Darina Allen: Café treats from Clare to Silgo

We were on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street.

Darina Allen: Café treats from Clare to Silgo

For me, ambling slowly through the Burren in Co. Clare is almost a spiritual experience – the prehistoric landscape feels so ancient.

We were on our way to Ennistymon to eat at Little Fox, a newly opened, super cool café on a corner of Main Street. A short menu of delicious food, a red lentil and turmeric soup with masala yoghurt and toasted seeds was delicious as were all the salads and the Gubeen sambo on flatbread Just across the road is a cheese shop called The Cheese Press owned by the inimitable Sinead Ni Ghairbhith. Locals get 30 cents off their coffee if they bring their own cup to reduce plastic use. Just across the street, a little further up, Pot Duggan’s is also rocking so set aside a little time to visit Ennistymon and beautiful Co. Clare.

Then on to Galway, Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon to visit a variety of inspirational farms. First, Ronan Byrne aka The Friendly Farmer who rears free-range turkeys and geese and has a farm shop on his 35 acre farm at Knockbrack close to Athenry. Ronan also sells at the Moycullen Farmers Market on Friday and the Galway Farmers Market on Saturday where his growing number of devotees often queue up to buy his produce. Near Ballymote in Co Sligo, we came upon Clive Bright’s enterprise, known as Rare Ruminare, Clive has a most beautiful herd of Hereford and Shorthorn cattle which he ‘mob grazes’ on lush, organic pastures on his family farm near Ballymote in Co Sligo. From there we popped in to Drumanilra Farm Kitchen Café in Boyle and met owners Liam and Justina Gavin whose beautiful farm overlooks Lough Kee. Clive Bright’s Hereford and Shorthorn meat can be bought in chilled boxes insulated with lambs’ wool, directly from www.rareruminare. I can certainly vouch for the flavour having eaten Clive’s beef cheeks for lunch – this young farmer cooks brilliantly as well.

We covered a lot of ground over a couple of days. On our way south, we detoured to Birr to catch up on Ballymaloe Cookery School alumni, Hannah Ward at Woodfield Café just outside the town – another cool café with a delicious brunch, followed by a wander around the tempting Woodfield Garden Centre at the rear. It was a lovely surprise to find Mueller, O’Connell sourdough bread from Abbeyleix for our toasted bacon and Mossfield cheese sandwiches.

Our next stop was the Eco-Village at Cloughjordan in Co Tipperary to meet Joe Fitzmaurice in his Riot Rye bakery. We had the opportunity to watch Joe shaping and baking his sour dough loaves in the wood-burning oven – beautiful crusty bread to nourish his community which for him is a major priority. Check out his sour bread classes: www.riotrye.iewww.riotrye.ie.

Just outside the town we found Mimi and Owen Crawford with their rich and beautiful organic raw milk and butter – people flock to buy at Limerick Milk Market and locally.

They also rear and sell their own plump Ross free-range organic chickens, lamb, bacon and pork. Their small 20-acre holding is super-productive with a little tunnel and vegetable patch bursting with fresh product.

That was the last stop on this short reconnaissance trip – so many inspirational people. We ran out of time to visit Sodalicious in Limerick, a recent start-up owned by another Ballymaloe Cookery School allumni Jane Ellison – we hear it’s worth a detour.

Reynard’s Buckwheat Pancake with Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts

Buckwheat is deliciously nutty, rich in minerals and B vitamins and naturally gluten-free.

Serves 8

Buckwheat Batter

25g (1oz) butter

65g (2½ oz) buckwheat flour

50g (2oz) plain white flour

1 large free range egg

175ml (6fl oz) milk

110ml (4fl oz) cold water

a pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

To serve

Best quality organic chocolate and hazelnut spread Toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped Maldon sea salt (optional)


First make the batter: Melt the butter on a low heat - cool. Sieve both flours and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add an egg, gradually whisk in the milk and water drawing in the flour from the outside. Finally whisk in the melted butter. Cover and allow to rest for 15-30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan on a high heat. Pour in a small ladle-full of batter just enough to cover the base of the pan. Cook for about a minute, flip over and cook for a further 30-45 seconds. Slide onto a hot plate.

