AuthorDarina Allen

Easter Chickens Hatch in the Office

Such excitement, we’ve just been watching the first three little chicks slowly emerging from their shells – it takes them several hours to struggle free. At first they seem wet and bewildered but soon dry out and fluff up in the warmth of the incubator. I invested in this far from essential piece of equipment a few years ago as part of my ongoing campaign to educate the cookery school students on the 12-week Certificate Course (prospective cooks and chefs) about how food is produced and where it comes from. We also use it on the ‘How to keep a few chicken in your garden’ course as an option for those in urban areas who would like to keep a few hens but daren’t let nature take its course for fear of being dubbed the neighbour from hell when the cock wakes the neighbours at 4.30am in the morning. 

We have hatched out several batches of chicks by now – it takes about 21 days from start to finish and delights everyone from my grandchildren to the grannies. 

Easter has always been about eggs, which have, since ancient times been a symbol of fertility, rebirth and resurrection. During Lent people fasted rigorously, the hens went on laying and so the eggs piled up. They were preserved in a variety of ways. I certainly remember buckets of eggs submerged in Waterglass. These were used for cakes. The simpler buttered eggs didn’t last so long but had a delicious curdy texture and are certainly worth doing if you have access to fresh free range eggs. Ideally they should be warm from the nest. Really fresh free-range organic eggs are a wonderful whole food but for many people a forgotten flavour. Now at last they are starring in their own right on menus from coast to coast in the US. But not just any old egg, really fresh eggs from now rare breeds. Some are names familiar to many of us, for example Rhode Island Reds, Leghorn, Marrans, Light Sussex, others are less well known – Buff Orpington, Plymouth Rock Bantams, Frizzlies, Cochins, or the little Aracuna whose blue shells continue to delight. 

Fortnum and Mason, a mecca for gourmets in London, sell the eggs of these fancy fowl individually for those who want to present their dinner party host or hostess with a unique edible gift – much more fun and delicious than a dodgy bottle of wine. Here are some of my favourite recipes …………………….. 

Chorizo and Parsley Scrambled Eggs

This is so good for breakfast but also makes a delicious tapa.
Serves 4

6oz (175g) chorizo, finely chopped
6 free range eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablesp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the chorizo. When the fat starts to ooze out add the beaten eggs and stir gently over a low heat until just set. Add lots of freshly ground pepper and chopped parsley. 
Serve in an earthenware dish with some crusty bread.

Warm Salad of Gubbeen Bacon with Poached Egg and Gabriel Cheese

A gorgeous little salad which totally depends on good ingredients. Make it with battery produced eggs and indifferent bacon and you’ll wonder why you bothered.

Gubbeen bacon is cured and smoked by a brilliant young artisanal producer called Fingal Ferguson, son of Tom and Giana Ferguson who make the famous Gubbeen farmhouse cheese on their farm in West Cork. If you can’t lay your hands on this, look out for the best quality smoked bacon you can find.
Gabriel cheese is a hard cheese made by their near neighbour Bill Hogan. A good nutty Parmesan may be used instead.
Serves 4

a mixture of organic salad leaves
170g (6oz) smoked Gubbeen bacon lardons
4 eggs free-range organic 
Caesar Salad dressing 
25g (1oz) freshly grated Gabriel cheese, alternatively use Parmigiano Reggiano
freshly chopped parsley

First make the Caesar dressing.- you will have more than you need for this recipe but it keeps for several weeks so save it in the refrigerator for another time.

Fill a small saucepan with cold water, add a little salt. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat, crack the egg and allow it to drop gently into the water. Cook in the barely simmering water for 4 to 5 minutes or until the white is set and the yolk is still soft. You may cook the eggs separately or together depending on the size of your saucepan.

Meanwhile heat a frying pan, add a little olive or sunflower oil. Cook the lardons of bacon until crispy and golden.

To assemble the salad. 

Put a little caesar dressing on the plate. Quickly arrange a selection of lettuce and salad leaves on top. We also add a little freshly cooked asparagus or chicory in season or some chard or beet greens. Sprinkle the hot sizzling bacon over the salad, top with a poached egg. Drizzle some caesar dressing over the poached egg and salad leaves. 

Sprinkle with freshly grated cheese (use a microplane or a fine grater) and a little chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Caesar Dressing

2 egg yolks, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 x 2oz (55g) tin anchovies
1 clove garlic, crushed
a generous pinch of English mustard powder
2 teaspoon salt
½-1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
½-1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
6fl oz (175ml) sunflower oil
2fl oz (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
50ml (2fl oz) cold water

We make this dressing in a food processor but it can also be made very quickly by hand. Drain the anchovies and crush lightly with a fork. Put into a bowl with the egg yolks, add the garlic, lemon juice, mustard powder, salt, Worcester and Tabasco sauce. Whisk all the ingredients together. As you whisk, add the oils slowly at first, then a little faster as the emulsion forms. Finally whisk in the water. Taste and correct the seasoning: this dressing should be highly flavoured.

Ham and Egg Pie

This lovely old-fashioned picnic pie comes from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home by Rachel Allen, published by Collins.
Serves 6-8

200g (7oz) Shortcrust Pastry, made with –
125g (4¼ oz) flour
75g (3oz) butter
Pinch of salt
½-1 egg

15g (½ oz) butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
6 eggs
75ml (2¾ fl.oz) double cream
150g (5oz) cooked ham or cooked bacon rashers, sliced into 1 x 2cm (½ x ¾ in) pieces
1 tablesp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) Gas Mark 4.

Roll out the pastry and line a 25cm (10in) ovenproof plate. Trim the pastry so that it is a bit bigger than the plate, then fold up the edges slightly so that you have a slight lip all the way around. This will prevent the cream from running off the plate when you put it in the oven. Place the pastry on its plate in the fridge while you prepare the filling ingredients.

For the filling, melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the onions and cook over a gentle heat until soft. Whisk two of the eggs in a bowl, add the cream, the cooked onions, chopped ham and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour this into the pastry case. Carefully break the remaining eggs onto the tart, trying to keep the egg yolks intact.

Bake for 25-35 minutes in the preheated oven until the custard is set in the centre and the eggs on top are just cooked. Serve warm or allow to cool and pack for a picnic. Cut slices of the tart straight from the plate.

Foolproof Food

Boiled Eggs with Soldiers and Asparagus

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have some space to keep a few free range hens are blessed indeed. The eggs laid by my happy, lazy hens are completely perfect - white curdy albumen and rich yellow yolks. When you have access to eggs of this quality, treat yourself to a boiled egg - absolute perfection but sadly a forgotten flavour for so many people. Little fingers of toast called dippies or soldiers are the usual accessory but during the asparagus season in May a few spears of fresh green asparagus make a deliciously decadent dip.
Serves 2

6-8 spears of fresh Irish asparagus
2 fresh free range eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
a few pats of butter
1 slice of fresh white pan loaf

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, bring the water back to the boil and simmer gently for 4-6 minutes, according to your taste. A four minute egg will be still quite soft, five minutes will almost set the white while the yolk will still be runny, 6 minutes will produce a boiled egg with a soft yolk and solid white.

Meanwhile toast the bread, cut off the crusts and spread with butter. Cut into fingers. Immediately the eggs are cooked, pop them into egg cups on large side plates. Put the cooked asparagus (see below) and soldiers on the side and serve with a pepper mill, sea salt and a few pats of butter.

To cook asparagus
Trim the stalks of the asparagus, cook in boiling salted water for 7-8 minutes or until a knife will pierce the root end easily. Drain and keep hot. 

Wild Garlic Frittata

A frittata is an Italian omelette. Unlike its soft and creamy French cousin, a frittata is cooked slowly over a very low heat during which time you can be whipping up a delicious salad to accompany it! It is cooked on both sides and cut into wedges like a piece of cake. This basic recipe, is flavoured with grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of herbs. Like the omelette, though, you may add almost anything that takes your fancy. In Spring we often add Wild Garlic to the basic frittata for a delicious variation.
Serves 6-8

10 large eggs, preferably free range organic
1 teasp salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
85g (3oz) Gruyére cheese, grated
30g (1oz) Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 teaspoon thyme leaves
4oz (110g) wild garlic leaves chopped
30g (1oz) butter

Wild Garlic flowers for garnish

Non stick pan – 22.5cm (10inch) frying pan

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the salt, freshly ground pepper, fresh herbs, chopped wild garlic (keep back a little for sprinkling on top after) and grated cheese into the eggs. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When the butter starts to foam, tip in the eggs. Turn down the heat, as low as it will go. Leave the eggs to cook gently for 12 minutes on a heat diffuser mat, or until the underneath is set. The top should still be slightly runny.

Preheat a grill. Pop the pan under the grill for 1 minute to set but not brown the surface. 

Slide a palette knife under the frittata to free it from the pan. Slide onto a warm plate. Sprinkle with a little chopped wild garlic and the wild garlic flowers.
Serve cut in wedges with a good green salad.

Besançon Rhubarb Tart

Serves 10-12
8 ozs (225g) plain flour
6 ozs (170g) butter
Pinch of salt
1 dessertsp. icing sugar
A little beaten egg or egg yolk and water to bind

1lb (450g) or a little more rhubarb, cut into small pieces
6-8 tablesp. Castor sugar
½ pint (300m) cream
2 large or 3 small eggs
2 tablesp. castor sugar 
1 teasp. pure vanilla essence 

1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin or 2 x 7 inch (18cm) tart tins

Make the shortcrust pastry in the usual way (see recipe) and leave to relax in a fridge for 1 hour. Line a tart tin (or tins), with a removable base and chill for 10 minutes. Line with paper and fill with dried beans and bake blind in a moderate oven 180C/350F/gas mark 4 for 15-20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans, paint the tart with a little egg wash and return to the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Arrange the cut rhubarb evenly inside the tart shell. Sprinkle with 6-8 tablespoons castor sugar. 

Whisk the eggs well, with the 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla essence, add the cream. Strain this mixture over the rhubarb and bake at 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 35 minutes until the custard is set and the apples are fully cooked. Serve warm with a bowl of whipped cream.

Hot Tips

Buttered Eggs are available from Moynihan’s Poultry Stall at the Princes Street side of the English Market in Cork – Tel 021- 4272614

Cork City Slow Food Convivium – Chocolate and Coffee Evening
Next event will be Tuesday, April 24th at 8pm in the Aga Show Room, behind the Clarion Hotel. Chocolate will be supplied by Emily and Sarah Hehir of Cocoa Bean, Limerick, Coffee will be supplied by John Gowan of Cork Coffee Roasters. Members €10, Non €15. Bookings Phone 021 4505819 Email:  or  

Slow Food Clare
Sunday 6th May – Kilrush Community Garden, Shorthorn Beef Barbecue Contact -Michael Gleeson 

Four Rivers Slow Food Convivium
Wednesday 9th May Visit to Flahavans Mill in Kilmacthomas, Co Waterford at 7.30pm – see the manufacturing process, learn about the history of cereal production in the area, experience the success story of a small local food manufacturer.  Contact Donal Lehane to book –  Tel 087-6780014, 051-396288

Denmark longs for Real Food

This week I was in the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen speaking to a group called the Belly Rebellion about how to set up a Farmer’s Market. In Denmark people spend less than 8% of their income in real terms on food – the lowest in Europe. 

Food retail is controlled by two supermarket chains and most of the local shops are also controlled by the multiples so it is virtually impossible for most people to source fresh local food. 

Two years ago the movement called The Belly Rebellion was launched by a group of concerned women. Farmers, lawyers, teachers, doctors, politicians, chefs, dinner ladies, mothers……explored how they could set up a localized food system and an educational programme on the connection between wholesome nutritious food and good health. 

There is a deep craving among a growing number of people for real food and a frustration about how difficult it is to source it. There are now a variety of initiatives around the country. The growth of the movement is steady but for many including founder members Camilla Plum and Katrine Klinken, not quite fast enough so they organised a day long conference on Farmer’s Markets at which my daughter Lydia Hugh-Jones and I were speakers. We told them about the Irish Farmers Market movement and in particular about the Midleton and Mahon Point Farmers Markets that we have personally been involved in. The Danes are deeply envious of Ireland which now has over 300 Farmers Markets. Other speakers included -

Camilla Hersom – chairman of the Danish Consumer Cooperation who spoke about how to minimize the rules and regulations and minimize the hassle.

Fie Hnasen Hoeck, former director of a supermarket chain in Denmark spoke about the role of the supermarkets and stressed that they are not suited to selling small speciality type products

Mikhail Hansen, a chef, and chairman of an organization of producers/consumers on the Danish island of FYN spoke about the market and festival he arranges every year on the Island. His challenge is to cope with the huge numbers who turn up.

John Higson, a Swedish Irish man who founded the first new food market in Sweden, also spoke at the Conference. His market was called The Street and created a prototype for others to follow. John, whose background is in marketing, was originally inspired by a visit to Bath Farmers Market in the UK. He visited many others and eventually honed his ideas.

His next project was to buy a space in an unfashionable area close to the river in Stockholm bordering the park. He and his team linked up with local producers and set up a mobile restaurant to serve local food. Then he held a week-end market in conjunction with lots of other events. There was a stage for performances. It soon became the hippest coolest place to go at the weekends. Between 10 – 40,000 people turn up to get a bit of action – all eat and buy local food. Great bands and street performers perform for free for the exposure and this attracts more people. Every weekend there’s a different event – one weekend everyone was invited to empty out their attics and sell all their junk – it was a huge success. John is up for anything that will attract people to the STREET. The underlying object of the exercise is to sell local food. The whole idea has been such a success that now large companies such as Nokia are hiring out the space to launch new products. John’s latest scheme is a web site called  designed to link restaurant chefs and shop owners directly with the producers. He has established a distribution network around the country and a fleet of refrigerated vans to deliver directly to the local restaurants thus solving the twin problems of distribution and delivery. Chefs get weekly updates of what’s in season. Both chefs and producers get feed back from regular questionnaires about customer requests, crop capacity, emerging trends……..A very interesting concept that could be repeated in many other countries. John is happy to shape his ideas with anyone interested in promoting locally produced food. 

Karin Hvidtfelt is a market organizer in Denmark, she spoke about the practicalities of organizing and running markets in Copenhagen.

