Food Blogs


Food Renegade - Mon, 04/06/2015 - 16:28
Many feel uncertain as to the safety of fish in general, not to mention which fish specifically are safe, if any. How do you sort through the news, recommendations and warnings to know what to purchase? Is seafood even a necessary part of our diet?

Easter recipe hacks: how to upcycle your hot cross buns

Guardian Food Blog - Sun, 04/05/2015 - 13:00

Marzipan fatigue? Transform that icing into toasted ice-cream and break up your egg shells for a salted chocolate fudge sauce

Easter, like Christmas, has turned into a time of sweet excess, but with decidedly fewer seasonal goods doing the rounds – hot cross buns, Easter eggs, simnel cake – many of us have had enough of them before Good Friday has even begun. Whether you find yourself with leftover chocolate (“What’s that?” I hear you cry) dampened by dew from an Easter-egg hunt, or you’re suffering from marzipan overload, try these Easter lunch hacks to stop yourself needlessly buttering – or binning – that 21st hot cross bun.

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Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 04/04/2015 - 14:00



Easter is early this year so the milk fed Spring lamb will be even more juicy and succulent. It needs nothing more than a few flakes of sea salt before being popped into a moderate oven to roast to melting tenderness. Search for the first little sprigs of fresh mint to make a sauce to accompany it for Easter Sunday lunch.


For pudding, I can’t think of anything more delicious than a simple rhubarb tart made with the fresh pink stalks of new season’s rhubarb. Use the “break-all-the-rules pastry” and make by the creaming method, 225g(8oz) butter,  55g (2oz) castor sugar, 2 eggs, 340g (12 oz) white flour  – this makes 750g (1¾ lb) pastry


Lamb sweetbreads are also in season. If you haven’t cooked or tasted them before, pick up courage, order some from your local butcher, they are a rare treat that you will find on the menu of top restaurants nonetheless they are amazingly inexpensive to buy partly because so few people know what to do with them. Take advantage now, like lamb shanks and ham hocks, the price will go up before too long.  Wild garlic is also in season now so try the combination of sweetbreads with wild garlic.


This is also the very best time of the year to enjoy lamb’s liver and kidneys –tender and mild, cooked in minutes, packed with vitamins, minerals and of course iron. When did we stop loving liver? Could it be partly because it is cheap and so is undervalued? Remember kids learn many of their food preferences from their parents who influence them inadvertently. Having said that, at least one of my daughters can’t be persuaded that it is super delicious.


If you’ve been off sugar for Lent  – bet you feel very virtuous and possible a heck of a lot more energetic so I shouldn’t be trying to tempt you but who could resist Pamela Black’s Easter Chocolate cake full of speckled eggs – a spectacular centre piece for the Easter Table.


Salad of Warm Sweetbreads with Potato Crisps, Anchovies and Wild Garlic

Sweetbreads are definitely a forgotten treat. The salty tang of the anchovies in this recipe gives another dimension and adds lots of complementary flavour without compromising the sweetness of the sweetbreads.

Serves 4

4 lamb or 2 veal sweetbreads

1 small carrot

1 onion

2 celery stalks

25g (1oz/1/4 stick) butter

bouquet garni

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) homemade chicken stock)

a selection of salad leaves (little gem, oakleaf, sorrel, watercress and wild garlic leaves and flowers)

plain flour, well-seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper

beaten organic egg

butter and oil for sautéing


For the Dressing

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1⁄4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt and freshly ground pepper


To Serve

homemade potato crisps (see recipe)

4 anchovies

wild garlic flowers (or chive flowers depending on the season)


To prepare sweetbreads.

Put the sweetbreads into a bowl, cover with cold water and let them soak for 3 hours. Discard the water and cut away any discoloured parts from the sweetbreads.


Dice the carrot, onion and celery and sweat them in butter; add the bouquet garni. Then add the chicken stock and bring to the boil.


Poach the sweetbreads gently in the simmering stock for 3–5 minutes or until they feel firm to the touch. Cool, then remove the gelatinous membranes and any fatty bits carefully.  Press between 2 plates and top with a weight not more than 1kg (2lb) or they will be squashed.


Prepare the salad.

Wash and dry the lettuces and salad leaves and whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.


Slice the sweetbreads into escalopes, dip in well-seasoned flour and then in beaten egg. Sauté in a little foaming butter and oil in a heavy pan until golden on both sides.

Toss the salad leaves in the dressing, divide between 4 plates and lay the hot sweetbreads and then potato crisps on top of the salad. Sprinkle with chopped anchovy and wild garlic flowers or chive flowers and serve immediately.



Homemade Potato Crisps or “Game Chips”


Making chips at home is definitely worthwhile – a few potatoes produce

a ton of crisps and nothing you buy in any shop will be even half as delicious. A mandolin is well worth buying for making chips – but mind your fingers! When these are served with roast pheasant they are called game chips.

Serves 4

450g (1lb) large, even-sized potatoes

extra virgin olive oil or beef dripping for deep-fat frying



Wash and peel the potatoes. For even-sized crisps, trim each potato with a swivel-top peeler until smooth. Slice them very finely, preferably with a mandolin. Soak in cold water to remove the excess starch (this will also prevent them from discolouring or sticking together). Drain off the water and dry well.


In a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil or dripping to 180ºC/350ºF. Drop in the dry potato slices a few at a time and fry until golden and completely crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat until they are all cooked.


If they are not to be served immediately, they may be stored in a tin box and reheated in a low oven just before serving.


