caster sugar  

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

300ml cream 


45g coarsely chopped pistachio nuts (optional)

To Serve

softly whipped cream

1 x 30.5cm tart tin or 2 x 18cm 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 a week in the fridge and also freezes well.

Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes.   Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes.   

Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly or in a chevron pattern on the base of the tart shell.  Sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar.  

Whisk the eggs well, with the 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and cook in the preheated oven for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the rhubarb is fully cooked.

Scatter with coarsely chopped pistachios.  Serve warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream. 


This week, an ode to turmeric, I’ve become somewhat obsessed by the Golden Spice as turmeric is referred to in India and other Southeast Asian countries.
The vibrant orange spice comes in both fresh and powder form, has a myriad of culinary and medicinal uses and is an essential component in many religious ceremonies and rituals.
Turmeric gives curry powders and many mustards their distinctive colour. It’s also used as a preservative.
Recently, I’ve been digging deeper into the growing body of research relating to its health giving properties.
Turmeric has been revered in India for over 4,000 years and is a mainstay of the Ayurveda as well as traditional Chinese medicine.
Its health benefits are being extensively studied by scientists. Turmeric may be one of the most potent anti-inflammatory compounds known to humanity. Preliminary evidence suggests that it reduces the risk of just about every major chronic condition.
How about that?
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, the culinary and medicinal part of the plant is the rhizome that grows underground.  Think ginger root but skinnier and bright orange inside with a slightly bitter, pungent taste.  In India, the fresh leaves are used to wrap fresh fish before cooking

You can grow it yourself, but fresh turmeric is widely available nowadays, maybe not in your local Circle K but at good supermarkets, health food shops and some Farmers Markets (see seasonal journal).
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric acts as an antioxidant and appears to have powerful disease fighting properties.
A 2021 Meta-analysis found curcumin effective in reducing inflammation and lessening pain in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers. Research also indicates that turmeric protects against several gastrointestinal diseases and acid reflux. It offers great promise in treating Type 2 diabetes. Helps lower blood sugar, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood and last, but not least a growing body of research indicates that curcumin inhibits cellular growth in several cancers.
I am not a medic, but all of that is certainly enough to convince me that adding a little turmeric to my diet particularly in fresh organic form could be a good idea.

Turmeric powder is even more accessible, but a word of caution, turmeric spice from Bangladesh and India sometimes contains lead chromate which enhances the spices appearance making it a more vibrant shade of orangey yellow. Lead is a dangerous poison and there is no safe level. So once again, I stress buy organic when you can.
A final thought worth knowing.
When we add black pepper to dishes that include turmeric, our systems can absorb up to 20 times more curcumin. While curcumin isn’t very water soluble, eating it with good fat or in combination with coconut milk, vegetable oil or ghee as in traditional Indian dishes also enhances the absorption.
A few of my favourite recipes to tempt you to get started…

Parsnip Gratin with Turmeric and Cumin

A super way to enjoy your parsnips in this golden, lightly spiced gratin.  We particularly enjoy it with a haunch of venison or roast goose.  The cooking time can be speeded up by heating the cream and spices before adding to the gratin.

Serves 6-8

1.1kg parsnips

800g potato

flaky salt and freshly ground pepper

10g butter for greasing dish

600ml cream

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp toasted and ground cumin

¼ tsp of cayenne

75g freshly grated Parmesan

20.5cm x 31cm ovenproof gratin dish

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Scrub the parsnips and potatoes. Peel, top and tail the parsnips and halve across the middle, cut into 7.5cm lengths. Peel the potatoes. Using a mandolin with a guard, slice the parsnips and potato into 5mm slices.

Butter the gratin dish, arrange a layer of parsnips on the base, lightly season. Add a layer of potato followed by another layer of parsnip, then another layer of potato, finishing with a layer of parsnip.  Season lightly between each layer otherwise the gratin will be bland.

Whisk together the cream, turmeric, cumin and cayenne in a bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the top and sprinkle with the freshly grated Parmesan. Put the gratin into the preheated oven and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes when the gratin is well coloured, lay a sheet of parchment paper loosely on top to prevent further browning if needed.

Bake for another 30 minutes until fully cooked. Check with a skewer, there should be no resistance from the vegetables.

Serve as a vegetable or a supper dish with a salad of organic leaves.

Rory O’Connell’s Chicken with Red Lentils, Turmeric, Chilli and Coriander

This flavoursome dish can be prepared ahead of time and gently reheated when needed. I use the brown meat from chicken legs, but white meat from the breasts can also be used with the cooking time reduced to allow for the quicker cooking white meat.

Serve with boiled basmati rice and a green vegetable such as peas, beans, spinach or sprouting broccoli. I serve a bowl of natural un-sweetened yoghurt with a little mint chopped through and a chutney such as tomato or apple.

Crisp mini poppadums complete the picture.

