CategorySaturday Letter

Summer Vegetables

National Eat Your Vegetables Day is this coming Monday, 17th June.

By now the penny has dropped with even the most ardent carnivore that we don’t need huge quantities of meat to be fit and healthy. Best to invest in a little top quality preferably organic meat from a good local butcher.

Here and there all around the country, there are small farmers who are selling their meat direct to the consumer from their farms, often rare breeds e.g. Dexter, Kerry, Irish Maol and Droimeann, a little trawl on the internet will bring up lots of addresses.

But this column is not about meat, it’s actually about vegetables. This has to be my absolute favourite time of the year for vegetables.  Here we are super fortunate to have an acre of greenhouses, a relic of a horticultural enterprise. We are in the midst of the growing season, so the plants are jumping out of the ground.

There are several rows of fresh peas which we eat fresh from the pods. You can imagine how much the grandchildren love picking the pea pods directly from the plants with their friends and having a little feast of peas. The students too love them, for many it’s the very first time they’ve seen fresh peas out of a packet.

We’ve also had the first of the radishes, beets, carrots, globe artichokes and we’ve made our wish with the first of the new potatoes. I never want to do anything fancy with them, just cook them in lots of well salted water, slather them with Jersey butter and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Now that the asparagus season is over, we’ve been enjoying the beginning of the broad bean crop too.

Last week, our guest chef was Giuliano Hazan, son of the famous Italian cook, Marcella Hazan.  He was enchanted by the garden harvesting fresh vegetables. He showed us how to prepare the first of the new season’s tiny globe artichokes, he served them in the traditional Italian way, thinly sliced, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. We used Capezzana from Tuscany, sprinkled with freshly squeezed lemon juice and some flaky sea salt.

He did the same with the raw broad beans, peeling each bean is certainly laborious but it was worth the effort with paper thin slices of pecorino over the top. Sweet and delicious, we served them as a starter.

Young, thinly sliced zucchini were served in a similar way drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and flaky sea salt and garnished with the yellow blossoms.

For dessert, he shared his mother’s favourite carrot cake recipe, baked not in a loaf tin but in a 25cm round tin, enough for 8-12 people to enjoy. It was moist and particularly delicious, add it to your repertoire.

Giuliano has written five best-selling cookbooks including ‘The Classic Pasta Cookbook’ which has sold well over 500,000 copies – seek it out.

I’ve included three recipes incorporating vegetables currently in season to whet your appetite – I hope you enjoy.

Marcella Hazan’s Crisp-Fried Courgette Blossoms

There are both male and female blossoms, and only the male, those on a stem are good to eat. The female blossoms, attached to the courgette, are mushy and unappealing.

Serves 4-6

12 male courgette flowers

vegetable oil

batter

250ml water

75g plain flour

To Serve

salt

First make the batter.

Put the water into a bowl and gradually add the flour, shaking it through a sieve and with a fork, constantly beating the mixture that forms. When all the flour has been mixed with water the batter should have the consistency of sour cream. If it is thinner, add a little more flour, if it is thicker, add a little more water.

Wash the blossoms rapidly under cold running water without letting them soak. Gently but thoroughly pat them dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper. If the stems are very long, cut them down to 2.5cm. Make a cut on one side of each blossom’s base to open the flower flat, butterfly fashion.

Pour enough oil into a frying pan to come 2cm up its sides and turn the heat to high. When the oil is very hot, use the blossoms’ stems to dip them quickly in and out of the batter, and slip them into the skillet. Put in only as many as will fit very loosely. When they have formed a golden brown crust on one side, turn them and do the other side. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer to a cooking rack to drain or to a platter lined with kitchen paper. If any blossoms remain to be done, repeat the procedure. When they are all done, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. 

Risi e Bisi (Risotto of Peas or Broad Beans)

Comfort food at its very best, a heavenly way to enjoy some of your precious fresh peas.  Young shelled broad beans can also be added.

Serves 6 -9

1kg fresh young peas (podded weight approx. 500g)

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

125g butter, softened

1.75 litres homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

200g onion, finely chopped

300g risotto rice

3 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

110g Parmesan, freshly grated

Pod the peas and save the pods.  Bring a large saucepan of water (4.8 litres approx.) to the boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.  Add the pea pods and cook for 5 minutes.  Then scoop them out.  Put through a mouli, with a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water.  Blanch the peas in the boiling pea pod water, drain and add to the pea-pod pulp.  Season with lots of freshly ground pepper and add 45g of the butter 

Put half into a food processor and pulse.  Return to the whole peas. 

Heat the stock. Taste and check for seasoning.

Melt half the remaining butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Gently fry the onion until soft and just beginning to colour.  Add the rice, stir to coat each grain with butter and cook for 2-3 minutes.  When the rice is opaque, increase the heat to medium and start to add the hot stock ladle by ladle, adding the next only when the last of the stock has been absorbed.  Stir continuously.  After 10 minutes add the peas and parsley, continue to cook until the rice is al dente – about 10 minutes.

Finally, stir in the remaining butter, and most of the Parmesan – the texture should be soft and flowing.  Taste and correct seasoning.  Serve immediately in deep wide soup bowls, with a little more Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Carrot Almond Cake

Recipe adapted from ‘Marcella’s Italian Kitchen’ by Marcella Hazan

A particularly delicious carrot cake of his mothers, it keeps really well and may well be the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten!

Serves 8-12

250g shelled, unblanched almonds

225g plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

110g dry ladyfingers

250g carrots, peeled

2 ½ tsp baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 tbsp Amaretto liqueur

4 large eggs

flaked almonds (optional)

1 x 25.5cm springform pan

2 tsp butter for greasing the pan

1 tbsp flour for dusting the pan

To Serve

225ml heavy cream, whipped with 1 teaspoon of sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Put the almonds and the sugar in a food processor and chop as finely as possible.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Break up the ladyfingers into pieces about 2.5cm long, place them in the food processor, and grind to a powder.  Add to the almonds and sugar in the mixing bowl.  Cut the carrots into pieces about 2.5cm long and chop in the food processor as finely as possible.  Add to the bowl, mixing them in well with the other ingredients.

Add the baking powder, the salt, and the Amaretto liqueur and mix well.  Separate the eggs and add the yolks, mixing them in until they are well distributed with the other ingredients. Put the whites in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Whip the egg whites with an electric mixer or by hand until they form stiff peaks. Take a couple of tablespoons of the beaten egg whites and mix them with the ingredients in the bowl to soften the mixture a bit.  Pour the rest of the egg whites onto the mixture and carefully fold them in with a rubber spatula.

Grease the bottom and sides of the springform pan with the butter and dust it with flour.  Pour the batter into the pan, then shake the pan a bit until the batter is evenly distributed. Sprinkle some flaked almonds over the top if desired.

Place the cake in the upper level of the preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake.

When the cake is cool, cut it into 8-12 pieces and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Summer BBQ

Nothing says Summer like wheeling out the barbeque, but this year because the weather has been so crazy, it’s been in and out of the shed on a regular basis. I’ve got a couple of different contraptions. One a very fancy barbeque Weber and several other ‘Heath Robinson’ types, all of which do the job, but it must be said, varying degrees of skill are needed to turn out nicely charred, succulent food.

I love cooking over fire, it definitely brings out my inner ‘caveman’ and awakens my primeval instincts. Can be as simple as a circle of stones with a feisty fire in the centre and a wire rack to lay the food on top. Grilling is all about controlling the heat and arranging the food at a careful distance from the heat source. If, however you really prefer not to play Russian roulette and would rather play safe to be sure of constant results, invest in a Weber or similar type barbeque – they are brilliantly reliable and have a lid so you can cook anything from a loaf of bread to a butterflied leg of lamb to a turkey deliciously. We love to give a smoky flavour. Tempting as it may be, don’t leave your gas barbeque out in all weathers, it will eventually deteriorate and rust.

Last weekend, I was invited to a friend’s 80th birthday party in the UK. It was such a brilliant party and a wonderful weekend of catching up with young and old friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for over 20 years and certainly not since before the pandemic.

For Sunday lunch for over 80 guests, multiple sheets of marinated ribs were grilled on a long skinny repurposed scaffolding frame with two half barrels on top and a rack that could be adjusted to two heights (essential). I suppose the whole barbeque was put together for less than £50 and it worked like a dream. On the previous evening, five butterflied legs of lamb had been cooked to perfection on the same simple contraption.

A super easy way to feed a crowd of people and a brilliantly convivial way to whet everyone’s appetite.

Top Tips for tasty grilled food:

  • Marinade before, time will depend on the thickness of the meat or fish.
  • Use lots of gusty herbs and spices.
  • Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Buy really fresh fish and best quality ingredients.
  • Keep chops and steaks good and thick so they can char on the outside but remain juicy and pink in the centre.
  • Use lots of chunky vegetables doused in extra virgin olive oil and optional herbs and spices – carrots, aubergines, cabbage wedges, scallions, spring onions….
  • As an accompaniment, have a gorgeous bowl of chilled fresh organic salad leaves with lots and lots of Parmesan grated over the top.
  • Have lots of good sauces and salsa.

Jasper Wight’s Rosticciana – Charcoal Grilled Pork Ribs

Rosticcianaare whole sheets of pork ribs grilled over charcoal, then cut into single cooked ribs.

They are common in Tuscany, Italy, more in a home cooking environment (cucina casalinga) than in restaurant cooking.

Jasper learned this recipe and marinade from Piera Vegnani, at one of her Sunday lunches for 20 or so family and friends crowded around a long table in the kitchen of their rustic farmhouse on the edges of Panzano-in-Chianti, in the heart of Tuscany.

Sheet ribs are simply a single sheet of ribs cut close to the bone when the pork belly is taken off in a single piece (approx. 12 ribs). Do not be tempted to buy spareribs, with their extra inch or so of flesh, or to buy single ribs. 

A decent butcher should be happy enough to cut the sheet ribs off. 

There are of course many variations on the marinade, so feel free to improvise. Quantities depend on the quantity of ribs, but you want a light marinade, like a heavy dusting, not a heavy load.

  • finely sliced onion
  • finely sliced garlic
  • black peppercorns crushed in a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder to a medium texture
  • fennel seeds likewise
  • a few crushed dried chillies if you like some extra heat to the pepper
  • strips of lemon zest
  • coarsely chopped rosemary
  • coarsely chopped sage
  • sunflower or olive oil
  • (no salt)

Rub the marinade all over the ribs in a large oven dish, cover and chill for at least 12 hours, ideally turning and mixing from time to time.

At least 4 hours prior to cooking, take the marinated ribs out of the fridge and bring up to room temperature

Around 90 mins before serving, light the barbeque, using only lump wood charcoal, ideally large restaurant grade chunks, not charcoal briquettes.