Devilled Kidneys

Serves 4

4 lamb’s kidneys, cut each into quarters

a little  extra virgin oil

1 small glass of sherry

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or cider vinegar

1 teaspoon  redcurrant jelly

a teaspoon or two of Worcestershire sauce

a good pinch of cayenne pepper or smoked paprika

1 tablespoon English mustard

2 tablespoons cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper

coarsely chopped parsley

watercress sprigs


Cut the kidneys in half, remove the “plumbing” and cut each one into four pieces and wash well.



Heat a little extra virgin olive oil in a small frying pan, add the kidneys and cook for a minute or two, tossing them occasionally. Add the sherry, allow to bubble for a moment and follow up with a splash of wine or cider vinegar. Stir in the redcurrant jelly, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and mustard. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.  Add the cream and bubble for another minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and add more cayenne and black pepper and lots of parsley if you like.


Serve on char-grilled sour dough bread with some sprigs of watercress. For a more substantial supper dish, serve with plain boiled rice and a crisp green salad. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped parsley.



Warm Salad of Lamb Kidneys, Straw Potatoes and Caramelized Shallots

This is a bit more fiddly to make but the end result with contrasting flavours and textures makes a seriously impressive starter.


Serves 4


4 lambs kidneys trimmed of all fat and gristle and cut into 1½ cm dice

20 caramelized shallots (see recipe)

straw potatoes


1 large potato (115-175g/4-6ozs)



6 tablespoons (8 American tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) white wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar


A selection of lettuces (ie. Butterhead, Lollo Rosso, Curly Endive, Cos, Watercress, rocket etc.) – about 4 generous handfuls

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) olive oil


Prepare and cook the shallots as described in the recipe.

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing and leave aside.  Wash and dry the lettuces, tear into bite sized pieces and keep in a salad bowl.


Peel the potato and cut into fine julienne strips on a mandolin, in a food processor or by hand. Wash off the excess starch with cold water drain and pat dry. Preheat oil in a deep fry to 200ºC/400ºF.  Cook the dry potatoes until golden brown and crispy. Keep them warm to serve with the salad.


Just before serving: Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, allow to get very hot. Season the kidneys with salt and pepper add to the pan and cook according to your preference. Sprinkle with chopped marjoram – don’t overcook them or they will become tough and rubbery.


While the kidneys are cooking – quickly toss the lettuces with the dressing and place on 4 plates.  Put the warn shallots around each pile of salad, arrange the fried potato carefully on top of each shallot in a little pile. Finally sprinkle the cooked kidneys straight from the pan onto the salads.  Serve immediately.


Caramelized Shallots


450g (1lb) peeled shallots

50g (2ozs) butter

125ml (4fl ozs) water

1-2 tablespoons sugar

salt and pepper

sprig of thyme or rosemary


Put the shallots, butter, water, sugar, salt, pepper and herb into a saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer covered until the shallots are almost tender. Remove the lid, allow the juices to evaporate.  Watch and turn carefully as the shallots begin to caramelize.


Lamb’s Liver Kebabs with Crispy Bacon


Serves 6 as a starter


450g (1lb) lambs liver, cut into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes

flour, well-seasoned


freshly cracked pepper

8-12 slices of streaky bacon


fresh watercress sprigs
cocktail sticks


Cut the lambs liver into 4cm (1½ inch) cubes. Dip the cubes of liver in well-seasoned flour and lots of freshly cracked pepper. Shake off the excess.


Cut the bacon /rashers in half crossways , stretch with a knife, wrap around each piece of liver and secure with a cocktail stick.


Cook in a preheated oven at 250°C (500°F) for 5-6 minutes or until the bacon is crispy and the liver still a little pink in the centre.


Serve on a bed of watercress sprigs.


Pamela Black’s Easter Speckled Egg Cake

Serves 12-16
Classic Vanilla Victoria Sponge 

225g (8oz/2 sticks) butter
225g (8oz/1 cup) caster/organic caster sugar
4 eggs
225g (8oz/2 cup) plain flour (sieved)
1 teaspoon baking powder (sieved)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) milk (optional)
Butterscotch Buttercream
225g (8oz) butter
450g (1lb) icing sugar (sieved)

50g (2oz) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons hot water

3 tablespoons of Butterscotch Sauce (see below)
150g (5oz) dark chocolate Vermicelli sprinkles
200g (7oz) speckled chocolate candy eggs

Chocolate Caraque (see recipe)
fluffy yellow chicks


2 x 20cm (8 inch) round sandwich tins


First make the sponges.

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

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract a little at a time, beating well after each addition.  Fold in the sieved flour and baking powder carefully and add a little milk if required to give a dropping consistency.

Spoon into prepared tins and spread evenly.
Cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.
Next make the buttercream.

Beat the butter until soft.  Add the icing sugar and cocoa powder slowly.  Finally add the vanilla extract and hot water – mixing all thoroughly. Once cooled, add 3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) of butterscotch sauce to the buttercream and mix thoroughly.

Taking a 10cm (4 inch) round cutter, cut a disc from the centre of one of the two sponges (keep aside and use for a mini cake).


To assemble the cake.

Spread 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of the buttercream over the base of the remaining sponge.  Place the cut sponge on top and cover all the surface completely with remaining icing.  Allow to chill for 1 hour.

Place the cake on a parchment lined baking sheet and quickly press the chocolate sprinkles and chocolate caraque into the sides, over the top and into the hollow of the cake – it should now resemble a birds nest.

Fill the centre with speckled eggs and decorate with fluffy chicks.
Butterscotch Sauce Recipe

Keeps for months and is delicious drizzled over ice-cream, crêpes, yoghurt…..


110g (4oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark soft brown, Muscovado sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Put the butter and sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.  Allow to cool.


Chocolate Caraque

Melt 150g (5oz) of chocolate in a Pyrex bowl over simmering water (not boiling) and stir until smooth. Pour the chocolate onto a flat baking sheet, and tap the tin gently to spread.  Allow to cool. Once cool, using a cheese slice, or the blade of a chopping knife, pull the blade across the chocolate creating “curls” as you go.