There was a general consensus that Denmark is ready and eager to have a Farmers Market movement. Much to the delight of the organisers, it looks like its already underway, five or six people decided to start a market in their local towns after last Saturday’s event. 

Here are some of Camilla Plum’s recipes


Serves 6
1.3 kg (3lb)frozen leg of lamb
3 handfuls of herbs to bake with the lamb; fresh bat leaves, rosemary, sage, fresh basil, lovage

1.2 L (2 pints) water
1 dl (3½ oz/100g) coarse salt
1 tbsp. whole peppercorns
1 whole, peeled garlic bulb, cut in thin slivers
A big handful of lovage leaves
A big sprig fresh oregano

Preheat the oven, to 75 degrees celsius. Wrap the frozen meat in tin foil, with the herbs. Wrap twice, so no juice can leak out. Put the package into a roasting tin and put it in the oven, on the middle shelf for 12 hours. While the meat is slowly cooking, boil the brine, leave the herbs in, and cool it, until needed. When the meat is cooked, heat the brine, unwrap the meat and place it in the brine.

The brine should cover the meat, so put it in a snug container, made of plastic, stoneware or stainless steel, just large enough to fit. If you do not have a suitable container, you can put the whole thing in a plastic bag, and close it tightly. Let the meat and brine cool, but do not put it in the fridge.

After 3-5 hours you can lift the meat from the brine. Slice it thinly, and eat it lukewarm or cooled, but its most delicious when it has not been in the fridge at all. You could of course heat it gently wrapped in foil, but it is not supposed to be eaten hot.

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for 4 days. They are delicious in sandwiches.

Serve with Dill cream, new potatoes, and a crisp green, herby salad.

Dill Cream

1, 5 dl.(4¾ oz/140g) fresh goats cheese
1,5 dl (5 fl.oz/150ml) single cream
big bunch fresh dill, chopped, with the stalks (save some for the top)
small bunch chopped tarragon leaves, no stalks
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp, coarsely ground, black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp. salted capers

Mix all ingredients, except the capers, to a smooth cream. Let it sit in a bowl on the kitchen table for half an hour, Adjust seasoning. The capers and dill can be sprinkled on top of the cream, or on the meat, as desired.

This is also very good in a potato salad, with smoked mackerel, and fried fish. 

Horseradish Cream for smoked salmon

Serves 5-6
2.5 dl (8oz/225g) creme fraiche
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp. coarse salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 dl (3½oz/100g) freshly and finely grated horseradish root

Mix and adjust seasoning after 1 hour. Eat with toasted rye bread, smoked, thinly sliced salmon, and a green salad.

Ballymaloe Potato and Spring Onion Salad
Serves 4-6

2 lbs (900g) freshly cooked potatoes - diced, allow about 2½ lbs (1.1kg) raw potatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives or scallions or 2 teaspoons chopped onion
4 fl ozs (120ml) French dressing
4 fl oz (120 ml) Mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

The potatoes should be boiled in their jackets and peeled, diced and measured while still hot. Mix immediately with onion, parsley, salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the French dressing, allow to cool and finally add the mayonnaise. Keeps well for about 2 days.

Note: This potato salad is also delicious without Mayonnaise. Potato salad may be used as a base for other salads, eg. add cubes of garlic salami, cooked Kabanossi sausages or cooked mussels.

Hot Potato Salad

Serve with sausages, boiled bacon, hot terrine, hot spiced beef or pate. Can be accompanied by red cabbage.
Serves 4-6

Ingredients as for potato salad above plus the following:
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tablespoons chopped gherkins

Make as above, but omit the mayonnaise. Add the eggs cut in 3 inch (5mm) dice, gherkins and capers if used.

Piped Potato Salad

1 generous litre freshly mashed potato
Add French dressing, finely chopped parsley, chives and mayonnaise to the stiff potato to taste. Pipe onto individual leaves of lettuce or use to garnish starter salad or hors d'oevures.

Potato and Thyme Leaf Salad
Serves 6 approx.

Scant quart cooked potatoes peeled and cut into 5mm (1/2 inch) dice
125ml (4fl ozs) fruity extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tablespoons thyme leaves and thyme flowers if available
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Coat potatoes in a good extra virgin oil while still warm. Season to taste. Sprinkle liberally with fresh thyme leaves. Garnish with lots of purple and mauve thyme flowers.

Coooks Book

Allegra McEvedy’s Colour Cookbook – published by Kyle Cathie

Allegra McEvedy believes that ‘Each season has a palette of colours associated with it, and if you eat by colour, by season you will naturally be giving your body what it needs at that time of year. 

The book contains a chapter for each season , with its own palette of colours, and recipes that use ingredients that are at the top of their game. At the beginning of each chapter there’s a run down on what it is exactly that each season’s produce can do for you, and why adding it to your diet will make you, and those you cook for, feel bouncier and bonnier than ever before.

Buy this Book from
Prune Date and Honey Powerbars 
Like a modern flapjack, but crumblier.
You can swap the suggested ingredients for whatever you have in the cupboard – apricots or figs instead of dates and prunes, walnuts for almonds, and use whatever seeds you have knocking about. The key to the flavour is the ratio oats:butter:honey.

Makes about 14 depending on the size you cut them.

160g butter
6 tablespoons clear honey
300g oats
80g flaked almonds
70g sultanas
70g dried apricots, chopped
80g dried prunes, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 tablespoon linseeds

Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas 3

Melt the butter with the honey.

Toss all the dry ingredients together in a big bowl, then pour in the melted butter and honey. Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with buttered greaseproof paper and pack the mixture into it, pressing it down with the back of a spoon.

Cook for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Take out of the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting into oblongs. Cool to room temperature before taking out of the tin.

*NB The Powerbars may be sometimes be a bit crumbly because of the varying absorbency of the dry ingredients. Allegra doesn’t mind this, but if you do you could make a note to add a bit more butter next time you are making them.

They will keep for 5 days in an airtight container.

Foolproof Food

Wild Garlic Soup

Wild garlic is plentiful in the countryside just now, take the opportunity to make this delicious Spring soup.
Both the bulbs and leaves of wild garlic are used in this soup and the pretty flowers are divine sprinkled over the top of each soup bowl. 

55g (2ozs) butter
140g (5ozs) diced onions
280g (10ozs) peeled diced potatoes
2 cups of wild garlic chopped, use both bulb and leaf 
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1.2L (2 pints) home made chicken stock
125ml (4 fl ozs) cream or creamy milk 
Garnish: Wild garlic flowers

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onion, and wild garlic and toss in the butter until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a little cream or creamy milk to taste. Serve, sprinkled with a few wild garlic flowers.

Hot Tips

‘007 Licenced to Bake’
The Guild of Foodwriters in UK are welcome entries from Ireland to this year’s GFW Children’s Cookery Competition – Cook It! The theme of this year’s competition is ‘007 - Licenced to Bake’ and one of the dishes must be baked to encourage the traditional skills of pie, cake or biscuit making amongst children. Closing date is 12th April – 6 lucky finalists will cook off in the BBC Good Food magazine kitchens on Thursday 24th May. Fabulous first prize of a trip to Paris.

St Patrick’s Day 2007

Let’s have some delicious bacon and cabbage and parsley sauce for St Patrick’s Day. All over the world Irish emigrants are celebrating. Many, particularly in the US, will be tucking into corned beef and cabbage and turning their thoughts towards Ireland. For the past few weeks, I’ve had innumerable phone calls from foreign press wanting to know how we celebrate St Patrick’s Day and what special foods we eat in Ireland. 
In fact, many Americans still think we live on corned beef and cabbage and are amazed to discover that the majority of Irish people don’t eat corned beef and cabbage from one end of the year to the other. Last year and again this year, I will be in Philadelphia for St Patrick’s Day.

Why Philly? Well apart from the fact that it’s a lovely town with great food and a large Irish contingent, its home to QVC, the mammoth shopping channel. The studios are in Westchester, and I join a large group of Irish people who go over to sell their products every year, Waterford Glass, Galway Crystal, Belleek, Irish tweeds, linen, jewellery, perfumes, pottery. …. Stephen Pearce from Stephen Pearce Pottery came last year also. For the past few years I’ve been selling my book on Irish Country Cooking which the Irish Americans love to have to remind them of the food of their childhood. We cook up a variety of traditional dishes. Irish Stew of course, and Beef with Stout, Champ and Colcannon, lots of soda bread, spotted dog and treacle bread, Kerry Pies, Roscommon Rhubarb Tart, Scones with homemade jam and cream, porter cake, carrageen moss pudding …..

I have a short slot of maybe five or six minutes on air, but I’m joined by one of the QVC hosts – brilliantly skilled sales people who could unquestionably sell billions of gallons of oil to the Arabs. Even if one is on a maiden voyage or camera shy, they manage to generate enthusiasm and excitement for the product. People telephone in from all over the country with nostalgic memories of forgotten flavours, often looking for mislaid recipes from the days of their happy childhood in Ireland.

It’s a thrilling experience racing against the clock. They suddenly tell you – that’s it, you’re sold out and they’re on to the next product. The books are then beautifully wrapped and posted all over America to people who want to recapture the forgotten flavours they yearn for.

This year I will again be selling my Irish Country Cooking book which is the US edition of Irish Traditional Cooking.

Back here in Ireland its easier to find a Thai Chicken Curry, fajitas or fried Halloumi than it is to find a bowl of Colcannon or Irish Stew. In fact, the dreaded breakfast roll, or ‘belly roll’, as its now being dubbed, is fast becoming our national dish.

Traditional foods are part of our national food culture, lets serve them proudly at least on St Patrick’s Day.

Buy this Book from

Over 300 Recipes from Ireland's Heritage 
I had a magical Irish country childhood. I grew up in a tiny village...... 
Read some more..............

Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen, published by Kyle Cathie.

Beef with Stout

Use your favourite stout for this recipe. In Cork we use Beamish or Murphy, but even Cork people have divided allegiances!
Serves 6-8

2 lbs (900g) lean stewing beef, eg. Chuck
seasoned flour
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
2 thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry English Mustard
1 tablespoon concentrated tomato puree
1 strip of dried orange peel
a bouquet garni made up of 1 bay leaf, 1 sprig of fresh thyme, 4 parsley stalks.
4 fl oz (125ml) Beamish, Murphy or Guinness
¾ pint (425ml) beef stock
8 ozs (225g) mushrooms
½ oz (15g) butter
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the meat into 1½ inch (4cm) cubes and toss in seasoned flour. Heat some oil in a hot pan and fry the meat in batches until it is brown on all sides. Transfer the meat into a casserole and add a little more oil to the pan. Fry the thinly-sliced onions until nicely browned; deglaze with the stout. Transfer to the casserole, add the stock, sugar, mustard, tomato puree, orange rind and bouquet garni. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer in a very low heat, 150C/300f/ regulo 2, for 2-2½ hours or until the meat is tender.

Meanwhile wash and slice the mushrooms. Saute in a very little melted butter in a hot pan. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Set aside. When the stew is cooked, add the mushrooms and simmer for 2-3 minutes, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Note: This stew reheats well. You may need to add more sugar to the recipe if you find it a little bitter.

Leek Champ

I came across this lesser known recipe for Champ in Ulster, but it is now also firmly entrenched in Co. Cork.
Serves 4

1 lb (450g) potatoes
¾lb (350g) leeks
1-2 ozs (30-55g) butter
8-10 fl.ozs (250-300ml) milk
salt and freshly ground pepper

Scrub the potatoes and cook in boiling salted water until cooked through. Meanwhile wash and slice the leeks into thin rounds, melt 1 oz (30g) butter in a heavy pot, toss in the leeks, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, cover with a butter wrapper and the lid of the saucepan. Cook on a gentle heat until soft and tender. As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain immediately. Bring the milk to boiling point, peel the potatoes and mash immediately. Beat in the buttered leeks and their juices and enough boiling milk to make a soft texture. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. 

Kerry Pies

Mutton pies, made in Kerry, were served at the famous Puck Fair in Killorglin in August and taken up the hills when men were herding all day. The original hot water crust pastry was made with mutton fat but we have substituted butter for a really delicious crust.
Serves 6

450g (1lb) boneless lamb or mutton (from shoulder or leg - keep bones for stock)
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped onions
275g (9 1/2oz) chopped carrots
1 teaspoon parsley 
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
300ml (8fl oz) mutton or lamb stock
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper

350g (12oz) white flour
175g (6oz) butter
125ml (4fl oz) water
Pinch of salt
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt to glaze

2 x 15cm (6 inch) diameter tins, 4cm (1 1/2inch) high or 1 x 23cm (9 inch) tin

Cut all surplus fat away, then cut the meat into small neat pieces about the size of a small sugar lump. Render down the scraps of fat in a hot, wide saucepan until the fat runs. Discard the pieces. Cut the vegetables into slightly smaller dice and toss them in the fat, leaving them to cook for 3-4 minutes. 

Remove the vegetables and toss the meat in the remaining fat over a high heat until the colour turns. Stir the flour into the meat. Cook gently for 2 minutes and blend in the stock gradually. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Return the vegetables to the pan with the parsley and thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and leave to simmer, covered. If using young lamb, 30 minutes will be sufficient; an older animal may take up to 1 hour.

Meanwhile make the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with the water and bring to the boil. Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth. At first the pastry will be too soft to handle but as it cools it will become more workable. Roll out to 2.5-5mm (1/8-1/4inch) thick, to fit the tin or tins. (The pastry may be made into individual pies or one large pie.) 

Fill the pastry-lined tins with the slightly cooled meat mixture. Make lids from the remaining pastry, brush the edges of the base with water and egg wash and put on the pastry lids, pinching them tightly together. Roll out the trimmings to make pastry leaves or twirls to decorate the tops of the pies, make a hole in the centre and egg wash carefully.

Bake the pie or pies at 200C/400F/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes approx. Serve hot or cold.

Porter Cake

1 lb (450g) white flour
8 ozs (225g) butter
8 ozs (225g) brown sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
1/2 teasp. bread soda
2 teasp. mixed spice
1/2 pint (300ml) stout, Guinness, Beamish or Murphys
1/2 lb (225g) sultanas
1/2 lb (225g) raisins
4 ozs (110g) cherries (halved)
4 ozs (110g) mixed peel
rind of 1 orange

9 inch (23cm) round tin

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4.

Melt the butter, sugar and stout in a saucepan. Add the orange rind and all the fruit except the cherries. Bring the mixture to the boil and boil for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until it is lukewarm.