Ideally your barbeque will have a rack for the coals to sit on and an adjustable height grill. also keep a small squeezy bottle of water nearby to douse any flames, and a pack of fine sea salt that will be easy to sprinkle.

Our friend Mimmo Baldi, who runs the Enoteca Baldi on the main piazza of Panzano-in-Chianti, likes to clean the barbeque grill with an improvised brush of woody herbs, such as rosemary and bay branches, and also to drop some of the leaves into the coals a little before the ribs hit the grill, to give some extra perfume to the ribs in due course.

After around 45 minutes the coals should be white and not so fiercely hot, but still hard to hold your hand near.

Knock off as much of the onion, garlic, lemon zest and herbs as you can, but don’t fuss if some is left on.

Salt one side of each rib sheet (fairly generously) and place it facing salt side downwards on the grill.

Don’t move the sheet ribs around. They should sizzle gently, not flame and not burn. If they do flame excessively, raise the grill a bit and squirt a little water onto the flaming areas.

After around 10-15 minutes, salt the top side of the ribs (maybe a little less generously than before) and flip them over. You want to be sure the cooked side is cooked all over, with no patches of raw pork that maybe missed the main areas of heat.

Grill the second side for another 10-15 minutes, until there is no blood puffing from the bones, and the flesh is all cooked through.

Generally, we serve these pretty much straight from the grill, but they can be rested and held for up to an hour or so if you want to build up a larger pile.

To serve, cut between the ribs with a heavy knife and pile up on a warm plate.

Eat with your fingers, with paper towels to hand.

Pineapple, Chilli and Lime Salsa

Delicious served with the ribs or just a lamb chop.

Serves 8

½ fresh pineapple, cored and finely diced (use less canned if you are in a hurry)

1 fresh red chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or mint

grated zest of 1 lime

3 tbsp lime juice

salt and sugar

Mix the pineapple with the chilli, onion, coriander or mint, lime zest and lime juice in a bowl.  Add salt and sugar to taste.  Cover and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature to allow flavours to blend.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Harissa and Chickpea Salad

Serves 8 or more

1 butterflied leg of lamb (1.5kg approximately)

100g harissa or rose harissa

zest and freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons

Chickpea Salad

700g dried chickpeas

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 onions, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, chopped 

flaky sea salt

½ – 1 pomegranate

Dressing

175ml extra virgin olive oil

50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

2 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

salt and freshly ground pepper

To Serve

3 tbsp coriander, chopped

3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

150ml natural yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped mint leaves

Night Before.

Mix the harissa with the zest and freshly squeezed juice of the lemon.  Place the lamb in a large bowl.  Pierce some holes in the lamb with the tip of a sharp knife – this will allow the marinade to penetrate the meat.  Pour the marinade over the lamb and rub in well.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  A large Ziploc bag works brilliantly also.

Cover the dried chickpeas in plenty of cold water.  Allow to soak overnight.

Next Day.

Preheat the barbeque or oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Drain the chickpeas, put into a saucepan.  Cover with fresh cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 30-45 minutes approx.  Heat the oil in a saucepan, sweat the onion and garlic until soft.  Then allow to become golden and caramelised.  Season with flaky sea salt.   

Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl. 

Remove the meat from the marinade, place on the barbecue near the coals to seal in the juices on each side.  Raise the grill and cook for 20 minutes on each side, occasionally basting with the remaining marinade.  We like it pink. Alternatively put on a roasting tray and roast in a preheated oven for 1 – 1 ¼ hours depending on how well you like it cooked. 

When the chickpeas are cooked, drain and toss immediately with the caramelised onions, garlic and spicy dressing.  Allow to come to room temperature. 

When the lamb is cooked, remove from the grill and allow to rest for 15 minutes. 

Toss the freshly chopped herbs through the chickpea salad. 

Slice the meat thinly, serve with chickpea salad and a blob of yoghurt and fresh mint.

Summer Salads (Sprout Saladology Cookbook)

A chunky brown paper parcel has just arrived on my desk via the ever reliable snail mail. Who doesn’t love the anticipation of opening a parcel but how about this for perfect timing. It’s a  cookbook entitled ‘Spout Saladology’, packed from cover to cover with photos and recipes for the most beautiful salads you could imagine, all made with delicious fresh ingredients.
Just in time, I’ve got lots of gorgeous fresh produce at present, the garden and greenhouses are bursting with new seasons vegetables and masses of fresh leafy herbs, radishes, beets, spring onions and cabbages even the first of the fresh peas. Once the rain stopped and the sun came out at last, everything seems to virtually leap out of the ground.
Have you heard about Theo Kirwan and his brother Jack, co-founders of Sprout & Co in Dublin? They’ve now got seven restaurants serving an ever-changing range of beautiful fresh salads to their growing numbers of devotees.
The first restaurant was launched 2015 in Dawson Street in an unlikely premises where everyone predicted ‘it’ll never work there’.  In 2018, they started their own organic farm in County Kildare overseen by a passionate and inspiring biodynamic grower Trevor Harris. This cut their supply chain of salad leaves from farm to restaurant to just 24 hours.
Theo, a former actor has quite the following for his recipe videos, he shares his recipes but people still queue around the corner for the fresh salads.
I’ve got a particular interest in this cookbook because both Jack and Theo trained here with us at the Ballymaloe Cookery School and I was thrilled to read that the idea for Sprout & Co started when Jack cooked with a freshly picked, super ripe tomato from the greenhouses and couldn’t believe the difference in flavour…“ It was the lightbulb moment that made us think how a business could be built around just that: fresh, in season produce grown locally”.
They chose not to take the easy route, they decided to make everything from scratch, dressings, sauces and dips were and still are prepared daily. They choose the freshest and best from the Dublin Smithfield Market and other local growers and roasted tray after tray of whole chickens in their ‘bloom closet’ size kitchen and shredded them by hand for lunch service. Word spread like wildfire…
Apart from oodles of delicious recipes, Sprout Saladology has an all-important chapter in the beginning of the book entitled The Larder. It’s a list of the staple ingredients that Theo and Jack use in the restaurants and always keep a stock of in the kitchens to add magic to their salads. Towards the end, there’s another brilliant chapter called Dressings, Crispy Things and Pickles and these will make all the difference to even a simple green salad. I’ve already been experimenting, and I can vouch for them. Very difficult but I’ve managed to choose three recipes to whet your appetite, then you may want to dash out to your local bookshop to pick up a copy of Sprout Saladology.

All recipes are from Sprout Saladology: Fresh ideas for delicious salads by Theo Kirwin, published by Mitchell Beazley.

Stir-Fried Savoy Cabbage with Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves

I love this dish, as it feels like you’re eating a big bowl of cabbage-y noodles. It involves a bit of prep, but once that’s done it’s quick to pull together. If you don’t want to matchstick the aromatics,

just make sure they are in chunks and of equal size so that they don’t burn. You’ll have more of the fried peanuts than you need, but you’ll thank me later, as they keep for a few weeks in an airtight container. Once comfortable with this dish, try adding spices and playing around with the formula depending on what you have to hand. This works great as a as a side with a Malaysian style curry and coconut rice or as a main with a crispy fried egg.

Serves 4 as a side

7 garlic cloves

2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh

root ginger

1 green chilli

1 bunch of spring onions (about 5)

1 Savoy cabbage

1 tbsp soy sauce

salt

To serve

1 quantity Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves (see recipe), oil reserved

juice of 1 lime

1. This is a stir-fried dish, so it’s best to have everything prepped

before turning on the wok.

2. Peel and finely slice the garlic. Peel the ginger, then cut into thin

matchsticks along with the green chilli and spring onions.

Set aside separately on a plate.

3. Cut the cabbage in half, then into quarters to make 4 thick wedges.

Remove the core, then shred all the cabbage into thin strips and

set aside.

4. Pour the reserved peanut and lime leaf cooking oil into the

wok and heat over a high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilli

and a pinch of salt to the hot oil so that it all sizzles together.

Fry for about 2–3 minutes, stirring as you cook, then stir in the

spring onions for a further minute.

5. Now begin adding the cabbage in stages, as you don’t want to

overcrowd the wok. Toss the first batch to coat in the flavoured oil

and aromatics, leave to cook untouched for 20 seconds so that the

edges get crispy and then toss again before adding another handful

of cabbage. Repeat this process until all the cabbage is in the wok.

You want to end up with some charred crispy bits as well as some

fresh crunchy green strands.

6. Once the last bit of cabbage is in, toss it together and then let it sit in the pan for another few minutes off the heat until it has all softened and you don’t have any raw bits, and it’s all still vibrantly green.

7. Add the soy sauce and give it a final toss. Pile into a serving bowl,

then add the fried peanuts and crispy lime leaves on top. Serve with

a big squeeze of lime juice.

Fried Peanuts and Crispy Lime Leaves

Makes about 150g or enough for 4 servings

4 tbsp vegetable oil

150g raw skin-on peanuts

15 fresh lime leaves

pinch of flaky sea salt

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Set a sieve over a heatproof bowl and line a plate with kitchen paper. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large, deep frying pan over a high heat, then once hot, add the peanuts and toss in the oil.

Let the peanuts bubble in the oil for 3-4 minutes until the skins turn red and the insides are toasted (be careful not to overdo the frying, as the peanuts will taste bitter).

Add the lime leaves at the last minute to pop and crisp up in the oil. Pour the peanuts and lime leaves with their cooking oil into the sieve to drain and catch the oil, then transfer to the paper-line plate to mop up any remaining oil. Season with the sea salt and cayenne pepper. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to a month.

‘Crispy’ Dukkah-Spiced Chickpeas with Tomato Salad and Yogurt

I took a food trip to Israel recently and I can’t tell you the number of times I was served a dish with a base of yogurt and tahini. Once the vegetable juices seep in, you are left with a delicious sauce that

is best mopped up with challah bread. I always have a can of chickpeas in the cupboard and frying them in oil until crispy is a great way to use them. Make this salad with or without the dukkah.

And feel free to use alternative vegetables depending on the season.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side

½ cucumber

150g any in-season tomatoes you can get

handful of Kalamata olives, pitted

1 green chilli, finely sliced

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

finely grated zest and juice of ½ lemon

400g can chickpeas, drained

about 150ml neutral oil, such as vegetable or sunflower

small handful of dill, leaves picked and roughly chopped

small handful of flat leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped

small handful of chives, roughly chopped

1 garlic clove, finely grated

150g thick Greek yogurt

3 tbsp tahini

salt and freshly ground black pepper

challah bread, to serve

For the hazelnut dukkah

100g blanched hazelnuts

50g pumpkin seeds

3 tbsp sesame seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp dried thyme

1. Start by preparing the dukkah.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/Gas Mark 6.

2. Spread out all the dukkah ingredients except the thyme on a baking tray and roast for 8–10 minutes until the nuts are lightly golden and the spices are fragrant but not burned. Remove from the oven and pour on to a cold tray to stop the ingredients cooking any further, then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Once cooled and the hazelnuts are nice and crunchy, add to a blender with the thyme and pulse a few times until you have a very loose crumb. I like it to be quite chunky, so don’t pulse too many times. Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper.

3. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seedy insides

with a spoon and discard, then roughly chop the cucumber into

small pieces. Roughly chop the tomatoes into 2cm chunks. Add both to a bowl with the olives, green chilli, a generous pinch of salt, the extra virgin olive oil and lemon zest, then set aside.

4. Lay the drained chickpeas out on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper and shake the tea towel or paper to dry, gently rubbing the tops to remove any moisture. The drier the chickpeas, the better this will work and the less the oil will splatter everywhere.

5. Line a tray with kitchen paper. Pour enough of the neutral oil into a

medium saucepan to come 2–3cm up the pan. Place the pan over a medium-high heat and heat up slightly, then add the chickpeas, swirling them into the oil. Fry for 8–10 minutes until the chickpeas are lightly golden, crisp and light. Scoop them out of the oil on to the paper-lined tray, then toss with 4–5 tablespoons of the

dukkah to coat the crispy chickpeas. (The remaining dukkah will

keep in an airtight jar for a few weeks.)

6. Toss the chopped herbs into the tomato and cucumber salad with

the lemon juice and another pinch of salt.

7. Mix the garlic into the yogurt, then dollop on to individual serving

plates or a platter along with the tahini, followed by the tomato and

cucumber salad. Top with the dukkah chickpeas. Serve with slices

of challah bread.

The ‘Sataysfied’ Chicken

A top seller in our restaurants, this dish may be the reason you bought this book. This isn’t exactly how we present it in our restaurants because I thought I’d share a version more suitable to prepare at home.

Serves 4

4 skin-on chicken breasts

3 tbsp olive oil

4cm piece of fresh

root ginger, peeled and finely

chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 tbsp Madras curry powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

400ml can full-fat coconut milk

4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp soy sauce

juice of 1 lime

salt

1 quantity Sweet Pickled Cucumber & Shallot Salad (see recipe)

a few handfuls of Peanut Sesame Brittle (see recipe), to serve

For the coriander & spring onion brown rice

200g brown basmati rice

400ml water

handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

4 spring onions, roughly chopped

1. Start by preparing the rice. Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then drain. Add to a medium pan with a lid along with the measured water and a small pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then cover the pan with the lid, immediately turn the heat down to its lowest setting and cook for 40 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Turn the heat off and fluff the rice up with a fork. Place the lid back on and leave to steam for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts with salt and 1 tablespoon

of the olive oil. Place a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat,

and once hot, add the chicken breasts to the pan, skin-side down,

along with another tablespoon of olive oil. Fry for 4–5 minutes until

deeply golden and crisp. Flip the chicken over and cook for another

4 minutes until cooked through (the timing may differ depending

on the size of your chicken breasts). Remove the chicken from the

pan on to a plate to rest.

3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the chicken juices in

the pan along with the ginger, garlic, curry powder, turmeric and

chilli and fry for 2–3 minutes over a medium heat until softened

and fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk and bring to a gentle simmer.

Then add the peanut butter and stir until the sauce thickens slightly.

Turn off the heat and season with the soy sauce. Squeeze in the

lime juice and pour in the resting juices that have collected on the

bottom of the plate of chicken.

4. Once the rice has cooled a little, toss in the coriander and spring

onions and season with more salt if needed.

5. Prepare individual plates or assemble a family-style platter by

pouring the satay sauce on to a warmed serving dish, carve the

chicken breasts and place on top of the sauce, and scatter over the

sweet pickled cucumber and shallot and peanut sesame brittle.

Serve with the coriander and spring onion rice on the side.

Peanut Sesame Brittle

225g roasted, unsalted

skinned peanuts

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp maple syrup

2 tbsp mixed white and black sesame seeds

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp chilli flakes

large pinch of flaky sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 210°C (190°C fan)/Gas Mark 6.

2. Line a small, low-sided roasting tray with nonstick baking paper.

3. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour into the lined tray and spread out. You should have a good layer of the liquid at

the bottom here, so if you don’t, just top it up with a bit more oil and maple syrup. You want the peanuts to fry and caramelize in the liquid. Bake for 8–10 minutes until lightly golden and you have

a bubbling caramel. Remove from the oven and set aside

for the peanut mixture to cool completely in the tray.

4. Once cooled, lift the brittle off the tray and peel off the lining

paper. Break the brittle into little clusters. Any leftover can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

Sweet Pickled Cucumber and Shallot Salad

I must credit the Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork for this, adapted from memory from their Thai-inspired pickled cucumber salad recipe called Arjard. When you simmer the vinegar and sugar mixture, it becomes a little syrupy and acts as a dressing as well as a pickle liquor. It’s great with rich sauces or served with other dishes such as the ‘Sataysfied’ Chicken.

Serves 2 as a side

150ml white wine vinegar

150ml water

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cucumber

1 shallot, finely sliced into rounds

1 green chilli, finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely sliced

1. Heat the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan over

a medium heat and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from

the heat and set aside to cool completely.

2. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, scoop out the seedy

insides with a teaspoon and discard, then slice diagonally into

1cm thick half-moons. Place in a bowl with the shallot

and chillies.

3. Once the pickle liquor has cooled, pour it over the vegetables and

toss so that they are all coated. Set aside to pickle while you prepare

your accompanying dish.

Sustainability

There’s a really interesting movement in the US called homesteading which I think may have originated in America but certainly gathered momentum during Covid when thousands left the cities for rural areas to get away from crowds and out of their cramped apartments.
Some acquired land or settled on farms or ranches, others had small back gardens or balconies. They gradually adjusted to life in the countryside. Many wanted to take back control to grow some of their own food, vegetables and a few herbs, keep a few hens, pigs, even a cow. They longed to bake bread, make jams, pickles, preserve but struggled to relearn, forgotten or more often never learned skills.
Many returned to urban living after the pandemic, but many did not, and now others are eagerly joining the movement saying, “It’s my one and only life, there must be a better way than this”. There are multiple blogs, chapters, podcasts and huge conferences for devotees.
Often they are young professionals, sometimes with small children who are sick and tired of the rat race in the cities, the commute, the cost-of-living crisis, the ever-escalating rents. This movement is called Homesteading in the US, but there is an equivalent movement in the UK, and in several other countries – Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Australia with various names crofting small holding, campesinos….
In the US, it seems to be particularly among millennials and Gen Z, often highly educated young techies, people in the financial world, lawyers, accountants, those who can quite easily work from home. They dream of being self-sufficient, to enjoy a different lifestyle both for themselves and for their children who long to roam wild and free. Many home school, some even choose to live off the grid.
For many, it’s a romantic dream, but they soon discover that to be comfortably self-sufficient you need to be of considerable independent means otherwise it can be all work and very little play…
Talking about change, now that I am in my mid-seventies, I’m being encouraged to draw back from the day-to-day running of the Ballymaloe Cooking School to leave it to the very competent team around me. It became evident not only to me but to everyone else that retirement was not quite in my character, and that if I wasn’t to drive myself and everybody else totally mad, I certainly needed another project…So my new ‘start up’ at 75 is the Ballymaloe Organic Farm School which runs concurrently with the Ballymaloe Cookery School here in the middle of our 100-acre organic farm in East Cork. This got underway last autumn. There’s been an enthusiastic response and the curriculum continues to build. There are day courses and week courses and at present we are midway through the Six Week Sustainable Food Programme. The fully subscribed course is made up of five nationalities with the highest percentage coming from America. There’s a real craving to relearn skills and to take back control of our lives and food. There seems to be growing skepticism of the corporate world. People appear to trust multinationals, governments, and financial institutions less and less. Essentially the movement would seem to be a rejection of the status quo.
Everyone on this 6 Week Sustainable Programme and they come from a myriad of different backgrounds and careers, want to learn how to live more sustainably and to have a lighter impact on the planet, they are determined to find ways to be part of the solution rather than the problem.


Beginners Brown Soda Bread

For those who are convinced they can’t make a loaf of bread – it couldn’t be simpler – just mix and pour into a well-greased tin.  This bread keeps very well for several days and is also great toasted. Whether you are an astronaut or a physicist, baking your first loaf of crusty bread is a rite of passage…

Makes 1 loaf or 3 small loaves (10-12 slices)

400g stone-ground wholemeal flour, we use Howard’s One Way

75g plain white flour

1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sieved (bread soda/baking soda)

1 teaspoon pure salt

1 egg, preferably free range

425ml buttermilk or sour milk approx.

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

1 tsp honey or treacle

sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Grease a 13 x 20cm (450g) loaf tin OR three small loaf tins (14.6 x 7.5cm).

Put all the dry ingredients, including the sieved bicarb, in a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, buttermilk, oil and honey or treacle together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid. Mix well and add more buttermilk if necessary. The mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy.

Pour into an oiled tin or tins. Using a butter knife, draw a slit down the middle. If you fancy, sprinkle some sunflower or sesame seeds on the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 60 minutes for a large loaf or 45-50 minutes for small loaf tins, until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy every scrap and it will still be good toasted when it’s several days old.

Basic Vegetable Soup Technique

Well over half the soups we make at Ballymaloe are made on this simple formula. 1.1.3.5.

Use the same receptacle to measure each ingredient and liquid – a cup, mug, measure, bowl.

Serves 6

1 part chopped onion

1 part chopped potato

3 parts any chopped vegetable of your choice, or a mixture

5 parts stock or stock and milk mixed

seasoning

One can use chicken or vegetable stock or water and season simply with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Complementary fresh herbs or spices may also be added, and one can get super creative and drizzle lots of exciting herb or spice oils on top

So, one can make a myriad of different soups depending on what’s fresh, in season and available.

If potatoes and onions are the only option, one can still make two delicious soups by increasing one or the other and then adding one or several herbs – potato and fresh herbs or onion and thyme leaf.  We even use broad bean tops, radish leaves and nettles in season.

A Green Vegetable Soup 

Ingredients as above but with green vegetables e.g. spinach, watercress, wild garlic, nettles, chard greens, radish leaves, broad bean shoots, kale, mustard greens, leek greens, foraged greens or a mixture

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add potatoes and onions and turn them until well coated. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 10 minutes. 

Add the stock and continue to cook until the onion and potato dice are tender. Add the freshly chopped greens, return to the boil, uncovered for 3 or 4 mins or until just cooked. Taste and serve or liquidise for a thick soup. Taste again and correct the seasoning.

NOTE

If the green vegetables are added at the beginning, they will most likely be over cooked and the soup will lose its fresh taste and bright green colour.