Seakale is rarely found in shops, it’s a sublime vegetable, every bit as precious and rare as new season’s asparagus but available during the “hungry gap” in April when the winter vegetables are almost over but the summer vegetables are still barely seedlings. We’ll have a limited amount for sale at the Ballymaloe Cookery School Organic Farm and Garden stall at Midleton’s farmers market from next week. Order ahead 021 4646785 to be sure to get some.


The Galway Food Festival, is in full swing over the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend, 2-6 April.  Building on last year’s huge success there’s a jam packed programme of  open-air markets, foraging trip, food trails, talks, tours, tastings, demonstrations, workshops, lots of fun for all the family…See .


At Ballymaloe Cookery School we have a series  availability on our upcoming Special Interest courses in April… for those of you who might want to go into the food tourism business Start Your Own Guest House, Monday April 20th to Friday April 24th, or how about an afternoon class- Café Sandwiches and Salads (April 13th), or Teashop Cakes and Biscuits (April 14th), or 10 Great Brunch Recipes (April 17th) see



Café Sandwiches and Salads, Teashop Cakes and Biscuits, 10 Great Brunch Recipes… We have a series of half-day special interest courses coming up in April at The Ballymaloe Cookery School. For those who are considering going into the food tourism business, there is an intensive one week Start Your Own Guesthouse course from Monday April 20th to Friday April 24th. See

Categories: Darinas Blog

Why I quit Ottolenghi's Nopi to cook school dinners

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:18

Running the kitchen at Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurant Nopi was a dream come true – but cooking for 500 kids every day is even more of a challenge

“Where’s my potato? WHERE’S. MY. POTATO?”

Day one in my new role as a school chef, and I’ve brought a small child to tears. “Oh, er, look at all these other delicious things we have today – there’s chicken, vegetarian korma, lovely salad and vegetables …”

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How to make the perfect devilled eggs

Guardian Food Blog - Wed, 04/01/2015 - 10:40

A retro canape, but an wickedly popular one. Do you prefer yours with an almighty kick or just a hint of heat?

Devilled eggs (or “dressed eggs” if you’re from the God-fearing American South, where they feature heavily at church suppers and potlucks) are one of those dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Make all the fancy canapes you like, but I’ll bet my bottom dollar the eggs and cocktail sausages still disappear first. There’s a good reason you never see a leftover devilled egg.

In the US, where they’re considered “grandma food” par excellence, devilled eggs have been enjoying an unlikely renaissance as bar snacks, but here they’re only just starting to show up on hipster menus. At about £4 a plate, however, I think I’d prefer to learn how to make my own.

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Spring into Summer Vitality Payment Page

Lucy Hyland - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 11:41
Yippee! Great to have you on board for the next 10 weeks. I’m looking forward to sharing and supporting you on your very own vitality programme. Just one more step to go. Please click below and finalise your payment.  Paying...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

Spring into Summer Vitality Programme

Lucy Hyland - Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:49
My Spring into Summer course is all about getting the basics right to allow you to enjoy this summer to the max. What to expect: Improved energy and concentration levels well into the evening as I’ve hand picked the most...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

Nutrition Therapy

Lucy Hyland - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 15:37
“Back to You” programme takes nutrition therapy to a whole new level So, you’re interested in real nutrition therapy? By real I mean nutrition that takes a look at the whole of who you are: your body, mind and soul....Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

How to eat eggs Benedict

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 03/30/2015 - 11:23

It’s at least 120 years old, but with brunch more fashionable than ever in Britain, eggs Benedict is enjoying a ‘moment’. So, toast or muffins? Ham or proscuitto? There are key decisions to made here

With Easter fast approaching, ovoid food is all the rage and, being a slave to fashion, How to Eat could not pass up this opportunity to pay homage to, arguably, the greatest breakfast-slash-brunch dish ... ever. Yes, this month, the Word of Mouth blog that is trying to identify the best iterations of our favourite dishes, is propping up the newspaper on the cruet set, pouring itself a coffee and considering eggs Benedict.

As ever BTL, do not ham it up or let your argument boil over. If you feel compelled to tell the world that – in answer to the question: how do you eat yours? – “I just put it in my mouth and chew”, do so, but be aware that yolk isn’t funny any more. If it ever was (it wasn’t).

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Marzipan Edirne

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sun, 03/29/2015 - 14:26

Still in Istanbul,  Burcu of Unison Turkey told me about a particularly delicious marzipan made in Edirne close to the Bulgarian and Greek border by a family who’d been in business since 1952. So despite the heavy snowfall and lots of advice to the contrary, I decided to seek them out. It developed into an endurance test….. a five hour journey along the snow clogged highway past abandoned cars, jack-knifed trucks and freezing hungry drivers many of whom had been stranded since the night before. When we eventually arrived at Keçecizade almost three hours late, we were warmly welcomed with hot black Turkish tea, cay and a plate of the famous marzipan and cookies. The founder Metin Bey’s office was crammed with awards and trophies garnered throughout the years for his delicious confections

Here again we encounter an example of the Turkish apprentice system and a passionate commitment to quality. Metin worked with both a candy master and halva master in Safranbolu, an area traditionally famous for candy and Turkish delight, Eventually he started to make marzipan and Keçecizade was established in 1961. Metin and his son source their almonds from Thrace where the climate and soil produce the finest nuts with the best aroma and oil content. The sugar too is carefully sourced.

Apparently, it takes 4 years to become a master marzipan maker as opposed to just three years for a master tailor or shoemaker.

