Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Ballymaloe Cookbook 50 Year Anniversary Edition

In 1964, Myrtle Allen took a brave step in opening The Yeat's Room - a converted drawing room of the family country home at Ballymaloe House, East Cork to the public. Since the beginning, Mrs. Allen's food philosophy has been to showcase traditional Irish farmhouse cooking, on a seasonal menu, placing artisan producers at the forefront of each dish. It was this commitment and passion for local produce that later lead to Mrs. Allen founding Euro-toques Ireland - a leading organisation of professional cooks and chefs actively promoting Ireland's culinary heritage across Europe.

Since 1964, Mrs. Allen has earned Ballymaloe House the coveted award of a Michelin Star in the late seventies, before going on to write one of the most successful cookbooks ever printed in Ireland - the best selling Ballymaloe Cookbook - a comprehensive cookbook on Irish cooking. In May of this year, to mark fifty years of the world renowned Ballymaloe House and to celebrate Mrs. Allen's ninetieth birthday, a revised and updated edition of The Ballymaloe Cookbook has been released. The revised edition captures the history of Ballymaloe House, the impact Mrs. Allen has made on Irish cuisine, with a number of forwarded messages by key figures in Irish cooking including; Darina Allen, Ross Lewis and Georgina Campbell - all of whom share their experiences of Ballymaloe House and how it came to shape their passion for local food.

Set alongside stunning food imagery by Joanne Murphy are over a hundred recipes from classic, simple recipes taken from the past fifty years at Ballymaloe House with some never seen before recipes. The Ballymaloe Cookbook is a unique cookbook containing recipes tried, tested and loved by many guests who have dined at Ballymaloe House since 1964 and is available in all good bookshops and on the Gill and Macmillan online store here.

'It isn't just a collection of recipes but a reflection of a genuine and authentic way of life, related to the land, the culture and the produce of the country in which Myrtle Allen lives' - Financial Times

'Staying and dining in Myrthle's hotel allows for that very rare moment in time when you pause for a minute, take it all in and, all of a sudden, everything seems very okay with the world'
Yotam Ottolenghi 

* * *

Recipe: Ballymaloe House Fruit Tart

Serves 8:

- 170g Pastry Trimmings or Shortcrust Pastry
- 450g Prepared Apples, Gooseberries, Plums, Redcurrants, Rhubarb
(or a mixture of apples and blackberries).
- 225g Caster Sugar
- 170g Puff Pastry
- Egg Wash


1. Line a 25cm (10inch) plate with pastry trimmings or shortcrust pastry rolled into a circle (it should be 5mm or 1/4in thick)

2. Thinly peel and core the apples and cut into chunks. Place them in the centre of the pastry, leaving a 1 cm (1/2inch) border round the edge. Sprinkle with sugar.

3. Roll out the puff pastry 5mm thick and cut a circle for the top of the tart. Brush the edge of the pastry base with water. Put on the top, press the edges together and knock up the sides. Cut a slit in the centre. Brush with egg wash. Bake at 200 degrees / Gas Mark 6 for an hour.

* * *

Competition: Win A Luxurious Picnic Basket of Ballymaloe Relish Goodies & A Copy of The Ballymaloe Cookbook by Myrtle Allen

To celebrate the release of the revised edition of The Ballymaloe Cookbook, Gill & MacMillian and Ballymaloe Country Relish have come together to offer a prize to one lucky follower. The prize includes a luxurious picnic basket of Ballymaloe Relish goodies with a copy of The Ballymaloe Cookbook.

Enter the competition by clicking the link HERE

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Recipe: An Easter Simnel Cake

Anyone who has been following my writing here or following my posts on Twitter will know how much I like my old skool baking. Whether it's a Coffee Cake with Irel coffee, Chester cake with a thick glossy coating of icing, or a simple Victoria Sponge; you just can't go wrong with the classics. When it comes to an Easter classic, the humble Simnel Cake has all but disappeared off the radar. It's a real shame as Easter wouldn't be the same without a nice slice of Simnel cake served up with a nice pot of loose leaf tea after a delicious Sunday roast dinner.