Vegan Option

For a vegan option, use vegetable stock or water and substitute soya, almond or cashew milk for creamy milk and proceed as in the master recipe. 

Onion and Thyme Leaf Soup

Here is an example where I increase the onion – 4 parts onion, 1 part potato and add some thyme leaves, simple and truly delicious.

Serves 6 approximately

450g chopped onions

225g chopped potatoes

45g butter

1-2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

salt and freshly ground pepper

1 litre homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

150ml cream or cream and milk mixed, approx.

Garnish

a little whipped cream

fresh thyme or chive flowers or chopped parsley

Peel and chop the onions and potatoes into small dice, about 7mm.  Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. As soon as it foams, add the onions and potatoes, stir until they are well coated with butter. Add the thyme leaves, season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place a paper lid on top of the vegetables directly to keep in the steam. Then cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and sweat on a low heat for 10 minutes approx. The potatoes and onions should be soft but not coloured. Add the chicken or vegetable stock, bring it to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, 5-8 minutes approx. Liquidise the soup and add a little cream or creamy milk. Taste and correct the seasoning if necessary.

Serve in soup bowls or in a soup tureen garnished with a blob of whipped cream, sprinkle with thyme or chive flowers or chopped parsley.

Bread and Butter Pudding

This is one of the older nursery puddings that has enjoyed a terrific revival, but initially it was just a way of recycling old bread, made with just milk and a scattering of dried fruit. It was something that you ate but didn’t necessarily relish. But there’s nothing frugal about this recipe – it’s got lots of fruit in it and a generous proportion of cream to milk. When people taste it, they just go ‘Wow!’ I know it has a lot of cream in it, but don’t skimp – just don’t eat it every day! We play around with this formula and continue to come up with more and more delicious combinations, depending on what’s in season and what we have around; see below for some of them.

Please see variations for my seasonal rhubarb bread and butter pudding – delicious!

Serves 6-8

12 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed

50g butter, preferably unsalted

½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon or mixed spice

200g plump raisins or sultanas

450ml cream

225ml milk

4 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

110g sugar plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling

pinch of salt

1 x 20.5cm square pottery or China dish

Butter the bread and arrange 4 slices, buttered side down, in one layer in the buttered dish. Sprinkle the bread with half the spice and half the raisins, then arrange another

layer of bread, buttered side down, over the raisins, and sprinkle the remaining nutmeg and raisins on top. Cover the raisins with the remaining bread, again, buttered

side down.

In a bowl whisk together the cream, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar and the pinch of salt. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve over the bread. Sprinkle the tablespoonful of sugar over the top and let the mixture stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for at least 1 hour or chill overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Place the pudding in a bain-marie and pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake the pudding in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour or until the top is crisp and golden. Serve the pudding warm with some softly whipped cream.

Note: This bread and butter pudding reheats perfectly.

Bread and Butter Pudding with Cardamom and Pistachios

Substitute ½ – 1 teaspoon of freshly ground and crushed cardamom instead of the cinnamon.  Proceed as in the master recipe, sprinkle 50g coarsely chopped pistachio on top before serving.  One could sprinkle a few extra over the sultanas while assembling if desired. 

Delicious Bread and Butter Puddings can be made using:

• Barmbrack as a base – add mixed spice or cinnamon.

• Panettone – proceed as above.

• Scones – proceed as above.   

• Brioche – proceed as above or use apricot jam and lace with apricot brandy.

• Rhubarb or gooseberry and elderflower compote or spiced apple purée may also be used.

National Food Days

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

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

Quiche Lorraine 

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

Serves 6

Shortcrust Pastry

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

pinch of salt

75g butter, chilled, 

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

Filling

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

175g nice fatty streaky bacon cut into 1cm lardons

100g finely chopped onions

3 eggs and 2 egg yolks

300ml single cream

1 scant tbsp chopped parsley

1 scant tbsp chopped chives

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

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 x 23cm round tin

Make the pastry.

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes, toss in the flour and then rub in with your fingertips. Keep everything as cool as possible; if the fat is allowed to melt, the finished pastry may be tough. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, stop.

Whisk the egg. Using a fork to stir, add just enough liquid to bring the pastry together, then discard the fork and collect it into a ball with your hands, this way you can judge more accurately if you need a few more drops of liquid. Although rather damp pastry is easier to handle and roll out, the resulting crust can be tough and may well shrink out of shape as the water evaporates in the oven. The drier and slightly more difficult-to-handle pastry will give a crisper, shorter crust.

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

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

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

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

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

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

Lemon Curd Meringue Cupcakes

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

Makes 24

Cupcakes

225g butter (at room temperature)

225g caster sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 organic large eggs

zest of 2 lemons

Lemon Curd

50g butter

100g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

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

Lemon Curd Cream

110ml whipped cream

4 tbsp lemon curd (see recipe)

1 tbsp sieved icing sugar or to taste

Meringue Kisses (see recipe)

Garnish

sprig of lemon balm or lemon verbena

2 muffin tins lined with 24 muffin cases

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

First make the cupcakes.

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

Divide mixture evenly between cases in a muffin tin. 

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

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd.

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

To assemble

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

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

Meringue Kisses

Makes 30

2 egg whites

110g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2.

To make the meringue.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

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

Ballymaloe Almond Meringue with Strawberries and Cream

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

Serves 6

90g whole unskinned almonds

240g icing sugar

120g egg whites, preferably free range

Filling

300ml whipped cream

225g fresh Irish strawberries in season 

Garnish

little sprigs of mint or lemon balm

6-8 crystallised rose petals (optional)

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

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

To Assemble

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

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

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

Almond Meringue with Loganberries or Raspberries

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

Crystallized Flowers

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Jones Cookbook ‘Easy Wins’

Today was a joyous day! We’ve just dug the first new potatoes of the season, they were planted in the greenhouse on January 2nd, 2024 (Solist, a blight-free variety) and are now ready to enjoy.

Digging potatoes, fresh from the soil, is for me one of life’s great pleasures, a magic moment. Where we planted just one potato back then, there are now anything from eight to twelve potatoes under each green leafy stalk. Once again, Mother Nature’s gift to all of us.
The hungry gap is almost over. The first of our beets are ready as is asparagus.
We spied the first tomato flower yesterday in the greenhouse, another exciting moment… a harbinger of deliciousness to come. We’ve planted twenty-three varieties this year, they’ll be available in small quantities in the Ballymaloe Cookery School Farm Shop and our stall at the Midleton Farmers Market from about mid-July onwards with other new seasons organic vegetables and herbs as they become ready for harvesting. We only sell what we grow on the farm.
Look out for new seasons produce at your local farmers markets and indi shops and the growing number of farm stalls around the country.
Meanwhile, guess what’s just landed on my desk, Anna Jones new book, ‘Easy Wins’. This is Anna’s fifth book, she also wrote ‘One Pot, Pan, Planet’, ‘A Modern Way to Eat’, ‘A Modern Way to Cook’ and the ‘Modern Cooks Year’. Her books are sold in ten countries, have been translated into five languages and have won many awards, including James Beard, Fortnum and Mason and André Simon. Definitely a shining light on the culinary writer’s firmament – she’s the voice of modern vegetarian cooking. Anna believes  that vegetables should be put at the centre of every table.
I’m hoping that you’ll have access to beautiful fresh local produce by now, even better if some comes from your own garden, then you really ‘get’ the magic of fresh vegetables, You’ll want everyone to know you grew them and you won’t want to waste a scrap.
Anna’s new book is genius, she gives her golden rules for easy wins in the kitchen, super simple recipes, bursting with flavour and kind to both the planet and mindful of our crazy busy schedules. What’s not to like?
There’s practical advice on how to season your dishes, plus plenty of invaluable ideas for vegetarian swaps, as well as how to reduce waste and use less energy when cooking.
Her 12 ‘hero’ pantry ingredients all last a long time, are relatively affordable and easily available.
 As in all Anna’s books, the recipes are choreographed and carefully thought out so that they take the least time possible. Also dotted through the book are recipes from some of her friends and favourite cooks – I love that.
It was very difficult to pick just three recipes, but here are a few to tempt you to dash into the kitchen.

Tortilla Español with Herbs and Shallots

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

Tortilla is one of my favourite things in the world to eat. A Spanish friend, Carolina, used to make it for us. She’d make a huge panful and we’d eat it for dinner warm and then cold the next day with vinegary tomato salad or in bocadillos. To me a tortilla is the perfect olive oil recipe, as frying the potatoes and onions in a generous amount of oil is key. The oil can be strained and kept for your next tortilla or any other savoury dish. A special mention here to my friend Kitty, who lent me her tortilla knowledge.

2 large onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

400ml extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tbsp

6 medium waxy potatoes (650g), peeled and cut into 3mm­ thick slices

8 medium organic eggs

1 small shallot, peeled and finely diced

1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 stick of celery, finely sliced

a small bunch of parsley (25g), leaves picked

Serves 4

Cook the onions.

Peel, halve and thinly slice 2 large onions. You want the slices to be equally thin, so they all cook at the same time. In a small, non-stick round pan (about 24cm) heat 400ml of your best extra virgin olive oil on a medium-high heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring every so often, for 5 minutes until they are soft and slightly golden. Remove the onions from the oil with a slotted spoon to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Cook the potatoes.

Cut 6 medium waxy peeled potatoes into thin 3mm-thick slices, again making sure they are the same size, so they cook evenly. Add them to the same hot oil and cook for 8-10 minutes, until they are soft, and a knife goes through with no resistance.

Drain the potatoes, keeping the oil in a heatproof bowl or jug for later. Add the potatoes to the bowl with the onions. No need to wash the pan as you will use it later.

Whisk and add the eggs.

Lightly whisk 8 medium organic eggs in a small bowl, then pour them over the warm potatoes and onions and stir gently to bring everything together. Season well with a good pinch of flaky sea salt, then cover with a plate that snugly fits over the bowl to rest for 10-15 minutes. This is a really important stage, as it makes everything thicken up, meld together and cook evenly.

Cook the tortilla.

Once the mixture is rested, heat the same pan on a medium heat with 2 tablespoons of the oil you used earlier. Pour the egg mix into the pan and turn the heat down to the lowest setting for 1-2 minutes. Run a spatula around the edges a few times to make sure it’s not sticking, then leave to cook for around 4-6 minutes until you can see that the bottom and edges are setting.

Flip the tortilla.

Give the pan a shake to make sure the bottom hasn’t stuck, then place a plate that’s larger than the pan over the tortilla, cover your hand with a tea towel and carefully but confidently and quickly flip the tortilla on to the plate.

Slide the tortilla back into the pan, tucking in its edges with a spatula to get the characteristic rounded shape. Continue to cook over a low heat for a further 4-6 minutes until just set around the edges but still a little soft in the middle. Slide the tortilla out on to a plate, then leave to cool while you make the salad.