Sieve the flour, breadsoda and spice into a mixing bowl. Add fruit to the flour and add the cherries. Beat the eggs, add gradually, mixing evenly through the mixture. Cook at 180C/350F/regulo 4, on the middle shelf for 1 hour 10 minutes approx. If you wish you may later pour 4 tablespoons of stout over the cake when its cooked. Keep for 2 or 3 days before cutting.

Country Rhubarb Cake

This delicious juicy Rhubarb Cake, based on an enriched bread dough, was made all over the country. Slow traditional food which originally would have been baked in the bastible or baker beside an open fire. My mother, who taught me this recipe, varied the filling with the seasons – gooseberries, bramley apples, plums, blackberry and apple….
Make with the first of the new season’s rhubarb.
Serves 8

350g (12oz) flour
A pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon breadsoda
50g (2oz) castor sugar
75g (3oz) butter
1 egg, preferably free range and organic 
165ml (5 1/2fl oz) milk, buttermilk or sour milk
700g (1 1/2lb) rhubarb, finely chopped
Egg wash
175-225g (6-8oz)) granulated sugar

Castor sugar for sprinkling
Softly whipped cream
Moist brown sugar

1 x 25.5cm (10 inch) enamel or Pyrex plate

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4

Sieve the flour, salt, breadsoda and castor sugar into a bowl, rub in the butter. Whisk the egg and mix with the buttermilk. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour in most of the liquid and mix to soft dough, add the remainder of the liquid if necessary. Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface, turn out the dough and pat gently into a round. Divide into two pieces, one should be slightly larger than the other, keep the larger one for the lid. Meanwhile dip your fingers in flour. Spread the smaller piece onto the plate. Scatter the finely chopped rhubarb all over the base, egg-wash the edges and sprinkle the rhubarb with the granulated sugar. Roll out the other piece of dough until it is exactly the size to cover the plate, lift it on and press gently to seal the edges. Make a hole in the centre for the steam to escape, egg-wash and sprinkle with a very small amount of sugar.

Bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/gas mark 4, for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rhubarb is soft and the crust is golden. Leave it to sit for 15-20 minutes so that the juice can soak into the crust. Sprinkle with castor sugar. Serve still warm with a bowl of softly whipped cream and some moist brown sugar.

Foolproof Food

Mollie Keane’s Potato & Bacon Cakes

The late Mollie Keane, the indomitable Irish writer - author of Good Behaviour and countless other books on the life of the Irish Ascendancy - included this recipe in her book Mollie Keane's Nursery Cooking.
Serves 4

4 rashers of streaky bacon, rinds removed, chopped
1 lb (450g) mashed potatoes
1 oz (30g) plain white flour
salt and pepper
butter or dripping for frying

Fry the bacon without any additional fat until crisp. Remove and drain on absorbent paper. Stir the bacon into the mashed potatoes with the flour, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into four cakes. Heat the butter or dripping in a frying pan, add the cakes and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden and crisp.

Hot Tips

St Patrick’s Day Farmers Market
Will be held from 10am – 5pm on Emmet Place Cork. (the Square by the Opera House)

New Aga Showroom in Cork
Now open at City Quarter, Lapps Quay – beside the Clarion Hotel and Irish Examiner Offices. Showing Aga and Rayburn cookers and the AGA Cookshop range of accessories.

BBC Goood Food Summer Festival 13-17 June, NEC Birmingham

This year the festival will be co-located with BBC Gardeners World Live and BBC Good Homes Live – one ticket can be bought for all three shows – ticket hotline 0970 380 0139 or book online

Ballycotton Light

Doug Jeffords from Nashville did the 3 month Certificate Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School ten years ago, a great music lover he comes back every year to attend the music weeks at Ballymaloe House. On his recent visit he launched his CD Ballycotton Light which includes some of his own compositions along with his own favourites – Ballycotton Light is available from the Ballymaloe Shop at Ballymaloe House.

The Real Magic of India

For me, the real magic of India, comes not just from the stunning temples, palaces and vibrant colour but from the myriad of street foods, cooked on the little stalls and portable kitchens in every city, town and village all over the country. 
India is the world’s largest democracy and the economy is growing at a rate of 9% a year. 

In the 12 months since my last visit, the change is palpable. The number of new cars on the roads is increasing at a rate of 20,000 a day. In large cities like Mumbai and Delhi flyovers are being built at a frantic rate, but the traffic is fast becoming unbearable. Everywhere the roads are being dug up to make way for high tensile cables and there are acres of glitzy malls under construction. 

Tuc tuc’s and rickshaws are being eased out of city centres, they don’t fit in with the new cosmopolitan image that these cities are so anxious to portray. Needless to say, I don’t go to India to visit the latest Mac Donalds or KFC. They are all there and many more besides, desperate to get a piece of the action in this fast-growing economy. I’m looking for the quintessential Indian experience.

Tourist numbers are also at an all time high but sadly many travelers never get a real taste of India, scared by the prospect of a bout of ‘Delhi Belly’ they steer well away from street food and rarely venture into the roadside dhabas where I’ve had some of my most delicious and inexpensive bites. This is simple food by Indian standards and challenging by Western hygiene standards but most is freshly prepared from food brought in the morning market. It is cooked as you wait, some like naan breads and dosa are cooked in a Tandoor oven or in a iron tava others like samosas, bajiis, pakoras catchoris and pooris are deep fried in huge iron woks called Kad. Idli of south India are steamed and served with little bowls of sambar. The Indians love to snack, some poorer families don’t have any kitchens, few rural families have ovens. So all cooking is done over wood fires or with dried cow pats. In villages, towns and cities breakfast, lunch and evening meals come from street stalls, that specialize in just one or two items . 

Hard core foodies who want to enhance their Indian gastronomic experience need to develop a sixth sense survival strategy. First observe the stall quietly, not quite so easy when you are conspicuously white and foreign. As ever, its best to gravitate towards the busier stalls. If locals are already queueing up its likely to be the best choice in the area. Ask for the food to be cooked in front of you, rather than accepting an item that was cooked earlier. Much of Indian food is vegetarian. If it contains meat it will be referred to as non veg, Chicken or mutton (meaning goat) are the most usual meats. In some areas close to the sea, local fish can be very good. 

As far as street foods are concerned. Calcutta or Kalcota as it is now known, was by far the most vibrant and varied. We headed for the office area near Dalhousie Square just before noon when all the government clerks spill out of their offices and take a break from filling in dusty ledgers.

Just behind the office area and all around the corner there are food stalls on both sides of the pavement. The variety is staggering and affordable. As we wander down the street the vendors are gearing up for the imminent onslaught. One is chanting a puja around his stall. Several have little auspicious garlands of limes and chilli hanging from their umbrellas to ward off evil spirits. One romali roti maker feeds his first stuffed ‘handkerchief bread’ to the brazier as he murmurs a prayer, presumably to ask for a busy lunchtime trade. Indians of all ages and creeds are exceedingly devout.

All the ‘mise-en-place’ is done, bread dough made, vegetables chopped, pickles and chutneys at the ready. Big pots of mutton and chicken biryani are steaming hot ready to serve.

Other stalls are piled high with the ingredients for an ‘egg toast’ with chopped onion, green chilli, fresh coriander added to the beaten egg. It is fried on a hot tava in a little sizzling oil on a hot tava, then cut into quarters, sprinkled with pepper and coarse salt. Can you imagine how delicious that is. The skill and speed at which they work is astounding. Several are doing vegetable and non vegetable versions of the famous Kolcata Kati roll. 

Other stalls are piled high with flaky triangular Shingaras (Bengali savoury samosas) and moghlai parathas, stuffed with mince.

Another vendor is selling roast hard boiled eggs with pickles and chatt masala, yet another roti and gravy. Cauliflower is in season so yet another has crispy little cauliflower fritters which have been dipped in a gram (chickpea flour) batter laced with chilli powder and turmeric, so moreish. Many of the foods are served in little leaf baskets on banana leaves or in recycled newspaper bags.

Juice Wallahs have their stalls piled high with watermelons, pineapples, pomegranates and mangos. Tea shops making sweet chai and spicy marsala chai are also doing a roaring trade. 

There was much, much more, chickpea stews, dahls , fresh and cooked, vegetable salads, always spiced up with a hot sauce and served with a segment of lime.

Indians have an incredibly sweet tooth, several other stalls are providing a variety of sweet meats. One chap is piping thin spirals of a batter into hot oil to make Jalebas. When they are crisp they will be dropped into a heavy syrup to provide a tooth-wrenching sweet, but other favourites are the famous Rosagulla made from casein.

Sadly while we were there the Times of India carried a lead story that the Indian government planned to ban street food in Delhi. 

This may well be the beginning of the end for this kind of food which provides a livelihood and inexpensive nutritious food for literally millions of Indians of every class and creed every day.

Here are a few examples of some of the street foods I enjoyed.

Indian Spiced Vegetable Pakoras with Mango Relish

Serves 4-6
1 thin aubergine cut into 3 inch (5mm) slices
1 teasp. salt
2 medium courgettes, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) slices, if they are very large cut into quarters
12 cauliflower florets
6 large mushrooms, cut in half

6 ozs (170g) cups Chick pea or all-purpose flour
1 tablesp. chopped fresh coriander
1 scant teasp. salt
2 teasp. curry powder
1 tablesp. olive oil
1 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
6-8 fl ozs (175-250ml) iced water

Vegetable oil for deep frying
Garnish: Lemon wedges and coriander or parsley 

Put the aubergine slices into a colander, sprinkle with the salt, and let drain while preparing the other vegetables.

Blanch the courgettes and cauliflower florets separately in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water, and dry well. Rinse the aubergine slices and pat dry. 

Put the flour, coriander, salt and curry powder into a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil, lemon juice and water until the batter is the consistency of thick cream. 

Heat good quality oil to 180C in a deep fry. Lightly whisk the batter and dip the vegetables in batches of 5 or 6, slip them carefully into the hot oil. Fry the pakoras for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning them with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a moderate oven (uncovered) while you cook the remainder. Allow the oil to come back to 180C between batches. When all the vegetable fritters are ready, garnish with lemon wedges and fresh or deep fried coriander or parsley. Serve at once with Mango relish.

Mango Relish

2 fl ozs (50ml) medium sherry
2 fl ozs (50ml) water
2 fl ozs (50ml) white wine vinegar
2 tablesp. sugar
2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 teasp. salt
Pinch of ground mace
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablesp. lemon juice

Put the sherry, water, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, star anise, salt and mace into a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mango, pepper, and lemon juice, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Spoon into a screw top jar and refrigerate until required.


250ml (9fl oz) full fat milk
2-3 cardamom pods
2.5cm (1inch) piece of cinnamon
3 peppercorns
3 teaspoons loose tea leaves
500ml (18fl oz) boiling water

Put all the ingredients except the tea leaves and the sugar into a saucepan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Bring back to the boil, add the tea leaves, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 1-2 mins. Turn off the heat and allow the leaves to settle. Serve in tea cups.

Cauliflower Fritters – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj – published by Kyle Cathie

Phoolkopir bhaja

Serves 4
For the batter:
150g flour
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon ajowan seeds

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

300g cauliflower, cut into medium-sized florettes

Make a thick batter of all the batter ingredients and batter as needed to achieve the consistency of thick custard.

Heat the oil in a deep kadhai or frying pan until it is nearly smoking.
Dip each cauliflower florette in the batter and gently add to the hot oil. Reduce the heat to allow the cauliflower to cook through. Do this in batches, a few at a time, frying until golden, then drain on absorbent paper.
Serve hot with Pineapple Chutney or tomato ketchup.

Potatoes and Green Pea Samosas – from India’s Vegetarian Cooking by Monisha Bharadwaj

Mutter ke Samose

Serves 4 (makes 12 samosas)
Samosas are very popular all over the world and can be served as a snack, a main meal or a picnic treat. In India they are served with tomato ketchup, sweet and sour tamarind chutney or a spicy mint relish. The potatoes in this recipe need to be cut up finely, almost the size of a fingernail. They should retain their shape but melt in the mouth. Although they are traditionally deep-fried, Monisha bakes hers.

2 tablespoons sunflower oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
¼ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
300g potatoes, peeled, cut into small cubes, boiled and drained
150g frozen green peas, cooked and drained
500g frozen ready-to-use filo pastry

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the cumin seeds until they turn dark, for a few seconds. Reduce the heat.

Add the spice powders and stir in the potatoes at once as the spice powders will scorch easily. Add the peas and salt and cook until well blended, for a couple of minutes.

Line a baking tray with tinfoil and preheat the oven to 220C/gas 6.

Lay a sheet of pastry on a flat surface. Fill with a bit of the potato and pea mixture. Fold the pastry to make a triangle and continue similarly for the rest of the filling. (Folding technique: lift the top centre corner and fold over the filling to be in line with the bottom edge, making a triangle shape. Now lift the right bottom corner over to the top and then the top left down again. Carry on until you have a triangular parcel).

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning over once to cook both sides.
Serve hot.

Foolproof Food

Indian ‘French toast’

Serves 4
4 thickish slices of good white bread
3 - 4 free range eggs
1 green chilli chopped 
4 tablespoons of freshly chopped coriander 
1 small onion chopped 
rock or sea salt 
freshly ground pepper

First lightly toast the bread (in Calcutta it was chargrilled over charcoal). Whisk the eggs in a flattish dish; add salt, finely chopped onion, green chilli and coriander. 

Dip one slice of bread into the egg, turn over to make sure it is saturated on both sides. Slap it onto a hot pan with a little sizzling oil. Cook until crispy on both sides. Cut in quarters, sprinkle with rock salt and serve. 

Hot Tips

Launch of Diversity Awards 2007
The launch of the Diversity Awards 2007 will take place on Monday 22nd March at the Stephen's Green Hibernian Club. 
Funded by the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform, under the 'National Action Plan Against Racism' (NPAR), the mission of the Diversity Awards is to recognise and celebrate the initiatives, policies and practices taken by both companies and individuals who embrace diversity within the Irish Hospitality and Tourism Industry. 
The Diversity Awards were first launched in 2006, and were met with great success. Now in their second year the Diversity Awards will be open to applications within a range of categories. 
For more information email Helen at 

Burrenbeo Information Centre and Café Beo reopen after winter break

The Burrenbeo Resource Centre and Cafe Beo - located in Kinvara - is now open, Wed - Sat, 10am to 6pm daily. Featuring: Images of the Burren - a stunning collection of photographic images of the Burrens rich heritage, Multilingual factsheets and other free Burren information, free broadband internet access, as well as an extensive range of Burren reference books to browse through while you relax with a cup of the best (fair trade) coffee in the Burren!

