Cheese Straws

A nice crispy, nutty, cheesy snack for your holiday table!

makes 24-28

8 ounces puff pastry (homemade or thawed)

1 ½ ounces of finely grated Parmesan cheese

pinch of cayenne

egg wash

1 ½ ounces of finely chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 400°.

Roll the pastry to approximately 8×16 inches and about ⅛ of an inch thick.  Brush with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the lower half length with the cayenne and cheese and then fold over the upper half of the pastry, sealing the edge.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with almonds. Lightly roll the top with a rolling pin to secure the almonds to the pastry.  Chill for about 20 minutes.

Cut ½ inch wide strips with a sharp knife or pastry wheel.  Twist the strips once or twice and place on a baking tray lined with silicone paper.  Press each end of the strips to the paper to prevent unraveling if necessary.  Bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.

It’s the journey…

I have to say overall I don’t travel well…or smart.  I’m definitely not one of those people that seem to stay mysteriously fresh looking throughout their travel experience.  I really envy those who dress smart and look perky and seem to know where their gate is via some internal GPS system.  I, on there hand, look like a train wreck, feel half dead, normally lost, drink way too much caffeine followed by beer, wine, champagne, followed by way more caffeine while I manage to food crawl through hours of layover.  I need to learn how to spend down time more productively no doubt.

On the brighter side, the 12 weeks at Ballymaloe Cooking School has ended and some students have found employment!  Well done for them.  Others have accumulated some valuable culinary knowledge that they will impart in one form or another throughout their lives.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much information from this experience will stay in my noodle and for how long.  The most enjoyable part of my time abroad was meeting so many fantastic people and working with them (and playing with them) in a very unique and intense environment.  I’ve made some new friends and that in itself was worth the journey.  Please stay in touch and look for posts from the green isle and other places in the near future.  Cheers!

Medicinal Whiskey

My apologies for my absence.  Our school has transformed into what seems to be an infirmary.  I’ve been down for the count for about 3 weeks suffering from this and that, as have so many other students.  I may have stumbled on the cure for all things habadeejabadee stewing around the Green Isle.  My new found irish shaman, otherwise known as Mary from the Ballymaloe Gift Shop, has given me the secret weapon beverage that many subscribe to here.  This could not come at a better time now that winter has really laid down.  Snow has blanketed much of the island!

Medicinal Whiskey

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 cup boiling water

1 shot whiskey, or more to taste

lemon wedge studded with approximately five cloves

I know some may think using an American whiskey in Ireland is near blasphemous, and I could tell you it was a nod to my Jack Daniels swilling, loving family.  The truth, however, is that it was on sale at the market – only €6 for a 700ml bottle!  Who would pass that up?!

In a mug mix the water and brown sugar until dissolved.  Pour in whiskey and swirl with studded lemon wedge.  Consume frequently.

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Dingle Pie

I made this tasty pie as per the recipe, but I can’t see why one couldn’t shortcut by putting the ingredients in a casserole dish and making only enough dough for the top crust.  The dough is actually fairly simple and quick; however, there are a few steps involved for the filling as all savory pies are guilty of.  This is a great weekend cold weather comfort food!

serves 6

1 pound of boneless lamb

9 ounces yellow onion, small dice

9 ounces carrots, small dice

2 rounded teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground

10 fluid ounces of stock (quality chicken stock is fine)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

salt and pepper to taste

Hot Water Crust Pastry

12 ounces all-purpose flour

6 ounces butter, salted

4 fluid ounces water

pinch of salt

preheat the oven to 400°

Trim the lamb of fat, if necessary, and cut into 1/2″ cubes.  Place the trimmed fat (or a tablespoon of oil) in a hot saucepan.  Render the fat and remove the remaining pieces.  Add the onion and carrot to the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove vegetables and toss the meat in the remaining fat (if there is none, add olive oil).  Cook meat until browned on all sides.

Heat the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan just until fragrant.  Crush or grind into a rough powder.  Add the flour and cumin to the browning meat stirring for  2-3 minutes.  Add stock gradually and bring to the boil.  Stir occasionally.  Add the vegetables back to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until lamb is tender.  Cool.

Meanwhile make the pastry:  Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a well in the center.  Dice the butter, put it into a saucepan with water and bring to the boil.  Pour the liquid all at once into the flour and mix together quickly; beat until smooth.  At first the pastry will be too soft to handle – place in the fridge for approximately 1/2 hour.  Once the pastry is cool.  roll out to 1/4 inch thick to fit an 8 inch tart tin.  Set some pastry aside for the top and any decoration.  Line the tin with the pastry while trimming the edges.  Fill the pastry lined tins with the meat mixture.  Brush the edges of the pastry with the water and place 1/4 inch thick pastry top on sealing the edges all the way around the tin. Decorate with any trimming and pierce a hole in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape.  Brush the top with egg wash.

Cook the pie for approximately 40 minutes.