To make the marzipan, the finest almonds money can buy are first ground with a special blade, then sieved. Meanwhile they are cooking the syrup from beet sugar at 120° Centigrade This is poured into a huge stainless steel mixing bowl, specially designed by Metin. The ground almonds are added and the marzipan is mixed slowly with some corn starch for an hour. It’s then poured out onto heavy unpolished marble tables to cool, formed into mounds, then rolled into 10″ batons, with a special corn starch and cut into individual pieces of silky marzipan.

Metin stressed the importance of consistent vigilance not only of each step of the process but also the quality of each element: the starch, the almonds, the sugar….. Apparently, many confectioners now use glucose syrup, which changes the taste and texture.  Food is being adulterated in ways we can’t even imagine according to Metin.

Keçacizade also make a delicious Turkish delight, not in the least like the sickly sweet, tooth wrenching jelly that is usually sold under that name.

There was a wonderful rose flavoured version, also one with mastic, and double pistachio to die for. There were rolls of walnut Turkish delight and a hazelnut version rolled in desiccated coconut. The hazelnuts come from the Black Sea area of Giresun, they cost 80 Turkish lira a kilo, Turkey, I discovered is the biggest producer of hazelnuts in the world.

Sultans Turkish Delight has chocolate sandwiched in the centre and another pistachio version is totally encrusted in chocolate. The marzipan too, came in many incarnations. In Ceviz Sarma, little cushions of marzipan were sandwiched between two beautiful fresh walnut halves. Kakaolu Bademezmesi, is for me the un-prouncable name for little rectangles of marzipan coated in dark coca and that’s not all- there was also a superb halva which came in many flavours.

Keçecizade has five shops in Edirne but despite that, marzipan is definitely not the only reason to make a pilgrimage to this remarkable city, which was the Ottoman capital of Turkey in the 14th century. Edirne is justifiably proud to have one of Turkey’s finest mosques – Selimiye Camii, designed by the famous architect Mimar Sinan. We visited the Eski Camii “Old Mosque” which is famous for its particularly striking calligraphy, and is the oldest mosque in the city. Selimiye is the one towering on the highest hill of the city with four minarets famous for its stunning architecture and included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The city’s food speciality is Tava Ciğeri (translation Fried Liver), thinly sliced deep fried calves liver served with crispy fried chillies and yogurt. We had a feast of ciğer in a superb little place called Çiçek Ciğer.  Formica tables and lots of locals popping in and out. The return journey to Istanbul in the evening took just a little over two hours, the highway had, by then been miraculously cleared of the huge build-up of cars, vans and lorries that had travelled with supplies for Istanbul from as far away as Russia, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Iran and Romania…..

I hadn’t expected to encounter heavy snowfalls in Turkey but it made the countryside even more beautiful and was welcomed by the farmers in a country where the spectre of drought is becoming even more of reality in recent years.

Turkish wines were another big surprise, I also visited a very interesting winery called Arda near Edirne where the wines were elegant and full of promise and produced without a ton of chemicals so were hoping to be able to source them over here before too long.  See  and  for more details.



Edirne Fried Liver with Cacik and Crispy Chillis


Serves 4


350g (12oz) very fresh calves or lambs liver, cut into very thin slices, about an inch (2.5cm) square


Well-seasoned flour


beef fat or oil for deep frying


Cacik (see recipe).


crisp sun dried, deep fried chilli peppers.


ripe tomato wedges,


raw onion slices,



Wash the liver in cold water several times until the water runs clear, drain, cover and keep chilled.


Make the Cacik, and keep cool.


Just before serving, take a fist full of liver per person, dry and toss in well-seasoned flour. Drop gently into the hot beef fat or oil, stir with a metal spoon to separate the pieces, cook for 2-3 minutes or until the liver is crispy on the outside but still tender in the centre.


Drain on kitchen paper and serve on a hot plate with a bowl of thick yoghurt or Cacik and the other accompaniments. The chilli heats, the yoghurt cools and the vegetables provide a delicious freshness. Add some flat parsley too.





Cacik – Cucumber yoghurt dip.


This delicious version of Cacik comes from “Eat Istanbul – A journey to the Heart of Turkish Cuisine” by Andy Harris and David Loftus and published by Quadrille.


Serves 6

1 cucumber

3 garlic cloves, peeled

500g thick yoghurt

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon dried mint plus extra to serve

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


To serve:

chopped cucumber


Grate, dice or shave the cucumber into ribbons and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and weigh down with a plate. Leave it to drain for at least 30 minutes. After that, put the cucumber in some muslin or a clean tea towel and squeeze out any excess juice.

Use a pestle and mortar to pound the garlic cloves and a little sea salt to a paste. Transfer to a large bowl with the cucumber, yoghurt, olive oil, dries and fresh mint and combine well. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use, then transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with a little more dried mint and garnish with some chopped cucumber and fresh mint.





175g (6oz) ground almonds

200g (7oz) sugar

110ml (4fl oz) water

1 egg white

natural almond extract to taste (beware, 1 drop only)


Put the sugar and water into a deep saucepan.  Stir over a medium heat to dissolve the sugar in the water.  Bring to the boil.  Cover the pan for 2 minutes to steam any sugar from saucepan sides.   Remove cover and boil rapidly just to thread stage -106-113°C (236°F).

Remove from the heat.  Stir the syrup for a second or two until cloudy.  Stir in almonds.  Set aside to cool briefly.

Lightly whisk egg white, add the almond extract and stir into the almond mixture.  Transfer the paste from the saucepan to Pyrex plate.  Cool.  The cool marzipan should feel like moulding clay

(Marzipan will keep for 2-3 months in a fridge).



Marzipan Dates


Makes 28


Use up scraps of marzipan to make these Marzipan Dates.