Serves 6

250g red split lentils

75g finely chopped onion

1 hot green chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced

2 tsp of cumin seeds, toasted and ground

1 level tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger

1.5 litres water

1.35kg skinned chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp lemon juice or to taste

¼ tsp garam masala

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Placed the lentils, onion, chilli, ground cumin, turmeric, half of the ginger and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place a lid on top, very slightly ajar, and cook at a bare simmer for 45 minutes. Add the chicken and a good pinch of salt and return to a simmer. Cover as before and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Keep an eye on what is happening in the saucepan as it may be necessary to stir with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon every now and then.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan and when hot add the cumin seeds. They will sizzle straight away so be ready to add the remaining ginger and garlic. Cook until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the cayenne and swirl to mix and immediately add the contents of the frying pan to the chicken and lentils.

Now add the lemon juice and garam masala, stir and cook at a simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Scatter the coriander over the dish just before serving.

Eloise and Annabel’s Magic Turmeric Sauce

This gem of a recipe was given to me by Annabel Partridge and Eloise Schwerdt.

Serve with roasted vegetables, beetroot, aubergine, paneer, tofu, quail or beef, monkfish or mackerel.

It may well become your favourite standby sauce.

Serves 20

200g ripe cherry tomatoes (16 approx.)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 cloves of garlic

250g crème fraiche

1 ½ tsp turmeric

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1-2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp chopped dill

1 tbsp chopped mint

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.

Put the tomatoes in a low sided roasting tin, season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with the red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Toss gently to coat and roast in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until soft and slightly caramelised.

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds together in a pan over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they begin to smell spicy. Pound the toasted spices in a pestle and mortar.  Remove half from the pestle and mortar.  Add a couple of cloves of garlic and some salt to the toasted seeds remaining in the pestle and mortar. Pound half the cooled roasted tomatoes, add the garlic, pound again then add the crème fraîche or yoghurt and the turmeric.  Add the extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard and the honey.  Add the chopped dill and mint.  Stir the rest of the tomatoes and juices, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Taste and adjust the balance of flavours to your taste (you may need to add the remainder of the spices).

Keralan Pan Grilled Fish with Turmeric and Freshly Cracked Pepper

In Kerala in south India, the spanking fresh fish is often wrapped in fresh turmeric leaves and barbecued or just grilled simply after the fillet has been dipped in flour seasoned with salt, turmeric and freshly cracked black pepper. The latter helps the body to absorb more of the curcumin from the turmeric.

Almost any fish works in this recipe – John Dory, mackerel, grey sea mullet, cod, sea bass, haddock, brill, turbot – provided it is absolutely fresh.

Serves 6 

6 x 175g pieces of very fresh fish fillets, skinned.

75g plain white flour

1 tsp ground turmeric 

½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper 

¼ tsp freshly ground sea salt

50g soft butter


lemon segments

sprigs of flat parsley or fresh coriander

Heat the pan grill. Dry the fish fillets well. Mix the flour, turmeric, freshly cracked pepper and salt well together on a plate.

Just before cooking but not earlier, dip the fish fillets in the seasoned flour. Pat the floured fillets between the palms of your hands to shake off the excess, then spread a little soft butter evenly over the entire surface of one side, as though you were buttering a slice of bread rather meanly.

When the pan grill is hot but not smoking, place the fish fillet’s butter side down on the grill; the fish should sizzle as soon as it touches the pan. Reduce the heat slightly and allow to cook for 4 or 5 minutes (time depends on the thickness of the fish). Turn over and cook on the other side until slightly crisp and golden.

Serve on hot plates with a segment of lemon and a little fresh herb garnish. 


Be sure to wash and dry the grill-pan between batches. 

Mary Jo McMillin

A lovely American friend from Chicago came to visit recently, bringing lots of new recipes to share with all of us. Her name is Mary Jo McMillin whom I’ve written about in previous columns. She absolutely loves to cook for her family, friends including the members of her local church and community.
Although she is now in her 80s, she continues to test recipes and experiment throughout the seasons.
She’s been coming to Ballymaloe for over 40 years. Originally, she had a much loved restaurant in the University town of Oxford, Ohio called Mary Jo’s Cuisine. Her little bistro stood as a beacon for food of exceptional quality and artistry, devotees drove from as far away as New York and Boston to eat her delicious seasonal food.

In 2007, much to the consternation of her loyal guests, she decided to hang up her restaurant pots and pans and published a cookbook of the same name generously sharing over 200 of her patrons favourite recipes.
While Mary Jo is with us here, she wanders through the Winter gardens and greenhouses, foraging and picking little salad leaves, winter roots, kale and edible greens, and cooks delicious, gutsy dishes for all of us to enjoy. She’s a thrifty cook and succulent stews, cooked gently and slowly in the cooling heat of the bread oven after the sourdough loaves have baked are one of her specialties.
She weaves her way in and out through the school kitchens and joins the students for lunch, sharing tips and stories from her life in food.
Food unites everyone, of all ages, all nationalities, all cultures…
This week, I’ll keep my introduction short so I can share several of Mary Jo’s recipes with you all.