Make the parsley salad

Put 1 small finely diced shallot in a bowl with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons olive oil

and mix until the shallot is coated. Add 1 finely sliced stick of celery and the leaves from 25g parsley, toss together once more and pile on the tortilla.

Roast Spring Vegetables with Mustard Cheese Sauce

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

This is a plate of everything that I find comforting. Roast broccoli with its crispy roasted flowery ends, and roasted spring peas and asparagus with a cheesy mustard sauce that brings it all together. The mustard lifts the flavour and puts a bit of punch into the plate of comfort. Some roast herbs add texture and fresh dimension.

Serves 4

a bunch of purple sprouting or Tenderstem broccoli (200g)

1 bunch of asparagus

150g fresh, unpodded peas 4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp fennel seeds a few sprigs of thyme (5g), leaves picked

300g creme fraiche or oat creme fraiche

50ml whole milk or oat milk

175g mature Cheddar or vegan Cheddar-style cheese, grated

2 tbsp Dijon mustard 10g unsalted butter or vegan block

½ a bunch of parsley (15g), leaves picked

½ a bunch of sage (15g), leaves picked

½ a bunch of tarragon (15g), leaves picked

extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Prepare the vegetables.

Preheat the oven to 240°C (220°C fan).

Cut 200g purple sprouting or Tenderstem broccoli into florets, then trim any tough bits from the stalk and slice the stalk into 1-2cm thick pieces. Trim the tough ends from 1 bunch of asparagus.

Roast the vegetables.

Put the broccoli, asparagus and 150g of unpodded peas into a large roasting tray with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme.

Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then toss together so the vegetables are all evenly coated. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Make the sauce.

Meanwhile, put 300g creme fraiche and 50ml milk in a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer over a medium heat. Turn off the heat, add 175g grated Cheddar, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and 10g unsalted butter and stir until the cheese is melted and you have a cheesy, mustardy sauce.

Roast the herbs.

Remove the broccoli and asparagus from the oven and set aside to cool slightly. On a low-sided/flat baking tray, mix the leaves from ½ a bunch each of parsley, sage and tarragon with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then spread them out on the tray so they are all in one even layer, with no leaves overlapping. Bake in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the herbs have crisped up but are still green. Keep a close eye on them as they can overcook and turn brown very quickly.

Bring everything together.

Spoon the cheese sauce on to the base of a large serving platter or on 4 plates, top with the roast vegetables, the crispy herbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with bread for mopping up the sauce.

Miso Maple Beetroot with Goat’s Curd

Recipe from ‘Easy Wins’ by Anna Jones published by 4th Estate.

We so often think of miso for Japanese dishes, bur miso is such a versatile flavour that I have found it works incredibly well in lots of other countries’ cuisines, from satay sauces to salad dressings. Here, miso pairs with some classically British ingredients. Roasting beetroot in this maple, miso, lime and mustard dressing creates a crispy, crunchy, caramelised umami-sweet coating to the beetroot which counters the earthy character inside. Paired with a crunchy celery and apple salad and served with crumbled goat’s curd or cheese, this plate has got all the textures and flavours in one place.

Serves 4

2 tbsp maple syrup or runny honey

3 tbsp white miso paste

3 tsp wholegrain mustard

2 unwaxed limes

4 raw beetroot, peeled and quartered

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 sharp, crunchy apple, halved, cored and thinly sliced

3 sticks of celery, finely sliced, and some leaves if possible

200-300g goat’s cheese or curd sourdough bread, to serve

(optional)

Make the miso maple dressing.

In a small bowl, mix together:

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, 3 tablespoons white miso paste, 3 teaspoons wholegrain mustard and the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime.

Roast the beetroot.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Quarter 4 peeled raw beetroot and put them into a shallow baking tray. Pour over 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss in the miso maple dressing, making sure all the beetroot pieces are evenly coated. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

Make the celery and apple salad.

Halve, core and thinly slice 1 sharp, crunchy apple. Put in a bowl with

3 finely sliced sticks of celery, the zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime,

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of flaky sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Add the celery leaves too if you have some.

To serve

Serve the beetroot with 200-300g soft goat’s curd, a pile of the celery and apple salad and, if you like, some toasted sourdough for scooping things up.

Campania (Naples)

Don’t we all love Italian food? Warm and comforting pasta, pizza, gnocchi, ragu, taralli, mozzarella, soppressata…
Many of our most beloved Italian dishes originate in Campania, so I recently made a pilgrimage to Napoli to start to explore the area and the Greek and Roman ruins in the surrounding countryside. My trip was cut short by a foot injury. Beware of the deeply, uneven cobbled streets and pavements, beautiful but remember we are on a fault line, in the shadow of the twin peaks of Mount Vesuvius, which has been rumbling and erupting for thousands of years. If you really want excitement in your life, you can explore the site as thousands do every year. Don’t miss a visit to Pompeii, the site of the tragedy in 79 BCE where more than 2,000 out of a population of 11,000 people were said to have died in 15 minutes when they were overwhelmed by the lava from the eruption. The exact total will probably never be known.
Few folks are prepared for the magnificence and grandeur of the 66 hectare site, resplendent with huge marble temples and palatial villas, plus produce markets, granaries, bakeries – over 33 have been discovered to date and more recently, ‘prison bakeries’ where slaves and donkeys ground grain for the bread.
Less visited but my number one recommendation is Paestum, the only ancient Greek city in Italy to have survived in its entirety. Three awe inspiring, fifth century (this is correct way of spelling for single digit century), BCE temples dedicated to Hera are among the best preserved in the world
While you’re in the area, famous for its mozzarella, visit the nearby Tenuta Vannulo dairy in the midst of lush farmland and gardens.
Stop at the café for a buffalo and ricotta themed lunch, don’t leave without tasting the yoghurt and gelato also. I greatly enjoyed the mozzarella en carozza. Unlike the water buffaloes in West Cork, which range freely on lush pasture, the Italian buffaloes are kept indoors and fed fresh forage and grain but are at least protected from the vagaries of the weather.
Burrata has a creamy interior while a soft tender version with cream inside is stracciatella. Mozzarella is genius, there are many, many variations on the basic fior di latte mozzarella di bufala.  Mini ones are called bocconcini, the braided version is called treccia, firm stretched curd is caciocavallo.
Scamorza can be plain or smoked, aged Provola is pear, sausage or cone shaped.
This area on the Amalfi coast is a wonderful mix of culture, great food and totally breathtaking scenery.

Wander through the streets of Napoli, the birthplace of pizza. There are a myriad of historic archaeological sites. Don’t miss the Catacombs di San Gennaro in Naples. If you want to avoid the full tourist impact, you may want to avoid the mythical Isle of Capri and Positano. If you have to choose just one more historic site it might have to be Herculaneum built in BCE by the Osci people. Herculaneum lay concealed by approximately 20 metres of volcanic ash until 1709. Excavations continue to the present day. There among many other extraordinary remains, you will clearly see kitchens, bakeries, huge olive oil pots and wine amphora – Roman’s loved to feast!
Close your eyes and imagine you are surrounded by Romans wearing togas going about their daily routine baking, cooking, farming, pressing grapes for wine, olives for oil, tanning hides, making sandals…
Between Temple hopping, lookout for restaurants and cafes serving some of the specialities of the Campania region,  pizza of course, pasta with ragu – the rich, slow cooked, chunky beef and pork sauce, Parmigiane di melanzane, spaghetti alla vongole, (clams), grilled razor clams, tagliatelle with sea urchins but here are a few simple dishes you may not have come across before.

Mozzarella en Carozza

Mozzarella en Carozza is a fried mozzarella sandwich. Seriously guilt making food but so quick and delicious.  We vary the filling depending on what’s in the fridge but it should always be highly seasoned and include a melting mozzarella cheese. Make it your own, sometimes the mozzarella is just flour, egg and crumbed.  

Serves 4

8 slices of best quality white bread

8-12 slices of Mozzarella cheese depending on size

4 tbsp basil pesto

1 red onion, thinly sliced

4 roasted red and yellow peppers or a mixture

salt and freshly ground pepper

beer batter (see recipe)

First make the beer batter.

Preheat the oil in the deep fry to 180°C.

Cut the crusts off the bread. Cover 4 slices of bread with Mozzarella.  Smear generously with pesto, add several rings of red onion and a few pieces of roasted red pepper. Season generously with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Top with the other pieces of bread to make four sandwiches. Press down the edges and seal well.  Make sure there is no cheese sticking out. Just before serving, dip into the beer batter and deep fry until brown crisp and deep golden.

Drain on kitchen paper, cut in half at an angle, arrange on hot plates and serve immediately with a tomato and mint or basil salad and a mixture of tasty well-dressed salad leaves. 

Beer Batter

Makes 425ml

110ml plain white flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, yolks separated from whites

3 tbsp olive oil or melted butter

200ml beer or water

Mix together the flour, salt, egg yolks, and oil or butter in a bowl. Gradually add the beer or water and whisk for only as long as it takes to produce a nice smooth batter. Do not overwork the mixture. Leave the batter to rest for at least 1 hour at room temperature otherwise it will provide an uneven coating.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and fold them into the batter just before using.

Zippoli or Zeppole

A delicious snack from Calabria, I loved these deep-fried doughnuts which can be savoury or sweet. This version has the addition of some anchovies and mozzarella (sardines work too). If you’d like a sweet version, add a couple of teaspoons of sugar into the initial pastry liquid and dredge with icing sugar when cooked.

Makes 15-20

Pastry 

75g strong flour (Baker’s)

small pinch of salt

110ml water or a mixture of water and milk

50g butter, cut into 1cm cubes

2 eggs depending on size (free range if possible)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

25g anchovies or sardines (1 tin, drained), finely chopped

80g mozzarella, finely diced

finely grated Parmesan

oil for deep-frying 

First make the pastry.

Sieve the flour with the salt onto a piece of silicone paper.  Heat the water (or water and milk) and butter in a high-sided saucepan until the butter is melted. Bring to a fast rolling boil, take from the heat. (Prolonged boiling evaporates the water and changes the proportions of the dough).  Immediately the pan is taken from the heat, add all the flour at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few seconds until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan to form a ball. Return the saucepan back onto a low heat and stir for 30 seconds – 1 minute or until the mixture starts to furr the bottom of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and cool for a few seconds.

Meanwhile, set aside one egg, break it and whisk it in a bowl.  Add the remaining eggs into the dough, one by one with a wooden spoon, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Make sure the dough comes back to the same texture each time before you add another egg. When it will no longer form a ball in the centre of the saucepan, add the beaten egg little by little. Use just enough to make a mixture that is very shiny and just drops reluctantly from the spoon in a sheet.  

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir in the finely chopped anchovies and mozzarella.

