AuthorDarina Allen

GIY Diaries and Bake Cookbook

A new name has just burst into the Irish cookbook scene – a larger than life character known to many as the ‘cupcake bloke’ from his bakery in Dublin’s Rialto. I heard him speak for the first time recently at Food On The Edge and was enchanted by his enthusiasm for baking. He charmed the audience of top chefs and food writers from around the world with stories of learning how to bake at home from his Granny Flynn, Mammy, aunts and neighbours, all of whom love to bake and share.

Graham Herterich was brought up over his family’s butcher shop in Athy, Co. Kildare. Originally, he thought of following in the family tradition but then went on to study Culinary Arts at WIT in Waterford, spent several stints and ‘stages’ in many top restaurant kitchens and two years with a Carmelite Community. Although he greatly enjoyed the experience, Graham decided that religious life was not for him and after a period of travel and a spell in product development and food production, he decided with encouragement from friends and mentors to open his own business in 2018… 

The bakery in Rialto quickly became a much-loved part of the community. Graham specialises in taking classic Irish recipes, like soda bread, tarts, porter cake, barmbrack…and gives them a modern twist – how about panch phoran soda bread, West Indies porter cake or barmbrack with many toppings and flavoured butters. In his new book, ‘Bake’, every traditional Irish recipe is followed by a modern interpretation. I love how he evokes memories of our favourite bikkies – remember Mikado, bourbons, lemon puffs and had a Retro Biscuit League to discover his customers’ favourites. You’ll have fun with ‘Bake’, a perfect presume to get all your pals baking.

Michael Kelly of GIY on the other hand is very well known and much admired for the ground-breaking work he and his ace team have done and continue to do… 
Michael, charismatic founder in 2008 of GIY (Grow It Yourself), the social enterprise that encourages and teaches people to grow their own nutritious vegetables, fruit and fresh herbs. Well known to millions through his prime-time TV series and Amazon Prime, Michael and his team have taken the mystery out of starting a vegetable patch and shown us all the magic of sowing a seed and watching it grow into something delicious to eat.

For the wannabe gardeners in your life, seek out Michael’s latest book ‘The GIY Diaries – A Year of Growing and Cooking’ Michael’s passion for teaching leaps off every page as do Sarah Kilcoyne’s illustrations.

He shares his deep knowledge and experience in day by day lessons and encourages all of us to experience the joy of growing and the satisfaction of becoming at least somewhat self-sufficient.
Lots of brilliant practical suggestions on how we can do our bit to combat climate change, biodiversity loss, food security concerns and the rapidly rising cost of living.
Every month there are recipes to make the most of your seasonal harvest, how to use every scrap, store and preserve a glut…
So many practical tips to empower you to join the Grow-It-Yourself food revolution.

‘The GIY Diaries – A Year of Growing and Cooking’ by Michael Kelly published by Gill Books

‘Bake – Traditional Irish Baking with Modern Twists’ by Graham Herterich published by Nine Bean Rows

Graham Herterich’s Mammy Buns

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always referred to buns as ‘mammy buns’. That what our mammy made and if you went to a friend’s house as a kid and there were buns, you could be assured they were made by their mammy.

Makes 12 large cupcakes or 24 small traditional buns

165g (5 1/2oz) butter, very soft
165g (5 1/2oz) caster sugar
165g (5 1/2oz) self-raising flour
3 medium eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To decorate (choose one):
jam and desiccated coconut
jam and buttercream frosting or whipped cream
buttercream frosting and sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan.
Like your cupcake or bun trays with paper cases (12 cupcake cases or 24 smaller bun cases).

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix everything together until you have a smooth, well-combined, fluffy batter. This will take a minute or two.

Divide the batter between the paper cases. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes for the larger cupcakes or 14-16 minutes for the smaller buns, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely, then decorate as desired.

1. Spread a little jam across the top of each bun and roll in desiccated coconut.

2. Cut the top off each bun. Decorate with a little jam and frosting or freshly whipped cream. Cut the top in half and place back on the bun to look like butterfly wings.

3. Pipe on some buttercream frosting and decorate with sprinkles.

Buttercream Frosting
This is a simple frosting that’s perfect for decorating these buns. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, start on a slow speed (or you’ll have a big mess!) and beat 150g (5oz) very soft butter with 300g (10oz) icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk if you would like to make the frosting a little softer.

Graham Herterich’s Tahini and Black Sesame Cupcakes

‘A lot of people know me as The Cupcake Bloke, the name of the business I started with my husband in 2012, so I couldn’t write this book without including at least one cupcake.’

Makes 12

165g (5 1/2oz) self-raising flour
165g (5 1/2oz) caster sugar
115g (scant 4 1/4oz) butter, very soft
50g (2oz) tahini
3 medium eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, plus extra to decorate (see note)

100g (3 1/2oz) butter, softened
50g (2oz) tahini
300g (10oz) icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan.
Line your cupcake tray with paper cases.

Put all the ingredients except the black sesame seeds in a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix everything together until you have a smooth, well-combined, fluffy batter. This will take a minute or two. Gently fold in the black sesame seeds.

Divide the batter between the paper cases. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

To make the frosting, using an electric mixer or the stand mixer again, mix the softened butter with the tahini and icing sugar, starting slowly or you’ll have a big mess! Continue to whisk for about 5 minutes, adding a little milk if you would like to make the frosting a little softer.

Using either a piping bag, a palette knife or a spoon, divide the frosting between the cupcakes. To decorate, sprinkle with more black sesame seeds.

You can get black sesame seeds from Asian food shops.

Graham Herterich’s Pork and Fennel Rolls with Fennel and Apple Slaw

I adore the sweet, mild aniseed flavour that comes from fennel. It works really well in both sweet and savoury dishes, and pork with a mix of fresh fennel bulb and fennel seeds is a great combination.

Makes 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
25g (1oz) butter
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced (keep any green fronds)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed, plus extra for sprinkling on top
600g (1lb 5oz) pork mince or sausage meat (I like to use a mix of both)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
plain flour, for dusting
1 medium egg, beaten

For the fennel and apple slaw:
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced (keep any green fronds)
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into thin strips

Preheat the oven to 180˚C fan.
Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the sliced fennel bulb and cook for a further 10 minutes, adding the crushed fennel seeds just before you take the pan off the heat. Allow to cool.

Put the pork mince and/or sausage meat in a bowl (first removing the skins if using whole sausages) along with the cooled onion and fennel. Season with a little salt and pepper and mix well by hand.

Unroll the pastry on a lightly floured work surface and cut it lengthways into two long, even rectangles.

Divide the sausage filling in two. Roll half of the filling into a long sausage shape with your hands along the centre of each rectangle.

Brush the pastry on one side of the filling with the beaten egg, then fold the other side of the pastry over the filling, wrapping it inside. Turn so that the seal is on the bottom of the sausage roll. Cut each long roll into three and space them out on the lined baking trays.

Brush the top of each roll with the beaten egg and sprinkle on some extra fennel seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until puffed up, golden and cooked through.

To make the slaw.

Mix the mayonnaise, mustard and lemon juice together in a large bowl, then season with salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Add the sliced fennel bulb, apple and any green fennel fronds and stir them into the sauce until evenly coated.

Serve the warm sausage rolls with the slaw on the side.

Michael Kelly’s Raw Kale Salad

This recipe will open your eyes to the potential of kale for salads. Massaging the kale with lemon juice and salt in effect cooks it and makes it far more palatable while retaining its nutrients. I was sceptical about the culinary merits of a kale salad until I tasted this – it’s delicious. It will keep for three days in the fridge.

Serves 4

250g (9oz) kale
juice of 1 lemon
2-3 pinches of salt
olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
25g (1oz) dried cranberries, finely chopped
50g (2oz) cashew nuts, roasted and chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, finely chopped

Remove the stalks from the kale and chop the leaves into fine strips. Place in a large bowl with the lemon juice and salt until it starts to soften a little. Sprinkle with olive oil and leave it to sit for another 10 minutes. Add the red onion, cranberries, cashew nuts and celery and mix well. Later in the year you could add some cherry tomatoes or cucumber to this salad.

Michael Kelly’s Sausage and Beer Stew

So many of my recipes at this time of the year focus on the available root crops that I have either in the ground or in storage, such as carrots, parsnips, celeriac and beets. Don’t worry too much about sticking to the veg ingredients too rigidly – you could use celery instead of celeriac, swede instead of squash, etc.

Serves 4

olive oil
6-8 good-quality dinner sausages
2 onions, diced
1 leek, trimmed and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1/2 celeriac, diced
1 x 330ml (11fl oz) bottle of beer
500ml (18fl oz) beef or chicken stock
400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes or 2 tablespoons tomato purée
2 tablespoons chopped herbs (parsley, rosemary and thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon mustard (I use Dijon)
1/4 squash or pumpkin, peeled and chopped into large chunks
salt and pepper

crusty bread or baked potatoes, to serve

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Cut the sausages into chunks and fry them for a minute or so on each side, until browned. In the same frying pan, fry the onions, leek, garlic, carrots and celeriac on a gentle heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Transfer to a heavy saucepan or casserole.

Pour the bottle of beer into the frying pan to deglaze the pan, scraping any nice brown bits off the pan with a wooden spatula. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 10 minutes to reduce down a little. Add it to the veg with the stock, tomatoes, herbs, bay leaf and mustard. Bring to the boil and then add the squash or pumpkin. Cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.

Add the sausages to the saucepan and cook for another 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Check the consistency – leave to simmer for another 10 minutes if it needs to be thickened or add a little boiling water if it’s too thick.

Serve with crusty bread or baked potatoes.


What is the world coming to…

It takes real courage to turn on the news these days – one crisis after another, the war in Ukraine shows little sign of abating, global warming, then there’s the escalating cost of living and energy crisis, biodiversity loss, food security issues, diminishing fertility of the soil resulting in the dramatic drop in nutrient density of foods..

In the midst of all of this, the farming community who feed us are also in turmoil – confusion reigns… 

I’m still reeling from the publication of the recent study conducted by UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science which found that one in every four Irish farmers are considered to be ‘at risk of suicide’ while over 50% experienced ‘moderate to extreme depression.  The key triggers appear to be Government policies to reduce climate change, concern about the economics and future of the farm, constant criticism from outsiders with little understanding of farming and the ever-increasing raft of new regulations and paperwork.

Farmers, having done exactly what they were advised to do for decades, now find themselves being lambasted by the press and they believe ‘unfairly’ blamed for disproportionately contributing to climate change despite the fact that the 2006 Livestock’s Long Shadow report which concluded that methane from cattle is the main problem has now been discredited.  However, it’s too late for many, the ‘genie’ is out of the ‘bottle’…The report was the main inspiration behind movements such as ‘Meatless Monday’.

The Government needs to be very conscious of farmers mental health when framing new legislation.  Despite the perception, the farming community in general is fully aware and anxious to implement measures to sequester carbon and reduce emissions.   They fully realise that ‘business as usual’ is no longer an option but they need support and knowledgeable advice to transition to regenerative farming, organic and biodynamic farming practices tick all the boxes.  A very difficult situation for all concerned.

Organic farmers are willing and happy to share their experience, more communication is needed between the sectors.  Resources need to be poured into research on organic farming production methods.  Heretofore, billions have been invested in research into intensive farming methods but little into non-chemical farming.  Costs of inputs for conventional farms – artificial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have also skyrocketed adding to the challenge and despair of farmers. 

At the Farming for Nature Seminar and Awards held in Co. Clare recently.  Farmers were  not without their concerns but many with small holdings seemed happy and content with their lot, proud of their contribution to their natural environment, making a decent living producing nourishing wholesome food for their community.  Many were selling at least a portion of their produce direct online via box schemes, Farm Shops or at Farmers’ Markets adding to the viability of the farm.

Every one of our actions has environmental consequences, driving, flying, eating…so spare a thought for the farmers who are producing the food that sustains us.  Shop mindfully, support those who are farming sustainably and those who are in transition to regenerative farming.  It’s not an easy time for anyone but each and every one of us can do our little bit to ease the burden.

Now that the clocks have gone back, time for warming winter stews, casseroles and a big dish of roast Brambly apples. 