28 fresh dates depends on source

4ozs (110g) almond paste or marzipan (see recipe)

castor sugar


Split one side of the date and remove the stone.  Roll a little piece of marzipan into an oblong shape so that it will fit neatly into the opening.  Smooth the top and roll the stuffed date in castor sugar.  Repeat the procedure until all the dates and marzipan are used up.  Serve as a petit four or as part of a selection of homemade sweets.



Medjool Dates with Pistachio and Marzipan


Dip the top of the stuffed date in finely chopped unsalted pistachio nuts.


Serve as above



Medjool Dates with Walnuts


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a walnut into each and press closed.



Medjool Dates with Candied Orange Peel


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a sliver of candied orange peel into each and press closed.




Medjool Dates with Candied Pecan Nut


Stone the dates but keep attached, slip a candied pecan nut into each and press closed.





Turkish Snail.


Serves 10-15 people


1 packet best quality filo pastry





450g (1lb) ground almonds


325g (11oz) castor sugar


1 tablespoon cinnamon

75-110ml (3-4 floz) orange flower water

75-110g (3-4oz) melted butter


Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl to form a paste.


To Assemble

Lay one sheet of filo on the work top, brush with melted butter. Take a fist full of the paste and make into a snake about 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Lay this along the long side of the sheet of filo, about 1 inch (2.5cm) in from the edge. Roll up and bend into an accordian shape and then roll up into a ‘snail’. Put a sheet of tin foil on a baking sheet and lay the snail on top, continue with the rest of the filo and paste. Press the ends together to seal the joining and continue to make the snake. Brush with egg wash and then with melted butter. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for approx. 30 minutes or until crisp and golden. Cool.

Dust with icing sugar and perhaps a little sweet cinnamon.


Hot Tips:

Seed Savers Easter Camps, 31st March to 3rd April at Capparoe, Scarriff, Co. Clare. A fun filled camp aimed at six to ten year olds with a combination of nature activities and arts and crafts. Activities include: Easter egg hunt, pizza making in a cob oven, camp fire building and cooking, drumming and singing, biscuit baking, nature walk and foraging, bug hunt, pond dipping, woodland activities, Spring activities, seed sowing, felt art, Easter egg painting and so much more. Price: €65 per child. Time: 10am-2pm each day. For more information & registration phone 061 921866/061921.


West Waterford Festival of Food,  9th to 12th April Celebrating Generations of Irish Food Stories, bringing together amazing food, drink and people in a wonderful weekend of demos, discussions and dining of all kinds. There’s something for everyone in the seaside town of Dungarvan. For more details of the jam-packed programme see


Start your own Cafe or Teashop: Many of us dream of having a little café or tea shop, but it’s so easy to get carried away not realising the hard work and expertise required to run a successful business. This intensive one week at the Ballymaloe Cookery School runs from Monday 13th April to Friday 17th April and covers everything from setting up and running the business to practical advice and “hands-on” demonstrations with the school’s top chefs. For detailed description see

Categories: Darinas Blog

Rejoice, rejoice, for sriracha powder is on its way

Guardian Food Blog - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 15:11

Now the hot stuff is bound to be even more ubiquitous – popcorn, ketchup, crisps – and I can’t wait to get my hands on the powder

I wish I didn’t like sriracha. I wish I didn’t like it because everyone else does, because every Saturday morning my social media feed is infested with fried eggs and avocado on toast, bacon sandwiches and kale, endless bloody kale, all doused in spicy, savoury red stuff.

But, despite my inherent cynicism, I don’t just like sriracha, I love it. I can’t resist its aggressively garlicky brand of sweet heat, its vinegary tang, and the fact it comes with a variety of amusing birds on the bottle, depending which of the innumerable almost indistinguishable brands you happen to pick up.

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Celeriac chips: 'More virtuous, and less filling, than potato'

Guardian Food Blog - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 10:53

In the last lap of our chip odyssey, we eschew burdock root and marrow to test out a chip that has a surprising number of fans

The Guardian’s alternative chip week, where I try your suggestions for new versions of the potato chip, reaches the end of the road. I’ve expanded the original test – plantain, cassava and the mighty chickpea – to include porridge, polenta and breadfruit. There were other chip alternatives that had me (and you) wondering, but, alas, I could not try them all – I didn’t have any overgrown marrow in the garden to improve upon the courgette chip, as suggested by one commenter, nor did I have access to burdock root to fry up, as seen in pubs in Japan, proposed by another.

Of all the tested alternative chip types, I can confirm that there is no change to the original results. The velvet-centred, and subtle-flavoured chickpea chip took to oil and salt the best. It sits up there, with full marks, alongside the potato – both of them offering great supporting acts to burgers. After the chickpea chip, the polenta chip, a dangerously moreish morsel thanks to its wonderously crispy shell, takes second place. In third place, now, waving the flag for all the vegetable chips out there is celeriac (suggested by Diana Price, madjens1, Scrood and even billed as “the best chip substitute I’ve ever tasted” by gavanelli), which I respectfully present to you here.

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Polenta chips: 'There's a reason Nigella uses this stuff'

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 03/26/2015 - 11:39

Can the Italian staple challenge the mighty chickpea in the great-chip stakes? There’s only one way to find out

Following on from yesterday’s breadfruit chip and Tuesday’s rather leftfield option – the porridge chip – comes the most popular alternative of all, the well-documented polenta chip, voted for by many (Pasternak, AndyCh, tricky1992000, CeilingCat, littlebounce, Unobtanium) and much enjoyed by myself when made by someone else’s hand in Italy last summer. Already, this chip is in good shape. Another thing going for it is that it’s made in an almost identical way – heat the mix, cool, cut slab, fry – to the current leader of the pack, the chickpea chip.