Rhubarb and Lamb Koresh

Koresh is the generic name for stews in Persian cuisine. There are many variations on the theme. I was intrigued by this delicious version with the addition of new season’s rhubarb – Mary Jo used lamb neck, a very succulent and inexpensive cut of meat but you could substitute pork or beef.

Serves 3

1 tbsp olive oil

450g lamb shoulder or lean neck slices (pork shoulder or beef chuck may be substituted for the lamb)

1 tbsp olive oil

225g onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, sliced

a few slices red chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes

2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or ½ tsp powdered ginger)

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp turmeric

1 tbsp chopped preserved lemon

handful of chopped mint (or parsley)

225ml water

salt and pepper to taste

225g rhubarb stalks, cut into 1cm dice

1-2 tsp brown sugar (optional)

To Serve

steamed Basmati rice

natural yoghurt

chopped mint

Trim the lamb of excess fat and cut into 2.5cm chunks (or cook on the bone and remove the bone when the meat is tender).

Heat the olive oil or rendered lamb fat in a heavy enamelled cast iron braising pot and brown the lamb evenly. Remove, pour out any browned fat, add another 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat the onion to soften. Add the garlic, chili and ginger. Cook briefly and add the cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, preserved lemon and mint. Return the lamb to the aromatic base, add about 225ml of water, season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove any bones or chunks of fat.

Add the rhubarb and continue to cook until the rhubarb pulps into the sauce. Taste and add a little brown sugar if the sauce seems too tart. Simmer to combine the flavours, 15-20 minutes approx.  

To Serve

Serve with steamed Basmati rice, a dollop of plain yogurt and some chopped fresh mint.

Tapioca Pudding

I’d forgotten all about tapioca – a total blast from the past! I remember we used to disparagingly call it ‘frog spawn’…Mary Jo reintroduced us to tapioca and I couldn’t believe how delicate and delicious it was – a super easy dessert for a couple of cents.

If you can’t get quick cook tapioca, blitz the dry tapioca grains in a blender or Thermomix until smooth.

Serves 4-6  

1 egg separated

5 tbsp sugar (70g)

pinch of salt

3 tbsp quick cooking tapioca (33g)

450ml whole milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix the 4 tablespoons of sugar, egg yolk, salt, tapioca and milk in a small saucepan.

Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of sugar until stiff and set aside.

Bring to a full boil, stirring. Remove from the heat and fold in the beaten egg white and vanilla extract. Pour into a bowl or ladle into individual glasses. 

Delicious served with a berry purée and softly whipped cream.

Date and Walnut Meringues

These little does were super delicious with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

Makes 4-6 dozen depending on size

110ml egg whites

¼ tsp white wine vinegar

200g caster sugar

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

50g chopped walnuts

50g chopped dates (Deglet or Medjool)

Make the meringue.

In a food mixer, whisk the egg whites until they are foaming, add the vinegar.  Whisk to a light froth and begin adding the sugar one heaped tablespoon at a time.  Continue beating until stiff peaks form at the base of the whisk and the sugar has dissolved.  Beat in the vanilla extract and fold in the dates and walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 110°C/Gas Mark ¼.

Drop teaspoons of the meringue mixture on baking parchment lined trays and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes approx. or until the meringues easily lift off the parchment – turn off the oven and allow to cool. Store in an airtight tin. The meringues will develop a marshmallow-like centre.

Rolled Baklava

These delicious Greek pastry treats keep in a covered container for weeks on end, that’s if you can resist…

175g walnuts finely ground (use a food processor)

3 tbsp caster sugar

½ tsp ground cinnamon

175g filo pastry sheets (6-7 sheets approx.)

110g butter, melted

2 tbsp olive oil


175g granulated sugar

175ml water

1 tsp crushed cardamom pods (optional)

cinnamon stick

strip lemon rind

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp rosewater (optional)

1 x 20.5cm square tin

1 wooden dowel or long chopstick

First prepare the syrup.

Boil the sugar and water with the cardamom, cinnamon stick and lemon rind to form a thick syrup.

Add the lemon juice, honey and rosewater if using. Set aside to cool.

NOTE: for absorption, cool syrup must be poured over the hot pastry.

Mix the ground walnuts with the caster sugar and the ground cinnamon.

Melt the butter with the olive oil. Butter the tin.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

On a clean counter or marble slab, brush one sheet of filo with melted butter. Place one-sixth of the walnut mixture in a row 2.5cm from the buttered edge of the shorter end of the filo sheet. Place the dowel next to the nuts. Roll up the pastry like a Swiss roll keeping the dowel inside. When rolled, scrunch the pastry into a ruffled shape. Remove the dowel and place the scrunched roll in the buttered tin. Repeat with the remaining filo. Once all the rolls are in the baking dish, brush with butter, cut through them at 2.5cm intervals. (It’s important to cut the baklava before baking).

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes; reduce the heat to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and continue baking for 20 minutes or until golden on all sides. Remove from the oven, pour the cool syrup over the hot pastry, and listen to the syrup sing as it is absorbed.

Allow to cool and serve at room temperature.


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