Food Blogs

Dill and Basil Homemade Popcorn

Food Renegade - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 18:27
Homemade popcorn is the perfect gluten-free snack. It's crunchy and you can dress it up any way you want: sweet or salty. I went with a salty dill and basil version that will blow you out of the water; you will never want popcorn any other way.

Which wine should you drink with grasshopper on toast?

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 12:15

When wine experts were served a variety of creepy crawlies and asked to come up with the ideal accompaniment, what did they suggest?

There’s an inherent wriggliness to a worm that stays with it long after it has been fried and prepared as the main ingredient in a mealworm taco, for example. Give the plate a slight nudge and everything moves – it’s like looking into an angler’s bait bucket.

Eating insects has become common enough that the chains are experimenting with putting them on the menu, so it was only a matter of time before the wine matchers wanted in on the act. I’m at London’s Vinopolis where Beth Willard, buyer for wine merchants Laithwaite’s has chosen wines which she thinks will best complement the flavours of mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets and queen weaver ants. We’re trying cricket pad thai, Mexican grasshoppers on toast, a frangipane of pear, cinnamon and queen weaver ant, and that vermicular taco.

Related: Grub's up: can insects feed the world?

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Supermarket pizza hacks: what do you put on yours?

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 09:35

Tweaking the toppings and adding extra cheese is often the only way to make a bought pizza a truly indulgent treat. But what do you add to yours? And is pizza the only ready meal that demands a makeover?

In adherence with the – *cough*, it all happens in my kitchen – strict laboratory conditions under which the Guardian’s Supermarket Sweep taste tests are conducted, I was obliged to eat a recent lineup of margherita pizzas in their unadorned, au naturel state. But as became apparent BTL, many of us never eat plain supermarket pizza.

At Naylor Towers, for instance, it is almost unheard of for a supermarket pizza to pass through the kitchen without it being tricked-out and turned into something genuinely indulgent by the addition of extra ingredients. This is necessary to compensate for the, shall we say, more judicious application of toppings that takes place in the factories where these things are made. (Apologies if you thought it was all done in a farmhouse in Tuscany by a crack team of nonnas. It isn’t.) But, like anything in cooking – or, in this case, assembly – there is an art to transforming your supermarket pie.

Related: Chilled supermarket pizzas: the best and worst – taste test

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How to cook the perfect onion rings

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 08:00
Are onion rings fast food’s most underrated dish? Do you like them big and battery or thin and crunchy – and does anyone actually like them squashed on top of a burger?

The least celebrated of the classic fast food side orders, an optional extra where chips are the mandatory pairing, onion rings rarely get the love they deserve. This may be because they are so often done badly, with greasy, flabby batter that releases its filling in one soggy chunk, or it may be because, in this country at least, 45 years since Listerine appeared on our shelves, we remain slightly suspicious of the onion and its alliaceous ilk.

For all our traditional diffidence for oral hygiene, we still don’t have many dishes which make onion the star, rather than the seasoning, because, like garlic, its pungency puts it in the same (rather unfair) category as the kebab; what might be described by the modish as “dirty food” – the kind of thing that is “so bad it’s good”. Well, I’d like to stand up for the onion ring. A cousin of the much more respectable Indian bhaji, Japanese tempura and Italian fritto misto, it seems that the onion ring as we know it today first pops up in print in Fannie Farmer’s 1906 Boston School Cook Book, and was popularised by fast food joints and diners, until, together with french fries, it became “American men’s favourite vegetable”.

Related: How to make the perfect hamburger

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St Patrick's Day Pop Up Dinner

Darina's Blog - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 12:10
For the last six years Tourism Ireland has created a tradition of "greening" the world to celebrate St Patrick's Day - illuminating some of the world's most iconic landmarks in green light. This year the Coliseum in Rome and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville will join the Sydney Opera House, the Great Wall of China, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Niagara Falls...

It is an inspired way to celebrate St Patrick's Day, which focuses global attention on Ireland, and as you can imagine is a source of great pride to the Irish diaspora scattered all over the world.

So here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, where we have 14 nationalities at present on the 12 Week Course - the students are expecting some real excitement on the big day. So we've decided to do a Pop-Up dinner in the Garden Cafe at the Cookery School, on March 17th at 7pm. 

Everyone's getting out their green bling - Pam has got free rein to decorate. We have a competition for the students to see who can come up with the best green dessert, cake or cookie - green colouring, wood sorrell, angelica, green cherries are all set to feature, I'm sure - and there's a very covetable prize for the winner.

You'll be greeted with an aperitif and lots of nibbles, followed by three delicious courses plus the St Patrick's Day dessert creations. We're also hoping to have some great traditional music.

It's a Slow Food event, so the proceeds will go to the East Cork Slow Food Education Project.

Slow Food members €40, and non-Slow Food members €45.