Shopping: I seem to have accumulated three very different types of polenta at home, and in the interests of mindless kitchen order, decanted them all into Ikea containers so that I have no idea what the merits of each are. In the interests of a fair experiment I head out for more. I purchase a sack of coarse yellow polenta for the job, imagining that it’ll make for an interesting textured chip.

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Diet questions

Lucy Hyland - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 12:07
Sometimes the work I do with clients is not necessarily around finding how food is part of the problem, but rather that food isn’t the problem that people thought it was. Recently, in one of my nutrition programme sessions, my client...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

Breadfruit chips: 'A decent-enough chip – if you really can't find a potato'

Guardian Food Blog - Wed, 03/25/2015 - 11:41

A chip odyssey: Henrietta Clancy has been putting alternative chip contenders to the test all week. This time it’s breadfruit – just make sure you buy the right kind, and beware of the smell

Next up in the Guardian’s week of roadtesting potato chip alternatives is breadfruit. No one in our original “alternative chip” test had a bad word to say about this head-sized fruit’s chip credentials: “A truly excellent chip” (reddogg100); “Really easy to make and yummy” (Bimshine); and this particularly bold claim: “I challenge you to tell the difference!” (ID9957982). Challenge accepted.

Shopping: I take a smallish looking breadfruit to the stallholder (some are gargantuan) and am instantly asked what I intend to do with it. It would appear that I’ve unwittingly picked up an immature fruit: these are best used for pickling and marinating, and although they can be boiled, they will taste something like an artichoke. No good for what I’m after. The ideal breadfruit for chip-making is mature, and therefore bigger, but still firm. When it’s like this, it can be used much like a potato; any riper and it becomes fodder for cakes, pies and baby puree.

Related: Porridge chips: 'Not coming to a menu near you any time soon'

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New York Launch

Darina's Blog - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 14:12
Just back from New York having successfully launched the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine - on our second attempt!

Believe it or not the sun shone on us this time. There was a change of venue - at Studio 1 on Broadway - and we had even more people than were expected at the original launch. This time some of the guests who were invited first time round sadly couldn't make it, including Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Paschal Donohoe. But many many friends from Kerrygold, Tourism Ireland Board Bia and the Irish Dairy Board were there to cheer us on and celebrate the launch of our third LitFest which promises to be even bigger and better than previous years.

David Lebovitz (who will be speaking at this year's Litfest) was there, as were journalists from Monocle, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, Food and Wine, Good Housekeeping, The Village Voice, and representatives from Dean & Deluca and the James Beard Foundation.

Before we left we packed up our cases with Ballymaloe brown yeast bread, homemade cheese biscuits and lots of lovely smoked salmon. Sean Hyde of Ballymaloe Country Relish USA was there to meet us with copious amounts of  Ballymaloe Relish and of course we had Kerrygold butter and cheese in abundance.

Here's what we ate...

  • Shanagarry Organic Smoked Salmon on Ballymaloe Brown Bread with Kerrygold butter and Pickled Cucumbers
  • Kerrygold Cashel Blue Cheese on a Brown Soda Cracker with Spiced Cranberries
  • Roast Fillet of Irish Beef on Brown Bread and Kerrygold butter with Horseradish Mayonnaise
  • Crudités with Aïoli
  • A selection of Kerrygold Cheese (Kerrygold Dubliner, Skellig and Vintage Cheddar) with Pickles and Brown Soda Crackers
  • Belvelly Smokehouse Smoked Mackerel and Chive Rillettes on Grilled Sourdough Bread
  • Ballymaloe Vanilla Fudge as a goodbye treat.

David Tanis of the NY times (another speaker at this year's Litfest) rolled up his sleeves along with Betsy Klein and helped Rory in the open kitchen - piling cucumber pickle on top of the smoked salmon.

It was just a few days before St Patrick's Day so lots of Irish were over in New York spreading the word about Irish food - including Clodagh McKenna launching her new book Clodagh's Irish Kitchen.

The Irish craft cider producers were in town too: Dan Kelly's, Craigies Cider and Longueville House Cider were introducing their ciders to America, sharing them with our guests and getting a terrific response. Some of the Litfest speakers including Alice Feiring (natural wine) and past Ballymaloe Cookery School students including Malcom Jackson (part-time chef at Fitzcarraldo in Brooklyn) and our very first American and international student Tambra Dillon were all there - which was a lovely surprise. 

We had a very jolly time - we are very grateful for the support of our title sponsor Kerrygold and also to Tourism Ireland for supporting the US press launch.

Categories: Darinas Blog

Why Meat Free Week won't work

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 12:53

It’s hard to fault the idealism of Meat Free Week – but a die-hard meat eater is a hard nut to crack. Better to drop the ethical propaganda and big up the positives of vegetables as a sexy, modern alternative

You can understand why Meat Free Week [MFW] is formulated as it is. From foreign aid to cancer research budgets, people seem incapable of engaging practically with any serious issue unless it comes packaged as a fun national event in which they can take on a challenge, raise money for charity and bang on about it on social media.

The campaigning event, which started in Australia and launched in the UK this week (23-29 March), is an attempt – under the rather smug, facile rubric, “Eat less, care more, feel good” – to get us to reassess our meat consumption, consider industrial farming practices and the impact of such on our health. It is difficult to argue against any of its points on principle, but MFW’s shtick is irritating.

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Porridge chips: 'Not coming to a menu near you any time soon'

Guardian Food Blog - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 10:54

A chip odyssey: after she wrote about the mighty chickpea chip, Henrietta Clancy was inundated with readers’ suggestions for alternatives. So she has been putting them to the test. We kick off today with a trick Scottish chippies have been missing out on – deep-fried porridge

Last month, I gave three starchy subjects the chip treatment to see if any of them were a match for the mighty potato. Cassava and plantain had their merits, but it was the chickpea chip that had me wooed, producing a golden crisp-shelled chip with a creamy centre. A chip to rival the chip.