Pork and Green Tomato or Tomatillo Stew

Green tomatoes work brilliantly in this stew if you can’t find tomatillos.

It can be cooked ahead, refrigerated overnight and reheated gently. 

Serves 8 approx. 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

700g (1 1/2lbs) boneless pork shoulder or neck, cut into 3-inch chunks

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 large celery sticks, finely diced

175g (6oz) red onion, finely diced

2 medium sized carrots (175g/6oz), peeled and chopped into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons medium hot chilli powder

1 tablespoon roasted and ground cumin

1 tablespoon marjoram, chopped

450ml (16fl oz) homemade chicken stock

450g (1lb) potatoes, peeled and diced

1 x 400g (14oz) tin chopped tomatoes

450g (1lb) green tomatoes or tomatillos—husked, rinsed and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) dice

1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo, chopped

chopped coriander, for garnish

corn tortillas, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a medium casserole. Season the pork with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss the pork cubes in batches and cook over a high heat until browned all over.  Add the celery, onion and carrot and cook over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the diced chilli, garlic, chilli powder, cumin and marjoram.  Cook stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 15 minutes or until both meat and potatoes are tender.  Add the chopped green tomatoes or tomatillos and chipotle en adobo. Cover and simmer over low heat until the pork is cooked through, 25 – 30 minutes.

Taste and correct the seasoning.  Ladle the stew into bowls.  Scatter with lots of coriander and serve with tortillas.

Ethiopian Spiced Lamb Stew – Awaze Tibs

Ethiopian food is becoming hugely popular.  We love this favourite Ethiopian home cooked stew.  

Made with tender, boneless shoulder of lamb, this quick-cooking

stew freezes and reheats perfectly.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons red wine

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon berbere spice

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1.6kg (3 1/2lbs) boneless shoulder of lamb, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes

flaky sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, halved and thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons, rosemary finely chopped

2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves

1/2 tin tomatoes (200g/7oz), diced

1 yellow pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) dice

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Whisk the wine with the lemon juice, berbere, paprika and mustard in a small bowl.

Season the lamb with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the lamb in batches over a medium heat until browned all over. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a casserole. Repeat with the remaining lamb.

Add the chopped onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Bring to the boil and cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened, about 8 minutes.

Add the lamb and any accumulated juices to the casserole along with the wine mixture, diced tomatoes, pepper, and shallot. Cook over a medium heat, stirring, until the pepper and tomatoes have softened and the lamb is just cooked through, about 30-40 minutes.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Serve with Injera or another flatbread, pitta, or naan.  Alternatively, serve with rice or potatoes.

Venison and Parsnip Stew

The flavour of this stew really improves if you cook it the day before and reheat it the next day – as well as improving the flavour, cooking the venison in advance ensures that it is meltingly tender. If ‘needs must’ and you are racing against the clock, just mix all the ingredients in the casserole, bring to the boil and simmer until cooked. Baked potatoes work brilliantly with venison stew, but a layer of potatoes on top provides a wonderfully comforting meal in one pot. Scatter lots of fresh parsley over the potatoes before tucking in.

Serves 8-12

1.3kg (3lbs) shoulder of venison, trimmed and cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes

50g (2oz) plain flour, for dusting

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

225g (8oz) piece of fatty salted pork or green streaky bacon, cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes

2 large onions, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 large parsnips, diced

1 large garlic clove, crushed

450ml (16fl oz) homemade beef stock

bouquet garni

8–12 medium potatoes, peeled (optional)

a squeeze of organic lemon juice

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


300–350ml (10-12fl oz) gutsy red wine

1 medium onion, sliced

3 tablespoons brandy

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

bouquet garni

Horseradish Sauce (optional)

To Serve

lots of chopped flat-leaf parsley

green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, calabrese or cabbage

First marinate the meat. Season the cubes of venison with salt and pepper. Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl, add the venison and set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour, or better still overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Drain the meat, reserving the marinade, and pat dry with kitchen paper. Tip the flour onto a plate and season well. Turn the cubes of venison in the seasoned flour to coat on all sides.

Heat the oil in a 25cm (10 inch)/3.2-litre (5 1/2 pints) casserole pan over a low heat, add the salted pork or bacon and cook for 4–5 minutes, stirring, until it starts to release its fat. Increase the heat to medium and fry the salted pork or bacon until golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the venison to the casserole in batches and fry over a medium heat until nicely coloured on all sides. Avoid the temptation to increase the temperature or the fat will burn. Remove and set the batch aside while you colour the rest.

Toss the vegetables in the casserole, stir in the garlic and then add the pork or bacon and venison.

Pour off any surplus fat from the casserole and remove the meat and veg and set aside. Deglaze the casserole by pouring in the strained marinade. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the crusty bits on the base, add the pork or bacon and vegetables back in.

Pour over enough stock to cover the meat and vegetables and put in the bouquet garni. Bring the casserole to a gentle simmer on the hob, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the casserole from the oven and cover the surface of the stew with the peeled whole medium potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the potatoes with a circle of greaseproof paper, and then the lid of saucepan. Return the casserole to the oven and cook for a further 1 hour or until both the venison and potatoes are cooked.

Season to taste. As well as adding salt and pepper, I find it often needs a bit of acidity in the form of lemon juice or crab apple jelly, if available.

Scatter with lots of freshly chopped parsley and serve with a nice big dish of Brussels sprouts, calabrese or cabbage and some homemade horseradish sauce.

Venison and Parsnip Pie

This makes a delicious pie. Fill the cooked stew into one or two pie dishes. Cover with a generous layer of mashed potato or puff pastry.

A Tray of Roast Apples

Don’t forget this simple recipe for a much-loved autumn or winter dessert – a great way to use up any last windfall cooking apples. I love to roast them in an enamel roasting tin. For a special dish, you could vary the fillings and allow your guests to select their favourite. Soft brown sugar and cream is a compulsory accompaniment. Nowadays, baked apples are often stuffed with ‘exciting’ mixtures which may include dried fruit, lemon rind, nuts and spices. This is nice occasionally, but my favourite is still the simple roast apple of my childhood. It’s important to note that the apples will cook much faster in the autumn than they will later on in the year, when they will have most probably come from a cold store.

Serves 9

9 large cooking apples, preferably Crimson Bramley

9 tablespoons granulated sugar

25g (1oz) butter

150ml (5fl oz) water

softly whipped cream and soft dark brown sugar, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

Core the apples and score the skin of each around the ‘equator’. Arrange the apples in a single layer in an ovenproof dish large enough to take the apples in a single layer, approx. 31 x 25 x 5cm (12.5 x 10 x 2 inch), and for the simplest but nonetheless totally delicious version, fill the centre of each one with 1 generously tablespoon sugar. Put a little dab of butter on top of each.

Pour a little water around the apples and roast in the oven for about 1 hour. They should be fluffy and burst slightly when they are fully cooked, but still be fat and puffy (not totally collapsed). Serve as soon as possible with softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar.


Roast Apples with Cinnamon Sugar

Add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the granulated sugar.

Roast Apples with Sultanas and Hazelnuts

Add 1 scant teaspoon of sultanas and 1 teaspoon of coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts to the granulated sugar for each apple. Top each apple with a tiny blob of butter.

Marzipan Roast Apples

Fill the apple cavities with 225g (8oz) marzipan mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Roast Apples with Pedro Ximénez Raisins

Soak 110g (4oz) raisins in warm Pedro Ximénez sherry for at least 30 minutes, or better still overnight. Combine the raisins with 4 tablespoons of caster sugar and use to fill the apples. Top with butter and bake as above. Serve with 225ml (8fl oz) softly whipped cream mixed with 3 tablespoons of Pedro Ximénez.

Jeremy Lee’s ‘Cooking Simply and Well, For One or Many’

I love a long weekend in London, it’s so easy to pop over from Cork Airport, no queues, no hassle.  A chance to see a couple of exhibitions, maybe a play, stroll around several cool Farmers’ Markets and food shops, go to the theatre and do some yummy research on new openings and the current food scene.  I love to check out the latest restaurants and cafés but there’s one old favourite that I can’t resist returning to virtually every time I go to London – Quo Vadis in Dean Street in Soho.  I love Jeremy Lee’s food and always hope that this charismatic, bespectacled chef will come bouncing into the dining room with his usual exuberant welcome and generosity of spirit. 

Jeremy is one of those rare, seemingly egoless chefs whom everyone loves.  In Jay Rayners words, ‘one of those rare phenomena in the London food world – a chap everyone agrees is a good thing’.

He writes the menu every day.  At this time of the year, he cooks the sort of warm comforting food that we crave in Autumn and Winter, chunky soups, game pies, salad of bitter greens with perfectly ripe pears and chunks of Stichelton cheese….wild plums and caramelised apple tarts and when the weather get chillier, steamed puddings floating in homemade vanilla flecked custard with freshly churned ice cream and thick rich Jersey cream.  The dining room is small so you’ll need to book ahead…

His love for food was honed in the kitchen of his childhood in Dundee where both his Mum, a home economics teacher and his illustrator Dad loved to ‘read cook and eat’ and share good things around the table with family and friends. 

He came to London in the 1970’s when becoming a chef had little allure for middle class boys.  Back then the restaurant world was all about starched hats and Escoffier inspired hierarchical kitchens, but in the 80’s, interest in food gathered momentum, a whole new generation of great restaurants opened around the world.  Changes in produce and restaurant menus…cookbooks on every cuisine were rolling off the press.   He cooked with Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum, Alastair Little at Frith St, and manned the stoves at Boodles and the Blueprint Café.  In 2012 Jeremy joined forces with the Hart brothers, Sam and Eddie, the restaurateurs behind Barrafina and Quo Vadis in Soho.  He’s got a vast and much-loved library with Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, Julia Child, Claudia Roden, Elizabeth Luard, Marian McNeill, Florence White and Eliza Acton were all powerful influences.

For years Jeremy’s many devotees have been longing for him to write a cookbook but it wasn’t until Quo Vadis was shuttered up during Covid that Jeremy began to jot down recipes for a combination of his favourite things to eat and favourite recipes from a lifetime spent in restaurant kitchens.  Warm comforting, nourishing dishes that he cooked during lockdown form the heart of the book.

The smoked eel and red onion sandwich so beloved of Quo Vadis guests is there, as is the baked salsify or asparagus in filo, chocolate, almond and marmalade tart as well as the classic pommes Anna and rumbledethumps – one of the many nods to his beloved Scottish ancestry.

Like many others, I predict that Jeremy’s cookbook will become a cherished classic.  I’ll leave you with a quote from the introduction. ‘The simple truth, I’ve learned from a lifetime of cooking, is that good food is honed from fine ingredients’ – how true is that…

Cooing Simply and Well, For One or Many by Jeremy Lee is published by 4th Estate.

Jeremy Lee’s Griddled Chicken Livers, Bacon and Sage

These are as pleasing as they are simple. Two each will serve well for a bite or buy and make more for a more substantial dish.
Made earlier in the day and refrigerated, they are a treat cooked swiftly on a grill, heaped on a dish and taken piping hot to the table.
When buying chicken livers, ensure they are dark in colour, firm and, above all, fresh. Wooden skewers are best here and soak them for 20 minutes before using.

Serves 6

150g (5oz) freshest chicken livers
12 rashers of streaky smoked bacon
24 sage leaves
2 soup spoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Trim the livers of all and any trace of gall, easily recognised by its green colour.

Cut the rashers of bacon in half. Lay these flat on a chopping board or baking tray. Lay a small sage leaf on each piece. Lay a piece of liver on top of each leaf. Thread a skewer securely through the bacon, liver and sage. Cover and refrigerate until required.

Place a skillet or griddle on a high heat. When ready to cook, have a dish beside you. Lay the skewers on the skillet or grill, season well with a pinch of each of salt and black pepper, then let cook until a fine-sounding sizzle is achieved after a minute or so. Turn the skewers and cook for a minute or two. Remove to the waiting dish, then mix together the oil and vinegar and lightly brush the meat. Serve swiftly.

Jeremy Lee’s Hake with Parsley, Dill and Anchovy Sauce

A striking dish with the pale green limpid sauce pooled in the plate, contrasting with the delicate slivered skin of the hake. Heaven with the first crop of new potatoes.