Traditionally baked by servant daughters who were working away from home, Simnel cake was baked as a gift for home on the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as 'Mothering Sunday', or 'Simnel Sunday'. The girls would bring home a Simnel Cake with fresh Spring flowers to their mothers (usually primroses or violets which are often seen decorating the cake too).

In recent times, a Simnel cake has become associated with Easter Sunday, with the distinctive feature of this cake being the eleven rounds placed on top. Each round represents an 'apostle', excluding Judas Iscariot (the apostle who betrayed Jesus). In some recipes, you'll see the top of the cake decorated with 11 small mini Easter eggs which works very well to get kids involved in Easter baking. When baking for friends, I tie a little Easter ribbon around the outside and give it as a gift to family or friends on Easter Sunday which is always a welcomed change to chocolate!

This recipe is an old favourite which I still turn to every Easter. It's a method where you soak the dry fruits over night leaving you with more flavoursome and plumped-up mixed fruits. Once baked, rest the cake in an airtight container to allow the cake to mature before for a few days before decorating. The best thing about this recipe is you can have the cake ready days, or even weeks ahead of Easter Sunday leaving you to focus on the rest of your Easter planning. It is very simple to bake so enjoy and remember to double line the deep cake tin to prevent the cake from drying out while baking.

(Serves 10)


- 150ml Irish Whiskey
- 250g Plain Flour
- 175g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- ½ Tsp Baking Powder
- 1 Tsp Mixed Spice
- Finely grated zest of 1 Orange (or lemon if you prefer)
- 75g Glacé Cherries (quartered)
- 75g Chopped Candied Peal or Mixed Peal
- 450g Dried Mixed Fruit (Sultanas, Raisins, Currants)
- 150g Brown Sugar
- 4 Free Range Eggs (room temperature)
- 1 Tsp Almond Essence
- 200g Almond Marzipan


- 400g Almond Marzipan
- 1 Egg Yolk (lightly beaten for glazing)
- Apricot Jam


1. Soak the mixed fruits in the whiskey for at least four hours but preferably overnight (stir the mixture regularly for an even coating). Preheat the oven to 150°C / gas mark 2. Double line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper and very lightly dust with flour. Discard any excess whiskey which may be left over in the bowl from soaking the fruits.

2. Sieve the flour, baking powder and the mixed spice into a bowl. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the almond essence, gradually beat in the eggs one-by-one using an electric hand whisk, adding a teaspoon of flour with each addition to avoid the mixture from curdling. The mixture should be a soft dropping consistency (you may need to add in a tablespoon or two of milk to loosen the consistency).

3. Fold in the orange zest, cherries, candied peal and mixed fruits. Carefully spread half of the mixture in the tin before smoothing out the mixture with the back of a spoon. Roll out 200g of the marzipan on a lightly floured marble surface using the 20cm loose circle of a similar sized cake tin as a guideline. Gently place the rolled marzipan on top of the mixture in the tin and gently smooth it out evenly with your fingertips. Cut any excess marzipan from around the outside to leave an even layer of marzipan with no double layers.

4. Spoon in the remainder of the mixture. Level the top and make a very slight indent in the centre of the cake. Bake for 2¼ to 2½ hours until golden brown. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (inserted at an angle as there is a layer of marzipan in the centre). Allow the cake to completely cool in the tin before removing to finish the surface of the cake.
[At this point you can put the cake into an airtight container for a few days or even longer to allow the cake mature and get to know the flavours].

5. For the surface: weigh eleven pieces of marzipan each weighing 15g and roll each piece into eleven rounds. Place the rounds on a piece of greaseproof paper on a plate and allow to chill in the fridge until needed. Next dust your worktop and rolling pin lightly with icing sugar or cornflour before rolling out 200g of marzipan. Warm the jam, brush the top of the cake gently with the warmed jam and gently place the marzipan over the cake, cutting the edges with a sharp fruit knife to form an even single layer of marzipan on the surface.

