Featured Post

Devilled Crab Gratin

Devilled Crab Gratin           Some jobs in the kitchen just have to be done by hand, topping & tailing gooseberries, stoning p...


The 2017 Salad Crisis and Burgers

There has been a shortage of courgettes and salads due to bad weather in Spain. I hadn’t really noticed as we don't buy courgettes in winter, because we grow them in summer and anyone who has ever grown their own courgettes knows, by the end of the season you don’t want to see another courgette until next May at the very earliest!

Salad leaves are different we do buy some during the winter to supplement the leaves we grow in the poly tunnel. Little gems are our favourites and we’re quite bad about composting the outer dark leaves preferring the inner pale leaves. This is a waste of the outer leaves, so what to do?

Well, for a start I gave the slightly floppy outer leaves a good soak in some cold water with a spoonful of salt in it for about 45 minutes, then I drained the leaves and dried them in a salad spinner. After that they went into a container covered in damp kitchen paper in the fridge over night.

They were crisp the next day and perfect for a salad. I used them in a classic Caesar salad and got to thinking about all the Caesar variations there are out there, with bacon or chicken, blue cheese or avocado or sometimes all of the above!

Blue cheese……….. there was some blue cheese butter in the fridge, some cream and I was making burgers from some minced beef……… how would burgers with blue cheese and lettuce sauce go down?

Very nicely as it turns out.

Burgers with Blue Cheese and Lettuce Sauce

The finished burger

250g beef mince
salt and pepper

1tbs butter
1tbs blue cheese
100mls cream 
10 lettuce leaves

2-4 slices of onion
4 slices of aubergine or 2 flat cap mushrooms 

2 slices of Parma ham or 4 slices of pancetta

Season the mince with salt and pepper and shape into two burgers and leave to rest in the fridge.

Mash together the blue cheese and butter with a fork and put into a small saucepan with the cream.
Slice the lettuce leaves longways removing the centre rib if you like.

Brush the onion and aubergine slices with oil and fry in a pan until nicely browned and keep warm.
Bake or grill the mushrooms with a knob of butter, salt and pepper until just done and keep warm.  

Grill the Parma ham or pancetta till crisp.

Heat a pan or grill to cook the burgers and put the blue cheese butter and cream on to a low heat to melt.

When the blue cheese is liquid add the lettuce leaves and bring to a simmer until the lettuce is wilted and the sauce thick.

Lettuce sauce!

Cook the burgers as you like them and place on the aubergine slices or flat cap mushrooms and top with the onions and the sauce and then the Parma ham or pancetta.  

Building the burger


Sausage supper and some thoughts on photographing food

       There are some days when food just needs to be easy and quick and grilled sausages with fried onions and a salad are the perfect.
       The sausages are from a deli called Iago on Princes street, they use to have a stall in the English market, but the new shop is bigger and brighter. The sausages are specially made for them and the thick meaty, fennel and garlic ones are our favourites.

       We are still eating onions we grew in the garden last year, sliced thickly and cooked slowly in some olive oil with a seasoning of salt and pepper, they make a soft bed to put the sausages on. 
The salad of fennel and orange is one of our regular winter salads I blogged about last February, its sweetness complements the onions and to stop it being over sweet we add a good squeeze of lemon juice. It is particularly nice when made with blood oranges. The fennel gives a crunch amongst all the softness.

       I tweeted about this supper the night we ate it, but I didn’t post a photograph. Someone questioned if it had happened, in a joking way, and I said I’d been too hungry to take a photo and that I thought people would be sick of food photos after Christmas. Anyway I like to take a good photo of the food, to do it justice. I did take the photo below the next day of the leftovers.

Leftover sausage supper.

       So is it important to take a photo or just enjoy the moment of sharing the food?
For me cooking and sharing the food is more important. Sharing food is what makes us friends and friendship keeps us connected to other people. In reality very few dishes are photographed and posted on social media considering the number of meals consumed around the world each day.
We are lucky to have food and more than enough.

       When I do photograph my food it is usually for a blog post here or as an aide-mémoire when eating out. I do my best to make the images interesting, informative and in focus for here, but when we are eating out they tend to be a quick snap so I can recall each of the elements on the plate and quite often they are not perfectly in focus or they will have a shadow of the camera/phone in them. As in the one below.

Octopus and black chickpea stew.

       The eating out photos are useful to help me create new dishes at home by maybe bringing in an element that was particularly tasty or for seeing whether a flavour or texture go well together or not, all these add to our everyday meals. Very few of which are ever photographed.

       Do I need to share more of these, I don’t think so. I write this blog to keep my hand in at writing and as a way of recording what’s around me here. 

Thank you for reading this.


Pisces or "Two Fish Dishes"

       My zodiac sign is Pisces, two fish swimming against each other, and I am very indecisive. I've started teaching an evening cookery class for adults, very different to taking children's classes. I'm being pulled by these two different classes, but I am getting there. This week the adults are making these fish dishes, they are quick and do not need much added to them, perhaps a salad or more vegetables cooked quickly while they bake.

Gremolata Crumbed Hake

Gremolata Crumbed Fish With Roast Tomatoes

      I freeze the heels of the bread and they make great breadcrumbs whizzed up in the Magimix, you can even add the garlic and parsley while making the breadcrumbs to save time.

Per person

handful of breadcrumbs
1tsp of grated lemon zest
½ a clove of garlic very finely chopped
2tbs of chopped parsley
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
1tsp olive oil
1 portion of white fish, hake, whiting, cod or haddock 
6-8 cherry tomatoes

Heat the oven to GM7, 220 ̊C and line a baking dish or tin with baking parchment.  
      Mix together the breadcrumbs, lemon zest, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  

      Place the fish on the parchment skin side down and cover the top of each fillet with a layer of the breadcrumb mix. 
      Dribble the olive oil over each one and add the tomatoes around them. 
      Bake in the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, more if the fillets are very thick. Serve with a wedge of lemon. 

Soy Ginger Salmon

Soy Ginger Salmon 

      This is a cheats version of "teriyaki" dish without the sugar, soy sauce, ginger and scallions are staples in my larder. By the time the oven has heated up the topping is mixed and while it is in the oven I steam some asparagus or sauté some spinach with more ginger and some garlic. All done in under half an hour.

Per person

1 portion of salmon
2tsp soy sauce
thin slice of ginger chopped
chilli, a few slices or a some dried chilli flakes optional
1 scallion sliced
a squeeze of lime juice
pepper and salt

Heat the oven to GM7, 220 ̊C and line a baking dish or tin with baking parchment.
      Place the salmon onto the baking parchment, skin side down.
      Mix together the soy sauce, ginger, chilli, scallion, lime juice, a pinch of salt and some pepper, spoon this mix over the salmon on the parchment. 
       Bake in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes. Serve with a wedge of lime. Steamed asparagus or some wilted spinach is perfect with this.


Ballymaloe Gardenfest 2016

Binning the bagged Salad & growing your own in a “fish crate” 
sized space

Ballymaloe Gardenfest 2016 Talk by Johann & Tom Doorley

Tom’s/Rowley's Dressing


We like to use a mixture of oils, extra virgin olive oil for salads, light olive oil and sunflower oil for cooking and mayonnaise and toasted sesame oil for added flavour. These are our favourites, but feel free to experiment with the recipe.

smashed clove garlic
100ml olive oil 
3tsp* Dijon mustard (*2 heaped & 1 not so heaped)
3tbsp red wine vinegar

Put the garlic into a jar and add the rest if the ingredients, cover with a tight fitting lid and give it a really good shake until it forms a thick sauce. Pour over salad leaves and toss & serve.

My sister Madeline and her daughter Holly are "Brown Envelope Seeds" in west Cork, they do 4 salad mixes for the 4 seasons. 

Charlotte’s Dip
Our daughter au paired in France and this was a family favourite with her host family, even with the three little boys she looked after.

In a bowl whisk together 1dsp soy sauce
and 3dsp of made mustard, while whisking trickle in 
100ml light olive oil mixed with 50ml sesame oil until thick.

Toast 3tbsp sesame seeds in a dry pan and serve with the dip and crudities, Charlotte liked to include blanched calabrese in the vegetables, but carrots, radishes & cucumber are the main ones we use.
“Fly Away” is the carrot of choice for us.


All you need for Mayonnaise 

The quality of the egg makes a huge difference to the mayonnaise, proper free range with thick, dark orangey yolks are best.

1 egg yolk
¼ tsp dry mustard
pinch of salt
lemon juice/vinegar
150-170ml oil (about 100ml sunflower & 50ml EVOO)

Put the egg yolk, mustard and salt into the bowl of a food processor and add a squeeze of lemon juice to dissolve the salt. Run the processor and start adding the oil a little at a time and then in a thin stream. 
If the mayonnaise becomes very thick add more lemon juice or if it is too runny don’t add all the oil. Taste and pepper and add more salt and lemon juice as you see fit.
We sometimes flavour our mayonnaise with crushed garlic or chopped herbs or a spoonful of harissa or chopped preserved lemon skins.

Pickled Radishes

Ready to slice.

Mix together
12-16 radishes very thinly sliced
a peeled slice of ginger cut into matchsticks 
a small chilli very thinly sliced
4 peppercorns
1tsp salt
And leave for 5-10 minutes stirring once or twice. 

Pack the radishes into a sterilised jar* and pour over the liquid and add 50ml of cooled boiled water and 50ml of vinegar, mix gently and leave. We sometimes add a few nasturtium seeds or buds too.
These are pretty much ready to eat after an hour or two and will keep in the fridge for a week at least.  

*Nutella jars are good as they have plastic lids.

Pickle jar


Summer Arrives!

      Summer has arrived with a bit of a heatwave and we've been enjoying BBQs with our Aldi Pizza oven and some Irish lump wood charcoal from The Irish Artisan Charcoal Company
      I have to admit we got both of these as gifts, my husband Tom who is connected with Aldi on the wine side was given the Pizza oven to test and due to a modicum of interaction and retweeting with Colin on Twitter he very kindly gave me a bag of charcoal at Litfest.ie in May.


      I put the oven together, it was relatively easy and when I looked at it I felt it was a bit low so I put it up on two cavity blocks, much better for our backs.

The cat inspecting the new addition!

        Now what to cook? First up some mini pizzas on the pizza stone, these will need a bit of practice as we got the bottoms to be crispy bit there wasn't much browning on top, but we will persevere. Then we removed the pizza stone and BBQed some free range pork chops and roast peppers, much more successful. The next night we spatchcocked a chicken and seasoned it with the Bharat spice mix below, this was a great success and it was as good cold for lunch next day.

         We had, well Tom had used different fuels apart from the charcoal the first night. He'd had some trouble getting the charcoal started, but Colin came up with a good tip, dip strips of the paper bag the charcoal came in in vegetable oil and add that to the kindling. With the last of our charcoal we cooked these burgers and an aubergine for a tasty supper on a warm evening. 

BBQ, burgers and aubergine slices.

Spicy Lamb Burgers

This recipe is one I have developed for the Summer cooking camps I do at Brennan's in Cork, it makes 6 small burgers and while it has spice it doesn't have heat, feel free to add chilli if you like things hot.

500g minced lamb
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion
2tsp baharat spice mix
1tbsp pinenuts 
1tsp salt
1tbsp olive oil

      Place the minced lamb in a bowl.
Peel the garlic and the onion and grate them. 
Add the grated garlic and onion and then the spices, pine nuts and salt.
Mix well and divide the mixture into six, shape each sixth into a burger and leave to rest on plate.
Brush the top of the burgers with oil.
Heat the grill for 5-10 minutes and then grill the burgers for 4-5 minutes on one side and turn them over and brush the other side with oil and for another 4 minutes.
Make sure they are cooked through and serve.

      These are even nicer cooked on a BBQ, timings will vary depending on the heat of your BBQ. A great accompaniment is aubergine cut into 2cm thick slices and brushed with oil and grilled on each side with the burgers.

The spices

Baharat spice mix

1tsp black peppercorns
1tsp coriander seed
2cm cinnamon stick
½tsp cloves
2 allspice berries
2 tsp cumin seeds
1tsp green cardamom pods
½tsp grated nutmeg 

      Put all the spices in a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder.
Store in an airtight container for up to 8 weeks. Makes about 6 teaspoonfuls.
This is based on a recipe from "Jerusalem" by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi 

With tzatziki and salad.

Beetroot Tzatziki

Depending on the beetroot this can taste quite sweet.

1 small cooked beetroot
¼ of a cucumber
½ a shallot
1 small clove of garlic
12 mint leaves
¼ of a lemon 
salt & pepper 
125g thick yogurt

      Grate the beetroot onto a plate. 
Cut the piece of cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon, grate the flesh onto the plate.
Peel and finely chop the shallot and the garlic and add to the beetroot and cucumber.
Roll the mint leaves up and very finely slice them across the roll, add to the plate.
Season the vegetables on the plate with the lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Put the yoghurt into a bowl and add the vegetables stir to mix well.

Taste and add more seasoning if you think it needs some.

Evening light!
Let us hope the good weather continues, it sure puts everyone in better form! 


To Chew or Not to Chew?

Bite and Chew!

        I suspect that at some stage in our lives we have all been told “Don’t wolf your food! Chew!”. Or an elderly childless relative has reminded an impatient gobbler at the table to “Chew each mouthful 32 times!” or risk indigestion. 

        With the increase in people making protein shakes, smoothies and ‘juicing’ and the availability of the ready made versions I wonder if we are forgetting how to chew? 

        Would you actually eat a banana, an orange, 2tbs milled linseeds, a scoop of protein powder and a tub of yoghurt if it was laid out in front of you? 
But when it is all whizzed up into a smoothie it is all too easy to glug down. 

        This could become a problem, as the machine has done the chewing for you, there is very little saliva mixed into the smoothie which will affect how it is digested in the stomach. Or if you make it earlier in the day for a quick boost later on, the enzymes in the fruit will start to break down the nutrients in the smoothie.

        Then again if this is the only way some people will eat fruit and vegetables, a shot of juice or a smoothie might be the way to go, but they are missing out on the satisfaction of a well deserved break and nourishment while chewing their way through their snack or meal. Having foods in smoothie form may also lead to eating more, due to lack of satiety.

        Chewing is good for us, by chewing we start the digestion process mixing the food with silva which contains enzymes that break down the food and makes it soft and wet. 
Chewing exercises our jaws and strengthens the bones that hold our teeth in place.
Chewing slowly, brings out the flavours of the food, hopefully adding to our enjoyment of the it. The more slowly we eat the sooner we start to feel full, as the brain takes 20 minutes to register what is in our stomachs.

        The Edwardian Chew-Chew diet was based on the philosophy of Horace Fletcher 1849-1919. It can be summed up in his catchy phrase “Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate!”
He was quite keen on people chewing 100 times a minute, but was happy enough to encourage an average of 32 chews per mouthful of food.
He also felt that meals should be enjoyed and mealtimes sociable, encouraging his followers to only eat when hungry, eat what they enjoyed, chew well and stop eating when “the appetite begins to slack up a bit,”
All this takes concentration, being “mindful” even, while eating. 

        The recent trend for chefs to create purées and foams to add to their dishes that include cuts of meat cooked sous vide or long and slow. This food requires little or no chewing to reduce it to a paste before swallowing. While these beautiful plates of food are delicious, each element is carefully chosen to enhance the others on the plate, I fear we may be turning them into flavourful pap for the toothless. While I don't want tough meat I am prepared to chew to break down my food.

        In our fast moving world where time is money and not a minute should be wasted on something as mundane as refuelling the body, perhaps it is no bad thing to take some timeout to chew. 
Maybe while you were reading this you were eating something? Any left? Take a small mouthful and chew 32 times………………………….. 
Well, any difference? 
It’s worth trying even for one mouthful and then maybe another?

        Eating is necessary, so why not take pleasure in it too, sit down, relax and chew!


Happy Birthday to both my Grannies!

           March isn't always a good month to have a birthday in if you are a mother, as Mothering Sunday falls in it. Both my Grandmothers had their Birthdays in March. My paternal Granny, Helena on the 1st of March and my maternal Granny, May on the 14th. They were both born in 1884, these photos were taken in 1953 at my parents wedding when they were 69. May died in 1968 and Helena in 1977 just before her 92nd birthday.


           I didn't have much time with them as I was three when May died and 11 when Helena died, but I do remember her quite well.