Serves 6

3 small shallots
1 clove of garlic
6 anchovy fillets
7 soup spoons olive oil
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
150g (5oz) picked flat-leaf parsley leaves
30g (1 1/4oz) picked dill leaves
6 fillets of hake, roughly 1kg (2 1/4lbs) in total

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

Peel and finely chop the shallots and garlic. Place in a pan with the anchovies and olive oil. Sit this upon the gentlest heat and warm until the shallots have softened and the anchovies have melted. Pour in the cream. Bring to a simmer, then pour into a blender packed with the picked herbs. Render smooth and pour this through a fine sieve. Cool swiftly and refrigerate until required.

Place the fillets of hake in a deep ovenproof dish, lightly season with salt and white pepper and lightly dress with a soup spoon of olive oil. Pour in enough cold water to cover the bottom of the dish. Cover the dish and bake in a hot oven until done, say 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and keep warm. Any residual juices left in that dish can be added to the sauce.

Warm the sauce and pour on to a dish. Place the fillets of hake on the sauce and serve swiftly.

Jeremy Lee’s Apple Tarts

I first ate a ‘tarte fines aux pommes’ at the Peat Inn in Fife on the east coast of Scotland when still a young apprentice in the late seventies. It is a lovely pudding, timeless, elegant and delicious, simplicity itself, the very best recipe to withstand the vicissitudes of time.
I have made this tart with pears, peaches, apricots and plums and enjoyed them immensely, but there is just that something about apple to which this cook happily returns again and again.

For each person
50g (2oz) puff or rough puff or flaky pastry
1 apple, such as Egremont Russet or Cox’s Orange Pippin
a squeeze of lemon juice
15g (generous 1/2oz) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

Roll the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured surface, roughly into a 12-13cm (4 3/4 – 5 1/4 inch) disc.
Place on a baking sheet and prick with a fork. Refrigerate.

Peel and core the apple, halve it, slice the halves thinly and toss in lemon juice. Lay these concentrically and fairly evenly over the pastry. Brush the apple with melted butter. Evenly sugar the apple slices. (These keep remarkably well in the fridge if necessary).

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes until slightly risen and golden. Serve with very good cream. (If you make the tart in advance, warm it through before serving).

Jeremy Lee’s Custard

Makes 600ml (1 pint)

1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500ml (18fl oz) whole milk
6 organic egg yolks
40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar
140ml (scant 5fl oz) double cream

Place the vanilla pod and seeds in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the milk (if using vanilla extract, add this to the milk instead). Place over a gentle heat while the milk infuses, stirring from time to time.

In a bowl mix the egg yolks and sugar together. Just as the milk comes to the boil, pour half on to the egg mix, stirring all the while. Pour this back into the remaining milk in the saucepan, and return to a gentle heat, stirring until the custard thickens.

Remove from the heat and pour in the cold cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a waiting bowl and stir for a few minutes until the steam disperses. Cool and refrigerate until needed.


We’re all set for Halloween, squash, pumpkins and gourds of every size, shape and colour are piled precariously on the table in the hall of the cookery school, on the window ledges, in baskets and boxes, they look so decorative.  It’s become a bit of a tradition, our grandchildren and children from the local schools to come to the farm to harvest the squash and pumpkin every Autumn. They have the best fun and are intrigued by the names, Hubbard, Turks Turban, Little Gem, Delicata, Hokkaido, Crown Prince, Kobocha,  Cocozelle, Jack be Little, Red Kuri… Some are the size of a child’s fist, others so enormous that it takes two sturdy lads to carry them.

On my recent trip to New York, there were pumpkins everywhere and in everything – pies, muffins, lattes, smoothies, bread, soups, cake, baked, roasted, frittatas, stews, curries, pasta, bread, pancakes, salads, pickles, even popsicles and ice cream…both sweet and savoury dishes – pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

Everyone loves carving pumpkins into scary faces for Halloween, the festival that apparently originated in Ireland over three thousand years ago when the pagan festival of Samhain  marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new year, the natural transition from lighter Summer to the darker Winter. At this time of the year it was believed that the division between this world and the other world was at its most fragile, allowing spirits to pass though. So as in the Mexican tradition of the ‘Day of the Dead ‘the spirits of the ancestors were invited back home and evil spirits were warded off. Bonfires, traditional food, costumes and masks were all part of the festivities.

After the famine, the Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America where it is now one of the major holidays of the year. Similarly, here in Ireland where it is fast becoming as big as Christmas.  For several weeks now children have been whipped into a lather of excitement by all the Halloween temptations on TV and in the shops and the anticipation of dressing up as ghouls and witches to do the rounds of their neighbourhood for the annual ‘trick or treat’.

You may be amused to hear that we were inadvertently removed from the ‘must visit’ list a number of years ago when word spread among the ‘trick or treaters’ that Ballymaloe Cookery School was ‘no good’ because you only got fruit and nuts…

The fact that they were home-grown apples and fresh hazelnuts, cobnuts and walnuts from the nut garden did not remotely impress the scary little dotes who were hoping for proper sugar laden treats. So I think we’ve been black-listed!!

Apparently, Barmbrack is back…! I never realized that it wasn’t cool …  It’s always been a treasured part of Halloween for me, super easy to make and the best fun to make with the kids … adding in the ring and charms…

Here too are a few pumpkin recipes for you to have fun making with your children and their friends.  There are masses more ideas online.

Ballymaloe Halloween Barmbrack

Everyone in Ireland loves a barmbrack, perhaps because it brings back lots of memories of excitement and games at Halloween. When the barmbrack was cut, everyone waited in anticipation to see what they’d find in their slice: a stick, a pea, a ring, a piece of cloth and what it meant for their future.

This is a more modern version of barmbrack, now commonly called a ‘tea brack’ because the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight to plump it up (rather than boiled as in the recipes above). This little gem of a recipe is much easier to make at home than the Halloween Barmbrack.  Even though it is a very rich bread, in Ireland it is traditionally served sliced and buttered.

Yields about 12 slices (eat the crusts, too!)

110g (4oz) sultanas

110g (4oz) raisins

110g (4oz) currants

50g (2oz) natural glace cherries, halved or quartered

300ml (10fl oz) hot tea

1 organic egg, whisked

175g (6oz) soft brown sugar

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice

50g (2oz) homemade candied peel (see recipe)

450g (1lb) loaf tin – 12.5 x 20cm (5 x 8in) OR 3 small loaf tins 15 x 7.5cm (6 x 3 inch)

Put the dried fruit and cherries into a bowl. Cover with hot tea and leave to plump up overnight.

Next day, line the loaf tin with silicone paper.

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

Add the whisked egg, soft brown sugar, flour and mixed spice to the fruit and tea mixture. Stir well. Put the mixture into the lined loaf tin.

Cook in the preheated oven for about 1 1/2hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Keeps very well in an airtight tin.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkins vary in intensity of flavour, some are much stronger than others so you may need to add some extra stock or milk. I sometimes add a can of coconut milk with delicious results.

Serves 6-8

900g (2lbs) pumpkin or winter squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) cubes

175g (6oz) onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

25g (1oz) butter

1 sprig of thyme

450g (1lb) very ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon tomato purée

1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock

salt, freshly ground pepper

pinch of nutmeg


35g (1 1/2oz) butter

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon white mustard seeds

5cm (2 inch) piece of cinnamon stick

Put the pumpkin or squash into a pan with the onion, garlic, butter and thyme. Cover and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chopped tomatoes, (add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon sugar if using tinned tomatoes) and tomato purée and cook until dissolved into a thick sauce. Stir in the stock, salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and simmer until the squash is very tender. Discard the thyme stalk, then liquidise the soup in several batches and return to the pan. You may need to add a little more stock or water if the soup is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Just before serving, gently reheat the soup and pour into a warm serving bowl. Heat the coriander, cumin and peppercorns, and crush coarsely. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and, when foaming, add the crushed spices, mustard seeds and cinnamon. Stir for a few seconds until the mustard seeds start to pop. Remove the cinnamon and quickly pour over the soup.  Serve, mixing the spiced butter as you ladle it out.

Black-eyed Bean, Pumpkin and Chickpea Stew

One of the very best vegetarian one-pot dishes. What’s not to like about black-eyed beans, chickpeas and pumpkin with lots of spices? Delicious on its own, but equally good with a roast chicken or a few lamb chops. Eat with flatbreads or pilaff rice, if you prefer.

Serves 6

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick

150g (5oz) onions, chopped

4 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

225g (8oz) fresh mushrooms, sliced approx. 3mm (1/8 inch) thick

450g (1lb) pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut in 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes

400g (14oz) fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 x 400g (14oz) tin of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

a pinch of sugar

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

450g (1lb) cooked black-eyed beans, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

225g (8oz) cooked chickpeas, strained (reserving the cooking liquid)

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons chopped coriander

For the Mint Yoghurt

300ml (10fl oz) natural yogurt

1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves

Heat the oil in a sauté pan over a medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle for 5–6 seconds, then add the onions and garlic. Stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until the onion is just beginning to colour at the edges.  Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms wilt, then add the pumpkin or squash, tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, a pinch of sugar and the cayenne. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, then cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and tip in the drained beans and chickpeas. Add the salt and pepper, together with 2 tablespoons of coriander. Pour in 150ml (5fl oz) of bean cooking liquid and 150ml (5fl oz) of the chickpea liquid (or 300ml (10fl oz) vegetable stock if you’ve used tinned pulses). Return to the boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans and chickpeas are tender.

To make the mint yogurt, combine the yogurt with the chopped mint in a bowl.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan before serving and sprinkle with the remaining coriander. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a dollop of the mint yogurt. Accompany with a good green salad and rice, if you wish.

Salad of Roast Pumpkin with Pumpkin Seeds and Preserved Lemon

Serves 8-10

250g (9oz) dried cannellini beans

1 pumpkin (approximately 1.5kg/3lb 5oz)

2 teaspoons thyme leaves

extra virgin olive oil

50g (2oz) pumpkin seeds, toasted

1 preserved lemon

rocket leaves


125ml (4 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

coriander leaves

Day Before

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of cold water.

Next Day

Drain and discard the water, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 30-50 minutes.

Meanwhile peel and deseed the pumpkin. Cut into 3-4cm (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 inch) pieces. Transfer to a roasting tin. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Roast in a preheated oven at 220˚C/425˚F/Gas Mark 7 for 20-25 minutes until tender. Allow to cool.

Toast the pumpkin seeds for 10-15 minutes in a moderate oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Remove the flesh from the inside of the preserved lemon and discard. Cut the rind into 5mm (1/4 inch) dice.

Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Put the rocket leaves, beans and roast pumpkin into a wide, shallow serving dish. Scatter with preserved lemon. Drizzle with dressing, toss gently. Sprinkle with coriander leaves.  Scatter with pumpkin seeds.

Taste and correct seasoning. Divide between eight shallow bowls. Eat with lots of fresh pitta or crusty ciabatta.

Pumpkin Spice Cake 

Inspired by a recipe by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich from Honey and Co in the Weekend FT a few weeks ago.

190g  (scant 7oz) soft dark brown sugar

190g (scant 7oz) spelt flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric, ground allspice, ground cardamom

50g (2oz) hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped

50g (2oz) rolled oats

100g (3 1/2oz) block dates, pitted and roughly chopped

50g (2oz) crystallised ginger, chopped

 250g (9oz) peeled pumpkin

2 large eggs

200g (7oz) melted butter of ghee (cooled)


25g (1oz) hazelnuts, skinned and roughly chopped

10g (scant 1/2oz) rolled oats

15g (generous 1/2oz) Demerara sugar

1 loaf tin 13 x 20cm (5 x 8 inch) or makes 10-12 muffins

Preheat the oven to 170˚C (fan)/325˚F/Gas Mark 3.

Mix the topping ingredients together.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Grate the pumpkin using a coarse grater, then add that and the rest of the cake ingredients to the bowl.  Mix well to combine, then transfer to a lined loaf tin.  Make sure to leave some room for the cake to grow about 2 – 3cm (3/4 – 1 1/4 inch) below the top.  Score with a butter knife down the middle of the cake. 