Places are limited, booking essential. 021 4646785

Categories: Darinas Blog

Undiluted Essential Oils for Babies: Busted Essential Oil Myth #3

Food Renegade - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 16:58
You're told essential oils are natural and pure enough to be used on your baby without dilution. Before you slather your infant with essential oils, I want to explain why that is not recommended, and offer you some safe alternatives.

Going dairy free: try these hero ingredients

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 03/02/2015 - 08:54

When I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance, I wondered how on earth I’d be able to give up dairy. But these new staples prove there is life after cheese

Is there life after cheese? This thought was running through my head as I stared forlornly into my fridge filled with dairy products – cheese, milk and lovely lovely butter. It was 2011, and I’d just been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. All that lovely stuff was going to go uneaten (at least by me).

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Dorothy Cashman

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 14:00

On a chilly winters night a few weeks ago we had our first East Cork Slow Food event of the year. The title didn’t sound particularly appealing “How a Love Of Food And Literature Can Bring Your Life In A Different Direction” but eminent food historian Dorothy Cashman kept us riveted for several hours and whetted many peoples appetite for food history, old cookbooks and lore that they hadn’t a jot of interest in before.


Dorothy, herself had almost stumbled into what has now becoming an all absorbing hobby. Good wholesome food and convivial family meals were an important part of her childhood and stirred up as they do for many of us, nostalgic and happy memories.


In 1991 Dorothy decided to take a career break from her air hostess job in Aer Lingus to learn how to cook. After three months here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, her interest in all things gastronomic grew and eventually 2009 she retired from Aer Lingus and in 2007 enrolled on the New Product Development and Culinary Innovation MSc in DIT in Dublin. She found herself intrigued by food history and old cookbooks and became particularly fascinated by the manuscript cookbooks of the great Irish houses. Interestingly, relatively little work had been done on this area, it was almost as through it was ‘air brushed’ out of our history. Most cookbooks including my own Traditional Irish Cooking had concentrated on the food of the poor and middle classes, simple, nourishing and often delicious but hardly sophisticated food.


However, Dorothy quickly discovered that the clichéd image of traditional Irish food was only part of the story. As in every country, the food depended on the social status and economic situation of the family. The food eaten in many of the great houses was fascinating and reflected the fresh produce of the estate. Fresh vegetables, herbs and fruit from the walled garden, orchards and greenhouses. Game during the season and fish from the local rivers and lakes or a fish pond on the estate. Several houses had a ready supply of squabs from their columbarium and there were many ice houses, some of which are still in existence. The cook, with a few notable exceptions ,was local but often incorporated recipes into their repertoire that the lady of the house had got from friends or had collected on the Grand Tour of Europe.


Fortunately, the lady of the house sometimes recorded the receipts as they were then known into a beautiful bound book in exquisite copper plate handwriting. These manuscript cookbooks are an important social record as well as a deeply personal account of what the family was eating at that point in time. They were never meant to be published or read outside of the family circle so they are invariably written in a casual unguarded style, with the occasional aside or alteration .In some instances they were written by just one person but in other cases the manuscripts were added to by several generations as in the Parsons family of Birr Castle and the Pope family from Waterford have three books in the Library (MS 34,923/1-3) and were added to by the members of the family from 1823 to c1890, book by book…


From some of the entries one might deduce that the lady of the house, not herself a cook was transcribing the cooks receipt as it was relayed to her. The cook particularly in earlier years may well have been illiterate and her mistress often had little understanding of quantities or cooking techniques so not all recipes are accurate or can be relied on to work. There’s also the possibility that some cooks didn’t necessarily want to share their secrets!


Dorothy discovered an extensive archive of manuscript cookbooks dating from 1700 to mid/late 1800 in the National Library and has since embarked on a fascinating research project, a journey of discovery where each little clue opens new doors and gives new insights into our traditions and food culture. And the fascinating families who lived in these houses, brought recipes with them from their childhood homes and collected and shared with their friends and neighbouring estates.


The mistress of the house was also expected to have remedies for all ailments from cuts and burns to cholera or whooping cough so the manuscript cookbooks also invariably included recipes for all kinds of healing potions as well as drinks and furniture or even grate polish.


It was intriguing to see recipes for preserved lemons ‘Lady Tyrone’s receipt for pickling lemons got from my grandmother’ in Mrs Baker’s manuscript.  And extensive use of spices, rose water, orange blossom water and of course barm, an ingredient which now intrigues bakers and chefs.


Dorothy, stressed that there are still handwritten recipe collections often written in simple copy books in the back of drawers or in a box in the attic in many homes, these are really worth rescuing. They may not be of sufficient interest to be part of the national collection but each is worth saving as a family heirloom.


If you think you have a manuscript cookbook that may be of interest, contact Dorothy Cashman


Spellings are original.

