Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

This week it’s all about dressing up our food, taking something simple and making it delicious without much effort. You don’t need to be an expert to come up with attractive looking dishes — let our experts do the work for you!

Who said salads are boring? They are particularly easy to dress up, whether you opt for a potato salad using Ballymaloe mayonnaise or a red cabbage, orange and pomegranate salad à la Derval O’Rourke. Easy peasy. You’ve enough to do with working from the kitchen table as well as homeschooling, so keep things simple.

Darina Allen’s tomato sauce is loaded with goodness and so easy to throw on to a plate of pasta for a quick and easy dinner. The same goes with her spiced chicken thighs or drumsticks — taking a simple concept and adding a bit of spice! If you are fan of a bit of heat, try the Currabinny cooks’ fabulous chilli and horseradish sauce.

All of the recipes by chefs and food experts Darina Allen, Michelle Carmody, Derval O’Rourke, and the Currabinny Cooks (James Kavanagh and William Murray), have been published previously in the Examiner.

Darina Allen's magic tomato sauce

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

Darina’s Magic Tomato Sauce is one of our great convertibles, it has a number of uses, we serve it as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes, topping for pizza.

Serves 6, approximately


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

110g (4oz) sliced onions

1 clove of garlic, crushed

900g (2lbs) very ripe tomatoes in summer, or 2 tins (x 400g/14oz) of tomatoes in winter, but peel before using

salt, freshly ground pepper, and sugar to taste

1 tablespoon of any of the following: freshly chopped mint, thyme, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram, or torn basil


Heat the oil in a stainless steel sauté pan or casserole. Add the sliced onions and garlic, toss until coated, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured — about 10 minutes.

It is vital for the success of this dish that the onions are completely soft before the tomatoes are added.

Slice the peeled fresh tomatoes or chopped tinned tomatoes and add with all the juice to the onions.

Season with salt, pepper, and sugar (tinned tomatoes need lots of sugar because of their high acidity).

Add a generous sprinkling of herbs.

Cover and cook for 10-20 minutes more, or until the tomatoes soften; uncover and reduce a little.

Cook fresh tomatoes for a shorter time to preserve the lively fresh flavour.

Tinned tomatoes need to be cooked for longer depending on whether one wants to use the sauce as a vegetable or a filling.

Note: A few drops of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking greatly enhances the flavour.

Darina Allen's Ballymaloe potato salad

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

There is a long tradition of making homemade mayonnaise at Ballymaloe House and the company is thrilled to have brought Ballymaloe mayonnaise to the market. Its unique tasting mayonnaise is made in small batches with extra virgin olive oil, free range Irish eggs, and cracked black pepper. Its delicious taste and ingredients make it different from any other mayo out there. A dollop of our mayo is the perfect finish to a sandwich, salad, summer BBQs, and much more.


1kg freshly-cooked, diced, potatoes

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1 Tbsp chopped chives and spring onion

120ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) Ballymaloe French Dressing

120ml (4fl oz/1/2 cup) Ballymaloe Mayo

Salt and Pepper


1. Boil the potatoes in their skins.

2. Peel and chop into cubes while they are still nice and warm.

3. If using new potatoes, you can leave the skin on.

4. Toss with Ballymaloe mayonnaise, spring onion, and parsley.

Darina Allen's spiced chicken thighs or drumsticks

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

Serves 6


1.5kg chicken drumsticks or a mixture of drumsticks and thighs (boned or unboned)

1 tablespoon toasted ground cumin seeds

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon castor sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

3 cloves garlic, crushed

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons sunflower oil


Ballymaloe Tomato Relish

Banana and Yoghurt Raita Poppadoms


Mix the cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, sugar, black pepper, salt, garlic, and freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl. Slash the chicken legs with a sharp knife in a couple of places. Rub the mixture all over the chicken pieces, put in a bowl and cover. Keep in a cool place for at least three hours.

Heat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.

Put the chicken pieces onto a roasting tin with all the paste, brush or drizzle with a little oil and bake for about 20 minutes then turn over and bake for a further 20-25 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Baste two or three times during cooking. Transfer to a serving dish. Spoon the degreased juices over the chicken and serve hot or at room temperature with Ballymaloe Tomato Relish, banana, and yoghurt raita and poppadoms.

Note: Chicken breasts may also be used in this recipe.

The Currabinny Cooks' chilli and fresh horseradish sauce

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

This is our favourite way to preserve the fresh chillies and horseradish from the garden in Currabinny.

It is super simple and uncomplicated, and goes with almost anything in need of a little heat. We especially like to drizzle this over fried eggs in the morning.

We usually use just regular red chillies which grow in the greenhouse — but you can experiment with hotter varieties if you dare.


10 red chillies, deseeded and sliced thinly

3 garlic cloves

Good pinch of sea salt

3 teaspoons of freshly grated horseradish

100ml of cider vinegar


Sterilise a glass jar, or maybe two glass jars depending on their size. You can do this either by washing them in warm soapy water, rinsing them in boiling water, then placing to dry in a preheated oven at 120C (248F) degrees celsius for 15 minutes, or apparently washing them on the highest setting on your dishwasher works too.

Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add chillies, garlic, and a splash of water.

Simmer until tender and almost all of the water has evaporated.

The fumes off this will be quite something, so try not to breathe this in or it will really get in your throat — put the extractor fan on high.

Put the softened garlic/chilli mixture into a food processor and blitz until smooth.

Return this paste to the pan along with the cider vinegar, salt, and horseradish, cooking until tender and well blended.

Pour the sauce into the sterilised jar or jars and close firmly.

This will keep in a cool place for months, or even years.

Derval O'Rourke's red cabbage, orange and pomegranate sunburst salad

Food and fun: dressing up our dishes

Salads don’t have to be boring. You can dress one up to look fabulous with the right ingredients.

Serves: 8-10

Preparation time: 10 minutes


½ head red cabbage, shredded (quarter the cabbage, remove the core and slice)

1 pomegranate, cut and deseeded

1 orange, zest and juice

1 lime, zest and juice

3 oranges, peeled and sliced

Large handful of fresh mint, roughly chopped

200g organic natural yoghurt

1 tbsp honey


Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for a delicious salad option.

This salad will go beautifully with BBQ meat or fish.

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