Sprinkle the topping all over the top of the cake, then pop into the oven to bake for approx. 1 1/4 hours, until springy to the touch (cover with parchment paper if the top is browning too quickly).

Allow to cool in the tin before removing…serve thickly sliced slathered with butter…

New York

So, I just spent a few days in New York to check out the post pandemic food scene.  It feels like the Big Apple is almost back to ‘normal’ whatever that might be.  Lines outside many restaurants and extra covered seating on the sidewalks alongside every eatery.

I’d come to New York to attend the launch of the Ballymaloe Desserts cookbook published by Phaidon at King on King Street, a wonderfully convivial fun event with delicious food cooked by Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni Jess Shadbolt and her team of beautiful cooks.  JR Ryle magicked up a range of Ballymaloe desserts to recreate the much-celebrated Sweet Trolley – Pear and Walnut Meringue, Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly, Almond Tartlets with Autumn Raspberries and Mint, Poached Plums, Ballymaloe Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce and of course Carrageen Moss Pudding with soft brown sugar and softly whipped cream.  I almost forgot the pistachio langues du chat – the books disappeared like hot cakes – the recipes are well tried and tested so people can reproduce their favourites at home.

JR went on to Chicago and Toronto, but I stayed in New York to explore the food trends.  Some of my favourite restaurants have closed, others like Daily Provisions, Union Square Café and Il Buco Alimentari seem to have somewhat lost their mojo – New York establishments have the same staffing challenges as Ireland, UK and Europe have but new places continue to open.  Many are out in Brooklyn, I had a fantastically good meal in the Four Horsemen on Grand Street and add Hart’s to your New York list too, it was fun to find Phoebe Fry, another Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni in the kitchen there.  Buvette in the West Village is just as good as ever, I go there for breakfast every time I go to New York and was not disappointed.  A superb short menu, delicious freshly squeezed juices and perhaps the best tart tatin I ever tasted.  All of Jody Williams and Rita Sodi restaurants are work seeking out – I Sodi and Via Carota but I wanted to try their newest venture, The Commerce Inn, a Shaker inspired early American tavern with farmhouse cooking – I loved the food.  Veal tongue with cabbage, dripping toast with mince, a dark sticky ginger cake and rice pudding…The decor is simple, elegant and soothing, unlike most New York restaurants where the throbbing music makes it virtually impossible to have a conversation unless you can lip read.

A highlight of my trip was a journey upstate along the Hudson River through the dazzling autumn colours to Stissing House owned by Clare de Boer of King in New York.  This place is a real gem – an utterly beautiful old ruin built in 1782 that has had many incarnations.  The décor is simple Shaker style, white painted walls, fine dark furniture, no nonsense just plain, restful old luxury.  We had what can only be described as a perfect lunch, a plate of home cured ham, smoked in the wood-burning oven, slivers of cheese and house made pickles with really good sourdough bread and homemade butter followed by the best onion tart I’ve ever eaten and a coconut cake to die for with a full inch of whipped cream and toasted coconut on top. 

Pastry Chef Suzanne Nelson worked with Alice at Chez Panisse for many years and how fortunate are the folks of Pine Plains to have that gem in their area.  Seek out La Cabra on 2nd Avenue for superb coffee, bread and viennoiserie.  Bar Pisellino is another name for your list and here are two more that I didn’t manage to get to but wish I had. Dame in Greenwich Village is particularly known for its fried hake and chips and now Lords located at 506 LaGuardia Place, Ed Szymanski’s newest venture is more meat centric and includes pigs’ trotters and hocks, a pig’s head terrine with piccalilli, black pudding with clams and braised tripe with cipollini, offal heretofore, abhorred by most Americans is very much in evidence on cool restaurant menus as is skate or ray, a new experience for many New Yorkers.  There’s also a nostalgic thing going on, several menus including Cervo’s featured trifle…

Everything scone and everything bagel is also ‘a thing’ as is the jelly revival.  I tasted a particularly delicious blackcurrant and red wine version at Stissing House. 

Cocktails are becoming ever more exciting, lots of Mescal natural wines are on all good restaurant lists and there’s a dramatic increase in choice of non-alcoholic drinks and cocktails.  Butter boards, cream cheese and cured meat boards are everywhere.

The rye bread at La Cabra was so good that I actually brought a loaf home in my suitcase along with miche and rye from She Wolf Bakery in the Union Square Farmers’ Market, it weighs a ton but is so good.  Okra is also having a moment and pumpkin is in absolutely everything – well, it is Fall after all..

Loved my few days in New York, here are a few recipes for you to enjoy. 

Grilled Flatbread with Pimento Butter and Marjoram

Inspired by the grilled bread that I enjoyed at the Four Horsemen in Brooklyn, New York. 

Makes 8

flatbread (see recipe)

110g (4oz) soft butter

1/2 – 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika

1 tablespoon annual marjoram, chopped plus extra for sprinkling

flaky sea salt

First make the dough (see recipe).

Now for the pimento butter. 

Cream the soft butter in a bowl, add the smoked paprika and chopped annual marjoram.

Cook the flatbread (see recipe).

Brush the warm flat bread with the soft pimento butter.  Sprinkle with a few leaves of fresh marjoram and some flaky sea salt.

Serve immediately. 

Turkish Flatbread

There are so many delicious flat breads that one can make. This Turkish version called Yufka is a favourite of ours. 

Makes 8

110g (4oz) strong white flour

110g (4oz) plain white flour

50g (2oz) wholemeal flour

1 scant teaspoon salt

200-225ml (7-8fl oz) warm water

Mix all the flours and the salt together in a bowl, add the warm water, mix to a dough and knead well for just a few minutes.  Shape into a roll, divide in 8 pieces, cover and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes – 45 would be better (however I sometimes cook it straight away).

Roll each piece of dough into a thin round, no more than 8mm (1/3 inch) in thickness.  Heat a griddle or large iron or non-stick frying pan.   Cook the Yufka quickly on both sides until just spotted.  Eat immediately or alternatively the Yufka can be stacked for several days, even weeks, in a dry place.

To reheat.

Before eating, sprinkle a Yufka with warm water, fold it in half, wrap it in a cloth and allow to soften for about 30 minutes. 

Ballymaloe Ginger Ice Cream with Honeycomb

Also inspired by a ginger and honeycomb ice cream from the Four Horsemen in Brooklyn. 

Serves 12–16

4 organic egg yolks

90g (scant 3 1/2oz) sugar

200ml (7fl oz) water

25g (1oz) grated ginger

1.2 litres (2 pints) softly whipped cream (measured after it is whipped, for accuracy)

6 pieces of stem ginger, chopped finely

2 tablespoons syrup from the jar


Honeycomb (see recipe)

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy (keep the whites for meringues). Combine the sugar with the water in a small heavy-based saucepan. Stir over heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, then remove the spoon and boil the syrup until it reaches the ‘thread’ stage, about 106–113°C: it will look thick and syrupy, and when a metal spoon is dipped in the last drops of syrup will form thin threads.  Add the grated ginger and stir. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time by hand. (If you are whisking the mousse in a food mixer, remove the bowl and whisk the boiling syrup in by hand; otherwise it will solidify on the sides of the bowl.)

Continue to whisk the mixture until it becomes a thick, creamy white mousse.   Fold the softly whipped cream into the mousse, pour into a bowl, cover and freeze.

After one hour, fold in the finely chopped ginger and the syrup.  Return to the freezer, chill until firm.

Meanwhile, make the honeycomb (see recipe).

When absolutely cold and hard, grate a chunk on the coarsest part of the grater.  Scoop out a ball of ice cream.  Serve in an iced silver coupe.  Sprinkle generously with grated honeycomb and serve. 


Fun and easy to make – like magic, honeycomb has multiple uses – ice cream, cake decorations, petit fours, garnish…

Makes about 500 g (1lb 2oz)

85g (3 1/4oz) good quality local honey

180g (6 1/4oz) liquid glucose

400g (14oz) castor sugar

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) water

15g (3/4oz) bicarbonate of soda

1 deep rectangular tin – 20 x 30cm (8 x 12 inch)

parchment paper or silpat mat

First loosen the honey and glucose syrup by dipping their containers in warm water, then weigh out into your saucepan.  Then add the sugar and water and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.   Gradually raise the temperature of the pan’s contents to 150°C (300°F). 

Carefully sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda into the pan.  The contents will fizz up like lava from the underworld, but don’t be alarmed, this is what puts the tiny air bubbles into the honeycomb.  Stir the mixture to make sure all the powder is incorporated, then pour it out onto your silicone sheet (or baking tray).  Leave to set for at least 30 minutes, then break the brittle mass into small pieces.

Use as required but put the remainder into a sealed glass jar or it will pick up moisture from the air and become sticky. 

Coconut Angel Cake

This coconut cake was inspired by a delicious confection that I enjoyed at Stissing House in Pine Place, upstate New York made by pastry chef Suzanne Nelson.  This version is not quite as light as hers, but we all love it here.

50g (2oz) soft butter

110g (4oz) caster sugar

150ml (5fl oz) milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

150g (5oz) flour

2 egg whites

75g (3oz) desiccated coconut

40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) desiccated coconut

425ml (15fl oz) softly whipped cream

2-3 tablespoons icing sugar

20.5cm (8 inch) round cake tin, greased and lined

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Cream the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy, gradually stir in the milk and mix until smooth.  Combine the baking powder and a pinch of salt with the flour and coconut and gently beat into the butter mixture.

Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl until they hold a stiff peak. Lightly fold into the mixture.  

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until firm and beginning to shrink in from the edge of the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, toast 40-50g (1 1/2 – 2oz) of coconut on a dry pan over a low to medium heat, stirring constantly until golden.  Turn out onto a plate to cool. 

When the cake is cold, sweeten the whipped cream with sieved icing sugar.  Taste and add a little more if necessary.  Spread a really generous layer of sweet cream on top of the cake. Suzanne’s cake had about 2.5cm (1 inch) of cream sprinkled with toasted coconut on top.  Sounds scary but it was totally delicious.     

Walnut Meringue Gâteau with Pears

Taken from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall published by Phaidon

This meringue gâteau is a very useful way to serve fresh fruit as an elegant dessert. The walnut in the meringue encourages the ripe pear to taste its best, and of course if you are eating meringue, you must also have cream.

Pears are tricky to grow, tricky to ripen and tricky to catch at the perfect moment! There are many pear trees at Ballymaloe and they grow well against the comfort of a south facing wall. The best and most useful of these pears are the later varieties, which can be stored into the winter and bring a freshness to the dessert trolley during these months. Josephine de Malines is one of the newer additions to our garden and is harvested in late October; it crops well and the fruit stores well, and the pears are very beautiful. Whichever variety of pear you choose, it is important to use fragrant and ripe fruit in this dish.

Serves 6

For the Meringue 

2 large egg whites

110g (4oz) caster sugar

50g (2oz) chopped walnuts

To Assemble and Decorate

2 ripe dessert pears

225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream

5 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 130°C/265°F/Gas Mark 1.

Cover a baking sheet with baking paper and, with a pencil, draw out two 19cm (7 1/2 inch) diameter circles on the paper. Flip the paper over so the pencil is on the underside.

To Make the Meringue

Check that the bowl of your electric stand mixer is dry, spotlessly clean and free from grease. Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.

Fold in the chopped walnuts and, using the drawn-on circles as a guide, evenly spread onto the baking sheet in two circles.

Bake for about 1 hour, until crisp and set. When the meringue is cooked it will lift easily away from the baking paper. Allow to cool completely.

To Assemble and Decorate
Put one of the meringue circles on a serving plate. Peel the pears, remove the core and slice into 1cm (1/2 inch) wide pieces. Spread or pipe most of the whipped cream over the meringue and arrange the slices of pear on top of the cream. Put the second circle of meringue on top and lightly press down. Decorate the top with rosettes of the remaining cream and the walnut halves.

Venice (Marcella Hazan)

Just spent a couple of days in Venice, I’ve been before but I’d forgotten just how magical it is.  I arrived late in the evening having taken a fast train across the top of Italy from Turin where I had been attending the Slow Food Salone del Gusto Terra Madre event.  This spontaneous visit came about because I was invited to participate in a documentary on the life of Marcella Hazan, an Italian cook who was deeply influential in my early career.  The year before the Ballymaloe Cookery School was established in 1983, I travelled to Bologna in Italy to take a weeklong course with Marcella to learn how to make handmade pasta, ragu, risotto zuccotto…

It was from Marcella that I first heard about balsamic vinegar and learned that olive oil was not just for earaches…!