Diploma in Speciality Food Production – at University College Cork
2 April – 16 May 2007. This course is for individuals who are starting a speciality food business and also for those involved in this sector including producers, retailers, culinary specialists, buyers, food designers and journalists. For details contact Mary McCarthy Buckley, Food Industry Training Unit, University College Cork. Tel 021-4903363

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander

In Australia, many of the top culinary icons I met were women, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and the incorrigible, and irrepressible Cherry Ripe.
Stephanie Alexander opened Stephanie’s Restaurant in Melbourne in 1976, a landmark establishment later credited with having revolutionized fine dining in Australia.

From 1997, along with several pals, she set up and ran Richmond Hill Café and Larder, a neighbourhood café renowned particularly for its superb cheese.

Stephanie is one of Australia’s most highly regarded authors. She’s written innumerable cookbooks and her signature publication – The Cook’s Companion has established itself in almost 400,000 homes world wide, including pride of place in the library in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

I am full of admiration for Stephanie in so many ways, not least for her work in spearheading the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College in 2001. 

The programme’s aim was to introduce inner-city kids to the joys of healthy, homemade food. Since then, she and her team have worked with hundreds of primary school children, teaching them to grow edible organic produce in the school grounds, and to turn their harvest into wonderful dishes such as muffins, homemade pastas, vegetable-rich winter soups and decorated tea eggs.

Unlike other cookbooks for kids, Stephanie’s recipes do not assume that a child’s palate is unsophisticated or unable to appreciate complex tastes. Although the recipes are simple, Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids incorporates a wide range of interesting ingredients, with a particular emphasis on those that are healthy and inexpensive. Stephanie also arranges her menus seasonally to encourage an appreciation for fresh (even home-grown!) produce, rather than packaged and pre-prepared convenience foods.

Stephanie’s philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, then everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. In Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids, Stephanie gathers together 120 recipes, all specially written for children, with simple instructions, a list of equipment needed for each recipe, a colourful layout and lots of fast, fun facts for curious minds. But while all of these recipes can be negotiated by a couple of eight year olds in aprons with a bit of adult supervision – the dishes are anything but standard kids’ fare: alongside the muffins and slices are homemade pastas, Indian curries, Asian tea eggs and vegetable-rich winter soups.

The book also tells the story behind the recipes – the inspiring tale of the Kitchen Garden at Collingwood College. In 2001, Stephanie initiated a garden and cooking programme in a large inner-city Melbourne school. Since then the programme has given hundreds of primary school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food – freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious.

Stephanie’s book will appeal not only to mums and kids but also to the growing number of teachers who are developing kitchen gardens and school food initiatives.

Kitchen Garden Cooking for kids – by Stephanie Alexander
Published by Lantern, an imprint of Penguin Books

Buy this Book from

Vietnamese Chicken and Cabbage Salad

This delicious salad can be made up to an hour before your wish to eat it and kept refrigerated, but if made too far in advance the cabbage and daikon will lose their crunchy texture. On another day you could use prawns or poached fish instead of chicken.
Serves 6 or tasting for 12

Poached chicken fillets
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 x 2cm piece fresh ginger
2 skinless chicken breast fillets

3 cloves garlic
1 long red chilli (use disposable gloves if you can)
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
â…“ cup fish sauce
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Cabbage Salad

1 carrot
1 daikon (Chinese radish)
½ cabbage
1 small red onion
20 mint leaves
12 stems coriander 

Trim the outside layer from the spring onions and cut off the tops and ends, then cut the rest into 4 pieces. Peel and slice the ginger. Fill the saucepan with water, add the spring onions and ginger, then bring to a simmering point over a high heat. Carefully slip the chicken breasts into the saucepan and allow the water to return to a simmering point, then use the ladle to skim off and discard any froth that rises to the top. Cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the chicken to cool in the liquid for 5 minutes. Do not lift the lid during this time. Use the tongs to transfer the chicken breasts to the plate. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate until needed.

Now make the dressing. Peel the garlic. Place the cloves on the chopping board and flatten with the side of a large knife. Finely chop the garlic and place in a large bowl.

Slip on the disposable gloves and slit the chilli in half lengthways. Scrape the seeds into the rubbish bin. Slice the chilli as finely as you can and place in the garlic bowl. Discard the gloves. Wash and dry the chopping board and knife. Juice the lime. Add the lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, oil and sugar to the garlic bowl and stir.

Make the cabbage salad. Soak the coriander in a small bowl of water. Peel the carrot and daikon. Using the food processor or a vegetable slicing gadget, shred the carrot and daikon and add to the dressing bowl. Cut away the thick stalk from the cabbage, then cut the cabbage into 2 or 3 pieces. Using the large knife, shred the cabbage and add to the dressing bowl. Peel the red onion and cut it in half lengthways, then place the flat sides on the chopping board and slice each half into fine rings. Add to the dressing bowl. Place all vegetable scraps in the compost bucket.

Using your fingers, shred the cooked chicken breasts.

Add the chicken to the bowl with the dressing and vegetables.

Lift the coriander from its soaking water. Rinse the mint. Dry the herbs by rolling in the tea towel. Set aside 6-12 leaves to use as a garnish, then roughly chop the rest and add to the bowl.

Use a large spoon to mix all the ingredients together, then spoon into serving bowls and top with the reserved coriander or mint.

Chargrilled Middle Eastern Lamb Burgers with Pita Breads

Makes 10 small burgers
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ onion
1 lemon
15 stalks parsley
10 sprigs thyme
500g minced lamb
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 small pita pocket breads
½ cup yoghurt

You will need 2 baking trays and a frying pan. Chopping board and knives. Mortar and pestle.
Preheat the oven to 150C and put one of the baking trays in the oven to keep warm.
Heat the frying pan over a medium heat. Tip in the coriander seeds and stir with a wooden spoon until they start to smell fragrant. Tip the seeds into the mortar. Toast the cumin seeds in the same pan until they, too, smell fragrant. Add these seeds to the mortar and wipe out the frying pan with a piece of kitchen paper.

Using the pestle, grind the toasted seeds to a coarse powder. Tip the powder into a large bowl. Set out the chopping board and knives. Peel and chop the onion finely (or grate it) and tip into the bowl. Juice the lemon and grate the zest, adding both to the bowl.

Rinse the parsley and thyme, dry by rolling in the tea towel, then chop. Add the herbs to the bowl. Now add the lamb and salt, along with a good grind of black pepper. Make sure your hands are very clean, then use your hands to mix everything together very well.

Heat the frying pan over a medium heat and add a tiny dash of the oil. Take a walnut-sized piece of the mixture and fry it in the frying pan for a couple of minutes. Using a tongs, lift this sample out of the frying pan. Allow to cool a little, then taste it to decide if the mixture needs more salt or pepper.

Form the mixture into 10 equal balls. Flatten each ball a bit with the back of a fork and place on the cold baking tray. Using the pastry brush, brush the lamb burgers with the oil. Heat the chargrill pan over a medium-to-high heat. Place the burgers carefully on the hot grill – do not try to move them once they have been placed. Turn after 8-10 minutes and cook the other side for about 5 minutes.

As the burgers are cooked, transfer them to the baking tray that has been in the oven.

While the burgers are grilling, brush the pita pocket breads with oil, then place on the oven rack to warm through. This should take 5-8 minutes. Serve the burgers and warm breads at the table, where your guests should open their pita breads, spoon in some tabbouleh and then top with the lamb burger and a dollop of yoghurt.


Serves 6
½ cup cracked wheat
3 tomatoes
1 long cucumber
2 spring onions (scallions)
1 clove garlic
10 stalks parsley
15 mint leaves
1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the cracked wheat in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Soak for 10 minutes, then tip into the strainer. Press out as much liquid as possible with the back of the tablespoon.

Tip the cracked wheat into a thick tea towel and roll it like a sausage. Two people are now needed to each hold one end of the tea-towel sausage, and to twist in opposite directions to squeeze even more liquid from the grains.

Rinse and dry the bowl used to soak the cracked wheat, then unwrap the ‘sausage’ and carefully shake the cracked wheat into the bowl.

Set out the chopping board and knives. As you chop the following ingredients, place them in the bowl with the cracked wheat. Cut the tomatoes into small dice using the serrated knife. Peel and dice the cucumber. Trim the outside layer from the spring onions, cut off their tops and ends, then finely slice the rest. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

Rinse the parsley and mint and dry by rolling in the second tea towel. Chop the herbs and add to the other ingredients. Juice the lemon. In the small bowl, mix the oil and lemon juice to make a dressing, then add to the medium bowl. Mix everything together and taste for salt and pepper. Spread the parsley evenly throughout. Transfer the tabbouleh to the serving bowl and serve.

Orange and Cardamom Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Makes 10
125g butter
¾ cup castor sugar (170g)
2 large oranges 
2 eggs
125g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cardamom

Cream Cheese Icing
60g pure icing sugar
60g cream cheese
30g butter

You will need a 12 hold muffin tray and 10 cupcake cases (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C. If using cupcake cases , drop one into each of the holes in the muffin tin. Otherwise, weigh the butter, then melt 1 tablespoon into the small saucepan and use the pastry brush to grease the holes of the muffin tin.

Set out the chopping board and knife. Cut the remainder of the butter into small cubes and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add the sugar and run the motor for 1 minute.

Juice the oranges and place the juice in a medium bowl. Grate the zest from the oranges and add the zest to the bowl. Crack the eggs into the same bowl, then lightly whisk to combine. Sift the flour and ground cardamom into a second medium bowl.

With the food processor running, and working quickly, add about one-third of the egg and juice mixture, then add about one-third of the sifted flour. Immediately add another one-third of the egg mixture and another one-third of the flour, then the remaining egg mixture and flour and process until smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter evenly into 10 holes of the greased muffin tin, filling each hole about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked. To test the cakes, remove from the oven and insert a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, the cakes are done.

While the cakes are cooking, make the icing. Wash and dry the bowl of the food processor and place the sieve over the top. Tip the icing sugar into the sieve and use a spoon to push the icing sugar through. Cut the cream cheese into small cubes, then tip into the food processor, along with the butter, and process until smooth and creamy.

Remove the cakes from the oven. Allow them to cool for 1 minute in the tin, then turn the tin upside-down and bang the bottom of the tray to release the cakes. Place right side up on the wire rack to cool completely. When the cakes are cool, use the spatula to spread a little icing on top of each cake and serve.

Hot Tips

Cooking for Kids with Rachel Allen – 
Half day course at Ballymaloe Cookery School - 2pm on Friday 13th April – Tel 021-4646785 to book.

Chinese New Year 2007 is The Year of the Pig – 
To expand your repertoire of Chinese cooking have a look at some Chinese cookbooks recently on the shelves –
Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong – published by Penguin Michael Joseph
Shows how Chinese cooking has never been easier . Using the freshest produce, simplest cooking techniques and step-by-step photographs, the 14 chapters containing over 100 recipes are each devoted to one main ingredient – be it chicken, rice, stocks or seafood.
The Chinese Kitchen by Deh-ta-Hsiung – Originally published in 1999 this classic has recently been reissued by Kyle Cathie – a wonderful overview of Chinese ingredients and useful sources.
China Modern by Ching-He Huang – also by Kyle Cathie
100 cutting-edge, fusion-style recipes for the 21st century. In China Modern, Ching-He Huang explores new influences from the rest of the Far East as well as the West, looking first at familiar recipes and giving them a makeover as well as traditional home cooking from the less well known provinces such as Hunan and Sichuan.

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority
Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058  Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766 

Foolproof Food

Stir-fried Pork Fillets with Honey and Ginger

From Simple Chinese Food by Kylie Kwong
Serve as a meal for 4 with steamed rice or as part of a banquet for 4-6
If possible, marinate the pork overnight for better flavour!

600g (1lb 4oz) pork fillets, cut into 5mm (¼ in) slices
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut into 10cm (4in) lengths
1 tablespoon malt vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
2 limes, halved

2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons finely diced ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil 

Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add half the marinated pork and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside. Heat remaining oil in the wok, add remaining pork and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. Return reserved pork to the wok with spring onions, vinegar, soy sauce and water. Stir-fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.

Arrange pork on a platter and serve with lime halves.

BBC Good Food Magazine

BBC Good Food Magazine is the most popular and best selling food magazine in the British Isles. Novice cooks and chefs alike snap it up off the newsstands every month to pore over the glossy food photos, read about food issues and the latest trends and to find recipes for fast and slow foods.

Food-writer Angela Nilsen has contributed to the magazine for many years and has won both the Glenfiddich Cookery Writer Award and the Guild of Food Writers’ Cookery Journalist of the Year Award for her work on the ‘Ultimate’ series in BBC Good Food Magazine.

In this column Angela set out to find the ultimate recipe for many classic dishes. Through a mixture of research and trial and error she arrived at what she considers to be the foolproof version of many old favourites. Through a combination of her own research, testing and fine-tuning techniques, as well as consultation with distinguished chefs and writers for their insider tips and advice, Angela has come up with 50 definitive recipes. From making the perfect French Omelette with Raymond Blanc, to Apple-Pie inspiration with Gordon Ramsay, Angela has explored endless possibilities in her search for success, including the tastiest Fish Cakes (with a little help from Rick Stein) and a rich Thai Green Chicken Curry. She enlists the help of Gennaro Contaldo in creating the creamiest ever Spaghetti Carbonara and brunch expert Bill Granger for softly Scrambled Eggs. Even soups and salads prove a challenge, but Angela ends the debate once and for all on the likes of French Onion Soup and Caesar Salad, and kneads the ideal loaf of bread with baker Dan Lepard. Marshmallowy Meringues come with the aid of Mary Berry, the Aga Queen, and perfected recipes for Vanilla Ice Cream and Lemon Meringue Pie bring Angela’s journey to a delicious end.

It contains 50 definitive recipes and gives the background to every recipe, the testing, the discussions, the problems she faced – and then explains exactly how to make the best ever version with tips, hints and step-by-step photographs. So whether you are a novice or a practised cook, this book will earn its place on your kitchen shelf. 