Lady Tyrone’s receipt for pickling lemons, G.M (MS 34,952 National Library of Ireland) 

This is from the manuscript of Mrs Baker of Ballaghtobin, who was related to the Earl of Tyrone.

Take the largest lemons, pare them as thin as possible, score them across at each end and rub them mighty well with salt for 10 days every day, then dry them at the fire or in the sun for an hour every day then put them into a close stone jar, 12 cloves of garlic, red Indian pepper and flour of mustard and sliced ginger, cover them with raw vinegar. They are apt to grow soft if not properly done therefore to keep them hard when you are doing them they must be kept in a room with a fire and the salt must cover them all over and the salt rubbed very well into them, three times a day not too hard to bruise the lemon and they must also be turned every time you rub them that they may not lie too long on one side. You must tie a little turmrick up in a bag and put in the jar where the lemons are to give them a proper colour.

A Sponge Cake Miss Herbert (MS 34, 952 National Library of Ireland)

I like to think this is the diarist Dorothea Herbert’s recipe; it is certainly either hers or her siblings as they were first cousins of Mrs Baker. I have made this in half the recipe and used large organic eggs. One large cake tin and split it to fill with cream and fresh raspberries. It was wonderful. 

Beat the whites of 10 eggs to a froth for an hour with three spoons fill of cinimon or orange flower water, one pound of lump sugar powdered and sifted, the rhind of a lemon grated. When these are well mixed add the juice of a lemon and the yolks of 10 eggs beat smooth for an hour, just before you put it in the oven, stir in three quarters of a pound of well dried fine flour, bake it in a moderate oven for an hour.

Catsup that will last twenty years (MS 34, 952 National Library of Ireland)

Terrifying! But probably works. (To rozen something is to seal it with a pine resin)

Take two quarts of strong stale beer and half a pound of anchovies wash them clean, cloves and mace of each a quarter of an ounce, of pepper half an ounce, a race or two of ginger, half a pound of shallots, a pint of flat mushrooms well boiled and salted, boil all them over a slow fire till one half is consumed then run it thro a flannel bag, let it stand till it is quite cold, bottle it and cork it close and rozen it.

A Rich Sillibub from the Cow (MS 42,134 National Library of Ireland)

O.K… First catch your cow! I doubt it would pass hygiene standards but the motion of milking from the udder would have had the desired effect.

Take what wine you like best, if it be sack the curd will be the tenderer, mingle it with ale and sweeten it with sugar very well, ye juice and peel of a lemon. Put yr pot or glass on the ground and milk in to it as fast as you can and make a little curd, then have a porringer of cream by you and put some upon the curd, then milk again, then cream again till your pot be full. Strew sugar on ye top.



Ballymaloe Pigeon Pie


Wood pigeons have always been very prolific in Ireland. In the country young boys were taught how to shoot by their fathers. Before a big dance or party in Ballymaloe House in the 1950s, the boys would ‘bag’ enough to make large quantities of pigeon pie – a relatively inexpensive and absolutely delicious way to feed a large number of people for a winter house party.


Serves 10–12


breasts from 4–6 pigeons


half their weight in streaky bacon


their weight in lean beef


bacon fat or olive oil, for frying


8 baby carrots or sticks of carrot


10–12 button onions


1 garlic clove, crushed


1–2 teaspoons plain flour


240ml (8fl oz) red wine


240ml (8fl oz) homemade beef stock


150ml (¼ pint) homemade tomato purée or a smaller quantity of tinned purée or tomato paste: use according to concentration and make up with extra stock


roux (optional;)


salt and freshly ground pepper


2 teaspoons chopped thyme and parsley


1 quantity Mushrooms in Cream (see below)


225g (8oz) puff pastry (made with butter)




Remove the rind from the bacon and cut into 2.5cm (1in) cubes. Cut the beef and pigeon into similar-sized pieces.


Heat some bacon fat or olive oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon until crisp and golden.


Remove to a 2.3 litre (4 pint) casserole. Add the beef and pigeon pieces, a few at a time, to the frying pan and toss until they change colour.


Add them to the casserole. Add the carrots, onions and crushed garlic to the pan and turn in the fat before adding them to the meat in the casserole.


Stir the flour into the fat in the pan, cook for a minute or so and then stir or whisk in the wine, stock and tomato purée. Bring to the boil and thicken with roux if necessary.


Pour over the meat and vegetables in the casserole. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, add the thyme and parsley and bring to the boil.


Cover and cook for 1–2 hours or until tender (this will depend on the age of the pigeons) in a low oven, 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2–3.


When cooked, add the Mushrooms in Cream and set aside to cool.


When the pigeon stew is cold, pour it into a deep pie dish. Roll out the puff pastry to cover the dish and bake for 10 minutes at 230ºC/450ºF/gas mark 8, then reduce the heat to 190ºC/375ºF/gas mark 5 and cook for a further 20 minutes.




Mushrooms in Cream


Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan until it foams. Add the chopped onion, cover and sweat on a gentle heat for 5–10 minutes, or until quite soft but not coloured. Remove the onion to a bowl. Increase the heat and cook the sliced mushrooms, in batches if necessary. Season each batch with salt, freshly ground pepper and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice. Add the onions, parsley and chives to the mushrooms in the saucepan, then add the cream and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then set aside to cool.


10–25g (½–1oz) butter


75g (3oz) onion, finely chopped


225g (8oz) sliced field mushrooms or flat cultivated mushrooms


salt and freshly ground pepper


squeeze of lemon juice


½ tablespoon parsley


½ tablespoon chopped chives


125ml (4fl oz) cream






Jam Pudding 


This was one of our favourites, we raced home from school for lunch even faster when we knew Mummy was cooking a steamed jam pudding.



Serves 4


110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature


110g (4oz) caster sugar


2 eggs, free-range if possible


few drops of pure vanilla extract


170g (6oz) plain white flour


½ teaspoon baking powder


about 1 tablespoon milk or water


3 or 4 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam




Raspberry Jam Sauce


4–6 tablespoons homemade raspberry jam


rind and juice of ½ lemon


150ml (¼ pint) water


sugar, to taste


12.5cm (5in) pudding bowl



Cream the butter, add the caster sugar and beat until white and creamy. Whisk the eggs with the vanilla essence and beat, a little at a time, into the creamed mixture. Stir in the flour and baking powder and add a little milk or water if necessary to make a dropping consistency.

Grease your pudding bowl. Spread raspberry jam over the bottom and sides. Carefully spoon the cake mixture into the bowl. Cover with pleated greaseproof paper, tied on firmly, and steam the pudding for about 1½ hours.

Meanwhile, make the raspberry jam sauce. Heat the jam with the water, add the lemon rind and juice and sweeten with a little extra sugar if necessary.

Turn the pudding on to a hot dish and serve with the sauce and lots of softly whipped cream.


Hot tips


‘From Beckett to Banville’ with Dorothy Cashman, who would have thought Samuel Beckett would give us a detailed description of how to achieve perfect toast, or that Thomas Flanagan would throw a punch at Jammet’s Restaurant with Janice Nugent’s remark ‘you don’t really improve the tin soup and the tick soup by calling them potages’. Join Dorothy at the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, on Saturday 16th May at 11.30am, price €11, for more details see


Spring into action: why not create a soft fruit garden this year; Susan Turner will give Creating a Soft Fruit Garden Workshop on Monday 2nd March at Ballymaloe Cookery School. This half day intensive course will cover choosing fruit varieties, designing your garden, pruning, creating fans and cordons, propagation of soft fruit. Price €95 including a light lunch. Or why not try Vegetable Garden Preparation course on Monday 9th March, a day long course, where Susan will provide you with the necessary skills to develop, assess and utilise sustainable organic growing techniques. Price €150 and also includes lunch. For further information on our horticulture courses see


Natural Resistance, an Irish film premiere as part of the Cork French Film Festival, on Friday 6th March at 7pm, The Grainstore at Ballymaloe.  With an Italian inspired rustic supper paired with natural wines from the growers featured in the film. A film by ‘Mondavino’s  Jonathan Nossiter, and set in Tuscany featuring Italian winemakers dedicated to resisting the prevalent use of chemicals, “It’s about respect for everything” — not only nature, but also workers and customers”  Price  €45 or €10 for screening only. For further information, please contact the Festival Office on 021 431 0677

Categories: Darinas Blog

How to make the perfect baklava

Guardian Food Blog - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 08:00
The sultan of sweets or a sugar bomb not worth the risk of diabetes? Which is your favourite filling – and where makes the best version?

I have a baklava problem. Many recipes caution that, since the sweet Middle Eastern pastry “is very rich and sweet”, in the words of the great Claudia Roden, “portions should be very small”. In theory, then, one tiny lozenge of filo and ground nuts, dripping with tangy syrup, should be quite enough for anyone, perhaps two if they’re particularly greedy – yet this week I discovered I’m quite able to put away half a tin of the stuff without coming up for air. Which is why, perhaps, it would have been wiser not to learn how to make it. As it happens, despite food writer Rebecca Seal’s warning that baklava is “notoriously tricky to make”, I found it surprisingly easy. Perhaps too easy.

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New You Plan

Lucy Hyland - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 11:53
Its often about this time of year I start reflection on how the year is going. I think back on all those ideas and notions I had only a month or two ago. The idea of a New Year brings...Read More
Categories: Interesting Blogs

Spiralised Veggie Noodle Salad {RAW}

Carolannes Kitchen - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 09:58

A great way to warm up during this cold weather spell is by using anti-inflammatory nutrient dense warming spices {ginger, chili, garlic}. They will boost your immune system, keeping those pesky sniffles away.

I am absolutely in love with my Spiraliseer. Sometimes, I crave a big hearty bowl of noodles in a delicious broth but for the days when a lighter meal is called for, these spiralised noodles are brilliant. They retain their crunch whilst absorbing the dressing at the same time.

Try this Veggie Noodle Salad for the perfect belly warming lunch or dinner this week. This salad is also gluten free and vegan and jammers full of flavour!

1 large Carrot – spiralised
1/2 cucumber – spiralised
Handful of Cashew Nuts + Sesame Seeds, toasted
Handful of pomegranate seeds
Fresh coriander, chopped
1/4 lime, to garnish


1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tspn fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 – 1 tspn fresh chili, chopped
1 tablespoon cold pressed sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
1 /12 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1/2 tablespoon agave syrup
1/4 lime, juiced

Combine all dressing ingredients either in a blender or mix with a fork.
You can change the quantities depending on your tastes.
Toss the veggie noodles through the dressing
Top with pomegrante seeds, cashew nuts, sesame seeds, fresh coriander and lime.

The post Spiralised Veggie Noodle Salad {RAW} appeared first on Carolanne's Kitchen.

Categories: Past Student Blogs

Copycats: why street food vendors are fighting among themselves

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 12:59

Street food’s DIY, community ethic encourages vendors to share resources – but when their logos and branding are reappropriated, it’s gone a step too far

Street food was always about the spirit of sharing. Traders, parking up at the side of a road (or in the middle of a field) and happily lending out their socket sets and jump leads to fellow traders. But, as of late, the sharing has been getting out of hand. Traders are making off with each other’s property – intellectual property – and passing off recipes, logos and ideas as their own. It’s getting nasty.

The most vocal is The Ribman, purveyor of fine ribs and the creator of Holy Fuck hot sauce. Maybe it was just a coincidence when a burrito place in Glasgow came up with their own ‘Holy Fuck’ hot sauce. In a virtually identical bottle. Or maybe they knew that the name ‘Holy Fuck’ wasn’t covered under trademark law because it was deemed too offensive. When The Ribman berated them on Twitter, the burrito place changed the name to ‘Fuck a Duck’.

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Why we never get fed up of our favourite restaurants

Guardian Food Blog - Fri, 02/20/2015 - 11:24

Hunger for novelty is being blamed for the closure of another top eatery – Knightsbridge’s Racine – but the statistics suggest the majority of us troop to the same places every time we eat out. Perhaps it’s only because we fancy the staff …

Ah, those fickle millennials and their inability to eat anywhere more than once, lest the intervening week has turned the hottest seat in town into the place your mum wants to go because that nice AA Gill liked it. It’s killing the restaurant industry. At least, that’s the cry that goes up every time one of the old guard is taken off the menu for good.

It happened last month when Knightsbridge favourite Racine announced it had served its last steak tartare. Food television executive Melanie Jappy lamented: “Here’s a thought: how about going to good established restaurants once a week rather than chasing the new ones – then they might not close.” Guardian restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin recited her mantra minted for just such an occasion: “Use ’em or lose ’em”. The message seems to be that if we don’t support established venues, their days are numbered.

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Culinary Adventures in Cape Town

Darina's Blog - Thu, 02/19/2015 - 11:36
Yet again, The New York Times voted Cape Town as its top holiday destination in 2014.
And really, what’s not to love about Cape Town? It’s just one long sleep away, a mere two hours time change so virtually no jet lag and a guaranteed instant hit of winter sunshine.
Much has changed since my last trip a decade ago.Cape Town exudes confidence, it’s a brilliant cultural stew-pot, businesses seem to just spring up all over the place, hip urban coffee shops, farmers markets, roadside shacks, super cool cafés, restaurants,  pop-up concerts where the music can be anything from bongo drumming, French folk singing, classical to hip-hop.
On my earlier trips to South Africa, imported products and ingredients were greatly sought after but now virtually every shop and restaurant proudly touts the fact that the produce or products are produced in South Africa. The sea and farms around Cape Town produce some fine quality fruit, vegetables, meat, and beautiful fresh fish which is often cooked within hours of coming off the boats.

Many Cape Town eateries are casual affairs but it also has its share of stellar chefs and two of its top restaurants The Test Kitchenin Cape Town and The Tasting Room in Franschhoek are on the world’s Top 100 Restaurant List. Over the festive season it was really tough to get a table in many of the most talked about places but I had a particularly memorable lunch at The Pot Luck Club, the more casual and edgier roof-top sister restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts’ The Test Kitchen. Chef Wesley Randles and his gang of passionate young chefs turn out an irresistible range of pan African and Asian sharing plates.

Out in Franschhoek where I spent a few days to attend a family wedding. I greatly enjoyed staying at LeQuartier Français on the main street. Breakfast was one of the best I have eaten anywhere. Freshly squeezed and I mean freshly squeezed juices - orange, beetroot, grapefruit…  Beautiful fresh ripe fruit, crunchy granolas classic and gluten free, thick unctuous buffalo milk and Greek yoghurts, home-made jams and croissants and house cured bacon.

 Here the less formal, Living Room serves delicious tapas all day long. I particularly loved the prawn popcorn in a crisp tempura batter with aioli and the duck and lentil crumble.

The Old Biscuit Mill in the Woodstock is not to be missed. What used to be a rundown area home to fishermen and factory workers is now a collection of little shops run by creative young artisans, furniture makers, artists and craftspeople. The Neighbourhood’s Saturday Market is an insight into the vibrant artisan food scene with local farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, charcutiers with over one hundred traders selling their handmade and home grown produce.

Out in Kalk Bay we had brunch at the Olympia Café for old times sake. There was a queue as ever for the plates of simple food, chippos, scrambled egg, frittata, omelettes, bacon… served on chipped formica tables. I ordered coconut hotcakes with passion fruit and strawberries and soaked up the hippie vibe.

Melissa’s The Food Shop in Cape Town is an interesting deli and café with an intriguing system. You can choose a selection of lunch dishes from her table and then have the plate weighed to arrive at the price,  it seemed to work brilliantly. 
And finally, Silwood Kitchen, South Africa’s first cookery school established by the feisty Lesley Faull, celebrates their 50th year with the publication of ‘A Year at Silwood’ published by Quivertree Publications.

Categories: Darinas Blog


Food Renegade - Wed, 02/18/2015 - 20:07
Aside from eating detoxifying foods, how can you bolster your body's systems designed for detoxification, helping them to perform more efficiently? Try these two surefire techniques.

Pancake Day: which beer makes the best batter?

Guardian Food Blog - Mon, 02/16/2015 - 12:45

Adding beer to your batter makes pancakes light and flavoursome – but which is the best brew? We put amber, pale, blond, milk stout and bitter to the test

Ours is a house of pancake junkies. They were the first thing that I cooked for my longterm girlfriend and the first food my son ever asked for. Even running out of milk doesn’t ​stop the pancake production – I’ve made them with tap water, tonic water (disgusting – don’t try it), soda water, cider and kvass.

As a brewer, I was pleased to see that Felicity Cloake saw the light in her pursuit of pancake perfection last week, recommending beer for her batter. Pancakes make the ideal conduit ​for beer, as there are no other strong flavours to contend with. The short cooking time also means that most of the integrity of flavours stay intact.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

Darinas Saturday Letter - Sat, 02/14/2015 - 14:00

Don’t we all need and love a little romance in our lives, so Valentine’s Day creates a welcome little flutter of excitement for everyone from 9 to 90. Teenagers are in a state of wild anticipation and intrigue. Nowadays there are all sorts of techie ways to get your message across whereas a Valentines Card, usually anonymous,  was the best we could do and oh, the nail biting! So let’s mark the occasion with whatever gesture works for you – a romantic table for two in your favourite restaurant, a bunch or even a single red rose, may sound a bit ‘cheesy’, but still gives the recipient an ‘oops’ in their tummy and a warm rosy glow.



How about a bag of heart shaped cookies or a gorgeous chocolate cake! Pam’s Valentine Chocolate Cake is guaranteed to produce a gasp of appreciation and you will have the best fun making and assembling this luscious confection. If you haven’t managed to secure a restaurant booking to wine and dine your sweetheart it’s probably too late by now but fear not, there are lots of other ways to make a big impression. Why not invite your beloved around for supper and rustle up something delicious and comforting- a risotto is easy and great for sharing. Follow it with a green salad and maybe preceede it with a couple of dozen native Irish oysters, could be au naturel, with just a segment of lemon and a glass of bubbles.

In case that sounds like too much of a challenge – the curvy Gigas oysters are less expensive and even better for cooking than the deliciously briny natives that are best enjoyed unadorned. Oysters have quite a reputation….

Oysters with Namjim and Crispy Onions

An addictive combination, we use the Gigas oysters for this dish.


Serves 6-8


24 Gigas oysters



4 shallots or small onions, sliced

Extra virgin olive oil

Seaweed if available

Fresh coriander


Peel and slice the shallots or onions thinly.   Spread out on kitchen paper to dry.

Meanwhile make the najmim, and keep in a glass jam-jar.

Heat about 2.5cm (1inch) of oil in a frying pan, fry the onions until crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper.


To serve|:

Lay a few sprigs of seaweed on each plate, if available.  Open the oysters and nestle 3 or 4 on top of the seaweed.  Spoon a generous half teaspoon of namjim on top of each oyster and top with some crispy onions and a sprig of fresh coriander.


Pacific Oysters with Asian Vinaigrette


Even though Pacific oysters are available the year round, they are best in winter.


Serves 8 as a starter


24 Pacific oysters


1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon freshly ginger, grated

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons soy sauce

4 spring onions, cut at an angle

1 red chilli, finely chopped

3 tablespoons sesame oil

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives


To Serves

fresh seaweed (if available)

segments of lime


To make the Asian vinaigrette, mix all the ingredients in a glass jar, seal and shake well. If you can get some, place a little fresh seaweed on each plate.  Arrange 4-5 oysters per person on top and spoon a little vinaigrette over each one.  Serve with segments of lime.


Top Tip

If you can find some fresh seaweed e.g. bladder wrack, dip the fonds into boiling water for a second or two, they will turn bright green. Drop it straight into a bowl of iced water to prevent it cooking and to set the colour.  It will make an attractive garnish, which you could eat it if you were very hungry but it doesn’t taste delicious!  Use it soon otherwise it will go slimy.



Fennel and Parsnip Soup

Serves 8 approximately

This unexpectantly delicious combination of winter flavours is guaranteed to convert even the most ardent parsnip haters and can of course be made ahead.


50g (2ozs/1/4 stick) butter

175g (6oz) onion, diced

450g (1lb) parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

450g (1lb) fennel bulb, cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) dice

salt and freshly ground pepper

1.4Litre (2 1/2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock

125ml (4 1/2fl oz/1/2 cup) milk

125ml (4 1/2fl oz/1/2 cup) cream



Finely chopped herb fennel or bulb fennel tops


Melt the butter and toss the diced onion, parsnips, fennel in it. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a butter wrapper or paper lid and the lid of the saucepan.  Cook on a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes or until soft but not coloured.  Add the hot stock and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft and tender. Add the milk and cream. Liquidise or puree in a blender. Taste for seasoning.  Serve in bowls or a soup tureen sprinkled with finely chopped herb fennel or the tops of the fennel bulb.


Useful Tip

Pull or peel strings off the outer leaves of the fennel bulb if necessary. Trimmings can go into a stock pot.


Risotto with shrimps

Serves 6


1 3/4 – 2 1/4 pints (1 – 1.3L/4 1/3 – 5 1/2 cups) broth or homemade chicken stock

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

1 onion, finely chopped

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

14 ozs (400g) Carnaroli or Arboria rice

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

2 ozs (50g/) freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano is best)

110 – 175g (4 – 6oz) cooked and peeled shrimps

Sea salt


First bring the broth or stock to the boil, turn down the heat and keep it simmering.  Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan with the oil, add the onion and sweat over a gentle heat for 4-5 minutes, until soft but not coloured.  Add the rice and stir until well coated (so far the technique is the same as for a pilaff and this is where people become confused).  Cook for a minute or so and then add 1/4 pint (150 ml/generous 1/2 cup) of the simmering broth, stir continuously and as soon as the liquid is absorbed add another 1/4 pint (150 ml/generous 1/2 cup) of broth. Continue to cook, stirring continuously. The heat should be brisk, but on the other hand if it’s too hot the rice will be soft outside but still chewy inside.  If it’s too slow, the rice will be gluey. It’s difficult to know which is worse, so the trick is to regulate the heat so that the rice bubbles continuously. The risotto should take about 25-30 minutes to cook.


When it is cooking for about 20 minutes, add the broth about 4 tablespoons (5 American tablespoons) at a time. I use a small ladle. Watch it very carefully from there on. The risotto is done when the rice is cooked but is still ever so slightly ‘al dente’. It should be soft and creamy and quite loose, rather than thick. The moment you are happy with the texture, stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan cheese, taste and add more salt if necessary.  Serve immediately.


Risotto does not benefit from hanging around so enjoy it immediately.


Add 110 – 175g (4 – 6oz) cooked and peeled shrimps to the risotto just before the end of cooking.  1 – 2 tablespoons (1-2 American tablespoons) of freshly chopped dill are also a delicious addition.  If possible use shrimp or fish stock but light chicken stock will also be delicious.


Risotto with Kale

Destalk and cook curly kale, red Russian or cavalo nero kale in boiling salted water until almost cooked (see recipe).  Drain well, stir in the risotto about 5 minutes before the end of cooking.  Taste and correct the seasonings and serve sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.


Choccie Shortbread Sweethearts


1oz (25g/1/4 cup) icing sugar

9oz (250g) unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2oz (60g) cornflour

1 1/2oz (45g/1/3 cup) plain white flour

pinch salt



2oz (50g) chocolate

2fl oz (50ml/1/4 cup) cream

2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped

icing sugar, to dust

2 inch (5cm) heart shaped cutter


Cream the butter, add the icing sugar and beat well. Add the vanilla essence then stir in the cornflour, flour and a pinch of salt. Mix to a dough.


Flatten into a round, cover and allow to relax in the fridge for 30 minutes.