6. Score the top of the cake to make diamond shapes, brush the top of the cake evenly with egg wash and place ten rounds around the outside of the cake and one in the centre of the cake. Brush the tops of each round lightly with egg wash before placing on a heat resistant plate in the oven for 7-10mins. Keep a close eye on the cake for the final few minutes as it can turn from golden to black very quickly. (Alternatively, place the cake under a low grill or even use a blow torch but I find using the oven gives a better, cleaner and even finish).


If you don't want to use whiskey, plump up the dried fruits use boiling water instead and leave for an hour. Either way, plump up the dry mixed fruits otherwise your cake will become too dry.

- Ensure you are doubling lining your cake tin which will ensure the cake does not burn on the outside as it will be in the oven for over two hours.

- Store the cake in an airtight cake tin for at least 3 days but ideally a week before serving. The weekend before Easter Sunday is an ideal time to bake but it does keep for a month in an airtight cake tin.

* * *

Contact me here if you want to chat about this recipe.
Photography: Jakub Walutek Photography with food styling from myself!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Mousse & Pistachio Biscuits

A classic Chocolate Mousse is a sweet treat which everyone enjoys and is so simple to whip-up the night before leaving you plenty of time to get on with other things. It's a treat which works well after a cosy romantic dinner for two, a small stress-free dinner gathering for friends or even an indulgent midweek comforting treat watching your favourite movie. This recipe calls for just three simple ingredients; cream, eggs and chocolate but it's good quality local free range eggs, good quality cream and quality chocolate such as Lindt which will give you a really good chocolate mousse. If you're really out to impress then you can make it even more delicious by dipping homemade shortbread biscuits into your chocolate mousse. I've included a very simple recipe for pistachio shortbread biscuits below too which keep well for up to a week in a Kilner jar. A classic recipe made up of chocolate, pistachios, sea salt and some freshly baked biscuits - now there's a taste sensation. 


For the Chocolate Mousse:

- 125g Green & Black's Organic Milk Chocolate
- 125g Green & Black's Dark Chocolate
- 250ml Glenisk Organic Cream
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- 6 Free Range Local Eggs (separated)

For The Pistachio Shortbread:
(Makes 18)

- 150g Odlums Plain Flour
- 100g Kerrygold Irish Butter (Cubed)
- 50g Tate & Lyle Caster Sugar
- 75g Unshelled Pistachio Nuts (Roughly Chopped)
- Sprinkle Sea Salt to decorate

Chocolate Mousse:

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil before turning down to a simmer and place a Pyrex bowl over the water ensuring it is not touching the water. Melt the chocolate in the Pyrex bowl completely and when melted allow to cool slightly before whisking in the egg yolks one by one until it becomes quick thick.

2. Whip the cream until it is softly whipped before gently folding in the chocolate mixture. In a spotlessly clean bowl whisk your egg whites until they form silky smooth stiff peaks and you can place your bowl over your head without any of the mixture dropping out. The egg whites will give air and a light texture to the mousse so it is important to ensure you are gently folding in the egg whites otherwise you will loose the light, airy consistency (try to use a glass Pyrex bowl when folding in the egg whites so you can see the bottom of the mixture).

3. Pour the chocolate mousse mixture gently into six glasses and place in the fridge for a few hours or better still over night because the longer you leave the mousse in the fridge the thicker your mousse will be.

Pistachio Biscuits:

1. Sift the flour with the sugar into a large wide bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture comes together (alternatively, just place everything into a food processor and whizz). It will come together just give it time but don't be tempted to add water or egg because it's really not needed.

2. When the mixture comes together form into a disc shape, cover in a single layer of cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to firm (or in a freezer for 10 minutes if you're in a hurry).

3. Preheat the oven to 180C or Gas 4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper before rolling the mixture in between two layers of cling film to a width of around half an inch.

4. Shape with a biscuit cutter, sprinkle pistachio nuts on top, a sprinkle of sea salt and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown in colour but keep a very close eye on them after eight minutes as they go from light to golden very quickly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking tray before moving to an airtight container until ready to serve.