Here are some of the ultimate recipes for you to try, but you’ll need to seek out the book to read about Angela’s journey to reach the ‘ultimate’.

The Ultimate Recipe Book by Angela Nilsen – published by BBC Books

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 4
Ready in 25-35 minutes

100g/4oz pancetta
50g/2oz Pecorino cheese
50g/2oz Parmesan
3 eggs, preferably organic
350g/12oz spaghetti (De Cecco is very good)
2 plump garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
50g/2oz unsalted butter

1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Finely chop the pancetta, having first removed any rind. Finely grate both cheeses and mix them together. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated ground black pepper and set everything aside.

2. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water, add the spaghetti and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).

3. Squash the garlic with the blade of a knife, just to bruise it. While the spaghetti is cooking, fry the pancetta with the garlic. Drop the butter into a large wide frying pan or wok and, as soon as the butter has melted, tip in the pancetta and garlic. Leave these to cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the pancetta is golden and crisp. The garlic has now imparted its flavour, so take it out with a slotted spoon and discard.

4. Keep the heat under the pancetta on low. When the pasta is ready, lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the pancetta. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.

5. Mix most of the cheese with the eggs, keeping a small handful back for sprinkling over later. Take the pan of spaghetti and pancetta off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture (which thickens but doesn’t scramble) and everything is coated. Add extra pasta-cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist. Season with salt, if needed.

6. Use a long-pronged fork to twist the pasta onto the serving plate or bowl. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of the remaining cheese and a grating of black pepper. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.

Fish Chowder

Serves 4 as a light lunch or supper (easily halved)
200g (7oz) packet lardons
1 large knob of butter 
2 leeks (about 350g/12oz), thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Small pinch of crushed dried chillies
2 bay leaves
650g/1lb7oz potatoes, Desiree are good, peeled and sliced thickly (about 5mm/¼ inch) thick (Angela recommends a floury/waxy variety of potato that would release starch to thicken the chowder, but would also hold its shape)
700ml/1¼ pints fish or chicken stock (from a good-quality cube or powder is fine)
450g/1lb skinless haddock (the fish should be a firm and lean variety)
150ml (5fl.oz) carton single cream
Roughly chopped fresh parsley for scattering

1. Heat a wide deep sauté pan. Tip in the lardons and fry until they have released their fat and have started to crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, putting to one side for later.

Drop the knob of butter into the pan and, as it sizzles, add the leeks, thyme, chillies and bay leaves and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until starting to soften, but still bright green.

2. Tip in the potatoes, fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in the stock (it should just cover them). Boil over a high heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, until they are almost cooked through.

(No need to stir as the potatoes may break up). As they boil, their starch will be released and start to thicken the liquid.) 

3. Lay the whole fillets of fish on top of the potatoes so they are immersed as much as possible in the stock. Cover and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let sit, still covered, for 5 minutes so the fish can finish cooking gently. Pour in the cream and shake the pan (rather than stir) so it mixes in, as you don’t want to break up the potatoes and fish. Season with pepper – you may not need salt, depending on the stock you have used. The chowder can now rest for an hour or overnight in the fridge, which gives the flavours a chance to develop more. This is called ‘curing’.

4. To serve, scatter the lardons over. Warm the chowder gently, being careful not to let it boil. Lift the fish and potatoes out with a slotted spoon, letting the fish break into very big chunks as you do so. Pile them both in the centre of wide shallow bowls or plates. Spoon the liquid around and scatter with the chopped parsley.

Roast Chicken

Serves 4
1 lemon
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1.6-1.8kg/3½-4lb organic chicken, the best you can afford
Sprigs of bay leaves, or bunch of fresh tarragon
25g/1oz butter, and a bit extra to butter the tin
Wedges of red onion and/or carrot if you don’t have a rack, or 
1 large red onion, peeled and cut in thick wedges for optional gravy

1.Heat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/gas 5. Halve the lemon and prick all over many times with a skewer or toothpick – this releases the juices and adds fragrance to the chicken as it roasts. Push the onion and lemon into the cavity of the chicken, along with the bay or tarragon. Keep the other sprigs for garnish.

2.Melt the butter in a small pan or more quickly in the microwave and brush the chicken all over with a pastry brush, including the parts where the thighs meet the body of the bird. Season liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper.

3.Now you have a choice. If you have a rack, sit the bird on that, on its side, propped up with balls of foil if the rack is flat. If not, put a few chunks of carrot, red onion or both on the bottom of a buttered roasting tin (choose one that the bird will fit into snugly) and sit the chicken on them.

4. Roast for 20 minutes on the first side. Then, if the bird is on a rack, scatter the red onion underneath if you want to make the gravy (see below).

Turn, then baste with some of the juices and roast for 20 minutes on the other side. A clean tea towel makes it easier to hang on to the bird for turning. Turn the chicken breast-side up, keep the wings tucked under and baste again. Discard any foil and roast for another 30-40 minutes until really golden. To test whether the chicken is cooked, push a skewer into the fleshiest part and if the juices are clear, rather than pink, it is done. Or give the legs a bit of a tug – the chicken is done if they wiggle and move away from the body easily. If not, roast a bit longer.

5.Lift the chicken out of the oven and leave it to relax, loosely uncovered with foil, for 10-15 minutes. Sit it on your best platter and tuck a few bay sprigs in the cavity.

Simple creamy gravy – 

Angela Nilsen says she ‘picked up a great tip for a quick gravy from food writer Jeni Wright.’ Scatter a red onion, in wedges, in the bottom of the roasting tin for the last 50 minutes. Remove the chicken from the tin and, while it rests, tip a 250g carton of crème fraiche into the tin with the onion and juices and heat through, stirring. If you want to make it go further, pour in some stock.

Crème Brûlée

Serves 4
2 cartons double cream, 1 large (284ml) plus 1 small (142ml)
100ml/3½ fl.oz full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod
5 egg yolks, preferably organic
50g/2oz golden castor sugar, plus extra for the topping

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Sit four 175ml/6fl.oz ramekins in a deep roasting tin at least 7.5cm/3in deep (or a large deep cake tin), one that will enable a baking tray to sit well above the ramekins when laid across the top of the tin. Pour the two cartons of cream into a medium pan with the milk. Lay the vanilla pod on a board and slice it lengthways through the middle with a sharp knife to split it in two. Use the tip of the knife to scrape out all the tiny seeds into the cream mixture. Drop the vanilla pod in as well, and set aside. 
Put the egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk for 1 minute with an electric hand-whisk until paler in colour and a bit fluffy. Put the pan with the cream on a medium heat and bring almost to the boil. As soon as you see bubbles appear round the edge, take the pan off the heat. 
Pour the hot cream into the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a wire whisk as you do so, and scraping out the seeds from the pan. Set a fine sieve over a large wide jug or bowl and pour the hot mixture through to strain it, encouraging any stray vanilla seeds through at the end. Using a big spoon, scoop off all the pale foam that is sitting on top of the liquid (this will be several spoonfuls) and discard. Give the mixture a stir. 
Pour in enough hot water (from the tap is fine) into the roasting tin to come about 1.5cm/ 5/8 inch up the sides of the ramekins. Pour the hot cream into the ramekins so you fill them right up to the top (its easier to spoon in the last little bit). Put them in the oven and lay a baking sheet over the top of the tin so it sits well above the ramekins and completely covers them, but not the whole tin, leaving a small gap at one side to allow air to circulate. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is softly set. To check, gently sway the roasting tin and if the crème brûlées are ready they will wobble a bit like jelly in the middle. Don’t let them get too firm. 
Lift the ramekins out of the roasting tin with oven gloves and set them on a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes only, then put in the fridge to cool completely. This can be done overnight without affecting the texture. 
When ready to serve, wipe round the top edge of the dishes, sprinkle 1½ teaspoons of caster sugar over each ramekin and spread it out with the back of a spoon completely. Spray with a little water using a fine spray (the sort you buy in a craft shop) to just dampen the sugar, then use a blow torch to caramelize it. Hold the flame just above the sugar and keep moving it round and round until caramelized. Serve when the brûlée is firm, or within an hour or two. 

Foolproof Food

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 36-40, depending on size
So much nicer than any you buy and really quick and easy to make. You can keep some dough in the fridge or freezer.
Try to get really good quality chocolate chips – its worth the difference

225g (8 oz) butter
200g (7 oz) brown sugar
165g (6 oz) castor sugar
2 eggs, preferably free range
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
340g (12 oz) plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
150 g (5 oz) chocolate chips
100 g (3½ oz ) chopped nuts - hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Cream the butter, add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the egg bit by bit, then the vanilla essence.

Mix the dry ingredients together and fold them in. Lastly, add the chocolate chips and the chopped nuts.

Divide the mixture into 7g (¼ oz) pieces, for teeny weeny pieces, or 30g (1oz) for medium sized or 55g (2oz) for American style cookies onto baking sheets. Remember to allow lots of room for spreading. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, depending on size. Cool for a few minutes on the tray and then transfer to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

Hot Tips

Failte Ireland, the National Tourism Development Authority

Will be running a series of continuing professional development programmes in all areas of tourism and hospitality in 2007 – courses are run nationwide – for details of courses in each area – Cork 021-4313058 Dublin 01-8847766  Galway 091-561432  Midlands 01-8847766

Spains Gastronomic Summit

The Gastronomic Summit in Spain, called Madrid Fusion has now become an annual affair. This year was the fifth and arguably the most spectacular so far. Spain’s avant-garde chefs are now generally considered to be leading the way in what has become known as molecular gastronomy!  

The ‘high priest’ of this movement is Ferran Adria, the brilliant young chef whose restaurant El Bulli has become a place of pilgrimage for chefs, food lovers and ‘restaurant collectors’ all over the world. To secure a booking in the restaurant is the equivalent of a win in the lotto. Rumour has it that El Bulli is booked solid for four or five years.

My first encounter with Adria was at Tasting Australia in 2004. He dazzled the crowd with his alchemy, when he made jellies, foams, mousses, soufflés and I can’t remember what else with water alone. He told us about his laboratory and his new toys. To produce this sort of alchemy there are a number of ‘must have toys’ – Pacojet, Thermomix, Dehydrator, and a variety of solutions including liquid nitrogen,

Ferran has inspired and thrilled a whole generation of chefs. To me he was like an over-excited little boy with a new chemistry set – no mention of flavour, it was all about tricky new textures and garnishes – smacked of the emperor’s new clothes.

But that was before I tasted his food, I still haven’t been to El Bulli but I’ve tasted some of his signature dishes at the drinks party he hosted at the Casino de Madrid.

The first realization is that nothing is ever as it seems. A green olive on a tiny plate is in fact a little bubble of olive juice that bursts in your mouth with a delicious essence of olive.

A meltingly tender mussel is suspended in another bubble with a whiff of fresh lime juice. What looks like fish roe turns out to be little beads of lychee juice which have been made by injecting little droplets of a lychee solution into liquid nitrogen through a syringe. A gin and tonic sorbet is made in seconds with dry ice, an oyster on the half shell has a tiny pearl of liquid smoky bacon flavour….. these are just a few of the temptations!

This is not the kind of food that you or I will be doing anytime soon, but as with nouvelle cuisine I’m sure that many of the techniques will be absorbed into the mainstream chef’s repertoire, some will filter down into the keen cook’s kitchen. This year the theme of the conference was Produce. Some chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, UK ‘s most famous proponent of molecular gastronomy ignored the brief and went on a flight of fancy about recreating the childhood memories of a ‘kid in a candy shop’.

The movers and shakers from all over the world were there. Tetsuya Wakuda from Sydney, less of a revolutionary but a true genius in the kitchen.

Seiji Yamamoto, a brilliant young chef from Japan has been applying avant garde techniques to create exciting textures and sensational flavours in his kitchen for several years. For the finale of his demonstration he created a link between creative gastronomy and the latest communication technology – an edible menu on a plate which reads over the latest generation of mobile phone, this was definitely a glimpse of the future.

For those of you who might be going to Tokyo sometime soon book well ahead at Nihonryori/ryugin.

Also thinking well outside the box are Spanish chefs Dani Garcia and Angel Leon. Dani has become famous for his ‘nitrogen cuisine’ and his 21st Century interpretation of Andalusian dishes. Dani has many Irish fans of his restaurant Caluma in Marbella. 

Chef Angel Leon, the Prince of Tides, spends almost as much time in the sea as in kitchen and laboratory. Angel has invented a process for using fish scales and fish eyes to enhance the flavour of his food. His latest work in association with the University of Cadiz is on a micro filter algae for broths. These chefs and the growing number of acolytes all have laboratories beside their kitchens and many are linking up with food scientists and technology whizz kids, to go places where chefs have never travelled before.

Charlie Trotter, US super chef from Chicago presented his creations amidst many references to his new book on spa cuisine.

Trotter who has virtually every gastronomic accolade in the US is an outspoken advocate of the use of the freshest sustainable organic ingredients. He uses only naturally raised free range meat and game and line-caught seafood and has banned the use of foie gras in his menus.

Fellow chef Dan Barber has a similar social and moral philosophy at his restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills just north of New York City. The restaurant is in the centre of an organic farm which grows much of the produce for the restaurant. I haven’t eaten at Blue Hill yet but it is high on my wish list – just 45 minutes on the Hudson River Line train from Grand Central Station in New York.  

None of these chef’s recipe are easily reproduced at home so here are some other delicious and more familiar dishes from Spain.

Jago’s Tortilla de Patatas

This recipe was given to us by Jago Chesterton from Huelva in the South of Spain when he was a student at the school.
In Spain you must understand, Tortilla is not just a dish it’s a way of life. Tortillas or flat omelettes not to be confused with the Mexican tortilla which is a flat bread, are loved by Spaniards and tourists alike. You'll be offered them in every home, in the most elegant restaurants and the most run down establishments - no picnic would be complete without a tortilla and every tapas bar will have appetising wedges of tortilla on display. People even eat it at the cinema. 
Tortilla de Patatas sounds deceptively simple but its not as easy to make to perfection as you might think.
Serves 6-8

8-9 eggs, free range and organic
14ozs (400g) diced potato (1.5cm)
6ozs (175g) diced onion
3fl oz (75ml) extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

The secret of success is to use enough oil. Put a generous (2.5cm) 1 inch of olive oil into a frying pan. Fry the potatoes and onions in the hot oil for about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and cook until the potatoes are golden on the outside and soft in the middle. Drain off the excess oil from the potatoes. 

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the potato and onion mixture. Put 2 tablespoons of oil back into the pan, when it begins to sizzle pour in the egg mixture then lower the heat, when the egg begins to cook, loosen around the edge continue to cook shaking the pan occasionally. When the tortilla is well set and golden underneath, cover the pan with an oiled plate and turn it out, be careful not to burn your hand. Add a little more oil to the frying pan if necessary. Slide the tortilla back in cooked side uppermost. Cook until firm but still slightly moist in the centre. Serve hot or at room temperature cut into wedges.

Spanish Almond Cake

From Rachel’s Favourite Food by Rachel Allen
This is great warm or cold and keeps for ages, probably more than a week if you didn't keep having a slice! It's so good with a cup of coffee or tea. It's also delicious with a ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon put in at the start or the grated rind of 1 lemon or 1 small orange. Also fabulous with ice cream, poached fruit, etc.
Serves 6-8

3 eggs, separated
5½oz (150g) ground almonds
5½oz (150g) caster sugar
1 dessertspoon icing sugar, for dusting at the end

You will also need a 7 inch (18cm) springform cake tin

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

Butter the sides of the springform cake tin and cut a round of greaseproof paper to line the base. Separate the eggs and put the yolks into a medium bowl. Add 4½oz (130g) of the sugar and beat until slightly pale in colour. Add the ground almonds and mix to combine. In another bowl whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the remaining ¾oz (20g) of sugar and continue whisking the mixture until it forms stiff peaks and is nice and glossy. Stir one-third of the whisked egg whites into the almond mixture, then carefully fold in the rest in two batches, not knocking out any air. Pour the cake batter into the tin and place in the centre of the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean from the centre (too high up in the oven and the top gets too brown). When cooked, let it sit for a few minutes in the tin, then remove and cool slightly on a wire rack. Sieve some icing sugar over the top.


Paella is a fantastic dish to make for large numbers of people. In Spain you can buy a gas ring specially for cooking paella on a picnic.
Serves 10-12

6 tablespoons approximately of extra virgin olive oil 
2 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
1 large red pepper, cut into 1cm (1/2inch) cubes
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 free-range organic chicken, jointed and cut into smallish pieces
225g (8oz) organic streaky pork, cut into cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon saffron
1kg (2 1/4lb) paella rice approximately (generous ½ cup per person) 
1.8 – 2.4l (3-4 pints) homemade chicken stock (use more if needed)
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
450g (1lb) frozen peas
450g (1lb) mussels in shells
12 prawns in shells

4 very ripe tomatoes
Flat parsley sprigs and coarsely chopped chives

Paella pan, 46cm (18 inch) approximately

Put lots of olive oil in the paella pan. Add the pork and cook for a few minutes until the fat begins to run. Add the garlic, onions and peppers. Cook for 4-5 minutes, then add the chicken. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then add the sliced chorizo.

Sauté for 15 minutes, soak a teaspoon of saffron in a cup of warm chicken stock and stir around. Add to the pan. Add the rice, (about ½ cup per person). Add stock to almost cover, stir to blend and then don’t stir again unless absolutely necessary. Add the peas. 
Bring to the boil and simmer really gently for about 20 minutes until the meat is cooked. About 5 minutes from the end of cooking, add the mussels and the prawns in their shells. Continue to cook until the mussels open and the prawns are cooked. Stand over it and move the ingredients around a little. Bring the paella pan to the table. Scatter with lots of flat parsley sprigs and some freshly chopped tomato and chives. Serve immediately directly from the pan. 

Foolproof Food

Adorable Baby Banoffies

Have a few tins of toffee ready in your larder – then this yummy pud is made in minutes.
Makes 8-12

1 x 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
8-12 Gold grain biscuits
3 bananas
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
225ml (8fl oz) whipped cream
Chocolate curls made from about 175g (6oz) chocolate
Toased flaked almonds

8-12 individual glasses or bowls

To make the toffee, put the can of condensed milk into a saucepan and cover with hot water, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for three hours. By which time the condensed milk will have turned into a thick unctuous toffee.

Break a biscuit into each glass or bowl. Peel and slice the bananas and toss in the freshly squeezed lemon juice. Top with a little toffee. Put a blob of softly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and decorate with a few chocolate curls.

Cook’s Book

Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros published by Murdoch Books

Tessa Kiros was born in London to a Finnish mother and a Greek-Cypriot father. The family moved to South Africa when she was four and at the age of eighteen, Tessa set off to travel and learn all she could about the world’s cultures and traditions. She has cooked at London’s The Groucho Club and in Sydney, Athens and Mexico. She lives in Tuscany with her Italian husband Giovanni and their two daughters. “I have collected these recipes over the years. This food is for families, for young people, for old people, for children, for the child in all….. for life. Some are recipes I remember from my own childhood, others are the food I want to cook now for my family.”
Buy this Book from
Sausage and Potato Goulash
This is a great, quick, tasty, meal-in-one that will serve quite a few people or leave you with enough leftovers for the next day. Adults can serve theirs with a twist of pepper. This can be completely prepared in advance and just warmed up to serve. It is important to use good-quality sausages – Italian sausages are also good.
Serves 8

750g (1lb 10oz) good quality sausages
2 tablespoons olive oil
30g (1oz) butter
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1kg (2lb 4oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
250g (9oz) tinned diced tomatoes
A piece of cassia bark or ½ cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Slice the sausages into rounds about 1cm (½ inch) thick. Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy-based pan (cast iron is good) and sauté the onion for a couple of minutes over medium heat. Stir in the paprika, cook for 30 seconds or so and then add the sausages. Continue cooking, stirring fairly often, until the sausages turn golden in places. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, cassia and bay leaf and 500ml (17fl.oz/2 cups) of hot water. Season with salt and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are softened and the soup is thick and stewy. Stir with a wooden spoon from time to time and shuffle the bits at the bottom to make sure they don’t stick. If the potatoes are not quite done after that time, take the pan off the heat and leave it with the lid on for the potatoes to continue steaming. Mix the parsley through and serve hot, or even at room temperature.

Hot Tips

Urru now open in Mallow –
Ruth and Willie Healy have just opened a sister shop of Urru, their very successful Bandon culinary store.
Stocking olive oils and cheeses, Arbutus breads, Bubble Brother Wines, handmade chocolates, Farmhouse cheeses, Glenilen Dairy and Ummera Smokehouse products to mention a few. Urru, Bank Place, Mallow Tel 022 53192 and McSwiney Quay, Bandon Tel 023-54731.

Grow Your Own Veg 
Bored by bags of limp salad? Put off by overpriced tasteless produce? Want to reduce your food miles and pesticide input? The RHS will show you how with Grown Your Own VEG online - this coincides with a new BBC2 and RHS TV series Grow Your Own Veg and a book of the same name.  

La Brea Bakery Café 
Ireland’s first La Brea Bakery Café is now open in Arnotts Department Store, Henry St. Dublin.

Breakfast in Paradise

We’re sitting on the bank of the River Colotepec, where it meets the sea, south East of Puerto Escondido on the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

We drove down a dirt track for over 35 minutes before we came upon a simple palapa thatched with leaves of the royal palm.

A Mexican family restaurant with all four generations helping, Granda seems to be in charge of the grounds, he’s raking leaves off the grass and the sandy floor of the outdoor restaurant. The grandchildren help in the kitchen. The boy and his mother are knee deep in water wandering along by the edge of the river bank scooping up tiny shrimps from underneath the rushes in a large tin sieve. The vertebrae and jaw bone of a whale have been carefully reassembled from the remains of a pilot whale which was beached by the waves.

There are four or five white plastic tables and chairs provided by Coronas the Mexican beer company. The tables are covered with bright plastic oil cloth. Many Mexican cafes and restaurants seem to have their furniture provided by drinks companies.

Apart from one group of locals, we are the only customers on this beautiful morning. Everyone stares at the gringos, all except one little boy sitting under a coconut tree, who is intently reading aloud from the new book he got for Christmas, oblivious of the curious arrivals. The sky is blue, the white sand glistening in the early noon sun. The river is teeming with birds, pelicans, jacanas, vultures and cormorants.

It’s a blissfully peaceful spot. Local fishermen are returning from their dawn fishing expedition, nets slung over one shoulder and fresh catch of blanquitos, frey and cocineros hanging from a stick or string. We watch as they hide their simple fishing tackle in the reeds on the opposite bank. This type of fishing is completely sustainable in this environment.

Further along the beach there are turtle tracks where sea turtles laid their eggs before dawn and covered them with sand before they shuffled back into the sea to begin their journey back to the Galapagos Islands.

An eager youth arrives with pencil and paper to take our order. We order from the orange cardboard menu, sopes with refried beans, queso fresco and avocado. Quesadillas with Oaxacan string cheese and epazote, two red snapper, one cooked ‘naturel’ and one ‘al ajio’ (with garlic). Some of those tiny shrimps and of course, huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and hot chocolate.

Breakfast is cooked on a comal ( a big flat earthware plate) in a simple open air kitchen, over a wood fire on a handmade adobe stove.

I watched the women cook in the open air kitchen, passing their skills from one generation to the next, kneading the masa (corn meal) to make tortillas and then slapping them on the hot comal to cook. Some formed the basis of quesadillas or others called sopes were pinched to give slightly raised edges, which enclose the refried beans and crumbled cheese. These are served with a slice or two of avocado on top. The tiny shrimp like camaroncitos were added to a huevos Mexicana mixture to make special little scrambled egg patties. They fry them in oil on a pan until crisp on the outside and soft and tender in the centre. They were totally delicious and must be an incredibly important source of calcium for the indigenous people who live beside the river. Simple fare, but truly delicious.

A gastronomic experience that memories are made of, to soothe the soul on a miserable February morning in Ireland.

Quesadillas with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole

Quesadillas are one of the favourite snacks in Mexico. On Sundays in Oaxaca there are little stalls on the streets and squares with women making and selling these delicious stuffed tortillas, they flavoured them with an aromatic leaf called Hoja Santa or Epazote, and shredded chicken and fiery tomato sauce.
Serves 4

8 corn tortillas or 4 wheat flour tortillas
4-8 ozs (110g) Mozzarella cheese, grated or a mixture of Cheddar and Mozzarella
2 green chillies, cut in strips (optional)
Tomato and Coriander Salsa (foolproof food)

Heat an iron pan or griddle.
There are two ways of making quesadillas, one resembles a sandwich, the other a turnover.

To make the former, lay a tortilla on the hot pan. Put about 1 oz (30 g) of cheese on one half, keeping it a little from the edge, lay a leaf or two of epazote on top, sprinkle on a few strips or dice of chilli. Fold over the other side, seal. Cook for a minute or two, then carefully turn over.

Serve just as it is or cut into quarters with Tomato and Coriander Salsa and Guacamole and perhaps Frijoles Refritos (Refried Beans).

Quesadillas with Cheese and Zucchini Blossoms
A favourite filling for quesadillas in Oaxaca is simply grated Oaxacan string cheese (mozzarella is our nearest equivalent) and fresh zucchini blossoms. Thinly sliced green chilli is sometimes added for extra excitement!

Fundido con chistora

Artisan meat curing wizard Fingal Ferguson, makes a delicious chistora, a thin chorizo sausage, which I use for this recipe.
Serves 4

4 earthenware dishes (terracetta) 4½in (11.5cm) wide x 2in (5cm) deep
8oz (225g) cheese - Quesa fresca or Mozzarella
5oz (150g) chistora

Preheat the oven to 275C/500F, gas 9

Slice the chistora into 1inch (2.5cm) lengths.
Divide the grated cheese and chistora between the dishes
Place in the preheated oven for 6 minutes.
As soon as the cheese is melted, serve immediately with lots of hot crusty bread.

Duck Tacos

Serves 6 approx
2 roast duck legs or confit
12 small tortillas
Finely chopped fresh coriander

Remove the meat and crispy skin from the bone, chop in small pieces, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Warm the tortillas, wrap in a cotton napkin and keep warm.

Put a little mound of seasoned duck on each plate or do a communal bowl.
Serve guacamole, finely chopped onion and freshly chopped coriander as an accompaniment, so each diner makes up their own tacos.

Mexican Scrambled Eggs – Huevos a la Mexicana

Chiolita showed me how to make this favourite Mexican breakfast dish. One mouthful transports me back to Oaxaco - one of the most magical places in the world.
Serves 4

1½ ozs (45g) butter (in Oaxaca they would use lard)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-3 chillies - depending on how much excitement you would like in your life!
1 very ripe tomato, chopped
8 free-range eggs
2 teasp. salt

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat, cook the onion and chilli until the onion is soft but not coloured, add the tomato and cook gently for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the salt until well mixed, add them to the saucepan and scramble, stirring all the time until cooked to your taste, serve immediately.

Huevos Camaroncitos

Ingredients as above plus 4oz (110g) tiny cooked camaroncitos or tiny peeled cook shrimps.
Makes 12

6 soft rolls
Refried beans
Oaxacan string cheese or Mozzarella
Tomato salsa – pico de Gallo

Split the fresh rolls.
Spread each one with warm refried beans. Top with cheese and pop under the grill or into a hot oven until the cheese melts.
Serve with Tomato Salsa and Guacamole.

Foolproof Food

Tomato and Coriander Salsa

This sauce is ever present on Mexican tables to serve with all manner of dishes. Salsas of all kinds both fresh and cooked have now become a favourite accompaniment to everything from pangrilled meat to a piece of sizzling fish. Best in Summer and early Autumn when tomatoes are ripe and juicy.
Serves 4-6

4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½-1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
Squeeze of fresh lime juice
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Mix all the ingredients together. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Cooks Book

Food Adventures - introducing your child to flavours from around the world
By Elizabeth Luard & Frances Boswell, published by Kyle Cathie

Elizabeth Luard is a multi-award-winning cookery writer whose previous books include Flavours of Andalucia, Sacred Food, The Latin American Kitchen and the Food of Spain & Portugal. Frances Boswell made her name as food stylist and food editor for Martha Stewart’s Living, she is also Elizabeth Luard’s daughter in law.

In most societies around the world, even quite young babies join the grown-ups at table, perched on a parent’s or grandparent’s knee, eating what the grown-ups eat – fresh, nutritious food in a child-friendly form. No need for smiley faces on the pizza; babies and small children are naturally adventurous. 

In 100 recipes from all over the globe, this book takes us from first spoonfuls to first schooldays, exploring and adapting the dishes that children are encouraged to try as soon as they’re old enough to sit up and take notice of what’s on the plate. 

It provides recipes which can be prepared by busy parents everywhere, using readily available ingredients and no great culinary skills. Dishes – mostly simple, some a little more sophisticated – are chosen not only because they look and taste good, but because they are the food children actually like to eat.

Food adventures are, after all, not just for babies – they are the starter for a whole new lifetime of enjoyable food.

Avocado with Tortilla Crisps and Black Beans –

Guacamole con nachos y frijoles
From Food Adventures by Elizabeth Luard and Frances Boswell

Mexico is where avocados come from and guacamole is the Aztec word for something mashed up. Avocados are a miracle foodstuff: they contain just about everything a person needs to keep body and soul together – particularly when eaten with maize-flour tortillas, the bread of the Aztecs. They’re high in protein, rich and fibre and carbohydrates, well endowed with all essential vitamins and minerals, and better still for babies, they’re easily digested. High levels of copper and iron in easily assimilable form make them good for anaemia. What more can anyone ask?

Combined with other things that taste good – shredded chicken, beans, fresh white cheese, a few slivers of fiery green chilli – this dish is an adventure in flavours as well as a complete meal in itself.

If your avocados are hard, wrap them in newspaper and store in a warm place for 3-4 days to ripen. Store ripe avocados wrapped in paper in the salad compartment of the fridge: if you keep them in the fridge in a plastic bag, they spoil as soon as they meet the air.
Serves 2 children and 2 adults

For the guacamole
2 large, perfectly ripe avocados
Juice of 2-3 limes or 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
½ teaspoon of sea salt
1-2 green chillies, deseeded and chopped

For the nachos
8 small maize-flour tortillas (or 4 large wheat-flour tortillas)
Oil for shallow frying

For the accompaniments
About 200g shredded cooked chicken
About 175g fresh, crumbly white cheese (Mexican queso fresca or Greek feta)
500g ready-cooked black beans

Halve the avocados, remove the stones, scoop out the flesh and mash roughly with a fork – don’t puree. Fork in the lime or lemon juice, chopped coriander and salt. You can add the chilli to the mash, or provide it on the side for people to stir in their own to taste.

Cut the tortillas into triangles – known in Mexico as nachos, these are the most convenient for scooping. For a tostada, leave the tortilla whole (makes a great edible plate); for chilaquiles, cut into strips (good for adding to soups); for totopos, cut into squares (good for salting and nibbling). Heat a depth of about 2cm oil and drop in the nachos, a few at a time, wait till they crisp and take a little colour (maize-flour tortillas take longer than wheat-flour), then turn to gild the other side.

Serve the crisp nachos with the guacamole. On the side for people to choose what they want, offer crumbled white cheese, shredded chicken and black beans – nicer heated and mashed in a little oil, a preparation know as frijoles refritos, re-fried beans.

Hot Tips

East Cork Slow Food Events
‘Overview of Edible Irish Seaweeds’ with Dr Prannie Rhatigan GP, Member of Board of Directors of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Letrim – at Ballymaloe Cookery School at 7.00pm on Wednesday 24th January. €10 members, €15 non-members, including refreshments.

‘A Celebration Dinner of Local Food’ with Chef Gary Masterson, at Fire & Ice Café, 8 The Courtyard, Main St. Midleton, Co Cork, Monday 29th January, 7.30pm
€45 members, €50 non-members.
Booking essential – for both events call Miriam on 021-4646785,

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group –Meeting on 25th January at 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café –- Passing on the Skills for Growing Your Own Food - Hear about Community Food Initiatives in Sligo/Leitrim from Dr. Prannie Rhatigan. Admission €6 including tea or coffee

Irish Seedsavers, Capparoe, Scariff, Co Clare, Tel 061-921866 to book a place

New series of courses starting this weekend –
20 & 21 January and repeated on 3 & 4 February – Woodland Footpath Construction
27 & 28 January – Introduction to Coppersmithing
7 February – Creating an Orchard, 10 February – Hedgerow Maintenance & Management
24 &25 February – Coppice Management & Rural Crafts
All courses 10-4 €60 for 1 day course and €120 for 2 days -10% discount for Seedsaver members. Bring packed lunch and wet gear.

Irish Hospitality Institute Hospitality Management Skillnet - Health and Safety Two-Day Training Module
Clarion Hotel, Cork - Wednesday 24th January & Thursday 8th February – 9.30am-5.30pm
Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath – Thursday 8th March & Thursday 22nd March – 9.30am – 5.30pm
For HR Managers, Training Managers, Head Chefs and Operations Managers
Contact Sarah Collins, Tel 01-6624790 - email:marketing@ihi .

Skye Gyngell and Petersham Nurseries

2006 produced a raft of terrific cookbooks, some truly inspirational, but for me the most exciting ‘new’ talent to burst onto the culinary scene in the past few years is a wild young thing called Skye Gyngell.

When I say ‘young’, Skye is not exactly a teenager but she’s still got that wonderfully endearing hippy-like quality, the infectious enthusiasm of youth. She is completely passionate about food, real food, slow food, food fresh from the garden. Skye is totally seasonal in her approach and adores her vegetable and herb patch and draws much of her inspiration from it.

Not long before Christmas I went to her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries near Richmond, I can’t remember when I was last so enchanted by a restaurant experience. It’s a 45 minute taxi ride from central London, you can’t get a tube to Richmond but you may find it difficult to get a taxi to take you along the long winding lane beside Richmond Park in South West London . When you arrive, you emerge into what is truly a magical enclave of good taste.

Alongside fabulous plants, trees and shrubs there is antique garden furniture to break your heart and destroy your bank balance, old tools, beautiful containers and a fascinating mix of other enchanting artefacts and accessories sourced by the owners, Gael and Francesco Boglione.

The restaurant is in one of the greenhouses in the nursery, in fact it now spills into several. The eclectic mix of tables and chairs sit on the good earth in the midst of the tumbling plants and beautiful antique objects all for sale. It is the perfect setting for the café.

Skye is Australian by birth, she worked in a number of Sydney’s culinary hot spots, also in Paris and London and is Vogue’s acclaimed food writer. She also writes regularly for The Independent on Sunday. The café at Petersham Nurseries is rapidly acquiring a reputation for superb food in an outstanding setting. In 2005 she gained the restaurant its first award: Time Out’s Best Al Fresco Restaurant Award and early last year it received Tatler’s Most Original Restaurant Award.

We started with a glass of fresh raspberry Prosecco and then a variety of delicious dishes with fresh vibrant flavours. A plate of Mezze included a roasted tomato and red pepper puree, a tangy beetroot puree and a gorgeous unctuous chick pea puree with a salad of fresh and wild leaves, a few slow roasted tomatoes and a fresh lemony goat cheese – delicious original flavours.

Skye Gyngell Teaches at the Ballymaloe cookery school Tel 004420 8940 5230 café Tel 0044 20 8605 3627

‘A Year in my Kitchen’ by Skye Gyngell, published by Quadrille Publishing Ltd.

Slow Cooked Pork Belly with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and star anise.

This is a deliciously rich and unctuous winter dish. Skye likes to serve it with braised lentils, but it is also very good with lightly cooked Asian greens, such as pak choi.
Serves 6

2kg piece belly of pork (organic, free-range)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 tsp cloves
1 red chilli
3cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp chopped coriander, roots and stems
100ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml maple syrup
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil

To serve:
Braised lentils

Put the pork belly into a large cooking pot (or pan) in which it fits quite snugly and add cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, then immediately turn off the heat and remove the pork from the pan. Drain off the water and rinse out the pan.

One-third fill the pan with cold water and place over a medium heat. Add the pork, this time along with the spices, chilli, ginger, garlic and chopped coriander roots and stems. If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the meat, add some more water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer very gently for 1½ hours until the meat is cooked and very tender. If you have the rib end, the meat will have shrunk back to expose the tips of the bones. With a pair of tongs, carefully remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Turn the heat up under the pan to high and add the tamari and maple syrup. (If you don’t want the sauce to taste ‘hot’, remove the ginger and chilli at this point.) Let the liquid bubble until reduced by half, this will take about 20 minutes. As the sauce reduces, the flavours will become very intense, forming, a rich, dark sauce.

In the meantime, slice the pork belly into individual servings – one rib should be enough per person. Season the ribs with a little salt and pepper. Place a heavy-based frying pan over a high heat and add the oil. Heat until the pan is starting to smoke, then add the pork ribs and brown well on both sides until crunchy and golden brown on the surface. Strain the reduced liquour.

To serve, lay a rib on each warm plate (or soup plate) and spoon over the reduced sauce and warm braised lentils. Serve at once.

Braised Oxtail with ginger, five spice and garlic

‘I love slow-cooking cheaper cuts of meat and oxtail has a fantastic ability to absorb the wonderful aromatic flavours in this recipe. The result is a sticky, fragrant and beautifully rich meat dish that literally melts in your mouth. A sweet potato puree works really well with this dish or, if you want something a little gentler, steamed rice would be perfect.’
Serves 3-4

1kg oxtail, cut into large pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Bunch of coriander, washed
1 tbsp Chinese five spice powder (preferably freshly prepared)
2 x 400g cans good quality chopped tomatoes
1 litre chicken stock
50ml fish sauce
50ml tamari (or soy sauce)
75ml palm sugar or 5 tbsp maple syrup

Put the oxtail into a large pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then pour off the water. Rinse the oxtail thoroughly under cold running water and set aside to drain.

Place a large cooking pot or flameproof casserole over a medium heat and add the oil. When it is hot, add the onions, ginger, chillies and garlic. Turn the heat to low and sweat gently for 10 minutes or until the onions become translucent.

Meanwhile, separate the coriander leaves from the stems and set aside for garnishing if you like. Finely chop the root and stems and add these to the pan with the five spice powder. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to release the beautiful aromatic flavours.

Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer, then return the oxtail to the pan, ensuring that the pieces are fully submerged. Braise very gently for 1½ hours or until the oxtail is really soft and sticky.

Add the fish sauce, tamari and sugar or maple syrup. Turn up the heat just slightly and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavours a little if you need to. Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander leaves if you so wish.

Sautéed Savoy Cabbage with Chilli and Garlic Oils

Savoy cabbage is a lovely, vibrant winter vegetable that works really well with slow-cooked dishes and vegetable purées, as well as simple grilled white fish
Serves 4

1 medium Savoy cabbage
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp Chilli Oil – see below
1 tbsp Garlic Oil – see below
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tbsp very finely chopped curly parsley

To finish
1 medium red chilli, finely shredded
Or a squeeze of lemon juice to taste, plus 1 tablesp very finely chopped curly parsley

Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage, retaining those that you can as the dark outer leaves are really beautiful when cooked. With a sharp knife, remove the fibrous central core of the outer leaves and then slice the leaves crossways into fine ribbons. Slice the rest of the cabbage in half lengthways and similarly cut into ribbons (there is no need to remove the core as it is quite tender).

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a very generous pinch of salt. Plunge the cabbage into the boiling water and allow to return to the boil. Immediately tip the cabbage into a colander, drain well, then place in a warm bowl.

Drizzle the chilli and garlic oils over the cabbage and add the lemon zest and chopped parsley. Toss to mix, then taste and add a little seasoning if needed. For an extra kick, scatter over some shredded red chilli. Alternatively, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped parsley and a good grinding of pepper. Serve straight away while piping hot!

Chilli Oil

Skye says ‘I use this oil to give a dish a gentle kick, not an intense overwhelming heat. I therefore use the large red chillies, which are fairly mild in flavour, and always remove their seeds.

To prepare, halve 4 large chillies lengthways and remove the seeds. Slice lengthways into very fine strips, then cut across into tiny squares (almost mincing the chillies). Place in a bowl, add a pinch of sea salt and then pour over 200ml olive oil. Use within 1 or 2 days.

Garlic Oil

I am drawn to strong, clean flavours in food and love the gutsy punch of chopped raw garlic. I’m not afraid to throw raw garlic on to many dishes, especially if its rawness is slightly tempered by a really good quality olive oil. I often fold a spoonful or two of garlic oil into lemon mayonnaise or flavoured yoghurt to give it a kick. And a bowl of borlotti or white beans really comes alive if you stir in a spoonful or two just before eating.

To prepare, peel 10 garlic cloves, chop them very finely and place in a bowl with a good pinch of sea salt. Pour over 200ml extra virgin olive oil and stir to combine. Use the oil immediately, or within a day or two.

Blood Orange and Rosemary Jelly

A lovely, light, palate-cleansing dessert, this is jelly as it should be …wobbly, cool and not too sweet. Blood oranges are one of my favourite things. These beautiful, blackberry-scented jewels are usually around from December to March, but they are at their best during January and February – just when winter seems almost too barren to bear. You will need about 10 oranges to obtain the amount of juice you need, depending on their size. As the flesh of blood oranges varies in colour and pattern, so will the depth of colour of this jelly.
Serves 4

600ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
100g caster sugar
3 rosemary sprigs
3½ sachets of leaf gelatine (or 11g sachet powdered gelatine)
Sunflower (or other neutral flavoured) oil, to oil

To serve
Blood orange slices and a little freshly squeezed juice

Put the orange juice and sugar into a saucepan. Lay the rosemary sprigs on a board and bruise to release their flavour by pressing them firmly with the handle of your knife, then add to the saucepan. Immerse the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water and leave to soften for about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, place the saucepan over a gentle heat to dissolve the sugar. As the juice begins to warm through, it will take on the flavour of the rosemary. When the sugar has completely dissolved and the juice comes just to the boil, take off the heat. Remove the gelatine from the cold water and squeeze to remove excess liquid, then add to the hot orange juice and stir to dissolve. Strain through a sieve into a bowl, to remove any pithy bits and the rosemary.

Lightly oil 4 individual pudding bowls and pour in the jelly. Allow to cool completely, then place in the fridge to set – this will only take 1 or 2 hours. I like to serve these jellies on the day they are made, as they continue to set if you leave them in the fridge for longer and can become too firm.

To serve, place slice of blood orange on each serving plate and squeeze over a little more juice. To unmould each jelly, briefly dip the base of the mould into warm water, then run a little knife around the rim and invert on to the plate. Serve straight away.

Foolproof Food

Parsnip Purée with thyme, mustard and crème fraîche

 Sweet and nutty in flavour, this is a lovely winter purée. It works well with simple grilled meats and with slow-cooked rabbit and chicken dishes.
Serves 4

1kg parsnips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
50g unsalted butter
2 tbsp. crème fraîche
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and roughly chop the parsnips. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water and add a good pinch of salt and the thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the parsnips are really tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Tip the hot parsnips into a blender and add the mustard, butter, crème fraîche and nutmeg. Whiz to a smooth purée. Check for seasoning – you’ll probably need to add a little salt and a generous grinding of pepper. If the purée needs to be warmed through, return to the pan and stir over a low heat to reheat before serving.

Cooks Book

Larousse Gastronomique – in 4 paperback volumes

Since is original publication in 1938, “Larousse Gastronomique” has withstood the test of time and trend, to remain the world’s most authoritative culinary reference book.
Recently published in four paperback volumes by Hamlyn – Fish & Shellfish - Vegetables and Salads - Desserts, Cakes & Pastries - Meat, Poultry & Game – indispensable for the cook’s library.

Watch out for some nice fresh herrings and cook them simply as follows – from Larousse Fish and Shellfish.

Fried Herring
Choose small herrings weighing about 125g (4½oz). Clean, trim, score and soak them in milk for about 30 minutes. Drain. Coat with flour and deep-fry in oil at 175c (347F) for 3-4 minutes. Drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and serve them with lemon quarters.

Grilled Herring
Clean and trim medium-sized herrings. Brush them with oil or melted butter, season with pepper and cook under a moderate grill. Sprinkle with salt and serve with maître d’hôtel butter or a mustard sauce.

Hot Tips

Green Box scoops tourism award
The Green Box is Ireland’s first integrated sustainable and ecotourism visitor destination. It recently achieved a ‘highly commended’ award for ‘Best New Destination’ at the First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards, which were part of the World Travel Market 2006, held in London in November.  

M E G A B Y T E S by John & Sally McKenna

An up-to-the-minute selection of news and reviews which will tell you everything you need to know about who and what is happening in contemporary Irish food.

1_The Megabytes Awards for 2006 

2_The Megabytes Talents for 2007 

3_Ten New Things to Taste in 2007 

4_The 2007 Bridgestone 100 Best Guides and Website

Christmas Leftovers

It always seems to be so difficult to decide just how much food one needs to buy in for Christmas, I never seem to get it right. Even my most meticulous plans change – late invitations mean that food is relegated to the back of the fridge and the best laid plans are cheerfully ditched to accept a spontaneous invitation.

Last week I was sorting through the miscellaneous items still in the fridge and pantry after the festive season, what a jumble. I’ve been making New Year resolutions to use up all those little bits that have been chucked into the freezer in a desperate effort to reduce waste when plans have changed.

So what did I find? Several bags of cranberries – they freeze brilliantly and can of course be made into cranberry sauce to accompany a juicy roast pheasant, guinea fowl or chicken at any time, but you may want to try something a little less predictable. Throw a fistful into the dry ingredients when you are making scones, or add them to a muffin mix, the bittersweet flavour is a delicious surprise. 

We have also been putting cranberries in ice-cubes to use in drinks over the festive season. They look pretty and taste good, particularly if you have time to prick them with a needle and soak the cranberries in a little simple sugar syrup beforehand.

A bittersweet cranberry sauce is delicious as a filling in a meringue roulade or in a feather-light sponge with some softly whipped cream. My current favourite though is a pear, cranberry and almond tart. It is rich and intense and keeps well – a little slice is perfect with a blob of whipped cream after dinner.

Many houses have a pot or two of mincemeat left over also, most recipes keep well, sometimes even for years, so there’s no great urgency to use it up, but when you begin to feel peckish again try making this mincemeat bread and butter pudding or mincemeat crumble tart. They are both so delectable that it is almost worth making mincemeat specially to try them. A layer of mincemeat is also delicious on the base of a Bramley apple tart.

certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

I also found a bag of Brussels sprouts in need of attention, so I experimented with Thai flavours with delicious results. 

Brussels Sprouts puree is also delicious with a peppered steak.

This Christmas I got a present of not one, but two beautiful Pannetone. The rich featherlight yeasted Italian cake wrapped in gold paper and silk ribbon, makes an irresistible nibble over Christmas and leftovers made the best Summer pudding. Its certainly no hardship eating these leftovers.

Happy New Year to all our readers!

Festive Pear and Cranberry Tart

This is certainly one of the most impressive of the French tarts, it is wonderful served warm but is also very good cold and it keeps for several days. Splash in a little Kirsch if you are using pears.
Serves 8 - 10

3 ripe pears 
4ozs (110g) cranberries approximately

Shortcrust Pastry
7 ozs (200g) flour
4 ozs (110g) cold butter
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
pinch of salt
3-4 tablesp. cold water

3 ½ ozs (100g) butter
3 ½ozs (100g) castor sugar
1 egg, beaten 
1 egg yolk, preferably free range
2 tablesp. Kirsch if using pears 
4 ozs (110g) whole blanched almonds, ground 
1 oz (30g) flour

To Finish
¼ pint (150ml) approx. apricot glaze 

9 inch (23cm) diameter flan ring or tart tin with a removable base 

First make the shortcrust pastry,

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with the fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop. Whisk the egg yolk and add the water. 

Take a fork or knife (whichever you feel most comfortable with) and add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect the pastry into a ball with your hands. This way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although slightly damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper shorter crust.

Cover the pastry with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 15 minutes or better still 30 minutes. This will make the pastry much less elastic and easier to roll.

Next poach the pears (see Foolproof Food) and allow to get cold. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/regulo 4. Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin with it, prick lightly with a fork, flute the edges and chill again until firm. Bake blind for 15-20 minutes.

Next make the frangipane. Cream the butter, gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and soft. Gradually add the egg and egg yolk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the ground almonds and flour and then add the kirsch or calvados. Pour the frangipane into the pastry case spreading it evenly. Drain the pears well and when they are cold cut them crosswise into very thin slices, then lift the sliced pears intact and arrange them around the tart on the frangipane pointed ends towards the centre. I use 5 halves and eat the sixth, heavenly!! Fill in all the spaces with the cranberries.

Turn the oven up to 200C/400F/regulo 6. Bake the tart for 10-15 minutes until the pastry is beginning to brown. Turn down the oven heat to moderate 180C/350F/regulo 4 and continue cooking for 20-30 minutes or until the fruit is tender and the frangipane is set in the centre and nicely golden.

Meanwhile make the apricot glaze. When the tart is fully cooked, paint generously with apricot glaze, remove from the tin and serve warm or cold with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze
Apricot glaze is invaluable to have made up in your fridge. It would always be at hand in a pastry kitchen and is used to glaze tarts which contain green or orange or white fruit, eg. kiwi, grapes, greengages, peaches, oranges, apples or pears. It will turn you into a professional at the flick of a pastry brush!

In a small saucepan (not aluminium), melt 12 ozs (350g) apricot jam with the juice of 3 lemons, water - or enough to make a glaze that can be poured. Push the hot jam through a nylon sieve and store in an airtight jar. Reheat the glaze to melt it before using. The quantities given above make a generous ½ pint (300ml) glaze.

Mincemeat Bread and Butter Pudding

Use up all that leftover bread and mincemeat in a delicious way.
Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed 
1lb (450g) mincemeat 
16 fl ozs (475ml) cream
8 fl ozs (225ml) milk
4 large free-range eggs, beaten lightly
1 teasp. pure vanilla extract
5 ozs (150g) golden castor sugar
grated rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon
A pinch of salt
1 tablesp. sugar for sprinkling on top of the pudding

Softly-whipped cream
1 x 8 inches (20.5cm) square pottery or china dish 

Arrange 4 slices of bread in a single layer in the dish. Sprinkle the mincemeat evenly over the top. Arrange another layer of bread over the mincemeat and sprinkle on the rest of the mincemeat. Cover with the remaining bread.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla essence, sugar and a pinch of salt. Add the grated citrus zest. Pour the liquid over the bread. Sprinkle the sugar over the top, cover with cling film and let the pudding stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Bake in a bain-marie - the water should be half way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of a preheated oven, 180C/350F/regulo 4, for 1 hour approx. or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the warm pudding with some softly-whipped cream.

Note: This pudding reheats perfectly but must be served hot otherwise the suet will congeal.

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using:

1. Barmbrack as a base, add mixed spice or cinnamon.

2. Pannettone – proceed as above.

3. Brioche – proceed as Bread and Butter Pudding or use Apricot jam and lace with apricot brandy.

Brussels Sprouts with Thai Flavours

Serves 4-6
1lb (450g) Brussels sprouts, cut in half, blanched and refreshed in boiling salted water
400ml (14fl oz) coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry paste
1 Thai green chilli, pounded (optional – if you like a hotter curry)
175ml (6fl oz) chicken stock 
2 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tablespoon palm sugar or a little less of soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nam Pla)
20 basil leaves
1 large red chilli, pounded
1 tablespoon soya sauce

Heat the wok on a low heat. Pour 110ml (4fl oz) coconut milk into the wok. Add the green curry paste and a pounded green chilli, and mix well. Then add the stock, remainder of the coconut milk, Brussels sprouts, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and fish sauce, half the basil leaves and pounded red chilli.

Stir constantly on a medium heat until the sauce boils and foams up. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, otherwise the sauce may separate – it should be cooked in about 10 minutes. Add the remainder of the basil leaves, taste for seasoning, add soya sauce if necessary. Serve hot with steamed rice. 

Classic Parmesan and Gruyère Cheese Soufflé

Guests are always wildly impressed by a well risen soufflé and believe me its not rocket science so don’t imagine for one moment that you can’t do it - a soufflé is simply a well flavoured sauce enriched with egg yolks and lightened with stiffly beaten egg. Soufflés are much more good humoured than you think and can even be frozen when they are ready for the oven. The French do infinite variations on the theme, both sweet and savoury. I love to make this recipe with some of the best Farmhouse cheese eg: Desmond or Gabriel or a mature Coolea, you will probably find that you have bits of various cheese in the fridge since Christmas. It would also make a nice change from rich meat dishes.
Serves 8-10

For the moulds:
Melted butter

15g (½ oz) Parmesan cheese (Parmigano Reggiano is best) - optional
45g (1½ oz) butter
30g (1 oz) flour
300ml (½ pint) milk
4 eggs, preferably free range and organic 
55g (2 oz) Gruyere cheese, finely grated 
55g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 individual soufflé dishes, 7cm (2¾ inch) diameter x (4cm)1½ inch high or one large dish 15cm (6 inch) diameter x 6.5cm (2½inch) high.

First prepare the soufflé dish or dishes: brush evenly with melted butter and if you like dust with a little freshly grated Parmesan. 

Preheat the oven to 200º C/400º F /gas mark 6 and a baking sheet. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a gentle heat for 1-2 minutes. Draw off the heat and whisk in the milk, return to the heat, whisk as it comes to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Separate the eggs and put the whites into a large copper, glass or stainless steel bowl, making sure it’s spotlessly clean and dry. Whisk the yolks one by one into the white sauce, add the cheese, season with salt, pepper, cayenne and a little freshly ground nutmeg. It should taste hugely seasoned at this because the egg whites will dull the seasoning. Stir over a gentle heat for just a few seconds until the cheese melts. Remove from the heat. (can be made ahead up to this point)

Whisk the egg whites with a little pinch of salt, slowly at first and then faster until they are light and voluminous and hold a stiff peak when you lift up the whisk. Stir a few tablespoons into the cheese mixture to lighten it and then carefully fold in the rest with a spatula or tablespoon. Fill the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish or dishes (if you fill them ¾ full you will get about 10 but if you smooth the tops you will have about 8). Bake in a preheated oven for 8-9 minutes for the individual soufflés or 20-25 minutes. For the large one you will need to reduce the temperature to moderate, 180ºC / 350º F /gas mark 4, after 15 minutes and a bain marie is a good idea. 

Serve immediately.
Foolproof Food

Poached Pears

6 pears
½lb (225g) sugar
1 pint (600ml) water
a couple of strips of lemon peel and juice of 2 lemons

Bring the sugar and water to the boil with the strips of lemon peel in a non reactive saucepan. Meanwhile peel the pears thinly, cut in half and core carefully with a melon baller or a teaspoon, keeping a good shape. Put the pear halves into the syrup, cut side uppermost, add the lemon juice, cover with a paper lid and the lid of the saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer until the pears are just soft - the tip of a knife or skewer should go through without resistance. Turn into a serving bowl, chill and serve on their own or with homemade vanilla icecream and chocolate sauce, in which case you have Poires Belles Helene - one of Escoffier's great classics.

Top Tip: If you fill the soufflé dishes to the top smooth off with a palette knife then run a washed thumb around the edge of the dishes before they go into the oven to help to get the ‘top hat’ effect when the soufflé is well risen.

Individual frozen soufflés can be baked from the frozen but they will take a few minutes longer to cook.

Cheese Soufflés with salad leaves:
Just before the soufflés are cooling, toss a mixture of salad leaves and divide between the plates.

Hot tips  Created by one of the world's leading authorities on cheese, Juliet Harbutt, the Cheese Web has tons of information about cheese, cheesemakers, cheese sellers and cheese events around the world. It also gives you instant access to information about the British Cheese Awards and Great British Cheese Festival and Juliet's internationally acclaimed cheese books, workshops and masterclasses and tells you how she can help with marketing and merchandising your cheese, train your staff or simply answer any queries you have about cheese.

The Food Map 

About 6 months ago, began to develop maps of interest for people who like to cook. They now have nationwide maps for the following topics:

1. farmers’ markets

2. pick your own fruit and vegetable farms 3. cheese farms 4. farms where you can get fresh and heritage turkeys 5. wineries 6. wine shops 7. cooking schools 

They initially researched and populated these maps ourselves, with the idea in mind that cooking enthusiasts would subsequently add to, and enhance, the information we provided. They mapped each place, and provided space for a written description, photo, and link to a website. Worth a look if planning a foodie trip.


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