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


Roll the dough to a thickness of 3/8 inch (7mm). Stamp into heart shapes with the cutter.


Transfer to baking sheets lined with silicone paper (non stick). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until pale golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack with a fish slice and allow to cool.


Meanwhile chop the chocolate. Warm the cream in a small saucepan, add the chocolate, turn off the heat and stir until melted.


Transfer to a bowl and allow get cool. Whisk to thicken to a spreadable mousse like texture. Fold in finely chopped toasted hazelnuts.


Sandwich the biscuits together with the chocolate spread. Sprinkle with icing sugar.



Raspberry Sweethearts

Substitute raspberry jam for the chocolate filling in the above recipe.


Pam’s Valentine Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

Pam Black is one of our senior teachers here at The Ballymaloe Cookery School, once seen never forgotten. She has bright red hair, swept up into a brilliant distinctive ‘Jedward’ style. You may have seen her on the ‘Afternoon Show’, so you’ll know how she loves to bake and how gorgeous her confections are.

Serves 8


225g (8oz/1 1/2sticks) butter (soft)

225g (8oz/3/4cup) castor sugar

4 free range eggs

225g (8oz/1 1/2cups) flour

1½ teaspoon baking powder

25g (1oz) cocoa powder

25g (1oz) drinking chocolate

110g (4oz/scant 1/2 cup) natural yoghurt


Chocolate Buttercream Filling

110g (4oz/3/4 stick) butter

225g (8oz/1 1/3 cups) icing sugar, sieved

3 teaspoons cocoa powder

3 teaspoons hot water


Chocolate Glace Icing

110g (6oz/scant 1 cup) icing sugar

50g (3oz) cocoa powder

15g (1oz) butter

½  teaspoon vanilla extract

6 tablespoons water


275g (10oz) fresh raspberries to decorate

2 x 8 inch (20.5 cm) heart shaped tins, greased and floured

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


Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition.  Sift the flour, baking powder, cocoa and drinking chocolate together in a bowl.  Gradually fold into the egg mixture.  Finally fold in the yoghurt.  Divide between the two tins.  Cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until firm to the touch.  Cool on a wire rack.


To make the chocolate buttercream filling.

Cream the butter in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the sieved icing sugar and cocoa, beat well then add the hot water.


To make the icing.

Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl.  Heat the butter, water and vanilla extract in a saucepan until just at boiling point.  Pour into the icing sugar and cocoa, beat well with a wooden spoon.

Note: If the icing is too thick, add a little more warm water.


To assemble the cake.

Fill the cakes with most of the chocolate butter cream and sandwich together.  Place on an upturned plate or icing turntable and carefully spread with chocolate glace icing.  Arrange the raspberries snugly over the top of the cake.


Hot Tips

The English Market in Cork will as ever be choc a bloc with delicious temptations for St. Valentine’s Day. If you go along to On The Pigs Back you’ll find the little Coeur de Neufchâtel, a heart shaped  raw cow’s milk cheese – how cute would that be with a few Sheridan’s cheese biscuits. 


Fresh from West Cork resumes with a lovely new stall at the wonderful Bradley’s Artisan Food Shop & Specialist Off Licence, North Main Street, Cork, selling over 80 delicious food products from more than 40 West Cork food producers. Bradleys, established in 1850 as a dairy, is now run by Michael Creedon the 5th generation of his family and open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 9.30pm telephone 021 4270845.


Cros Naomh Bhríde We have had lots of queries since the article on St Brigid’s day about where to buy a cross. How delighted I was to find some for sale in the Ballymaloe Shop, made by Naomh Padraig Handcrafts, Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Tel 071 9637077 for a list of other stockists. ? Has carried on the tradition for years and tells the story of Bridget of the Gaels.


Toby Simmons of Toonsbridge Dairy, near Macroom continues to add to the impressive list of buffalo’s milk cheeses he and his Italian cheesemaker, Franco Picciuolo make. So great to have an Irish buffalo milk mozzarella  but look out for  Toonsbridge Caciocavallo, Toonsbridge Greek style brined cheese and halloumi and occasionally you may be fortunate enough to find a burrata, a tender mozzarella type cheese oozing with rich cream, divine. Check for details.

Categories: Darinas Blog

How to cook the perfect crepes

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Wheat, buckwheat or chestnut flour? Milk, double cream or beer in the batter? Do they need any flavourings – and what do you dollop on top?

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One Saturday evening last summer, in a liquor store in Santa Fe, I spotted what struck me as possibly the absolute nadir of culinary achievement: Imitation Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka.

Imitation Whipped Cream Flavored Vodka, I later discovered, is a concoction dreamed up by Pinnacle, a drinks manufacturer offering more than 40 flavours of vodka, from County Fair Cotton to Cake, via Salted Caramel, Red Liquorice and Peachberry Cobbler.

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