Sweet Scones

This is a great recipe, especially for us beginner bakers here; regardless of the outcome: slightly under-baked, slightly over-baked or burnt to a crisp we manage to slather them with butter and homemade jams and gobble them up.

makes 18-20 scones using a 3 inch cutter

8 cups of plain white flour

6 ounces of salted butter

3 eggs

pinch of salt

1/4 cup castor sugar or granulated sugar

3 heaped teaspoons of baking powder

2 cups whole milk


egg wash (see below)

granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 475°

Sieve all the dry ingredients (except sugar for glaze) in a large, wide bowl.  Cut the butter into cubes and rub the butter into the flour.  Make a well in the center of the butter/flour mix.  Whisk the eggs (except the egg for glaze) with the milk and it to the dry ingredients.  Stir until a soft dough is formed.  Turn out onto a floured surface and make a round using your hands.  Roll out gently making a 1 to 1 1/2 inch ‘pancake’ and cut into rounds using the 3 inch cutter.  Dip the tops of each scone into the egg wash and then into the granulated sugar.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Serve split in half with jams, butter and or whipped cream.

Egg Wash

whisk 1 egg with a pinch of salt.  Brush or dip the top of each scone.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Squares

I just made this tasty treat in my little cottage without a food processor….and I have to admit, it’s unlikely that I will do that again!  The place I’m staying in is very rustic and quaint and a bit small, so a food processor isn’t really an option.  Hopefully for you, fearless baker, some kind of rapid mixing device is at hand.

Makes 24 small squares

6 ounces butter, softened

6 ounces castor sugar, or granulated

2 eggs, beaten

5 ounces self-rising flour

1 ounce cocoa

3-4 ounces hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped

Chocolate Icing

5 ounces icing sugar

2 ounces butter, softened

2 teaspoons cocoa

11 1/2 x 8 inch swiss roll pan, WELL GREASED

Preheat oven to 350°.

Whiz the butter, castor sugar, eggs, self-rising flour, and cocoa in a food processor.  Spread the mixture evenly in the well buttered tin.   Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.  Allow to cool.

Meanwhile mix ingredients for the icing using the food processor.  Spread the icing over the cooled cake and sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts.  Cut into small squares.

Malaysian Coconut Milk Soup


before and after

No time to angle and fillet one the ugliest eating fishes available?  Not a problem…this a deceptively easy seafood soup, especially if you purchase a firm white fish or prawns from your grocery store.  This recipe is also versatile in that it can be served as a canapé such as above, or in a soup bowl with rice.


serves 4-6 as an entree


4 pounds of firm white fish, or 20 prawns

1 stalk of lemon grass

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/4 – 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped

1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

pinch of saffron

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1/2 cup of coconut milk, well stirred

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1-2 teaspoons Nam Pla or other fish sauce

lime or lemon juice to taste

Cilantro rough chopped

rice (optional)


Remove tough outer leaf of the lemon grass and grate or chop finely.  Place lemon grass, shallots, chilli, ginger, garlic, spices and oil into a bowl with choice of seafood.  Let marinate for an hour in the refrigerator if you have time.

Place a pot over medium heat.  Add marinated seafood and cook until just fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  Add coconut milk, salt and pepper.  Bring to simmer and cook until just cooked.  Add fish sauce and citrus to taste stirring to incorporate.  Garnish with cilantro.

Raspberry and Coconut Slice

This easy, festive and tasty treat is fantastic with a cup of coffee or tea anytime of day. I’ve never eaten so many Slices, Bakes, Biscuits or Cakes before Ballymaloe.  Having tea is a natural part of daily life here and always includes some type of delicious morsel – the hard part is trying not to pile up one’s plate.

Makes 24 (tiny squares)

For the Base

6 ounces soft butter, salted

6 ounces castor sugar or granulated

2 eggs, preferably organic ( says Darina)

6 ounces self-raising flour

For the Icing

raspberry jam, preferably homemade

unsweetened desiccated coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F.  In a 10×7 inch swiss roll tin grease lightly with sunflower or similar oil.

Put butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour in a food processor.  Pulse just to blend.  Spread evenly in swiss roll tin and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.  Spread the top with raspberry jam and sprinkle with coconut.  Cut into 1 inch squares.  Store in airtight container if you have any leftover!

Ballymaloe Week 2 & 3

Time has again flown by here and I have made little progress in organizing some recipes from our experiences at school.  My opportunities to connect to the internet have been seriously hampered, however I’m optimistic and will post something well worth cooking a la Darina Allen soon – promise.  Until then, with much head banging, labeling to no avail, crashing, intermittent connectivity I bring you a seriously random selection of week 2 and 3 at Ballymaloe.  Sláinte!!

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Whew at Ballymaloe!

It has been a whirl wind lately.  I finally made it to Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland!  Last time I tried to make it over for their 3 month course a volcano erupted in Iceland – that little devil Eyjafjallajökull – yes, it is now a curse word in many parts of the world.  I made a pact with myself that I would faithfully update my blog and emails daily, but have failed miserably. Unfortunately there’s no internet in my cottage and we’ve been going flat out at the school.  We have survived the first hectic week which has been packed with information from short pastry making to fire safety.  I hope to get a little more organized and include some of the amazingly delicious recipes soon, but for now a very brief glimpse of arriving, learning and cooking:

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