A hot debate ensued in the comments, and on social media, about the merits of other worthy chip interlopers, some I’d heard of but not tried, and others were intriguing. So I’ve been on something of a chip odyssey these last weeks, road testing the three candidates mentioned by commenters most often, to see if any of them can dislodge the chickpea chip to stand next to the mighty potato.

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Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 03/21/2015 - 14:00

It’s difficult to keep up with all the hot new openings in London – Over in “W1” everyone is loving Primeur, which I only just managed to book partly because they only accept “face to face” or Twitter bookings, consequently I was the only white haired woman in a room full of hipsters. The menu, on a blackboard, changes every day  with lots of  tempting seasonal choices, as does the wine list, carefully selected natural wines and a couple of excellent orange wines, including Sofia. It’s also jolly difficult to find, it’s out in Highbury, in the old Barnes Motors Building but it’s definitely worth the schlep.

Rawduck in Hackney is also back on form and our lunch there was some of the best food we ate in London on this research trip. They have also revived an old tradition and are making a range of shrubs – drinking vinegars and an intriguing range of pickles and fermented foods. There are lots of recipes for “shrubs” on the internet, we’re experimenting at the moment and I’ll keep you posted.

We loved their home made burger with sauerkraut slaw and hand-cut chips. The lamb on grilled bread with labneh, pomegranate and mint was also terrifically good as was the milk pudding with blood orange and pistachio nuts.

Rawduck is a sister restaurant of Ducksoup in Dean Street, Soho, definitely another contender for your London List. Delicious small plates – no desserts but you can nip across the road to Quo Vadis where the irrepressible Jeremy Lee makes some of the very best puds in London. I know you’re over sticky toffee pudding but you mustn’t miss Jeremy’s sublime version made with muscovado sugar and oh! the bread and butter pudding and home-made coffee ice-cream….

Honey & Co has been around for a couple of years now, another one of those tiny London restaurants run by passionate young people. This time it’s Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich who cook beautiful Middle Eastern inspired food. Don’t miss their cookery demonstration during the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine see:

This time we stayed in the Marylebone Hotel in Welbeck Street just off Marylebone High Street, brilliantly central. The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful and there is a nice Irish connection, it’s owned by the Doyle family and is run by Roddy McGrath.

If you happen to be in London over the weekend and markets are your thing, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Borough Market over the Thames is still humming but I prefer to head for Maltby Street and The Spa Terminus (where a lot of the best stall holders have decamped)

I also love the Broadway market in Hackney, particularly the newly established Netil market. Go hungry and order slow braised pork in a fluffy steamed boa bun or crispy wings with hot sauce from BAO in the corner to the left of the entrance. Several stalls sell excellent handmade work by local designers.

While you are waiting and you will have to queue if you don’t go early – treat yourself to an aperol spritz from Lucky Chip, the best I’ve ever tasted even though it comes in a plastic glass. Great coffee too at Terrone & Co.

On Sunday, morning check out the Farmer’s Market behind Waitrose on Marylebone High Street – lots of really good produce, organic vegetables, pork pies, farmhouse cheese and raw milk. The Fromagerie is just beside you there on Moxon Street with great produce, phenomenal cheese and other special foodie treats.  Ginger Pig butcher shop which specialises in well hung traditional breeds is just next door, the big fat chunky sausage rolls are the best you’ll ever taste and I also love the beef cheek terrine.

For a great brunch, The Providores is just around the corner on Marylebone High Street, you might want to try their Turkish poached eggs.



Brick Lane (in Bethnal Green)  also comes alive on Saturday when most London markets pack up their stalls. It’s part flea market, part food market, antique and vintage shops and unique kitchen and house wares.


The Sunday Colombia Road Flower Market is just a short walk away, one of the best places to go on a sunny Sunday morning and close to Spitalfields and trendy Shoreditch.

Rice pudding is definitely having its moment. In three of the hottest restaurants in London, rice pudding featured on the dessert menu.

We had a cracking good meal in the newly opened Portland Restaurant in Great Portland St. There too, Will Lander and Dan Morgenthau’s team served  warm rice pudding with a little honey ice-cream and some Jersey cream melting into the centre – divine.

Primeur served a similar combination. Also comforting and delicious was the Rawduck version – this time it was served with new season’s rhubarb which still had a slight crunch, this is just one of my favourite restaurants in the Hackney Shoreditch area. I’m also mad about Lyles and the cute little Violet Cake Cafe on Wilton Way.

The craze for offal continues unabated, duck hearts seem to be everywhere, the brilliant cafe and wine bar, Toast out in East Dulwich served them on grilled bread with a herb salsa while John Doe, another hot new restaurant, in Notting Hill where it is all about fire, poached the duck hearts first and then chargrilled them before putting them onto chargrilled sourdough.

Looks like the American hot chefs’ obsession of cooking over fire has hit London though not in the pure form of Etxebarri near Bilbao or Camino in Oakland where all the cooking is done on a bank of open fires at the end of the dining room. Finally, before I run out of space there are two other new hot spots that deserve a place on your London List, everyone I know is raving about Kitty Fishers in 10 Shepherds Market and The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street near Charing Cross serves a short Thai influenced menu, every morsel was delicious …enough for this week.




Chargrilled lamb with labneh, pomegranate and fresh mint leaves.


Serves 1


1 slice of sourdough bread

labneh seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper and freshly roasted cumin.

a 110g (4oz) slice of leg of lamb or a lamb chop

1 generous tablespoon of pomegranate seeds

fresh mint leaves, shredded

extra virgin olive oil

a few flakes of sea salt


Slice the lamb, Heat a frying pan or grill pan. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Cook until well seared on both sides.