Heat the oil in a deep-fry, drop a morsel of the mixture into the hot oil.  Cook until it puffs and crisps.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Fill the remaining mixture into a piping bag with an eclair nozzle. Pipe little blobsinto the hot oil a few at a time, snipping each one off with a scissors or small knife or drop generous teaspoons into the hot oil.  Cook for 3-5 minutes turning frequently depending on size until crisp and golden.

Cook until puffed, crisp and golden. Roll in finely grated Parmesan if you fancy.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve while still hot sprinkled with lots of finely grated Parmesan. 

Angioletti with Rocket, Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad

Angioletti or ‘little angels’ of fried pizza dough.  Another delicious riff on your pizza dough inspired by a dish I ate in a Starita pizzeria in Napoli.

A Simple Pizza Dough 

680g strong white flour or 600g strong white flour and 110g rye flour

2 level teaspoons salt

15g sugar

50g butter

1 packet fast acting yeast

2-4 tbsp olive oil

450 – 500ml lukewarm water – more if needed

Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad (see recipe)

rocket leaves

First make the pizza dough.
Sieve the flour, salt and sugar into a large wide mixing bowl. Rub in the butter and sprinkle in the fast-acting yeast, mix all the ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the lukewarm water.  Mix to a loose dough.  You can add more water or flour if needed.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work top, cover and leave to relax for about five minutes. 

Knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and springy (if kneading in a food mixer with a dough hook, 5 minutes is usually long enough).

Leave the dough to relax again for about ten minutes. 

Pinch off small pieces. Roll gently into 4-6cm pizza sticks.

Heat oil in a deep-fry.

Meanwhile, make the tomato and basil salad.

Drop the angioletti a few at a time into the hot oil.

Cook until puffed, golden brown and crisp.  Drain on kitchen paper.

Sprinkle the rocket leaves with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of vinegar, flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper and toss.

Transfer 6-10 angioletti (depending on size) into a serving bowl Scatter with some fresh rocket leaves and top with a couple of tablespoons of cherry tomato and basil salad.

Enjoy immediately with a little freshly grated Parmesan on top while the angioletti are still hot and crisp. 

Cherry Tomato and Basil Salad

red or red and yellow cherry tomatoes

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

Dressing

1 tbsp wine vinegar or wine vinegar and Balsamic vinegar mixed or freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar or honey

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing.

Slice the tomatoes around the equator, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar, toss in a little dressing and scatter with fresh basil leaves.

Just before serving.

Toss the rocket leaves in just enough dressing to make the leaves glisten. Scatter the tomatoes over the salad also.

Ragu

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

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

Serves 6

45g butter

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp celery, finely chopped

2 tbsp carrot, finely chopped

350g minced lean beef, preferably chuck or neck

salt

300ml dry white wine

110ml milk

1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

1 x 400g tin Italian tomatoes, roughly chopped with their own juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

small casserole

In Italy they sometimes use an earthenware pot for making ragu, but I find that a heavy enamelled cast-iron casserole with high sides works very well.

Heat the butter with the oil and sauté the onion briefly over medium heat until just translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook gently for 2 minutes. Next, add the minced beef, crumbling it in the pot with a fork. Add salt to taste, stir, and cook only until the meat has lost its raw red colour (Marcella says that if it browns it will lose its delicacy.)

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

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

Serve with tagliatelle, preferably homemade and lots of freshly grated Parmesan.

National Tea Day

National Tea Day is celebrated on April 21st.

Sure, you’ll have a cup of tea? A warm and friendly welcome, an icebreaker, a comforting gesture in stressful times, a way to pass the time – for many it’s the first gesture of the day, the last before bedtime.
Making tea is a way of life here in Ireland but the ritual has radically changed during the past few decades. It’s now mostly a teabag dropped into a mug rather than tea leaves brewed slowly in a China or tin teapot.
Tea drinking is an important Irish custom, a symbol of hospitality, camaraderie and friendship. We in Ireland are the second biggest consumers of tea per capita in the entire world at 4.83lbs, Turkey being number one.
Well-known brands of Irish tea like Barry’s, Bewley’s and Lyons are packed into suitcases and carried far and wide as nostalgic presents for Irish emigrants who crave the unique  flavour of Irish when they are away from home.
Irish tea is mostly a blend of Assam, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Kenyan. We like to make it strong, drink it with rich milk and occasionally a spoon or two of sugar.
As I write, memories come flooding back to my childhood and the bottles of sweet milky tea, wrapped in newspaper or tea towels, that we brought out to the fields to the men during haymaking. They put down their pitchforks when we appeared with our baskets and sat with their backs to a haystack, sipping tea from huge mugs that hung on the farmhouse dresser while eating thick slices of soda bread, or spotted dog slathered with country butter.
Is there another ‘sup’ of tea in the pot was a regular question.
I particularly remember Joe who always drank his tea from a saucer, presumably to cool it. I was reminded of this recently, when we were warmly offered sweet chai on a visit to the families of transhumant herders in Madya Pradesh. At sunset, we sat on their charpai’s (woven day beds) sipping saucers of sweet, milky chai, watching women in their bright, colourful saris milking the cows and buffaloes into tin buckets. I won’t easily forget the deep rich flavour of the spicy chai made from the fresh milk.
Every country has its tea traditions.

China, of course has its tea ceremony which I was fortunate to experience in Shanghai a number of years ago. The tea was light and exquisite and of course drunk without milk.
In Morocco, the beloved mint tea is also a symbol of hospitality and friendship, made with gunpowder green tea, peppermint and lots of sugar added, it’s traditionally made in an ornate metal teapot and poured from a height into small decorative glasses, instead of a cup or perish the thought, mugs!
Traders often offer a cup of mint tea to entice you to buy some of their wares.
Turkish tea or çay is typically made in a çaydanlik, a metal vessel specially designed for making tea over the open fire or on a gas jet.
This too is drunk in small glasses or little cups with sugar lumps dissolving in the bottom.
Even though we hear more about Turkish coffee, Turks drink an inordinate amount of tea which is grown along the Black Sea coast, nearly 7lbs a year per capita.
After water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world.
Tea is traded as a commodity, consequently, there is constant price pressure resulting in increasing challenges for the millions of smallholders who grow and hand harvest tea around the world.
While traditional hand harvesting is still the norm in many countries, mechanisation can of course reduce production costs by as much as 40%. Inevitably, though irresistible to the large tea companies, it threatens employment and thousands of tea pickers in Kenya’s Rift Valley, recently lost their livelihoods.
All tea varieties come from the Camellia sinensis plant which produces five different tea types, black, green, white, oolong and dark teas depending on the degree of oxidation.
If you are concerned about helping tea farmers and pickers to get a fair price for their work and product,  enquire from the tea companies. Look out for the Fair Trade or Ethically Sourced stamp and examine the criteria it is based on.
The Rare Tea Company offers a selection of sustainably sourced, single estate loose teas. These rare teas are available both retail and wholesale on the rare tea website www.rareteacompany.com   
It’s worth knowing that each loose leaf brew can be refreshed two or three times. It’s a whole new adventure and one that I’ve embraced wholeheartedly.
For those who would like to know more about, what can be an exquisite beverage or indeed the story behind the true cost of tea, Henrietta Lovell, the intrepid lady behind The Rare Tea Company has also published a really informative and fascinating book entitled, ‘Infused’.
For those of you, who would also like the delicious recipe for Ballymaloe Irish Tea Barmbrack check out my Examiner column of 28th October 2023.
This week I’ve included some of my favourite afternoon tea treats for you to enjoy.

Chai

Everyone needs a recipe for this spiced tea – beware it becomes addictive.

250ml full fat milk

2-3 cardamom pods

2.5cm piece of cinnamon

3 peppercorns

500ml boiling water

3 tsp loose tea leaves

sugar

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

Lemon Drizzle Cake

A delicious version of everybody’s afternoon tea favourite.

Serves 8-10

175g soft butter

175g unrefined caster sugar

2 eggs, preferably free range

175g self-raising flour

zest of 1 organic lemon

1-2 tbsp milk

Lemon Drizzle

freshly grate rind of 1 organic lemon

freshly squeezed juice of 1 organic lemon

75g caster sugar

1 x 20.5cm round cake tin, well-greased or lined with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Put the soft butter, caster sugar, eggs, self-raising flour and lemon zest into a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Add milk to soften the texture and whizz for a second or two more to combine. Spread evenly into the greased tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes approx. or until golden brown and well risen.

Meanwhile mix the ingredients for the drizzle.

As soon as the cake is cooked, pour the glaze over the top, leave to cook and transfer to a wire rack.

Ballymaloe Chocolate Almond Gateau with Crystallized Violets

So difficult to choose my favourite, this is one of several rich chocolate cakes. Use the best chocolate you can buy, Valrhona, Menier, Suchard or Callebaut. For a gluten-free version, omit the flour and increase the whole almonds from 50g to 110g and proceed as in the master recipe.

110g best quality dark chocolate (62%) (We use Lesmé or Val Rhona chocolate)

2 tbsp Red Jamaica Rum

50g whole almonds

110g butter

100g caster sugar

3 eggs, preferably free range

1 tbsp caster sugar

50g plain white flour

Chocolate Icing

175g best quality dark chocolate (52%)

3 tbsp Red Jamaica Rum

175g butter

crystallized violets or toasted almonds or praline

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

Grease two x 18cm sandwich tins, dust lightly with flour and line the base of each with parchment paper. 

Melt the chocolate with the rum on a very gentle heat. Peel the almonds by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water until the skins lift.  Strain, cool, peel and allow to dry.  Grind in a food processor – they should still be slightly gritty.

Cream the butter, and then add the caster sugar, beat until light and fluffy.   Beat in the egg yolks.  Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.   Add 1 tablespoon of caster sugar and continue to whisk until they reach the stiff peak stage.   Add the melted chocolate to the butter and sugar mixture and then add the almonds.   Stir in a quarter of the egg white mixture followed by a quarter of the sieved flour.   Fold in the remaining eggs and flour alternatively until they have all been added.

Divide between the two prepared tins and make a hollow in the centre of each cake.

IMPORTANT: Cook in the preheated oven, depending on the oven, it can take between 19 and 25 minutes. The sides of the cake should be cooked but slightly underdone in the centre.

Chocolate Butter Icing

Melt best quality chocolate with rum, allow to cool a little until tepid.  Whisk in the butter by the tablespoon. 

When the cake is completely cold, fill and ice the mixture.   Pipe the remaining icing around the top and decorate with crystallized violets or toasted flaked almonds.

Rhubarb Tartlets

Recipe from Ballymaloe Desserts by JR Ryall published by Phaidon

This is a terrific recipe to have up your sleeve. These tartlets are ideal to serve after a simple lunch or even a formal dinner.  I always make the cream pastry a day or two in advance.  The tartlets themselves don’t take long to prepare and bake in just twenty minutes. 