Later in 1992, I invited her to teach at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and took a RTE crew to film a Simply Delicious Program in Venice.  Eventually in her later years, she and her husband Victor moved to Longboat Quay in Florida where I also visited them there.  The friendship spanned over several decades, and I still cook and pass on many of the recipes that Marcella taught me to the students here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Despite being one of the most enchanting cities in the world, really good food is difficult to find in Venice and even more difficult on a Monday when many restaurants, shops and some museums are closed. 

During that action packed week in Italy with Marcella in the 1980’s, I had several eureka moments.  One occurred in the Rialto Market in Venice on the edge of the Grand Canal.  As we wandered through the stalls piled high with the most beautiful fresh vegetables, perfectly ripe berries and stone fruit.  I noticed that often there were two options, tomatoes, peaches, zucchini – the more expensive option always seemed to have nostrale or nostrana on the sign.  I was curious about this special place where all the choicest produce seems to come from….  I spoke no Italian…I tried to enquire from the stall holders, eventually one told me impatiently that nostrana or nostrale was not a place but meant local. At a time in Ireland when local was still actually regarded as a derogatory term, this was baffling…. why then I asked was it more expensive…

The stallholder was totally exasperated by the question.  He explained in broken English… Because it’s from the lagoon area, it’s fresher, better… of course it’s more expensive (as though I was an imbecile). 

It was a lightbulb moment… Of course, it should be more expensive…this was at a time when customers in Ireland would expect to pay less for beautiful eggs or freshly picked fresh apples if they were local…

Can you imagine how wonderful that everything has come full circle.  Local is now the sexiest word in food and the coolest term on menus, although it has to be said that many more restaurants talk the talk than walk the walk…. 

I had a particularly delicious meal at Da Fiori. Maurizio and Mara Martin’s Michelin starred restaurant with a little balcony on the edge of the canal where gondolas glide past. Their son, Damiano has now joined them. Mara specializes in beautiful, freshly caught fish and shellfish from the lagoon, simply cooked and packed with flavour.  There’s another reason to try to get to Venice before the end of November – the 59th International Biennale Art Exhibition – cinema, dance, theatre…Check out Al Cova. Alla Testiere, and Da Arturo also… and don’t miss the Rialto Market… 


I’ve been told that if you want to make your way to an Italian man’s heart it is essential to be able to make a good ragu.

It is a wonderfully versatile sauce – the classic Bolognese sauce for Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, indispensable for lasagne, and also delicious with polenta and gnocchi not to be confused with the well-known brand of the same name.  I have been making Marcella Hazan’s version for many years from her Classic Italian Cookbook (a book you would do well to seek out).  It is the most delicious and concentrated one I know.  Marcella says it should be cooked for several hours at the merest simmer but I find you get a very good result with 1 – 1 1/2 hours cooking on a diffuser mat.  Ragu can be made ahead and freezes very well.

Serves 6

45g (1 1/2oz) butter

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

2 tablespoons carrot, finely chopped

350g (12oz) minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck


300ml (10fl oz) dry white wine

110ml (4fl oz) milk

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 x 400g (14oz) tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice.

small casserole

In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well. Heat the butter with the oil and sauté the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy.)

Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the wine has evaporated.  Turn the heat down to medium, add in the milk and the freshly grated nutmeg, and cook until the milk has evaporated, stirring every now and then. Next add the chopped tomatoes and stir well. When the tomatoes have started to bubble, turn the heat down to the very lowest so that the sauce cooks at the gentlest simmer – just an occasional bubble. I use a heat diffuser mat for this.

Cook uncovered for a minimum of 1 1/2 hours (better still 2 or even 3 hours), depending on how concentrated you like it, stirring occasionally. If it reduces too much add a little water and continue to cook. When it is finally cooked, taste and correct seasoning. Because of the length of time involved in cooking this, I feel it would be worthwhile to make at least twice the recipe.

Marcella Hazan’s Pappardelle or Noodles with Chicken Liver Sauce

It was Marcella Hazan who first introduced me to classic Italian cooking, she became a legend in her lifetime.  This recipe is one of my favourites from her Classic Italian Cookbook.

Serves 4

225g (8oz) fresh chicken livers

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

25g (1oz) butter

50g (2oz) diced pancetta, or prosciutto (I use unsmoked streaky bacon)

2 tablespoons chopped shallot or onion

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh sage

110g (4oz) minced lean beef

6-8 twists freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon concentrated tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tablespoons dry white vermouth

300g (10oz) pappardelle or fresh noodles

To serve

freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

Wash the chicken livers well, trim off any fat or traces of green and cut each lobe into 3 or 4 pieces.  Dry thoroughly on kitchen paper.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the diced streaky bacon and fry gently until it begins to crisp, then remove to a plate.  Add the butter and sauté the onions over a medium heat until translucent, add the garlic, stir 2 or 3 times, add back in the bacon and the sage leaves, then add the minced meat, crumbling it with a fork, and cook until it has lost its red raw colour.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken livers. Stir and cook until they have lost their raw colour, add the tomato puree and vermouth and cook for 8-10 minutes. Taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle or noodles until al dente in boiling salted water – 4.5 litres (8 pints) to 1 tablespoon of salt.  If they are fresh, they will only take seconds after the water comes back to the boil.

The moment the pasta is drained, transfer to a warm dish, add the sauce (and a couple of tablespoons of pasta water if necessary – it should be moist and juicy).  Toss thoroughly and serve immediately.  Add a little grated Parmesan if desired.  This sauce is also delicious served with risotto.

Marcella Hazan’s Tortellini with Parsley and Ricotta and Sauce Alfredo

Also delicious served with Sage Butter (see recipe).

Serves 4-6

20g (3/4oz) finely chopped parsley, flat parsley

250g (9oz) fresh ricotta

100g (3 1/2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1 egg yolk

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


225g (8oz) “00” white flour

pinch of salt

1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks, preferably free range

1 teaspoon olive oil

To Cook

4.5 litres (8 pints) water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon salt


150ml (5fl oz) double cream

3 tablespoons butter

50g (2oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

First make the pasta dough.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre, add the eggs (no need to whisk the eggs) and oil. Mix into a dough with your hand. The pasta should just come together but shouldn’t stick to your hand – if it does add a little more flour.  (If it is too dry, add a little extra egg white.)  Knead for 10 minutes until it becomes elastic. It should be quite pliable, wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge while you make the filling.

Combine all the filling ingredients, parsley, ricotta, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, egg yolk and nutmeg – in a mixing bowl and mix well with a fork.  Check seasoning, then set aside.

Roll out the pasta as thinly as you possibly can.   Stamp out 7.5cm (3 inch) rounds, stuff and fold the circle in half to form a half moon.

Bring the water, containing 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt, then drop in the tortellini.

While the tortellini are cooking, choose an enamelled cast iron or other flameproof dish that will later hold all the tortellini without stacking them too high.  Put in half the cream and all the butter, and simmer over moderate heat for less than a minute, until the cream and butter have thickened. Turn off the heat.

Fresh tortellini are done within 5 minutes after the water returns to the boil, while dry tortellini may take 15-20 minutes.  When done – they should be firm, but cooked throughout -transfer them  with a large, slotted spoon or colander to the pan containing the cream and butter and turn the heat on to low. Turn the tortellini to coat them all with the cream and butter sauce (add a little pasta water if necessary).  Add the rest of the cream and all the grated cheese and continue turning the tortellini until they are evenly coated and all the cream has thickened. Serve immediately from the same pan, with an extra bowl of grated cheese.

Sage Butter

110g (4oz) butter

32 – 40 sage leaves

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the sage leaves and keep on the heat until they just start to crackle.  Pour over the pasta – it should lightly coat the pasta.

Chicken Roast with 2 Lemons

This recipe, given to me by Marcella Hazan when I did a cookery course with her in Bologna in 1982, is the simplest most delicious roast chicken recipe I know – no fat, no basting, no stuffing.

Serves 4

1 x 1.35-1.8kg (3-4lbs) free-range organic chicken


freshly ground black pepper

2 small organic lemons

trussing needle and string

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

Wash the chicken thoroughly with cold water. Remove any bits of fat from around the vent end. Drain the chicken well and dry thoroughly with a tea towel or kitchen paper.

Rub the salt and freshly ground black pepper with your fingers over all the body and into the cavity. Wash the lemons well and dry them with a tea towel, roll on the counter and prick each of the lemons in at least 20 places with a cocktail stick or skewer.

Put both lemons in the cavity. Close up the opening with cocktail sticks or with a trussing needle and string. Don’t make it absolutely airtight or the chicken may burst!

Put the chicken into a roasting pan, breast side down. Do not add cooking fat of any kind. This bird is  self-basting, so don’t worry it won’t stick to the pan. Place it in the upper third of the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, turn the chicken breast side up. Be careful not to puncture the skin. 

Cook for another 30-35 minutes then increase the heat to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 and cook for a further additional 20 minutes. Calculate between 20-25 minutes total cooking time for each 450g (1lb). There is no need to turn the chicken again.

Bring the chicken to the table whole, garnished with sprigs flat parsley and leave the lemons inside until it is carved. The juices that run out are perfectly delicious, so be sure to spoon them over the chicken  slices. The lemons will have shrivelled up but they still contain some juice; do not squeeze, they may squirt.

Serve immediately.

One Cookbook by Jamie Oliver

I’m just the biggest fan of Jamie’s – I don’t even need to write Oliver – you all know who I mean. 

I was first introduced to Jamie by the late Rose Gray of the River Café in London in the early 1980s.

When I raved about the exquisite lunch, a sublime spinach rotolo I had just eaten, Rose brought me into the kitchen to introduce the young chef with tousled hair and a mischievous grin who had cooked my lunch, saying, ‘Watch this boy, he’s going to go far…’

A few months later in 1999 Jamie hit our TV screens with his first series, The Naked Chef, it caused a sensation and suddenly it was ‘pukka’ rather than naff for young lads and lasses to cook. Soon after the series, the cook book The Naked Chef (which he wrote when he was 18), flew off the shelves, it sold over 1.2 million copies by the end of the year 2,000.

Jamie was on a mission….

In 2002 he established the Fifteen Foundation, a program that gave underprivileged youths the opportunity to experience a career in the culinary industry at his Fifteen Restaurant in London.

Jamie then turned his attention to the shocking quality of school dinners and the TV series Jamie’s School Dinners documented the challenges he faced training a group of school cafeteria workers but helped to launch the overwhelmingly successful Feed Me Better. 

On and on he went urging Governments both here, and in the US to feed our children healthy wholesome food. Jamie Magazine and twenty-five restaurants followed…

Sadly in 2019 the whole of the Jamie Oliver group became insolvent – a bruising experience for all concerned. Jamie may have lost a fortune but not his vision and capacity for hard work. His absolute passion to fight childhood obesity remains undimmed and has led to the UK Government’s new obesity strategy which he hopes will include banning junk food advertising.

There is so much more about this chap who started out as a special-needs kid in school and went on to write 30 cookbooks and to sell over 15 million.

But this article is to tell you about Jamie’s new book,  One, Simple One-Pan Wonders. It’s a cracker, as Jamie might say in his ever-punchy parlance. It’s packed with budget friendly recipes that you can rustle up any time.  Meals to get novice cooks started minimum prep and washing up, big on flavour, all cooked in just one pan or tray. This may well be Jamie’s most user-friendly cookbook and that’s saying something from an ‘aged’ fan girl.

Here are a few recipes to whet your appetite…

‘One, Simple One-Pan Wonders’ by Jamie Oliver, published by Penguin Michael Joseph

Buddy’s Pasta Bake

Broccoli, cheesy sauce and garlic bread crispy bits.

Serves 8

2 heads of broccoli – 375g (13oz) each

4 cloves garlic

1/2 – 1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes

1.5 litres (2 1/2 pints) semi-skimmed milk

100g (3 1/2oz) baby spinach

100g (3 1/2oz) Cheddar cheese

500g (18oz) dried pasta shells

100g (3 1/2oz) garlic bread

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6.