Spoon a couple of generous tablespoons of chocolate spread onto the centre. Fold in the four edges, once, twice to form a square with chocolate in the centre. Sprinkle with toasted hazelnuts and a few flakes of Maldon sea salt.

Buckwheat is deliciously nutty, rich in minerals and B vitamins and naturally gluten-free.

Buckwheat Pancakes with Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche and Crispy Capers

Serves 8

8 buckwheat pancakes (see recipe)

16 thin slices of smoked salmon (approximately 225g/8oz)

8 tablespoons of crème fraîche (see recipe)

56 capers, drained and fried until crisp in a little hot oil

4 tablespoons of finely chopped scallions or chives, cut at an angle Freshly ground black pepper

To serve:

Place the pancakes on warm plates, divide the smoked salmon between the pancakes.

Drizzle 1 tablespoon crème fraîche over each pancake.

Sprinkle 7 capers and 1/2 tablespoon of chopped scallions or chives over the crème fraîche.

Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 8

Wild Blackberry and Rose Petal Sponge

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge. The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.

Serves 6-8

Melted butter, for greasing

140g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 organic eggs

75ml water

225g granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder


110ml cream 2 teaspoons icing sugar, plus extra for dusting ½ teaspoon rosewater, optional 225-350g wild blackberries


Pale pink rose petals, fresh or crystallized

Equipment: 2 x 20.5cm sandwich tins Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas mark 5.


Brush the cake tins evenly with melted butter and dust with flour. I usually take the precaution of lining the base with a circle of greaseproof paper for guaranteed ease of removal later.

Separate the eggs. In a food mixer whisk the yolks with the sugar for 2 minutes, then add in the water. Whisk until light and fluffy — 10 minutes approx. Fold the sieved flour and baking powder into the mousse in batches.

Whisk the egg whites until they hold a stiff peak. Gently fold them into the fluffy base. Pour into prepared sandwich tins and bake in a moderately hot oven 190C/Gas mark 5 for 20 minutes approx. Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Whip the cream, add the icing sugar and a few drops of rosewater.

Sandwich the sponge together with whipped cream and blackberries. Sieve a little icing sugar over the top. Sprinkle with fresh or crystallized rose petals — it will look and taste enchanting.

When the first blackberries ripen in the autumn we use them with softly whipped cream to fill this light fluffy sponge. The recipe may sound strange but the cake will be the lightest and most tender you’ve ever tasted.

Orange Lentil Soupwith Turmeric, Masala, Yoghurt and Toasted Seeds and Coriander

Serves 6

225g (8oz) onions – chopped extra virgin olive oil or butter 2 teaspoons turmeric, peeled and freshly grated

225g (8oz) orange lentils flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pints of vegetable of chicken stock

6 tablespoons yoghurt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon each of black and white sesame seeds

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste fresh

coriander leaves


Bring a saucepan of the chicken or vegetable stock to the boil.

Meanwhile heat the oil and/or butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the freshly chopped onion, toss, cover and sweat on a gentle heat until soft but not coloured.

Uncover, add turmeric, cook for a minute or two, add the lentils. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the boiling stock. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Meanwhile, toast the seeds by stirring continuously on a dry pan over a low to medium heat until they smell toasty, 3-4 minutes, turn into a bowl, add 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and cool.

Heat the cumin and coriander in a dry pan over a medium to high heat until it starts to smell aromatic. Turn into a mortar and grind to a fine powder. Add to the natural yoghurt, add salt to taste.

Whizz the soup to a coarse puree. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Correct the seasoning.

Ladle into wide soup bowls, drizzle some masala yoghurt on top. Sprinkle with an assortment of seeds and some fresh coriander leaves and serve.

Serves 6

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd