CategoryBook Review

The Gastropub phenomenon

The Gastropub phenomenon has been the most exciting development on the UK food scene in the past 10 years. According to Trish Hilferty in her recently published book ‘Gastropub Classics’ – “A gastropub is not just any old pub that serves food; it is much more than that. To qualify as a member of the dining phenomenon of the past decade, the surroundings, the atmosphere, the sounds, the aromas and, most importantly, the food needs to be spot on. The term gastropub was coined in the early Nineties to convey a style of eating out far removed from the formality of restaurant dining. The Eagle in Farringdon, set up in 1991 by Mike Belben and David Eyre, was the forerunner. An old rough and tumble boozer, with an open kitchen, mismatched plates and battered institutional furniture, it set the blueprint for egalitarian dining. It proceeded to blow away the neighbourhood with its relaxed, loose-limbed atmosphere and stunning, Southern European Food. It was quickly dubbed the first gastropub and it set the blueprint for egalitarian dining. All comers were welcome to eat good, simple food while enjoying a pint and a chat in the simple, unfussy ‘public house’ environment.
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This winning formula has led to gastropubs opening up all over London and throughout the country.” “Its runaway success has demonstrated the missing link between the lively social environment of pubs and the more restrained atmosphere of fine dining. Gastropubs are accessible, you should be able to just pop in and have a pint and a bite without any formality.” Asked how best to describe the Eagle after it first opened, Mike Belben said that it was ‘simply a pub, its what a pub should be’.

“The crucial element of a good gastropub is, of course, the food. “The relaxed nature of the pub environment is reflected in the classic gastropub menu. No room for the purist here, its all about mixing and matching. Rustic French and Italian dishes sit side by side with sturdy old-fashioned British offerings. It is precisely this freedom that defines gastropub cookery.

All dishes are only ever as good as their raw ingredients, and gastropub chefs are great champions of local British produce. We are all becoming increasingly aware of the origins and the nature of production of our meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, and the ever-popular farmers markets are making buying great ingredients easy and pleasurable.”

The gastropub movement hasn’t quite taken off in the same way here in Ireland. Several pubs which market themselves as gastropubs are far from it, or don’t have all the elements that Trish Hilferty identifies. However, Deasy’s in Ring near Clonakilty, West Cork and the Ballymore Inn in Ballymore-Eustace, Co Kildare have gathered a loyal clientele.

Here are some recipes from Trish Hilferty’s book to warm the cockles of your heart on a cold winter day, I loved this book and she says herself that “ there isn’t anything here that you can’t make at home.

Gastropub Classics – 150 Defining Recipes by Trish Hilferty, published by Absolute Press.

Gypsy Eggs (Huevos a la Flamenca)

This may not be a gastropub classic in the broadest sense, but it is a classic dish from the first of its kind, the Eagle. This is the type of food that epitomizes what the Eagle is all about : simple, earthy and really, really tasty. Its also the sort of ‘smash and grab’ meal, using whatever kind of cured sausages you have to hand, so you needn’t follow the recipe slavishly. If you have no ham, use some extra chorizo. Don’t much like morcilla? Then leave it out and try another sausage. The possibilities are almost endless
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
100g Serrano ham, chopped
100g chorizo, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon paprika, preferably Spanish sweet pimento
800g canned tomatoes, chopped
150g peas, or broad beans or both (frozen is fine)
100ml light chicken stock or water
350g potatoes, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
100g morcilla sausage, chopped
8 organic eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and add the ham and chorizo. Saute over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until they are beginning to crisp and the chorizo has given up most of its orange fat. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onion, garlic and paprika to the pan and cook over a low heat until the onion has softened. Tip in the tomatoes, peas or beans, stock or water and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes,until the potatoes are tender.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Return the ham and chorizo to the pan and stir in the morcilla, being careful not to break up the delicate sausage. Warm through and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Divde the mixture between 4 individual ovenproof dishes. Make 2 little indentations in each portion and break the eggs into them. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8-10 minutes until the egg whites have just set.

A Pint of Prawns and Mayonnaise
This is not so much a recipe as a few simple instructions on how to put together a snack that is enjoyed in pubs and bars the world over. The most important thing is the shopping; buy the best and freshest prawns you can find. I go for the larger ‘green’ or raw prawns in the shell. The best specimens are firm, with a good bright colour, and smell faintly of the sea. Never buy prawns with black heads or legs – a telltale sign of age. Frozen raw prawns make an acceptable alternative to fresh ones. Thaw them slowly in the fridge on a layer of kitchen paper and cook them as soon as possible.
Allow 8 large prawns per person

The ideal cooking liquid for all shellfish is seawater, but heavily salted fresh water makes a good alternative. Fill your largest saucepan with water, adding 50g sea salt to each litre of water. Bring to a rolling boil and drop in the prawns. When the water has come back to the boil, lower the heat to medium and simmer until they change colour; this should take 2-3 minutes. Check the prawns by lightly squeezing one just under its head – it should be firm but not too solid. Remove the cooked prawns from the water and leave them to drain thoroughly. Serve warm or at room temperature with a pot of mayonnaise and a loaf of crusty white bread.

Rump Steak Sandwich

No bar menu is complete without a juicy steak sandwich and the Eagle’s Bife Ana is one of the best.
Serves 2

500g rump steak, thinly sliced
2 large crusty rolls
2 tablespoons olive oil
Cos lettuce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 small red chilli, finely sliced
1 bay leaf, broken up
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 tablespoons red wine
3 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together in a wide bowl. Add the slices of steak and leave to marinate for 2 hours or so – not much longer or the wine will draw too much liquid from the meat. Remove the steaks from the marinade, let them sit on pieces of kitchen paper for a few minutes to absorb the excess moisture, then drain the liquid and keep to one side.

Warm the rolls in a low oven. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan until it is very hot, almost on the point of smoking, then put the steaks in the pan. Fry them quickly on each side until sealed – it should take less than a minute per side – then transfer them to warm plate. Add the onion, garlic and chilli from the marinade to the pan with a pinch of sea salt and fry for 1 minute, until soft and lightly browned. Pour in the marinade and let it bubble until reduced by half.

Slice the rolls in half and lay a couple of Cos lettuce leaves on the bottom of each one. Place the steaks on top, season lightly with sea salt and black pepper and pour over the marinade. Pop on top of the roll and squish it down hard. Eat immediately, with plenty of napkins on one side to help mop up the juices.

Neck of Lamb and Barley

Serves 6
100g pearl barley
50g unsalted butter
A touch of olive oil
1kg neck of lamb fillet, cut into 2cm discs
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon tomato puree
200ml white wine
400ml light stock or water
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Rinse the barley under cold running water, then put it in a small pan. Barely cover it with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large cast iron casserole. Lightly season the lamb with a little sea salt, then add it to the pan and brown over a medium heat, being careful not to burn the meat or the butter. Transfer the meat to plate and set aside. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic to the pan and sauté over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, until soft and golden. Return the lamb to the pan, stir in the tomato puree, then pour in the wine, letting it bubble for a minute. Add the drained barley, along with the stock or water, and bring to the boil. The liquid should cover the ingredients by about 2cm – if necessary, top it up with a little water. Tuck in the herbs, add another pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, and cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and cook for one and a half hours or until the meat is tender. Check the casserole from time to time, as the barley has a habit of sucking up the cooking juices; if the stew looks as if its drying out, administer a touch more water.

Remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and chopped parsley. Ladle into deep bowls and serve at once.

Treacle Tart

Trish says “ I find this pudding almost tooth-numbingly sweet, but it’s a huge favourite on the pub menu. Sometimes, just for a change and to give the tart a little bit of extra intensity, I substitute black treacle for the golden syrup – it is treacle tart after all.”
Serves 6-8

140ml golden syrup
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon
130g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon ground ginger

For the pastry
225g plain flour
50g caster sugar
115g fridge-cold unsalted butter, diced
2 organic eggs
40ml cold milk

To make the pastry, put the flour and sugar into a food processor and whiz until completely combined. Add the butter and pulse until it has just mixed in; you’re looking for a fine breadcrumb texture. Add one of the eggs and, with the machine running, pour in the milk. Stop the machine as soon as the pastry forms a ball. Scrape out the dough, pat it into a disc, then wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board and use it to line a 24cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Return it to the fridge and leave to rest for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Prick the pastry base all over with a fork, cover it with greaseproof paper and weigh it down with dried beans, or ceramic baking beans if you have them. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes, until the base is firm and golden. Beat the remaining egg and brush it over the pastry base, then return it to the oven for 3 minutes (this will ensure there are no cracks).

Warm the golden syrup in a pan over a low heat until it has completely melted. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, breadcrumbs and ginger. Pour the mixture into the pastry case and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling has set and is a darkish brown colour. Serve warm or cold with thick cream.

Foolproof Food

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Serves 6
500g smoked mackerel fillets
250g unsalted butter, softened
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon wedges, to serve
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the skin off the mackerel fillets, pick out any bones and place the flesh in a food processor with the softened butter. Whiz for 2 minutes or until the fish and butter are completely amalgamated and you have a smooth texture. Squeeze in the lemon juice and a grind of black pepper and give the mixture another quick burst. Scrape the paste out into a dish, cover and chill for about an hour. Serve with the lemon wedges and some hot rye bread.

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BurrenLIFE Project publishes second Annual Newsletter

The BurrenLIFE Project ‘Farming for Conservation in the Burren’- aims to develop a new model for sustainable agriculture in the Burren in order to conserve EU priority habitats such as turloughs, limestone pavements and species-rich grasslands. It is funded through the EU LIFE Nature fund, and is sponsored by National Parks and Wildlife Service in partnership with Teagasc and Burren IFA. To download copy of the newsletter visit or write to BurrenLIFE, Old Schoolhouse, Carron, Co Clare for a copy.

Soup Kitchen by Tommi Miers and Annabel Buckingham

We’re very proud of so many of our past students - they pop up here and there, doing all sorts of interesting things. Many cook in restaurants, others open their own businesses . Some have opened their own cookery schools, food shops and cafes or restaurants.

Others travel and cook, sometimes in the most bizarre locations.

Several are food writers, some like Clodagh McKenna do radio, others like Rachel Allen are doing television series and have written cookbooks.

Yesterday, I got a present through the post of a gorgeous new cookbook , co-written by another former student, Tommi Miers who already had us bursting with pride earlier this year when she won Masterchef. 

Since then Tommi’s career is going into orbit, she is a rapidly rising star, constantly in demand to make guest appearances on TV, radio shows, openings and regular articles in all the trendy food magazines. In the midst of it all, Tommi has a strongly developed social conscience.

She and her co-author Annabel Buckingham met Noel Hennessy and chatted about doing a book to raise money for the homeless charities in London, neither had any experience of the publishing world and no funding for the project. They decided on Soup.

Undeterred by obstacles, (Annabel couldn’t cook and Tommi knew nothing about design, they got on the phone to talk to chefs about soup.

Friends rallied round to make encouraging noises and share invaluable pearls of wisdom. They advised them on everything from book clubs to corporate sponsorship and copyright law and never laughed at what Tommi describes as ‘their staggering ignorance’(as they toasted their first publishing offer, they suddenly realized that they weren’t totally sure what a royalty was.) Their parents lovingly refrained from telling them to get normal jobs. Outstanding professionals including a photographer, graphic designer, law firm, literary agent, accountancy firm and website design company offered to work with them and represent them for free. 

It was a trip. They found themselves in some amazing situations – from slick publishing houses and star-studded launches to incredible soup kitchens and blooming allotments. They’ve donned suits at Book Fairs, worn blue hairnets and white coats at the Maldon salt vats and spent many hours brainstorming over a latte at Carluccios.

Few foods rival the feel-good factor of soup – whether spooned from a bowl, sipped from a cup or slurped straight from the pot. From the thick tomato soup of childhood memory to a spicy, restorative broth on a chilly evening or a cooling gazpacho, soup and well-being go hand in hand.

The eventual collection brings together 100 soup recipes from today’s top chefs and food writers. From Delia Smith’s Cauliflower and Roquefort Soup to Jamie Oliver’s Chickpea Leek and Parmesan Soup, there are soups for every meal and every mood. As every culture embraces soup of some description, the book includes as well as the homely winter veg recipes, Ken Hom’s summery Tomato and Ginger Soup, Sam Clarke’s Chorizo and Chestnut Soup and Donna Hay’s Prawn, Lemongrass and Coconut Soup.

Soup is the ultimate seasonal food, welcoming with open arms whatever ingredients are cheap, abundant and in their prime at that time of year. The book is organized seasonally so that ingredients are easy to find and at their full-flavoured best.

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall who launched the book at a celebrity bash in London, says soup is ‘always among the most generous and friendly of dishes’. Created in the same spirit of generosity and enjoyment, Soup Kitchen brings together the finest chefs and food writers working today with their favourite soup recipes.

Over half the chefs took the time to create an original recipe for the book.

70% of all proceeds raised from Soup Kitchen and related promotions will be donated to homeless charities in the UK, including the Salvation Army and Centrepoint.

Soup Kitchen published by Collins –  with an Introduction by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, edited by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers, winner of Masterchef.
Order Soup Kitchen by Annabel Buckingham and Thomasina Miers from Amazon

Tortilla Soup

Serves 4
1.2 litres chicken stock
1 onion, peeled and cut into 6 pieces
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 x 400g can tomatoes or 4-6 fresh tomatoes, skinned and seeded
6 corn tortillas
5 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1-2 dried ancho chilli, stem and seeds removed (see note below)
200g buffalo mozzarella or barrel-aged feta, diced in ½cm pieces
1 large ripe avocado, diced as with the cheese
1 large lime, cut into wedges

Put the onion and garlic in a large, heavy frying pan on a fairly hot flame, and dry toast for 5-6 minutes until they start to take on a golden colour, stirring regularly. Put them in a food processor or blender with the tomatoes and whiz to a puree. Put the puree in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and reduce to a thick, tomato puree. Add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes. Season to taste, bearing in mind that feta is saltier than mozzarella. (This can be done the day before.)

Put the chilli in a dry frying pan and toast for 30 seconds – bee careful not to burn it or the chilli will taste bitter. Tear into strips.

Cut the tortillas in half and then cut each half into 2cm long strips. Heat the oil in a saucepan until shimmering (test with a tortilla strip to see if it sizzles which means the oil is hot enough.) Add half the strips and fry, stirring constantly until the pieces are golden brown and crispy. Take out and dry on kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining strips, you can re-use the oil for another recipe.

When you are ready to eat divide the tortilla strips between 4 bowls. Add the tomato broth. On the table arrange the cheese, avocado and lime wedges so that each person can add liberally to their soup, squeezing on the lime juice. You may also like to chop some flat leaf parsley or coriander to garnish (the Mexicans use a herb called epazote if you can find it.)


If you can’t get hold of ancho chillies, add a little smoked paprika to your broth and a little fresh chilli or even some strips of sun-dried tomato for a slightly different twist.

Spiced Roasted Parsnip Soup

From Camilla Schneiderman, Divertimenti, Marleybone, London
Serves 4

4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
1 medium or 2 small onions, cut roughly into 8 pieces
4 medium tomatoes, cut roughly into 8 pieces
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp powdered turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
750ml vegetable or chicken stock
juice of ½ lemon
a handful of roughly chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4

Place all the vegetables, including the garlic, in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, spices and seasoning and mix thoroughly.

Place all the vegetables, including the garlic, in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, spices and seasoning and mix thoroughly.

Transfer to a baking tray and roast in the preheated oven until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.

When cooked, place the roasted vegetables in the bowl of a food processor and blend thoroughly, adding hot stock through the spout until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve the soup piping hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.


From Terence Conran – Restaurateur
Borscht, one of Russia’s better known culinary exports, is the classic beetroot soup. Served hot in winter, it is equally good chilled as a summer soup.
Serves 4-6

50g butter
250g raw beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar
1.5 litres Beef Stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of ½ lemon

To garnish:

Soured cream
A handful of chopped chives 

Melt the butter in a large pan, over a gentle heat and slowly sweat the beetroot, onion, carrot and garlic, turning the vegetables (which will become a lurid pink) over in the butter.

Add the sugar and stock to the pan, season with a few grinds of pepper, bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Using a blender, whiz the soup until it is entirely smooth, then add the lemon juice and salt to taste.

A swirl of soured cream and a scattering of chopped chives is the traditional garnish – delicious, and adding another dimension to the fabulous beetroot colour.

Bacon, Chestnut and Potato Soup with Rosemary

From Rowley Leigh, Kensington Place, Notting Hill, London
Serves 4

750g chestnuts
50g butter
250g bacon, cut into small cubes
1 onion
3 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 litre chicken stock
300g peeled potato
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. With a small sharp knife, cut a small incision in each chestnut and place them in an oven tray. Roast the chestnuts for 20 minutes or until the skins burst. Allow to cool before peeling, removing the inner skin at the same time.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the bacon, cooking it over a medium heat so that it slowly browns and renders its fat. Chop the onion, celery and garlic into small dice and add to the bacon, letting them stew gently together for 15 minutes.

Season well with pepper – no salt for the moment – then add the herbs and the stock and bring gently to the boil.

Chop the potato into neat small dice and add to the soup. Chop the chestnuts quite small also and simmer them all together in the pot for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper as required and serve, again with a spoonful of good extra virgin olive oil poured on top if desired.

Classic Fish Soup with Rouille and Croûtons 
This recipe comes from Rick Stein of the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow in Cornwall
Serves 4

900g fish (such as gurnard, conger eel, dogfish, pouting, cod and grey mullet)
1.2 litres water
75ml olive oil
75g each roughly chopped onion, celery, leek and fennel
3 garlic cloves, sliced
juice of ½ orange, plus 1 piece pared orange zest
1 x 200g can chopped tomatoes
1 small red pepper, seeded and sliced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
a pinch of saffron
100g unpeeled North Atlantic prawns
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

1 mini French baguette
1 garlic cove, peeled
olive oil for frying
25g Parmesan, finely grated
2 tbsp. Rouille (can be found in jars)

Fillet the fish and use the bones with the water (and extra flavourings if you like) to make the fish stock.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the chopped vegetables and garlic and cook gently for 20 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the orange zest, tomatoes, red pepper, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, prawns and fish fillets. Cook briskly for 2-3 minutes, then add the stock and orange juice, bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the croutons, thinly slice the mini baguette and rub with garlic, and fry in the olive until crisp and golden. Drain on kitchen paper.

Liquidise the soup, then pass it through a conical sieve, pressing out as much liquid as you can with the back of a ladle.

Return the soup to the heat and season to taste with the cayenne, salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into a warmed tureen and put the croutons, Parmesan and rouille into separate dishes. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and leave each person to spread some rouille on to the croutons, float them on their soup and sprinkle it with some of the cheese.

Sweetcorn and Smoked Bacon Soup

From Tom Aikens, Chelsea, London
Serves 4-6

50g unsalted butter
500g fresh sweetcorn kernels, cut from the cob
80g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
15g caster sugar
4g sea salt
4g fresh thyme
1.2 litres chicken stock
150ml double cream

Warm a pan on a low heat and melt the butter. Add the sweetcorn kernels, bacon, sugar, salt and thyme, and cook slowly on a low heat with the lid on the pan for 5 minutes. Stir now and again so the mix does not colour but sweats in the steam.

Add the stock and cream, then turn the heat up, bring to a slow boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the thyme. Blend the soup to a fine puree.
Reheat and serve.

Foolproof Food

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This recipe is from Jill Dupleix – Cookery Editor, The Times
Serves 4

1kg orange-fleshed sweet potato
1.2 litres of boiling water or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
400g canned white beans
1 tsp good curry powder or more
2 tbsp fresh parsley or coriander leaves

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into small cubes. Put in a pan, add the boiling water or stock, salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft.

Drain the beans and rinse. Add half the beans and the curry powder to the soup, stirring well, then whiz in a food processor in batches, being careful not to overflow the bowl.

Return to the pan, add the remaining whole beans, and gently heat. If too thick, add extra boiling water.

Taste for salt, pepper and curry powder, and scatter with parsley or coriander.

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Rudd’s Fine Foods is back in business under the new ownership of Bill O’Brien of the Brady Family Ham company and new jobs are being created at the production facilities in Birr, Co Offaly, making a new range of dry-cure thick cut rashers, pork sausages and black and white puddings.

Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen

A sneak preview today of my new book which is just about to hit the shops this week – this one called Easy Entertaining is for the growing number of people who love to have a few friends around for brunch, lunch, coffee, afternoon tea, supper, a nibble around the fire or even a formal dinner party. The latter is by far the most stressful way of entertaining but can of course appear virtually effortless if one puts a little bit of time into a ‘plan of campaign’. 

Ever since my first television series, my mantra has always been, keep it simple, really, really simple. It doesn’t have to be a four course meal. 

I so love the effortless way so many of the young people I know entertain – for them its no big deal to have a few friends around, they just love to cook together. My children and their friends don’t worry about having mismatched cutlery and crockery, the chairs are often a motley collection picked up from junk shops, the table covered with anything from calico to a flowery print, oil cloth to tissue paper. The look is always stylish and fun, much use is made of coloured lights, candles and sparklers. “How about an omelette and a glass of wine, a ‘spontaneous’ pasta or a sushi party where everyone rolls their own. Let’s all cook together.”

The exciting thing is that nowadays everyone is entertaining, the smoking ban certainly added impetus. Those who wanted to be able to smoke chose to buy a few bottles and have a few friends around for a take away or a simple supper, rather than shiver outside in the cold while they got their fix. They discovered how easy it can be but its even more fun to cook together or have an interactive dinner party. 

In easy entertaining I have included suggestions for an omelette party, fajitas, tacos, pancakes, sushi…

Get everyone involved, even those who consider they can’t boil water and as they say ‘the crack is mighty’!

Picnics, in any season are another super way to entertain – at this time of the year hot soup in flasks, a stew in a haybox, steaming hot chocolate or something stronger, make for a terrific experience. Could be after a walk in the woods or a point-to-point.

There are lots of little tricks to make it easier for everyone concerned.

In Easy Entertaining, I have included suggestions for everything from tapas to three-course dinners and from canapés to casseroles in this bible of entertaining. I include chapters on Brunch, Prepare-ahead Meals, Picnics, Romantic Dinners, Finger Food, Formal Dinners, Festive Meals and many more as well as providing extensive menu planners and practical advice on wine and other drinks to complement your food. Style tips and ideas for table settings, flowers, lighting and even party games will hopefully ensure your soirée looks as sensational as it tastes. There are also options for vegetarian and vegan guests throughout the book and masses of tips for quick and easy meals.

Have fun!

Easy Entertaining by Darina Allen – published by Kyle Cathie, €25
Buy "Easy Entertaining" By Darina Allen from Amazon

Bacon and Cabbage Soup

Bacon and cabbage is a quintessential Irish meal, a favourite flavour combination. Cabbage soup is also delicious on its own. Spinach or watercress, chard, kale or even nettles can be substituted for cabbage.
Serves 6 

55g (2 oz) butter
140g (5 oz) peeled and chopped potatoes, one third inch dice
100g (4 oz) peeled diced onions, 1/3 inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1.1L (2 pints) light chicken stock or vegetable stock
255g (9oz) chopped Savoy cabbage leaves (stalks removed)
50-100ml (2-4 fl oz) cream or creamy milk
225g (½ lb) boiled streaky bacon
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes and onions, and turn them 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 boil until the potatoes are soft, then add the cabbage and cook with the lid off until the cabbage is cooked. Keep the lid off to preserve the green colour. Add the creamy milk. Do not overcook or the vegetables will lose both the fresh flavour and colour. Puree the soup in a liquidiser or blender, taste and adjust seasoning. 

Just before serving cut the bacon into lardons. Toss quickly in a very little oil in a frying pan to heat through and get a little crispy. Add to the soup. Sprinkle with some parsley.

Tip: If this soup is to be reheated, just bring it to the boil and serve. Prolonged boiling spoils the colour and flavour of green soups.


Cabbage and Caraway Soup

Add 1 –2 teaspoons of freshly crushed caraway seeds to the potato and onion base.
Shermin’s Lamajun (Lamaçun – Turkish Lamb Pizza)
Given to me by Shermin Mustafa whose food I love. This is a little gem of a recipe, fantastic for an informal kitchen party or for a family supper.
Makes about 8-10

275g (10oz) plain white flour
225ml (8fl oz) natural yoghurt

For the topping

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
225g (8oz) freshly minced lamb
4 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
Wedges of lemon,
Lots of sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Heavy iron frying pan

Sweat the onion in a little butter or oil and allow to cool completely. Mix all the ingredients for the topping together and season well with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour with the yoghurt to form a soft dough. Heat a heavy iron frying pan and preheat the grill. Take about 50g (2oz) of the dough, roll until it’s as thin as possible using lots of flour. Spread a few dessertspoons of the mince mixture on the base with the back of a tablespoon, as thinly as possible. Fold in half, then in quarters, slide your hand underneath, then transfer to the pan and open out gently. Put onto the hot pan (no oil needed) and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Remove from the pan and slide on a hot baking sheet under the hot grill and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the meat is cooked.

Serve on a hot plate with 3 or 4 lemon wedges and whole sprigs of flat leaf parsley for each helping.

To eat
Squeeze lots of lemon juice over the surface of the lamajun. Pluck about 4 or 5 leaves of parsley and sprinkle over the top. Either eat flat like a pizza or roll up like a tortilla.

Pork with Rosemary and Tomatoes

Serves 6
900g (2lb) of trimmed pork fillet, chicken breast may also be used
450g (1lb) very ripe firm tomatoes - peeled and sliced into 2 inch (1cm) slices
2 shallots finely chopped
30g (1 1/4oz) butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
225ml (8fl oz) cream
Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Cut the trimmed fillet of pork into slices about 2cm (3/4inch) thick. 

Melt 25g (1oz) butter in a saucepan, when it foams add the finely chopped shallots, cover with a butter wrapper and sweat gently for 5 minutes. Remove the butter wrapper, increase the heat slightly, add the tomatoes in a single layer, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. After 2 minutes turn the tomatoes and season on the other side. Then add the cream and rosemary. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Check seasoning. The sauce may now be prepared ahead to this point and reheated later.

The sauce should not be too thick - just a light coating consistency.

To cook the pork – Melt 5g (1/4oz) butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over a high heat, when it is quite hot, add the seasoned pork in a single layer. Allow them to turn a rich golden brown before turning over. Turn down the temperature and finish cooking on the other side. It should feel slightly firm to the touch. Be careful not to overcook the pork or it will be dry and tasteless. 

Reheat the sauce gently while the pork is cooking, correct the seasoning, spoon some of the sauce onto one large serving dish or divide between individual plates. Arrange the pork slices on top of the sauce, garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and serve immediately with Orzo or rice to mop up the herby sauce.

Orzo with Fresh Herbs

Orzo looks like fat grains of rice but is in fact made from semolina. It is sometimes sold under the name of 'Misko'.
Serves 4

200g (7 oz) orzo
2.3 L (4 pints) water
11/2 teaspoons salt
15-30g (1/2 - 1oz ) butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Bring the water to a fast rolling boil and add the salt. Sprinkle in the orzo, cook for 8-10 minutes* or until just cooked. Drain, rinse under hot water, toss with a little butter. Season with freshly ground pepper and garnish with some chopped parsley.

*Time depends on the type of Orzo.

Orzo with peas
275g (10oz) of Orzo and 200g (7oz) peas

Ardsallagh Goat Cheese Salad with Rocket, Figs and Pomegranates
Serves 8

1 fresh pomegranate
4 small fresh Ardsallagh cheese or a similar fresh goat cheese
8-12 fresh figs or 
8-12 plump dried figs

Enough rocket leaves for eight helpings and perhaps a few leaves of raddichio
32 fresh walnut halves


4 fl.ozs (125ml/ ½ cup) extra virgin olive oil
3 tablesp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teasp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the pomegranate in half around the equator, break each side open, flick out the glistening jewel-like seeds into a bowl, avoiding the bitter yellowy pith.

Next make the dressing – just whisk the oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey together in a bowl. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Toast the walnut halves in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell sweet and nutty. 

Just before serving, toss the rocket leaves in a deep bowl with a little dressing. Divide between eight large white plates. Cut each cheese into 3 pieces. 

Cut the figs into quarters from the top, keeping each one still attached at the base. Press gently to open out. Divide the cheese between the plates, three pieces on each, place a fig in the centre. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and freshly roasted walnuts. Drizzle with a little extra dressing and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Note: plump dried figs are best cut into slices and scattered over the salad.

Adorable Baby Banoffees

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
Toasted 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.

Foolproof Food

Melted Cooleeney Cheese in a box
A slightly under ripe Cooleeney Brie or Camembert or any farmhouse cheese in a timber box
Serves 6-8

Crusty white bread or home made potato crisps

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

Remove the labels from the box and the wrapper from the cheese. Replace the cheese in the box and pop into the preheated oven for about 20 minutes by which time it should be soft and molten in the centre.

Cut a cross in the centre and serve immediately with crusty white bread croutes or potato crisps. 

Note: check that the box is stapled otherwise it may fall apart in the oven.

Potato Crisps

2 very large potatoes
Scrub the potatoes and slice the potatoes as thinly as possible to attain long thin slices preferably with a mandolin. Deep fry them to attain crisps. These can be made ahead and kept in a warm place. You will need 3-4 crisps per portion.

Hot Tips

Irish Poultry Club National Show at Gurteen Agricultural College near Birr – today 19th November – open to the public from 1pm – after judging – well worth a visit.

Today is also the 3rd anniversary of the Farmers Market at the Nano Nagle Centre near Kilavullen – why not pay a visit.

La Violette in Skibbereen – is full of irresistibly tempting bits to liven up your kitchen and add sparkle and glitz to your dining table.

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group – Thursday 24th November, 7.30pm at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place, Cork - The Story of Cork’s English Market - Diarmuid O’Drisceoil, co-author with his brother Donal of ‘Serving a City’ will speak on the fascinating history of the food in this great exporting city and its hinterland. Admission €12, including wine and some market specialities.

Weekend Wine Course with Mary Dowey at Ballymaloe House 3-5 March 2006.
An entertaining and educational weekend, full of good wines and good food in one of Ireland’s loveliest country houses, hosted by well-known Irish wine writer and lecturer , Mary Dowey (see ) Weekend packages available – ideal gift for the wine lover. Tel 021-4652531,  or book on line

Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends

‘Staying in is the new going out’ – whether it’s a gossipy night in, afternoon tea or a spicy curry night, its fun and cool to cook. Rachel Allen’s new series Favourite Food for Friends is now showing on RTE. Since her first series last year she has built up a fan club of all ages, from toddlers to granddads. Her easy style and terrific dress sense have won her viewers who wouldn’t normally be seen dead watching a cookery programme.

This time she’s got masses of new ideas – Want to have a romantic dinner for two? Need to impress your mother-in-law or your boss? It’s your turn to host the family Christmas dinner? Asked friends around for a barbecue and its going to rain? It’s midweek, you’ve been working all day, but you’ve got people coming to dinner?

Rachel has lots of easy tasty recipes to munch on while you gossip. She also includes some great cocktails – including the naughtily named fruity Flirtini, Grenadine Goddess or a delicious Rosé cocktail. 

Rachel’s many fans will be delighted with her plethora of new recipes which emphasise her simple stress-free outlook on cooking and entertaining.

Rachel’s Favourite Food for Friends by Rachel Allen, 
published by Gill & Macmillan, €19.99

Buy "Rachel's Favourite Food for Friends" By Rachel Allen from Amazon

Steamed Mussels with Basil Cream

This recipe is inspired by a dish I adore eating at the fabulous Fishy Fishy Café in Kinsale.
Serves 6

2-5kg (4½ -11 lb) mussels (about 100 mussels)
150ml (5¼ fl oz) cream
50ml (1¾ fl oz/3 very generous tablesp.) basil pesto

Scrub the mussels very well and discard any that are not open and do not close when tapped. Place the cream and the pesto in a large saucepan on the heat and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover with a lid and place on a medium heat. Cook the mussels in the pesto cream for about 5-8 minutes, or until all the mussels are completely open. Pour, with all the lovely creamy juice, into a big bowl, or 6 individual bowls, and serve. Place another bowl on the table for empty shells, and some finger bowls and plenty of napkins! Serve with some crusty white bread on the side.

Note: Pull out and discard any mussels that do not open during cooking.

Potato Soup with Dill and Smoked Salmon

This is a basic potato and onion soup with the addition of dill and smoked salmon, so if you want to try changing it, just leave out the smoked salmon and change the herb to marjoram, tarragon, sage, chives or rosemary for example. This is so easy for a dinner party – the soup can be made earlier in the day, or even the day before, and just heated up to serve, then sprinkled with the smoked salmon, which just about cooks in the heat of the soup as it goes to the table – divine!
Serves 6

50g (2oz) butter
400g (14oz) potatoes, peeled and chopped
100g (3½ oz) onions, chopped
a good pinch of salt, and pepper
800ml (1½ pt) chicken or vegetable stock
125ml (4½ fl oz) creamy milk (half milk, half cream, or just all milk if you prefer)
2 tbsp chopped dill
100g (3½ oz) sliced smoked salmon, cut into little slices, about 2cm x ½ cm (¾ x ¼in)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the potatoes, onions, salt and pepper, and stir. Cover with a lid, sweat on a low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring every so often, so that the potatoes don’t stick and burn. Turn up the heat and add the stock, and boil for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are completely soft. Pureé the soup in a liquidiser, or with a hand whizzer, and add the creamy milk. Thin with more stock, or milk if you like. Season to taste, and set aside. When you are ready to eat, heat up the soup, add the chopped dill, and ladle into bowls, then sprinkle with the little slices of smoked salmon, and serve.

Beef with Lemongrass and Chilli

Serves 8
2 tsp chopped ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
½ - 1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 clove of chopped garlic
1 tablesp toasted sesame oil
1 tablesp lime juice
2 tablesp Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
1 kg (2¼ lb) lean sirloin of beef, fat trimmed off and sliced about ½ cm (¼ in) thick
2 tablesp coriander leaves, scattered on at end

In a food processor, whiz up the ginger, lemongrass, chilli and garlic until you have a rough paste. Then add the sesame oil, lime juice and fish sauce. (If you don’t have a food processor, just chop everything finely.) Place the beef in a dish and add the paste. Stir it around to make sure that all the beef is coated. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour if possible. This will improve the flavour and allow the meat to tenderise. Cook the slices of meat on a hot barbecue or on a hot grill for about 3 minutes on each side. Scatter the coriander leaves on top and serve with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

Note: You probably won’t need to add any salt to this as the fish sauce can be salty.

Note: To prepare the lemongrass, remove and discard the tough outer leaves and the base of the stalk, and chop the rest. You can put the tough outer leaves into a teapot with the trimmings from the ginger and top up with boiling water to make a lovely nourishing tea –let it stand for 3 minutes first.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

This could not be faster to make – slightly cheating with the peanut butter, but it works for me.
Makes 250ml

3 rounded tablesp peanut butter
½ deseeded chopped red chilli
2 cloves of crushed or grated garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 rounded tablesp honey
2 tablesp soy sauce
1 tablesp lemon juice
4 tablesp (50ml/1¾ fl oz) water

Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whiz until smooth.

Note: This will keep perfectly in the fridge for 4-5 days.


This cocktail is fab – the name even does it for me! You will definitely be flirting after one of these.
Serves 2

6 strawberries or 12 raspberries
25ml (1 fl oz) Cointreau
50ml (1¾ fl oz) vodka
juice of ½ lime
50ml (1¾ fl oz) pineapple juice, chilled
125ml (4¼ fl oz) sparkling wine or champagne, chilled

To serve:

A strawberry or raspberry for garnish
Mash the strawberries or raspberries or put into two champagne or martini glasses. Mix the Cointreau, vodka, lime juice and pineapple juice. Add to the glass and top up with the sparkling wine.

Grenadine Goddess

Serves 2, if in a highball glass, or 4 in a martini glass
A great non-alcoholic cocktail that looks so pretty too

50ml (2 fl oz) grenadine (a sweet syrup made mainly from pomegranates)
25ml (1 fl oz) lime juice (the juice of about ½ lime)
250ml (8¾ fl oz) slightly crushed ice (bashed up in a bag with a rolling pin)
350ml (12¼ fl oz) soda water, or sparkling water
2 lime wedges, to decorate

Mix the grenadine and lime juice, and divide into glasses. Add the ice, top with soda water, and stir. Place a wedge of lime on the side of each glass and serve.

Note: To make this cocktail with alcohol, add 25-50ml (1-2 fl.oz) vodka to each glass.

Banana and Maple Toffee Cake

This is seriously sweet and divine, fabulous comfort food. It is very quick to make and looks so impressive. You may want to have a dollop of whipped cream on the side!
1 x 24 cm (9¾ in) frying pan, non-stick or not

for the toffee:

50g (2oz) butter
25g (1oz) brown sugar
50ml (1¾ fl oz) maple syrup
1 tablesp lemon juice
3 bananas, peeled

for the cake mix:

100g (3½ oz) butter, softened
50ml (1¾ fl oz) maple syrup
100g (3½ oz) brown sugar
1 banana, mashed
3 eggs, beaten
175g (6oz) self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. To make the toffee, place a 25cm (9¾ in) frying pan on a medium heat, with the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook, stirring every now and then for 4 minutes, until the toffee has thickened a little. Set aside and sprinkle with lemon juice. To make the cake, cream the butter, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, still beating. Add the mashed banana and eggs, bit by bit, then stir in the flour. Or you can just throw everything into the food processor and whiz briefly until it comes together. Slice the bananas in half horizontally, then in half widthways, and arrange in the pan in a fan shape. Spread the cake mixture over the bananas and place the pan in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until the cake feels set in the centre. Take it out when cooked, and let it set for just 5 minutes. Slide a knife around the sides of the pan and turn the cake out onto a plate (it must still be warm to turn out). 

Note: I find sometimes that when I turn this out, quite a bit of toffee remains in the pan. If this happens, place it on the heat, add 1 tablesp water and whisk until it all dissolves, then pour it over the bananas.

Little Pots of Passion

This is a mango and passion fruit fool basically, except that the title wouldn’t exactly evoke many romantic thoughts! This recipe would be great for a summer dinner party too.
Serves 2

½ mango, peeled and chopped
1 passion fruit, halved and scooped
up to 1 tablesp lime or lemon juice
up to 1 tablesp. caster sugar
75ml (3 fl oz) cream

Puree the mango and passion fruit (including the seeds) with the lime or lemon juice and sugar. Use a food processor for this (if you use a liquidiser, you will need to add the passion fruit after, as it breaks up the seeds). Place in the fridge while you whip the cream softly. Then fold the mango and passion fruit purée in gently, leaving it a little marbled. Leave in the fridge until you want to serve it. This is also delicious with little shortbread biscuits.

Foolproof Food

Apple Pudding

This is wonderful comfort food – great with a little whipped cream or some vanilla ice cream on the side. I like to serve this slightly warm, so warm it up if it has not just come out of the oven.
Serves 6-8

450g (1lb) cooking apples, peeled, core removed, and chopped roughly, weighed afterwards
125g (4½ oz) sugar
1 tablesp water
125g (4½ oz) soft butter
125g (4½ oz) caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp vanilla extract
125g (4½ oz) self-raising flour
25g (1oz) caster sugar, for sprinkling

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

Place the apples, sugar and water in a small saucepan on a low heat. With the lid on, cook for about 10 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the apples are soft. Pour into a 1 –litre (1¾ pint) shallow pie dish, or into 8 individual ramekins.

In a bowl, beat the butter. Add the sugar and beat again, then add the eggs and the vanilla, gradually, still beating, then fold in the flour to combine. Spread this over the apple, sprinkle with sugar and cook in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until the centre of the sponge feels firm, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Note: This is also lovely with a handful of fresh or frozen blackberries added to the apples in the saucepan.

Hot Tips

Dunbrody Abbey Visitor Centre, Campile, New Ross, Co Wexford.
Christmas Fairs on 10 & 11th and 17 & 18th December. Stall holders who might be interested should contact Pierce McAuliffe at 051-388933 or 087-9723033  

Rare Breed Pork from Gloucester Old Spots – reared on a strict vegetarian diet on a small holding in the Portroe area just outside Nenagh, Co Tipperary, and allowed to mature slowly over a long period to develop a fuller flavour. Contact Tom and Sharyn Shore, Tel 067-23761

Lamb Direct – ‘A taste of the countryside direct to your door’ – full lamb or half lamb – from Michael Seymour, Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary – Tel 086-4000680

Major Cross Border Producer Showcase Event was held recently in Loughry College, Cookstown, Co Tyrone – chefs and students discovered the good food on their doorstep as part of the Euro-Toques Small Food Initiative –
The event was attended by many small producers from the region displaying a wide range of foods, including farmhouse cheeses, fruits, vegetables and herbs, pastas, dressings, rare breed meats and smoked foods. Full details on the project website  

Wicklow Fine Foods have just launched their range of luxury chocolates – ‘The Chocolate Garden of Ireland’ 
Chocolates are being added to their successful fine food and gift items – waffles, biscuits and luxury chocolate spreads – to see the product range visit  – available in good speciality food shops nationwide, including Avoca Handweavers and Wrights of Howth in Dublin Airport.

Second helpings from Paul Flynn

Second helpings from Paul Flynn has just hit the bookshops, a great name for another dollop of tempting food from the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. Paul says “this book, to me, represents all my ‘uncheffy’ ambitions, with relatively simple food that’s ‘do-able’ at home and hopefully you will have a laugh as well. It features me in all my self-deprecating glory.”

Paul wanted to write and formulate recipes in the same way the way he does every week in the kitchen. Devising the dishes according to what’s in season and available. “I let this and the weather dictate how I structure a dish: cream and root vegetables in the depth of winter; olive oil and tomatoes for the summer months.” Cooking is all about mood and feeling. This time round the book is divided into 12 monthly chapters highlighting the foods which are in season at that particular time. Advice on how to cook these for starters, main courses and desserts is outlined in easy-to-follow format. There are tips for filling the coolbox and picnic basket in July, and for seasonal comfort food in November and December. The emphasis is on ease of preparation for the keen home cook.

Paul has put considerable effort into simplifying his food over the years, emphasising the importance of sourcing really good fresh naturally produced local food in season. He delights in each new discovery and by his own admission is an obsessive collector of cookery books. Occasionally he manages to escape from the stove so the reader who tucks into Second Helpings is treated to hilarious accounts of his adventures in his deliciously self-deprecating style.

So even if you never venture into the kitchen this book will make the armchair cooks and wannabee gourmets among us lick our lips and laugh out loud at Paul’s anecdotes and ‘business insights’. Ken Buggy’s quirky cartoons add a brilliant extra dimension to Second Helpings. Ken, himself a chef and restaurateur, owner of Buggy’s Glencairn Inn in West Waterford, also shares Paul’s delightfully eccentric view of life. Paul himself took the photographs for the book.

Paul spent nine years at the famous Chez Nico restaurant in London, the last five years as sous chef, the youngest in Britain at only 23. In 1993 he became head chef in La Stampa, Dublin, which became Egon Ronay restaurant of the year after two years. In 1997 he opened the Tannery in his home town of Dungarvan, County Waterford. It has received many accolades including Best Restaurant in Munster by Food and Wine Magazine and Jameson Restaurant of the Year 2004. Paul has appeared on RTE television, the Food Channel and BBC and wrote a widely-read food column for The Irish Times Magazine. He is currently working on a new food series for television. His first book ‘An Irish Adventure with Food’ was published in 2003.

Second Helpings – Further Irish Adventures with Food by Paul Flynn published by the Collins Press, price €30.

Here are some recipes from Second Helpings

Cream of Onion Soup with Apple Juice and Thyme

You must try this soup. In the restaurant it’s our fall back soup. If we have nothing else we always have onions. It’s an all-year-round soup, with a texture of a creamy broth. The long, slow cooking of the onions is essential. This brings out the sweetness and concentrates the flavour. The trick is not to colour the onions at all so you need the lowest heat and a lid on top of the lot to trap the steam and keep the moisture inside.
Serves 4-6 as a starter or light lunch

Good knob butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1.5 litres/2½ pints chicken stock (from a cube will do)
100ml/3½ fl.oz cream
glass apple juice (good quality)
pinch English powder or 1 teaspoon prepared English mustard
pinch chopped fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
garlic croutons and grated Cheddar, to serve

Melt the butter in a large heavy-based pan with a tight-fitting lid and once it is foaming, add the onions and bay leaf, stirring to coat. Reduce the heat right down, cover with the lid and cook for 30-40 minutes until the onions are golden brown and caramelised, stirring once or twice.

Pour the stock into the onion mixture and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for another 10 minutes. Add the cream, apple juice, mustard, thyme and season to taste. Allow to just warm through and for all of the flavours to infuse. Ladle into warmed serving bowls and scatter over some garlic croutons and Cheddar to serve.

Lemon Roast Chicken with Ginger and Parsnips

This is an adaptation of lemon roast chicken from Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club Cookbook. Its deliciously easy, especially if you use a ready jointed chicken. Serve with some buttered sprouts and mash.
Serves 4

1.75kg/4lb chicken (preferably organic or free range)
pinch ground ginger
120ml/4fl.oz olive oil
1kg/2¼ lb parsnips, cut into 2cm/¾ in dice
1 bunch fresh oregano
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
2 lemons, halved lengthways and thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
buttered leeks and mashed potatoes, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/gas 7. To joint the chicken, place the chicken breast side down and with the tip of a knife cut round the two portions of oyster meat (which lie against the backbone). Turn the bird over and cut through the skin where the thigh joins the body. Cut right down between the ball and the socket joint, being careful to keep the oyster meat attached to the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

Separate the thighs from the drumsticks but cutting through at the joints. Trim off the bone end from the drumsticks. Turn the chicken over again, breast side down, and using a poultry shears, cut down firmly through the back into the body cavity between the backbone and one shoulder blade, leaving the wing attached to the breast.

Turn the breast with the wings still attached, skin side up. Remove the wing portions by cutting through at a slight diagonal so that some of the breast is still attached to the wing, then cut each one in half again. You should now have eight portions in total – if all this seems like too much hard work simply buy a packet of chicken joints!

Heat a large frying pan. Season the chicken joints lightly and sprinkle over the ground ginger. Add a little of the oil to the heated pan and use to brown the chicken joints all over.

Meanwhile, place the parsnips in a large roasting tin and add the herbs and half the oil. Season to taste and mix well to combine. Arrange the browned leg joints on top and scatter over the lemon slices. Roast for 15 minutes, then add the rest of the chicken joints and drizzle the remaining oil on top. Roast for another 20 minutes or until cooked through and tender – check by piercing the thickest part of the thigh with a skewer. If the juices run clear the chicken is cooked. Serve straight to the table with separate bowls of buttered sprouts and mashed potatoes and allow everyone to help themselves.

Roast Belly of Pork, Beetroot Tzatziki and Rocket

Serves 4
1 large onion, sliced into rings
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh sage, chopped
300ml/½ pint chicken stock
1.5kg/3lb pork belly, rind removed
150ml/¼ pint dry cider
8 whole cloves
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground cinnamon
75g/3oz Demerara sugar
2 handfuls rocket
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Beetroot Tzatziki

3 cooked beetroot, peeled and grated
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated
200ml/7fl.oz Greek yoghurt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 freshly grated horseradish or 1 teaspoon creamed horseradish
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper
Roast potatoes, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/gas 2. Place the onion rings in a single layer in the bottom of a roasting tin. Sprinkle over the garlic and half of the sage, then pour in the stock. Sit the pork belly on top, then splash over the cider. Sprinkle over the remaining sage with the cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Season to taste and cover with foil. Bake for 3 hours until the pork is completely tender and very soft, basting occasionally. Remove the foil and sprinkle the Demerara sugar on top. Increase the oven temperature to 200C/400F/gas 6 and return the pork to the oven for 20 minutes or until glazed and golden. Remove the pork to a warm plate and set aside to rest for at least 20 minutes.

To make the tsatziki place the beetroot in a bowl with the apple, Greek yoghurt, garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and horseradish. Mix well to combine, then cover with cling film and chill until needed. This will keep for up to 24 hours.

To serve, place the rocket in a bowl and season to taste, then dress with the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Mix lightly to combine. Carve the rested pork into slices and arrange on warmed serving plates with some of the roasted onion rings. Add the beetroot tzatziki to each one with mounds of the rocket salad and some onions from the tray. Serve with a large bowl of roasted potatoes, if required.

Bouillabaisse of Monkfish and Mussels with Chorizo and Parsnips

Paul adores seafood stews. Once you have the base sauce made all you have to do is poach your fish in it. All the flavours intermingle and sparkle. He would serve this with plain boiled rice.
Serves 6-8

Good splash olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g/7oz chorizo, cut into 1cm/½ in dice
250ml/9fl.oz white wine
500ml/16fl.oz chicken stock (a cube will do)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 large parsnip, cut into 1cm/½ in dice
300ml/½ pint cream
600g/1lb5oz monkfish fillet, trimmed and cut at an angle into 3cm/1¼ in slices
2 handfuls mussels, cleaned
400g/14oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
8 piquillo peppers, drained and diced (from a jar – optional)
½ lemon, pips removed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
plain boiled rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. Add the onion and garlic and sweat for 3-4 minutes until softened and golden. Add the chorizo and turn the heat up a little to render the oil from it. Watch that the onion mixture doesn’t burn though.

Pour the wine into the pan with the stock and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any sediment. Bring to the boil and add the rosemary and parsnip. Reduce by a quarter over a gentle heat, then add the cream and drop in the monkfish and mussels, followed by the kidney beans and piquillo peppers, if you are using them. Bring the mixture back to a gentle roll and cook for 5-6 minutes. Season to taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. To serve, divide amongst warmed serving bowls and serve with a separate large bowl of the rice.

Daffodil Slice aka Lemon Sunburst

Makes about 8-10
150g/5oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz plain flour
325g/11½ oz icing sugar
250g/9oz butter, cut into cubes
4 eggs
325g/11½oz caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
120ml/4fl.oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3. Line a 30cm/12in x 20cm/8in baking tin with non-stick parchment paper, leaving a 2cm/¾in lip at the top of the tin.

Place the self-raising flour in a food processor with 150g/5oz of the plain flour, a quarter of the icing sugar and the butter. Whiz until well combined and then spread into the bottom of the prepared tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until firm and set but not coloured.

Place the remaining 25g/1oz of plain flour in a bowl with the eggs, caster sugar, lemon rind and half the lemon juice. Whisk until well combined and then pour over the set biscuit base. Return to the oven and bake for another 25-30 minutes until risen well and golden brown. Leave to cool completely.

Whisk the rest of the icing sugar and juice in a small bowl until smooth. Remove the tray bake from the tin and carefully remove the baking parchment. Spread the lemon icing over the top, allowing it to drizzle down the sides and leave to set, then cut into slices and serve.

Foolproof Food

Brussels Sprouts with Cidona

You might think this is a bit mad Paul says, but try it, he says the sweetness of the drink balances the bitterness of the sprout, thereby making it child friendly. It’s a regular fixture in the Flynn household at Christmas.
Serves 8

675g/1½lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed
50g/2oz butter
300ml/½ pint bottle Cidona (carbonated apple drink)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the Brussels sprouts in a pan of boiling salted water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain and quickly refresh under cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with cling film until needed – this can be done up to 24 hours in advance.

Heat a sauté pan and add the butter. Once foaming, tip in the blanched Brussels sprouts and sauté on a medium heat, turning every now and again until they start to lightly brown. Pour in the Cidona, increase the heat and simmer until all the liquid has absorbed into the sprouts, shaking the pan a couple of times. Season to taste and tip into a warmed serving bowl to serve.

Tip – if you can’t find Cidona use 7-Up!

Hot Tips

Let’s Eat out! Your Passport to Living Gluten and Allergy Free – this recently published book is dedicated to eating outside the home while managing ten food allergies including: corn, dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat. The mission of GlutenFree Passport is to empower individuals with food allergies and special diets to safely dine outside the home, travel and explore the world.  27 N. Wacker Drive Suite 258, Chicago Il 60606-2800 Tel 001 312 952 4900 Fax 001 312 372 2770

Crozier Dairy Products who make the delicious Crozier Blue Sheep’s Milk Cheese have just launched a new product – Crozier Sheep’s Yoghurt – 100% sheep’s milk produced on their farm in Cashel, probiotic culture, very mild but distinct slightly sweet flavour which comes naturally from the sheep’s milk, rich silky texture that goes well with fresh fruits with shelf life of 5 weeks.

Heading to County Mayo - Look up JK Gannons in Ballinrobe –
family owned hotel with pub and restaurant recently restored to provide luxury accommodation and facilities – in the centre of the town with views across Lough Mask (a favourite with anglers) to the Tourmakeady Mountains – run by Jay and Nikki Gannon (one of our past pupils) – 3rd generation of the family. Tel 094-9541008 –  - 40 minutes from Galway, Westport, Knock, Castlebar 25 minutes.

Not Just a Cookbook

Back in the days when the Irish palate was notoriously conservative, Derry Clarke’s father and his brother Joe dealt in everything from proper continental cheeses and Danish rusks to snails and frogs legs. In the warehouse on Wellington Quay in the centre of Dublin there was a treasure trove of edibles and drinkables: Huntley and Palmer biscuits, rusks, maple syrup, caviar, chestnut puree, Schwartz spices, smoked salmon, bottles of carrot juice for the health food shops, Sunquick orange squash for the less choosey, bags of whole spices imported from Indonesia, vast wheels of Brie….

This is presumably where Derry got a taste for fine food. Home was a big, rambling house in Clonskeagh. His mum did little cooking confining herself to “huge hearty stews with whole cloves of garlic but his dad was constantly experimenting in the kitchen, which was highly unusual for a man in those days. He kept up a continuous output of brown soda bread. The larder and the fridge were always packed with unusual stuff: Baxter’s tinned soups, jars of olives, tins of anchovies and shark’s fin soup (for the Chinese restaurant market), even rollmop herrings.

Much of his teens were spent at a small but liberal school called St. Georges in Portroe near Lough Derg where he developed a love of sailing. This gathered momentum during his summer holidays spent in Kinsale. He fantasized about going to sea but decided a maritime career was not for him after a short stint as a crew on a fishing trawler out of Crosshaven.

His first job during school holidays back in the 1960’s was cleaning the loos in Man Friday’s in Kinsale. In time he was promoted to waiter. Eventually straight out of school in early 1970, he got the opportunity to work in the kitchen at Peter Barry’s Man Friday under a great French chef Xavier Poupel. Stints in the Delgany Inn and the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire all helped to develop his repertoire and to hone his skills.

In 1977 John Howard had opened Le Coq Hardi in Pembroke Road, serving by all accounts the best food in Dublin. Derry, eager for a challenge and desperate to learn more jumped at the opportunity to work with John, a brilliant and legendary classic chef. John drove his Merc down to the market at 5 in the morning to choose the vegetables – there was no messing, when Derry slept out, John came to get him – it didn’t happen again!!

After four years of hard but exhilarating Work, Derry says he was approaching “burn out” so it was time for a change. He took on the challenge of upgrading the food at St. James’s Hospital. Eventually in 1983 he became involved in a new venture in the basement of the Lansdowne Hotel with Patsy McGuirk called Bon Appetit. Here he met and eventually wooed the lovely Sally Anne.

A stint as head chef of the Ante room restaurant in Baggot Street followed. Derry and Sallyanne were getting closer to opening their own restaurant. On 7th July 1989 L’Ecrivain opened in a small cramped basement. Derry went about setting up a network of good producers to supply his restaurant – he knew only too well that good produce was essential for good cooking and no amount of fancy cheffing can make up for poor quality produce – ‘Cooks are not alchemists’- a fundamental lesson that many chefs never seem to learn despite talking the talk. It’s been a long hard road, Derry and Sally Anne have worked incredibly hard and developed a loyal and appreciative clientele. Bursting at the seams in 1995 they took the plunge and expanded the restaurant, this too proved too small and they expanded again to reopen with a brand new much bigger restaurant in January 2000. They now have a Michelin star and have just published their first cookbook – ‘Not just a cookbook’ co-written with Tom Doorley. 

The name is apt, its not just a cookbook, but a warm and generous celebration of the people who contribute to making L’Ecrivain such a success. Photos, biographies of the key staff and the valued food producers – butchers, bakers, fish smokers, cheesemakers, game purveyors, wine makers, herb and vegetable growers, who supply the raw materials for Derry and Sallyanne’s food.

It also tells the story of a chef in the making and Sallyanne, the brilliant supporting cast. L’Ecrivain was the winner of Food and Wine Magazine’s Restaurant of the Year from 2000 – 2003. 

The restaurant is not cheap, nor can it be. This kind of dining experience costs a great deal of money, dedication, and sheer hard work to deliver, and this book will give an insight into the enormity of the task. There are more than 90 recipes from the past and present L’Ecrivain, including Cream of Spiced Parsnip and Coriander Soup, Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Coconut Ice-Cream, Pecan Brownie with Chocolate Butterscotch Sauce and Buttermilk Ice-Cream.

‘Not Just a Cookbook’ published by L’Ecrivain Restaurant. Price €29.99
Here are some recipes from L’Ecrivain

Cream of Spiced Parsnip & Coriander, Curry Oil
3 medium sized parsnips, peeled and sliced in half lengthways

1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 leek, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme
1 litre of chicken stock
salt and freshly ground white pepper

Curry Oil
100ml (3½fl oz) sunflower oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 shallot, peeled and diced
1 pinch of ground coriander
1 pinch of tumeric
1 pinch of ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Sprinkle the ground coriander over the parsnips, place them in a roasting tin and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil. Roast for 35 minutes until tender.

In a separate medium-sized saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil and gently cook the garlic, onion, leek and thyme for 5 minutes until tender. Cut the roasted parsnips into large chunks and add them to the onion mixture. Next add the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Blend the soup with a hand blender, then sieve and season with salt and pepper.

Curry Oil
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan and gently cook the shallot and spices until tender. Add 100ml (3½fl oz) sunflower oil and warm through. Transfer to another container to cool and infuse overnight. Pass through a sieve, retaining the oil.

To Serve
Divide the cream of spiced parsnip and coriander between four warm bowls and drizzle the curry oil over the soup.

Pecan Brownie with Chocolate Butterscotch Sauce and Buttermilk Ice Cream

Pecan Brownie
100g (3½oz) 71% dark chocolate
150g (5oz) butter, melted
250g (9oz) caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
2 drops of vanilla extract
175g (6oz) plain flour, sifted
100g (3½oz) pecan nuts, chopped

Buttermilk Ice Cream
500ml (18fl oz) cream
180ml (6fl oz) buttermilk
8 egg yolks
130g (4½oz) caster sugar

Chocolate Butterscotch Sauce
150g (5oz) brown sugar
100ml (3½fl oz) cold water
50g (2oz) butter, diced
350ml (12fl oz) cream
75g (3oz) 71% dark chocolate

Pecan Brownie
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Combine the melted chocolate and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Add the flour and pecans. Fold all the ingredients together in the mixing bowl until they are well combined. Line a 22cm (9inch) square tin with buttered greaseproof paper. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before removing the brownies from the tin. Cut the brownies into four squares.

Buttermilk Ice Cream
Heat the cream and buttermilk in a heavy-based saucepan until the mixture almost reaches boiling point. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Pour a little of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks and stir. Return this mixture to the remainder of the hot cream and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. At this point, remove the saucepan from the heat, chill the mixture and strain it. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker until it has frozen. Alternatively, transfer it to a shallow container, place in the freezer and stir every hour until it has set.

Chocolate Butterscotch Sauce
Bring the sugar and water to the boil and continue to cook until the sugar caramelises. Add the diced butter and cream, bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the chocolates and stir until the sauce is smooth.

Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Coconut Ice Cream

4 slices of fresh pinapple, 1cm thick, core removed, outer skin removed
110g (4oz) granulated sugar
110g (4oz) butter
300g (10½oz) puff pastry

Coconut Ice Cream
275ml (9½fl oz) milk
6 egg yolks
75g (3oz) caster sugar
150ml (5fl oz) cream, lightly whipped
½ tin of coconut milk

Icing sugar, sifted

Put the milk in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together. Remove the milk from the heat and pour on to the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not boil. Remove the custard from the heat and cool. Strain. Fold in the cream and coconut milk. Pour into an ice-cream maker and churn. Alternatively, transfer the mixture to a shallow container, place in the freezer and stir it every hour until it has set.

Pineapple Tarte Tatin

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Melt the sugar in a large, ovenproof frying pan until caramelised. Add the butter and combine, then add the pineapple to the caramel. Roll out the puff pastry to ½cm thickness and shape to fit the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and place the pastry on top. Bake for 25 minutes. When the tart is cooked, remove it from the oven, place a plate on top of the pan, cover it with a cloth and turn the tart upside down. Remove the pan and cool the tart.
To Serve
Dust the Tarte Tatin with icing sugar and place a slice on each chilled plate. Place a scoop of coconut ice cream beside it. Dust with some icing sugar.
Foolproof Food

Carrot and Parsnip Mash

Carrots and parsnips are both in season – this delicious combination is real comfort food.
Serves 4-6

½ lb (225g) carrots
12oz (340g) parsnips
2 ozs (55g) butter
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Chopped parsley

Wash and peel the carrots and parsnips. Slice the carrot into ¼ inch (5mm) slices. Cook in a little boiled salted water with a pinch of sugar until soft.
Cook the parsnips separately in boiling salted water.
Strain both, mash or puree together and add butter, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Hot Tips

Sheridans Cheese and Wine Shop in Galway
On a recent visit I bought some exquisite cheese in superb condition – a treasure trove for those who seek out top quality food, organic vegetables and fine wines. Tel 091-564829
In Dublin don’t forget to drop into their sister shop in South Anne St. 01-6793143.

Coast Restaurant in Tramore, Co Waterford
Delicious food – Dinner Tuesday – Sunday, Lunch- Sunday. Tel. 051-393646 

Innocent – the fresh fruit juice and smoothie company have just launched a range of one litre take home smoothies – mangoes & passion fruit, strawberries & banana, cranberries & raspberries, pineapple, banana & coconut –pure crushed fruit and fresh juice – get your recommended daily allowance of fruit, good for breakfasts and kids love them.  

Beaujolais Nouveau has arrived 
It is launched on the 3rd Thursday in November at 0h00 in France and in over 150 countries from Japan to the US. The grapes were harvested in unfailing sunshine throughout the harvest. The Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc, the Beaujolais Nouveau variety, grapes have given fruity wines with aromas and flavours of small red fruit that are very characteristic of Beaujolais. Supple, pleasant,well-balanced wines. So check out your local wine shop.

SIP teas – There is a huge resurgence in leaf tea – partly driven by the fact that tea is an extremely healthy beverage – research findings are proving more exciting by the day. SIP tea specialises in handpicked ‘fine pluck’ tea – this is the fresh, young growth, it contains the highest concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants. Highly sought after, and healthy. Some delicious flavoured teas available. Mail order to Sip, Bellamont, Cootehill, Co Cavan. Email:

The Game Cookbook

Clarissa Dixon Wright is one of my favourite people – always bubbling with energy, full of fun, outspoken, irreverent and enormously witty. Many of you will know her as the surviving lady of the Two Fat Ladies. She’s written several best selling cookbooks and writes on food for several newspapers and magazines. Recently she teamed up with Johnny Scott to write the Game Cookbook
Johnny is a keen shot and excellent horseman. As a farmer, naturalist and historian he has written for many newspapers and magazines. He studied farming on three continents, was jackaroo, miner, lumberjack, Lloyds aviation broker and brakeman in the British bobsleigh team, before returning to farm hefted black-face sheep in southern Scotland – altogether lived a full life. Brought up in a long tradition of rural stewardship, Johnny acquired his love and knowledge of the countryside from his father and the gamekeepers, hunt servants, stalkers and the ghillies he knew as a child. He is determined this heritage should be preserved for the next generation – hence this terrific book.

In this era of mass-produced food – wild game is one of the last remaining authentic flavours, but where can we find a wild duck, grouse, partridge, snipe, woodcock, hare or even a rabbit. Years ago when I first came to Cork, one of the delights of winter on regular trips to the English Market in Cork, was Sullivan’s stall opposite the Fountain at the Princes Street end. The semi-circular stall would be bedecked with a huge variety of game hanging in the feather. One could choose a pheasant, mallard, teal, widgeon, woodcock ……. as well as rabbit. 

In 1995 the Food Safety Authority issued new regulations which stipulated that wild game can only be sold if it is processed in an EU approved plant – there is only one in the entire country in Co Wicklow. It doesn’t take much to realise that it would be totally impractical, not to mention uneconomic, for game hunters and even larger shoots to transport game, particularly small game birds, over long distances. This regulation was originally introduced because there was an unease that not all venison had been inspected and approved. However, the net result was to virtually eliminate a part of our traditional food culture. A spokesman from the FSAI confirmed that they are in discussion with representatives of the wild game suppliers about revised, and hopefully simplified rules which are to come into operation in January 2006. Let’s hope that a solution can be arrived at that will result in the consumers being able to get a ready supply of game as our ancestors were long before fridges and vac packs were even dreamt of. 

If game is cooked within 12 hours of being shot it will be tender but have a wild undistinguished flavour. However if it is allowed to hang for a few days in a cool airy place, enzyme action in the flesh will tenderise the meat and give it the characteristic gamey flavour.

There is a divergence of opinion on how long game should hang, ultimately it depends on individual taste. Many people, nowadays, seem to favour a mild, not too challenging flavour. I personally like my game to taste reasonably gamey, otherwise one may as well eat chicken rather than pheasant. Birds are best left to hang in the feather, undrawn for between one and seven days. The time varies according to the type of bird and the weather conditions. Feathers keep the bird moist during hanging. 

Suggested hanging times 

Mallard and Teal 2-3 days
Pheasant 5-7 days
Woodcock 5-7 days
Snipe 4-5 days
Grouse 3-4 days
Partridge 3-4 days
Hare 7-14 days
Pigeon 1-2 days
Wild Goose 2-3 weeks
Rabbit 2-3 days
Venison 2-3 weeks
(gutted and bled first)

How to hang Game

Game should hang in a cool, dry well ventilated larder or cold room, free of flies etc. Few people have specially constructed game larders nowadays – a cool garage may well be the best option.

If the weather turns warm and humid it is essential to hang in a refrigerated cold room, ideally at a temperature of 0º-5ºC/32º-41ºF. 

Feathered game should be hung by the neck, (not in pairs). Furred game, eg. rabbits, hare and venison by the hind legs. Air must be free to circulate around. Examine all hanging game each day.

After hanging, the game should be plucked or skinned and gutted and then marinated if necessary.

Game are shot so be realistic, look out for shot, probably best not to eat!. Sadly, many restaurants have stopped serving game because of complaints from customers who found shot in their meal. 

Wild game is hugely nutritious, low in fat and cholesterol and a welcome change from beef, lamb and chicken. It is so easy to overcook so be vigilant, otherwise even the most delicious bird will be dry and dull. 

A game bird such as pheasant would make a welcome change from turkey for Christmas dinner, particularly for a small family.

For game: Contact Paul Fletcher, Premier Game, Skeheenarinky, Burncourt, Cahir, Co Tipperary. Tel 052-67501/086-8384700.

The Game Cookbook by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Johnny Scott, published by Kyle Cathie Ltd. 2004.

Pheasant with Noodles and Horseradish Cream

From The Game Cookbook
This recipe was invented by Clarissa’s friend Marianne More-Gordon. Don’t overcook the pheasant breasts – they should be slightly pink.

75g (3oz) butter
4 pheasant breasts
4 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablesp. creamed horseradish, or 1 tablesp. strong horseradish, grated
juice of ½ lemon
150ml (5 fl.oz) double cream
1 packet black or green Italian noodles
small bunch of parsley , chopped
salt and pepper

Heat the butter in a heavy frying pan and sauté the pheasant breasts until they are sealed. Remove them and sauté the shallots and the garlic until the shallots are pale gold; remove and discard the garlic clove.

Stir the horseradish into the shallots and add a tablespoon or so of water and the lemon juice. Season. Return the pheasant breasts to the pan, add the cream and cover and cook gently for 15-20 minutes or until the breasts are just cooked. If the sauce is too wet, remove the breasts and zap up the heat to reduce; if its too dry, add a little more cream or some dry white wine. Cook the noodles according to the instructions and drain. Serve the noodles with the pheasant ad sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

Orange and Herb Duck

Also from The Game Cookbook
Although this recipe is designed for mallard, it works perfectly well with any wild duck, even pochard! If using the small duck you may need more than one breast per person. This recipe serves 2.

Breasts from 2 wild duck
Salt and pepper

For the Stuffing:

50g (2oz) butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
110g (4oz) thyme, sage and parsley, chopped
175g (6oz) breadcrumbs
1 shallot, chopped
rind and juice of 2 oranges

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

Carefully slice the duck breasts so that you can open them flat and place them on a piece of tin foil and lightly season them.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and sauté all the stuffing ingredients, except the orange juice. When the stuffing looks done, add the juice and check the seasoning. Place the stuffing on one half of each duck breast and fold over.
Wrap each one in tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes in the oven.

Open each package carefully onto a hot plate so as not to lose any of the juices.

Rabbit in the Dairy

From the Game Cookbook
Wild rabbit can have a strong taste, and the way the country people overcame this was to soak it in milk. This is probably the origin of this delicate dish. It is very good if you are feeling poorly or in need of comfort.

2 rabbits, jointed
50g (2oz) bacon rasher, chopped
2 onions, chopped
mace or nutmeg
1.2 litres (2 pints) whole milk
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180C/359F/gas 4

Wash and dry the rabbits and place in an ovenproof dish. Add all the other ingredients and cook, covered for 1½ hours. Remove the rabbits and reduce the sauce by fast simmering or thicken with a little beurre manie*. Serve with a colourful vegetable, such as carrots or kale. * or roux

A Salad of Pheasant with Parsnip Crisps

and Cranberry Sauce
Serves 4

A selection of mixed Salad leaves (Oak Leaf, Little Gem, Rocket, Lambs Lettuce, finely sliced Savoy Cabbage) - enough for 4 helpings
French Dressing: or Mustard and Fresh Herb Dressing

1 pan-grilled pheasant breast.
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Parsnip Crisps - see recipe
Cranberry Sauce – see Foolproof food recipe

Garnish: Chervil or Flat Parsley

First make the parsnip crisps – see recipe. Keep warm.
To assemble:

Put the salad leaves into a bowl. Sprinkle with a little French dressing, toss until the leaves are nicely coated. 
Taste and divide the salad between 4 large places.
Slice the pheasant breast thinly and arrange upwards around the salad. Place a clump of warm parsnip crisps on top, put a few dots of Cranberry sauce around the edge. Garnish with chervil or flat parsley and serve immediately.

A Warm Salad of Pheasant with Myrtle Berries and Parsnip Crisps 
Subsitute Myrtle berries for Cranberry sauce in the above recipe.
The berries of myrtus ugni are ripe and gorgeous at present, they are particularly delicious with pheasant, guinea fowl or coarse pates.

Parsnip Crisps

We serve these delicious crisps on warm salads, as a garnish for Roast pheasant or Guinea fowl and as a topping for Parsnip or root vegetable soup. * Delicious crisps may be made from other vegetables apart from the much loved potato. Celeriac, beetroot, leek and even carrots are also good.

Serves 6 - 8

1 large parsnip
Sunflower or Arachide oil 

Heat good quality oil in a deep fryer to 150C/300F. Scrub and peel the parsnips. Either slice into wafer thin rounds or peel off long slivers lengthways with a swivel top peeler. Allow to dry out on kitchen paper.

Drop a few at a time into the hot oil, they colour and crisp up very quickly. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Venison Pie

When you buy venison, allow time for marinading, and remember that some item like fat salt pork or fat green bacon is essential either for cooking in with the meat (stew) or for larding (roasting or braising), unless the meat is well hung.
Serves 8

1½ kg (3 lb) shoulder of venison, trimmed and diced – 1½ inches

300-350 ml (10-12 fl oz) red wine
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, lightly crushed black pepper
Bouquet garni

250 g (8 ozs) fat salt pork or green streaky bacon, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 large carrot, diced
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
About ½ litre (three-quarters pint) beef or venison stock
Bouquet garni
24 small mushrooms, preferably wild ones
Extra butter
Raspberry vinegar, or lemon juice or redcurrant jelly
Salt, pepper, sugar

12 ozs (340 g) Puff or Flaky pastry

Egg wash

Season the venison well and soak in the marinade ingredients for 24-48 hours. Drain the meat well, pat it dry on kitchen paper and turn in seasoned flour.

Meanwhile, brown the pork or bacon in olive oil in a frying pan, cooking it slowly at first to persuade the fat to run, then raising the heat. Transfer to a casserole.

In the fat, brown the venison and then the onion, carrot and garlic: do all this in batches, transferring each one to the casserole. Do not overheat or the fat will burn. Pour off any surplus fat, deglaze the pan with the strained marinade and pour over the venison. Heat up enough stock to cover the items in the casserole and pour it over them. Put in the bouquet garni, bring to a gentle simmer, either on top of the stove or in the oven, preheated to 150ºC/300ºF/regulo 2, cover closely and leave until the venison is tender.

Test after 1½ hours, but allow 2½ hours cooking time. For best results, it is wise to cook this kind of dish one day and then reheat the next, this improves the flavour and gives you a chance to make sure that the venison is tender.

Foolproof Food

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 6 approx.
Cranberry Sauce is delicious served with roast turkey, game and some rough pâtés and terrines. 

170g (6oz) fresh cranberries
4 tablespoons water
85g (3oz) granulated sugar

Put the fresh cranberries in a heavy-based stainless steel or cast-iron saucepan with the water - don=t add the sugar yet as it tends to toughen the skins. Bring them to the boil, cover and simmer until the cranberries >pop= and soften, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved. 

Serve warm or cold.
Note: Cranberry Sauce will keep in your fridge for a week to 10 days, so you could make it early in the week before Christmas to get ahead.

Cranberry and Orange Sauce

Use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of water and add the grated rind of ½ an orange to the above recipe.
Hot Tips 

Cork Free Choice Consumer Group Annual Dinner will be held on Thursday 25th November at the Crawford Gallery Café, Emmet Place Cork at 7.30m for 8pm – Tickets €50, available from Ballymaloe House (021-4652531), Caroline Robinson (021-7331078) or ‘Well and Good’, Coolbawn, Midleton. Menu will include Sally Barnes’ wild smoked salmon, Fingal Ferguson’s smoked ham and beef from the best butchers in the country. Speaker Tom Doorley, well known food journalist, on ‘The Importance of Artisan Foods’ – he will also have signed copies of his new book for sale.

For great Pizzas and yummy Tiramisu, pop into the new CIBO on 40 Paul St. Cork. Open till 11, closed Sunday. There’s a whole raft of thin crust pizzas to choose from but my favourite is Chorizo, Roast Red Onion and Gruyere. Tel 021-4271082 

Le Gourmet , 5 River Gate Mall, Youghal, Co Cork. Tel 024-20000 or 087-2319210 –freshly prepared high quality food to take away – catering for dinner parties, receptions, corporate functions, celebration cakes, hampers…  

The National Sausage and Pudding Competition Winners were announced at recent Retail FoodShow in City West - Supreme Champion Sausage Award goes to Donegal and Spiced Beef honours to Kerry–

Supreme Sausage Champions are Ernan and Diarmuid McGettigan of Donegal Town – other sausage winners were Roger Finnerty & Sons of Oughterard, Co Galway, Black Pudding – Peter Callaghan, Ardee, Co Louth , White Pudding – Robert Savage, Swords, Co Dublin, Drisheen – Michael & Maurice Whelan, Carrick on Suir, Co Tipperary.

2004 Spiced Beef Champion was John Griffin of Listowel, Co Kerry. Full list of winners  

Dingle Seafood Soup Co. range of soups and pates were launched in UK when they attended ‘Bite of Ireland’ promotion at Selfridges in October.

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce

Summer at last, we’ve just had the first new potatoes, radishes, baby beetroot, spinach and beans. Its either a feast or a famine, we’ve just been through the hungry gap in the garden and now suddenly there’s an abundance of produce, everything is leaping out of the ground. Tomatoes and cucumbers are not ripe yet but there’s lots to be going on with. This week with the sun beaming down we’ve been eating lots of yummy salad – I’ve just got a particularly exciting new book called ‘The Well-dressed Salad , recently published by Pavilion Books.
The author Jennifer Joyce looks glowing, as though she has been eating gorgeous healthy salad all her life. Jennifer was born in the US but her passion for food came from her Italian heritage. She travelled extensively and has developed a very eclectic lifestyle. Look out for her articles on food in Elle Deco and Weekend Telegraph. If you’d like to catch one of her cooking classes contact Books for Cooks or Divertimenti in London. She has also presented two TV series on the Food Network.
If you love salads and have a little room on your kitchen shelf this might just be the book to add to your collection. Its written with wit and enthusiasm and Joyce’s passion for salad shines through and will inspire everyone to experiment. She’s put a fresh spin on the basics including the classic Caesar Salad. She brought together an unusual and delectable collection of salad dishes from around the world, from the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and South America. The photos by Sian Irvine are mouth-watering. We’ve been having a really exciting week trying out recipes. Here are some of the many I want to try out that we’ve enjoyed so far.

The Well-dressed Salad by Jennifer Joyce, published by Pavillion Press.

Green Bean, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing
Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

11oz/300g fine green beans, trimmed
11oz/300g mixed yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
8oz/250g bocconcini (mini mozzarella) or 2 buffalo mozzarella balls, cut into 2cm/1inch pieces and drained on kitchen paper
3 tbsp shredded fresh basil
1 quantity Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing (see recipe)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Cook the beans in a large pan of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and immediately immerse in iced water for 5 minutes or until chilled. Drain on kitchen paper.

This salad looks most beautiful composed rather than tossed, so place the ingredients on a large platter, arranging the beans, tomatoes, onion and mozzarella in separate piles. Sprinkle shredded basil over the top and drizzle with the dressing just before serving. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Anchovy, Caper and Garlic Dressing

1 anchovy packed in oil, rinsed and chopped
10 small capers, rinsed and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4fl oz/125ml good quality red wine vinegar (Cabernet Sauvignon)
7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.

Avocado, Orange and Red Onion Salad with Black Olive Vinaigrette

Serves 6 (Appetizer) and 4 (Main Course)

large handful of rocket leaves (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and stoned (pitted)
2 oranges (preferably navel or blood varieties)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
½oz (15g) fresh basil leaves or flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Black Olive Vinaigrette

2 tbsp chopped pitted black olives
2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper

Place a little rocket on each serving plate or on a large platter. Thinly slice the avocados and arrange the slices on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith off the oranges, remove any pips (seeds) and then cut the flesh into 1cm/½ inch slices. Cut each slice into quarters and arrange on top of the avocado. Sprinkle the red onion slices and basil or parsley over the salad.

Put all the vinaigrette ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.

* The salad should be eaten fairly soon after it has been prepared. If you want to make it 1 hour before, squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice over the avocados and do not add the onion until just before serving. The vinaigrette can be made the day before and refrigerated.

Vietnamese Prawn Salad with Lime, Lemon Grass & Ginger Dressing

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 4 (Main Course)

24 large, raw prawns
2 large carrots, cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into julienne
2 medium cucumbers, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large red chilli, de-seeded and cut into julienne
15 fresh mint leaves
¾oz/20g fresh coriander leaves


3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red chillies, de-seeded and chopped
3 lemon grass stalks, lower third only thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped fresh root ginger
3 tbsp Thai fish sauce
4 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp fresh lime juice
½ tsp ground black pepper


3 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
3 spring onions, white part only cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
1 large red chilli, de-seeded, cut into julienne and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes

For the dressing: put the garlic, chillies, lemon grass, shallot and ginger into a food processor and process a paste. Scrape the paste into a bowl and stir in the Thai fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, coriander and pepper and set aside.

Peel the prawns, remove their heads and de-vein with a small paring knife. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil, add the prawns and remove with a slotted spoon when they turn pink. Rinse prawns under cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Combine the carrots, pepper, cucumbers, red onion, red chilli, mint and the prawns in a large bowl. Just before serving, pour over the dressing and mix well. Serve the salad on a large platter with the coriander leaves, spring onions and chilli strips sprinkled over it.


This salad is delicious with chicken, seared beef fillet (tenderloin) or fresh seared tuna in place of prawns. Thin glass (cellophane) or vermicelli noodles could be used for vegetarians. Add crushed peanuts, cashews and/or fried shallots and Fried Ginger Sticks.

Asian Savoy Cabbage Salad

Serves 6 (Appetizer) or 8 (Side Dish)

½ Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
½ red cabbage, thinly sliced
2 carrots cut into julienne
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
8 spring onions , thinly sliced
3 shallots, finely chopped
1oz/25g fresh coriander leaves
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp regular soy sauce
1½ tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp sesame oil
4fl oz/125ml groundnut (peanut oil)

Put all the vegetables, the coriander and salt and pepper into a large bowl. Place all the dressing ingredients into a screw-top jar and shake well. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well.


White cabbage could replace Savoy with great results. Grilled prawns or thinly sliced seared beef could be added for a more substantial salad. Crispy Shallots or crushed peanuts would be delicious added.

Claire McSweeney’s Wakame Seaweed Salad

I tasted this delicious salad at a recent meeting of the Cork Free Choice Consumer’s Group and Claire McSweeney generously shared her recipe with us.

Serves 8

1 bag of Wakame Seaweed
1 large cucumber

6 tablesp. rice wine vinegar
3 tablesp. Shoyu soy Sauce
2 tablesp. sugar

1 handful pickled ginger

Pour lots of cold water over the seaweed and leave re-hydrate for about 15 minutes.

Peel the cucumber in strips along the length, cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and slice thinly.
Put about 8 fl.ozs (250ml) of water into a bowl, add 1 teaspoon of salt and the sliced cucumber. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a saucepan, warm gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Drain the cucumber and press out any excess water.
Drain the seaweed well and rinse with cold water. Drain very well again.

Mix all the ingredients together with the pickled ginger.
Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, so it becomes cool and crisp.

Great with fried fish or tempura.

Foolproof Food

Fresh Strawberry Shortcake

Serves 6 - 8

6 ozs (170g) flour
4 ozs (110g) butter
2 ozs (55g) castor sugar

½ lb (225g) strawberries
8 fl ozs (250ml) chantilly cream - whipped sweetened cream
1 teasp. icing sugar
Garnish: 6 - 8 whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves

Rub the butter into the flour and castor sugar as for shortcrust pastry. Gather the mixture together and knead lightly. Rest dough for a few minutes if you have time. Roll out into 2 circles 7 inches (17.5cm) in diameter, ¼ inch (7mm) thick. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4, 15 minutes approx or until pale golden . Remove and cool on a rack. One circle may be marked with a knife into wedges while still warm, to facilitate cutting later.
Shortly before serving, sandwich with chantilly cream and halved sugared strawberries. Sieve icing sugar over the top and decorate with rosettes of cream, whole strawberries and fresh mint leaves.
Note: Individual strawberry shortcakes may be made with 3 inch (7.5cm) discs of shortbread. Cut the strawberries lengthways and brush with red currant jelly if available.

Hot Tips 

West Cork Food and Drink Fair at Mannings Emporium, Ballylickey on 19th & 20th June – today there will be a Food & Drink Quiz and on Sunday cooking demonstrations with Carmel from Good Things Café, Durrus and Ivan of Grapefruit Moon in Ballycotton. Special Guests John & Sally McKenna.

Waterford City Market at Jenkins Lane
Opened for business on Saturday 5th June – colourful range of quality local food produce, hand crafts and bustling atmosphere – supported by Waterford City Council. Open every Saturday 10-4 situated at Beach Tower off Georges St.

Other thriving new Markets springing up around the country – Dungarvan, Naas, Fermoy, Blackrock Park, Co Dublin ……..

If you plan a trip to London during the summer and would like to take in a cookery demonstration – check out
Books for Cooks – 4 Blenheim Crescent, London W11 INN (Notting Hill)
Tel 00 44 207 221 1992
Divertimenti – 34 Marylebone High St. London W1U 4PT Tel. 00 44 207 935 0689

Fresh Irish Strawberries – look out for your nearest grower or pick your own and enjoy the real taste of summer.

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons

Eating outdoors throughout the seasons is one of my greatest delights – Spring, Summer of course, as well as Autumn and even Winter. I always have several picnic baskets packed and ready to go. Old rugs folded, some are slightly tattered and moth-eaten, each with a story – a tartan rug from my boarding school days, a truly beautiful hand-woven rug, a present from Alice Roden, several treasured relics from the old Country Shop in Dublin’s Stephens Green, (a favourite childhood haunt, now long since gone), and finally several posh new rugs with waterproof lining and handles for ease of carrying.
One picnic basket has several cheap frying pans, tongs, egg slice, a large bottle of sunflower oil, a bag of kindling, firelighters, newspapers (mostly the sports sections) and matches. This is my kit for breakfast picnics - delicious in the Comeraghs or Knockmealdowns, or on the cliffs overlooking the little sandy coves on the coast. We bake a few loaves of soda bread and spotted dog, grab the basket of assorted jam and honey, squeeze some citrus fruit for fresh juice. Pack the hurricane kettle, also fill some flasks of boiling water in case the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.
When we reach our chosen site, preferably overlooking the sea, a shimmering lake or a babbling brook, we make several stone circles to enclose our fires, the children gather extra driftwood or ‘cipins’ and we get to work.
Nothing smells or tastes so tantalisingly irresistible as rashers and freshly laid eggs, sizzling sausages and fine flat mushrooms when they are cooked outdoors.
Our picnics are usually very simple, I rarely make fancy terrines or quiches. A frittata is certainly worth considering, but more often its just a piece of freshly boiled bacon, a simple roast chicken, a plump free-range organic one from Dan Aherne at Midleton Market, or one of Nora Aherne’s ducks. A few relishes and pickles, a bowl of freshly boiled shrimps and some homemade mayonnaise. A crisp cucumber and some ripe tomatoes are a must. If one is fortunate enough to have a Farmers Market locally, a visit will usually yield a variety of salami, chorizo, smoked fish, farmhouse cheese and if you are lucky enough to visit Midleton Farmers Market – crusty loaves of Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Breads.
Cool boxes are an ace invention, such a pity they usually look so ghastly. I’m ludicrously fussy about the aesthetics of a picnic, lots of napkins, a mixture of favourite mismatched cutlery bound with raffia or a rubber band to stop them rattling about. Speckled enamel plates and our local Shanagarry Pottery, glasses and pretty Bridgewater mugs, as well as brightly coloured plastic. For seaside picnics particularly, its fun to pop a chilled melon – Charentais, Gallia or Ogen, or a Water Melon, into the cold box with some home-made lemonade or elderflower cordial, and masses of ice.
For cold frosty Winter days which we can scarcely visualise by the end of May – flasks of hot soup and a hay box containing a pot of bubbling stew, unfailingly produce gasps of delight.
Basically, I virtually never travel without a picnic, as those who sit beside me on trains, buses and planes will no doubt be aware. Occasionally I bring it home untouched, but more often than not, I am so glad to have it.
Hugo Arnold, author of the indispensable Avoca Cookbooks, is also passionate about outdoor eating. In his new book ‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’, he writes, ‘Fresh air, the warmth of the sun on my back and the gentle rustle of trees, all help to sharpen the senses. How well the wine tastes, how more delicious is the bread, the fleshy sun-rich olives and the moist, golden-yellow, mayonnaise-laden salmon sandwiches. If there is a lake or babbling brook nearby, so much the better. It is time to relax. There is no better way to eat.
This beautifully illustrated book published by Kyle Cathie, includes Chapters on Eating in the open, Soups and hearty sandwiches; Pates, terrines and purees; Tarts, pies and pizzas; Picnic dishes for feasts and parties; Barbecues and fires; Vegetables both in and out of salads, Desserts. You may want to seek it out before you launch into the Summer outdoor feasting season – its worth the €19.99 for Hugo’s mouth-watering prose alone.

‘Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts’ by Hugo Arnold, published by Kyle Cathie.

Seafood Salad, Lime and Chilli Dressing

From Barbecues and other Outdoor Feasts by Hugo Arnold
Serves 6-8 as a starter

250g/9oz shell-on prawns
200g/7oz shelled scallops, patted dry with kitchen paper
500g/1lb squid, cleaned and cut into 2cm/¾ inch pieces
salt and pepper
500g/1lb shell-on clams, cleaned
1kg/2lb 4oz shell-on mussels, cleaned
bunch of parsley, picked over
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
zest of 2 limes and the juice of 1

Preheat a grill or ridged griddle pan.
Season the prawns, scallops and squid with salt and pepper and grill until just done, about 2 minutes each side, transferring to a shallow bowl.
Put the clams and mussels in a saucepan, cover and cook over a medium heat until they open, about 5 minutes. Discard any shells that have not opened in that time.
Remove some of the excess half shells, they will only be discarded anyway, and add to the prawns, scallops and squid.
When all the fish is cooked, add the parsley to the bowl along with the chilli, lots of olive oil and the lime zest and juice.
Season, toss gently and serve.

Char-grilled Squid with Chilli Oil, Houmous and Rocket Salad

Serves 4
125g/4oz dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 garlic cloves, crushed to a pulp with a little salt
2 tablepsoons tahini*
1 bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
juice of 2-3 lemons
2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
olive oil
1kg/2lb 4oz squid, prepared as described below
4 handfuls of rocket
1 lemon, quartered

Cook the chickpeas in fresh boiling water until tender – 45 mins to 1 hour. They should be nutty, but certainly not al dente.
Strain, reserving the cooking water, and puree the peas along with the garlic and tahini, adding the reserved cooking water until you have a puree the consistency of whipping cream.
Stir in the coriander and lemon juice to taste and set aside.
Combine the chilli with 125ml/4fl.oz of olive oil, gently heat until just warm and set aside.
Barbecue the squid for 2 minutes each side and serve with the houmous, rocket dressed with the chilli oil.
*It makes the task of extracting the tahini from the jar much easier if you sit it in a jug of boiling water 5 minutes before you need it.

To prepare squid:
Slide your finger down the cartilage and pull away from the body sac along with the head.
Slice off just behind the eyes and discard everything but the tubular body sac, head, tentacles and ink sack.
Run a knife down the body sac, open out and with your fingers take off the wings. With a knife scrape off the darker-coloured skin and cut into 5cm/2 in squares and rectangles. Wash thoroughly and drain.
With a sharp knife score the outside of the squid in a criss-cross pattern, making sure you don’t cut through the flesh.
This helps to stop it curling.

Meat & Chicken Satay

Serves 4
1 walnut sized piece of tamarind pulp
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3cm/1in piece of fresh root ginger, roughly grated
500g/1lb shoulder of lamb, cubed
500g/1lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into 3cm/1in cubes

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons plain un roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
juice and zest of 1 lime
125ml/4fl oz coconut milk.

Place the tamarind in a small cup of warm water and as the pulp becomes malleable squeeze out as much as you can. Drain through a sieve, squeezing out as much liquid from the solids as possible. Discard the pulp.
Combine the tamarind liquor with the garlic, shallots, lime juice and zest, soy sauce and ginger.
Thread the meat on to soaked skewers* and brush over the marinade.
To make the sauce, fry the peanuts in the oil until browned.
Place the chillies, garlic and shallots in a processor and blitz.
Add to the peanuts and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. Add the lime juice and zest and the coconut milk and stir well so everything is amalgamated.
Cook the skewers over a moderate heat for 20 minutes, turning frequently and basting with any remaining marinade. Serve with the sauce.

* You need to soak the skewers in cold water for about 1 hour to prevent them burning. If you can’t wait for that long, wrap the exposed ends in a bit of foil, fiddly, but it does the trick.

Grilled Entrecote with Field Mushroom and Béarnaise Sauce

Barbecued steaks are great, but it is also worth buying a cut like entrecote in a large piece. That way you get the smoky charred outside and a pink, delicate inside. It is much easier to carve along the short side.
Serves 6-8

For the reduction:
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
few sprigs fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon peppercorns

To make the Béarnaise Sauce:
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon reduction
250g/9oz butter
1 tablespoon fresh herbs, eg tarragon, chervil, chopped
salt and pepper

12cm/4in-piece of entrecote weighing about 1.5kg/3lb
olive oil
8 medium sized field mushrooms

Combine all the reduction ingredients in a saucepan and add 4 tablespoons of water.
Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 1 tablespoon of liquid left.
Push through a sieve and set aside.
For the Béarnaise sauce, combine the egg yolks with the reduction in a bain-marie or in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of gently boiling water. Add the butter, a lump at a time stirring constantly until it thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the herbs and check seasoning. It will sit, quite happily, for half an hour or so provided it is warm.
Rub the entrecote all over with the garlic and then a few tablespoons of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper and barbecue for 1015 minutes, turning frequently (10 minutes will give rare, 15 minutes medium and 20 minutes almost, though not quite, well done).
Brush the mushrooms with olive oil and cook/barbecue, gill side up, at the same time. Serve the entrecote with the mushrooms and Béarnaise sauce. 

Foolproof Food

Barbecue Sauce

Makes 225ml (8fl oz) approx. can be used to marinade lamb chicken or pork or even sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
110g (4oz) finely chopped onion
1 x 400g (14oz) tin of tomatoes
7 tablespoons tomato puree
7 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons pure Irish honey
4 tablespoons Worcester sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, onion and sweat gently for 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice, cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes, season with salt, freshly ground pepper. Puree in a liquidiser or food processor, add the remainder of the ingredients and bring to the boil, simmer for 4 or 5 minutes. Use as a sauce or marinade.
Note: Don’t marinade for longer than 15-20 minutes or the meat will be inclined to burn easily.

Top Tips

For picnics - Bring a damp J-cloth or two in a plastic bag to deal with sticky or charcoal covered fingers.
Several old recycled carrier bags are terrific for food scraps or refuse.
A packet of good sausages are a must for any picnic. You may want to bring some honey wholegrain mustard and rosemary mixed in a pot.

1-day Barbecue Course at Ballymaloe Cookery School – Friday 25th June – 021-4646785  

AGA – Chef Seamus O’Connell will perform an AGA cookery demonstration at the National Country Fair on Sunday June 6th and Monday June 7th at Emo Court, Emo, Co Laois. Seamus of Cork’s Ivory Tower Restaurant and presenter of Soul Food series on RTE, recently won the title of Best Chef of the Year from the National Restaurant Association of Ireland. 

Schull Farmers Market is worth a detour - every Sunday 11-3 – on a recent visit the stalls were laden with local food, farmhouse cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, plants and crafts.

Gudrun and Frank Shinnick have been making cheese in Fermoy for several years. Recently I came across some of their wonderful cheese, a delicious hard St Gall and a sublime gooey melting St Brigid Rua. They can scarcely keep up with demand at the moment but try some of the selected outlets they supply – On the Pig’s Back in Cork’s English Market, Sheridan's in Dublin, Country Choice in Nenagh, the Quay Food Company in Kinsale or Mark Hosford at the Coal Quay Market in Cork on Saturdays. You may also like to look out for their 3rd cheese called Cáis Rua. Contact Gudrun or Frank at the Fermoy Natural Cheese Company 025-31310 to find the outlet nearest you.
CHASE Gala Summer Ball – Friday 11th June at Rochestown Park Hotel – Champagne Reception, dinner, dancing plus lots more – all proceeds to CHASE
Contact Katie Cullinane 4863467, Debra Hurley 4843932, Hillary O’Malley 4841361

Stress Free Entertaining

I have just started to write a book on Entertaining, there will be lots of easy stress free menus to encourage everyone to invite around the pals on a more regular basis.

Don’t get excited yet, it will be at least a year before it hits the shops. 
Meanwhile I am having fun testing recipes for one-pot dishes which may or may not make it to the book, but are yummy, delicious, and just the sort of comforting food one feels like tucking into on an evening in February.
By a long way the most stressful way to entertain is the formal dinner party, particularly if you get involved in cooking meat and two veg and lots of bits which need alteration at the last minute.
Thought not suitable for every occasion, a repertoire of stews, casseroles and pies are invaluable for stress free entertaining. They also have the advantage of being pretty substantial so you may dare to skip the first course and just pass around a few simple tapas with drinks. Next week I will give recipes for some of our favourites but in this article I am concentrating on main courses.

Some can be made ahead, others like risotto can be made casually in the kitchen
while your friends are sipping a glass of wine enjoying the free cooking lesson. Keep it casual, if you can feel cool and unflurried your guests will be equally relaxed and everyone will leave a fun time. A flustered host or hostess ensures that everyone is on edge and after all its only a dinner party so chill!

Beef & Chorizo Stew

Serves 6-8

1 tablesp. extra virgin olive oil
200g (7oz) chorizo sausage, sliced (2 sausages approx.)
1kg (2lb) stewing beef, organic if possible, cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) cubes
2 large onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablesp.flour
2 tablesp. tomato puree
½ teasp. paprika
1 teasp. thyme leaves
4 tablesp. dry sherry
250ml (8 fl.oz/1 cup) red wine
250ml (8 fl.oz/1 cup) beef, chicken or vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Add the sliced chorizo and cook until the oil begins to run, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the chorizo and set aside in a bowl. Increase the heat, add the beef to the pot and fry off in batches until sealed and well browned . If the pan is over-crowded the meat will stew rather than brown. Remove the beef from the pot and put in the bowl with the chorizo. 
Add the onion to the pot (adding extra oil if required), and cook, stirring until golden and just starting to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two 
Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Add the tomato puree, paprika and thyme and cook for a few seconds. Then return the chorizo and beef to the pot. Stir everything well, then add the sherry and wine, bring to simmering point, then add the hot stock or water. Cover and simmer gently until the meat is tender, about 1½ hours. We prefer to cook it in a pre-heated oven, 160c/325F/gas 3. Season cautiously, but taste first because if the sausage is salty you many not need any additional salt, just some freshly ground pepper. Serve scattered with roughly chopped parsley. Scallion Champ or Colcannon make a yummy accompaniment.

Chicken in Basil and Coconut Broth

Serves 4 -6

175g (6oz) flat rice noodles
400ml (14 fl.ozs) tin of coconut milk – Chaokah brand
500ml (16fl.ozs/2 cups) home-made chicken stock
1 heaped tablesp. grated fresh ginger
1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
1 teasp. freshly ground coriander
1 -2 tablesp. fish sauce, nam pla
4 organic chicken breasts, boned and skinned

1 handful of fresh basil leaves.

Fresh coriander leaves

Bring a saucepan of water to a fast rolling boil, add the noodles, stir well to keep separate. Boil for 3-5 minutes, depending on size, they should be tender but still firm. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water. Cut the noodles into ¾ inch (2cm) lengths. Leave in the colander until you are ready to serve the soup.
Put the coconut milk, stock, ginger, chilli, coriander and fish sauce into a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat just to keep it barely bubbling.
Cut the chicken breasts across into 2mm (one-eighth inch) slices. Add the sliced chicken to the broth and cook very gently until it changes colour and is just cooked through, 4-5 minutes approx. Adjust the seasoning, add a little extra fish sauce if necessary. Throw in the basil and leave to stand for 5 minutes while you reheat the noodles.
Bring a kettle of water to the boil and pour the boiling water over the noodles in the colander. Drain the noodles well.
Warm 4-6 wide deep bowls, divide the noodles between them. Top with chicken and ladle over the hot coconut broth. Serve at once scattered with fresh coriander. Eat with chopsticks and Chinese soup spoons, otherwise use a fork and spoon.

Italian braised Lamb and Tomato Stew

Serves 6
A gutsy stew made with inexpensive and delicious shoulder of lamb, flavoured with sage, rosemary and bay leaves.

extra virgin olive oil – 2-3 tablesp.
3lbs (1.3kg) shoulder of lamb chops, 1½ inches (4cm) thick
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teasp. each finely chopped sage and rosemary
4 fl.ozs (125ml) dry white wine
1 x 14oz (400g) tin tomatoes
salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar
2 bay leaves 

Cut the lamb into manageable pieces. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, brown the pieces of lamb a few at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan or it will stew rather than brown. Transfer to a plate. Add the garlic and freshly chopped herbs to the sauté pan. Stir, add the wine and allow to bubble for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Chop the tomatoes and add with their juice. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar.
Finally return the lamb to the pan with the bay leaves. Bring to simmering point and then continue to cook at a slow simmer or transfer to a heated oven 150C/300F/gas 2 for 1-1¼ hours, or until the meat is meltingly tender. Cover the sauté pan but leave the lid slightly ajar to allow the liquid to slightly evaporate and concentrate. Stir every 15 or 20 minutes and if the sauce evaporates too much just add a little water.
Taste and correct seasong. Serve with soft mashed potato. 
In Italy this is served alone or followed by a green salad.

Lamb and Medjool Date Tagine, Herbed Couscous

by Merrilees Parker
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp each ground coriander and turmeric
2 tsp each ground cinnamon and cumin
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1.5kg/3lb 5oz lamb shoulder, well trimmed and cut into 4cm/11/2in chunks
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2.5cm/1in piece peeled root ginger, chopped
3 onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
600ml/1 pint tomato juice
600ml/1 pint lamb or chicken stock
2 tbsp clear honey
225g/8oz Medjool dates, cut in half and stones removed
For the Couscous
350g/12oz medium couscous 
juice of 2 lemons 
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
600ml/1 pint chicken stock
4 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley and mint
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Greek style yoghurt and fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Mix together the paprika, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and pepper in a large bowl, then tip half into a small bowl and set aside. Add the lamb to the large bowl and coat in the spices. Cover with clingfilm and chill overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325F/170C/Gas 3. Place the garlic, ginger and onions into a food processor and pulse until finely minced. Heat a large heavy-based casserole. Add half of the oil and brown off the marinated lamb in batches. Add the remaining oil to the pan and then add the onion mixture cook for a few minutes until softened but not coloured. Stir in the reserved spice mixture and cook for another minute or so until well combined.

Pour the tomato juice and stock into the pan and then add the honey, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour, then stir in the dates and cook for another hour until the lamb is completely tender and and sauce has thickened and reduced. Season to taste.

To make the couscous; place it in a large bowl and add four tablespoons of the oil and the lemon juice. Mix well ensuring that all the grains are completely coated. Heat the stock in a small pan and season generously. Pour over the couscous and allow to sit in a warm place for 6-8 minutes until all the liquid has absorbed, stirring occasionally. To serve, stir in the remaining oil and the herbs into the couscous and arrange on plates with the tagine. Finally garnish with a dollop of the Greek yoghurt and coriander leaves. 

Andalusian Shellfish Stew

Serves 6

Extra virgin olive oil – about 6 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 onions, chopped
1 large red pepper
1 large green pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper
½ teasp. saffron
waxy potatoes
4 ozs (110g) Serrano ham, diced*
2 pints approx. (1.2L) fish stock
1 can butter beans (14oz/400g)
4 lb (1.8kg) cockles or mussels, or a mixture

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a wide sauté pan, add the chopped onion and garlic and sweat until soft and slightly coloured, add the sliced peppers. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put the saffron into a cup, cover with a little fish stock. Add the diced potato, butter and the Serrano ham to the pan.
Cover with fish stock, add the saffron and the soaking liquid. Taste and correct the seasoning. Continue to cook until the potatoes are cooked. This stew can be prepared ahead to this point.*
Just before serving return to the heat, add the well washed cockles or mussels. They will open in the heat. Taste and correct the seasoning. Serve in deep soup bowls.

Banana and Yoghurt Smoothie

For a speedy breakfast or an energy boost any time of the day.
Serves 1-2

8 flozs (250ml/1 cup) natural yoghurt
1 ripe banana
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
8 ice-cubes

Peel the banana, chop coarsely, blend with other ingredients in a liquidizer until smooth.
Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

Hot Tip

World’s Top Trainee Sommelier
Eoin Moynihan from Baltimore, a 21 year old first year catering management student from Cork Institute of Technology has been selected to compete in the National Final of the search for Ireland’s top trainee wine waiter. The event takes place in Dublin next February with the winner going forward to represent Ireland in the International competition for the World’s Top Trainee Sommelier. 

Ballymaloe Weekend Wine Course with Mary Dowey 12-14th March –
Master all the key grape varieties, learn how to recognise quality, find about serving, storage, wise buying, new trends and much more. Weekend packages available at Ballymaloe House. Tel. 021-4652531


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