Cut off and discard the tough ends of the broccoli stalks, trim the green florets into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces and put aside, then roughly chop all the remaining stalks and place in a food processor. Peel and add the garlic, then blitz until fine. Place a large shallow casserole pan on a medium heat. Once hot, go in with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the chilli flakes, to taste. As soon as they start to sizzle, tip in the blitzed broccoli stalks. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of milk. Pour the remaining 500ml (18fl oz) of milk into the processor with the spinach and crumble in the cheese (I wanted this to be healthy, but now’s the time to add the extra cheese if you want it more indulgent). Blitz until smooth, pour into the pan, then bring to the boil and season to perfection. Stir the broccoli florets and pasta shells into the sauce and boil for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Tear the garlic bread into the processor (there’s no need to clean it first) and blitz into crumbs. Sprinkle over the pasta bake and transfer to the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden and bubbling. Delicious served with a fresh green salad.

Seasonal Swaps

Go festive and swap out the broccoli for Brussels sprouts – blitz half for the sauce and quarter the rest to add with the pasta. Embrace Christmas cheese board cheeses and try a cheeky crumbling of chestnuts in the garlic bread crispy bits.

Tender Glazed Lamb Shanks

Sweet peppers, new potatoes, olives, garlic and parsley.

Serves 4

4 lamb shanks – roughly 400g (14oz) each

1 bulb of garlic

6 mixed-colour peppers

1 lemon

800g (1lb 12oz) baby new potatoes

8 black olives, stone in

1 teaspoon runny honey

half bunch of flat-leaf parsley – 15g (3/4oz)

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

Place a large deep casserole pan on a high heat. Season the lamb shanks with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then fry in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, turning until browned all over. Meanwhile, halve the unpeeled garlic bulb across the middle and tear up the peppers into big chunks, discarding the seeds and stalks. Add both to the pan, then use a speed-peeler to add the lemon peel in strips. Go in with the potatoes, halving any larger ones, then squash, de-stone and add the olives, also stirring in a splash of liquor from their jar. Mix together well, cover, then transfer to the oven for 1 hour. Mix up again, and cook uncovered for another hour, or until the lamb is tender.

Remove from the oven. Mash the soft garlic cloves into the stew, discarding the skins, then season to perfection with salt, pepper and a thimble of red wine vinegar. Brush the honey over the lamb, then pick over the parsley leaves and serve.

Go Veggie

Simply swap the lamb for quarters of scrubbed celeriac, treating it in exactly the same way, and chuck in a jar of drained chickpeas.

Rosemary Roast Chicken

Sweet leeks, garlic, cider, butter beans, crème fraîche and Stilton.

Serves 4

1kg (2 1/4lbs) mixed chicken thighs and drumsticks, skin on, bone in

3 cloves of garlic

3 leeks

3 sprigs of rosemary

250ml (9fl oz) nice cider

1 x 400g (14oz) tin of butter beans

30g (1 1/4oz) Stilton cheese

3 tablespoons half-fat crème fraîche

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

Put the chicken into a large cold shallow casserole pan and place on a high heat. Fry for 10 minutes, or until golden all over, turning regularly, while you peel and finely slice the garlic, and wash, trim and very finely slice the leeks. Pick and roughly chop the rosemary leaves, then add to the pan with the garlic and leeks, season with sea salt and black pepper, mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to soften slightly. Make sure the chicken is skin side up, then pour in the cider, half drain and add the beans, and roast for 45 minutes or until the chicken pulls easily away from the bone.

Move the pan to a medium-high heat on the hob. Bomb in the little nuggets of Stilton and add the crème fraîche. Mix well, simmer for just a few minutes, then you’re ready to serve. I like it just as it is, or with a side of steamed greens.

Toffee Apple Buns

Soft and sticky with vanilla and cinnamon

Serves 12

500g (18oz) strong bread flour

1 x 7g (1/4oz) sachet of dried yeast

100g (3 1/2oz) dried apple slices

4 eating apples

1 level tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

100g (3 1/2oz) Demerara sugar, plus extra for dusting

100g (3 1/2oz) soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

Mix the flour and 1 level teaspoon of sea salt in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

In a jug, mix the yeast into 300ml (10fl oz) of lukewarm water and leave for a few minutes. Now, gradually pour the mixture into the well, bringing in the flour from the outside to form a dough. Knead on a flour-dusted surface, picking the dough up and slapping in back down, for 10 minutes, or until smooth and springy. Lightly oil the bowl, sit the dough back in, cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.

Finely chop the dried apple. Peel, quarter, core and finely slice the fresh apples. In a bowl, scrunch all the apples with the cinnamon, vanilla and sugar. Stretch the dough out on an oiled work surface to 30cm x 50cm (12 inch x 20 inch). Evenly spread over the soft butter, scatter over the sugared apples and drizzle over any juices. Starting from the long side closest to you, roll the dough up into an apple-filled sausage. Slice into 12 equal pieces. Generously butter the inside of a 28cm (11 inch) non-stick ovenproof frying pan and dust with a little sugar. Sit the rolls in the pan, swirl side up, cover with a clean damp towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size again.

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

Dust the buns with a little sugar and bake at the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and sticky. Turn out onto a board and serve.


We’re right bang in the middle of the Irish apple season and for some varieties it’s a bumper season- we’ve got so many, we can scarcely cope…..
There are big baskets brimming with apples in the hall of the cookery school with a sign saying ‘Delicious Home-grown Apples – Help Yourself’.
So many different old-fashioned varieties, the sort one can never find in a supermarket – Strippy, Irish Pitcher, Egremont Russet, Ard Cairn Russet, Pig’s Snout, Pitmaston Pineapple,  Ballinora Pippen…
We make every effort to pick up all the windfalls.

If like me you can’t bear to see the apples rotting on the ground, how about some ideas for using up a glut.  You’ll want to share some with your friends and if you have a Ukrainian refuge close by, a basket, brimming with apples will be warmly welcomed and you can share recipes, maybe discover the secret of a favourite Ukrainian apple tart.
So where to start?

You can juice, purée, pickle, dry, make jams and jellies or of course a myriad of chutneys and pies. Let’s start with juice. Homemade apple juice is infinitely tastier than any commercial variety – you’ll need a juicer. (Juice extractor). If you fancy making cider maybe invest in a traditional apple press and share with friends.  How fun would that be?
Freshly pressed juice will keep for a day or two in the fridge in dark sterilised bottles or it can be frozen. We use recycled litre milk containers. Don’t fill completely to the top to allow for expansion during freezing. They’ll stack neatly in a freezer. Alternatively, pasteurise the juice but it will lose its fresh flavour and many of its nutrients.
Dried apples slices make a terrific nibble. Kids love them and you may find yourself munching one or two instead of chocolate when you are hankering for something sweet.
Choose dessert apples, don’t even bother to peel. Just core and slice thinly. Dip them in a solution of freshly squeezed lemon juice and water and maybe a little honey to stop them oxidising.
One can dry apples in several ways:
Lay the dipped slices in a single layer on a wire rack over a baking tray.  Pop in a fan oven at the lowest heat, fan 50˚C or not more than 100˚C. Flip over after an hour and continue until dry. Store in cellophane bags. Alternatively, use a dehydrator, Nisbets, Lakeland or Amazon have them. They are a brilliant bit of Kitchen kit and can be used for drying everything from rose petals to orange or pineapple slices, mushrooms, jerky…it may also be worth trawling through eBay for a second-hand bargain.
Stewed apple or apple purée is a brilliant standby and can be used in a myriad of different ways. I love icy cold stewed apple with a dribble of Jersey cream. It brings childhood memories whooshing back and who doesn’t love stewed apples and custard and of course baked apples.  Make a delicious, puréed apple sauce and freeze in small containers to serve with roast duck or a pork chop.

How about making apple leather.  Just spread a thin layer of not too sweet apple purée onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cook as above in a fan oven at the lowest temperature or not higher than 80˚C. I do mine in the coolest oven of my ancient Aga. Leave it overnight and it will peel easily off the parchment. Next day, roll it up in parchment and store in an airtight tin – another irresistible nibble.
You might like to try this apple and cinnamon vodka too, you could gift it to a friend for Christmas but not sure you’ll have it that long…
Here’s a recipe for an apple and tomato chutneywe love and an apple and rosemary tart and don’t forget about apple jelly – a brilliant way to use up every last windfall apple and whatever wild berries you can find – elderberries, sloes, haws, blackberries, japonica, medlars…(See my column of 10th September for the recipe).
Enjoy the glut but try not to waste a single bit of nature’s bounty.
Check out my Forgotten Skills Book published my Kyle Books for lots and lots of recipes and suggestions…

Apple and Tomato Chutney

There are a million recipes for tomato chutney. This is definitely one of the best and has the advantage of using up a glut of windfall apples as well.

Makes 12 x 450g (1lb) pots

3.6kg (8lbs) ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) onions, peeled and chopped

450g (1lb) eating apples, peeled and chopped

925g (2lbs 1oz) sugar

850ml (scant 1 1⁄2 pints) white malt vinegar

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 teaspoons ground black pepper

3 teaspoons allspice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 level teaspoon cayenne pepper

350g (12oz) sultanas

Prepare all the ingredients and put into a large, wide stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to the boil. Simmer steadily, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until reduced by one-third and slightly thick. Pot in sterilised jars, cover with non-reactive lids and store in a cool, dry place.

Bramley Apple and Rosemary Pan Cake

Try this combination of apple and fresh rosemary, I think you’ll love it … you could add a little chopped rosemary to the softly whipped cream to for extra oomph…. 

Serves 10 – 12

150g (5oz) sugar

75ml (3fl oz) water

600g (1 1/4lbs) Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 7mm (1/3 inch) slices

150g (5oz) soft butter

175g (6oz) sugar

200g (7oz) self-raising flour

generous pinch of salt

3 eggs, free-range and organic

1-2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped

1 x 25cm (10 inch) stainless-steel sauté pan or a cast iron frying pan

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Put the sugar and water into the pan.  Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then cook without stirring until the sugar caramelizes to golden brown (if the caramel is not dark enough the tart will be too sweet).

Meanwhile arrange the peeled and sliced apples in a pretty pattern over the caramel…. Careful not to burn your fingertips… Use a fork to place the apples so as not to touch the caramel.

Put the butter, sugar, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.   Whizz for a second or two, add the eggs and stop as soon as the mixture comes together, add the chopped rosemary and whizz for a second.  Add milk to soften the mixture.  

Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40-45 minutes.   The centre should be firm to the touch and the edges slightly shrunk from the sides of the pan.   Allow to rest in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out.   Serve with crème fraiche or softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar…. 

Brambly Apple and Sweet Geranium Sauce

The secret of really good apple sauce is to use a heavy-based saucepan and very little water. The apples should break down into a fluff during the cooking. 

450g (1lb) cooking apples, (Brambley Seedling)

1-2 dessertspoons water

50g (2oz) sugar approx. depending on tartness of the apples

2-4 sweet geranium leaves

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

Apple Tarte Tatin

The ultimate French apple tart. The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century.  They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph – soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath.  It is unquestionably my favourite French tart! One can buy a special copper tatin especially for this tart.

Serves 6-8

1.24kg (2 3/4lbs) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples

175g (6oz) puff pastry or rich sweet shortcrust pastry

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

210g (7 1/2oz) castor sugar

a heavy 20.5cm (8 inch) tatin mould or copper or stainless-steel sauté pan with low sides

Preheat the oven to 220˚C/425˚F/Gas Mark 7 for puff pastry.  For shortcrust 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.

First, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan.  Prick it all over with a fork and chill until needed.

Peel, halve and core the apples.  Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour.  Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side.  Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Hold your nerve otherwise it will be too pale.  Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.

Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the edges.  Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft, 25-30 minutes approx.  For puff pastry reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 after 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like.  Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate.  (Watch out – this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out).  Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.


Pear Tarte Tatin

Substitute pears for apples in the above recipe.