Makes approx. 30 tartlets

1 quantity of cream pastry (see recipe), chilled

flour, for dusting

700g red rhubarb

220-290g caster sugar

softly whipped cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.

Place the cold pastry on a generously floured work surface. Sprinkle flour over the top and roll to a thickness of 3mm, using a rolling pin. Cut the pastry into disks using a 7.5cm round cutter. Transfer the disks of pastry to a shallow, flat-bottom bun (muffin) pan, lining each well with a circle. Place the lined pan in the refrigerator to rest for 15 minutes. Shake excess flour from the pastry scraps, gather them together, wrap in baking paper and place in the refrigerator. The scraps can be re-rolled again when they are properly chilled and used to make another batch of tartlets.

Cut the rhubarb into coin shaped pieces, about 3mm thick and arrange the pieces of rhubarb in a pretty pattern on top of the pastry. Sprinkle a scant teaspoon of the sugar over the rhubarb in each tartlet and bake straight away for about 20 minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelise, and the pastry is a deep golden colour. While the tartlets are baking, line a heatproof tray with parchment paper and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the paper. Remove the tartlets from the oven and transfer them from the bun pan to the sugared baking paper while still hot. Arrange on a pretty plate and serve warm with softly whipped cream. 

Cream Pastry

For years I have tried to uncover the roots of this dough – I have never seen it being made or used anywhere but at Ballymaloe – this pastry may well have been invented here. One possible precursor to this recipe is Vienna pastry found in Irma Rombauer’s seminal book Joy of Cooking (1964), yet the two recipes differ considerably.

It is an incredibly versatile dough, and I always have some in the refrigerator ready to use. It handles bet when completely chilled and well rested. I make the pastry the day before I plan to use it and roll it straight from the refrigerator. It can be used on top of classic fruit tarts or to cover savoury pies, and it is good for open fruit tartlets. It is flaky, buttery and tender, not firm like a shortcrust and surprisingly light.

Makes 370g pastry

110g plain flour (Marriage’s brand)

110g cold salted butter, cut into 5mm cubes

150ml cold fresh cream

Place the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and then add the butter. With the mixer on low speed, rub the butter into the flour. Keep an eye on the mixture as it is being worked by the paddle. If overworked, the mixture will form a shortbread-like ball! Before this happens, when the butter and flour are on the cusp of coming together, pour in all of the cold cream and continue to mix on a low speed until a smooth pastry forms, about 1 minute. Wrap the pastry with baking paper and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

Always roll cream pastry straight from the fridge. If the pastry comes to room temperature it will be too soft to handle!

New York

I love a few days in New York, my visits are usually business related – I did several events to help promote Ireland and spread the news about the revolution on the Irish food scene.

But I’m also got my antennae primed to pick up food trends and use every meal slot to try as many exciting new restaurants as I can manage. I also have a few longtime favourites that I love to return to including Buvette on 42 Grove Street, (Between Bedford & Bleecker St.) where I can’t resist returning for breakfast every time. Fortunately, it’s still really good, delicious freshly squeezed orange juice, great coffee and several iconic brunch dishes – croque monsieur, croque madame…but this time I actually had cold tarte tatin for breakfast and it was superb. All Buvette lacks at present is a friendly host, but the food and ambience are still wonderful.

Sadly, the same can’t be said for several others, particularly Daily Provisions which was on one of my all-time favourites and where I got the inspiration for cruellers and gougères filled with scrambled eggs with lots of variations and riffs.

Claud’s on 90 E 10th Street was a new discovery this time, particularly loved the kampachi with kumquat and yuzu and chicken liver agnolotti.

Epistrophy, an Italian restaurant on 200 Mott Street was also a new find – shaved Brussels sprout salad with walnut slivers of Parmesan and pomegranate seeds with a honey and Dijon mustard vinaigrette was definitely a highlight. So, I’ve been experimenting with that combination since my return. Lots of good pasta dishes including homemade cacio e pepe, one of my all-time favourites.  

Cloudy Donut Co on 14 Columbia Place in Brooklyn are doing a range of puffy ‘hole less’ vegan doughnuts with exciting icings and toppings – Balsamic fig, Grapefruit mimosa, Red velvet, Cotton candy, Maple butter and pecan…

Love the way Americans give funky names to their sandwiches. Court St. Grocers on 485 Court Street, Brooklyn had an enticing selection. Macho (Wo) Man, Catskill, Uncle Chucky, Uncle Grandpa, Ultimate Warrior, Cubano…

Foul Witch on 15th Avenue is another new discovery since my last trip, owned by the folk behind Robertas in Brooklyn, super chic with many tempting items on the menu.  This was definitely one of my favourite new discoveries.  Loved the grilled tripe with pecorino and mint, oxtail fazzolette with lovage and horseradish and roast goat shoulder with buttered turnips and alliums. The linguini with California sea urchins was another favourite.

New this visit was the number of offal dishes on cool restaurant menus – this is certainly a new development in a town where serving ‘variety meats’ was out of the question.

I hosted two luncheons while I was over, one media lunch at Sailor in Brooklyn. April Bloomfield was cooking, and she and her team did a super job reproducing Ballymaloe food, but we also returned to taste Sailor’s delicious menu a few nights later, essential to book. Tell her I sent you…

Another lunch to celebrate The New Ballymaloe Bread Book at King on King Street, super proud of Jess Shadbolt, a Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni – delicious, irresistible dishes, including this pain perdue ice cream which guests return for over and over again – don’t miss the panisse.

Also had a memorable lunch at sister restaurant, Jupiter in the Rockefeller Centre.  Loved the zucchini fritte, how did they get them so crisp? The gnocci with speck and nutmeg and crispy sage leaves is also calling me back and that salad of beautiful mini Romolo speckled Castlefranco with lentils.

I hate cannoli, the crisp mascarpone stuffed Sicilian pastries with a passion, but I was persuaded to taste one and had a conversion on the road to Damascus and I believe the homemade cassata is also sensational, but it wasn’t on the menu, a treat for my next trip…

While you are in the Rockefeller Centre, take a few moments to admire The Rink (ice rink). I also went back to Dominique’s Ansel Bakery on 189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson) to pick up a kouign amann. A super sweet crispy flaky pastry that I queued for hours for when it was first introduced in 2016 and I love it still – ask for a DKA!

All of this by way of research.

After another busy day, I returned to Cervos on 43 Canal Street which I am thrilled to report is still as brilliantly good as I remember.
I also love to go along to the Union Square Market, preferably on the day I’m returning to Ireland so I can buy a sprouted rye loaf from She Wolf Bakery – I know it sounds like coals to Newcastle but it’s that good that I’m prepared to schlep it all the way home! I also popped into Bedford Cheese Shop on 67 Irving Place to pick up some US artisan cheese for my picnic for the plane.

Librae Bakery on 35 Cooper Square should also be on your New York list, exceptionally good breads and pastries – don’t miss the pistachio stuffed croissant – Oh My! The pear, almond and coffee scone was also memorable.

Book lovers shouldn’t miss Archestratus Books and Food located on 160 Huron Street in Brooklyn – worth a detour.

Lots of good things out in Brooklyn – that could be another whole column…..

Panisse

Recipe taken from The King Cookbook by Jess Shadbolt, Clare de Boer and Anni Shi.

These fried ribbons of cooked chickpea flour have been on our menu since opening night. While the menu changes every day, these return night after night.

Panisse is a traditional street food from Nice (the Italian version from Ligura is called panelle). Creamy and salty, they are impossible to tire of. But making them is not easy: the batter is temperamental, requiring both time (they need to be made a day ahead) and attention. But panisse rewards the committed and brave.

Serving these hot and crisp, just as they come out of the oil, is essential.

Serves 10

For the batter

320g approx. chickpea flour

olive oil

salt

For the fry

2-3 litres sunflower oil

a handful of sage, at least 10 sprigs, leaves picked

salt

Bring a large, heavy pot filled with 1 litre of salted water and 50ml of olive oil to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and carefully stream in the chickpea flour while whisking continuously to prevent lumps. Once combined, reduce the heat to low, switch to a wooden spoon and give a good stir. Gently cook while stirring often so the pot’s bottom doesn’t catch (treat this as a polenta). After an hour, the chickpea batter should have a deep nutty flavour and not taste at all like raw flour. No better way to check than taste…Despite your best intentions, the pot will look like a lumpy porridge at this first stage. Most mornings, it draws a crowd of cooks – a couple of dollops make a hearty breakfast. Use a stick blender or food processor and blitz the batter (in batches, if necessary) until the pot is completely smooth, a few minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Lightly oil a 23 x 32.5cm baking dish.

Pour in the batter, spreading it out evenly. Allow it to set at room temperature before transferring the trays to the fridge for an overnight rest. These need at least 8 hours of down time, and they hold for about 24 hours.

To fry.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a deep, wide pot, adding enough so it rises at least 7.5cm up from the base. Place the pot over medium heat. As the oil warms, slice the panisse into long ribbons, approximately 1cm across.

Once the oil is 180°C, fry the ribbons in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot. Upon contact, the panisse will sizzle; keep frying until they puff and crisp all around, about 5 minutes total. With a slotted spoon or tongs, move the panisse from the bubbling oil and to a tray lined with paper towels.

Once the first batch is fried and the pot is clear, drop a few sage leaves into the oil and fry them until crisp and sharp green, a few seconds. Remove the sage from the oil and sprinkle them over the panisse. Season with salt and immediately serve this hot first batch while frying up another round.

King’s Pain Perdu Ice Cream

Recipe taken from The King Cookbook by Jess Shadbolt, Clare de Boer and Anni Shi.

At Ballymaloe Cookery School where we both studied, we fell in love with the brown bread ice cream. So, we eventually added leftover bread to King’s own Fior di latte base, and this flavour was born.

Pain perdu’s direct translation from the French is “lost bread.” It’s a bit of a misnomer as the dish basically refers to French toast. In this recipe, we toast sourdough or a Shanagarry Loaf when Darina is in town and toss it with sweet, melted butter and then re-toast to caramelize.

Serves 4-6

For the ice cream

480g heavy cream

200g whole milk

3 tonka beans or 1 small stick of cinnamon

5 egg yolks

100g granulated sugar

For the Pain Perdu

sourdough bread, crust removed and torn into small, 2.5cm pieces (75g in weight after crust has been removed)

75g unsalted butter

75g granulated sugar

Begin by preparing the ice cream base.

In a heavy, medium pot, warm the cream and milk, along with the tonka beans or cinnamon stick, over high heat. Turn the heat off just before the milk quivers (take care it doesn’t!), about 5 minutes. If using cinnamon instead of tonka beans, pull the stick out so the flavour remains subtle; you’ll have to taste and see. If using tonka, proceed with the beans in the pot (they’ll come out later).

