ArchiveMay 19, 2024

National Food Days

Today, I took a little ramble through the Internet to check out the World, National and International Food days in May. Can you imagine there is one for virtually every day of every month of the year.
Several captured my imagination – May 13th was international Hummus Day, just missed that, but Sunday 19th is World Baking Day, Monday 20th is Quiche Lorraine Day. Fancy that and wait for it, Tuesday the 21st is National Strawberries and Cream Day, that’s the next three days sorted.
So what to bake? Well tomorrow is Sunday, so if there are kids around, how about making some cupcakes together to share. Can you believe National, Give Someone a Cupcake Day is also a thing, that was on May 8, but still it’s never too late to have fun, pass on skills and spread some delicious joy.
So how about Lemon Meringue Cupcakes? There are three elements to this recipe, just the thing to make on a wet afternoon to keep several of the family gainfully employed.
(1) The cupcake mixture, (2) lemon curd, and (3) tiny meringues. If you can’t be bothered to make the meringue. Although they are super cute and delicious the cupcakes will be delicious alone or with a little homemade lemon curd. The little bakers will have learned three skills plus the joy of gifting to grandparents, neighbours and their friends 
Can you imagine that there’s a National Quiche Lorraine Day…Well, here’s my favourite recipe for Quiche Lorraine, which I think is based on a recipe from Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking from the 1960’s

Here again, there are several techniques how to make a delicious, buttery, shortcrust pastry, line a flan ring and excellent proportions for a quiche. But the secret of a memorable quiche, which has been so debased and pedestrian from overuse, is really good eggs, lots of cream and excellent streaky bacon, I like it a little smoked…. (Quiche was certainly never meant to be made with milk or ‘perish the thought’ low fat milk…
And finally, for Strawberries and Cream Day on Tuesday, how about Ballymaloe Almond Meringue with strawberries and cream. ‘This Break all the Rules’ meringue was the very first dessert I tasted from the famous sweet trolley when I arrived in Ballymaloe House in 1968. Plus, it was also the very first dessert I learned to make in the kitchen, it’s still one of my favourites. Also brilliant for entertaining and for birthdays. The discs can be stored in an airtight tin for several days and it’s a really brilliant way to showcase the first of the early Irish Strawberries.

Quiche Lorraine 

Probably the most famous quiche of all, named after the Lorraine region of north-east France, this classic is delicious served with a simple green salad. Best served warm or room temperature.

Serves 6

Shortcrust Pastry

175g plain flour, sieved (spelt or sieved wholemeal flour may also be used)

pinch of salt

75g butter, chilled, 

1 egg (to bind) – 4 tablespoons liquid approx.


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

175g nice fatty streaky bacon cut into 1cm lardons

100g finely chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml single cream

1 scant tbsp chopped parsley

1 scant tbsp chopped chives

110g Gruyère cheese, grated or 75g Gruyère and 25g grated Parmesan

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 23cm round tin

Make the pastry.

Sieve 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.

Whisk the egg. 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 slightly more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

Flatten into a round, cover the pastry with parchment and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured worktop, line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’ for about 25 minutes. The base should be almost fully cooked.  Remove the parchment paper and beans, brush the base with a little beaten egg white and replace in the oven for 3-4 minutes.  This will seal the base and avoid the “soggy bottom” effect.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the bacon over a medium heat until almost crisp. Remove to a plate and cool. Add the finely chopped onions to the pan, cover and sweat gently on a low heat in the same pan for a further 5-6 minutes until soft but not coloured.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a medium-sized bowl, add the cream, herbs, cheese, bacon and onions. Mix well and add seasoning. Taste and correct, if necessary, quiches need to be well seasoned. Otherwise, heat a frying pan, cook a teaspoon of the quiche mixture on a gentle heat for 2 or 3 minutes until it coagulates – taste and if necessary, correct the seasoning. (A bit of a faff but so worth the effort to get the seasoning right).

Stir, Pour the filling into the pastry base and return to the oven for 30–40 minutes or until the centre has just set. Serve warm with a green salad. 

Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes

These cupcakes are absolutely adorable and really delicious, the way to everyone’s heart.

Makes 24


225g butter (at room temperature)

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons

Lemon Curd

50g butter

100g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

2 organic eggs and 1 organic egg yolk whisked (keep white aside for meringue)

Lemon Curd Cream

110ml whipped cream

4 tbsp lemon curd (see recipe)

1 tbsp sieved icing sugar or to taste

Meringue Kisses (see recipe)


sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena

2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the cupcakes.

Put all ingredients into a food processor, whizz until smooth. Add a little milk if the mixture is too thick.

Divide mixture evenly between cases in a muffin tin. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

Melt the butter on a very low heat. Add the caster sugar, freshly grated lemon zest and juice and then add the whisked eggs.  Stir carefully over a gentle heat with a straight ended wooden spatula until the mixture coats the back it.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

To assemble

Mix the lemon curd into the whipped cream and add the sieved icing sugar.  Put into a piping bag with a medium sized plain nozzle.  Put the remainder of the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small plain nozzle.

Insert the nozzle into the top of the cupcake and squeeze in a small teaspoon of lemon curd.  Pipe a blob of lemon cream over the top.  It should almost cover the cupcake, add another teaspoon of lemon curd, then top with a meringue kiss and garnish with a sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena.  Eat as soon as possible.

Meringue Kisses

Makes 30

2 egg whites

110g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.

To make the meringue.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Put into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe into 4cm rosettes onto the baking sheet.   Bake immediately in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until set crisp.

Ballymaloe Almond Meringue with Strawberries and Cream

We use this all-in-one meringue recipe for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentines Day, or simply for a special dessert, it’s particularly delicious with fresh strawberries, but raspberries, loganberries, peaches, nectarines, or even kiwi fruit are also very good.

Serves 6

90g whole unskinned almonds

240g icing sugar

120g egg whites, preferably free range


300ml whipped cream

225g fresh Irish strawberries in season 


little sprigs of mint or lemon balm

6-8 crystallised rose petals (optional)

Blanch and skin the almonds. Grind or chop them up. They should not be ground to a fine powder but should be left slightly coarse and gritty, (you could cheat and use nibbed almonds!). Toast in a moderate oven at 180°C/Gas Mark 4 for 8-10 minutes until golden. Keep an eye on them and stir occasionally. 

Mark 2 x 18cm circles on parchment paper or a prepared baking sheet.  Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free from grease.   Mix all the icing sugar with the egg whites in the bowl, whisk until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.  Fold in the almonds quickly.  Divide the mixture between the two circles and spread evenly with a palette knife.  Bake immediately in a cool oven, 150°C/Gas Mark 2 for 45 minutes or until crisp.  Turn off the oven and allow to cool.  The meringue discs should peel easily off the parchment paper.

To Assemble

Slice the strawberries.  Sandwich the meringue discs together with the fruit and whipped cream.  Reserve a little fruit and cream for decoration. Decorate with rosettes of whipped cream and strawberries.  Garnish with little sprigs of mint or lemon balm and crystallised rose petals.

Note:  If you chill for an hour before serving it will be easier to cut.

The meringue discs will keep for several weeks in a tin.

Almond Meringue with Loganberries or Raspberries

Substitute 110g loganberries or raspberries for strawberries in the above recipe.

Crystallized Flowers

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.

Flowers and leaves must be edible and are all worth doing.

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals. We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements.  Use fairly strong textured leaves – e.g. mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.

The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.

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


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