Apple and Cinnamon Vodka

Fill a sterilised glass jar with chopped apples, add a couple of cinnamon sticks and 200-250g (7-9oz) sugar depending on the variety of apple.  Cover in vodka, seal, shake and allow to infuse for 4-14 days. Strain and pour into sterilised bottles, cover tightly and enjoy over ice or with tonic water.

Ballymaloe Desserts Cookbook

‘Would you like to have a look at the sweet trolley’ is a familiar if rhetorical question in Ballymaloe House.  When the sweet trolley is wheeled into the dining room, there’s a spontaneous murmur of excitement from guests – it doesn’t matter what stage of their meal, whether they are just sipping a bowl of soup or finishing a delicious plate of main course.  They keep an eye in anticipation as it makes its way around the dining room piled high with delicious seasonal desserts. 

The Sweet Trolley has been a tradition at Ballymaloe House ever since Myrtle and Ivan Allen opened the doors of their country house on a farm in East Cork in 1964.  In the era of flamboyant dessert creations, the sweet trolley seemed a little outdated but then out of the blue in 2018, an email arrived to say that the Ballymaloe House  Sweet Trolley had been shortlisted for the Trolley of the Year Award in the highly-prestigious World Restaurant Awards in Paris and guess what, it won!  Suddenly, it was super cool to have a trolley again… Tons of press, radio and TV interviews – it was like the Oscars…

Pastry Chef, JR Ryall and his team in the ‘Sweets Section’  at Ballymaloe House create the irresistible selection on the sweet trolley every night.  From the age of 4 JR wanted to be a chef, he cooked and cooked in his Mum and aunts’ kitchens.  At the ripe old age of 13, he took his first cooking course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School– a present from his Mum.  Year after year, during his school holidays he worked in Ballymaloe Sweets and eventually having completed a Natural Science degree in Trinity College in Dublin, he accepted Myrtle Allen’s invitation to be head pastry chef at Ballymaloe House.  The rest is history…

JR travels widely and has worked in some of the most inspirations kitchens in the world – Ottolenghi, River Cafe, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, La Grotta Ices, Paul Young Chocolate…

JR loved and was totally inspired by Myrtle and soaked up every word she said. Now at last he has written a book on Ballymaloe Desserts. It is published by Phaidon and was launched at the Ballymaloe Grainstore on Sunday, 11th September. It’s packed full of recipes for the delicious desserts so loved by Ballymaloe House guests for over 50 years plus many new contemporary creations that are fast becoming new classics.

JR shared his thought process when planning what desserts to serve on the Sweet Trolley at Ballymaloe House.

‘I use a simple template: there are always five desserts that change each day, each fitting a category; the combination of dishes should strike a balance of flavour, texture and aesthetics; and one dessert will always contain chocolate.  This template has been used to plan almost every dessert trolley since the restaurant at Ballymaloe opened its doors. 

The five categories are:

– Fruit: fresh, cooked or preserved

– Meringue

– Mousse, jelly, set cream or fool

– Frozen: ice-cream, sorbet or granita

– Pastry, cake or pudding

This basic template is used throughout all four seasons to ensure the five dishes on the trolley each have a different quality, but if someone wants to try a little bit of everything, the desserts on their plate must balance and work together.  In addition to these five daily changing dishes, there is always one extra dessert on the trolley that never changes: Mrs. Allen’s Carrageen Moss Pudding, a silky soft-set seaweed dish that is a Ballymaloe speciality.  For most guests, it is the most intriguing dessert we serve.

Many of the desserts served on the sweet trolley are accompanied by a complementary sauce, or even a biscuit (cookie), to elevate that dish.  For example, coffee ice-cream is always served with Irish coffee sauce, while all fruit fools are accompanied by thin crisp shortbread biscuits.  In many of the recipes that follow, I indicate favourite pairings such as these.

At Ballymaloe I plan each dish when I know what fresh produce is available, so I often change the menu at the last minute.  Perhaps the plums that I was eagerly watching are just not ripe enough to pick on the day I thought they would be, and then an unexpected basin of wild blackberries arrives at the kitchen door.  Perfect, a blackberry dessert it is.  Then I look at the menu plan to see if anything needs to be altered to balance the last-minute change.  Reacting in this way and using which produce is best is what makes the Ballymaloe dessert trolley so unique.’

Here are a few to whet your appetite. 

Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall is published by Phaidon. Photography by Cliodhna Prendergast

Lemon Meringue Roulade

This is one of the most popular meringue desserts I make at Ballymaloe, and it has several layers of lemon flavour that add up to a well-rounded experience: the sweet meringue is tempered with fresh lemon zest, the cream filling is rippled with tangy lemon curd and the decoration of fragrant crystallized lemon verbena leaves and thin strips of crystallized lemon zest bring it all together. If you feel like going one step further, spoon the pulp of a few passion fruits over the lemon curd before rolling the roulade.

Serves 8

For the Meringue

4 large egg whites

225g (8oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest of 1 large unwaxed lemon

icing sugar, for sprinkling

For the Filling and Decoration

300ml (10fl oz) whipped cream

4 tablespoons Lemon Curd 

crystallized lemon zest, to garnish (recipe on P53 in Ballymaloe Desserts)

12 crystallized lemon verbena leaves (recipe on P192 in Ballymaloe Desserts)

2 blue cornflower heads, separated into flowers

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

Line a low-sided 20 × 30cm (8 × 12 inch) rectangular pan with baking paper.

To make the meringue.

Check that the bowl of your electric mixer is dry, spotlessly clean and free from grease.  Place the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks, about 10 minutes.

Add the lemon zest to the meringue and gently fold through. Once the zest has been added to the meringue it will begin to wilt, so quickly spread the meringue in an even layer on the lined pan and place in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and lightly sprinkle the top with icing sugar.

To Fill and Decorate.
Invert the meringue, still in the pan, onto a sheet of baking paper so the crisp top of the meringue faces down.  Remove the pan and carefully peel off the baking paper.  Position the meringue so the long side is facing you.  Spread three quarters of the whipped cream over the meringue, leaving a 2cm (1 inch) edge on the long side furthest away from you.  Spoon the lemon curd in a line down the length of the cream.  Using the tip of a palette knife, spread the curd over the cream in a rippled effect.  Starting at the long side nearest you, and using the baking paper to assist, carefully roll the meringue into a log.  Unwrap the roulade and transfer to a long serving plate. Pipe the remaining cream on the top and decorate with the crystallized lemon zest, crystallized lemon verbena and individual cornflowers.

Lemon Curd

When making lemon curd, think of it as a custard – stir the mixture constantly on a medium–low heat until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon – once the curd has thickened it is ready.  The curd will continue to thicken as it cools, but if for any reason you want a very thick curd, add one extra egg yolk along with the eggs. Lemon curd is a short-term preserve and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes approx. 300ml (10fl oz)

1 large egg yolk

2 large eggs

55g (2oz) butter

110g (4oz) caster sugar

finely grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the whole eggs to combine, and then set to one side.   Melt the butter in a small, heavy, non- corrodible pan on a low heat.  Add the sugar and lemon zest and juice to the pan followed by the beaten eggs.  Stir the mixture constantly with a whisk as it cooks on a low– medium heat.  Once the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove the pan from the heat.  If you want to use a thermometer to monitor the temperature as the curd is cooking, it is ready when it reaches 82°C/180°F.  Pass the lemon mixture through a fine sieve to remove the lemon zest (at this point the zest has done its work and infused the mixture with its fragrant oil).  Store in a sterilized airtight jar in the refrigerator.

Panna Cotta with Espresso Jelly

The original version of this dessert came about for a special long-table dinner that Rory O’Connell, co-founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School, and I used to collaborate on each summer.  It consisted of rich Jersey cream panna cotta topped with a single layer of intense coffee jelly.  Over time, I played around with the proportion of jelly in relation to the vanilla cream.  I set layers of the dark jelly through the panna cotta and eventually the recipe evolved into this striking stripy pudding.  The coffee jelly can be replaced with other flavours too; blackcurrant jelly works particularly well.  When I serve this dish on the dessert trolley at Ballymaloe, it is always accompanied by a tall glass of thin, crisp pistachio langues de chat.

Serves 10

For the Panna Cotta

600ml (20fl oz) fresh cream

1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise

pinch of salt

50g (2oz) caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

For the Espresso Jelly

3 3⁄4 gelatine leaves

600ml (20fl oz) hot strong coffee

135g (4 1⁄2oz) caster sugar

To Serve

1 teaspoon cornflour, for dusting

Langues de Chat (recipe on P182 in Ballymaloe Desserts)

Place a 1.2 litre (2 pint) glass bowl in the refrigerator to chill.

To make the panna cotta.

Place the cream in a small heavy pan with the split vanilla pod, salt and sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to below simmering point.

Meanwhile, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes. Remove the gelatine leaves from the water, shaking off the excess, add to the hot cream mixture and stir to dissolve.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and then scrape any remaining seeds from the vanilla pod and add them back into the cream.  Rinse the vanilla pod in warm water, allow to dry and save for decorating the finished dish.  Allow the cream mixture to cool to room temperature. I usually sit the bowl in an ice bath, stirring the cream frequently, to speed this up.  Cooling the cream brings it closer to its setting point. When it is close to setting it will thicken slightly and there is the added benefit that the vanilla seeds will now stay suspended in the mixture and not pool in a layer on the bottom of the bowl.  Ladle enough of the cream mixture into the glass serving bowl to make the layer 1cm (1⁄2 inch) deep.  Leave in the refrigerator to set.

To make the espresso jelly.

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, add the sugar to the hot coffee and stir to dissolve.  Remove the gelatine leaves from the water, shaking off the excess, add to the coffee mixture while it is still hot and stir to dissolve.  Allow to cool to room temperature.  Again, I usually use an ice bath to speed up this process.  Remove from the ice bath, if using, and keep at room temperature.

Ladle the cooled coffee mixture on top of the set cream to a depth of 1cm (1⁄2 inch).  Allow to set; this does not take long.  Repeat the layering process, alternating between the vanilla cream and the coffee mixture, until both mixtures have been used up. Allow each layer to set before applying the next.

To Serve

Dust the dried vanilla pod in cornflour so it is white all over and rest the pod on the edge of the layered pudding.  The assembled dish can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days.  Serve chilled with a plate of langue de chat to pass around.

Almond Tarts with Raspberries

Myrtle Allen began making these tarts and tartlets for the Ballymaloe dessert trolley over half a century ago.  The cases (shells) couldn’t be easier to prepare.  It literally takes one minute to mix the three ingredients together.  When baked, the tart cases can be stored in an airtight container for several days and the fruit can be arranged on top just before serving.

The crisp almond case (shell) is conveniently gluten free.  While this recipe is for a raspberry version of the tart, it can also be topped with strawberries, blueberries and even peeled grapes (pips removed). Ripe peaches or nectarines are also delicious: just peel, slice and fan the fruit over the caramelized almond case.

Makes 24 tartlets (or two 18cm/7 inch tarts)

For the Almond Case

110g (4oz) soft salted butter

110g (4oz) caster sugar

110g (4oz) ground almonds

To Serve

450g (1lb) raspberries

3 tablespoons Redcurrant Jelly, for glazing (recipe on P48 in Ballymaloe Desserts)

300ml (10fl oz) whipped cream

sweet geranium leaves or fresh mint leaves, to garnish

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

To make the almond case.

Place the butter in a bowl and cream well.  Add the sugar and ground almonds and stir until everything is evenly combined.  Don’t beat or over work the mixture.  Divide the mixture between two 17.5cm (7 inch) round pans or twenty-four shallow tartlet pans (I use two shallow, flat-bottom bun (muffin) pans that each have twelve wells).

Place the tarts in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown.  Tartlets will take 10–15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool before popping out of the pan.

If the tarts or tartlets appear to be sticking to the pan, and break when you attempt to pop them out, put the pan back in the oven for a minute.  When it warms up, the case should pop out easily.

To Serve

Arrange the raspberries over the surface of each tart or tartlet. Warm the redcurrant jelly in a small pan until it melts and gently brush over the fruit.  Take care that the glaze does not drip onto the case or you run the risk of it losing its nice crispness. Fill a canvas piping bag, fitted with a small star tip, with the whipped cream and pipe around the edge of each tart or tartlet. Garnish with sweet geranium or fresh mint leaves.