A boil will scald the milk’s flavour, so take care!

As the dairy warms, place the yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or add them to a medium bowl and use a handheld). Beat at high speed until the eggs turn pale yellow and double in volume, at least 5 minutes. Beating in air at this stage is vital to producing a stretchy ice cream.

With the whisk running, gingerly ladle in some of the hot dairy, pouring it down the bowl’s inside wall, to avoid scrambling the eggs. Once the first ladleful is incorporated, add another bit, just as carefully, beating all the while. Continue on, stopping once the bowl’s outside feels warm to the touch. At this point, stop whisking and ladling. With a wooden spoon, stir the warm, whipped yolk mixture into the pot with the remaining dairy.

Place the pot over low heat and stir until a custard with the consistency of paint forms, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat as the custard thickens, which should start happening at about 160°C if you’re using a thermometer. Slow and low is best to protect the eggs. At any point, if the custard wafts smoke, remove it from the flame, whisk to cool and then return the pot to a low flame and proceed. You’re done when a dipped spoon holds a lush coating and, if you run a finger through the coating, a pronounced line forms (approximately 180°C). At this point, keep stirring but immediately remove the pot from the flame. Pour the custard into a metal bowl; or, if it looks at all curdled, pass it through a fine-mesh sieve and catch the base in the bowl below.

Let the base fully cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

As the base cools, make the pain perdu by preheating the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Spread the bread across a rimmed baking sheet, arranging it in a single layer. Bake, on the oven’s centre rack, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan set over a low heat. Once melted, stir through the sugar and mix until the granules dissolve.

Once the bread toasts, remove the tray from the oven and pour the sweet, melted butter over the croutons. Toss to evenly coat and then return the tray to the oven. Bake until crunchy and caramelized, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool the pain perdu to room temperature. It’s important the pain perdu introduces no warmth to the custard once mixed in.

Place a sealable container in the freezer (a metal dish speeds the freezing along, which is good for texture!). When you’re ready to churn, remove the tonka beans from the custard, if applicable, and add the base to your ice cream machine. Churn according to the machine’s instructions. Once it’s the consistency of soft serve, scoop the ice cream into your chilled container and swirl through the pain perdu until evenly dispersed. Cover and freeze the ice cream until set, at least 3-4 hours.  

April Bloomfield’s Blood Orange Marmalade Tart

Serves 12

30.5cm round fluted tart tin

Tart Base Pastry

155g butter (cold)

70g caster sugar 

2 egg yolks

240g all-purpose flour (plain white flour)

Almond Frangipane 

500g skin on almonds 

500g butter 

250g caster sugar 

4 eggs

250g blood orange marmalade (see recipe)

5-6 tbsp slivered almonds (optional)

To Serve

softly whipped cream or crème fraîche

To make the pastry.

Put the butter and sugar in a food processor, blend together for a few seconds, add yolks and flour, blitz until it amalgamates. Cover the pastry and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin.

Line with baking parchment and fill with dried beans. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastry case ‘blind’ for 20-25 minutes approx. The base should be almost fully cooked. Remove the baking parchment and beans. Brush the base with a little beaten egg white and cook for 3–4 minutes. This will seal the base and avoid the ‘soggy bottom’ effect.

Next, make the almond frangipane.

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until they become a fine crumb, remove the nuts and set aside in a big bowl. 

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, add the eggs slowly one by one, add this mixture to the finely ground almonds. Fold gently together to combine.

You’ll need about 900g for the tart (save the bit leftover for another tart).

When the pastry case is parbaked.  Cool, then spread about 250g of the blood orange marmalade over the base of the tart. Cover evenly with frangipane.

Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top of the tart if using.

Bake in the preheated oven at 170°C/325°F for 50 minutes approx. until set and nicely golden.

Serve warm or at room temperature with lots of softly whipped cream or crème fraîche.

April Bloomfield’s Seville or Blood Orange Marmalade

6 Seville or blood oranges

2.5kg water

pinch of salt

1.6kg caster sugar

1. Wash the oranges and wipe them dry. Cut each Seville orange in half, crosswise around the equator. Set a non-reactive mesh strainer over a bowl and squeeze the orange halves to remove the seeds, assisting with your fingers to remove any stubborn ones tucked deep within.

2. Tie the seeds up in cheesecloth or muslin very securely.

3. Cut each rind into 3 pieces and use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the rinds into slices or cubes as thin as possible. Each piece shouldn’t be too large (no more than a centimeter, or 7mm in length.) Cut the navel orange into similar-sized pieces.

4. In a large saucepan, add the orange slices, seed pouch, water, and salt, as well as the juice from the Seville oranges from step #1. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, and cook until the peels are translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes. (At this point, sometimes I’ll remove it from the heat after cooking them and let the mixture stand overnight, to help the seeds release any additional pectin.)

5. Stir the sugar into the mixture and bring the mixture to a full boil again, then reduce heat to a gentle boil. Stir occasionally while cooking to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. Midway during cooking, remove the seed pouch and discard.

6. Continue cooking until it has reached the setting point – about 103°C, if using a candy thermometer. I cook this slightly less than other jams and marmalades because the high amount of pectin helps the marmalade set up more stiffly. To test the marmalade, turn off the heat and put a small amount on a plate that has been chilled in the freezer and briefly return it to the freezer. Check it in a few minutes; it should be slightly jelled and will wrinkle just a bit when you slide your finger through it. If not, continue to cook until it is.

Cabbage is having a moment…

Guess it was bound to happen at some stage, but cabbage, the humble crucifer is definitely having a moment on the US food scene. I’ve recently come back from a few hectic days around the Saint Patrick’s Day period in New York. I did several events to help promote Ireland and spread the news about the revolution on the Irish food scene. Despite my best efforts, many who haven’t actually been to Ireland still think we live on corned beef and cabbage, but those who have visited tell me, usually in incredulous tones about how surprised they are to find such good food from the gastro pubs to Michelin starred high-end restaurants, definitely a positive development.
While I was in the New York area, I was anxious to taste as many delicious meals as I could manage to fit in, all in the way of research!
So what’s trending stateside? Well, virtually every restaurant had cabbage on the menu in one or several different forms…Food and Wine Magazine has several articles on it, The New York Times recently devoted an entire page to cabbage, “The darling of the culinary crowd”.
When you think about it, this long overlooked and overcooked vegetable ticks all the boxes. Plentiful and cheap, it keeps well, has a long shelf life and is loaded with nutrients. Super versatile cabbage can be served in a myriad of ways, cooked or uncooked, hot or cold, fermented and pickled. Kimchi and sauerkraut and their gut friendly reputation has certainly helped in no small way to spread the word.
Apparently China grows the most, Russia eats the most per capita.
Cabbage allows the chef to be super creative – roast, chargrilled, boiled, stir fried, deep fried…Suddenly chefs are praising its versatility, taste and texture plus it’s good for the bottom line during these challenging times.
I’m loving this renaissance. For as long as I can remember, cabbage was considered one of the most unglamorous vegetables in the vegetable firmament – now it’s one of the hippest items across the US.

Cabbage is super cool; wouldn’t that just amuse our Grannies!
And it’s good news for the farmers too. There are three major types of cabbage, green, red and Savoy with its textured curly leaves but there’s also Napa cabbage, pointy nosed caraflex and flattened ‘tendersweets’ with their loosely packed crisp, thin leaves – all are part of the brassica, oleracea family. Cabbage is related to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, so unsurprisingly it’s high in vitamins, has numerous health benefits and considerable anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage has been part of the world’s cooking history, not least our own here in Ireland forever.
Now chefs are using it in and on everything from tacos to pizza toppings, chargrilling wedges in wood burning ovens, mixing it with luxurious ingredients, basting in butter and exotic spices, sprinkling with gochujang and on and on.
Here are three recipes you might like to try.

A Spring Chicken in a Pot

If asparagus is in season, slice 4-6 trimmed spears at an angle and add them to the pot 4-5 minutes before the end of the cooking time for extra deliciousness in this spring pot. Florets of Romanesco in season are another of my top additions to this dish.

Serves 6

6 large organic, free-range chicken thighs or drumsticks

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, roughly chopped

450ml homemade chicken stock

12 small new potatoes

a sprig of thyme

1 Hispi or spring cabbage, finely sliced

150g peas, podded weight

1 tbsp chopped tarragon

4 spring onions, sliced

2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4–5 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche (optional)

Season the chicken pieces well with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a 4.2 litre heavy casserole over a high-ish heat, add the chicken and brown them lightly on all sides.

Stir in the onions, then add the well-flavoured stock, potatoes and a nice sprig of thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprig, add the cabbage and simmer gently for a further 5-6 minutes, uncovered. Add the peas and tarragon and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in half of the spring onions and parsley, saving the rest to scatter over the top. Season to taste, add the cream or crème fraîche (if using) and serve.

Charred Cabbage with Smoked Paprika, Parsley and Toasted Hazelnuts

Charred cabbage is a revelation, who knew that cooking cabbage in this way could taste so delicious and lift this humble vegetable into a whole new cheffy world. Lots of sauces and dressings work well with charred cabbage but I love this combination.  I love this with smoked paprika and hazelnuts. Serve as a side or as a separate course.

Serves 4-6

½ – 1 medium cabbage

1 tbsp light olive oil or a neutral oil

110g butter

flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2-3 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

125g toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Trim the cabbage. Cut into four or six wedges depending on the size.

Heat a cast iron pan, add a little oil, swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay the cabbage wedges cut side down on the pan, cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or until well seared on one side. Flip over onto the other and continue to cook until both surfaces are well charred. Add butter to the pan. When the butter melts and becomes pale ‘noisette’, spoon all over the cabbage several times. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and continue to baste regularly until tender.  Test with a cake skewer or the tip of a knife close to the stalk to make sure it’s tender through.

Add the smoked paprika and some of the chopped parsley to the butter and baste again. Transfer to a serving platter or individual serving plates. Scatter some coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts and the remaining parsley over the top and serve immediately. 

Cabbage, Parsnip and Cabbage with Mustard Seed

Try this Keralan cabbage recipe, deliciously perked up with a little chilli spice and lots of freshly chopped parsley.

Serves 6

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp black mustard seeds

1 chilli, seeded and chopped

225g carrots, coarsely grated

225g parsnip, coarsely grated

225g cabbage, finely shredded against the grain

2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley

2 tbsp freshly chopped mint

salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar

freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and add the mustard seeds. They will start to pop almost instantly. Add the chopped chilli and stir and cook for a minute or so. Add the carrots, parsnips and cabbage. Toss over a medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the parsley and mint and toss again. Season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a little sugar. Add the lemon juice, taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately.

Letters

Past Letters