Chargrill the bread, spread a generous layer of well seasoned labneh on top. Cover with slices of the warm lamb and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

A little shredded mint, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few flakes of sea salt complete the feast.



Roast Cauliflower Florets, Freekeh, Pistachio and Pomegranate


Serves 6-8


450g (16oz) cooked freekeh,


1 small cauliflower divided into small florets

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons honey

110g (4ozs) pistachio, coarsely chopped

seeds from one small pomegranate

nigella seeds, optional

6-8 tablespoons labneh

1-2 tablespoon sumac

salt and freshly ground black pepper

lots of dill sprigs


Put the freekeh into a saucepan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes – 1 hour, depending on your freekeh (some are broken grains, others whole). It should be soft but still slightly chewy. Drain, season with salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss.  Taste and correct the seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Divide the cauliflower into florets. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes or until slightly caramelised at the edges.

Meanwhile, whisk 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 2 teaspoons of honey in a bowl. Sprinkle over the warm freekeh and toss gently, mix with the cauliflower florets, and some of the pomegranate seeds, (save some for sprinkling). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and a few nigella seeds.  To serve put a couple of tablespoons of the freekah and cauliflower salad on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Put a dollop of labneh or greek yogurt on top. Scatter a few more pomegranate seeds, pistachio nuts, a pinch of sumac and a few sprigs of dill over the labneh and serve ASAP.



Panna Cotta with Orange Blossom, Blood Oranges and Pistachio.


Serves 6-8


½ pint (300ml) cream

½ pint whole milk

2oz (50g) castor sugar

2 teaspoons gelatine

2 tablespoons orange blossom water

3 tablespoons water

5-6 blood oranges

110g (4ozs) chopped pistachio nuts


6-8 moulds (3-4fl ozs/90-120ml) lightly brushed with non-scented oil – sunflower or arachide.

Put the cream and milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan with the castor sugar.  Put on a low heat and bring to the shivery stage.  Meanwhile, sponge the gelatine in the water.


Put the bowl in a saucepan of simmering water until the gelatine is dissolved.  Add a little of the cream to the gelatine, then stir both mixtures together.  Add the orange blossom water to taste then pour into the moulds.  When cold, refrigerate (preferably overnight) until set.


To serve, unmould the panna cotta onto a cold plate.

Remove the orange peel with a sharp knife, cut into ¼ inch thick slices and arrange three overlapping alongside the panna cotta. Drizzle with a little blood orange juice (you may need to add a little honey if the blood orange juice is too tart.)

Sprinkle a line of chopped pistachios along the top between the orange and the panna cotta, serve.




Butterscotch pudding with pear, wet walnuts and apple oil.


Serves 8-10


225g (8oz) chopped dates (use block dates or Delget Noor)

300ml (10fl oz) tea

75g (3oz) muscovado sugar

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

3 eggs

225g (8oz) self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda or baking soda)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon espresso coffee powder

4-5 ripe pears, peeled cored and dices in ¼ pieces

100g-125g (4oz-5 oz) wet walnuts, roughly chopped

125ml (4fl oz) apple juice and 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin oil whisked together.




Butterscotch sauce


110g (4oz) butter

175g (6oz) dark soft brown sugar muscovado sugar

225ml (8fl oz) cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 rectangular roasting tin, 35cm x 24cm x 6cm


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

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of the cake tin with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Add the sieved bread soda, vanilla extract and coffee to the dates and tea, and then stir this into the mixture. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1 to 1½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.


To make the sauce:

Put the butter and sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.


To serve:

Arrange a square of pudding in a deep plate, spoon a little butterscotch sauce on top. Mix the pear and walnuts in a bowl, spoon a couple of tablespoons over top of the pudding. Whisk the apple juice with the oil and spoon around the edge. Serve ASAP!




Pub Food for a New Era: We’ve visited some of the most successful gastro pubs in the UK, Ireland and beyond, and have so many delicious recipes and ideas to tempt your customers, and help you to turn a profit. On this intensive 2.5 day course we will show you a selection of traditional and modern pub food that can be produced in a small kitchen and ready at all times of day for when customers are looking for food. One of the highlights of the course is a presentation from respected restaurant adviser, Blathnaid Bergin, examining the all-important finances of beginning to serve food in your pub, so that you can avoid the common pit-falls of starting out in the food business. Wednesday April 8th 2015 see

I just found two great new books on potatoes, The Irish Potato Recipe Book, written by Eleveen Coyle and published by Gill & Macmillan. This pocket guide has something for everyone with easy to follow recipes. Rich in vitamins, potassium and fibre, gluten-free and low in cholesterol, potatoes really are the perfect package. Eveleen includes tips on buying, storing and cooking perfect potatoes every time as well as a brief history of how Ireland’s synonymous relationship with the potato came about.

The Potato Year by Lucy Madden, published by Mercier Press. Having moved from London in the 1970’s Lucy Madden began growing vegetables in the large Victorian walled garden of her home, Hilton Park Estate. She fell in love with potato growing and has developed a huge repertoire of culinary options with home-grown spuds. The Potato Year contains over 300 recipes for any occasion from traditional potato dishes to wild potato desserts, the perfect companion for anyone interested in knowing more about the most versatile and nourishing vegetable in Ireland.

Get gardening, if you have not already done so it’s time to chit your potatoes (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting). Start about six weeks before you plan to plant out the potatoes.


Categories: Darinas Blog

Healthy food options

Lucy Hyland - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 13:11
A Little Too Busy for You – Easy Healthy Food options It’s a term I hear in my nutrition sessions all the time. Some of us are stuck in a world of ‘too busy’ and we can’t seem to get...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs


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