Wild Blackberry and Sweet Geranium Sorbet

Wild blackberries are plentiful and free, and in September local children pick vast quantities from the hedges around east Cork. Bucket after bucket of the dark berries arrive at our kitchen door, and for those few weeks, blackberries go into almost everything we make.  This recipe produces a richly coloured sorbet, making good use of some of those berries.  I like to serve this sorbet with a little softly whipped cream and some Puff Pastry Twists, crisp Langues de Chat or a nutty version of Bittersweet Cocoa Nib Nougatine (all of which are included in the Ballymaloe Desserts cookbook).

Serves 6

10 sweet geranium leaves

220g (8oz) sugar, plus extra to taste

300ml (10fl oz) cold water

450g (1lb) fresh or frozen blackberries

juice of 1⁄2 lemon, plus extra to taste

1 tablespoon kirsch, or to taste (optional)

Put the geranium leaves, sugar and cold water into a heavy pan, place on a medium heat and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.

Remove the leaves and add the fruit.  Pour the fruit and syrup into a liquidizer and blend to a purée.  Pass the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Add the lemon juice.

Taste and adjust with a little more lemon or sugar if required.  If the blackberry flavour needs a little encouragement, add a splash of kirsch to taste.  Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. This sorbet is best enjoyed the day it is made.  Store in an airtight container in the freezer.

Cost of Living

For the past two years the ‘fear of God’ was struck into us by Covid and just as we thought life was coming back to normal at last, here comes the ‘cost of living’ crisis. Virtually every radio, newspaper headline and TV bulletin is full of doom and gloom with predictions of unimaginable price hikes in electricity, oil and gas and of course food.
Thousands of families who have already tightened their belts to combat the ‘back to school and college’ expenses are now faced with a winter of struggle and discontent. And to cap it all off, there’s talk of the possibility of no Christmas lights and fossil fuel shaming.
Everyone is hoping for some support in the upcoming Budget but nonetheless it’s going to be tough, all the more reason to focus on producing comforting, wholesome delicious food for the family to tuck into around the kitchen table.
We may need to shop differently, learn or relearn thrifty ways, how to use cheaper cuts of meat and off cuts of fish, use leftovers and completely eliminate food waste.

Just because one is short of funds is no excuse to resort to ultra-processed food.  Better to invest in wholesome, nourishing ingredients than spend your hard-earned cash on meds. 

So what to look out for.  I’ve already extolled the virtue of potatoes in several articles – go along to your local Farmers’ Market and buy chemical-free food directly from the farmer or producer and no it’s not true that Farmers’ Markets are way more expensive than supermarkets.  That sweeping statement is usually made by people who don’t visit Farmers’ Markets and are looking for an excuse not to go…

It’s true that some stallholders may not be able to compete with the ‘below cost selling’ of some of the discounters.  Do you know how long it takes to grow carrots or beets from seed to harvesting – three months at least.  Would you be happy to look after something for three months and then be paid less than a euro for a bunch of 5 or 6.  Doesn’t take much to work out that it can’t be done without a ton of artificial fertilisers and chemicals spray and screwing the farmers.

Sadly, if this low or below cost selling continues, there will be virtually no Irish vegetable growers in a year or two. 

Another thrifty tip – do a bit of research to find contacts for farmers who are selling their meat directly.  You’ll get a fine box of mixed cuts of beef, lamb, pork and a variety of game birds, very often organic and sometimes with a pack of well tested recipes included. 

Go along and have a chat with your local butcher too – ask which cuts are best value and while you are there, ask for some bones to make stock.  Start to experiment with lesser-known cuts – oxtail, ham hocks, lamb breasts, pork ribs…  Talk to the fishmongers, find out about the bargains on offer.  Learn what fruit and vegetables are in season – they will be at their cheapest and best then.

Irish apples are ripening now, your friends may have a glut – make lots of stewed apple and apple sauce and freeze for winter.

Cabbage is ridiculously cheap, but super nutritious, it’s brilliant for salads and soups as well as cooked with a bit of bacon or a ham hock. It’s so easy to make a fine tasty dinner from a few simple ingredients but the reality is you must be able to cook.  It’s not rocket science, just follow these simple recipes…

Carrot and Spring Onion Fritters

These vegetarian spiced fritters can be vegan if you omit the egg. Change the vegetables with the seasons: try cabbage, parsnips, celeriac or sprouts.

Makes 16/Servers 4

80g (3 1/4oz) chickpea (gram) flour

4 tablespoons self-raising flour

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika plus 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 organic, free-range egg (optional)

150g (5oz) carrots, grated

30g (1 1/4oz) spring onions, thinly sliced

extra virgin olive oil, for frying

flaky sea salt and pepper

Coriander Aioli, to serve

Mix together the flours, spices and a generous pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk the egg with 110ml (4fl oz) water. (For a vegan version, omit the egg and increase the water to 150ml/5fl oz). Add to the dry ingredients and mix together – the batter should be the texture

of double cream. If it’s too thick, add a little more water. Cover loosely with a tea towel and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Add the carrots and spring onions to the batter, stir and season until the vegetables are well coated.

Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Drop a tablespoon of the mixture into the pan. Fry for 2–3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy on the outside and cooked in the centre. Season to taste. Fry three or four at a time, depending on the pan size. Serve 3–4 fritters per person on hot plates with Coriander aioli alongside.

Coriander Aioli

225ml (8fl oz) homemade mayonnaise

1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size

1–2 tablespoons of chopped coriander

Crush the garlic and add to the egg yolks just as you start to make the mayonnaise. Finally add the chopped coriander and taste for seasoning.

Ham Hock with Cabbage and Scallion Champ

They are delicious with so many things – cabbage and champ, lentils, a bean stew, shredded into a broth with diced vegetables or in a split pea soup. We also love to add chunks of quartered cabbages to the cooking water about half an hour before the end of cooking.

Serves 8 or more

4 fresh or smoked ham hocks

1 onion

4 garlic cloves

1 carrot, thickly sliced

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 cabbage, sliced

Scallion Champ (see recipe)

Put the ham hocks into a deep saucepan, add the vegetables and seasonings. Cover well with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2– 2 1⁄2 hours or until the meat is virtually falling off the bones.

Add the sliced cabbage and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Save the cooking liquid as a base for tomato soup. 

Serve with accompaniments of your choice and lots of mustard.

Scallion Champ

A bowl of mashed potatoes flecked with green scallions with a blob of butter melting in the centre, add the butter just before serving so it melts into the centre. ‘Comfort’ food at its best.

Serves 4-6

1.5kg (3lbs) unpeeled ‘old’ potatoes e.g. Golden Wonders or Kerr’s Pinks

110g (4oz) chopped scallions or spring onions (use the bulb and green stem) or 45g (scant 2oz) chopped chives

300-350ml (10 – 12fl oz) milk

50-110g (2 – 4oz) butter

salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their jackets.

Chop finely the scallions or spring onions or chopped chives.  Cover with cold milk and bring slowly to the boil.  Simmer for about 3 – 4 minutes, turn off the heat and leave to infuse.  Peel and mash the freshly boiled potatoes and while hot, mix with the boiling milk and onions, beat in the butter.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Serve in 1 large or 6 individual bowls with a knob of butter melting in the centre.  Scallion mash may be put aside and reheated later in a moderate oven, 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. * Cover with parchment paper while it reheats so that it doesn’t get a skin and add the lump of butter just before serving.

Beef and Oxtail Stew

Oxtail costs very little and make an extraordinarily rich and flavoursome winter stew, considering how cheap it is. This is another humble dish, which has recently been resurrected by trendy chefs who are capitalizing on their customer’s nostalgic craving for their Gran’s cooking.  Use the leftover stew as a sauce for pasta, sprinkle with lots of grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley. 

Serves 6-8

2 whole oxtails

450g (1lb) shin of beef or stewing beef, cut into 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cubes                                                        

110g (4oz) streaky bacon
25g (1oz) beef dripping or2 tablespoons olive oil
225g (8oz) finely chopped onion
225g (8oz) carrots, cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
55g (generous 2oz) chopped celery
1 tablespoon homemade tomato purée

1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of thyme and parsley stalks
salt and freshly ground pepper
150ml (5fl oz) red wine
450ml (16fl oz) homemade beef stock or 600ml (1 pint) all beef stock

175g (6oz) mushrooms (sliced)                                                                   

15g (generous 1/2oz) roux                                                            

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

First cut the oxtail into pieces through the natural joints – the joints are made of cartilage, so you won’t need a saw.  If this seems like too much of a challenge, ask your butcher to disjoint the oxtail for you.

Cut the bacon into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes.      

Heat the dripping or olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and sauté for 1-2 minutes, add the vegetables, cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer into a casserole. Add the beef and oxtail pieces to the pan, a few at a time and continue to cook until the meat is beginning to brown.  Add to the casserole. Add the wine and 150ml (5fl oz) of stock to the pan.  Bring to the boil and use a whisk to dissolve the caramelised meat juices from the pan, bring to the boil.  Add to the casserole with the herbs, stock and tomato purée. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and cook either on top of the stove or in a preheated oven 160°C/325°F/ Gas Mark 3 very gently for 2 – 3 hours, or until the oxtail and vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile, cook the sliced mushrooms in a hot frying pan in a little butter for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir into the oxtail stew and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the beef and oxtail to a hot serving dish and keep warm. Remove and discard the bay leaves, thyme and parsley stalks.

Bring the liquid back to the boil, whisk in a little roux and cook until slightly thickened. Add back in the meat and chopped parsley.  Bring to the boil, taste and correct the seasoning.  Serve in the hot serving dish with lots of champ.

Darina’s Favourite Apple and Blackberry Pie

Apple pie is virtually everyone’s favourite pudding. My famous break-all-the-rules pastry taught to me by my mum 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.  I make this pie year-round with whatever fruits are in season: pears, plums and damsons are also in season now… Enjoy with a blob of softly whipped cream and soft brown sugar, it’s obligatory!

Serves 8-12

Break-all-the-Rules Pastry

225g (8oz) butter, softened

40g (1 1/2oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

2 organic, free-range eggs

350g (12oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 organic, free-range egg, beaten with a dash of milk


600g (1lb 5oz) Bramley cooking apples, peeled and cut into large dice

110g (4oz) wild blackberries

150g (5oz) granulated sugar

To Serve

softly whipped cream

dark soft brown sugar

1 x 18cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm (7 x 11 x 1 inch) deep square tin or 1 x 22.5cm (8 3/4 inch) round tin

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

To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar together by hand or in a food processor.  Add the eggs one by one and beat for several minutes. Reduce the speed and mix in the flour slowly.  Turn out onto a piece of floured baking parchment, flatten into a round, then wrap and chill.  This pastry needs to be chilled for at least 2 hours otherwise it is difficult to handle – better still, make it the day before.

Roll out the pastry to about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick, then use about two-thirds of it to line the tin.

Fill the pie to the top with the apples and blackberries and sprinkle with the sugar – brush the edges with water.  Cover with a lid of pastry, press the edges together to seal.  Decorate with pastry leaves, brush with the beaten egg mixture and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until the apples are tender.  When cooked, sprinkle lightly with caster sugar, cut into pieces and serve with softly whipped cream and sugar.

A comforting and delicious Rice Pudding

A creamy rice pudding is one of the greatest treats on a chilly Autumn day and costs very little to make. You need to use short-grain rice, which plumps up as it cooks. This is definitely a forgotten pudding and it’s unbelievable the reaction we get to it every time we make it at the Cookery School.

Serves 6–8

100g (3 1⁄2oz) pearl rice (short-grain rice)

50g (2oz) sugar

small knob of butter

1. 2 litres (2 pints) milk

1 x 1. 2 litre (2 pint) capacity pie dish (it’s important to have the correct size dish)

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

Put the rice, sugar and butter into a pie dish. Bring the milk to the boil and pour over. Bake for 1 – 1 1⁄2 hours. The skin should be golden, the rice underneath should be cooked through and have soaked up the milk, but still be soft and creamy. Time it so that it’s ready just in time for pudding. If it has to wait in the oven for ages, it will be dry and dull and you’ll wonder why you bothered.  Serve with brown sugar and softly whipped cream. 


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